Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I’ve shown Ti Kouka or cabbage trees before. Quite recently in fact. But I find in my “Trees” photo file there are a lot of cabbage trees, especially ones snapped recently. I could, of course, eke these out, providing material for four different Thursday Tree posts, rather than one. But today I’m combining them all. There are always more cabbage trees in different lights for future posts. I love their sculptural, spiky, shapes. I love them crystal clear against bright blue winter skies. I love their glow with the low winter light coming through their leaves. And I love the shadows they create. I hope you do too.

Another in the Thursday Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

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Well, NZ has had new cases of community transmission, and so Auckland is in a form of lockdown again, and the rest of the country is at what we call Level 2, which means we can do pretty much everything we would usually do, except a) visit rest homes, and b) enter public places without social distancing. What I have noticed here in Wellington, where there has been no community transmission (as far as we know), is that people are more casual about maintaining social distancing or using contact tracing apps than we might otherwise have been. It’s a little disappointing, as no-one wants this to run loose in the way it has in Victoria, Australia or the rest of the world. I suspect that as soon as we hear of a case in our city everyone will start to behave a little better!

As a result, the PM announced today that our election will be delayed by a month. It probably had to be done, but I hate election campaigns, and ours was just ramping up (yes, we only have about a four-week long campaign!). The US AND the NZ election occurring in the same year and within a few weeks of each other is going to be stressful!

I really appreciate other writers’ great lines. I read one this morning, describing the opposition politicians’ suggestions of a conspiracy therapy as stooping “lower than a base isolator.” I think that’s a great description, almost uniquely NZ (base isolation was pioneered here), and probably only those in earthquake-prone countries are aware of base isolators’ existence. I hope I remember it, and remember to use it in the future. I am not above plagiarism when the writing is clever!

Aware that being able to travel freely (except to Auckland) is a privilege in these times of potential lockdowns and travel restrictions, my husband and I decided to go for a brief drive up the coast on the weekend, to take a walk along the beach, and drive back over a different road. It was a cold day, necessitating a scarf (an unusual requirement this winter) and windbreaker, and mildly windy, which of course set my eyes streaming. The sun came out later in the afternoon, but it was struggling to burst through the clouds as we took the steep Paekakariki road home. Stupidly, I had decided not to take my camera, but found these patches of sunlight playing on the calm Tasman Sea looked beautiful. So my phone had to suffice as my camera. I don’t think it did a bad job, do you?

View of Kapiti Island

I haven’t done any baking for a few weeks. So this afternoon, as my husband is at golf and once I have finished my Microblog Monday blogging, I’m thinking of trying a new chocolate cookie (NOT chocolate chip) recipe. In fact, I’m keen to try new recipes all round, having slipped back into my usual cooking habits with one or two COVID-acquired dishes now part of my repertoire (ie Klara’s Slovenian Bread, and home-made pizza dough). I have a new food magazine subscription that was chock full of recipes I want to try, so I have plenty of inspiration! Happy Monday!

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#18 of Blogging with Friends

“What is the scariest thing you’ve ever eaten?” one of my blogging friends challenged us to answer last week. I assumed she didn’t mean the overcooked schnitzel my husband made once, and so my mind immediately went to Asia. I specifically didn’t eat a bowl of huge (it seemed to me at least), grey, rubbery-looking octopus tentacles in Taiwan, breaking all diplomatic rules by refusing this offering, but delighting the Taiwanese men around me by sharing my uneaten tentacles with them. I also specifically didn’t eat from the buffet of bugs in a Filipino restaurant, when I was taken there by some of my local staff members on a project. The most unordinary thing in the buffet were brains or offal. The bowls of bugs  – big ones, and small ones – were not sufficiently appetising to either me, or Phil, yet we had both spent years living in Asia, and were not usually too squeamish (despite this post) about foreign foods.

As a student in Thailand, I went out with my host family to restaurants quite a lot. (I should note that before I went to Thailand I was not a particularly adventurous eater – mainly perhaps because I simply never got the opportunity to eat a variety of food. And I was quite picky too. I lost that almost as soon as I joined my host family and fell in love with Thai food.) My Thai father, in particular, liked Chinese food, Bangkok was renowned for having great Chinese food, and I suspect there was an elevated status in being able to eat at and host meals at these restaurants. Even when we coincidentally were in London at the same time about 30 years later, we met at a Chinese restaurant. So we had either bird’s (or is it birds’?) nest or shark’s (sharks’?) fin soup, and always Peking duck (my favourite, and that of my Thai host siblings), and other stuff. I discovered then that if you don’t know what you’re eating, it is always best not to ask. The black slimy stuff on your plate? Just eat it! At a different seafood restaurant once, instead of the copious numbers of prawns the siblings and I always devoured, I was given sample after sample of food I couldn’t identify, and didn’t want to. One of the dishes was sea urchin. The others shall remain unknown. And that’s fine by me.

But probably the most adventurous and scariest thing I ever ate was at a party in Thailand with a big bunch of other AFS exchange students. Nicki, a fellow kiwi AFS friend, and her school, hosted an AFS Weekend. A large group of us converged on her remote town in north-eastern Thailand for several days of fun, and after a long bus trip to get there, we were billeted out with different families. It was a poor town – few cars, or telephones amongst the 3000 inhabitants. Nicki’s host family was a single mother who survived by making kanom (sweets) to sell at the markets, and her older sister. So the arrival of a group of conspicuously foreign teenagers was a big event for them.

On our last evening, the local Police Chief – who had, I think, been hosting one of the students – put on a farewell party for us. The highlight of the meal was the wok filled with stir-fried grasshoppers (or were they crickets? I’m not sure). It was compulsory, our host declared, to eat at least one. They had a large wok heated over hot coals, and it was full of these large insects (about 5-6 cms long) which they stir-friend quickly. I don’t remember who ate the first one. I know for certain it wasn’t me! But my friends tried them and declared they were okay, and I knew there was no backing out. I didn’t want to be the last to eat either, so I took one. The key was to pull off the scratchy back legs, which would rip up the inside of our mouths, before eating. I dreaded the squish of the body between my teeth; it’s one of the things I don’t like about sultanas, the way their little bodies (well, that’s what they feel like) burst in my mouth! But there was no “squish”. They were crunchy, and tasted of oil, and were not at all offensive, if you forgot what you were eating. I don’t really recall any other flavour. In the end, the reality of eating the grasshopper/cricket was a lot less scary than the idea of it.

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