I want to see a kakapo in a lemon squeezer

A good friend pointed me, via the magic of Facebook, in the direction of this wonderful collection of birds in military uniform. I am captivated by it. I am not sure what is so great about birds in military uniforms but something certainly is.

This is my favourite:

I would dearly love to see a collection of native New Zealand birds in military uniforms.

I was googling this very topic and, although I did not find any New Zealand birds in military uniforms, I did find this collection of birds as military generals.

Here is my favourite from this collection:

Anyway, keep up the good work everyone.

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Things that happened in my kitchen today.

1. I spill ground cinnamon all over the floor. Twice. Kitchen now smells delightful like exotic spicy bakery. Probably the one featured in Kiki’s Delivery Service. [Sidenote: Kiki’s Delivery Service is an excellent film.]

Kiki in the bakery in the film 'Kiki's Delivery Service'.

2. Make coffee with my new coffee plunger. The addition of ground cinnamon to coffee is a delicious taste sensation and minimises need for sweetener in coffee. [Sidenote: Pak ‘n’ Save is selling $6.99 Pam’s coffee plungers, one of which I bought last night while I was ostensibly buying milk and eggs. Turns out a $6.99 Pam’s plunger is as good as you’d expect (not that good). The seal between the plunger bit and the glass sides is not sufficiently tight. This leads to premature plunging resulting in insubstantially brewed coffee. I am still deciding whether to return it and get my $6.99 back or to remain frustrated by it every morning for the rest of my life. I will probably go with the latter.]

3. Make smoked salmon scrambled eggs with chives. I have some chives growing outside but they look suspiciously like grass. I may have inadvertently flavoured my scrambled eggs with grass. Ate scrambled eggs and grass while watching the grey clouds of doom descend on Wellington Harbour and felt simultaneously sad and glad that I had missed the ferry to go to watch the All Black’s victory parade.

4. Spill peppercorns all over the bench while trying to re-load pepper grinder. Bench now looks like setting for hilarious mouse slapstick sketch in which mice attempt to walk along bench but keep falling over on ball bearing-esque peppercorns. [Sidenote: Mice would be dressed in bonnets and carrying parasols.]

And it’s only just gone lunchtime. Who knows what else could happen in my kitchen today.

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Modelland—the exclusive, mysterious place on top of the mountain.

I am a massive fan of the Next Top Model franchise – each and everyone one is a gazelle-like train wreck in slow motion. I can’t look away.

I have just discovered that Tyra Banks, creator of the Next Top Model franchise has published a novel.

Here is a description from Tyra of the genesis of this fiercely awesome idea.

Maybe supermodels do have superpowers. So maybe I should do this book in fantasyland. In adventure. And have magic. Like these journalists used to joke about.

Thus exists Modelland with protaganist Tookie de la Creme who, it is said (by Tyra), is modelled on TYRA HERSELF. Tookie is very tall and very beautiful and has a massive forehead and feels super awkward.

She finds some kooky side kicks, a plus sized girl, a freckled mini girl and an albino!

But there are some violent dark secrets in Modelland, so they go from running on runways to running for their life.

I must read this book.

If you think you might like to read this book, I suggest you watch the story behind the story here. It will get you even more excited.

Posted in Awesome things I found on the internet, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Sometimes, the sparkles just won’t come off.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the sparkles just won’t come off.


Some may choose to view this admission as evidence that my nail polish remover is not strong enough or that I need to buy more cotton balls.

I, however, am choosing to view this as a metaphor. FOR LIFE.

That’s right.

Sometimes, a stubborn piece, or maybe 5000 stubborn pieces, of red sparkles attach themselves to you following a sickness-infused haze that made you think you should paint your nails to look like Dorothy’s shoes. And now, a couple of days later, when your nails have started to chip and you’ve attempted – and failed – to remove the manky evidence, the half-removed glittery red polish looks scrappy and messy and a little bit like you’ve been disturbed in the middle of removing a vampire mid-feed.

And you’re all ‘Dammit sparkles, just leave me alone, would you!’

And then you remember that red sparkles are awesome and you are grateful for the wisdom your past self had in bringing that magic into your house and onto your nails. And from that day on you will be a little bit happy every time you find a piece attached to you and/or your possessions, which will surely be from now until the end of time.

MORAL:

There is magic (red sparkles) everywhere and no matter how hard you try (acetone, all of the toilet paper in the house, your other nails, a small paring knife designed for fruit), you cannot get rid of all. So you might as well enjoy it.

 

Posted in Daily Life, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wellington, I’m coming home.

After two and a half months away, today I board a Air New Zealand plane to take me home.

Wellington, New Zealand by Sandi Mackechnie and Jess Lunnon. http://www.theydrawandtravel.com/

The picture of Wellington, above, is part of a project called They Draw & Travel. The website is full of beautiful pictures of places, created and submitted by the artists who love them. (That could be you.)

I had happy times searching the places I have visited on my trip and going, “Oh, I’ve wandered around breathing in spring there!” and “Oh, and that makes me remember the time I rode the street car in the sweltering heat, looking out at the grand antebellum homes and the mardi gras beads flung over street car cables and trees, sparkling in the sun.” And here, where I tried to spot jaguars and where I floated down the river on a tube in the sun and had that amazing meal and where I feared for my life (that place was a mixed bag). And then this place and, oh, this place! I love that place. Oh, oh, and here! (P.S. San Francisco – where are you?)

I have had an amazing couple of months. I am grateful to the old friends I have visited, the new friends I have made, and the places that have let me ramble over them for a little while. Thank you.

It’s time for this traveler to go home.

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Streets of San Francisco

Two images captured on the streets of San Francisco today that I thought I ought to share…

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It’s street art featuring a seahorscycle that says “IMAGINE” on the side! If I could design a perfect mode of transportation, that would be it (although I would probably add Chitty Chitty Bang Bang features like ability to turn into a boat or fly).

 

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I was trying to find the shop that sold the City’s Finest Pants. Lucky this sign was out to make sure I didn’t miss it!

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An Unfortunate Incident or Escape from Belize or How I Fought The Nightcreeper and Won or The Scariest Moment of My Life To Date

This post refers to events that happened on the morning of 25 July 2011. This places it after the events of The Best Snap Decision Ever, before the events of Carousel! (the blog post) and at approximately the same time as the events of Carousel (the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical).

I’ve had a lovely day. I have earlier smugdated Facebook with the following posts:

Today I showered under a waterfall, had tiny fish nibble my feet and then rode home on the back of a truck with dirt and wind in my hair.

And then tonight I happened upon the local Rasta hang-out, was befriended by a man called Lyrical King and his dog, Lyrical Dog. We talked politics, I ate chicken, and he played music. Lyrical Dog observed.

And previously:

In a tiny fishing village called Hopkins. The chickens and I walk the dirt road together.

Yes. I am staying in tiny Hopkins. Undeveloped but still friendly enough to travelers that one can get what one needs (mostly: beer, tropical smoothies, food and sometimes the internet, although no ATM). According to many, the safest place in Belize.

It is the evening and I have enjoyed my last day coast side (above smugdates refer) before I head inland to San Ignacio and, possibly, Guatemala. I have arranged with Ingrid, the owner of the guesthouse I am staying in, to get a ride at the crack of dawn the following morning to Belmopan (from whence I can get a bus to San Ignacio), which she will go through on her way to Belize City.

I am staying in a ‘beach apartment’. If this sounds a little beyond my means, it is. I have been upgraded there by Ingrid because she is getting a new palapa roof put on the main guesthouse and it has been a little noisy. The main guesthouse is across and down the road a bit – maybe a two to three minute walk.

It is currently the rainy or hurricane season in Belize – although I have been fortunate to experience little and none of either, respectively. As a consequence, occupancy is low and I have the four apartment block, and the private beach, to myself.

I go up to my apartment on the second floor. I unlock the door and carefully lock it behind me. It’s hot tonight and the usual sea breeze I have relied on is notably absent. The room is stuffy and so I open the door out onto the small balcony, complete with a hammock, a couple of chairs and a small table, accessible only to me and only from my room. I hang out my clothes and shoes, wet from the river escapades. I get ready for bed and I leave the door and windows on the balcony open to get some air circulating. I briefly consider and dismiss sleeping in the hammock or leaving the door open all night. It seems like it would be fine but there’s not much wind and I don’t want to tempt the mosquitos to feast on my flesh. There has been quite enough of that already. Instead, I close and lock the balcony door but leave the large mosquito-netted window ajar.

I also consider and dismiss packing up my bag so that I can be all ready to go at the crack of dawn with Ingrid. I decide I will do it in the morning and leave my possessions scattered about like the teenage delinquent I have never really outgrown.

And with that, I drift off to sleep, exhausted after a long day of hiking, swimming and tubing.

Cue 2:15am.

I wake with a start. I am a notoriously deep sleeper but something has woken me. It is probably just the wind. I roll over and settle back to get to sleep.

No. It is not the wind.

Is there some sort of bird out on my balcony? There are some giant pelicans around.

That is a very big bird.

Although it is a moonlit light, I cannot see outside. There is a rechargeable torch plugged into the wall casting a faint blue light around the room. It is faint but enough that it is brighter inside than out.

The giant bird makes more noise.

I don’t think it’s a bird. I think it might be a person.

I freeze. I silently grasp my glasses from beside my bed. I am wearing a very scant nightshirt – enough to retain my decency in front of the prying eyes of the mosquitos, but little more.

I can’t see anything but I can hear noises.

I am positive there is someone out there.

I am alone. I could shout. But then he (I assume it is a he) would know I am a solo female. I briefly consider how my Acting Skills™ could assist me to sound like a Booming Male. I realise my throat is so dry I will probably sound less like a Booming Male and more like the fictional bird that is not on my balcony. Besides, there’s no-one else in the building anyway. I have the apartment block and the private beach all to myself!

It is at that moment, without consciously deciding to do it, that I leap from my bed. I thud with all the flat-footed fearsome desperation I can muster, putting to good use every one of extra kilograms that my two month sojourn around the United States of Cream has bequeathed me. I run at the window. I run at the window heavily.

In a split second I am there. He moves quickly and slinks away cat-like over the balcony. I don’t hear him land on the sand below. He melts into the night.

I move to slam shut the window my hands shaking uncontrollably. It’s jamming!

I see then that he has loosened the window frame and the mosquito net has been sliced. He was moments away from entering.

I finally get the window shut. I rush to the door and double check it is locked. It is. I go to the other window and slam that shut as well.

I grab that stupid light emitting torch and cover its luminescence with my hand, plunging myself into darkness. The tables are now turned and there is enough light from the moon outside that I can see the balcony.

Now what do I do?

I go back to bed and stay very still. What if he comes back?

I am suddenly painfully aware that I have no mobile reception in Belize. There is no land-line in the room. I have no way to contact anyone outside this room other than physically going to them or yelling very, very loudly.

My senses on high-alert, I duck under the sheets and leaf through my Lonely Planet, hoping that there is a hitherto unread section outlining “What to do when a Nightcreeper tries to break into your isolated room in Hopkins and you don’t have mobile reception”. Surprisingly, there is no such section.

I silently get up and get dressed. I put my passport and credit card wallet on under my clothes.

I get back into bed. It’s going to be a long three hours until morning and light.

After twenty minutes of huddling like a fearful rabbit, I suddenly realise that if my Booming Male impression is to be successful I should bang about like I own the place.

With that, I get up and put my contact lenses in with as much noise as that particular activity can generate. Bottles of contact solution are dropped loudly on the floor. Taps are run with gay abandon. Even my glasses case is closed loudly If my Nightcreeper is listening, he must think he is up against the clumsiest target of all time.

I am still scared and unsure but I decide I need to get across the road to the main guesthouse. It will be a two minute brisk walk in the deserted darkness but that is surely better than waiting here for what feels like my certain doom.

I pack up my daypack with my laptop, phone and wallet, gird my courage and make the dash.

I walk with purpose. I convey ‘Alert but not Alarmed‘. Like, you know, I’m just out for an early morning walk with all of my worldly possessions strapped to my back. Nothing to see here, Nightcreepers!

Secretly, I am very alarmed.

I make it to the guesthouse and bang loudly on the door. I hear Ingrid come to the door. She worriedly ask who it is.

It’s Christine. Somebody tried to break into my room.

And I start to sob. Great big non-Booming Male sobs. Ingrid lets me in and I collapse at her kitchen table.

From there, I call and then skype Brendon (using up Ingrid’s entire satellite based web allocation in the process). I decide I don’t want to stay in Belize anymore. I know it is irrational. I can’t bear the thought of being anywhere alone. I make a plan to escape. I would like to say that it was daring and dashing, but all it really took was some cognitive dissonance with my credit card.

Later that morning at the crack of dawn, I go with Ingrid to Belize City, breaking the sound barrier on several occasions. I hallucinate seeing a unicorn during this journey. Ingrid drops me at the airport, just in time to board a flight for Houston and then San Francisco.

Throughout that long day, I flit on and off wifi, catching snatches in airports, trying to arrange to stay with someone in San Francisco. Hostels are booked out. I could stay at a hotel but I really want to be around someone I know tonight.

My hero comes in the form of Rebecca, an improviser I’ve known only since I met her at the conference we both attended in Baltimore a month earlier. She generously offers up what space she has in her studio apartment and greets me at the door with hugs, tea and soup.

From there, everything is okay. I alter flights back to New Zealand, I make plans to stay at Rich’s for the rest of the week – another improv saviour.

Plans made, I sit alone in a nearby diner and have a quiet little cry into my eggs, so happy to be safe and sound and able to order eggs in a diner.

One week in beautiful San Francisco, which I am enjoying immensely.

And then. Then I get to go home.

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Best snap decision ever.

I wrote this post over a week ago but was unable to upload it for a variety of reasons, including internet access issues in Belize, the Nightcreeper Incident (about which I will blog imminently) and my expedited Escape from Belize. Thus, I now bring you a belated post about my sailing trip in the Caribbean. For those of you keeping track of my itinerary (hi Mum), the events relayed in this post happened during 17 – 20 July.

Arr, cast ye minds back a span* and remember what the world was like then. Let me spin ye a tale of adventure on the high seas. Well, actually, dictionary.com tells me that technically, it not be the ‘high seas’ as such. But it be a tale! Arr – ’tis a tale…

I am finishing off breakfast at one of Caye Caulker’s many outdoor waterside establishments. A Canadian man passing by starts chatting to my friend, Karin, who has been trying to get on one of the organised two night trips that, allegedly, depart from Caye Caulker a couple of times a week. Alas, due to insufficient numbers, they have been cancelled, leaving Karin high and dry. Literally.

The Canadian guy, conveniently named Guy, is sailing his 42ft catamaran, The Hipsway, south along the same route as the organised tours and has a couple of spare cabins and offers to take Karin with him but in vastly improved comfort than the organised tours.

Does Karin want to go with him? Not really. It seems potentially dangerous. I mean, who is this random guy? (It’s Canadian Guy!) It’s not a legit tour. It sounds too good to be true. It goes against pretty much everything we solo female travelers have been told to keep ourselves safe.

At which point, I – Christine ‘Danger’ Brooks – decide to get involved. How much? (Pretty reasonable.) Who else? (His 13 year old son and a Canadian couple.) Is it legal? (Not really – he’ll sign us on as crew).

When traveling, I trust my gut. I get a feel for a situation and make a call. Is this one of those opportunities that come up and you have to grab them? (Spoiler: it is.) And so I do.

I have about an hour to go and pack up my stuff, check out of my room, get some cash from the ATM that only sometimes works on Sundays (it’s Sunday), buy anything I need for the next three days, let loved ones know I am about to embark on a slightly dodgy-sounding venture, and get down to the wharf for some sweet sailing action!

At this point, Karin decides to join the trip too and I am pleased that there will be a familiar face if and when I meet my watery doom. You know the old proverb: ‘A drowing shared is a drowning halved’.

And so it begins. We load our packs, a massive chiller, and ourselves onto a tiny little skiff and ride the choppy waves out to The Hipsway, who is moored offshore. Saturated, we arrive at the boat, form a human chain and load up the catamaran. It transpires that a long floaty silk skirt is not the ideal clothing for this activity.

Canadian Guy goes back to collect the other two adventurers (Anna the Ukrainian Canadian and Dan the Jerseyman), while Karin and I explore our home for the next few days. The Hipsway is great – it has a lived in feel, with aloe vera plants in little pots, lures hanging up above the table, and waterproof beanbags on the deck. All the home comforts of a modern boat!

Once we’re all aboard, we get ready for departure. Captain Canadian Guy uses Canadian Coop, his 13 year old son, to excellent effect as first mate. As we bob out into the ocean, we all look at each other like we can’t believe our luck.

And honestly? We can’t. The weather is perfect. Just enough wind that we can sail, zipping along at a good pace. Sun, sun and more sun.

It is also hurricane season. This, Canadian Guy tells us once we’re safely offshore, is the reason we see no other vessels on the water. Canadian Guy assures us it’s fine. Besides, he has sailed in worse and survived. And you’ve got to go somehow, right?

It transpires that one of the ‘rough seas’ Canadian Guy has experienced is The Perfect Storm. Yes. That Perfect Storm. The one brought to life in  ‘dramatic, disaster film’ The Perfect Storm, about the confluence of events that result in a storm so perfect, Canadian God himself could not have designed it more effectively. Yes. the one where a hapless ship stumbles into said Perfect Storm. Yes. The one where there are no survivors and so the author and film-makers had to interview people like Canadian Guy who were on another boat in the same storm and survived and use that as the basis for the story.  Yes. That one.

This is the beginning of the Many Crazy Tales of Canadian Guy. He was a fisherman most of his life, a seasonal job that gave him ample opportunity to pursue all sorts of other activities, boasting varying degrees of legality.

A brief list of things Canadian Guy has dabbled in (a list that does not begin to adequately capture the stories Canadian Guy told in their true techni-colour detail. The man is basically Baron Münchhausen):

  • For around six years, he lived on a giant papaya orchard in the Dominican Republic, building a House of Folly, which he eventually had to abandon due to the harsh mistresses of time and money.
  • He recently worked as a bodyguard for a decidedly dodgy sounding character (who, by the way, now owes him a lot of money). Canadian Guy and the dodgy character tore around the border regions of safe Colombia, crossing borders at midnight, pursued by druglords.
  • He has acted as a stuntman in the movie industry. No big deal.
  • He did something in the music industry that seemed to result in him hanging out with a lot of famous musicians during the eighties and nineties.
  • He created some sort of commune in Mexico, where he paid off beer truck drivers to come and deliver by the crateload. Likewise, the icecream man.

Today? Canadian Guy lives a simple life. About four years ago, he sold his farm in British Columbia, Canada and bought a boat. Now he sails around the Caribbean doing pretty much whatever he damn well pleases. Once each year for a month, Canadian Coop joins him and they have adventures together.

It is one of these adventures we have stumbled upon. Thankfully, it is decidedly less death-defying than many of his past adventures. Or is it? (Spoiler: it is.)

We catch lobster and barracuda. We go snorkeling. We visit tiny little mangrove cayes. Only once in the course of four days do we go onto land, to Tobacco Caye – former docking point for pirates (who all look like Johnny Depp, right guyz?) – where we enjoy a cold beer at the open air beachside bar.

One night, too hot in my cabin, I sleep up on the top deck, feeling the breeze and looking up at the stars, getting salty air all over my face. It is completely magical. When we get too hot during the day, we just jump off the boat into the warm waters of the Caribbean.

We all take turns cooking and preparing food. One morning I make french toast with a side of fruit salad including papaya, grapefruit and banana. We feast on freshly caught fish and lobster. We drink cocktails of rum and fruit juice and ginger ale.

In short, we live like aquatic kings.

As we near Placencia on our fourth day, we look at the land and each other and wonder aloud how we’ll adjust back to “real life”.

We reluctantly alight from the boat, and step back into a world of humidity and mosquitos, and say our fond farewells to our little nautical family of the past four days.

Unsure of how to interact with this world, I hibernate in my hotel room for a couple of days, emerging only for meals. While in my cave, I attempt to put together a little souvenir that captures the magic of this journey. I fall short but share it with you anyway:

——

*The book referred to here is The Name of the Wind. It is a beautiful, lyrical fantasy. It is my favourite book this year (much better than the long-awaited and disappointing A Dance with Dragons).

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Carousel!

I just rode the carousel in Golden Gate park. I was by myself. I think the operator felt a little sorry for me. But I didn’t and it was awesome. Here I am atop a Fearsome Beast!

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And here is one of my journeymen comrades:

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Meow!

I alighted from the carousel and as I departed the operator wished me a heartfelt enjoyable stay in San Francisco.

Achieved, Operator!

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized, Whimsy | 5 Comments

Children of Belize in pictures

A rainstorm raged outside. These twins and I found shelter in a vacant shop.

Pablo, son of the shiphand, is teaching Karin hand games as we sail back from snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve

 

A local girl comes to join us for breakfast on the swing chairs.

 

A girl stands high up in a mangrove tree, looking down on the wharf where her brothers are running races and performing feats of muscle strength.

 

Muscle competition

 

Muscle competition degenerates into muscle fight

 

Exhausted in the heat of the day.

 

Three teenagers stand on the collapsed wharf at The Split.

 

Playing at dusk

 

Playing at dusk #2

 

Boy and chicken

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