Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Final thoughts on NZ, and re-entry

January 16, 2006 - Part 2

  • "I don't wanna see no more waterfalls, no more sheep, and no more bays!" (Diane in a NYC accent after 8 hours of kayaking).
  • "Exactly how does this work? Do you have flares? What are the mortality statistics for this adventure sport?" (Christine, before every adventure activity).
  • Hokey pokey flavored ice cream! And lethal-smelling tevas.
  • Pupu Springs, the Pipi Patch, and Tekaka Springs, Tekaka Road, Tekaka Falls, Tekaka Drive, Tekaka Hill, Tekaka Valley, Tekaka Mountain.........
  • Was that 25 hours we spent in the car? On which side of the road?
  • Any negative insinuation about Kiwis duly rescinded! Any impressions of them as sterile and boring transformed into virtuous when I began to notice all of the monuments, memorials and testimonials in various parks and churches honoring such great virtues as bravery and heroism. They are a heroic lot indeed and just happen to combine that with a peaceableness that enables them to utter "cheers mate, no worrries" with sincerity.The contrast to Americans was very clear today when I returned to LAX (which likely embodies the worst extremes of our country), where I was confronted with a grumpy, self-seeking, depleted lot of folk. Plus, the bathrooms are a lot dirtier here.
  • Another bummer on re-entry: a happy, smiling framed photo of none other than yours truly as we walked into the terminal. Sigh...I'd spent five weeks of bliss having forgotten about him.

And with all the logistics and transfers I've done over the past 5 weeks (drumroll please: SFO to Lima to Cusco to Lima to Santiago to Buenos Aires to Santiago to Valparaiso to Santiago to Auckland to Queenstown to Te Anau to Milford Sound to Te Anau to Queenstown to Arrowtown to Nelson to Pohara to Abel Tasman to Nelson to Picton to Wellington to Auckland to Waitomo to Auckland to KeriKeri to Auckland to LAX to SFO) -- yes, with ALL of these potentials for mishaps, the ONLY glitch was right here, back home in SFO when our beloved TSA had to detonate some sort of bag before we could enter the gate.

An ignominous end to a fabulous, blessed, refreshing trip...may 2006 be different because of it! God is GOOD. Looking forward to His work in 2006!


Wellington, Caving @ Waitomo and (sniff sniff) the last leg in Bay of Islands

January 16, 2006 - Part 2
  • Wellington was so marvy but we sadly didn't have time to do all that is needed there, such as see the WETA studios (Peter Jackson is the modern patriarch) or tour the Te Papau museum. But very cool modern art and architecture adorns the whole waterfront and made for some nice morning touring.
  • On to the Waitomo Caves where we did the coolest most unique thing ever: "Black Water Rafting" , which entails rapelling (or "abseiling" as they call it down unda) through dark caves and floating and walking through icy cavewater, stopping of course for the proverbial civilized tea and crumpets before slidingdown more waterfalls and floating on our backs on inner tubes to view the galaxy-like glow-worms (or more accurately, glow gnats which is of course, less marketable). Yes, we really looked this stupid (we still aren't sure why they made us wear those oversized shorts unless it was for their own personal entertainment).
  • Note to future travelers: the website for the Waitomo Caves Inn is far nicer than the real deal. Stay somewhere else and spare yourself a Bates Motel experience!
  • Divine intervention in planning our last leg on the Bay of Islands...about which we can't say more beyond the fact that it is PARADISE - pure and simple. Aquamarine waters. Dreamy catamaran cruises on the Bay with stops at islets to snorkle. Dolphins that really DO swim right up next to the boat and in large pods to boot. Great hiking. Bright inense sunshine. Fun, age-agnostic bars. Feels like the top of the Maslow ladder to me.

Do we hafta go??!?

Te Anau & Golden Bay

January 16, 2006

  • Vegan horror movie! Me and my travelmates will never forget the sight of the hearty "salad" bar we encountered in Te Anau...replete with raw meat cuts all ready to take to the cooking counter...Mongolian "barbie", as they say in these parts. The British influence was also evident by the other selections, which included pickled onion bulbs (mmm mmm) and hard boiled eggs (or so we think; it was a bit tough to find them floating underneath the pools of curry).
  • Please adopt me!! We fell into our best accomodations yet at Ian and Sue McCracken's marvelous Bay Vista House in Pohara outside of Nelson...simply dreamy -- the photos are accurate (even if you can't se the lavender that adorned each window overlooking the bay or hear the birds that chirped each morning!).
  • Proprietors Ian and Sue are the parents we all want...they even handmade our raspberry jam each morning AND are related to the famous Kiwi who invented the Tantrix board game sensation here. But you need to be comfortable with a personable, cosy setup: the guest manual instructs guests to "shout loudly" in the event of a fire in order to notify the management.
  • The hottub at the aforementioned locale was worth the hour windy drive to and from our kayaking locale on Golden Bay, because, after a full day of kayakaing (ask Lisa to tell you about my paddling prowess, which I of course make up for in my DJ skills), we were able to return to a hot tub. The only lamentable issue was Julie moaning that her arms were too tired to hold up her Pinot Noir glass....the horrors of wealth.
  • Hiking Abel Tasman Nat'l Park wasn't so bad either -- especially when God re-did the Hannukkah thing by making our insufficient supply of petrol last the windy, precarious drive back (had it not, however, we were well-prepared for doom by Christine, who told us exactly how we things would feel just before we veered off the mountain).

When Pleasantville comes in handy

January 3, 2006 - Part 2

I admit, the sterile perfection of this country (which, in a complete reversal of South America, explicitly advises guests to PLEASE flush the toilet paper down the toilet rather than disposing of it elsewhere to maintain the hygienic standards) was getting to me a little bit...as in, "where's the beef (or flaw or humanity)?" But I sure was grateful for it today when, upon returning from the Tolkien-like theatrical trail outside of our hotel room that provides a not-too-shabby place for morning reflections, I realized that I left my "bum" pak (ask us or Ruth Varney why we use that term) on the bench well within that walking trail.

In a frantic run that provided the only physical exertion I've had in the past several weeks, I high-footed it back to the bench, grimacing at all of the ED-TV Stepford wife nodding and smiling folks along the way only to find two travelers happily nestled on the bench.

"Is a bag there?" I asked desperately, searching for some culturally-neutral words to describe the container for my credit cards, camera and cash. "Oh yes -- we were going to take it back into town when we were done." Smile smile.

Did we mention the service?...

January 3, 2006

A country of extremes -- weather (from rainforest torrents to extreme sun and heat), topography (from mastestic, towering snow-capped mountains to deep, extensive, verdant valleys), temperament (from "no worries mate" Spacolli-like surfer laidback-ism to high-adventure bungee jumping off of several-hundred metre cliffs)...and service: The same country whose police officers allow us to take photos with them after a friendly issuance of a moving violation (payable at your local bank) is also a place where the scrumptuous, freshly made food cannot be served in less than 20 minutes -- even when it is pre-made! A mystery which continues to elude us.


Thanks for keeping us informed of your trip, I am wondering whether Ale would be tempted to do the 12 hour trip to get to kiwiland.... any shopping experience besides the nature beauty?

The Shipping News

January 1, 2006

Alas I cannot provide a link just yet to this novel which has been somewhat of our life for the past 24-ish hours as we departed sanitary, hygenic and surreally efficient and beautiful Queenstown for rustic and torrentially stormy Te Anau (rhymes with Keanu?). This much smaller town (with throw-back Brit-style restaurants and decor) was our stopping point so we could make it to the very well-earned destination point of Milford Sound, which was stunning!!

Our original plan was to take a self-punishing 15-hour drive-kayak-trek into this World Heritage location and, being a bit run down, I confess I felt I had some prayers answered when the rains were so bad last night that our tour was cancelled (but I must confess now I am sad as it would have been spectacular....and strangely enough, the tour company insisted on driving out here in the torrential rain at 5:50am to tell us -- is the service so personal that they do not believe in cell phones? Alas I digress...). Anyhoo, we ate the 6:30am breakfast bar (Wheetabix and all) and then took the suggested alternative of driving the 2 hours to the Sound itself and doing a 2.5-hour natural tour by boat in the Sound (the only option available in today's torrent).

A few blurbs to attempt to capture this indescribable place:

  • Mountains "crying" out geyser-like waterfalls that blew back up into the mist to replenish themselves (due to the strong winds)
  • Prehistoric glacial rocks imposing over the choppy waters
  • 500 million years of God working His handinto the glaciers and tectonic plates to forge a astounding beauty that leaves any observer in awe of His scope and majesty, as He is at the same time, the same God that reaches into our own individual lives here and now.
  • And unrelated to the Sound but related to the drive there (or anywhere): SHEEP! Everywhere....

Signing off so we can dash on to the next overpriced British meal!


December 30, 2005

Freshly arrived to New Zealand after miraculously sleeping on the 12-hour flight from Santiago. Initial impressions:

  • Vast, majestic mountains, lakes and greenery that make one feel one is surrounded by a national park - constantly.
  • Everything is pure and pristine, clean and new: the mountains, lakes and air, as well as the buildings, food and the people. Which is surreal...where is the poverty?
  • Is everyone really this content and mellow and pleasant all of the time?
  • Switzerland -- but laid back and adventurous. The sun is SUPER bright (thanks to global warming?).
  • My travel mates did the bungee jump from the bridge over a crystal-blue river that was the birthplace of bungee.
  • And the most shocking factoid from this culturally...interesting?...place: Kiwi refers more to the furry animal than to the fruit -- woo hoo!

Signing off so my travelmates and I can usher in 2006 before you all! :)

Speaking of "Valpo"...

December 28, 2005 - Part 3!

Or, what Chileans nickname this seaside city of Valparaiso -- thanks to the suggestion of Horatio, Alejandra's step-dad, May and I ventured out on our own and stayed over in this beach town after Andres showed us up and down the coast (all of course after spending a fabulous evening at Casa de Rosarita y Horatio en sleepy, dreamy, heavenly Santo Domingo!).

I am in love with Valpo (as well as with Baltazar, or "Balta" as Andres' 7.5-month old baby is affectionately called, but that is another story). It cries of integration and contrasts everywhere: of natural with manmade, of residential with commercial (which is not imposing in the least sense), of humans with animals, of colors and grays. Every angle and street and corner you turn provides a new delight to the eye. And despite the fact that it looks run down, it is incredibly safe (and thus freeing to walk about, as with most of Chile that I have experienced, regardless of economic status and quite unlike BA). Any given street will look like it is in tatters and yet boast of a beautiful gate or wrought-iron sculpture or bright-colored flower garden right in its midst.

Stunning... so get there before the current renovations are completed and the authentic feel starts to fade.


just want to write to say thanks for the virtual vacation and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

so looking forward to having you back and seeing more pictures and hearing about NZ too.

God's best to you!


Posted by:

Spa Herreros and Restoration

December 28, 2005 - Part 2

I am overflowing in awe of the abundant generosity of my friends Andres y Ale, who have graciously put me and my friend May up for five days, including spending a heart-warming Christmas with their extended families (actually, it was their immediate families...but these are so large that it felt extended :)!

They are simply gold as far as friendship goes...every need is anticipated and catered to and they are just so much fun to boot! I feel like I am in a luxurious spa of emotional nurturing!

Yes God is so good...putting me in a place of restoration from the depleting, materialistic, in-your-face atmosphere of Buenos Aires: the smoky, humid, stressful, congestion, trauma and pretense of that sprawling metropolis-with-an-attitude have been replaced by a vast, restful, loving, peaceful sense of familiarity and warmth and ease. Chileans aren't trying to prove anything and they don't need to because they have it all: beauty, family, friends, wealth and infrastructure. It is tempting to pursue Ale's offer to beseech St. Anthony, the patron saint of "lost causes", for a chilean man (or even better and perhaps my preference, San Expedito, aptly named for his reputation of answering prayers swiftly :). We even got to see the church in Regnata in the Valparaiso area where Expedito's supplicants go. After stuffing ourselves with (of course) Chilean seabass for lunch.

Death by Dulce de Leche

December 28, 2005

Or, "Eating Your Way Through South America"....I can definitely say God has been answering prayers for health...guess the white bread, high fat diet is what my body needs and PHEW for that!

This delicacy is popular in Argentina and Chile and has captured the hearts of me and my friend May. Along with lomo (ok, that is really May's thing; I'm not quite there yet :), incredible FRUIT and cheeses and just about anything you eat really (oh, May also votes for submarinos purchased in the myriad of cafes in B.A.). I opted for 3-too-many cafe con leches about a week ago and have been paying for it with dehydration ever since. But not bad enough to take away from the joys of traveling in S. America...not enough time and so much to see in this land of beautiful places and people.

economics case study?

December 21, 2005

My friend May and I keep wondering, "how can SO many cafes and food places exist within one city?" Literally every block and street is lined with limitless, trendy-looking bars, cafes, bistros, restaurants....unlike the States, nobody goes to these alone. My cousin was able to explain that rather than entertain in their homes, many BA-ers go TO these places to meet up with friends and family. So that explains SOME of it...

Life here so far has been characterized by long walks and bus rides throughout this hot, sprawling, bustling metropolis. Wrestling for change for the bus (80 centavos) and always trying to make sure you HAVE change because many stores simply cannot "break" any bill larger than 20 pesos (approx. 7 USD).

Today we went to La Boca and hung out with my cousin's artist friend Guillermo...then meandereed the hot colorful streets and took the bus to antique-filled San Telmo.

Mercifully ate less food than yesterday, when we ate and ate and ate (the gorging was topped off with a decadent strawberr & chocolate with dulce con leche ice cream sundae at aptly-named Munchi's in Recoleta's Design Center). I am flat-out beat!


Great stories Diane! Safe travels, and Merry Christmas!
Mike and Corina

Posted by: mismjy1

choque masivo de la cultura

December 20, 2005

...from the misty, serene altitude of Incan Peru, to the


Smoke. Lights. Taxis. Haute Couture. Image. Clothes. And SO MUCH AMAZING FOOD. ooffff.....

Snippets from the trail

December 17, 2005 - part 2:

Because it´s impossible to describe the travel thing in words, here´s a David Letterman approach....

18 Images & Thoughts From the Inca Trail

Going up is a lot more fun than going down!

Porters are superhuman. As well as gentle, diligent, always smiling and humble.

If you ever have, never - ever - again look down on anyone who uses walking sticks (da bomb)

What canto of hell are we in now?

Psalm 121. All of it.

Thank you thank you thank you Nautilus, Inc.

¨20 minutes...maybe 30...up...then flat...then down...¨ (tour guide snowing us with ¨Peruvian time¨ to allay our dread on the trail)

¨So let´s see...if we´re here...and want to get to that place straight across this huge mountain pass...then why are we going DOWN so steeply? Seems like they could´ve designed this a bit better...¨ (me, several times)

Food...food...more food...such as: quinoa, pancakes, coca tea, huge plates of rice topped with a cucumber or tomato carved into the shape of an exotic bird. All served in a tent in the middle of the Andean mountains!

Washing your hands in red bowls of freezing water and ¨drying¨the with thin, rough cloths hanging from the tent that never seem quite dry.

The privilege of hearing every frog, cough and snore within the campsite (ask me about the Seinfeld incident when I get home).

Thin ...very thin...toilet paper. And squatting because the duress on your quads is far less egregious than the consequence of sitting.

Trying not to look too far ahead because it is discouraging...while at the same time, reminding oneself to stop and look around you so you don´t lose out on the majesty of your surroundings and why you are doing what you are doing, providing new depth and significance to the one-step-at-a-time approach to life.

Sharing the trail with llamas, horses and pigs.

Slithering around like Gollum to traverse the wet rocks.

Your only responsibilities being: get up to fresh air and mountains, coca tea and pancakes so you can walk amidst some of the most majestic places on earth. Oh yeah, and roll up your sleeping bag.

The beauty, strength and character of Peruvians forged by the harshness of the elements as well as their political and economic history.

The majesty and power of the land...and yet, Psalm 97:5

¡Yo soy Rebekah Spencer!

December 17, 2005

Si si si...that is what I was instructed to say Tuesday at Kilometer 82 - the starting point for most intrepidous souls venturing onto the Inca Trail ...this unknown 28-year old American woman happened to have cancelled her trip, but she was still on the official list of tourists who register to go on the trail (so Peruvians can regulate the number of people who go each year).

Alas, my name mysteriously was NOT on that list (despite having registered nearly 5 months ago...yeah I know some of you are laughing about that). So after doing a moral inventory, I now feel somewhat of a kindred spirit with Rebekah, as I have memorized her passport number by heart (I don´t even have my own memorized)...and a certain indebtedness, as without her, I would not have been able to experience the incredible beauty and splendor of the Andean jungle and mountains (for anyone planning to come, please note that other than this registration glitch, my tour operator was perfect!).

The rest of the trip was truly spectacular (except for the grueling stress placed upon certain muscle groups!). In fact, it´s pretty impossible to describe all the images, sensations, experiences and things I learned whether on a physical, emotional or spiritual level...so I´ll post a few concise words and wait ´til I get some photos to share with you (I haven´t quite reached the digital age yet!).

agradecido para todo su ayuda y amor!

a Cusco...

la vita es bonita!

December 11, 2005

¡hola de Hotel Marqueses a Cusco Peru!

Es claro that God has already answered many prayers in my short time here....not only have I arrived safely and soundly (no small feat!), but I was able to meet 4 travelers from Austin TX and spend the afternoon with them....and: they are also believers! And 2 (Sulma and Harold) are native Peruvians who will be getting married next year. They were able to share the ¨Peruvian perspective¨ on Cusco, Macchu Picchu, and faith...Jim has also lived in Tunisia as part of FOCUS missions (so I´m looking forward to connecting him with the Caters who will be moving there next year!).

I have also been spared (thus far!) the dreaded "altitude sickness" that did strike Frank of the aforementioned group...and feel great! Yes, definitely absolutely another answer to prayer.

Cusco is absolutely stunning -- the rolling mountains and imposing cathedrals and thick clouds...the brick, 1500s Spanish style churches make one think one is in Italy when they are lit up at night...but the people with their flat, brown features and short stature remind one that it is not Firenze (let alone Kansas :)!

As I wander around I am reminded that as much variation we can have in history and culture, people's needs are essentially the same...we all need grocery stores, bakeries, clothing and security....but most importantly, we all need Christ. It will be an illuminating time to see how ancient traditions and Christianity have fused together to bring His presence to this part of the earth.


Hi Diane!
It is so great to be able to read about what you are experiencing...I have been thinking of you and hope you continue to have a great time. We miss you in college group but know that God is using you for great things!
Cristo Viene!
Love Emily

On a lighter note...

May 2005 - cntd. -

A 10-minute video lamenting the travesty of doing Star Wars in the new milennium brings comic relief by also lamenting the sad state of affairs of agri-business....

Publishing & Accountability

From May 2005

Two significant developments this month underscore the question of accountability on the part of publishers, large & small:

(1) sloppy journalism causes markets to move in Hong Kong, and

(2) deadly riots are spurred in Afghanistan by a Newsweek story that was later retracted.

The two cases above illuminate the power of the media to influence world markets and even politics. But in both cases, accountability can be traced to established media organizations. While we have yet to sort out how these organizations can be made to account for the impact of their reporting, a new issue looms: if we have a hard time keeping large media outfits accountable, how can we go on to ensure accountability in a world where information and media is diffusing?

For example, what is to be done when a posting of questionable merit by an individual blogger has the same type of impact? BusinessWeek recently did a very interesting analysis of how the dynamics of information distribution and the media are radically changing.

So, the question(s): in an age where information can be broadly distributed within seconds, how can publishers - be they large or small - be held accountable for mistakes? And at the same time, how can we ensure accountability without making consequences so extreme that it quashes the dissemination of information that is so needed for civil liberties to flourish?

Martha, Hilary....

From March 2005

How unfortunate that Melissa Click of the University of Missouri sees
fit to equate Martha Stewart to U.S. Sen. Hilary Clinton ("Time well
spent: Martha Stewart leaves prison"
, SF Chronicle, 3/4/04).

Let's look at this a bit more closely: On the one hand, Stewart is a
convicted felon who has devoted her life to the pursuit of
self-gratification and, instead of reacting to her crime with remorse,
instead chose to capitalize on it by serializing her plight into two
new television shows.

Conversely, Clinton is a political leader, attorney, civil servant,
and visionary thought leader.

Yes, they both have strong personalities, and they are both women. By
the same logic, I would expect experts to be comparing, say, Howard
Dean and Donald Trump .

"Peaceful" Polarization

February 2005 - cntd. -

It's a sad state of affairs when the those receiving public acclaim for their peace efforts are unable to grasp the complexities of international affairs, and as a result, ironically add to the divisive tone in current affairs.

Author Arundhati Roy, when receiving the Sydney Peace Prize in Nov. 2004, made invidious comparisons between governments and terrorists as follows:

"It is mendacious to make moral distinction between the
unspeakable brutality of terrorism and the indiscriminate carnage
of war and occupation. Both kinds of violence are unacceptable. We
cannot support one and condemn the other."

Unfortunately for Roy (and perhaps fortunately for the rest of us), the parallels are hardly this elegant. Many governments (including that of the U.S.) are accountable to their electorate and the "court of public opinion"; terrorists are not. Most governments are confined to protocol and processes (e.g. managing the reactions of their citizens and neighboring countries, at the very least) that are bypassed by the terrorist. As a result, the violence inflicted by terrorists is arbitrary and typically without consequence, and does not lend itself to any framework for negotiation or diplomacy.

This is a great example of how simplistic analysis is contributing to the increased polarization of public dialogue.

Hazards of agro-technology

From February 2005:

Miguel Altieri,  an agroecology expert from UC Berkeley,
has written some noteworthy pieces on the inappropriateness of applying
western/advanced agricultural approaches in developing countries, as
well as the inherently political and often ineffective nature of
agro-technology in any context:

We're losing 33 percent of our crops to pests before harvest, despite the fact that we are putting about 1 billion pounds of pesticides into the U.S. environment every year. That percentage is exactly the same as what was being lost in 1942 [before large-scale use of pesticides]. Exactly the same. Thus, the pesticide technology has failed. And the same actors that brought us the failed chemical-pesticide revolution are now bringing us what is going to be the failed biotechnology

Full article

...and his latest book available from FoodFirst

Thoughts on business

From January 28, 2005!

At this week's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an interesting notion was advanced by Harvard's Business Prof. Khurana; one might add the current proposal to privatize pensions in the U.S. underscores the panel's concluding point:


A strong counterpoint to this view of business entities as a social good appears in this week's Economist's Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, which advances the view that CSR actually can detract from ethics and the proper priorities of a manager. The survey makes some interesting points, but I would argue that CSR has intrinsic value if only in getting organizations to think more broadly about value than merely as measured by quarterly profits.