Thursday, 29 January 2009

National Identity

America's National Bird: Bald Eagle

(solitary, powerful, predatory)

Wildlife Pictures, Images and Photos

New Zealand's National Bird: Kiwi

(flightless, rare, and.. uh.. stroppy?*)

Kiwi Bird

* Stroppy: a fighter; easily provoked to anger; fiercely protective.





Actually, a New Zealand national icon that I think fits a little better is: the Bee

(Industrious, hard-working, civic-minded)

Buzzy Bee Pictures, Images and Photos

"buzzy bee" a classic Kiwi child's toy

Thursday, 15 January 2009

27th July, 2005: Waiting for the Fall

I've had a request to re-post some of the stuff I wrote back when I first started working with animals and had a lot more to say about it. The following is one of my favourites.


I wish I were a painter. So I could paint a picture for you. A clearing in dappled light, under the canopy of a large twisted old bay tree. In the center of the clearing is a deer, standing very still, its nose just touching the ground. At the edges of the clearing there are several women, all standing very still, all watching the deer. It is very quiet. The woman in the background is crouching, sturdy-looking, middle aged with short graying hair. The woman standing just to the deer's left is wearing the same sensible khaki as the others, but her hair is blonde and curly, she has ear rings, she looks almost glamorous, she is glancing down at her watch. The two women in profile in the foreground look almost peaceful, and a little bit weary, their eyes fixed on the deer, who is looking back at them. If I were a painter, I could paint this with perfect detail. I would call it "Waiting for the fall."

We stood there so still and so quiet for what seemed like a very long time. I saw the vet shoot the dart, and then we closed in, and then we waited. She should have gone down then, but she just wouldn't. Its not her fault - in the wild, you have to hide your weaknesses as long as possible, especially when you are a prey animal. The vet. got two more doses of ketamine in her before it was all over. Then we tried to just drive her into the holding area, but she bolted the other way, and I was the one to cut her off that time. I should have just froze, then, with my arms out, making myself as big as possible. She was too far to drive through the door now, but I didn't think of that, so I just reached out and touched her on the nose, and she took off again. We cornered her again, and then the keeper said "everyone hold!" and we stopped, and we closed in. The vet. inched in painfully slow and got a pillow case over her head, and we helped her to the ground and into the net and that was the end of it.

There's something I just love about this part of it. Whether its cornering a deer or handling a fractious cat or finding that sneaky way to get a shot into a scared dog with the minimum of restraint. It takes a certain kind of skill that's so far removed from the technical side of the job, and it takes a kind of animal sense which can't really be taught. There was something particularly exciting about being part of this group of women working together to take down a deer. Though we weren't out to kill it, of course. We just wanted to trim its hooves, give it some medicine, and clean its teeth.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Election Day/ Guy Fawkes Day

Still trying to catch up on all that's happened in the last few months. Let's go back to November...

The first guests to arrive were my parents. The day they got here happened to be the day of the Presidential election in America. We choose to not get any television reception in our home, but I still wanted to know what was going on with the election. I heard JJ Murphy's - an Irish pub up on Cuba St. - was going to be showing election coverage all day. They probably weren't the only pub doing this, but the were the only pub hosting the American Democrat's election-watching party.

USA 08 race at JJ Murphys

Patrons at JJ Murphy's watching the race

It was a warm cloudy day with misty rain on and off. We walked around the CBD alternately doing last-minute Celebration preparations and popping into JJ Murphy's to catch the tally. We were eating lunch at Offbeat Originals when we heard a cheer go up from JJ Murphy's down the street. When we went in to get an update, the place was packed. Obama had just won the presidency. Americans and Kiwis alike were celebrating. We watched McCain's concession speach, and Mom said how nice that the three of us were all together for this historic moment.

Obama in the lead

Parents looking hopeful as Obama takes the lead

It also happened to be Guy Fawkes Day, which is celebrated each year with a fireworks display over the harbour. As we walked the couple blocks from our apartment to the waterfront that evening, the fireworks were already going, and we could hear some kids nearby hollering "Obama!" It was an excellent display, with two launch points working in tandem from barges out in the harbour. It was easy to imagine the whole thing was a celebration of Obama's victory.

It is fair to say that mostly Kiwis are happy about Obama's victory. While American is not, in fact, the centre of the universe, most other countries do care about American politics, simply because they have to. American is still a powerful political and military force which likes to get all up in everyone else's business. And I think that if the world's population had voted in America's presidential election, Obama would have won by a landslide. Wellington will be celebrating his inauguration on the 21st with party featuring African and African-American music:


Tuesday, 6 January 2009


So we're going to Japan. It is official. We bought tickets today. I am excited.

This all started when Loren went to an international Magic (the card game) tournament in Auckland. He got 16th place which won him some money and an invite to a international tournament in Japan. (no, not enough money to cover the trip, but enough to help). That was the end of November and the tournament is at the end of February. Not much time to decide whether to go and how to get there. Last week I finally got a Kyoto guide book (that's the city we will be visiting). And now I can't wait to go, it sounds like a really beautiful city, and completely different than anywhere I've ever been. Neither of us have been anywhere in Asia before.

kyoto guide

So. I am just going to pretend this is our non-honeymoon following our non-wedding in December. And remind myself that some people spend more on a wedding dress than we'll be spending on all of our travel expenses combined.