So much for 2012 being a quieter year

At the close of 2011, K & I were reviewing the year and were amazed at how much had happened in 12 short months.  We both agreed that 2012 needed to be slower, with more time for each other and more time to relax and enjoy the things that make this craziness all worthwhile.  Little did I know …………

I am writing this entry on February 20, less than two full months into the year and this is what it currently looks like.

Arrived back from NZ on January 2nd.  Within one week I was in Lausanne for business. Then I have been backwards and forwards to London, again for work, four times.  This weekend K & I went to Antwerp just for time out.  I then have to go to Paris for 4 days in the second week of March for work.  I get back home at 9pm on the Friday night and leave on a flight to NZ at 10.00am the next morning.  I come back from NZ very early April and then I am supposed to be going to Johannesburg and then Dubai in April.  At the end of April there is a long weekend so we are planning to go towards Austria or Switzerland and then at the end of May we are going to Italy for 10 days.  In between all of this there are trips I need to make to London and Milan.

I look at this and think “so much for the quieter year”.

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Kumbah Mela – India – 2013. Photography opportunity of a lifetime.

For those of you who read this blog you will know that I have a photography love affair with India. You can see the results of the last couple of trips on my photography website.

I thought it would be worth posting about the trip I am planning next year to the Maha Kumbah Mela in India.  I have wanted to do this for years because as a photography trip and a life experience it will be like no other.  This is the major Hindu festival in India which happens once every 4 years.  This one is special as the Maha Kumbah only happens each 144 years.  This is where all the Sadhu’s in India come together which is like nothing else.  Over the month some 60 million visit this place.  I will be there on the two bathing days that matter, the most important being on Feb 10.  I am also going to have a day and a night in Varanasi because it is an amazing place and then a day and night in Delhi because photographing in the old part of the city is also an amazing experience. 

I am putting together a small group of photographers who want to join this once in a lifetime experience. The catch is that hotel rooms in Allahabad need to be booked now because they will quickly sell out.  My agent is holding a few rooms but I will need to confirm by the middle of February this year.

If anyone is interested, contact me immediately for details.  The trip itinerary is below. 

 

Itinerary :

 

Date Day Itinerary City Hotel

04-Feb

Sat Arrive Delhi, transfer to hotel Delhi Ashtan Sarovar Portico

05-Feb

Sun Fly to Varanasi (SpiceJet SG 116 – 09:35  10:50), arrive Varanasi and transfer to Allahabad (2hrs). Allahabad Kanha Shyam

06-Feb

Mon At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

07-Feb

Tue At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

08-Feb

Wed At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

09-Feb

Thu At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

10-Feb

Fri At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

11-Feb

Sat Drive to Varanasi.  Afternoon sightseeing and prayer ceremony. Varanasi Radisson

12-Feb

Sun Dawn boat ride on the river, sightseeing and fly to Delhi (SpiceJet SG 119 -16:15  17:40). Evening at leisure Delhi Ashtan Sarovar Portico

13-Feb

Mon Delhi sightseeing and fly out End NA

 

Welcome to Heathrow – again

Given that the Olympics is opening in London in the middle of this year it is clear that Immigration Officials have been on more “country ambassador” courses.  I have to share with you my monosyllable exchange this week with a charming female Immigration Officer. Her body language as I approached dictated the direction of our interaction even before it began.  My answers are in italic.

Good morning (said with a smile)

Why are you here?  (Here we go thinks me)

Business

Who do you work for?

Xxxx

Who is xxxx?

They are a business

What sort of business?

They make things

What sort of things?

Internet things

What are you going to do here?

Attend Meetings

Who with?

People

Who are these people?

People who have flown in to have this meeting

Why are you going?

Because it is my meeting

When you leave, where are you going?

Home

Where is home?

Amsterdam

Do you have a Visa?

No

Why not?

I don’t need one

Why don’t you need one?

I am a permanent resident

Where was this passport issued?

London

You haven’t filled in that question on the form

Apologies, thank you for filling it in

Yes, we are here to help  (oh yes, very clearly)

 

Laura Dekker – why Holland has no modern heroes

Laura Dekker the 16-year-old Dutch girl, is about to complete her circumnavigation of the world in her twin masted sailboat ‘Guppy’.  This young girl is remarkable.  At the age of 6 she was sailing a small boat across lakes, at 13 she sailed from The Netherlands to England, and back.  She is the youngest person to ever have completed this trip.

So why my comment in the headline?  When it became public knowledge that Laura, then aged 13 was planning this trip, in jumps Dutch authorities – Netherlands Youth Institute.  Without meeting her and without talking to her they made a court application to have her removed from her father and locked up in a secure facility to prevent her from leaving.  When this failed, they went back to court four more times.  Fortunately the judiciary had more intelligence than the Youth Institute.  So eventually, she is free to go and heads off on her adventure.  It would be reasonable at this point to expect that the authorities expended their energies on how to support this remarkable young girl, but no, earlier this month truancy officers issued her father with a summons claiming that the schoolgirl had been failing to complete her homework on time.  She doesn’t always have access to the internet and her time is usually preoccupied with storms, sleeping and the safety of herself and Guppy.  Frankly I find it amazing that the authorities here have not reached the conclusion that any 14-year-old that can learn all the skills needed to sail a boat single-handedly around the world, would probably not benefit from a standard Dutch education.

So having done something of this magnitude, you would expect that Laura is about to return to a heroes welcome in Holland.  Sadly not. Instead Laura chose the Dutch Caribbean island of St Maarten as the arrival point because she feared the presence of social services if she returned directly to her native Netherlands

The opportunity that Laura presents for this country as a symbol of determination, skill, intelligence, spirit and individual courage is clearly not as important as this years version of “Voice of Holland” where the country goes into a frenzy to vote and applaud someone who will slide into utter obscurity within 6 months.  It cannot come as any surprise that Laura says that although she loves the Netherlands, she is unlikely to return because she finds it too stifling – now there is a surprise!

I do have to point out that Laura was actually born on a boat in Whangarei Harbour, New Zealand 🙂

You can read the full news article on the BBC website.  You can also read her story on her own website here.

 

Severe Dislocation

Arrived back home at 6.00am this morning after a trip of 30 hours, which includes the 4 hours at KL airport.  I stepped out of the taxi outside of our home and was hit with this feeling that it was only a very short time since I was actually stepping into the taxi to go the airport and then to NZ. It was then that I realised how dislocated I really felt. 

It was a very weird feeling which continued for most of today.  We are continuosly being given the opportunity to get from one point on the globe to another in ever shorter travel times which results in greater dislocation.  I shifted 12 hours in time zone, from summer at 21C to winter at 11C, from bright sunshine that needed sunglasses to washed out winter light, from living on a beach back to an apartment, from constant personal interaction (there was 8 of us together all of the time) back to the quiet of home, from all surrounding communication in English back to Dutch and then later this week back to work.  The actual transistion from one state to another is in itself a unique experience.  Because I have travelled long distances all of my adult life I have a set of behaviours that I slot into automatically and results in “suspended reality”.  I go into this ‘zone’ of not talking to anyone at all, watching films, reading or sleeping and not being aware of how long I have been travelling for or how long before I arrive, it just happens. When I look back on it, I don’t actually remember anything about the trip.

Coming back to this reality, here, will take a few days.  Thank god I had the common sense to take additional days off before I start work.

NZ de-populates at the rate of 1,000 per week.

Just over 1.1% of the NZ population – 50,115 left NZ permanently last year for Australia. Only 14,300 made the reverse trip. The primary motivation is economic with more jobs and higher pay. Over the last 8 years the net migration total is 203,654.

Being one of those who voted with his feet I completely understand it.  It wasnt until I left both Australia and NZ, moving to Europe that I could actually save money.

Tales from the Twilight Zone – 2011

Each time I come back to NZ I am shocked by the level of violence in this country.  Talking to people there is acknowledgement and seeming acceptance.  Alcohol is of course a significant factor, but it is more than that.  I have my own personal views about the lack of cultural depth and the inability of a lot of people to articulate and discuss what bothers them.  Here is just some of the incidents in the last 2 days;

A 5 year old European girl travelling with her parents on their NZ vacation was attacked inside the family caravan whilst she was asleep and severely sexually assaulted that resulted in 4 hours of surgery and a lifetime of trauma.

A man bashed his partner of 19 years for refusing to cook him dinner, saying “Don’t talk back to me, just do as I am telling you to do”.

A man has been jailed for 18 months after running down 2 teenagers who were making fun of him because his car would not start.  The teenagers comments came after seeing the man with another man inside of the car making a woman push the car from behind.

A 31 year old mother has been jailed for 7.5 years for assaulting her children.  She punched her 9 year old daughter so hard that she broke the bones in her hand – then sought hospital treatment for her hand but not her daughter.  Other charges included assaulting her children with a machete and a hammer, kicking her daughter with steel capped boots, tearing off her toenail and then pouring salt and boiling water on the wound.  Her lawyer tried to blame the Government for not listening to her pleas for help.

A man who threatened his pregnant partner by dangling his toddler out of a window admitted being “a bit rough” with his son.