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The last few months I have, as mentioned earlier, been researching travel options, itineraries, hotels, flights, first for destinations on one side of the Pacific, and then, with a change of heart, for destinations on the other side of the Pacific. I like to plan my travel myself, rather than blindly follow a travel package or route others design. (Hence my business, Travel Unpackaged!)

I’m not keen on tours either, though recognise that maybe, one day when we’re older, and in certain locations, we might have to succumb. Knowing our travel style, I know that we always require longer time in almost every destination than on standard routes. And we will often skip things others do because it is the “done thing” and put our efforts elsewhere. We don’t have kids, so can skip theme parks, thank goodness. But I do like to “see the sights” as there is a reason they are the “sights to see.” At the very least, they often sum up the history or the culture of the country you are visiting. But more than that, they are, generally, magnificent. I mean, would you go to London without visiting the Tower, Cambodia without seeing Angkor Wat, Norway without seeing a fjord, or Jordan without seeing Petra?

And food. We love experiencing the local food. If we can try street food, it is usually a real treat. Besides, food always tastes better al fresco, right? So we don’t want to be tied to the food of a hotel, a tour, or one resort.

So over these weeks, we’re visiting palaces and farmhouses, pagodas, temples and tombs, sites of wonderful grandeur, and of terrible tragedies. We’ll admire nature, on land and sea. We’ll be briefly isolated, and surrounded by throngs in one of the busiest places on earth. We’ll see remnants of ancient cultures, and experience ultra-modernity.

We’re visiting three countries, and of those two are new to me, but only one is new to my husband. It will be the first time we will visit somewhere he has been, but I have not. (There are only three countries in the world in that category.)

I’m not planning to blog* this trip. It’s not long enough to justify the time when I’m away, or the self-imposed pressure of blogging. I will be posting photos. Look for me on Instagram at travellingmali (note the two Ls in travelling). And when I get back, I promise to do a post or two on “What I did on my holiday.”

 

* I will, however, be blogging and checking in here. I’ve pre-scheduled a few posts, and will write others if I get the time.

 

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  1. Hot Cross Buns
  2. Being able to sleep at night without being too hot
  3. The lovely, low light
  4. Not being afraid to let the sun in the house
  5. Hunting out my winter clothes
  6. Covering up
  7. Starting to think about warming, winter food
  8. Red wine replacing whites/roses
  9. The leaves on our oak tree starting to turn
  10. Not having to shave my legs or paint my toenails

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We went for a walk yesterday morning. After a few weeks when we had to endure, off and on, a lot of mist and rain, it was a delight to get out in the lovely autumn sunlight, enjoy the perennial contrast of the green trees against the brilliant blue of the sky, and take pleasure in the oranges and reds of the occasional deciduous trees before they lose their leaves completely.

We weren’t the only ones out getting some Vitamin D either. We walked past teams of girls playing soccer down at the all-weather sports ground, their watching parents and coaches no doubt also grateful for the fine day. We passed a man who, as I remarked to my husband, always looks like a hitman walking his wife’s lapdog. He didn’t move aside for me to pass, but looked straight at me with hostile eyes, forcing me onto the road. There were others out on the road too;  an elderly lady and her daughter, a former colleague of my husband’s who stopped his bike ride to walk the last hundred metres or so alongside his wife who was walking her little dog too, and two young girls on their scooters who stopped for an awkward conversation with two loud, confident, but much smaller boys.  And we weren’t the only couple out walking together, though we were moving at a rather faster pace than most, determined to boost our fitness for all those tourist days spent out on our feet in a few weeks.

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning.

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I’ll probably never do it, but every time a movie or TV show ends, I’m fascinated by the company names and always start imagining what I would call something. Wine labels too now have some wonderful names, for example.

In South Australia we visited the Bird in Hand winery, and enjoyed the Two in the Bush shiraz. I have some Arrogant Frog wines in our cupboard in the room next to me, and there are countless other wine labels with fun and fascinating names, none of which I can recall right now. I always thought if I became an interior designer, I could use the mali flower, and call it Jasmine Designs. I’d like to call something after the horrible name our road was given when I was at school. Swamp Road Film Productions, perhaps?  Or Suzy the Sheep Enterprises, after a memorable pet, Two-Room School after my primary school, or perhaps Tadpole Island Wines, after a little island in a stream behind our house where my sister and I used to play. 

Do you have any secret names for great productions tucked away, at the ready, for when opportunity knocks?

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  • It’s been a weird couple of weeks. An elderly aunt (in-law) died, and we are on call to help and support her husband, who had only days before moved into the same rest home as his wife. They have no children, Chief Niece who has their POA is off on a well-deserved holiday, and so we are subbing in to help him as he adjusts to his new home and life without his wife of 59 years. It’s hard not to wonder who will help us if we get to the same advanced age.
  • A health scare was resolved quickly (and positively), then the good news was formalised in writing. Thank goodness for public health screening programmes.
  • Just two days after the relief of that, three cars on the motorway in torrential rain had an incident, and I got caught up in it. As a result, our car was written off by the insurance company. It had just turned 21, so it was time it left home anyway! It meant that we were carless in the coldest week of the year, which made shopping for cars a lot more difficult. I can’t quite work out if that is ironic or not, can you? Quick decisions are not usually our forte, but we signed up for something on Friday, just four days after the accident, and take delivery this week. Meanwhile, we were loaned a car so we are mobile once again, although I haven’t ventured out on the motorway behind the wheel just yet. After all that, I am feeling rather lucky to be alive, but not quite ready to tempt fate.
  • Daylight saving ended yesterday, so it’s almost dark at 6.30 pm which must mean summer is over.
  • Finally, all bookings have been made for our trip, and travel insurance has been purchased, so that is another huge relief. I’m working on the language of one of our three destinations, but will be able to say little more than “please show me that one,” although (here’s a hint) I might be able to read one of their alphabets. And I now have a phone that has enough storage to allow me to download Google Translate if necessary. It takes the pressure off learning a language, but also a little bit of the fun.

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Why don’t all recipes specify temperatures for both fan or non-fan bake ovens, or at least qualify which one they’ve used in writing the recipe?

Why do hotels only provide one bag luggage rack per room, when the rooms are often clearly for more than one person, with presumably, one bag each?

Why do people comment on all those posts on social media that are obviously collecting likes and comment numbers to sell off? I mean, you know don’t you that the poster doesn’t care if you can do the maths problems, or can figure out “which cup will fill up first,” and that they don’t need to ask thousands of people on the internet to find words that begin with a T and end with a T, or a name that begins with a Z?

Don’t people know that every time they respond to these inane posts or complete a quiz, they’re giving away their details and those of their list of friends, ie me? If not, how can you not know that yet?

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I was hoping this week to write about something more uplifting, but understandably, the horrific mosque shootings are top of mind in New Zealand over the last ten days or so. Last week I wrote about my initial response, and now I want to mention the responses of others.

There have been positive responses, not least from our Prime Minister, ranging from national actions to simple small acts of kindness. I’ll list just a few:

  • Love is the message, not violence or retaliation. In a strange way, because the emphasis has been on love, I felt free to vent my own anger (here, last week). I could see too that Jacinda (our Prime Minister) was angry, but was focusing that anger through love and compassion to the victims and their families. Whereas when leaders come out promising retribution and violence, I always feel compelled to modify that and plead for calm.
  • On Friday, marking one week from the first shooting, the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast nationally, followed by a two-minute silence to remember the 50 people who were killed in the shootings.
  • As the mosque where most of the shootings occurred was not open, their regular Friday prayers became part of a public ceremony in Hagley Park, attended by approximately 20,000 people, members of all political parties, and the Prime Minister.
  • The Imam said, “New Zealand has shown the world how to love and be caring.” He thanked the PM “for honouring us with a simple scarf.”
  • Women throughout New Zealand on Friday wore headscarves, the hijab, in an effort to show solidarity, and to help Muslim women feel safer in public. Policewomen who were guarding the mosque wore the scarf and a rose whilst carrying a semi-automatic rifle. I was far more uncomfortable about the rifle (our police are not normally armed) than I was about the headscarf.  A young Muslim woman wrote that she did not support non-Muslims wearing the hijab, and saw it as tokenism, a gesture designed to make non-Muslim New Zealand women feel better. That is undoubtedly a legitimate point of view. But other Muslim women commented that they felt safe and embraced by all New Zealanders when they could see so many other women wearing the hijab.
  • Non-Muslims formed human chains of protection around mosques in other centres for their own Friday prayers.
  • Military-style semiautomatic weapons were banned, with the support of the major political parties.
  • Catholic churches tolled bells throughout the nation – 50 times, one for each of the victims.
  • Flowers and offerings of support expressed to mosques all over the country.
  • Haka after haka was performed* to express manaakitanga (respect, kindness, caring for others)
  • Schools (including Charlie’s) forming heart shapes and/or the words Kia Kaha (stay strong, in Maori) and sending the photographs out to send love to those affected
  • Sales of T-shirts (printed by Good Bitches Baking but sadly sold out by the time I went to buy one) exhorting us to Be Kind have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the victims’ families.
  • Internationally, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa lit up with a photograph of Jacinda Ardern’s face as she hugged a Muslim woman, under the word Peace in Arabic and English.

These are just a few.

However, there is a danger that we become too self-congratulatory at the compassion shown towards our Muslim brothers and sisters who have endured such an attack, as pointed out by the young Muslim woman I mentioned above. We are in danger of being too proud of our Prime Minister. The focus instead should be on the victims, the families, the wider community, and what we can do to help. The focus should be on racism. New Zealand is not perfect. Not now, and not in the past. Name a country that is.

And there are critics. Despite the fact that the terrorist did not grow up here, I guess we are all thinking, “but he could have.” And so academics have been speaking out on racism. Eager for validation, they point out the obvious (to me, at least) – that there is, and always has been, racism in our country. Muslims and other races have reminded us that they experience day-to-day racism, small slights, or intimidating harassment from time to time. Some Muslims here have never encountered it, but others apparently have.  And so an important national conversation is being revisited, but this time with the recognition of the violence these views can bring. It’s a good time for the conversation. Now is, after all, the time that we are most likely to listen to this message, to agree that racism and discrimination is unacceptable, and to resolve to do something about it. Now is when we have to decide to stop being “polite” and to call out the racists, call out the casual and even unconscious racism or bigotry that exists here, as anywhere.

There are other critics of the gestures made by the government and by New Zealanders. Gun owners (but far from all of them) complain about tighter controls, and fundamentalist Christians have spoken out about the country reaching out to Muslims, though their views have been largely derided. Personally, I have been surprised by two or three representatives of these groups who appear on my social media feed. People I generally want to keep in touch with, but who are essentially a piece of my past. I don’t want to offend anyone, and I certainly don’t want to be drawn into a social media battle. But my silence makes me complicit. So this week, I’m going to stand up for what I believe in, and call a couple of people out. Because if we want to be “seen as the good guys”** then we need to act like good guys.

“It’s not who we are” has been a catchphrase from Jacinda’s earliest speech after the horror. But it was, perhaps, who we were once. We are not proud of our colonial history, after all. It might still be who some, perhaps many, people are. Though as a nation, we have made huge strides. And it is certainly not who New Zealand wants to be today. And so, whilst we know we’re not always the good guys, maybe, just maybe, for a week or ten days, we have been the good guys. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll all put more effort into being the good guys in the future.

 

A beautiful pink rose with tears of dew

Have a rose for peace, with tears of dew

* not danced. NEVER danced.

** Ta-Nehisi Coates gave me this phrase in a similar context as I listened to his audiobook on my walk a few days ago.

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