Monday, June 30, 2008

When the chin speaks, better listen!

My chin scar started fluttering a few days ago. Not the whole chin, just the scar. Yes. Maybe it’s healing. Why now? Twitch, twitch. An hourly reminder of my trip over the handlebars almost four years ago. I like the idea that it’s healing. Maybe I'll wake up and there won’t be a dent in my chin anymore and it’ll all be the same color again. No more daily application of cover up.

Tonight on the couch, I was writing in my journal after dinner (which consisted of mung beans, coleslaw and peanut butter, not all together, those were the three courses). I thought maybe it’s not healing. Maybe it’s telling me to be careful. Of distractions. Of rushing. Of trying to do to many things at once. Pay attention. Focus. Have fun, but don’t lose sight of what you are doing. Don’t be hurrying down that hill. Just enjoy the ride. If you’re late and get into the next wave it’s just fine.

That’s what the chin is saying. And it’s healing too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Couch Contemplations

We drove to the airport in sheets of rain, Molly, Josh and I. They disappeared through security. I walked back to the carpark and navigated the roads back to my attic hideaway. I didn’t know how I’d feel once I got home.

Today we’d ventured around Auckland in the Mazda, trying to miss the intermittent downpours. (We were mostly successful.) We’d gotten up early to see Sam at Kokako Coffee shop, and then dropped in on the Aotearoa Square market in downtown Auckland, something akin to Portland Saturday Market only on a much smaller scale. I bought a handmade green dress or long shirt, depending how adventurous I’m feeling on a particular day. Molly found an aqua blue shiny skirt. We both came home with bubbly glass pendants purchased from the husband of the artist, mine in nutmeg and Molly’s in slate blue.

Josh wanted to see the boats in the harbour, so we drove there and then stopped over in Devonport, where we visited a few art galleries and had lunch at the Brick Oven Bakery. Lastly, up to Mt Eden, the volcano with the best city views, then back home to rest before they flew out.

Our final dinner was at Thai Friends on Parnell Road. Molly and Josh had happened upon it on their own for lunch while I was in clinic, and it’s probably my favorite place in Auckland to eat. Funny how the stars send you places. I understand why they keep winning Thai Restaurant of the year in Auckland. After dinner, we headed to the airport.

This brings me full circle. I’m sitting here on my couch in silence, other than the whirling wind outside, rain hitting the pavement and an occasional car. I’m not lonely. I’m not sad.

Today in the art gallery, we were talking to one of the artists working there and she asked if having them visit made me want to go home. I said, “No.” I think she said something like, “Oh that’s real nice!” Laughing. But I explained, “I’m happy here. I’m happy where I’m at.” I am. I like Auckland. I like being here. I like being. I like my life.

It’s been an interesting seven months. Going to the airport surfaced some thoughts about the next adventure. And I really don’t know. Five months is not all that far away to start planning. I feel a little like I want to fly by the seat of my pants. I guess that’s what I’m doing anyway.

I didn’t know what to expect from this year. Living abroad has made me feel it’s less urgent to get home and resume my life there. I feel like I’m coming into so much awareness of the world in all ways. If I returned now, I’d be giving up a lot of opportunities.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Roadtripping with Molly and Josh

I returned to Auckland Monday morning at 6:30AM on the Intercity bus from Wellington, ran six blocks to catch the Link bus home in time to shower and get to work by 8:30AM. I'd left my car with Molly and Josh and decided I would go the environmentally friendly route of the overnight bus rather than flying. My conscious was clear and I slept even more than I would have had I been at home in my own bed. I'd planned to read, reflect, journal and listen to music. Instead I started to drool sitting up within an hour of take-off.

So backpedalling here...

Our first day out of Auckland was last Thursday. We drove down the center of the north island on motorway 1, seeing everything there was to see, on the clearest day we've had in months. I was mesmerised- one minute, we'd be in rolling countryside, then desert landscape, then a massive lake. The red station wagon with its ghetto (literally) blaster stereo kept us moving right along, even better when the ipod was rigged up. We stopped in various towns and overnighted in Wanganui before rolling into Wellington on Friday afternoon.

Wellington was lovely. Architecturally stimulating. Compact and walkable. People with dreads. Street musicians. Bookstores selling zines and alternative lit. It was a touch of Portland in New Zealand, (if Portland were only about 3 blocks long!) I'll definitely return.

Molly and Josh took the ferry to the south island and I hung out in Welly for another 6 hours. Toward the end of the day, when I felt I couldn't walk anymore, I talked myself into hiking up the hill to Old St. Paul's Cathedral, a wooden church that's no longer used- just a historical site. They were going to bulldoze it actually. I got inside and no one was there. Classical music played overhead and I just sat in the pew and listened and rested for about a half hour. I signed the guest book, then I flipped through and found "Shanta Schriever & Brian Starns, Portland, OR" on May 8th. I've started to think signing guestbooks is a record of my trails on this earth. (In case anyone should ever decide to research my life. Ha.) After my meditative experience, I emerged into the city, looking forward to my busride home.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I believe in magic

with glittering eyes
the whole world around you
because the greatest secrets
are always hidden
in the most unlikely places.
Those who don't believe
in magic
will never find it."
-Roald Dahl

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This is what 32 looks and thinks like:

I’ve been having a lot of trouble seeing the point of planning - for next year, retirement, my career. I don’t know what it is.

This is the worst case of butterflies that I’ve ever had. Is this what it is like to be a commitment-phobe? I can’t commit to life. I just want to keep running. I don’t even know what I am running from.

I’m having fun here- living in a new place, learning new things, meeting new people. It’s great, but I’m craving a experience that’s less superficial.

I look at people who are with their spouses pushing strollers hurriedly down the street. And I think, “They don’t look like they are wondering about the meaning of life.” But they’re probably just keeping up with their day-to-day routine. When you’re single and free, there’s more time to think. More time to be lost.

I think part of it’s the whole birthday thing. 32, it’s not old. But it’s getting older. In your thirties, you are supposed to feel more secure in yourself (and I do) but I don’t feel any more certain of myself or my future. I feel lost. As lost as I was all the other years.

I was out last night dancing with friends all over Auckland. It was great fun, but it felt surreal- almost like life was going on around me and I was watching it, though I was in the middle of the dance floor spinning around in my dress.

The sensation of life swirling around me. I am in the eye of the storm but I can’t see where I’m going. I just see the drama. Waiting to see where I get dropped off next.

Self-photo right before I went out in my second-hand blue birthday dress.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Flag Day!

Happy Birthday ME!  :)  

Letcha know later how the full day went.  Here's the beginning:

I woke up before 6AM, thinking about Molly coming to visit on Monday and bananas.  Went for a run in the park. Watched the sunrise a little. Stopped at the farmer's market and got lots of veggies to keep them healthy. Took a shower. Fiona came over to pick me up for birthday brekkie. As we were leaving, singing started to come from the big house. It was my landlady, Kate, singing "Happy Birthday" to me out their bedroom window.  After a lovely brekkie of a long black and fresh fruit, I returned home.  Made a few dips for Josh and Molly (better when they sit a couple days) and now going to meet Ursula.  More later!  

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm sitting here freezing in my office. (Do they have the a/c on or do I have circulation problems?) I've started a new assignment given by one of my friends (Fiona from Edmonton) to take a picture every day. I figured I might not do it if I wasn't being held accountable in some way, so I've started a very straight forward photo blog. Yes, a second blog. It matters in no way if anyone sees it, rather it forces me to remember to take a picture. Day 5 and I am liking it. What I See

Last night I went to an animal rights movie. I have an aversion to those things, but I thought I would check it out. I can't see how I'd be able to turn back from veganism. I started out vegetarian because I thought that it was healthier and I really didn't like meat anyway. The more I read about it, the more it seems a good choice. The more I know animals, the less I want to eat them. I really want to be their friends. I think about the horses who were posing for me in the south island when I was talking to them and the cute lambs and then sweet Oatie and Blackie. I can't eat them. It's not even a question anymore.

Oh God, am I becoming a bigger hippie, earth-lover by living over here? It seems so. I thought so last weekend when I was in the south island. How much I love the trees. The water. Being in nature. Simplicity.

I've now passed the halfway mark for New Zealand, which something to contemplate as well. I can't say that I don't like it here. I'm finally starting to understand the country and the people. They are more reserved initially, but quite authentic actually- which can come across negatively, but when I step back, they're quite nice all around.

I also realised that I don't feel any rush to return to the USA. I don't even know what will happen when this is all done. I'm such a planner in life that I feel like I should know what's around the next bend, so I can start making lists and checking them off. But there's a freedom in just jumping in and seeing where you land. I guess that's what I'm doing.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Our mixed race presidential candidate

In the paper this morning, I came across an interesting commentary about Obama and his "blackness." In the Herald, it was titled, "Democrat winner is actually not black, he's just not white." Written by a UK journalist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, it has some important thoughts on race.

We base a lot of importance on external appearance. I guess it's the easiest and quickest way to judge people. It's so unfortunate though. Not that I have not fallen into that category. Whether it's race, weight, attractiveness, style, confidence, it's something that can be seen in a few seconds from the outside.

If I've learned anything here, it's that we are all the same. My students have similar backgrounds, similar pains, similar stories. Underneath it all, we are all human. Why not judge people for what really matters: kindness, honesty, integrity?

If nothing else, those little mixed race children are usually the most attractive ones in the room. Let's celebrate diversity. I'm proud to support our first mixed-race candidate for president.

By the numbers

2: Countries of residence
3: Watches from ex-boyfriends
3: Houses purchased
4: Weeks vegan
5: Days til my 32nd birthday
5: Pairs of glasses owned (one green, blue, white, brown, clear)
6: Months without a TV
6: Months walk commute to work
7: States lived in
11: Years in optometry (if you count when I first started school
25: Years without my dad
31: Countries visited
32: Years having fun in the world

"To get a deep sense of satisfaction is to live a life where your talents are used in accordance with your values." - Caroline West

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tasting my first opera

I spotted my seat. There was only one woman sitting in the row, an 80 year old lady wearing a old black sweater with a smattering of sequins towards the top. I sat down and said hello. She answered quietly back. I looked around to see if she was waiting for someone. I wondered if she didn't want to talk.

Being the total American that I was raised to be, (especially with Kathy "I can have a stimulating conversation with a brick wall" Schultz for a mom) I couldn't keep mum for long.

"Have you been to this before?" I was trying to imply "La Boheme" but was afraid I would botch the pronunciation.

"Lots of times, in different countries. My father was Italian." She had a soft voice with a thick accent, kind dark eyes behind her bifocals and faded short, dyed black hair. "Is this your first opera?"

I said it was. I'd tried to go when I was a student but it was a dress rehearsal, so they didn't sing fully. I fell asleep. It's taken me about 8 years to give it another try.

The seats filled in around us. Barely a spare to be seen.

She talked about the trains in Switzerland where she grew up, then moving to Africa and losing two children there. Next, she and her husband were off to Holland, where they didn't last because it was too full of tall people and buildings, and she couldn't see. She suggested New Zealand to her husband. That was 35 years ago, when there were no tall buildings and the coffee was like swamp water.

The lights dimmed. The orchestra finished tuning.

The stage curtain came up to reveal a modern stage with translation projected above. I'd read the synopsis beforehand so I wouldn't be lost, but it was a simple and overly romantic plot. I don't think I would have been lost.

At intermission the lights in the house came on, and then abruptly went off, so we had to feel our way out of the auditorium. My lady friend said she'd read that they were trying to save electricity. We laughed. She went off to get ice cream and I got a coffee before we ended up back in our seats for the second half. When the final curtain dropped, we went our own ways.

"Good luck in your next few years!" She padded my arm as she walked away.

"It was wonderful talking to you."

I emerged feeling still and peaceful under the streetlights as walked toward the waterfront where I'd catch the bus home.

I love music first for the music itself and later, if it's really good, for the lyrics. I think the opera was really moving for the same reasons- enjoying the beauty of the singing, rather trying to comprehend it. So much can be said without words.

I can't wait for the next one.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


If you've ever sat quietly and noticed the gentle whisper of your own breath...

If you've then listened deeper, finding the soft cadence of your heartbeat...

And if you've then gone even deeper, dropping into the resonant stillness of your innermost being, you might have heard it...

...the subtle, divine sound at the core of existence.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Queenstown Area- South Island

I just returned from south island. It was the Queen's Birthday Holiday, so I suitably headed to Queenstown. I found it surprising to have warmer weather when I landed. I forgot that north is warmer here-everything’s backwards! My mind has to work extra hard.

Last Friday, I was greeted at the Queenstown airport with mountains in the backdrop and crisp smog-free air. It felt like home. I still love that cool fall air. After about five minutes spent picking up my beater Toyota Corolla rental, I rang up and arranged a kayak trip in Milford Sound for the following morning. Then wandered through Queenstown a bit, which is sort of reminiscent of Banff or Whistler or I suppose Aspen and Vail (though I’ve not been to the Colorado resorts). Then headed south to Te Anau.

I checked into Rosie’s backpackers, which was a homestay. Interesting to stay in someone’s home while they did their laundry (which by the way, was hanging from a chandelier-type contraption that could be raised and lowered from the ceiling- pretty handy).

The next morning, I was off in a van with 8 other folks (6 Canadians, 1 Irish and our guide, Aiden) to Milford Sound. The weather was mystical- low spotty clouds. We arrived at the kayak tent and were outfitted in warm clothes, then set off for a 4-5 hour excursion. I shared a kayak with Andy, the Irish kid. Milford exceeded my expectations and was lovely to experience from the level of the kayak. At the end, Aiden showed us where the guides live. It was 4 old campertrailers all stuck together- you wouldn’t believe how many people they had stuffed into those--- makes the camper trailer park in Vancouver look luxurious.

The next few days, I wandered along the west coast of the south island, taking in two glaciers, a swamp, a massive dinosaur tree, a failed fishing village, an old Chinese gold-panning settlement and drove through Paradise (though I didn’t know it was paradise, because there was no sign!)

It was a beautiful weekend. Reminded me of the woods of Minnesota and the forests of Oregon. I think subconsciously I was busy with that thought, as I dreamt of old friends, cousins, and even that I met little Joey Thor- I was holding him in my dream until he cried, when I handed him over to Ray. Just like real life.