I have a good feeling about home

Christchurch is alive once again, slowly awakening from a long slumber that followed a series of earthquakes that shook the city and her people. Buildings in various stages of ruin like the somewhat Gothic Anglican church watch the rebirth from their precarious positions- both beautiful and melancholic bookmarks from the previous chapters. The once annoyingly present cranes all over the city are now an almost fond sight for its comforting familiarity and meme potential if nothing else.

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Little pockets of life are popping up all over the place, amidst the longstanding reminders of the past. The street art scene has been greatly revitalized in the post- quakes period as local and international artists made use of the many blank walls to inspire.

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Don’t actually know if this was pre or post earthquakes, I just really like it

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I’m enjoying being a witness to the unfurling pages and looking forward to what’s in store for this warm, resilient city. I have a good feeling about home.

 

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New year, new lists

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I know the days of writing new years resolutions with every serious intention of making it work despite the results of previous years are passing. People are getting smarter and probably a bit sick of the irony. But what can I say- this girl has a penchant for lists and a fear of stagnancy so you can bet that I have got pages and pages of things to work on this year.

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The biggest difference in the last couple of years with my lists is that there is more focus on working on self, mental growth and regulating emotions, alongside the usual (and I guess more basic) fitness and achievement centric goals. It’s something I’ve ignored previously, and sometimes it takes painful moments in an otherwise privileged and happy life to realize focusing on strengthening yourself is the key to feeling and getting better when you are down. It also puts you in a better position to help those in your life who may need you if you are learning how to better handle life’s curve balls (ahh random sports pun that I do not know the actual meaning of).

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2018 ended on a high note, some of my favourite people were missing but I was still surrounded by people I love, dancing away into the new day. 2019 got a rowdy welcome, but ended with calm and quiet away in the mountains which was wonderful and felt fitting for how I envision progress for this year. Quiet, steady work towards some measurable and some immeasurable goals and standing strong in the face of whatever life feels like throwing at me this year.

 

Waterfalls, sandflies and snow

I went on my first voluntary (the other time was compulsory and in high school and I tried to take the hair straightener with me) hike that requires a pack recently and discovered I am a lot slower than I thought but maybe also a little bit more capable than I thought.

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On the boat from Te Anau to Glade Wharf

It was an incredible four days spent exploring the renowned Milford track with a wonderfully lively, lovely, encouraging, funny group of guys and gals.

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The third day was undoubtedly the hardest and certainly felt like the longest as we got some unexpected snow. My perpetually inefficient body couldn’t decide whether it was hot or cold so took it in turns to overheat and shiver. The group was really patient with my steadily decreasing pace which I was eternally grateful for, and although I had my camera on me for a lot of the day my hands were beyond the ability to even open the jacket zip, let alone grab the camera from the dry bag. So unfortunately, I have no photos of the the third day after we left the hut. But just the memory of making the climb up to Mackinnon Pass with the snow still falling brings back the same shivery but excited smile I wore for a large part of that day (while also huffing and puffing and struggling my way to the top).

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The never ending supply of paths formed by rocks and roots, sunlight filtering through the canopy, and ferns fed a selective yet cavernous appetite for forest dwelling fantasies that started from a young age. Surprisingly, there were too many waterfalls and streams even for my waterfall and stream obsessed brain to fully comprehend.

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The final day was filled with many picture perfect little waterfalls like this one, young me and current me were united in gleeful celebration. All of this to say, a) the Milford track is incredible- go do it if you have the opportunity b) do the things you are scared of trying , or want to try but have put off for whatever reason because it can be an incredibly rewarding experience- even if you find out in the shower after 4 days of wet wipes and layering on deodorant that you are covered in irritating sandfly bites that are somehow slowly activating in hot water.

Another year, another spring

I never get tired of this; the in between seasons.

Already starting to feel a tinge of something funny as the blossoms start to fade, while the green of new life starts to peek through. Already waiting for the golden leaves to fall, next set of blossoms to bloom- always looking ahead and behind and sometimes in rare moments of clarity- looking right at where I am now.

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Open eyes, ears and mind

People are predisposed to react a certain way to any news depending on the combined sum of their individual and collective experience. In the recent example of the Weinstein case, I have witnessed- both in my personal circle and the wider social media world- a tendency to drift towards the black and white corners of the potential victim vs alleged perpetrator spectrum that perhaps has a higher chance of aligning peacefully with each individual or group’s experience.

Women (and men) jumping to the defense of victims in situations with little to no evidence, and men (and women) continuing to defend the guilty despite the mounting sea of evidence point to our disturbing need to make reality fit our narrative. Alderman explores this idea in a balanced and thought provoking opinion piece:

There will be two tides working against each other: Some people reflexively defending anyone who is accused of sexual harassment or assault — and some taking to social media to condemn anyone about whom there is the faintest whisper of a rumor. The language of the “witch hunt” is both inappropriate and inflammatory; witches hadn’t actually done anything, abusive men really have. But the temptation to rush toward certainty is very human — we’d rather be able to say that there were a few bad apples, we’ve got rid of them and now we’re done, than stand a while in our discomfort and undertake the long process of re-examining a whole culture.

Naomi Alderman (New York Times Opinion Piece)

I said ‘potential’ victim earlier because there is the chance that a percentage (a statistically insignificant percentage according to various sources*) of the population may be exaggerating or creating false allegations. And I said alleged perpetrator for the same reason, and because innocent until enough evidence surfaces seems like a good rule of thumb in these situations. I was hesitant to write this post before I read this article precisely because of the ‘two tides’ mentioned by Alderman.

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The movement that started with a simple hashtag has developed into a beast of its own, almost tangible in its relentless energy to create lasting and positive change. However, it would be prudent to remember the goal of the movement was to unite victims, help them find agency and power and to encourage systemic change that would lead to abusers being held accountable for their actions despite their level of power or influence. The systemic change is underway, but the wider social and cultural change can only occur if we encourage healthy, open discussion that allows for people to listen and engage with each other rather than just shouting at each other from opposite sides of the room.

***

 

NB: I’m writing specifically about the response to the rising number of sexual assault cases and allegations currently. I will explore the changing landscape of corporate Hollywood in response to these events, and the toxic masculinity and patriarchal structures that contribute to an unsafe working environment later if I feel I have a confident enough grasp on those areas.

* https://qz.com/980766/the-truth-about-false-rape-accusations/

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21164210

* https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sexual-harassment-false-allegations-and-turning-our_us_58ee3ea6e4b0145a227cba31

 

The underrated joys of solo travel

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In and around Rupea Fortess. Romania

It has been a while since I went travelling but as more time passes, the focus of my nostalgia tinged memories shift from places and things I set out to see to the people and memories I chanced upon by pure accident.

The two girls, roughly my age or younger who I asked for directions in the nonsensically numbered streets of Zagreb stand out more than the distinct architecture or beauty of the city.  We walked together in the darkness for a while, in an attempt to find my hostel. I’m not sure how long it took since we were walking around without a clue, though I definitely had less of a clue. I was a foreigner (noob) and they were foreign students from neighbouring countries so they understood the feeling.

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Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The highlight of my travel was getting to see Plitvice Lakes National Park. I loved the place so much that I came back the next day for a second dose. I spend the majority of both days wandering through the park in a kind of quiet ecstasy.  On the first day at Plitvice Lakes National Park, I entered the park through one of the lesser known entrances, thanks to the local driver who showed me around the park as he talked about his love for his family, the family restaurant and cage fighting. I believe soccer (or football?) was mentioned a thousand times throughout the day as well.

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Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

I was on my own for the second day and entered through the main entrance. The park was ridiculously busy even in the lead up to peak season with tourists moving in swarms, humming with chatter and blinding each other with camera flashes (of which I was also guilty, let us be honest). But just as it was with the first day, the best moments occurred away from the crowds, noise and go pros. Veering off the track a little helped me breathe in the beauty of this magnificent offering of nature’s without having to worry about holding up the lines that would inevitably form if everyone moved at a pace that would actually let them enjoy the experience. I had been dreaming of this place for months and months, so I wanted more than just a fleeting moment and an overflowing camera.

A peek of the Museum of Applied Arts, while roaming the streets of Budapest, Hungary.

Then, there was the kind, middle- aged man who was heading for the Carpathian mountains on the train from Budapest to Brasov who bought me food because the shop only accepted Romanian Leu. There was the personal tour guide who shared my love for cemeteries and photography, with whom I traded stories of Denmark for the history of Vlad the Impaler, Hungarian architecture and the Roma people. There were the dorm mates I tagged along with to a beer festival in Budapest though I am not the biggest fan of beer and ended up having a pretty good time just eating, listening and observing.

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In and around Rupea Fortess, Romania

When I lay awake at night, thinking about the travel I cannot presently afford and the memories past, it is the unplanned experiences and the circumstances I was unprepared for- blunders of the solo rookie traveller and sweet, serendipitous moments alike- that I miss the most.

Wonder Woman

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about things I love onscreen but the release of the historic Wonder Woman film seems like a good time as any.

Quick, spoiler free review on the film for those of you have not seen the film yet:

Firstly, despite what the reviews and critics are saying this is not a film that is close to perfection or ‘almost perfect’ as I have heard a few put it. Very, very, very few films are. HOWEVER, it is a film about hope and humanity and it delivers those two concepts extremely well to an audience who – let’s be honest- were probably starting to lose hope in humanity altogether which is a big part of why the film succeeds with such a large range of audiences. This film is for the comic book geeks, the DC geeks, the Marvel geeks (come on, even the Marvel actors, writers and filmmakers are on board), the feminists, the egalitarians (you know feminists are kind of the same thing right? but I digress), the children, men and women who have been waiting for a female led superhero movie (and also those that have not REALIZED they have been waiting). It’s a superhero film with a lot more warmth, hope and old school slow motion action than I have seen in a while. Trust me, you want to see this and you want to see it on a big screen.

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Drifting and in search of ikigai

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Maybe it is just navel gazing. Maybe it is just an affinity for wasting time thinking abstrusely. Or maybe it is the usual symptoms of being part of the entitled, self- indulgent generation. Or maybe it is the culmination of a lot of different things but I can’t quite shake that feeling of drifting. Maybe this is all part of growing up, to realize that maybe the intense feeling of being driven by a purpose comes and goes like the ebb and flow of tides and sometimes you are left stranded at the shore thinking how the fuck did I get here? Or maybe the idea of having purpose in life is a myth altogether. I’m determined to give this life some kind of meaning but right now it all feels a bit foggy. So many maybes lurking everywhere…trying to find something concrete to hold on to feels about as useful as chasing rainbows. It reminds me of a quote from the book I would love to read again right now to remember what it feels like when an author gets the essence of quiet humanity so right that it makes you feel happy and sad and thoughtful and alive:

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

Stephen Chbosky, Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Where is this going you might be thinking? Is this leading up to a point? Nope and nope. I was quite certain this was going nowhere but I absentmindedly refreshed my Facebook and expected to see nothing of value as usual but something in a post caught my eye: “We are all seeking a purpose…” Yes, yes I am! Please go on. So here I am, deeply intrigued and reading about the Japanese ‘ikigai’ or reason for being. The article tells me it requires a lot of soul searching to find ikigai but at this point, I don’t care. I know I need to have a purpose, and I know I need to assign my own meanings so I’m going to try this out.

Ikigai is also thought of as THE reason to get out of bed in the morning which I think is a beautiful idea. For most of us, or at least me it is the deafening cry of my alarm and nothing more. I want to find this thing that makes all the struggles and potential hurdles more worth it. So here are the four elements that are central to finding your ikigai if you are also interested:

  • What you Love (your passion)
  • What the World Needs (your mission)
  • What you are Good at (your vocation)
  • What you can get Paid for (your profession)

I hope that everyone who craves purpose in this world find their reason to get up in the morning.

 

Endless nostalgia

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I’m not always the best at sorting through my emotions, so I’ve put off this post for as long as possible. The last few weeks of my OE in Denmark were bittersweet to say the least. It’s a classic contradiction- torn between your newly acquired love affair with this place and a yearning for home.

There is a feeling of happiness that you get to relieve the intense homesickness you’ve been experiencing but there is also a deep dullness that starts to form in your heart as time ticks by a little faster with each passing day. The classmates who you’ve come to love start breaking down at farewell gatherings; now every moment I would have taken for granted over the last few months becomes significant as I slowly start to realize that we can never get back these moments again.

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I left Denmark for a week to go travelling before I actually headed home, and this feeling hit once again when I got on the bus that would take me away from the city that had in many ways become my home. Some of my friends came to say goodbye, and they waited at the bus stop till I was on my way. I waved through the tinted glass knowing they couldn’t see me, and they waved from outside not knowing whether I could see them. I teared up and it was one of the very few times that I did. I couldn’t escape any longer from the inevitable goodbyes, because it was happening right then and I had to face it.

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I always joked about coming back ‘super cultured’ from my OE, but the truth is I do feel different. Maybe it’s not in the same ways I joked about, but in the ways I view myself and friendships, and the world around me. I was overwhelmingly happy to finally get back home that I felt like I immediately reverted back to my old self in some inexplicable way. But the truth is I am not that girl anymore, but I am. I feel different and I can barely understand it from inside the bus, so how can I help anyone else understand it looking through tinted glass.