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  • Writer's pictureGregory T. Wilkins

Australia & New Zealand (2015/6)

November 12, 2015 I have been planning for my university sabbatical for over 3 years. That is a lot of time thinking and rethinking what kind of experiences I want to gain and opportunities I can share with others while volunteering and exploring. Working and reworking my itinerary is like a jigsaw puzzle to see how it all fits into a larger context. Some call me crazy for putting so much energy into the process, but I would rather get a feel for the total experience than fly on the seat of my pants. After all, sabbaticals don't come around every day. There is so much to do--reading online posts, researching, letter writing, re-tweaking, networking, etc. For me it's going from macro to micro so that I can make the most of my time away. Minutes matter and moments count, and I want to make every moment count in my adventure. Two years ago I went to Australia as part of annual leave (some think annual leave as a vacation, I tend to complete global service--see and do). The journey became part of my networking as I reached out to communities that I would want to volunteer with and organizations and universities I would want to explore more. It was time well spent as it aided me in my upcoming trip. My time away informed me of directions I would want to return and from other experiences I would veer away. The take away from it all was Australia and Australians are an awesome bunch and returning would be amazing! The greatest hardship was all the planning I had put into the process was dashed when my university president would not honor my request to take a year away. (I don't know all the politics that were involved, but the headache it amassed was intense.) My hard work and planning was tossed aside as if it did not have merit. Mind you, in my initial proposal I had documented where I would be every month and the work I would be doing--university site visits, collaborations, global service, etc. I had written a 6 page single-space document with supporting evidence that outlined my upcoming experiences. To make matters more complicated, the proposed timeline that was advertised was not honored and left me waiting on baited breathe. When I finally got a response, I was provided no reasons why it was denied, but I was asked rather to revise it...and revise it I did. I sent draft after draft for approval and nothing--not even written comments. I was baffled. Faculty were in disbelief as I shared my story, and I was left twiddling my thumbs not knowing if all the time and effort would come to fruition. My sabbatical request was feeling more and more like a dissertation (minus the volume and chapters) with all the politics that were being played. It was definitely unsettling, and I understood why so few in my position have applied in the past. I was asked by the president to get a support letter from the Dean of Global Education, and when he saw what I put together he was delighted. I was told that not even full time faculty do what I did. The dean was delighted to write a letter of support, and I resubmitted my proposal. I wrote yet another draft (this was now my forth or fifth--lost count with the bureaucracy). I removed my research writing I was going to do for an international publication, took out the final draft of the screenplay I was writing, and scaled down my sabbatical from one year to four months. It sat on the presidents desk with no remarks. And drum roll was finally approved. YEAH! I must admit that I was delighted; however, trying to scale down a year to four months is disappointing. There was so much I had planned to accomplish. And while I know I will grow in my time away, thinking about how much more I could develop if provided a full year makes me a bit sad. Rather than dwell on it and become bitter, I focused my time to become better. (It's all about changing the vowel--bitter to better.) I will focus my time in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo and a teaching fellowship in Bangladesh--13 universities in 16 weeks with a month teaching in Bangladesh.

Sabbatical Leave My role in the Centennial Student Union and Student Activities at Minnesota State Mankato works in several areas: Greek Life, Recognized Student Organizations, Leadership, Leadership programming, Community Engagement focusing on service learning, Off-campus Housing, and campus programming. The purpose of my sabbatical is for a semester of connections, study, reflection, and volunteerism with emphasis on my work responsibilities. I will visit colleges and universities in the Southern Hemisphere to gain a better understanding of the populations they serve, co-curricular programs they offer, identify potential international partners, traditions they celebrate, and benchmarks that I may bring back to Minnesota State Mankato. In addition, I plan to meet with numerous international Universities, possibly connect with MSU, Mankato alumni, and attend international art and music festivals volunteering at world-class performances. I will also assist nongovernmental organizations and nonprofits on issues such as: environmental sustainability, poverty, HIV/AIDS, gay and lesbian civil rights, as well as food insecurity and homelessness, etc. I will work collaboratively with university faculty, staff and students. And lastly, I plan to visit and experience UNESCO sites. Benefits to Minnesota State Mankato Working with the Kearney International Center and visiting our international, sister universities and at least one of our third party providers (International Study Abroad), bring site information back to Mankato while connecting with our global partners. My proposal echoes Minnesota State Mankato's Global Education Advisory Council's strategic plan which I helped shape a few years ago. (I have been on the committee for the last 5 years and part of it when it was called the International Programs Advisory Council. I was also a recipient of the Minnesota State Mankato 2014 Global Citizen Award.) Universities that I will be visiting are nationally accredited, recognized by UNESCO, appear in the World Higher Education Database, and are comprehensive. Working with the Mankato Alumni Office and Kearney International Center, reach out to international alumni, and showcase the success of Minnesota State Mankato. Mankato's Global Education Interim Dean Stoynoff believes this is important as it has not been an activity that the university has done in the past well. Dr. Stoynoff held the first such event in Nepal a few years ago. I personally and financially sponsored a similar event two years ago during my annual leave in Australia. This has great potential for relationship building with alumni, advancement potential for the MSU Foundation, as well as promoting university enrollment. Provide insight and best practices in the student activity and student union field with the information I gather and share my findings with my colleagues at Minnesota State Mankato. Provide insight and best practices in festival programming and with the information I gather share my findings with my colleagues at Minnesota State Mankato. Provide insight and best practices in grassroots organizing and volunteerism and with the information I gather share my findings with my colleagues at Minnesota State Mankato. I have served on the Mankato International Festival for the last 7 years. By visiting other countries and UNESCO sites, help international student showcase their nations and to be able to empathize with students as they transition to Mankato which may assist in Mankato's retention efforts. As a presenter at the Mankato Annual Fund the last 6 years, return and speak to current Mankato students about the importance of giving and showcase our international alumni. See below the monthly proposed itinerary:

December 11-13               flight to AUS via MSP/LAX/China/SYD

December 13                    arrive to AUS and take flight to Nimbin, AUS

December 13 - 27            Faeryland--summer solstice, present an educational session on multiculturalism, help with sustainability projects and reforestation (This is the same organization that I awarded a $750 gift from the Asssociation of College Unions International as I was the recipient of the ACUI 100th Anniversary Volunteer of the Year.)

December 27 - Jan. 2      Tropical Fruits New Years Extravaganza volunteer; Northern Rivers Performing Arts Center • January 2 to January 4 2 nights--Byron Bay with Carl Taylor –member of the Radical Faery community and volunteer with Byron Bay theatre and art collective     Visit Southern Cross University • January 4 to January 10 Townsville, AUS 1 week--Dr. Luke Paul     Visit James Cook University • January 10 to January 15 Brisbane, AUS    Queensland University of Technology Visit University of Queensland student union, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) as well as educational program areas at the Queensland Museum and museums at University of Queensland. I have spoken with Mankato’s Global Education Interim Dean Stoynoff with regards to our existing relationship with QUT. Our relationship is with the College of Education and teacher placement. I will visit them as well as explore possible collaboration with nursing. • January 15 to January 25 Christchurch, AUS World Buskers Festival-- • January 25 to January 30 Dunedin, AUS University of Otago • January 30 to February 4 Queenstown, NZ Visit Southern Institute of Technology • February 4 - 11 Wellington, NZ Victoria University of Wellington; Wellington Botanical Gardens; Catherine Mansfield Estate; NZ Film Archive, Dowse Art Museum; Museum of Wellington; City Gallery; Academy Galleries; NZ Portrait Gallery; Parliament House Tour; City Sculpture Walk • February 11-16 Rotorua, NZ Visit Maori communities-- Whakarewarewa Village & Ohinemutu  • February 16 - 26 Auckland, NZ University of Auckland; Massey University; Auckland University of Technology; Auckland Gay Pride  • February 26 to March 2 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Unviersity of Malaya • March 2 -7 Melakka, Malaysia UNESCO City  • March 7 - 14 Singapore National University of Singapore; Visit and volunteer at National University of Singapore; National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, Gardens by the Bay's 18 "Supertrees”, Botanical Gardens, art collection at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Singapore, and Chinatown Heritage Center; Celebrate Vesak Day (mid-May) “Buddha Day”  • March 14 - 16 Kuala Lumpur See Petronas Towers; visit Islamic Art Museum; National Mosque; Thean Hou Temple; Sri Maha Mariamman Temple; Guan Di Temple; Kortumalai Sri Ganesar Temple; Dayabumi Complex; Guan Yin Temple. Kun Yam Thong Temple • March 16 - 19 Kuching, Malaysia Cultural show at National Parks & Wildlife; Sarawak Museum & Tribal Art; Islamic Museum of Art; Chinese History Museum; Orchid Garden; Sarakraf Building/Handicraft Center • March 19 - 22 Miri, Malaysia Tua Pek Kong Temple, volunteer with beach restoration project • March 22 - 27 Mulu, Malaysia UNESCO Park visit and volunteer -- • March 27 t0 April 1 Kuala Lumpur Sultan Abdul Samad Building; volunteer at Perdana Botanical Garden; Malayan Railways Limited building; Sza Ya Temple; Church of the Holy Rosary; Ton Hussein Onn Memorial • April 1 - 27 Dhaka, Bangaladesh Teach at Internaitonal University of Business Agriculture and Technology; Bangla New Years, April 15; Visit UNESCO sites: Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat, Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur, The Sundarbans • May Return to USA Mankato, Minnesota, USA

Friday 13th - November 2015

The world stopped for a moment with terror on the TV and lives were cast across social media. ISIS bombed Paris, Lebanon and Kenya killing hundreds and leaving the world asking more questions and survivors begging for answers. Looking out for angels and trying to find peace in the midst of chaos leaves hearts aching and tears streaming--who will be next?--hopefully not I.

I wish I could learn how to hold the joyless, as goodbyes to lives lost with strangers in the distance are left as shadows, but feeling more and more like family, scattered amongst humanity. The look in their eyes wanting more, and not wanting to go, and yet there are things I don't want to learn--injustice, fear, hate. And so we say goodbye to lives lost but unified to end terror. Stripped but not naked to truth. When will this end? I do not see the light at the end of this tunnel.

Fear will not stop me from seeing the world. The haunting images will never leave me; they will not let me go. There are still things I have yet to learn, but the one thing I have is my humanity. I will not let it be stripped away. Because there is no joy in the sadness-- only more questions, cold inside and wishing for one more time. A time to be strong and fearless. A time to rise-up and say no more. A time to be bold and cast my embrace to those filled with sorrow. As the ol' hymn is sung, "Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me".

November 16, 2015 Too often I hear people talking "woulda coulda shoulda" which leaves them shoulda-ing all over themselves. I never have been one to want to be "shoulda out of luck". I live my life as the protagonist while shaping my destiny. What I tell my students is, "Can't lives on won't street; if you say the can't you live the won't". While life happens and "shoulda happens", I prefer to have life intercede than have my own language leave me disabled. It becomes a conscious choice.

In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, the opening sentence of his first chapter states, “Good is the enemy of great.” In education (and life in general) we are in the business of doing good work, but how often to do we push ourselves to do great work? After all, a “C” meets standard; it may not be perfect, but we are at least in the running. Good work does not get us fired, but what if we were in the business of doing great work, exceeding expectations, setting the standard for excellence, being a catalyst for change, moving beyond the ordinary and being extraordinary in all that we do? Living a life of superlatives, versus the ho-hum, would be the carrot at the end of the stick--woulda coulda shoulda falls to the sidelines. I for one prefer to never live a life of ordinary. It is mundane. I prefer to live a life exhalted--moving ordinary to extraordinary. I become my own hero and shero...rising to servant leadership.

Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader, in which he coined the term “servant-leader”, describes a leader as servant first. The process begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. This simple task is extraordinary in itself when often times Western culture sets the one before the many.

John Dewey (1938) and Robert Coles (1990), assert that one learns as well or better by doing. It is the act of involvement and reflection that change occurs. (I know in my own development that the act of doing informs learning and sears into my head knowledge and skillsets.) Education is not only a function of books and a formal classroom, but purposeful experiences. I believe that as educators and life-long learners, it is our responsibility to model behavior to affect change on a global scale. Through engagement we are able to collectively improve our local and global communities, and it is this core value that I live my life as example. Service for some is part of life’s routine. It is woven into the fiber of family and community. Some begin service at an early age at primary or secondary school, with a faith-based group or local non-profit. Service was an integral part of my development and became a priority when I went away to college. As an undergraduate, I attended Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. Warren Wilson is one of the only colleges or universities in the United States that requires all undergraduates to complete a minimum of 100 local or global service hours before graduation and at least 25 hours of which has been earned through an extended project related to a single issue area. Service is fundamental to the development of the whole student--academics, work, and service. As part of my service focus over twenty-five years ago, I created a personal vision statement that would help direct my life. My statement reflects core values and honors the person I strive to be. It is a compass that helps charter my decisions and informs choices and actions. The idea of a vision statement is to create a broad based idea about how you want to be engaged in your life; you are the protagonist. This focus becomes your life vision. From this personal vision, you develop a more centered and action orientated mission statement based on purpose. And lastly you get to a list of goals, dreams, and desires of how you want to be involved as a participant. A personal vision statement becomes your center and reflects on what your life will look like. This becomes a guiding set of principles and objectives. My personal statement is, "Creating a life of change impacting the lives of the one or the many". In Greenleaf's second major essay, The Institution as Servant (1972), he articulated what is often called the credo. There he said, "This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them." Raising the capacity to serve in less complex and impersonal ways is a value that is dearly held. Often times the idea of shaping opportunities can be overpowering and moves people to make an easy decision versus a better choice. An analogy might be thinking of service as a fast food remedy. You are driving a car, you tell yourself you are hungry when you see a fast food chain restaurant and quickly enter the drive-thru to get your fix. The cost appears to be a good value and it fills your stomach, but in the end you feel bloated and probably did not make a wise decision. You tell yourself, I should have made a better choice. Service for some is completed in the same manner. Colleagues may see a quick and easy way to make themselves feel good by volunteering but in the end leave the experience unfilled and questioning if their act of kindness had any affect. By being more intentional, volunteerism can fulfill goals and exceed expectations. By being clear in your direction and purpose, the results can be life changing. Volunteerism, either locally or globally, the same can be said as true. Friends often ask how to plan for international service. It is easier than one might imagine but does take time and planning. The two obstacles that colleagues often share as to why they don't travel abroad are 1) that they don't have enough time or 2) they don't have enough money. We all have 525,600 minutes in a year and no one ever has enough money. The real question is what do you value and how do you chose to spend your time and money? If your vision reflects the priorities you state are important, than time and money will be found and will become congruent to your ideals. In the end it is about priorities and personal values. Learning by doing can be revolutionary and sets you in directions never imagined. It is empowering beyond measure. It does not rest on the woulda coulda shoulda mantra. Exploring new people, places, and cultures is invigorating and places you as the master of your destiny. Helping others by helping yourself visualize your core values and putting them into a personal statement will shape your future. The Chinese proverb "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” begins with you.

November 17, 2015

One voice, one spirit that makes a choice to do things differently. A voice of reason some would say, while others shake their weary, bowed down heads and silently mouth the letters N - O. It is that other voice that is feared because it speaks truth. A different voice, while refreshing, casts shadows on issues that so many would prefer to keep quiet, hushed, and silenced. This voice cannot be silenced. This voice refuses to see the mouthing of N - O. What is scary about voice? Maybe, it is having to reconcile the injustice around us. It puts us on a pedestal, behind the podium, to either project and be heard across the void or standing naked before a crowd, awe struck with theatrical lights beaming in our face as feet remain planted, stuck, and unable to move...stage fright. Voice is lifted and echoes--as listening ears and talking fingers express, confess, and rise up. Silent words remain unspoken, swallowed up in the pit of stomach and lodged in sore throats, finding the heartless consumed more by hate than ending injustice. A hand up is not a hand out. Rather it builds a nation, a people, and a community that find resolve in finding their voice.

Sometimes singing solo is exhausting when all I want is a chorus to swell beneath me and lift me up when my spirit is down. A melody that keeps toes tapping, fingers snapping, and humming into the night. Not all songs are marches to move us forward. Some leave tears in the corners of eyes and others bring memories of times long past. And when voiceless words escape me, I lull myself in quiet solitude momentarily in retreat.

Somewhere a mother sings her child to sleep. Somewhere birds greet the morning. Somewhere angel's voices whisper in ears leading us home. Where is your somewhere? Where is your voice? The prairie wind sings to me, carrying me forward to places unknown. If I could only trade it all, the pain and sorrow, for a song. And the sweetness of it falls from my lips and breathes life into a new day. Yes, the joys of voice.

Comrades are sorry for the silencing that they cause, but apologies mean nothing if behavior persists. Another day unfolds as arms are open to embrace and words swell within me ready for outburst. This is my voice, REJOICE! The Wailin' Jennys

This is the sound of one voice One spirit, one voice The sound of one who makes a choice This is the sound of one voice This is the sound of voices two The sound of me singing with you Helping each other to make it through This is the sound of voices two This is the sound of voices three Singing together in harmony Surrendering to the mystery This is the sound of voices three This is the sound of all of us Singing with love and the will to trust Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust This is the sound of all of us This is the sound of one voice One people, one voice A song for every one of us This is the sound of one voice This is the sound of one voice

November 18, 2015 What is truth? Does it come from a life well lived with experience tucked between the sheets? Is it embodied in the difference you make in the world? Only you can make me see how far my guard can come down. Don't mind me asking difficult questions. Get your hands wet in making a difference. Challenge your conversations where hopes and fears are brutally bare. It is there in deeper dialogue where truth lies not afraid of clenched fists dripping in ugly but rather arms left embracing the one you would never want to call neighbor. It is there where truth lies. It's in the darkness where souls bleed and hinges on intrepidation leaving minds racing beyond color of skin, nationality, religion and orientation.

Truth. It scares so many. I know it is somewhere out there--possibly here, maybe far away. I am not immune as I too need a shot of reality. "Wake up," I scream as I jerk into consciousness and climb out from under the rock of ignorance. There are family members who think I am crazy, but they are all that I have. I sit by myself talking to angels trying to get resolve with the hopes that it will bring us closer. At times it's like talking to the wind. but I don't mind (because I love you). And there are other moments I chose to remain silent; my voice doesn't have the words because my mind is trampled in frustration. They don't know what I know. They have not seen the Buddha with palm faced outward, resilient in saffron robes and radiating third eye.

Do you hear me calling? Phones are left unanswered with me left talking to myself. Still trying to get to you with the hopes that by the time we get to the other side you will find that the earth is round and not flat afterall--don't believe the hype. I know you are there somewhere, but yet so far away. Follow me to the other side; catch me as I fly to the moon chasing dragons and good intentions. As the opening piano score sounds, keys and notes have been there many times before--chords of discord..hurt, but only bruised, as egos keep searching for destiny. Harmony brings us closer to falling between the lines of truth and understanding. I call it melody. I am me. I have not lost myself. Look beyond the mirror, catch a glimpse of God's reflection. I am here to catch you despite the past of self-loathing and unsettled, unspoken words...apologies, misgivings. Reeling like a whirling Dervish. Falling into oblivion. Raise your arms and stare into the heavens. Follow me on my journey on unacquired love; it's the journey that makes the difference--the road less traveled. Catch my hands as they clasp at particles of possibilities. Slip them on your fingers and be wed in the unknowing. Risk has only but reward. And what remains is truth.

November 19, 2015 The clock ticks. The second hand chases my to do list around the dial. So much to do in the days to come--tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. I don't have time to sit and wait as the list grows, and I check it twice & thrice--packing and repacking, bills, credit card statements, bank information, passport, visas, backpack, underwear, toiletries. Single file lines add up. How much will my backpack weigh so I don't go over the allotted amount and have to pay an extra fee? (Passengers with economy class tickets are entitled to a baggage allowance for two pieces of baggage, each of which is less than 23KG, 50 pounds. In addition, the total length of three sides is less than 158CM, 62 inches). What is essential? What can stay at home and greet me upon my return to the USA? How much can I squeeze into an already tight space? Questions and more questions. Simple ideas: Wear all black because its easier to wash and doesn't show dirt, easier to manage, shut off the brain and and pull out whatever comes out of the sack--shoes, towel, handkerchief, trousers, shirts, jacket, etc. etc. Is an extra pair of socks really that important? Will it bring me happiness? Will it become a burden? Pants, shorts--how many/how few? Jacket, rain gear, multiple climates from tropical to wind and inclement rainforest afternoons. So much to consider. To top it off I will be taking with me a sleeping bag, liner, sleeping pad and tent. All of this will fit into my backpack. So weight and space is indeed precious. I can always live with less. I always do even after I have packed and repacked over a dozen times. T-s are left unworn. The mantra I keep telling myself is if it's needed and forgotten I can always buy it; the joys of first world problems. It's not the adage of, "It's better to have it and not need it" because I have to haul it on my back across the planet. And so like Santa I make my list and check it twice, scaling back "necessities" and bring things to a lull. Time is fast approaching. My moment will soon arrive.

I love the challenge because I am man who wears and owns many shoes. Let the packing commence!

November 22, 2015

How will we know when we have gone mad? Will our neighbors tell us or is it more subtle like forgetting names and numbers or where we placed our glasses? Forgetting or forgetfulness is part of being in the mind but when does it go from simplicity to utter chaos?...lost in the head between yesterday's youth and the present.

How does it form?...from lost keys and cell phone that later move to holidays and basic facts. To play ring-a-round-the-rosie as everything falls down around you scares the shit out of me. Madness turns into terror because everything remains suspect and lies as stranger. It is this that I find concerning. It is this that draws us away from adolescence and into oblivion, as kinder folk whisper with cupped hands that he has lost his marbles. And through it all, the mind keeps trying to place the jigsaw puzzle into order.

Names for me have never been my strong suit. I can see their face, their walk and gesture and "know them" but not their name. How insulting it can be, yes? To be with someone, truly with someone, and no name can be  joggled. To stand there, naked, without words of introduction.

It happened to me with my former partner, Nestor Chardon. I would be in deep conversation and want to introduce him but no words could come. His name would be stuck in my mouth, resting on a dry tongue, with lips wanting to form a welcome but nothing emerged but stutters. My mind would race trying to rescue a soft blow to ego...but still nothing--a fool on stage jestering for applause. Can you imagine such behavior? And so I would turn it into a game. His name became a beverage-- Nestea Chardonnay.

My mind becomes muddled, clouded behind comprehension, left wanting more but remaining unresolved. It's like starting a sentence but never ending with a period--running on and on and on leaving the reader to gibberish as eventually words don't even make sense as letters turn to symbols and a mash-up of nothing....walking into darkness and not knowing where the steps end on the staircase. Guessing, always guessing, hoping you don't land on your fanny because of a misstep. Toes are at the end of precipice teetering toward extinction and unknowingly inching forward to demise--so much history behind us with few days forward. It only takes a push to either set the past into recollection or the future overboard. Where does that leave me? A life half-lived seeing the onset of dimentia slowly waltz into the room begging for a dance. I travel to keep madness at bay, the ho-hum of the ordinary beating down my door step. I chase opportunities with the intention of the future not catching up with me--knowing all the while that the effort is futile. It will outpace me, and I will become like so many have before me but yet another memory.

November 24, 2015

I miss his kiss, the lingering taste of his lips and his soft caress as he lulls me to sleep. Impressions are left beneath my sheets. I have had enough of sorrow, and yet I miss him so dearly. I am looking out for angels trying to find eternal peace. So if you love me, say you love me, because remaining memories make me cry. To hold you, to touch you, as words of goodbye still echo in my ears. I never felt danger with you there, rather a freedom to lift my wings and fly with feathers gracing the sky touching rays of sunshine. Just let me go; I can't escape you because each time I look away your image is branded--no tattooed--on my flesh, a heart forever broken. Distance may seperate us, but the moon is always watching as we glance into the heavens. There is no escaping us. I thought I was stronger, but there is no much I have yet to learn. And I must admit, that deep down inside I never understood the words...goodbye. So true, so funny how it seems but I am not drunkardly laughing; I sit in quiet doorstoops pondering what might have been. Who cares of town gossip when all we have is love. I want to lose self control, to toss my cares away and not mind what people say. I want to come back again, not afraid to write the next stanza as notes fall off the page and lyrics turn to tears.

Saying farewell in early morning light as polished shoes crunch beneath gravel and keys jostle in blue dungarees, I fumble in the driveway. Car tires wind down the hills of the Palouse. My mind races as my fingers reach out stretched clasping at nothing but memories. Where will that lead us? As roads travel in two directions, this much is true. World adventures keep me engaged, rekindling moments of walks and talks through Seattle to Indonesia. That common bond of experience as we return to our nest and recall times not long past. I search for you in the cracks of pavement. You are there even though not physically present. I capture you in pictures: clinking of martini glasses, dark chocolate piled high, rummaging thrift store finds, whiskers in bathroom basins. Vignettes are so present, so precise and clear, as if I could reach in and ponder you for a while. I shake it off and focus forward. Dearest Bear, I wish you were there to join me as the road unravels. Destinations are made more clear with you beside me. Knowing that is not possible, I pull my rucksack together and venture toward frontiers yet known. I am around the corner; search for me in the rolling hills.

November 25, 2015 My former Boy Scout master used to say, "Camping is easy if you make it that way". I would say the same is true for living, kindness, empathy, etc. In this season of thanks giving, it is important to remember that life is easy if we make it that way; instead, we get caught up in hurried moments, trying to outshine the Jones', and forget about how many blessings we have around us. Our cup runneth over and yet so many are dying of thirst. This week I found out a friend went to Mayo Clinic. She had complications with her medication, and blood clots formed around her lungs putting her into shock. Rushing to the hospital, doctors cooled her body down and induced her into a coma  while slowly warming her body back to normalcy over a couple of days. Tests and more tests, cat scan and more blood work, she was bleeding within leaving professionals confused and what might be her prognosis. Today, she went into surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes. Surrounded by family at her bedside and the wide spread casting of prayers around the globe, we all drew her close- enveloping her in love and light. To be in your prime and to have life sweep you off your feet is life shattering, unexpected and shocking. 30-something years old and your life rests in the balance.

Time passes slowly when waiting to hear news. Time passes slowly when you are lost in a nighmare trying to find a way out and unable to find an escape. Twisted in corners, ailing in the night, and catching your mind racing with what ifs and buts--more questions than answers--I remain waiting with bowed head in prayer. On my office door I have posted - 'Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you live forever, never let ignorance serve as your master or you will have no peace'. This is how I chose to live. However, as I prepare for my global journey, I forget that life can be snatched away in a blink of an eye. Last week we had terrorists kill innocence in Paris. The same week Lebanon was bombarded by hate filled bomb killings. And closer to home in Minneapolis, racist ignorance shot Black Lives Matter activists. Bullets and bombs before brains -- this is not how I want to celebrate life.

I hope that my words and actions can bring peace in the world, more love of other, compassion before prejudice. I give myself to the Creator and trust that Her majesty will fulfill a destiny that I am unaware. As master of my own life, I have faith that I might bring more gentleness to the world because without love and compassion we are all less fortunate. As tomorrow approaches and Thanksgiving unfolds, may we be drawn to our blessings because life can be easy if we make it that way.

December 11 - 13, 2015

The privilege to travel is immense. So many people in the world will venture no more than 2 hours away from where they live. To have the opportunity to witness different people, cultures, sites, and natural wonders is something that I cherish. Even more powerful is working and living with people in their community and finding a way to give back to something that is greater than I am.

Legacy building is important to me. It's about leaving something of yourself behind that is inspiring and helpful to someone else. This is what it means to be a traveler versus a tourists. Tourists come and go. They take more than they give. Travelers walk more gently on the Earth. While I appreciate the news and getting access to information, the constant barrage of CNN and FOX in my ears at airports and hotel lounges at every twist and turn gives me a headache. I can’t escape it. It is this onslaught to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah on a TV film loop that is deflating, un-empowering, and toxic.  What is even more maddening is the hyper madness of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate; it’s indeed disturbing. As a world traveler, I don’t feel safer knowing that the world has a pulse on Trump’s hate speech as others may look at me wearily because of my national origin. Real or perceived, it makes me more aware of my surroundings b/c he is in the world spotlight—this reality, TV fascist. And then throw in Ted Cruz and Ben Carson trying to politically align in their Machiavellian maneuvering makes my stomach ache as I sit bewildered that average (and below average) Americans sit oblivious to the Republican ideology of separation, division, and xenophobia. Leaving the USA won’t keep me away from the political forecasting. The globe sits and laughs at the United States in this pre-presidential nightmare. I can only hope that truth will ring true in the 2016 elections. What I also find amusing is that the average American has no idea about other world leaders (even the name of our northern or southern neighbor), while the rest of world knows who is teetering in the spotlight from the good ol’ USA. I wish America was more humble and played nicely in the sandbox versus throwing bombs and names at those who we don’t like—Muslims being this week’s scapegoat, tomorrow Black Lives Matter.

********************* I forgot how much I dislike LAX Airport. The place is a jumbled mess. With all that Hollywood money and fame you would expect more from an international hub. But no, the place is a dizzying, passé, conglomeration labyrinth. I must give them credit that they are trying to do some upgrades and have personnel staffed at convenient corners of the madness to ease the experience of the weary traveler, but the place has a far way to go before it will meet with my approval. To make things even more pretentious, there is discussion of building an annex for the rich, famous, and powerful. I wonder with whose money they plan to build it—surely not Tax Payer USA? The place truly is an embarrassment.

********************** My first language challenge was trying to move through the Ghanjzoug Airport and trying to bend my ear to the Chinese accent when speaking English. I didn’t do too badly considering what I thought what said A06 was actually A106. I was off by 100 gates but relatively close, considering. Fortunately for me, once I got to the gate and saw that it was flying to Ho Chi Minh City I knew something must have gone terribly wrong. Speaking to the gate agent, I was quickly corrected and up and running. I had ten minutes to get there and without delay I was off. I must admit that they do the best they are able. I can only imagine the challenges they must be faced with trying to communicate to travelers where they must go when the country’s first language is Chinese, and world languages besiege this port of entry. Somehow folks get to where they need as sky hosts scamper about from one end of the terminal to the next doing the Chinese shuffle. One thing that I do find annoying is the way that the Chinese eat. In the West, we eat with our mouths closed—small bites, several chews, and then down the hatch. The Chinese eat with their mouths open, slurping it down loud enough that you can hear it across the room. Add one mouth times 300+ in one place, it is orchestral madness, increase that by over 1 billion inhabitants and it’s humorous, Comedy Central. I wonder what they must think about how Westerners eat. To make things more entertaining (and me being as patient and tolerant as possible) I sit next to a very large Chinese man and his wife. I have the window seat, he is in the middle, and she is at the aisle. We politely nod and smile, neither of us able to speak to one another. The plane leaves at 8 p.m. and arrives to Sydney the next day at 9 a.m. Now things would be fine if the husband didn’t have the worse breathe in the province. He must have oral rot. It waifs in my direction each time he leans in my direction, smiles, nods, and puts another fork full of fish rice in his mouth. At first I thought it might be the food, but no, I was eating the same thing and it didn’t stink. I leaned closer to him and confirmed my suspicions—it was him. I inched closer to the window and buried my head into my plane pillow. I didn’t want to hurl and hoped that the sleep would take me and I could concentrate on my dreams versus his pie hole stench. It was going to be a long plane ride.


4 airplanes, 3 buses, 2 taxis, 1 shuttle and arrival to Australia. I started the journey on December 10 with departure on the 11th and arrival to the Nimbin area early evening on Sunday, December 13. A few lessons I learned:

  • In Australia when making a long distance call you have to dial 02 then the phone number; this is different than then USA when you have to just dial 1 and then area code, prefix and suffix.

  • Being nice and pleading as an international traveler, Aussies go above and beyond to help.

  • In Queensland and New South Wales at the Twead Heads Centro bus stop the bus schedule is off by one hour because one block up it switches time zones. You will think you have the right time, but it is not correct. So, if you are waiting for a 1:35 p.m. bus (#605 to Murwillumbah) according to the schedule posted at the stop, it is actually 2:35 p.m. This can truly screw with you because you will think the bus didn’t come. The next one comes at 3:35 p.m. I found this out when I waited and waited thinking the bus forgot me when actually it was right on schedule but a different time zone.

  • Kindness and a great attitude works wonders. When flying on Jetstar after picking up my backpack from the international terminal and over to the domestic airport, I was not there 30 minutes before my domestic departure. By explaining nicely to the front desk agent, she was able to sweep me off to the airplane in ten minutes before my departure to Gold Coast and my backpack made the flight without delay. When others wouldn’t chat with the homeless man at the bus stop and you do, he might be able to help you out. Afraid to not miss my bus, I waited and waited. My mouth was dry which is the first sign of dehydration. He had a bag of melting ice, and I asked if I could have a cube to quench my thirst. Destiny worked in my favor.

AUS $: 4.8 train from international airport to domestic airport 8.2 bus from Tweed Heads to Murwillumbah 1.50 three telephone calls from pay phone 3.20 organic juice from grocery

Words learned: breakfast: brekky cup of coffee: cuppa elevator: lift friend: mate careful when walking: mind your step line: cue flip flops: thong millame: type of rodent While I appreciate the news and getting access to information, the constant barrage of CNN and FOX in my ears at airports and hotel lounges at every twist and turn gives me a headache. I can’t escape it. It is this onslaught to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah on a TV film loop that is deflating, un-empowering, and toxic. What is even more maddening is the hyper madness of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate; it’s indeed disturbing. As a world traveler, I don’t feel safer knowing that the world has a pulse on Trump’s hate speech as others may look at me wearily because of my national origin. Real or perceived, it makes me more aware of my surroundings b/c he is in the world spotlight—this reality, TV fascist. And then throw in Ted Cruz and Ben Carson trying to politically align in their Machiavellian maneuvering makes my stomach ache as I sit bewildered that average (and below average) Americans sit oblivious to the Republican ideology of separation, division and xenophobia. Leaving the USA won’t keep me away from the political forecasting. The globe sits and laughs at the United States in this pre-presidential nightmare. I can only hope that truth will ring true in the 2016 elections. What I also find amusing is that the average American has no idea about other world leaders (even the name of our northern or southern neighbor), while the rest of world knows who is teetering in the spotlight from the good ol’ USA. I wish America was more humble and played nicely in the sandbox versus throwing bombs and names at those who we don’t like—Muslims being this week’s scapegoat.

********************* I forgot how much I dislike LAX Airport. The place is a jumbled mess. With all that Hollywood money and fame you would expect more from an international hub. But no, the place is dizzying, passé conglomeration labyrinth. I must give them credit that they are trying with do some upgrades and have personnel staffed at convenient corners of the madness to try to ease the experience of the weary traveler, but the place has a far way to go before it will met with my approval. To make things even more pretentious there is discussion of building an annex for the rich, famous and powerful. I wonder with whose money they plan to build it—surely not Tax Payer USA. The place truly is an embarrassment.

********************** 4.8 train from international airport to domestic airport 8.2 bus from Tweed Heads to Murwillumbah 1.50 three telephone calls from pay phone 3.20 organic juice from grocery

December 14, 2015 It’s good to be back at Faeryland. The faeries here are good people with big hearts and a collective spirit. I am blessed to have come to know them. I stayed with them in 2013 working with them on the land, planting trees and working in the organic garden, giving workshops, and getting to know one another. My homecoming has been good. There are several former faes I would love to see; however, they are not here because of other commitments. Regardless, there are faces and stewards I do know as well as approximately another 50 that are new to me. This week should be a pleasure as we learn from one another and grow as a community. The morning wakes to the sound of kookaburoos. The forest greets the morning. Historically the tribe has been male. Two years ago there was call to have dialogue about including other fae folk, and that conversation has come to fruition. This year there are trans and cisgender women here. At first it felt odd when I arrived as it was different from what I knew, but I have eased into the space with them here. It is good. Opening ritual for the goddess temple was special as we explored the goddess within, songs of celebration and stories of pain, healing, and commonality. As fae folk we have been cast out as other by our communities, families, and his/herstories. Sadly, western society has placed the feminine as less than versus the fierceness of what it means to be female.

I am thankful for the feminine within. While in my early development it was challenging to find a place, I am blessed to have women and men in my life that celebrated the 'other' versus casting it out as strange and bizzare. My feminine has made me the man that I am today—beautiful, gentle, caring, and loving with a confidence of self and creating a safe place for all at the banquet table. (And as I recalled to remember also angry--don't mess with the feminie scorned.) Radical Faeries are a loosely affiliated international group of mostly gay men and mostly counterculture pagans. The Faeries began in California, and have spread throughout the world over the past several decades, in tandem with the larger gay rights movement. The group challenges the commercialization and patriarchal gay life while celebrating pagan constructs and rituals and adapting rural living and environmentally sustainable concepts to modern technologies as part of their creative expression. Members embody the fae or, in simplified terms feminized ideals in gay men while, also, being fiercely independent, anti-establishment and community-focused. The group offers a fascinating look into counter-cultural survival within the gay community which is itself a minority. In other words, the group is considered a beloved fringe group of a larger fringe group of society. Radical Faeries vary greatly from region to region and often commune at large gatherings timed with the seasons and solar system — especially the Equinox and Solstice. Started in 1979 by Harry Hay, his long-time partner John Burnside, Don Kilhefner, and Mitch Walker. A central tenet of the group is that there is no single definition of faerie — Faerie is a self-assumed identity. The Faeries were a contributing influence to John Cameron Mitchell’s film Shortbus. The Radical Faerie movement started in the United States among gay men during the 1970s sexual revolution. Radical Faerie communities are generally inspired by aboriginal or native, traditional spiritualities, especially those that incorporate queer sensibilities. The Radical Faeries use heart circle, communal living, consensus decision-making, dance, drag, pagan ritual, drumming, sex, magic, and intimacy to examine what it means to be a whole human who is also a queer person. In the beginning, the movement was open exclusively to gay men, though most communities are now open to all genders and sexual orientations. Radical Faerie communities practice queer-themed spirituality associated with radical politics, paganism or neo-paganism, feminism, gender liberation, and may encompass any and all religions or a lack of them.<input ... ><input ... ><input ... ><input ... > The creation of a Faerie Sanctuary in Australia was a dream, for many years, of those having experienced the bonds created during the initial visits to the USA in 1979/80 and the first gatherings in Australia in the early 80s and also the ongoing relationships within the faerie community. This dream of having a home to share our lives together as faeries has become a reality after lots of hard work, many meetings and much fey magic. As a community we identify with the ideals of the radical faeries- that this piece of the earth is a focus for and provides sanctuary for its residents who are stewards of that land and members of the extended community of radical faeries, their friends and family. Faeries moved onto the property in April 2002, and since then have been busy fixing-up and adding to accommodation, clearing weeds and planting gardens, orchards and rainforest. At times it feels like there is a mountain of things to do, but we are balancing work with enjoying the beauty and magic of it all. Phase, Teacosy, Anand, Griffyn, Spidercutie, and Chameleon live on the property as full-time residents and stewards. Most work part-time in the greater community, and they care for the land as stewards welcoming fae minded people as they come and go from the land. Since the last time I was here new structures have been built and the outside deck extended. The property is 54 hectares (134 acres) of rolling re-growth rainforests and more open land about 20 minutes northwest of Nimbin, Northern N.S.W. There are several walks on the property: one taking you along a terrace to the back paddock, another walk to the south takes you down to Hanging Rock Creek for a dip in its cool waters. Wallabies, goannas, bandicoots, possums and snakes, and a wide variety of small and large birds inhabit the land.

There is a 2-bedroom house with large verandahs with marvellous views to the north & west including the Border Ranges National Park. There is an old cow bales containing Thelmas Drag Boutique and a number of cabins and vans which have been converted to living spaces for the residents and visitors. There is also the old piggery, which is undergoing renovations to become a multipurpose space. We are working on a land use plan for the sanctuary, incorporating rainforest regeneration and permaculture ideals. These plans include more living space for both residents and visitors (some has been built), an expanded kitchen, multi function studio, bathhouse (now built and functioning), large composting toilet (now built and functioning), a sauna and meditation space,…many things. We have a few fruit orchards and several very productive veggie gardens and large combined chook runs/enclosed veggie gardens. Among some of the flora we have been blessed with are several adult avocado trees, macadamias, citrus and mulberry trees and now have an exciting sub-tropical orchard poking up through the cetaria grass. We have propagated enough seedlings to plant a rainforest. Australian words I learned today: bottlo = liquor store pavement = sidewalk car park - parking lot boot = trunk bonnet - hood of a car tradie - tradesman sparky - electrician chippy = carpenter ring = telephone call sticky beak = nosey person -or- a quick look December 14, 2015 It’s good to be back at Faeryland. The faeries here are good people with big hearts and a collective spirit. I am blessed to have come to know them. I stayed with them in 2013 working with them on the land, planting trees and working in the organic garden, giving workshops, and getting to know one another. My homecoming has been good. There are several former faes I would love to see; however, they are not here because other commitments. Regardless, there are faces and stewards I do know as well as approximately another 50 that are new to me. This week should be a pleasure as we learn from one another an grow as a community. The morning wakes to the sound of kookaburoos. Willoughbys scavening in the early morning. The forest greets the morning. Historically the tribe has been male. Two years ago there was call to have dialogue about including other fae folk, and that conversation has come to fruition. This year there are trans and cisgender women here. At first it felt odd when I arrived as it was different from what I knew, but I have eased into the space with them here. It is good. Opening ritual for the goddess temple was special as we explored the goddess within, songs of celebration and stories of pain, healing, and commonality. As fae folk we have been cast out as other by our communities, families and his/herstories. Sadly western society has placed the feminine as less than versus the fierceness of what it means to be female.

I am thankful for the feminine within. While in my early development it was challenging to find a place, I am blessed to have women and men in my life that celebrated the 'other' versus casting it out as strange and bizzare. My feminine has made me the man that I am today—beautiful, gentle, caring, and loving with a confidence of self and creating a safe place for all at the banquet table. (And as I recalled to remember also angry--don't mess with the feminie scorned.) Radical Faeries are a loosely affiliated international group of mostly gay men and mostly counterculture pagans. The Faeries began in California, and have spread throughout the world over the past several decades, in tandem with the larger gay rights movement. The group challenges the commercialization and patriarchal gay life while celebrating pagan constructs and rituals and adapting rural living and environmentally sustainable concepts to modern technologies as part of their creative expression. Members embody the fae or, in simplified terms feminized ideals in gay men while, also, being fiercely independent, anti-establishment and community-focused. The group offers a fascinating look into counter-cultural survival within the gay community which is itself a minority. In other words, the group is considered a beloved fringe group of a larger fringe group of society. Radical Faeries vary greatly from region to region and often commune at large gatherings timed with the seasons and solar system — especially the Equinox and Solstice. Started in 1979 by Harry Hay, his long-time partner John Burnside, Don Kilhefner, and Mitch Walker. A central tenet of the group is that there is no single definition of faerie — Faerie is a self-assumed identity. The Faeries were a contributing influence to John Cameron Mitchell’s film Shortbus. The Radical Faerie movement started in the United States among gay men during the 1970s sexual revolution. Radical Faerie communities are generally inspired by aboriginal or native, traditional spiritualities, especially those that incorporate queer sensibilities. The Radical Faeries use heart circle, communal living, consensus decision-making, dance, drag, pagan ritual, drumming, sex, magic, and intimacy to examine what it means to be a whole human who is also a queer person. In the beginning, the movement was open exclusively to gay men, though most communities are now open to all genders and sexual orientations. Radical Faerie communities practice queer-themed spirituality associated with radical politics, paganism or neo-paganism, feminism, gender liberation, and may encompass any and all religions or a lack of them.<input ... ><input ... ><input ... ><input ... > The creation of a Faerie Sanctuary in Australia was a dream, for many years, of those having experienced the bonds created during the initial visits to the USA in 1979/80 and the first gatherings in Australia in the early 80s and also the ongoing relationships within the faerie community. This dream of having a home to share our lives together as faeries has become a reality after lots of hard work, many meetings and much fey magic. As a community we identify with the ideals of the radical faeries- that this piece of the earth is a focus for and provides sanctuary for its residents who are stewards of that land and members of the extended community of radical faeries, their friends and family. He Faeries moved onto the property in April 2002, and since then have been busy fixing-up and adding to accommodation, clearing weeds and planting gardens, orchards and rainforest. At times it feels like there is a mountain of things to do, but we are balancing work with enjoying the beauty and magic of it all. Phase, Teacosy, Anand, Griffyn, Spidercutie and Chameleon live on the property as full-time residents and stewards. Most work part-time in the greater community, and they care for the land as stewards welcoming fey minded people as they come and go from the land. Since the last time I was here new structures have been built and the outside deck extended. The property is 54 hectares (134 acres) of rolling re-growth rainforests and more open land about 20 minutes northwest of Nimbin, Northern N.S.W. There are several walks on the property: one taking you along a terrace to the back paddock, another walk to the south takes you down to Hanging Rock Creek for a dip in its cool waters. Wallabies, goannas, bandicoots, possums and snakes, and a wide variety of small and large birds inhabit the land.

There is a 2-bedroom house with large verandahs with marvellous views to the north & west including the Border Ranges National Park. There is an old cow bales containing Thelmas Drag Boutique and a number of cabins and vans which have been converted to living spaces for the residents and visitors. There is also the old piggery, which is undergoing renovations to become a multipurpose space. We are working on a land use plan for the sanctuary, incorporating rainforest regeneration and permaculture ideals. These plans include more living space for both residents and visitors (some has been built), an expanded kitchen, multi function studio, bathhouse (now built and functioning), large composting toilet (now built and functioning), a sauna and meditation space,…many things. We have a few fruit orchards and several very productive veggie gardens and large combined chook runs/enclosed veggie gardens. Among some of the flora we have been blessed with are several adult avocado trees, macadamias, citrus and mulberry trees and now have an exciting sub-tropial orchard poking up through the cetaria grass. We have propagated enough seedlings to plant a rainforest. Australian words I learned today: bottlo = liquor store pavement = sidewalk car park - parking lot boot = trunk bonnet - hood of a car tradie - tradesman sparky - electrician chippy = carpenter ring = telephone call sticky beak = nosey person -or- a quick look Aussie $ - $300 USA = $372.21 AUS

December 15, 2015 The body is my temple. I have found as I age, I am not as agile as I once was. The joys of youth are unbounded. Lost on young ones who have no contemplation of a formidable ending, they leap and jump without hesitation, dancing into the wee hours without fear of falling. Almost a half century has past leaving me wondering what my future may hold. I am blessed with good health, but I know that this cannot last forever. Traveling, I packed 2 packs—a large red one with most of my gear…clothing, 2 pair of shoes, tent, sleeping bag, bed roll, rain gear, etc., and a blue one with tech gear, toiletries, guide books, and an airline blanket (in case I get bumped and need to curl up on a bench or floor). The red one almost weighs the airline max at 50 pounds and the blue one is around 30+ pounds. One strong wind or pebble under foot would leave me like Humpty Dumpty. Fortunate for me no mishap has happened (knock on wood). As I leave the continent of Australia in 7 weeks, I will send back to the USA my camping equipment. This will save me several pounds on my back and square footage within leaving me more room for fabulousness and goodies to bring back home. Last night it rained. It left me wondering if I would return to wetness in my tent. Blessed be, all was well. This is truly a delight because a wet space makes for unpleasantness. This tent I have has been with me around the world and back. It is a pop-up tent from REI. At first I was hesitant to purchase it b/c of the price; I hemmed and hawed and finally swallowed a chill pill and bought it on sale. It was still pricey but not the list price. This was money well spent—just like my Patagonia gear. Waking this morning it continued rain—not a down pour but a constant sprinkle. It shied away the kuckaburros as a wake-up call, but the bellbirds kept singing as well as the whipits. The whipits are particularly interesting as they sound just as they are called. And with a mate, one will begin the call and the other will and it. I have not yet seen one in the canopy, but I k now they are present.

A whipit is 10–12 inches in length; it is olive green with a black head and breast. It has a small black crest with a white cheek-patch on its face. It has a paler abdomen with a long dark olive-green tail tipped with white. The iris is brown and bill is black with blackish feet. The male is slightly larger than the female. Juveniles are a duller olive-brown and lack the white cheek stripes and dark throat. The bird is shy, and is heard much more often than seen. Its long drawn out call - a long note, followed by a "whip crack" (which is the source of the common name) - is one of the most distinctive sounds of the eastern Australian bush. The call is usually a duet between the male and female, the male producing the long note and whip crack and female the following notes. Calls are most frequent in the early morning, though do occur through the day with small peaks at noon and sunset. The same is true for the bellbirds. They remind me of what Tinker Bell would sound like if she were here at Faeryland. Little bells of pleasantness abounds. Aussie words I learned: loo = toilet (not bathroom) dunny= toilet clacker= butt hole date = butt hole brown eye = butt hole or if someone moons gobby = blow job gob = spit doodle = penis crack a fat - erection esky = cooler yankee = yank = tank= septic tank aluminium = aluminum petrol = gasoline full stop = period at end of sentence bogan = white trash morning glory - morning hard-on Maccas - McDonalds shopping trolley - shopping cart December 16, 2015 Dragonfly, a Radical Faery, read my tarot at the large marquee on the Moon Meadow. I pulled the Three of Cups, a card of celebration and accomplishment. Three young faeries dance in a circle with their bejeweled chalices upraised in a toast of joy. Their arms reach out to each other, and they connect through their emotions, friendship, and fellowship with one another. The ground beneath radiates in abundance. Each faery has a wreath of laurel representing victory and success. Sweet smelling laurel wreath is also a symbol of protection, peace and purification and is a message that the favor of the Universe is upon us, and that we shall be the victor in this stage of our lives. The bejeweled chalice remind us of the good times in life, the sweet smell of success, and the beauty that surrounds us if only we open up to its presence. This is a powerful card to read as I begin my journey. Success is upon me, and I resonate in it. I look forward in sharing in its bounty. Aussie words I learned: capsicum = bell pepper coriander (fresh leaf) = cilantro

December 17, 2015

I went through the rainforest to find the creek where platypi live. The steep valley walls slowly merged from the top of the land and through new growth forest. The rains made the hillside slippery, and I had to catch myself more than once. Small, biodegradable fabric strips acted as bread crumbs as I meandered in, out and over trees and forest floor greenery. Large staghorns fanned the canopy, and I discovered new palm varieties I had not witnessed before. Silent birds darted through the trees-- glimpsing upward I would catch a wing and then flight. No songs came from them as the day was still full. I am told that orchid hunters pawn the tree-scape trying to locate varieties that are worth a small fortune. I arrive to the creek and all is silent. Raindrops glisten and one by one fall into the water below. I hold my breath and wait, hoping to catch a hint of the Divine’s mighty creation—one small creature of magnificent splendor. And yet the place resonates silence—nothing. I am told that the best time to see them is early in the morning after sunrise, around 7:30 a.m. Not allowing the disappointment to overcome me, I breathe in the mist as the taste of moist earth resonates on my tongue. Tomorrow will be another day.

Looking down at my feet, blood streams from them freely. I have been attacked by a legion of leeches. I can’t stand leeches! Scavenging little buggers have found me. I am there main course.

December 18, 2015

Summer solstice festivities will soon be drawing to a close here at Faeryland. Bacchanal will be celebrated in the Moon Meadow with festivities that will carry into the bewitching hour. It is always a special event with ritual of the new and the passing of the season. I look forward to seeing what the faeries have in store. My workshop, “Celebrating Diverse Communities: Rad 2 Fab”, was well received. I had a good turnout of folks. The tools and resources that Faeryland was able to provide me were helpful, and I appreciate they took the extra effort to pull them together—especially the marshmallows. I was unsure what to expect traveling around the globe, but they worked their fae majic. I mention the marshmallows because those can be a luxury in a rural environment. Minis were unavailable but larger, colored ones were found. The bags are significantly smaller than in the USA, but I worked with the resources I had. I am tickled that my request was satisfied. :) The one thing I noticed about the marshmallows was the texture; it was different than those in the USA. At home our marshmallows have a buoyancy when lightly touched and pop back upward, Aussie ones have a casing that seems to crack and crumble when pierced. At first I wondered if faeries were going to join in the fun. My space was sparse. I figured that most were out playing in the sun, at the dam sunning or at cosmic trance dance space. I quickly reimagined groups and how I was going to work things through. But as all things faery, they are on a different time zone. Slowly they emerged. By the time it was time to teach, I had a full room and enough participants (around 20) with others that came and went from time to time. I was delighted! December 20, 2015 I am alone in the world. I have come to realize more and more how alone I am—not lonely but alone. In the work and volunteer commitments I do, many know who I am because of my leadership and involvement roles; however, I find that so few truly ‘know’ me. I have many, many acquaintances and yet so few friends. Like all things this can be a blessing and curse. I find that I so dearly want to be connected, to have impact, and to be engaged although I do not have intimate connections. I lack intimacy. I do not need many to feel a sense of fulfillment, but I have no one to feel close to in Mankato. My closest friends are my fantastic neighbors that I live with in Mankato. I am so blessed to have them in my life. If it were not for them, I would feel even more isolated. They have become my family. I am blessed. Work colleagues become an extension of those that are familiar yet unfamiliar. I miss my love relationship with Bear. 2016 will make 8 years that I have not been involved with someone. I miss gentle glances, a soft caress and nesting—building something special to call home with another person. I miss cooking for him, hearing his stories, and sharing/exploring his desires. I miss holding hands, tasting his full lips, and brushing up against his hair on his face, ass and chest. I miss family holidays, watching the Palouse evolve into seasons, and snuggling close to keep my extremities warm. I miss him, plain and simple; some might say I am still in love. I have freed myself of place but not in heart. There are men in my life that have meant so much to me. I have learned from them--learning extends from love relationships to intimacy. Not intimacy in a sexual manner but that of philos, brotherly love. I want to cry--not the sound of a weep or a mournful bellow but a gut wrenching pang that echoes into miles. My sadness is immense--not a pattering of emotion or a smouldering amber but a vast enormous longing of what was but will never be. I remain motionless, stuck, unable to move. Not knowing where to begin go or where to go, I sit waiting. What is to come? I have failed--wishing for so much more not knowing how to proceed, begging for forgiveness but unable to forgive mself. And so I remain, an enemy within, shackled and scarred. And no one knows my pain, b/c on these lips remain a whistle on my lips, a dance on my step. But truthfully, beneath the cloak is a frown of desperation, a song of depair, lonliness waltzing into nothingness. My time at Faeryland has been beneficial. I have given back to the community and the community has allowed to grow, cry, and explore. I am thankful for the land and the faeries. Solstice is soon upon us, the breaking from one season to the next. The moon each day passing grows in size-- lighting my path to my tent, casting woodland shadows along the meadow, and radiating so fully in my tent it appears that a light is on. It is good to be in such a special place for this peak. Full Week of Workshops Aussie things learned: He is knitting with one needle –or- he is one sandwich way from a picnic = crazy chemist = pharmacist heaps of fun = loads of fun daft = stupid spesh = special New word I will embrace: Sheeple – people who blindly follow the crowd like sheep and don’t think for themselves Aussie Money Spent: 12.30 - Roast Beef with Veggies at Lismore Worker's Club 19.00 - film at cinema December 22, 2015

I learned that Australia was the first democratically elected socialist government in the world. I am trying to learn more about its history and hope to speak with others more on the subject. With that history and the rise of the conservative movement, it is interesting how the two have been able to co-mingle. While the conservative movement appears to resonate closer to U.S. policy and practices, it appears to put money before people and the environment—often times shortsightedly.

This was particularly evident with my time here with regards to the extraction of gas a.k.a fracking. I saw beginnings of this concern two years ago when I was in the Northern Rivers, and it morphed into something grander.

The aim of the Gas field Free Northern Rivers movement is to protect the biodiversity, water resources, agricultural lands and sustainable industries of the Northern Rivers, and the livelihoods and wellbeing of the people who live here, from the impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) and other forms of unconventional gas mining. Their objective is to have the Northern Rivers region declared a CSG and unconventional gas free zone, and for all current licenses and leases that allow such activities to be revoked.

The government under the umbrella of big business was going to drill tens of thousands of wells in the area to extract. This was going to be done foolishly for profit without any plan in place for the water, people and biodiversity within the region. This would have been detrimental to the community.

The people organized to blockade movement of the corporate interest. While the region was promised jobs (which was greatly needed) it was going to do so to the harmful effects of the region. Corporate life was going to come in, do what they wanted and leave the place crippled. While money may sound alluring, the people were not going to have any of the bullshit marketing ploy. They organized and stood steadfast to the land and community long term interests.

Coal Seam Gas Overview

Coal seam gas mining involves drilling deep into the earth to extract methane held in a coal seam. In order to extract the gas, large volumes of salty water contained in the coal seam need to be brought to the surface. This water is the major waste product from coal seam gas mining. Methods used to extract the gas include hydraulic fracturing or lateral drilling. Both of these methods represent risks to groundwater.

As well as the underground impacts described above, coal seam gas mining has severe surface impacts. It requires large numbers of wells to extract the volumes of gas that are sought – in Queensland in 2010/2011 some 18,600 gas wells were approved. Along with gas wells come roads, pipelines, tracks, compressor stations and water storage ponds – which altogether results in an industry which spreads out across the landscape and carves up rural landscapes into giant industrial zones.

CSG Mining Risks:

There is mounting evidence that CSG mining poses substantial risks. These risks include:

  • Depletion and contamination of underground and surface water systems and supplies

  • Lack of any safe method of disposal of the large quantities of polluted wastewater brought to the surface in the extraction process;

  • Leaking of methane from wells and pipelines and off-gassing of volatile organic compounds from wastewater storages and compressor stations;

  • Human and animal health impacts from air, water and soil pollution;

  • Loss of agricultural land and native vegetation from the large surface footprint of CSG operations; and

  • Risk of seismic activity from fracking and aquifer re-injection.

Over 25% of New South Wales is covered by Petroleum Exploration Licenses (PELs). Both exploration and production projects have been given the green light, despite evidenced risks, insufficient research and growing community concern about this industry. Repeated calls by community groups, environment groups and the farmer’s organizations for a moratorium on the coal seam gas industry to allow for comprehensive scientific investigation and analysis of the threats posed by the industry have been ignored by government.

Concern about these risks from landholders and communities across the Northern Rivers is why we call for the immediate cessation of all unconventional gas mining activities in the Northern Rivers.

What is CSG and how is it mined?

Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is principally methane found in underground coal seams, where it is trapped by natural water pressure. Similar gas may also be found in other geological formations such as shale deposits and tight sandstone rock formations.

CSG, shale gas and tight sands gas are referred to as ‘unconventional gas’ and should not be confused with so-called ‘natural’ or ‘conventional gas’, which is found in more readily accessible rock reservoirs. These types of gas are referred to as ‘unconventional’ because they require specialized techniques such as fracking to extract commercial quantities of gas.

CSG Extraction Well

The extraction of methane from different unconventional sources uses similar extraction techniques. The gas is accessed by drilling vertically into strata until a deposit is reached, at which point horizontal drilling is likely to occur in order to extend the reach of the well. Horizontal drilling may extend kilometers from a well. Drilling involves the injection of a number of chemicals to optimize drilling efficiency. The bore of the well is lined with concrete to prevent leakage of gas and contaminated water into underground systems. Methane, which is physically trapped in the coal structure with water under pressure, is released by reducing the pressure in the seam. This is initially done by pumping out water – known as ‘produced water’.

Shale and tight gas extraction and a significant proportion of  CSG production requires some form of additional ‘stimulation’ to extract gas at a commercially viable rate. Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is one common stimulation technique.

However, in most cases, horizontal drilling will also spread from the initial bore hole for several hundred meters, and potentially several kilometers. The hole is thin and fragile in relation to its length. Further, it does not show the many fissures and fractures in the surrounding rock, into which concrete can be lost when the casing is being cemented. These gaps and fractures can make it extremely difficult, and in some cases almost impossible to completely seal the casing.

What is fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ is a stimulation process used in CSG mining. It involves the high-pressure injection of large volumes of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals into the ground to fracture coal. Fracking expands cracks in coal seams, which allows gas to flow much faster and from a wider area. Originally used to tap deep earth oil and gas formations, the use of fracking has been expanded to coal seams, which sit much closer to the surface. This brings contaminated water and geological disruption close to water catchments and aquifers, and the above ground natural and built environment.

Fracking has been directly linked to a considerable number of serious environmental incidents including water contamination, earthquakes and fire. The process is already banned in France and other countries, including parts of the USA.

Chemicals used in fracking

A 2011 submission to the US Congress identifiedover 750 different chemicals and compounds that are known to have been used in fracking. Most are not disclosed by operators and none of have yet undergone CSG hazard testing and clearance. The following is a partial list of additives that are used in fracturing operations, as indicated by the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

Classes of AdditivesPurposeExamplesAcidFacilitates entry into rock formationshydrochloric acidBiocidesKill bacteria and reduce risk of foulingglutaraldehyde,2,2 Dibromo-3-nitrilopropionamideBreakerFacilitate proppant entryperoxodisulfatesClay stabilizerClay stabilizationsalts, ietetramethylammonium chlorideCorrosion inhibitorWell maintenancemethanolCrosslinkerFacilitate proppant entryFriction reducersImprove surface pressurepotassium hydroxideGelling agentsProppant placementsodiumacrylate,polyacrylamideIron controlWell maintenancecitric acid,thioglycolic acidScale inhibitorPrevention of precipitationammonium chloride,ethylene glycol,polyaccrylateSurfactantReduction in fluid tensionmethanol,isopropanol

There is currently no requirement for CSG companies in Australia to disclose the constituents in their fracking fluids and only 20 are listed ay APPEA as known to be used in Australia.

However, the experience of CSG mining in the USA is that the commercial viability of the CSG industry is dependent on extensive use of stimulation, such as hydraulic fracturing. Indeed, it is estimated that 60-80% of unconventional gas wells 60-80% of unconventianal gas wells drilled in the next decade will require fr

Good news is that the government paid the corporation $25 million to stay away from this region. This was a huge win for the people because it was the people that made their voices heard. Sadly, those elected to represent the people often times bow down to the corporate dollar. This is intolerable.

This same thing has happened in the United States. Fracking has polluted water and the land with the promises of jobs and little to no long term dialogue of the future. Politicians have fallen for the Mighty Dollar God while shitting on everything in its path. Sadly, the sheeple have followed. Our own land has seen the results of earthquakes because of these decisions and water (the precious resource it is) has fallen to little importance v. the Almighty Money God.

Today I pulled the emperor in the tarot…another great card.

Aussie $ spent:

9.00 Tai sticky rice and 3 chicken satay December 23, 2015

Felicia is in the process of dying, passing from this plane to the next. His energy resonates through the land. I remember meeting him two years ago at Faeryland and heard of this prognosis. Since then he has been saying farewell to friends and family across the continent as well as in New Zealand and Britain. It feels like destiny to be here with him as he says good-bye.

Felicia led an amazing life full of adventures. He was formerly a butler, worked in the sex industry, as well as for the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He is rich in storytelling with lessons learned and far too many experiences to express in a blog. He has lived a full life indeed.

I will miss this faery. He has a seasoned presence on the land here, and I will always feel his energy resonate in the trees and down the path to Thelma’s. He is love personified. At our closing ritual, he was honored by the community. He has two more months to live before the Divine reclaims him. Water was poured and sprinkled from a clear glass vessel. Words of gratitude were expressed as he slowly moved around the circle. Blessed be love and light and the shadows that dance us forward.


Sooty met me in Nimbin in the café alleyway, while I was eating a white chocolate and raspberry muffin. It was good to see him. I met him two years ago on the land and spent time with him at the erotic temple. The lens he views life from is special and unique—one that so often is misunderstood by the status quo as well as in alternative communities who try to not be strangled by conformity. I like how he critically thinks, asks challenging questions, and pushes the envelope.

He took me on a road trip across Northern Rivers. The views here are spectacular --almost feeling as if you are looking at a painting because it appears too flawless. Driving up twisted, thin roadways on pin cushion curves, the land opens to vistas that are breathtaking and magnificient. Below the landscape ripples into hills and valleys. Macadamia groves and sugarcane dot the landscape. Gum trees stripped naked of their chocolate skin rest stark in the landscape with their mellowed flesh. Branches outstretched to Father Sky tickle the air as they dance in the wind. I breathe in deeply; the air is fresh and clean.

Sooty took me to a place that I will call the Sacred Cow-- b/c we all know that no cows are sacred; it's all up for consumption-- thought, words, and deeds. He lived there for several months and is in the process of leaving. Dan’s Creek passes through the property with a lovely, small waterfall and swimming hole.

Stripping down naked, it was good to feel the sun on my North American, white flesh. I could feel her kiss my skin, soft and gentle. Slowly making my way down the rock surface, I followed Sooty into the cool water. Diving into it, I felt a rush of exhilaration across my body. My dark locks hung tightly to my head, clung to my face and shoulders as I pulled it back out from my forehead and eyes. My nipples erect, I felt alive as I swam across the void. Could this be Shangri-La?

We pulled ourselves up the red colored boulders and dried our bodies in the afternoon sun. My mind raced away into the Australian bush as I listened to the water dance across the rock surfaces below.

Sooty took me by the hand and up the river bed. We tread through the waters. He spoke of another waterfall even grander than the first that rested up the landscape ahead. Was I up for the adventure? ...definitely!

Cocks swinging in the wind, we made our way up the riverbed. Sooty led the way, as I watched his naked body dot the landscape. It was good to share something so beautiful with such a wonderful, yet peculiar, person. I am glad to call him friend.

My feet would get entangled in the rocks below. Intently looking through the sediment and watching it settle across my ghost-like skin, I eased my way through the forest stream. Each step was challenging, playful and fun like climbing a jungle gym on the playground. Pushing myself forward I would occasionally grasp the sweet grass for balance while being mindful not to grab a barbed tree.

One wrongful touch, my flesh was torn away as deep, crimson blood trickled down my finger. Pulling my forefinger to my lips, I lapped it away. It stung intensely.

Birds darted in and out of the landscape, occasionally a large lizard would scamper away, and through it all I hoped I would not have a run-in with a bush snake. In the distance I could hear the pounding of water. What I envisioned was unveiled...perfection. No others were present but us—naked and fabulous as the Creator intended.

Australia words learned:

Chuck a wobbly = bad attitude Crook = sick (as in health) Chuck a darky = freak out, rage Roman shower = vomit (some use this term also in kink play)

December 28, 2015 – January 2, 2016

Teacosy and I left Faeryland early in the morning on the 27th. We drove to Lismore and got there in time for his morning meeting at 8:00. I immediately went with my backpack and camping gear to set up my space by the stables. The guy who was running camping check-in remembered who I was from before as well as my name. I was impressed b/c I definitely didn’t recall his name and still don’t.

In the past I have put my tent up by the Bear Corral, but with the impending inclement weather I figured an additional roof over my head would do me well. Campers already were in full force attempting to get the best spots before the onslaught of Brisbane and Melbourne boys took over. The ground was harder than I had anticipated, and I was fortunate to see Tug and his boyfriend, Shannon, down the path from me. They had a mallet, and I was blessed that they offered to let me borrow it.

I was up and Adam and done in no time. I hurriedly made my way back to Tropical Fruits HQ, checked-in, got my wristband, and set-up shop in Norma’s.

I worked in Norma’s two years ago. It was perfect. I was able to cook food for approximately 100 daily volunteers, serve two tea breaks (one in the a.m. at 10 and the other in the p.m., 3), as well as prep dinner for the late night tech crew.

Stewart was the lead chef on the 27th. I had met him the last time I volunteered here 2 years ago. He is a gardener and resides with the local drag queen, Maude. His boyfriend, Tony, works at a casino and his also a nice guy but not someone who I would have imagined Stewart would be partnered.We put on the barbeque pork and beef sausages as well as a veggie option. I also made a veggie tossed salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. It went off without a hitch which can be tricky with so many food allergies, interests and requirements, not to forgetting mentioning cooking for demanding queens.

After my shift I headed over to see Shirley’s Temple. I was fortunate to have connected with them two years ago because of my connection with Madam Pan at faeryland. I was heralded as an honorary Shirley, which totally made my week at Tropical Fruits in 2012/3.The guys were quick in action attempting to get at least half of the party space done before the rains would set-in. Both canopies were done but the leg poles were absent. Rolling up my sleeves I went into action helping how I could. I also helped pull together their purple crystal chandelier and sewing the last touches of the ribbon it.

And the rains came—torrential and unforgiving. The wind picked-up and the chill in the afternoon air made we wince. The nice thing was some of the Shirley’s had run into town and were so kind to bring me a couple of slices of pizza. They hit the spot.

My tent remained intact and dry. I was a happy camper. I slipped on my Patagonia jacket and made it to the communal kitchen to recharge my camera battery and chill. I saw several faeries; it was good to know someone.

That night when I went to bed, I tossed and turned. Some of the urban gays lack camping etiquette about being quiet after midnight. It was a bit aggravating to hear them talking and laughing as if the world centered around them. And to top it off, Chanel, another faery, snored the whole night. There is a price to pay being dry in the stable tent gallery which I have renamed as Club Kid Central. Tropical Fruits was established in 1988, as the premier GLBTI community group in the Northern Rivers in NSW. They are a not-for-profit, incorporated association that holds regular events for diverse members and guests. They are self-funded, independent and a voluntary organization.

Mission is to:

  • Provide an atmosphere of self-respect, acceptance and friendship, in which members can enjoy fellowship and all the benefits of a social club without any political affiliation;

  • To be a not-for profit, charitable organisation;

  • Support any like association or charity;\

  • Assist in overcoming the isolation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans* and intersex (GLBTI) members;

  • Relay appropriate information through a regular newsletter;

  • Hold regular social events;

  • Promote the social development of the GLBTI community in the Northern Rivers Region;

  • Assist members of the Northern Rivers GLBTI community through community disbursements

Committee: The Tropical Fruits Management Committee is made up of nine volunteers who commit their time, hearts, minds and (where necessary) bodies to manage the affairs of the organisation. There are four office-bearing positions (Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and Event Co-ordinator) a five ordinary (special) members.  Members are elected annually. Lismore is a town in northeastern New south Wales, Australia and the main population center in the city of Lismore local governmetn area; it is also a regional center in the Northern Rivers region of the State. Lismore has an estimated urban population of 30,000. It is rural with farming throughout the region. The place is lovely with deep green fields, rolling hills, gushing streams and fantastic waterfalls. The community is welcoming and affirming. It is a bit of surprise to see how welcoming the community to LGBT people. I think stereotypically one would think that a rural, farming area would be quite conservative. While that may have been part of the past, it is definitely not the future. Hippies moved and have supported a local economy which has definitely impacted the greater region to top it off, tropical Fruits New Year’s festivities have made a major economic impact on the area bring several million dollars to the region annually. (The town grows about 12% for festivities.) The city of Lismore lies in the Bundjalung people's nation area, an aboriginal tribe. The town was established by settlers in 1856 with Whites moving in as early as 1843. Lismore and surrounding towns were once part of the rainforest referred to as "The Big Scrub", of which less than one percent remains following the European settlement. A section of this rainforest is viewable in the grounds of the Southern Cross University and at Wilsons Nature Reserve on Wyrallah Road. To think about how densely forested the place must have been at one time is quite unimaginable b/c of all the clear cut. It must have been glorious indeed in its past. Southern Cross University is located in Lismore, offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in disciplines including business and law, tourism, humanities and social sciences, creative and performing arts, education, environment, marine and forest sciences, engineering, health and human sciences, law and Indigenous studies. The University was established in 1994 and has campuses at Coff Harbour, New South Wales, and Gold Coast, Queensland. The University has students from more than 80 countries around the world. Registration to volunteer for Tropical Fruits opens on September 1 annually. The early bird gets the worm—you can request where you want to work. I volunteered the last time at Norma’s Café and loved it. And so I did the same again this year. The great thing about it is that you get to meet all the volunteers and production team because everyone wants to get fed and have tea breaks. It is also a guarantee that you won’t go hungry, and with my fare skin, helps me to not get sunburned. What Noma’s doesn’t guarantee is not getting cut up hands and fingers. I had my share of pain this past week. Cooking for 100+ volunteers daily can be a bit daunting. Slicing and dicing veggies and fruits, preparing sauces and pasta, using the BBQ, making sandwiches, and wraps, curries, veg and non-veg, etc. Working Norma's keeps you running from the time you open the kitchen door to the time you close in the late afternoon. Worse for wear, I rocked my socks and gave it 110% each day. Sadly though, my fingers and hands took a beating. The very first day, I stabbed my hand between the thumb and forefinger. The knife went in and kept going, I bled like a stuck pig—the river of red was ongoing. I raised my hand above my head to keep the bleeding minimized and immediately went to first aid to clean-up. It was not pretty. The following day I sliced my right thumb when cutting veggies, the third day my other thumb was sliced and took some serious skin with it. The bleeding wouldn’t stop, and I probably should have gotten three stitches. But I persisted forward to keep the meal on schedule and wrapped gauze tape around the wound to create a mini-butterfly stitch. It did the trick but man alive in pulsed in pain. (Each day when I cleaned the wound it reopened. I could feel my heart beat through my thumb.) And finally on day five, I scrapped my knuckles when cleaning carrots and preparing salad with a grater. Poked, sliced, cut—I have seen better days. Just call me Edward Scissor Hands. Day number 3, I had a splitting headache. My tongue was swollen, and I didn’t feel my usually cheery self. I worked throughout not stopping and noticed that my left shoulder ached. It felt like I had a sunburn which I knew was impossible b/c I never had my shirt off. I pushed though the discomfort and the pang in my brain. When I got off from work, I saw some faeries and caught-up with them. I was good to see familiar faces knowing that I was under the weather. After the sun went down, I went to the wash room. I brought my hand to my inflamed shoulder and felt like there was a mole on it. My mind knew exactly what it was….a buried tick! I sought out Teacosy to confirm my hypothesis, and I was correct. H said he had never seen something so huge (think Texas huge). He did his magic and wrestled it out. My head ached. I was told it had to do with the tick toxins that were shot into me when the tick was released from my skin. I put rubbing alcohol on the opening and went to bed. The next day my head still hurt, I popped some ibuprofen and felt better an hour later. Volunteering as many shifts as I did provided me with free camping for the week as well as three party passes (New Years, Pool and Recovery). It saved me roughly $500.

A few things I would do differently next time: · Camp by the Bear Corral—they are quieter · Bump down—requires less working days for the same benefits · Rest more to save energy for all three party events. I was so tired on January 1 that I took a nap and never got up to go to the recovery party. It was good to sleep but would have been fun to have seen my new found friends one last time before leaving on January 2. · Sturdy tent stakes, the ground is hard. The stakes bend too easily. Aussie words learned: Nud = nude tosser = litter bug chook = chicken chook yard = chicken yard swimmers = swimsuit garbo = garbage truck singlet = tank top thongs = flip flops cuppa = cup of tea butt flu = AIDS

January 3, 2016

My father was hospitalized; he had a stroke. Rose noticed that things were not up to par, and she made sure he went to the doctor. He now has partial eye sight, using a walker, and is on several medications. It’s hard to hear the news being half way around the planet Earth.

Some questioned me if I would return home to see him. The answer is no. He had a stroke earlier in 2015, and I asked what his thoughts were as I planned for my trip. My dad and I chatted again before I left on sabbatical, and he encouraged me to follow my heart and to see the world. And with that in mind, I will do just that.

All the same, it’s hard knowing that he is unwell. Seeing someone struggle is never easy. I trust that when the Creator is ready, my father will go peacefully. To be so full of life and yet ailing is never something I wish on anyone. I trust that he will make it through, and I will have the opportunity to see him before he dies. It could be now or next year. Science and medicine has a mysterious way of keeping us alive for far too long.

Tomorrow I am off to Townsville, Australia. A buddy of mine, Luke Paul, lives/works there. He is a medical officer for the Air Force, and he is currently deployed in Kabul, Afghanistan. We met two years when I was in New South Wales at Faeryland and continued to hang out at Tropical Fruits in Lismore. He is a great guy with a big heart, a smile that will sails ships, and someone who goes above and beyond for friends and family.

When I returned to the USA we kept in touch over Facebook. He was most recently living in Brisbane, and he let me know that he had been transferred to the military base in Townsville. I rearranged my trip so that I could see him. Before leaving the USA, he sent me a note to let me know he was being deployed…but no worries I could still stay at his place. He sent me a contact of a close mate of his (cutie patutti) and encouraged us to chat before I flew over.

As the saying goes, “You are the company that you keep”. He too is awesome. I will be flying in late into Brisbane, and he is going out of his way to pick me up and get me to Luke’s. He sent me an email today confirming my travel plans, asked if I needed groceries, and anything he could help me with before my arrival. Wow! Hospitality at its finest. I am one blessed man.

One of my plans when I get there is to find some boxes in the dumpster and send my tent, sleeping bag, and bed roll back to the USA. They take up a significant amount of space in my backpack, and a little more room means more space for shopping when I get to Bangladesh. I have no idea what it would cost send it back home; I trust that it won’t break the bank.  ....$108AUS in the slow post via ship; it will take three months to arrive. January 4, 2016

It rained most of the day on January 3, and I was fortunate to get my clothes washed and off the line before the downpour. It is good to have clean clothes. It separates us from the primates and Neanderthals. It does not take much to put a smile on my face—hot shower, clean clothes, nice home cooked meal, good night’s rest, clean nails and feet, and internet access.

I have not tired of wearing black and grey. It makes for easier living and not having to mind what I am going to pull out of my backpack each day. I knew I could do it because I did a similar challenge with friends in St. Peter at the arts center. This is a very different role from my usual self—full of color and pizzazz. May be it will hit me in month number two or three?

I have noticed that I have gotten sun on my arms and face—more than I would like. This has all been not from direct rays but rather reflection off of surfaces and in the “shade”. While I am not pasty white, I am going to do my best to keep the sun off my skin. The reason is I once was a Sun God, and I damaged my skin. A tan may look pretty to modern eyes, but it truly reflects unhealthy epidermis. Moderation is key. I trust that I can keep this goal over the course of my journey.

Gecko brought me into Byron Bay so I could catch the Greyhound Bus, and he would volunteer the late shift at the Community Center. We were blessed with rock star parking. We took my camping equipment out and found boxes and packing tape to get them prepped for delivery to the USA.

It is a good thing I did send them when I did b/c when I got to the Brisbane Airport, my bag was weighed and it was over 15kg—too much for personal baggage. If I had my camping gear in it, it would have been heaps worse.

My Eddie Bauer backpack (the one I wear in front of me v. the Gregory pack) has been around the world with me several times and was taking a beating. It was pulling apart from the seams--literally. I had looked at Kathmandu in Byron Bay at their winter clearance sale, and I opted to wait. Instead I bought a clearance, mini-cooler bag for my toiletries knowing that once I lost the outer Bauer bag I would need something.

I was ‘that guy’ at the Brisbane Airport packing and repacking to get my bag to 15kg. I stuffed and re-stuffed my bag until it met max standards. I asked the gate agent what would happen if my other bag I was taking didn’t meet quota at the gate and was told I would be charged. I figured it was worth the gamble. I strapped my other items onto the onboard backpack and prayed to the flight gods that all would go through without mishap.

I arrived four hours before my departure, and I would not be able to get into the main terminal until two hours beforehand. I people watched and rested. The time flew quickly, and I was up front and ready at the two hour notice so I could find my way to my gate without any drama. Good thing I did too b/c my flight was delayed by an hour which resulted in a gate change.

The gods were in my favor again when on the corner of my eye I saw a sale for Samsonite backpacks by 30%. I saw an awesome bag with many pockets and sub-pockets. I snatched it up, undid my Eddie Bauer, and stuffed it with my belongs. I took the mini-bag and REI bag out b/c it would not fit so I would get it on the plane with me. I was blessed that the airline Nazis were not weighing onboard baggage, and got swept away without any dilemmas. My goal now is I hope that when I leave Townsville that the main backpack is not weighed so I can get back to Brisbane without me having to chug my ‘too heavy items’ in my arms.

Matthew (a friend of Luke's a.k.a. Madam Pan) was very kind picking me up from the Townsville Airport, especially after it was delayed by an hour and he had to work on Monday. He was prompt and very helpful. He got me into Luke’s apartment, showed me how to make everything work, and got me settled before scurrying off for bed. I know I am going to sleep soundly tonight, if I can only figure out how to make the a/c work…first world problems.

AUS $: 108.00 – shipping camping equipment to the USA (shipping freight, 3 month delivery) 37.00 – lunch for 2—chicken shawarma and baba ganoush 1.00 -chocolate bar from Aldi’s 12.00 –Kathmandu cooler bag on sale (original 30.00AUS) will use for toiletries 29.58 –Greyhound bus from Byron Bay to Brisbane Domestic Airport 112.63USA –flight from Brisbane to Townsville

Aussie words learned: Heaps = tons jumper = sweater or light jacket sunnies = sunglasses January 5 & 6, 2016 - Townsville

It was good to be snuggled in bed sheets and pillows. Luke’s place is comfy with an amazing view of sailboats on one side leading to the ocean and massive green trees filled with parrots on the other. It’s sleek and modern with floor to ceiling windows, wide balcony, and modern appliances. It feels good to be nesting here for the week and re-acclimating after camping for almost a month. 

Rising early as the sun rose and peered through my window, I tried to ignore the day but it kept begging me to play. I never figured how to make the a/c work in the bedroom, but the ceiling fan kept me cool enough. (I even opened up the air return, cleaned and vacuumed the air filter, had the apt. manager come inspect it, and still didn’t seem to get it working properly.) Oh well, first world problems.

This morning I met a woman at the front of the apartment sitting in meditation with her long, blonde hair pulled to the side and braided to keep the heat off her back. Her name was Ann; she is from Europe. I could hear her dialect but couldn’t pinpoint her homeland by my naked ear; and when I asked, it was avoided. She has lived in Australia for over a decade and before that she was living in New Zealand.

She spoke about the amazing turtles down the cove that I must bear witness and cautioned me to not get in the Townsville beach waters as they are cased with jelly fish. Signs warning swimmers line the beach sands, but courageous fools ignore the warnings and people have at times died. There is another spot with a large net to keep the jelly fish away, but I heard others talking in the hallway this morning that just yesterday some jelly fish made their way in mysteriously and two people suffered major injuries--emergency medical trucks had to respond.

Ann sold her hostel business over a year ago when her partner became seriously ill with cancer and they moved into the apt. bldg. where Luke lives. In the end, the cancer did not kill him but rather the swelling of his throat that would not allow him to breathe deeply. Eating became a burden, he lost weight and was unable to be active as he once was—a competitive athlete. The treatment he was getting in AUS was insufficient, and they went to the USA for help. It was there he died a year ago. Ann is still in mourning.

Ann sold her place here in Townville as well as her hostel business and is moving to Brisbane. Today was her last day in town as she shut off her electricity and said her farewells. I trust 2016 will bring her opportunities as she struggles to find joy because of her challenging last 3 years. She radiates positivity, and I am without a doubt that she will rise despite her misfortune.

I spent the day exploring the streets as I walked from one end of the city to the next. The heat is piercing. I can feel it crackling like popcorn. I take Ann’s heeded warning and venture indoors during the peak of the day. I make my organic salad, blog, and watch the day pass from my window while sucking down Australian moscato and topping it off with a slice of rich, dark chocolate cake with chocolate ganache. May be later I will venture out again after food comatose has passed.

Later in the day as evening approaches, I try to take pictures of the rainbow lorikeets in the park trees. They dart about in the canopy and play hide and go seek from passersby. Twisting and preening they bend in odd ways to eat the nectar from the flowering trees. Just as I think I have one in my camera lens, they fly off. It makes for good Yankee comedy.


Townsville is a city on the northeastern coast of Queensland,Australia. Adjacent to the central section of the Great Brrier Reef,it is in the dry tropics region of Queensland. This is particularly evident when looking into the hills and you get out of the town center. Townsville is Australia's largest urban center north of the Sunshine Coast, with a population close to 180,000. Considered the unofficial capital of north Queenland, Townsville hosts a significant number of governmental, community, and major business administrative offices for the northern half of the state. What is particularly noteworthy is the older part of the town called The Strand with buildings from the late 1800s. The city center has grown considerably since then which has also created a lot of urban sprawl and unattractive cement slab buildings and box stores in the outskirts. Luke definitely lives in one of the most desirable places in Townsville—on a harbor with a view, green space, and close to the evening action.


James Cook University is a public university and is the second oldest university in Queensland, Australia. JCU is a teaching and research institution. The University's main campuses are located in the tropical cities of Cairns, Singapore and Townsville. The main fields of research include marine sciences, biodiversity, sustainable management of tropical ecosystems, genetics and genomics, tropical health care and tourism.

JCU's Townsville campus is the University’s largest campus and is located on 386 hectares in the suburb of Douglas, near the army base. Around 12,600 students study at JCU Townsville, including over 1,100 international students. Close to the university is the new Townsville Hospital and Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE.

The Discovery Rise project was announced in September 2007. The $1 billion project is aimed at redeveloping the University's Townsville campus.Construction is currently under way and the project was estimated to be completed in 2015 but was still being worked on when I visited.

JCU's Douglas Campus in Townsville has seven on-campus residential halls and colleges which can accommodate 1,475 students. Services offered by these facilities vary from self-catered to fully catered, and support to students. They are situated in the tropical gardens of the campus.

The campus is spread out with large open spaces. Several things surprised me.

·       Lack of outdoor public art

·       Way finding signs were peeling and self-adhesive letters were coming off

·       Major grocery store at university entrance on university property

·       Catholic student residences/colleges at public university

·       Student union area needed TLC

AUS $ spent:

approx. 36.00 – groceries (lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, basil, cake slice, dozen eggs, 2 packages of had salami, bananas, bag of apples, organic chocolate, croissants, organic cheese spread)

8.20 –chocolate cake with ganache, litre Schweppes blood orange

25.98 –two bottles of AUS moscato

5.00 –James Cook Student Union 2015 T-shirt

8.00 –bus pass for the day

21.65 -small box and slow rate shipping to the USA (arrive in 3 months) January 7, 2016 - Townsville

The Strand has a view of the Port of Townsville and Magnetic Island, as well as to Cape Cleveland. It has been part of Townsville's history since the city was founded in the mid-19th century. The current foreshore was opened in 1999 after the former space was severely damaged and eroded after heavy rainfall and wind from Tropical Cyclone Sid in January 1998 and other monsoonal storms between 1997 and 1998. It was moderately damaged by Cyclone Tessi in April 2000.

The Townsville City Council, Queensland State and Australian Federal Governments provided an initial joint funding of approximately $35 million. The investment was well worth it. The area is lovely with beaches, rock pool with sloping entrance, two water fenced beach areas to keep jelly fish away, several open beaches, fitness area, eating establishments, picnic spaces with BBQs, playgrounds and water park. I have not seen anything quite like it. The area also has shaded areas with local flora and fauna and man-made shaded areas to get away from the direct sun. 

Thankfully there is a height restriction on the foreshore area of The Strand, limiting development to small rise buildings. This was due to the construction of the 15-story Aquarius Hotel in 1971, which is an eyesore. The area also has received Australian notoriety as one of the cleanest beaches on the continent.

January 9, 2016 Red-tailed black cockatoos swoop down from the trees and scatter across the lawn to eat freshly dropped fruit. Clutching the seed with its claw, she grips it firmly to keep it in place as she tears away the flesh with her beak. She is fierce and powerful!—just like her mother. Her grey and white tongue pokes at the tasty treat inside while giving me the evil-eye as I play paparazzi—click, click, click goes my camera shutter. She watches my every move and I hers.

Her mates join her in the smorgasbord. Red tails flare out as they fly into the canopy. She teases the boys; she knows she is boss. They are too quick for me to get a pic. They taunt me with their calls. I sit awestruck, cross-legged and observant. Locals pass me by as if this scene is “been there, done that”, and I pay them no mind as I gleefully play in the shadows. This Yank is in bliss.

It’s the males that give them their name as they have bright red tail feathers that dance outward when they fly; the female tails are orange/yellow. As juveniles, the boys look like girls until they come of age at around the 4 year mark when they hit puberty. Heads are white speckled and fall toward the wings. There are five subspecies, and they are characterized by the shape of their beaks.

Like many things beautiful, people want to have them as pets. The illegal trade of parrot capture continues to rise. In the 1990s a red-tailed black cockatoo could be purchased for $1750 in AUS and abroad for $6,000 USD. Hand-raised birds can cost between $15,000 - $40,000 US! Hand-raised birds can learn a few words, and often times the males will not breed as they have been imprinted. The red-tailed parrot is the most common of all black parrots in captivity.

Before long they tire of me. They outstretch their wings and pass across the green. I sit mesmerized. The Creator has once again left me in praise of beauty.

Today is my last day in Townsville. My journey starts mid-morning Sunday as I return to Brisbane. I will be there for less than a week with a Monday appointment to Queensland University of Technology, a sister school that Mankato has developed a relationship. There is much to see there and across the city. I look forward to where the road leads and then off to New Zealand.

Aussie Words/Phrases Learned: arvo = afternoon crook = sick dunny = going to the bathroom outdoors bikkie = cookie (short for biscuit) boardies = board shorts that surfers wear brolly = umbrella dog’s breakfast = messy dog’s eye = meat pie ball huggers = Speedo swimsuit Chrissy = Christmas petro head = car fan or collector cracker = something that is great for ex. Cracker of a day fanny – vagina bum bag = fanny pack poo man = plumber sanger = sandwich

Aussie $ spent: 76.96 – bottle of champagne as a thank you gift and bottle of moscato 15.00 –advanced prepaymen for extra weight w/airport baggage

January 10, 2016 - Brisbane

Morning greeted me with a downpour. The Earth was ready to be engulfed with water. She sucked it down parched by the weeks past where there was no mercy in sight. The boats tossed lightly in the harbor. No parrots could be heard from the trees as they were all taking cover.

I cleaned the apartment so that it was spotless, no remnants of me from the last week and took out the garage and recyclables. I got up early and washed clothes, bed sheets, towels and the like. I made the bed for the next guest or for Luke’s return. I folded the clothes and towels and put them back in their respective spaces.

Matthew got me to the Townsville Airport mid-morning for my flight to Brisbane. He was so kind to welcome me and to get me back. While his schedule was packed with work and house guests, it was nice to move about the city without having to put pressure on him or myself. Two hours up and down, and I arrived to Brisbane. The city looks beautiful at 10,000 feet.

The most populated city and capital in Queensland, Brisbane basks in the good life. It is the 3rd most populous city in AUS, and the city beckons you to come play. 2.3 million people live in the metropolis, and the place resonates.

Brisbane is one of the oldest cities in AUS, and the ancestral Turrbal and  Jagera people were the foundation. Originally a penal colony, the original inhabitants fought for the home, as White Europeans stole their land as they did in the United States. The penal colony grew from 200 to 1,000. As time progressed, the late 18th century brought the aboriginal people in conflict with their newly arrived adversaries.

AUS $:

116.50 -balance for YHA Brisbane hostel minus one evening and $5 discount coupon

17.50 – subway train from airport to Roma Street

5.25 – burger, drink, small fries, and caramel sundae

anuary 11, 2016 The day started early, 3:30 a.m. and then stayed in bed until 5:30. I slept better than I had anticipated in the YHA Brisbane, 4 bunk all male space. There was a younger guy there who had graduated from Univ. in Korea in mass communication and journalism and was preparing to return home for 27 months of military service. The other two guys were in their late 20s/early 30s and bumming around. I did not see much of them as they went out last night drinking with only one returning drunk off his ass but at least he was relatively quiet upon returning back when I woke at 3:30. Instead of waiting for the day to get too hot outside, I decided to rise and walk over to Queensland University of Technology (QUT). My appointment was not until 10 a.m., but I figured I walk the botanical gardens before they became too steamy and unbearable. On the way I met this homeless guy named David Hanifin. His buddy was selling coloring books pages that he had colored. I sat and chatted with them for about 30 minutes to pass the time and declined to buy one of the coloring pages. David told me that he wrote poetry. I told him I did too. As the best things in life are free, I recited one of my memorized works and was then off. QUT not only shares the botanical garden parkland but also butts up to parliament. The building houses only one chamber when they voted not to have a second house. The building is not as ornate as I would have anticipated, especially when compared to Melbourne. The building has an interior patio and surround on all sides. Construction began in 1865 as a gift of Queen Victoria (and completed in 1867) and the remainder of the building was supported by the people and took longer to build in completed 22 years later in 1889. (It was the first parliament house in all of AUS to be electrified, and the first state in AUS to require all people to vote in state elections.) In the 1970s an annex was built for $20 million. The Labor party is currently in control of parliament and of the 89 seats only 2 are aboriginal. QUT is a public university with 40,000 students—approx. 35,000 are undergrads and 6,000 are international of which 90 are from the USA. It is in the top 10 in AUS and in the top 3% in the world. It has three campus and focuses on STEM, Education, Medicine, Law and Business. The most impressive of the spaces is STEM that was completed in 2012 at $230 million. The goal is to increase AUS students studying abroad by 15% of total admitted student (6,000 annual). AUS $ spent: 8.28 – groceries (water melon slice, caramel chocolate, 2 danishes) 4.75 – breakfast (drink and bacon omelet) January 12, 2016 South Bank in Brisbane is hopping! Based around the former site of the 1988 World Expo, there is something for everyone—restaurants, waterpark, playground spaces, bike paths and walking trails, etc. The place is well thought out along the river. While there it was ghastly HOT—36 Celsius; I felt like the Wicked Witch of the West—melting, melting. The good thing is I brought with me my Nalgene bottle with shoulder strap. I wear it like a fanny pack or as the Aussie’s say a bum bag. Along South Bank and on the other side of the river, ferries jet back and forth transporting residents and visitors. The City Hopper (I call the red ferry) is FREE! It will get you to most places that you will want to see and do. Rising early is also great b/c the day is not yet nasty hot and you beat the throngs of people. Today I made it to Sydney Street stop, end of the line. I went there because this is where the old wool warehouses that the earlier settlers erected that made Brisbane wealthy. The surrounding neighborhoods had Italian immigrants, and now the real estate is pricey and very nuveau rich. I walked from the New Farm neighborhood to Tenerife. While I was walking I noticed a figure in the distance that looked familiar. I called out her name; it was Ann from Townsville the woman I met on the front door stoop at Luke’s. She was moving into the neighborhood. What a small world—destiny! I wished her well again in her new opportunities, and I was off down the road. I did not stay in Teneriffe as long as I had anticipated. I was expecting more—older buildings and the like. It has developed into a small village with upscale apartments and housing with lovely trees. I decided to venture back and made it over to Powerhouse Brisbane. The building now houses theatre, music, dance, restaurant, bar, etc. Originally it was a power station in the 1920s and decommissioned in the 1970s. The outer shell of the building remains with the interior very industrial feeling with multipurpose spaces. It is very trendy and hip. When I was there they had family time with crafts and books for toddlers and babies. It was a perfect way to get to know neighbors in the area and an opportunity for young families to get out of the house. Renovated in 2000 it is now a welcome addition to a once defunct space. When it was in transition, the space became a place for the homeless to live and for street kids to throw parties and tag with graffiti. What I like about the space is that it has kept some of the grit with the graffiti covered brick –respecting the space but giving it new life. Today, The Powerhouse is a multi-purpose center for the arts, housing the 536-seat Powerhouse Theatre, the 200-seat Visy theatre, Turbine Hall, outdoor plaza, green spaces, rooftop terrace, bar, restaurant and also hosts a weekend farmers' markets. Aussie words and phrases: She’ll be apples = everything will be alright Avos = avocados battler = someone working hard for a living and barely making it cobber = friend bities = insects that bites bingle = motor vehicle accident freckle = anus franger = condum bitzer = mongrel dog/mutt make a blue = make a mistake plonk = cheap wine Big Smoke = big city like Sydney or Melbourne Aussie $ spent: 4.00 – 2 danish and sm. Bag of cookies 5.25 – drink, cheese burger, sundae, and small fry

January 13, 2016

I am amazed by how early I have been getting up since my arrival to Australia one month ago. I usually rise around 3 a.m. and finally get out of bed around 5:30 a.m. When I was in the rainforest, I thought it had to do with my connection to the Earth and the rise and fall of nature awakenings. Now that I have been in cities the last 2 weeks, I think it has to do with the sun that peeks through the shades. Then again, may be the last week has to do with the drunks that have been in the hostel that are my roomies, and 3 a.m. is around the time they get home. My guess it is when the bars and strip clubs begin to shut down. Oh well, the one advantage to rising early is that there is a stillness about the city and the sun has yet to scorch the sidewalk and benches.

Today I took the City Cat fery to University of Queensland. It was not part of my original plans for sabbatical, but I met a student leader who is running for a student office when I was at Tropical Fruits in Lismore, AUS, and he encouraged me to visit. It was well worth the trip.

It has over 50,000 students (37,000 undergrad and 13,000 grad) and is a comprehensive, research institution and is one of the most selective universities in AUS. It ranks in the top 1% of all universities in the world. Early years did not look favorable for a university in Queensland. In the 1860s government wanted to focus on primary education b/c the literacy rate was below 60%. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the beginnings of a university emerged. The sandstone buildings of the original campus have classical columns with etched images of subjects that are within each building, images of famous people who have taught at the university, and crests of famous universities around the world. The center is a large green space that is currently being renovated b/c of flooding, and they are also in the process of removing the non-native trees and putting in ingenious species. One of the traditions that is held annually is the court race where students run around the entire columns area, a tradition that is also held at Trinity College and University of Cambridge.

Some interesting things about being a student in AUS: pending on your family’s income the government will provide you a stipend to attend university, after one year out of high school you are considered independent of your parents and can claim financial independence for financial aid, if you get financial aid from the government you do not have to pay it back until you hit a certain financial threshold in income and it is then it is slowly deducted automatically from your salary to repay the government AND you don’t have to pay interest on the loan, if you pay your student tuition upfront by a certain date some universities will give you a 25% discount.

This last week has been fun exploring the city. I have made it to several churches: St. John’s Cathedral, St. Andrew’s Uniting Church, Albert Street Uniting Church, All Saints Anglican, and Cathedral of St. Stephen. I have visited historical sites:  Central Station, General Post Office Brisbane City Hall, Treasury Parliament, Botanical Gardens as well as the Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Museum of Art. I have learned bits of information like: in the CBD the streets east to west are named after female royalty and north to south are royal men, Queen Victoria chose the name Queensland in 1859, the faces of devils on George Street of which four of the seven are representations of former politicians, etc.

Tomorrow, I will be attending the Queensland Performing Arts Center to see Roald Dahl’s “George’s Medicine”. It has received rave reviews and extended for two weeks. I was blessed to get seats F12 which up close and center. I am delighted! I am so very excited to see it.

Aussie $ spent: 5.60 City Cat ferry to Univ. 5.60 City Cat ferry return to North Quay 8.10 sushi lunch –3 sashimi rolls 10.85 pewter frog/leaf letter opener than I plan to create a pendent necklace

January 14, 2016

Queensland Performing Arts Center (QPAC) in Brisbane is a large multi-stage performance space. It was completed in 1985 after considerable discussion since the 1970s to being built. Annually they host over 1,000 performances on its four stages from opera, ballet and modern dance, children’s productions, comedy, contemporary and classical music, etc. The Lyric is the largest of the venues with a proscenium and house for 2,000; the Concert Hall is the 2nd largest with 1,600 seats. The Playhouse also has a proscenium and seats 850, and lastly, the Cremorne holds 200 to 300 pending on seating arrangements. The Tony Gould Gallery is also here which shows exhibitions of a theatrical nature.

I had morning tickets (Seat F-12) to see George’s Mavelous Medicine, an adaption from Roald Dahl’s book. All the seats were sold with a crowd full of children. It ran for 55 minutes and kept you engaged with laughter, quirky jokes and song selections, and good acting. The staging was well done with movable scenery that the actors used as props and to change scenery. It was a time well spent and glad I came to see the show as well as visit the larger theatre space.

I made it back up the bridge I crossed when I noticed that I missed one of the GOMA spaces. I had visited earlier in the week and was a little disappointed by how small the museum was only to find that there was more down from the State Library. I am glad I visited too b/c it was showing the 8thAsia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. It was fantastic with three floors of thought provoking work--painting, installation, video, mixed media, etc. What I was delighted to see was that it also reflected some of the issues I am exploring with social justice, women/children, sweatshops, etc.

I made my way back to YHA Brisbane to get my wash done and folded, backpack repacked, reading for my trip to New Zealand, and bringing things to closure here in AUS. My time here on the continent has been amazing. I look forward to returning again, maybe in six years? There is still so much more for me to see and do that I have yet to explore and witness.

Aussie $ spent:

15.50 – return ticket or sky train to airport

11.73 – groceries (avocado dip, fresh baked bread, cookies, watermelon, Schweppes 1.25 litre, brie cheese)

Aussie words/phrases:

make a quid = earn a living

ripper = great

shark biscuit = someone new surfing

liquid laugh = vomit/throw-up

not worth a Zack = not worth a darn

I’ll be stuffed = I am surprised

durry = cigarette

icy pole = popsicle

ute = pick-u truck

mystery bag = sausage

January 15, 2016 I left Brisbane, AUS and the YHA hostel at 5 a.m.; I walked to the Roma bus terminal and got on the Skytrain to the international airport. The place was quiet except for two other travelers and a late shift person getting off work. I got there with more time than I had imagined, but a least I didn’t have to wait in a security line and was able to get some shut-eye in the terminal. I was supposed to fly on Air Zealand, but their partner airline with Virgin took me instead. The plane was your typical flight with the one difference being the food was better than average. I had egg frittata with potatoes. The other difference is you have to pay for a Coke; I chose the healthier and free option, bottled water. The other advantage in flying to NZ is that I lose two hours in time and the weather will be considerably cooler compared to 35 Celsius. Security went quickly and was off in less than 30 minutes. The one thing I must admit that NZ and AUS take very seriously is what people bring into the country. There are very strict guidelines on food, seeds, plants, pornography, etc. For ex., if you bring in an apple into NZ and don’t claim it, you will have to pay a $400 fine! There are amazing stories to be had and even a TV show for viewer entertainment to see the lengths people will go through to bring in contraband. The first thing I witnessed was the temperature change compared to Brisbane. I am glad that I kept my Patagonia jacket and didn’t send it along with my camping gear. I am also glad I sent the tent and sleeping bag back to the USA, because I would have had to claim it as a potential “environmental hazard” and have to be tested for any diseases and potential plant material and animals. The other notation was the devastation of the February 2011 earthquake. The city lost 185 lives, historical buildings collapsed, landslides developed and a tsunami formed. The city still is in major recovery. Buildings are left empty, government structures and churches are being rebuilt, shopping storefronts are vacant, etc. I have never visited a place in this much disrepair; it feels almost like a bomb went off. The one blessing is that you can see the city slowly emerging from the rubble. A sign of progress are cranes and road building. The Māori name for Christchurch is Ōtautahi ("the place of Tautahi"). This was originally the name of a specific site by the Avon River near present-day Kilmore Street and the Christchurch Central Fire Station. The site was a seasonal dwelling of Ngāi Tahu chief Te Potiki Tautahi. There is much to learn. I look forward to seeing what kind of mischief I can get into this next 6 weeks. ********************* One thing I have yet to get used to is looking in what direction the cars are coming before I cross the street. I am so accustomed to how I do it in the USA. I find myself looking, looking again and then one last time before I know I am not going to god smacked in the middle of the street when looking rigth when I should have looked left. Old habits are hard die, but this is one that I need to get a grip on. The other thing I still find challenging is trying to bend my ear to the Aussie accent. For ex. They say dick not deck—it’s on my dick! And I am like…what? As I giggle my way to the BBQ grill. The other day I saw a young woman trying to find her way. I asked if I could be of assistance. I thought she said she was looking Bees Camp, a hostel. I scratched my head, and I told her that I had not seen a hostel by that name. I reiterated what she said, Bees Camp. She said yes that was it. I insisted she may have had the name wrong. She said her Smartphone said it was less than a minute away, and then she proceeded to spell the name out. It was not Bees Camp but Base Camp. I knew exactly where she needed to go—down the street to the opposite corner. We had a good laugh. Kiwi words/phrases learned: Boy-racer = guy in a car with very loud music blaring from his speakers hoon = young person with fast car, loud speakers who may have been drinking judder bar = speed bump plod = friendly term for a police officer jandal = flip flops Pukaru = something that is broken cark it = someone who is dead; kick the bucket lemonade = 7Up, the soft drink lorry = truck nandy = grandpa AUS $ spent: 232.11 – Air New Zealand flight from AUS to NZ NZ $ spent: exchanged $346 AUS to NZ with 10.00 fee = $339.85 8.00 – bus ticket from airport to central bus station 430.00 – 10 nights at YHA, Christchurch 15.00 – small combo lock 29.62 – groceries (lettuce, bread rolls, vinaigrette, dozen eggs, 2 packs of cookies, salami, feta cheese, bag of tomatoes January 16, 2016 - Christchurch

Where there is destruction there is creation. This is evident in Christchurch, New Zealand. Each street and corner there are buildings that are crumbling, once magnificent now decaying and soon evolving into rebirth. I feel like I am walking clean streets of a war zone. And with all things ugly there is beauty beneath the skin of torn plaster, collapsing roofs, weather beaten beams and smashed windows. A new city is merging in front of my very eyes. And despite the hardship and urban decay, something more beautiful rises from the ashes. Chain link fences and plastic keeps gawkers and junk hawkers away from the inside as we peer into crevices and memories of what the city once held dear. Art comes from chaos, and Christchurch this rings true. Catastrophe beckons opportunity. On brick walls, street corners and door stoops emerges something special as artists and creative types borrow from the castaways while creating mementos of ponder. It is evident in the art that I see scattered around the city. This is opportunity; this is hope for a better tomorrow. The Christchurch Cathedral (Anglican) is in the heart of the collapse. It has suffered repeated earthquakes since the 1880s to the most major destruction in 2011—wall, floor, windows, etc. It is tragic indeed. As a resting place a “cardboard cathedral” was erected several blocks away and has been in operation since 2013. It was placed on land given by the St. John the Baptist Church with the understanding that they can use the space and will be given the “cardboard cathedral” when the Anglican Church is completed in its former site. The building was created by architect Shigeru Ban—a disaster architect—and it was designed pro bono. It is an A-frame structure that rises 79’ in the air and rests on 86 cardboard tubes, timber and steel with concrete foundation and windows in the A-frame that let in light. Among the controversy of the build was could insurance money be used to build a temporary space as well as what to do with the original building. Lawsuits and chaos developed with a judge siding with the city on the insurance money issue. Let’s just hope that the once former and much celebrated space will be rebuilt to its former glory Aussie words and phrases learned: pike out = to give up when things get tough guts for garters = to be in big trouble ex. I’ll have your guts for garters. rattle your dags = hurry up rubber = eraser hosing down = raining heavily stubby = small bottle of beer Aussie $ spent: 4.25 = chicken, cranberry and brie sandwich

January 17, 2016

Ata Wairere in Maori means reflection glimpsed in a gently moving body of water. Reflection this last month has been inspiring and has given me glimpses of projects and directions I might want to pursue upon my return back to Minnesota. Nothing is constant but change, and it is in change that opportunity rests.

The rain continued today as it did yesterday spitting and misting enough to keep me slightly damp but not drenched enough to call me a wet dog. I pulled my Patagonia from my bag and slipped it on for an extra layer and precaution. No need to be wet and get potentially sick.

I was off in search of the Presbyterian Church that I saw a sign on the road for yesterday and couldn’t find it in my determination. Speaking about my goal at the front desk of the hostel, I was informed that my plight be for naught as it too crumbled in the 2011 earthquake. Most likely the sign I saw was a testament to its once standing at the prominent street corner down from the Cardboard Cathedral. I was told to hop on bus 60 toward Barrington and possibly I would have better luck.I described to the bus driver what I was seeking, and he knew the direction I was going but couldn’t foretell if there was actually a church there or not. So, I paid my fare and was off.

We traveled on and on, and I was eventually the only person on the bus. (It felt like an extra-long chauffeured ride to nowhere.) The amazing thing was the bus driver pulled over and chatted with me about my destination. What did the church look like? What was I after?

He asked if I had a Smartphone, and I told him no. He pulled his out and searched for the Presbyterian Church. There was nothing to be found. He told me to hop out and take my base fare ticket to the other side of the road b/c I could jump on to the next bus going back toward the CBD and wouldn’t have to pay. This was customer service at its finest. I would have never expect to get this kind of first class service in the USA.

Kindess goes a long way. There is truth to the adage that it's easier to draw bees to honey than vinegar. Being gracious and helpful has only benefitted me in my journey. And by being kind, doors open and possibilities take flight. The kindness of strangers goes a long way in helping a traveler find their way, tells the story of a community, and is evident in so many places I have visited. I hope that I can be as helpful to others as others have been to me.

NZ words/phrases learned:

sarnie = sandwich

randy = feeling sexy/horny

sprog - child

shippie = prostitute that works the docks/international ports

scarfie = university student from the south island

NZ $ spent:

3.50 – bus ride

5.00 – Papua blue shell

3.49 – bag of caramel filled candies

5.40 – sushi lunch

January 18, 2016

Approximately 14% of Maoris live on the South Island. The first major tribe to establish this land as home were the Waitaha who were later conquered and assimilated into the Ngati Mamoe in the 16th century. They too were later conquered by the Ngai Tahu, a tribe that originally was from the east coast of the North Island.

In 1848 most of the region was sold to the crown which required that 10 acres of land be given to each tribal member and reserved as sacred. Like many past injustices by White Europeans, this did not occur and less than half was truly given to them. This resulted in significant hardship for the people as they were unable to be self-sufficient.

It was in 1997 that this injustice was addressed with an apology from the crown and a settlement of $170 million was given to the tribe. In addition, the official inclusion of the Maori name to their ancestral land was granted—Aoraki/Mt Cook.  In the rebuilding of Christchurch, signage within governmental building shows names in English and Maori. Maori is now also taught in the schools. While there is a long way to go, this small gesture and reconciliation is a move in the right direction.

Yesterday when I was at the Art Museum in Christchurch, direction signage reflected this. For ex., bathroom was in English and Maori as well as other directional words and spaces. I also appreciated that at the beginning of the Yana Alana performance that I saw last night at the World Buskers Festival, she also spoke about the original inhabitants on whose land that we are now using as our own.


University of Canterbury in Christchurch (Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha in Maori)has seen better days. Historically it is the 2nd oldest university in New Zealand (University of Otago was the first) and founded in 1873; recently however the place has been turbulent. The former campus is in the center of Christchurch and across the street from the botanical gardens and down from Christ’s College (an all-boys preparatory school). The former campus is now home to Canterbury Arts Center which resulted in major damage in the 2011 earthquake and will take 15 years to be back in fully operational condition but plans are underway for a portion of the campus to open in 2016.

In 2004 the university went through restructuring which had mixed results and the emergence of a 5th college (Education). After the 2011 quake, the campus lost over 30% of the student population, faculty were dismissed and the place has yet to be stabilized. In addition 30% of the international student population dropped which resulted in greater turmoil as they pay higher fees than domestic students resulting in a financial hardship for the campus. The university has still to recover in the student loss still down by over 22%.

The university formally ranked in the top 500 universities in the world. In 2015, they were demoted. Staffing has also decreased from over 800 to a little over 700 presently. It must also be noted that even before the earthquake there was faculty and staff unrest. Over 100 jobs were eliminated and some say I had to do with the oversight of administration and academic freedom. This resulted in court cases and the university being sued with close to almost $1 million being paid out to the terminated staff as the court found that they were released without cause. And even more recently there are allegations of institutional racism and sexism. Only time will tell if they will be able to manage out of this saga. At this point in time, I would not recommend any of my students or colleagues to be connected with this university until they can get their house in order. It may take at least a decade or longer.

Maori words/phrases learned:

kia ora = hello, best wishes, congratulations, good luck

ehara koe i a ia = thank you, lucky we have you, thank the heavens you were there

matakuikui =  to be joyful, talkative

January 19, 2016

Whenever I go to a new hostel, I always say a little prayer that there will be a bottom bunk open. A late arrival is almost always guarantee that I will be sleeping on the top. Now, there is nothing wrong with being on top (in fact I prefer it, but we’re not talking love making). It’s the awkward climb up a metal or wood ladder that is precariously attached to the bed.

1, 2, 3 and up I go. I try my best to make some sense of a nest with flat sheet, comforter and pillow. And if I am really lucky, I will have two pillows versus the usual one. (The good thing is most hostels now supply all bedding b/c of bedbugs and other nasty critters.)

Sleeping is never a problem for me—in fact it is quite easy. I am out for the count in less than 5 minutes. And like clockwork, I am down for the night.

The challenge with being on the top bunk is trying to emerge from slumber and making my way back down the ladder to the floor below. I play this topsy-turvy game of will I make the last rung on the ladder. If not, away I go on to the floor and my ego with it.

The first night here in Christchurch I had just the luck of getting the top bunk. And so I put on a happy face for it’s better to be comfy in bed than on a door stoop or in a leaking tent. The following morning is where the entertainment began.

I decided to sleep in to nurse a potential cold I thought was coming on (and good thing it didn’t appear). The other three guys were up and outta of the hostel first thing to catch morning bus rides across the island. I slowly emerged from within my cocoon. I could hear the raindrops hitting the windowsill and slowly streaming down the glass pane; it was time to begin my day and explore the cityscape.

1, 2 and then…PLOP I went. There was no saving me, gravity took over and away I went head over heels onto the floor. Giggling and cursing simultaneously, I had to do a double take to insure that there even was a last rung. And like all bunk beds in the modern world there definitely was a last rung; I just missed it by a few inches. So I dusted my self-confidence off the ground, and half-cocked, I rose to begin my day.

I decided right then and there to take my flat sheet, pillows, and comforter to the lower bunk. No one else was here in my room as they all skedaddled first thing, and there would be no one else for a while to come. I was going to be the king of my room because I was going to be there the longest of any other potential roomie. Ten days is a long time coming, and I was going to be rested without having to break a hip in the process. Every night and morning since, I can plop down and call myself home, safely in bed.


Mornings are always interesting in a hostel. There are always early risers that have to catch busses, trains, taxis, and planes. They are the first to hit the showers and kitchen and often times seem to forget that that there are others who are also hostel guests. Voice volume and laughter is louder than it needs to be, not forgetting to mention the slamming of doors and turning on of lights. (I would be fine if it were 9:00 in the morning, but I would not call that early rising. Early departures begin at around 4:30 a.m. and go until civilized morning hours resume.)

These pet peeves rile me. Now if it is a small error I always give grace a chance, but when the same door slams repeatedly again, and again, and again I want to grab the offender by the shoulders and mimic to them what things could be like if they would just observe how their choices are affecting the rest of us. It truly is mindboggling.

It reminds me of when I was a boy. We are a family of seven children, and without a doubt our family presence is always felt. It wouldn’t take long for mother to remind us to use our “inside voice”. Like clockwork we would check ourselves and then self-police one another should rough play get out of hand.

Inside voice is something I will always carry with me. Even just yesterday when I was at the Christchurch Museum and the young lads were running about like they were in a playground and jumping down the stairs onto the landing and squealing at every imaginable pitch, I wanted to say inside voice. Their mother was just around the corner and just as I was going to say something (because it takes village to raise a child), she quickly got them into line as they hustled into the exhibition space. (Mothers are powerful beings.)

Kiwi words/phrases learned: handle = pint of beer pong = foul smell flannel = washcloth bach = beach house or holiday home, cabin lolly = candy, no matter the type cowspanker = farmer pikelet = small pancake with jam dairy = corner store cadge = borrow something Maori words learned: aroha = love Money spent: $58 – three tickets to the World Buskers Festival (Buskers Burlesque, Yana Alana, and Puppet Fiction) $20.13 - groceries (2 packets of mint cookies, tortellini, Scottish rolls, organic basil, organic lettuce, oganic sparkling cranberry juice $6.98 - 2 bags of caramel candies

January 20, 2016

The words of Martin Luther King, JR. (MLK) ring in my ears, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed”. I think about this as the USA commemorates this remarkable man, and when I think of my time here in Australia and New Zealand working with indigenous communities.

It is too often the case when the majority enslaves a minority. It is the majority that writes the text, builds the statues in the parks, and writes the theme song. Too often this is done on the backs of minorities while discounting their contribution—often times their lives, their land, their dignity. I wish the majority would live more gently on the planet and not bully their way into history books.

I think about this with the Black Lives Matter movement-- voices that are tired of being oppressed, forgotten, and discounted as menial. I think about this in the women movements, social justice for LGBT people, the sweatshop worker, the prostitute, Muslims, etc. “Undesirables” become the scapegoat for most of the ill in the world. Rather than pointing a finger, let us not forget that three others are pointing back at us.

Why is it we as people so often permit the rich and powerful rule? Why do sheeple believe lies and not seek out truth? Are the middle and lower-class so calmed by how large their televisions are and the price of 99 cent burgers that injustice is forgotten? All the while when the minority view does rise and voice their anger, they are castoff as other and quickly discounted as extremists if not terrorists--while the powerful hire heavy hitters to push them aside, squash the opposition and have callous disregard for the commoner. It is this dissenting view that must be listened to because it is a sign that things have gone to far.

My friend Dale Penn recently discussed this idea. He said the statement "Black Lives Matter" has led to the confusing "All Lives Matter" rebuttal. The parallel he wished to draw was the concept of "Gay Pride." "Straight Pride" parades, although not as prevalent, have been held in protest. Here's the deal, civil rights causes are intended to address systemic issues that have a disproportionate negative effect on the lives of one group of people. It's that simple.

Straight pride parades would be an appropriate response to centuries of straight people being told they are "less than" and even evil because they are straight. To my knowledge, in the United States, this hasn't happened on a wholesale basis. Turn on the TV any afternoon and you'll see soap operas verging on straight soft porn. They are the majority. They automatically get preferential treatment - it's part of the zeitgeist of our time. Good for them!

Gay Pride parades go over the top on purpose to make the point that we won't start hiding who we are again. It's intended to shock those who need to be shocked, and to have a good time while doing it. Heterosexuals have their family festivals, we have ours. They dress up in crazy costumes and do silly dances, and so do we! We're claiming without apology that we are not ashamed of being "homosexual" (or Bi, Trans, queer, questioning and everything in between) and those who wish us to go back in the closet aren't succeeding. Together with our growing numbers of straight allies, we will continue to be in your face until we achieve equality - still a long road ahead for this parade I fear. We can't make them respect us, but all people deserve respect anyhow, right?

"All Lives Matter" of course. Most everyone except the most cynical nihilist or sociopath agrees so using this statement to belittle the "Black Lives Matter" movement shows a serious misunderstanding.It is hardly news that black and brown people in the United States (and most places in the world) have suffered centuries of discrimination. There are those who say "Get over it, you have a President in the White House." Well, unfortunately that one change didn't eliminate the hatred and racial biases in our society toward people of color.

"Black Lives Matter" is an in your face demand for justice in the face of blatant injustices. Black and brown people start out with a much steeper hill to climb to prove they are worthy of jobs, houses and basic human rights than their white counterparts. This is not news, this is fact! That there is now an overabundance of evidence that they are killed by police officers and imprisoned at a much higher rate than white people isn't at issue - facts are facts. These facts raise the stakes and deserve to be addressed fairly and impartially. That is not happening.

Some will point to black on black crime statistics and say, "well they bring it upon themselves." Others will jump to the defense of the police and defend the impossibly difficult job they do every day - how dare anyone attack the police! (Or as the old ACT-UP slogan went, ACT-UP fight back!) While these issues also need to be addressed, they are purposeful distractions from the "Black Lives Matter" movement. Perhaps they are related issues, but they don't address the root problem of systematic discrimination against people of color.

So if you still don't get why "Black Lives Matter" is an important, legitimate movement and is in no way saying white lives don't matter - that's too bad, but you've had a lifetime of training to develop your bias. If heterosexuals don't understand why "homosexuals" feel the need to have flamboyant parades and continue to be "in your face" even after we are finally allowed to legally marry, you're in good company. Many of your straight friends probably don't understand either. Your TV stations and radio stations of choice, and even your ministers, likely reinforce your point of view all of the time. Every day is a straight pride parade in this nation. Evolution takes time. We are a gentle loving people; we'll keep encouraging you to catch up.

In the words of MLK: "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."

Maori words learned:

aroha = love

kino = hate

Kiwi words learned:

jandals = flip flops

jelly = jello

chocka = to be full—for ex. The bus this morning was chocka after work today.

squizz = take a look –for ex. Let me take a squizz.

skint = to be broke or poor

hot chips = french fries

togs = swimsuit

tramping = hiking

January 21, 2016

Yes, I am in love. The possibilities of where roads may lead find me seeking you out in the strangest of places—libraries, bookstores and the internet, at the fire hearth and campfires of well-rehearsed stories, in history and poetry and the occasion film reel, and time-honored memories of other's love lost. Bitten, I cannot escape you. I yearn for you. I close my eyes and can see you so clearly; you are limitless and you know it—across the void, the deep sea, valleys and shires, or if I dare say even across our own Milky Way? Even when I think I have had enough, it takes but a glimpse or a reminder of our past that I seek you out again and again.

I never knew such joy until I found you. The opportunities of exploration I find more enticing each time I think I know you, only to discover you have yet another secret to share. I hold my breath for you. At night I dream of you, and when I wake I am ready to chase you around the block and back again. I am a school boy turning the pages of a well-read book and want to read you cover to cover as I wait for the next trilogy to appear. I hold you close and breathe you in, and when you are not there I only have to close my eyes and see you so clearly. I reach out and taste your fruit, smell the richness of your perfume, and hear the melody of birds, rivers, and songs never sung for others to hear. I am touched as I will always remain true. And so I spread my wings and plan for my next adventure with you by my side, my sweet love of travel.


The trees in New Zealand are majestic. At one time they spread across the country and with European settlement most were cut for timber--homes and ship building. Every once in a while you will see one with limbs outstretched to the heavens. It is glorious indeed. Roots firmly planted, they hold the earth in her clutches. Shifting and swaying with the wind and earthquakes, they tell a story of a nation.

What I find absolutely mesmerizing is the way the branches reach outward covering a span larger than most houses. Their bark rich in color and variety makes you want to hug them and hold on fast because their time here is longer than most people on the planet. Just as I think I will see nothing more impressive, I turn a corner and confronted with something grander than before. It is truly incredible.

I snap pictures with the intention of trying to capture their magnificence, but they do not do them justice. They cannot hold the frame in which they are held by a snap shot. They are greater than what I have to show evidence of their grandeur. I will never forget these stupendous specimens. The words of Joyce Kilmer resonate to me. I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed Against the earth's sweet flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.

New Zealand was the last major land mass settled by humans. This created opportunity for anthropological investigation of fossils, grains, and seeds. When the Maori arrived over 1,000 years ago the majority of the content was covered in trees except for the highest elevations and volcanic regions. By 1840 forests were cut from 85% to 56% mainly because of European settlement—and today it is considerably less. It wasn’t until the 1970s when conservation interests began to take shape to save what was remaining.

January 22, 2016

What to do when a natural disaster destroys your city center with 80% of its buildings having to be knocked down b/c infrastructure is not safe? This creates an opportunity for a community to come together and create something special. What is even more challenging is when the city historically has been known as “The Garden City” and urban sprawl is occurring. My mind races with possibilities—green roofs, public permaculture, alternative energy, grey water collection, mass transit, bike and pedestrian spaces, public art, alternative housing, etc. This unique opportunity seems to have fallen blindly away from Christchurch leadership with too much focus on foreign investment and decisions taking place in the hands of a few.

Rebuilding is not a quick 5 year project but one that will last for the next quarter-century. Buildings are going up that are seismic ready, but I am not witnessing any other innovations. It seems like they are doing the same ol, same ‘ol –buildings going up quickly and not including the community voice in creating something vibrant and special that will last another 150 years. This is disheartening.

Christchurch is in a special position to be a world leader in design and planning for a city of the future. There is talk of moving the concept from the past as “garden city” to a “city within a garden”. I love it! However, I do not think it has taken effect as roads are being widen (more automobiles, less green space) versus planning for a future with limited automobile access and more communal spaces that require walking, biking, and public transportation. Its past history as a garden city was revolutionary at the time (1850s), but its original origins have fallen aside to quick fixes versus the opportunity to be a green city of the future. NZ $ Spent: 7.00 - lamb dumplings (6)

January 23, 2016 I tend to be one on the move--go go get 'em, doer, mover and a shaker, Speedy Gonzales. Today I am proud to say that I did absolutely NOTHING of true importance other than love myself by going to the sauna and pampering myself truly for 4 hours; that's right 4 hours. I started with a whirlpool bath and then moved to a hot sauna and then a steam sauna--back and forth, back and forth. I feel squeaky clean and relaxed. The 30 minute stroll home was delightful as overcast skies kept the sun away which was a true joy b/c the journey over this morning I took a side turn and it took over an hour to find the place. I am settling in with dinner: a fresh organic salad, vinaigrette, tomatoes, basil, cheese with herbs, and avocado as well as pasta with pesto and a steamed bun. I am going to sleep well tonight. I have enjoyed Christchurch, but I was here too long. I could have done it in 6 days versus 10 while also completing volunteer work with the World's Buskers Festival, seeing the University of Canterbury as well as local sites. If I return one day, I look forward to seeing how the city was transformed post earthquake 2011.

Tomorrow is a day of laundry and preparations for Dunedin. NZ $ spent: $25 - sauna

January 24, 2016

In 1837 New Zealand imported possums to establish a fur trade. The animal has become a national nuisance since. Originally from the Australia bush (Australian Common Bush Tail Possum), it is not an animal that harmed the environment there; however, in New Zealand it is another story. Forests are their major habitat, especially hardwood mixed forests, where possum densities are particularly high. Forest/pasture margins are also known to support very dense populations. While possums feed mainly on leaves, they are also known to take buds and flowers, fruits, ferns, bark, fungi, invertebrates, native birds and eggs, land snails and carrion (dead flesh of other animals). It is estimated the country is devastated with over 30 million of them!

The damage to native forests can be seen in many areas across the country. Possums ignore old leaves and select the best new growth. In some areas they have eaten whole canopies of rata, totara, titoki, kowhai and kohekohe. This is devastating to a country that already has lost many trees to human deforestation.

Possums compete with native birds for habitat and for food such as insects and berries. They also disturb nesting birds, eat their eggs and chicks and may impact native land snails. Dairy and deer farmers have the added worry of possums spreading bovine tuberculosis. 21,000 tons of vegetation are demolished by possums each night and native bird life is being driven to the point of extinction. (Can you imagine what Wiki would say about the human race and what we have done to the planet?)

These possums are different from the ones we know in the United States. Both are marsupials, but that’s about it. Other than that, they are not related. We can blame the whole scenario on Capt. Cook, the same man who falsely stated that he “discovered” Australia. Cook’s botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, who named the Australian animal a possum because it “looked like” the American possum. Cook put his seal of approval on it and the rest is history—myth at its best. (Luckily, Cook and his posse didn’t travel north, otherwise Aussie crocs would be called alligators.) The Aussie possum is at least cute and cuddly (looks a little like Stitch), while the American possum is scary looking with pointy teeth and nose like a rat.

Where does this all take me with today? I bought a pair of merino wool and possum fiber mittens. They are very warm and soft to the touch. Possum merino is a blend of the finest merino wool and soft New Zealand possum fur, which is 35% warmer than cashmere (while still retaining that silky softness) and 50% warmer than merino alone.

Possum fur is so warm it doesn’t freeze - the only fur other than polar bear fur that can boast such an attribute! Its hollow structure is to thank for this, a feature which, like merino, also traps warmth to keep you toasty, making it one of the best insulating fibers in the world.  Possum merino is also incredibly versatile, keeping you warm in the winter and even continuing to create heat when wet, yet its breathability means that it functions well in warmer weather too. Perfect for a cold Minnesota winter!

The hollow nature of possum fur and super-fine merino wool makes possum merino 14% lighter than wool, a figure which gives it the distinction of being one of the most lightweight natural fiber fabrics in the world. It is also incredibly soft, hugging the skin without itching or irritating. Let’s see what else I might find along my adventure that I might consider purchasing. The mittens are perfect because they don’t take too much room in my backpack.

NZ $ Spent: $6.80 – lunch $35.00 – merino and possum mittens

January 25, 2016 - Dunedin

I slept terribly last night because I had this fear that I was going to miss my morning bus. I swear, every hour to 45 minutes I would wake and check my watch. I knew deep down inside I was not going miss it either because I left the window curtains open knowing that the sun would instantly get me up and running. But no, even that did not psych my psyche. Again and again—toss, turn, check my watch, and turn again. I felt like I was roasting marshmallows. Egads!...8 hours worth.

So, when 4:45 a.m. came around I said to myself enough of this up down turn around stuff, I was going to get up and get my day even if that meant getting to the bus location 2.5 hours early. There is no calling me late to supper—or breakfast in this case.

I got an amazing deal on my ticket on Naked Bus--$1. That is right, and with the exchange rate that is less that one green back. Though with handling fees and the like and the total came to $5.99NZ = $4USA! What they didn’t tell me was that the backpack would cost extra. Did I see it posted on the website, no. Was there mention of it at checkout, no. But low and behold when I went to check in the driver said that because I did not register for in on-line it was going to cost me $15NZ/$10USA. I asked her where was it posted; she said the site is “funny” and my reply not funny if it’s me having to pay at the bus. She said that if I got it on-line it would have only been $5. Now I am going to see if InterCity Bus does the same thing or not.

Oh well, lessons learned in the end it still came out cheaper than if I had not gotten the first ticket. You see, the early bid gets the worm. I bought my ticket in November. There is always one seat for $1 and yours truly got it—WINNING! The normal cast with backpack would have cosrt 40 some NZ dollars.

I went in and out of sleep on the bus. Not because I was bored but because I was so desperately need of some shut eye and because I literally fell asleep counting sheep. The countryside is filled with sheep! Every hill, dale, and shire is covered. And like the Count on Sesame Street I was like, “One, hahaha, two hahaha, three hahaha”…all the way until my eyes got heavy and lids closed.


Arriving to Dunedin at 2 p.m. and packed my things north up to the Octagon and down the lane to On Top Backpackers. It was a jaunt that was just the right amount of length before the weight of backpack would need to be readjusted.

I noted that I lost one of the clips to the bag that keeps the sleeping bag taunt and kind of bummed. I will have to make due until I get back to the USA. I hope Gregory packs will send a new one?

It looks like the 6 person space I am dorming in is going to be filled with women. I am not sure if this is a blessing or a curse yet. So far I can tell that they are not very tidy as their things are strewn all over the space. (I tend to be Tidy Tim.) The room is $27NZ/nite with breakfast included. I am not sure what that entails, only time will tell. It also includes 300mb of internet daily usage which sounds like a lot but actually isn’t. In this day and age it should be unlimited. Currently I am across the street at the public library that has FREE internet 24/7! –WINNING—(If that wasn’t going to win I also fond Wi-Fi at McDonald's and the mall down the street.)

As soon as I arrived, I put my pack under the bunk and was off with camera to see churches. They close at 4 p.m. and wanted to get as much in as I could. I had nine total items I wanted to definitely see in Dunedin and this afternoon I was able to accomplish four of them—Dunedin Railway Station, First Church of Otago, St. Paul’s Cathedral and St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Tomorrow, I plan to visit the historical Olveston home, Knox Church, and the University of Otago.


Dunedin is the 2nd largest city on the South Island. It was the largest city in New Zealand until the 1900s. (It is slightly smaller than the Rhode Island in the USA.) Education is one of the city’s major industries accounting for over 20% of the population is students. It was settled by Maoris in 1300 and European settlers came in 1848. There are over 125,000 people living here, but it feels larger than it is. It also has past history of whaling in its past which created feuds with the Maori and the settlers. The other thing that is exciting for Dunedin is that it is the only place in the world with a mainland albatross community; if I have tie I my go visit. It is also famous in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the steepest street in the world.

NZ $ spent:

$15 – backpack for under the Naked Bus (buy beforehand and the charge would have been $5)

$4.5 – steak and cheese pie for lunch at bus stop

$135 – 5 nights in 6 person dorm at On Top Backpackers

$12.66 – groceries (2 Braeburn apples, toffee cookies, 2 slices of fresh roast beef, croissant 4 pack, caramel filled chocolate

January 26, 2016 - Dunedin Dunedin is best known for the Royal albatross and the Yellow-eyed penguin. Surprisingly since the 1980s more than 31 additional species have been named. (There are actually more than that but the remaining have yet to be named.) Of the total numbers, 31 are endemic to the area. Nowhere else on Earth do they occur. It is expected that this list will only grow. The Royal albatross or Toroa is among the largest of all seabirds with a wingspan of 9 feet (3 meters). More than 80% of their lives is spent at sea! In 1938, when the first chick in modern times flew here there were three breeding pairs; now there are about 25. The total population is approximately 100. The Royals are long-lived and slow to reproduce. They breed when they are between 8 to 10 years old, and if successful, will raise one chick every second year. Between chicks, they “holiday” at sea. Both parents feed the chick as well as guarded. When the chick takes to flight, it will spend the first three years at sea before returning to the colony. The Yellow-eyed penguin or Hoiho is also famous here in Dunedin. They do not migrate and are shy nesters. (Most of the 18 penguin species on Earth nest in the open, they hide in vegetation.) They tend to mate with their partner from the previous season. They give two eggs in September and have a six week incubation period. They are dubbed as the rarest of all penguin species on the planet.

Another bird that has been a hallmark in the past is the black swan. In 1993 their population from between 300-400 plummeted to 10! It was found that it had to do with the algae bloom in the lagoon. While not native to the area, they were introduced in Dunedin in the 1860s as a game bird from Australia.


Today is rainy and cold. Yuck! It looks like conditions will persist during my entire time here in Dunedin. This not only means damp conditions but also fog that has rolled into the hills and down the sea coast leaving views barely visible. I will have to put on an addition layer or two after the kids in the dorm wake.

The good thing about youth is they tend to sleep in which means I have the morning to myself with quiet, clean shower, and time to write. I waited for breakfast at the hostel only to be unimpressed—bread, butter, jam, coffee and tea. Beggars can’t be choosers and had three slices of toast with raspberry jelly. I plan to also wait around because check-out is at 10 a.m. and three of my bunkmates are leaving which will result in a lower berth. I plan to snag the one by the door as soon as they clear out. They said they plan to pack up early, but I sincerely doubt it because I know they slept in yesterday and spent most of the day hanging in the room versus seeing any of the town. Tick, tock, tick, tock--the time can’t come soon enough.


I walked to Olveston House the long way (got lost) and missed the mid-morning tour. The next one is not until afternoon, and I was not going to wait in the rain and pass the day—wet and soaked. (We will what tomorrow bring?) So, I made my way to the Knox Church. The church is Presbyterian with a great façade in stone. The interior is simple with balcony, a few stained glass windows (but those that are there are fabulous), but the real winner is the roof line. Fortunate for me, I settled in when I heard the organist rehearsing. I was able to get a free concert (rehearsal) in and waited for some of the downpour to pass before heading to University of Otago.

University of Otago (Maori: 'Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo') is the oldest university in New Zealand. It is a public university with 21,000 students (15,600 undergrad). It was also the first university in Australasia to allow women to receive a law degree. The university has ten libraries of which 7 are on the Dunedin campus. It was founded in 1869. They have active student clubs and organizations with buildings that the students own. NZ $ spent: $1 – locker at Otago Art Museum for backpack and umbrella $8.00 – Mediterranean salad at museum $3.00 – blue striped 100% cotton shirt with French cuffs from thrift store $4.00 – serpent ring from thrift store

January 27, 2016 - Dunedin

Rain and chill brought me to morning as cool air tugged at my toes and I wrapped my comforter close. As I slowly went from sleep to newness, dreams kept me in both worlds as I danced with Bear—my hands sliding down his furry chest.  It was good to have him there, if not in the flesh as least in my thoughts. I think of him often, and despite the distance and 8 years hence, it feels like yesterday. If it weren’t for the miles and job opportunities, I know we would be together. Such is the way of the world.

My entire time here in Dunedin is going to be swept up with overcast skies and inclement weather. I am able to tuck myself out of her grasp between churches and museum visits. At least I am not soaked through as that would make for unhappy travels, discomfort and oncoming poor health. Blessings can be small and have such reward.

I wanted to visit the castle, but it is not accessible by bus transportation. I could always get there by tour but can’t justify the $99 expense—especially when I feel I am being managed with no time to wonder the grounds on my own versus being shuttled through rooms on a strict timetable. And so I sigh and cast it off as no worries.

I do however plan to return to the University of Otago. I missed the clock tower and surround cast in stone. I saw an impressive picture and want to capture one for myself. It is a stately building that resembles the other stone structures in the city. I will also plan to locate the Intercity Bus terminal as I will need to get there for my next excursion in three days.


The jaunt to the bus is not as bad as I had envisioned. At least it is going downhill for most of the trek. It should take about 20+ minutes to get there and knowing me that will be no problem as I tend to be early versus a moment late.

While in the vicinity, I continued to walk up the road dodging trucks and puddles to the University of Otago. I winded through the streets and located the original part of the campus with its impressive stone façade along the river. The older buildings are located behind—geology, physics, theatre, etc. Some of them have out grown their original use and not keen over by student services—financial aid, registration, etc.

I popped in to the front of the building hoping to get a glimpse inside and see the larger room with vaulted ceiling but was told that I was unable to when speaking with reception. She was an engaging presence at the counter and gave me other suggestions I might want to investigate. One in particular was how to get to the botanical garden by cutting through the neighborhood versus having to take the long way around. She drew out a detailed map, and I was able to meander my way through the streets and down the lane to an opening across the for bridge. Perfection!

I will say one great thing about the British settlers that continues today is their love of gardens. In every town I have visited here in New Zealand there is a garden. Not just the ones at home but a larger botanical garden to be enjoyed by all the city residents and visitors. Some are grander than others. They hold flower collections as well as an array of flora and fauna. They are all marked with scientific names and also bits of information about the specimen. Some gardens also have fountains, parks for children, butterfly gardens, conifer gardens, Italianate gardens, as well as hot houses and aviaries.

What I also admire is the way the gardens also speak to the original inhabitants of the land. They acknowledge their contribution as well as use the Maori language in signage and information.

Another way to continue to honor new arrivals to the community, the city has encouraged them to have a place in the gardens. For example, there is a large Lebanese population in Dunedin. There is a special place in the garden speaking about their arrival to the city as well as cedar trees from their country. There is also a cedar cone sculpture that the community has given to the garden. The same concept is repeated with the Italians and Africans with special sections in the garden.

NZ words/phrases learned:

give it heaps = try your best

Mr. Whippy = neighborhood ice cream truck

Janola = name of household bleach (like Tide in the USA)

Maori roast = fish and chips or fastfood

jelly tip = chocolate covered ice cream with a raspberry jelly tip

munted = damaged beyond repair-- ex., his car was munted when hit.

growling = to tell on someone, to nark

manus = idiot

mince = chopped meat (mince pie)

NZ $ Spent:

$13.96 – groceries (chicken salad sandwich, cherries, 2 packages of caramel cookies)

February 28, 2016

Enough with the rain already. I can’t see the rolling hills that venture to the sea; clouds have masked them and the outcroppings of what rests beyond.

My fingers are chilly as well as my toes. At least I am not sopping wet, like a fur seal lion on the Otago coast. I dodge raindrops, sprinkles, and mist. Thunder and lightning are not on the menu.

I am tempted this afternoon to go to the sauna with my university ID ($16NZ entrance fee with ID versus $25NZ w/o) so I can warm up. It’s on the second floor of a building on Stuart just two blocks away from the hostel and one block from the cathedral.

This evening there is music at St. Paul’s Cathedral at 6 p.m. You can’t beat free on a shoestring budget.


The sauna was not as nice as the one in Christchurch. It is showing its age and a bit rough around the edges—it’s very late 1980s/early 1990s in a building that was built in the early 1900s. The walls are brightly painted in bright blue and candy apple red with rugs that are tattered. The place is clean but worn. No complaints from me though as the hot sauna and Jacuzzi felt good on my skin. My nails are now extra clean and soon time for clipping. (One thing I am looking forward to in Malaysia is going to a salon for a nice mani/pedi. Prices here in developed countries can be a bit stiff.)

I was at the sauna for four hours, and no major planning on my part, as I was walking back to the hostel I saw that a cathedral door at St. Paul’s was open. (They normally close at 4 p.m.) When I popped over this afternoon and spoke to the greeter I inquired about the Thursday evening of song that I saw posted on the church sign on the corner. I was informed that over the summer it did not occur. Lucky for me, I took an open door as a sign of a greeter’s error.

I scurried up the stairs. Services started at 6 p.m. and it was seven minutes after. I could hear music just beyond. Walking through the main entrance and interior subset doors, I gently pushed it open.

There were six other visitors already in the pews up front. I settled in the back with my water bottle and red umbrella; I didn’t want to draw any additional attention to my late arrival. There were more people in the choir than were in the seats.

The 22 person choir chanted and filled the vaulted space with song. I breathed in deeply. The sauna had cleaned out my sinus, and I was alive with the spirit of the Creator. This was the perfect post-sauna experience. I was at peace. I closed my eyes and reflected on my many blessings.

Looking up, I studied the multi-colored, kaleidoscope windows. Stories of Jesus and the apostles were set in rich hues of blood orange, azure, aquamarine and marigold. The setting sun intensified them.

The sanctuary was lit in candle light where the choir sang and radiated against their faces. Two additional large candles about a meter and a half tall flanked the chancel. Overhead the choir, lights were dimmed and the remainder of the church was cast in shadows of stained glass.

Pews were smooth from over the decades of congregants rising and sitting. They could easily hold 500 people. No hymnals were present but a kneeling bench was set as part of the pew. I sat deeply into the chair and settled in for the hour.

The minister reminded us that this week marked the 71th anniversary of Auschwitz, the Nazi camp were approximately 1.1 million people were slaughtered of which 90% were Jews. He reminded us that we must be better than our past. He spoke about tyranny and oppression.

Tyranny and oppression. These two words are what frighten me most about misguided Donald Trump. He stands steadfast in his ideology. Give the man a little following, he thinks he is untouchable. I can only hope that fair minded Republicans do not fall into his snarled trap. He does not stand for my United States. He is not a unifier; he is a divider. Twisted and egotistical, he casts others that are different from himself as evil. America beware. He is not to be trusted. You do not want this man to represent our nation--though sadly he is what others see as "America" from across the globe. I wouldn't put him in the same rank as a Nazi (afterall his daughter is married to a Jew too bad she wasn't married to a Muslim), but I believe he is a fascist. The sheeple follow, baying in the near distance.

NZ $ spent: $7.95 – lunch $16 – sauna admission

January 29 & 30, 2016 If it weren’t for the inclement weather, I think I would enjoy spending another day or two here in Dunedin. It has definitely put a damper on my time, but it has not limited me in seeing what I could with the time I had. If I were to return I would like to spend time along the coast, see more of the natural habitat, get to the castle and possibly Olveston, as well as spend a few days in Omaru. (Saying good-bye to the Cadbury chocolate factory will be sad, but I have a few bars stored in my backpack for my journey. Good thing is, I can always buy more.) Bringing my days to closure, I was able to get back to St. Paul’s to see more of the windows and listen to the organist rehearse. I will say many of the towns and cities do a GREAT job keeping their doors open so that travelers and tourists are able to see the churches. It is rare to have that opportunity in the USA except for Sundays and very large cities (Chicago, New York). Today, Saturday, is a day of waiting. My bus does not leave until 2 p.m., and I have to report there by 1:45 p.m. I will most likely get there by 1 p.m. because I have a ways to walk (1.5 klicks) which means I leave here around 12:30 p.m. It will take around four hours on the bus to get to Queenstown with estimated arrival around 6 p.m.  The good thing is that the rain has ceased and hiking over with my backpack will not be miserable. There is still a chill in the air making for good walking as long as you have a nice layer or two. The drive from Dunedin to Queenstown is lovely. You travel through Central Otago which is rich in history from gold rush pioneers, orchards of apples, peaches, cherries, and nectarines and of course the rows of grape hectares growing New Zealand’s famous pinot noir. You travel through Alexandra, Milton, and Roxburgh as well as the tiny town of Clyde. Driving you pass through the flats to the plateau, through the desert and into the mountains. It is here you see the mighty Clyde Dam and the fantastic, twisting river that goes on for miles. The water is the most amazing teal color with shades of aquamarine. It is the vineyard though that beg you stop and taste the local flavor. If I were driving, I would spend a weekend grape hopping. The vineyards of the Gibbston area and bungy jumpers at the Kawarau River Bridge are interesting distractions towards the end of your journey. It is the alpine resort of Queenstown though that I am after. It is popular in the winter for snow skiing and luge as well as the summer for extreme sports of parasailing, parachuting, mountain biking, white water rafting, and kayaking. Queenstown is also the world capital and home of bungy jumping which I have no plans on doing…ever.

NZ Words/pharases learned: pakeha = non-Maori who is of European descent tyre = tire pipi = an edible shell lamington = sponge cake with thick icing and covered in cococut valet = person who cleans cars (not parks the car) pottle = container in which strawberries are sold vest = undershirt wally = losser, a person who acts the fool NZ $ Spent: $8.40 – lunch (salmon sushi roll and dumplings) $25.99 – Intercity bus ($3.99 booking fee, $22.00 early bird bus ticket) $106.20 – Haka Lodge Queenstown for 5 nights $51.56 – groceries (lemon cream cookies, sundried tomato feta, bottle of New Zealand moscato, Cadbury caramel chocolate, organic mesclun herbs, chili/lime dressing, organic tomatoes, red capsicum, 4 Scottish bread rolls, dozen organic eggs, Italian salami slices from deli 6.00 – lunch (sandwich- organic cornbeef, egg and pickle on multigrain bread with lettuce January 31, 2016 - Queenstown How can you not love a mountain range called The Remarkables? They were named by Alexander Garvie in the mid-1850s. These are the only mountain ranges in the world that move directly north to south. They majestically span the view of Queenstown which is truly “Remarkable” to see. The highest point is 2319 meters (almost 1.5 miles) up with small lakes and lovely vistas. It is a demanding hike with steep terrain, rocks, thick forest and twist and turns. Just to get from the base to the first tier (Tiki Tail) it takes about 1.25 hours and the full hike (Ben Lomond) 8 hours. My legs are begging for love—returning own the mountain they felt like Jello and quivered if I took my breath too long. My right knee is feeling its age. I learned today that the pine trees that are in the mountains, while lovely and breathtaking, are actually not indigenous to the region. They spread like a weed and in some places are out of control. I learned this when during my morning walk it looked like some of them were dying or going through a stage of browning. I was told that forest management sprays canola oil on the bark which affect their growth through a natural process. There is a differentiation between those that are green and those that are not. There is a clear line when looking at the mountains to earmark the division. The wood will then be harvested. Tomorrow I rise at 4:30 a.m. for a four hour trip bus to Milford Sound. I will spend the day exploring the area by boat and will return before the sunsets. It is going to be amazing as I have heard great things about this place. I hope my pictures will be as impressive as what I have been told. Time will tell.

NZ $ spent: $109 – day at Milford Sound includes bus transportation and boat (trip is at 5:45 a.m. tomorrow) $4.50 – 3 scoops of ice cream. This is the first ice cream I have had since December 11, 2015. The scoops were generous; I ate mint chip, chocolate, and mango passion fruit with real fruit. DELICIOUS!

February 1, 2016

Fiordland National Park is the largest of the 14 national parks in New Zealand and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The days of old the glacier cut through the mountains leaving steep cliffs and valleys. There were five ice ages that are known to have come through this region, and there are no words to truly express the parks magnificence.

People come to see Milford Sound, which is a misnomer because it is actually a fiord. (Fjords are formed depressions near the sea that have been scoured by glaciers. Sounds are formed from running liquid water.) It can be seen on a two hour boat excursion. If you go, I would encourage you to use Juicy, as they are owned by the Maori community. Several peaks in the park rise 2,000 meters above sea level (approx. 1.25 miles).

Everywhere you look they peer down on you. They almost don’t seem real. In fact they don’t even seem that tall because they are so gigantic in comparison to everything else to scale. It is when a boat or a plane go past that you see how miniscule the man-made vehicles are that you realize it’s like finding a flea on a camel’s back. The westerly breeze from the Tasman Sea stirred and tossed our vessel in the current. My hair was whipped into a furry as the boat sailed across the turbulent water. The water while I was here was a deep green color versus the amazing blues you see coming to the park from the rivers pouring into it. This is because the sea water and the non-salty water merge, add the tannins from the trees you get a deep jade color.

The last 10 days it had been raining and created more color than usual. When it has not rained in some time, the water becomes an intense deep blue. It rains a lot here too, 7 feet in a year. Fortunately, it was not raining when I was on the water. Sadly though, the over 1,000 waterfalls were not flowing but at least the two major ones gave me a good show for the money.

There is all kinds of animal life here—sea lions, dolphins, and many birds. They also have an amazing bat that they are trying to rescue. The area is specially protected because of the Australian Bush possum, feral cats, and other animals that have put the ecosystem on a tail spin. Good thing is forest management efforts are working. It is here too that the only flightless parrot in the world lives, the kakapo. It was shy while I visited but have seen pictures. Another win for the area is that there was a proposal to dig a tunnel from Queenstown to Milford Sound saving nine hours of driving time. It initially passed the legislature by the Conservatives but was vetoed by the Minister of Conservation who believes this proposal does not serve a UNESCO site well. (Yeah for sanity and the Green party!) There are several popular hikes in the area—Milford and Routeburn. The one that rocks my socks is the Milford. There is a strict quota of people who can tramp there (max of 90 people/day – 40 hikers and 50 guides), and it’s accessible by boat. The walk takes approximately four days to complete. The Routeburn is not as strict with regulations and hits two national parks—Fiordland and Mount Aspiring. They allow camping (Milford does not; they have regulated huts). NZ $ Spent: $4 – laundry wash and dry at the hostel $54 – sterling and pewter artisan bracelet $4.99 – pizza $5.00 – breakfast sandwich $13.90 – groceries (bottle of Moscato and 2 packs of Tim Tam cookies

February 2, 2016

Arrowtown is in the Otago region of the South Island in New Zealand. Historically it was a gold mining town and sits along the Arrow River. It has ebbed and flowed with population since its inception, and in modern times (1960s) dwindled to a community of 200 persons. Today with tourism the areas has been revived with several world class gold courses in the surrounding area. The good thing is by ordinance Arrowtown must retain its historical charm with low lying buildings and architecturally significant structures. This has resulted in a charming village that reminds me of an ol’ West village in the USA.

Like any community there are good things and bad things in its history. In the 1860s the government encouraged Chinese to move here to discover gold. The area’s gold however had been vastly exhausted by the Europeans. The Chinese came though with visions of opportunity.

The Chinese men lived here very simply in rustic stone houses about the size of a modern camping tent. They worked the river and scraped a meager living and many died here. And when the gold literally did not pan out, they subsisted a living my growing and selling vegetables to the Europeans.

The Chinese were isolated and were faced with discrimination and even murdered. Europeans claimed that the Chinese were going to take valuable jobs away, but that was simply not the case. Newspaper accounts show cartoons of racist images aimed at the Chinese and even the Kiwi government that encouraged the Chinese to come under false pretenses called them “chimpanzees”. (It was stated that it was better to have chimpanzees on the land than no one at all.) When they died the Chinese were buried in the local cemetery but excluded from the European burial area. They were placed in two different locations in the cemetery. They came to New Zealand alone, often times lived alone and even in their death were cast off and alone. (I remember hearing siilar stories from Carol Michaels, an American-Indian Cherokee who was my neighbor in the Florida. If members of the tribe were not baptized that couldn't even be buried within the cemetery perimeter.)

In the next century, Chinese back at home wanted to have their family remains returned. Wealthy Chinese provided money for the bones to be exhumed and brought back to China. Sadly, one of the largest voyages of 500 dead fell into a raging storm at sea and the boat sunk. Never to return, home to China or New Zealand. (This story line would make for an interesting, independent film.)

One of the prominent men, Ah Lum, was a Chinese merchant that settled in Arrowtown in the early 1900s. He was a respected leader among the Chinese and Europeans and spoke both languages fluently. He lived in Arrowtown until his death in 1925. The Chinese community then vanished from the area altogether. It was not until 1986 that his store (the only surviving original structure) was resurrected and energy by the local community recreate the old Chinese settlement began.


The New Zealand falcon is a lovely bird. It can be seen in the landscape and along the long views of the river. They are particularly fond of the grape vineyards that span for miles. They effortlessly fly and slim the fields for rodents, possum and other tasty treats. It is the only endemic falcon in the country and the only surviving bird of prey that is endemic in the country. It has been protected since the 1970s and is on the threatened list. Sadly, humans are the cause of the majority of deaths, and that is by electrocution. The birds have flown onto electrical transformer for distribution with on fifth of the population dying in this manner.

NZ $ Spent:

$1 - hot chocolate $30 – round trip bus ticket to Arrowtown

$5.40 – sushi lunch with drink

$11.99 - New Zealand bottle of Moscato

$1.74 – 3 organic apples

$5.00 – ticket for hostel BBQ

February 3, 2016

There are approximately four million people that live in New Zealand and up to a few years ago 60 million sheep. Trading rules changed and farming practices were updated and now there are 30 million sheep. It’s kind of amusing to think that sheep out number people.


There is a Maori myth that a giant roamed Queenstowns, and he stood at the height of 80 meters. He was mean and ferocious. He fell in love with a Maori woman who was the daughter of a tribal chief. One day the giant came and stole her away without her consent or her father’s. The tribal chief, who didn’t want anyone to marry his daughter, came to his senses when he desperately missed her and went into grieving. He exclaimed that any warrior that would bring her back to him would have her hand in marriage. Men from around the island came to her rescue, but the giant when seeing them squashed them with his feet and bare fists. A young man from a distant tribe also set off to release her from the giant’s clutches. He though saw what was happening from the distance and decided to wait. He knew that the warm winds from off the water would put the giant to sleep. Soon after the giant was snoring. The young warrior climbed down from the mountain and saw that the woman was chained to the giant by a magic magical rope. The young warrior tried to cut the rope, but no matter how he struggled he was unsuccessful to release her. The warrior fell in love with this woman as he tried and tried to help, and tears overtook him. As he began to weep, the magic rope began to slowly melt away. He was able to rescue her and brought her back to her people. The warrior was concerned that the giant would return to the tribe and create havoc. So the young man returned to the sleeping giant before he could wake and set the bush around him into flames. The fire rose higher and higher melting the snowcapped mountains around the giant and drowning him. Since that day, the waters of Lake Wakatipu have rested with the outline of the giant sketched into the landscape.

Maori Words/Phrases Learned:

ahora = love

wehi = fear

kaukau = bathroom

hoa = friend

ao = world

wai = water

kore ake he whawhai = no more war

NZ $ Spent:

$1 – hot chocolate

$1 – Slurpee

$10 – tip given for free walking tour

February 4 & 5, 2016

Wellington is the capital city and second most populous urban area of New Zealand, with approximately 400,000 residents. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range. It is known as the cultural center of New Zealand which is evident with its art spread across the city-- dance, theatre, music, buskers, sculpture, film and many cultural festivals. It is lively city with many things to do and one great thing is that many of them are FREE!

Arriving from the South Island to Wellington, I was greeted at the airport with a sign on the tarmac stating this was the middle of Middle Earth. Entering the terminal for flights is Lord of Rings with Gandolph riding a large bird with another bird in pursuit—a grand welcome indeed.

The city bus takes approximately 30 minutes to get to the CBD, pending traffic. It costs roughly $6 USD. Not knowing exactly where I was going and following the excellent direction from the hostel, I took the first corner on Courtenay Street to Blair. Around the corner and down the street the YHA stood. I was whisked though check-in and settled into my room before heading off for a late afternoon of adventure.

I went first to the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, a free space that is very large and takes over a city block on the waterfront. The venue translates to Te Papa and Our Place; "Te Papa Tongarewa--the place of treasures of this land". There majority of the exhibitions are free with special exhibits that cost a few dollars to see. Spaces cover Maori culture, art, sea, as well as flora and fauna and cover six floors.

The one thing I admire is the cross-cultural way they incorporate native and non-native people into the narrative. Over one million visit the museum annually and cost over $300 million NZ dollars tp build. I arrived at the tail-end of their opening (building closes at 6 p.m.) and will have to return. I got a quick peak and look forward to exploring more--especially the Maori.


I woke very early to walk around the shipping terminal to the Beehive (capitol)and cathedral. The day was brisk as the wind almost knocked me over in a gust. I wish I wore another layer but knew the day would warm up in no time...and it did.

The original Anglican Church in Wellington is lovely. It is very small and totally made of wood—even the “nails”. It is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture and made with four different types of wood. It has withstood heavy rains and storms as well as earthquakes. In fact, the winds were so heavy that congregants thought it might topple on them. A flying buttress was added for safe keeping, and it made the world of difference. The church celebrates 150 years of use, and it is currently not used as an active church (however it is consecrated). In fact it almost got torn down, and by the uprising of the residents of the city, it was saved and purchased by the government. YEAH! It is now used as a concert venue and for special events. (Yes, you can still get married here.) Members had out grown the church. It was so packed that families bought pews to have their names put on them to guarantee them a seat. In 1964 they moved into a new space approximately a block away from their original location and across the street from the seat of government, the legislature.

The new church, Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul, began being built in 1955 and reinforced because of earthquakes and done in 1998; it began being used in 1964 as a church. It is made of reinforced concrete and is modern inside. The original chapel is also housed here and moved to this location in 1990.

Maori words learned:

mana = power

whenua = earth

ahi = fire

haere noa = freedom

mātauranga = education

NZ words learned: trolley = grocery cart

NZ $ Spent:

$12.00 - bus from Queenstown to airport

$9.00 - bus from Wellington bus to hostel

$31.97 – groceries (Tim Tam cookies, sushi, chocolate fudge, 2 apples, package of tomatoes, New Zealand Riesling

10.00 – fish and chips (gave half to a homeless Maori youth)

February 6 & 7, 2016

Treaty of Waitangi (Māori: Tiriti o Waitangi) is a document first signed on February 6, 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and various Māori chiefs from the North Island of New Zealand. It resulted in British sovereignty over New Zealand. The Treaty established a British Governor of New Zealand, recognized Māori ownership of their lands and other properties, and gave the Māori the rights of British citizens.

Like many things in history, there are always two sides of a story. The English and Māori versions of the Treaty differed significantly, and with historical perspective past, and living in the present, how does one manage two different perspectives? From the British point of view, the treaty gave Britain sovereignty over New Zealand, and gave the Governor the right to govern the country. Māori believed they ceded to the Crown a right of governance in return for protection, without giving up their authority to manage their own affairs. After the initial signing at Waitangi, copies of the treaty were taken around New Zealand and over the following months many other chiefs signed. In total there are nine copies of the Treaty of Waitangi including the original signed on February 6, 1840. Approximately 530 to 540 Māori, at least 13 of them women, signed the Treaty of Waitangi.

Until the 1970s, the Treaty was generally regarded as having served its purpose in 1840 New Zealand, and was ignored by the courts and parliament alike, although it was usually depicted in New Zealand history and taught in academic classrooms as a generous act on the part of the British Empire. Māori have looked to the Treaty for rights and remedies for land loss and unequal treatment by the state, with mixed success. From the late 1960s Māori began drawing attention to breaches of the Treaty, and subsequent histories have emphasized problems with its translation.

In 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal was established as a permanent commission of inquiry tasked with researching breaches of the Treaty by the British Crown or its agents, and suggesting means of redress. Almost 150 years after the signing of the Treaty, the government tried to give judicial and moral effect to the document by defining another, new version, the "spirit" or "intent" of the treaty through specifying the principles of the Treaty. The move showed that the original document was not a firm foundation for the construction of a State.

Today the Treaty is generally considered the founding document of New Zealand as a nation. Despite this, it is often the subject of heated debate, and much disagreement by both Māori and non-Māori New Zealanders. Many Māori feel that the Crown did not fulfil its obligations under the Treaty, and have presented evidence of this before sittings of the Waitangi Tribunal. Some non-Māori New Zealanders have suggested that Māori may be abusing the Treaty in order to claim special privileges. The Crown, in most cases, is not obliged to act on the recommendations of the Tribunal but nonetheless in many instances has accepted that it breached the Treaty and its principles. Settlements for Treaty breaches to date have consisted of hundreds of millions of dollars of reparations in cash and assets, as well as apologies.

I can’t imagine the United States government doing something similar for the American-Indians…reparations in the form of money, significant land returned and/or a heart-felt apology. American settlers would shake a finger and say that what happened in the past is the past and let it be. (The same would be true for the African-Americans that were stolen from their countries to work the land of the slave owner.) Our own history is tortured and twisted from the telling of history in our museums, classrooms and average conscious.

I admire the Crown and the Maori coming together to address the past and create a better future for all New Zealanders. I applaud their efforts and witness small things that make a difference – recognized language and customs, multi-lingual signage, apology, return of land, etc. Wouldn’t it be interesting if in Mankato the university started putting signage in English and the original inhabitants? It would be controversial, but it is something I think that would be significant in healing our tortured past.

Maori words/phrases learned:

rongo = peace

pia = beer

moana = ocean

rangi = sky

aroha i a koutou = I love you

NZ $ Spent:

$6.97 – groceries (Cadbury chocolate bar with pretzels, 3 spring rolls on sale, 1 apple)

$5.00 – lunch

$25.00 – sauna

$3.56 – groceries (sandwich on sale and one apple)

$2.29 – Danish from grocery

February 8 & 9, 2016

Two young boys sat on the corner of the harbor pilings next to the water crying. No one was coming to their aid. I saw the tears and red swollen eyes from the distance. Walking over I asked if I could be of help. They said they lost their father 1.5 hours ago and did not have any luck locating him. (Passersby kept their distance, but fools rush in to help restore humanity.) I told them I would stay there and help them find him even it took all night. The older of the two boys asked if I had a mobile phone. I told them I did not have one with me, but if he knew his father’s number I would find a phone. He replied that he did know it. I told the boys to follow me to the freight box cars where there were shops, and I would ask for one. Interrupting the sales woman and a couple looking to make a purchase, I asked if they had a phone. The saleswoman was a bit put-off with me for interrupting, and I apologized as this was an emergency and these boy lost their dad and hadn’t been in touch with him for 1.5 hours. She immediately empathized and said she would help. The boys provided her with the number of their dad, and she called him leaving a message. Long story short and two ice cream cones later with tears set aside to laughter, they saw their father in the distance after waiting an hour more. They leapt with joy and thanked me for my help. Their father was overjoyed that the boys were found knowing that that the other parental unit would get an earful when they got home. As the old adage goes…it takes a village.


Victoria University was established in 1897 and has land holdings across Wellington. It is a public university with over 20,000 students (16,000 undergrad). Named after Queen Victoria, the corner stone at the Hunter Building was placed in 1904 after some discussion if the university would open in Wellington or another location. Wellington won out and hence has programs spread throughout the city as well as in Auckland.

Most of the courses are open for any NZ resident with a few exceptions in specialized areas. Its law program is especially highly regarded and ranked 19th in the world. The Student Association was established in 1899. It was compulsory to be a member since its founding and changed in 2012 when fees were no longer mandatory through a vote that was introduced by a member of the Legislature, Heather Roy, called the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment. This amendment basically stated that, “No person is required to pay a membership fee to a student association, or to pay money to any other person as an alternative to paying such a membership fee, unless that person chooses to become or remain a member of that association.” EGADS!

In 1975, the students created a trust of which 15% of their fees were set aside for long term planning. By 2008 over $8 million was set aside and growing. This was forward thinking because after the passage of the 2011 Education Amendment this money has helped pay for the upkeep of the student union and salaries.The effect of the amendment has had has been significant, with the organization’s income dropping from $2.25 million in 2011 to less than $700,000 in 2013. This drop in income has meant that VUWSA has run a deficit in both 2012 and 2013, funded from investment cash reserves.

The law that was passed has also effected student representation on university committees and boards. The loss in funds has also meant that they have removed themselves from the NZ Union of Students’ Associations which has saved them $45,000 in dues. Their recent 2015 referendum vote has made it so that students want to return to have their voice which will continue to deplete the organization of funds.

Historically the organization has been viewed as a left-wing organization that has in the past focused on nuclear concerns, the Vietnam War and most recently gay marriage equality. Sadly, few students participate in the governing process which has eroded their voice. I can only hope that they will wise up as the NZ legislature needs to be held accountable for the votes they make on issues that affect them.

NZ $ Spent: $2.29 – Danish at grocery $5.88 – Cadbury chocolate and sandwich $30.00 – Maori hand carved bone hair ornament $4.58 – 2 Danishes from market $1.00 – Slurpee

Maori words learned:

hua = life breath

waiata = song

tupuna = ancestors

iwi = tribe

February 10 & 11, 2016 - Wellington

My end is near in Wellington. This time tomorrow I will be on the InterCity bus to Rotorua, the heart of Maori country, geothermal hot springs and volcanic activity. I have enjoyed my time here in the city. There is much to offer and would recommend people to visit here. I am particularly impressed by the theatre, music, dance, and public art spread throughout the city. The weekend markets are filled with organic fruits and veggies and food trucks lining the roadways. This is a city on the move, and I look forward to seeing how it evolves in the decade ahead. The bus tomorrow will be an all day affair driving from the south of the island to a bit beyond center. I will wake at 5 a.m. and then hike to the train station for the bus to pick me up on platform 9. I did my laundry early this morning to beat the rush so I could enjoy the few remaining hours outdoors on the bay and exploring more of the cityscape.


Rotorua from Māori: Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe, "The second great lake of Kahumatamomoe"), is a town on a lake of the same name with a population of approximately 70,000 people. Tourism drives the economy. A Maori chief named this area and the lake after his second uncle. The first white man came in 1828 and settled in the area marrying a local Maori woman, later bringing white settlers and missionaries. Because of the volcanic geothermal waters and mud, settlers soon after set this area as a holiday destination and connected the town with Auckland via railroad.

Everything went as planned from wake up, bus pick-up to arrival. I must admit however I think my time here is going to be a bit of a disappointment. It feels too touristy for me. I could feel the vibe as soon as we pulled into town. I tried to dispel my prejudice, but after I checked into the hostel and walked the town I think my assumptions are right on target. I am going to have to swallow a chill pill and breathe the next 5 days in slowly or I will combust.

Growing up my expectations of a place often times led to my disappointment. We would go as a family on holiday to a place, and I would read as much as I could about it before my arrival. I would conjure up these images of majesty which usually led to my discontent as few places met my visions of grandeur. In my adulthood I try to not let my inner-dream escape too wildly because even now I can find my ideals not being met. I find I like adventure and serendipity more than I had ever imagined. I think this is also one reason why I like going to thrift shops and antique stores. The potential of finding a treasure and the hunt of finding something special keeps me on my toes. Who wants to go shopping at an overpriced mall where all the garments are identical when going through the racks of your grandfathers clothes might have you in giggles of delight and strutting the runway in a Halston or Givenchy? Give me unique over the mundane.

NZ $ Spent:

$2.46 – sandwich at market

$13.48 – bottle of AUS Riesling and focaccia loaf

$2.27 – sandwich and apple

$8.50 - lunch on bus stop in Flat Hills (sandwich and drink)

$30.99 - groceries (1/2 dozen eggs, 3 apples, 3 tomatoes, harvarti cheese, caramel cookies, Whittaker chocolate bar

$1.00 -  Intercity bus ticket (first one sold on every bus is $1, ten it jumps to $35

$3.99 - InterCity bus booking fee

$132.50 - YHA Rotorua for 5 nights

February 12 – 15, 2016

Sleeping in hostels around the world has made me an expert. It does not take much to move a hostel up in category from ordinary to fabulous. Simple things like hot water, good mattress, free Wi-Fi, no curfew, quiet nights, etc. go a long way and should be status quo (though not all are even up to that standard). However, I am always amazed by how so few go the extra distance to move from good to GREAT.

Almost everyone in the modern age is now connected with a cellphone and computer; however, so few hostels have enough electric outlet plugs to keep everyone charged and going. People hover around sockets like folks used to do around the water cooler. No one is talking; they congregate like vultures to get the next charge. (It is even more hysterical when you go to an airport that is not met modernized wiring standards and there are almost no sockets in site. It is liking trying to pee in a corner in a round room.)

What is even better is if the hostel has recharging spaces in the actual sleeping quarters and just one for a vacuum cleaner. This is VERY rare. It’s not brain science to put in a few sockets into a room. What is even rarer is a socket at every bed. And when I do discover one, I always give them two thumbs up in my Tripadvisor review. Haka Lodge in Queenstown was FABULOUS!

I am also always dismayed by how so few have lockable storage in the bedroom. Hostels have been around since the dawn of time, and in this day and age every hostel should have them in the room. Some have a small cubby, some have a carved out space next to the bed, and every so often once will have a big, fat, ginormous storage locker (thank you Haka Lodge) that you can lock your items up with a lock you bring or can rent from reception. Too often hostels don’t have lockable storage that is adequate, and if they do, it is pay by the day in the hallway. (Ridiculous!) Get with the times people. I want peace of mind when I leave the room that some backpacker is not pilfering through my pack.

My other pet peeve is how few hooks there are in the rooms or in the bathroom. Where does someone put their towel? On the floor?...NOT! People will find just about anywhere to hang their towel in the bathroom—paper towel dispenser, light bulbs, window knobs, etc. Life would be so much easier if management would just do the right thing and put them in when they are engineering the space.

Behind every door in the toilet should be a double hook that is durable and not some wimpy Dollar Store special that rips out of the wall as soon as you put a towel and your sleeping boxers.

The same goes for the shower areas. Why can’t they have a durable, double hook? And then once you get to the sink to brush your teeth and finish your bathing routine, there needs to also be enough hooks there. I am amazed by how few hostels can’t get their act together. This is simple logistics. Come on folks!

I can manage the late night hostel roomie who turns on the overhead light. I don’t like it but can hack it…momentarily. I can manage the person letting the bedroom door slam while rattling the walls, just don’t let it happen twice. I can even cope with the sloppy mate that leaves their stuff scattered all over the room. But what I adore is the backpacker who has traveled the world, understands hostel etiquette, and goes above and beyond by knowing the things above happen and never allows them to become an issue in the first place. This person gets a beer when I am buying as a thank you.

Like all things, hostels too can be cliché. I cannot tell you how many posters I have seen that want me to skydive, road bike, extreme mountain bike, parasail, parachute, hot air balloon, jet boat, kayak, white water raft, zip line, bungee jump, cruise, wine taste, make an authentic meal, etc., etc. And sadly, they usually all cost a small fortune.

I would like to see more free stuff like: local hikes, mountain and rock climbs, global volunteerism opportunities, sheer sheep and spin wool, pick grapes and stomp them, pick berries and fruits for jam making, honey harvesting, cultural festivals, farmer’s markets, swimming holes, local music at pubs, bike tuning, etc. I don’t want to blow a wad of money on a fancy excursion with a zillion tourists. I want to balance food, housing, and entertainment—heck that is why I am backpacking in the first place. Yes, money touristy things are fine (but in moderation). I want more variety. I want to get a flavor of a community versus stuffing myself into a crowded bus with one too many wannabes with selfy-sticks and over-spritzed perfume all trying to get up close and “personal” while demanding more bread sticks at the lunch counter as they roll their eyes when they don’t have Coke as a beverage in the cold case.

Posting a list of things that are free or nominal costing is easy. Hostels have bulletin boards; earmark one just for this. Divide the board by the day of the week and have an extra section(s) for a special event(s).

For example here in Rotorua there is a weekly Thursday open market with food and entertainment. Was this mentioned at reception when checking in or placed on a bulletin board? Nope. It took me having a general conversation with a local at an antique market that I found out the 411. And to top it off, the event had a special theme for Chinese New Year with fashion show, speeches from the major and other prominent community members.

Another example is that on Sundays for 2 months there is free music in the Rotorua Government Gardens. Was this posted in the hostel? I found that out by reading the local newspaper. I was able to hear for free a singer/song writer duo as well as the Rotorua Scottish Pipe and Drum Band while mingling with the locals.

So, moving from ordinary to extraordinary is elementary. It does not take huge sums of money or investment, it is relatively simple to do, and moves hospitality to a different level. If I ever opened my own place, it would be AWESOME! (And no, I do not have an intention of ever doing so; I am however open to consult.)


I think I may be coming down with something. This morning my throat is enflamed, my neck and back ache, and my fingers are cold. I popped my multi-vitamin like I do every morning hoping that will keep everything in check. I am also planning to scrub my Nalgene bottle really well in case it might be hosting bacteria or other critter. I trust this is a passing thing because getting sick is never a joy, especially when traveling.

I keep thinking about the Zika bug that is going around because of mosquitoes. I have my share of bites. Hopefully this is not going to take me down. I have some basic symptoms but will keep a positive outlook.

I have gotten a mosquito borne illness before—dengue. I got it when I was in Nicaragua. At first I thought it was affects from bat guano because I came into contact with many of bats and sleeping in a tree house that was home to several thousand.

At first I didn’t know what I had until I described my symptoms to a local. They nailed it right on the head. It did a number on me, and I felt like I was going to die. I had a high fever, ferocious headaches, and was exhausted. At least I did not throw-up like others who I met because I loathe throwing up, especially a dry heave. I felt better in a week and 100% in three.

So to help I am going to drink lots of fluids, get plenty of rest, wear trousers and log sleeves, and when appropriate wear repellent. Let’s trust that this will pass without any major mishap. Here’s to feeling better and the days ahead.

NZ $ Spent:

$5 – gold tone pendent from antique shop that I will make into a necklace

$5 – lunch

$10 – olive green suede leather shoes with leather soles made in England at thrift store

$7.00 – devil sunglasses and pair of scissors

$7.40 – groceries (chip, 3 slice of ham, bread roll, 4 large muffins, 2 apples

$39.74 – ship shoes back to USA

$2.00 – shipping bag for shoes

February 16 & 17, 2016 - Auckland

Auckland is the largest city in NZ with a population of almost 1.5 million and represents 32% of the entire country. It also has the largest Polynesian population in the world (over 180,000 people).In Māori, Auckland's name is Tāmaki Makaurau (city of many lovers) and the transliterated version of Auckland is Ākarana. It was so desirable that Maoris fought for it for several centuries. Today it spreads across the hills with an action packed CBD. Sitting on two harbors and surrounded by rich volcanic earth farmland, the views are lovely but not capitalized on in my opinion when the city was built and continues to evolve. It is a good thing too that Auckland did not win out of being the capitol for the country because Wellington in my view is more fabulous with energy focused around its harbor, public art galore, and pulsating energy.


The University of Auckland(Māori:Te WhareWānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau) is the largest and highest-ranked university in New Zealand and is ranked #82 worldwide in the 2015/16 QS World University Rankings. Established in 1883 as a constituent college of the University of New Zealand, the university is made up of eight faculties and has over six campuses with more than 40,000 students (26,000 undergrads). The Auckland campus is centrally located in the heart of the city.

The clock tower is the icon for the campus and houses currently admissions, IT, meeting rooms, etc. It was originally the Old Arts Building and sits across the street from the Botanical Gardens and up from the art museum. The early days of the school started with 95 students with 4 faculty and housed in an old jail and courthouse.  It eliminated open admission in 2009, now requiring students to have an entrance qualification. In 2010 the university has been smoke-free.

The student union has seen better days. It is a bit tired looking and needing an upgrade with facelift. The bookstore is operated and owned by the students. The students manage multiple buildings in the heart of the campus—student association, performance theatre, and student union to name a few. It is sad to see such an ordinary space with a university that ranks so highly around the globe.

NZ $ Spent:

$5.00 – lunch

$25.00 - Intercity bus from Rotorua to Auckland

$6.98 – groceries (Cadbury chocolate, organic pomegranate juice)

$10.80 – hostel room upgrade for 4 nights (3 person to 2 person)

$167.40 - 6 nights in hostel (supposed to be in 3 person room but got 2 person upgrade for free)

$111.60 - 4 nights in the same hostel (unable to book more than 6 nights at a time)

$32.91 – groceries (pack of red seedless grapes, 3 avocados, 2 apples, Thai salad dressing, lettuce, ham slices, 2 packs of cookies, and something else but forgot)

$8.50 – lunch at bus stop (sandwich & drink)

February 18 – 20, 2016

Trying to follow a map has never been my strong suit. I get the north and south directions confused, twisted and jumbled (and let’s not also forget east and west). No matter how I try not to flub it up, it turns into a labyrinth of convoluted fate if I actually find what I was seeking the first time out. The fun thing is I find the most amazing mishaps and tucked out of the way places in the adventure. I can’t tell you what street it is on but can describe the cutest dress I saw in the window or fabulous pair of shoes or earrings I saw in a shop window getting there.

So, that is how I started my day on the 18th and the 19th—trying to find gardens, university, museums and churches-- jumbled jigsaw of puzzle pieces trying to make sense of the big picture. And when, “Oooo, that is pretty” catches my eye I go with it knowing that eventually I will find my way to the final destination. And at times the trip takes me here, there, everywhere and back again before sighing and trying a new course or alleyway.

This is how I happened to fall upon Parnell Village. I took the wrong bridge over to get to the Winter Garden and Auckland Museum. Instead of taking the bridge at Symonds and K Road, I wound up at the University of Auckland Business College and tramped across the highway to the green. Resting momentarily to take in the sites of the park, I helped with the Chinese Lantern Festival set-up for this weekend.

Getting back to the CBD took me past the cathedral and to Parnell. I hoofed it back the long way to the hostel. At first I was frustrated and then breathed in deeply to enjoy what the mishap would evolve into. The good thing is I got back before it down poured rain so I could blog, check email and rest while keeping the wellness bug close to fight my no so well sore throat.

This too was part of my adventure down Ponsby Road. I was trying to find SidArt, the restaurant I am going to treat myself to for my birthday. The numbering of streets here makes no sense. You would think odd and even numbers would match from one side of the street to the next. But no, they don’t. 280 is not opposite 279 and 281. I need to find out from a local how they number the streets so I can make sense of it as it is quite confusing to the person who already has a challenging time with street directions.

But happy accidents take me into some of the most fun shops. I was able to find an incredible deal on three black necklaces for $5NZ each. They normally cost $25 for one, and so bought those that U liked and was off. Now, I don’t need another necklace, but they are easy to pack, fun to wear, and make for a great story.

The same was true for this fun gold ring I purchased. I was wondering about on Ponsby when I on the corner of my eye I saw some of the most fabulous pink and black paisley jackets with velvet touches on the sleeve and collar. They cost more than I what I wanted to spend and found that they were Gorgio Armani. No wonder it was beyond what I could afford, but no one can’t say I have a great taste for the expensive.

What initially drew me into the shop was this campy necklace on one of the mannequins that said sorry not sorry spelled out. It was a hoot. So, I pop over to the glass case to see what other fun stuff they had. And there was the ring. It fit, the price was right and the look was different. So, I made the purchase with bling a blazing as I strolled down nonchalantly back down the avenue.

Setting up for the 17th annual Auckland Chinese New Year celebration was fun. The days weren’t too hot because of the overcast skies and intermittent rain. The one thing I am concerned about is the health and safety of the Aucklanders that are going to come to the event. They expect tens of thousands to celebrate this coming weekend with opening ceremonies on Friday.

I have been going festivals and concerts at colleges, universities, and around the globe for the last 30 years. I have an eye for detail from experience and knowing what has worked and not worked in the past. Things that I would do differently for this event are: more trash and recycling containers throughout the park, more washrooms porto potties at different ends of the park so men don’t pee in the park bushes, enhanced ADA accessibility, trim tree branches so that they are above 7 feet off the ground, cops directing the street traffic, trash receptacles on the street at the top of the park, better sound system at the karaoke pavilion, safety perimeter by the martial arts performance space, not having city workers taking down a pine tree during the festival, wider avenues to see the Chinese lantern displays.

I enjoyed helping at this event. I met some awesome people. After 17 years, I would expect that the organizers would have a better handle on some of these issues. I trust that they will continue to enhance the program in the years ahead.

Now, let’s see what Auckland Pride has in store for me on Saturday. It looks like the weather is going to cooperate with the rain going away which means for a lot of scantily clad, bare chested men patrolling the streets.

Volunteering for Auckland Pride was fun! I met some fantastic people—organizers and volunteers. Pride has been celebrated here for 30 years. It has not always met with approval during that period pending who is in political power. For ex., pride had asked for a parade permit on multiple occasions and it was not given. The parade went on hiatus for 3 years and has returned. Hearing this I couldn’t believe people were not more in arms when it was not granted. If it were in the USA the queer community would have taken to the streets; folks here are more passive when it comes to resisting authority.

Now don’t get me wrong, it was not all peaches and cream. There was a protest at the parade; it was not some anti-gay hating group either. It was queers protesting the rights of Trans people in the prison system and feeling that the police who were in the parade should not have been granted permission march because of how the police treat the trans-community, Trans rape while in custody, and overcrowding of prisons. The group chanted, "Police are violent, we won't be silent." It halted the parade for about 45 minutes to an hour.

I was impressed by how well it was handled. No heads were busted, no guns were drawn (cops don’t carry guns), no one was tasered, no loss of life--only bruised egos. The MC for the parade came out into the streets to greet the protesters. He even gave them the microphone to talk about their protest and issues/demands. It was fantastic! They were then asked to depart and not disrupt the rest of the festivities. Well, that did not go as planned.

They at first left but returned in larger numbers (approx. 50). This time the cops formed a line to keep them away from the event and to encourage them to remain civil. I must applaud the way the protestors, parade organizers and the police managed the entire incident. USA police and festival organizers could learn a lot from the Kiwis managing unrest.

NZ $ Spent:

$5.00 – black indestructible case

$11.57 – grocery (Australian bottle of Moscato and 2 bread rolls)

$15.00 – 3 black beaded necklaces on sale (normally $25 each)

$35.00 – gold tone cow skull ring

$9.60 – lunch (8 piece sushi with soft drink)

$1.00 – Chinese New Year lamb skewer from street vendor

$5.00 – 10 dumplings at New Year’s park celebration

$17.52 – groceries (biodegradable cutlery, grass fed roast beef slices, cheese and garlic artisan bread roll twist, organic watermelon, pear and passion fruit organic sparkling water, Cadbury chocolate bar)

$10.00 – admission to Highwic House and Gardens

$15.00 - sauna

February 21 – 25, 2016

I have been thinking about the waters of Rotorua. In the 1950s the lake was pristine. It was so clean that elders talk about seeing almost to the bottom. The water was a pristine blue; it was perfection.

It was like that since the beginning of the island until people ruined it. Nitrogen and phosphorus from crops and cattle waste began to drain into waterways and emptied into the lake as well as human sewage. What was once divine turned to green murky waters. Toxic algae blooms are now feeding on the high levels of phosphorus choking other life forms and making a mucking mess--and it is not only Lake Rotorua but the surrounding 11 lakes.

Then I think back to my time in Milford Sound, also pristine and so splendid that you can drink right from the local streams. I filled my Nalgene water bottle to the brim and drank from its cool refreshment. I am delighted that the government has ended the support of potential tunnel leading more people to this UNESCO site. It make take longer to get there but worth every penny if it means keeping the land and water flawless. I wish more people treated our natural resources with more reverence. 

Then I think to this last week walking by a city corner in Auckland and the countless umber of cigarette butts I saw tossed to the side. It made me sick. I thought I was going to throw-up not just from the sight but the smell. It was a huge ashtray, and no seemed to care. Sometimes people disgust me.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is on Wellesley Street in the heart of the CBD. It has over 27,000 students with over 3,000 international students from 85 countries and over 1,700 post-graduates. 37% of the students are nontraditional (over 25). It has three other campuses in the city and runs a shuttle bus between them. AUT is going through $245 million expansion. The Auckland Student Movement (AuSM) is the student voice on campus. Every enrolled student is a member. Its main charge is to promote and maintain the rights and welfare of students. AuSM supports more than 40 affiliated clubs, and organizes a range of concerts, comedy shows, live DJs, dance parties, the annual Orientation Festival and other events.


New Zealand has passed legislation to make the employment of sex workers legal. I think this is good for business, sex workers, and clients. This law was not always in effect. It passed in 2003 and still is opposed by some on the conservative right and religious groups. Coercion of sex workers is illegal. In the days of old, sex worker happened under the guise of massage parlors. The issue was though it might be held as property but massage parlors were considered public space and the solicitation of sex in the parlor was illegal. This created arrests and harassment by police and entrapment of sex workers. The sale (solicitation), owning of a brothel or living off the earning of sex work was illegal.

Some of the earliest recorded transition of sex work was between Maori and American sailors. It often was for the exchange of goods versus money (food, water, timber for housing). What heightened this was the short supply of women versus men during that period of history. The passage of the law was helped by the New Zealand Professional and Business Women’s Association, the YWCA, National Council of Women, and AIDS Foundation. The police remained neutral on the subject, but leading MPs supported it. The law went into detail describing voluntary and involuntary sexual relations. It remains a crime to coerce someone to provide sexual services.

Sex work is also prohibited for those on temporary visas, and immigration for and investment in sex work is prohibited. Contracts between provider and client were recognized, and providers have the right to refuse services. Contested contracts can be referred to the Disputes Tribunal. Advertising is banned with the exception of print media which is restricted. The Summary Offences Act remains in force in relation to soliciting which may be classed as offensive behavior. Sex work is recognized a legitimate work and there is an obligation to promote sexual health. Police are now there to protect the sex work versus their prosecution and it is also part of police training.

NZ $ Spent:

$16.00 – Auckland Museum admission

$10.00 – Chinese noodles with beef and veggies

$12.00 – Australian bottle of Moscato

$24.00 – Spa

$4.50 – bus from Queen Street to One Tree Hill

$5.00 – bus from Wallace Arts Center to Queen Street

$162.00 – 9 course birthday dinner with 1 liter of sparkling water

$16.00 – tip to dinner staff (usually you do not tip waitstaff)

$5.00 - lunch

$16.00 - bus ticket to Auckland Airport

$1.00 - cold drink

$7.00 - laundry

Maori words learned:

Kairau = prostitute

huritau oaoa = happy birthday

mihi = congratulations

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