Sunday, December 20, 2009

I still dream of art school, but this is okay too

I'd like to dedicate this next post to Planet Earth and as a form of encouragement for all individuals working to protect, save and nourish this home.

Whilst traveling I have had the pleasure of meeting a handful of amazing people who have completely revolutionized their former lifestyles to be more green and less "mean" or who have been living eco-sensitively forever... as it made more sense to them from an early age.

My thoughts and attitudes have changed drastically over the last decade. Probably the biggest blessing in disguise about attending the University of Oregon and taking a WIDE variety of liberal arts classes was that it has opened my mind to a range of lifestyle options, food production and consumption habits, and has left me a bit more critical of social norms. Perhaps even to my own detriment at times it has left me too open-minded and unsure about how to participate in the world as an active-beneficial member of human society (my common excuse for not knowing what i want to do with my 'life').

Ron and Leanne were my eco-terrorist neighbors in Wellington... by terrorist I mean they were "guerrilla gardeners" and waste-busters! Converting unused public grassland and desolate hillsides into robust and fruitful community gardens- to be used and loved by all. One day while reflecting on life something happened to them... like a click or a trigger that went off and completely changed who they were and how they were living. I won't go into great detail about what motivated them to radically change there lives (as I am unsure myself), but they went from being typical 8-5 members of society, who collected motor vehicles, clothes, household goods, and other common luxuries to making their own toothpaste, shampoo, using nature's soft leaves as toilet paper, incorporating a Zero Waste policy in their household (which they haven't yet been able to achieve but they are certainly making the effort to reduce their household waste to very close to zero), questioning themselves about "Why am I throwing out this much crap each week??? Where does this black bag of trash really go when it leaves the sidewalk??? How can I reduce this???" not buying into things they don't need to be happy, clutter that distracts them from what really makes them happy- health, adventure, nurturing each other and creating a friendly community around them- and by revolutionizing their shopping habits (buying bulk, searching for things with less packaging, growing a lot of their own fruit and veg and supporting local farms).
They have created a niche in Wellington- the 350 Organization (a world-wide campaign to lower CO2 in earths atmosphere to 350 parts per million- the "safe" number), urban greening on their lunch breaks (yes they still work in the city as well-respected professionals but on their lunch breaks eat with friends and plant native trees in unused urban spaces), and so much more.

I loved meeting these two people. I told them so; how much I appreciated their resilient commitment to living "sustainably", their leadership and the positive example they set for me and for many, many, many other people whom they've come in contact with. They reminded me to try to not be so self-conscious about my ego and what others think about me and odd living habits...
It's quite often that the people who we think are "strange and crazy" who are living differently and thinking outside the box who eventually inspire change, who succeed in creating alternatives! (see William Kamkwamba)
This brings me to my next subject: Michael Reynolds (architect from New Mexico)... I watched the documentary film "Garbage Warrior". This film was a mental roller coaster for me. At times I couldn't help but thinking how stupid and ridiculous this man was, how smelly and "hippy" his crew must be, that they are all just ridiculous pot-smokers who have eaten too many Magic Mushrooms and been to too many Burning Man Festivals, BUT I continued to watch and my layers of judgement slowly peeled away and my criticisms softened when I realized what he was working for and towards- a SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVE! He hasn't and will never save the United States (or world) from our infectous consumer/waste/destroy behavior but he is thinking and living critically.
I highly recommend going to the library/movie rental store and watching this film, its interesting, perhaps inspiring, and if none of that then hopefully comforting to realize that people like him and Ron and Leanne are out there- forward thinkers, who have the ability, time and motivation to "think outside the box".

GREEN ROOF PLAN: (in case you were wondering, "how could I put a green roof on this shed?":

Thursday, December 10, 2009

morse code inside my left ear!!!

For the last three days when nothing is going on and I am relaxing on my couch or laying down trying to get some sleep there has been this irritating taping coming from the hollow of my left ear... so today I went to the computer cafe to do a little research and this is what I read:
"A friend of mine had the same thing, but it stopped after a few days, however her hearing became muffled.
She had her ear flushed and 3 small dead spiders were washed out, so that is always a possibility!"

AHHH!!! how terrifying, please say there are no dead insects, especially spiders, lying dead inside of me!!!

Thats all. Nothing too much is happening in my world. Trying to debate whether or not I should keep my road bike or try to switch/sell for a mountain bike which is a bit more useful out in Otago. Also trying to learn how to meditate.

Alibi and I have been getting along like oil and water most of the time these days. I keep coming home from a long day of work to his mischevious messes (the worst included him eating all of my organic bullion that I just bought and then drinking every drop of water in the house AND then pissing all over my house out of necessity)... this is probably why I am trying to take up meditation so that I don't get so angry with him when he is naughty. Regardless I drew this little sketch of him and he looks like an angel which is how I'd like you all to remember him.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Clementine... longet post yet

“Nice day” the girl says as she wades knee deep through the riverbed
“Yes, its beautiful. I’ve been thinking about jumping off that … how do you say… bridge? Platform? Over there, the thing for boats. Have you ever jumped off of it?” The guy on the bike points in the direction of the dock.
“No I haven’t, but you should!!! I think about it every day, but I am not sure if its deep enough.”
“Will you jump if I do?”
“hmm… maybe. But you go first and then I’ll decide” she sarcastically replies
“What’s your name? I am Colleen”
“Oh I am Clemens. Nice to meet you. Be right back”
“Okay good luck. I’ll watch from here”
So Clemens climbs off of his bike and places it down, off the path and against the tussock grass clumps. I wade deeper out into the river so I have a better view of the platform. We exchanged thumbs up before he jumps. He dives, head first and without hesitation into the deepest part of the river, and reemerges much further down the river with the current a with a smile across his face and lets out a howl about how cold the water is. I didn’t jump, but this was how I met Clemens… the unofficial couch surfer from Frankfurt, Germany who I proceeded to hang out with for the next 36 hours.
We both had bikes nearby and decided to go for a ride from my small town of Albert to the larger town of Wanaka for a quick drink- after all it was Friday and neither of us had ever gone out in Wanaka. I made a comment about how I thought it was cool he was hitchhiking and couch surfing through New Zealand, how that had to be more authentic and exciting than the ways I have previously traveled. Upon hearing this he quickly invited me to join him and thumb our way to Fiordland. I might have had some inclining to go with him if I was backpacking through New Zealand, but I am not, I am living here and saving money so I can travel to Australia, besides John and I had just been there two short weeks ago, so I politely declined. However I enjoyed his company and had a nice evening chatting and eating cheap Indian food with him on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
His bike lock fell off of the bicycle earlier that day and so he decided he would bike back to Albert Town in the morning to look for it. I told him to stop by my house for coffee, maybe breakfast if I had anything to eat. Clemens showed up with bread, avocados and hummus. I had eggs, which we poached. He was really excited about poaching eggs- he had never poached an egg before. Breakfast turned into hiking and somewhere along the lines he asked me if he could couchsurf on my couch, and since I have a spare loft I hesitantly replied… “Um, okay… but I have a lot to do this weekend, and I don’t want to feel responsible for entertaining you.” Which was really my way of saying, “I am not too comfortable with the thought of a stranger staying at my house, in a town where I don’t know a single person and have no flatmates”… but I couldn’t bring myself to say what I sort of felt deep down inside. And so deep down inside my uncomfortable feelings turned into a nervous twitch in my eye, which didn’t stop until after our hike to Rob Roy Glacier. Finally, on the drive back when he put on some German funk music I came to the conclusion that this person really was a kind, traveler who really was backpacking through New Zealand and whose stories about hitchhiking and couchsurfing with other people along the way really were true. I relaxed and my eye stopped twitching. I decided to tell him what a relief I felt, when I realized he wasn’t a terrible person who was lying or dangerous. He laughed and said he felt a little guilty (which was unnecessary) but he didn’t know I was uncomfortable with the situation. And I told him I wasn’t anymore, which was a relief.
Clemens is a lovely person, who in many ways is a lot like myself- taking some time to learn about himself, not sure of what he wants to do, has many ideas for jobs but not sure he is good enough at any of them to really make it. I enjoyed our conversations about life, sociology and traveling. That night we went out to the local pub, listened to 3 punk bands, moshed a bit then went back to my house where he passed out on my miniature pink couch and I made a late-night snack for Alibi and myself.
Sometimes being a woman is a disadvantage when it comes to safety and privacy- some terrible things can happen when someone is kind, friendly and opens their doors to strangers- but its bit of a relief to know there are people in the world who are polite, respectful and just looking for just a couch to crash on.
I had previously thought that I might host couchsurfers at my home in Wanaka, but I don’t think I’ll make a habit out of it. I’ve hosted in the past in Portland and Eugene, but have never gone through so many mental conundrums as I did upon meeting Clemens. Regardless, I am glad I met Clemens and was happy to have hosted him and hopefully look forward to a trip to Frankfurt, Germany someday so he can make me some lasagna and marshmallow pie (a German thing?... I was kind of confused about the dessert but it sounds good)!

This is a photo of Clemens poaching his first egg.

A little about Clemens and his philosophy about his life…
“Ich mache mir die welt wied-di wie sie mir gefaeit!”
-its important for people to create their own life and seek what they are looking for.
- be proactive
- Clemens is a self-described sociologist and journalist who enjoys talking about cultural differences, politics, and making small talk with the people he meets while traveling. Example of a “small talk” question from Clemens, “Is there Nutella in the US?”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I am thankful for you!!!

Yeasayer says it better.... please listen all the way to the end (thats where the essence lies)

p.s. I'd like to say "thank you" to all my 10 blog followers by sending you a lovely christmas CD music mix. Please email me your address and I'll be sure to pop one in the mail for you this lovely holiday season.
email also if you follow but not officially and you'd like a fabulous mix CD please send me your address, even if you live in Italy *wink, wink Eliz*

the walls glow pink!

I love my new home in Albert Town, New Zealand. I love living in a wee town where dogs and children can freely roam the streets and locks are left unhitched without worry.

I feel really fortunate that I found such a perfect studio cottage for Alibi and I to sleep in. This is the first time I have ever lived by myself- thank goodness Alibi is here to keep me company. I am kind of exaggerating (as I tend to do) because I am only staying alone for a short period of time, but its still a big change… a big step in the direction of real independent living. Although I already miss having a companion/flatmate to play games with, so I am not sure how long this will last.

I now work for Gibbston Valley Vineyards and am officially a cheap migrant worker, who spends long, hot hours getting burnt in the sun and comes home with hands that are becoming more cut and calloused everyday. Thank god I love wine so much, otherwise I am not sure I’d stick this tough job out to the end of summer. The highlights are definitely learning about growing healthy winemaking grapes and then day dreaming about coming home to my half full bottle of Pinot for an evening drink. Its truly shocking how much work (bud rubbing, thinning, leaf trimming, picking, pruning) and love (blood, sweat, tears, encouraging words and pet names) goes into making a decent glass of vino.


Tomorrow is the end of my first week at Gibbston and then beginning of a long, hot summer in the Central Otago region of New Zealand-home of blue skies, big mountains, long hikes and now me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Flying South

Goodbye Wellington, HELLO Wanaka!!!
John, Alibi and I recently took a boat ride, then a road trip to get from the north island to the bottom of the south island.
It was a good road trip- filled with campfires, ukulele lessons, hiking up mountains and finding a new home.
Although I don't have too many personal belongings I have managed to acquire a surprising amount of stuff... it was pretty amazing and fortunate that we were able to pack all my stuff, John's summer bags, and all of Alibi's balls into the "bubble car".
Happiest dog in the whole wide world... loves everything about New Zealand (mountains, sheep, rivers and dog parks)
We went down to Fiordland National Park, this photo can't capture the immensity of the rock mountains. The entire area is gorgeous and everywhere you look there are lakes and snow capped mountains. Popped into the grocery store on the journey home to buy some eggs! What a steal Farm fresh for only $5... thats cheap in NZ!
This is a picture of Alibi pooing. :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009


*In celebration of my southward journey, and due to meeting the hippest nerd ever, I have been able to give my blog a customized facelift.
Reading my be more difficult, fonts might not leap from the white background quite like they did before, but this is a work in progress and I really like the change and hope you do too!*

This morning I went on my last walk through Lyall Bay, watched from above as the waves crashed on both sides of the Kilbirnie shops, listened to my lovely Tui neighbors whistle their morning songs and happily accepted my time in Wellington has come to an end. What a great place- a cool city, filled with magic and mystery. I especially enjoyed living in Lyall Bay, the laid back surf neighborhood... filled with lovely people and my favorite cafe, Elements.

I hope to return sometime "soonish" either on my way out or on another journey. Regardless I am so happy I got to spend 6 months in this windy city.

"Adieu Wellington" she said as she waved farewell.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Royal de Luxe

a fantasy story of family being reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall... what a magical world this can be.


John is a jolly birthday boy!

In celebration of darling Mr. French's birthday I MADE A CAKE!!! It was so much fun, and turned out much better than I had anticipated. While baking I made sure not to make any loud noises in the kitchen for fear of the thing caving in on itself. I am not sure if this actually happens, especially to banana cakes... but my subconscious was filled with fear of this happening.

I made pink piping frosting and decorated it in the most simple and lovliest way I could.

John turned 29... he is now officially an adult, which means I am not far behind. He has wrapped up his second year of veterinarian school and is most certainly looking forward to his summer vacation which started officially on his birthday! The summer of fun officially kicks of this Monday (the 16th) when he helps me and Alibi move down to the south island for the next 3 months. Very excited for our road trip and the move... a little bit nervous- we don't have a home lined up and I'll be traveling with dog... which makes it much more difficult to find a home- but regardless its adventure time and we are all excited!!

Birthday present from Alice... the perfect food dish for our long lost pal, Monkey!

Birthday card!!!
Hannah and Alice- his lovely friends from schoooool!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


dearest blog,
I miss you. Sorry its been ages since I've polished your outside and fulfilled you with new entries. I have come to a bit of a plateau in life... where I am waiting for something to change, something to happen and in the meantime have decided there isn't too much to share. But my head must be far up my arse if i can't see the glorious everyday happenings occurring all around me. So I'll rant tonight and try to retrieve it tomorrow.

These days are filled with memories of yesterday and creating happenings today. I miss my friends, I miss their front doors and showing up at them at all hours of any day for a black cup of coffee, smoke break, conversation, cupcake, dog walk, hug, you name it...

I've been trying to be spontaneous as to manifest a "brilliant experience" for myself. Talking to strangers, inviting myself into acquaintances houses, staying out until the sun rises with people I barely know, strolling at midnight, planting trees with my neighbors...its been charming, but I am still open for a deeper connection- ready to laugh with someone who I feel like knows me until tears roll out of my eyes or snot comes flying out of their noses.

I am thrilled about the prospect of summer. Lying in the sun, getting outdoors and taking naps in wild grasses.

It would be mature of me to deeply appreciate the serenity and small sense of community that I have found in Wellington, but in reality I would be white-lying to myself... for I am restless and growing inpatient with myself and others. The people I've met seem to have there life's ball rolling and they are able to share moments (for which I am utterly grateful) , but I haven't found that partner in crime to climb trees with and go dancing with me. Those people for me seem to be at home, having fun on the west coast, mostly in Portland together. Which makes me oh so happy in the most bittersweet way.

*sigh* so for tonight I will send out an ESP message to my dearest friends and family wishing that I could be with you and that we could play for hours.

love always,
colleen k. d.

p.s. its probably just a small case of depression from the fact that Halloween has just passed, and I didn't celebrate in the slightest... except in my heart and spirit, for I did have a Halloween costume in tow with me that day in my backpack (nerd outfit... ie calculater, plaid shirt, striped tie, high wasted pants, hand sanitizer and ultra-dorky glasses) but it never saw the glow of the halloween moon, as I did not put on my costume and did not go out and in search of the coolest carved pumpkins on the block (as there are none here)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

living on the run

I'd like to share some photos from the breathtaking-gorgeous landscape of Nueva Zealandia.  Photos snapped while holidaying with my family- from the North to the South Island.  These are unedited and pure... a real essence of this country.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Thank you each and everyone of you for bringing your smiles, love, hugs and walking shoes all the way to New Zealand. Having you out here was a mighty good gift in itself... but being able to travel for 12 beautiful nights together was the delicious icing on a cake.

I had so much fun with each one of you, and continue to appreciate the memories from our travels. I wish we could get together more often to play late night games, and share generally tear-jerkingly hilarious conversations. 

  • Our sporty red car... super flash!
  • WOW Art show and dresses that look like they are made of origami paper, glow in the dark stars, or the innards of a piano
  • Bottles upon bottles of delicious red wine... down the hatch!
  • Kicking your butts the first night of 31
  • Sunshine on Waiheke
  • Chief Bruce Douglas, "I come in peace, proudly representing 17 humble nations"... :)
  • The joy of seeing my HEALTHY family (big blessing)
  • Bottles upon bottles of delicious wine with Robin and Jim in Napier (could be a re-occurring theme)
  • Romantic date night with Shannon, Indian food and our superstar Bollywood-guru server
  • An epic plane flight over the Southern Alps only to land amongst the clouds
  • scary 4x4 adventures (not too sure about letting Dad drive... that man was very trusting... too trusting) and scary bike rides with shannon
  • KIWI AND TAKAHE (see photo below)!!! (also penguins and parakeets!)

Honey.... Oh Sugar Sugar!

This little tie-died plant it my favorite New Zealand gem. Its called Manuka, and when bees pollinate on these gorgeous (normally white) flowers they are enriched with a multitude of nutrients and pollens which eventually create a delicious and nutritious honey for us humans!

I try to eat some everyday... once i met a woman (kind of a strange one) who swore that Manuka honey had cured her throat cancer.
Its some good sh*t!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


The Mythical Land of Rarotonga

Kia Orana! Good day to you and yours.
I have just returned from a twelve-day adventure on the largest of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga. A place I'll admit I never even knew existed until coming to another Pacific island- New Zealand. And how extremely fortunate for me to be able to discover this haven. Rarotonga is, like most of the Pacific Islands, of volcanic origin- leaving the landscape scattered with jagged mountains and the fauna of the island either avian or domesticated animals. The people are still true subsistence farmers whose diet and livelihood depends on 5 major crops: bananas, taro, nu (coconut), manioc and fish. Beautiful family gardens are squeezed alongside every road and between all houses. Between the rows of taro plants, banana leaves are left on the ground to keep the soil moist and to provide a beautifully designed walking path that keeps your feet above the soggy ground (sorry no photo).
Their are plenty of large and small fish surrounding the island, I believe the main export industry is fishing. Other than that the island is pristine and pure- slowly developing a tourism industry, but not sold out to corporate resorts or foreign investments. Nothing about the country is tainted (unlike many places I've seen before- there was no evident signs of social problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse, obesity, filth, etc...)
There is a law that a building can be no taller than a palm tree, leaving the beach resorts no more than two stories tall and always under the shade and protection of trees.
The general attitude of Cook Islanders is happiness, satisfaction and generosity.

About 20 years ago Hilton Hotels began building a 400 room resort, but rumors have it the private money that was invested in the project was laundered money from some European mafia... so the development was abandoned at the final stages in the project. The water still runs, all rooms have electricity, some which haven't been fully looted have sinks, beds and drawers that are now covered in a layer of plant growth and dust. We walked around this property, through the would-be reception area, absorbing the eeriness of the situation. Some of my favorite photos from the trip were through the cracked windows of the abandoned paradise.

John and I spent our days hiking through the jagged mountains. I found it quite funny that people frequently paid guides to take them up the mountains... that is until we attempted the "Ikarangi Trek", which left my legs cut and scraped from the overgrown fern foliage and the bottom of my pants covered in dirt from falling down the hills so frequently. We had a good time attempting to reach the Ikarangi summit, but turned around early.
We rented a beautiful, simple one bedroom home on the island which came equipped with BBQ, Kayaks and snorkel gear. Once arriving to the island we didn't really need to worry about what to do because we were completely set up. We spent as much time as we could on the beach, absorbing UV Rays and snorkeling. I saw loads of big and little neon fish, a really strange fish that looked like a samurai sword and hung out just below the surface of the water rendering it almost invisible and ultra-creepy. The islands are completely surrounded by a tropical aquamarine lagoon, that is incredibly safe and fun to play in.

Below are two photos of the same house, our neighbor really. It was a stunning building, splattered with 10 shades of pastel paint. We spent one night sipping whiskey under the moon and attempting to capture glorious night-time images. There was a lot of wind, but this one turned out pretty good.
My two favorite flowers: Hibiscus and Frangipani