Thursday, November 24, 2011

Getting on with it

My life at Otago has settled into a pattern - walk down to the university in the morning. Sit at my desk, read, drink coffee, read, eat a sandwich for lunch, read more, drink coffee, read, catch the bus back up hill. Very easy. So - I do have a desk. Or at least 9 candidates have the use of 4 desks but being peaceful people we can resolve a resource shortage amicably. The juggling act revolves round not everyone being on campus all at once.

Our office (and the MA students who have the adjoining office) until we move "soon" is in the Music Department studios. Formerly the Radio New Zealand studios in Albany Street the building has now been taken over by the university as part of its great eastwards campus expansion.

These studios are for Contemporary Music Performance. Down the corridor from us is a "Vocal Room". But so far it's been a very quiet room. Maybe it only sings in the evenings. There is also a "Contemporary Rock Waiting Room." I wouldn't have thought of contemporary rock as prepared to sit down and wait. If it waits too long it won't be contemporary. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nearly on stream

I have the magic ID card and can use the library. This is progress. But it still takes a few days to get security access loaded onto my card. And then I will get a desk. In the meantime I'm sitting in the library and reading. Currently Marc Gopin's Holy War, Holy Peace: How Religion can bring Peace to the Middle East.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting enrolled

Things have changed since 1975-1977 when I was last enrolled as a fulltime student at Otago. Now it's computerised. But the computer that produces the ID cards can't do that today since the computer which enrolled me only talks to it at night time. Tomorrow the ID card machine will know me. And then other things will start happening - library access for a start.

Dunedin in the spring is full of rhododendrons and other blossom. My daily walk down through the botanic gardens takes me through these and many more.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Back to School

I've returned to student life at my alma mater, Otago University. I heard yesterday that I've been admitted as a candidate for PhD  - to write a thesis on some aspect of contemporary Franciscan peace making. Otago University has NZ's only peace and conflict studies centre. It's great to be back here. The university is much bigger, but still with many recognisable views and paths, each with memories.
Researching and writing a PhD thesis seems a massive mountain - I've no idea where the track through and over that mountain will lead.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Thursday 12 May, 9 am

Arrived in Milan yesterday en route to Assisi. This is where most of the long haul flights come in – and Singapore to Milan at 12 hours is certainly long haul. Made the most of the in flight entertainment  concert channel to watch opera. The Valencia Gotterdamerung (I saw their Rheingold also inflight a few months previously) hi-tech, video screens, Wotan as a currency trader – but a very traditional Brunnhilde built along traditional lines. Then the Salzburg Festival of about 5 years ago Don Giovanni – modern dress, running round in the woods, hiding behind trees. Brunnhilde couldn’t have managed that (either the running round or the hiding behind trees) but the Mozart cast, and managed to keep singing at the same time. And finally about half of Lulu – also from the Salzburg festival – before landing in Milan.


First impressions. Who are these elegantly dressed, coiffured and made up people standing round the arrivals area at 6am? The airline employees of course. Second impression – in Italy there’s always something closed for repairs, or “work in progress” and the exit I was heading for from the terminal was such a case.


Arrived at the hotel I had made an internet reservation for (51 Euros a night) – but once I started cluttering up their “elegant and spacious lobby”  with my luggage they told me I was staying at another hotel run by the same company, fortunately just round the corner. So here I am in the “Hotel Club” in my “simple yet elegant” room, being just that – simple and elegant. But no matter how hard I try to be elegant I remain among the worst dressed in Milan. Tourists can be spotted from a long distance.


Sightseeing – the usual things for me. The Duomo – and the climb to the roof. The lift? No thanks, I’ll take the stairs, they’re cheaper.  A sprinkling of churches. Two big saints (Ambose =Ambrogio and Charles Borromeo) and a sprinkling of smaller ones.


And then La Scala. The 12 Euro gallery seats are sold on the day of the performance. First – at 1pm you queue for the opportunity to have your name added to a list. The first 140 or so are lucky, others might be if there are cancellations. The second test is then to return at 5:30pm and join the crowd while the names on the list are bellowed out. If you manage to hear your name over the traffic and general chaos you then elbow your way to the front – “scusi! scusi!”, collect a slip of paper, and then join the queue for the box office and after that opens you wait to hear your number called, then finally you are admitted to the box office where for 12 Euro you receive an actual ticket. Those who just missed out hang about because after all this there might still be a few tickets remaining.


Two women had – according to those just in front of me – pushed their way into the 1 pm queue, resulting a dramatic argument for five minutes or so. What passion to bring to the desire to see opera! It was splendid enough theatre joining these queues and if I had been unlucky and not got a ticket I would not have been disappointed too much.   The performance was Turandot – a lively performance with inventive staging and an almost constantly moving set. The cheap gallery seats are small and cramped and I was squashed between a rather wide man on one side and a pillar on the other. Suffering from jet lag I was near sleep at times but the long intervals were a chance to stretch and drink coffee.


Now on the fast train to Florence before taking the slow train from there to Assisi.




Friday, April 29, 2011

India - the final leg

Bangalore Airport, Friday 29 April, 6:30 pm.

Am now waiting for my international connection on Singapore Airlines to take me back to Australia. Well – I’m waiting for the check-in to open at 8pm, for an 11pm departure. My fellow travellers, Peter and Gabriel, insisted on seeing me off from Delhi airport even though they then needed to go back into New Delhi for their overnight train to Varanasi before heading to Nepal. I’m sure they pleased not to be carrying my bag anymore, and I am certainly grateful that they did. How could I travel more lightly? Did I really need the 4 sets of hot-weather clothing and the 2 sets of cold-weather clothing? I wore them, and appreciated having clean clothes every day. Did I need the camera tripod? It helped me take some good low light mountain shots, but I could have improvised. Did I need the travelling set of medicines? Some of them were useful.


Our final morning we had breakfast in one of the kinds of places frequented by back-packers all over the world, and with much the same sort of international breakfast menu.  We then wandered the narrow lanes in Paharganj, too narrow even for an auto-rickshaw, as store-keepers were opening for the day and small single-room neighbourhood temples were offering the morning puja. We looked in one and I was struck by the atmosphere of calm cleanness. The priest did his best to explain who the deities enshrined there were, while a woman gently and lovingly washed one of the statues.


Thursday’s arrival was uneventful. The security in Leh included yet a further frisking while leaving the terminal for boarding the plane. We also had to identify our luggage piece by piece and match it with luggage receipts before it was loaded onto the plane. I was entertaining a number of disasters, none of which eventuated. When Korean friend made the plane reservation there was confusion over my name, and so my ticket had me as CHRISTOPHER /MR. And in the confusion of checking in in Leh my much lugged about bag, labelled in my name, was checked in on one of the Koreans’ tickets. When surrounded by soldiers toting automatic weapons it’s easy to imagine what might go wrong.


The flight out was spectacular as we zig-zagged our reverse path out through the mountains.


Travel from Delhi Airport to New Delhi Station was in the air-conditioned comfort of the newly opened airport express. A lot of Delhi seems to be under construction, as if preparing for some major international event. Well – if it wasn’t finished in time for the Commonwealth Games last year, then perhaps it will be ready for whatever’s next. Emerging from the metro station there was a total absence of taxi touts. Where are they all we said to each other. We walked a bit further and suddenly they appeared. We eventually haggled our way through a succession of auto-rickshaw drivers, practicing the technique of walking away and waiting for them to follow with reduced offers. Delivered in  Paharganj we found a hotel, haggled over the rate, dropped our baggage and went out exploring. The National Gandhi Museum is not one of the major tourist attractions, but its simplicity and its devotion to preserving the teaching of Gandhi were a powerful evocation of his spirit. It preserved not only his teaching, but also seemingly every item ever used by him. Dentures, sandals, nail-clippers, ear-wax removers and two of his teeth were just some. But the powerful witness was given by the blood-stained clothing he was wearing at the time of his assassination. Nearby, at Raj Ghat, was the place of his cremation.


We then decided to walk to the Red Fort. On the map it didn’t seem far, but it was near 45 minutes of walking alongside a busy highway. Even the taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers gave up on us, realising how these crazy foreigners were intent on demonstrating that it was not only mad dogs and Englishmen who would go out in the midday sun, but also Koreans and New Zealander.


The narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk, west of the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort, are crowded with markets. The section we explored was the place for dental instruments, fireworks and ball-bearings. The nearby Jama Masjid is a huge mosque, beautifully built by the Shah Jahan in the 17th century. Nearby is a Jain temple, with a bird hospital. (Perhaps we too could establish one at one of our friaries?). The Red Fort is large but nowhere near as impressive as Agra’s Red Fort (also the same Shah Jahan – of Taj Mahal fame). On a hot day we could imagine life here when the many water-ways and fountains were operating, and the shah and his family could bath in rose-scented water. Such thoughts prompted the desire for iced-coffee, and after a frantic auto-rickshaw drive to Connaught Place we eventually found just that, before an easy walk back to the hotel in Paharganj (the word “hotel” perhaps suggests something like the Hilton with crisp cotton sheets, spacious lounges and lobbies, obsequious staff – none of which describe the Hotel Arupat, although it was perfectly clean and adequate, and also popular with many of the backpackers who wash up in Delhi.     



Thursday, April 28, 2011

Leh to Delhi

Thursday 28th, 7am

We went to Leh airport yesterday morning for our Air India flight back to Delhi, but the flight was cancelled because of a pilot strike. We were re-scheduled on Jet Airways the following day. An extra day in Leh rather than the noise and chaos of Delhi was no loss. Now we are waiting for our departure, already delayed from 7:25 to about 8:00 am. Check-in was pure chaos, mixed with intensive security screening (2 separate x-ray checks, 3 personal scans and frisks), bureaucracy (each scanned bag individually tagged, numbered  and written by hand in a register) and a check-in procedure which took about 10 minutes for each of the three people in our party. Jet Airways had a poster for their staff, but in full view of passengers, exhorting their staff to make eye contact with “guests” since “eye contact exudes warmth and sincerity”. How about trying warmth and sincerity itself? And what’s wrong with us being called passengers?    


The last day in Leh was a gentle wandering round the markets. Lunch at a multi-ethnic restaurant with a menu including Tibetan, Nepalese, Indian, Korean, Chinese, Italian, Russian and Israeli food. The proprietor was Nepalese, and his uncle married to a Korean woman. Always ready to try Korean food as it takes shape in different countries I ordered sujebi (it’s a soup of small dough strips or shapes), which came with the hottest kimchi I’ve ever encountered – made with a locally grown radish, cabbage and ginger).


We seem to be ready for boarding.