Monday, 30 June 2008

Out and about

Today I went visiting. Last week I had my son Nick and his partner Courtney visiting from Auckland so spent as much time with them as they could stand. That coupled with lingerings of jet lag left me a bit useless really. I so love seeing the kids. They brighten up the house and keep me on my toes cooking their favorites such as whitebait fritters. It's also a chance for catching up on their friends, young people who have often spent a lot of time at our place over the years. Keeps me honest to realise that my kids and their friends are now all in their late 20s. My how time flies! 
Today I called in to my work, one week to go and I'm back there, and it was great to catch up with the many changes and my lovely colleagues and friends. They appreciated the small gifts I had brought them from Qatar, small bits of the bling so common there. I caught up on the goss, and there was plenty! I'm actually looking forward to going back on Monday.
I also caught up with my old friends at the open poly. I love to call in and see my old place. I spent 6 happy years working there and miss aspects of that. They are always pleased to see me and enjoy my travels and of course the photos.
But for now, another week of holiday. The first one I've had in ages where I can just chill at home, sleep in and enjoy some peace and quiet. Holidays for me for the past few years have been taken up with writing my thesis and now thats completed I am looking for my next project, something to do with travel and photography I think. 

From Roma.....

I spent 10 days in Roma, all days well spent. I began to feel like a local, smiling at the tourists clutching their handbags tightly as I sauntered down the street to my local for breakfast. The first week or so I spent with Diane as my tour guide. Then Muzz arrived and I was able to be a tour guide for him as well as seeing things I had left until he arrived, like the inside of the Pantheon. A couple of last photos of Roma and then I will move on to the rest of our trip around Italy and France. I will return to Roma, I threw money in the Trevi to make sure. 
There are more photos on my Flickr, of course. 

The Qatar experience

Since I've been home I've been reflecting on what made Qatar such an amazing experience. I came to the conclusion early on that it was he tangata, the people but it's deeper than that. If it was just about the people then those who challenged me would have made this a more negative experience. Not so, in fact they made it a strengthening experience. 
It's more about belonging. In our lives we all have groups of friends, people we have known for years and people we come in contact with through work, sport, children's activities; but we seldom achieve the closeness of a truly shared experience with them. We have outside influences moderating those friendships. Those influences can be our whanau, our spouses, the expectations of others in our lives, others we have to consider on a daily basis. 
We don't usually live on the same floor of an apartment building; we don't usually share a car to work; we don't usually have to rely on each other so heavily through the tough times; we are not usually living alone, away from our usual support systems, in a different country. What develops in this situation is a closeness that can transcend other aspects of our lives.
I believe that when we experience that level of closeness with others, we go back to the times when we were part of a village. When closeness was part of everyday life with communal cooking and food gathering; communal decision making within the tribe. Closeness was survival. During our time in Qatar we had to pull together, to make the situation we found ourselves in work, to succeed. I'm sure that for most of us, this was a life changing experience, an experience that lingers to be reflected on, smiled about and relived through conversations with those who were there. This can be difficult for those we left behind as we come back a little changed, wanting to be in contact with people they have never met and talking about places they have not been to. 
Over a coffee a group of us talked about writing a play to share how we felt, what we experienced. We decided it was a bit like reality TV, just when you got used to one way of doing things, another was revealed. Surely experiences worthy of sharing with a wider audience!  
The photo is of some of the whanau at our last party at Lyn and Kerry's place. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Di and me

Di and me, originally uploaded by Gilbert Wicks.

Di and I enjoyed wandering the streets of Roma and, without the benefit of a map, found most of what we were looking for. Maps and me in Roma, a frustrating experience and it didn't get any better much to Di's delight. Here we are near on the Spanish steps, photo taken by some nice Canadians. We of course returned the favor. We didn't find the Trevi Fountain that day like we'd planned but did find some fetching sun hats to keep us out of the blazing sun and eventually a taxi home for our tired legs. I love wandering with Di. We wander, take photos and find what we find when we find it, the very best way to discover Roma. Coming around the corner and unexpectedly seeing the Pantheon directly in front of you in the early morning light is a priceless experience for this kiwi.

Restaurant in Trastevere

Restaurant in Trastevere, originally uploaded by Gilbert Wicks.


Coffee!, originally uploaded by Gilbert Wicks.

The tastes

I love food so it seemed appropriate that I begin my European journey by talking about the tastes. First of all Italy has the best espresso in the world, well I know everyone knows that already but I just had to say it again. Team up a fine espresso with a crema cornetto and you have the perfect breakfast, one Di and I enjoyed most mornings at our favorite cafe, Bella Roma. The photo is of the Bella Roma barista and Di. Also in Roma, we discovered the best gelato I have ever tasted. It even out classed the wonderful vanilla and chocolate gelato in the Souqs in Doha. Although their raspberry sorbet was right up there. The gelato was Amarino cherry flavor and came from the Millennium Gelateria just down the steps from Viale Vaticano. Di and I saw many people in the piazza at the bottom of the steps eating gelato so thought if the locals eat there......and we were right!  Although I tried cherry gelato all over Italy, the one from the Millennium was never surpassed. 
Also in Roma, we ate at the Ristocampo at Trastevere. Not only do they have an excellent philosophy with signs outside stating that they are "against the war and the tourist menu" but their seafood pasta was sublime especially when washed down with a nice Chianti.  

Home in Aotearoa

And its very cold, 3C today in Christchurch with snow on the hills. I had a great time in Italy and France exploring new places and places I've been to before. I have downloaded my photos so over the next few days will complete some retrospective entries. I was really disappointed to not be able to keep up daily entries on my travels. Next trip I will take my laptop so I can do so. Many places have wifi but no terminals! I have also added some of my 1700 plus photos of the European leg of my hikoi to my Flickr site. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Torino and the train

We arrived in Torino tonight after leaving Venice in the late afternoon. We were heading to Milano, changing trains and going to Genova. At Milano, after consulting with the map and being too lazy to drag our bags off the train, we kept going to Torino. This turned out to be a good choice for although we had no accommodation and arrived at 8pmish, we soon found a hotel within our budget by rocking up and asking and then a wonderful pizza and salata. The wine was also very good, a slightly fizzy pino chardonnay. I had had a similar one in Doha from the distribution centre, very refreshing!
Travelling by train has been an interesting experience. When Muzz arrived in Roma on 30 May, we decided not to drive. We had driven last trip and it was at times a bit stressful. We went to purchase a ticket at the station in Roma only to find it too expensive, plan b, investigate the options fully on the internet. We went back to the station having looked at the options and ended up with a Trenitalia ticket, 7 days travel within 2 months for 180euro each, not bad after the first quote of over 500 each. The pass took us far and wide from Roma to the Amalfi Coast to Venice and as we slowly learnt the rules, which train we were allowed on and which we had to pay a little extra for, it became a very good option. It is relaxing to ride the rails and catch up on the reading and ipod. It's not so relaxing when caught on the wrong train without the right booking, not to mention expensive. Tomorrow we head to France, possibly to the south but eventually over to Paris.

Still travelling

It's been a while since I have been able to add to my story. Firstly finding the time with the travel we have been doing has been an issue but most importantly has been the lack of internet access on those travels. The places that have internet access are mostly very expensive and adding to that the need to book the next nights accommodation, the trips to the internet points didn't allow the time and head space needed to add posts. Booking accommodation is very important and and have become my most visited sites!
A reflection on internet points, also known as internet cafe. If they were indeed cafes, that is if they sold the lovely espresso I have exprienced here in Italy, they would have been more user friendly. If they also had toilettes and an attached laundrette, well they would have been the perfect stop for the weary traveller! If these wonderful cafe\internet\laundrette\loo had also been at railway stations, well life would have been bellissimo, my black walking shoes might have survived the whole trip and I would have seen more sights.
Travelling by train in Italy, on a Trenitalia pass has been very interesting and I will write about some of those experiences in a post soon.