Posts Tagged ‘Tasman Sea’

New Zealand Road Trip : Punakaiki to Hari Hari

June 6, 2011

The greenstone’s a gem just like jade

For jewelry, for bowls, or for blades

     What it looked so official,

     Just like my initial

Was the thing that the artist had made.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to dance back from the verge of burnout, I’m having adventures and working in out-of-the-way places.  We’re touring after a month-long assignment an hour outside of quake-stricken Christchurch, in New Zealand’s South Island.

This morning we got off to a leisurely start to the Paparoa National Park, famous for pancake rocks and blow-holes. 

The mood of the beaches of the South Island’s West Coast differs from the beaches of the East Coast, where we started our New Zealand odyssey, as much as Big Sur differs from New Jersey.  The Tasman Sea, which separates New Zealand and Australia, generates much bigger surf than the Pacific. 

We found the East Coast rainy, but the West Coast, where parts flow with 3 meters (ten feet) of rain in an average year, makes all that greenery look positively drought-stricken.

We took the short Truman Walk down to the beach north of Punkaiki proper as the tide rose. We entered the cool zone of the rain forest and followed the path downhill out into the open where trees give way to New Zealand flax, then down the rocks to the sand.  Bethany found a piece of jade.

“Look how gorgeous this is,” she said, “and with the main attraction by the visitor’s center, I’ll bet almost no one comes here.”

In fact, the number of tourists at the Pancake Rocks increased steadily as high tide approached.  We went out on the path across the rocks and looked over the eroded, layered dolomite, feeling the ground shake as the waves pounded through the grottos under our feet.  A brief rain made me zip up my duck-hunting jacket and drove the other tourists away.  When the number of smokers reached critical mass, we left.

An easy afternoon’s drive through driving rain, past brooding mountains with low hanging clouds brought us to Hokitika, famous for greenstone and jade.

The Maori prized greenstone for its beauty and utility, and grew ceremony and custom to go with it.  Found nowhere else in the world, greenstone jewelry finds favor with Maori and Pakeha alike, and two years ago attained recognition as a gemstone separate from jade.  You don’t find the greenstone, the Maori say, the greenstone finds you; never purchased for oneself, it should only be bought as a gift.

The local Maori iwi owns the only privately held river in the country; they find jade and greenstone in the bed, and carve it for market at their shop in Hokitika. 

We walked in, and as I looked through the display case, the goose bumps hit.

Fifty years ago I combined my first and last initial into a monogram; it evolved as I finished medical school and started signing things hundreds of times a day.  Not particularly legible, but consistent and distinctive, the center resembles a treble clef.

I called Bethany over and pointed; she gasped.  The piece could pass for my signature.  The greenstone had found me, but Bethany would have to make the actual purchase.

The Maori clerk, a nurse, also works full-time at the Greymouth hospital, and in short order we fell to talking about medicine.

Their hospital has lab and x-ray.  Depending on who has the duty, surgery can be performed there, but complicated fractures get flown to Christchurch on weekends.  A top-heavy administration uses resources to make rules for the sake of rules, while such facilities as an Alzheimer’s unit lack the money for beds.

I told her that, outside the specialty hospitals, the same problems crop up in American facilities. Here, as in the US, rural areas and small towns have problems recruiting doctors.

I explained the Medical Council of New Zealand’s rules for provisional licensure the first year; the registration comes tied to a specific location, and the doc has to notify the Council before any practice move.  My registration expired yesterday, I told her, and I smiled.



Planning too much versus not planning: the optimum dances.

May 29, 2011

In the past I’ve done what I can

For the future, just making a scan

     I took a chance on a blunder

     To re-ignite wonder

Sometimes I still make a plan.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to dance back from the verge of burnout, I’m having adventures and working in out-of-the-way places.  Right now I’m living in Amberley, and working the last half of a four-week assignment in Waikari, less than an hour from quake-stricken Christchurch, in New Zealand’s South Island. 

Bethany and I taught and participated in a diet/exercise program, Ultimate Bodyshaping Challenge (UBC) for five years.  One of its guiding principles, “when you fail to plan you plan to fail,” rings true in a lot of human endeavors.

The opposite slogan, “just do it,” carries the message of spontaneity and adventure.

I have learned that both approaches carry validity.  I don’t know if I want to strike a balance or resonate between the two principles.

For years I did an inhuman amount of work, going top speed at peak efficiency sixteen hours a day.  I reached that level of productivity by knowing each step of the day before I got out of bed.  Such a system gets a lot done but lacks resilience and strains the psyche.

I faced a tradeoff: efficiency vs flexibility.  And while life is full of tradeoffs, I had gotten a particular mental set of what life felt like.

In the last year I’ve learned that slowing down 20% did away with half the stress (check my posts from a year ago in Barrow).  I also found out that I fail to plan a day and still enjoy it.

Bethany and I, with another physician/teacher couple, Cheryl and Larry, took an excursion via train from Christchurch to Greymouth, on the west coast of the South Island.  We arrived with few plans and no expectations.  The hotel we’d booked turned out to be 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the railway station.  We took a taxi out, dropped our bags, and walked into town on the beach.

I’d never been close to the Tasman Sea before.  I hadn’t read anything on the net, I had no expectations.  I watched the violent surf crashing a dozen meters from where I stood at the low tide line.  Rounded rocks, grey smooth granite and white and pink marble, dotted the light grey sand.

If we plan everything we do, and if everything goes according to plan, the world loses its surprise, and, with it, its wonder.  Encountering new things involves risk, but fear and risk don’t keep us stuck in a rut as much the mental set that tells us what life should be.

Yet without a plan I wouldn’t have gotten to the beach.

Where do we find the optimum between planning and spontaneity?  If we can’t define an end point, does an optimum exist? 

Or does the optimum shift and dance away, depending on our phase of life?