Happy 2013 from Bali, Indonesia! We’re currently in Indo to celebrate the holidays with my family.

Yep, we’ve gone and made a new blog. This time it is one that we feel is more focused around our writing and photograpy goals. Thanks for following this little blog with us, and we hope you continue to follow us over at our new one! We’ve got a lot planned for 2013 and you can find us now over at Wild Buttercup.

This year marks the third year Josh has been in New Zealand over Thanksgiving, and this year, like the past two years, we celebrated it “downunder” style. This year’s Thanksgiving also happened to coincide with my Mum’s birthday, and even though she is in another country right now, Josh and I, and my brother and middle sister liked to think we were celebrating that too.

Because it was just the four of us, we had quite a lot of flexibility with our menu choices. My brother (let’s call him D) brought the pre-dinner snacks, my sister (A) brought apple cider and juice, and I was in charge of roasting a leg of lamb (for the very first time), cooking up some new potatoes and asparagus to go with it, and dessert (a mixed berry pie, also a first for me!).

Ah, how I long for a bigger kitchen. Could be worse I guess.

D is always in charge of making the gravy.

It probably wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without some sort of kitchen disaster. I was preheating the oven while I prepared the lamb, when Josh walked in and asked why the kitchen was filled with smoke. We quickly turned the oven off and let it cool down while we investigated what the issue was. It turns out we aren’t very proactive in cleaning our oven and there was some burnt food at the bottom clogging things up. Oops. It was easily fixed though, and everything got cooked properly, even if it was 45 minutes later than I originally planned.

A mixing the pie filling for me.

Josh victorious after fixing the oven.

While we waited for the lamb to roast, we took a couple group shots out in front of our old shed to send to my mum for her birthday.
We were also able to skype her and Dad for a bit which was nice.

You can’t see it, but we’re all gathered around the laptop here to skype.

And then it was time to eat!

If you’re wondering, all I did with the lamb was rub it with mustard, cut slits in it and stuff those slits all over with garlic and fresh rosemary. I roasted it for 15 mins at 220 C, and then an hour at 170 C. Seemed to work pretty well. Next time I need to figure out how to make the outside crispier because I think I was too impatient this time round.

There’s no photo of the pie because it was ugly (I am bad with pastry) and we ate it too fast. It was delicious (presentation doesn’t matter, right?).

So, that was our Thanksgiving. Have you ever taken a holiday or tradition from another country and incorporated it into your life?

We spent five weeks in Fresno, California with Josh’s family last Christmas and New Year’s. If you’ve been to Fresno you’ll know that five weeks can be a long time to stay there. I love its “foodie” vibe and it has some fun stuff to do, and it is also great to see family, but I’ve been used to seeing mountains and/or the sea my whole life and at some point I just needed to get out of the city for a bit and see some green.

All that green I was missing.

So when some old friends of ours invited us up to Arcata  for the weekend, we were very ready to borrow Josh’s grandfather’s car and drive the eight hours north. Once on the road, we realised it was the first ever long road trip we had done together with just the two of us. The drive to Arcata went smoothly and 8ish hours later we had watched the landscape darken from brown and barren to green and damp and we could see pine trees in every direction. For me, the landscape was very similar to a New Zealand landscape, so I immediately felt relaxed.

The next day, our friends S and K took us out exploring. Josh, S, and K, are all photographers, so they ran around taking photos while I happily scibbled notes and just enjoyed the scenery. It’s quite handy to have so many photographers around: I never needed to worry about taking my own photos!

Bridge in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove

California was apparently experiencing quite a warm winter. I was hoping to see some snow during my time up north (the furthest north in the world I have ever been) but no such luck on this trip. The forests made up for it though. As we drove by and into some of the many state parks in the region, we spotted elk nestling in hollows by the road.

Elk!

Having never seen elk before, I was very excited by this. Then, we went on to the Prairie Creek State Park and stopped at the High Bluff overlook to see the sea. I was intrigued by the many “Tsunami hazard zone” signs posted everywhere. Giant rocks dotted the beach, split as if by a giant hammer.

Proof we were there, courtesy of friend S.

We also made our way to the Klamath River and the site of the original Douglas Memorial Bridge that was swept away in a flood in 1964. The 8 ton stone bears that mark the entrance of the bridge are all that are left of that original bridge now.

Josh making his acquaintance with one of the bears.

At lunchtime we had a picnic in the shade of the redwoods. Apparently there are three types of redwoods worldwide, and the tallest are the Coast Redwoods which grow in this part of Northern California. They can also live for 2000 years, earning them the name of the “ever living” trees.

Picnicking in the woods.

It was chilly under those trees, and so we ate our cheese and salami sandwiches and headed off in search of some sunshine. After stopping again, S and K took us on a short walk down a side trail to find an abandoned old ute that must have been sitting under the trees for years, slowly drowning in cobwebs and dead leaves. As we reached it the perfect ray of sunlight came through the trees, giving the photographers of the group some great shots.

Photos accomplished, we walked back the way we came, passing by a young redwood whose bark had been torn apart by a bear in search of the sugar sap beneath.

It would take some large claws to rip apart this tree, methinks.

The weekend passed quickly, and then it was time to drive the long way back to Fresno again. But we left happy to have seen our friends and the redwoods. The trip back wasn’t as smooth as the one there (*ahem* food poisioning, and getting completely lost and ending up in the Napa Valley by accident) but even the dust and haze as we reached  Fresno couldn’t spoil all that fresh air and green for us.

What’s the furthest north you have ever travelled?

*Warning: The following post contains a description of a person who has been badly burnt*

A couple days ago I got an email from my parents about a man called Pilianus. Currently my parents are working in a small village in the mountains of West Papua. Glue sniffing is a regular activity for the young men of this area, and this email told the story of one of them who had been badly burnt after one such incident. Pilianus’s entire body is burnt except for his head and he was flown into the village to be with his family and die because there aren’t any medical facilities in the area that can take care of him.

At this moment, Pilianus is lying in a bed of pus and rotting skin. Maggots and gangrene have set in. He is in a lot of pain, though he can think and communicate okay. He knows he will die soon. My parents walk to visit him every day, one hour each way. My father has been praying with him. My mother is a trained nurse but has limited resources. She can only give him panadol at the moment. She has one dose of morphine in her kit, but once that is gone it is gone. She won’t be able to get any more.

I don’t have some grand message to communicate here. I just want to share some of Pilanus’s story because he has been weighing on my mind these last few days. With all the world’s wealth, technologies, advances… a man called Pilianus is still dying in agony on the floor of a Papuan hut. Which is why my parents keeping on doing what they’re doing, year after year. We have so far to go.

At the risk of sounding like a boring old fart, I don’t like or understand Halloween. To be more specific, I don’t get the idea of a) scaring ourselves silly, or b) dressing up and/or decorating using various motifs related to death. I don’t have any issues with dressing up as a fairy, animal, etc. but I just can’t get my head around dressing up as, say, a skeleton or making a “meat head” out of luncheon meats and cheese.

It all just seems so…fake and paradoxical. Paradoxical, because often in Western society it seems that we sanitise death when we encounter it in real life. Real death is talked about in euphemisms, the body is cleaned up and placed in a casket, many people wear black, and loud, public grief seems to be discouraged. I once wrote a short story that included a body rotting in the jungle after a plane crash. Because that’s what bodies do in hot jungles. I know. I’ve seen it. But some people in the class I submitted the story for reacted with horror. “You can’t talk about it that way,” they said. “You can’t use that much detail.” I was surprised. From my perspective, I was simply telling things the way they happen.

And yet, at Halloween, we use death as an occasion to dress up in polyester and face paint and frighten ourselves. Maybe it is necessary for us to do this as a kind of catharsis that we don’t get when actually facing death. I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that what I have seen of death in some other cultures is very different. It is not sanitised. In the village I grew up in the body is laid out in the house and the family members can sit all around, hugging it, stroking it, singing it into the afterlife. It isn’t dressed up, there is no makeup to make the face look more alive. There is much wailing as more mourners arrive at the house and are greeted by relatives. Outward grief is encouraged. To me, this is what death is. Not clean, not separate from the living, but a part of everyday life, and a part that isn’t to be hidden or to be dolled up in masks and other paraphernalia so that we can fool ourselves into believing it is something else.

So, that’s my two cents and why I don’t celebrate Halloween. To be honest, not many people in New Zealand do anyway, though it is starting to become more popular. But it just isn’t for me.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” — Mark Twain

It’s no secret that I love to write and I love to travel. But what brought me to both those loves was my love of reading. For me, exploration/ lostness is more than just physically going places. Reading has that great ability to shrink the world and expand it out again, give us access to a million different lives, places, ways of being: more than anything else, perhaps. And both travel and reading challenge us to rethink our ways of seeing the world and perhaps revise our perceptions.

So, I would like to incorporate this love of reading good writing into this blog every now and then by sharing with you when I find a book that is  especially ground-shaking, or that makes me feel like I have gone down a rabbit hole into another world where I can see a side of a place or thing I might not have thought about in the same way before.

In the end, travel, reading, and writing, are all about adventure, really. I think this quote sums it up nicely:

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure— self-determined, self-motivated, often risky— forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and the boundless cruelty of humankind —and perhaps realise that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”

— Mark Jenkins

It has been a loooong week. Last Saturday we travelled to Wellington for a cousin’s beautiful 1930s themed wedding. Then on Sunday evening Josh and I were lucky enough to both win prizes at the Student City Arts & Culture Awards (Josh in the visual category for that cicada photo you see above, and me for ongoing services in the literary arts). The rest of this week has been chock full of work and study deadlines. Also we started making our plans (work, study, and holiday) for the upcoming summer/Christmas more solid. It definitely feels good to have some tangible goals to look forward to. Just two months and 1 day until I can be sitting on the beach with a pina colada! Not that I’m counting or anything.

I just have three links for you this Friday.

1. “Exhaustion is not a status symbol” by Lillian Cunningham: I need to remember this. For some reason I always feel like I need to rush through life, always have a million things on my plate for fear of falling, somehow, “behind” (whatever that may mean). I am not behind. Some things can be left for tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year.

2. “So where’s home?”: I identify myself as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and I am actually writing part of my Masters thesis on narrative strategies that may come with this identiy. This video provides a handy intro to what being a TCK can be like, and the questions TCKs might face.

3. “Things not to worry about”: This advice, from Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Start-up reminds me not to waste time worrying about the wrong things.

Happy weekend!

I had some links lined up for a Friday Links post, but then I changed my mind. Instead my post today is dedicated in memory of those who lost their lives in the 2002 Bali bombings, and their families.

Ten years ago today we were living in Darwin, Australia and we were late to church. My father was away in Indonesia for work and four kids are never easy for one parent to get ready on time. We walked in just in time to hear the prayer requests being read.

“And we pray for the victims of the terrible tragedy that has just occurred in Bali.”

All five of us froze. Bali? That’s where Dad was spending the night before travelling onwards to Papua. What had happened? And where exactly in Bali?

Others around us noticed our shock. An Indonesian family that we knew came up to us and we soon found out that the bombs had gone off on Jl. Legian. And that many people had died. And then we realised that my father was staying in a hotel on Jl. Legian, just 100 metres from the bomb sites.

The rest of that church service went by agonisingly slowly as I tried to distract my siblings and my mum tried to make contact with my dad. Finally, she reached him. When the bomb went off he was asleep and awoke thinking a plane had crashed nearby. He went out of his room to see what was going on and the hotel owner (who knew dad) yelled at him to get his stuff. So my dad did, and the hotel owner put him in a car and sent him to the airport. This was the best thing he could have done because in leaving so quickly Dad was able to get on his flight to Papua before the airport shut down.

He said that as he was leaving he looked behind him. He saw bodies and flames and people on fire and he wanted to get out and help. I don’t think there was anything he could have done. My dad said it felt like his hair stood on end for weeks.

202 people died in those bombings. Many others were injured. So many countries were affected. So many families frantically dialed numbers over and over again, hoping to hear that their loved ones were okay. For my family, those numbers were answered with good news. My dad was not hurt. But for so many that was not the case.

My parents are both in Bali for a conference at the moment. They say security is tight today in light of the anniversary of the bombings.

I have never been more afraid than I was that day and today I, along with many others around the world, remember that day and do not let the perpetrators control us through fear.

Yesterday I was a featured itinerary writer on Unanchor. Unanchor provides self-guided itineraries for travellers, written by writers who are either local to the region they write about, or who have a lot of experience in the region. The itineraries are a great (and affordable!) option for travellers who like to be fairly independent, but also want to be well prepared to explore a new place.

Check out the blog post here (and gain some good tips on Wellington while you’re at it), and my “Best of Wellington: 3 Day Itinerary” is available via the Unanchor website , or you can find the Kindle edition on Amazon here.

This past winter seemed to drag on forever. Actually, every winter here seems to do that because spring is always so wet and windy, but I somehow forget how cold it will be every year. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism or something. Anyway, last week we happened to have some lovely sunny days. Finally! Of course, as I write this the temperature has dropped and it is raining once again, but I am trying to latch on to that feeling of sunshine on my legs and remember than summer is on its way. The other day we went for a walk with my middle sister to the “esplanade” which is basically a big park near the river.

We enjoyed the last of the cherry blossoms…

…Josh showed us where the aviaries were (for some reason I hadn’t discovered them after all this time in PN!)…

A pair of Indian Ringneck parrots.

Fun fact: I have been obsessed with birds since I was 12. I have owned budgies, cockatiels, eclectus parrots, and many others. I can’t wait to be a bird owner again one day when we are more settled.

…we spent some time in the orchid greenhouse, trying to remind ourselves of a more humid land, and finally we stopped to see the new ducklings.

My sister and I.

It’s easy for me to forget that we have places to explore just a ten minute walk away from our house so getting out and about was a good reminder.