Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Once the days were clear
Like mountains in water;
The mountains were always there
And the mountain water.
And I was a fool for leaving
Good land to moulder,
Leaving the fences sagging
And the old man older,
To follow my wild thoughts
Away over the hill
Where there is only the world And the world's ill.

-Denis Glover (I think)

Regarding Fear

"When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change. If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness and creativity." p.274 "A New Earth"

South Island Take 1

Flying into the South Island. There was a better picture, but my camera was hiding in my bag and didn't come out in time. I'm not normally a plane photographer.
They have old horse-tie-up-thingies in Christchurch too! I could almost be in Portland.
Christchurch Art Museum- quite lovely, I think the best thing they had in this town and it was free too.
This is one of those little back alleyways that's been developed into mostly restaurants and bars, with a few small expensive shops.
Display from ChCh Museum- do you think they had vegan supplies for the Antarctic expeditions?
Fun with waterfalls at Arthur's Pass learning new camera tricks- little tough without a tripod, but luckily I was already soaked and smelly so a little extra mud and water didn't hurt any.

Akaroa, a French village outside of Christchurch. There wasn't much here except for a lot of shops selling French imports or pastries.
Lyttleton, a sort-of suburb of Christchurch. It's where I got the ride home from the ultra-racist bus driver. Very artsy little spot though. I found this at the top of a hill in Lyttleton.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Christchurch morning

Yesterday morning, I awoke to watch the sunrise as is my tradition on my last day of a trip. With my camera in hand, I wandered over the to Christchurch Art Museum and through the old site of Canterbury University, which is now the home of the Arts Center, a complex of shops (mostly), cafes (several) and theatres (one movie, one stage). For a while, I sat on a curb and watched the birds and the people walking to work, before heading into the city center for a coffee and newspaper.

I whiled away an hour and then some and decided I would try to find the store that I'd seen a ring at two nights before. It was in an alleyway full of restaurants and shops- like many cities have now- the sort of hidden enclave of activity behind the scene.

I wandered into one area and was looking for my ring shop, but couldn't find it when I was approached by a man working who said, "Are you a lost tourist?"

"I'm trying to find a shop I was a few nights ago."

"There's another back alley like this just off Manchester." He pointed.

"Oh. Ok."

"Where are you from?"

"The U.S., North Dakota, but I'm living in Auckland right now for a year."

"Christchurch's better." He said.

"Yah, it's a lot more peaceful."

"Auckland's nice if you want to go to Hong Kong. They come over and fill up their pockets and then go home with it."

Speechless, I muttered, "Uhhh," and walked away in the opposite direction that he'd pointed.

Funny thing is, that was the second time in less than three days that someone had said that to me. Just two nights before, my bus driver home went into detail about how she didn't like the Maoris or the Asians and gave me all her reasons, filling up the space of the thirty minute busride with her monologue.

I usually don't say anything, just remain silent. I think that they might think that I agree with them, so continue on with their diatribe. I don't know what to think.

I found the shop with the ring that I'd seen the other night. It was half price, a small silver ring with a square shell inset - the shell is white with a red section that looks like an abstract heart. The storeowner was there and told me the ring was from Mexico. I have a rule to buy things from the artist who made it only, but I've made an exception in this case.

When I look at the ring, it reminds me to act with love in my heart. That it was made in Mexico reminds me of the U.S.'s connection to our brothers and sisters from the south.

I spent the flight home last night in a silent meditation, wondering if my students have been subject to this racism. (How could they not have been?) I dream of a world where it doesn't matter where you are from or what color you are, a world where we treat each other with love in our hearts.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The red rocket rides again!

The Mazda's made a second road trip. She just doesn't want to sit home all lonely at the curb. She passed the vehicle inspection this week, so is good for another 6 months, before being poked and prodded again. I decided it was kismet since she was a 1994-er and that was my year of high school graduation. We were meant to be together.

Raglan, a small surfing mecca on the west coast of NZ about 147km southwest of Auckland.
Fishing off the dock in Raglan.
Wind-swept beauties.
Mini pontoon that decided to take a solo cruise at dusk. It didn't seem get too far.
Manu Bay at sunrise- where they filmed the 1966 "Endless Summer."
The longest left-hand break in the world, which I didn't understand until seeing it from from the perch above.
6:30AM surfer. (It was darn cold. I wouldn't be out there, no matter how thick the wetsuit!)
What happens when you approach this cliff with too much speed?
The world through my eyes (or maybe just my sunglasses). I sat on this perch and did a little morning reflection- had not seen a person or car for probably an hour. The sounds of birds, waves, bugs surrounded me. I heard a passing plane, but didn't see it.
Yoga and jumping jack stop. Waving hello to you.
It's not the size that counts, it's the contents!
Town of Kawhia. (Simple housing is prevalent in NZ- much smaller scale than the US.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What is the point?

Sometimes I wonder, "Do I talk too much?" (probably) or "Why should I bother meeting so many new people, having so many transient conversations?" But I can't seem to stop it. I think it's about understanding our fellow humans and loving each other. Underneath this outer form, this body, we are all the same.

Yesterday, the Herald had a snippet on Jimmy Carter's recent trip to Israel, questioning why he was visiting there. He said, "Middle East peace can only be achieved by talking to all sides." It reminded me of this quote I'd written in my journal a while back from the introduction to "Of Mice and Men."

"Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other."
-John Steinbeck

If you want to read the interview with Jimmy Carter: "Jimmy Carter: Israel must talk to everyone."

Monday, April 14, 2008

I should've seen it coming

Last night I dreamt that I was suddenly being sent to work at the Tamaki clinic for several days, but the school offered to put me up in a hotel since it was so far away. I thought about it and wondered if it would really help much to stay out there in a hotel. What would I do at night in a hotel room? I think that's when the alarm went off.

"It's time to get up. It's 6:40!" I was off for my morning coffee and newpaper by 7:03, since I spend about five minutes getting ready these days- no makeup, glasses. With the recent weather changes, I get about three showers a day just by walking places.

After settling in at my desk at work, Janine (our clinic manager) came down the hall with a frowned face. "Can you go to Tamaki? James called in sick and I just got the message."

"Can someone else go? I'm already there tomorrow and Thursday." I was feeling a little agitated about the change in schedule. And wondering why I whould be going there three days of the week when there are actually five full time tutors plus about five part time. The Tamaki Campus is about an hour commute each way.

I ended up going anyway and was sent in a cab with some university funds to get there quickly.

After standing in the pouring rain for a few minutes, I was picked up by Abdul, a cabbie from Discount Taxis LTD.

I sat down in the backseat. "Hi, I need to go to Tamaki Campus."

He asked for the address, but I didn't have it. He decided he knew where he was going. "Can you put your bag on the floor if it's wet?" (Like it could not be wet in this weather.)

Then he started explaining, "The car will get moldy-smelling. Next time I'm going to bring a towel to put on the seat."

I was thinking, well I don't know what I was thinking, but I wasn't thinking that this would be an enlightening experience. I settled in and hoped for a silent, peaceful cab ride.

"Are you from the UK?" He had a thick accent, sounded Indian to me.

"No, the USA."

"Are you a student?"

"No, I work for the University. Someone called in sick, so I had to suddenly go to the other campus- that's why I got a cab. Usually I ride the bus."

He wanted to know what I did in the US, like I'd done something different than in NZ. Now that I reflect on it, many foreigners are not working in their career- we have lots of bus drivers who are educated as engineers, math teachers, accountants, etc. I gave my explanation and told him that I was working with students here. He was from Pakistan but living in New Zealand for twenty years. This somehow led into a talk about peace in the world. Saying you're American has that effect, or perhaps I just invite it myself. I have a tendency to try to compensate for our tarnished world reputation.

Abdul started saying how Americans were good people- they have an open heart. We drifted along talking about the importance of humility and respect and peacefulness. I said how the world would be a better place if we could all just work on those things.

He said, "It starts with one person, we all can make a difference."

How true.

I found the thirty minute cab ride was over before I knew it. I paid my $25 fare and walked into the clinic. It was about quarter after nine. I hoped that it was not too much of a disaster since patients start at 8:30AM.

When I arrived, the clinic was empty, except for one student. "Are all the other students with patients?" I asked.

"No they're upstairs getting treats." I think he said that anyway. No one had a first patient. It didn't even matter that I was late.

So I started talking to the front desk. I told them that I was supposed to be at Tamaki Clinic three days in a row. Christene (one of the front desk staff) said, "Why don't you just stay overnight?"

I thought, this is all just too weird. Maybe I need to start paying attention to my dreams a little more.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

We don't have many billboards in Auckland, but the ones we have surely grab your attention!

Occasionally I think maybe the paper is a waste of time, but this is why I can't stop reading the New Zealand Herald- articles like this in the editorial page.

Billboards on tapu topic accused of showing cultural insensitivity

Photo / Paul Estcourt

Coromandel Peninsula: Take 2

What happens when you go to bed at 8:11PM on a Friday night?

You wake up the next day at 4:23AM and figure it's as good a day as any to hit the road in your new junker, if those two words can be used to describe the same car that is.

You gas up and get out of Auckland before anyone has even gotten up to go go the bathroom, heading south down motorway 2. Suddenly (was it sudden, or did you just open your eyes, your mind?), the sky is aglow with pink light draping the valley below, which is filled with a foggy mist. You stare with the wonder of a small child. This alone was worth the drive.

In Thames (about an hour and a half down the road and the first stop on the Coromandel peninsula), you run into the Saturday market. You buy a bar of natural vanilla soap from a wild-haired woman with one eye that doesn't fixate quite right and one ear that doesn't hear quite right. But she knows about North Dakota from a National Geographic special.

"That's desolate up there. People left everything, even their dishes!" She appears to be looking at you. "Is there just no one up there? Completely desolate?"

You try to explain that it's not that bad or that desolate or that different from the countryside of New Zealand. But your explanation has fallen on deaf ears (literally and figuratively)- she can't get over what she's seen on television. So you move on.

Next, you go through Coromandel, a small historic town on the peninsula.

Further north, you arrive in a little town called Colville and stop in their infamous cafe for a long black and a caramel bar. The town co-op sells organic goods in bulk bins. Not too different than your co-op in Oregon. The hippie lady behind the counter gives you driving directions (you read later that the store is staffed by all women).

You think about joining the Colville Tennis Club, but there doesn't seem to be anyone out to play. So you hop back in your Mazda Carella and continue the drive.

A ways down the road, you stop off to find New Chum's Beach, which was recommended by others you've met in your travels. You want to double check your directions, so you stop at the side of the road where a grey haired man in his early sixties is working on his medium-sized yacht which is hooked up to a rusty tractor spray painted on the side with "STILL JUST(crossed out) MARRIED."

He give you specific directions. "Go to the end of the street. Park on the grass. Follow the beach. Then through rocks for a while. Then you'll find a path. Where are you from?"

"I grew up in North Dakota, but I just moved from Portland, Oregon."

"I lived in California for ten years." He asks you what you are doing in Auckland and all the usual questions.

You think about asking him more questions, but your car is still running and so you are off, but not without him repeating the directions once more for good measure and joking that you could be off for a swim also (though you have not brought your wetsuit, and it might not be all that smart.)

You come upon the first beach. Whangapoua. Grey skies one way, but blue in the direction you are headed. So you head toward the rocks. Another man sixtyish again, with no shoes and strong legs looks at you. "Going to New Chums?"

"Yes." You nod.

He looks at sky. "You'll be alright. It's not gonna rain. You'll have the beach all to yourself. I was just there. It's empty."

So you continue along on in your black flip flops.

Through the ferns you emerge onto your own beach. Your size nine feet make their own way in the sand.

It's just you and Mr. Bird. You wonder if this is what it's like on a deserted island. The only sounds are the waves, the birds, the breeze.

You find your new favorite sea creature. It's not like you have a thing for the color blue or anything, it's just a cool jellyman.

On your way back, you run into five people on their way to New Chum's. You think how perfect your timing was. The last person is an English woman in red.

"Is it worth the walk?" She takes a drag off her cigarrette, which was dangling from her fingertips. You wonder why someone would smoke while trying to manage through the rocks.


You notice that there is ONE pink rock on the beach. You wonder how there would be only one in so many. But there is. You wonder if it is a special rock. There doesn't seem to be a Jesus face in it or anything, so maybe it's just there for no reason.

You return to your station wagon and wander along down the road, stopping here and there at whatever strikes your fancy.

You see a cool building in the town of Waihi- the pumphouse. A remnant of Martha Gold Mine.

This building was moved 296 meters a few years ago, to more stable ground.

The sweet little man in the information center shows you a cement sample, pointing out all the air gaps and large rocks that lack stablility and strength.

You stop off for a little walk in the Karangahake historic park on the way home.

You see some cows coming out to play. You take some pictures of the farms for your mom to see. There's a flat part of the North Island just south of Auckland. "Flat as a pancake," the guy at "The Garage Sale" store told you.

Aahhh. Now what if you'd not gone to bed at 8:11PM on Friday?