Friday, July 25, 2008

Do You Come From A Land Down Under?

Have you hugged your President today?
Yes I have.

Long before we moved to New Zealand, I became a fan of Helen Clark, their Prime Minister.

20 years ago a "No Nukes" law was implemented here and Helen has been a staunch supporter of this throughout her 9 years in office. She has prevented the law from being overturned in spite of heavy pressure from the United States, who want to put nuclear subs off our shores, and many Kiwi voters who feel it is the more efficient energy choice.

Another reason Miss Clark stole my heart is that she had the cohones to stand up to W. et al saying "F- you and the Camel you rode in on George". Absolutely refusing to participate in his Iraqi debacle.
Our troops are in Afghanistan however, and sadly, we have lost a few.

I have read and heard that Helen Clark is a very approachable leader. It would not be uncommon to find yourself traveling on the very same plane as she. No Air Force One type luxury's here. I am sure she would not turn down a private jet if offered, who would? But they are generally not in the PM's budget or one of her perks.

She has visited Nelson several times since our move here, but I have always found out after the fact and missed my chance to give her the infamous "Kimberly Hug". In this week's Nelson Mail I read she would be in town for the day participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new Environmental Center.

My sweet hubby, knowing my wish to experience a warm and fuzzy with Helen, and needing a blog for this week, did a reconnaissance for me this morning. He found the new center and spoke with the woman in charge who told him it was by invitation only. Normally I'm a person who follows the rules, but hey this is NZ where you could end up sitting next to the PM on a plane,


I knew she was to show up at 1:00pm and that Kiwis are very prompt. I arrived at the location to a small crowd of ~ 50, of which two were police.

No Secret Service, no streets closed off, the entire city not left paralyzed until her departure.

Every person there did have a name tag however, except me. I was approached by a man with a clipboard whom I promptly told he would not find me on his list. After Karen, main organizer for the event (and my yoga student), vouched for me, I was allowed to hang around.

Up pull two new sedans, no limo, no bodyguards. Helen steps out and FOB, talks to the local news station, gets that out of the way.

Next she is greeted by the Nelson Mayor and head of the new Environmental Center who updates her with a litany of their current projects. The Prime Minister gives Nelson many kudos for always having been on the cutting edge regarding environmental issues and supporting her initiative to have NZ be completely sustainable by 2020. This includes research and development for sustainable homes, bio-fuels, and solar heating.

I maneuvered my way to the front of crowd and took heaps of pictures. No one approached her for a personal photo-op or autograph so I honored this as well.

Happy to at least have photos and somewhat of a story for Mike,I left.

Later in the day I decided to go into town for a little shopping. Returning home I spotted, stopped in the middle of our main street, the same two sedans escorting the PM. I knew she must be close by. Determined to get that hug, I parked the car and began my own reconnaissance. Within two minutes I spied her walking into Taylor's Shoe Store.

Lauren, you bought a pair of $300.00, really cute shoes there!!

There was a policeman outside the door who was not deterring anyone from entering. I approached her, she smiled and said "Ah, hello, I saw you earlier today". We shook hands as I told her I was not a stalker but there to say thank you and keep up the good work. She asked where I was from.

"I'm from the U.S. , but I moved here two years ago to be with you".
I hugged her and she said "I should use you as my veneer". What does that mean? I don't know, but I am sure it's a compliment.

Is Helen my most famous brush with greatness? No, that would still be shaking hands with Muhammad Ali at L.A.X. That encounter left me starstruck for 24 hours, like I'd met Zeus himself.

But hugging Helen Clark left me feeling warm and fuzzy and proud of this tiny country with a big ideals.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fish Are Rising Up Like Birds

Attempting to escape the cold of winter, Kimberly and I bolted over to Taveuni, Fiji. Who knew it would be windy, rainy and cold? At least I got to read 6 books during the time the electricity was on.

In a feeble attempt to scam off the expenses as a business deduction, I have submitted this travel piece. The answers to the following FAQ could very possibly be complete canards.

What language is spoken in Fiji?

English is the common language. However, you best learn one word, “Bula”. It means hello. Fijians are some of the most friendly and beautiful people in the world and they greet everyone they see with a big “Bula”. All you need do is parrot it back and you are instantly bi-lingual.

How is the food?

40% of Fijians are of Indian ancestry. Dot, not feather. As a result, locals and tourists can select from provisions of either culture. Travel tip – If it tastes like coconut, food is Fijian. If your mouth is in flames and your eyes are watering out of your ears, it is Indian. A popular snack is the chicken roti ($1), sort of like a burrito. Beware. The chicken component is not actually meat, but bone and cartilage. There is heavy irony in choking to death on the diced neck of a chook.

Shopping opportunities?

Most storekeepers are enterprising Indians and will be overjoyed to show you their vast supply of crappy souvenirs and trinkets. They tend to distrustfully hover just nearby enough to make the browser feel like they are being scrutinized by a human security camera. The resorts and hotels have similar crappy trinkets, but they triple the price and linger at a much more dignified distance.

What bugs and other pests might I encounter?

In your average bure (room) you are certain to be greeted by affable roaches and ravenous mosquitoes, so pack plenty of repellant. Travel tip – roaches, cowardly lowlife that they are, will scurry from illumination. So sleep with all the lights on and everything will be copasetic.
Your room will include a can of spray in case you don’t want to bespatter your jandal. Also, the finer places supply an entire family of eco-friendly geckos foot-suckering the walls and ceiling with cute lizardy maneuvers.
Tramping out in the wild, I nearly walked into the web of the harmless
Argiope arachnid. It was big as.

I risked my life to take a picture, just for you.

What about the coup?

Fiji consists of 3 large islands and 300 small ones. The coup has seemed to affect only Suva, the capital on the biggest island. Go somewhere else. Most residents on the outer islands never heard of Frank Bainimarama. They are of the opinion that it is a fruit and coconut dessert.

Can I buy an island?

Are you fabulously wealthy? Then, yes, you can. The late Malcolm Forbes sold his Laucala Island near Taveuni for about $US10 million. The purchaser, billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz of Red Bull fame, will be pouring in another 340 million to develop a 7-star resort. Look for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise to be opening guests. You can join them if you’ve got $20,000 a night. Otherwise, dare you even pass the island in a boat, you will be required to avert your gaze.

Should I rent a car?

Are you fabulously wealthy? Then, yes, you can. Taveuni roads are actually thousands of huge craters framed by thin layers of mud. Renting a car makes you responsible for the certain damage to shocks and springs. Everyone takes cabs. Even cabbies take cabs. Rates vary depending on residency. Locals pay less than Americans. Look for a taxi with a yellow license plate. I was told white ones mean no auto insurance.

What about drugs?

Hey, buddy, watch out. This is a high-class family blog!

But since you let the cat out of the baggie, Cannabis is illegal just like in New Zealand. Also, like New Zealand, it is very popular and readily available. Locals supplement their $US2000 annual income by merchandizing the buds. Supporting your village drug dealer might get you a visit from the boys in blue who could slap you into a dark cell shared by affable cockroaches. Fiji’s finest will then sell your stash for a tidy profit.

The legal drug of choice is KAVA. Locally grown, this muddy tasting beverage is said to induce sleep and relaxation. It is the complete opposite of Red Bull. Sit in a circle with others and choose to quaff down High Tide (full cup) or Low Tide (short shot). Drinking is accompanied by clapping. I received many standing ovations before passing out into my curry.

Tell me about the diving?

Are you fabulously wealthy? The waters off Taveuni are chockablock with all manner of swimming things including divers. You will need a TIC card and $250 for a 2-tank dive into nature’s unrivaled aquarium. Blowing of the mind is assured. For those on a modest budget, snorkeling is gratis and heaps of sea life and coral are right at the fingertips. If you are lucky, you will see a sea snake or shark. Those very fortunate snorkelers might spy, just 30 below them, the wetsuit encased diverus prosperous.

I hear Fijians are cannibals. Might I be devoured?

Nothing to worry about unless you are a friar. The last supper was consumed about 150 years ago and consisted of the savoriest parts of 9 British missionaries. Starter was an appealing green salad, smothered in coconut, and the sides were a choice between mash and breadfruit. Beverage – High Tide Kava. Dessert- Frank Bainimarama. Cannibalism came to an end after development of the more socially acceptable, chicken roti.

There you have it. Certainly nobody will confuse me with the Lonely Planet guy.

Happy trails

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cat On A Tin Roof, Dogs In A Pile

NOTE TO ROBIN AND RIDER--- You will have a much better day if you skip this post --- I promise you --- You have been warned!!

I can't believe that at my age, I keep letting this shit happen to me! When, oh when, will I learn?

It's like this; I am always on the lookout for a way to make a few bucks without actually resorting to physical labor. The thing about this master plan is that it always fails. There was the salmon sales, the topless bars, the used cars, the IQ tests at the swap meet. Then there was the time I sold all our stock in Exxon and WalMart in a brilliant trade for Euro Disney.

Sacre Bleu!

All dismal washouts and all resulting in a decline of capital and a serious droopage in net worth.

But this one was going to be different. This one had "Gold Medal" written all over it.

Living over here on the Asian side of the earth, we are quite familiar with the ambrosial zest that is derived from the flesh of the canine. You in the US and A know it as dogmeat.

There are more shops that sell this stuff than peddle pizza. All up and down the fragrant and tightly packed streets of quaint Chinatowns you see plastic statues of the Buddha, tea sets, and colorful kimonos.

In every window's corner, you will always notice the vivid smiling cat, waving like a metronome.

To whom do you think the cat is bidding farewell?

At the immaculate eateries, multitudes of pups are skinned and can be viewed hanging behind the spotless viewing glass not so unlike the "effigies" of countless Negroes in the American South in days gone by.

All the discerning patron need do is choose his (no longer barking) meat to be unhooked and sliced into sandwich fodder.

Hello Mudder, hello Fodder. hello Lassie.

How different is this to those of opposite taste who might select a happily swimming lobster to be rudely plucked from a tank and unceremoniously boiled in a pot?

Cow, lamb, pig, all manner of fowl and fish...these are fine and acceptable to enter the American gullet, travel on the journey through tunnel and canal until the useless remains are noisily dumped in a watery receptacle.

But dog? Never, Sir..How DARE you even suggest it??

All of a sudden everyone turns into a modern day, totally no longer hot, Brigitte Bardot, moaning about unfair treatment of animals. It may be a dog eat dog world, but leave us humans out of the cycle.

Believe me Ms. Bardot, a dog would eat you if he were hungry enough.

Well, certainly in the 1960's when you was ironically known as "The Sex Kitten"

How soon we forget.

check out those puppies

But come we now to the Beijing Olympics, where consumers of chow from all corners of the world will make the sojourn to compete and ingest. Most Eastern countries, (save India) lacking the funds to afford the more pricey cuts of the bovine, find culinary solace in the meat of the pooch.

I have no problem with that. As a matter of fact, I saw these Olympics as an opportunity for monetary gain. Being too old to enter the sporting division in my strong event, sauntering, I chose once again to let my cash do the work instead.

After punctilious research, I decided to purchase a princely amount of shares in a company called Puppybeef.

There my fortune would be sealed, as I was to soon learn.

They also deal in feline fare, but that, my friends, is where I draw the line, owing in part to a severe allergic reaction to dander. Besides, I have no wish to cough up a used hairball.

But in the Olympics, every time a Korean weightlifter hefted up a plump hot dog, took a bite and allowed the a jus to dribble down his chin, I too would wet my ample beak with some rich liquid in the form of monetary profit.

Then, yesterday, horror of horrors, the Olympic Committee handed down an edict from on high disallowing the serving of the food that encompasses the vast aggregate of my portfolio.

I am truly cursed and now find myself in the ironic situation where we no longer can afford to purchase expensive cuts of organic beef and chicken.

With my beloved, I am now certainly in the doghouse in more ways than one, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.