On Taking Pens

The Quote
“Or worse, we are praying and asking God to give us a story while the entire time God is handing us a pen, telling us to write it ourselves. That’s why he gave us a will.”
-Donald Miller

The Thoughts
This quote from Donald Miller came to me during a very impressionable time in my life.  Don’s original post is here.  In the wake of lost love and murky questions about my future, this quote resonated deep within me.  This is the quote that I copy-and-pasted into what would become the soul of this blog, the simply titled, “Quotes.”

I suppose I entertained the idea that there would be more quotes worth remembering, otherwise I might have called the document, “Quote.”  We may never know, but this was the beginning.

There was suddenly an entire future ahead of me that I’d written off.  I was full of holes and questions such as, “What now? Why? I can’t possibly move on, can I? Why God?  H-what do I do now?”  It is in the middle of these doubts and thoughts that I read this quote.  I felt that I was the person asking for a story, my story.  And I wanted it all!  These were big questions I was having and I wanted big answers.

I remember feeling that I was entitled to have the blueprint of my life.  I wanted to know where I was going next, with whom I would go, where it was all to take place and of course I wanted a detailed itinerary of dates and events so that none of it would be unexpected.  Was that too much to ask?  In a word, yes.

The months that followed were some of my best.  Highlights from that time included: deciding to study abroad in New Zealand, running my first half marathon, sweet talking pizza restaurant managers into free pizzas and beer (sorry Mom, I wasn’t 21, but it felt important to try), singing and dancing for Eddie George at a formal fraternity dance that I was not invited to, filming a rap music video.  I’d not planned on doing any of these things.  I’d probably be content with my life had I not experienced any of these memories, but I am glad that I did experience them.  In the middle of that undesirable heartbreak I was able to explore the depths of heretofore lesser-valued parts of life: spontaneity, travel, male brotherhood, dreaming, healing.  Some things you just have to experience to know fully.  That was one of those times for me.

You see, I want the details.  I desire the inside knowledge on what is supposed to happen.  What I’ve learned, though, is that some of life’s best moments happen when you quit asking for the answers and instead take the pen and put in the hard work of living each moment, one after another, until you’ve built something entirely unexpected and wonderful.  I’ve learned to reach for the pen on a more frequent basis.  Now, I must ask myself, “What story am I currently asking for while already holding the pen?”

The Challenge
Reconnect with my old roommates and film a project that is long overdue.

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Go, Do That: An Experiment in Understanding Fear, Failure and Focus

The Introduction:

I’ve not written intentionally for quite some time and I can feel the creak in my soul. I find I’m more accountable to my thoughts when I write them down. I feel like a wave far off in the ocean, preparing to someday crash on a distant shore. I’m nearing the break and the crash, the arrival.  I’m excited and nervous to begin again. The more I think about this endeavor, the scarier the prospect becomes.

The point of the blog will be to battle fear. Over the last several years, I kept a running list of quotes that I added to whenever I read something that struck me as memorable. Only recently did I revisit the list of quotes as a whole and realize that they all said the same thing: people are scared, but acting, even in the face of fear and failure, produces better lives and stories. Unintentionally, or perhaps providentially, it was only quotes that resonated with that message that got added to this running list.

What was it about these particular quotes that tugged at me enough to save them together in a word document simply titled, “Quotes”?  Something deep within me resonated with the idea understanding fear, failure and focus.  Looking at the quotes collectively, they all say, in so many words, “Life can sometimes be hard and you will often fail big, but why let that stop you from going and trying to do something that could change the world?”  I love that idea and after revisiting it throughout the past several years, I’ve grown to understand it in new ways.

This blog started as my blog when I studied abroad in New Zealand.  You can go here to read that story from the beginning.  I contemplated starting a new blog on a new site, but I find it comforting to continue my writing here, where I first learned to love it.  My writing was my living, not the dollars and cents “living,” but rather that what I was writing was my story and my story was my life.  My goal was to live a life worth telling.  And it still is.

It’s been almost two years since I first left for New Zealand and my life since then has shown me that you don’t have to leave home to go somewhere and do something that could change the world.  The world is here, right where I am and I am a part of it.  I started the NZ blog with the idea of keeping the folks back home informed of what was going on in my life, but writing came to mean much more to me than simply recording life’s events.  The ordinary events I was doing were made extraordinary because of their location, distance and unfamiliarity.  Two years later, I am in Columbus, Ohio and ready to write about an ordinary life made extraordinary by participating in events marked by their location, distance and unfamiliarity.  I don’t have to leave home to do something worth telling.

So, this blog will feature one quote per entry and I will explain my thoughts on why it strikes me as memorable and worth valuing. After my thoughts, each post will end with a challenge. I will challenge myself to get uncomfortable, act in a way where success and safety is not guaranteed and trust that what ensues will build me up as a person and affect positive change in some way to those around me. Each challenge will then feature a follow-up entry on what happened in the wake of the challenge and I’ll share what I learned.  The format will look something like this:

Post 1.1
The Quote:
The Thoughts:
The Challenge:
Post 1.2
The Reflection:

I said the point of this blog was to battle fear and that’s what I mean to do.  Fear of failure, success, the unknown, the unfamiliar, the challenging, the risky, the letting go of apathy, of vulnerability, of complete unexpectedness.  Yikes!  Now, I tell myself,
“Go, do that.”

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Time Travel

It has been two years since I last experienced February 10th.  One year ago, this tenth day of the second month of the year passed by unnoticed somewhere over the Pacific Ocean by myself and the other passengers onboard our thirteen hour Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. What a year it has been!  The following is an account of my last month in NZ.  Upon my return to the States in July, I set out to finish up writing the happenings of my final month abroad.  This simply did not happen.  I wanted to get it all out while I could remember everything freshly so my memories would be accurate and intact.  Something blocked me from setting out to finish this blog.  I felt that if I finished writing the tales of my last month in NZ, then my trip would be officially over and I’d have to settle into life without Aotearoa.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I did not want it to be over, so I did not finish writing.  I got 2000 words in and still had three weeks to go.  I could not let myself be home.  Now, a year after my journey began, I see it fitting to wrap this up.  What you can expect from this final NZ blog: the writing from August 4th that I did after my return to the States, excerpts from my journal (primary source material from my own hand during the last month), closing reflecting remarks.  Thank you for reading.

August 4th, 2011

I realize I have not updated the blog in over a month, so it is high time I get on it!  As I sit and write this, I am safely back in Columbus, a few weeks into my life back in the States.  This post will recap my last month away, giving all of you faithful readers one last hurrah with my words and adventures!  I plan to do a reflection post once adequate time has passed and I’ve settled a bit more into normalcy back on US soil, but as with most lessons, that one will take time.  So my last month.

Early June saw the end of regularly scheduled classes, and the NZ school system has a built in study week where there is no class or exams.  For me and many of my international cohorts, that meant one thing: travel.  My first free week passed uneventfully in Wellington, a nice break from the final push to the end of the semester, and I was content hanging around the city.  Some of the Stafford crew went away to places such as Nelson down on the South Island and to Rotorua where we Australearners spent our first  NZ week together.  I wanted to go someplace, but was not entirely sure where that might be, and with most everybody out at different places already, it left me in a situation where I was waiting for someone to come along with a fully formed plan that I could simply plug into and go.  After a week, I realized that was not going to happen, and that if I wanted to go anywhere, I’d have to make it happen myself, and most likely travel by myself, something I had not done yet, and was willing to do, but was not particularly keen on.

Around this time, the brilliant Charity May, of Stafford, rolled out her idea for what would become, “Adventure Week.”  Our time together as Stafford mates was drawing to a rapid conclusion, so the plan was to go do everything in Wellington that we’d always talked about doing, but never actually got around to doing.  We kicked it off with a homemade French toast breakfast together on Sunday morning, complete with syrup and powdered sugar! Delicious and filling.  We headed down to the farmers market located down by Te Papa, the national museum, and stocked up on all sorts of fruits and veggies.  Apples, kumara (like sweet potatoes), carrots, onions, broccoli.  Great stuff and cheap as.  With our bags laden with fresh produce, we headed to Te Papa to watch the young kids perform the songs and dances they’d been practicing all year.  I forget the name of the occasion, but it was a big deal.  They were good!  One little boy in particular, when it came time for the haka, a crowd-pleaser anyway, stole the show with his passion.  His eyes bulged, his face was ferocious, and his limbs were full of all the energy he could muster—everything the haka is supposed to bring out in a person.

Seeing them all in action was a treat.  Monday saw Alex, Charity and I head to the wind turbine located on the top of a hill in nearby Brooklyn.  The turbine is visible from campus, and I have viewed it from afar from the tops of the hills that became my regular running trails, vowing that I’d run to it one day.  With the “carpe diem” attitude of Adventure Week in full swing, it was high time to run it.  I told the others I’d meet them at the top, so they set out while I calculated my route.  Using a combination of Google maps, topo maps from Wellington, and somebody’s past blog account of how to get up to the turbine without bush-whacking it, I had my route.  Naturally, I made it to the first turn I was supposed to take and all my careful preparation went out the window as I forgot the proper direction.  I knew that I needed to go up and not stop until I made it to the top and found the giant windmill.  So with the spirit of Daniel Boone in me, which I rely on when I am at risk of losing myself, I set out remembering his words, “I’ve never been lost, but I was mighty turned around for three days once.”  Several miles, ridges, and beautiful winding trails later and I had made it!  And to make the moment even that more special, Alex and Charity were just arriving, so just as we’d planned it, we met and arrived together at the top.  The view of Wellington and the surrounding harbor was gorgeous as the late afternoon sun shone out over the bay.  And the turbine was massive, its blades spinning in time, the hum of the machinery mixing with the wind that powered it.

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Leaping over the city

We all walked back down together, went through Central Park in Brooklyn (funny, aye?) and headed to the other end of town to the National Archives and saw the original Treaty of Waitangi, the problematic document that was signed in 1840.  That night, we decided to jump into the freezing harbor one last time.  Never gets old!  I don’t think it gets easier to deal with the stinging needles of the cold water or the difficulty in breathing when your lungs want to rip apart from your chest, but knowing to expect those things helps a bit.

We warmed up with showers and soup and called it an early night, for the next morning we were scheduled to wake up for sunrise and hike to the nearby Mt. Victoria and wish the sun a happy day.  Amazingly, we all made it up without much struggle and set out.  The city was remarkably awake for such an early time of day.  Cars and fellow humans were out, their days having already begun with a presumably much less exciting day ahead than Team Stafford.  The sky was beautiful as we ventured to Mt. Vic, turning from deep blue to pale orange to bright pink.  We arrived with about ten minutes to spare.  A chilly morning, the sky was clear and the air crisp.  Armed with cameras and the determinedness to relish every detail that comes with the ending of all good things, we waited for the sun.  The first golden fingertip broke the horizon over the hills across the bay as the magnificent sun hoisted itself over the earth and into the sky, ready for another day.  The day was early, and the grass was wet with dew, perfect for slipping and sliding.  Alex entertained us all with a wonderfully controlled ski that ended in a spectacular fall into the bush that bordered the hillsides.  We headed to a Lord of the Rings filming site on the way down the hill and recreated in terrible fashion the “Get off the road!” scene.  We headed to that site as a casual afterthought on our way down the hill, no big deal.  A breakfast of Wholly Bagels left us satisfied and ready for the next adventure, little did I know at the time what that would fully entail for me.

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sunrise from Mt. Vic

I received a message from my friend Lynn expressing interest in a trip that I mentioned in the briefest of passings to her the week before.  In one of those obligatory, non-committal farewells, she told me to let her know if I decided to go anywhere over the break, as you do, with no real intention of doing said act.  So I did.  I told her, in my realization that I’d have to make my own trip if I wanted one, that I was interested in heading to Gold Coast, Australia.  The night previously, I did a lot of searching online to see what would need to happen in order to make it to Oz, and found that while it would cost a bit of money, the plane tickets were quite reasonably priced and the extra expenses of a backpackers and food would be minimal.  I was about half committed to going when I sent the tentative itinerary to Lynn, who responded the following morning with an interest in going!  A legitimate, “I want to go,” interest.  Well now, my adventure week just got bumped up to a new level, an international one.  The next events happened very quickly.  That morning we bought plane tickets and were slated to leave the next day for a week on the Gold Coast!  Our flights were cancelled that night and pushed back two days.  So we waited two days and then left.  Why were our flights cancelled you say?  A volcanic eruption in Chile several weeks earlier had sent an enormous ash cloud into the atmosphere that was disrupting flights as far away as New Zealand and Australia.  That’s the kind of information that one does not immediately check for when booking flights, but maybe it should be.  So with little fuss, we decided that a two day postponement would not be the end of the world, especially since there was no extra cost to change our flight.  So that meant two more days of Adventure Week in Wellington before I had to take off!

Team Stafford took a bus ride out to Red Rocks searching for seals, the following sunny afternoon.  This day felt by far the most touristy.  Cameras flashed and public transportation fumbled as we roamed in our loud and excited pack.  We ended up with no seals, but did enjoy a nice walk around the bay, stopped in a nice café that had a fire to warm up by and recollected as many stories of our months together as we could muster.

Charity triumphant

Friday came and Lynn and I headed off to Gold Coast via Auckland where we celebrated the beginning of our journey with midnight Mackers (McDonalds).  After a night on the food court bench, we made the three hour plane ride over to Oz, landing in a climate much more friendly than the chilly Welly we left behind.  The backpackers that we were planning on staying in was advertised as being five minutes from the airport, so off we set.  On what would turn into a four hour quest to find the backpackers (!), we found the beautiful beach with its clear water and soft sand underfoot.    Being days from Australia’s winter solstice, the summer beachy town of Coolangatta was quite under-populated, leaving us with the freedom that only a deserted beach can bring.  We could see Brisbane over the water, a mere 100ks away.  The proximity to the airport allowed us to watch the arrival and takeoff of every plane coming in and out of Gold Coast.  After checking-in to the YHA, we decided an afternoon nap sounded immensely satisfying, considering our previous night’s sleep and four-hour trek up and down the coast did not leave much room for rest.  Five hours later, we woke up, the sun on its way to the other side of the world and our stomachs growling.  We headed off to what would become a staple of our diet over the next five days: delicious and American friendly Subway.  We even had a coupon for five-dollar foot longs.  Boo ya!  What did we pay for our subs with, you say?  Only the coolest and most colorful dollar notes I’ve ever used.  NZ money is flash, but the Aussie money was art.  The old lady on the twenty looked astonishingly like Ben Franklin.

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Australian dollars

—-This marks the end of the writing from August 4th.  The following is from my journal–

19 June 2011

Today was one of the days I dream about in the dead of winter: waking up early for a run on the beach (barefoot), delicious breakfast, lounging on the beach consisting of frisbee, reading and napping.  I developed some nasty blisters on my feet from the jandals yesterday on our four-hour walk about town and each step is a dull ache that reminds me of yesterday’s search.  We had Subway once again and on our way there (and back) we saw for the second day in a row a HUGE bat inhabiting a tree along the path.  The flying creature must have at least a three-foot wingspan.  It is positively frightening walking through its layer at night, but thrilling.

22 June 2011

Sunburbed.  The ash cloud is back.  I hope we can get home tomorrow.  If not, it could make for an interesting few days.  Here’s to praying for a flight!

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Coolangatta

24 June 2011

From my baggage claim sticker: Air New Zealand Flight no. NZ930.  Gold Coast to Auckland.  23 June 2011 @19:10PM.  (not our booked flight).  I’ll need to back up a bit to fill in the details about how I came to be in this place.

Highlights of the week:

Cool mornings, warm afternoons, brilliant blue skies, soft sands, dazzling ocean

Books. The New Jim Crow (me); Three Cups of Tea (Lynn)

Wildlife.  Giant killer bat, huge spider, colorful and vocal birds, locals on beach

Having “Pumped Up Kicks” stuck in my head nearly the whole time

Mexican restaurant and “favorite people we know” conversation

Awkward tan lines

Early nights (9PM=bedtime) followed by delicious (and free) breakfast.

The best winter solstice I’ve ever had.  Not until the day before our return flight did I let the outside world seep into my mind.  The ash cloud was back.  It had circled the globe and was back for more disruption.

June 22:  Headlines such as “120,000 travelers displaced” and “Flights cancelled indefinitely” and “You’re trapped in Australia!” screamed from the newspapers we found.

June 23: We had to check out of the YHA by 10AM as the room had been booked by another large group due in that evening.  We pack up our things and head to the beach for the day, as per usual.  We are both thoroughly roasted by the time 4:00PM rolls around and we head back to the YHA to check the computer, the moment we have been dreading for the previous twenty-four hours.  The news is not good: our flight has been cancelled and Pacific Blue has cancelled ALL flights until further notice.  Our morning, connecting flight from Auckland to Wellington has also been cancelled with no guarantee that they will be flying anytime soon.  For want of something to do and to feel like we can control something, we head to the airport to see what our options might be.  The Pacific Blue counter wench was nice enough, but could offer no help other than to say that the website would be updated when more news came in.  She does, however, tell us that for whatever reason, Air New Zealand is still flying and they have a flight scheduled for that night. Here is where my thoughts are: I’m stuck in Australia and won’t make it back to NZ to take my final exam which means I will fail the class and not go back to Ohio State with adequate credit to support my scholarship and other financial aid, thereby forfeiting the money already awarded to me and instead owing what I borrowed in the first place to get to NZ and further Oz.  In other words, I’m screwed if I can’t get back to my exam.

We head to the Air New Zealand counter and find out there are no more seats on the flight that night or the following morning.  They tell us that in one hour we can check with them again and see if any standby seats have opened up–a slim chance, but our only option.  We grab some dinner, the first food that we’ve had since breakfast and it does help to lift our mood.  One chicken stir-fry and baked pasta dish later and our bellies are full.  The lady told us to return at 6:00, but after a gut feeling to check early, we head back at 5:50.  They told us that we’d have to wait another twenty minutes, but that they knew what we wanted (seats,) and they’d be patient if we could be, too.  Another girl was waiting near the counter, so we struck up a conversation with her and it turns out she was also hoping for standby tickets—the competition.  She was called Alisa from Vancouver and needed to catch this flight to make her Auckland connection to San Francisco and on back to Canada.  After fifteen minutes of chatting, they called the three of us forward along with another couple that had just arrived seeking standby options.  Lynn and I talked and decided that we would not be willing to pay more than $400 Aussie Dollas.  The Air New Zealand lady was called Donna and she told us that we were in luck and that there were three seats available due to no-shows, and that the tickets would cost $386.  What a saint!

We decided to take the seats.  Alisa got hers, we got ours and no one had to fight (which we were prepared to do.  Strength in numbers).  The other couple behind us was not so lucky.  Had we been ten minutes later or they been earlier, our roles very easily could have been switched.  With less than an hour till takeoff, we were put into expedited processing.  Payment: Lynn paid her ticket.  My card got declined.  The ATM would not give me cash.  I think the bank must have frozen my account since I was in a foreign country without telling them.  What a time for fraud protection!  Luckily, Lynn offered to give me an IOU, so our tickets were paid for (barely!).  Our passports got stamped and our tickets got printed and our bags got checked (the ticket we inherited included checked luggage.  How nice!).

We tore through customs and immigration and were nearly running through the duty-free zone on our way to the gate.  Quickest.  Security.  Ever.  It was as if they were waiting for just us (they were).  Upon reaching the gate with images of Home Alone running through my mind, we were told that not only did we make it in time, but that they had not yet begun the boarding process.  We made it!  Air New Zealand is pretty classy and the flight was fine, even with the mid-flight descent to 16,000 ft to avoid the ash cloud.  Minimal turbulence.  Personal TVs and movie selection–very nice.  I had forgotten how funny Modern Family could be!  We landed around 12:30AM Auckland time an hunkered down for the night on the same cluster of benches from the previous week’s layover.  It was late, we were tired and exhausted and our nerves were shot after all the day’s events, so we made a plan for the morning to review our options:  bus, train, rental car, flight (in cost order cheapest to most expensive).  We were in New Zealand.

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tired with many hours to occupy ourselves in the airport

June 24: Sleep came in two hour blocks as the sounds of the night shift and other restless passengers filled the air.  After an 8AM McDonalds brekkie, we decided that cost and emotion-wise, renting a car and hauling it ourselves would give us the best bang for our buck.  We went to the local i-Sight and they helped us rent a car for a one-way trip to Welly for a reasonable price.  We were going to make it home!  And only twelve hours later than we had originally planned.  Not too shabby.  We waited for the rental company’s shuttle to take us to our car in the cool but refreshing (to our sun burnt bodies anyhow) Auckland air.  Soon enough we were to our car when one last hurdle was thrown our way—our licenses.  Lynn and I have both turned twenty-one since we’ve been in NZ, meaning our US licenses have expired, nulling our eligibility to rent the car.  NOOO! So close, but the woman would not budge, even after our slight bending of the truth about how we’d driven rental cars since we’d turned twenty-one with other agencies (driven, yes. Rented, no).  She was sorry, but firm that we would not be able to take the car.  Back to the airport and the i-Sight stand we went for a refund.  They were able to book us spots on the overnight bus that would leave town that night at 8PM and get us back down to Wellington by 7AM the following morning.  At the end of our ropes, we gladly accepted that offer.  Never did waiting twelve hours for a twelve-hour bus ride sound so inviting.  And that’s where we are now: sitting, waiting and writing about our travels.  It seems like the trip was ill-fated from the start, but through it all we have managed optimism, light-heartedness and a new appreciation for finding the best stories out of apparent bad luck.  We must laugh at ourselves, because if we don’t, what can we do?  So we laugh.  And wait.

Airport crashing

Bench smashing

Luggage hauling

Skin crawling

With the unease of the dark cloud

That the world’s air falls into shroud

Looking for home

No longer seeking to roam

The wild, but the mild

Of normality, reality, centrality

That has become our lives

Back by beehives and Tasman dives

To those we call brother, lover

Friend, family and none other

A ride, a wild run

One for the son

And daughters of the future to hear

Of the truth so clear, near, dear:

There’s no place like home

10 July 2011

FIJI.  The V20 International Student Life Conference ended several days ago, which meant that my time in NZ was nearly through.  I hope to retain and learn from everything that went on at the conference.  A worldwide call to serve all people, BY all people.  What a vision!  The inevitable goodbyes finally arrived and they were the hardest yet.

Highlights of V20 and final days in NZ:

The Leigh Proctor Experience (aka BoZo and Glenn (Will Bodeker, Zoe Cook and I) performing “Who Let the Dogs Out”

Fireworks on July 4th; running around with the Americans with sparklers

Late night music with Peter (Samoa), Zoe, Ryan Vinten, Jesse Wilson, Cody Knox

Roger Hershey: God is sovereign and God has grace

Sleeping in a lion suit every night to keep warm

Goodbye party at the Rintoul flat

Early morning sendoff courtesy of the five brothers of Rintoul (minus Leigh, add Jesse)

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Wellington Student Life crew

My soul feels heavy from all this, but so thankful that I can be stretched to this point in the sight of a God who not only sees me where I am, but loves me all the same.  And I guess that brings me to Fiji.  I arrived in a hot Nadi around noontime to the sounds of Fijian song.  Three men and a guitar greeted the travelers as we arrived at the airport.  “Bula!”  I found a backpackers for the evening and was picked up by a tall, lanky man with dark skin and a gold tooth adorning his grin.  The van rumbled across once paved roads, kicking up dust onto the bodies that crossed the roads seemingly oblivious to the cars.  The city was very brown.  It was as if a baked, brown filter had been placed over the entire dusty and dry city.  I was thankful that the ATM allowed me to withdraw cash, a worry of mine after the incident in Australia.  After getting to the backpackers, I was able to book my next three nights on Mana Island, where I currently sit.  The exchange rate is not too bad here, around 2:1, so I am enjoying the reasonable costs afforded me.  I just let the front desk man do all the booking, too tired and exhausted to do much protesting, but things appear all good so far.  I slept that day, repacked that night and fell exhausted in body and spirit to my bed where I let the full meaning of what was happening wash over and through me.

I must leave behind the bodies that took me in

While I sought to walk on my own

Now running, I leave fulfilled

I am not alone, although I feel it

My soul creaks under the weight of these thoughts

Never tested in such a way in all my years

I sit and count the ones who I humbly owe

Gratitude, thanks, and above of all love

I leave you, I join you, I run for you

Abba Father is good to me.  My favorite part of Fiji so far was the boat ride to Mana: 4 Fijians, 3 Japanese, 2 Aussies, 1 Czech Republic, 1 German, and me, the lone American.  About five minutes in, one of the Japanese girls began singing a hauntingly beautiful something that captured the attention of everyone on board, even above the drone of the engine and crashing of waves upon the side of the boat.  It was a while before I realized she was singing “Amazing Grace.”  So beautiful.  When she reached, “But now I see,” she held out the last note for ages, doing vocal gymnastics and finally landing on a high, ringing final note that she nurtured as she threw back her head, hair flying like curtains hanging by an open window on a windy night.  Applause broke out from everyone on board while heartfelt and genuine grins spread across all our faces.  Pure joy and thankfulness.  This was possibly my favorite rendition of this classic song and a moment I hope to never forget.  Her words when she was done, “I feel good.  I feel happy!”  Love it.  This place is a postcard, a dream, a painting.  Now to enjoy it.

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Amazing Grace

11 July 2011

I cannot believe I fly out tomorrow night.  For HOME!  Crazy, aye?  I’m not feeling very poetic or expressive about how I’ve spent my time here, so here goes.

Highlights:

Met Bosko, the Mana Island legend.  “We’re a —-ing big family, what the —-“

Kava

Cast Away Island (where the movie was filmed) right next to Mana

“Some people get wet, others walk in the rain.  You have to choose who you’re going to be”

Sunset Beach = most beautiful ever beach

English friends: Bethan, Naomi, Nathan, Leigh, Rachel, Zoe, Will (international nomenclature familiarity)

Snorkeling; cold showers; crab catching on the rocks by the sea; napping on the sand

Night church in the village: all I understood was, “Praise the Lord.” That’s enough.

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Sunset Beach

12 July 2011 (I’m very disoriented)

I’m in LAX!  I’ve got ten hours here until my 10PM flight to DC then on to Columbus.  By the end of today, it will have been July 12 for forty-five hours, and I will have had two long flights depart at 10PM on July 12th.  Time travel.  I guess this is making up for my missing Feb. 10.  Getting out of Fiji was not as smooth as I would have liked, but as per usual, I now have a fun story to tell about my international travel ventures.  I missed my water taxi that was supposed to take me back to the mainland.  Luckily, there was a second and final taxi that was headed to Nadi later that afternoon, and so long as I was on it, I could still make it to the airport in time.  So…bonus afternoon on the beach!  It meant I’d miss my pre-booked, non-refundable day tour of Nadi, but at least I’d still get to the airport.  A guy with fiery red hair called Will gave me something to pass my afternoon and imminent travel time: a copy of Twilight that he’d received from a girl he met while in South Africa.  I gladly accepted his offer and set in on what would be an immensely pleasurable experience getting lost in this beautiful love story.  I wish I could lay my head upon that marble chest while getting lost in those smoldering eyes.  Anyway…the afternoon passed and the second water taxi arrived and I said my goodbyes.  Since my ticketed and paid-for taxi had already come and gone, I was prepared to pay the hefty price for a new ticket without reservation.  And then an idea came to me as I waited in line behind a large family with several children running around the dock.  The father presented their online printout ticket to the man checking in all the passengers.  I attached myself to the family in front of me, blended in to their herd and nodded to the ticket man as I followed my adopted father onto the boat.  I then put on my sunglasses, bolted for the nearest staircase and headed to the upper deck, found an open seat in the back of the seating area and buried my nose in Twilight, praying they wouldn’t come around checking tickets.  They never did.  I’d done it—I’d snuck onto a boat and rode successfully, at no charge, back to land.  I felt like some sort of pirate spy.  I’d done the sea equivalent of train jumping and it felt good.

After taking a taxi back to the backpackers where my luggage was stored, I met another roadblock in the form of a locked closet.  The front desk man that I had trusted so much several days earlier was nowhere to be found and with him were the keys that unlocked the storage closet where not just my things, but that of four other travelers were being held.  After some tense minutes and creative work with a coat hanger, we were in.  It turned out that two of the girls whose belongings were in storage were on the same flight as me and were headed home after studying in Australia the past semester.  They offered up space in their cab, which just so happened to be waiting outside, and together we headed out to the airport, luggage in tow.  I had to talk them through the worst-case scenario game had we not been able to get our stuff out of storage.  “It’s just stuff!  We’re going home tonight and that’s what’s really important!  We can replace clothes and laptops and priceless, sentimental artifacts from a once in a lifetime trip that will have changed our lives from this point onward!”  I didn’t say that last part, but that’s what they heard and were near hysterics as a result.  I’m glad we got our stuff back.  At the airport, one of the girls had to repack her carry-on to accommodate her seventeen packages of Tim Tam cookies.  Seventeen!  Sweet Christmas.  I got randomly selected for a 100% security check that involved a funny now, not funny then, experience with a Fijian guard in a small and ill-lit room.  He told me I’d need to take off my clothes, so as I began, he told me he was just kidding and I could keep my things on.  Haha?  Then he asked if he could check through my bag, so again I consented.  He saw how expertly it was packed, commented on its effectiveness and neatness and zipped it all back up without so much as that first glance, then proceeded with “okay now you really do need to take off your clothes.”   Again I began to undress when he stopped me, a second time, and said he was again joking and that I was free to go.  Not funny, man!

So after a ten-hour flight with a little boy sleeping with his head on my shoulder for nearly the entire ride, I am back in the United States of America.  I’d say it’s good to be home, but this massive airport is no home.  It’s giant and my feet are still blistered, so all this walking is no good.  While reading, I did one of my favorite airport activities: people watching.  There were five guys who I thought looked like a band.  If they weren’t in a band, they should be.  The way they were dressed, the swagger, the coolness—it all reeked, “we’re a band.”  And then I realized, these guys are, in fact, a band.  I know this band.  I started looking for context clues and sure enough, they were surrounded by equipment and cases full of what had to be instruments and other gear.  One of the carts was being pushed over to the check-in counter and there was the clincher in plain sight: written on the side of one of the cases was “Foster the People.”  I had a decision to make, to talk to them or not?  I decided to go for it.  I went up and asked if they were Foster the People, and they said they were.  I then told them my name and that I was coming from NZ, and that I was from Columbus where I had friends who saw them play a few months earlier.  One of the guys said he’d been in Wellington the year before playing music (appropriate), and then they wished me a safe trip home!

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Foster the People en route to Sweden

Two of the main members, Foster and Cubbie, were pretty standoffish and didn’t really engage with me, but the other three were great.  They were headed to Sweden.  I was pretty buzzy for awhile after that. Now I’ll wait for my flight and dive into more Twilight.  I’ll see you in the morning, Columbus!

———————–Journal writing ends———————————

10 February 2012

So here I am.  In Columbus, Ohio.  Living a day that time took from me last year.  It is only fitting that the Lord of the Rings soundtrack began playing on my iTunes as I sat down to write this.  As I think back on everything that has happened in this last year, I am absolutely flooded with emotions.  I remember people, (mis)adventures, runs, foods, indescribable beauty, nature’s destruction, international awkwardness, newness, music and love.  Early on in my Pacific Lit. class, we read a poem by the 13th Century Sufi poet, Rumi, and I am reminded of it now.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.

If it were always a fist or always stretched open,

You would be paralyzed.

-Rumi

I feel that it points to the necessity and importance of change.  Versatility and being moldable is a good thing.  There is, in fact, a time and place for everything, even if it means being uncomfortable or unsure about what might come next.  Over the last year, my hand has been opening and closing.  I am not the same person I was a year ago.  The changes are slight, and some people will never know what I have gone through, can never know, but as my life goes on, it will always be in some way influenced by what has happened over the course of this past year.  I am so very thankful for every moment of it.  Not all moments were good ones, noteworthy ones, but in the messy bits, the rough edges and bumps along the way are where we build character and truly see ourselves.  I have been blessed by the people that have become part of my story.  I set out to live a story worth telling.  My hope is that I will continue to open and close my hands, going, doing, exploring, daring, dreaming, discovering.  This would be the perfect spot for something along the lines of “There and back again,” but I will resist.  Thank you for letting me go.  Thank you for going with me.  Thank you for accepting me home.  Thank you.

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Assimilation.

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Music, Market, Magic.

This is a very long post.  Ye be warned.  Challenge yourself to reach the end.  There may be ice cream.

Wellington has once again assumed its gray disposition.  The sky matches people’s clothing: neutral blacks, dark greens and blues, with grays for miles.  It makes playing “spot the American” quite a simple task.  The one with North Face, not Kathmandu.  The one in a bright teal rain coat and not the long black trench.  The one with the tennis shoes and jeans instead of flash dress shoes and dark, slim fit pants.  On more than one occasion people inquiring about directions have approached me, only to wince and shrink away as soon as I opened my mouth, my accent immediately betraying my non-local status.  One lady was really funny about it in the most delightful, awkward kind of way.  “Ohh…You’re not from here.  Ahh.  I…Welllll” and then she left me, nearly running from my side so as to relieve the burden of further uttering more indistinguishable half-words.  Probably for the best, though, since I didn’t know where the building was anyway!

Saturday morning I went to an underground market that pops up in a parking garage every week.  It was a full sensory experience.  The sights of multi-colored scarves and the flashes of jewelry displays caught my attention between the bustle of searching peoples.  The chatter of sellers describing their wares mixed with the noises of fascination and surprise from the prowling buyers filled the air.  The smells of freshly roasted coffee mingled with the aromatic and tantalizing scent of warm crepes made by a man who smiled at the passersby and their longing, growling stomachs.  Fingers felt fabrics while mirrors reflected dangling earrings interacting with lonely lobes.  I love the market vibe.

The past week was study week at uni, a week without classes and no scheduled exams, a nice respite from the crunch that was the last week of classes, which for me included one essay and one exam.  The Student Life crew, during the last week of class, hit the campus for about thirty minutes armed with lollies to try and spread some study week cheer.  No strings attached, just helping people out with a small shot of sugary goodness.  My partner and I decided to head to the library where countless students were milling about, flitting between computers and printers or poring over the pages of endless books strewn wildly across the surface of desks and tables.  A stroke of brilliance came when we decided to head not to the masses and possibly interrupt their study and risk running into people that had already been approached by other lolly distributors, but instead to the elevator and let the people come to us.  So we headed into the elevator and as people came on, we welcomed them to the elevator and offered them their choice of chocolate, fruit bursts or suckers (by far the least sought).  Most people were initially taken aback and unsure how to react, but since we had a captive audience, gentle persuasion and the communal nature of the elevator experience soon led to the depletion of our lolly supply.  Success! My favorite question was if we were conducting some sort of psychology experiment measuring the reaction and responsiveness of people in elevators when approached with an offer.  We weren’t, but I’d be interested in being a part of that study.  Elevators are ripe for experimentation.  I’ve taken to walking into elevators and not turning around to face the door, but remaining with my back to the door and facing whomever else might be in the elevator for the duration of the ride.  Try it sometime.

Student Life.

For my final essay in my Pacific lit. class, I wrote a poem back to Selina Tusitala Marsh’s “Fast Talking PI” (Pacific Islander).  “PI” features snapshots of the vast diversity that exists within the Pacific.  Our whole term has asked the question, “What is the Pacific? What is PI?” and Marsh’s poem is one voice in the Pacific that is attempting to answer that question.  Her poem is not an inexhaustible catalog of every PI ever (although she does have a 42 minute version of the poem), but invites people to interact with their own realities and places in their worlds.  So, I wrote “Fast Talking Buckeye.”  I thought about the campus in Columbus, the people that make it up, the people who have moved on from it, the people who are simply near it, and it was not hard to see that the people that make up Buckeye Country are full of lives and stories that go so far beyond the physical confines of Ohio State.  Alice, my prof, had me read it to the class on our last day and while some of the specific references to TP, the oval, and Mirror Lake were lost on the class, the notions of suffering, hope, and joy were more universal.  And, Alice is going to be at Ohio State in October for a conference being led by one of her best mates, an English professor at OSU (small world, aye?) named Chadwick Allen (she told me to look him up when I get home), so we’re going to try and meet up.  Boom.

My time lately has been filled with essay preparation for my final exam in my media studies paper.  We get to write about the idea of genre construction and then pick a specific genre to discuss in depth.  With the blessing of my music guru professor, I’m going to be looking at the “West London folk scene” where acts such as Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, and Johnny Flynn hail from.  There is not much academic writing on this scene since it so contemporary and still happening, which means that it will be mostly me finding connections and making claims about this “nu-folk” meta genre.  “Is that a question I see? Go for it.”  “Oh, hai, yes.  You’re telling me that you are writing about Mumford and Noah and the Whale and getting academic credit for it?  You mean you get to listen to music and interviews by these bands that you listen to anyway and it is called study?  So you are reading articles about these bands and making claims that they are a perfect example of the commodification and marketing of a sound that a few friends share, who happen to hail from a relative proximity to one another, and that while they shun typical marketing schemes as inauthentic and a forced aesthetic, this label of “West London folk” has been attached to them to create a sense of exclusivity and therefore desirability and marketability? Is that correct?” “Well…yep.”

Johnny Flynn far left, Marcus Mumford third from right, Laura Marling far right

Wellington has very good to me this week in terms of new music.  First, you’ll need a full breath for this one: Brockaflowersaurus-Rex and the Blueberry Biscuits.  A jam band of sorts, my buddy Alex first heard about these guys.  For a while, I was not convinced that they even existed as every referent that Alex offered for their musical transcendence fell through.  But, after meeting one of the singers on the set of Rage, it was confirmed that they did indeed exist.  They played at a bar called Bodega, one that is apparently good for classy acts.  It is quite difficult to characterize what genre their music would fit into, but here are some snapshots from the night.  Two dreadlocked men, one on bass guitar, the other on drums, an alto sax man who doubled as freestyle rapper, tenor sax, trombone, guy on keys who also had looping and drum machine who laid down crazy beats, and no fewer than three singers who showed up in combinations of one, two or zero of them present on stage at any one time.  Their was jazzy, sonic bits, heavier rocky bits that bordered on metal, and then the pleasant wind instrument bits with crazy beats flying over it all.  It was nuts, as would be expected with a name like theirs, and I can’t wait to see them again.

The following night found me at Bodega yet again, this time to see Jesse Sheehan and the Family of Actors.  I think I have my new favorite band of the moment.  Jesse is nineteen and has a huge ginger afro.  A noticeable character on any street to be sure.  His band featured two brothers, one on drums, the other on bass, and a keyboardist.  Their music left me with an overwhelming sense of optimism that made me want to dance without regard and thank people for their goodness.  The music was generally upbeat, funky pop and lyrical, but also there was the acoustic half of the set that was just as enjoyable.  His drummer was a guy with shoulder length hair, a suede velvet suit coat capped off with a bow-tie who smiled the whole set.  He was contagious.  Whenever anyone else in the band would look at him it brought about huge grins in return.  Incredible musicianship and cool as to have such a genuinely warm vibe from so many people.  I’m not sure if this is his brother or not, but Rhian Sheehan has wooed me with his beautiful soundscapes.  I’d watch a movie with no visual if it was set to his music, it is that inviting.  Recommended if you’re into Sigur Ros, Jonsi, or Anderson Cale.

Bodega.

I managed to re-read the last Harry Potter book in preparation for the movie coming out next month.  It, as always, was bittersweet finishing up the series, but so rewarding.  I think the movie is released the day I get back to the US, so we’ll see if I’ll be able to rally out for a screening.  The end of a cultural phenomenon.  On a related note, I saw the NZ film Eagle vs. Shark the other day, which stars Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords and a host of other kiwi actors.  It is quite quirky. Think Napoleon Dynamite meets the daddy issues of Stand By Me meets the general family dysfunction of Little Miss Sunshine and you’ve got the movie.  My favorite part, however, had nothing to do with the story, but instead was the realization that one of the minor characters was played by one of the stars of Rage, Gentiane Lupi. I had no idea anyone from the cast of Rage was anything accomplished, but there you have it!  Two degrees of separation between Jemaine and me.  Excellent!

Two friends of mine have recently finished reading Born to Run, a book I read last summer that was quite influential on my approach to running psychology and motivation.  Read it!  Part of the book deals with barefoot running, something I have done little of in my own running.  At the encouragement of one of these guys who just finished it, we headed out for a run that finished on the turf field at uni where we did a barefoot mile.  It felt good.  I don’t know that I felt necessarily faster, but there was definitely something appealing to the lightness of my feet and really feeling the impact with each stride.  The soft turf is a far cry from the Copper Canyons of Mexico, but hey, gotta start somewhere.  We did two sprints at the end, and I think that was where I really felt the change.  Sprints bring you to your toes, so the foot strikes were my actual toes leading me.  I could feel my form change instantly.  I’m not so sold on the rest of the ideas presented by the book about barefoot running, but am definitely keen for the occasional mile on the turf.  The next day, I met up with some friends for some soccer over in Newtown.  It’s been rainy, so naturally the fields were muddy metropolises.  We went barefoot to save our shoes, and our feet quickly became numb to the cold, wet field.  After surrendering to our inevitably muddy futures, the afternoon was a lot more fun as falls, slides and dives (not all of them intentional) littered the field and our clothes.  After one goal was decimated by our action, we headed to the opposite side of the field seeking playable grass.  Our belongings remained where we left them beside the first goal, when we noticed two kids and their dog approaching our things.  Initially, they simply watched us play at the opposite goal, but soon took to yelling catcalls at us.  “Why don’t you guys play a real man’s sport, like rugby?  Your hair is stupid!  You guys are bad at soccer and that’s why you don’t have girlfriends!” (They might have been on to something there)  They tried their best to surreptitiously meddle with our unguarded shoes, socks, and keys while we were playing.  It was quite obvious that they were trying to mess with our things under the guise of practicing kung fu moves, leaping and kicking at our things until we looked in their direction and they would then leap and ninja their way away, only to return after we returned to our game.  We decided it would be fun to chase them.  On their next attempt at our shoes, we bolted straight for them.  They took off, as any kid would, and leapt down the grassy path that sloped down behind the goal and away from us.  One of the guys and I pursued them down the path, Jesse yelling “Oi! Oi!”  in his best disgruntled old man voice.  Had they turned around they would have seen us cracking up with huge smiles plastered on our faces, but as those in hot pursuit do, they ran without so much as a backward glance.  Exhilarating and hilarious.  My buddy Cody let me borrow some clothes afterwards, so of course I got his old red skinny jeans that were too big in the waist.  I met his lovely neighbors and the staff at the local dairy as we went shopping for breakfast for dinner fix’n’s.  So what if I look crazy.  I’m in New Zealand and I’ll do what I want!  When are they going to see me again?  I live for fashion, duh.

Red pants and new favorite shirt.

If you have read this far, I applaud you.  You are a true friend and I value your continued support and encouragement.  A haiku of thanks:

You did it! The end.

Now you can get on with life.

How ‘bout some ice cream!

 

 

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Good Day Sunshine.

Today is a good day.  I think it is because of the sunshine.  The last week has been some of the bleakest (read: normal for Wellington) weather in quite some time.  The sun has been absent, and the skies have been gray.  That has been reflected in most people’s attitudes.  But today, the sun is shining, and with that comes a flood of joy. I am tempted to sing “High of 75” as it seems ultra appropriate today: “We were talking together, I said, “what’s up with this weather?” Dont know whether or not how sad I just got was of my own volition, or if I’m just missing the sun.”  But the song ends well with, “And its funny how you find you enjoy your life, when you’re happy to be alive.” I am happy to be alive.

I cannot pinpoint it to any one event, but the culmination of the last week has been immensely satisfying.  I was invited to speak at the Student Life (the Christian group on campus I’ve become involved with) weekly meeting last week, and it was a great experience. Quite low key, and I was working with two other students to run the show for the week, an honor to be involved with.  One of the Student Life girls was playing a show that night at a bar called Happy (what a nice name) and she is quite talented!  And she would fit in with about one percent effort with the crowd back in Columbus.  Think Regina Spektor meets St. Vincent meets She and Him meets Colin Meloy’s folky storytelling style.  Check her out America: Zoe Cook.

I finished a book that one of my roommates gave me for Christmas entitled Naked in Dangerous Places, a travel narrative that chronicled the real life journey of Cash Peters and his year making a travel TV show that left him in remote places with no money and food.  So was the premise, which he quickly realized would be blown if the viewers gave any intelligent thought to what was actually going on.  His writing is hilarious, and the situations that he found himself in “naturally” were quite absurd.  He even made it to New Zealand for an episode where he bailed on jumping off the Nevis Bungy which I did over my break.  Boo ya!  Besides the entertaining stories recalled from places such as Lesbos, Alaska, Vanuatu, and Kenya (where he slept in a hut made of cow dung), he had greater perspectives on the whole idea of travelling and its sometimes futile and impossible attempts to truly know a place.  I have been in New Zealand for 111 days and while I feel that I know the city pretty well, and I’ve been to many places around the country’s north and south islands, I don’t really know in the deep down understanding kind of way that could take lifetimes.  It throws life into a huge perspective that our time here really is limited, and that today is as good a day as any to be the one to change your life.  And in that vein of optimism, I live today.

Friday night was the night where me and the Rage crew went and redeemed our bar tab at the ultra chic, super classy, we wouldn’t be there in any other circumstances bar, Ancestral.  It was a night of the best and fanciest drinks that any of us had ever had.  Good times.  I really do wonder if we will ever be able to see the movie in its finished state.  Best case scenario, we stay in contact with the lady from the shoot, we each get a copy of the movie and then host premieres all across the country in a night of movie stardom.  “Columbus! Boston! Vermont! Knoxville! Minneapolis!  See the international sensation that is Rage! Meet the talented and incredibly handsome men that starred in the full length feature film!”  Yeah, that sounds good.

I went out for a late night (okay, it was 6:30, but had been dark for an hour and a half, so it might as well have been midnight) run and became the unexpected third wheel on what looked like a lovely evening.  I was running by the waterfront, as I do, and just in front of me, enough ahead of me to not be noticed, but close enough to see and hear exactly what was happening, was a couple having a date on the go.  They had rented roller blades and were careening dangerously down the sidewalks, attempting to hold hands, but missing the connection, making turns that took tens of seconds to complete, and laughing hysterically the whole time.  They were dressed as if they had just walked off the set of filming the music video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” he in a flannel and long curtains of hair, and she in a cheerleading outfit with the red “A” for anarchy on her top.  Nah, she wasn’t, but straight 90s for sure.  When I finally did pass them it was when they had finally managed to navigate towards each other, and whether or not their following embrace was one of love and connection or of the need for balance and structural stability, it is hard to say, but either way it was a special moment.

And this morning, the combination of mulling over a hot cup of coffe the promise in Isaiah 32:1-2, the sounds of “Where is My Mind” by the Pixies, and reading an unexpected message from a friend kickstarted a day that has been a blessing.  Today I am happy, encouraged, and reflecting over the culminating factors that have made today possible, and it is good.  Go do.

 

 

 

 

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Climbing and 21.

Hello world.  What a place you are.

In my world, lately, there has been essays, 21st birthdays, more essays, rock climbing, and sardines.  Let’s being with rock climbing.  My kiwi buddy, Sam, works at a local indoor rock climbing facility and is allowed to have friends in to climb.  Boo ya.  I’m not very good at it, but it is fun, and I can see how people would get into it.  Hard out it’s fun, challenging, a bit scary, and tiring.  My arms always feel like steel cables when they’re done, not really sore per se, just saturated with blood and incapable of supporting my weight.  I want to continue and improve technique and get some muscle going in my arms.  Doing it fairly regularly has allowed me to appreciate people like Lisa Rand and the world famous, Eric Atwell.  Climb on.

After climbing last Monday, we were headed back from the waterfront, where we climb, and out popped the harmless statement, “The water looks great tonight.  We should totally jump in.”  Very casual, and by no means serious, but then the positive affliliatives started rolling in: “yea we should!” “Great idea.”  It was a cold night.  And the water hadn’t seen sun for a week.  So naturally, we stripped down and went careening for the water’s edge.  Diving into the very cold water, our tired bodies were electrified by the grip of the icy water.  Some of the fastest swimming I’ve ever done happened next as we raced back to the saftey and warmth of the dock.  We pulled ourselves out and took inventory.  We all had disbelieving, but extremely satisfied grins plastered on our faces.  I couldn’t believe it, but I am so glad we did it.  We all walked back a little taller, if wetter, that night.  Tonight we climb again, will we swim?

I’ve experienced two NZ 21st birthdays since I’ve been here.  Three if you count mine, but I’m not.  They are different here.  My friend Cody turned 21 just before I did, on a night that was filled with stories, laughing, childhood recollections, requisite drinks, and family.  In contrast to twenty first celebrations back in the States, this was an occassion to be celebrated and remembered rather simply a night to drink into oblivion and recall by embarrassing photos the following morning.  One of the key differences for me was the great family presence and the wide range of friends invited to celebrate.  There were speeches, given by his wise older brother, a childhood friend, and his grandfather.  They collectively highlighted to me in a real way the idea of genealogy and place as so important to the people here.  Cody was placed into a greater context for me, one with these friends and family as a piece of who he has come to be, but in the same way one that included Cody as a part of who they have come to be.  Cody was but a thread in the great tapestry of connection that was present that night, but in large and small ways helped to create a greater reality in all our histories.

The fine gentlemen of Student Life gathered on Friday night for a night of manliness, bbq, and night games.  After some delicious sausages, we headed out to the park at the end of the street to play a big old game of sardines.  I love night games. I feel like I run faster, I focus harder, I care more.  Something about the shadows, the mystery, the unknown makes the experience of the night all the more satisfying.  The game was filled with searching done high and low, futile shouts, and ultimately success.  It was a great time. Man I love capture the flag, star wars, sardines, ninja, fugitive (want to try this out sometime. sounds BA).  Good times.

I’ll leave with this, yesterday I was an extra in a movie called Rage. It is a film about the 1981 Sprinbok Tour riots that took place in Wellington.  Me and four others joined the ranks of extras and got to dress up in 1970s clothes and be on set all day and riot, shout, and look surprised.  We were fed (good food) and got a $250 bar tab to split at a new fancy bar in town.  Not bad for a day’s work.  When more details about the film are available, I’ll be sure to try and get a hold of it.  Movie star?  Check!

Also, this song has been perfect lately: Lovely Day everyone!

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South Island.

After my week in Christchurch, my  good buddy Alex flew down and joined me for our grand tour of the beautiful south island.  We loaded up our Corolla, which we dubbed (wub wub wub) Carrie, and hit the open road.

This was a very visually stunning trip, so it’d only be appropriate to have some pictures.  Still, the scope and true beauty of the place cannot be contained by words, pictures, clay figures, poems, interpretive dances, or Legos.  But I’ll try.  A picture a day.

Guiding the way.

Monday afternoon was met with rainy skies, the only precipitation we saw all week, and this huge rainbow.  So bright.  So vivid.  A good omen for sure.

Nevis Bungy. 134m.

Tuesday was Queenstown.  The adventure capital of the adventure capital of the world.  This is the highest bungy in New Zealand at 134 meters = 440 feet = taller than the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point.  The jump came in three phases. 1) disbelief and shock.  no grasp about what is happening. 2) holy shnikes! why am i falling so fast and so far?  i am surely going to die. i’m not stopping! 3) holy shnikes! i am falling so fast and so far. i am surely going to die. i’m not stopping.  and this is totally awesome! look at this view! all boxes and preconceptions blown for what 134m and jumping that far might entail. Afterwards I felt like I could scale mountains and crush ice.  Intense!

Milford Sound.

Beautiful. Towering. True grit.  Last summer, I had a dream where I saw two incredible peaks just as the sun was rising, electrifying them with a gorgeous morning glow.  I had never seen them before, but when I woke up, the image was burned into my mind.  I searched in vain on the internet with searches such as: “two mountains,” “gold beautiful sunrise peaks,” “dream twin peaks” (this just got me hits for the red room and the midget scene from the tv show. yeeks). I did not find the sight.  When I was doing NZ research in the following months, I discovered Milford Sound and wouldn’t you know it, there were the mountains.  Immediately I remembered the dream and knew that I’d found it and needed to see it for myself.  I have lived the dream and it is sweet.  Alex and I travelled with our Israeli friend, Adva, and our rally cry for the drive was, “Osher!” Hebrew for happiness.  Milford Sound = שמחה.

Alex at Franz Joseph Glacier.

I’ve never seen a glacier before.  Thursday we saw two.  Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph. We were able to walk to the deceptively close Franz Joseph and see it in its dirtiest, smallest form of the year: the end of summer and beginning of fall where it has melted and accumulated the dust and debris from the mountains, before its snowy makeover.  It has receded an alarmingly large amount in the last 150 years.  Global warming?  It was quite surreal approaching it from such a distance and make seemingly no headway. Dwarfism mixed with the Hitchcock Vertigo effect = huge mountains that stay huge for a long time, even with cows and trees and cars zooming by.

21st Birthday.

People will ask me what I did for my 21st.  They’ll ask if it was crazy.  If I went ballistic.  If I had a good time.  And I’ll say yes.  I’ll say it was more crazy than can be imagined.  I won’t be able to tell them where I was because the place had no name. I’ll tell them how I felt more free than I ever have.  Inhibitions gone I ran around and danced like a fool.  I ended up without a shirt and with no shoes on.  I clambered up rocky stools and drank up the sun’s rays.  I had no money by the end.  I was cut off by a tide that rose and rose.  I was in the company of a good friend who let me have this time to just be free, go nuts, and be 21.

Lunch in paradise.

Sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park was rad.  Five of us in our group, led by Sally our instructor, headed out to sea to see seals, postcard beaches, and tramp through beautiful greens.  Lunchtime was well deserved and picturesque on this deserted beach.  Chicken cesar sandwiches followed by coffee and carrot cake made for a yummy afternoon.  We basked in the glory of the sun and sand until we felt it was time to tramp off through the trees and across more beaches to get to the aqua taxi that would pick us up.  Sand flies ate me alive.  I’ve never felt such itchiness before, but they were worth the trouble.  I’d do it again, but with a healthy bottle of Goodbye Sandfly in tow next time.

Picton.

Finally Sunday arrived, and so did Picton, the town that would be our hom for 11 hours as we waited for our 10:30PM ferry.  We became Picton experts in approximately 35 minutes and the mystery was gone after that time.  We passed the time by heading to the local library, eating fish’n’chips, kicking around a soccer ball, writing about rock’n’roll, and climbing on the playground outside the ferry holding cell.  In my tired and sick of waiting stupor, I wrote this:

Ferry Rambling

The time in the terminal ticks die die die

Minutes like molasses like a train goes by

Ferry in the water must be sinking in the sea

Reading Paul and John singing “Let it Be”

Distracted by the people and their noise

Wonder at their stories and the ploys

Waiting, always waiting for the welcome home

Welly on the water saying, “Son, you’re done”

Time is on your side

The mountains will be there

Forever like a promise

Made by someone close

The ferry was stacked with nice seats, tvs, and cows.  Cows? Yep, the late Sunday ferry is prime time for cattle transport.  It looked unpleasant to be a cow for that journey.  We made it back to Wellington around 2:15 AM, Monday morning, just in time for classes later that morning!

Incredible. I’ll treasure this trip for as long as my brain will let me.  My life be like Ooh-Ah.

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