Taipei in October

It feels weird to be taking a vacation from my vacation(?) [working-holiday] in New Zealand. It was a fact I had no plans to leave. I wanted to spend my entire year in New Zealand. But I had someone important to see in Taipei. So I was traveling 20 hours one way to do it.

I was nervous. I was curious about how it would feel to be back in Taipei with her after being away. It felt hot. Really hot. Really humid.

I left Auckland on a chilly rainy day wearing comfortable jeans for the long journey. I landed with them on. The airport wasn’t hot. I wasn’t focused on it. I was focused on finding her so I could wrap my arms around her.

We walked hand in hand to the Airport MRT and took it to Taipei Main Station. Never going outside. We ditched our bags in a locker so we could go explore. We took another short subway ride to get some dumplings.

xiao long bio!

Xiao Long Bao! the smiles in this photo are so staged. I think it’s lame. But she’s beautiful ♥

After walking around for a bit I was dying. The heat was sucking the life out me. The humid was wringing the sweat out of me. Hot an uncomfortable. I wanted to it down and never get up.

By sundown the weather cooled and I was comfortable again especially at the top of Taipei 101.

Taipei 101 view

a blurry view from the top


We spent the next few days hanging out with her grandparents flipping through movies and a show about rattle snake wranglers. We enjoyed a buffet with her parents. They were curious about my work in in New Zealand.

We spent two nights in the city alone. One of them we had a fancy birthday dinner on the 85 floor of Taipei 101. We went to a movie after.


I was getting sick of so many photos. I just wanted to eat my dessert!

Honestly most of our time was spent alone in the studio we rented listening to jazz music slow dancing together or in a used book store somewhere in the city. I couldn’t be happier about the time we spent together doing that. In my mind, I think we found “our thing.”

It was sad to leave her. It was sad to leave Taipei. The moment I stepped back into the crowded city streets I felt more at home then I anticipated. It was a lovely warm feeling. Maybe it was the feeling not the humidity that was making me sweat.

Taipei will always be a home away from home. And home will always be when I’m with her.


Bad Waiter, No Tips

I don’t think I was a very good waiter. Most days I didn’t have any problems and I did enjoy the job marginally more than one does with a minimum wage job. Nevertheless, there were I handful of times I made some big mistakes.

To my own benefit, they hired me with no experience. I told them I never worked in a restaurant. I asked for a bus boy or dishwasher position. Something I could just do to keep busy for the the month between now and going to Taipei.

English as a first language paid off here. It helped the guests understand me. Not that it helped me understand them. Lots of Chinese customers with little English. I mean no offense by this it’s just how it was. Sometimes it causes problems.

Take this for instance: I’m helping an older Chinese couple order. He speaks no English. Hers seems limited to food items. They decided on a seafood salad and a Prosciutto Pizza. After I put the order in she comes up to me and says she’d like to which the pizza to Fettuccine Bolognese. Because of mistakes in the past, I write down that she asked me to switch it.

I wasn’t the guy to take them food. When she saw the Fettuccine she told whoever she didn’t order it. I forget who, but they got me and told me to figure it out. I told her you order this. She said, “beef pizza.” This was the only time the boss was every on my side. “We don’t have a beef pizza,” she interrupted.

That’s not an exciting story but it’s a decent example.

I think my biggest blunder was forgetting to put in a tables order. It happened once. I forgot an item or two for a tables order maybe twice or thrice. One of those times the patron was asking me about prawn salad but because of my lack of interest I understood it as prawn linguini.

I was working three twelve hour days Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Forgive me if I lose concentration or forget to care. It’s not like we had assigned tables. The wait staff was always all over. We don’t get tips either. The only incentive to work hard is to work from your heart.

Honestly I tried to do good. I believed being a waiter for a short period of time would be beneficial to me. In some ways it definitely was. I saved money money on meals because they feed me five days a week.

More importantly, many people say that everyone should work in the service industry for a month. Now I have. And, they’re right. It sucks. People are awful! People are grumpy and in bad moods and take it out on the staff. They are needy and overly demanding. I’ve never been the person to get mad at a waiter(ess), looking forward I imagine I will be even nicer.

But don’t expect my cheap ass to put any money in your tip jar in New Zealand. Y’all never tipped either. You want tips go to America!


One of my regulars and by far one of the cutest customers we got in.


Heading Back to Auckland

July-August and into October

After my experience wwoofing I headed back to Auckland to work in event production again. They had another big event coming up. This one in Auckland. I would be living and working here.

I took up residency in a familiar hostel. It’s nice to go back to a place with a few familiar faces. There were also a lot of new people. Most of them long-term guests also working in Auckland on working holiday. We all sort of got situated in the city and hunkered down to work.

I spent most of my time at work during this time. I feel more close to my coworkers than the hostel guests. But, there was certainly a sense of togetherness in the hostel. It felt like a home. People had schedules and you could expect to see them return at certain times.

I stayed there for a few months while building. Everyday I would wake up early, make some eggs and walk to the train. I’d read for about twenty minutes on the train and then walk to work. It wasn’t bad. I quite enjoyed my morning commute.

I was always against the flow of traffic. In the morning, everyone is headed north bound to the CBD. I was heading South to an industrial area called Penrose. After work, people head south to go home, I would head north to Parnell.

A few times, and I could never figure out why, the train would skip Parnell station and head to the last stop: Britomart. I hated this. It added an addition thirty to forty-five minutes to my commute. The train was always crowed leaving the CBD too.

More often than not I would get off the train in Newmarket, one station before Parnell. I would walk to the grocery store. The library was on the walk back from this station as well. I would use the opportunity to check out or return books. The library card was my best New Zealand investment.

As the event got closer, the management got more and more disorganized. They weren’t thinking ahead enough to hire more people. We were falling behind, working longer hours under stressed conditions. Management-imposed stressed. I brought in a guy from the hostel who was working at a labor exchange. He had a car; free rides to work for me! That really cut into my reading time.


We built all these panels…


…and turned them into backdrops like this

During the two weeks that my friend from the hostel worked with me I lost all respect for the organization. I decided I would quit. Since I am a nice guy, I stayed until the event was over. I mostly did that because the long hours gave me lots of money.

The day of set up was a 19 hour day. It didn’t have to be. They just didn’t know what they were doing.


For better or worse, the event was a success. Part of me feels it would have been nice to see them fail. I would have still got my hourly wages and they would have learned a valuable lesson in their incompetence. Most of me is happy that it worked out. I love that type of work. I consider myself an integral part of the team whether they do or not.


I just thought the texture of this ship was fascinating. This view was all you could see looking out the giant hanger doors of the event venue. I enjoyed it enough to snap this photo.

For better or worse, the event was a success. Part of me feels it would have been nice to see them fail. I would have still got my hourly wages and they would have learned a valuable lesson in their incompetence. Most of me is happy that it worked out. I love that type of work. I consider myself an integral part of the team whether they do or not.

The idea that I will remember the most from this experience is valuable. I learned that any moron can run a business. This inspires me to start my own. If these guys can pull that off, imagine what I could do if my heart was in it.

dolphin ship

On pack down day, which was the next day, the event was less than 8 hours, there was another ship docked

 –   –   –

I took about a week off after quitting before I started to look for work. During that time I caught up on some reading and traveled Auckland a bit. I made it out to Whatipu Beach and Rangitoto Island.

I wasn’t hitting the streets as hard I could have because I knew I’d be leaving in a month. I contacted a few temp agencies, had a few interviews. I got offered a fundraising job. But decided against it.

I ended up working in an Italian restaurant near my hostel. Walked to work everyday, 17 minutes. It actually was a pretty cool job. I got to meet other travelers. They were quite different from the hostel backpackers. I got to practice talking to customers. I got a new skill for my resume: waiter. Most importantly I ate a lot of free food!

I worked there for a month. Then I flew out of New Zealand to go back to Taipei. That was through September and a few days into October.

WWOOFing in Northland

I’ve spent the past few days WWOOFing in Peria, near Taipa and Kiataia. I do a few hour of labor for them and they provide me with room and board. As you can see from the last post, I haven’t always been at my best here.
But I believe I have figured out why sometimes I feel so shitty when I wake up. It’s one of my goals for traveling, for being on working holiday: to overcome negative thinking.
I enjoy the work. I work outside everyday. Most the tasks are the homestead busy work: stack firewood, cut kindling, pick up horse poop, dig. I’ve done some more random things too like: harvest gravel from a river, harvest bamboo, and clear a drainage ditch. On the day I wrote this I worked a few extra hours to sand some doors that will be painted.
They’re build a new bathhouse structure from adobe. It’s absolutely beautiful. a friend of theirs was here to build in the door frames and hang the doors in. Today (July 5th) he cut the wood from larger timber to fit, crafted some tug-and-grove, and the lumber was oiled up for protection. A few more coats will be added in the coming days.
Being here excites me to do all this myself. Their home, while not perfect in their eyes, is handmade by them. The material is most recycled, salvaged goods. It’s beautifully put together. And, now that their kids have all moved out, it’s size works.
They’re off the grid. Their winter heating comes from a wood stove (which doubles as a hot water heater). The electric power comes from both a solar voltaic system and micro hydropower.
A good percentage of their food is home grown. All the veggies come from in a few meters of the kitchen. The property is littered with fruit trees. Apples, citrus, banana, avocado, various nuts. It’s quite impressive. All year they have different fresh fruit to pick.

My hosts own a sculpture business


Feeding horses. I picked up wheel barrels full of their shit. It’s excellent compost.

Seeing how they did all this without a huge budget makes me want to fly home, buy property, and start building myself. I could start collecting salvaged and dumpstered wood, find bits and pieces to use for home construction, furniture, all that good stuff. Start planting fruit trees so in a couple years I’m swimming in fresh fruit. There are a couple problems with this though.
There are still many places in the world I want to see. I’m definitely not ready to lock myself into a few dozen acres, even if it is a few hundred. I know in the future I will want that. For now, I need to travel around. Besides being here I’ve learned a lot. Not just how to do it, but how not to do it. I’ve thought of things I would have initially out. I know what features in a handmade house are more important to me now.
If anything being here has made me realize I want to visit a lot more homestead, permaculture farms, and intentional communities so I can absorb as much as possible before setting in  my roots.

My host and I after a football game. They need an extra player a guy who hasn’t played since he was ten was good enough. I never ran so much in my life! But i was able to kick the ball a bit and even stole it a few times.

Leaving Auckland

(June 25-ish)
My coworker and I have been sleeping in a trailer behind a hostel. The floors are muddy and the sheets are dirty. Our roommates are some spiders in the cupboards. The last tenant used it to deal meth and smoke in privacy. But the worst part about it is I can feel the fucking springs inside the mattress. They haven’t much spring left in them anymore.
Sunday morning and are stay is over. I have no where else to go. No plans made. I don’t want to extend my stay. The Lion’s Cup is in town and every bed in Auckland is booked, prices are up. I’ve been talking to some WWOOF hosts. Perhaps I should finalize with them? Either way I’m leaving now.
Well, I’m leaving at 12:50 P.M. (June 25th). I’m taking the bus to Whangarei. I use my time between breakfast and the bus leaving to send some last minute couchsurfing requests. Hopefully someone replies.
I walk from the hostel to the Parnell Train Station. It’s first uphill. Then downhill. Then back up the hill again. The bus stop is only one stop away. Britomart.
While sitting on the bus I get a message on the Couchsurfing App from Alex. He has agreed to host me and will be picking me up at the bus stop. That’s fantastic.
Alex is a 74 year old New Zealander. He has hosted over 360 couchsurfers in the past few years. He says yes to everyone who sends him a request.
I’ve spent the last few days with Alex. The WWOOF host in Whangarei never replied to me. Alex didn’t mind me staying. We’ve been hanging out watching movies in the evening. Been pretty relaxing since leaving the hostel.
The other day Alex took me around town. I saw some waterfall, I saw some middle-aged Kauri trees, and I pet and hand feed a kiwi.
I’m leaving today. I got a bus up to Taipa. I’m heading to WWOOF up there.

I don’t remember the name of this waterfall


Big ol’ Kauri Tree


I forgot to mention my host, Alex, and I found these four puppies abandoned on the side of the road


Me with a Kiwi






Like an idiot, I totally spaced on taking a photo of myself with the Alex! 😦 Here is a pic of the living “Paris When It Sizzles” on the screen



It’s 4:30 A.M. I’ve woken up before my five a.m. alarm in the top bunk of the eight person dorm room. I can’t go back to sleep. I climb down the ladder in my boxers. I can barely see anything.

Pulling up my pants I feel self conscious as I hear others sitting in their bunks. “Oh no, did I wake them?” Cursing myself for being so inconsiderate. I have to remind myself I’m being super nice getting up before my alarm goes off. “This is a hostel! Fuck them” I think chuckling inside.

After dragging my bags into the hallway I call a car to take me to work. My phone vibrates letting me know the driver is arriving as I brush my teeth and wash the sleepers from my eyes.

The area around my work is an industrial area. No one lives here. It’s just offices with storage yards. The sun still yet to rise and the dead quiet of the street in an unknown area creates a mildly eerie vibe. The sun has yet to rise. I dropped my bags on the ground by a tree under their mailbox, fifteen minutes early. How did that happen?

I got a job building event displays. We are heading two hours south of Auckland to work at Fieldays. The company is putting me up in a house down there and feeding me dinner. This is the perfect job for a backpacker: accommodation, dinner, and a paycheck.

Lights shine into my face as a car pulls up into the gate. It’s 6:04. They’re late.

After the first day of work we head to the Hamilton house. My two coworkers are sharing a room, my two bosses are sharing a room, they send me down the short, cold hallway to a room of my own. What a treat after a week of uncomfortable living in hostel.

I make myself comfortable by emptying my backpack and spreading my clothes across the room. Having been feeling a little depressed. I use the freedom of privacy in my own room to stretch my back with yoga, leading into a guided mediation.


Inside the Marquee


Friendly Neighbors at the Hamilton House

The week ended and we are heading back to Auckland. I feel nervous about going back to the hostel. I feel comfort in knowing a few people there. I feel refreshed from my time alone. Things are starting to look up.


The next few weeks are spent in a similar way. I go down to Hamilton Monday through Friday and live in Auckland on the weekends. A few things change. I now share my room with a new coworker, Finn, a twenty-one year old German guy. I don’t let this stop me from meditating and doing yoga. He never says anything about it.


On the weekends, I start to share hostels with my coworkers to save money on uber. I switched hostels. My coworker Sven is way more social than I. As I walk in from the street I see him sitting with a handful of people sharing beers, cigarettes, and stories. I sit down. Immediately, I’m offered a beer from an older Islander named Kali.

Before I can finish the beer I am drinking, Kali opens and hands me two more. Over the course of a couple twelve packs I learn that he is in Auckland working. He is a building a building down by the wharf.

He and his partner are from Tonga. A small island nation north of New Zealand. They share their romantic history with us. They both have had other partners, even been married, but they knew the entire time they were meant to be together. They’re both alcoholics. They are super generous and just keeping giving away the beers and cigarettes they’ve bought even though it’s clear they don’t have much money.

“It’s the Tongan way. We share what we have with people who don’t have their own drink. We don’t think anything of it. It’s just beer. Why not share?”

I am reminded about how much money I have saved up. I am reminded by the opportunities I have had that got me here. I am reminded by the safety net back home waiting to catch me if I fail abroad. It reminds me that these people without much are willing to share with me. What do I share?

I start thinking about how odd it is that i think so much just from sharing a beer with other people.  Lost in a mental loop of thinking about thinking. They notice that I’m zoning. “You alright mate,” asks Kali. “I’m great.” How can I explain the depth of feelings I have just felt from getting a few free beers. I can’t believe that a few free beers remind me that I’m not living up to my morals.


Putting Down the Flooring


A Bunch of “Project Mangers” Not Really Doing Anything

It’s another Monday morning and we are heading back down to Hamilton. Monday night after work we arrive home at the Hamilton house. It’s a cold cinder block structure. It’s freezing and unwelcoming. It’s home. I have been living here longer than anywhere else in New Zealand so far.

I feel comfort in the routine. Start a fire after work, dinner at 6:30P.M., provided by the host (unless she forgets), early bed time, wake up at 6:30A.M. before everyone else and eat breakfast alone, and then off to work. We do this every day Monday night to Friday morning.


After Work Bonfire

Working a thoughtless, do-what-you-are-told construction job provides me with ample time to think. I can notice how the quality of the task I need to complete and the weather play a role in my attitude. When the weather is cold and wet and I have to just move heavy things around I challenge my decision to come here, to work this job. When I get the opportunity to do a little problem solving I feel much more proud of myself at the end of the day.

The truth is though, I don’t give a shit about this job. The project is for a client I don’t care about. I get paid regardless of the quality of my work, and my managers are annoyingly unorganized. What I learned is that if I want to do a good job I need to do it for myself. I need to take pride in my work for myself and no one else.


I put the entire second coat down on this floor. This is it with only the first. While doing the staining, I tried to (and in my opinion did) do a perfect job just to prove to myself I could.

I didn’t include any pictures with branding because the client didn’t pay me to. No free advertising.

First Week In NZ

I  arrive in New Zealand after 20 hours of travel from Taiwan on a Sunday. I have no idea what time it is there now. I have no idea what time it is here. I only know I’m  tired.


I wasn’t ready to leave Taiwan. I have a pretty great girl there and we were having a great time together. In fact, the night before my flight, we were out until after 3 AM dancing. Even after spending two and half months together for 24 hours a day neither of us had had enough of the other yet. We both wanted more.


We spent April traveling in Southeast Asia. Cuddling on overnight buses, making love in the hostel dorm rooms, getting bored in museums, and playing “Plants vs Zombies 2” in Vietnamese Cafes. The best part about the trip was spending time with her.


Sitting in a crowded hostel on a wobbly bunk bed, top bunk. The room is full. No one says hi to me and I’m too shy to say hi to them. It feels so unwelcoming. I keep beating myself up inside for not breaking out of my shell. My mind is rambling. Negative thoughts are flooding my consciousness. I can’t seem to organize them. Blocking them out is not working much either. My mind is full of self doubt and my soul feels so empty.


It finally hits me like the weight of an overhead wave crash down: I am totally alone. I’ve found myself clear across the world, far away, from my home in San Diego and I don’t know a single person. Depression sets in. Even in this crowded room I have never felt more alone in my life. Words are flowing at a 1000 miles per hour inside yet I can’t seem to open my mouth to let even the simplest one out.


Attempting to control my mind, I start making a list of all the things to do tomorrow to get ready for the working holiday: open a bank account, get an IRD number, get a SIM card.


I’m concentrating on my breath to relax while I try falling asleep. I am transported back to a my bunk. A tiny three high bunk in a narrow hostel room in HCMC. The room has 5 stacks of bunks, each three high. There is a three foot gap down the middle, it’s filled with everyone’s backpacks. All the beds are taken buy only about six of us are present.


My girl climbs up from the middle bunk to visit me. I had passed out. She reaches out sticking her warm, soft hands on my stomach under my shirt. As she pet me, I awoke with a calm feeling. There is something about being around her that just makes me a feel tranquil. All of my anxiety is washed away. The rest of the world and it’s problems mean nothing.


Being in this mental space allows me to peaceful fall asleep.


It’s Monday morning, no it’s Monday afternoon. The traveling, the poor sleep, the time change create a force that makes waking up a slow, tiring process. I need to go to start my day. I have to force myself to get up and climb down the bed.


I walk 40 minutes to the closet KiwiBank. While opening an account and applying for an IRD number, I begin to small talk with the banker. I’m trying to be social this will be good practice. Turns out he is Taiwanese. Bragging about my Taiwanese girl, I start sharing my experiences in Taiwan with him. He points me in the direction in some cheap Chinese markets for groceries. After the bank, I get my phone set up.


Three hours after I start my day I am out of things to do and I am feeling totally lost once again. I starting thinking, “what should I do, what should I do. I can’t waste time here. It has to be used effectively.” It makes relaxing impossible. No matter what I do, my mind tells I should be doing something else.


I’m spending the week waiting day after day for an interview that is continually postponed. I’ve been in contact with a company trying to get a job for about a month before I got here. I call them to set up an interview.


I try to relax and get comfortable in the hostel. I talk to my Taiwanese girl, I talk to my parents, I talk to my friends. It wasn’t until after socializing at a weekly couchsurfing event that I finally start talking to people in the hostel.

A week later, it’s Monday morning again. I’ve leaving to work in Hamilton. I created a mini family in the hostel after a few depressed days and now I must leave. But I will be back for the weekend.