How I found out I was pregnant

It still makes me grin to remember how I found out I was pregnant with The Girlie.

It was a Tuesday evening. I was driving to Christchurch to meet up with friends at craft night, and I was feeling unusually sad for some reason. I couldn't figure out why though - it was as if I was about to burst into tears, but I couldn't figure out why I'd want to cry.

And that's when I thought... wait a minute.

I pulled off the main road and stopped at a grocery shop. They were selling pregnancy test kits in the health&hygiene aisle, so I bought a test kit. At craft group I discreetly took the test in the toilet room and peed on it, and then I watched the test "window" for a clue - two dark lines would mean pregnant. One line, not pregnant.

The second line turned just a little bit dark.

I stood there, looking at it. "Is that a line?" It was hard to tell. It was so faint.

I left the test kit there and I went back in the living room. I asked one of my friends (the house's owner) to come in the toilet room with me. "Why? What is there?" she was asking and I was saying, "Come, it's okay, I'll show you." The whole 20 steps down to the toilet room she was thinking, maybe I was about to show her something gross in the toilet. Maybe her sons had done something in there?

We got to the toilet door and instead, I showed her the test kit. "Is that a line?" I asked her. "Can you tell me if you see a second line in there?" She started grinning. By that time, the once-faint line had turned distinctly darker and was, most definitely, a double line.


We laughed, hugged, she congratulated me and then we went back in the living room to sit among a bunch of friends as if all was normal, but inside, I knew that I had a little bundle growing inside my tummy.

The friend smiled. Even The Man didn't know yet.

This kiddo.

PS. In comparison, with The Kid I found out I was pregnant because I was just, continuously and at a worsening rate, nauseous all the time. After three or four days I just got to a point where I thought, nah, this is not a tummy bug any more.

Oh, no...

It was a nice family outing until The Dog found a pile of human poop behind a bush, rolled in it, ate the rest and then stank the whole way home.

Moving on again

The people who used to live in our house before we bought it - they were renting it - now live just a little down the street in another rental.

Yesterday we walked past their current house and saw a "For sale" sign on the fence.

Man it sucks being a tenant in a high market...

Progesterone therapy to treat epilepsy

I'd like to write an in-depth post about the progesterone therapy I am using to treat my seizures. Why am I on it? How did I find it? How is it working? At the current rate it's not happening though, because something else is always more important and in the way: kids, school, time.

But to do a brief summary to someone who might be interested:

I started progesterone therapy 4 months ago when I talked my neurologist into trialling a protocol set up by a clinical trial in . I have catamenial epilepsy with a C1 pattern (ie, I tend to get seizures within +/- 3 days of my menstruation starting) and that's the important part: from what I understand, progesterone therapy has the best chance of working only in the C1 pattern. Reason being, C1 pattern can be driven by progesterone withdrawal and, so, supplementing with progesterone can help keep levels at a point where the seizures are managed.

The doses I am using are different from the clinical trial. The clinical trial set the dosage a 200 mg taken 3 times a day on days 14–28 of the menstrual cycle (so a total of 600 mg a day). My dosage is instead:

* days 19-20 I take 100 mg at night
* days 21-30 I take 100 mg midmorning and 100 mg at night (total of 200 mg a day)
* days 31-32 I take 100 mg at night

I changed the dosages because the clinical trial protocol wasn't working for me for several reasons:

* I have somewhat irregular, longer-than-28-day cycles, so starting progesterone on day 14 was too early for me. It made me prone to seizures and gave me side effects because it probably over-loaded my body with progesterone at a time when my body actually had enough progesterone already. My ovulation is likely later in the cycle, around days 18-19, so we needed to push the progesterone therapy to after the ovulation has already occurred, ie day 19.

* 600 mg a day is too high for me. It gives me intense dizziness to a point where I act like I am high on drugs, giggly and stumbling. We reduced the dosage to 200 mg a day because we aim to find a dosage that is as low as reasonably possible, but high enough to still treat the seizures. 200 mg seems to be working at the moment.

* I don't take progesterone early in the morning because it gives me dizziness: my natural progesterone is highest in the morning, so I take my morning pill at around 11 am when the natural progesterone has started to go down already.

* I start with lower dosage on days 19-20 because I don't seem to need the full 200 mg yet at that point - it gives me dizziness if I take a pill even during mid-morning.

* I end with lower dosage on days 31-32 to ease into menstruation, because coming off it cold-turkey gives me cramps otherwise: it's like my uterus decides, oh, the progesterone has gone away now, has it? Cool! LET'S GO!!!


At the current rate, it seems to be working well. I do not get any side effects at night (which suggests that my natural progesterone is low enough at night). I only get minor "aura" type side effects mid-morning on days 19-24 so we may delay the morning pill even further into the cycle.

Most importantly: I have been on it for four months now, and I haven't had seizures. I feel the "aura" of being prone to seizures on days 30-33, but I've never crossed over into an actual seizure so far. We'll keep going, seeing how I go, finetuning the dosage and if it keeps working, I'll just keep taking it.

For the moment it looks like sometime after the birth of The Kid my natural progesterone levels started dropping prematurely and because my brain is for some reason prone to epilepsy, I started getting vague seizures at nighttime every 3-6 weeks. For several years we didn't even know what those things were - I used to call them "waves" - and it's not until I started having full-on seizures that we finally got the answer, epilepsy.

Now the progestrone levels are continuing to drop, so that's why the coping mechanisms I found initially (hydration and LCHF food) started becoming less effective until, being on supplemental progesterone, I seem to be back in control of it again. It also seems to link in with what looks like a systemic endocrine imbalance of my body: autoimmune thyroid, low thyroid hormones, insulin resistance, PCOS, low iron. That, basically, my body doesn't do hormones in the way "normal" women do hormones :)

Chances are, as I get older my progesterone levels are going to continue dropping, so I am going to keep upping my dosages but if it keeps on working, I am happy.

Because progesterone is not recognised as a way of treating epilepsy, then progesterone is not funded and I am paying the full market price and need to keep having a neurologist's clearance to have access to progesterone through a prescription. However! At around 70$ a month it's doable, so we're okay.

And PS: I take bio-identical progesterone.

Phew! Okay, off to school again :)

Two days in Auckand!?

Another visit to the hospital today. Talking to the orthopaedic surgeon. Discussing muscles, angles, walking patterns. He gives abbreviated instructions to the registrar who's in the room with us, I listen in and find that I'm actually able to follow most of what he's saying.

Then the surgeon starts telling me about a research lab in Auckland where they put markers on the body and get a computerised picture of how a person is moving their limbs, a very sophisticated insight, basically, and that he'd like us to become part of that research.

"Wait, Auckland? You mean, us going there? Auckland??"


(I quickly calculate travel costs in my head, one child and one adult - maybe $600 all-up. It's not a twig in the sand, but it's not going to kill us. We can handle that. This lab sounds like an awesome opportunity to be part of.)

The orthopaedic surgeon continues: it's a two-day event, so we'd need to stay overnight.

(I quickly add in my head: okay, $200 for an accommodation overnight. Yeah, okay, we can handle that.)

The orthopaedic surgeon continues talking about the Starship Children's Hospital and I finally click on: "Wait... You mean... wait, public health!?!"


And then I just about sit down with the surprise because... he's talking about an awesome opportunity that we'd want to be part of anyway, and from what I understand at the moment, it's not even going to be a major cost because part of it will be funded.

I text The Man: "Looks like you'll be flying to Auckland with [The Kid] for two days, be part of a research lab."

He replies: "You need to tell me more tonight."

Oh, yes, I do.

Photos of late

Went to a public talk given by Emma Stevens - a New Zealand author who's written a trilogy of memoirs detailing her life as a teacher in remote Alaskan villages

If we can, I make a point of walking even if it's raining because, turns out, when kids stay indoors often when it rains, they think that this is what we always do - stay indoors when it rains. And I'm, like, nah. If you guys want fish & chips on a Sunday, we can walk to the cornershop. I know it's raining. It's okay. We have jackets, we have umbrellas. We can walk.

That's a therapy session right there! Eating takeaway pizza when practicing using a knife :)

Saw this on my way to work the other day.

A local cafe grows some of their herbs next to the parking lot. Every now and again you'd see someone wearing an apron and a chef's hat out there with a basket and scissors, harvesting.

The Girlie insisted on wearing a dress whilst biking, so we ended up insisting it gets tucked away into her shorts so it doesn't get shredded on the back wheel. That's elegance right there :)

...and when she got too tired to pedal, ended up tying The Dog's lead on her bike and pulling her along.

They're having a picnic in the back yard. I think.

When both kids say they don't want to scooter any more and The Man attempts to scooter two at a time.

When a child asks that we set up a tent in he living room, what other answer is there other than, "Yes."

That's what DIY building work looks in the back yard, basically.

If the sky is pink with sunrise, she insist on sitting by the window. In her pink pyjamas :)


Today I learned a lesson in something I had heard about before, but hadn't experienced myself: meanness on social media.

To make it clear: I have been on the receiving end of meanness before and have developed ways of coping with it, and that's not the side I am referring to here.

I'm referring to the other side: being a part of a "pack".

For weeks now I have watched the US gun debate rage on Twitter. I've tried to sort of "filter", mentally, what I am reading because it's really hard to read people's arguments without also seeing the multitude of attacks that are taking place - it's not a nice place there at the moment. But on the other hand, it's also really hard to get an understanding of what's happening without going to the sources because relying on media alone tends to give a one-sided picture of it and I don't really want a one-sided picture.

Today I made my first tweet on the topic. I got frustrated with a person who was writing, deleting, writing, deleting, and I wrote down my thoughts on it. Two hours later I returned home and saw the screen-full of replies telling me to f*ck off, basically, and I sat back and started reflecting on it.

Was what I had said mean?

Well, actually - yes. Yes it was.

And I hadn't recognised it.

I returned to the screen and wrote a reply saying that what I'd said wasn't cool, and so I needed to step back and think about things; and then I went and deactivated my account altogether.

I think I need to have time off. I need to re-balance what I see on the screen with how I treat people in real life, because behind screens are people still. I need to re-seed this knowledge because, somehow, watching the thing had desensitised me to a point where I, too, became part of the problem and that's not an experience I want to be part of again.

I'm both horrified that it had happened, and glad that it had happened because if I was so lost in the "cultural" side of messaging that I forgot there was a person on the other side of the screen, then I need to step back, think, reflect and to listen.

Of course, spending long days at school and on homework I haven't got a lot of socialising happening at the moment. If I am to finish this bloody school, I need to knuckle-down and just do it, but it comes at an expense - which I understand.

I need to make a point of getting outside enough, and walking. I need to spend time building things with my family. Spending time with real people, and less on the computer screen, because as important something is on the computer screen - the real people are more important than that.

Still surprised at news coming out of US

*looks at news coming out of America

*thinks: "Even my 3-year-old has more impulse control than [you know who I am talking about]"

Probably more reasoning ability, too.



Pumpkins from our garden. Tomatoes from the greenhouse. Apples off our apple tree. Dill, coriander. Broccoli. Cucumbers. Kale. Strawberries. Peas.

I get to watch birds rustle in our compost bin and kids follow butterflies around the yard. Bees love clover growing on the lawn and daisies. When caterpillars discover the kale they eat "tunnels" into the leaves, oblivious to the fact that we want to eat kale, too. It's our garden.

I like this kind of food. Still warm from the sunshine, picked straight onto the table / salad plate / oven dish and I get to call this place, "home".

On the importance of the public health system

Yesterday we had a long chat with an insurance salesman. Well, I did more so than The Man - both because my list of "issues" is way longer but also because I am more outspoken.

Technically he is a "financial advisor", I think. He specialises in life/disability/trauma insurance and he wanted to review the insurance conditions me and The Man have, so he could see if he could offer us a better deal.

As part of the "sales pitch" he made several comments which I felt were important to counter-argue. We didn't end up debating - he just made the comments about the way he sees the world, and I then made comments about how I see the world.

(To give you a bit of a background: me and The Man have no debts other than our mortgage, and we have insurances to cover all our main assets (home, car, contents). We have life insurance for $86,000 each. Thinking behind it is, in case one of us dies the other has enough money to keep going for approximately 2 years - a breathing time, so to speak, to figure out how life will continue afterwards. We also have trauma insurance for The Man: if he comes down with some serious illness/disability, we get a payout of $86,000. But we don't have trauma insurance for me - due to several pre-existing conditions (epilepsy, PCOS, underactive thyroid, gestational diabetes etc) my trauma insurance would have simply been so expensive that we didn't think it was worth paying.)

So yesterday when that insurance salesman was looking at our existing covers, he asked us about "things that are important to us". The Man said family - it's what keeps him going. I said my life and health - without those, I don't have a way of effectively interacting with the world. The insurance salesman smiled - it's basically the same thing me and The Man are talking about, just a different side of it.

He described to us various "bad scenarios" of what would happen if me or The Man came down with x, y and z. Think typical insurance pitches ;) - cancer, stroke, heart attack. What if they came consecutively? First cancer and then after the cancer is gone, a heart attack. A stroke. The grislier the better ;) Would we want to get treatment quickly through a private insurance? Or would we want to wait, possibly months, until the public system starts treating us? Waiting lists are long, he said, in the public system. Private practices treat quickly.

He said that in any medical school, there are people who are the top of the class, and there are others who are the bottom of the class. Top of the class go to private practices - that's where the best doctors are. Public hospital is not a first pick for someone who is really good at what they do.

...and that's where I raised my hand and said, look, I disagree.

Firstly, I have safeguards in place for the variety of medical professionals I deal with. I rarely come to a doctor's appointment and want to just hear what the doctor says. Usually, I have pre-researched the condition and have my own ideas I want to check and discuss, and so simply relying on what the doctor says is not really how we do things in this house.

And secondly: great doctors don't just go for private practices. Even Southland hospital in Invercargill, it has some top-notch practitioners; some who've come down from Auckland, and you know why? Because they can't afford to live there any more. Our orthopedic surgeon, for one - a young, talented, hardworking man. I heard about him in Christchurch already, as we were preparing for our move down South to Invercargill. He came for the same reason as us, to restore balance to his life: not spend time in traffic jams, have money aside for travelling, have time.

On another hand, I've also been seen by a private practice neurologist, an experience I wasn't overly impressed with, especially in hindsight; which is all just to say that people are different, doctors are different. There are awesome experiences in public hospitals, just as there are awesome experiences in private practices. Sh*t ones can also happen in either.

I said to him that living in New Zealand, the insurance priorities are very different than if I were living in, say, US. New Zealand has public accident insurance (ACC), it has a public health system, a social welfare system. I understand people having private health insurance on the side to make sure that if something happens, they get treatment quickly when it matters the most - a former co-worker had cancer and had quick treatment BECAUSE she had private health insurance who paid for it - but I also understand the need behind a public health system because otherwise, it will become like the United States where only people who are already privileged have the most access to health services which then makes them even more privileged and continues the cycle of inequality, deepening the differences and ingraining the prejudices.

Same with the welfare system. The insurance salesman said that if he meets with someone who answers his questions with "yeah, nah, I'll be alright" then he simply closes his laptop, thanks them and leaves.

I thought to myself: that's exactly why the social welfare system is important. People who don't have good financial skills are unlikely to have sufficient savings or insurance to allow them the "buffer" when the going gets tough. And you can't just leave them to it, because if someone is in genuine deprivation they are going to resort to criminal activity, if need be, if they cannot get their basic needs met otherwise. Expecting all families to bring up their children in a way that those children have good financial management skills is unrealistic - it just doesn't happen. Some families don't have those skills, and they have very little to pass on to begin with. That's where education comes in, and taking SOME social (=communal) responsibility for personal success.

I am not a communist - personal freedom and incentives are an important part of success. Humans as species are territorial and competitive, and it's part of nature that is important to acknowledge and work with. But it's not all personal freedom and incentives either - otherwise there'd be people knocking others on their heads just to get them out of competition. (Which, sometimes, some people, do.) The balance is somewhere in-between.


The older I am getting, the less apologetic I am becoming about my opinions. It's partly intentional - an intense personal conviction that I have a place in the world, and a right to be here.

Voicing my opinion on the topic of public health feels like I am speaking out "on behalf" of it. Kind of like standing up in defence of someone who cannot do it themselves. Kind of like that insurance salesman has the right to voice his opinions on the importance of private health insurance because of the problems within the public health system, I have the right to speak up in defence of it. If people gradually move onto private insurances it gradually drives a degradation of the public system, causing a systematic inequality already described in the current American society. I do not want to ban private insurance, or limit its availability. It's a right.

But I do want to speak up on the importance of the public system. Public education. Public health. The cornerstones of a human society.



A whole bunch of little, freshly-hatched spiders making their way across the wall next to my bedside.


She's a character alright

The Girlie can pick her nose with a toe.
I read the arguments made by the US gun lobby and... geesh, guys. Multiple points of failure is an argument for more regulation, not less.

The importance of speaking up

A couple of days ago I got an amazing gift from a person I did not expect. A classmate.

We were sitting in the hallway during lunch break, chatting, and she said how my presentation about sustainability and planetary boundaries the week before "made her understand why we need an environment class". I almost felt my jaw drop.

It's exactly the result I had been aiming for. But! 1) I didn't know if it had worked - on anyone - and 2) even if it did, I didn't expect someone to say it out loud to me. Yet, she described how before my presentation she had wondered why we, as quantity surveyors and architectural technicians, even need this class - and how after the presentation she not only understood why, but she wanted to learn more about it. Hearing me explain the ideas behind sustainability sparked her interest in it.

I sat there, thinking, wow. As in - holy sh*t wow!

I felt humbled. I still do. It feels incredible to me that someone would have said that about my work, that me speaking out would have actually had such an impact on another person.

Speaking out is hard. As I keep raising my hand and raising issues, and being the first to volunteer for just about anything at school ("Anyone want to volunteer the answer they got to this assignment?" "Anyone want to go first with their presentation?" "Anyone want to be first to introduce themselves to class?"), I still feel the physical reaction to being uncomfortable in front of other people. I still get hot, I still keep a water bottle handy to soothe my throat, I still feel an elevated heart rate in my chest.

...but I do it anyway because I know it's important to have the skill to speak in front of other people, and the courage to simply speak up when I feel it's important to speak up.

That environment presentation was spurred by what felt like a lack of context given by our teacher, and how he let the boys make those very uninformed arguments about climate change without countering any of it. I felt that by letting our class just continue on, there was going to be a big, gaping hole where, instead, there should be context. We should understand why there is a need for environmentally-friendly building practices, and what sustainability means in the context of our study. Our teacher was not going to fill that hole and, because I saw the need in filling it, I did it myself instead.

Making that presentation was not an easy experience. I was not sure about my role in front of that class, and what others were going to think about me afterwards. I felt hot, clammy. I needed to drink water. I felt my hands shake a little.

But it did it anyway, because I felt it was important that someone did.

And now to have received that gift of a compliment from a classmate who did not have an ulterior motive in saying so, who said that my presentation put our study into context for her and explained why we're doing it, I felt blown away by it. That classmate said that I should really be a teacher instead and I replied that, first, I need to build up my skills before I start teaching other people how to do something. (Which is, obviously, not how our department functions, going by the quality of some of the teaching we are receiving this year, but I'm not going into that hole now.)


A couple of says ago I, actually, ended up doing the same presentation again. In another class we needed to make presentations on any topic - just for the benefit of public speaking practice - and when my partner wasn't willing to talk and no-one else in class was willing to volunteer with 20 minutes still left to go, I asked if I could do that instead. The teacher said yes, and so I did.

Afterwards, they applauded. A man from Fiji came to me, clasped my hands in his and said, "Thank you." He asked that I send some of my Powerpoint files to him because he wants to look more into the information I shared.

Humbled. I feel humbled, but also proud that I did something which did not come easy, and then to have received such a reaction afterwards.

PS. If you'd like to hear a short, interesting interview then "Hottest summer on record wreaks havoc on native wildlife" ( is worth a listen. Is explains how an entire breeding season of little blue penguin chicks got swept away into the ocean, and how kiwis got dehydrated because they couldn't get their beaks into the hard-baked ground. Albatrosses struggled, eels did.


Diversity of wildlife builds a resilience into an ecosystem. Stable weather allows species to thrive. When they thrive, they can sustain bouts of hardship because of that built-up resilience, but at the moment "extreme weather events" are starting to happen with such a frequency that they really are becoming the new norm instead. Loss of biodiversity removes that in-built resilience.

To learn more, please listen to Johan Rockström - planetary boundaries at

Architectural abbreviations - a guessing game

Would you like to guess what these architectural abbreviations stand for? At the end of the page there will be another list with answers :)




D01 (etc.)

















The answers!

AB - Air Brick
AC - Air Conditioning
ACU - Air Conditioning Unit
Agg - Aggregate
AHU - Air Handling Unit
Al - Aluminium
Arch - Architrave
Asph - Asphalt
AT - Acoustic Tile
BH - Borehole
BHd - Bulkhead
B/I - Built In
BIG - Back Inlet Gulley
Bit - Bitumen
Bk - Brick
BV - Brick Veneer
BWk - Brickwork
BlkWk - Blockwork
BM - Benchmark
Cab - Cabinet
Cbd/Cpd - Cupboard
C/C - Centres (centre to centre)
CHS - Circular Hollow Section
CJ - Construction Joint or Control Joint
Col - Column
Conc - Concrete
Corr - Corrugated
CR - Cement Render
Ct - Cement or Coat
CW - Cavity Wall
D - Door or Diameter
D01 (etc.) - Door Number 1 (etc.)
DB - Distribution Board
DG - Double Glazed
DP - Downpipe
DPC - Damp Proof Course
DPM - Damp Proof Membrane
ELCB - Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker
ECB - Electricity Control Box
EA - Equal Angle
EL - Existing Level
FA - Floor Area
FB - Facing Brick
FCL - Finished Ceiling Level
FCU - Fan Coil Unit
Fdn - Foundation
FF - Fair Face
FFL - Finished Floor Level
FH - Fire Hydrant
FL - Floor Level
FW - Floor Waste
Galv - Galvanised
GFA - Gross Floor Area
GL - Ground Level
GM - Gas Meter
GPO - General Purpose Outlet (i.e. power point)
GT - Gully Trap
HSFG - High Strength Friction Grip (bolts)
Ht - Height
HW - Hardwood
HWC - Hot Water Cylinder
ID - Inside Diameter
IL - Invert Level
Insul - Insulation
Jt - Joint
Lin - Linoleum
Lvr - Louvre(s)
MS - Mild Steel
MSB - Main Switch Board
NE - Not Exceeding
PBd - Plasterboard
PCC - Precast Concrete
RC - Reinforced Concrete
RCP - Reflected Ceiling Plan
Reinf - Reinforcement
RHS - Rectangular Hollow Section
RL - Reduced Level
RP - Rodding Point
RS - Roller Shutter
RSA - Rolled Steel Angle
RWH - Rainwater Head
RWP - Rainwater Pipe
RWT - Rainwater Tank
Shr - Shower
SHS - Square Hollow Section
SOL - Setting Out Line
SOP - Setting Out Point
SS - Stainless Steel
SSL - Structural Slab Level
SVP - Soil and Vent Pipe
SW - Softwood or Storm Water
TBM - Temporary Benchmark
TC - Terra Cotta
T&G - Tongued and Grooved
Thk - Thick
TOC - Top of Concrete
Trzo - Terrazzo
UB - Universal Beam
UC - Universal Column
U/G - Underground
UNO - Unless Noted Otherwise
U/S - Underside
Vent - Ventilator
WB - Weatherboard
WC - Water Closet

March For Our Lives in New Zealand

Did you know that on March 24, 2018 there will be four March For Our Lives sister marches in New Zealand, too?

Dunedin: Union Hall, 640 Cumberland Street, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
Saturday, March 24, 1:00 PM

Christchurch: Cathedral Square, Christchurch, 8011, New Zealand
Saturday, March 24, 10:00 AM

Wellington: Parliament Building, Pipitea, Wellington, 6160, New Zealand
Saturday, March 24, 10:00 AM

Auckland: Albert Park, Bowen Lane, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Saturday, March 24, 10:00 AM

The events will be to show solidarity with our US counterparts. Because whilst New Zealand itself has an effective control over gun ownership, United States doesn't, and the marches are to show support towards US students who are having to go through this now.

When mother tongue is no longer a native language

As I work on the Estonian translation for the upcoming epilogue in my otherwise old book, I keep looking at the sentences and thinking, I don't know how to say this stuff in Estonian any more.

"I spent two months near Kaikoura planting broccoli plants. The farmland extended almost all the way onto the ocean beach. When lucky, I could see pods of dolphins travel the length of the coast and, sometimes, orcas. The farmhouse itself was situated directly on the beachfront, so out of my bedroom window I watched magnificent sunrises over the Pacific Ocean and thankfully praised the universe for giving me a life to live, healthy and happy. After having saved enough money to move on again, I then bought a pair of sturdy hiking boots and headed towards the mountain trails. (New Zealand has a spectacular variety of publicly-available backcountry huts!) What a magnificent opportunity it was, I thought, to be able to live like that: work honest, hard labour on a farm near the mountains and then just go, for as long as the money lasted and the soul wished. Muddy boots, hair pulled back in a ponytail and the backpack containing an entire year’s wardrobe and equipment on the shoulders. There was dignity to this existence, trying to occupy not a large space in the world, but a spot just big enough to house the most basic needs and then some, and to think it was enough."

Do you remember that time? Sunrises out of the bedroom window.

Life on the beachfront.

Neat rows of vegetables to what felt like horizon?

Epp, my publisher, has done most of the translating for me, but still I am working on the sentences and thinking, I just can't figure out how to say this stuff in Estonian any more. I just can't.

"The people in New Zealand were, I started to realise, vastly different to one another. On top of the racial and cultural diversity which was to be expected because of how endemic it was to most Western societies, New Zealand had an added variety-factor: its terrain. At Fox Glacier there were still men who earned the bulk of their living trapping animals in the mountain ranges of the national parks and selling fur to clothing fibre manufacturers. Further down the coast there was a family with two kids living a two-day walk from the nearest road, and surrounded by mountainous bush. Martins Bay holiday cottages were even further, a four day walk. In a lot of Western countries, such distances of remoteness were simply not possible, geographically speaking."

"I wandered the streets of Ahipara where many wooden houses were lined up in a state of absolute disrepair and drunken men were sitting on the berm at three o’clock on a Wednesday - but it was one of New Zealand’s poorest regions, after all. Yet, there was still beauty to be had, every day. The beaches of the North Island were some of the most welcoming I had ever come across and with their consistent wave patterns, it provided a delightful opportunity for giving surfing a go - that is, when I wasn’t on the farm planting watermelons instead."

It reminds me what a good time it's been.

A lesson in cultural practice

To boost my iron levels, decided to cook up a mushroom & lamb liver stir fry. Went shopping, but couldn't find liver in the meat aisle. Because do you know where lamb liver is kept in this (large, New Zealand-wide) grocery shop?

Dog food.


This will probably offend some people but... think about it.