Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Trees in New Zealand are huuuuuuge
One of the things that has kept me preoccupied was an impending trip to New Zealand. It was amazing! This was my first international trip*, & I'm glad we decided to start my world-travel with a Very Far Away Place. All together, the flight time was about 15 hours -- that part wasn't fun. I hate flying. Flying with a chronic health condition is a nightmare, but we made it & started exploring on day 1 because jet lag is as nothing compared to the fatigue that comes with the above-mentioned chronic health condition.
We went to Albert Park in Aukland on the first day, & I was immediately blown away by these giant, gorgeous trees! They sprawl out from their centers (sorry, centres... centrees?) & grow as tho the humans around them acknowledge their divinity rather than cutting them down to use for fuel or building materials.
I also visited the Aukland Art Gallery. The space there is impeccably curated & takes great pains to adequately represent the work of New Zealand artists from contemporary as well as previous eras. My favorite exhibit was Yuki Kihara's "A Study of a Samoan Savage", which is a contemporary commentary on racism, Western imperialism, & defiance of same. I liked it so much, I bought the wee book about it. I'll probably write about it at length later.
Next was 7 wonderful days in the resort town of Rotorua, which perpetually smells of rotten eggs thanks to an abundance of hot springs -- the entire reason for its popularity. During this portion of our trip we visited Hobbiton & I got to nerd out there; followed by the glowworm caves at Waiotomo -- which was exactly as awe-inspiring as you think it is. We also spent a good deal of time appreciating** the Māori culture that continues to thrive in New Zealand. Seeing how well-respected the pre-colonial indigenous people are in NZ gave me some hope for the future of indigenous peoples in the US. Not much hope... but some.
The next leg of our journey (following a 6 hour bus ride) took us to Wellington, the capital. This was the shopping portion of the trip for me, as Ten was spending time with a friend he only gets to see when they happen to both be in the same foreign country at the same time. I also visited a synagogue (one of two reform congregations in all of New Zealand), & learned that Jewish women are basically the same everywhere, & they will invite you in, make you a cup of tea & it feels exactly like kvetching in your own community at home. (One of my post-trip to-dos is sending them a postcard to let them know I got home okay.)
From Wellington, we took a scenic train ride to wrap things up with a couple more days in the warm, humid, beautiful city of Aukland (where I, of course, spent more time with the giant trees). And let me tell you, a train for 11 hours is much better than an airplane for 9. The highlight of the train trip for me was saying "baAAAaah!" at every little clutch of sheep we saw (at the behest of my best friend, but also because I kind of make animal noises out of habit). I also moo'd at the cows. We saw an ox once too.
We wrapped up our journey with authentic Lebanese food & the best shisha I have ever had in my life. This was an amazing way to remember New Zealand -- and yes, I am one of those people who takes pictures of my food to later brag about it on the internet.
The greatest take-away I have from this trip is learning that there is room for me in the world. Room for me as a woman. Room for me as a mixed-race person. Room for me as a disabled person -- there was a lot of accommodations in the cities, & not once did a stranger ask me why I have a cane; there was also a lot of disabled people out & about without stigma, (their national health system probably helps there). My horizons have been broadened, & while I am in no way excited to fly anywhere ever again***, I do look forward to further globe-trotting.
I haven't quite processed everything on an artistic level yet, but I do have some ideas rattling around in the old brain-pan. Once work begins on that I'll post an update. I am grateful for this opportunity to see a new place, feel the sun from a different angle, & I think the most important lesson I brought home with me is to always look at a place as tho I am seeing it for the first time. Details are important. Wonder is important. People are important. Mexican food is important.
I guess what I'm saying is, there's no place like home.
*I have also been to Canada, but never needed a passport to get there because for the longest time Canada was just America Part II; or at least the bits you can drive to are
**Before the trip I had a dilemma as to whether I wanted a tattoo done using the Māori technique, since they were among the first peoples to use tattooing as a rite of passage. I ended up deciding that, since I didn't put enough thought into a design, research, and working with an artist, that I didn't want to get a Māori tattoo this trip. We still have to see the South Island, so there may yet be an opportunity to do this, but I didn't want to appropriate their culture & just be another white-looking person with a Māori tattoo.
***On our return flight my legs turned into leg-sausages. It was very uncomfortable. Luckily, I am not prone to edema the rest of the time, so the swelling went away within 24 hours & 2 baths.