On being judgemental

Ever since the "bash-and-get-bashed incident" on Twitter over a month ago, I've wondered about judgement, tribalism and ways in which humans form opinions.

And I can't figure it out. I discussed it briefly with a friend in Twizel who concluded, simply, that I "think too much" and whilst I agree with his opinion, it doesn't actually help me.

Because here's the thing: being judgemental is, in a lot of ways, not often helpful nor is it even appropriate in a lot of the occasions. When humans make their decisions, there are always reasons WHY they make those decisions, and so rather than being judgemental it's important to have the empathy and the respect to look into another person's life, and to ask, why. Why do you do that? Not in a judgemental way, but with curiosity and understanding.

But then the thing is... In order for me to make decisions about my own life and to figure out what's bad and what's good, I need to be judgemental to a degree. I need to look at someone skidding down a streetcorner in their SUV and think, "You're an asshole!" in order to form an opinion that skidding down corners where pedestrians and children cross roads is not a nice thing to do. I need to be judgemental to retain the ability to say, "That's good" and "That's bad" because if I weren't, I would simply be... complacent.

And at a time where I am seriously concerned about the environmental impact humans are having on the planet, complacency is not what is going to lead us forward, I don't think. I am having to figure out where the balance stands between being overly judgemental - as in, being judgemental in situations where judgement is not helpful - and being judgemental enough.

Flying from Singapore to London and watching food served on the plane - the flight attendant is speaking to a person who has, clearly, struggled to get her kids to sleep and already has "Do not disturb for meal service" stickers on her seats, and yet the flight attendant still taps her on the shoulder and asks, "Are you sure you don't want dinner? It's going to be a long time until the next meal."

Is that too much judgement? Or just enough?

Driving down highways in South-West England and the cars are just... incessant.

Is that too much judgement? Or just enough?

Washing clothes in a sink next to an unsealed MDF cupboard and thinking, this cupboard is not going to last a long time. The water splashes are going to make it expand over time and become both unsightly and impractical.

Is that too much judgement? Or just enough?

When is it okay for me to look at another person's life and think, man, this does not make sense? And when is it not okay?

It's so much simpler with friends. My friends are people who I've already voluntarily invited into my life because I like them, and so it's so much easier to not be judgemental with them because, well... I like them. I understand them because I like them already.

But then there's family. It's more difficult with family because family are people who I would not necessarily invite into my life in other circumstances. I'm kind of stuck with them. They're family.

And then it's harder still with people I do not know nor understand. A man walking down an airport terminal whilst his wife is dragging their luggage, head wrapped in a headscarf (hijab), two kids in tow and the man's doing... nothing.

A woman talking about their kitchen and how it's so important to "modernise" it because whilst fully functional, it looks dated and she does not want a kitchen that looks dated. She wants her house to be "worth more".

I still can't figure it out. When's judgement "functional"?

And when is it just too much?

It's confusing.

Travelling with kids, eh

I'll let you guess if both kids came down with vomiting today.

The Girlie, apparently, did it on the Auckland-Shanghai plane. I bet The Man had a field day with that.

The Kid and I, on the other hand, were still in Christchurch so it gave us enough time to postpone our flights and The Kid will have another night in Christchurch with me.

Travelling with kids, eh.

Come to Estravel Reisihommik!

If you happen to be in Estonia, come and join us! Rahva Raamat bookstore in Viru Keskus (Viru Väljak 4, Tallinn) on Saturday 12 May at 12 noon. Me and a couple of other people will be talking about Working Holiday-style travelling at Estravel's "Reisihommik" event. In Estonian language ;)

At this stage I know that Ene Sepp (she is blogging at tudengiraport.wordpress.com, and has photos at www.instagram.com/ene.sepp) will be there, too.


Also, "Minu Alaska" book is getting re-printed with a new epilogue attached at the end, so there may possibly be a couple of library events happening, too, but at this stage - not sure. We'll see.

The holiday before the holiday

Three days in Christchurch. Friends, laughter, early mornings, parks, dumplings, shopping, food (wow the food!), washing. It does feel like holiday. It does.


Before that it was 9 hours of driving from Invercargill to Christchurch. I listened to pre-downloaded interviews by Kim Hill (which I amassed on my iPod prior to leaving just for that purpose), and I soaked it all in.

There was Marcus Davey talking about "artificial wombs" and as I listened, I thought back to Dunedin hospital's neonatal intensive care unit - a place where we spent most of The Kid's first 2 weeks of life. (I always do, whenever someone talks about NICUs.) (I probably always will, too, for as long as I have the mental health to remember that we spent our first 2 weeks together there.)

I have, on one hand, a certain understanding on this topic which does not come naturally to most of the population and it's probably just as well because most people will not, in their lifetime, set foot in a NICU. But we did, and it's easy for me to understand terms such as "intrauterine growth restriction", "phototherapy", "morbidity", "cerebral palsy" etc. We've been there, so I understand what those terms mean.

On the other hand, I know that what I walked away with, was the easy stuff. We did not spend time in the "hard" part of the NICU where babies 24 weeks' gestation are, literally, getting their lungs damaged through the application of mechanical ventilation without which, they would die. I never had to make such decisions for the benefit of my children, and then live with the consequences of those decisions. I get to listen to Marcus Davey talk whilst I am driving down State Highway 8 on a sunny Saturday morning and I can wonder at the art of creating "womb bags" for premature sheep lambs to see if they would replicate the wondruous nature of an actual womb of a female animal - one day, possibly a woman.

I listened to Andrew Williams talk about men's prostates, and cancer.

Rochelle Constantine and Regina Eisert explained how whales live, and what the researchers do in Antarctica.


Tomorrow The Man and The Girlie will start the 30+ hour journey to London. The day after, me and The Kid will get on the plane.

...and it's not Photoshopped either, is it

Edited to add: having done a bit of googling now, I've learned that shaving a husky doesn't actually protect them from heat, so this picture is not that funny any more. Having said that, I'll leave it up for a while for the educational purpose.

I am tired of packing/paperwork/organising, so I go on Pinterest hoping to find something to laugh about.

Well, I definitely found something to laugh about, but I probably should've taken my toothbrush out of my mouth first because now I have to clean the table in front of the computer, too.

30 hours of flying each way

When all this is over, I will let you know how it went, but for the moment just send your thoughts our way as we fly:

1h 20m Christchurch-Auckland
2h 40m layover
12h 15m Auckland-Shanghai
4h 25m layover
12h 05m Shanghai-London

With the other two planes (Invercargill-Christchurch 1:15 and London-Tallinn 2:45) there is about 30 hours of flying overall, plus stopovers, and I am intrigued to know how it'll all go.

To be honest, I think it'll be okay. There's cartoons, there's food, there's attention. But I'm open to seeing how it'll go either way, and I'm intrigued to know because after eight years of not travelling I really do feel like it's a big trip for us.

Because it is.

Yeah, travel insurance's good to have

Hahaha... Driving along on a rainy autumn afternoon I hear an announcement on the radio.

"Thousands of Air New Zealand passengers will be affected by flights cancelled until middle of next week due to urgent engine work on Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet." (link)

I start grinning. Middle of next week...

Well, let's hope two things: that we're not on the 787 (I think we were scheduled to go on 789 but gotta check that) and that "middle of next week" means we're leaving after the cut-off point of fleet being back in service, because otherwise...

Well, it's good we have travel insurance, anyway.

PS. Yup, we're on a Dreamliner. Boeing 789 (technically, 787-9) is a sub-type of a 787.

I guess I'll keep an eye on my phone and my e-mail for potential travel alerts... Ehh :)

The Kid turned 7 years old today

The Kid turned 7 years old today. To celebrate, we brought him and a couple of friends to Clip'n'Climb (had a blast), bought pizzas (yum!), demolished a chocolate cake (yum!) and finished off with half an hour at the playground.

It was awesome!

Both beautiful, but different

Yesterday after school the kids wanted to climb a tree. The Girlie climbed up without any help, The Kid didn't.

The Girlie is bold. She is convinced that she can do things on her own, which is half the reason she does a lot of the time. The Kid often doesn't, which is half the reason he doesn't.

They are both beautiful, but they are different.

Kind of like me: I am kick-ass good at working through details, and proofing. It means that I am good at some jobs and not good at others. In some jobs my attention to detail is outright inconvenient because when I point out that this or that is broken / inefficient / etc, I may be seen as a complainer.

But I'm not. I don't complain for complaining's sake. I speak up because I see details. I look at a picture and I'm able to quickly identify patterns and spot problems. When it comes to reading architectural drawings is a kick-ass skill to have. I visualise three-dimensionally.

It's a pain in some circumstances, but a blessing in others.

Kind of like my kids: one is able to focus and work at it. The other one comes, like a freight train, with gusto and conviction that the world is hers.

Both beautiful - but different.

That's a way to say it

The Girlie said to me today: "I love you the most. And I love you all."

Interesting things I came across yesterday

Amy Chua (professor of law at Yale University) discussing the humans' need to belong to a "tribe" on Radio New Zealand, and how the current American political landscape has a lot to do with that - people dividing themselves into "tribes" and how almost every group is feeling threatened at the moment.

Things I'd like to do

There are a couple of things I've thought about, and with some of them I've very little idea why, but I'd like to:

* Live in Ireland for a while.

* Discover a spot in the mountains nearby where I could hike up during winter, maybe split-board style, and descend again on a snowboard - just for fun.

* Build a sauna.

* Hike Gillespie Pass with a full side-trip to Crucible Lake.

* Learn to speak some Te Reo.

* Learn basic sign language.

* Be allowed to start donating blood again.

* Take up kayak polo classes alongside The Man (who's actually pretty good at it...) and laugh at the chances of being able to dump him in the water (which he'll probably do straight back to me, but oh well).

* See live performances of Coldplay, Eddie Vedder and Ed Sheeran.

* Work for Antarctica New Zealand.

* Be involved in community-housing development.

* Teach quantity surveying base-courses.

...amongst other things, of course ;)



Another school assignment done and completed, Alanis Morissette "Crazy" blasting through the house.

Sometimes in the evenings when I'm working on schoolwork, I put on Xxs "Intro". The Man hates the thing, but to me, it has a reverberating effect of calmness.

One more set of schoolwork and I'm done for this term. Friday next week I am leaving Invercargill towards Europe!

How seasons change

New Zealand is mountainous. As a result, the change of seasons (and weather overall) can feel very abrupt.

This last weekend we picked what I think were the last strawberries of the season. They were small and shrivelled, but sweet.

Today, first snow of the season will fall on the high mountain roads. State highway 6 (Haast Pass), 8 (Lindis Pass), 73 (Arthur's Pass) - all main "arterial" routes for inland South Island - they are all to receive about 30 centimetres of snow on the higher sections of road tonight. It'll probably all melt by tomorrow lunchtime, but nevertheless - it's the first proper snowfall of the season.

In two weeks' time when I drive our car from Invercargill to Christchurch, in preparation for our trip to Europe, it's going to depend on weather - whether I take the "straighter" route through inland highways or go the "long way" via the coast where the road is lower and less prone to snow.

It's not to say we only get snow in winter - sometimes big storms can dump brief loads even in March and February when the weather is otherwise summery. But it melts quickly.

From now onwards however, the ground will start cooling, and the snow persisting, and the winter approaching, and the mountains will soon remain white. Soon enough there will be a juxtaposition of us having occasional lovely warm days in our backyards, all whilst the mountains in the background will be covered in all-winter snow. Inland towns will fill up with snowboarders and skiers, ready to enjoy the short skiing seasons of the Southern Hemisphere. And then, in July and August and September, occasional strong storms will bring snow all the way down sea level - but it will melt quickly. It doesn't stay on the coast.

It's the life of a mountainous country: having multiple climate zones within sight.

On being blessed with great company

There are so many things I no longer blog about. I'd like to, but I don't. Lack of time, mostly - I just do other things instead.

But tonight I felt it important enough to just sit down and write briefly what's swirling in my head.


For a long time already, I have been surrounded by very, very good people. Every day I do certain things in a certain way because I have learned from people who have showed me how. And I have wondered if I've simply been lucky enough, or whether I have set the bar high enough that I've come across those good people because I have decided that people like that are worth spending time with.

This young man:

He is no longer part of my life, but almost every day something will remind me of him. There are many things he showed me / taught me how to do, and behaviours/responses/reactions I cultivate because I saw him do something, and liked the way he lived, and wanted to learn how to, too.

This young man:

By far the most of my parenting skills come from this man who showed me what a parent can do, and be to a child. The fact that I can now look at myself and say, "I'm a good parent," is because I am doing it with him and I have learned how. In fact, I feel I can now pull my own weight.

This young woman:

I think a lot of me feeling settled in New Zealand and finally understanding how New Zealanders think, is to do with this woman. She brought me into her life and her circle of friends (who are wonderful!), and just being part of that - part of a group of people of whom many are born and bred here - helped me understand, and learn, and see what warmth is like.

This young woman:

She brings such unpretentious normalcy to my life, and reminders that going out and doing things is still possible, even with the kids. I look at her and think, if she can do it, I can, too.

And I could actually continue on, but I won't because it's late and I want to go to sleep.

Point is: when I think back to my life in the last 10+ years, I've been surrounded by very, very good people. There have always been outstanding people around me - people to look up to, and learn from, and enjoy spending time with.

Is it because I, myself, see myself worthy of such company? Is it that, because I want to spend time with such people, I end up with such people?

Or have I simply been outrageously lucky?

Because I think it's the former - mostly. I think somewhere in the middle school / high school I came to a point where I decided that I no longer wanted to spend time with people I didn't enjoy spending time with. Rather than hanging out with people I didn't like, I searched out people I did like, and then magic happened.

I continue doing it. I continue purposefully seeking out contact with people I am actually enjoying spending time with.

I thought about it because today me and The Man discussed raising the floors of our house rather than lowering the ceilings. And it's funny, because I first got the idea when I read someone's blog post about the painful reality of high expectations (that author made a point that rather than "raising the ceiling, raise the floor instead") and it got me thinking about architecture instead - about my house, and its structural challenges.

But then after thinking about architecture, I started thinking about relationships and expectations instead - in the context the author of that blog first intended me to.

Why is it that I feel I've been surrounded by such great personalities of people in my life? Why is it that I continue meeting such great people?

Is it because I've been lucky?

Or is it that I think I'm worthy of sharing in such company?

A way to spend time in the developed world

Have just spent the evening to the tune of Ed Sheeran's "Shape of you" organising my school materials on Google Drive.

Loving Clip'n'Climb

Oh no. OH NO!

Nits and head lice. ON ALL FOUR OF US!


The whole house smells like a combination of tea tree oil and whatever-else-they-put-into-those-treatment-bottles. I feel traumatised. I picked through 4 sets of heads this morning. It took three hours and the kids got to watch cartoons to their hearts' contents and now I feel, like, if I drank alcohol I could sit back with a glass of wine. But I don't like alcohol, so I don't.

They say it's a rite of passage of being a parent to young kids but... no. I don't like that idea. Because whoever it was that brought the little buggers home in the first place probably has plenty kids around them at school/preschool to do it all over again, and I really don't fancy the idea of having to check people's hair for the next 3 weeks.

But I need to, because however else am I going to make sure that we're not gonna get them again.


Typing in an Estonian layout from memory

Do you know that feeling when you've typed for a while in English (on an English keyboard), then type for a few hours in Estonian (on that same keyboard, from memory) and then you switch back to English and for a while you have just no idea where the heck you have to push to get punctuation marks like ? - & ; ( ) etc

Because they're f*ckin' different, aren't they. I basically end up pressing three-four different buttons each time I need to insert a certain punctuation mark, trialling a variety of combinations (no shift? Use shift? Different button? No?) and then I switch back to Estonian again, and that same thing happens.

The joy of being multi-lingual, I guess.

At some point I don't even remember what layout I have activated at any given time, so I keep having to glance up on the screen to see what language icon I have showing in the top right corner. Not that it helps, because I make a mess of typing anyway.