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Sunday, 20 January 2019

Got Away

Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin, Aotearoa / New Zealand

As per the title of this post, I feel that things (life) did get away on me a little the second half of 2018. ξ Spiraling into the new year, things weren't out of control so much as busy, busy, busy.

The trip to the city of Berlin (as well as rural north Germany) was, as predicted, a much more positive experience this time round compared to my visit two years ago. Perhaps I was more prepared for the bluntness and serious nature of Berliners and the gritty nature of the city itself. Plus knowing and recognising the Strasses and landmarks, made the place feel more familiar; more friendly. I didn't get lost once and handled things like grocery shopping, almost as well as a local.

And it goes without saying, that spending time with my two grandchildren and my son and his wife, was precious. As on other visits, the hospitality extended to me from my daughter in law's family, was overwhelming. The food! Germans (well, the ones I have got to know anyway) love to make each meal a celebration of being together; a celebration of family.

Zionskirche (Zion church) Berlin

Having my brother, his wife, daughter and her partner, visit Berlin for some of the time meant we were able to experience some of Berlin together. Above is a restaurant where we all went together for a meal. An old dance hall, it still conducts dancing lessons and as you eat you're able to join in or simply watch as dancers learn the foxtrot and quick step. It certainly makes for a jolly atmosphere.

The visit to China was more whirlwind. There was a lot to try and take in in just one week. One of the adjectives I would use to describe my impressions of China would be 'surprising'. I was surprised by the modern nature (though I shouldn't have been). Obviously sub-conscious impressions (established since my 1950's childhood) needed replacing; which was swiftly completed. I found the Chinese people to be gregarious, open and friendly.

The city of Dalian where the university that Robert was lecturing at, is a modern city that has mushroomed from a small fishing village into a thriving city of five million. There are many cars and hardly any bicycles (another thing that for whatever reason, surprised me).

It is a very pretty city with a coastal aspect to it and many modern skyscrapers, state of the art shopping malls and squares. There is a huge variety of food and international fare available to be sampled, as well as the more traditional meals. And when you are using Western money, these are all ridiculously cheap.

The week I was there was National Day Week when everyone is on holiday. Kite flying and bubbles and music on loudspeakers, just some of the ways people celebrated their special national holiday and pride in their 'Mother China'.

On a visit to one of the many parks, I presumed a lot of the celebration and activities (such as congregated card players and people fishing for goldfish) was because of the holiday week's festival atmosphere, but Robert informed me that it's what happened in the parks every weekend.

I said goodbye to Robert (he wouldn't be back in New Zealand for another eight weeks) and returned to New Zealand determined that another overseas trip for me was not going to be for some time. I was very pleased to be home and not to have any thoughts of more overseas trips on the near horizon. Don't get me wrong, I do like to travel, but I'm truly over airports and long haul flights. I'm ready for some serious staying-put time. East, west, home is best.

However, after arriving home, I did take two or three road trips (and a flight to Wellington) to catch up with family and friends. The driving and the difficulty I had seeing ahead of me on the roads, accelerating my bid to organise laser treatment for cataract removal and adjustment of sight, so that contact lenses would no longer be necessary. All of which has  been achieved. As I had to go private, it was not cheap. But totally worth it. It feels like a miracle. Not having to wear contact lenses after fifty years, is simply astonishing.

our view

Christmas and New Year and family times have followed and are not about to abate either because our Berlin family are due in the country very soon for a holiday. Knowing I would see them so soon after arriving back home, certainly helped when it came time to make the farewells in Berlin.

St Kilda beach, Dunedin, Aotearoa / New Zealand

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Leaving these Shores

Just letting readers know I'm heading for Berlin on Sunday to visit family who live there. After that I will be visiting my husband who is a visiting lecturer at a University in China.
I won't be posting for the month I'm away. Nice to know that my son and daughter in law are able to stay in our place while we're away.

Top of Lake Wakatipu at Glenorchy, looking towards Kinloch Station (farm) on the eastern side of the lake. The braided rivers, Dart and Rees feed into the lake that was formed by a glacier's gouging descent and subsequent melt-down.

Before heading away I was fortunate to be able to visit Queenstown's Lake District and once more greet some of my favourite mountains.
The wounded city of Berlin is very different from that scene.
I was there two years ago and found it hard going. However for many reasons, I am expecting a very different visit this time. Time has a way of moving things on. I will be interested to see what is the same and what is different.
China will be a totally new experience.
I will have plenty of writing material, I am sure.
I shall be keeping in mind my current (ha, ha) theme of rivers. It will be interesting to see what tributaries this will lead (or take) me down.
Until I see you back here again; Auf Wiedersehen and Zaijian.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Magpies, Willows and a Bridge

bridge over a stream at Pukerau, Southland

I had occasion to look out for creeks and rivers on a trip south I made last week. It's certainly not hard to find them. This whole island is littered with them. Like all rivers everywhere, the very large rivers of the South Island all begin from small upland seepages, the creeks or streams then, one way or another, joining to ultimately form large rivers, their mid-rush and dash ultimately calming down into an old, slow, fat meander to the sea.

... there had been a lot of rain just before my trip south and the full, brown waters of the creek at Pukerau, along with the puddle-splattered, muddy ground, indicated just how much rain had fallen ... 

Te Waipounamu ('the waters of the greenstone' ) is the Maori name for the South Island; this in itself being somewhat of a giveaway as to the number of rivers there exists in the South Island.

Often in these country places, once thriving, small towns; now silent and empty apart from the occasional tractor chuffing past; I sense the grim lives lived by those who cleared the land that now forms the green and pleasant, pastoral landscape thus bequeathed. A residual depression, or loneliness, seems to linger on in such places. While I was stopped here, a flock (murder, gulp, charm being the appropriate collective nouns) of magpies chortled and gurgled their accompaniment to my musings. Very fitting when one remembers the iconic, classic NZ magpie poem;  by Denis Glover. 

A bedraggled mane of grasses left by recent rains

I enjoyed the geography lessons back in high school that featured rivers and the terminology of rivers - young rivers, old rivers, ox bow lakes, upper waters, lower tributaries, river mouth, estuaries, lagoons, marshes, wetlands ...

Otamita Bridge spanning the Mataura River 

In the background are the hills and mountains of northern Southland, where the Mataura river and its tributaries are formed.

Bare winter willows by the Mataura River at Otamita ...

A wooden bridge farther upstream was washed away in a flood in 2017. Not so this sturdy, concrete bridge built in the early 1960's. Not pretty, but pretty strong. Practicality rules in these parts.

This bridge ( Otamita bridge) figures in my memory as a teenager living in Gore (some 13 k's away) because one mad day my three sisters and I decided we'd bike to this bridge (all 13 k's) and back again. We made it; God knows how - I guess it shows what youthful zest and energy can achieve. I remember we picnicked under the willows on the river bank you can see through the concrete railings. It was summer, the willows green and shady.

At one time the hills this bridge points towards spelt 'home'; being in the general area of where my family once lived for five happy years; in a place called Otama Valley. For me, in a way, this bridge symbolises 'the way home'. Or at least it used to. The future and circumstances combined - in other words, life - have caused an inevitable dispersal. For all of my family, naturally, other homes near and far have since been formed and reformed. When I re-visited this bridge other day, only a shimmer of long-ago memories remained of that once-strong compass point.


'how this all harbours light'