Friday, March 23, 2012

You're Never Going to Survive/Unless You Get a Little Crazy

Taranaki, NZ

It's windy.  Gusting up to 113m/h.  If this were anywhere else, I'd be thinking cyclone; Batten down the hatches!  But I'm sitting on top of the highest hill in New Plymouth, holding on to this bench for dear life.  If I let go I'll fly to Australia.  Should have worn my red shoes...


This is taking too long.  This hike was supposed to be easy.  Instead I casually got lost, fumbled with a few different routes before finding the correct turn to loop back to the road.  The sun has turned golden, sunset being an hour away.  Appropriately burning bridges, can't turn back the way arrived along the beach, with the rising tide the waves are licking the White Cliffs I came to see.

After a certain sticky situation I roped myself into a little while ago (read: SPLORE) I always carry a flashlight with me.  If I hadn't, this 2 hour tramp would have been an overnighter.  In the pitch dark, I could never have felt my way to the end.  Maybe that was why the whole situation happened, cause the survival auto-pilot was back again.  It's not supposed to be rigorous at all, but let's give it a try in the dark rain.  Challenge accepted!

Pissy rain is persistent on bringing down my mood.  It was fun for the first little while, but every trail marker says you've only gone centimeters.  Damn, that grass is really slippery!  Humble, one foot at a time.  This is when it can get dangerous & the worst could possibly happen.  Let's get out asap please.

Very interesting tunnel vision.  Had to focus hard to keep myself present & become aware of this experience.  I started playing music in my head, memories in overdrive - much like the meditation of swimming, or sailing alone in the ocean.

In Canada I'd be bear-feed; in Australia I'd be gotten by one of their countless insects or spiders that can kill you, or it'd straight up flood & wash me out the trailhead.

This is New Zealand.  I'm constantly reminded that there's nothing here that can kill me (even their most poisonous spider was imported from Aus - not deadly).  Although there's something mildly comforting in that, in this country of extreme outdoing each other to the maxxx, I think it should be changed to:
Nothing here can kill you but your own stupidity.

Monday, March 19, 2012


New Plymoth is having a party.  WOMAD is the name.

I can't believe what just happened.
On my first day of arriving I was working in the zoo, camping at the racetrack & had already seen bands from Ivory Coast, Burundi, Jamaica, Senegal, Japan, France & Ireland.  & I showed up late!

Volunteering at WOMAD (World of Music Arts & Dance).  Holy shit.  The best festival I have been to in sheer quality of music.  Every band you got a taste of would 90% of the time blow your mind!  Incredible!  Fantastic!

Going into it I knew 2 bands on the roster & they were at their very best!

Dobet Gnahore played the 2007 Winnipeg Folk Festival.  Just like then, she ripped open the friday night slot with her furious dancing that made everyone jump in!  She is so beautiful, she is always front page material.

Last summer I listened to alot of weird gypsy music & fell in love with the song Balkan Reggae by Mahala Rai Banda (Romania).  Oh. My. God.  They were unreal.  You could tell they didn't speak much english, but on every song they lit up!  You can't have a 10-piece horn section & not know what you're doing.

In fact, there was alot of that.  The average band size was probably about 11.  Batacuda Sound Machine (NZ) had about 10, Pascal (Japan) had 16, Babba Maal (Senegal), Bombay Royale (India) & Sharon Shannon (Ireland) each had 11 or 12.  There not many regular sized bands at all & only a handful of solo acts.  In fact, a friend of mine saw one of the solo loop pedal performers (Adam Page) busking in Queenstown a couple months ago.  & an Israeli friend knew the guys in Batacuda, cause he saw them play in Whakatane on the west coast, & was the only one there!  Small world NZ.

The music was phenomenal!  & really surprising.  There was a loop pedal violinist (Chapelier Fou) who was very intense & groovy for what it was, & I was amazed at how mesmorizing the Brazilian dualling accordions were (Toninho Ferragutti & Bebe Kramer) & how magical the Mongolian throat singers were (Anda Union).  There was a super interesting band from Wellington that had a stage filled with old Indonesian chimes, 2 DJ's at the back & a breathy blonde singer wearing angels wings.  Wild sounding, completely surreal.  Electronic, combined with these traditional chords....Wow. (Minuit vs Gamelan Taniwha Jaya)

It was grand that in the 3 days, most bands played at least twice or thrice.  Probably cause it's too expensive to fly out more musicians, but it was so cool to really get a chance to see everything & to see the bands you loved again!  (When I say Mahala you say Rai Banda!)

It was very diverse in every sense.  They had a segment called Taste the World, where artists would prepare a dish from their country & serve samples to the crowd.  Super cool!  The Mongolian liquor was potent, & the Fijian curry was delish!  They had dance workshops, movies, comedy, an artisans village, food stalls from every corner of the world, a Maori center with massage & tattooing!  I've never seen tattooing before at a festival!!!  In the back there was a even quiet  retreat with life coaches & forms of alternative therapy & treatment.  I didn't get to check it out cause I was dancing with a fury!

The venue was spectacular.  Papakura Park is really lovely with hills filling out the place, a big bowl with a lake surrounding the mainstage, alcoves & gullys perfect for other stages.  The festivcal site took up only a small part of the Park, but the trails went on forever!

I worked in Kidzone, which was literally taking place at the zoo.  It was a small zoo.  They had most of the animals moved out to a farm somewhere - no lions or tiger at this one, they were mostly farm animals anyway.  Kept the social animals behind, the otters & the monkeys.  At Kidzone there were bouncy castles, performers, stilt workshops, face painting, crafts, & playgrounds!  I was helping the kids make costumes for the parade!  So every day I got covered in paint & glitter!  No, I didn't try to eat the glue this time around!  We made heaps of bug wings & antennae for all the little cretins.  It's amazing what you can do with some bamboo & zip ties.  There were professionally made big costumes for some of the big kids & I lost rock paper scissors with a girl to be the mighty butterfly.  When the parade happened I was relishing in second place - the wings were so big, tall & heavy, & her antennae hat kept slipping over her eyes so she couldn't see anything!

Parade costumes

Mrs Butterfly!

The weather was magical.  Beautiful & sunny all weekend from 2pm Friday till Monday morning.  Monday we had to pick up little bits of glitter out of the grass all day, & it was pleasantly overcast.  I'm sure there are probably glitters from last year or the year before in the exotic birds' nests.  As soon as we were done getting frustrated hand picking it & just vaccuumed it all instead, the wind started giving a bit of a push.  Within hours there was a windstorm that lasted 3 days!  If there had been even a whisper of wind during the parade, it would have been a disaster.  The butterfly's wings were 10ft high!  She would have been launched!

We camped in the centre circle of a racetrack.  The horses race sporadically from 4:30am till 7pm.  In the morning everyone would ask "Did you hear the horses last night?"  I sleep through everything, so no.  They were described as the beating of an infant's heartbeat - fast & jittery, but reassuring that it'll come back again.

The last night I got hot into jungle fever flurry of dancing for Staff Benda Belili from the DRC!  Didn't get it the first time around, but the 2nd time they got me pumping!  Each of them have a disability, but that hasn't stopped them yet!  One even hopped out of his wheelchair to join the crowd's dancing with a headstand!  WOW!

The information is dodgy about where to go, lots of people leading us astray.  The afterparty is the game.  I have a heated bet with Mrs Butterfly for drinks from whoever is last to arrive.  I got there in brilliant time & found the next trick to get free drinks.  Butterfly never even turned up cause they were turning volunteers away at the door!  It takes a great DJ to play for a room filled with musicians.  Salsa dancing latinos, Africans, Europeans, altogether breaking down the dance floor!

At the very end tip of the night, in a flurry I met this wiry American journalist, & his is another story in itself...

The afterparty was the only real party of the festival.  It was mostly families attending, so as soon as the main stage was up, the campground was extinguished.  That's the way to be.  For the love of the music!

, inspired!

Dobet Gnahore (Ivory Coast)

The Yoots (NZ)

Narasiratu (Soloman Islands)

The Bombay Royale (India)

Minuit vs Gamelan Taniwha Jaya (NZ)

Staff Benda Belili (DRC)

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Sitting on the ground for our communal meals; Living in downtown Auckland has strange similarities to what I would imagine living in India might be like.

I live in a studio apartment with 2 Indo-Fijians & an Indian, which later turned into 2 Indians.  The smell of curry punches you in the face when you enter the flat & the the walls sweat with the heat.  Always bollywood music playing, or an episode of Dance India Dance on.

There's always LOADS of Hindi flying around, which is such a sharp language you always think they're arguing about something.  I later found out that's it's not always Hindi.  Sometimes the 2 Fijians speak Fijian together, sometimes the Panjabis speak Panjab together, but altogether they can speak Hindi.  That hardly seems fair!  Irritated me at first, so much that I wanted to interrupt anyone talking in their native tongue in my presence, eventually I realized I don't have to listen to their drivel & can block it out unless they make it super obvious & switch to English. Or maybe I've forgotten english!  Neener neener!

But really, I should have learned some Hindi by now.  It took me ages just to remember Namaste - Hello.  I did learn Good night, but it's gone now.

It takes a special kind of person to live in such close quarters with other people.  In my case, a sailor (I suppose), in their case, Indians.  I didn't even realize it was more of a cultural thing than a personal thing until I saw the look of incredulity of every other person that came in looking to share our apartment.  Oh right, we do live shoulder-to-shoulder.  Well, to be fair, they're students.

It's sweet actually.  Everyone's encouraged to do whatever they want.  Even though it's essentially one room, it took me several days to even meet my roomates.  One night, I'd been out late at a concert & stripped into my skivvies, hopping into bed.  When I woke up, there was a girl I'd never met laying next to me!  New flatmate.  She laughed, then taught me all the worst swears in Hindi, then skyped my mom & taught her all the worst swears in Hindi.  I was blushing when I had to tell her what they meant!

I am often out till late & they never go to bed until 3ish.  Great combo!  Even when I'm working at 8am, I'm usually up till 1ish, but when I get woken up to loud cooking, music & Hindi every night, they respond really well when I tell them to shut the f up I have to work in the morning.  Every day I was not looking forward to telling them off that night.  It's hard to stifle youth when they're in a foreign country on summer holidays & having fun.  Or rather, hard to stomach it.  Sometimes the grumpy old bear has gotta take a swing at the cubs to keep them in line.

One night I woke up from my hibernation to give them an exasperated grumble, & it was an argument between one of them & her boyfriend.  She was trying to break up with him or something, or he may have stolen something...I don't know, it was all in Hindi.  They were apparently yelling in the street outside the building & we could hear it from the 10th floor.  I told him to get out or I will beat the piss out of him in 10 seconds.  It seemed to work well, even if she left with him.  The girls stayed up worrying & biting their nails.  No thank you!  Back to sleep!  After his 2 week suspension from the apartment, enforced by me, he was very quiet.  As a titmouse!  Who says violence solves nothing?

That night the girls were really apologetic to me.  They made it seem like "Listen you two, fight all you want, but don't wake Jocelyn up, okay?"  Yes please.  Well, in theory yes, but if you're in trouble I want to know.  Reminds me of wrecklessly driving my car into the ditch & not wanting to call home cause they'd specifically told me to drive safely, even though I still needed help getting out of the ditch...

Best part of living so close together: when your roomate tells you we have an infestation of either bedbugs, fleas, or scabies.  They sprayed everything, bombed the apartment & one got checked & it was scabies.  I am still an unbeliever.  Everyone else is writhing around scratching & I don't have a single bite on me.  Aren't I delicious too?  A succulent morsel even?  I swear it's cause of my cold blood.  Back home I am a moveable feast, but here the mousquitoes hide when they hear me shuffling through the grass.  So they spray & get special detergents & things.  I just keep having sound nights of sleep.

, West Indian.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Met up with Hanne yesterday at CouchSurfing Drinks!

She leaves today.  Her flight is in half an hour, going to Bangkok & never to return.  Today is the worst day to leave Auckland!  *(Every day is the worst day to leave Auckland.)

Thursday the day I go racing on Fast Company in the Waitemata Harbour.  Last week was frickin cancelled for too much wind (gusting up to 40knots).  There is also a rendezvous scheduled with s/v Le Cochon Noir later today.  I'm eager to see how their new baby Rahiti is getting on & the state of repair the vessel is in.

That's not all!  The Volvo Ocean Race is arriving in Auckland!  World class racers will be pulling into the Viaduct anytime today, as a stopover on their 9 month race around the world.  70 foot nascars of the sea.  I am inexplicably stoked for a prairie girl.

Talking boats is exciting!  We have become yachties.  It happened right under our noses.  Our audience is transfixed as we go on & on arguing weather & advantages to boat types like we're seasoned sailors.  These conversations are fitting enough for the cruising club, but take place at red lights & at bars.  Our old sailing stories...  To hear them again from her point of view!

A few weeks back, a friend invited me to help deliver a boat with him from French Polynesia to Auckland.  I declined the free flight to Tahiti, including bond paid in full, but no pay.  Damn him!  It was the height of surfing season too!  And to visit my Polynesian brothers...
But it's better for me to work & make some money, especially not knowing at the time it was my last chance to do so.  Responsible, right?

I explained this to some passers-by, who were drooling as I was describing this, pounding on the table saying "Call him now & tell him you'll go!  It's a once in a lifetime chance!"
Is it?  What if I've had my once-in-a-lifetime chance?

The islands are not so far away.  So long as I am in the Pacific, I know where my heart is.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The System is a Vampire

I jumped from the first general seating to the floor of Vector Arena.  It happened kind of instinctually.  Moments after they herded me upstairs saying the floor was at capacity (me being late, as always), I was climbing over the railing braced for a 10ft drop.  I hesitated once, at one of the best shows ever (Rage Against The Machine, Minneapolis 2008) & only regretted it.  Never again.

Katchafire brought the sultry horns to compliment the adrenaline buzz.  Just standing in this crowded room still makes me feel alive.

It's the end of summer here in New Zealand.  You know what that means!  Oh yes!  It's that time of year again...


This is when college kids are back in school, & campuses are pumping with BBQ's, parties, keggers, & concerts.  Living right next to 2 big campuses has it's advantages.  Although I didn't have a go on the bouncy castle, I did get a free student funded barby!

Snuck onto the floor a 2nd time, for lack of appropriate wristband.  New found freedom feels cramped.  Awareness dawns on me.  I am in a spider nest.

A good show is a good show to me.  But then I realized I was in a crowd of 8000+ 18-21yr old college kids.  This is the party for UNITEC, the biggest Uni in NZ.  The next 2 acts proved anyone with music taste had left a long time ago.  I was starting to suspect they might just seal off the exits, gas us all & eliminate the 85% of the douchebag population in one go.  My biggest error was being the only sober one in the building.

Anticipating one of the biggest names in Kiwi music.  I've witnessed 3 fights, been offered drugs twice & been standing here 30 minutes.  Some dude just snorted something next to me.  Bring out the demons.

Shapeshifter made everything better.  They were ethereal & warped & wild & let us let it all out.  A different kind of electronic music.  A different kind of high.  Get that itch worked on.  Manic & bright!  Force.  Illuminated.  A good way to be.

The crowd can make or break the atmosphere, but sometimes a good show can pull through & unite us.
Lesson: Be more aware of the demographic next time!