Monthly Archives: October 2012

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.

I’ve seen a lot of inspirational/ enlightening/ refreshing articles and posts online lately and instead of constantly bombarding my FB and Twitter friends with them (though, I still might do that, sorry) I thought it would be a good idea if I rounded up my favourite ones each Friday on the blog. Have a look, maybe you’ll find something that you like or that makes you think in a new way.

This post by Hadley on Travel Freak examines the French term “dérive” as meaning a kind of mental exploration that encourages us to “take a journey wherever you are.”

Kate from Marshmellow Goodness and her husband are currently working in Cambodia with the Peace Corp. In this post Kate describes what she has observed about being a woman in Cambodia.

Rachel Held Evans is one of my favourite bloggers to read on matters of faith, feminism, and many things in between. In this post she invites a stay-at-home dad to respond to the questions of commentors on his choice to stay home. A thoughtful and challenging read.

Josh and I are both big fans of Stephen Fry. In this video Fry talks about what he wishes he had known when he was 18, including his thoughts on two of my great passions: travel and reading.