New Zealand Spring…in September!?

September Spring in New Zealand with snow still on the mountains
September Spring in New Zealand with snow still on the mountains

Have you ever wondered if everything you were taught might be wrong? Sometimes I feel like that when I’m riding my bike looking at trees budding, birds nesting and daffodils blooming. I think….”Aahhhhh, Spring”, then think, “Wait…what month is it? SEPTEMBER. Huh?” Thanksgiving in spring and Christmas in summer, Easter in Fall and a normally sweaty Independence Day in winter. It’s one of the many things that make being Down Under confusing and in direct opposition of what I know to be true.

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I’m slowly adapting to celsius, kilograms, grams, centimeters and kilometers. It makes baking painfully slow since I often have to convert cups to grams and weigh flour, sugar and butter. Then having to convert farenheit to celsius means getting something prepped and into the oven takes a lot longer than it used to. I’ve recently started looking to the right before crossing the street instead of left. I still find myself instinctively going to the right side of the car waiting for the passenger door to be opened. It continues to feel really wrong having the stick shift on my left.

Who knows how long it’ll take for these new rules to sink in, but in the meantime, I’m happy that it’s spring…even if it is September. The first of the lambs have been born and are getting bigger. They happily play together in the paddocks and in the vineyards.

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The trees are flowering, like these Acacia baileyana or Cootamundra wattle.

Acacia baileyana or Cootamundra wattle

Acacia baileyana or Cootamundra wattle
Closeup of Cootamundra wattle

We went to my favorite park for the first time since I’ve been back. Pollard park in Blenheim reminds me a lot of the San Antonio Riverwalk. Except nicer. The grounds boast an extensive rose garden, a golf course and a fruit, veggie and herb garden that you can actually ‘sample’ from. There are centuries old trees and a winding stone walled river running through it.

Pollard Park Blenheim

Pollard Park tree Blenheim

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Picton's Marlborough Sounds
Picton’s Marlborough Sounds

As my friends ease into Fall back in the States, I’ll begin thawing out and waiting patiently for some heat. This time from the sun instead of the fireplace!

 

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Friendship and Travel for Two “Brauds” Abroad: Author Interview with Camille Armantrout

Great interview with Camille, my co-author of Two Brauds Abroad on Michele’s website!

The Practice of Creativity

Camille Armantrout was born in 1954 on the East Coast, first born and only girl followed by five little brothers, which is where she got her sense of humor. She began keeping journals and corresponding with pen pals in grade school and has traveled the world with her soul mate, Bob.

Like so many who live in Chatham County, N.C, she is passionate about local farming and food cultures, sustainability and building community. I’ve been a friend of Camille’s, for many years, and a fan of her blog: ‘Plastic Farm Animals’ that threads together community news, personal reflection and travel stories. She and Bob host an annual ‘Hoppin’ John’ potluck party on New Year’s Day. They are greats host and I look forward to this event every year. This year at the party, I held in my hands the recent fruit of Camille’s labor, a co-authored book, Two Brauds Abroad:…

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Wrapping It Up In Panama

My morpho!!
My morpho!!

Well, my time has come to a close here and I’ve spent the past few weeks seeing as much as I can.  My one accomplishment was being able to see my morphos I’ve raised from eggs to the butterfly stage.  The first one hatched from its pupae on April 3rd, but I wasn’t there to see it.  The next day, another emerged and I felt the desire to set it free, so I did.  There are a lot more on the way!  I’ve counted around 100 that have either already pupated, emerged or are still in the caterpillar stage from my first batch.

My morpho pupae
My morpho pupae

Oh, I forgot to share this photo of some brand new bananas forming in the yard.  If you’ve ever wondered why the bottom of a banana has that black part on it, it’s because that’s where the flower was!

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One weekend, Jackie, Linda and I went into the city to visit the Smithsonian’s research station on Barro Colorado Island.

P1050242 I got to ride on the Panama Canal and see those huge container ships right next to us!  The island itself was underwhelming and I was a bit disappointed with what little we saw.  There were a few troops of monkeys, a few birds, a poison dart frog and lots of ants.  We did come across some huge trees.

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We also HEARD the red capped manakin.  If only we could have seen the mating ritual.  This is that bird that moonwalks like Michael Jackson.  The footage was even taken at this research station.  We were told that the clicking sounds it made weren’t coming from its mouth, but from its wings!  They were able to slow down the footage enough to see that the wings moved so quickly together, they made that noise.

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Panama City

We spent the night in the city and ate a great dinner at the Spaghetteria called Pomodoro’s downtown which was awesome.  We hung out in the hot tub after that to soothe our sore bodies from the hike earlier and got in some shopping.  On the way back we stopped at this place that had a smoking pit going.  I had some pork and a thick corn tortilla made into a quesadilla. P1050270

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A few days later, I hiked India Dormida here in town.  I wasn’t sure what I was in for when Carlitos said, ‘This is the most demanding hike in El Valle.”  Well, NOW I KNOW!  Had I known what it was like before hand, I probably wouldn’t have gone.  Although, I’m glad I did.  India Dormida is called the Sleeping Girl because the mountains look like a woman lying down.

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On top of India Dormida overlooking El Valle

 

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If you recall, this is the top of the crater that comprises the only inhabited extinct volcano in the world.   It was pretty neat looking down on the town in which I’ve been living and overwhelming to me that I even hiked up that far!  It was a rough path with rocks and dirt.  We came back down into the park where I had been to before which has the petroglyphs.  This particular area we hiked was in the same section of mountain ranges that made up the Isthmus of Panama.  That’s some really interesting reading.  In a nutshell, when the continents of North and South America came together to form the land bridge, it changed the world as we know it.  It closed off the Atlantic from the Pacific (they used to flow freely together) and it created the gulf stream which in turn caused an ice age.  It was just a small section of land that caused all of this to happen.  It made the Atlantic saltier than the Pacific and it changed weather patterns all over the world.  In the big scheme of things it also influenced animals and how they adapted to the weather which means it’s also why humans are here today!  It made me feel so insignificant, yet amazed at how one little thing like closing off a section of ocean was responsible for me standing on this volcano!  Wow.

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I’ve also managed to get in a few good BBQ’s.  Jackie and I are a dangerous pair when it comes to food.  She’s a great cook!   I coaxed her into bringing over the two frozen steaks she had brought back from Florida.  She also made up a beautiful shrimp cocktail with homemade sauce.  She said, “I have real live horseradish at home!”  Boy…that stuff cleared our sinuses quickly!  AND she even made a key lime pie.  Wow.  I was super spoiled.  The next week, she bought a tenderloin at PriceSmart for all of $13 and I made a peach cobbler for dessert.  She sort of can’t wait for me to leave so she can lose some weight.

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We also threw a couple of parties at Candis’ place.  She’s a good ol Texas Girl too so we got along great!  She’s an Austinite as you may be able to tell and she’s keepin’ it weird which we all love about her.  She’s got a dog named Lila who gets her hair colored as well.  I absolutely love the photo over the fireplace!

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A trip into Penonome the other day had me laughing more than usual.  I was waiting in the car outside of the fire station for Jackie and I was watching these guys unload some cartons of milk out of this big truck.  I look on the side of the truck and a street name caught my eye.  I thought, ‘That’s a road in Virginia!?” and sure enough, the truck was from Woodbridge.  Had to take a picture or nobody would’ve believed me.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

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It’s Just Another Day Over Here

P1030036But most everyone in the U.S. is celebrating Thanksgiving today!  Here, it has turned rainy and chilly for the first time in what feels like weeks.  There is no turkey in the oven and no pie to look forward to.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t take some time out to think about how grateful I am for what I have.

For example, the picture above…this field seemingly turned purple overnight, so I went out the other day to admire the beauty and take many pictures, near and far since I didn’t know how long it would last.  Of course I’m thankful for my family and friends who supported me in this leap I took into a new life.  I’m grateful for the amazing people I’ve met along this journey and the kindness and encouragement they have provided to me.

I think most of all, I am grateful for doing the opposite for the first time in my life.  Wonderful things keep coming my way by not planning anything.  I feel that if I let life take me where it wants instead of me trying to blaze my own path, I will end up where I belong.  So really, I’ve never felt more happy, fortunate or thankful in my life as I do today.  I may not have many material belongings, but it just goes to show that life is what should make you happy, not ‘things’.

For those of you who may be sitting around later with nothing to do, check out this blog post about living in the NOW.  We often overlook what’s happening to us at the moment and instead keep looking to the future for our happiness.  I have learned to appreciate every single day and by not knowing what’s around the corner, it makes life a little more interesting.

So Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and here’s to being grateful every day of your life!

My Thanksgiving guest the Mantis, watching it rain outside.
My Thanksgiving guest the Mantis, watching it rain outside.