Writing and Procrastination

Writing can be an extremely slow process – especially when trying to write for a large project that requires a high level of research and formality.  Currently I am working on my PhD thesis and I am struggling.  Breaking the thesis down to bite sized chunks is really important but doing that and keeping the chunk within the framework of the big picture often brings out the worst acts of procrastination.  I seem to spend so much time thinking about what I want to write and planning when I am going to write that I forget, become distracted or run out of time to actually take up the task of writing.

Earlier this semester, having decided to end avoiding the inevitable, I reached out to the university’s research department and signed up to a couple of seminars.  As an external student, I felt that surrounding myself with other academically minded people would help to inspire me with purpose to take up writing – and it did, in a small way until I realised that the washing needed to be done, the boys picked up from school and I had to have coffee with my girlfriend.

I then followed up with some of the advice that was offered during the seminar:  the Pomodoro Technique and reading about writing a thesis starting out at The Thesis Whisperer‘s blog.  I bought myself an egg-timer to start implementing some discipline.  I confess I have not gotten too far, but I will, once I get started on my writing again!  Today, however, was my day to start writing a blog.  Another step along the procrastination journey?  Maybe, but it also means that I am writing.

This week gone, I started to say no to coffee – both in the literal sense and in the cultural sense.  I have started to say to myself, ‘no you are not texting your friends to tell them you are in town, nor are you popping in to the coffee shop to do some reading while you deep down hope a friend or two might interrupt you’.  I have a perfect home that is conducive to reading, writing and contemplation.  My discipline is starting with the concept of getting up every morning at 6.30am so that I am ready to start writing by 9.00am.  I still have days when I have to take my sons to school and spend the day in town, but I am beginning to avoid the coffee shops and am choosing to maximise an opportunity to read and write in a space a friend has offered for me to use.

Writing a thesis is a discipline and it requires the student to make that personal, academic journey with the utmost persistence and determination.  It can also be a lonely journey where I can pretend I am working, but then the only person I am truly deceiving is myself.  The honest truth is that I have spent hours avoiding writing because it means a commitment to my ideas; it means I might actually achieve my dream; it means turning my back on seeing myself as a failure and valuing the journey of achievement.  Yes, the PhD is more than an academic journey.  It is a spiritual and emotional journey that is taking me to a space where I must believe in my worth in order to achieve.  Knowing something and believing something can be two very different things, but having faith in my capacity to achieve requires inordinate strength, courage and persistence.

Around the 20 March 2014, I have to have completed a revision of a paper that has been accepted for publication later this year and I have to complete a near final draft of my methods chapter, so that when I go to Canberra, my supervisor and I can work together on the next step towards putting my thesis together.  Just thinking about it, raises my anxiety levels.  Can I really do that?  It’s too much, I can’t!  Then I tell myself, ‘I’ll just check Facebook…’.

Until next week…Happy reading!


Farewell Christchurch

Finally most of my morning is taken up with sleeping in! So after a late start to the day, I grab my things and head off to the Art Gallery. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I spot Fiddlesticks. Yes, it is a fabulous place to sit outside in the sun to enjoy a coffee – well I ended up enjoying an omelette, muffin and no less than two cups of coffee. Yes the coffee was beautiful and it gave me time to write and finish yesterday’s blog.

The Art Gallery was across the road and in the midst of so much damage and older buildings was this beautiful piece of architecture that inspired such hope for a bright new future.

The art gallery was beautiful and full of artwork by New Zealanders.

I did have a bit of a flashback to Mary Poppins when I realised what this art installation was made of! “I love to laugh, ha ha ha ha…”

As I started walking I noticed this grey beanie and thought to myself – I know this person. Sure enough it was Sarena from Kate and Sarena at Fat Eddy’s. Anyway in typical Janet fashion I greeted her and she was delighted to say hi. Sarena was also the woman who played on the keyboards. I do hope she and Kate continue to build careers with their music.

Then I came across this beautiful statue. Then I read the piece that described it. Lorna Waring Rowland sounds like a fabulous woman. Reading the plague describing this statue is intriguing and it is great to hear the words not only of the artist but of the model – Lorna Waring Rowland.


As I came around one particular corner, I came across this art installation made up of beautiful books. Imagine how much I laughed when I read the sign!

After that I took off to visit the contemporary art gallery but as luck would have it – closed Mondays!

Then I began to wander the streets with the intention of finding the shop that advertised coffee and Gelato and to find a cinema. As I did I browsed through some of the shops until I found the Gelato. And yes it was worth the hunt!

Shirleen and I had originally planned on going to the movies today, so I decided to include that in my plans and I am so glad that I did and in the process discovered Alice’s Cinema. What a lovely place to experience film! I wish every cinema experience could be like this. The ticket sellers even insisted on bringing my coffee into me because they wanted to make sure I did not miss the start of the film – and in a cup and saucer no less!!! To be honest, the whole experience felt more up-market than going Gold Class.

Each cinema, as I discovered had it’s own theme and to my delight, I had to follow the White Rabbit to find my cinema! “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date…”

The plan was to see ‘I Feel Pretty’ but it was not showing at that time so I randomly chose Sweet Country. Imagine the irony of discovering it was an Australian film! Actually I think it is one worth seeing. It challenges many of the stereotypes about what we might like to think happened during the settlement era but it still overall remained faithful to the harshness and cruelty of Australian history. There was also a complex layering of the characters that left me feeling like nothing was as it seemed.

After that I wandered back through the shops, picking up a couple of things for the boys and Soraya back home, then with a couple of hours to fill in before dinner, I dropped into OGB. I thought it would be a great way to fill in the early part of the evening anddid so with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne and a Ploughman’s platter. Hmmm – it was delicious and hit the spot perfectly.

While there I met a young boy and his mum who lived in Queenstown – however she was originally from Brazil. They were off to The Killers’ concert tomorrow night but tonight they were going to watch Peter Rabbit so he could practise staying up late! Yet another beautiful moment shared with others. Sometimes I think these moments come particularly when you are traveling on your own and are one of the bonuses may not always value because they are just moments of connection.

Now I am back at Fiddlesticks enjoying my last meal in Christchurch. What a feast! Once again the waiter’s recommendation for which to drink with my meal was perfect. The lamb was delicious with a shiraz from the Hawkesbury region. After that I treated myself to dessert – a chocolate torte with cherry compte and kirsch sorbet, and a coffee. It was good but of course I am way over-full!!!

I have been very blest this trip to Christchurch, New Zealand. The time spent with my friend, Shirleen was so special and I have memories of our time that I will always treasure. Unfortunately life’s about turns meant that we did not spend today together but that is the way things happen and a great lesson in making the most of today.

The people of Christchurch continue to face enormous challenges, even seven years after the earthquake. How often do we hear in Australia that drought is tough because you never know when it actually starts or finishes much less the time it takes to recover. I cannot help but wonder if earthquakes could be interpreted in a similar manner. The aftermath of this disaster seems timeless and forgotten to all but those in the midst of it.

Until next time New Zealand! Adieu!

Wandering jazzlust

Today, well it was a quiet one. For the most part it was about walking around and exploring.

My first mistake though was jumping on the tram. While they sell you an all day ticket it really is a tour rather than city transport. At $25 a day you really want to spend time doing the full route. That said, if I hadn’t had Shirleen show me around on that first day I probably would have loved it. As someone used to trams as a means of jumping on and off as you get around town. For a tour it would be great and very informative.

Walking through Christchurch is an experience where as someone with no experience of earthquakes I feel confronted by the damage, destruction, reinvention, creativity and survival of the landscape.

One of my first exploring places was the O.G.B. – Old Government Building. Yes an imaginative name I know but beautiful and you can stay there to. So on the one hand you can be a guest, a sightseer, or just enjoy the bar, restaurant and cafe. Of couse at this point I was sightseeing!

Next was to wander through Cathedral Square. There were market holders setting up and I enjoyed chatting to one where my eye had been caught by the beautiful scarves. They reminded me of Thailand and yes I was toying with the idea of buying yet another scarf. Low and behold the gorgeous stall holder was married to a Thai woman and all the materials for the stalls products had been purchased over there in Bangkok and then they created each piece themselves when they returned.

If I was in Australia then I would just assume these stalls were some kind of market. However they seem to be semi- permanent where they are able to set up each day in lieu of building facilities. The square does seem to be like the centrepoint of the city and even at night I have felt safe walking through.

As I walked I took pictures to capture the beauty amidst the damage.

Then what seemed out of nowhere I found a beautiful spot on the Avon River to sit and reflect and soak in nature. Yes even some beatiful and different birdlife.

As I started walking again I came across a bridge commemorating the ANZACS. I often struggle with honouring our soldiers and celebrating and remembering war. That said, my special friends, Loula and Mark will be very busy back in Nathalia gearing up for ANZAC Day celebrations in Nathalia. So I took a photo of the remembrance bridge for them and to honour the importance of this day for them and all who take this time to remember. Lest We Forget.

It’s kind of funny but here I get a sense of the world geography of the war that is different to how it feels in Australia. My initial response was that the New Zealanders remembered all nations involved but I think the listing of other countries is about where the geography of the battlefields.

Next it was back to OGB for coffee and to write my blog. It was such a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning watching the world wake up. Yes it was only about 10.30am!

Now my plans for the day included going to Fat Eddy’s Jazz Club for some live music. So by the time I left OGB it was 12pm and I still had two hours to fill in so I wandered. And amidst some of the destruction I came across some crazy characters.

Following is my favorite wall art.

Walking in the shopping precinct I noticed some beautiful shops and came across a fabulous book shop where they even sold a range of feminist sociological books. I did resist but it reminded me about the feminist movement here and if I’m right, New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women, nation-wide, the right to vote in national elections.

Of course it was now lunchtime and I was stuggling to decide where to eat and where would be good foid and affordable. At the same time I was trying to find Fat Eddy’s so I would know where to go. In my tracking down Fat Eddy’s I managed to take a few wrong turns. But just as well, as I stumbled across this little gem – Regatta-on-the-Avon. Here I enjoyed a lovely home-cooked style steak sandwich. While not fancy it was cooked perfectly and I was able to sit out and enjoy being nestled in a forest environment by the river.

From here I found Fat Eddy’s and settled myself in with a Cointreau on ice for an afternoon of music. Kate and Sarena performed this afternoon and it was their first official performance together. There music was fabulous and their renditions of the songs they sang was thoroughly enjoyable.

Of course most people sat on the balcony but yours truly set herself up in a booth and relaxed. If course the hardest thing is feeling like I stick out like a sore thumb sitting there on my own. But in that environment I also find it hard to talk when there is music playing and when it’s live I want to listen and here – especially when the sound is good.

Next it was off to find dinner. Welk what a hoot that turned into! First, I ended up at the RSA and secondly they had an amazingly professional jazz band playing.

I quickly enjoyed sime roast pork and a beautiful pinot noir. Actually I’m amazed at the way New Zealanders enjoy both a pinot and a rose. Two drinks I’m not accustomed to seeing as primary options. Anyway after dinner I took the rest of my wine around to where the band was playing and settled in for a fabulous night of entertainment.

Here I also met Margaret (from Dunedin) and Otto (from Berlin, Germany), a couple who me in Sydney, Australia, lived in Germany for a time and then spent the rest of their lives in Christchurch.

My final musings, however go to the homeless. Shirleen spoke about it on day one. Today and a bit yesterday, it was quite confronting seeing people begging on the streets. Confronting because I was not expecting it to be so overt – and with the cold winter coming it is only going to get worse for them.

Akaroa, Lucas and Hector – the dolphin

It was another early start today, with Kelly my tour guide picking me up at 8.30am. We were off to Akana today and my traveling Companions were from Chicago, USA and the northern part of Germany. In a land where I was expecting to meet Maori people, Islanders and Pakehahs, it really has been a mixed group of people I have been running across. An unexpected joy and delight, really!

The trip to Akaroa was going to take me through Halswell and through to Little River where we would have our first stop. Along the way Kelly, Occasionally provided us with a bit of commentary and point out a range of aspects that we probably would have been otherwise oblivious to – like Perth’s black swans that travel over here and enjoy the special seaweed that can be found in this lake that is really an estuary because it does have an opening to the ocean. Kelly also told us how there used to be a train that ran between Christchurch and this part of the world and how in the 196O’s it was decided not to invest in rail and the trains and their tracks were consequently removed. Of course you can imagine my delight when I heard and began to see that a nail trail was now put there in it’s place! Whoohoo! And when we stopped at Little River, there was a map of the rail trail. Yes I could just imagine if I lived here cycling along the different tracks.

The area of Christchurch and its surrounds need to be two massive and active volcanoes. They have been extinct for around six million years but that is why are area is filled with massive hills, expansive flats and so many beautiful water ways.

Our trip to Akaroa included a cheese tasting at – well I’ll have to look that one up – and it really was beautiful cheeses that we got to taste but only four – and tiny cubes at that! If I was heading off for a picnic with some wine and fresh bread, this place is definitely a must. But the tasting we had was not what I would advertise as a tasting. As you can see by the photos, the selection of cheeses could have lent itself to a fabulous tasting experience.

On our way around to Akaroa Bay Kelly told us how the French arrived a week to late to claim the South Island as French. But they settled down the opposite end of the beach to the British because they couldn’t be bothered trying to trek their way home. Anyway at some point both parties recognised the benefits to tourism to develop a French theme and hence why you feel like you have stepped into another world.

After a quick drive though the main street to get our bearings, we were on our own. It was such a beautiful place to wander and to be honest, there was not enough time for that. But I did come across a place where I was able to taste some of the most beautiful fudges I’ve ever tasted. Then I stopped for a coffee at a beautiful little bar on the beach front. Believe it or not the waitress was French and the batista was Italian and she knew what a cafe allonges was! Whoo hoo! Coffee heaven!

After that I wandered up to the British Quarter where we were to have lunch and meet for the cat ride. Well lunch was a treat. Breads and dips, fish – cod fillets – and a beautiful Hawkesbury Pinot Gris – large! The other meal was the salmon which came from the local salmon farm in Akaroa Bay. All beautiful – although I was particularly taken with the dips and breads. During our meal, Meredith and I discussed American politics and global impacts and love. Then Julia joined us and we talked about the best cities to visit in Germany.

Then it was off for a cat cruise and an attempt to find wildlife – dophins, seals and penguins. In particular we were going to try to spot Hector Dolpins that have a dorsel fin in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears.

As we headed out on the harbour it was peaceful calm seas. It’s a beautifully sheltered waterway and it’s surrounded by mountans and cliffs. I have to qualify that in New Zealand they tended to refer to such landscapes as hills, cliffs and gullies. But in my eyes the terrain was mountainous. I had a perfect spot on the right side of the boat facing the way we were heading. Mind you the wind was chilly and it wasn’t long before jacket, scarf and gloves were on.

As we neared the area where we might spot some New Zealand fur seals as opposed to Australian fur seals (haha don’t know if there is a difference but I thought giving them a nationality was funny) – a family moved closer and suddenly I had a young boy standing next to my knees – standing on tippy toes to see over the rail. He wanted to spot the seals and well – as you do – we began chatting. While his dad was there hanging onto him as the boat was getting rocky as we neared the heads and his mum and baby brother nestled at mum’s front, I started helping him spot the seals. Quite literally we were trying to spot rocks that moved!

Next thing he starts telling me about the ocean park he went to in Hong Kong and how he saw seals there. So, I naturally asked if he lived in Hong Kong. Well of course I was wrong – he lived in Shanghai! And speaking fluent English. I asked him if he went to school. This confused him somewhat. You see I was trying to find out if he was school age but no he didn’t go to school because his dad told the teacher that he was coming here. So while not confirmed I am assuming he was school age and he and his family were on holidays.

Well did we have fun spotting the seals. We even got to see some little 5-6 month olds jumping in and out of a rock pool. My new young friend was trying to count how many he had seen and excitedly gave me an update every time he spotted a new one.

Next we passed through the Akaroa Bay heads and we were out in the Pacific Ocean. And did we know it! There was definitely a swell and freezing winds.

Once out in the open seas, we saw cormorants, albatross and shags. One beautiful albatross gave us a beautiful display of how to glide on the wind currents.

Then suddenly out of nowhere I yelled out one o’clock! Our first Hector dolphin. And we also managed to spot a mother and calf swimming together. The dolphins swam in 2s and 3s, sometimes almost synchronising their leaps out of the water. Of course my young friend was just as chatty as ever as was everyone exclaiming with delight each time they spotted the dolphins breaking through the surface.

We did try to spot a penguin but no luck. The trip back in though the heads tooks it’s toll and it wasn’t long before I was wishing to be back on land. But I kept my head up and was very grateful I had only eaten half my main course!!!

As the waters settled, my friend had disappeared with his parents. Next moment they returned and he was asking to have a photograph taken. That was when we finally exchanged names. My friend’s name was Lucas and he learnt my name – Janet. Another precious moment or moments shared with another person.

Back on land we realised that if we were to go up along the top of the crater, we needed to get going. Well my legs and my stomach were definitely not ready for those roads of twists and turns as we headed towards the sky. No there was no vomiting still but as we drove to keep ahead of the clouds, I kept fighting to keep up a brave face. Mind you, the views had already been spectacular! So how do you describe this new perspective of awesomeness and magnificence?

Back at Little River we stopped for a coffee and a quick look at the art gallery. The coffee was a perfect anecdote for my sense of balance and the artwork was beautiful.

Back in Christchurch I left the tour guide to walk back to the B&B and get grounded. Instead, when I tried to find somewhere to eat, I had this huge wave of nauseousness overwhelm me and I was suddenly terrified I was going to vomit everywhere. So I walked back to my room as quickly as possible and went to bed. What a way to end the day! But spending the next 12hrs in bed – yes and missing out on dinner – did me a world of good!

Ice-cream, cupcakes and hot chocolate

This morning I woke up at 4.30am; or was it 6.30am – well it was early. Needless to say I did snooze for about another hour when I realised it was Victorian time showing on my phone and that in New Zealand it was actually a reasonable time to wake up.

The Grange Boutique B&B where I am staying is lovely and the people are warm and friendly.

Breaky was lovely; home cooking and after I finished eating I sat outside in the beautiful outdoor sitting area and started blogging. A lovely American couple said hi and told me how they were heading off to Sydney today where they would catch a 23day cruise ship to Seattle, US.

Shirleen picked me up at 10am and we set off with Dolly, dog.

Today was a time for exploring, catching up and just experiencing something of this magnificent region. I still have no sense of direction here as there are so many inlets and hills, twists and turns. Of course traveling with a local I am seeing and experiencing a very different path than if I was just on the tourist track. That said, I am also experiencing the impact of the earthquake and the 2017 Christchurch fires that nearly burnt down Shirleen’s home.

To the uninitiated, the green areas you pass on your way to New Brighton appear to be like farmland. For the most of it, there used to be a suburb there. Yes whole neighborhoods wiped out by the quake. There are still some landscapes that show signs of suburbia – paddocks with street lights! Otherwise it just looks like a farming area. What I wasn’t expecting to see as we drove towards New Brighton Beach was a surf club. Yes, the shoreline there is a surf beach and it was stunning. As Shirleen pointed out, you would expect such a suburb to contain a wealthier demographic. But no, this was apparently one of the cheaper suburbs to live in. That said a cheap property here was between 2 & 300,000! Still out of my price range! This beach was also somewhere that Shirleen used to come as child and young woman.

After that, it was off to Sumner for ice-creams and a walk along the beach. Well we got the ice-creams in but it was so windy that it was impossible to walk along the street even without being whipped by the sand that was traveling with the wind. So it was ice-cream at the shop and back into the car.

I did however, manage to get a few photos of the area but I had no idea if they would work.

Typical of Kiwi humor, amidst the tragedy of the quake, there are some quirky moments. As we were leaving Sumner and starting our trek towards Lyttleton, we passed some rocks. Apparently it used to be one rock know as Shag Rock. Now they call it the Shagged Pile!!!

On our way to Lyttleton we passed through a suburb called Redcliffe. Again Shirleen was telling about an amazingly close-knit and well-off community they were. The local school was reknowned for having great facilities for which the local community worked hard to build up. From the road, the front facade suggests that the school remains however what you are looking at are the remains of the school. While the school was built on the flattest part of the area, below the hills, they suffered complete demolition when the hill behind them fell away onto the school. Thankfully no one was killed on the day, there were no injuries. Now looking at the school, I could see the tell-tale sides of nature starting to overtake the buildings and the yards. As Shirleen spoke of this she also pointed out how the road we were traveling on was an extremely dangerous place to be because of the great ease at which rock faces would crash onto the road in a quake and how there would be no escape. As I looked up also at the houses, the pathways and the roads I began to see what Shirleen saw living in and around Christchurch; houses that were empty and/or framed with scaffolding to stop them falling down completely; paths and roads that no longer travel in a line but are jagged and no longer usable. It reminds me of how I feel in the aftermath of horrendous bush fires we experince back in Victoria but different.

Lyttleton was different again. I used to be the main port for industry and cruise liners but apparently as I found out today, the big cruise liners can no longer enter the port because the sea floor plates moved and it’s no longer deep enough for them. The wharfies are currently on strike and so the yards, when we arrived, were full. For the most part it was timber that I could see but there were also massuve grain silos nearby which we saw later.

e arrived in Lyttleton just after 1pm to visit Lyttleton Bakery and Cakes Galore. Yes our hearts were set in eating the best cakes in town. And yes, you can imagine our disappointment when we discovered that they had sold out of most of their specialty cakes! As the staff informed us, the best time to get ther is 8am in the morning. And you know what? They had even run out of bottled water for me to buy! That said, the pie was delicious tasting – even if it was heavy on the gravy – and the lemon tart was yummy.

After that Shirleen showed me where they go jet-skiing. What a beautiful place and still part of the same bay.

Next, it was Governor’s Bay where we popped into a friend’s place to pick up something for Robin, Shirleen’s husband and to experience the world’s best hot chocolate. This friend lived up the side of one of the steepest hills I have ever driven. Walking up the driveway it felt like I was walking on a 45 degree angle just to keep my balance and the house – it was beautiful and so was the view.


fter that, excited by the prospect of heading up to Sugarloaf – the top of the Port Hills – Shirleen and I forgot about the hot chocolate! But what a beautiful view from Sugarloaf and yes the hill was covered with sheep and you could see Christchurch.

As we started to drive away Shirleen started yabbering at me to get a photo of a sheep on the road looking at us. I really wasn’t sure why but look at what I ended up with!!!

“A perfect shot for the tourism ads’ she says. Talk about laugh!

As we drove down the Sugarloaf, Shirleen remembered the hot chocolate and back we drove to Governor’s Bay and She Universe. Well what a beautiful place! For me, however it wax a long black but we did enjoy some chocolate and I bought some for after dinner that night so we could share them with Robin too.

Now our day was finished and the evening awaited. It was back to Shirleen’s where she had been slaving all day cooking a magnificent lamb roast! Slow cookers are great, aren’t they? Arriving finally, Shirleen gave me the grand tour and then we sat down on her outdoor patio, overlooking Christchurch and sipping on a magnificent Hawkesbury Chardonnay.

I felt and feel so grateful for this time to share in my friend’s world. Next minute, I get to meet Robin who Shirleen spoken about so much. And the rest of the evening was spent chatting, watching the sunset and the planes flying across the skyline. We laughed, shared stories and listened to music. Dinner was the best meal yet and the cheesecake and chocolates went down a treat.

You would think that’s where it ended, but no. I caught an Uber home and met a lovely young Punjabi man who talked with me about religion, politics, history, colonialism, justice and his dreams for the future.

What a lovely way to finish off and amazing and magnificent day.

PS Forgot to mention the bush fires but Robin and Shirleen spoke of their experiences and shared some amazing footage and photos of that time. Such a huge day!

Arriving in Christchurch

At 3.30am I jumped in my car and drove to Tullamarine Airport. It wasn’t until I was checked in and through all the gates that I finally relaxed! As luck would have it however, as I’m lining up, friends from my soccer days joined the queue so the boring-waiting-in-line part of traveling became rather pleasant! After that, I ended up enjoying a croissant and long black at Brunetti’s no less!!! There I met a couple from Melbourne who were The flight was -well it was as perfect as it could be with Jet star- tiny seats all crammed in – except this time I actually fitted into one seat instead of edging across into two! The food, however was a treat and not overly expensive. Recently, having discovered Sumosalad, I was delighted to see that I could order a chicken pesto pasta salad – and it was delicious! In between sleeping and eating I snatched a few conversations with my neighbours. To my right, across the aisle, was a former Kiwi who was heading back to Christchurch to visit her grandson and celebrate his first birthday. Next to her was a lovely young couple from Ireland. Meantime next to me was a mother and daughter from Germany. For the mum this was the trip she had wanted to take since her son had traveled there some years ago. They were getting a van and driving around NZ for 2 weeks! What a worldly trip without leaving the plane! The funny thing is, reading this sounds like I did nothing but chat to people. In reality, they were snippets of conversations where people connected and for those brief moments I am grateful.

Shirleen was there to meet me at the airport. It was so wonderful to see her again. Of course we haven’t stopped talking! As we left the airport, Shirleen began to tell me all about Christchurch. If I had written this last night, I would have said between what I was seeing and what she was saying I was totally confused. However in the clarity that comes with rest, I realized that I had received an amazing sociological, historical and politcal narrative about Christchurch. We drove through the suburbs of the wealthy, passed by many schools and drove around the University of Canterbury. Did you know that because of the earthquake and as a means of encouraging students to come back here to study, the government started paying the first year of fees. Now apparently the Labor government are planning on rolling out no fees for all universities in New Zealand for their first three years of study. How fabulous is that for New Zealand students!

There is art galore in Christchurch! Where I am staying is right near a number of galleries and I mean, right behind me! Then there are the magnificent wall-art features throughout the city. Apparently, since the earthquake the city’s tagging community have become a bit of a collective and respond to requests for walls to become artwork. Shirleen also pointed out the places where the homeless gather particularly at night. She was telling me that there seems to be a lot more of that since the earthquake; people living on the street, living in cars and staying in houses were there are still no amenities since the earthquake. One of Shirleen’s daughters spent a couple of years volunteering with what we would call soup vans.

The magnificent cathedral that was destroyed in the quake now has weeds growing all over it. Apparently the powers-that-be, including church and governments are arguing about what to do with it and it the meantime it looks like any chance of rebuilding what is there is slipping away as what is left rots and erodes away. Shirleen spoke of how embarrassed she was at the inaction of people to rebuild. Apparently, local government allowed people to take their time deciding what to do, that if buildings were pulled down the ground was to be planted with grass while decisions about building again were made. At the same time, they allowed for people to open up business in their homes. While this may be something we are accustomed too in some parts of Australia this is a new phenomenon for Christchurch and as such has ended up contributing to the slow reconstruction of Christchurch. Another aspect of the quake I had not considered was the loss of paperwork. So many businesses lost all their files and recorded – mainly due to fire and water damage. Lawyers, doctors, accountants and other professionals along with people’s personal details and histories including wills have all been lost. Something we all value and yet so easily destroyed and lost. I know it’s not life threatening but it’s an impact that can have huge ramifications for society and the way we function. We spend so much time building systems yet they can be destroyed in seconds!

See what a fabulous time I’ve been having getting to hear, see and understand all this! How precious is it and privaleged that Shirleen is sharing all this with me!

Finally we ended up in Riccardo – at a Westfield shopping Centre where we finally sat down and enjoyed a lovely cup of coffee.

Why there? Shirleen’s neice Wendy was the marketing manager for a shoe shop that was having its grand opening. And there was a line-up! So we stood in the queue where by coincidence a friend or Shirleen’s arrived at the same time. As we entered, we received these beautiful goodie bags and yes they even included a great beach towel!

Then I met Shirleen’s sister Louise who was hosting the bar and where we also collected a glass of wine and a mini lemon meringue. There really were some fabulous shoes and hand bags in the store.

After that I was on my own and yes managed to catch a bus back into Christchurch back to the bus exchange. Thankfully I had some battery left on my phone because even though Shirleen had shown me around, I was still extremely disoriented. It was dark now and nothing looked familiar so I followed the dots on Google Maps and made my way passed Cathedral Square and down to the new Regent Terrace cafe area where I found Casa Publica.

What a lovely venue that was. The guy at the door made me feel very welcome and took me to a lovely quiet corner of the restaurant part – as opposed to the theatre or bar. There I sat and enjoyed a different yet lovely meal. The best thing was that when I told the waiter what I was thinking of eating – pork bellie with tunips and a pomegranate salsa – he recommended a pinot noir to go with it. Did you know that here in New Zealand you can order regular or large glasses of wine? Anyway given the prices I ordered a regular – and it was a match made in heaven. Love it when a waiter knows their food and wine combinations.

Having thoroughly enjoyed my meal I decided to treat myself to a liqueur and ordered a Cointreau on ice! It was the perfect way to finish my meal! As I was sitting there somehow I ended up talking to an Israeli family who were now living in Christchurch and they were out celebrating the wife’s success in having her first cooking book published. She has a tutoring business where her clientele are people who have disabilities and she teaches them how to cook. Their young son was in year 12 (with year 13 to go before uni) and the husband worked in IT.

All that said, I was done in and crashing fast. Mind you it didn’t stop me meeting briefly a lovely young couple from Argentina! After that, I walked back to my beautiful B&B and settled in for the night.

Day 8 – wet…then to Bophut Fisherman’s Village markets

Today l woke up to a thunderstorm and throughout the night it had just rained almost non-stop. Outside everything was so wet; water was flowing whenever it could and there was nowhere you could go and not get wet.

Today I was feeling a bit exhausted after yesterday and I thought it would be a good day to do some more reading and to get my blogs up to date. But first breakfast and yes today I broke with my usual breaky order and ordered French toast, banana and honey plus a glass of yoghurt, muesli and mixed fruit.

That was the beginning of my day and it continued in a similar vein – eating, reading, coffee, Crosswords, shake, Sudoku, eating and blogging.

With so much rain and stormy shorelines, there weren’t many people popping into the restaurant and the place was very quiet until finally the rain stopped long enough for people to feel confident to start walking about.

After a while Sue came to By Beach and we got chatting. Apparently they were all heading do Bophut, to the Fisherman’s Village markets. Sue was confident that the weather would hold out so I decided I would organise a taxi for myself and also go!

First I wanted to finish my blog and have another taste of the fried bananas. Who would have thought they could taste so good! But this time they were served with honey. I never realised how good banana and honey were together!

The drive into Bophut usually took about 15 minutes but tonight I was in the taxi for nearly an hour! I have never seen the road so busy; mind you I had actually not ventured out in Koh Samui at night either. Thankfully, my fee was a set fee of 400 baht regardless of how long it took.

Arriving at the markets it was clearly an extremely busy place so I took off in the general direction trying to skirt past the crowds so that I could purvey my surroundings before setting off properly. In the process I walked through this part that looked like an abandoned mall. As I came out the other side, I spotted a shop with the most magnificent materials and beading. The initial piece that caught my eye was 5000 baht (197 AUD). Yes, the stones were beautiful but I was not spending that much – especially not at the beginning of the night! That said, if you had the money, this would be the place to get yourself something very special.

As I kept walking, my senses were bombarded with loud music from the many restaurants and eating places. A cacophony of geese was more appealing! That said, again it started to rain and I briefly regretted not bring the umbrella Koi from the office at By Beach had offered me. The rain did not last long, but I was extremely grateful that I had elected to wear my sneakers and sports socks; there were puddles everywhere. Really it was just massive amounts of water lining the streets; so much so that I ended up just walking through and not worrying about how wet my feet were.

The shops at these markets were absolutely beautiful and the Indian man who’s shop was similar to the one I have just described, was somewhat more affordable but I still declined to make a purchase. After that I mainly focused on the stalls and they were just a visual buffet of amazing! Jade, pearls, trinkets, bags, cosmetics, clothes, mobile covers, sunglasses, watches, headphones and speakers, jewelry, scarfs, linen, material – it was incredible. The bartering was fierce and if you were luck enough to be a first purchase, then you could get a great deal. That said, there was a limit and sometimes I saw people calculating their profit margin if they accepted the price. This made me realise that while it is great to barter, it also needs to be conducted in respect for the seller as this is their livelihood and there is no minimum wage akin to what we receive in Australia supporting their everyday expenses.

The food along the streets was also amazing and I did enjoy eating some chicken kebabs of different marinades for only 20 baht each (less than $1). One novelty I did notice was that you could buy and drink cocktails while walking around the markets, like you would purchase soft drinks. I did not realise how accustomed I had become to the non-drinking of alcohol in public places. I also spotted a fabulous way of doing eggs – quail eggs no less!

But no, I did not try them as by this stage I  finally had the opportunity to try the ‘rolled ice-cream’. The process fascinated me, as you can tell and I did enjoy eating the ice-cream, although it was slightly icy!

Again, once the shopping was finished I went to find a taxi. As I approached the entrance to the markets, the traffic was still hectic and there where ‘lollipop’ traffic guys working hard to create space for cars to move into the traffic and for people to cross the road. Again, I took a taxi home and noted that the ride back for the driver was going to be horrendous as traffic conditions had not subsided. So after paying him the 400 baht, I gave him an extra 20 baht just to say thank you. I do hope he got to keep that for himself! It really was a lovely way to end the day after such a long day of doing very little.

Day 7- Scootering around Koh Samui

Today, I had decided that I was going to attempt to ride around the island of Koh Samui. I came down to By Beach Restaurant to have breaky and one of the English ladies from next door was sitting and having breakfast with her 2 yo daughter. The 2 yo was enjoying dippy-eggs and her mum was having what looked like a sundae but was in fact yogurt, mixed fruit and muesli. I ordered my usual and we sat and shared stories. Her sister-in-law, Sue, who was from New Zealand also joined us for a few minutes before they all left for their tour of the island. They had hired a mini-bus that would take all 13 of them. They were in for a big day.

After they left I too made my preparations, got on my scooter and started riding. Like when I ride my bike, there is a thrill feeling the wind on my face and watching the world go by. I was riding with more confidence now. The traffic is really accommodating. Nothing seems to phase anyone – just the occasional toot if you have forgotten or not realised they are behind you wanting to pass or if they think you have darted out in front of them when you should have waited – but none of the rage, frustration and intolerance that we experience back home.

As I was riding along, I noted the places we had visited the day before and on the advice of Sam, at By Beach the night before, I thought I would visit the waterfall. when I arrived this man showed me where to park my bike and indicated where I could find the waterfall. I wandered into this area where all I could hear was the sound of water falling. The sound was amazing and here at the bottom of the stream it was just beautiful. Over the stream, a bridge took you to a modest Buddhist temple and to the right you could walk over these large flattened rocks to get closer to the stream. As I wandered and took photos this black dog joined me and in some ways, seemed to show me where to go.

I was however disappointed not to find the waterfall itself or for that matter a path that led to the waterfall. I did find these lovely welcome statues and then headed back out. Mind you, I have no idea what the fascination is with sheep statues but they are everywhere!

As I came out the man asked about the waterfall and I said I couldn’t find it. He gave me diections for the path, telling me it was a 2km walk through the jungle. Well, I thought, that’s like walking around the lake in Shepparton! Wrong! It was nothing like the lake! Before I knew it I was climbing over rocks, boulders and massive amounts of tree roots up this massive hill…

…and feeling very much like a cooked steam dim sim!


I had to stop wearing my glasses because they were too fogged up. As I climbed I was very grateful for all the gym work I had done before Christmas. Although as I said earlier this week I really should have spent more time doing squats as much of the climbing involved quite literally lifting myself up and over steep step-ups.

The higher I climbed the more I questioned the wisdom of this venture given that I had no water or Aeroguard with me. While it felt like I had been climbing for ages, I was sure I had not even reached half way. There were signs that people had tried to inhabit the area even if only to set up a watering hole. However much of that seemed abandoned although it did seem that someone looked after the plants in the vicinity. The sea of pink as I approached was somehow reassuring.

Not long after that the climb seemed to be getting harder and again I questioned the logic of the venture and decided it was time to turn back. While I may not have made it, I was pleased with my efforts but absolutely exhausted. The climb down was just as tough; trying to avoid falling forward and slipping. At one point I saw a lizard scamper over the rock I was about to put my hand on. It was then I started thinking about snakes and leeches.

Once again I was reminded of the constant battle between humanity and the natural environment.

Needless to say I made it down safely but hankering for some water. When I saw the lady selling water I immediately said yes please when she called out. She laughed when I said I didn’t make it! And she proceeded to take me over to the big poster to show me. Again I said that I did not see it and then I showed her a photo of how far I got and she seemed impressed.

Then I turned around and saw the man who told me about the 2 kms. Still laughing from the conversation with the other lady I shook my finger at him and told him off for not telling me how hard the climb was. He laughed and indicated a smooth path. I shook my head and said no way and used my hands to show how squiggly and steep it was. He chuckled and used his hands to say that the climb would do me the world of good; help me to slim down! Well of course in typical Janet fashion I showed him an old picture of me. His eyes nearly popped out of his head and suddenly he was impressed with what he saw. So much so he started telling the other lady. It really was an awesome conversation of joking around with each other particularly given the language challenges.

Off on the scooter again and once more I felt the thrill of the ride and not knowing exactly where I was going. After about half an hour or 40 minutes I came across a beach so I stopped to explore and take some photos. It was beautiful and once again I realised how different the terrain was as you moved around the island.

I then noticed the heavy dark rain clouds coming in so stopped for a coffee. I ended up also having an early lunch as the rain continued to pour down. The Phad Thai was nice but the one I had at By Beach was much better.


Once the rain stopped I was off again. Following my nose took me yet to another beach and resort area. It just looked magnificent!

Then I was heading up, over and through amazingly lush green mountainous terrain. Then it was into busy traffic territory and the very popular tourist spot of Lamai Beach. Needless to say I just continued riding and negotiating the vehicles and the people. As you pass through Lamai you head into Chaweng. This is like the city hub of Koh Samui and there is traffic everywhere. Suddenly I pulled off to the side of the road. This was a photo opportunity that located my position. True, if I had turned right here it would have been like driving down Swanston St in Melbourne – and there was no way I was doing that.

I just got going again when I came across the French bakery – La Fabrique – I had spotted from my taxi rides. So quickly I pulled over and wandered in. Okay, so it wasn’t quite like les boulangerie or les patisserie of France, but I still decided to have a coffee and cake.

Well, I have to say, this lemon merinque was the best I have ever tasted! There was a light crispiness to the top of the meringue but underneath it was soft and marshmallowy. The lemon part was like a thick, tangy custard and the pasty just melted in your mouth. To top it off, the coffee was the best I have had in Koh Samui.

That was it, I thought. Time to fuel up and return to By Beach. Before I realised, however, I had passed some street markets that I had also seen from are taxi and decided I would turn around and go back.

The traffic to get back across the road was hectic so I did what I had seen others do – I rode in the scooter lane the wrong way! Such a non-Janet thing to do – but I did!!! It was only a short distance but I am so glad I stopped. It was a food market and there was so much food there that I had never seen before!

At one point I watched this man make what I soon found to be “desserts”. He let me try the different noodle pieces.

It was so different but the food looked absolutely amazing. I am so glad I stopped.

Finally I made it back. Tonight, Gene and I enjoyed another feast and ordered a bottle of wine. What amazed me was that when Sam bought the wine over he suddenly became this highly professional waiter, formally showing me the wine, pouring and waiting for me to taste the wine before he began do pour both glasses. I was so amazed to receive such ‘posh’ treatment here at By Beach because it is such a casual, everyday place where often guests are still in shorts and bare feet. Once again the food was delicious and we enjoyed an evening of much laughter.

Gene even showed me some photos of where she lived in Taiwan and I had never realised how beautiful it was. Another trip to add to my growing list.

Even now as I write this I still feel in awe of this amazing day exploring the island riding on a motor scooter.