Friday, May 01, 2015

New Zealand, Part 1: Hamilton

Well, I’ve been in New Zealand now for about nine days, so it’s about time I wrote something. If you want to skip right to the photos, here they are.

For those of you who don’t know the situation, this is sort of a working vacation, but in a very fun way. I’m part of a small team going along with Asha for a series of programs, retreats and classes she’s giving, mostly around Hamilton, though we go to Lake Taupo for the final weekend. The role that I officially got signed up for was that of cameraman (I’m posting everything on YouTube as we go). But I also get to be guitar accompanist to Dambara, who’s our main music guy. Oh, and I get to learn to drive on the left side of the road, which isn’t so bad in and of itself, though getting used to the roundabouts is more of a challenge.

The four of us (Atmajyoti rounds out our crew) are staying at Kavita’s home, aka the Narrows Retreat, on the Waikato River. This picture does no justice to the beautiful view from the porch. Also staying here we have Zebunnisa, a Canadian who met Kavita through a work exchange program and has become her right-hand gal, and Travis, a devotee visiting from Australia. And oh, hey, Kavita’s husband and two daughters are actually still trying to live here in their own home, and being awfully good sports about it all. Veda and Devya have been making us fantastic desserts (like white chocolate cheesecake) in spite of getting shuffled around to sleep in the office or the corridor or whatever makes sense on any given day. So it’s a pretty big, fun, happy family we’ve got here.

We had Thursday and Friday off, so we took the opportunity to play tourist a bit. Our first excursion was to Hamilton Gardens, which is a world-famous collection of different themed gardens. Even off its prime in the fall, it’s delightful. That’s us next to some carved statues in the Maori garden there on the left. I also quite liked the celestial turtle dragon thing in the Chinese garden.

The next day we visited the nearby Zealong Tea Estate. And yes, that excellent name is exactly what it looks like: New Zealand Oolong. We got to go on a little tour, see the tea plants, learn about how it’s made, and sample several teas in a tea ceremony. I do quite like tea anyway, but it was really something to so carefully and deliberately sample such high quality, precisely prepared teas. This is me here with a statue of a happy, tea drinking monk. Making two of us.

In the midst of all this, I’ve also been finishing up National Poetry Writing Month. The poem-a-day thing was pretty crazy trying to keep up with while traveling, but somehow I managed (though some of them were the results more of sheer stubbornness than actual art). You can read the results, if you’re into that kind of thing.

We have another busy weekend ahead of us starting tomorrow, so that’s all the updates for now. I’ll keep adding occasional photos to the album here until the next post.

1 comment:

Bob LaMarche said...

Thanks for.posting photos and this update. All is well at the store but miss you - enjoy the rest of the adventure. Joy, Santosh