Saturday, July 9, 2011

Going home, but not away

Well in a few short hours I will be leaving australia and heading back the states.  I may be leaving them physically, but this will always be a part of me know.  I have met some wonderful people even if for a short time, but to me they seem very much like friends.  I leave here a more educated, and informed individual ( I am reluctant to say smarter) with a new outlook on the world and how we all fit in it.  i look forward to sharing my expereinces and knowledge with everyone upon my return and wish all my friends that are staying here the very best in what ever avenue they persue in life. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Trying to get home

Well I have made it half way out of NZ.  there have been problems with my tickets and not sure where or when I will end up anywhere.  I have come to the conclusion that it is what it is and thats all that it is.  So I look back on this whole ordeal and think about where I was when it started and where I am now.  I have traveled untold miles (or kilometers depending on your refrence point) and met many wonderful people.  I have learned alot about pastures, cows, horses, geothermic heat, earthquakes, maori culture, australian rules football, still have no idea about cricket or lawn bowling.  In the end I learned alot about myself, my ability to step out of my comfort zone, an area I do not often stray from, and realized I can make it work.  I can, sometimes with the help of others, put out the fires get thru the catastrophes and make a good time of a bad situation.  It was a talent I thought my parents had passed on to my other siblings as I am usually the panic stricken, woe-is-me type.  Well the world has not ended, the sky has not fallen--at lest not yet, but there is still a week left to go. 
But what an experience.  The people have been outstanding.  They were so willing to open thier homes, thier lives, take time out of busy schedules to meet with me and tell me all about thier businesses and the ups and downs of their industries.  It is an experience that quite honestly is hard to put into words.  I got to see my country thru the eyes of another.  I got to experience other cultures, beyond what a normal tourist would see as i lived with these people from time to time.  And in the short time I spent with them I would consider them all my friends.  I know if Ii called many of them right now and said I had a problem they would do what they could to help me out. 
And while the formal part of my eisenhower fellowship is about done.  (I know I still have some paperwork and reports to do when I get home).  I know that this will never be done, life is not about the destination, it is about the journey.  What you choose to do along the journey is what will be your legacy. 
I have enjoyed doing this blog and hope to keep it going for a while, especially the next few days while in Australia (if I can).  I also want to post more pictures, ideas and comments of things missed while on the road once I get home and settled again.  I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

riding high at the bottom of the world

 The view from on top of the mountain

 Hand gliders built for two

A very large Kiwi ( national bird of NZ)
 The mountains around Queenstown
 They should all be covered in snow by now, but they are not

more mountains
the View half way up the mountain--gondala goes up at a slope of 73.1 degrees.  very steep!!!

I wanted to do more pics and a little more commentary but I am having big problems with internet here. so Hopefully this gets thru and I will do one big wrap up later on.  Looks like the ash cloud is going to let me get back ato australia tommorow so I will try to wrap it up in a few days.  Cheers!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A small sampling of some of the destruction caused by the earthquakes in Christchurch
Much of this started with the big quake in September and continues as there have been over 7,000 aftershocks since sept.  some registering over 5.
Container boxes are used as barriers and as support to try to keep some buildings in tact
Many historical and heritage buildings will be completly torn down, most not to be replaced or rebuilt

Brick buildings were the hardest hit
it is a depressing sight as building after building is either falling down, or destined to be taken down

The cliffs where many houses overlooked the ocean, all gave way in huge land slides
This cliff landed in the playground of an elementary school
This building was banged up in sept. and destroyed in dec.
The clock tower has been damaged top and bottom, but not known if it will have to come down.
This was a church--wooden frame surrounded by brick, brick did not make it
Even the more modern buildings did not fare well

Hard to believe this is part of the same city and less than 200 yards away!
All part of the city park of over 400 acres
Near Lincoln, where I am staying for a few days
Some pics from the road
the "Alps" in the background

A milking shed (parlor for you in the states) being rebuilt after the quake ruined it
More of the new shed
This is the silt that has pushed up through the ground, this is a small patch from an aftershock a week ago.  the original quake left approximatley 12 acres under about 10 inches of this stuff.
Some sheep on the way home, noticed the trimmed hedges
They have been battered, but still have thier sense of humor
Breakfast and beer?  Maybe we have a small problem here!

So on Sunday as we approached from the air Christchurch looked absolutely beautiful, big flat palins that stretched out to the base of the mountains, like the great palins of the american midwest.  But the fields were cut up with trees and dotted with small towns like western new york state and new england.  It was the middle of winter but the fields were still green, the streets were busy as cars with thier lights on buzzed up and down streets.  In the distance the mountains, or alps, as they call them here were majestic, covered in a dusting of white powder.  They towered above the plains with an unyielding strength and amazing beauty.  it was a pleasant drive from the airport to Lincoln, a small college town outside of the city.  It was hard to believe this area had been met with such unfortunate events in the past. 
That night it was brought to light with a tremor around 2 am local time.  Just one more in the many thousands that have filled the days and nights of these people since the original quake in September.  On monday morning I was given a bit of a tour of Christchurch.  Much of the heart of the city is still shut off from both viechle and pedistrian traffic.  Army personel make sure of that (not one to argue with automatic weapons).  It was difficult to get many photos from the car and roads are single lane and traffic was crowded so it was hard to get a lot of the damage on film.  The other aspect is I found it difficult to take pictures of other peoples misfortune, but the rivers are full of sandbars that were pushed up in the middle of the river, streets are like riding waves, cliffs have fallen, entire subdivision have been condemned, multiple story hotels lean tlike the tower of Pisa.  On the ground, Christchurch is very different than the air, it looks more like a war zone and it is depressing.  The center of the quake was in the middle of the city and it has a diameter of 15-20 miles of destruction, much of it never to look the same again.
But while some have left for other areas, and some are just tired of the situation and want for better times, some take it all in stride.  I had coffee with an older gentleman who told me, its time to stop talking about it, otherwise it consumes us, it becomes us, it will define us and that is when it wins.  So he says, if you want to talk rugby fine, but I will talk about the quakes.  You gotta love that kind of attitude.
Today I went to see a dairy farmer whose whole farm was torn apart by the quakes.  the milking shed (parlor) was torn apart when the quake struck at milking time that morning in sept., water lines were pulled apart, power lines blocked tractors in the shed, huge crevices about 2 yards wide and a 2-3 yards deep cut across lanes and pathways  so the cows were unable to reach the milking shed, the levy surrounding the farm from the river crumbled and buckled.  it all took less than 20 seconds!  there was nothing left untouched.  Fences, fields, buildings were all damaged to some degree.  As we talked about it he smiled and said "we'll slowly get it back together, besides what else did i have to do with my time?"  Typical dairy farmer.
I continued on to the rest of my appointments, but none left the kind of impression on me that he did.  Mother nature has incredible strength, that is undeniable.  The ability to wipe out a lifetime of work in a matter of a few deep breaths.  But even with all its strength it often meets its match in tenacity of the Human Spirit.  May God bless all the people of christchurch, and somehow find them some peace.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Just a funny

Just a tid bit I forgot to add to yesterday's post.  It has no deep insight, no revelation about how to solve the world's problems.  Not even a moment of self awakening.  Just a little story to try to demonstrate the life here in NZ, and the kind of people that live here.  It was sunday morning and I await the arrivial of my shuttle to Wellington airport to make my way to the Southern Island.  The shuttle arrives and we load and off we go to pick up the next passenger.  This is where the interesting part begins.   I do beleive that all shuttle drivers are just frustrated cabbies.  we take off like a shot, screaming thru yellow lights and around tight curves and "round abouts" (rotaries).  Then we head up into the hills around welly.  Think ski slope steep,winding roads back and forth--lots of hairpin turns, the road is about 2.5 car widths wide--if it was clear.  But there are cars parked on both sides and it is two way traffic.  On one side of the road--if no car parked there--is either a house hung out over the cliff or just the cliff and it is way down to the bottom.  On the other side is the mountain straight up!  every now and then there is a garage cut into the mountain--looks more like the caves in the white mountains of new hampshire,(i believe you would need to exit your car thru the sun roof).  But what makes this trip even more exciting is we are traveling at about 40-45 miles an hour up and down and back and forth.  slamming on the brakes when we meet a car, over curbs when possible to avoid crashes.  But not only are we doing this in an extended shuttle van--it has a small u-haul luggage carrier being towed behind!!!  By the time we got to the airport I almost wanted to burst out in laughter, the cost of the ride was well worth it both from a transport and an amusement quality. 
 This is for you Cassie, so you know its not all cows!
 The clock tower in Palmerston North, changes color every few minutes--NZ is big on public clocks

A ldftover from Cambridge, heart of NZ equine country (another for you Cassie!)
 On the way from palmerston north to Wellington (one side of the road)
 This is the other side of the road.  The mountain is into the clouds as the sun was begining to find its way out

Just some views from the road to Wellington

 Was the sign really necessary?  I decided to turn back and find another route.

 Found the ocean, about half way to Wellington

 more ocean...
 Almost to Wellington
 Mountains straight up on one side, ocean on the other..maniac drivers inbetween..

 Hotel laundry and do it yourself clothesline..
 In case you forgot who I was or what I look like
 I got there at closing time.. still don't know the answers...

Inside a restuaraunt in Wellington...caricatures of many of the current and past politicians

Just cause hippos are cool

 Some pics around "Windy Welly"...
 the harbor...
 the "Beehive"  basically the prime minister and cabniet offices
 Landfill art all the stuff is pulled from the landfill and made into art around the landfill
 Wellington from Somes Island--used to be a quarantine island for people and animals before entry to NZ

Some of the animal quarantine units

More Welly from the island

A functioning lighthouse on the island

So It was a crazy week.  I made the trip down from Palmerston north to Wellington, the Capital city, or "Windy Welly" as many of the locals call it.  It was rainy the first day, good for two days and mixed on sunday when i left.  It was blowing on Sunday, though I must admit it is not much compared to the winds of Chicago or Baldwin Hill, at least in my opinion.  The trip down was nice with much scenery to see and mountainbs on one side and the ocean on the other, makes it easy not to get lost.  Wellington is a typical capital city, much hustle and bustle durring the day and early evening but everyone commutes in and weekends are pretty dead.  got a few meetings in.  First was with the president of Federated Farmers, very similar to Farm bureau.  The President was on his way out and had only 10 days left on his term, returning to farming and possibly into the world of politics.  He had some very interesting thoughts on many topics, but his main point boiled down to basic idea the we as a people have to have faith inthe human mind, spirit and the evolution of ideas.  We musn't give into fear, fear is our biggest enemy.  If we allow fear, rather than the evolution of ideas to dictate our course, we will not move forward as we will be to afraid to take that step.  I can tell you I know that to be true.  But it can be amazing what can take place when cast the fear aside and take the step and learn to fly on the way down, only then can the impossible be possible.  After that it was off to meet the American ambassador.  Was hoping to get a pic or two, but security being what it was--no go!  oh well.  He was a great guy who actually had spent summers milking cows on a relatives farm in danbury CT.  He was actually very interested in what I was finding out and seemed very educated on the whole Ag scene.  His Agricultural advisor was very interested in getting me to connect with some people in NZ later on because there are many NZ researchers trying to make connections with US researchers in the whole pasture management realm--so I may have one more job on my hands.  Friday was a visit to Landcorp, a farming business owned by the "crown" (which is NZ term for gov't)  they purchase land and farms and assemble them into profitable units and improve lands for farming, some of it is later sold off, much is retained and continued to be farmed in sheep, beef and dairy.  They spend much of their time and effort trying to match production with consumer wants.  This is a basic theme in NZ, they go to where it is sold, find out what types of products thier consumers are looking for and then try to find a way to produce that.  unlike many US farmers that continue to produce the same product and hope the consumer will put up with it.  After that was a visit to a fish and shell fish research station, a visit to where lord of the rings was filmed and Miramar studios, off to a bird sanctuary, the landfill art gallery on the way to the botanical garden preserve and back to the hotel.  Sat.  I was taken out to Somes Island which has been used as a POW camp, and DeGuasing station in WWII (de magnitizes ship so as to not set off the german mines) and most recently as a quarantine station for animals entering the country.(it has alos been used for sick human entry way way back).  It is now closed down except as a tourist attraction and nature preserve.  Then it was back to the hotel and get ready to try to get to the south island.

It has been an interesting trip so far but one thing struck me this past week as I meet not only with people in high places but a few other Eisenhower fellows who had been to america on their fellowship many years ago.  I get two responses over three continents when I tell people of my career change at this stage of my life--some (most) think it is a wonderful if not couragous thing I have undertaken.  Most see this turning out to be a good thing and opens many possibilites both at home and on the international scene and also as a practicing vet or in related fields also.  There are some that think it is a foolish mistake, one that could never pay off, they see it as never being able to pay off the debt of education, never enough time to advance the career to a high enough level once I get out of school.  I had a few minutes to contemplate this this past weekend and I came to a conclusion.  I myself have often wondered if I have ventured into the wrong course, not that getting out of farming was wrong but if trying to go back to school at this age was a mistake.  But I realized this the ones that think it is great, a couragous thing that will pay big dividends are the leaders of thier organizations, they are the risk takers that have made things pay off,  the ones that look at it as foolish may be good at what they do but they are more the spectator and not the matador.  I have decided that I much prefer to be the matador--the risk is higher, but so is the reward.
My final week is before me and with good luck I will be able to find some way to queenstown.  (the first winter storm is pulling in and the roads to queenstown from christchurc require chains if they are even open until the snow melts)  Then It will be the issue of the Ash cloud that has shut down all flights from NZ to australia!  I may be here for a while yet! 

Until next time