Posts Tagged HalfEmpty/HalfFull

Encounters of the Strange Kind

Barcelona street performer

Street performer on La Rambla in a costume inspired by Guillermo del Toro

Encounter 1: La Rambla

We saw many street performers in Spain.  Most of them didn’t perform so much as pose in outrageous costumes.  As we walked down the tree-lined promenade that is La Rambla, we stumbled upon a rather intricate and scary costumed man.  The outfit was really quite impressive and almost dared you not to stare!

Encounter 2: La Rambla

Afterward, I had an unfortunate encounter on La Rambla.  Remember how I told you about my “poop finger” in the United Arab Emirates?  For those of you who recently joined us, “poop finger” was a henna tattoo with a blob of brown on the end of my finger.

bird poop on foot

Poop on Ms. HalfEmpty’s sandaled food on La Rambla

My encounter on La Rambla was not with a tattoo artist, but with a bird.  A bird who gave me “poop toe.”  Poop is a really funny word until someone else’s is on you!

Ms. HalfEmpty after "poop toe"

“Poop toe” made Ms. HalfEmpty super half empty!

“Poop toe” did not help me see things half full.  I was a grossed out Ms. HalfEmpty.

Of course, it wasn’t a total disaster and was much easier to remove than “poop finger,” which took weeks to fade.  But it still made me feel gross.  All day, I thought about when I could get back to the hotel to disinfect my foot and shoe.

Encounter 3: The Subway

Burger King ad in subway station

Spain thanks us for a heart attack on a bun

On our way back to the hotel via the subway, we saw a huge billboard underground thanking America.  Well, you’re welcome Spain!  How lovely.

It all seems pretty awesome…until you see the full advertisement.  It’s a Burger King ad for the Rodeo Whopper.  Instead of raw onion, they put fried onion rings INSIDE the sandwich!  Of course, the sandwich also contains a beef patty, cheese, bacon, and the oh so American barbecue sauce…wait, don’t forget the mayo.  Yes America, thanks for spreading unhealthy eating and obesity to the rest of the world.  Nice work!

dessert @ La Masia Del Rocxi

Ms. HalfEmpty with EVERY dessert @ La Masia Del Rocxi

Encounter 4: Dinner

That night for dinner, we went to a lovely restaurant, La Masia Del Rocxi.  I think menus are one of the toughest things to read as a tourist who is unfamiliar with the language.  There is so little context, and each word counts.  Sometimes in my own country, I have to ask my waiter what a particular word on the menu means.  Perhaps it is a special cooking technique or even a spice I’ve never encountered.  The potential for unknown words is endless.

Now multiply that potential by my lack of Spanish and you have a nightmare for my server.  We asked so many questions about the menu and tried to scope out dishes on the tables of other diners.

By the time dessert rolled around, I think we had fully exhausted our waitress.  She didn’t even ask us what we would like or bring us a menu.  Instead, she brought us EVERY dessert!

Encounter 2 + 4

I guess you win some (dessert), and you lose some (poop toe).

  • What wacky street performers have you encountered?
  • Have you been pooped on?  Where were you?  How quickly were you able to clean it?
  • How do you feel about the Burger King ad?
  • Have you had trouble communicating at a restaurant?

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Highs and Lows Come and Go

On our 30/40 World Tour, we would typically book our accommodation before we arrived in a new location. However, on the Oz Experience bus tour, we didn’t have much downtime to do research online. Because of the mechanical problems, we usually arrived at our hotel/hostel late and were so excited to have a bed for stretched out sleep. (Sleeping on a bus can get a bit cramped.) We also had to wake up early to cover the mileage the next morning, so neither the evenings or mornings gave us much time to surf.

Melbourne

Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull in downtown Melbourne

Everyone else on the bus tour had a reservation in Melbourne – even the backpacker teenagers! (I wonder if their moms booked it.) So Squatter made the rounds through Melbourne dropping people off at their various hostels. After my two nights on the tour, I knew I wanted a nicer place to stay. So we got off at the last stop and started walking toward St. Kilda.

We were tired and hungry at this point, which is not a great combo for a traveler with no idea where she is going and a heavy pack on her back. I don’t do so well with the unknown, especially under those circumstances. Mr. HalfFull often reminds me to live my way into the answers and embrace the unknown. But it’s so hard! I like to have a plan and direction.

Our goal was to find a restaurant with free wifi where we could eat and book a hotel like hobos with all our luggage. Even though we traveled light, I still found it a little embarrassing to have so much stuff at a nice restaurant. But they were super gracious at Phamish café and didn’t seem to mind. We were “phamished” so we ordered the sampler appetizer, which turned out to be a huge platter with all sorts of foodie deliciousness. It was quite a contrast from eating powdered eggs.

We didn’t find a lot of reasonable accommodation options in St. Kilda. There were a couple of fancy hotels, but they were rather pricey. I was leery of sketchy places after our last two nights, but reluctantly I consented to a hostel called The Coffee Place. I think its name and color scheme was the only reason I thought it might be okay.

When we arrived, I wasn’t so sure. It was basically run by kids playing video games. In other words, it could have been a frat house. I’m too old for this!

We went up to our room by climbing several flights of stairs. The door wasn’t secure like a front door; it was more like a lightweight bedroom door. Inside everything was clean, but very sparse. There was almost no furniture aside from the bed. However, there was one small built-in shelf with a coffee maker – after all, it was The Coffee Palace.

After seeing the room, I lost it. This was no palace. The tears streamed down my cheeks. There was really nothing wrong with the room; it was fully functional, clean, and spacious. I think I was just exhausted from the bus tour; I didn’t get my afternoon naps or sleep-in time in the mornings! Plus, I was an introvert on a bus full of people for three days. I was drained from all the interaction. I guess six weeks of being on the move left me feeling rather half empty – maybe even completely empty.

Phamish cafe

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoying cappuccino at Phamish café

We enjoyed Phamish café so much that we went back there for breakfast the next morning. I had a cappuccino and internet time…I was back baby! Plus, we were staying at The Coffee Palace for two nights, so I wasn’t lugging my bag around this time, and knew where I would be sleeping that night.

Mr. HalfFull loves sports; I become a football widow during the NFL season. We actually got married on a bye weekend for his football team! He also loves college basketball, and once again goes missing during March Madness. So he was super excited to have the opportunity to witness Aussie rules football in person.

It was game day, so we walked to the train station and were surprised that there were no ticket kiosks. A person on the platform informed us that you could buy tickets on the train. This seemed strange to us, but obviously we knew nothing about public transportation in Melbourne. So we boarded the train and found the ticket machine. We soon learned that the ticket machine only takes coins. What does an ATM not give you? Coins!

So we had no coins and couldn’t buy tickets; I felt like a fugitive. Hopefully, they would let us play the dumb American card. We really did have the best of intentions!

Melbourne Cricket Ground

Mr. HalfFull looking for tickets outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Finally, we arrived downtown at the enormous stadium that seats over 100,000 people. We were about to engage in some more illegal activity. We didn’t have tickets and were scouring the crowd outside the stadium looking for scalpers. We knew the game was a huge local rivalry between Carlton and Collingwood and thus, was sold out.

We didn’t find the shady people Mr. HalfFull was seeking, so we headed to the club ticket counter. The woman informed us that indeed the game was sold out, but she told us to look for scalpers and warned us not to pay more than face value. An employee advised us to seek out scalpers! Is scalping not illegal in Melbourne?

We walked all the way around the stadium with no luck. Mr. HalfFull didn’t seem so half full and resigned himself to the fact that we weren’t getting into the game. Then he spotted a guy with long hair, facial hair, tattoos, and rings on every finger. He looked like the type of guy you didn’t want to fight. Mr. HalfFull thought he might be a scalper. We hung around to listen to his conversation and learned that he too was looking for tickets.

Stadium Family

Ms. HalfEmpty in the MCG stadium with the side of the family who supports the Carlton Blues

Our chances seemed pretty much exhausted when I overheard the conversation of a family nearby. They were talking about how it was too bad that “those two” couldn’t come. What? Two tickets?

So I butted into their circle and asked if they had two extra tickets. They did, but they were tickets for children. Bummer!

Stadium Family

Mr. HalfFull with the other brother who's a fan of the Collingwood Magpies

We started walking away when they said, “But we aren’t going to use them, so you’re welcome to try. Just walk in with us and be our kids for the day! There’s no harm in trying.” I didn’t know what the penalty was for using the wrong age-group ticket, but we had already ridden the train illegally, so what the heck! Weren’t the Australians descendants of criminals anyway? (Kids, this is why they tell you not to smoke because it’s just a gateway to more and more.)

The tickets worked and we all got in! The introvert had accosted strangers in a foreign country to fulfill Mr. HalfFull’s dream. It was amazing.

Inside MCG

Watching Aussie football inside MCG stadium

The stadium was huge and circular, unlike our oblong stadiums. It was impressive to watch these super fit athletes play with no padding. There was a lot of leg to tantalize the ladies. Plus, there were no big bellies like in the NFL. Even the referees were super fit.

The family we sat with explained the rules to us; they were so much fun. We tried to pay them for the tickets and buy them beers, but they didn’t want anything. They even emailed us a few days later to ask if we wanted to grab “a pot.” After looking that up online, I learned that it’s beer, not tea.

Meat Pie

Sampling meat pie at the stadium

We knew that meat pies are an Aussie football stadium staple. Even after our disappointment with pies in Sydney, we tried the stadium fare. It was okay. I guess they can’t make them like the flaky pastries in New Zealand because it needs to be self-contained and more spill-proof for the stadium.

Red Stitch Theater

Ms. HalfEmpty at Red Stitch Theater

That evening we had tickets to see a play called My Romantic History at Red Stitch theater. It was a super cute playhouse. Much of the play took place in the bathroom and the set consisted of three bathroom stalls. That brought our live theater count to six on the 30/40 World Tour.

Mr. HalfFull got his football and I got my theater. It was a good day all around, especially considering the tears the night before.

  • Do you make reservations before you arrive or wing it?
  • How do you handle the unknown? Are you able to relax and let things unfold?
  • Did you have a breaking point while traveling? What helped you get over it?
  • Have you broken the rules while traveling?
  • If you are not normally a sports fan, do you still think it would be interesting to witness in a foreign country?
  • Have you been surprised by the kindness of strangers?

Related:  All posts in the 30/40 World Tour series

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The Problem with Being Half Full

Last week, I was particularly excited about Wednesday.  I’m not sure why, but I was feeling half full in spite of myself.  On Tuesday night, I even stayed up late with Mr. HalfFull to watch a favorite TV show that started at 10 PM — that’s past my bedtime!  We usually watch the show On DEMAND later in the week, but I had half full energy and knew I didn’t have to get up early on Wednesday.

When I woke up on Wednesday morning after a full night of restful sleep, I was still feeling half full.  It was raining, but even that didn’t dampen my mood.  I proceeded to the kitchen and flipped the coffee mug over from half empty to half full, just to certify my mood to all who entered.

I did not have a long to-do list on this particular Wednesday.  Plus, I was excited to go to a luncheon at my friend’s house.  I even had grand plans to blog in the afternoon!  It was going to be a great day.

damaged car

At least my car didn't end up looking like this.  Although, I'm not sure this was a particularly attractive car to begin with.

But the problem with being that happy and that half full is that something bad is bound to happen.  I’m Ms. HalfEmpty; the universe was out of whack.  So just to put things into perspective, my beautiful car was smashed by an SUV while I was enjoying lunch.

It was a craptastic event, but I think I handled it in stride.  At least I wasn’t in the car, so I wasn’t injured and didn’t have the stress of actually seeing and feeling my car get crunched.  Plus, the driver came to find me and her insurance company accepted liability.

Having a damaged car is a huge hassle with insurance, adjusters, repair shops, and rental cars.  That’s what I get for being too half full.

  • Is it possible to be too half full?
  • How do you handle car collisions?  Do you flip out or remain calm?
  • Do you believe that something bad is bound to happen when you’re too happy?

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Half Full Malfunction

Last month, one of my dear readers (if it wasn’t you, it was the other one) brought an article to my attention that gave me some hope about my half emptiness.  In fact, I felt a bit vindicated.

The article is succinctly titled, “Is your glass always half full? Optimism could be down to a brain malfunction – and it may have caused the banking crisis.”  That’s quite an assertion!  Should I start to worry about my husband’s brain malfunction???

“According to research published today, blind optimism is related to ‘faulty’ functioning of the brain’s frontal lobes.”

Jumping in the Desert

Mr. HalfFull is quite optimistic despite being in a desert in the United Arab Emirates with temperatures over 100°F!

Whew!  I’m not so worried now because Mr. HalfFull doesn’t exhibit blind optimism.  He looks on the bright side of things and is generally a happy person, but still has a range of emotions.

During the brain imaging study in London,

“…all participants showed increased activity in the frontal lobes of the brain when the information given was better than expected.

However, when the information was worse than estimated, the more optimistic a participant was, according to a personality questionnaire, there was less activity in these frontal regions.”

Upset in Barcelona

After a bird poops on my foot in Barcelona, I'm not going to be optimistic!

I guess my frontal lobes are super active all the time!  Can you really fault me for responding to all the information?  I’m just exhibiting healthy half empty brain function.

I realize that optimists tend to cope better with life’s challenges and may be less stressed, but is that only because they are ignoring the facts?  Isn’t it good to see things as they are?  As a woman firmly entrenched in the half empty camp, I believe it’s important to acknowledge the negative too!  Perhaps you shouldn’t dwell on it, but ignoring it completely doesn’t seem like a good practice either.

  • Do you know a blindly optimistic person?  Is he/she annoying?
  • Are you worried about your frontal lobe brain function?
  • Do you tend to ignore negative information?
  • Do optimists have better coping skills and less stress?

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Period.

Period.  Full stop.  The end.

NZ waterfall

The lovely Whangarei Falls in New Zealand are not the flow I'm talking about

Nope, not that period.  I’m talking about that enjoyable time in the heroine’s journey, whether she is home or traveling abroad.  You know, the one that comes monthly — or 3 times in 10 weeks if you’re super lucky (or perhaps half empty).

If you read my packing list, you know that we had small bags — certainly not enough to last for 10 weeks.  The plan was to do laundry frequently and replenish toiletries along the way.  This included feminine products.

Our quest for feminine products ensued late one night after driving all day through New Zealand.  We were starving in the wintery darkness, but I wanted to make sure we found a store before closing time.  Thankfully, the first shopping center we stumbled upon contained a huge store called The Warehouse, akin to Target in America.  We found the appropriate aisle with a wide array of products.  Most of the brands were unfamiliar, but I wasn’t too worried because they all seemed similar to the products that Mr. HalfFull buys for me at home.

However, I did find it odd that the tampon packages were so small.  I checked the count on several boxes of various brands, which all seemed to be about the same.  I was slightly suspicious, but at this point I was too tired to care and figured it was a first world country with similar products; everything would be fine.

I didn’t end up opening those Kiwi tampons until Australia, nearly a month later.  Yes, they were indeed different; these did not include an applicator.  What?!?  I’ve NEVER seen a tampon without an applicator.  I’ve seen cardboard applicators and plastic applicators and even ones that collapse into smaller packages, but never NO applicator.  Hmm…this seemed a bit tricky.

bus safari

Ms. HalfEmpty midair in a remote, restroom-free area of Mount Kosciuszko in Australia

We haven’t told you much about our adventures in Australia, but it included a bus safari through the mountains between Sydney and Melbourne.  What’s along the twisty, winding mountain roads from Sydney to Melbourne?  Exactly, my point — not a lot of towns.  For much of the safari, we were bouncing along dirt roads on mountain cliffs that require a special driver’s license.  In other words, we were in middle of nowhere.

You might be asking, “What kind of bathrooms do they have in the middle of nowhere?”  Answer:  the porta-potty sort, with no running water.  So no running water and no applicator?  Way to think this safari thing through Mr. HallFull!  The same man who convinced me to walk out of an international airport had now stranded me in the rugged wilderness along the banks of the Snowy River during my visit from Aunt Flo.

At least I had the foresight to save hand wipes from airplanes and brought along antibacterial gel from home.  But yes, it was gross and uncomfortable, especially with one porta-potty and a busload of people waiting for me to figure out how to use an applicator-less tampon.

maxi liner

Fun facts on the maxi liner!

Although I didn’t run out of my American tampons until Australia, I needed the new maxis in New Zealand.  These too were different than the ones I’ve seen in the US.  But this time, the difference was fun!  The throw-away sticker liner included trivia; Mr. HalfFull and I learned all sorts of silly facts.  For example, did you know that in Pacific Grove, California, it is a misdemeanor to kill a butterfly?

So I guess my experience with feminine products in the South Pacific was half empty and half full.

  • Does your husband/boyfriend buy your feminine products?
  • Have you ever seen a tampon without an applicator?  Is this typical in foreign countries?
  • Do you think the lack of applicator is for environmental reasons?
  • Do you travel with hand wipes and antibacterial gel?
  • What products (or lack of products) have complicated life while traveling?
  • What products have made you chuckle?

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Drama on the 30/40 World Tour

As you may have guessed from our initial stumble, we’ve experienced our fair share of drama on the 30/40 World Tour.  Everyone seems to need a little personal drama to spice things up — some more than others. I prefer my dishes on the mild side, while Mr. HalfFull breaks a sweat every now and then.  You would think that being together 24/7 during weeks of travel would generate some spicy drama, but don’t worry Mom, Mr. HalfFull and I still like each other! This post is actually about professional drama…of the Kiwi theater variety. I love live theater.  For years, I’ve ushered at Woolly Mammoth, and have even recruited Mr. HalfFull and other friends to join me.  Since I enjoy great stories, the rush of emotion, and visual elements of light and movement, it seemed natural to seek out theater performances during my Quest for Passion.  While traveling in New Zealand, we were able to attend four plays in Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, and again in Auckland the night before our flight to New Caledonia.

The Brothers Size

The Brothers Size @ Herald Theater, clearly in violation of hip-hop hugging etiquette

Our first day in Auckland CBD, we secured tickets to the closing night performance of The Brothers Size.  We didn’t know much about the play, but the review sounded promising, not to mention that it was the only theater performance that evening in the theater district (our only evening in Auckland before hitting the road in our rental car the following day). Apparently, we had traveled halfway around the world to see a play by an American playwright about African Americans! The cast consisted of three chiseled and tattooed Maori men attempting gangsta accents.  The first few minutes of the play, we had no idea what they were saying.  (Weeks later, we spoke with a Kiwi guy at the same box office who also saw the play and couldn’t understand the accents either.  So that made us feel a bit better.)  We also found their fully embracing hugs to be a far cry from a hip-hop hug in the US.  Even the typically open-minded Mr. HalfFull found himself squirming a bit.

The audience seemed to love the play, closing the night with a standing ovation.  I thought it was a bit long for a play with no intermission (or “interval” as the Kiwis say).  However, I found the movement and lighting compelling.  The Maori actors had amazing kinesthetic awareness — none of the choreography seemed forced or unnatural.  I love when stage movement flows! The venue was basically a black box theater with tiered seating on two sides of a square stage sunk in the middle.  I found it to be an interesting setup, more akin to theater-in-the-round.  But it means that neither side of patrons had the best view all the time — in half empty terms, everyone had the worst seat!  It also meant there was basically no set nor backstage.  The actors not in the scene merely stood off to the side in a static pose.  This play also employed a technique of narrating a line of the story and then acting it out, which seemed redundant and stunted the already challenged verbal flow.

Kapiti Ice Cream Bar

New Zealand ice cream bars are delicious, and the Kapiti Original (vanilla with chocolate shell) wins Mr. HalFull’s official best taste award hands down!

As is typical when visiting a new culture, Mr. HalfFull and I were keenly aware of the people around us, and did a lot of people watching.  We noticed quite a number of classy patrons savoring ice cream bars in the theater before the show.  As an ice cream aficionado, Mr. HalfFull was obsessed with this trend and watched with fascination and envy as elderly men artfully consumed dessert on a stick.  Food is allowed in NZ theaters (a departure from the norm for us), and Mr. HalfFull knew he wanted to be fully immersed in this new found ice cream culture next time! New Zealand takes its dairy very seriously, not just ice cream.  Each accommodation issued us a bottle of milk upon check-in.  It took me a week to figure out that I could ask for trim milk, which is 1 or 2%, and that 0% skim milk does not exist.  Don’t get me started on NZ butter…rich, creamy, delicious.  Ms. Butter would approve; too bad Customs confiscated her Christmas present!

Michael Galvin

Michael Galvin plays a religious zealot in his play, Station to Station

Our next theater experience was in New Plymouth, a small hip seaside town with culture — lovely restaurants, an art gallery, a museum, and theater.  There we witnessed a weird play called Station to Station, which refers to the stations of the cross as reinterpreted for the journey of the characters in the play.  Once again, this play told another story inspired by an American; this time, it was a religious right-wing preacher who recruited Kiwis to help him blow up symbolically important Muslim sites in Jerusalem. As with the first play, we didn’t know a great deal about the play or actors beforehand. Of course, this time Mr. HalfFull was armed with an ice cream bar.  He sat next to an elderly lady who was also enjoying her ice cream and began to chat.  She informed us that the star and writer of the play was a famous soap opera star on Shortland Street, which airs weeknights at 7 PM in New Zealand.  She went on to inform Mr. HalfFull that she was fully prepared to run away with the hot Maori doctor from the show!  We knew we had some TV watching to do, but later discovered it was nothing like my favorite show, Grey’s Anatomy.  It was fun to see a theater actor on TV every now and then, but Shortland Street was not my half empty cup of tea.

Antonia Prebble

Antonia Prebble turned on the lads @ Theatre Royal

The young female lead of the play received cat calls from a drunken lad in the audience.  During the Q&A session after the show, of course he was furiously pumping his hand and proceeded to ask, “Do you find me or my mate more attractive?”  In reply, she asked him if he was the one who yelled at her during the show.  He proudly said yes, only to have her tear into him about how he was rude and ruined the performance for the people around him, declining to answer his question. After the flames subsided, I asked the second question of the night.  Firstly, I identified myself as an American, which got a good laugh from the audience.  My question to the playwright was about the content of the play and how my understanding of the situation in Jerusalem did not mesh with his plot.  It didn’t seem like he was particularly interested in these nuances, but stated that his play was based on an article he read in the UK Guardian and internet research.  At that point, a Kiwi patron shouted, “Well, if it’s on the internet, it must be true,” generating a nice chuckle amongst the crowd.  We also got into a conversation about the people in the US who believed that the world was supposed to end on May 21, 2011.  I mentioned a Washington Post article about the fundamentalist Christians who had quit their jobs and were marching on the National Mall to warn their fellow humans about the approach of the Rapture.  It’s safe to say that the world (well, at least Fiji and New Zealand, so far) thinks Americans are all crazy!  Nice work, Tea Party.

Circa Theater

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoys a trim flat white outside Circa Theater

Our third evening of theater occurred in New Zealand’s brilliant capital city of Wellington.  We saw Meet the Churchills at Circa Theater — a story about Sir Winston Churchill and his dysfunctional immediate family.  (Bonus:  I left feeling much better about my own family life.)  Like our first theater experience in Auckland, this venue also had the audience in L-shaped stadium seating around a sunken stage.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this play finally had a real set.  Granted, the whole play took place in one room, rendering the set design much easier.  It added a great deal of temporal relevance and brought the characters alive in the space.

Meet the Churchills

No, we weren’t celebrating Mr. HalfFull’s birthday in NZ, this was just a crotchety old British dude on a real set.

As an usher at Woolly Mammoth, I usually get to view the empty set (or if I’m lucky an actor’s warmup too), which generally sparks awe, wonder, and excitement for the impending performance.   I enjoy staged readings, but they’re not full productions, which to me necessitates set design.  It seems logical that ticket price might correlate with the presence of a set, but this was not the case in New Zealand.

On the Upside-Down of the World

Great costume, but the metal ladders were not reminiscent of New Zealand’s lush landscape

At the end of our three week journey in New Zealand we returned to Auckland, where we had one final theater experience (and NZ ice cream bar) before bidding farewell to this lovely country.  Shockingly, after three failed attempts, we finally saw a play written by a Kiwi about New Zealand (not the US or the UK) — On the Upside-Down of the World, a one-woman show about the wife of the first chief justice of New Zealand.  It was wonderful to finally see some New Zealand history on stage and learn more about the Maoris.  This show had a set consisting of many metal ladders at various angles across a sand-covered stage.  It was visually interesting, especially with the lighting, but again left a lot to the imagination, as this set represented many things (but never ladders) throughout the show.

Theater in Auckland

Ms. HalfEmpty fist bumps Sir Dove-Myer Robinson outside Town Hall Theater

This theater experience had an unexpected connection to a previous show.  Once again, Mr. HalfFull had a fortuitous seat.  The woman who sat next to him was wearing a stylish twenties era blue hat that I loved.  She arrived with another couple and the three were chatting as we waited for the show to begin.  I commented to Mr. HalfFull about her hat and how she looked just like the young actress from the play in New Plymouth.  He agreed, but doubted it was her.  While reading our programs, we overheard her conversation and realized that she was telling the story of the drunk lad cat calling her at the show in New Plymouth.  Unbelievably, Mr. HalfFull was indeed sitting next to Antonia Prebble!  We chimed in to say that we attended the performance and agreed that the guy was out of line.  I also mentioned that I was the American who asked the question, and she remembered me.  What a small world!

  • Do you enjoy live theater?
  • How important is hug etiquette in modern society (especially for men)?
  • Do you prefer an elaborate set or one that leaves more to the imagination?
  • What food-related cultural habits have you observed at events?
  • How did you react to the portrayal of your countrymen while abroad?
  • Have you experienced a full-circle travel event?

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Filling Ms. HalfEmpty’s Duffel

Packing can be quite stressful (particularly for the HalfEmpty mind), especially when you (1) are not sure exactly what to expect – which I suppose is part of the charm of our 30/40 World Tour, (2) will encounter multiple climates, and (3) are packing for 10 weeks. Here’s what made it into my luggage:

    • electronics (guess this makes us flashpackers)
      Cables & Chargers

      Jumble of cables and chargers for our electronics

      • netbook with charger and protective sleeve
      • digital camera with charger and computer cable
      • external hard drive with charger, computer cable, and protective sleeve (mainly for photo backup)*
      • universal travel adapter
      • iPod and computer charging cable
      • 2 sets of ear buds
      • audio splitter (so we can both listen to the iPod or computer at the same time)
      • thumb drive (to store copies of travel documents in case netbook disappears)
    • paper
      • passport (duh!)
      • paper copy of passport (stored in a different place than the original passport, in case it disappears)
      • leather binder planner (Yes, I still use an analog planner, which comes in handy when I don’t have internet access or electricity! My planner NEVER runs out of batteries.)
      • printed spreadsheet of all flight reservations (This has been invaluable each time we check in and they want to ensure we will not be squatters in the next country.)
      • paper flight ticket (Air Mauritius has not converted to electronic tickets yet)
      • Fijian hotel hut voucher (yep, the outer islands still require paper too)
      • Fijian sailboat cruise voucher
      • Australian bus safari vouchers
      • checkbook registers (stop laughing, yes I’m still analog [Mr. HalfFull shakes his head] and keep track of these things)
      • 3 empty envelopes (for receipts since some countries refund your sales tax at the airport, and since I scrutinize credit card statements)
    • wallet
      • International Student Identification Card (ISIC)
      • driver’s license (for New Zealand car rental)
      • credit cards (called each credit card company to alert them of our travel and learned that my foreign conversion fees range from 0% to 3%)
      • American cash (we’ll get foreign currency from ATMs in each country, but it’s nice to have small bills for tips)
    • clothing for Ms. HalfEmpty
        • shoes
          Shoes

          Two pairs of shoes for 10 weeks, and no heels!

          • hiking shoes with high-arch support insoles
          • convertible sandals with removable heel strap
        • bottoms
          • jeans
          • convertible pants that zip into shorts
          • khaki shorts
        • tops
            • 2 dry-fit t-shirts
          Clothes

          Clothes for hot and cold climates to last 10 weeks!

          • graphic t-shirt
          • dressier short-sleeve shirt with top buttons
          • sexy/fun/flowy shirt with undershirt (to allow me to dress up a bit and minimize my mom’s embarrassment!)
          • 2 long-sleeve dry-fit t-shirts (already came in handy in Fijian tribal village where I was required to cover my elbows and knees)
        • dress (dry-fit material that packs well and somehow looks amazingly dressy)
        • black merino wool scarf/shawl
        • pajamas
        • undergarments
          • 3 pairs of black underwear
          • 3 bras (white racer back, black regular, nude push-up)
          • sports bra
          • technical long-johns
        • socks
          • wool ski socks
          • 3 pairs of athletic ankle socks
          • 1 pair of crew technical socks

            Beachwear

            Beachwear

        • beachwear
          • athletic bikini (Speedo found for $15 at local Virginia swim shop…score!)
          • halter bikini
          • top half of bikini (packed this by mistake because it was tucked into halter bikini, but the back clasp came in handy for my massage on the beach)
          • quick dry shorts
          • tank top
          • visor
        • outerwear (can roll and secure these to outside of duffel when more space is needed)
          • rain jacket
          • fleece (funny to see this in bottom of bag while sweating in Fiji!)
          • gloves

      Duffel Bag

      Ms. HalfEmpty's packed duffel bag with outwear strapped to the outside

    • luggage
        • duffel bag with backpack straps (exact specs for American overhead compartments; Air Pacific disagreed, forcing me to check it…must admit it was nice not to lug bags around for hours at LAX)
        • day pack (about the size of my 11” netbook; easily fits under airplane seat with netbook, camera, chargers, planner, sunglasses, convertible pant legs, water bottle, hand sanitizer, iPod, ear buds, splitter, flight list, passorts, and snacks)*

          Day Pack

          Mini day pack with orange netbook sleeve tucked inside

        • dry pouch (small waterproof bag comes in handy anytime near water – sailing, pool, dock, rain, etc.)*
        • beach tote (rolls up to about 1×2 inches)*
        • small mesh zippered laundry bag (for storing dirty laundry and holding delicates in washer)
        • small toiletry bag*
        • 1-quart resealable plastic bag (to carry all my 3 oz. or smaller liquids/gels and make TSA happy; interestingly, we did get thanked in the screening line at Dulles airport)

      Toiletries

      Toiletries

    • toiletries
      • towel in pouch (these super absorbent towels pack tightly and come in a pouch that allows you to separate them from the rest of our gear when wet; can be hooked to the outside of our duffels)
      • sport sunscreen (our 3 oz. aerosol worked extremely well, but feels a bit sticky)
      • insect repellant (applied primarily around ankles, but at the end of the day we had to make peace with our sacrifice to the Fijian insect population…not too bad)
      • toothbrush with cover (Mr. HalfFull doesn’t believe in covers)
      • toothpaste
      • floss
      • disposable razors
      • shaving cream
      • deodorant (I wanted to pack my current deodorant, but Mr. HalfFull insisted that we have a new completely full one if it was going to take up all that space; so we went to the drug store at 9 PM the night before our flight)
      • solid shampoo bar (doesn’t count as a liquid…score!)*
      • hair moisturizer in flat packets (packets are super slim and helped with TSA liquid/gel requirements)*
      • leave-in conditioner in flat packets*
      • hair gel (transferred my normal gel into a 3 oz. travel bottle)
      • SPF 15 face lotion (transferred into 3 oz. travel bottle)
      • body lotion in flat packet
      • body butter
      • hand lotion in flat packets*
      • shower mousse (not critical, but was a new small container and will produce a nice lather without a washcloth or loofah)
      • face cleanser (super tiny containers)*
      • face exfoliant (another tiny container)*
      • blemish cream (why do we still get zits at 30 and 40-years-old???)
      • cotton swabs
      • feminine products
      • nail clippers
      • tweezers
      • 3 small binder clips (to seal open flat packets)
    • makeup
      • flat makeup samples: eyeshadow, lipstick, blush
      • mascara
      • eyelash curler
      • under eye concealer
      • perfume (in tiny sample tube)
    • hair accessories
      • 4 hair ties, 5 bobby pins, 2 hair clips (I opted to grow my hair for this trip since I’m sure I’ll need to throw it up often)
      • headband
    • medical
      • aspirin
      • anti-diarrhea pills*
      • small adhesive bandages
      • triple antibiotic ointment
    • other
      • sunglasses
      • snacks*
      • water bottle
      • laundry detergent (I wanted to use liquid detergent, but we ran out of space in the 1-quart bags, so we filled travel bottles with powder detergent and labeled them to avoid questions)
      • hand sanitizer
      • moist towelettes
      • headlamp (electricity shuts off at 10 PM on Likuri Island)*
      • S-biners (to clip items to the outside of our bags, like towels and dirty laundry)
      • metal cage and lock (cage expands to enclose entire duffel bag and can be secured to a permanent fixture)*

 

* Thanks to Rita & James, Mona, Patrick & Lisa, Susan, Maha, Miranda, and my mom for graciously providing items to outfit our trip!

You may be wondering why there are no books on the packing list.  I tried to pack the book I was currently reading, but Mr. HalfFull removed it, concluding that it was not worth the weight.  I still wish I had my physical book, but we do have audiobooks on the iPod.

Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull with luggage

Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull loaded up and ready to go!

It seemed like we packed minimally until I saw it enumerated in list form! But it did all fit in my carry-on duffel and mini day pack. I am a bit relieved that there will be no major clothing decisions this summer (South Pacific winter); I only have a limited number of combinations to cycle through. However, my mother is mortified by my lack of clothing. She doesn’t want us to look like hobos wearing the same outfit, especially in Spain where she says people love to dress up and be seen. But one of our packing lists advises, “Take half of what you think you need and twice as much money.” That’s sage advice! We won’t be stranded in the jungle all the time (even though it felt like it for the first few days), and can probably find whatever we may need on the road.

My mom drove us to the airport and sent us off with a bag of goodies. She found some delicious travel-size snacks (raisins, Larabars, and chocolate squares…lesson learned: don’t leave chocolate in mini day pack while napping in the warm California sun) and enclosed a note:

Dear Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull,

We wish you a great journey around the world, discovering the beauty in nature, cultures, and human behavior; cities and beaches, mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, forests and deserts, and most of all yourselves and your inner souls. We will be following your blog and learning with you. This is an exciting time. We hope that you can cherish the little and big things. The journey is as important as each unique destination.

We will be thinking of you, praying that you are safe, connecting with the known and unknown, as you describe in your heroine journey.

Leave behind “the half” of everything. Lean on each other and enjoy the goodness of your togetherness. This adventure is a great opportunity. Have fun!

Love,
Mom & Dad

What an awesome farewell message! I’m not sure about leaving behind behind my half empty tendencies though. After all, who would write this blog???

  • Do you find packing stressful?
  • Did I pack too much? Too little? Just right?
  • Is fashion an important part of travel?
  • What travel item(s) do you have a hard time justifying? (for example: a stuffed animal)
  • Do you use toothbrush covers?
  • Are physical books worth their weight?
  • How do you feel about the TSA liquid/gel limits?
  • What advice would you give to someone embarking on a long quest?

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full: Lean Meatballs

Meatball

A great meatball doesn’t crumble when you slice into it with a fork…delizioso!

In this second installment of my “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” series, I present you with an easy recipe loosely based on my Italian grandmother’s meatballs, as further clarified by my “meatballer” little sister.  This version has an improved nutritional profile for today’s carnivorous HalfEmpty wife.  Buon Apetito!

Half Full Mug

 

Lean Meatballs

From the kitchen café of Mr. HalfFull

Oven temp: 350°
Cook time: 30-45 min (ovens vary, ensure meatballs are brown)

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 lbs extra lean (95% or more) fresh Ground Sirloin —  this is usually the smallest package found at grocery stores
  • 6 slices of soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread, grated into bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Skim Milk just enough to keep mixture moist
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup chopped Parsley (fresh) — since fresh parsley comes in bushels, chop it all and freeze extra for later
  • Garlic (fresh minced or powder, to taste)
  • Sea Salt & fresh ground Pepper (to taste)
  • Oregano & Basil (dried, to taste)
  • Crushed Red Pepper if you like to kick things up a bit

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until mixture is consistent (not dry)
  • Hand roll meatballs gently to avoid packing them too densely

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  • Place meatballs on rack in a pan and bake until brown

Ms. HalfEmpty loves these meatballs because in addition to tasting delizioso, they allow her to control her protein portions.  When this Italian soul food is paired with a small portion of fresh whole wheat pasta and leafy greens tossed in a vinaigrette, she easily gets her proper ratio of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein.

I enjoy the almost Zen-like ritual of creating a batch of meatballs on a leisurely Sunday with football on TV in the background.  [Aside from Ms. HalfEmpty:  cooking made Mr. HalfFull somewhat useful on football Sundays.  I don’t know if NFL Sundays will continue this fall, but I know he’ll still make meatballs and I may not be a football widow…win/win!]

Meatballs in sauce

Meatballs need to simmer in sauce

Once baked, I can put a few in a small pot of “basic tomato gravy” (a possible future “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” recipe) to simmer all day, and then freeze the remainder.  A great meatball (even the lean ones) should be tender and moist with absorbed tomato sauce, ensuring a light texture that doesn’t crumble when sliced with a fork.

Freeze Meatballs

Freeze meatballs so Ms. HalfEmpty can sustain herself when I’m away…happy wife, happy life!

One of my favorite ways to utilize leftovers is to fill a panini with thinly sliced meatballs, provolone cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto, and arugula.  Likewise, if you have pizza dough on hand, lean meatball slices are a perfect topping!

Finally, it’s important to consider Lemony Snicket‘s words of wisdom:  “Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear.”

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Is the Half Empty Mind Too Full?

Mr. HalfFull and I recently attended our first meditation class together, meeting over six weeks for an hour every Friday after work.  I thought this would be a fun activity for us to do as couple, perhaps becoming a habit for our 30/40 World Tour:  Quest for Passion.  After all, shouldn’t a heroine’s journey involve a bit of serious contemplation?

I’m not sure what we were expecting, but when our first class began with the instructor introducing herself by her given yogi name, it became apparent we were along for a trip onboard her granola cart.  Her furry white rug and specialized meditation pillow (shaped like a butt!) added to the ambiance.  To top it off, before each class she would don a vibrantly colored headscarf to complete her transformation from ordinary person to mediation master.  The only thing missing was the scent of patchouli; all we got was a hint chlorine and sweat, compliments of our local rec center.  Lesson learned:  you get what you pay for.

Meditation

I can win at this!

For the longest time, I thought that meditation was focused thought — thinking really hard about a problem.  If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s over thinking!  I can totally win at meditation.  I love to win.

Full disclosure:  I took Mr. HalfFull to a mindfulness session a few years ago.  It didn’t go well.  As we walked out, I said to Mr. HalfFull, “I’m terrible at meditation.”  He thought I missed the whole point, giggling at my half emptiness.  In hindsight, the mindfulness session was filled with skilled meditation practitioners, not newbies like us.  Perhaps a class would help me learn how to win at meditation!

I’ve learned that meditation is more about emptying your mind, as opposed to thinking hard.  I should be awesome at this; I’m already halfway there.  But how do I keep control with an empty mind?  I have lists to make and issues to ponder.  Who has time to sit around emptying his mind?  How is that helpful?

Intellectually, I grasp the benefits of meditation.  While taking the class, I was also reading a novel that summed it up nicely:

…in meditation what’s peeling away are your own thought patterns.  Worries, anxieties, clichés, bright ideas, ambitions, plans, mental and emotional hangups, all that half-conscious brain litter.  You strip the layers away, one by one, until the images grow fainter and fainter and the noise grows quieter and quieter, and bing! you arrive at the core, which is naked emptiness, a kind of exhilarating vacuum.

That sounds kinda neat, but I’m not exactly the prime candidate for meditation.  I have an over active mind that is not prone to silence.  On the other hand, I figured this whole Zen thing would be right in Mr. HalfFull’s wheel house.  But after the first class, I was surprised to learn that he was even more skeptical than me!  He had a hard time taking the instructor seriously, especially in the strange classroom located adjacent to the rec center bathrooms and their amazingly squeaky doors.

The third session convinced me that Mr. HalfFull was not as Zen as I suspected.  We were listening to a recording of a guy who sounded eerily similar to Antonio Banderas.  Don’t get me started on our instructor’s abuse of her iPod.  She’s never heard of playlists, and watching her fumble through the iPod menus was not conducive to my meditation.  I channeled all of my Chi to subdue the control freak in me who wanted to scream and rip the iPod out of that hippie’s fingers.  So I was off to a calm start.

But I digress; back to the recording with Sr. Banderas.  We were instructed to visualize his journey while lying on a mat with our eyes closed.  Antonio’s narration starts off in a grassy park in the center of town where he meets with his teacher.  The teacher tells him to go in search of peace and then mysteriously disappears.

So the student gets up and starts walking around town.  First he comes across a bookstore and thinks that will be a great place to look for peace.  He goes in and looks at lots of books and enjoys himself, but hasn’t really found true peace.  The sultry Latino voice states, “Theez iz not trrrue peeze.”  So he goes next door to the café.  He sips coffee at a table outside, talks to lots of friends, and has a wonderful time.  But he soon realizes theez iz not trrrue peeze.  So he walks further down the block and comes to a music store.  As a lover of music, he thinks this might be the spot where he finds peace.  He listens to various recordings and enjoys himself, but again theez iz not trrrue peeze.  He goes back outside in search of another location where he might find peace.  This time he finds a yoga studio and goes inside to take a class.  Afterward he feels amazing and is calmer, but still theez iz not trrrue peeze.

If you feel like you’ve been reading this forever, imagine listening for over 10 minutes.  Like us, Sr. Banderas is a bit frustrated and decides to go back to the grassy park to sit down.  Now the background music of the recording is building, and we sense that there will be a big revelation.  So we are all listening intently gearing up for the climax after this long journey.  The voice says, “I rrrealized that trrrue peeze iz…”  At that moment, you can hear the PA system of the rec center click on to announce, “Julie, to the front desk.”

Dalai Lama laughing

At this point, my calm, focused, Zen husband bursts into laughter.  His laugh is so funny and so inappropriate for the setting, that I start laughing at his ridiculousness.  The rest of the class is silent.  What kind of hobos laugh in meditation class?

Weeks later, Mr. HalfFull suggested that laughing can be quite Zen:

I know laughter opens the doors to perception, and it allows a thought to get in, because you’re completely unguarded and Zen-like when you’re laughing.

Laughing Buddha

Mr. HalfFull's beloved premarital artifact: the Laughing Buddha

We have this wooden Laughing Buddha statue in our foyer.  It was a decoration that Mr. HalfFull brought from his bachelor pad to our home.  I never liked it, and he’s not even Buddhist.  He originally displayed it on top of the TV cabinet, and I would move it to a hidden shelf reserved for his artifacts.  But that’s a story for another day.

I never noticed that the Buddha was laughing until Mr. HalfFull pointed it out to me as we were editing this post.  I just thought he was a fat guy with an open mouth (the Buddha, not my husband).  Maybe Mr. HalfFull is actually Zen:

Zen Buddhism embraces humor as an instructional tool and mode of expressing enlightenment, or satori. The Rinzai school of Zen teachings, the oldest Zen school in Japan, teaches that enlightenment cannot be attained through rigorous, logical thought, but only in a sudden, transcendent understanding of the universe. In this way, achieving Zen enlightenment is something like understanding a joke.

After the laughing incident, my rigorous, logical, half empty mind thought Mr. HalfFull was just inappropriate and lacked serious mental concentration.  But now it seems possible that he found a sudden, transcendent understanding of the universe!  I never knew he was so deep.  Perhaps he is my key to becoming enlightened and half full (or completely empty?).

Julie Nametag

Look for her at your local rec center!

For the rest of our meditation classes, instead of saying we were going to class, we would tell each other that we were going to find Julie at the desk.  We haven’t found her yet, but I look forward to making her acquaintance one day.

  • Do you meditate?
  • Have you laughed at inopportune moments?
  • Does Antonio Banderas’ voice make you randy?
  • Is there a special place for your spouse’s premarital artifacts?
  • Will we ever find Julie at the front desk?  Will you?

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Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full: Healthy Zucchini Pie

Zucchini Pie Slice

Healthy Zucchini Pie slice -- delicious!

I’m pretty sure our wedding vows include my promise to be Ms. HalfEmpty’s personal chef.  When we first started dating, she lived nearby and would walk over for home-cooked meals in what she called my café.  Now that I think about it, it’s unclear if she was ever formally invited!  Regardless, since then I’ve perfected a few tried and true recipes she loves, and it seems like a fun idea to share them with her readers.  In this first post of my “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” series, I present you with a recipe loosely based on my Armenian grandmother’s Zucchini Pie, with a bit of nutritional improvement inspired by Ms. HalfEmpty’s healthier eating style.  Bon Appétit!

Half Full Mug

 

Healthy Zucchini Pie

From the kitchen café of Mr. HalfFull

Oven temp: 350°
Cook time: 45 min – 1 hr (ovens vary, use tooth pick test to make sure pie is fully baked)
Ingredients

Simple ingredients make preparation easy

Ingredients:

  • 3 small Zucchini, diced
  • 1 large Sweet Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 large Red Pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of Feta Cheese
  • 1 cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 1 cup Heart Smart Bisquick
  • 4 Eggs, beaten
  • 3 tbsp Parsley (fresh or dried)
  • Garlic (fresh minced or powder, to taste)
  • Sea Salt & fresh ground Pepper (to taste)
  • Butter (for greasing 9″ glass pie plate)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until zucchini is coated
  • Lightly grease a 9” glass pie plate with real butter (Ms. Butter would approve)
  • Spoon bowlful of ingredients into pie plate, and bake until golden
Finished Pie

A golden Healthy Zucchini Pie hot out of the oven

Besides the simplicity of my grandmother’s recipe, what I really love is the versatility.  You can serve a slice of Healthy Zucchini Pie in the morning with a fresh-brewed cup of coffee, at lunch with leafy greens tossed in a vinaigrette, or even at the dinner table as the hearty side to a bowl of fire-roasted tomato bisque.  Ms. HalfEmpty is particular about getting her proper ratio of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein at each meal, and one slice of Healthy Zucchini Pie does the trick.

I have been known to kick things up a notch on occasion (Emeril Lagasse would approve), and over time I have used this Healthy Zucchini Pie recipe as the canvas for using up any left over sundries in our fridge, such as sun dried tomato pesto, shredded Mexican cheeses, or even the remnants of a salsa jar after a leisurely Sunday watching football on TV.

And don’t get me started on how good bacon tastes when sprinkled into this (suddenly not so) Healthy Zucchini Pie recipe.  But as Oscar Wilde said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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