Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How do I love thee, New Zealand?

I love thy baristas, long-blacks, and consistently roasted coffee beans.
I love thy availability of fruit at most all convenience stores and cafes.
I love thy multitudinous free outdoor cultural events every week.
I love thy affordable bus transportation.
I love thy chirping birds and buzzing ciradas.
I love thy sky and milky way in the darkness of night.
I love thy ocean waves that dance over my toes.
I love thy absence of consumerism.
I love thy quiet, peaceful-natured citizens.
I love thy open doors to world visitors.

What do you love about your place?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My inaugural meeting of APC

What's APC, you ask? It's Auckland Photography Club, founded in 1883.

I decided since I was doing new things, may as well continue on the path. And if I am going on the path, I may as well try a new way. So I left my house and walked down the hill (instead of up, as I have always gone) and discovered that at the end of the block, there is ocean. I knew it was there, just didn't know it was that close. I meandered along the walking path, stopping a 60ish NZ couple to get directions. They were very kind and helpful and I was soon on my way through a cricket game and up a large hill whereby I arrived at my meeting about an hour early.

You who know me, know that I am NOT early. Especially not an hour. So I walked along and went up Mt Hobson (one of Auckland's volcanoes) and enjoyed some lovely city views.

I finally arrived at my meeting fifteen minutes early, which is acceptable to me. There were folks milling around and I chatted with several people. I was feeling a little nervous, but I kept talking anyway. One girl was new from Scotland. Others had been coming for years. In the end, there were about 40-50 people, with skill levels noted as: novice, advanced, and salon.

We all settled into a room and submitted our photos digitally or in print for a New Zealand professional photographer to evaluate, critisize and grade. I brought four picturess. It was really fun to hear what he had to say and see everyone else's pics. (I got highly commended on all four, which is pretty good; honors would be better.)

The assignment for the night was AV presentation. (I didn't know about it since I was new.) Eleven of the club members submitted presentations with music and their photos. It was just amazing to see what everyone created.

At the end of the night, one of the ladies, Sue, declared that they would take me home, knowing that I had walked and it was quite dark out. She also said I was on the way and they would give me a ride anytime I came if I still didn't have a car. So lovely. Sigh.

It was a fantastic experience. We meet every two weeks. Ya.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Auckland views

This morning I stumbled into the coffee shop, fighting off a stuffy head bug that’s going around and picked up Metro Magazine, Auckland’s monthly magazine, which includes happenings about town and news. One look at the cover headline, “Those dumb cycle lanes,” and my eyes popped opened even though I hadn't sipped my long black yet. Was it a spoof to get me to read the article?

I scanned the table of contents and found “The cycleways that ate Auckland,” written by Jan Corbett, Metro’s Associate Editor. Citing almost all negative bicycling stereotypes, she spent four large pages hell-bent against bikes while bemoaning the status of cars on roads in Auckland.

Some quotes from the article I found interesting:
  • “Isn’t cycling just a trendy pursuit among a small group of middle-class men and women who want to own the road in their own particular way?” (Actually in many parts of the world, people use a bicycle when they cannot afford a car.)
  • “Why does a whole lane of traffic have to slow town for one fitness-obsessed rider in terrible pants with a geeky helmet and scant regard for the road rules?” (The helmet is for safety and I guess the car could just “tap” the biker and that would probably speed them up or knock them off at least.)
  • “’Cycling is for everyone’ Really? The aged? The disabled? Toddlers? Parents transporting 2.5 children? Tradespeople?” (Yep, it’s for all those people, Jan. I’ve seen them all on bikes.)
  • One of the elected city reps, Wayne Mapp was quoted as saying, “There’s been too much focus paid to cyclists’ needs and not enough to motorists’ needs.”

All I could think after reading the article was “Get your head out of your a**.” There’s almost no cycling lanes here compared to any other city I’ve been. The cars DO own the road here. The traffic is horrible. I see it every day. Why don’t people try alternate modes of transport? Like biking. Or walking. Or carpooling. Or public transport. Most of the cars have only one person in them on a mad dash to work, hopefully taking out at least one person on foot or bike so the next day they will have to slow down even less. It’s a CAR town.

I’ve been on my leg-powered wheels to work, school, errands and for pleasure since I was first introduced to the tricycle at age 2. Regular biking was part of my lifestyle in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon and Pennsylvania. (Kentucky was a little sketchy for my tastes.)

I’ve carried 2 gallons of paint on my bike, my groceries, a food deyhydrator, and a birthday cake for my coworker (No, I did not have a special trailer.). I was not opposed to biking in a skirt or accidentally flashing folks. Am I an example of one of those fitness-obsessed persons who wants to own the road in my own particular way? I don’t think so. I think most cyclists are doing it for a multitude of reasons: the environment, their health, their pocketbook, NOT to hold up traffic or wear nasty spandex or piss off the drivers who think they OWN the road.
The second article of the day that cleared my head was an editorial in the New Zealand Herald (21 Feb 2008) by Garth George.

His line of thinking (also interspersed with discussion of abstinence, condom failure rates, etc):

Point 1: “98% of abortions in New Zealand were done on grounds of ‘preserving the mental health of the mother’ (Abortion Supervisory Committee of New Zealand).”

Point 2: “But a Canterbury University Study said nearly one half of women who had an abortion ‘had elevated rates of subsequent mental and health problems, including depression, anxiety, suicide and substance abuse.’”

Therefore: “How much longer are we to allow the Abortion Supervisory Committee to con us into believing that just on 99% of the women and girls given an induced abortion each year are in danger of going insane?”

I’m just dumbfounded. It’s upsetting to again read about how we should be abstaining from sex and using contraception and then there would not have to be abortions. This viewpoint was coming from an old white man with a scowl on his face, who certainly never made a bad judgment in his life. God knows he never needed an abortion.

Current New Zealand law allows for abortions to be performed for the following reasons, providing the abortion is approved by two certifying consultants:
*to save the life of the woman
*to preserve the physical health of the woman
*to preserve the mental health of the woman
*foetal impairment
*in cases of incest
Other factors which may be considered, but are not in themselves grounds for abortion, are:
*cases of rape -- because rape is a term with unclear boundaries
*certain social factors (e.g., the girl's age in a teenage pregnancy)
Abortion is not allowed under any circumstances after 20 weeks of pregnancy except to save the mother's life.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Two Thoughts for you

It is by acts not ideas that people live.
-Anatole France

Joy is not in things; it is in us.
-Richard Wagner

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Up-and-coming Auckland - this week's recap

On Tuesday evening, I went to the most fabulous production of "the Tempest" with six of my friends for only $15NZ. It was at this alternative theater type place on Cox's bay in town. At one end there was a small stage, at the other end, a balcony overlooking the bay. The "stage" for the play was actually the entire space. Audience members lined up along the sides of the rooms and at tables in the center of the room. The actors entered and exited through all the doors including the kitchen and the closets. During intermission, Ursula and I walked out on the balcony and the moon was shining down on the water like a spotlight even though it was only a sliver and the lights of the city across the bay seemed to be flickering- it was just magical. I woke up the next morning and felt like it was a dream.

Last night, I saw something equally amazing but totally different than the Shakespeare thing on Tuesday. It was called "Women and Honor: Notes on Lying"- about women, men, relationships, etc... abstract, alternative, simple, edgy. It was in a massive square room with high ceilings and about 120 chairs lined up around three sides. The production began with eerie music and a film projection of unclothed women in different poses onto a curtain with a female voiceover, then four actors/dancers appeared. There was one short monologue by the only male dancer describing one woman as you would describe a car, and a few voice overs, but otherwise just music and movement.

I thought as I was sitting on there how Auckland might actually be like Portland was about 10 years ago when I first moved there- everything was just starting to develop- it's the most wonderful time to be living in a city- it's really like the springtime of the city- you know- everything is new- and different things are being tried- people are open to changes. I was thinking how lucky I am to be here right now. Because Auckland is only going to get better.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thank you for being a part of me

To all of you
who have shined in my life
and loved me in some way
I wish you happiness in your soul
and love in your heart
on this Valentine's Day.
Love, Sara

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A day in the life... of Sara

6:24AM Wake up. Check watch. Not time yet.

6:30AM Mechanical greeting from cell phone, "It's time to get up! The time is 6:30." Repeats several times unless press snooze.

6:40AM "It's time to get up! The time is 6:40." Shut off alarm.

6:43AM Get out of bed. Stumble to bathroom.
What to wear? With only five outfits, the thought process goes like this: "Have I worn it yet this week? Does it smell?" Ok then.
Brave mirror (luckily can only see from chest up). Assess hair situation. If sticking up, apply water or hair paste as needed.
Insert contacts or select matching glasses for chosen outfit.

7:03AM Leave house. Walk to coffee shop. Meet same 60 year old lady on her morning exercise walk who wears cool metal magenta or red glasses every day, say "Morning."
Continue walking.

7:18AM Arrive at Kokako coffee shop. Greet Sam the skateboarder barista, "Morning, how are you?"
"I can't complain. Same as usual?"
Pour glass of water. Pick up New Zealand Herald. Select seat for the day. (Do not sit in same place every day, this would be dull.)

7:30AM "Long black" is delivered to my seat in small aqua-blue cup and saucer. (Long black is like an Americano with less water.)
Read paper, people watch, journal.

8:08AM Walk to street crossing. Push button. (If not on time, may be up to 5 minutes wait to cross street.)
While waiting, notice traffic piling up. Think how lucky I am to be walking.
Cross the street and walk up and down several hills through the Auckland Domain (a park) to the University. Admire beauty. Amazed again at lovely commute. Try to avoid psycho groundskeepers who drive riding mowers like Aucklanders drive cars. (Can they possibly mow any grass down at that speed?)
Wonder if I am getting into better shape with all this walking.

8:28AM Arrive at University. Enter building, use badge to get through security and walk up 5 flights of stairs, mildly wiped out. Wonder when it will get any easier.

8:30AM Pick up student/patient roster for the day. Greet front desk staff.
Debrief students. Read email, grade exams, consult, check patients, etc.

12:45PM Lunch. Walk across street to Domain Park. Sit under tree. Read. People watch. Sometimes joined by colleagues.

1:30PM Back at clinic. Walk up stairs. Still out of breathe.
Repeat morning schedule.

5:30PM Go home. Another walk in the park. Or lollygag around town, taking up to two hours to get there, sometimes with Ursula.

Evening Varied. Plop on couch. Read. Listen to music. Research travel destinations. Reflect on the meaning of life. Shower. Wonder what will happen in the next year.

9:30/10:00PM Crawl into single trundlebed. Bedtime.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Adventures in "Bussing It"

This weekend on a whim I met Rose Marie's son in Tauranga for a couple days. I plopped on the bus at 7:30AM. Each day, I write 3 things I am grateful for in my journal. When I looked back, "Bus Rides" made it in there both Saturday and Sunday. There's nothing like riding some sort of public transportation, looking out the window, listening to music and reflecting on life.

Beach off Tauranga

Succulent boat

Avocado I picked

Relaxing on the deck I

Relaxing on the deck II

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The end of the work week; thoughts on students.

Working with students is an adventure in itself. There is a huge range of abilities and I never know who I will encounter on any given day. They are here to become optometrists, ranging in age from 21 to 35. I am supposedly imparting my wisdom on them, since I have seen at least 20,000 more patients than they have.

What I hope I'm teaching them is confidence in themselves, listening skills, responsibility and clinical thinking. I hope to be one of those to whom they can ask any question, no matter how stupid it seems. And I hope never to be the one to beat them down or treat them poorly. God knows most of us can point out our own flaws.

Last night after work, I realised my shoulders were not tight. In fact, I was not sore anywhere. I was relaxed. And it was nearing the end of the week. I used to carry so much stress that my fingers would go numb sometimes, or my shoulder would barely move.

The internal relaxation is something I have been feeling more and more of since I've arrived in New Zealand. There are things about this job that might seem to be negatives. Maybe they are just differences again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Waitangi Day and thoughts

Holiday #2. What do you do with a Wednesday off? Well, here you go to your colleague's house for a BBQ. It was one of those hot summer days and Wanda (optometrist from Canada) had about 10 of us over for grilling and drinks. It was fantastically sunny, so we mostly sat indoors to avoid melting, but a lovely day all around.

I was looking at my last post, and the one before where I asked you guys to write what you would do if you knew you could not fail. Only two brave souls posted a response, but I was impressed with the idealism and thought, am I grateful enough for all that I have? Do I let people just be? What great thoughts.

Earlier toay, I was sitting in the coffee shop waiting for Nick and Ursula (I was hitching a ride) and thought about it all. The guy behind the counter treated me like an old friend and it was my first visit. There were little birds walking around on the ground inside and Huey Lewis and the News was overhead playing "The power of love." The windows were all open, no screens, sort of blurring the line between outside and inside.

I guess the beauty of Auckland is many things. If post a negative, it's really just a difference. It's kind of like living in a large beach town. Pretty laid back and with a few blocks walk from anywhere, you can probably see the ocean, which is quite remarkable.

The vibe is laid-back, open and kind- all things I'd like to take home with me.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Dreamy Days (weekend recap)

Ursula and I walked home from work on Friday to her house (about one and a half hours) and picked up a bottle of wine on the way. And sat in her backyard waiting for Nick to come home from work.

We rewarded ourselves with dinner at a gross Indian restaurant (called Sitar I think). I ended up crashing on their couch (not that I was drunk, the transport situation leaves a lot to be desired here). The restaurant scene is the same as the transport- luckily I am not too big on going out to eat.

Saturday we got up early to go to the Otara market- which we thought would be a cultural affair, but was more for the poor folks. My landlady had a nicer way of saying poor, but I can't recall what it was- oh, "impoverished area." But we got some produce anyway (from China probably) so if you don't hear from me, you'll know what happened. Then we wandered through shops at Mt Eden (a suburb of Auckland) and had a lovely lunch at a cafe. They have the best coffee here- even in places that are highly suspect. After that, we searched out two used book stores, one of which was so disorganised, I got nervous just looking in the window. Luckily it was not open.

On our way to the beach suburbs, we passed by an organic grocer, Huckleberry Farms, where Ursula and I had a heyday smelling the various organic laundry detergents and frolicking among the bulk bins. I'm sure her husband Nick was sorry to hear what he had missed (he was off sailing).

Our last destinations were Mission Bay and Pt Chev, two more suburbs of Auckland on the beach, decidedly NOT impoverished. We parked the car and walked along the beach and boardwalk for 2 hours, watching the surf and sunbathers. Finally Nick called for us to pick him up from the marina. It took some major elbow twisting to get us to sit down for a beer with the sailors at "Swashbucklers." I went girly-girl and had pink wine. I don't quite have the taste for NZ beer- even the dark stuff tastes sort of like Bud Lite to me. It's funny, they all look like they should taste different, but they don't...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Evidence of my downsizing.

My place. I live above the garage!

My room/house.

From the other side.

The shower.

Bathroom. Duh.