Wednesday, 30 November 2011

2007: Austria.

Thought I would share with you all some photographs of my first trip out of the country in 2007, when I went with a team of about 60 New Zealanders to Dornbirn, Austria, to attend the 13th World Gymnaestrada. This is like a non-competitive celebration of gymnastics and dancing that is held every 4 years! It was so much fun - I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. About 20,000-28,000 people from around the world went to it!
Here you go:

Flying over either Austria or Switzerland (from the air they look pretty similar!)

Austria on the Left, Switzerland on the Right - entering Austria over the Rhine river.

Our living quarters over the 12 days in Austria! We stayed at a primary school in a few of their classrooms (it was their summer break), and participated aerobics and played fencing in their gymnasium during the down times. We only had air mattresses to sleep on, with a crappy pillow and a thin blanket (was very hot though...).  All of our luggage arrived the next day of our arrival as LAX 'forgot' to put it on the plane - my bag had a massive slash through it! Fun times!

On our second night we had a big bbq dinner with the Australian team (they were staying at the same school as us), and we were treated to a traditional (I think) marching band performance. 
View from the top of the gondala lookout 'Karen'. Dornbirn is below, and in the distance you can see Lake Constance, and across that, Germany. Further to the left out-of-shot, you can see the Rhine river, and Switzerland on the other side - crazy! We walked our way back down, through the most amazing gorge!

Jaynie outside this cute cottage that an adorable old man lived and always talked to my dad. I am pretty sure he gave us some food one time, but I don't remember so clearly. A bit further down from this (to the right), is the train/bus station, and across from that, an apartment block where someone had been stabbed that week, so we always had to walk on the opposite side of the road

Jaynie's awesome henna!!

With UK's (then) top gymnastics team! The bald one does heaps of  parkour (street running/jumping etc.).

Hohenschwangau Castle - Black Forest, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle - Black Forest, Germany
Disneyland's castle is modeled off of this!
Click here to see how beautiful it is!

From inside the castle, looking out!

Alice, Jaynie and myself with Neuschwanstein in the background (we are currently on a bridge hundreds of meters in the air over a small waterfall).

Myself and Jaynie, and our sexy raincoats hah.

Jaynie and myself bathing in the sun (I am so white it is blinding) in Bregenz, Austria.

Alice, myself, Melanie (we met her in Austria), and Jaynie. Mine and Mel's dad's are in the background chatting (Wally  - Mel's dad - was originally from NZ).

Overlooking the beginning of the Swiss Alps!

Jaynie and Alice in Bregenz

Waiting for the closing ceremony to start in the 38 degree heat! Ugh. We had to wear track pants and these t-shirts. Too hot.

Final night in Austria! A lovely dinner with everyone and Jurgen's son's (Jurgen was the one in charge of looking after the NZer's while in Austria - he was super lovely!!)

Proof I am actually doing work to earn money over summer to get to India, instead of expecting fundraising and donations to support me completely! Note the blackened fingers - I have been branding 4.2m (ish) lengths of timber for  the company my dad manages, which involves a whole lot of heavy lifting and leverage, moving 84 pieces per packet (and I managed to do just over 8 in one day - tomorrow I aim for 10!)
Hope everyone is well and are enjoying the start of summer (or winter depending on location), and hopefully everyone is as excited as I am for the fact that tomorrow is December which = Christmas soon!! And in 12 days, marks the start of the 2 month count-down of my departure from India!! Eep!

x

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Destination #1: Darjeeling

I have decided that every now and then I am going to do a post about some destinations and sites I wish to visit whilst in Asia next year.

First up, Darjeeling.

Look how amazing the mountains look.... source.
Beautiful children in celebrating the Holi festival - read the short story behind this photo here.
And of course, the thing that Darjeeling is famous for - tea!! source
Darjeeling Hill railway. source
Sunset or rise (not sure) over the city. source
Tea pickers! source
It is just so beautiful and breathtaking. source
To me, Darjeeling just seems so far removed from the India I will be living in, in Kolkata. Because of India's size, there is such diversity between different areas - and this is just one example!

Some quick facts about Darjeeling:
  • The town and hill station of Darjeeling lies in northern West Bengal, India.
  • Darjeeling stands at a height of 2134m (7053 ft) on a mountain ridge.
  • Almost every year Darjeeling's temperature drops below freezing during the Winter season, from November to February. In Summer, Darjeeling is delightfully cool with the maximum temperature reaching about 20°C.
  • The name is derived from its old name "Dorje Ling" which means "place of thunderbolt" and it was given the name after the creation of a shrine on its hilltop. Not only is it famous for its never ending beauty and fresh air, it is also renowned for the export of high quality tea in the world.
  • After cold and summer season, there comes the spring season which is a blessing from the gods. During this period, this town enjoys its first season. The whole town becomes colourful with calm and cool clouds, and everybody loves to watch those magical moments.
x

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A revelation:

Tonight with Britt and Larissa, we attended a small gathering of friends to hear this awesome guy Sean speak about the biblical book of Ephesians. Something that really made me stop in my tracks and choke back tears was the revelation that the women I am going to be helping in Kolkata are barely considered 'human' to many Indians - they are outcasts, and pretty much they are modern day slaves. It was when he mentioned the slaves in the historical Roman days BCE (before common era), and the lack of human rights they possessed that I realised he was describing the prostitutes of Sonagachi in parallel.

These women have no rights, they cannot get alternative jobs because of the 'profession' of prostitution, and their pimps pretty much have complete control over them. They can do what they like to these girls and women: rape, steal, beat, force etc.

So often we hear of slavery and associate it with history we learn at high school - in such a Western world, it is very difficult to grasp the concept of a slave today.

But what really struck me was when Sean mentioned how slaves are still children of God, and that they are made in his image - they have value. For me, it really opened my eyes to the bigger purpose of my trip to India - to help these women realise their worth, their value in Christ, and that they are entitled to rights. Sure, I am going to be helping out a business run that tiny bit smoother, but it is operating for the very same purpose - freedom and worth.

He mentioned a conversation he had with someone, about how he asked them, "Is it wrong to rape a young girl?" To which the man replied an obvious, "Yes!"
It wasn't until he was asked why it was wrong and immoral that he was unable to give a clear answer with a real reason as to why this was; "It just is."

I think so many people just acknowledge the fact that some things are moral and some are not, and whether some things conflict with 'human rights' or not. 

What defines immorality? - why do you consider something to be immoral or going against what is considered 'human rights'?

Sean highlighted that it wasn't until Jesus spoke of the need to forgive that it became common practice, and it is the same with human rights.

Why raping a young girl, or turning a human being into a slave might be considered immoral, is because they are creations of God, and so they possess value - harming someone is in turn defacing a creation of God, his daughter or son, whom he loves. An analogy he used was painting over an artists completed picture - you are defacing their creation.

These women have worth. They need to be shown that there is such thing as having a right to speak. They have value.

I also hope that you can see their value too.

~~~

So that was very lengthy and intense, so congratulations for making it through my little thought process. I am sure there are probably a few conflicting opinions, and you are welcome to voice them!

I just needed a way of sorting through some emotions, and piecing together the puzzle - every revelation or discovery I focus on equals a new connection, until I am able to step back and look down at the picture created.

x

Tetanus

Note: Not me in the picture! I hope to get at least one photo of me getting one done!

So today I went to the Dr. again, and discussed which vaccinations I am still needing to get etc.

Still to be done:
- Meningacoccol/Meningitis x 3 (different strain of the disease to NZ's)
- Rabies x 3
- Japanese encephalitis (will get it in India)
- hepatyrix (HepA/Typhid) booster (in India)

Also need to be done:
- take a cholera tablet
- 1 x doxycycline tablet every day (for malaria)
- get migraine medicine prescription
- get iron tablets (because I will probably go veg next year)

I have to be careful to take my malaria and iron medication at different ends of the day, because apparently they have a habit of canceling one another...

My arm aches... going to be fun sleeping/moving/getting changed.

x

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A few small things:

A pretty and very tiny flower that managed to find its way out through a small hole in a wall - sometimes you need to appreciate the small things in life.

My brother and I with an Indian couple that our family knows - I am wearing my first ever authentic Indian outfit - all of the detailing around the neck etc is hand-stitched with tiny beads and springs! So beautiful. Maybe it is here I first fell in love with India?

So I have only a few shots left of this disposable camera, and I have no idea what photos are on it! I have had it for about 5 years - it is like a time capsule! So hopefully I can get it exposed and printed in the next few weeks...

A very staged photograph of myself in the Weekend Sun newspaper last week.

And finally, this is what I have been listening to non-stop for the past few days. What can I say? I am so excited for Christmas! Like not even so much the day itself, I just love the atmosphere, the good cheer, and of course Starbucks Gingerbread Frappes. Mmmmm.
x

Monday, 21 November 2011

An interesting encounter...

Last night at church we were singing these lyrics:
"We are in freedom,
We are in hope"

It really lay the burden on my chest of the women in the red-light district of Sonagachi in Kolkata; why do I get to walk in freedom and in hope, while so many suffer, are trapped and have little freedom, if any at all? The burning desire in me is to see some of these women come to realise there is hope out there, that they can walk in freedom away from such a terrible industry.

It is easy to disregard our freedom, and forget just how well-off we are here in New Zealand.

I feel like my freedom and hope is selfish, which is why I need to help these women, and share this priviledge with them; to see just one woman's life turned around by the freedom Freeset offers is what will make my trip to India worthwhile.

~~~

In other related news, I had a very awkward encounter on my bus to work on Saturday with an older Indian man originally from New Delhi. After he initiated the conversation, I mentioned what I am going to be doing in India. He basically shut me down, and believed that there would never be a significant difference that we could make there - that was until I told him how many women had already been freed. He began talking about a disease he picked up from Sonagachi, and something about condoms and how they never use them through there... and went on about the strip-bar 'Showgirls' in Auckland, and of his lap-dances he had received (and a few other things I wish not to say!)
He then went on to say that I had very nice teeth and 'sexy' lips... 
Then sang to me.
And briefly rubbed my shoulder (he was sitting behind me).
Then asked me if I would like to go out for a coffee (which I politely declined).
And then I briskly left the bus as soon as I could. 

(Just so you know, I am in no way 'haunted' or 'traumatised' by this, even though I guess it could be seen as sexual harassment - I knew that I couldn't be harmed while on a half-full bus with many people listening in - I am just a little unnerved).

What I have learnt from this experience is:
- not to smile too much at some men in India in case they get the wrong impression
- to say I am married
- that there will be many people who will be skeptical of what myself and Freeset are hoping to achieve, and that I just need to keep believing in what I am helping out with
- that some Indian's can often be quite open and not ashamed to speak about things that Westerners might find personal etc. I had already learnt this from information I have been reading about the culture - things like finance, family etc, are things not seen to be too personal to talk about.

(Please know that these are very much rough generalisations, and by no means do these things apply to all Indian's - it is only what I have so far experienced and learnt about - of course it is going to be a completely different story while I am there).

I don't want to go to India expecting that every man (or woman) is going to act quite intensely towards me, because it will not be the case with every person I meet - but because I have pale skin and reddish hair, I will be the sore thumb sticking out in some crowds, and I have to realise there will be situations where it might get intense, but I know I will always be with someone else so we can stick together.

~~~

In other other news, I have received a kindly donation from a Mr. Williams in Tauranga (I wont disclose his full name in case he wishes to not be known publicly) after an article went into the Weekend Sun about my volunteering trip. I am so grateful for that.

~~~

And finally, here is a photo of a few of us on a trip to Takapuna Beach to soak up some Vitamin D:

Lyd, Suzi, myself and Mel traveling through the new tunnel here in Auckland - on our way to bask in the sun at Takapuna beach wooooo!!
I would love to hear any comments or opinions regarding topics discussed, as I know this is very one-sided, and a tiny bit negative.

I still cannot wait to get to India and learn about the culture first-hand, and then be able to form some reliable opinions etc. I know that while there will be a few set backs here and there, the overall experience of it all will far surpass these.

x

Thursday, 17 November 2011

12 February 2012, 6.30pm, Auckland Airport.

A summary of what I am doing for those new to the whole concept :)

It is so lovely to be home.

I have just spent part of the afternoon relaxing in the garden with Smokey (the cat), who has been a psycho and chasing his own tail and my feet. But now the sun is out, these flowers are just such bright colours and so pretty to look at - naturally I had to whip the camera out:


This is my amazing film camera that I scored for $2 on TradeMe. It is a Minolta Uniomat, and I am in love with it's saturated photographs it produces. You can see examples of these in my Flickr account.
Mum and I started a fitness bootcamp this week that starts at 5.45am (!) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I didn't go to the next session, nor will I go to any further sessions... I was ill in my first and only trial after eating something bad the night before. Just became a bad experience overall. Dancing, walking and going to the gym suit me much better as forms of exercise.

Back to Auckland tomorrow to do a couple of shifts!

x

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

New blog name!

I have finally settled on a new title for my blog, as my previous one seemed a bit too cutesy for what it is now becoming - my travel blog!

So I decided on 'Chaos + Colour', as this is the way that Kolkata was described in The Rough Guide To India, and I believe that it will probably live up to this standard when I arrive there and experience this for myself.

Here are a few examples of this 'chaotic colour':

Above images sourced from here.

So excited.

x

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Penguins!!

So last Saturday I moved back to my parent's home in Tauranga, to spend the remaining time in Auckland with them and friends here. I'm going to miss my tiny, closet-sized room:
My epic wall collage!

 Today mum took me to the rehabilitation area for the Rena victims (a major oil spillage here in the Bay of Plenty); the little blue penguins!! They are just too cute. I wanted to hold every one of them. But they bite... hard. Most of them were rescued from the beaches, and had to go through a few different areas on the site to be cleaned. Each one takes about 45 mins to clean, and uses about 500-1000litres to complete it! Woah!

In other news... these are the yummiest things in the world!! They are small pineapple cakes, and they taste so amazing! A guy from my dad's work network bought them over from his home in Taiwan. Look at the amazing packaging!!

Aaaaand finally for today, here is a freshly wrapped gift for my nan in Blenheim. She hasn't been very well or happy lately, so hopefully this might lift her spirits a bit more!:

Don't you just love this fabric???
Hope everyone is enjoying the lovely weather if you are here in Tauranga!

x