Return

This entire year in New Zealand seems like a year of returning. Returning to places I have had been before.

My first job was, “go to Hamilton, return to Auckland, go to Hamilton, return to Auckland.” Then I left for a month to WWOOF in Northland. But, I returned to Auckland, returned to the job, and returned to Shitty Gardern Lodge.

I left Auckland in October, to return, once again, to Taipei. When I got back to New Zealand, I went to Shitty Garden.

I left with Brian and ended up in Blenheim. I left that to WWOOF in Tasman in what would be entirely wasted time if it had not been for finding and contacting Greg and Rachel at Managara. I returned to Blenheim. I returned to Central Lodge. I had a new room, new job, and lots of new roommates.

In December, I returned to the North Island. I went east to a new place, Hawkes Bay. I lived there for a month but left for a week while Cindy traveled here.

Her travels required me to return to Auckland, return to Taupo and the campsite Brian and I stayed at, a momentary return to Mangarara. But, we left to go do some beach camping in Gisbourne. Her trip ended with another inevitable trip to Auckland and my six-hour return drive to Managarara.

From there I returned to the South Island. My trip stopped in Picton. working there allowed me the opportunity to return to the grocery stores I frequented in Blenheim.

My family arrived in Nelson which allowed me to make a return to the roads I took to Tasman. I traveled a new way though: hitchhiking. I was supposed to return a book I borrowed while we explored Abel Tasman. I jut didn’t because I hadn’t finished it.

In Abel Tasman, I returned to many place I had been.

In Picton, I returned to Sue’s to say hi.

Then I returned to the ferry to return to Wellington.

In Wellington I returned to the wharf. This time we rented bikes.

I returned to Mangarara to show the family.

I made a return to Napier, and Gisbourne, and Taupo.

The new returns were exciting. The days were filled with adventures planned by my Mom. Their last day was occupied by visiting all the shitty places in Auckland I already despised.

A return to the airport so they could catch a return flight. And me,  caught a bus to return to Wellington.

I took the ferry to return to Picton.

Not sure what’s next.

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Mom & Family Visit

When I left the hostel for the airport it was cool, crisp, a drizzle was just left by the clouds in the sky. I decided I could do the hour and a half walk slowly to avoid getting sweaty.

Forty-five minutes into the walk the sky cleared. It was mildly humid, and very warm. I greeted my family sweaty and smelly. It was exciting to see everyone but they looked much too tired for immediate adventure.

We grabbed a nice dinner, they passed out, and I planned some hikes around Abel Tasman. That night started a daily tradition of getting ice cream. But no one did better scoops than the young man working that night! Cheers to him.

So here is what we did:

  • hiked around Abel Tasman
  • sunset ferry crossing
  • cycling in Wellington (I crashed)
  • whitewater rafting
  • lots of hiking
  • lots of eating

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With My Mom

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Sunset from the Cook Straight Ferry Crossing

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Going up Mt. Victoria

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With My Aunt

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1 of 2 Group Photos at the Glow Worm Caves

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Regrettably, there was only one night I was able to go out with my mom alone. But, it was Valentine’s Day. We had a couple beers and a soft pretzel. I wished I talked more, wish I asked more questions. But, one night, on a rush-around trip, I guess, just wasn’t enough.

I was really impressed with all the adventure activities my mom had planned for us! I hope that she finds me again somewhere in the world for more! Miss you ❤

Picton Gardening

Leaving the farm was a hard thing to do. I was having so much fun there. I tried to remind myself: leaving places that make you happy is just part of traveling. Hopefully it’s a bittersweet experience that happens more.

I am writing this some two months later. So much seems to have happened since the end of January. All of it has made me happy!

One of the reasons I was okay with leaving Mangarara was that I had already lined up another job. It only took me a couple days to confirm the next job after deciding to look. My next gig would be working as a gardener at a home in Picton.

Picton is the port town for the Cook Straight ferries. If people know about it, that’s all they know about it. I was happy with this location because my family would be starting their New Zealand trip in Nelson a few weeks later. I wanted to be in Marlborough for the start of that.

Bluebridge may be the cheaper ferry but, I’ve taken it twice, both times it left late. This trip left over an hour late. I was supposed to arrive at 23:30 in Picton. By the time I got to the house Id be working at it was almost 02:00.

I was working for Sue and her dog Holly. I was nervous taking the job. You never know who you are going to be working for. I know nothing about her, her home, her values, her attitude, her lifestyle, nothing.

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Holly at the dog park

Both of them were waiting up for me. Sue is in the same position as me, nervous about the unknown, but for her, the stranger is in her house. We said a quick hello before the three of us headed to our separate beds.

Come morning, a more formal hello was made, a tour of the house, a list of gardening jobs to be done, and Holly showed me her ball which I was responsible for throwing every time she brought it to me.

The house was built in 1916. Sue’s grandparents bought it new. Back then, the only work in  Picton was dock worker or freezing works. Sue grew up in the house with her sister Helen and both parents.

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Over the course of two weeks and change, I met the cast of characters that are Sue’s friends, I learned a lot about her life, and even accidentally got to see a photo of her boobs from the 70s. (I’m sure she’ll love that I’m writing that!)

In their 20s Sue and her sister left New Zealand. First they landed in South Africa and lived int he apartheid state. That only lasted six months and they went off to London.  They lived and worked in London, drinking, smoking, partying, and experimenting with LSD. (I guess I have a knack for connecting with like-minded people.)

Sue has had an impact on Picton. She was a teacher. She opened a cafe or two, sold them. She opened an ice cream parlor, sold it. Opened a classy second-hand store, sold it. I really enjoyed getting a tour of the small town. A minor detour from taking Holly to the dog park. She was certainly confused why we passed it without parking.

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Playing Fetch with Holly

The first friend of hers I met was Gary. An ex-pot farmer who had his home seized by the police for growing, what I’ve been told, was top quality cannabis. He’s all tattooed up and comes around with a giant Bearded Collie named Ralph. Sue pays him to mow the lawn. Gary lived in San Diego for a time in the 70s. he had himself a Mexican wife and lived in Tijuana. Since losing his house he lives only on a government pension. Perhaps New Zealand should rethink ruining people’s lived for a plant.

The second friend I met was Millie. She’s a lesbian sailor who with her partner sailed around the worlds in the 70s. “Imagine a lesbian couple sailing into Oman and Yemen today and then think about back then,” Sue explained to me. Hell of a story!

Millie was an angel to me. I told her I was curious about sailing because I have never done it before. She called her friend right then. When she got of the phone she told me I could go sailing with them tomorrow.

The next day I was sailing with Greg (Kiwi) and his partner Kate (Indianian). We were racing in the local yacht club race. We got second-to-last place. I went out with them again the next week and we came in third.

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There is an older couple that Sue hangs out with as well. They live across town, so a two minute drive. She tells me they have lived a very sheltered life. So when the topic of drugs and harm prevention came up it was a little scary for them. They can’t relate. They spent their lives in Christchurch, then moved to Picton and raised their kids. That’s it. I couldn’t relate. I never wanted to stay in one place.

The last guy I met was Henk. He’s the son of Sue’s neighbor and an old, gay, pothead. He came up from Christchurch to take care of his mother. He brought along his dog Suuz. He’s Dutch but grew up  in New Zealand. He lived in the Netherlands for 20 years. [I recently caught up with him in Christchurch.

– – –

Sue was kind enough to watch my car while I left to meet my family. We parked it on the road to block the trucks from parking in front of her house.  Picton is overrun by semitrucks blocking all the roads parking waiting for the morning ferry or for daybreak to leave. The residents hate them. In fact,  I haven’t yet heard a kiwi say anything nice about truck drivers.

I hitched to Nelson. It took me about half an hour to get out of Picton. Some cute girls beat me to the spot and, of course, were picked up before me! I eventually got a ride from a chef who dropped me in Blenheim at the junction for Nelson.

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Ten minutes later I got picked up by a Maori guy who works in the vineyards driving a harvester tractor. We had a few road beers, talked about our mutual dislike of weed, but love for psychedelics, the Maori culture, and the meaning of life. He was a good cunt! I wished him well when he dropped me off at the visitor center in Nelson.

I spent two nights in Nelson waiting for my family. Luckily, a friend from Auckland was in town. We got together for burgers and made plans to hike in Nelson Lakes National Park.

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Finding a river crossing

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I took my shorts off because the water got deep. Clearly not in this spot though.

 

 

Death.

If you’ve got livestock, then you’ve got dead stock

Being at the farm and being around the farm animals meant being around death. It was hard not to think about. Especially at meal time. Every meal consisted of meat born, raised, and butchered on the farm. [Well to be honest most butchering happened elsewhere.]

Meat is without a doubt death. But does that mean it is evil, wrong, or bad? I really don’t know.

I was eating vegetarian mostly. If I wasn’t so lazy I would probably be 100% vegetarian. Meat is just easier.

Part of me wants to leave a little meat in my diet. While traveling I maybe somewhere where meat dishes are the only option. If someone cooks me food I don’t want to have to say, “No, I don’t eat meat.”

If we are going to continue to eat meat, I would much prefer my meat come from farms like Managarara. No feedlots. And, at this farm, the meat is more sustainable. I imagine they have less carbon footprint because the grazing style does sequester carbon.

There is this disconnect between people, their meat, and the animal it comes from. If I was supreme ruler of the world my rule would be that if you want to eat meat from a certain type of animal you have to kill it, process it, and use the entire thing at least once a year. Then you get permission to eat meat. If I really wanted people to eat less meat I could do once ever six months.

People don’t want to know that the meat they are eating comes from an abused animal. They want to live in denial. They outsource the suffering to someone else. That is wrong in my mind. More wrong than eating meat.

Hunters, who hunt for food specifically, stand on a higher ethical ground. You can’t say killing an animal is bad if you eat meat.

On the other side, it feels weird knowing that every animal on the farm is only living so that one day a human can take their life. They have been brought into life specifically to have it cut short. Even the dairy cows.

They are milked to feed animals that become meat. If they get old they will be sold off. If people didn’t eat meat. They wouldn’t be required, since, again, they are mainly used to feed other meat animals.

There was a time when I was looking into raising meat rabbits. I had the whole thing planned out. I was getting ready to build and buy stock. But i read most people quit doing meat rabbits because they are so cute and hard to kill all the time. I used to think I could raise farm animals.

But I really don’t know if I want to kill animals all the time. I could live vegetarian. If I want meat, I’ll do it myself and use the entire animal. No waste. [Ideally, that should be the ethic of everyone.]

– – –

There was a sick dairy cow that really got to me.

She attracted some sort of disease. She lost all her weight to diarrhea. She was just skin and bones.

We separated her from the rest. She walked about a mile to get back. I took her back out and closed the gate. She went out the back and walked an even longer route to get back.

Every morning she would come in and try to be milked. She just wanted to live. But, we knew we had to put her down.

I wanted to do it. But, I was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to come off like some sort of sadist.

She was shot in the head.

She was the third sick animal killed while I was at the farm.

A mercy killing?

– – –

I do think people should eat less meat. Animals have more value to the world than just food. The factory farm system isn’t natural. It’s not good for people or the planet.

But, i wouldn’t tell people not to eat meat.

Diversify the cuts you eat. Eat more foreign bits. Don’t let the life go to waste.

– – –

There is a benefit to killing. On the farm there are traps and poison to kill predator species. Animals like rats, stoats, and ferral cats. These animals kill native birds.

The farm family has noticed a return of native birds. They weren’t there when they moved in. But, with the death of some species they’ve returned.

It reminded me of the first place I was WWOOFing in Northland. They had a trap for minor birds and would kill the ones they catch. The bodies would be added to the compost. Recycling.

– – –

We killed and processed a pig for a wedding party at the Eco Lodge.

More Time at Mangarara

Dec 26 – Jan 15

Back at the farm felt like going home. I love it at Managara Family Farm. The work feels like working towards a more sustainable future. The people on the farm are amazing. The landscape is beautiful.

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I really enjoy waking up early-ish to milk the cows. The day hardly starts before eight here so that’s alright. However, I do wake up early because the sun rises early. I don’t mind spending a few hours in bed reading.

I got to meet some friends of the family. They live about a half hour away. They own 16 acres of what used to be finishing paddocks. They rent 6 of it to a neighbor for grazing. The majority of the rest they have planted beautiful permaculture gardens and a ton of trees. It’s hard to believe it was all just grass with shit soil once.

They operate an organic nursery. They sell potted veggies to a local natural food store. They also specialize in popular permaculture trees. They have a few trees that are really popular with the Asian markets as well. Not a bad niche!

I talked to them and they love their lives. They told me they don’t make a ton of money but they make enough to live “out here.” They are raising two daughters on the land. And, they built their own house . I found them to be really inspiring.

– – –

I spent New Years on the farm alone. I wasn’t too keen on staying out late. I went to Napier but got bored waiting for the festivities to start. I spent the evening organizing my thoughts about a huge overland journey. From New Zealand to Australia to Southeast Asia, through China, Mongolia, Russia, and into Europe all without flying. Across the the Atlantic by water and into North America.

It’s possible. It won’t be easy. But, it’s possible. I am determined to do it. I refuse to fly home. Or to fly at all.

This is why I need to work. I need to work in New Zealand. And, I need to work in Australia.

I started doing more work around the farm after my four hours for room and board. The work was a lot of weed whacking. I cut up some old trees and cleared brush. I feed cows when there paddock was a bit lacking on grass quality. I helped organize some sheep. I even got to sheer a couple. [They were infected with maggots over their bum and need some TLC.] I would just do whatever need to be done.

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The thing I am most proud of is building a three-bay compost system for the composting toilet buckets. All the shit the WWOOFers deposit will be composted and used to feed the soil microorganisms.

Honestly, I prefer to poo in a bucket than a toilet. It seem foreign to me to make a deposit of precious organic matter into fresh water.

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– – –

Another WWOOFer showed up. An American guy from Virginia. He is a grass-fed beef farmer out there. Inspired by his neighbor Joel Salatin. He has returned to New Zealand to learn from some farmers down here.

We got a long excellently.

Mangarara was hosting an event and they needed more help. That’s why we were both there. Darren Doherty of regenerative agriculture fame was coming to teach a small group about that type of agriculture. It was an inspiring lecture.

– – –

One thing that I was not expecting to enjoy so much was teaching kids staying with their families at the Eco Lodge how to milk cows.

I think it is a great service to get children out of cities and suburbs into a rural environment. More specifically onto farms to see where food comes. And, even more specifically, on to sustainable farms. Children need to be taught that the Earth has a living system on it. It is up to us to protect it.

I don’t think I need to explain the ways that older generations have neglected to do so.

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– – –

Being on this farm has solidified a lot of goals for my future post travel.

  • I want to live on a large piece of property and take care of it. I want to regenerate the life in the soil and plant a forest.
  • I am not sure how this will be funded but farming seems like the most obvious choice. I also like the idea of a nursery.
  • Other things I want to do on the property is build a venue (a great revenue generate).
  • I want it to be a place people can come to learn about sustainability and ecosystem regeneration.
  • I feel extremely determined to build something.
  • For me personally,  I am intrigued by the idea of an intentional community. Many hands make light work. I’ve got a lot of ideas. I can’t do them all on my own.
  • I have a handful of ethical or sustainable business ideas now as well

Farmers can be entrepreneurs. There are lot of different ways someone can diversify their income if they have access to land. It felt like everyday was working for oneself and your family. Every idea one has to improve or save money helps ones family directly.

Greg is quite handy at finding funds for projects. He got a forest planted over 100,000 tress by Air New Zealand. He’s got a group of gap-year kids from states spend a few days their planting trees. I hotel in Wellington comes up to plant a couple hundred fruit trees. Plus the lodge brings people in.

Life is about connections. In the natural world everything is connected. Increasing connections increases the chance of survival. The same is true for a sustainable farms finances.

– – –

It was sad to leave the farm. I didn’t want to. I feel I could stay there forever. But like all things, it was only meant to be temporary.

I have much to see on New Zealand’s South Island. I also need a full time job to stock up some cash!

But, the time I spent at Mangarara has permanently changed me. I am absolutely determined to travel in a different way. I want to travel as sustainable as possible.

  • More time spent on sustainable farms
  • No flying
  • Build more compost piles

I’m sure this list will grow as I go.

– – –

 

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Beef Cattle

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My own private pond. Warm water perfect for a skinny dip.

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We spent one weekend helping the local community set up this horse humping event

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Piggies

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This is HI5. She’s the most friendly cow. She’ll jump around and play with you like a dog.

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My car and my temporary home behind.

 

 

Unsupervised Milking

I milked the cows unsupervised today (Dec. 15th). I don’t think they, the cows, respect me yet.
The process starts with rounding up the heard from the field. Luckily for me, they were waiting for me at the gate. As always there are a few slow pokes and stragglers. I have to smack their butt to get them moving.
Once they are all in the milking area I separate out the bulls, two calves, and a sheep named Greg that identifies as a dairy cow. He’s trans-spieces and I assume transgender if (s)he thinks he is a milking cow. The bulls left on their own. Greg squeezes to the front and I let him and one calf out the there. The other calf had to wait.

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Here is Greg the Sheep, walking in with the rest of the cows to get milked.

The milking process uses little suction tube devices that pulsate to get the milk out. We have ten stations down the middle of two lanes. Each lane holds nice cows. The middle area is sunken in so you stand just about at the height of their teats.
I know for a fact, they don’t respect me. There was four or five times as many shits as there were the other days! The other days maybe one. Today four or five. They peed a lot more too.
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I had to keep stopping to clean it up. I have a few cuts on my hands so when a cow would piss over everything I would hose it off quickly. There is a disease, which they treat for on this farm, that can be got from their urine through cuts.  This is what I was told and I don’t feel like risking that.
The only other problem I had was one cow, cow 54, got through the line without getting milked. She was a little difficult to get back in the holding area. But I did it.
Like every other day, I took the milk out to the calves, to baby pigs, and to two separate groups of middle ground pigs: bacon. I feed the chickens and collect the eggs while I’m out.
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The Calves

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Pigs following the milk truck

I thought I had a rough time milking. I was told at lunch by Sam (a farm hand here), that I was the wwoofer who picked up the milking by myself the fastest. To me the process is easy. I just get stuck when dealing with bad cow behavior.
– – –
Later that day, I helped out with some lamb weighting. Sheep seem stupid. They’re soft. They look like a bunch of blankets running around. Greg is the only friendly sheep I’ve met here, and (s)he’s a dairy cow.
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– – –
The dairy cows are much friendlier than the the beef cows. The diary cows have daily human interaction. The beef cows only get that when it’s time to move pasture.
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Going to get the heard on a quad bike

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Black Angus

The other day when we were  organizing some beef cattle into separate groups we pin them up in are circle pen and then pull out ones when we want.
To do that you need one person on the gate and one person “pushing” the cow. I held the gate at first. A few cows sneaked out past me. Later I switched and Sam was on the gate. I felt much better at being in the crowd of cows and isolating the one we wanted. I held the gate again later for Greg, the farm owner, and did alright.
– – –
Sam killed a sick sheep. Her uterus fell out and was going to die. I watched as he cut her throat. I was standing next to Sed, the sheep dog. And when the throat was slit and the air was leaving the sheep he turned away. Seven seconds and they loose consciousness. The sheep continued to make dying noises and Sed walked away. He sat behind a tree facing the other direction.
I wonder if he feels guilty for helping catch her. He certainly forgot by the time he got some cuts of meat off her.
She’ll go to feed the animals. The meat goes to the four dogs. The inners, all the organs, get boiled and feed to the pigs.
Pigs will eat anything. I guess they are good to have around for garbage disposal. For me, I’m not a fan of pork. I only eat pork in dumplings. Personally, I’d love a large variety of vegetarian xiao long bao. But, they don’t have that yet.
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A sick and dying sheep put down

 Below are just a couple more photos I thought I would share:
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My car parked next to the the WWOOFer house. That water tank holds the rainwater that powers the sink and shower. The toilet is a composting toilet. I have to say, without a doubt, I prefer compost toilets to flush toilets.

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Farm Road

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The machine behind the milker

Leaving & Returning to Blenheim

I quit the vineyard job to go WWOOFing. The vineyard sucked and the hours were too little. Besides, it is within my travel goals to WWOOF. So I left Blenheim and headed to Tasman, west of Nelson.

WWOOFing was a nice break from life. All i had to do was wake up and work a few hours. In return, they feed me excellent home-cooked meals. I love it because I never had to worry about breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

The worst part of backpacker life for me is coming home tired after working and trying to cook a nice dinner in hostel’s shared kitchen. Even if I enjoyed it more, it’s still hard to find storage space for any food I’d like to stock. Honestly, I’m just lazy. Those are my excuses to justify my inaction.

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This little bird followed me around for days. At one point she had more than 12 worms in here mouth. I think she was nursing babies

The WWOOFing work I did was just clearing brush, pushing it into a wood chipper and weeding. I didn’t mind the wood chipper, but I hate weeding. It felt like I pulled weeds for a week straight. It was actually a week straight.

It was unfortunate to not learn to much new skills while there. I learned a lot about life and new ideas from my hosts though. I don’t think I will ever forget that. For this WWOOFing experience I learned mostly from the hosts not the work.

I took one day off to go explore.

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Back to Blenheim

I got a job as a traffic controller. The pay is minimum, but the hours are maximum. My hostel mate got us all connected and jobs. He averages $900NZD a week standing with a stop-go sign.It was just him, now five more work there too. Two girls also working moved to the hostel. Now eight of us work and live together.

It’s a horribly boring job.

A couple of years ago there was a 7.8m earthquake near Kaikoura on the east coast of the South Island. It caused a few landslides and took the road out. This road was the main drive for people to go from the Interisland Ferry to Christchurch. I head it was about a three hour drive. The detour is a seven or eight hour drive.

We work for a recruitment agency that works for a subcontractor that works for NCTIR, North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery. We had to go through an induction to get on the site. They showed us this promotion video.

The location is great. It’s a coastal highway, similar to the 1 and 101 on the coast of California. There is a hawk that lives near one of the sites I spent most of my time at. I watch the Hawk glide in the air and drop down every now and then. Everyday, the same hawk.

All day I stand by the ocean. I listen to RadioLab podcast. I listen to Intercepted Podcast. RadioLab has been doing a lot of episodes about race and with their spin off show, More Perfect, race politics. Intercepted is Jeremy Scahill’s podcast about war, surveillance, the failure of the media state, and more. It surrounds me with the problems of the world. I stand by the ocean.

I can hear these, they pull me from my spot into a society. A society with too many problems and too many people.

I stare into the horizon. I love the myriad of blues, greys, and whites, colliding to create the horizon. I stare into and focus everything on my breathe. All I see are dull shades crash into shiny shades. All I feel is the wind enter my body. All I hear is the waves, the wind in the trees, the birds, and, in the morning, an occasional sheep. In these moments, I feel like there is only me. I am one with the ocean. I am the ocean. The ocean is me. I can stay here until my walkie-talkie screams, “Can I send? Sending. Do you copy? Is it clear?” “Yeah, all clear,” I reply without looking. My sign stays on stop.

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This is just a cool photo I wanted to include from Wairua Lagoons Walkway near Blenheim.

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