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Friday, April 21, 2017

Tainted love . . .

this stunning view . . .
I expected to love Hong Kong. And I do, but it's one of those toxic loves you want to get away from as quickly as you can, while not letting it know you're breaking up.

I'm not allergic to it, but I have developed a distinct intolerance. despite its many charms.

So, now I've decided we're breaking up, I want to enjoy this amazing city as much as I can. Which is really, really easy to do. I just have to be careful not to let it sweet-talk me into staying, because it's not good for my long-term physical or mental health.

I'm stunned to consider how sick I am in HK, but so is everyone I work with and almost everyone I know. A friend who has lived here for seven-plus years said this past winter was the worst she had experienced in terms of illness and described a feeling I've learned only too well these past three months - where you feel yourself recovering from one illness only to find another varietal taking its place. To borrow a US military acronym, SSDD - Same Shit, Different Day. One strain of the lurg of the week will give you a raw throat served as a side dish to the general malaise and wooly-headed 'feeling like crap' (a technical term), with another your throat will be fine but you develop a smoker's cough without needing to inhale.

I shared the back row of a flight back from New Zealand last week with two young boys (unaccompanied minors and they sit them beside me? what were they thinking?) and it's not just overworked adults who suffer. One told me he has eczema in Hong Kong (and he lives on one of the islands, not downtown) but not in New Zealand. My asthma is the same - I barely notice it when living long-term in Aotearoa but it's a life-and-death issue for me in Asia.

As to mental health, which greatly impacts physical health and the body's ability to shake off illness, HK seems overly intense for the purpose of appearing so, rather than to achieve anything. Few expats I know take meal breaks or breaks of any kind because to do so would mean having to work longer than they already do, and nobody wants to do that. Which is so counter-productive and counter-intuitive it leaves me incredulous.

I've discussed work-life balance with friends in HK and NZ over the past few weeks and I get a similar questioning look in both locales, but for very different reasons. In Hong Kong, the question is what that means (work-life balance??); in New Zealand the question is why such a term exists. Isn't that simply called life?

BUT, Hong Kong IS amazing - it's just not where I can live. But while I'm here, I plan to live it well, knowing I have a timeline and a recovery plan in place.

The Pacific Ocean, forests, rivers, art, music, theatre, friends, food and no doubt a little politics - its nearing time to go home.

. . . or this . . .

Thursday, April 6, 2017

tangata whenua

tangata whenua - loosely, people of the land, but so much more

I just Google-translated both parts of that

interesting, in many ways

Google Translate says tangata means "man" - my memory was that tangata means person or people, no gender specified, but this is Google translate

Ii did better with whenua - it recognised the word as inseparable from the land, offering "land", "country", "ground" and "terrain" as translations but completely missed the other meaning and the importance of it

whenua also means placenta or afterbirth (sorry, any squirmy boy readers out there - I recommend you get over your sqeamishness and become men)

so, we are tangata "people" of te whenua "the land, the placenta"

this is how deeply we relate to the earth - we are born of her and nursed by her, and blessed by her

our creation myth has our mother, Papatuanuku (the earth mother) and our father Ranginui (the earth father) embracing each other so closely that their sons couldn't breathe

by the way, the boys were all considered gods also, and they wanted to breathe and yell and be loud proud boys, but it was hard when you were trapped between the parental units

meet the guys:
Tumatauenga - god of war, hunting and fishing, but also of agriculture.

I feckin love that my ancestors knew there was a time to come home from war and grow things. Very cool, peeps

Tawhirematea - let's keep it simple and say he's the god of storms and weather and winds - there's a lot more drama but there are also more brothers to meet

Tangaroa - the god of the sea, which feeds us and challenges us and often kills us if we're careless

the previous two are the one's I speak most to while at sea - soldiers and sailors pray a lot as part of their jobs, they just might picture who they are praying to differently (one godhead, far-too-many systems)

more Maori boys to come,

Tane-mahuta - god of forests and birds

Tane is THE dude of Maori gods. Forests and birds, dude. Tane is strength, and quiet power and longevity

we have a giant Kauri (tree) in Northland that is the largest known - estimated to be about 2,000 years old

also named Tane Mahuta - but, sigh, Tane was the son who separated Ma and Pa, nobody else was strong enough

hard to get past that

Rongo - god of peace and cultivated food

because, you know, you need peace to cultivate food (why is that so dificult?)

Haumia-tiketike - god of wild food plants

NB: In case you haven't noticed, we not only cover all bases but we cover all food sources

Ruauomoko - god of earthquakes, volcanoes and seasons

They all go together

Rehua/Antares - the mysterious star child

Is it obvious that I am really looking forward to going home?


Thursday, February 2, 2017

learning to run . . .

the first time I left home was totally unplanned

I'd woken up to a radio report on a friend and classmate who was missing - she did that occasionally - then arrived at school to find her sitting on a step

"Hold on," I said, anticipating an adventure, "I just need a few things from home."

A few hours later, we tweens were trying to convince another friend's older, cooler, not necessarily legit brother (but a big brother after all) that we could handle being in Auckland on our own.

At the time, I thought it was a friend who turned us in - in hindsight, it was probably the big brother.

The police arrived and were surprised to find me - I was at school as far as anybody knew - but we were both taken to the station. Where we were strong, and staunch, and invulnerable, until they separated us.

I, being a storyteller even at that age, and having run away (not very far, I admit) without thinking it through, told the police a story cobbled together from news reports and bad fairytales, of evil stepparents and goblins and not being loved.

My mother didn't even know I'd run away when the police contacted her to say they had found me. When she came to get me, they suggested she take me home and beat me as I'd said the goblins often did.

Once I realised I could leave, I continued doing so.

I learned to be better at surviving - recognizing the good and bad options and the good and bad advice.

One of those was being taken to a job interview at a massage parlour by a "friend" and realising I'd rather be waiting tables, then realising that waiting tables, and doing it well, was nothing to be ashamed of.

I guess I gave up the "easy" options around that time . . .

Saturday, January 21, 2017

WHY we march ...

I'm struggling for a title here, because I have no interest in preaching to the already converted, I want to reach readers who don't yet understand why women are marching today. That's not easy ...

Let's begin with an anecdote. I'm Maori. New Zealand's indigenous race. I'm many other things also but that is a key part of my formative years. I was the Maori girl, from the Maori family. In those days, in some homes, it came with a stigma.

I'm also light-skinned, well-spoken and could easily "pass" for white, something indigenous people know all too well.

Obviously, I'm also female. But I'm smart, talented and tough, and while I will never "pass" as male, I know my worth and can negotiate it. As a friend wrote elsewhere today, I am an exception.

Except I'm not.

Simply being female means I have to be better, stronger, more capable to aspire to the same rewards as a mediocre male. It means having to be brash and outspoken to be heard. It means, often, that I need to assess the mood of the males around me and adjust my behavior accordingly.

It means that being treated equally is an exception, and that is why we march ...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Change of plans . . .

Like most things in life, there's no "one size fits all" when it comes to motorcycles.

The ideal bike differs for each person, but needs to be one that feels perfectly comfortable, where you become part of the machine and it part of you. Where maneuvering is simply a matter of seeing where you want to be, an almost subconscious shift of weight or a slight push on a handgrip. There are enough things against you as a motorcyclist - the road conditions, weather, other traffic, roadworks and wildlife - that you can't afford to add fighting your ride into that mix.

My 980km round trip to visit my cousin in Roma made me realize the V-Strom DL650 will never be that bike for me. It's a beautiful bike - smooth, powerful, responsive- but much too high and heavy for someone of my height and weight. Being barely able to reach the ground on a bike that weighs three times more than me makes stopping awkward at best, dangerous at worst.

Dulacca Truck Stop: unleaded for the big beast, lemonade for the smaller, water to pour over my head.
Rinse, ride, repeat . . . 
So, I've decided not to ride the beast to Sydney, as riding any distance on a bike you're uncomfortable on is a recipe for disaster. Riding that far and into a major city on this bike would be stupid of me.

Unfortunately, there are no lower bikes available so instead of heading out today, I'll relax beside a friend's pool and recover from my ride back from Roma yesterday. Through a heatwave that Queensland is experiencing that required constant water stops and cool down periods before facing the road and Australia's road trains again. At least it was too hot for the 'roos to be on the roads.

Killaroos planning road rampage . . . 
There is a bike in Sydney that may be suitable for my stay in the city and I'd like to ride out to Watson's Bay and up to the Blue Mountains while there, but I'll wait until I can try it on for size before booking this time. Returning the V-Strom will cost me money, but that's better than having it cost my life or health.

Instead, I'll fly to Sydney in the morning and check into my fancy Airbnb apartment at Darling Harbour. I think I'm going to the opera in the evening, and have five days there to visit with friends and explore my old stomping and sailing grounds.

The adventure doesn't end, the transport has just been adjusted . . .

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Admin note

the kiwi has been too tired to fly of late, that will change

Monday, January 16, 2017

Riding the sunburnt country: Day 1 . . .

Ready to ride?
While an ocean sailor, l quickly learned there are few agnostics at sea. When your life is at the whims of the sea and the weather, you tend to pray, whether it be to God, Buddha, Allah, Gaia, the universe or your own personal combination. I tended to throw Tangaroa and Tawhirimatea into the mix.

I was reminded yesterday that long-distance motorcycling is similar.

I left Brisbane mid-morning en route to Roma, Queensland, sometimes referred to as "the gateway to the outback."  I'd just spent three wonderful days catching up with family, friends and friends who have become family, and was planning a 490km shakedown ride to see a loved cousin I hadn't seen in too long.

Another treasured friend rode with me out of the city and some of the way, by which time I'd gained confidence with the overly large and heavy bike I'd rented, then he left me to make my way alone.

The open road astride a powerful bike is a vastly different experience than traveling by car or other four-wheeled vehicle, where the goal seems to be to distract oneself as much as possible from the trip. On a bike, distraction is deadly, and one is constantly scanning the road, the other traffic, what lies ahead, on both sides and is approaching from behind.
the big, beautiful beast (and friend) 

This trip being in Australia, I had to add killeroos and slowly jaywalking koalas into the usual dangers of being on the road without a hard shell covering.

That heightened sense of awareness also makes one highly aware of the beauty of the world you're in and the preciousness of life and I find myself prayerful when I ride long distances alone.

I'm constantly giving thanks - for friends and whanau and freedom, and helpful strangers who often become friends. I'm thankful for good weather, well-maintained roads, the beauty of the huge open sky and the sunburnt fields of scribbly gum trees and corn and red sorghum and the long low Queenslander farmhouses, with their wide shaded verandas that insulate the interiors from the incredible heat.

I'm even thankful for my fellow road users - the drivers of the massive road trains I'm following who indicate when it's clear ahead and safe for me to pass; the drivers coming towards me who flash their lights to warn of speed traps. There's a sense of camaraderie just by sharing the same road.

I'm thankful for the hospitality offered to a traveler, at road houses, gas stations and truck stops. Where strangers ask where you're going, where you're from and what brings you this way, then give advice and good wishes for the roads ahead.
Heading out . . . 

I ask my god/s for gifts also - mostly for a continuation of those gifts I'm already thankful for.

Please watch over my friends and family, continue to bless me with health and good fortune, please protect me from rain while on the road, distracted drivers, and those damned killeroos.

Then it's back to giving thanks ...