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Travel envy

I’ve been thinking a lot about travel lately. Yes, I know, I always think a lot about travel, especially when I’m trying to figure out where we are going to go next.

Some friends and relatives have been travelling a lot. One person seems to have been constantly on the move this year, but she’s a travel obsessive, and has had a few quiet years, so I will give her that. She just announced on Fbk that she has just booked her fourth cruise for 2020, on top of all the land-based travel she has planned. I’m thinking her contract work has been paying very well! Admittedly, she works only to travel, and maybe she’s planning on taking a break next year, to focus on travel. I admit to being a little envious of her!

A second couple has been on about four trips themselves. They are retired or semi-retired, and it seems as if they are ticking off bucket-list destinations, as a health diagnosis suggests that time might be limited, so I don’t envy them that. Or maybe they’re just spending their (not inconsiderable) hard-earned money doing what they love. I wish I was heading away again, despite the fact we had a great trip to Japan, Korea and Vietnam this year too.

Still, my dream is to live overseas again. Take one flight, then spend time getting to know a country or a continent over months, if not a year or two. I’m trying to work out how to do that in an affordable way. It won’t be next year, but I’m hoping it could be sometime in the next few years. In the meantime, we’re just trying to figure out where to set our sights next. There are a lot of options, all of them quite exotic. Egypt is perhaps leading the way, though India, Mexico and Peru are all serious contenders. China is a perennial option too. But next year is also a major anniversary of my exchange year in Thailand. I’m hoping some of my friends might try for a reunion there, to mark the time we all met. There’s always plenty of inspiration when it comes to travel. The problem is, so many places to see, so little money to do it!

Decisions decisions

Lately, I’ve been pondering some decisions I need to make. They’re all pretty good decisions to have to face:

  • When do I say enough is enough, and buy a new laptop? It does still work (I’m writing this on it, after all), but it is very frustrating, and I don’t really want to have to spend the money. And given the amount of time I spend on my laptop, dollar for dollar it’s probably money well spent.
  • Should I renew my Cuisine (a great NZ food magazine) subscription even though I don’t get the same pleasure from it these days?
  • Should I stop colouring my hair yet? I don’t think I’m ready, but I can see it coming.
  • Where and when to travel next?

A Japanese sculpture

After a couple of months, I am finally going through my photos from my last trip. I loved the trees in Japan – what I normally think of as “boring pines” were nurtured with love and care. There was something about the sculptural nature of these trees trained into particular shapes, however unnatural. I caught this one with late afternoon light:

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Another Thursday Tree Love post.

Monday miscellaneous

One of the reasons I love listening to Radio NZ National (one of our public radio stations) is how much I learn from it. I often take notes about ideas or books or songs that inspire or delight or even horrify me. As I’m about to pour a glass of bubbles before going out to dinner for a special occasion, I’ll share just a couple of things I noted down this week.

I learned the term ultracrepidarian this week. It’s a wonderful word that means someone who has many opinions that are not supported by knowledge. I think this is something we see all the time, and that has always existed, but technology has allowed such people a much higher profile these days. I try not to be an ultracrepidarian on this blog!

There’s a new book – The Meritocracy Trap by Daniel Markovits– that caught my attention. Whilst the idea of a meritocracy may have worked in the past, these days there is evidence, according to the author, that it actually increases inequality. It doesn’t surprise me. Men, for example, think that business and business appointments are a meritocracy, and decry the idea of putting more women in leadership positions or on boards, insisting that it is important that businesses be allowed to appoint the most qualified and able people. If that was the case, I always add, then they have never been doing that by excluding women, which has happened … well … forever. So I would suggest that the idea of a meritocracy has not worked for a long time. Anyway, maybe I should read the book, or risk becoming an ultracrepidarian. I wouldn’t want that!

A North Island road trip

New Zealand is a pretty small country, and I’ve travelled quite a lot of it. But when my sister rang a week or so ago and asked if we wanted to join her (and her husband and Charlie) for a few days at a town we’d never visited, we jumped at the opportunity.

I love a road trip. Travelling in the middle of school holidays is something we usually avoid like the plague, but as we were driving mid-week it wasn’t a problem. We drove familiar roads and unfamiliar roads, enjoying the scenery. We saw native plants and trees, and exotics showing off their spring blossoms. One town seemed to have adopted the rhododendron as their official plant of choice, and they were all flowering at the same time, lining the roads into and out of the town, and filling both public and private gardens.

On the road, we were surrounded by lush, green fields and hills, dotted with dairy cows on the plains, and sheep as the hills got higher and more rugged. Occasionally, further north, we saw goats, and wild turkeys, llamas and alpacas.

We stopped for lunch at the town at the base of the ski-fields on Mt Ruapehu (an active volcano) in the centre of the island. For a day right in the middle of the school holidays, it was surprisingly peaceful. Everyone must have been up on the mountain, swishing down the slopes, enjoying the last days of this year’s ski season.

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Mt Ruapehu

Raglan, our destination, is a small but well known coastal town, popular for its surf beach. One afternoon we headed out to the beach to watch Charlie (who had already been on a horse trek that morning) surf the waves, along with about 50 others. The learners stayed close to the shore, but others hung further out, looking for the bigger waves. Whilst it was a warm day for this time of year, the sea would have been icy cold, so Charlie’s wetsuit was essential. Her mother and I played around with our cameras, and I managed to get a shot of her up on her board, and a second shot as she did a dramatic fall into the water. When I zoomed in, I could see her face was covered with a huge grin. She came back exhilarated and not at all exhausted, despite battling the waves for some hours.

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As it was my sister’s birthday, we had champagne on the deck of their rented house, went out for a special dinner, and generally over-indulged with coffees and cooked breakfasts and avocadoes brought from their orchard.

It was a quick but hilly walk into the town for a coffee and look around the shops and galleries, and the following day we climbed down to the bottom of a waterfall and with much less enthusiasm back up, although the rain put paid to my plans of walking the track that went right in front of the house where we were staying. Instead, Charlie and I played table tennis in the garage, but we never did get around to having the darts match we’d planned.

And in between we relaxed, read and chatted, or just enjoyed the views from the bach.

All too soon we had to leave. School, work, and real life called for us all. We decided to take it easy on the way home, and so detoured along the west coast to a town I’ve only visited once before. It too is nestled under another volcano, which didn’t emerge from the clouds hiding it until we were well on the way home. I caught a view of the top only through the back window of our car. Isn’t it always the way?

Mt Taranaki before the cloud lifted

A beautiful native

In a nature reserve on the way to a beautiful waterfall yesterday, I passed numerous tree ferns. They are a major feature of New Zealand native bush, and I love them. This one is a particularly large specimen, and I had to stop and take a quick snap, before hurrying to catch up with the others.

A New Zealand tree fern

Another Thursday Tree Love post.

Awareness of pain

7 October is Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) Awareness  Day. Few people know anything about this condition. I didn’t until a friend was diagnosed with it almost 20 years ago. It sounded horrific.  Some years later, I developed shooting nerve pains in my face. Once again, I was lucky with my GP and my dentist. Both suspected it might be TN and I was saved the months or sometimes years of multiple tooth extractions and struggles to find a diagnosis that other sufferers have endured. It has since changed its form to what is called TN2, and now manifests with a constant burning. That change, too, was diagnosed quickly.

The condition can go into remission for days, weeks, months or years. But it is a progressive condition, and flares (or attacks) become more frequent, and for some, constant. They can be triggered by touch, wind on the face, weather, stress, brushing teeth, eating, or talking.

Even after diagnosis, TN patients struggle to find adequate pain relief, are accused of being drug seekers, or of exaggerating the pain by medical practitioners who know little about the condition. One woman reports of being told by a psychologist that she had “two arms and two legs” and should “get out and live.”

I have joined an online group of New Zealand sufferers. It is a supportive group, but shows the devastation this condition wreaks, as it is filled with people who have had to give up working, who live constantly with pain, who struggle to care for their children or elderly parents, or live anything close to a normal life, and who feel isolated and lonely. Yet they are able to joke online, climb ladders to paint their houses, travel overseas, and keep connections, even while their family and friends distance themselves, because they struggle to deal with someone who is constantly in pain.

So far I have been lucky, and I know it. So I’m torn between balancing the need to make more people aware of this condition and my desire not to make this a big deal – because for the moment, for me at least, it is manageable. So I’m talking about it today because there are many who are not as lucky as I am. And having TN makes me more aware of others in pain too. I now know how chronic pain or severe pain can be extremely debilitating, whatever the condition that causes it. It can be exhausting and restrictive and isolating. You never know when it will hit. And although someone might look fine, that doesn’t mean they are not screaming inside.

So I choose to use TN Awareness Day to implore you to reach out to anyone you know who suffers pain and let them know you care.