Location:  Provo Utah, USA   

I decided to start my blog today.  Why?  I'm not really sure, but it seemed to be the right thing to do.  

 If you have stumbled across this blog and have no context, I am writing about my experience as part of a faculty-let study abroad program to New Zealand and Australia.  The program, 33 days long, starts June 1, 2013 and ends July 3rd.  

This is my fifth trip.  

But, back to why I started the blog now.  This year I am going as a faculty chaperone.  This means that I did not have to do any of the planning, budgeting, teaching, or administration for the trip.  All I have to do is tag along.  As Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak) in A Few Good Men, I am responsible for various administrative duties which means "I have no responsibilities whatsoever."  Although not completely true, we do have a large group of students and I give the trip flexibility that it would not otherwise have.  Three things come to mind.  First, I have no problem driving in either country.  I regularly drive (legally) on the left (Barbados and New Zealand) so I can take students to destinations required for their projects.  Second, I have a much broader background than the faculty.  This means I can provide more insights, discussions, and recommendations to students in regard to what they might be interested in doing.  Third, and probably most important, I can cook large meals so I add flexibility to the meals program.  

Why Utah

I wondered when someone was going to ask.  It seems strange that you would start a blog about New Zealand and Australia while in Provo Utah (unless you lived in Provo which I do not).  My daughter is "graduating" tomorrow from her current program and is moving on to her next.  This will be an exciting day and I am looking forward to it.  But, the trip to Provo added three days to my 33 day trip.  We are flying all over the place this week when we depart (Drew - son, age 19 - flies to Indy because he leaves for New Orleans on Sunday (6/2/13) for a mission trip.  Cate (wife - married 27 years) and Anna (daughter - age 18 - fly to Ft. Lauderdale to her new location Laughing ) and I get to fly to Chicago (O'hare - my second favorite airport in the US Frown in order to catch the flight to New Zealand on the 1st).  

What am I looking forward too

There is nothing better than seeing a student "get it."  To see them develop a desire to travel.  To start to see the world rather than just their small part of it.  To see that American attitudes and view points are not the worlds.  There are people who live every day, are very happy, and never really think about the United States.  They will meet people who are glad to meet them (as Americans), are angry at them (story here about one evening in a Hostel where a older gentlemen was angry at me because I get to pick the leader of the free world [vote for president] and that Americans did not really seem to understand that responsibility), and don't really care.  

What am I not looking forward too

This is easy - The flight.  The long days.  We keep the students running (the downside is that we also run).  About the middle of the trip you get so tired that you just want to crash for a day.  Relax and do nothing.  

Location:  Port Douglas

A visit to the Daintree Rainforest is one of the top experiences in this study abroad experience.  I know that the program was designed to have both themes that continue throughout the trip, but it also builds to a very strong conclusion.  One of those penultimate experiences is the rainforest.  I enjoyed today’s experience although I did not get to cross another item off the bucket list, seeing a wild Cassowary.

The Daintree Rainforest is considered one of, if not the oldest rainforest on the earth.  You can find fern trees that are fifty feet tall that grow at only a few centimeters a year to the oldest flowering plant.   You can go from tropical rainforest to Mangrove rainforest within a few hundred meters. 

You can go from the beach to the mountains in but a few minutes.  

The most dangerous plant in the Rainforest

The rainforest holds many interesting surprises.The Stinging Tree, or the Dendrocnide moroides, is the most dangerous tree in the rainforest. The plant has sillica hairs that are hollow and coated with a neurotoxin. When embedded in the skin it results in several days of intense pain.  You can try tape and others have tried to burn them out (as burning is less painful than the hairs).  The hairs remain in the skin for up to five years and every time you get cold, the cold air flows down the hollow hair and triggers nerve pain.

Spider

 

 

 

Can eat birds - need I say more?

 

 

 

 

Strangler FigStarts in the canopy.  Sends roots down that wrap around a tree.  When the roots get to the ground they trigger leaf growth.  The fig does not allow the tree that it has wrapped to expand so it dies.  The fig lives off the decayed tree. 

 

Kangroo

 

After the rainforest and lunch (including petting and feeding kangaroos and wallabies), we got to do several other different things.  We stopped at a tropic ice cream stand with wild flavors, most of which were composed of jungle/tropical fruits.  For example, I had Black Saporte, which is also known as the chocolate pudding fruit.  You open the fruit and the inside looks like chocolate pudding.  It tastes like a cross between mocha and chocolate.We visited an ice cream shop that has 26 different 

 

 

 

 

Salt water crocs

The next experience was to actually go on the Daintree River to spot crocodiles and other fauna.  We spotted several different types of birds and a number of both male and female crocs.One of the things that strike me every time I return to this area is the knowledge base and the true environmental orientation that the guides have. 

There is talk about the impact of global warming (with data), the knowledge of the local flora and fauna, 20+ years experience on the river with the crocs and knows their hangouts, habits, and other pertinent data, the concern for recycling.  One of the interesting changes in my years of coming here is the movement toward recognizing the “local indigenous people”.  This is done in several ways.  A number of locations have been renamed – more accurately, returned to their original name.  The guides will defer explaining local indigenous people’s stories and history to those who know the history (local tribal/family story tellers).  Also, reference to a number of traditional aboriginal spiritual places is no longer made.We had the nature part of the stay in Port Douglas (the Rainforest), tomorrow is the indigenous people’s experience (aboriginal arts and Aboriginal fishing and living), and the day after is the reef.

 

Location:  Port Douglas

Have you ever wondered what are the meanings in aboriginal art?  There are many painting forms for art, from the oldest recorded type, spray-painting from 50,000 to dot painting to the modern blending of forms.  Today we had the opportunity to visit with a local artist and learn about aboriginal painting, content and process, and about the history and legends that are embedded in the painting.

Location:  Port Douglas

The Australian government as “green” certifies the hostel we are staying in, Port’o Call.  In the states we hear about green buildings and recycling programs but this hostel is light years ahead and demonstrates much of Australia’s commitment to green.

The hostel generates it’s own electricity.  It has two wind generators at the front of the campus (although one does not seem to be working) to meet the power demands of the building.

All the light bulbs are either low power or florescent (incandescent light bulbs are illegal in Australia).  There are signs everywhere to reduce power use.  Each room is equipped with a ceiling fan that is much more power efficient than air conn (Australians shorten everything).  Air conn, if you want it, is only turned on at bed time, after dark.  You are encouraged to use the drying line for your cleaning (dryers are expensive to use).  Trash is sorted more completely than most places.  Each public location has a trash and recycle bin right next to each other.

Water is also recycled.  Grey water is used for a number of applications including watering the grounds and toilets.  Use of this water even when that is an abundance of clean water in this area (Thornton Peak, in the Daintree Rainforest gets 60 meters of rain a year.  That is about 197 feet of rain to us.   Once you get used to the rules and laws, it is not difficult to live by them.

Everything north of the Daintree River to Cooktown is off the grid.  They do not have public power, sewerage, phones, etc.  They have to provide all of it.  They use generators for power (so internet and TV is frequently limited in the evenings),  houses must adhere to strict rules related to waste (composting toilets), and generally don’t have airconn.  This lack of airconn in an area that is tropical and gets very hot during the summer.

In New Zealand, there is even more emphasis on recycling.  Heaters are on timers to make sure then are only used when needed for as long as they are needed.  Kitchens have food scrap, plastic, cardboard and paper, trash bins everywhere.  Observation showed a high use of cloth and canvas bags in grocery stories.  In fact, New Zealand is probably the cleanest country I have ever traveled in.  They have a clean up New Zealand week; we have maybe a local cleanup day.

The hostels also emphasize conservation.   Use cloth towels not paper towels in the kitchen, advise conservation of water in the bathroom, two cycle toilets (half-flush and full-flush), use biodegradable washing powers and detergent, and use of solar panels in several hostels.

One of the things that is done here is that recycling is made easy and legally enforced.  Much like when I lived in Northampton, we would have to pay for each bag of garbage that we were disposing of.  But, we had to take our trash and recycling to a central location.  Curb service would make life much easier for recycling.  If you make it as easy as possible, put your recyclables out in the evening and they will be picked up, combined with some common sense laws like banning incandescent light bulbs would perhaps start us on a path of being more green. Although, we may still need to redesign our kitchens and other trash locations as they are not designed in most cases for multiple bins

Location:  Dunedin

As you travel it is always interesting to see how things are different.  I frequently struck with the thought that what I am observing would never happen in the States.  Our liability laws and court system are so embedded into our daily life that we miss opportunities and have misplaced the importance of personal responsibility.

 

A couple of examples to demonstrate.

At Wai-o-Tiapo, there are colorful hot pools.  One is called Champaign Pool where the water is the color of Champaign and bubbles (sulfur dioxide) looking like a glass of Champaign.  There are warning signs that caution you that the water is hot (boiling) and then there is a little six-inch high fence around it to give you guidance as to where it is safe to be.  IN the states, there would be warning signs, cameras, Plexiglas screens 10 feet tall, all warning people and keeping them from the water (if you were even allowed that close to the site).

There is a cooking style here called stone grilling.  You have a personal slab of volcanic stone, heated to 400 degrees and on top of the slab; you have your cut of meat(s) (lamb, chicken, beef, venison, prawns, etc.) that you cook.  If you are not careful, it is easy to get burned.  What restaurant in the States would you be able to do that (and be able to get insurance coverage?).  It is great food and a fun experience with friends.

The Speight’s Brewery in Dunedin is undergoing a NZ$50 million dollar renovation (they started by investing NZ$25 million, have reached NZ$35 million and expect it to go to 50).  The brewery in Christchurch was damaged beyond repair in the earthquake several years ago and it was decided to move the brewery to Dunedin.  The local plant will go from 6 brews a day to 26 brews a day.  Making everything from Guinness to Speight’s Gold Medal.  So, the facility is under major renovation.  They are also reinforcing the building to make it more earthquake proof.  While the renovations are going on the brewery tours continue.  So you are walking in and around construction areas.  In the States, the tours would be cancelled until the construction is complete.

Even more amazing is that you get to walk right among the brewers and the brew tanks.  You could stick your hand out and run it through skids of wheat, hops, sugar, etc.  You can look in the mash tanks and see the process.  I remember a tour of a beef plant years ago and you walked through glass hallways above the plant floor never getting closer than 50 feet to the actual process.  Here, you are standing next to the process.