What’s the right way to eat?

Despite having a wee kitchen, the size of a yacht galley, I love food. And, living alone, I whip up few culinary delights – even though I attended one of the first cooking schools in Thailand; managed a café in Athens for couple of months’ mid-season, and even worked as a sous chef in Wales – in an Italian restaurant, under a French Chef. I’m like the Guardian’s Jay Rayner, ‘a greedy’ eater, and like him, I love smelly foods like blue cheese and durian.

only 12% of westerners like durian – I am one of them

When I was a vegetarian it was difficult to be sure no chicken had sat in the soup water despite having learnt to say I don’t eat meat in a dozen different languages. “Vegetarian meal? No problem, here is chicken, fish or pork.” As long as it has no red meat some assumed it was vegetarian. “No – no meat, no chicken no pork. Rice please. No, no soup on it” I’d say as they carefully scooped some liquid and left the chicken pieces floating in the fatty cauldron.

Some countries are easier to travel in when you don’t eat meat however even some Buddhists eat meat. During those vegetarian days, the best place I found for vegetarian meals was a small suburb in Georgetown, Penang (Malaysia) If you are going there, write out these directions – I hope they’re still there as I’m going back in a few months.

Go to the reclining Buddha (walk or bus from town) then cross the road to visit the peaceful Buddhist temple and when you have finished looking, go out the front gate – turn left, walk a kilometre down the road to a T-intersection, turn left and stop at any food shop. I guarantee it will be fantastic.

food features large in our travels

I also know you will ask, as I did, “Are you sure this is vegetarian? No meat?” They were amused. Yes, no meat. They have developed creative and tasty ways of using tofu in its many forms – I forget what ethnicity they were.

After a few years, I gave up being vegetarian and would join locals and try their cultural delicacies such as crocodile, haggis, and in Cairo, pigeon stuffed with green rice. My stomach still continues its cast-iron behaviour of allowing me to eat everything put in front of me.

However, for many, apart from tummy problems there is a down side to travel: you’ll be destined to be rich in many ways but will be cash poor. You could be infected with a disease to which there is no known antidote; the travel bug.

Travel also gives you, a new way of thinking. Long held “truths” no longer seem true when viewed from a different culture, a different perspective.

A simple example is eating. Most New Zealanders are taught to eat with a knife and a fork. Knife, in the right hand, for cutting and the fork, in the left, for hold the food then placing it in our mouth – in other words the “right” way.

this crispy fish was delicious

Of course, in other countries this is not the ‘right’ way. In the USA, the fork is in the left hand; in Thailand food is cut to bite-sized pieces during the preparation process and a spoon is used to eat, other Asian cultures use chop sticks, another country, their right hand. To each culture their way of eating is the ‘truth’. But what about other ‘truths’.

Travel is intensified living, nothing can be taken for granted. It’s like having a new pair of glasses, we see often things, and ourselves, more clearly. Nothing is familiar, we are constantly aware of, or curious about, what is happening around us. We watch the interaction between people and try to decipher it. Body language is different from place to place and our previous knowledge of the rules of interaction no longer apply. And that’s one of the reasons why we travellers love travel.

‘Have a coffee with me’ an old man indicates – I do. Muscat fish market, Oman,

Why travel? Why not! Traveller or tourist, armchair or plane, life is richer not poorer, enriched not impoverished, colourful and, certainly never dull.

But, knowing all that, and knowing to always use a spoon in Thailand – and not to put a fork in my mouth while there – or lick a knife in New Zealand, why oh why do I get so uptight when I don’t get a soup spoon to eat soup?

teaspoon, dessert, soup, servin

Guess those old ‘rules’ that I was raised  on are right there, just waiting to be used. Nevertheless, however I’m eating, I assume that somewhere in the world it is the correct way to eat, the ‘proper’ etiquette – I may just be misplaced at times.

 

 

Looking forward, looking back, living in the now

IMG_2649Looking forward, looking back – while living in the now, almost seems impossible. However, living in the ‘right now ’ is how I try to live my day, every day.

use fish market OMAN (45)
Muscat fish market

That doesn’t mean I can’t contemplate the past – in fact as a travel writer I’m often looking at the past as I write stories about something I did last week, last month, or last year. Photos, whether on the wall or on my electronic frame, are constantly reminding me of a great time I had in Oman, Thailand, France or New Zealand.

And of course, photos of special people, now dead, absolutely have me looking back. Nevertheless, all this looking back is very different to wallowing in the past and beating myself up for wrongs done, or praising myself for good achievements or actions. These memories do not stop me living in the now but often inform my now so I hopefully don’t repeat mistakes but do make sure of recurrences of good deeds.

plane overheadLooking forward is easy, especially as I have a wonderful life. A visit to Mongolia later this year means I had to book tickets and make reservations ready for my travels. However, now that is done it’s no use wondering if my flight will be smooth, there will be no delays, or conversely, all my planes will be late, but stay in the now and know that I can and will deal with those events on the day.

Part of living in the now while looking to the future means I’m also reading about Mongolia so when I arrive I will have a little background knowledge to its history and places I’d like to visit. So, I’m reading about Mongolia and living in the day – and doing exactly the same for another trip except that one has all 3, past, present and future.

hh-planting-mangroves-before-the-annual-borneo-rainforest-world-musisc-festival-part-of-their-greening-the-festival-event-kuching-sarawak-borneo
Planting mangroves before the RWMF

Malaysian Borneo, had been on my bucket list for many years before I finally got there so planning for another visit means I have evidence from past visits to enhance my current preparations. The Rainforest World Music Festival (in Kuching, Sarawak) is again high on my to-do list. Nearly 2 years ago, I spent some of a birthday there in the middle of a drumming circle – such fun. Meeting people from around the world will again be a highlight there as well as the fantastic international musical programme they’ve planned. As you can see once again I’m in the present, looking at the past, and planning for the future. As I said earlier, I do have a wonderful life – one I do not take for granted, and over the years have worked hard to live this ‘easy and fabulous’ life that people often comment on.

‘Living in the now’, also gives me the luxury of being able to consider my past and plan my future. This is not how I used to live my life -I was never in the now but always wallowing in the past and how awful life had been or looking forward to a day when, somehow, without any effort, I would be plucked from my current position into fame and fortune: it never happened.

luggage 20141001_091331

What I didn’t realise was all that time I spent in the past or future was taking up energy for today. I learnt about living in the now but it wasn’t until I started travelling – around the world for a year with no bookings – that I really understood and valued its practice. It didn’t take long for me to realise that if I was worrying about crossing a border tomorrow I could not value the beach I was snorkelling on today. A fabulous lesson that I continue to use.

So, living in the now does not mean I cannot make plans for tomorrow – what it does mean I can make tomorrow’s plan and then carry on living today, not worrying about what the weather will be like or if I will enjoy the movie, all I have to do was buy the ticket or plan to meet someone and then carry on with today’s tasks.

I’m so glad my life does not require me to make New Year resolutions but to keep learning from mistakes and moving forward.

solace
solace

 

 

Connecting dots – from a book group to a national historic landmark

Life is funny sometimes – it arranges connections between things then ensures you follow the dots. I’ve had such an experience recently.

Mid-2016 my book group had set the topic American politics as our subject for reading around. Given that it was election-year I was actually sick of American politics as even in New Zealand our TVs were full of it.

So, while some chose history, others presidential (or hopefuls) biographies, I went looking for stories about the wives – and of course it was only wives given America has never had a female leader.

I found one about Betty Ford, called Betty a Glad Awakening – I chose this as, it wasn’t current times, I knew an A&D counselor who had attended the opening of the treatment Centre in LA that bears her name, and have known people who have attended a rehab centre – so thought this topic and book could be of interest. It was.

The next connection, or dot, along the way was a couple of months later hearing a presentation in which the speaker talked about an article in a Times Magazine and a list of ‘80 days that changed the world’.

Not having seen it, but interested, I looked it up and found, among these most diverse days of . . .
The First Talking Picture
The Overlooked Miracle
The Mouse That Roared
Wall Street’s Bad, Bad Fall
A Disobedient Saint’s March
Movies’ Moral Crackdown
Birth of the Superhero
Storming into Poland
Churchill Takes Charge
What I Saw at Pearl Harbor
D-Day: Saving a Continent
Flying Faster than Sound
The Dawn of Israel
New China is Born
. . . and at number 13 in the Time’s list, ‘AA Takes Its First Steps’ – a loose connection to the book.

Two days later I’m visiting the historical home (Stepping Stones) of one of AA’s co-founders Bill W and his wife Lois. stepping-stones-webimg_9562

So, that’s why I say life is funny: that a thread ran through my life this year – from a topic in my book group in Wellington New Zealand, to visiting New York, USA, to hearing about a magazine article, and as a result, visited Stepping Stones which has been a national historic landmark since 2012.

All I can suggest is check out the list and see if any connect dots in your life, holiday, or interests.

 

 

 

 

What is ecotourism?

Not everyone can travel. Living in New Zealand means we have a better chance than many. We have a far higher rate of people with passports than most countries, and countries which are poorer are much more likely to be visited than to produce travellers.row of travel books

I’m a travelophile. Like Asians need rice, Italians pasta, British curry, Kiwi’s fish and chips: I need to travel. When I travel I feel good and being a traveller who writes means I get to visit where I want to go to and not have to go the flavour of the month.

Sometimes it's hard to be a travel writer with view like this. Not! My view from Doubtless bay Villas
Sometimes it’s hard to be a travel writer with view like this. Not!
My view from Doubtless bay Villas

 

This means I often arrive in places that are not on the tourist trail. I get to be a cultural tourist in that I stay longer in places and get to know people; absorb the local flavour.

This means that although I don’t often sign up for an eco-tour, I practise many of the principles of ecotourism. But what is ecotourism?

My understanding of the word and the concepts behind it are, very briefly, that’s it an activity that has least impact while providing greatest benefits.

Independent travellers are the ones most likely be the closest to being real eco travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country while those who travel on tours have often paid for their whole trip before they leave home – giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge costs – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.P1124662 travel tips web

Worldwide many places say they are providing an ecotourism experience but is that really so? It seems that as long as it has a nature component many claim it to be eco-friendly. That has not always been my experience.

Life on a marine reserve sounds wonderful right? A great eco experience? Yes, the natural sites and walks are fantastic; money spent on food and accommodation does stay with the locals providing it. Unfortunately, the big money is creamed the off the islands in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then leave  – taking the money with them. Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish – that travellers complain about – usually bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags abound.

The kiwitravelwriter, arrives on Talang-Taland Island, Sarwawak, Malaysian Borneo. photo by Gustino from Sarawak Tourism Board, who hotested me)
The kiwitravelwriter, arrives on Talang-Taland Island, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. photo by Gustino from Sarawak Tourism Board, who hosted me)

We think of New Zealand as a clean green destination but pollution is not just rubbish on the ground or dirty air. So, are we conservation minded or is it just our low population that produces less rubbish? Have we have sold the visitor a too narrow view of places to visit; given them a list of sights they must see, activities they should take part in? This produces problems such as Milford Sound has. Buses arriving in droves, disgorging visitors (and fumes) to see wonderful pristine sights. An oxymoron? This is not a New Zealand only problem.

It reminds me of Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, where I too was a body disgorged from a bus to see the great views. I have proof that I was there – a photo of me sitting with the lake and mountains as the backdrop – it looks idyllic. However, I know that beside me, waiting for their turn, to record the moment, is another busload of chattering travellers.

eat local
eat local

The problems of being poured into the tourist funnel will continue if we rely on unimaginative travel agents (and of course not all are) and the forceful marketing of those who have invested in areas. While it is more economical for planes and hotels to have us arrive together and stay in the same places it also creates problems for them – not the least is the strong chance of killing the goose that lays the golden egg such as the warning in the child’s story.

TheTravelBook-2-pic for web

This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made. Tell others you are going to Bali (or Timbuktu) and immediately you will be told “you should have gone there ten (2, 5, 50 years ago,) before it was discovered.”

However, help maybe at hand. An organisation called Green Globe 21 is on the rise in New Zealand. Some 200 companies have embraced its ten different indicators for sustainable environmental codes. What is even better is that many local authorities have signed up too. (www.greenglobe21.com)

What can I do? Shop at locally owned places wherever I am; support companies that practice high standards; (e.g. Kiwi Host, Green Globe) are a good start.

Combining the universal codes of pack it in pack it out and take only photos, leave only footprints along with getting off the well-worn tourist trails means I’ll be able to enjoy my travels with a clearer conscience.

A LoveLetter to Malaysian BorneoIf you’re interested in this topic see my small book about travelling in Borneo which looks at some of these issues too.

Twenty-one hours before I check in …now what?

websuitcase-usa-tripWith less than a day before the shuttle delivers me to Wellington Airport (NZ) I’m now ready to sit back and relax in front of TV and a book. I’m reading Open, by Andre Agassi – once at the airport I’ll start something new on my e-reader)

I’ve watered my balcony plants, I’ve had a little tidy-up  of my allotment. The only washing left to do will be the bed-linen in the morning – and my coffee plunger and cup.

I’ve charged my electronic gear, I’ve checked my gear for leads. My at-my-seat bag is all ok too — headphones, e-reader, sox/socks, eye mask, peppermints, pen and paper so no getting up and own to my carry on luggage, and  I’ve re-read my pre-travel airport checklist

  • Passport? check
  • tickets? check
  • money? check
  • camera? check
  • plus all my other pre-flight essentials
Carry-on bag, plus little red cube for at my seat
Carry-on bag, plus little red cube for at my seat

I also have my clothes to wear sorted: layers for hot or cold conditions in planes and airports, and have done my last luggage check.

So, time to relax, post this and then that’s it! Don’t even have to prepare a meal tonight as I’ve bought salads and cold meat at the supermarket, and tomorrow will go to the Preservatorium for breakfast.

Ready to go
Ready to go

Wanderlust – a passionate desire!

Do you have wanderlust?  I have and consider it rather like a friendly disease or benign addiction – or are they oxymoronic?

luggage 20141001_091331

Maud Parrish 1878-1976 (in Nine Pounds of Luggage) said “Wanderlust can be the most glorious thing in the world. Imagination is a grand stimulating thing, like a cocktail, but to find reality is the full course with champagne”.

As she travelled around the world sixteen times (with very little luggage and a banjo) I imagine she knows all about both wanderlust and reality.

When I read the above quote I wondered, what do those words REALLY mean?  Imagination, wanderlust, reality – they trip off the tongue so lightly and yet maybe when I say I have wanderlust you may not know what I mean, or, when you agree that yes you too have it, maybe the attributes I give it – on your behalf – are way off beam.

Time for some market, or rather word, research: The Oxford Paperback Dictionary & Thesaurus (Oxford.1997) dictionary tells me that wanderlust is an ‘eagerness to travel or wander. Restlessness.’ Yep. Got that.

Christchurch International Airport
Christchurch International Airport

My eagerness takes the form of an obsession with travel programmes on television or radio, travel pages in magazines and press, in fact I even buy magazines with names such as Wanderlust, Sojourney, and NZ Wilderness. Why?  So I can find new and exciting places to visit – places to add to my list – eager to get to places not so well known.  Restless when I feel trapped.

Goal planning, and goal achieving are often different. So often the people who tell me, ‘You’re so lucky,’ also have dreams of travelling. But are they eager enough to do the necessary saving and budgeting at home to reap the benefits of being ‘lucky’ enough to travel?  Usually not.

However I digress, back to the book of words: imagination. This evidently means having a ‘mental faculty of forming images of objects not present to senses.’  Guess that’s me thinking of lazing on an Indian river, or viewing polar bears. Being able to see the dollar or two saved this week as a coffee on the West Bank in Paris. Yes, I have imagination too: imagination that my back will always be able to carry a pack on it and I will stay in good health.

sunset from the Indigo Pearl beach club
sunset from the Indigo Pearl beach club

I also checked wander and lust as separate words and I certainly qualify there. To wander is to ‘go from place to place aimlessly, diverge from the path.’ Well I have done that all my life, and travelling has not changed it at all. I love to get off the beaten track, in fact to be lost is ideal, that’s when the wonderful, the unexpected, the amazing, the different happens. As long as I am found one more time than I am lost, I know all is well.

Lust. Another word close to my heart. My trusty Oxford tells me it’s ‘passionate desire’. Well, been there, done that, still got it, intend to keep it – what else can I say. Passionate for travel, new places, new foods, people, and experiences.

And finally, last on my list of words to check reality.  This seems to be the boring one, the one that people often accuse travellers of trying to escape from. Not so. This is what can separate the traveller (with time) from the tourist (on a schedule) as the dictionary says it is ‘what’s real or exists or underlies the appearances’.

How often I have made some assumptions about people, places, and things, about actions, beliefs, and religions by believing the appearances – what I think my eyes are telling me rather that waiting a little longer and seeing what is real.  We humans love to have order in our lives so make up stories to make sense of things. However, that does not make them real. Knowing the ‘truth’ is like having a secret shared and I value the people who I meet along the way who share their truths, and their realities, with me.

'Have a coffee with me' an old man indicates - I do. Oman.
‘Have a coffee with me’ an old man indicates – I do. Oman.

Nevertheless, ask three people to describe an accident they witnessed and each will be different. We experience things from within our own reality or context.

So do you have the wanderlust? Is your description of it the same as mine? There will be commonalities, and I suspect, for people with the overwhelming desire to wander aimlessly, most will not be seeking a cure.

I agree with you Maud, wanderlust is glorious, stimulating, and it sure does provide the meal of life with champagne-like bubbles.

every page has a tale to tell, a reminder the the tastes, colours, sounds and smells of places
every page has a tale to tell, a reminder the the tastes, colours, sounds and smells of places

 

 

 

Lord Rutherford: father of nuclear physics

Scientific discovery and hands-on experimentation takes centre stage at the state-of-the-art Rutherford’s Den in the Arts Centre, Christchurch, where New Zealand scientist Ernest, Lord Rutherford started his scientific career in these very rooms.

A million dollars in $NZ100 bills
A million dollars in $NZ100 bills

Rutherford, the moustached man on the $NZ100 note, discovered what the inside of an atom looks like, found out about radioactivity, discovered and named alpha and beta particles, and was the first scientist to change one element into another. As a pioneer of his time, it’s only fitting that cutting-edge technology is being used to tell his story, says Arts Centre CEO André Lovatt.

“We’ve carefully kept the beautiful heritage features but have injected the space with new energy by using state-of-the-art storytelling techniques that will appeal to people of all ages.

“You can literally step inside an exhibition that illustrates what atoms are, or use your own movements to learn about renewable energy sources. In the actual space where Rutherford conducted his research on radio waves, there’s a projection of him that includes original voice recordings – making you feel as though you’re in the same room as him.”

A bad selfie of me with Andre Lovat
A bad selfie of me with Andre Lovat

The original Lecture Theatre is exactly as it was – graffiti and all – until the digital screen at the front starts playing a movie that was commissioned by the Arts Centre.

“So much of what Rutherford discovered led to the technology we enjoy today and we want visitors to learn about this in fun and exciting ways. We want it to be a place where people of all backgrounds are inspired to believe that everyone has the potential to achieve greatness.”

Before the earthquakes, Rutherford’s Den was popular with locals, tourists and schools that participated in its curriculum-linked education programme and the popular education sessions are now once again being offered on-site at the Arts Centre. Bookings, and further information can be found on www.rutherfordsden.org.nz

Rutherford’s Den is located in the Arts Centre’s historic Clock Tower building at 2 Worcester Boulevard, adjacent to the Great Hall that re-opened in June.

For more than a century, the Arts Centre site was home to Canterbury College and from 1890 one of its students was Rutherford. He was a regular Kiwi who became known as the father of nuclear physics and in 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The reopening of Rutherford’s Den is a significant milestone in the staged re-opening of the Arts Centre and I will post more about the new-look den next week.

In spring the adjacent North Quadrangle and Library will be accessible once again, along with a number of new cafés and food outlets. By the end of 2016, almost half the site will again be open to the public.

Passing The Arts Centre
Tram passing the Arts Centre