Fabulous New Zealand

gaynzYesterday I sat down at my computer with my cornflakes as I usually do at breakfast time and read a news (I use the term loosely) Website from New Zealand. This little ritual has been going on for years and helps me feel connected to those two long islands down in the South Pacific.

One headline caught my eye (Young Nelson doctor pays tribute to late partner through exhibition) and I clicked. As the accompanying photo is of a man, I assumed his deceased partner was a woman. But as is revealed in the first paragraph, his partner was male. Nothing too shocking there. This is, after all, the country that was fifteenth in the world to allow same-sex marriage (and incidentally was the first country in the world to allow women to vote). But what I read next surprised me. The ‘young doctor’ is 24 while his partner was, oh, a bit older – 85. I nearly choked on my cornflakes – that’s almost a sixty year age gap. While I try not to be too judgy in matters of the heart, I did look twice.

The article goes on to show a photo of the couple (who had been together for six years) and talk about their shared love of landscape photography, which took them on international adventures (Wong’s partner, Barry Woods, was a professional photographer). It also mentioned that the hospice in which Wong’s exhibition is a fundraiser for gave the couple of a lot of support during Woods’ battle with lung cancer.

Reading this from my little perch in Seoul, in what has to be one of the most conservative, sexist, racist, classist, conformist, ageist, patriarchal, closed-minded and homophobic countries in the developed world, I felt a surge of pride for my homeland. While New Zealand has its fair share of social problems (child abuse and poverty, rising inequality, erosion of indigenous rights, covert racism, an embarrassing prime minster etc.) it is awesome that such an article can be graciously published on one of the country’s most popular and mainstream news Websites.

While I don’t have the mobility of someone with say, an EU passport, I’m so happy that I was born in New Zealand and have grown up in a progressive, accepting and free-thinking society. I’m grateful for the world-class education I received which fostered the growth of a social conscience and open mind which underpins the person I am today. I heart you NZ!

This Guy

norris-mainI don’t know much about sports network ESPN, except that once I saw in an article that some American had worshiped it so much that they named their kid after it. However, a few days ago I came across a great article from them via another news site. Not much of a sports fan, I read it anyway and was intrigued. It told the unconventional story of a rising baseball star, Daniel Norris, apparently the top prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays (I’m assuming Toronto’s baseball team?)

At only 21, he already has a couple of million in the bank but chooses to live in an old van, and live off the $800 dollars a month his financial advisers feed into his account. He buys simple food from the supermarket and cooks it in his van, wherever in Florida or another state he may be parked.

He told ESPN, “It’s like a yin-and-yang thing for me,” he says. “I’m not going to change who I am just because people think it’s weird. The only way I’m going to have a great season is by starting out happy and balanced and continuing to be me. It might be unconventional, but to feel good about life I need to have some adventure.”

The article goes on to state that, ‘HE HAS ALWAYS lived by his own code, no matter what anyone thinks: a three-sport star athlete in high school who spent weekends camping alone; a hippie who has never tried drugs; a major league pitcher whose first corporate relationship was with an environmental organization called 1% for the Planet. He is 21 and says he has never tasted alcohol. He has had one serious relationship, with his high school girlfriend, and it ended in part because he wanted more time to travel by himself. He was baptized in his baseball uniform. His newest surfboard is made from recycled foam. His van is equipped with a solar panel. He reads hardcover books and never a Kindle. He avoids TV and studies photography journals instead.’

Instead of living the bling life with his teammates, he goes back to his van after practice to cook, think, surf and write in his ‘thought journal.’

As quoted in the piece about him,'”Research the things you love,” he wrote one night. “Gain knowledge. It’s valuable.”

“Be kind. Be courteous. Love others and be happy. It’s that simple.”‘

I like the example he sets of living a life on one’s own terms, however unconventional it may be, as well as doing things for the sake of doing them, rather than for a purpose or rewards dictated by society. It brings to mind another celebrated baseball player whom is close with a friend of mine. This young, seven-figure earning player grew up impoverished in Latin America, became a baseball prodigy and has played all over the world. On the off-season, he makes films. Not for money, obviously, but for love and passion. While I can’t love baseball, these guys are inspirational both on and off the pitch.