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Monday, February 26, 2007


February has been a busy month, what with the Bill Bryson luncheon, the fishing trip and my invitation to apply for New Zealand residency. And, oh yeah, my birthday of a distressingly large number.

But enough about that.

I could not think of a better way to have spent the last weekend of February 2007 than by taking part in the Cuba Street Carnival. It's billed as New Zealand's largest street festival, and judging from the size of the crowds yesterday, I have every reason to take their word for it. It did not hurt that the weather was picture perfect, so good that once again yours truly FORGOT his sunblock and has ended up with his third case of sunburn in as many weeks.

I'll take the pain, though, as I had a great time yesterday. Appropriately enough, I started the day at a cafe called Fidel's, and yes it is fashioned after Castro himself. Fortunately for me the cafe is run as a capitalist outfit so there were no trade issues involved. It's one of dozens of great spots in Wellington to grab a coffee and some kind of baked good and relax and enjoy the atmosphere. They've been so successful, in fact, that they've opened a second cafe just a block or two further down Cuba Street called Ernesto's, this one a tribute to Ernesto "Che" Guevara. It looks a bit more upscale but I've only heard good things about that one as well, so I'll be off to visit that cafe sometime soon, and I won't wait until next year's carnival to do so!

Anyways, starting the day out at Fidel's was mere serendipity, as I had agreed to meet a friend there for she and I had never had coffee there before and we were both impressed. After she went back home, I met up with some more friends, this time Sarah, Simon and Alastair. Sarah is my newest co-worker and fellow vet, Simon is her fiance and Al is their friend, and it was they among others who I hung out with at the Wellington Cup horse races last month.

We all grabbed some delicious food (they got Indian, I had some lemonade and cajun-spiced corn on the cob) and walked around for a bit. Al and Simon went off to play some tennis as the weather was too good to pass up, and Sarah stayed with me to brave the crowds so I could have someone with whom to pass the time until the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra performed mid-afternoon. They were the primary reason I wanted to stick around during the day, as I keep missing them at their monthly gig at the Deluxe Cafe. They are becoming quite the phenomenon and their website is really good - I encourage you to check it out! Rest assured, if you come to visit me, WIUO is going to be on the agenda!

But before they took the stage, we enjoyed listening to some salsa music and I really need to learn how to dance like that! It looks like something I could handle, so perhaps after these acting and writing classes I'll sign myself up for some dancin'.

The ukulele band finally came on stage and they were so great. They were all having a blast and their enthusiasm was contagious and the street and sidewalks were packed with fans. They played a song about Scooby Doo to open their set, then did some covers including a tune by Crowded House (New Zealand's own) and they finished with Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues". They even managed an impressive cover of Cream's "White Room" and their lead ukulelist (?) could really jam on the solos. Eric Clapton would have been proud. I thought it was cool that there were like 8 or 9 ukuleles playing and one big stand-up bass. I noticed how the bassist was dressed in shirt and tie and was standing (as you do, with a stand-up bass), and the ukulelists were all seated and dressed in random festival attire. An effective contrast!

Simon and Al picked us up and we all hit the store and retired to Simon and Sarah's place for a barbie before heading back into town to catch the Cuba Street Parade that evening. Included in my picture set (new linkie to the right----->) of the Carnival are a couple of shots of Sarah's view from her house in Brooklyn. Very choice!

We made it back just in time to catch the entire parade and it was pretty cool. Lots of great drummers in several of the processions, and by the end of the night I felt like I could do the salsa, I had seen so much of it throughout the day.

After that, the downtown strip came alive as everybody adjourned from the parade to the pubs and clubs along Courtenay Place. This is the happening spot in Wellington after dark and it's so easy to hit several dozen clubs within a short walk. We hung out at the Wellington Sports Bar for a bit, but as the rest of the gang went on to another club after that I found I had to get back home.

Can't party as long and hard as I used to, but it was a great day and one well-spent! I added another great spot for coffee to my list and have now seen New Zealand's biggest street festival.

The good times don't stop there, however, as next weekend I'm going to see New Zealand's very own Bic Runga with her sister Boh Runga as they perform an acoustic set at the Alana Estate Vineyard over in the Wairarapa Valley. Bic has just announced she is pregnant but she will finish her mini-tour anyways, including a trip out to the west coast of the States right after this. Looking forward to seeing her live, and if you have not heard her music before, check it out! She's got a beautiful voice and she writes great songs.

I'll be sure to blog all about it next weekend, same Brooksie-time, same Brooksie-channel!


Blogger Beechball said...

Wow, hearing all your stories and 'adventures' if you will, really leave me feeling like you're living in a dream world that is so completely far off from my life that it amazes me. It sounds so beatiful, everything, all the time, I just... wow, I think I would really, really enjoy a trip there. The fact that you got to hear a ukelele band is so cool because I truly am a huge fan of the sounds those little instruments can make, it's just awesome. The Cafe's, the salsa, the parade, it's all pretty fairy tale sounding and I just love that you living your life. I can only hope to experience such things myself one day.. *sigh* one day? Oh, and about the salsa/dance lessons, my mom signed up for a class almost 2 years ago and she's been completely hooked on it ever since. She goes to dance class 2 times a week, helps teach sometimes, goes out a few nights a week to dancing with her class friends and she's been in the best shape of her life - 52 and looks a million times better than her 24 year old daughter, go figure! I think you'd really enjoy it and I hope you persue that!!! Keep up the awesomeness over there Brandon, I love every bit of it!

5:35 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

I'm so very glad you enjoy all the stories I tell Lyndsay. Lots of my family read this blog as well and I've gotten lots of great feedback from them, too, so let me just say that I am happy that I started this blog out as the whole adventure in New Zealand wouldn't be half as meaningful as it has become, since I've been able to write about it to such a keen audience! I would sincerely love to share this with everyone, so Lyndsay why don't you and Dan sit down and plan out a trip one day Down Under :)

I can see why your mom is so hooked on the salsa - it looks like so much fun! Great way to stay in shape, too, and there are a few clubs around here that almost always play latino music so you can always find a place to go and get your salsa on.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Beechball said...

Just a quick note to say thanks for the A+ on my assignment, lol! Also, I took a look at your pics and I just loved them. Also, the Myspace page with that girl singing on it, Bic Runga, she's definitely something I would listen to; totally my style of relaxing, easy-going, mellow music, thanks so much for the tip!

7:10 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Sure thing, Lyndsay! You earned that A+. Glad you liked the pics, and especially Bic Runga! She's awesome and I'm glad I got to see her live.

Hey, if you like, give me your postal address and I can send you a postcard from Down Under!

10:06 PM  
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2:26 PM  

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