ACCRA to LAGOS by BUS

Sunday morning, 4:30am a short intense working trip begins. Reviewing grant applications in Durham, North Carolina; meeting some dancers and arts administrators in Accra, Ghana; buses to Lomé, Togo and Cotonou, Benin. Time with a most intriguing dance artist in Lagos, Nigeria.

Keeping a smallish combo backpack/suitcase lightly packed no matter the demands of that extra pair of jeans to go along. But I am leaving my Kindle at home. I do not like it. There must be room for books even if more clothes are jettisoned. A new Icelandic murder mystery—or two. A biography of Alexander Hamilton or my book club novel. The mix should keep me amused on sleepless nights.

Biggest decision. No computer. Just me and my Droid.  Who have never really bonded. So back to the days when I spent much of my time on the road in coffee shops writing…by hand…with a notebook…and a pen. Remember that? It was most pleasurable, especially at sidewalk cafes, especially with café au laits, especially  with cigarettes…especially in Paris? Never mind. That was then, this is now. No cigarettes, no Paris. Will Accra have a Starbucks?

A bed and a birthday

It is my birthday today. I am celebrating with a new bed. Where I will spend a third of the rest of my life I suppose.

Where dreams of travel begin

I had a perfectly reasonable double bed with a double-bed mattress and double-bed springs. It even had history. The bed once belonged to my friend Gordon. It was, in fact, his childhood bedroom set with covered wagon carvings and a wagon wheel headboard. I painted it black to draw attention away from those childish decorations but now that I think of it, the wagon wheel probably lent itself to the dreams of the precocious little boy who once inhabited the bed—and much later to the aging wanderer that is me.

I have been feeling like a good friend just departed. Eleven years I spent in that bed. Sleeping well. Not well. Middle of the night detective novels. Restless leg syndrome. Burrowing in on cold mornings.  Not so many places, people or things more intimate than a bed.

However…today I move on. A new bed. A birthday gift from my brother and two sons.  We started out a few days ago with a foam bed…a less expensive version of Tempur-pedic. Hated that. Like sleeping on a futon or a softish board that retained heat. Felt dead, inanimate, impassive. It is back at the store.

NOW, I have a brand new normal king-size bed. All clean and shiny and springy—no dust mites—those little hairless tarantula-like creatures that supposedly inhabit all of our beds, couches, chairs, pillows……………eeeeek!

This transition reminds me of other beds of which I have been fond. My first bed for example. Minnesota cabin. And a mom who firmly believed that all little girls need their own room, bed and privacy, and bought a new bed for me when money was ever so scarce. Thin mattress, stiff springs, and a brown faux-oak headboard so tinny that it clanged if you barely touched it. My tiny room with the squeaky bed was my refuge in a small crowded house with four people, two or three dogs and various lambs or birds or ducks depending on who needed shelter at what time of year. I loved that room and that bed. Where I dreamed of books and cities.

Then there was the marriage bed. It was okay.

And all of the beds in all of the apartments and hotels all over my world. Boards covered by thin mats in Egypt and the Philippines. Big king feather bed with many-thread-count sheets watching a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy marathon because the conference I was attending in Chicago was so unutterably boring. Beds with blankets reeking of cigarette smoke in 1-star Paris hotels. Beds in my friends’ Manhattan apartments where the dogs curled up near my head all night. Mattress on the floor in Ouagadougou observed in the night by a big fat spider. Mattress that smelled ever so faintly of pee in a cute attic room in Suceava.

And I suppose eventually the death bed.

March Madness

Spices from Tunis

March Madness would be Global DanceFest, a California visitor, dust and pollen storms, rearranging my apartment for a new king-size bed and a better writing space AND changing my blog categories. If all of this goes ahead (or away in the case of the storms) as planned by my April birthday a new writing life will be in place.

How many times have I said that? Okay. Many.

The women in black at GDF

Global DanceFest has been an artistically innovative and personally satisfying 12-year program presenting original artists from around the world in Albuquerque New Mexico. The spring/summer brochure listing many of those artists can be downloaded at vsartsnm.org/pdf/VSA_Season_2012_Program.pdf.  Now we move on to Journeys: a Global Celebration of Dance and Discourse in September 2012, a smaller, more focused program.

Radhouane El Meddeb

Meanwhile our last Global DanceFest has brought friends from North Africa dancing to couscous-making and coffee. Radhouane El Meddeb (1st visit) represents a long-term commitment to bring new artists to Albuquerque and Hafiz Dhaou to maintaining long dance relationships (3rd trip).

Hafiz Dhoau and Aicha M’Barek

AND THEIR BABIES.

 

 

AXIS from Oakland returns next week restating North Fourth Art Center’s mission of showcasing the creative excellence of artists of all abilities. And finally in April, Wally Cardona will present the grand finale performance, Tool is Loot, which will surely prove to be an original, unusual and brilliant work by this NYC artist with NEW MEXICO roots. GDF has been an adventure…a good one…time to move on.

California son came out for a weekend. Whatever one says about extended families nothing is quite as good for moms and/or dads as time with their very own kids, the original nuclear family!

mom and the boys

While home Scott discovered Marble Brewery where, unlike in San Diego, you can bring your own food and guzzle their beer. And I made blue-gray lumpy (blueberries and sour cream) pancakes that were, nonetheless, delicious.

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Scott and Sara (the ‘baby’ of the family)

 

Dust and pollen–spring in New Mexico. Weather here appeals to many because of the endless sun. I prefer clouds and rain—Hilo, Hawaii being my idea of the perfect climate—but here I am. And there are those magic moments such as when you go to bed one night and the trees are stark dark branches and you awake to spring green coloring over the gray.

See some new green back there

The pollen is to be expected of course but the dust storms are an evil of this dry land. The wind blew so hard yesterday that there are small dunes across the porch.

AND THE BLOG. Why is it so hard to do what I want with this blog. It is surely the epitome of a love-hate relationship. How liberating to have a place of my very own to write whatever I want and have it be instantly published if I so choose. How terrifying to want it to be well-written and interesting and never find the time to make it so.

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Connections

Cathy

Cathy Zimmerman, Ken Foster, Laura Faure, Joan Frosch, Philip Bither, Vivian Phillips, Shay Wafer and Marjorie Neset—The Africa Contemporary Dance Consortium (TACAC) U.S. representatives—all arts professionals in some fashion: administrators of centers and festivals—big and small, urban and almost rural; writers; curators; scholars.

Gregory and Phillip

The link that brings us all to a meeting in Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa is our common desire to understand, in deep and personal ways, what it is to make art in a place far from our familiar U.S. territory. And, as importantly, to develop authentic friendships with artists from this continent, that weave through our personal and professional lives in profound and joyful threads.

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Shay

Three of TACAC’s African affiliates join us for this meeting: Boyzie Cekwana, Gregory Maqoma and Nelisiwe Xaba, all South African artists of intelligence, originality and talent. Affiliates from Congo/DRC, Mozambique and Kenya were absent in person but offered thoughtful input via Cathy Zimmerman.

Laura

It is a long way here—14 to 30+ hours depending on your starting point. We arrive jet-lagged, immediately leaping  into the striking and stimulating new work we have come far to see. Which activates sufficient adrenaline to get us through those first hours and days!

In our informal but intense meetings we address issues both resolvable and not! It is truthful to say that our motives for being here are pure.

Joan

In other words it really is about friendship and deepening our understanding of each others’ cultures and work—no rewards of prestige or money accompany these relationships.

Vivian

Of course we hope that our coming together will result in increased exchanges of art and ideas between African artists and our U.S. communities and, ultimately, between artists from both continents traveling, making and sharing work and becoming friends and ambassadors in a rapidly expanding global community.

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Ken, just arrived.

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A little later.

But there is something more we talk about at our meetings and over subsequent coffees and lunches—what is it about these particular friendships that make them so important?

Definitely a deeply-held, but frequently unacknowledged, desire to cross cultural lines, proving to ourselves and others that we really do share a common humanity.

Certainly a level of admiration for African friends’ determination to make work that is artistically powerful and original—and that also addresses issues of personal, community and global concern.

Certainly a level of admiration for African friends’ determination to make work that is artistically powerful and original—and that also addresses issues of personal, community and global concern.

Always pursuing our curiosity about how environment manifests itself in artistic creation?

We all share fun and laughter, wine and food—and our friendships deepen—and we all renew our commitment to dance and global citizenship.

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Once in awhile we sleep.

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History–Danced

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History and politics and protest should be, can be, always will be at the heart of meaningful art—including dance. This week at Dance Umbrella, the traditional Reed Dance is reconsidered, Julius Caesar revisited and Chief Maqoma remembered. Remarkable!

Near Market Theatre

Dance Umbrella has nurtured, encouraged and presented the best of South African contemporary dance since 1989 as well as hosting important international companies. Through  the most tumultuous years one can imagine for any country the festival has continued to showcase the internationally acclaimed talents of South African dance, make South Africans proud of their dancing sons and daughter and open the eyes of the world to this pool of innovation and originality in dance. Congratulations to everyone!

Nelisiwe Xaba

UNCLES AND ANGELS: The festival opened with Nelisiwe Xaba and Mocke J Van Veuren and an interactive dance/video work titled Uncles & Angels. Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Xaba’s work would not have expected this piece to be about pudgy celestials and their kindly old uncles. And in that sense she did not surprise!

According to Xaba, Uncles and Angels “explores questions of chastity, virginity testing, purity, and tradition…” focusing on the traditional Reed Dance as practiced for both tourist dollars and political gain in KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland. Uncles and Angels is a dance of protest about girls and the antiquated rites that encourage sexual predators and an unrealistic approach to one of South Africa’s main social issues, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

Neli

Xaba does dance like an angel, albeit a slightly wicked one. She is an elegant feminist whose powerful presence is extended and magnified through the stunning videography of Van Veuren.

Gregory Maqoma

EXIT/EXIST: Gregory Maqoma is never afraid to tell stories, both personal and political. And in so doing he dances a fine line of literality versus abstraction. Everyone has an information threshold… “Too much information” has become a common phrase. For some pure abstraction is preferable. However Exit/Exist is NOT an abstraction to be viewed through a purely personal or a determinedly detached lens. It is a story about somebody and something to which the viewer should pay attention.

Exit/Exist is the historical and familial tale of Chief Maqoma, Gregory Maqoma’s ancestor. While the theatrical accoutrements of storytelling are all about, they never overwhelm the strong, pure, beautiful dance and music of Gregory and his collaborators.

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Chief Maqoma and the Xhosa nation battled the English over land and cattle, wanting their existence to be about more than simply existing. The Chief’s fight for freedom for his people moved the cause forward then and now his descendent, a dancer, continues the struggle to make all African voices heard.

The music performed by the group, Complete, feels like it represents decades or even centuries of voices raised in hope and protest.

I hope Gregory Maqoma never stops being the dancer in his dances. I can see him at 75, still completely mesmerizing in these remarkable solos with music as the equal partner to the dance—the story never overwhelming but never missing either.

QAPHELA CAESAR! Is a big dashing dance opera of which Julius Caesar would surely have approved.  It was performed in the Old Stock Exchange Market Hall which gave it just the right aura of self-importance (in a good way!) and encouraged hectic over-the-top behavior and emoting.

Jay Pather, director and choreographer, is making a political statement as well as revisiting this classic tale as an always great framework for creative storytelling. He says, “My interest lies in the tension between the ‘Caesar’ and ‘Brutus’ characters, representing the good fight of the past and the political expediency of the present…”

Qaphela Caesar is full of confusion and contradiction but one is always curious about the next evolution of character and setting and action—never taking anything for granted based on previous familiarity with the story.

One test of any work is whether it engages you in spite of jet lag. I can attest to the fact that these three pieces easily overcame any tendency to lag. EXCELLENT FIRST WEEKEND.

Stamped!

Only 112 to go

Lesotho: Country #84 on my world tour. Remember the rules (to count a country as having been visited) are that you must have read at least the Wikipedia description of what your new passport stamp represents; travel around on that country’s surface roads or streets or tracks or paths for a few hours; eat something local (like the Lay’s potato chips from an authentic Lesotho service station where you also use the facilities); and take photos.

Road to Lesotho

It is not that hard although it does take some time and money. But along the way you will likely have the experiences that stay around in your memory long after any particular flight, hotel or special cuisine has faded into oblivion.

Left early!

Yesterday, Lawrence Kwinda, who owns and operates Kwinda Tours and has become a friend over our trips to Johannesburg and Dance Umbrella, drove me to Maseru, a most undistinguished town, just across the border in the Kingdom of Lesotho, a peculiar little enclave totally within South African borders.

Rainy morning road trip. YES

It was a 14-hour day mostly in the car, snacking on road food, and viewing many miles of South African and a couple of hours of Lesotho countryside. A day not so different from any of my 12-15 hour drives to San Diego or Minnesota.

Please be patient…

Except that my passport is now just a little weightier and, Lawrence being a prolific historian, ethnographer and storyteller, I am far more engaged in and knowledgeable about the past and present of South African people and places.

In the car–through the countryside

The drive from Johannesburg to Lesotho is pleasant, the scenery mid-America-like with flat or gently rolling cornfields and cattle ranges. We crossed the Vaal River and the adjoining Transvaal countryside and Lawrence pointed out markers of Afrikaner history which are prominent in this part of the country. While wisely not throwing away an often painful past, South Africans are busily locating and studying the original South Africa of the Xhosa, Zulu, Swazi, Ndebele, etc. When these accounts are fully incorporated into the already thoroughly documented Dutch/ British/Afrikaans narration and the stories of this last astonishing century then the magnificent tapestry that is South Africa will be complete. It’s not at all dissimilar from what we are doing in the States at the insistence of Native Americans whose history is finally on the road to being acknowledged and appreciated.

Sometimes it’s all a blur

Even if one has a general interest in history, what makes it all immediate is connecting a friend or acquaintance or family member or hero with a time and place—linking past and present. In this case, Lawrence, but also through one of the artists here—more about that later.

Lawrence–grand storyteller and historian

The history that became real to me was that of the Lemba tribe or Black Jews of South Africa of which Lawrence is a member. The Lemba have traditions completely unlike any other African tribes or ethnic groups and similar to many aspects of Jewish culture. I only had the vaguest of knowledge of this and now suddenly I know someone from this most mysterious and fascinating of people. If you’re curious here’s a good link: African Lemba Tribe – eNotes.com

Golden Gate National Park

The almost six hour drive to Lesotho was packed with Lawrence’s stories of his life and times, becoming a successful entrepreneur while exploring his own background and celebrating the political and social changes in South Africa. Doesn’t get any better than a road trip with road food (potato chips and yogurt drinks) and good stories.

Into Lesotho

The little piece of Lesotho we managed to experience consisted of the miles between one check point and the next which was in the city of Maseru. While we enjoyed the assortment of green hills, rocky outcroppings and modest red cliffs, the real sights of the Kingdom were obviously in those distant mountain ranges. That is always the problem isn’t it? So many inviting skylines, so little time.

And just on the other side lies………

Lesotho is a poor country with a huge HIV/AIDS problem and the disparities between it and its huge rich neighbor on all sides, South Africa, is apparent the minute the border is crossed. It seems the big attraction in Maseru is gambling with the main cultural attractions being casinos!  Since it was Sunday the Visitors’ Center was closed as were the nearby restaurants so our visit to Maseru was short.

Maseru

Back home through Bloemfontein and a look at its quiet Sunday streets and into Johannesburg, tired but happy. A new stamp in the passport, good stories and feeling of being a little more connected to the land of South Africa.

Outside of Bloemfontein, commemorating the horses of a particular battle/war

One Night Stands

Looking for George…as in Clooney…airport…get it?

LAST NIGHT: I spent last night with a very pleasant Chinese man. We shared two meals and slept for seven hours only inches apart. Our communication was fairly typical for encounters of this kind: we exchanged the basic pleasantries early on and then had a brief, slightly more intimate, exchange upon our leave-taking. I did not detect any sociopathic tendencies during our hours together, only an endearing trait that makes him a real sleep-mate—he sleeps with his head covered. I am rather looking forward to tonight. Another night, another man—or woman as the case may be. Meals, intimate exchanges, sleep. Alas this did not happen—three seat configuration in this very nice Airbus, shared by a German couple who spoke—German!  The closeness, the intimacy—all gone.

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George wasn’t here either.

LOOKING FOR GEORGE: Life on the road…me and George. I keep searching for him…in every airport…in all the world…hoping that there he’ll be—right over there in that waiting area or standing in line at Security or picking up a yogurt and a Herald Tribune at that kiosk. And maybe, just maybe, tonight I’ll be with him. Although with a million frequent flyer miles I don’t suppose he’s traveling economy class! Damn, seems I missed him altogether on this trip.

Frankfurters in Frankfurt

WIENIE TOURIST: I’m in the cozy restaurant overlooking the runway at the Frankfurt airport, eating FRANKFURTERS as one should while here. This airport is the only place I go in Germany so…and when in Germany one should …. But the frankfurters look and taste like the most ordinary of American wienies and the potato salad is quite oily but also sweetish and tart and rather nice in its own Germanic way. I had to go through fairly rigorous security twice to have these frankfurters– with large mean women manning the posts. But then I land in at the Oliver Tambo Airport in Johannesburg which is clearly one of the nicest airports in the world so all is well.

There’s always one more blog to write

ABOUT LAST NIGHT: I really should say a little more about last night’s companion. Because he is taking over the world you know. From Beijing –in Houston to open a new business—a welding business. His firm distributes welding supplies and he is very excited about the potential of Houston and all of Texas out there welding away with Chinese equipment. But now he is on his way to Barcelona to check up on one of their Spanish distributors. AND he has been in 70 countries, almost all in which his company has business interests.  He was very impressed by my 83. No one else is ever awed by that number because most Americans have no clue about how many countries there are in the world. So at the moment I’m okay with the Chinese at the top in the new world order. (Not really but it could be worse—as in Republicans)  

The world is still SOMEBODY’S OYSTER…Whose?

AND IN THE NEWS…: I spent 48 hours before I left without turning on TV because I couldn’t. I had Direct TV suspend my service! So by the time I saw Anderson Cooper on the airport TV last night I felt very happy…for a minute…until I realized he was still talking about how Whitney Houston died. Hey America, the Chinese are taking over the world, there are strikes and economies going down in Europe, women are running some countries and doing as well as men (maybe better), people are starving and fighting and dying and the ocean is rising and Anderson Cooper is still talking about Whitney Houston. I WILL BE OKAY WITHOUT CABLE. Read newspapers everyone. And watch “The Good Wife” on your computer. IN JOZIE now…Jozie is how the real Johannesburgers refer to their city. I love it here—in Jozie. 

Ladies who lunch…and talk dance in Jozie

My grandfather Ole Floren’s trunk on the voyage from Norway to South Dakota, Cameroonian woman, map of New Zealand, mango from the Philippines, stone from Alaska

We live in a global village, work in a global economy, worry about global warming and try to be worthy of global citizenship. The underpinnings of the present political struggle between the far right/Tea Party and the rest of us is fear of this big new world in its many-colored guises. It is understandable to some degree…I cannot accept that a woman wants to be one of many wives or live her community life in an ugly black shroud, I do not understand the manipulations and shenanigans of New Mexico’s state budgeters much less those of the U.S. or the world and I truly fear the rising waters of global warming.

There are choices about how to deal with this unease, this fear. One is to pretend these issues do not exist and to try to elect government decision-makers that promise to make it all go away. Bring jobs home to America—except for the people making your cheap Wal-Mart junk, keep those “foreigners” out, speak English only, burn more coal/bomb for oil. The underlying message being “I’m scared of NOW, of doing something different.”

The other choice is to get out there, explore the village: walk its streets, shop in its stores, meet the neighbors—acquire global citizenship. Whoever you are you can get your passport stamped through books, film, food, travel and meeting the new neighbors. There is no excuse for limiting your experience to your street corner.

Google ‘global citizenship’ and there is founding father, Thomas Paine, who described his notion of being a global citizen thusly: My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

 Now even though Paine was responsible for much of what was written defining freedom, he was eventually rejected because of the abiding American insistence that no beliefs are valid outside of the precept of an all-powerful god who can give anyone behaving badly a pass if only they repent. We can thank a few people over the centuries like Paine that the global religion, for which fundamentalists of all faiths long  and for which they are willing to kill, has not yet become a reality.

I am about to reread “The Global Soul” by Pico Iyer because it so profoundly influenced my desire to visit every country in the world. I first read it 10 or so years—or about 60 countries ago. I had not yet started to feel like a global soul. Now I think I do. I know some neighborhoods in this sprawling confusing village well and some hardly at all. But I increasingly understand how a home can be created on any of its streets and it will always be a place that mixes the known with the unknown, the safe with the unsafe, and the familiar with the unfamiliar in surprising and pleasing ways.

My favorite word is global, I produce a festival called Global DanceFest and I approve this message.

Next to food…on a scale of life’s necessities. From a postcard by Soizick Meister

Steven and Brant in the World

The Guys

Coming to Australia was a wonderful break from reality for me. During the months before this trip I have been scrambling to keep up with my requirements to transfer into a university and trying to balance a part time marketing internship. This trip was the reward for staying on top of everything because I have now sent out all of my applications and my next semester will be a bit less challenging. After spending a few days at Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast, I couldn’t help but realize that it was very familiar to the San Diego lifestyle. Between the surf culture and sea breeze I felt right at home and the fact that I could drink legally was a nice addition. The first week of this trip was more about relaxing on the beach and unwinding then sightseeing and learning about another culture.

After the week in Surfer’s Paradise we headed over to Auckland and, to my surprise, it ended up being my favorite part of the trip. We spent a few days in the city bumming around and eventually met up with a local who took us to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I have ever seen. We jumped off of waterfalls and went on hikes to secluded beaches with landscape that could be put on a postcard. Aside from the city and the waterfalls, we also went to the area where the new Lord of the Rings movie, The Hobbit, was being filmed. It was apparent why the director chose to shoot the movie over in New Zealand because the scenery was amazing and everything about the area seemed peaceful. Overall the trip was an amazing experience that I couldn’t imagine spending with anyone other than my grandma and my best friend.  By Steven

Beach @ Surfers Paradise: Photo by Brant Wagner

This was my first time out of the Country and I absolutely love it. I Traveled to Australia with my Best Friend and his Grandmother. First we explored to city of Brisbane and then took a train and a bus down to surfer’s Paradise. This is where this picture was taken. I love this picture because of the deep color of the sky and with the moon floating over the life guard tower. One thing that I liked so much about this country is that the drinking age is 18 and I am 19! So you know what that means! Me and Steve have been hitting the local scene and checking out the local bars.

Natural New Zealand: Photo by Brant Wagner

When someone asks you what a waterfall should look like this is what I would show them.  This Waterfall was tucked away in a rainforest that is about 30 minutes out of Auckland, New Zealand. I would have never known about this picturesque place if it was not for our local friend Jordan who took use to this waterfall and two other. We went off the main trail to find this place or as Jordan called we went Bushwhacking. Seeing things like this natural waterfall makes me want to never leave New Zealand.  By Brant

That old ‘city by the bay’ vibe

Auckland, New Zealand feels like a world neighborhood to which you would gravitate if you wanted peace, quiet, natural beauty, funky charm and really nice wine. Like San Francisco’s quiet little sister.

History from a barely remembered book, Wikipedia and two weeks down under! I am curious. Why does New Zealand have such a different vibe than Australia? Of course the question is silly for me to hazard an answer since Surfers Paradise is my only Australian experience and Auckland the only NZ sampling. I read “Fatal Shore” some years ago so there is a vague history of Australia in my mind. The aboriginal people (whom Wikipedia says may be descended from a long-ago migration from the African mainland before the Europeans and Asians were even differentiated as distinct races), the convicts, the harsh land, the British colonial heritage.

I am still more curious. Somehow NZ had appeared in my mind’s eye as Australia’s pretty islands and that is not necessarily true. It turns out their history is quite different. New Zealand is a Pacific Island in the way the Philippines or Tahiti or Hawaii are Pacific Islands. Settled by Austronesians (later split into divergent groups such as the Polynesians and Melanesians) who came out of pre-Chinese Taiwan and populated the South Seas.

Here in New Zealand, the Austronesians/Polynesians became the Maoris and it seems their influence on these beautiful islands is profound. Although NZ was also a British colony it feels like the British cowboys set the mood in Australian while the New Zealand colonizers let themselves be influenced by the Pacific people already here.

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Easy Peasy Auckland: Auckland has been to rest and recuperate and enjoy my delightful travel companions. If I win power ball I will invite Steven and Brant to travel the world with me for the next year and then foot all of their education bills through however many doctorates they choose to pursue.

What interesting adventurous lively guys they are. The two of them have made me feel better about the world—if they are indeed the future then I think we are okay. They are ambitious but not to the exclusion of the idea of ‘doing good.’ They are open but skeptical of all dogma. Nice nice guys and so much fun to be around.

Auckland City Hotel

We moved hotels after the first three days because our first one was already booked for the weekend and came here to the Auckland City Hotel which has an appealing Malaysian restaurant called “The Mustard Seed” that we may sample tonight. Steven and Brant picked it on Expedia—it was lovely to have them take the responsibility since that is one of those imponderables of travel. No matter how thoroughly you peruse the hotel listings and read Trip Advisor about a quarter of the time you come up wrong-footed.

The guys have promised to write the blog tomorrow about their adventures so I will simply regale you with mine. Consisting of eating and shopping! Not bad holiday pastimes.

Started my recovery a few days ago with the best—and only—lamb salad I have ever had accompanied by a fruity crisp white wine even I could detect was very fine. First wine of the trip. A sad sad thing if one is traveling to major wine regions.

Since then the major meals have included a very pricey harbor lunch that was unfortunately quite ordinary although Brant swears his $15 hot dog was truly gourmet.

World’s best $15 hot dog

Our next best meal was breakfast on the bench in front of (drum roll) Dunkin Donuts!

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Enough to make a NON-foodie heart sing!

But tonight Malaysian and tomorrow back to the lamb salad place for a…lamb salad, lamb kabobs and more of the delectable wine. I am purposely blocking out the images of those wooly little lambs we kept around the kitchen stove on blizzardy spring days, the enthusiasm which they drank their bottles of milk, their little baby baa baa baa’s. It has taken me this long but now I’m ready to eat the little buggers. There are Starbucks and MUFFIN stores here as well. A global neighborhood almost too familiar—but nice anyway!

Buildings with some personality remain.

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We discovered Kathmandu, New Zealand’s REI. Probably they have them in the U.S. but not in my neighborhood and not with everything on sale. Also an imposing book store on a prominent corner of Queen Street. Bought a stash of regional books of course. And am happily into one by a western Australian writer Tim Winton. The book, Dirt Music, is brilliant. The truth is—Kindles and their other reader friends are awful things, only acceptable on long journeys if one is traveling alone. I may get rid of mine altogether. THE THING IS NOT A BOOK.

Oh oh. The old curiosity gene that was lying almost dormant about this part of the world is stirring. That is a good thing or not. It almost always happens through books, usually novels. It is like getting the flu when you feel that first prickle of something not being right. With curiosity, the prickle is—I want to go to Perth…or drive down to the tip of South Island…or hop around this whole region to Papua and East Timor and back to Darwin and make myself eat a piece of bread with vegemite on it—it starts small and then pretty soon you are frustrated and depressed because there is no time and money in life to do all of that everywhere in the world. But frustrated and depressed in a good way.

California dudes out in the world

And then there’s a boy and his grandmother