Saturday, May 30, 2009

Welcome to Earth, Miss Lily!

I am officially an Auntie. Congrats to my baby sister, Molly, and her husband, Josh, on the birth of their firstborn, Lily Katherine on May 29, 2009 at 1:05 PM in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Lily was 7lbs 14oz and 20 inches long; born naturally after a 13 hour labour. No C-section! :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On the Integrations of Nature: Post 9-11 Biopolitical Notes

"Guess what: God created beings not to act in a morality play but to experience what is unfathomable, to elicit what can become, to descend into the darkness of creation and reveal it to him, to mourn and celebrate enigma and possibility. The universie is a whirling dervish, not a hanging judge in robes." -Richard Grossinger

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Returning home

Yesterday was day three in Portland. I've done a hideous job avoiding jet lag. After dropping my sister off at work at 7AM, I fell back asleep and was horrified to see that it was 12:58 when I woke up. At least Carrie's dog, Oatie (chihuahua), was in bed with me the whole time, so I was not the sole lazy loser in the house.

I rolled out of bed and puttered around the house, trying to figure out what I could clean without making important things disappear. After my housework, I wandered over to my favorite coffee shop, Stumptown on Belmont. I started to put Oatie in his little kennel, but he gave me a sad look, so I asked if he wanted to go with- he ran straight for the door and stood like a statue as I secured his collar. We piled in the car and headed for coffee. I sat in the window of Stumptown reading the New York Times while Oatie slept on my lap. That's the nice thing here. You can bring your [sister's] dog with you everywhere. As I looked out the window at the street scene, I realised how everything is the same. I even saw the guy who owns Hoda's across the street. Everyone is still doing what they were doing when I left. Only I am different.

I've gone through a whirlwind of emotions. My first instinct was to leave again right away. Then I thought I should move back. Then I thought, You have no idea what you are doing. Just be.

Today, I have painted my sister's stairs and organised the recycling. I picked up a friend from the airport. I would work on the yard but couldn't find any tools.

Carrie's house is sunny and welcoming and it's wonderful to be with my sister again. But I feel this is a momentary reprieve from traveling and I'll most likely take the full one year sabbatical as I'd originally planned. I have a mind to work on the Pacific Crest Trail until the end of August.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thoughts from the Orthopedic Child

I was born an adult in a child’s body. Just ask my mom. After I spent nine months screaming, I learned to talk and was soon was bossing my mom and dad around, interrupting their squirt gun fights to take away the offensive and dangerous toys and stopping the tickling on the bed so my mom wouldn’t get hurt. I came that way.

Some people think it happened when my dad died. But they’re wrong.

I used to think that I was like this because my dad died. And I think that there are a lot of things that might be ever so slightly off after he was so quickly removed from my life when I was seven. Seven is an age of wonder. It’s the cusp of little kid to big kid. It’s when you’re starting to get an idea of what’s really going on in the world. Or I was anyway, at least.

I had two sisters. I was the oldest and the most responsible and possibly also the most dreamy. Though I think my dad may have been the only one to catch that. My mom kept insisting that I needed a hearing test. I just had my head in the clouds. I still do.

My sisters came along when I was almost three and almost seven. Carrie was first. What a treat to have an instant new best friend. I’d practiced taking care of my doll, Kathie, so I was well prepared when she moved into our house. She got her own room when she was very little, but couldn’t keep herself from sleeping with me anyway. I sort of minded but I also liked it. She was my best friend. I loved her from the day she came home.

Molly came a few years later and we were living in Minnesota then. A family of four, the typical 1980’s way, was converted to a full house. Three of a kind, and a pair. I thought it was perfect. Molly was more like my kid than my best friend. I wanted to take care of her from the start, even though I was only six when she was born.

What I didn’t know was that my perfect little family was only to be for an instant in.time. It wasn’t meant to last a lifetime. I don’t know why. I still ask that question. I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like if I had a whole family instead of just me and my sisters and my mom. And I really can’t imagine it. I can’t see my dad. I can’t hear him. I used to be able to. I used to remember his laugh and his voice and the way he was with us. But that all fades with time, no matter how hard you try to make it a permanent imprint. There’s nothing we can do. Maybe that’s so we can’t be sad forever.

What is something is that my littlest sister is about to have a baby girl. She’s the first of the three of us to go through this door. I’m so proud. And excited. Every time Molly passed a life step, it was a big deal to me. Sometimes it really bothered me. I didn’t want her to grow up. She was my little Molly. This time it’s really okay with me.

I didn’t know how I’d feel, but as the date nears, I just want to go home and help my sister with her new baby girl. I’ve dreamt about her. Of course she looked just like Molly as a baby. But she’s not here yet. Maybe she’s waiting until I get back to the states. Like the world revolves around the big sister. (Don’t we all have these issues?)

Regardless, I’ll be home in a day’s time, not in North Dakota, but just a train ride away. And when Molly says the word, I’ll be at her doorstep, waiting to rock her little one and help change the diapers and do whatever I can. After all, I’m the big sister.


Windsurfer at the northern tip of the main island.

This couple looked like they could be twins. Matching outfits and glasses and hair. (In downtown Suva.)

Suva... aren't those some cool ships? Like the three sisters of the sea.

Suva waterfront.

Bus rides are a good way to survey afro hairdoes. Jeez, why doesn't my hair do that?

The view from the deck of the restaurant at Raintree Lodge, where I stayed in Suva.

Goodbye Fiji! (Taken from the beach by my little guesthouse, Bluewater Lodge.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Last day in Fiji

I've got some beautiful photos to share, but I forgot my camera cord, darn it!

I'm so excited to be coming home that I've barely slept in a week. Fiji is country 39 that I've visited. Not too shabby for an almost 33-year-old.

I was determined to go for a walk today, so after my morning continental breakfast served by the kind staff at Bluewater Lodge (papaya, toast, coffee and juice), I drenched myself in sunscreen and set off for town. After about 45 minutes in the sun, I started to feel anxious that my whiteness in combination with the suncreen would not do enough to reflect the evil rays. This is yet another drawback to having almost albino pigmentation (thanks, mom and dad). Realistically, I'm not a beach vacation person. Too much ADHD, not enough melanin. So here I am sitting in an internet cafe, hiding from Mr. Sun, the guy who most of these tourists are here to see. On my last day in Fiji. A little insane, yes. But at least I am not getting skin cancer today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Revelation: I’m a bus whore.

Yes, it’s true. I get on a bus, any bus, anytime, anywhere and I’m gloriously happy. Ridiculously happy. I’m even happy waiting for the bus. At the bus stop on the side of the road or in a busy station or under a tree. Anywhere, anytime, I am there and I am happy.

Once I board, the delirium usually continues, even with a intermittent sore ass and knees that are bruised the following day from being wedged against the seat in front of me- a hazard of traveling in countries full of short people. Though the island Fijians are large in all ways (many women are both bigger and taller than me), so this doesn’t make sense really. I can tell a lot from a country on the bus. When I ride a local bus, surrounded by people on their way home or to a wedding or whatnot and I’m the only white person, I feel so alive.

After four days, three nights on Nananu-I-Ra island off the northern tip of Viti Levu (the largest Fiji Island- there are more than 360 total), I started to feel claustrophoic on such a small island filled mostly with Australians. I was starving for local interaction, so I caught the boat back to land and then a bus to Suva, (pop 390,000) the largest city in Fiji and the also the largest in the Pacific Islands.

At the bus stop, I met a local Brahman Indian-Fijian boy in his early 20’s who had lived in Wellington for a while. He was wearing a black t-shirt with “Edmonton” embroidered on it. I asked if he’d been to Edmonton. He said, “No, but I’m moving there on the 30th of May.” He was moving with his sister and brother-in-law to run a takeway business in Banff. He pointed out his sugarcane farm on the hill behind us. I asked what his mom and dad thought. He said, “That’s my mom,” pointing to the lady in glasses and a yellow sari across from us who’d been smiling all along. “She has to stay six more months for the harvest and then maybe she and my younger brother will come. My dad passed away four years ago.”

After about an hour‘s wait, the bus finally arrived. It was the express bus but it still took over three hours to get to Suva. Some roads were dirt and several bridges we drove over were small wooden plank things, just wide enough for one vehicle and no guard railing.

I sat next to Linny and her mom. They were coming home from her cousin’s wedding. Linny was born March 14th, 1971 in Fiji. She had a 22 year old son. She pointed out the village where she grew up (pop 100) and then the village that she was “married to.” She was married eight years ago. She and her mom both had small afros. Linny wore a red polo and denim skirt and carried a pink lettered handbag, Her mom reminded me of a black Grandma Agnes. It was the facial expression. She was a lady of purpose, but had tan Fossil gemstone-rimmed sunglasses that matched her tan patterned dress. After a few hours on the bus, one of the mom’s brothers got on. Shortly after that, they were waving out the window to one of her sisters who was in a van on the side of the road. It’s a small island.

Linny and her mom got off a few stops before me. As did the Indian boy and his mom. His mom patted me on the shoulder as she walked down the aisle and waved from the side of the road as we drove off.

The bus came into Suva from above and at first sight, it reminded me of Auckland. A harbour town, ocean all around. We pulled into the bus station and I struggled to get my pack off the bus as the driver made a snide comment about it. (He is the only not-nice person I have encountered.) After I practically fell out the door of the bus, I stopped to get myself loaded up. Two Fijian men tried to help me haul my stuff in a wheelbarrow but I declined saying I was just getting on another bus. They kept asking questions and told me I was beautiful. Then I realized I was a blonde girl in a sea of dark. I’d forgotten the extra sort of help you get in that situation.

I wandered off, asking a local girl, “Where is the bus to Sawani?” She pointed. I said, “Ok, over there?” I must’ve looked confused, because then she said, “I’ll take you.” “Are you going that way?” I asked. “No, but it’s ok.” I got led quite a ways and dropped at my bus. I said, “Thank you” and she was off, wishing me a good trip,

So Fiji… it’s different. Interesting. Not remote. Full of it’s own culture and life. I have three more days of exploring before I set foot on the plane back to North America. Prepare the red carpet, I’m coming home!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Hi All-
It's Carrie. I just wanted to let you know that Sara is alive and in Fiji with pretty much no access to phone or internet til the 23rd. exciting blogs til then. After that she'll be back in the states. :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Last night in Auckland

Tomorrow I fly out to the islands. Woe is me.

I called Fiji today to make a reservation at a hostel there. The lady on the phone said, "There'll be someone waiting for you at arrivals with our name on the sign, but before you come through, could you pick something up for us?"

Huh? I thought. "Uhh, okay?" What is this all about?

"Could you pick up a bottle of Fiji Bounty Rum? It should be about $19 a bottle. Just bringit to the front desk when you check in and we'll reimburse you for it."

"Okay, sure." I guess if this is a joke, then I'll just have to drink the rum myself. I'm sure I could handle it.

This is the first time I'll be bringing rum to my hotel. I wonder if they'll sell it back to me at a higher price?

In other news, I completed my New Zealand Taxes today. It took about five minutes, in comparison to the two days that the US taxes take. I did, however, have to call the IRD three different times to get it done. But here you can actually talk to a real person after only about 2-5 minutes on the phone. It's quite amazing.

The rest of the day was spent wandering, visiting my favorite cafe, walking along ponsonby road and chatting with travelers in the hostel.

Tomorrow I fly out at 1:00PM. I'll be sad to leave Verandahs Hostel. It's one of the best in New Zealand. I think if I'd have discovered it sooner, I might have tried to be a longer term resident here. It's quite the place.

Au Revoir, Kiwiland! I'll see you in my dreams.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Please fix me

I spoke with a doctor in the states today about a posting for an associate optometrist. It was apparent from the start of the call that he wasn't really interested, but we continued the conversation since it had been started. In the end, he was really looking for someone who was married, maybe with kids, who'd want to settle down and become part of the community. He said that.

I don't know why a single person is considered such a reliability risk and a single woman even a worse risk. I guess she's likely to get married and knocked up and move away, since women always just do what their husbands want. I'd like to have someone conduct a study and note whether single people do, in fact move more, stray from jobs sooner, or suddenly become impregnated by artificial insemination when they'd not even been thinking of it.

I'd say that we single people are the number one nemesis of planet earth. If we weren't all wandering the world, flying on planes, trying to find ourselves, would there truly be global warming? Nah. It's our fault!

What else is our fault? Too much drinking and tottering home to buy McDonald's in the middle of the night. I hazard a guess that's probably keeping those fast-food joints open and contributing immensely to the rising global obesity rates.

I'm going to keep thinking here.

I'm tired of the world pointing a finger at me because I'm not married. It's been going on since I became single at the age of 28. Years of people telling me, Mr. Perfect will be the next one through the door. Don't worry, you can always adopt. How come you're not married? As if I have a disease to be cured.

That is the end of the rant. There is nothing (drastically) wrong with me that needs to be fixed, other than my haircut. Hah.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Flight Schedule: (purchased today, Wednesday the 13th)

Fri May 15
Depart Auckland 13.00 Arrive Fiji 16.00; Air Pacific 410; 3 hours
Staying at Bluewater Lodge (a boutique backpackers)

Sat May 23
Depart Fiji 10.00 Arrive Los Angeles 13.20; Air Pacific 810; 10:20 hours
Staying at Brian Schultz Hotel

Sun May 24
Depart Los Angeles 06.00 Arrive Portland 08.20; Alaska Airlines 561
Staying at Carrie & Oatie Schultz Hotel

Monday, May 11, 2009


[Enroute to Auckland after a quick turn-around in the bay of islands.]

It was just too crummy of weather for rest and relaxation. Besides that, I know that I'll be an Auntie for the first time in not too many days. The time is right to go home. Thank goodness that Air Pacific lets you book flights at the last minute for cheap.

We’re pulling back into Auckland… probably the last time I will see the skyline from this side of town. Soon we’ll be crossing over the harbour bridge. It’s a beautiful city. The things I’ve learned this year! If I had to make a list it could stretch forever.

Mostly I’ve learned to be more open-minded, more patient, more trusting. People everywhere have surprised me with their kindness and love. I’ve done things I wouldn’t have thought I'd do. I’ve realized how useless passing judgment on others is. (Not that it’s easy to understand other people all the time, but at least give them the benefit of the doubt. )

Boats in the harbour. The sky tower popping up behind them. Fluffy clouds with a deep purple base. Sky the color of my bedroom in Portland. Ships and more ships. I’ve never seen so many in my life. We’re sailing into town on the Intercity bus- something that’s marked my days and travels in NZ. I still love the peace and the whirr of the bus shifting gears, humming along. Passengers shuffle belongings but it’s still serene in here. And as I stare out the window, it’s the closest thing to church and meditation as I'll get here in Auckland.

Two more days and I will fly off, forever perhaps, or not. Life doesn’t tell you the story line ahead of time. You just have to follow it as it goes along and see where you end up.

Rethinking things

I was welcomed to the Bay of Islands with two solid days of rain, grey skies and a forecast that's not going to let up on either of those. The hostel that I've arranged to work at isn't quite the experience that Oamaru was.

Janine, a Vancouver, BC-ite, checked me in and showed me our room, which is located off the back of the office hallway. I think it used to be the office, as it's smaller than any bedroom I've ever had and still has four bunks in it, as well as a shelf and small fridge. I wasn't sure where to put my backpack, so I wedged it next to the bed. After a tour, I went for a walk through the town, all two streets. It's a relative ghosttown and no wonder with this weather. I'd envisioned walks and reading and writing, but I doubt I'll be having any of that.

I returned home and settled into my bunk, deciding that it was easier to sleep in my clothes than drag out the nightgown and try to figure out how to get changed in there. This is going to sound like I'm a total paranoid now, but I was mildly claustrophobic in the room. I thought, "What if there was a fire?" Then I realised the window opened. The bunks are jammed into such a small room that the top bunks are about three feet from the ceiling, so it's not like I can sit up in bed. Also I am too big for the bed and my feet hang off. (I'm not even that large, c'mon now!) And finally, I woke up with the worst backache I've had in a very long time.

So I got up early and tiptoed out of the bedroom after being told over and over that the owner is very particular. "Don't slam the door to the office." "Walk quietly up the stairs" "He likes the towels folded a certain way." "It's easier to just do things his way." Etc, etc. I was not too keen to meet someone who is so controlling and anal. I have yet to see what I would consider a genuine smile on this guy's face.

The combination of the weather and the rigid, suffocating atmosphere of this hostel has made me rethink my plans once again. I've put tickets on hold to return to the states via Fiji on Friday. I'd have eight days in Fiji and be back in LAX on the 24th of May. Guess I will let you know if I actually buy those tickets tomorrow. Sometimes plans change.

I don't have any photos to publish as there were none worth taking. Heh, heh.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Post Grad

Fuzzy-headed, layered in as much clothing as I can without losing credibility and smelling faintly of cigar smoke, I'm parked on a hall chair in the backpackers whiling away a couple hours before I catch my bus up to the Bay of Islands.

I'd like to say I woke up this morning with all the answers swirling around in my head. But instead, I woke up and wondered, "Where am I?" and "What am I doing?" Perhaps the after effects of alcohol and two hours of sleep.

I've scheduled a few weeks of rest and regeneration in the north part of New Zealand before I set off on the next stage, which continues to remain elusive. I wallow back and forth between returning home and continuing on.

The idea of a full time job scares me, if I am to be perfectly honest. I've spent six months doing whatever I want for 24 hours a day. It's not surprising that I'm reluctant about rejoining the leagues of the working man.

But precisely that freedom is what will make me go back. The reasons I slept two hours are two. One is my own fault- I stayed out ridiculously too late (McDonalds changed their signs to the breakfast menu right when we arrived). The other is I have to be out of my backpackers 10:00AM. This is standard. So if one went to bed when the sun was coming up, that one idiot is not getting much shuteye.

Circular thinking is getting me nowhere. But it's about time to catch the bus now. So I've accomplished my feat of killing time and figuring out the answers in the game of life. There are none. And I will enjoy each day as it comes. How often do I get to feel like this?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Graduation Eve

I'm a jumble of emotions, sitting in my black nightie and creme cable sweater in the lounge of my hostel, surrounded by six other backpackers who are reading or speaking German. Sheryl Crow's on the radio. It's soothing music, but I cannot be soothed. It's not anything specific, just a series of slips that are collectively leaving me feeling out of control.

Do I need to go home? What is home anyway?

Herman Hesse says, "One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect, the whole world looks like home for a while."

The whole world has looked like home for a while. But is it time for my roots to be under my feet and my family at my side?

I'm still thinking of that prediction, "You're trying to look relaxed even though you have one foot on a dock and one foot on a boat as the boat pulls away. It seems likely that any minute now you'll have to commit yourself to either the dock, the boat, or the water." It really does feel that way.

Which way do I go? When does life ever calm down? Who knows all the answers?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dunedin, the depressing land of weird optometrists

Mayhap it looks ok as I start my picture collage of Dunedin. The first item of interest is a church in the main square of town called the Octagon on the only day that there was any decent light. I've been bundled in 4-5 layers the entire time I've been here and still my back stays cold. It doesn't help that it's gushing down rain intermittently and buildings have no insulation or heating.

Dunedin was touted as a cafe culture town with 20,000 students roaming its streets. I expected to find philosophy-entrenched coffee shops where I'd while away my final days in the south island before heading off to the rollercoaster ride that Auckland is.

Instead, I've arrived to find shop after shop closed- out of business or just not open, Friday night with nary a soul in sight and a papable lack of philosophy. Oh well. It is a good way to jump off the south island, as I'll be leaving at the buttcrack of dawn tomorrow- 7:20AM. No wonder that flight was so cheap.

Inside the Dunedin Railway station. Beauty of a building.

Right next door to the fourth generation optometrist...

Peter Dick. Yes. FOURTH generation. And the girl who I am couch surfing with, Hannah, wrote the last radio ads for this special man. Go for the optom profession!

Finally, here's two girls who I passed going the opposite direction on the Raikura Track on Stewart Island. Wanda (dark hair) is from Chicago and Alexandra (blonde) is from Boston. We ran into each other in Invercargill and again in Dunedin. Ended up about 4-5 days together and leaving with plans to meet again at Burning Man in Nevada at the end of August.