Thursday, 27 February 2014

On a plane again

I've just had a bit of a treat, a trip to Rotorua for work. A work trip might not sound like something one might enjoy. This trip was amazing, I had the privilege of attending a hui (meeting) on a marae (meeting place) with my colleagues, some of whom I had only previously talked to on the phone. Many of whom I'd not had contact with as yet.

Being home in Aotearoa I've had a few special treats. Staying on the marae for two days, sleeping in the wharenui (meeting house) with my new friends, enjoying the kai (food) served in huge quantities while exploring the area and hearing the stories is way up there as special. Treats like steam pudding and custard, fish and vege, short bread and apple crumble, all home made in the whare kai (kitchen and place to eat) enjoyed with wonderful company, debate and discussion. 

The warmth of welcome as we visited te kohanga reo (Maaori language nests) and joined the tamariki (children) enjoying their day. Singing action songs and joining in the fun. Priceless. I was a bit surprised how much I understood of this partner language to English. I've been away a while and it didn't take me long to hook into the context and make sense of much of what I heard. 

Many conversations were had, work and personal, hilarious as we wound down in the evening. Lots of music. That sense of belonging to this place and pride for how far we have come. Humbled by the people who cared for us so well. I really wish I'd taken my camera, taking pictures in the wharenui is not allowed and I didn't think I'd be able to get out and about as much as I managed so the extra weight didn't seem worth it. Bad mistake, it's just not the same on my phone. Below are some attempts. 

The mist off the water is steam, it's boiling hot as is the road alongside. The people of the village use the thermal activity for their energy needs, cooking in the pools and steam vents. No need for pots, and soaking in their very own thermal pools. Sulphur smells waft over the lake, the air warm from the ground up. Steam vents pop up through the tiles in a nearby whare courtyard, a road cone channeling it up and away in one place serving as a warning not to drive in this place. An awesome display of the power of ranginui (mother earth). 

Morning light over the steaming water

The wharenui

Evening stream

Monday, 24 February 2014

Zealandia

I had the privilege of wandering around Zealandia this weekend with a friend who knows the place very well and was patient as I stopped often to take photographs. While my father would have cringed at me becoming a greenie as I have, that's the slang for a conservationist here in New Zealand, he would very much have approved of the work done to restore the forest and bird life up in this special valley so near his home city.

Zealandia, formally the Karori Sanctuary is an amazing place and the reason there's so much bird life in the area around my place. Volunteers, sponsors, Wellington City Council and the NZ Government all work together "to create a self-sustaining ecosystem representative of the pre-human state that existed in New Zealand approximately 1000 years ago" for us to enjoy. They have surrounded the sanctuary with a pest proof fence, protecting the precious native wildlife and vegetation.

It was wonderful on this blustery Wellington Saturday to see the car park full and families out and about enjoying getting up close and personal with the kaka while checking out the small lizards, tuatara and weta. Watching at the bird feeding stations, rewarded us with sightings of bell birds, tui, hihi and those gorgeous small native robins. Listen to the birdsong as they chattered and flew was magical.

A couple of comments from the website summed it up for me:

"This sensational attraction will bring out the untapped Attenborough in everyone who visits." Time out

"An ark within an ark, Karori is one of New Zealand's vital havens for species on the brink."
National Geographic

We spent hours wandering and searching for the different species and managed to get really close at times. The photos below show a few of the birds, being able to find my other lens would have helped brings things just  a little closer. I enjoyed watching the kids enjoying the place and I can't wait to take Noah there when he comes to visit. I had some lovely moments with a little boy who took me by the hand to show me the algae on the pond, then spotting and counting the lizards with another.

This is a place for many revisits, a place to take all my visitors. Maybe starting with Sue next weekend. It's been a while since Sue and I have seen each other in person. In Al Ain a few years ago so I'm very much looking forward to catching up with her on the weekend.

Native Robin 

Tui surveying his domain

Sharing at a feeding station

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Curiosity

Diana and I wandered out for the evening to central Wellington, the place where the action is, the bars, the theaters, the people. And last evening, the protests. We watched from the other side of the road for a bit then curiosity got this cat and I dragged poor Diana, protesting, over for a look.

It was the Israeli flags that did it and the signs that said something about Israel being the only democracy in the Arab world. Over their assertions were cries that I better understood. Cries to boycott the Israeli dance troupe that was performing in the theatre. Cries of support for the Palestinian cause. Cries of protest against the abuses of the Zionist state. These were strong and informed voices. And I joined them for a while.

Lots of passers by did. As well as showing their support in many ways. I talked to some of those protesting and it seems I have found an organisation I'm going to subscribe to The New Zealand Palestinian Human Rights Campaign.  I read through their website this morning and there's a lot more to read. Interesting facts, information and news. Book lists for me to explore. And dedicated people who are not going to be silenced. Who are really passionate about supporting our fellow human beings to regain the rights that have been forcibly taken from them. Apartheid in action, with support from some strong western powers.

I did get a little angry at two of the protesters on the other side. Having been there, having seen the wall and the way Palestinians are treated, I felt like I could challenge them with at least some knowledge of the place. I suspect they were surprised at that. They were fixed in their views, defending their rights to be free to assert their opinions. That did make me smile sadly, demanding rights that have been taken from others by the regimen they were seeking to defend.

I did wonder that if the New Zealand government decided to institute two years of compulsory military service for all our young people; where they got to go and sack a community of people who owned the land and drive them off it, with the rights to terrorise and arrest children, would they would be the first to protest. That is the reality for the young of Israel, and there are many who protest about this too, and the reality for the people they have a government mandate to subjugate.

That's my Sunday morning rant, there will be more to follow about the weekend's adventures as well as the photos I took of the most amazing bird life out wandering in Zealandia. I have much to do today, including gift shopping for my favourite 3 soon to be 4 year old. I'm heading down for a visit in a couple of weeks, I can't wait to play pirates again. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Avoidance tactics

There are some things that are best left to the experts. Plumbing, electrical work, fixing cars, hammering in nails, cleaning. Especially cleaning. I love a clean house, I love walking in to a clean house. Enjoying how it smells, running my hand carefully over the sparkling surfaces, marvelling how the floor feels under my bare feet, enjoying the shine on my porcelain products. Generally sighing with that happiness that comes once a fortnight.

So how come I'm not able to make this happen in the same way? I'm very willing to give all sorts of things a good go, cleaning is one I've never managed so well. Ever. Despite my love of a clean house. It's not hereditary, other members of my family manage it just fine and with a sense of pride. Today's efforts left my bathroom rather sparkling and smelling nice. Then I ran out of steam, not much stickability on my part. Coffee and writing a blog entry seemed to be much, much more important.

Perhaps it's the day I have in front of me that makes me hesitate to commit more time. I'm off for a sail soon. The day outside is truly lovely, a nice amount of wind, nice and sunny. Then there's the promise of dinner after with some new friends. Anyone who knows me knows that food is important to me. I'm grumpy enough when hungry to need a warning label and really appreciate well cooked cuisine. Something more than I can cook.

Last evening, after some lovely Friday after work drinks, I bussed over to Sue and Neil's house to check out all was looking good for a weekend of viewings. It's on the market, this house that I've enjoyed so many times. It was strange being there without Sue, an odd feeling of trespass. I wiped those things that needed wiping then enjoyed the setting sun for a moment.

A moment too long it seems as the bus went hurtling past me while I was just too far from the stop. The bus that comes each hour. I puddled for a while, feeling a bit hungry. That took up 5 minutes. Then a bit later, well before the next bus, a lady and her dog wandered by. I made a comment about it being a nice evening for a long wait for the bus and she offered me a ride to a more useful stop.

Such kindness from a stranger. She was lovely, originally from Christchurch so we had a lot to talk about on the small journey. A small journey that meant I was home before 9pm rather than well after. Here are two of the photos I got with my phone while I was waiting.

Look at the time, guess there'll be no more cleaning today. Off out to enjoy the sun, sea, sailing and good company. All is well in my world today.

A nice place to wait for the bus

Sunset over the capital

Friday, 7 February 2014

TGIF

Wellington, the land of 7s rugby this weekend. And it looks really quiet this year. The grounds not quite packed. I did want to go this weekend but thought tickets would be hard to get. Not so it seems. Tomorrow I may just get there, I went on my own to the Dubai 7s one year and met some friends along the way so it might be okay to do that here.

The following year a crowd of us went to enjoy watching NZ play in our part of the world, what fun that was. The photos Rau put together on my maslama card tell that story. That one with the Kiss impersonators still makes me smile. Enjoying it on TV is the next best thing I suppose, lazy but possibly a bit warmer as it's been a bit wet and chilly out.

Friday, what a day after a Thursday Waitangi day spent exploring. Out wandering in the hills with friends. Today felt a bit like working on a Sunday. I wasn't that keen to get out of bed this morning. Many folks took the day off, a sound plan although it was nice to have a catch up day at work. Yesterday I went to the end of the Northern walkway. It starts a bit south of my place so it was good to see the other end in Ngaio.

Gill and I took the train up and Diana and Rachel met us. The locals showing us two not so locals around. We struggled up the bush track, a hard uphill, to the Skyline track. An awesome walk with amazing views. We could see both sides of the island from the top and the top of the South Island. A truly panoramic view. It was windy up top, almost blew me over in places.

Last night I was a bit tired, 5 hours or so of wandering taking it's toll. The view was worth it as the pics below show, the textures of the hills, the way the wind moved the grass, the friends I wandered with. A great day out, plus I discovered where the train station is and that it has a supermarket. Bonus for me as I can get a bus home, up the hill, nearby.

Looking to the west, South Island in the distance

Textured hills 
And to the east

Monday, 3 February 2014

Musing quietly

Someone asked the other day how long I'd been in Wellington. It's been a bit over two months, I arrived here on Nick's birthday, 22 November late at night. When I arrived I didn't know anyone in Wellington, well not quite true as I had a group of new work mates to get to know. Weekends were quiet, shopping for house things and generally setting up a new life in a new place. A bit of a familiar story for me it seems.

On the weekend, apart from sailing, I met with Diana and Gill for a wander through the travel expo and  an opportunity to enjoy some of the Chinese new year celebrations. A travel expo is a dangerous place to take someone like me. I came away with some brochures and lots of ideas. Gill is a veteran traveler, having visited many more places that I have, although we both have been to quite different places. Some of my places are on Gill's wish list. She has explored many places on mine.

That got us talking about a trip. Diana, a very new traveler, is all excited at the prospect of going exploring in 2015. Planning the journey, exploring the sights, armchair traveling, is it for this year and quite rightly so. I've had my fill of living out of a suitcase. She says ever so bravely. Gill and I are hatching plans, she's getting a big map and pinning the travel brochure blurbs one the places she wants to go. Diana is off on a cruise soon to celebrate a big birthday, I'm sure she'll have the bug when she comes back.

In the months I've been here I've accomplished quite a lot, so one of my colleagues reminded me today. I've set up a nice home, the last pieces of furniture arrive tomorrow. I've joined some social and exercise groups through the Meetup website, something that's active in other countries as well as here. I've made some lovely friends, women who have similar lifestyles, with that shared understanding women have. I mostly know what I'm supposed to be doing at work, and enjoying the work very much. I'm getting regular exercise and I've been sailing.

Not a bad effort really. I'm planning a movie visit tomorrow night. Finally going to see the Hobbit II. It's not much longer for the big screen so best I make the effort. I suspect I'll be disappointed if it's only on the small screen when I catch it. It all depends on deliveries, hopefully my run home at some stage to let the delivery men in will be early in the day. Another almost 3kms added to my exercise for the day, sigh. I will deserve a movie after that. 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

An afternoon out on the water

I've watched the yachts on the water most day since I've been here. Racing, cruising, puddling around, spinnakers flying, water blue with white caps. This weekend I got the opportunity to sail with Pete on Tortimony, a Davidson 28 moored at Port Nicholson. I was so excited, and a little frightened of being out on a much bigger, much deeper and very much colder harbour than I'm used to. I need not have worried, it was fantastic.

My thermals and wind jacket were a match for the weather, a lively southerly at times, a calm one at others. We were out for a long time, cruising through the race fleet, around Matiu Island and around the harbour. It was great to feel the spray in my face, and to work the sails. Remembering a few skills along the way. Pete let me helm for a bit, scary on a new boat in such different conditions. The feeling of being out on the water was amazing as I settled into the rhythms of the sea.

The Wellington Harbour is beautiful. The winds fickle as they bounce off the land and roar through the harbour entrance. The sea was actually calm with minor chop rather than the waves of the North Sound. The bird life is amazing and we saw terns and other sea birds enjoying a large shoal of fish. There were heaps of boats out, the ferry carving it's way through the fleet with it's horn blasting and smaller fishing boats enjoying the day.

As we headed back, there were others coming in too making berthing interesting. along with the southerly gusts. I missed the line the first time and we had another couple of goes before being able to tie up. My job was to bail out the sieve also known as the dingy so my new sailing shoes got christened. That nearly ended in tears, as I balanced my way in. I lost my favourite sailing hat, the one held together with duct tape that has had many swims.

As always after sailing, there was the after match stories and beers. Only it's a bit different in Wellington as people gather outside their boat shed and share a barbeque in true kiwi style. I met some lovely folks, welcoming folks who enjoy the sea like I do. Thanks Pete and Tortimony for a fantastic day out. I know today that I've used muscles that I haven't used in a while.

The pics are taken with my new iPhone. Tortimony is the boat in the middle and the boat sheds are the famous Port Nicholson or Clyde Quay sheds that go with the moorings. They are amazing inside, well set up for storing those important boating things, including the beer fridge. By the time I took the one of the sheds, many had packed up and gone home. When we arrived in, most of the doors were open with people socialising outside. Pics for another day.

Tortimony at rest

The boat sheds with evening closing in