You are currently browsing posts tagged with transience
We can just amble along down here in our little bubble for ages before suddenly being reminded how some of the branches we sit on belong to trees planted in other countries. Big bookshops are popular places. The automatic doors continually suck up power as they are kept from resting. The cafes located inside, while their employees grumble when they have to put away abandoned magazines and books, turn a huge profit all based on people trying to escape main street stress for an hour or so with a sub-standard coffee and a headline that promises 5 Ways to Change the Look of Your Kitchen (Oh,we love our D.I.Y.* in N.Z, eh?). English language students meet to look at Vogue and speak Korean. Or back in the main shop, anti-social, ruffle headed teenagers sit on the floor in front of the manga while amateur cooks secrectly scribble recipes down out of cookery books. Kids hug the Gruffalo toy as they listen to someone else’s Mum read a story while sitting on too tiny a chair for an adult. And poseurs pretend to be reading poetry while scanning the area for goth girls who are also looking for supposed poetry-reading cool boys. Neither of them will actually make a move and talk to the other one before they need to get home for tea.
All of this exists on a tenuous branch. This is not evident at all, until the branch is suddenly floating in the air, no longer attached to a trunk. Apparently the trunk is in Australia. The news came out a couple of weeks ago that Borders and our own Whitcoulls, which turns out to be in the same group, are in trouble. Apparently Australians, like Americans and the British, buy most of their books online now and ‘real life’ bookshops can not keep up with how cheap everything has become. That is certainly not the case here in New Zealand.
New Zealanders, as any traveller to these islands will tell you, pay a ridiculous amount for the printed word. We’ve always been unhappy about this, but what can we do? We like books and we don’t have Amazon, so we just carry on. Books are still special and people still go to libraries in droves. It’s probably what some people in other nations would call a bit “backward”. That’s OK.
The only problem (apart from us having been ripped off for so many years with overpriced books) is that now the bubble has burst, the branches are shaking, and the big hangouts for students and pseudo-intellectuals will soon disappear. Is there a silver lining, I wonder?
So, the masses will not have their usual place to hang out. We do have some of the best cafes in the Southern Hemisphere and people will soon disperse to relevant and suitable java-huts. But I don’t believe for a second that real booklovers, or even temples for booklovers will disappear. True, branches can’t just hover in the air without a trunk to hold them up. But there are seedlings under this falling tree. I think it’s time for all those little independent bookshops we have, and there are some fantastic ones, to shine. They are full of knowledgeable, book-loving people who want to help you, occasional uncomfortable chairs from second-hand shops, and cats. They’ve been fighting the good fight for decades against big business. I hope that this is their time. Perhaps they will even have to put in automatic doors. God, I hope not. Imagine the number of cat tails that would get caught.
The Women’s Bookshop Ponsonby
Cook the Books Ponsonby
The Booklover Grey Lynn, Takapuna
*D.I.Y. means “Do it yourself” and is the NZ/Oz/UK phrase for home improvement that you do, well…by yourself, without hiring someone else to do it.
I have a very good friend whom I knew for a few of the most exciting years of my life. He was just discovering who he was, as we all were in those days, and I love the fact that he is living his true life now. However, I lost touch with this friend quite a few years ago. Many years ago. I’ve always wondered what he was doing and what his life had become. And then about 6 or 7 years ago I managed to get in touch again through a mutual friend. I was so happy because I found out about quite a few nice things that had occurred in his life. Sadly, he was about to leave his job. The email address I had for him was through his work and so I knew he would no longer be using it. He said he would be in touch as soon as he got his own email address set up. This didn’t strike me as odd because I know plenty of people who lead their lives without using the internet on a daily basis. And back then, it wasn’t as common for everyone to have multiple email addresses, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. I just hoped for the best. I never heard from him again.
In our brief email exchange, one of the things he said to me was that the reason he hasn’t been in touch was because he was jealous. I should clarify that this is not an ex-boyfriend. He was apparently jealous of my life. I just think this is amazing. He has made up a scenario based on the few facts he still knows about me that has led him to believe that my life is a fairytale. Yes, I have travelled a lot, but that is not all that happens in my life. I feel a little bit angry, but mostly sad about this. He has no idea about the difficult things I’ve been through. He has just chosen some random ‘facts’ and gleaned the rest, and then used that non-reality as a basis for discontinuing the friendship.
But it makes me think. Do I do this? I must do. It seems quite common. There are certainly people I feel jealousy towards. And, I have to admit, there have been times when I’ve avoided those people because I didn’t feel I had anything more to offer than what they already have. But, eventually you see things. You start to see that the things you are jealous of are only on the very surface of their being. Over time, these things change or fade and you begin to see more of the real person. If you stick with these people, you find out that they are struggling in life just as you are and we all need allies. I wish my friend could see this, but if nothing else he has left me with the ability to weigh up my trivial jealousies before they cause me to lose something that could be really important. Well, at least I try.
Hello December! How is it that December is the quickest month to arrive? I’m already getting my pre-New Year jitters, this weird feeling I have that I was supposed to do something just as the countdown begins on New Year’s Eve. Or, perhaps there was something else I was meant to accomplish. There’s always that! I have been busy though.
Last month I participated in NaNoWriMo which is a month long attempt to write a 50,000 word novel. Well, I knew I couldn’t have a 50,000 word goal in mind while I’m simultaneously writing a textbook and doing my other work on top, but I wanted to see what I could do. My goals were as such:
A) Try writing fiction for the first time
B) Try writing freely, without editing as an experiment to see if it can light a spark in creativity
C) See how far I can go
What I’ve learnt :
A) Yes, I can write fiction (although I won’t know how good it is until somebody reads it, obviously) and I quite enjoy it.
B) Yes, it’s true that more writing breeds more writing!
C) I have realised that I am not a very good free-writer although I have cut down on my urge to constantly edit quite a bit. I didn’t get very far wordcount-wise, but something exciting has happened.
I am keen to write a book. Yes, write a book! I have plotted out chapters and scenes and characters and everything. And, now that I’m into this idea, I want to spend time doing it the best I can which means timetabling book-writing within my normal work day. I guess I’m just not a one-month girl.
So, I’m writing a book…and, possibly another book only this other one is going to be non-fiction. For some reason my muse is making me split my loyalties between fiction and non-fiction. Both projects are about travel (obviously!) and both are from a woman’s perspective since I’m subscribing to the addage ‘Write what you know’. It’ll be a race to see which one reaches the completion line first. My bets are on the non-fiction, but time will tell.
Apart from my mother, Koangirl, and one or two others who aren’t ‘out’ yet about their books I don’t think I know anyone else writing a book at the moment. If you are out there and writing please get in touch and let me know how it is going because I’d love to hear from other people doing this.
Have a wonderful holiday season!
I was writing up a list of Kiwi words and phrases when I started to think about some differences in the way words are used in English speaking countries. I went to school in the United States but I moved around every couple of years so I never developed a hometown or regional accent. Living in England and doing my undergraduate degree in my personality-forming 20s (not to mention the fact that my husband is British) means that a lot of the things I say are very coloured by British English and culture. Now that I’ve been in New Zealand for so long I also have a good smattering of things I say and do that are truly Kiwi. My language use is as mixed up as my accent and, on occasion I read or hear something that reminds me of this fact. There are millions of these little instances but here are four.
Kiwis say, “Big ups” to someone when they want to tell them they’ve done a good job at something. I thought this was a Kiwi phrase until I noticed an American, David Miller on Matador Network, write it in a comment. The difference was that he wrote “Big up” in the singular. I wonder why the difference. I guess Kiwis like to give more than one.
In England people use the word ‘brown’ to mean skin that has been coloured by the sun. For example,
“My you are looking brown. Have you been on holiday?”
“Yes, we’ve just spent two weeks in Spain.”
But in New Zealand, brown usually refers to skin colour based on ethnicity. So, when I said to a Chinese friend that he was ‘looking nice and brown’ a whole group of people looked at me like I was mad.
The Kiwi summer is marked by many occasions to get together with friends at a beach, park or back garden and cook things over fire in a metal box. We refer to both the occasion and the metal fire box as a barbecue as in,
“Come over to my house for a barbecue on Friday night”
“Choice. What should I bring*?”
“Could you put more sausages on the barbecue? John’s coming and he eats heaps.”
American’s (and, it seems, Canadians), however will call the metal box a grill and can also use it like a verb as in,
“Should we cook the steaks on the grill?”
“Come over. We are grilling out.”
As far as I’m aware I’ve never used “grill” as a verb because even if I was to talk about cooking something with a grill, which doesn’t even make sense in this context as a grill is a part of the cooker (uh…stove) with high heat only coming from the top, I would say something like,
“I’ll just put this cheese on toast under the grill for a few minutes until it’s golden and bubbly.”
One last thing. I was once doing some work in Laos with a team of people, one of which was from Hawaii. We immediately got on/ clicked (it’s an island thing) when we found out how many things we did the same in New Zealand and Hawaii. New Zealand is the largest Polynesian nation after all. They wear slippers while we wear jandals, but the biggest difference was that here in New Zealand we call everyone ‘Bro’, whereas they call everyone ‘Bra’. Again, I wonder why so close yet not the same.
* You always bring a bottle of wine or a pack of beer and usually your own meat or veggies for the barbecue and/ or maybe a salad to share. Just in case you wondered.
time spent with good friends.
This photo is a couple of years old now, but I’ve been thinking about the friends we had back in Japan quite a bit recently. I think it is wonderful how you can float around on the globe and then settle down for a while, look up, and there are people just like you. Amazing, amazing. What are the chances? Why does this happen? Maybe you have to be open to it in some way. Or maybe there’s some boring reason like the fact that they are doing something similar to what you’ve chosen, so you think alike.
This was a moment out of a long weekend we spent at our friends’ cabin in the mountains. It is known as the “Foreigners’ Village” by locals because there have been long-term expat summer homes here for generations. There are Japanese who come as well, but the basic conditions only appeal to very few people. The history is amazing and every simple little cabin has its own story. One cabin is the place where we spent wonderful nights discussing books, listening to music (some on LPs!) creating menus and making delectable dishes, trying to outdo each other and then waking late the next day from too much wine. If it weren’t for our ages, you’d think it some scene out of the life of an undergraduate. Eventually we’d make it down to the local sento for a bath.
I’m convinced someday that I’ll be able to collect all these wonderful people and get them to move to one place so we can live like this all the time. But I know that will never happen because we are all transient by nature. We can’t stop forever. That’s what makes us alike. But wouldn’t that be cool?
It’s time to say goodbye to July and hello to August. To me this means that we are on our way to spring. I know I’m a little bit early but I am crossing my fingers, closing my eyes tightly, holding my breath, and wishing for more sunny days to come our way. With so much cold wind and rain, even the smallest spot of sunshine can lift spirits during Auckland’s winter. When the sun comes out, everyone comes out of hibernation and the beaches become full with walkers and the parks enjoy impromptu rugby matches or even barbecues. It’s cold, but we don’t care because it’s all about the sunshine. And in honour of this happy mood I want to give a couple of shoutouts.
Our friends Tina and Matt have finally taken off back to Tina’s home country of Norway to live for a while. The good thing is that they are doing a few months of travelling through South East Asia on the way so my husband and I will be following them on thier blog to see how they are enjoying the places we love so much.
Some other blogs I follow have been putting up interesting news. Liz at A Girl in Asia is having her second baby and, judging from the silence on her blog something exciting could be underway in Bangkok as we speak. Niamh of Irish Wanderings has started up a great new blog called Inspiring Sports Women. Julie at Cuaderno Inedito has returned from a trip to Cuba and is getting ready for a big revamp of her blogs. I can’t wait to see what it’s all going to look like. Over at Bearshapedsphere Eileen is talking about my favourite subject, food, complete with a vocabulario lesson. Two colleagues from Pocketcultures, Bec and Arwa, have joined us over at Nile Guide (where I’ve been writing about Auckland. Have I told you?), which is very fun. And my high school friend, Shiela at Design Sparxs, has actually jumped out of a plane! I won’t be topping that.
I’ve also met a few new people this months who have very nice blogs indeed. Please check out:
Breathe Dream Go
Discover. Share. Inspire.
The other exciting thing is that the team at Pocketcultures is gearing up to write a book. Oh yes we are! It’s going to be about children’s games around the world and we’d really like your help with some preliminary research. If you, or someone you know, would be interested in a book of this nature we’d love it if you had a couple of minutes to do a short survey on the subject. We really want our book to be something that fills a need and would be interesting and engaging to people. So, lend us a hand! Many, many thanks in advance:-)
The Pocketcultures survey will be open until the 14th of August.
Here’s to a productive and fulfilling August!
As soon as I hear the “Where…” , anxiety rushes in. I’ve learned from experience that not having the ‘right ‘answer creates problems. People don’t want you to be ‘interesting’ or ‘weird’. They want to be able to file you in the folders of their mind discreetly and easily so they have a point of reference from which to judge your actions. People love to judge on place.
I first opened my eyes in a place with beaches, warmth, and never-ending swamps. Water fell from the sky in half-day, seasonal downpours. Like clockwork, heat turns to rain making everything steamy and unbearable save for the scent of Cuban beans simmering that hint at the pleasures in life to come. Home? Within a year my family headed to the cold northern state of Michigan.
The water here falls from the sky in snowflakes and it makes for great fun sliding down hills with my brother in those precious moments when sibling rivalry hasn’t taken over. Detroit has urban things like the Henry Ford museum where my classmates and I saw the chair that President Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot.
“Miss Jones, is that his blood?”
“No, it’s the pomade they used to put in their hair.”
“Sam, what’s pomade?”
“I dunno. I think it’s blood.”
“Yeah, me too!”
Michigan also meant family as once every couple of months my Mum bundled us into the car for the three hour journey “up north” to see relatives and, from my perspective, go to the lake. Lake Huron was a wonderland in those days with giant plaster animals on the beach containing slides and swings and firemen’s poles. There were precious Petosky stones to search for which I didn’t recognise as fosilised coral until I was in high school. But the lake was best in winter. In the daytime people would ice skate along the shore and at night it became a game to spot the glow of the ice fishermen’s lights in the little temporary shelters.
We also explored the woods which were full of exciting things like bear poo and half-eaten prey of some bird or animal. We never played cowboys and Indians…only Indians. We really wanted to believe that we could live like native people and survive in the wild, but in reality we were fortified by pierogies and potato salad (family recipe)until the sun went down and adults called us in.
After those days we lived in the tornado alley towns of Omaha and Kansas City. Scary days when the sky went black, sirens went off, and we hid in the basement with Mum and Dad listening for the telltale train sound. It wasn’t like this in Little House on the Prairie. But there were blizzards which seemed fun for children, but not for my parents who busied themselves stocking up the survival box as they did the hurricane box in southern Florida. Same cans of Spam and stew for different potential disasters.
And there were other homes in other states every two years on average. By 18, the pattern had set and I carried on to the UK, Vietnam, Japan and New Zealand after that. Of course, Lake Huron doesn’t freeze anymore and our house in Miami is long gone thanks to a hurricane. Sometimes I’m surprised at how much focus there is on place when defining home. Home is much more than place to me.