Oct 22, 2014

WWOOFing in Oamaru

This particular morning I'm in town as the Prof (my WWOOF host) volunteers at the library for a few hours. In just a few days I've fallen into the rhythm of daily farm life. I'm the sole volunteer at Rowan's Retreat this week, and that the Prof runs the place by herself most of the time amazes me - there is so much "that always needs doing," as she says.

There are two breeds of chooks (chickens), two jersey cows, a bull and a ram on loan, two new mother sheep and two very pregnant ones. In front of the henhouses are pots and styrofoam boxes and garden beds of plants in every shape and variety, from tomatoes to roses to aubergines (eggplants). Behind the feed shed and beyond are rows and rows of fruit trees, and potatoes planted in stacked tires to protect them from the rabbits.

And then there's the beautiful, English-inspired home with animal skin rugs, tall windows looking out at the gardens and, beyond them, the Southern Alps; the kitchen is full of Japanese cookware and tea pots, the walls are lined with artwork, and in the sitting room there is a fire stove that we feed every night to heat the water for our showers.

Besides taking care of the animals, vegetables, flowers, and trees, the Prof is an awarded writer who always has a full load of editing, writing lessons for retreat visitors, managing an author's selected publishing group, all not to mention her new novel she's working on to be published by next year.

The icing on the cake? The Prof is a fantastic cook and baker! Honestly, the past week I've had the best food of my entire life. When you pick bok choy straight from the garden, wash it up and steam it for dinner -- ahh! It has so much flavor and crisp freshness. And the hokey-pokey ice cream over hot rhubarb? Oh! it makes me swoon.

Every day I go out and "earn my bread;" I help feed the animals, and work in the garden, and patch up holes the rabbits have left trying to get at the chooks's leafy greens; and every few hours I get to sit down at a big dining table with the Prof and we eat together a scrumptious, fantastic all-organic meal, and she tells me stories from her life and her work, about farming and poetry and Shakespeare, with bits and pieces of what life was like when she lived in Japan herself. And what makes that meal special is the sweat you put into it: your hands sow the seed and reap the harvest, and cook the meal - and it tastes so sweet, so wholesome, because it is (sometimes literally) the fruit of your labor.

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Oct 17, 2014


RTW Destination: New Zealand

Purpose: learn to sheep farm

Visa Information

- visa not required for Americans
- required proof of onward ticket
- 1 blank passport page required
- no required special vaccinations
- departure tax no longer collected

Duration: one month

Projected Daily Budget: $70 USD

- ($0 for days on the farm, $140 for days in the cities)

Bucket List

- WWOOF on a merino sheep farm (WWOOF = willing work on organic farms)
- go on a Lord of the Rings tour
- skydive along the coast so you can see both sea and shore (mayyyyyyybe)
- hike the Milford Track (South Island)
- hike Arthurs Pass National Park (South Island)

Average Weather (November)

- 66º / 46ºF  High / Low
- 4 days average rainfall

Areas of Concern

- some parts of New Zealand have high seismic activity.

~ ~ ~

Oct 15, 2014

A Day in the Life, Fiji-Style

Wake up with the workday blues...

Use the bathroom.

Check the weather outside the window.

Take the long commute to work.

Check the "employees of the month" board.

Take my spot at my workstation.

Have a lunch break.

Climb the "ladder" at work.

Listen to music to unwind.

Go home.

Watch the sunset.

Next day, do it all over again :)

~ ~ ~

Oct 6, 2014

SCUBA Diving in the Blue Lagoon

Tavewa Island sunrise

Mission one complete: I am now a certified open water SCUBA diver! Now I can go on dives all around the world! I celebrated by thanking my Swedish instructor with a sober handshake, then went back to the dorms to do a flailing-limb happy dance in the middle of the bathroom hall saying “Awesome! Awesome!” over and over again.

SCUBA diving near Blue Lagoon

The sea here is the bluest, bluest, blue God ever created. The water is clear for about 20m, and teeming with lion and angel fish, sea cucumbers, fish every color of the rainbow, and I even saw a lobster hiding out in the multi-colored coral reefs that looks like ginormous cabbages and soft swaying “flowers” that blow in an invisible wind. There are bull sharks on the other side of Tavewa Island (where I am) that they feed every other day, and you can dive with them to watch. They’re very shy and not so scary; we are far scarier to them.

View from the top of Tavewa Island

It’s taken me four days to complete the open water certification. It usually takes three, but yesterday the boat battery was dead. Certification involved a test swim, two academic lessons, two skill tests in shallow water, and three deep water dives. The deepest I’ve gone is 18m. I’ve tried to describe what I saw to some other travelers, but words fail me — under the sea is another world! Your only emotion down there is amazement (and maybe a little anxiety about making sure you’re breathing properly through your regulator).

Tavewa is the northernmost island in the Yasawa Island chain. Most people come by boat and stay just two nights before hopping to the next island on a prepaid tour. I’m staying here for a week - pretty long by visitor standards - and I’ve gotten to befriend the staff. They’ve named me “Cia,” a shortened form of “Teh-ree-see-ah.” I think I’ll end up with a new nickname in every country I visit.

I certainly feel like a different person here. It seems so natural to be traveling, like this is the real me underneath everything; I’m where I belong, on the open road. I'm so, so happy. Being a few meters away from the beach at any given time and watching the horizon everyday from a hammock certainly helps! Not bad for my first week abroad :)

Hey there, hermit crab. Come out and enjoy the sunshine!

~ ~ ~

Oct 2, 2014


RTW Destination: Fiji

Purpose: learn to scuba dive

Visa Information

- visa not required for Americans
- need proof of: money, onward ticket
- 1 blank passport page required
- no special vaccinations required
- $20 FJD departure tax

Duration: two weeks

Projected Daily Budget: $67 USD

Bucket List

- earn PADI open-water scuba diving certification
- read a book on a beachside hammock

Average Weather (October)

- 81º / 70ºF  High / Low
- 21 days average rainfall

Areas of Concern

- Dengue fever, carried by infected mosquitos, occurs throughout the rainy season

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