Tuesday, September 6

what you can do in one year, or in one day

It has been almost a year since I've blogged. I made so many excuses... ("I don't have time" etc.)

What has happened in this one year?
I spent half in New Zealand and half in Minnesota.

Here's the shortest version possible of the New Zealand half:
(You probably won't understand this. But I will, so it's OK)

- Flew into Auckland to have Jarrod pick me up, breakfast in Ponsonby (eggs benedict w/salmon)
- Drove to Rotorua and got up before dawn for the natural hot springs
- Rolled around at Mt. Manganui Beach
- Drove through the north island enjoying the beautiful landscape
- Stayed in Gisborne (Gizzy) at Nigel & Marcel's
- Enjoyed pizza at the Wainui store and Rabbit Ranch red wine
- Arrived in Waipukurau and stayed with Jarrod and Brad at 10 Highgrove
- Hey, I have time for cooking!?
- November took me to Coromandel at Driving Creek Cafe
- WWOOF'd for a month there... dishes, sammies, coffees
- Met amazing people
- Worked with Jenna, Jacob, Tamara, Alex, Hollin, Anusara, Paula and Mehow
- Sauna at Mana Retreat Centre
- Walked 30 minutes into town for sunscreen and lollies
- Tramped through the bush on a trail made of stairs
- "I'm her mom" ... "nooo she's not"
- Made mini origami elephant, giraffe, and crane
- Bought a ukulele and learned the basics
- Crashed my boyfriend's car (an accident, of course) in Gizzy
- Moved rooms 3 times at Puka Resort to get away from the loud wedding
- Hot water beach... too lazy to get shovels and dig
- Went on a hike at Cathedral Cove
- Kayaked through a marine reserve for makeshift coffee on the beach
- Stayed a night in Whitianga to have a flat tyre in the morning
- Back to Waipuk in December, 7 hour bus to Wellsford
- Spent 4 rainy days in middle of nowhere, alone with blind/deaf dog on farm
- Pulled garlic, turned compost, hoed and hilled, picked strawberries
- Best first Xmas away from immediate family.. spent with Jarrod's family
- Xmas brunch at Christine's ...banana pancakes with hokey pokey ice cream
- Lunch at John's and backyard cricket games "drop the bat!"
- Rhythm & Vines Festival over new year's (Chromeo, Justice, NERD, Tinie Tempah, etc)
- Looked for apartments in Auckland, got shot down on high street
- Stayed two weeks with 2 Muslim brothers in loudest apartment ever (next door to police/fire)
- Moved in at 604 in Parnell with Daniel and his mighty laugh
- Visited Alex in Raglan surf town
- Drove to Wanganui with Jarrod to see Jemma & Kritzo's new house
- Stayed at Piazza Verde in Apiti with Peter and Barbara on the lavender farm
- Shared cheeky sav with Christine and flew back to Akl
- Blowout interview at Vada
- Akl museum for 2 days
- Saw bunches of cute penguins at Kelly Tarlton's underwater world
- Picnic at Simunovich Olive Estate on a beautiful sunny day
- Wellington in February with Alex to see Jacob
- Ferry to Nelson, hitchhike to Manahau
- Hiked 4 days with no idea what we were doing
- Hitchhiked back to Nelson for flight to Akl
- Jemma & Kritzo visit Akl, Gypsy Tea Room & Jafa
- Flight to Fiji for 6 hour layover, flight back to Los Angeles
- Oh, did I mention that I also fell in love?


Sunday, October 31

music, movies, books.

Here's a little of what I've been into for the last couple of weeks that I've been here in New Zealand. If you can't view the videos, try clicking the links. (Some videos only have rights in certain countries.)
Lissie somehow manages to be dually nonchalant with her lack of pronunciation, yet full of emotion with her vocal range. The Illinois native is currently on tour in Europe, and I'd love if she made her way down to this island because she's made of talent.

Florence and the Machine is strange and unique; this woman has definite vocal power. She's influenced by Tom Waits and Nick Cave (awesome) which you can hear sometimes barely grazing the edges of her songs. The most well known song is probably "Dog Days Are Over" because I think it made it's way onto a few commercials/movies, but I like this one the best.

Tinie Tempah is an English rapper that is pretty popular here in NZ, the linked song "Written in the Stars" also features Eric Turner of Street Fighting Man out of Stockholm (that SFM link has a couple free downloads too).

Once Were Warriors is a NZ film about the native Maori culture. For some reason I could only find the trailer with French subtitles. It's a very intense film and includes vulgarity and brutality, but I'd definitely recommend watching it.

James A Michener's "The Covenant" was given to me by a friend here in NZ. It is a novel depicting the history of South Africa (that's where this friend grew up). It's wide range of characters and stories from different regions and time periods, and it keeps my interest successfully. I'm only currently around page 200, meaning I have over a thousand more to go, and I look forward to enjoying the rest of it.

Cheers :-)

Sunday, October 17

here comes the sun

It's 8am on Monday morning. I've been in New Zealand for three full days now, and after having an eventful weekend, I'm ready to relax.

I left Minneapolis on Wednesday morning. I had a short and easy flight to Los Angeles. When I arrived in LA, my absolute dearest friend from the West who I hadn't seen in almost a year, Cassandra, picked me up from LAX. It was like we'd never parted, and we slipped into comfort mode for some laughs, some burgers, some margaritas (with our friends Brandon and Lauren), some hugs, and she sent me on my way later that night. I flew about 13 hours to New Zealand, into the northern coastal city of Auckland. My friend Jarrod was there to pick me up. He grew up in NZ, our paths crossed in LA last year where we both were studying, and have stayed in contact since.

We ate breakfast at a small bistro. It's been a while since I've had quality seafood (it's rare in the Midwest, of course) so that tickled me right away. After exploring Auckland for a bit, we headed down through the stunning green spring landscape and took a rest stop at Mount Maunganui, an East Coast beach. We took a stroll on the beach, which goes right up to a cliff (I love that contrast). Then, we got back on the road and cruised to Lake Rotorua where we stayed for the night.

In the early morning, we went to the Rotoma hot springs (a geothermally heated spring). When I first dipped my toes in, it was the temperature similar to a hot tub. Walking in slowly to adjust to the warmth of the water, I could feel the pebbles beneath my feet, not yet ground into sand. Then, as I walked through the springs (which are only about waist deep) I would get random gusts of cool water brushing up against me. When the water was too hot, I'd swim over to find one of those cool spots. When I'd float on my back with all but my face immersed, the tiny bubbles that flow from the floor would roll along my body until they found the open air. I'm not sure how long we were there, but the sun was eventually fully risen, and we were warm from it and from the waters, so we took a long drive through corridors of trees and up and down gravel roads through hills of grazing sheep.

We took some necessary stops then, getting some Hell's Pizza and buying a camera.  (I haven't been taking as many pictures as I should be, but I'll try a bit harder from now on.) After the camera purchase, we took off to Gisborne which is a nice chill beach town on the Mid-Eastern coast. I met a few of Jarrod's friends there: Marcel, Nigel, and Cam. When we first arrived we went to the shop that Marcel runs and he made us some delicious food. We walked down to the beach, and later met up at Nigel and Marcel's house. I had a wonderful time drinking a locally made red wine and sharing music and stories.

On the road again, yesterday we came down to the small town of Waipukurau where Jarrod is staying for the moment in a house with his friend Brad. I'll be staying here for the next week or so until I figure out where I'm off to next, and I'll keep you posted! Cheers!

Monday, October 4

Guru: Disperser of Darkness

The realization that I would never get to laugh with my dear cousin Gu again was instantly heartbreaking, and the aching overflowed. The moments we’ve shared together in our lives came rushing at me. An image of the warm bright smile that was often plastered on his face has been giving me comfort among this storm. That smile would peak right as he would burst out in a bellied laugh. I have many memories of our childhoods together, whether it was a holiday gathering, a Sanibel Island vacation, art camp or army camp, we were always silly and mischievous children together. My fondest and most vivid memories of Gu are the ones made most recently.
We once stopped at Starbucks to use their internet (after Bhag’s GPS took us in most comical circles around the Norfolk airport). While I was checking on my flight, Gu politely stated that he was going to be back momentarily. When he came back, something was different about him. I stared for a minute, and we laughed so hard when I realized that he had just shaved his moustache off in the Starbucks bathroom. Just for fun. This is an excellent portrayal of an aspect of him that I absolutely loved: his sense of spontaneity. For instance, he nonchalantly orders hot chocolate at a restaurant, even though we’re still sweating from the immense heat outside on the walk over.

He was just over one year older than me, but set aside our goofy moments, and I looked up to him as a wise man. Gu’s philosophies of life were so interesting to me and the deepness of his thoughts always amazed me. His talent and knowledge never surprised me, but often comforted me. When there was nothing on the radio he recited from memory Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven, without missing a beat and with perfect expression of each word, each line. He would recite it in his head at night when he couldn’t fall asleep. While sharing a room at the beach house this summer, we went to the midnight viewing of a film (based around the complexity of the human dream) and when we returned to our beds, rather than dream, we just talked about dreams for hours. Gu is in my dreams and will be in my heart always. I now see him in every color-changing autumn leaf, in every vast field, in each bright moon, and in each brisk wind. His name, Guru, means disperser of darkness. He gives me a reason to smile brilliantly, sing abundantly, and laugh hysterically.

 Guru Meher Singh Khalsa 1988-2010

Monday, July 12

It's about time, eh?

So in all honesty, after our trip to Ecuador, nothing really seemed important enough to blog about. I'd hear about cool things going on in fashion, beauty, music, whatever, and it all seemed so minuscule when set down next to the work that Hands for Humanity did there. Therefore, some time has passed since I've updated my blog. Who am I kidding, a LOT of time has passed. Work and school can get the best of me sometimes and take more of my energy than is deserving of them, but my head seems to be straightening out lately.

So there's this brand called Edun. It's a clothing line way out of my price range with very basic designs, and was actually founded by Ali Hewson and her husband, drumroll please...

...Bono. "Why is it worth mentioning then?" you may ask, especially if you know I'm not a big fan of U2. The answer is: this clothing line uses organic cotton and was the inspiration for the Conservation Cotton Initiative (CCI), which was also founded by Ali and Bono along with the Wildlife Conservation Society. CCI promotes organic cotton growing in Africa; the war-torn country's cotton used to be a top export, and has since been diminished. The farmers involved have the benefit of premium prices for the raw material, and the end-product is made there as well (weaving, dyeing, printing, cutting, sewing, etc.) creating jobs for the local communities. The end product comes from Edun Live on Campus, which is a t-shirt company run by students around the United States. On that site, anyone can order custom shirts for any event (of course U2's merch is from Edun Live). Or, you can design and order a custom shirt on Zazzle using an Edun Live t-shirt.

Alexandra Marshall did a great piece on the mission in ELLE this month that I'd highly recommend reading for a closer look and keep it in mind for your next t-shirt purchase.

Wednesday, April 7

Home Safe and Sound

Longest. Post. Ever.

I have to apologize for my lack of posting for since I've been home. We had so many activities planned during the last week in Ecuador that I didn't have much time to sit down, let alone write a blog. Since I've been home, sickness has laid it's hand upon me in the cruelest way, and I've been extremely fatigued. So I'm going to pick up where I left off with the trip, but it's going to be the simplified version. If you want to chit chat about the trip (I'd love to anytime) just give me a call and let's grab a cup of coffee.

Each day our amazing driver Rita would take us to the orphanage around 9AM, and we usually took the morning to do as much painting as we could. Throughout the week we painted the entire kitchen building and recreational building on the outsides and insides. The paint they use there is thinned with gasoline, so it was a pungent job, but we didn't complain much. Water was a necessity while working in the humidity and heat, as well as sunscreen and bug repellent. Taking breaks was sometimes the most tiring part, because I'd go play with the kids, and they can really wear you out!

Our lunch was brought in every day and always had the most delicious desserts (tres leches and flaan to name a couple). After lunch I usually helped with whatever craft project or game the kids were up to. They shaped pipe cleaners into flowers and glasses, made designs out of adhesive-backed foam, blew bubbles, colored with crayons, and played with the new soccer balls and hula hoops that some of the volunteers and I bought for them at the mall.

We usually left the orphanage around 3PM and would have some sort of outing or event planned before dinner. One day we went to the home of a boy who had been flown to the Mayo Clinic about 10 years ago for a surgery. His father proudly welcomed us into their home. They have a handful of sewing machines at the front of their house that they make sweatshirts with and sell to the schools for uniforms. Each completed sweatshirt is worth about 40 cents and they have to make about 100 per day in order to reach their goal of 3000 per year. The workers start at about 7AM and end around 10PM. Their home was very commonly built for this area; the floor of the consisted of packed dirt, walls of bamboo, roof of corrugated aluminum, usually no doors, and absolutely breathtaking views of the landscape from atop a hill. As we were leaving, we stopped to take a photo of our group. We invited some children that were watching us to come sit with us to be in the photos; before we knew it, there was a stampede of young children running up the hill toward us with smiling faces for the camera.

Another adventure we had one evening was the tour of Portoviejo that we received from one of the four local ambulances. We packed in the back of the ambulance (driving sometimes with the doors closed, sometimes open) and were told about the emergency services there. They brought us to their civil defense headquarters and showed us around, and brought us to a park with great evening views of the city. The ambulance was donated by New York and was actually used there during the attacks on 9/11. All of their emergency responders are volunteers and everything they have for supplies has been by donation.

The next day, after the orphanage, I had the opportunity to scrub in and be in the operating room to watch a foot surgery at the Fundación de Niños San Lucas. This was an amazing experience that I'm sure I'd never be able to have in the US because of more strict laws and policies. I watched the last hour or so of the surgery on a 4 year old girl's foot which had been operated on a few years ago by a different surgeon and hadn't healed 100% correctly, so they were re-aligning the tendons and bones in her foot. I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle seeing the inside of someone's live body, it was heavily intense, but when I was watching, I was in serious awe of the surgeon's abilities. If you've never witnessed something like this before, you may think I'm exaggerating, but watching this life-altering process was miraculous.

After writing about all of these things I am becoming very surprised as to how we fit all of this in! Another day after "work" with the kids, we went to the market in a nearby town, Montecristi. You can find all of the shops along the main street selling locally inspired (and mostly locally made) souvenirs including: tagua nut jewelry and figurines, alpaca blankets, sweaters, and scarves, Panama hats (not actually made in Panama!), hammocks, and many other things. In these shops they usually expect a little bartering, so we could talk down the price on most items we bought.

Leaving the children at the orphanage on Wednesday was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. They did a few more dances for us, and some of them spoke words of thanks into the microphone. One small girl, Andrea, who I believe is about 8 years old, said, "You not only painted on our walls, you painted love on our hearts." We were pretty much all in tears after that one. We gave long embraces before finally taking off in our shuttle, they waved white handkerchiefs at us from both sides of the van and handed us flowers through the windows.

The last full day we had in Ecuador was spent in Crucita, a beach town. Myra's family has a beautiful beach home there directly across the street from the ocean, and allowed us to take it over for the day. This was a much needed day of relaxation, and fun in the sun. We were able to ride the rather powerful waves and were actually warned by the guards to stay in further than we were because of their intensity. The sun was only a few days off from the point when it is closest to the earth (and we were directly at the equator, of course) so, needless to say, even with avid reapplication of sunblock, most of the crew was bright red at the end of the day. Some of us had a chance to go paragliding which was something I'd never done before and surprisingly a very calming experience. But, the winds weren't very strong, so some people weren't able to go. (I guess they'll have to come back next year!) We ended the night by going to the discothèque and dancing the night away.

So there you have it, the main points of the last week. If I've forgotten any, it's because I'm a little lazy at the moment, and I'll post them as they are recalled. I'm currently sorting through the thousands of photos from the entire group, so I'll post some of those as well when I have another spare moment, I promise!