sevens

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the flash gordons (there were 50 of them) were amazed at the real life superman policeman (almost 7 feet tall). i like the photo of the flash gordons getting some first aid and withdrawing some cash from the atm. i just didn’t expect flash to pull out a wallet to pay for his lunch…

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the photo below on the left is great on so many levels. a bunch of corporate stooges in a luxury box, not in costumes, with their backs to the pitch, watching the action on tv monitors.

i think the guys in the netball uniforms (a women’s basketball-like sport very popular in oceania) were my favourite.

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<click on the images below for mini movies>

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catching a break

this week is our first planned vacation since we arrived in new zealand and we decided to spend 2 days skiing on my rapaheau and then 2 days in the resort town of taupo.

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nice relaxing drive up on wednesday with some great views of the mountain from the town below. we went to a local ski rental shop and had the expected new zealand experience. after a great fitting we are told to keep the skis for as long as we want, and we can return them any time before 10 to avoid being charged for the day – “if conditions don’t look good, just bring ‘em back”

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after an easy drive up the mountain we have our tickets and are on the lifts by 9:30. first run down a beginners slope to ensure we both remember how to ski and then we’re back up for an intermediate run. first half was great. for the second half we choose a route that is a bit icy but doesn’t look too bad. jackie makes it down and i start my run, taking it a bit at a time. half way down i turn and fall uphill onto my right side. nothing spectacular and some something i would expect to happen many time during a day of skiing.

i thought i had hit my tailbone hard, but when i tried to get up i knew it was something else.

my vacation was over.

i signaled to jackie who made her way up. several other skiers stopped to help and one went to get the ski patrol. the first ski patrol arrived to triage and called for the toboggan. after i was strapped to a backboard i was bundled into the toboggan for a ride down the clinic at the base lodge. the ski patrol were great – could not have hoped for better.

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at the clinic i was given a full exam by the mountain doctor and some basic pain killer to take the edge off. he was able to rule out simple things and said he thought it like “something boney”. the primitive xray machine at the clinic was not conclusive but it appeared that i had a fractured femur – the big bone that runs from your knee to your hip and is *hard* to break. this earned me bonus points and a trip to the hospital in the rescue helicopter. after a quick 20 minute flight i was at wanganui hospital. jackie followed in the car after going to gather our stuff from the hotel, checking out and returning our skiiing gear.

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the emergency room, xray (and i’ll later see operating theatres) are all brand new and state of the art. as expected i spent quite a bit of time waiting, but after an assessment from my 12 year old doctor that i did in fact have a broken femur i was given a bit of morphine and transfered to the orthopedic surgical ward for immediate surgery.

and here was were we traveled through a time tunnel. one minute modern state of the art – the next 1950’s rural russia. i was assigned ward room 17 that i shared with 3 others. no bathroom, no phone, no tv. decorated in classic state hospital green. the shared toilet is down the hall. the patient’s lounge features a lazy boy that would have turned away by the local salvation army, 2 other random chairs and a tv that only receives one channel (i expect it was purchased from ussr surplus and previously only featured soviet military parades)

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there was one surgery ahead of me so i had a bit of a wait before being wheeled down to the operating theatre at about midnight. soon after we met the anaesthesiologist and surgeon. the surgeon explained the injury (NOF – Neck Of Femur) and the intended remedy. we were greatly relieved to hear he was putting in a plate & screws. the alternative of replacing the femur head with a prosthetic was a dreaded possibility. the surgeon answered all our questions, then marked (and signed) the leg to be operated on. i was wheeled into the operating theatre soon after and was out at about 2 in the morning.

after a short shop in recovery (i woke up *freeeeeezing* – they had to use radiant heaters to stop me shaking) i was back to my little slice of russia in the ward.

let the healing begin.

crouch, touch, pause, engage

tonight we went to our second rugby match this season to root for wellington hurricanes as they took on the waikato chiefs.

as part of our continuing effort to acclimate getting in the rugby spirit seemed to logical thing to do, so we are now season ticket holders to wellington rugby. this gets us quite a bit including tickets to all wellington hurricanes home games, all wellington lions home games, the all blacks test match against south africa, and most importantly – seats for next year’s sevens.

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the hurricanes are in the super 14 rugby league with teams from nz, australia and south africa. although most players on the hurricanes are from the wellington region player do move from team to team like in most us sports. the super 14 season runs february to may. the air new zealand cup (formally the national provincial championship) has 14 teams each representing an nz province. the air new zealand cup season immediately follows the super 14 season with most all nz super 14 players also playing for their local air new zealand cup team. the all blacks compete in the annual irb test matches (international competitions) and the every four years irb world cup (next world cup in nz in 2011). this complicates things further since the all blacks squad is composed of the best nz players who are all playing for their local air new zealand cup teams. so when the all blacks are practicing or competing, the air new zealand teams all lose their best players. this normally is ok with the fans as long as the all blacks are winning. when they don’t (they didn’t in the recent world cup) the air new zealand cup fans feel a bit ripped off. with the world cup disappointment still fresh, and the country still exhausted from the stress lead up to and during the world cup, attendance at the super 14 games is down quite a bit. a lot of talk of rugby fatigue.

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good for us the hurricanes won both this game (39 to 19) and our first home game against the queensland reds (23-18).

i think we understand the rules enough to enjoy the games, but for a sport that already has some odd language (tighthead prop, maul, ruck, etc.) they have added to the challenge but rolling out some experimental rules change for this season. let me know what you think of the new breakdown rules:

breakdown (tackle/post tackle)

  • players entering the breakdown area must do so through the gate
  • immediately the tackle occurs there are offside lines
  • the half back should not be touched unless he has his hands on the ball.

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like so many things new zealand, the atmosphere at the games is very small town. middle school kids are the ball boys on the side lines. several of the photographers are not wearing shoes. cheerleaders are college girls with ads for the local bowling alley on their butt.

but we love it. we scooted in to town, parked a block from the stadium (free), got our fish & chips and 4 pack of tui’s ($20) from the concession stand and were in our seats in time for the warm ups.

captain hurricane is our mascot – and i’d like to point out that he won the mascot race held at this year’s sevens tournament.

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tui beer is one of the major sponsors of wellington rubgy. they target primarily sporting fans. perhaps the budweiser of nz. but this being nz they can get away with things that would likely cause a stir in the states. the tui girls is the best example. they make up the civil offense squad and are seen at the games and around town in their heels, miniskirts and toolbelts.

one of the running team gags is the hurricane force winds, so the tui girls bring around hair dryers that blow your hair back for a true hurricanes fan photo.

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super bowl monday

with us 18 hours ahead of boston, super bowl sunday is actually on monday. that means it will be up to the jboss to root for patriots whilst i’m off making money for the man.

espn international is part of our cable package and carries the occasional baseball or american football game. we were able to see the 2 pats playoff games, but no surprise the super bowl is only available on one of the sky sports package channels.

on the day it was below zero in green bay we were spending the afternoon at the ocean.

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the hats make us dorks look even dorkier, but if you look at the graphic below you’ll see that one country is nestled neatly under the cozy comfort of the ozone hole.

you gotta do what you gotta do.

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a day at the races

today we went to the wellington cup carnival – a week long series of events centered loosely around the sport of kings.

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the race course is at trentham, about 30k (~20 miles) north of the city. as with most events in the wellington area, no car required. we were able to take the train from wellington station right to the gates of race course. and no crush at the gates since we could buy a combo train & race course admission ticket at the station.

all good so far until we started looking at the others on the platform waiting for the train. almost everyone is is fancy dress. men in suits. women in dresses. most with fancy hats. and i’m in my american tourist shorts and sandals.

nothing we can do about it now so onward we go.

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after a hot ride on a packed train (one woman passed out) we arrived at the race course. most of the crowd is in their twenties and many of the young ladies are in heels and skimpy dresses. shamefully trampy or a magical day depending on your perspective

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“i’m going to kick your ass”

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lots of fancy hats.

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the potato sack dress is surprisingly popular in wellington this year.

i expect the lad on the left woke up on the floor of the bathroom.

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in addition to the horse racing there was a fashion competition. the woman on the left was the runner up on the new zealand designer competition. the mom & daughter in the center made my day. “mommmmm – rachel got a new mercedes – i want a new mercedes!” “yes dear – ask your father. i need a fresh drink…” extra special since someone else was wearing the same dress.

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“horsa racing,… she be berry berry good to me.”

we watched several races and had good time – but since betting on the races is not our thing and jackie sold all her fancy hats before we left boston, i’m guessing we may skip next year’s races.

the tighthead prop passes to the number 8 for an easy try

no way to exaggerate how big rugby is here. the national team is the all blacks and they are currently in france in prep for the rugby world cup that starts in 3 days, 43 minutes and 51 seconds – but you knew that, right? non-stop coverage of the team’s every move and we’re still days away from the first match.

in addition to the national team (the all blacks), you also have the super 14 (wellington’s team is the lions), the air new zealand cup (a round robin tournament with the super 14 teams) and the heartland championship with smaller regional teams – and that is just rugby union. rugby league is a variation with a whole different set of teams. one of the big rugby leagues is “national rugby league“, composed mostly of australian teams. the nz team is the warriors and they play other teams like the south sidney rabbitohs and the sidney roosters. so no shortage of rugby on the telly.

one of the traditions of the all blacks is to perform the haka – a mãori traditional dance – before each international match.

see it in action here.

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mastercard is currently running an ad that plays on the national loyalty to the all blacks.