Whimsical Aotearoa

The Wizard - he's still a thing

The Wizard – he’s still a thing

I came across this wee gem on the Interwebs yesterday and was in stitches over what a strange and wonderful (strangely wonderful?) place I come from.

The writer (I use the term loosely, the piece was from BuzzFeed after all) compiled a list of, as the title suggests, ’69 Things About New Zealand That’ll Blow Your Mind.’

Mind blown. And I had quite a few LOL moments and chortled heartily right to the end. Which caused a flareup of my homesickness. (Which will likely lead to a very expensive plane ticket being bought soon).

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite ‘facts’ about that wacky lil’ country at the end of the world.

6. Only 5% of NZ’s population is human- the rest are animals.

17. More people die in New Zealand each year playing lawn bowls than scuba diving.

20. Auckland is one of the most affordable cities in the world to live in. (I’m including this one because it his hilariously UNTRUE! Auckland is more expensive than Manhattan!!).

38. In 1996, a man broke into a radio station in Wanganui and took the manager hostage, demanding that they play the Muppet song “Rainbow Connection”.

40. The Kiwi badminton team name was ‘The Black Cocks’, but after a year, had to change it due to complaints.

41. In 1990, the NZ prime minister appointed a National Wizard.

42. Rugby player Wayne Shelford got his scrotum ripped open mid-game in a bad tackle. He was taken off the field with one testicle LITERALLY hanging out, got stitched up on the bench and continued the game.

46. There is a clock in Dunedin which has been running since 1864, despite never having been wound since it was made. (Shout out to my hometown!)

58. In 2008, Henry the tuatara became a father for the first time at the age of 111. (A tuatara is a reptile native to New Zealand.)

59. New Zealand is the only country with the right to put Hobbit-related images on its currency.

64. In 2007, the NZ courts banned a couple from naming their child 4Real. In the end they named him Superman.

68. Niue, a self-governed island of NZ, has images of Pokemon on its legal tender coins. There is also a limited collection of coins with images from the Star Wars films.

69. There are more vending machines in Japan than there are people in New Zealand.

Ladies and Gentleman, the land I call ‘home.’





Uncharted territory

bwsailingAs we move through life, two things are said to be certain: taxes and death. Of course, everyone must die and any rational person will realize, at the very least, they will lose someone they love and/or are related to. We know that our grandparents and parents will one day pass away, we just don’t know when. Those of us who are particularly unlucky may lose a sibling, a partner, a friend, or the worst kind of loss, a child.

I have been lucky so far – having never actually attended a funeral due to being overseas despite having lost three of my four grandparents, a good friend and three other friends from my university days who passed away (from murder, two car crashes and one mystery). These stung less because I wasn’t in touch with them and hadn’t been for years.

I wasn’t sure how to feel when my mother recently relayed the news that a childhood and family friend had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and been given two months to live. This came just weeks after an old colleague and flatmate died tragically on the roads at Easter. At first I was in denial, thinking my mother had her facts wrong and that with treatment, his outcome would be better – if he couldn’t be cured, surely the doctors could extend his life by at least a year or more? But no.

I haven’t seen this friend for many years and barely even thought about him. But now my childhood memories come flooding back – we shared baths, games, holidays, Christmases together. He has just entered his 30’s, is married, and has a young son. I glimpsed his Facebook timeline to see that he had posted a photo of himself and his son sharing some moments on a lake, with a caption about how precious life is. I cried twice over that photo.

I thought about his kind mother who just recently lost her husband after unsuccessful heart surgery. His sister, who was once my closest friend in the world moved back from overseas to be with him in his last months. Their lives will forever be turned upside down.

I told a good friend about the situation and how it had made me feel very sad. She then asked a profound question: “What would you do if you had two months to live?” While this horrific situation is not about me, I did start thinking and realized that I would want to visit all the places I had never been. To spend time with loved ones. To definitely not be in my current situation. But at the same time, I have to be grateful that I am alive and healthy and am lucky to be in my current situation.

Having absorbed the information and come to terms with my friend’s fate, the next challenge is to consider how to reach out. What do you say to someone who you haven’t had any contact with for two decades and who only has weeks to live? I don’t have the luxury of time to sit around thinking about it too much. But in the meantime, I think we could all agree upon this message: fuck cancer.

The mysteries of love

harris woffordA few months ago I posted about the news story of a young man and a much older man in New Zealand having a seemingly unconventional relationship (a huge age gap). Recently one day as I was doing my routine perusal of the New York Times, one headline caught my eye, Finding Love Again, This Time With a Man. While you’re more than capable of reading the article yourself, let me just give you the highlights mixed with my always insightful and illuminating commentary.

Former United States Democrat Harris Wofford was happily married to his wife, Clare, for 48 years. They had three children together. Clare tragically died from cancer close to both of of their seventieth birthdays. Wofford assumed that he would not experience such love again and settled into a fulfilling but lonely life.

Cut to five years later and he’s swimming at a Florida beach. Two men recognised him and came over and struck up a conversation with him. One of the men unexpectedly caught his eye. “As we talked, I was struck by Matthew’s inquisitive and thoughtful manner and his charm. I knew he was somebody I would enjoy getting to know. We were decades apart in age with far different professional interests, yet we clicked,” he wrote.

By “decades apart” Wofford means fifty years. So his partner Matthew was 25 when they met. The couple began as friends and slowly, through sharing many things together, including traveling abroad, the pair fell in love. Now, at 90 and 40, the couple have decided to get married.

Of course Wofford has political intentions in writing this article. He seeks to redefine love and promote same-sex marriage. As he writes, “Too often, our society seeks to label people by pinning them on the wall — straight, gay or in between. I don’t categorize myself based on the gender of those I love. I had a half-century of marriage with a wonderful woman, and now am lucky for a second time to have found happiness.”

He goes on to quote Robert Frost:

And yet for all this help of head and brain

How happily instinctive we remain,

Our best guide upward further to the light,

Passionate preference such as love at sight.

This highlights the importance of instinct and listening to one’s heart, especially in matters of love. So what else can we learn from this relationship? That it’s never two late? That love comes when we least expect it? That love is mysterious? That we get second chances? That people should be more open-minded? That external, biological things such as age, physical appearance, status etc. matter less than we think? The importance of sharing a friendship? This whole thing brings to mind something actress Maria Bello wrote – a heterosexual woman who fell in love with her best friend, also a woman: “Whatever, love is love.”

Seoul through new eyes

seoul templeIt’s been an interesting two weeks – some schizophrenic weather happening as the season transitions from spring to summer. There have been a few scorchers and then some crazy rain and wind storms, as if a very drunk God was peeing and farting at the same time. But it has also been fun – hanging out with my girl Carolyn again and seeing Seoul through her eyes – she used to live here and has since been living in South East Asia, South American and India – so she brings an interesting perspective.

We have, in fact, been extolling the virtues of this complex wonderful-awful, beautiful-ugly city. “It really is an amazing city,” Carolyn said as we were walking along a lantern-lined street at dusk. For once, I had to agree. We proceeded to throw out a series of reasons why – the cheap, safe, efficient, convenient public transportation, the abundance of western shops, restaurants, cafes etc, the flourishing salsa scene, the relative safety and affordability, the mountains so close to the city center, the mix of the traditional and modern, all the interesting things off the beaten tourist track, the diverse expat community…we could’ve gone on.

Then, a few days later, we were sitting in a cozy restaurant in the trendy Hongdae district. It was evening, and the sun was slowly dimming. Rain was gently falling from the sky, the lights in the boutique stores shone, there was a Vespa or two parked outside the restaurant. A well-dressed mixed Korean-Western couple ran across the road, sheltering under a large umbrella. Although just minutes away from the throngs near the subway station, it was eerily quiet. It felt almost European, but with that Seoul aesthetic that I know well but struggle to express in words.

And things like this are coming out all the time, telling the world just how cool Seoul is. I don’t believe all the hype, but I know the city hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserves. Let’s hope that changes.