How to move to New Zealand from the US

Sometimes when people in positions of power do things I find absurd and infuriating, I get depressed, cranky, angry, and/or despondent. Other times, I’m more productive, getting all academic, or trying to draw personal connections so people might understand that these decisions will affect real people. Last Friday, I channelled my frustration into making this video guide to various visa options for Americans wanting to move to New Zealand:

To be abundantly clear: you can’t actually move away from climate change. Nor do I believe that anyone, Americans abroad or citizens from any other country, can escape the responsibility to be part of the solution to this or any other political absurdity.

But this was still a super fun opportunity to learn how to edit video on my iPhone using iMovie (I’d only ever used that program once before, four years ago, and the full version rather than the mobile version). And I can’t believe how many people have already watched it! Fun times.

I’m not planning to make any more videos any time soon. Of course, it’s entirely possible that news from the White House will drive me to new heights of creativity sooner than I expect.

Reflections on a first Spring and Summer in New Zealand

It’s been exactly six months since Scott and I moved to Auckland from San Francisco, so it seems like a good time to write up a few more quick reflections on the differences between life in those two places:

  • Farmers markets are few and far between.
  • Storms actually affect the price of veggies; after one of the recent tropical cyclones hit, cauliflower and lettuce went up from ~$3 to ~$7 a head (all costs in this post in NZD).
  • Thanks to its Mediterranean climate (not to mention the drought), I’m totally used to California’s hills being crispy and golden for most of the year. It really felt odd to me that New Zealand’s bright green grassy hills stayed that way all through Spring AND Summer, even though it does make sense given the regular rains.
  • Leaving the house without a layer is usually OK. Really. Even in the evening. But you never know when it might rain, so keep the umbrella handy.
  • You can actually swim in the ocean(s) here! Without a wetsuit! And there are so many beaches right in the city that we haven’t even come close to checking all of them out. Ditto all the beaches within an hour’s drive of our place.

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Some longer reflections after four months in New Zealand

Here are a few more remarkable things about life in Auckland, longer-format this time, with some links for good measure:

This is NOT a litigious society. It doesn’t need to be, because the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) “provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand.” It’s funded by levies collected from motor vehicle operators (through licensing fees and petrol sales), wage earners (via income tax), and the government (via general taxes). Thanks to the ACC, your medical costs and even most of your lost wages (the latter only if you work in New Zealand) due to accidents are covered, even if an injury happens while you’re at work or playing a dangerous sport or on the premises of a business. How this actually feels different on the ground is that we regularly encounter all sorts of things that you simply would not find in the US, like massive public play structures that kids could actually fall off of, cliffs at lookouts without fences to prevent falls, people walking around everywhere (inside and outside) with bare feet, absurd pits of unmitigated mud at music festivals (I’m still somewhat traumatized by last weekend’s Splore experience), uneven stairways without hand rails, and the like. So much lost revenue opportunity for the poor insurance companies, ambulance-chasing attorneys, and safety device manufacturers, to name but a few! But it sure seems a lot more efficient to handle things this way.  Continue reading

Reflections upon moving to New Zealand

We’ve now been in Auckland for two months – here’s a quick summary of some differences between life here and life in the San Francisco Bay Area that have struck me, avoiding the most obvious, in no particular order:

  • Almost all egg yolks are the gorgeous orange I associate with pastured eggs back home.
  • We’ve traded burritos for fish & chips, and approximately 1,000 options for Chinese dumplings. Though we have found one brand of halfway decent corn tortillas, we’ve yet to find any tortilla chips or salsas worth buying again.
  • Toilets don’t swirl the other way; in fact, they all seem to be low-flow, dual-flush… and what little water does go down, goes down straight.
  • Big, fluffy clouds (with and without rain) pass through on a regular basis, which makes for lots of rainbows and generally dramatic skyscapes, particularly at sunset. It is quite different from the standard coastal Bay Area options of clear, fog, or total cloud cover.
  • Pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way.

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Don’t rob yourself of the now: Timmy’s tribute to José as a balm for those who grieve

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My interview with climber, comedian, friend, and _____* Timmy O’Neill is now live on Xero Gravity, please check it out!

Timmy was a consistent presence during my Yosemite years, and he recently wrote a beautiful tribute to our late friend José, asking:

How do you bring someone long gone, back to life, and what are the physical and emotional artifacts that allow you to personify him?

I feel similarly trying to describe Timmy; *there are precious few words for describing those people who just vibrate at a higher level, even when they are still with us Continue reading

Chris van Leuven: my other “brother”

chris-vlChris van Leuven spent quite a bit of time at our house in high school, so much so that I often thought of him as the third sibling in the family. Things at his house weren’t going that well, we gathered, but neither my brother nor I asked many questions. Instead, we would bring him home after our afternoon sessions at the local boulders or climbing gym. We’d let his endless stream of words, spoken in such animated, rapid succession that anyone else would have struggled to comprehend, melt into our own stories from the day. Often, all three of us would be speaking at the same time, but that didn’t hinder our understanding.

In the Spring of 1996, I was just finishing my first year of college in Montreal while Chris was actually living our high school dream of dirtbagging in Yosemite Valley. Continue reading

In search of home

This song is everything I need right now:

As a words person, I’m frantically trying to learn the language it takes to describe the sonic landscapes that are really doing it for me these days, and thanks to everyone who’s been patient with me in trying to get more of it into my system (Evan Scott Matt and for the Flume tip, Samyak)!

It’s got all the swelling instrumentation, sweet layered vocals, and slow-attack bass of this:

…but with far more appropriate lyrics for my current state of mind: that strange sort of “anticipated grief” or pre-nostalgia that comes on the verge of a purposeful decision that’s going to change a Whole Lot all at once. [I’ve written previously about the related feelings that come after the shift.]

Plus a healthy dose of the same overall feeling — that I love, by the way — of Continue reading

Spring upwelling: as within, so without

Big changes in the physical landscape never fail to put “big” changes in my life into perspective; this week, it’s been calming to think about seasonal shifts that affect West Marin.

On my way to work yesterday there were so many egrets hunting I pulled over to watch for a bit – there’s clearly more life in the lagoon these days. The Spring Winds have started, and Sito was telling me that the water temperature dropped dramatically over the last week. Then Sam posted this amazing piece… it’s all connected. Continue reading