March 10, 2010

I’m supposed to be happy.  We are back in NZ, have finally found and moved into a cute little house near the centre of town.  I love being back in my academic community, where I have my desk in a corner cubicle by the windows in a 3rd floor office with a view of trees and gardens.  I have almost all my research data in and am almost ready to write. I love that my daughter can now take dance classes and has settled right back into childcare like she never left (as her teacher said – only with more confidence!). I love that she has a school to go to – a good one, close, and one where friends will be. I love coffees and wine and plums and supermarkets and vege gardens and cheese and free buses.

But I’m not particularly happy.  I’m feeling very unsettled and I’m struggling to pinpoint why.

While I knew I would miss certain things about Honduras (the finca, the culture, the friends, the food) I didn’t really expect that I would feel so much like I left part of my heart there. I just feel like something is really missing.  I feel sad for family friends that I know are missing us.  I feel sad that my daughter and husband are missing their friends and the lifestyle they really enjoyed there.  We had become a part of a very special community and we just don’t know when we’ll be able to go back.

I had been looking forward to coming home and getting settled. But settling down is scary. As I unpack our boxes and set up a house I am not enjoying it as I thought I would be. This is permanent. We are not travelling again anytime soon. After a month of planes and hotels and staying in other people’s homes I had thought I had had enough of travelling but the idea of not travelling (by travelling I mean spending weeks or months or years in different places) for a long time, of not know when we might travel again is actually very sad. I had said that the next trip won’t be Honduras, I want to explore other parts of the globe, but it makes me feel even sadder not knowing when we might be back in Honduras.

I don’t really know what the future holds. I have said we will now stay put until the thesis is done. Thats a lot of work. It will be at the very minimum a year, possibly 18 months, hopefully not 2 years.  Then I need to find work. Where? What? Move? I don’t want to move. I’m not ready to stay. The future should be promising at this point but after all the disappointments and set backs of the last decade I’m not as optomistic as I used to be. Would it be easier to settle down if I knew we would have jobs and income? If I knew I could write this thesis in 6 months and get on with it? On with what?

So settling back into life in NZ feels unsettled. Cultural adjustment issues. Missing Honduras issues. Future worries. I should have but didn’t anticipate this. But the journey continues and I now must keep on. Keep smiling. Keep working. Maybe eventually my mind and my heart will catch up with my body and I’ll settle.


Sunday Reader #4

March 7, 2010

A lot has happened since I last posted.  I packed up and left our sweet little house in the citrus orchard in Honduras and traveled to an interesting conference in wintery Savannah, flew back half-way around the world to crash at my parents home for a while, found a new house in Palmerston North and moved in, and started getting my head around my new (part time) position as a conference administrator.  What I haven’t done is get anything much done on my thesis.  Or post anything new on this blog.

Nor have I done much internet reading, and my reader has been a bit ignored.  However here are just a few things that managed to catch my eye in all the busy-ness.

In the midst of the pictures of damage in Chile, Collazo Projects has posted some photos of Chile before the Quake.  This struck a chord with me as I visited Chile (including the quake-sticken area around Concepción) many years ago and have been remembering beauty of the people and the place, and feeling somewhat melancholic about the disaster.

As Chile and Haiti face the long task of recovery, many have been asking Why are there so many natural disasters lately?.  Good intentions are Not Enough has yet another pithy post, this time reminding us of the human factors that make natural events into disasters.

As noted above, I am now trying to get  this PhD comic nicely sums up about where I am now!  I have been following the PhD comics since I began my PhD journey and there were actually several that made me smile this month.  This one also seems appropriate as I veer wildly between my daughter’s 4-year old life and academia:

Now that we are back in New Zealand and getting back into routine, hopefully both the thesis and the blog will get more attention.  Although, with the amount of attention the thesis will need I make no promises about the blog except that I will try… remembering of course that time enjoyed is not time wasted, and despite the scarcity of posts since starting the PhD, I do still enjoy blogging.

Sunday Reader #3

February 1, 2010

Opps, I’ve missed a week already.  Bad internet and general busy-ness as I prepare to leave Honduras (this week!) are my excuses.  Next week I’ll be at a conference in Savannah so I will probably miss another one, but should be back more regularly once we are back in NZ.  In the meantime here are some of the issues I’ve been following and other random internet goodness for you to pick through.


The big news in Honduras this week was the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo as President.  The coup “de facto” government is gone!  I wanted to write a whole post on this but just don’t have the time.  Maybe once I get back to NZ I will, but for now here are some photos by Honduras e logo ali of the procession to the airport to farewell Zelaya.  The march was completely peaceful – maybe because the military left them well alone.

Not related to the inauguration, but directly connected to the coup is a feature in the NYT lens blog of Pablo Delano’s photographs.  In 1997 Delano, a professory of Fine Arts, started a project to document the varied ethnic groups in Honduras.  His work was unfortunately cut short when his collaborator and patron in the government Darío A. Euraque was ousted by the coup leaders. The photos are stunning and a testament to the beautiful diversity of Honduras.


The internet continues to buzz with posts about how to help Haiti.  And aid workers continue to try to draw attention to how not to help.  This story and this one remind us why despite the best of motives and intention, for most going to Haiti is just not the best way to help.  For those determined to go, Saundra has some tips on how to evaluate volunteer opportunities in Haiti.

While campaigns to cancel Haitis debt heat up across the web, Venezuela is amongst the first to actually do so.

Other random stuff:

Julie Clawson has an interesting post up on walking the justice walk.  Long before any crisis of faith, I had a crisis of confidence in the church. This is why.

PhD comics neatly sum up my feelings about my thesis work at the moment.

And finally this photo from Wellington Daily Photo reminds me of why it is time to go home. Summer in my city.

Someone once told me that for those is cross-cultural relationships the happiest place is somewhere in the air, between two places.  It’s true for me, especially now I have lived in Honduras for a while.  No place can be perfect again, something will always be missing no matter where we are.

All too often the news and talk about Honduras is negative.  The political situation is ugly.  The poverty is terrible.  Life is hard.  It’s true, and yet only half the story.  When we leave in 2 weeks time I will take with me more positive memories than negative.  There will be lots of things I won’t miss but more that I will.

I’ll miss the warm sunshine and being able to wear a t-shirt or light dress (almost) every day.  I’ll miss the orange trees, fresh mangoes and sweet pineapple.   I’ll miss baleadas, burras for breakfast and liquados for lunch.  I’ll miss saying “buenas” all the way up and down the street and the smiles of strangers.  I’ll miss the snatches of music everywhere (although maybe not the ear-destroying blasts of the malls and buses), fiestas and carneadas, the simplicity of daily life.

Most of all I’ll miss the friends we’ve made and the community we’ve found.  Cohesive, functioning and caring rural communities do exist in Honduras, and we were lucky enough to experience living in one.

But I’m thinking more and more about New Zealand.  About my family there and the niece I have barely met.  My academic community that I have missed so much.  Having our own “stuff” back and a more permanent home to keep it in.  Good wine, cheese and fresh, tasty bread.  I’m ready to go home.

But I’m not ready to leave.

Where should we live?  Why do we need to choose?




For any NZ or Australian readers: check out the events in your area and support them!



So, after some dramatic statements, much speculation, many rumours and very little consulting, Murray McCully has announced that NZAid will be merged back into MFAT. Along with this it’s mandate will change from poverty alleviation to economic growth.  In other words from a comprehensive policy that is used by the UN and many others in the international development community, to a narrow, economically defined model that has been shown to be ineffective at reaching the poorest.  

It all makes me very glad I never did manage to get a job at NZAid.

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Congratulations Helen Clark, new head of the UNDP.

I was very interested to read John Key’s comments on the appointment:

“Helen Clark should be very proud of her achievement and New Zealanders should be very proud of her,” Mr Key said.

“She will be working to help establish democracies, reduce poverty, improve health care, help in crisis prevention and recovery and assist with environmental issues.”

“In other words the UNDP needs someone who can front for them, mobilise resources and give the organisation a human face,” he said.

This at a time when Key’s government is looking at merging NZAid back into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thereby making aid a tool of foreign policy and economic priorities.  As I was told today by someone close to NZAid, in practical terms for the Pacific, this means money being re-directed away from grassroots development projects and towards propping up regional airlines and other strategic business interests.  It all makes me very skeptical about whether or not National really does care about poverty alleviation.  I’m quite convinced they know nothing about aid and development beyond thier own political biases.

While I am pleased for Clark, and think she will probably be a great person for the job (and I love seeing a kiwi woman in such a great position) unfortunately she doesn’t escape my scepticism either.  She says:

“For a start we have to ensure that the donors … the Western countries who donate, don’t drop back on commitments,” Clark told National Radio in her first interview since her appointment was confirmed.

This from someone who led a government that seemed unable to raise aid past 0.3% of GNI, despite being a signatory to a UN target of 0.7%.  Can she hold other countries to a commitment she couldn’t keep?

I just watched a news report about a the defacement of an Israeli memorial plaque by a Catholic Priest in Wellington, in protest at the events in Gaza.  A member of the local Jewish community was interviewed, clearly upset by the ‘vandalism’ of the monument.  It made me mad.  How could someone be so upset about the defacement of a monument when the people it represents, his people, are not just defacing but seem set on destroying people.  

The Catholic church has distanced itself from the action.  

The New Zealand government remains ‘nuetral’.

I’m not going to say more because the whole Gaza situation just makes me angry.



Anita at Kiwipolitico has a more thoughtful post on the blood on the memorial protest.

The Hand Mirror has a good round-up of reactions to Gaza from the progressive blogosphere in  Gaza on our minds.   I particularly like the following quote which kind of sums up how I feel-

Like many others I feel utter despair and a complete lack of ability to do anything that would make even a smidgen of difference. I hate feeling powerless. And if I hate it, here on the other side of the world where the sun is shining and no bombs are falling and my son is not in danger of being killed because of an argument between powerful people with guns, then I can’t imagine how bad it must feel to be there.

Ummm… we’re home

December 8, 2008

And have been for nearly a month.  As you can probably guess from the quiet on this blog it’s been a busy month.

It has been a month of celebration- my Honduran got his NZ citizenship and became a Kiwi, we celebrated 7 years of marriage and I had a birthday.

It has also been a month of hard work.  Starting to transcribe the interviews from Honduras, writing and presenting a paper at a national conference and trying to re-write the literature reviews and proposal for my confirmation in February (at my university all PhDs are only provisionally registered for the first year and must complete a set amount of work and presnt a confirmation seminar before being given full candidate status).   Luckily my daughter has settled well back at her childcare centre and my lovely Kiwi-Honduran husband is able to take on much of the rest of the weekday care.  This of course I am often feel hugely guilty but also immensly grateful for.

So onwards to Christmas.  The tree is up, we have been to one Christmas party, and missed one party already, have another two parties this week and I have to work out how to stretch an insanely small amount of money out for the Christmas shopping.  I’m not quite sure how I’m going to fit Christmas into the budget or my workload but we have a very excited 3-year old and I don’t think we’ll get away with having a quiet one!

Auckland University students today offered a reward for a citizen’s arrest of Rice for her role in “overseeing the illegal invasion and continued occupation” of Iraq.

Which made me proud to be a kiwi student.

But it seems the police have made some heavy threats and the reward has now been withdrawn.

Police 1: Students 0
Condoleezza Rice?  History will tell I’m sure.