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Too Trusting

When I was 17 and left home to live with a host family in a country that was about as foreign to us at the time as it was possible to be, my parents had to trust – in me, in the host family, in the school I was attending, and the AFS exchange programme that had arranged it all.

In 1980, Vietnam had invaded Cambodia a year or two earlier, had ousted the Khmer Rouge from power in Phnom Penh, but there were still regular battles as the Khmer Rouge fiercely fought for their territory along the Thai-Cambodian border. Removed from English-language media, I knew there was fighting, but felt safe in Thailand – even when I visited villages close to the border – which just proves ignorance truly is bliss! It turned out that several times during my year away, my parents received updates from AFS reassuring them that I was safe, given the inevitable media reports of the fighting. I wonder if those updates were, in fact, reassuring to my parents, or whether they were alarmist.

I’m thinking of this because, as you may know by now, one of the students killed in the Texas school shooting was an exchange student, looking forward to getting home after what was surely a fascinating year, and I think about the trust that was placed in that school and community by her and her family. I think about how that community (and the state and federal governments) in particular failed this family, and I weep for her, her siblings and her family back home, and for her host family who were also betrayed, as well as for the others who suffered loss and trauma in this and other similar incidents.

I simply don’t understand how a nation can be so wilfully, criminally, negligent on behalf of their children …  and, it seems, other people’s children … spurning, almost mocking, the trust that has been so sadly, it seems now, misplaced.

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She doesn’t really belong on this Friends-I-have-not-yet-met list, because, you see, I have met her. She’s Slovenian, and truly puts the LOVE in Slovenia, reaching out to give and receive love. She taught me to love Slovenia too, as I would never have gone there if she hadn’t been, at the time, a Friend-Not-Yet-Met (so, clearly, she does belong on this list after all).

A beloved wife, friend, aunt, and dog’s best friend. A true linguist, for more than three months, she wonderfully commented on my Lemons to Limoncello blog in Italian to help me practice mine.

She loves her summer garden and cooked us lunch using her home-grown produce. She and her husband recommended driving a mountain pass that, she casually mentioned, she had cycled once (or even twice?). As we wound around sharp, steep corners up, up, and further up again, I thought she must be crazy, though, in truth, she enjoys exercise and appreciates being out in nature.

  • Secret projects #1, #2 and #3, and many more boring things like putting away summer clothes and pulling out the autumn/winter ones.
  • In an effort to stop eating quite so much meat, I want to get into eating more pulses but need to find appealing recipes, especially for my deeply-lentil-suspicious husband, so any suggestions will be gratefully received.
  • Catch up on my photography course homework, preferably not at home, as there are only so many of the tree fern or cabbage trees or oak tree that I can take (and the oak tree leaves are falling).
  • Find a new hairdresser, as the other one – as much as I quite liked her and the salon – has persisted in making a mistake that I have asked her not to do every time I’ve visited her. I really hate finding new hairdressers, and having wavy hair with a mind of its own doesn’t help.
  • A couple of minor medical/dental things that aren’t urgent, but I should get around to doing.
  • Getting back into the decluttering 2018 in 2018 project, which I’ve neglected the last couple of months.
  • Making sure I see friends more often, including one who is intending to travel for six months, another who needs to have champagne for her birthday, and a theatre date we’ve been talking about but not got around to planning.

Changing seasons

It’s the last day of April today, and it feels like it. It is cooler, and I pulled out some winter clothes this morning to venture out. A cup of hot tea at breakfast is very welcome now, instead of the simple glass of water I’ve had for months.

Mist has hung about our hills all day, obscuring the view, hiding other parts of the city across the gorge, including even the streetlights I can normally see from my window. The streets are lined with fallen orange leaves, which surprised me given that our city is very green, dominated by the evergreen natives, with few flashes of autumn colour. Time to change my blog header.

It’s dark already, only just after 6 pm, and the idea of curling up in bed later under a warm duvet with a book or my iPad is appealing. Yes, the seasons have changed, and winter is almost here.

  1. I signed up for emails from a minimalist site, and it cluttered up my inbox, so I unsubscribed.
  2. Travel photos that are over-saturated in editing, and make beautiful places look completely fake. The Cinque Terre villages in Italy are frequent victims of this; compare the different photos here and see what I mean.
  3. Or travel photos and even postcards on sale that are very obviously photoshopped. You can’t believe what you see anymore, and I hate that!
  4. The dog person vs cat person divide (though I have to admit that I’m really a cat person.)
  5. Bloggers who promote their own communities by bringing in new users, but never give back by visiting other blogs, or by paying tribute to others working in the same area.
  6. Struggling to find topics for Microblog Mondays, because it’s hard to keep a post to eight sentences.

What’s in a word?

One of the things I love about languages is that they give an insight into the culture and mindset of the people who use those languages. For example, the laid-back Thais’ word for a workaholic translates as “crazy for work.”

I talk about walking around my suburb for exercise (usually approximately 5-6.5 kms/3-4 miles) or going on an afternoon walk in the bush, the hills, or around the coast for an hour or three. Then on a US programme I watched recently, they referred to a 3.4 mile hike, and my response was immediate.

“That’s a walk,” I thought scornfully, “not a hike!”

We usually translate hike –a word we understand but do not tend to use here in NZ except in hitch-hike – to tramp. A tramp is a serious, overnight at least, usually multi-day, walk out in the wild, and many people belong to Tramping clubs.

Calling a walk a hike is like calling McDonald’s a “restaurant.”

Time to breathe

On a rare morning when

a) we didn’t have anything planned/necessary to do together,
b) we didn’t have to attend to the in-laws, and
c) my husband wasn’t playing golf exercising,

I declared that the car was mine, and grabbed my camera, finally getting some time to do some photography homework. I drove to a local park that has a high concentration of native plants, and took the last carpark, worrying that it would be busy inside. I could hear children’s voices in the distance, but almost instantly, as I walked through the entrance gate, a calm descended.

Surrounded by ferns, and tall trees, I was cocooned by the green canopy. I used my senses, listening to the tui clicking and clacking and chirping, and the two kereru swooping past me, beating their wings unmistakeably. I looked at the light and shadows, playing around with my camera, working comfortably on manual thanks to my photography course, moving around to try different angles and focal lengths. I revelled in the freedom to do what I wanted, and take as long as I wanted over a particular shot, or around a particular plant, without worrying about anyone waiting for me. But most importantly, I breathed.