My room, for the 14-day stay in Auckland.

Is there a way to be prepared for a quarantine? Empty airports and half-full flights should have helped.

A very empty San Francisco Terminal

Air New Zealand, with room to spare!

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Auckland almost two weeks ago. I expected to be quarantined; I didn’t have any idea what that would mean on a day-to-day basis. But I had to get to New Zealand first… I wasn’t prepared for the empty airports and half-full airplanes. It was eerie. I encountered this novel way of traveling the minute I walked through security…wait, no lines! Then, walking in an empty San Francisco Terminal. Weird. The short flight to LAX, and then a long walk to the International Terminal, passing just a few a people instead of thousands. Crazy! And at the LAX International Terminal, where I had dreams of a nice dinner and Duty Free Shopping, I was instead met with…empty.

No one was more sad than I to see the caviar and champagne bar closed.
The Dinner of Champions! Notice just a solitary person in the background.

I kept expecting, as I peered around the corner, to see zombies heading my way; it was like I was in a movie set.

There are, fortunately, few airplanes arriving from overseas to New Zealand. I say fortunately since the several hours long process of customs and immigration at the airport would have been much longer if more jets had offloaded hundreds more people. But our half-full flight from LAX to Auckland was sufficient to test the limits of how long a line of weary travels can stretch in a hallway. I will go on record saying the entire process was incredibly well organized. When I cleared the last hurdle of a customs inspection, I was ushered onto a waiting bus, and then whisked off to a hotel in Auckland with about 40 other lucky travelers. We were let off the bus, one bubble at a time, and checked into the hotel. It was very efficient, and very organized. Suddenly it was easier to understand why the COVID19 virus didn’t fare well here. There are, on any given day, about 200-400 travelers being quarantined at this hotel. On alternate days I get either a phone call or a visit from health screener. I’m asked a litany of questions about possible symptoms, and by week 2 I was regaling the health care worker with my knowledge of the list by reciting it first. On those days when my room is visited, my symptoms are monitored (that list again…) and my temperature is checked. My meals are delivered to me three times a day in a little handled grocery bag…did someone say room service?! I was given an empty laundry bag, and told I had two ‘free’ bags of laundry that would be done during my stay. This will be better than college!, I thought.

For breakfast, I was having Bacon!
But for lunch, went for the Veggie alternative..

We are given a menu twice a week to fill out…there are 2 choices for each of the 3 meals a day. My liver has embraced the ‘no alcohol’ delivery policy. It’s not that Nz is against drinking…but rather I think someone, wisely, thought that giving a bunch of quarantined souls unrestricted access to alcohol might not be the healthiest thing. I think they were right. On day 3 of quarantine I was COVID tested (a nasal swab, which is brief, but low on the fun scale), and then again tested on day 11. Thankfully, I was negative on both days, else my luxurious stay might be extended. We are allowed to pick one 1-hour slot for ‘outside’ exercise. It’s actually not all outside, as this wonderful respite time is spent on level 13 of the hotel’s parking structure, and most of the space-but blissfully not all- is concrete covered. One lap of the circuit is about 150 yards, with six 90 degree turns for each lap (yep, I counted).

I thought the time would go by slowly, though in fact each day has a nice little routine and pace to it. Wake up, make some coffee, stretch, do some Headspace, have breakfast, read and write, go out for the 10am one-hour outside time, back to the room for inside exercises and stretching, do some more reading and writing, have lunch, read and write some more, do a little more exercise, have dinner, watch some Netflix and go to bed. Intermixed in all this are calls, texts, Skype and FaceTime with my family, who I miss very much.

The Auckland SkyTower, as seen from a corner of window

Very soon I will start work in Dunedin, and my little holiday will end. I look forward to the challenges, but I have grown quite accustomed to my little room and routine. Maybe…I’ll start coughing and see if I can get one more week here….

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When a space capsule returns to the Earth, it has a heat shield to protect it from burning up in the atmosphere.  As I walked into our newly renovated house in Los Gatos I wondered, where is my heat shield?


Boxes and boxes everywhere!  I, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, wanted to tap my heels and say, “There is no place like home (Dunedin)”.  Actually, I did, but when I opened my eyes I only saw more boxes, and I was still in our garage.

But, I’m ahead of myself (as usual).

I left Dunners on a beautiful sunny (16C, unseasonably warm) winter day.


My heart was aching as I said goodbye to Dunedin, and the Otago Peninsula.


Air New Zealand plies you will pretty good fare to eat and drink, and plenty of good movies, so the long trip home wasn’t too painful and I even managed a few hours sleep.

After I had my wits about me at home I ventured to our local grocery store.  Of course, when I left Nz it was winter and I returned to summer in the agricultural center of the US…so what did I expect?


Beautiful stone fruit, plums…..


Tomatoes, avocados……


And fresh, wild King Salmon (a product of the USA!).

And from those still in Nz who are reading this (and who just paid $5 for a green pepper……)


That really hurts.

It’s quite strange to be back here after a year away.  Things have changed (new neighbors, new streetlights….heck, our whole house was remodeled) but then it was eerily the same.  After only hours it felt like I had never left.  And this, coming from someone who in many ways didn’t want to come back to the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley.  I was so conflicted.  Then, as the warm California sun lowered in sky, all the neighborhood kids came out of their homes after dinner (there are, seemingly,  dozens of new kids on our block), and then their parents came out, and we struck up conversation after conversation…everyone so curious to know how the year in Nz was.  It felt good to be back home…….and yet I still longed for my little Dunners.

And I think that’s how the next week will go.  I’ll reconnect with my many friends here, enjoying the warm sun, hiking, enjoying the amazing fresh produce and salmon.  I’m heading out to see my grandmother tomorrow, who turns 99 years young next month!  (Now THAT will remind my of Dunedin….since last week I had 8 people on my hospital service who were over the age of 90).   I don’t think I feel completely at home for awhile.  And it’s always good to know there’s an Air Nz flight leaving San Francisco each night….just in case.



From the heart…

Today is my last full in Dunedin.  The words, so matter-of-factly written, belie a deep sadness in my heart.


This is the store Wine Freedom; hands down the best wine store I know.  Yes, the wines there are outstanding, but more importantly it’s run by Paul Williams, who is just the most knowledgeable (wine) person I’ve every known, and to boot he is a gem of a guy.  Who was the first person to ensure I had a ride to the airport tomorrow?  Paul was, and tomorrow he (and his little daughter Serin) are the ones taking me there for my send off.  I went to Paul’s store twice this week (that’s a lot, even for me), looking for the perfect wines to take home with me.  It was like I was trying infuse a little of Nz into a bottle, to savour at a later date when I’m in California and missing my little Dunedin.  I know it won’t be the same, but next week I will be sitting outside on our patio in the warm California sun, and sipping a Central Otago Pinot……just trying to hold on to this slice of heaven just a little longer.

A little more about the heart; CS Lewis wrote this about love:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.  Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  To love at all is to be vulnerable.”

It was no secret I was leaving the hospital.  Nor was my favorite Friday afternoon haunt, Ombrellos, a secret.

IMG_2491 IMG_2492

So my fellow consultant colleagues took me there for lunch on Thursday; a cool blustery day with intermittent hail, but there we were by the fire inside enjoying a warm lunch.


From left to right, Tracey, Elizabeth, Shelley, Dion, and then some guy who forgot to shave.  You can tell whose on call, because they have their phone near by…

I struggled through Friday….so many goodbyes….so many “We don’t want you to leave” comments.   But I knew 5pm would roll around soon, which was good, because it meant I was going back to Umbrellos.  The registrars had organized a little goodbye party for Friday evening and as we arrived, one by one, we still had some work to do (here, we’re doing sign outs…)


My kind of work environment!  After a few hours at Umbrellos, were sufficiently hydrated, and then we all went out for Indian food.  Reshma (front row, to my immediate left) did the ordering (she’s from India, after all).  And, I got invited to her wedding! (so did everyone).  She promised there would be an elephant.  She just needs a groom.


What’s astounding is the diversity of the registrars.  Here are the countries where my registrars are from:  Ireland, New Zealand, England, Oman, India, Sri Lanka, and Saudi Arabia.  We talked and talked….it was an amazing evening.  But as big as those smiles are, the photo was taken at the end of our evening, and that meant more goodbyes.  It was so difficult to say goodbye.  So much pain.

Today, I woke to a beautiful sunrise.  It was like Dunedin was teasing me.


Eion and I had a squash game early this morning (no, it wasn’t easy getting up this am); you gotta love a hospital with a squash court.  After squash, I had a quick coffee from the hospital coffee stand, ‘The Dispensary’ (one of the best in town).  Their pastries are pretty good too!


Then Eion, his partner Sarah (who is my current registrar) and I went to the Good Oil (the BEST breakfast place in town) for a last breakfast together.


It was a beautiful day in Dunedin; bright blue sky and 15C.  Yep, Dunners (what people here call Dunedin) was teasing me!


And this all brings me around to matter of the heart.

Why does it hurt so much to leave?  It hurts because I opened my heart and I let Nz, and the people of Dunedin, in my heart. I loved the people here.  Like this week, I took care of a woman who came to the hospital for back pain; she was older (about 90) and brought in by her granddaughter.  It didn’t take us long, and we found she had widely spread cancer.  We explained what we had found to them; they listened and nodded.  And then they thanked us for letting them know what was wrong.  And they asked us if WE were Ok.  That it must be hard telling someone they have cancer.  Yes, that’s right, they were making sure we were OK (we said we were, and then focused back on them).

Its hurts to leave because the house officers and registrars truly appreciate teaching (as evidenced by the goodbye dinner last night)….that,  and they begged me not to leave.  And they don’t just say they appreciate the teaching; they stay late just to get extra teaching (this week several times staying at the hospital until after 7pm just to hear me lecture).

So, my heart was open, and I let all that is Nz and all that is Dunedin in.  It was wonderful while I was here, and it hurts like hell to leave.  Tonight it’s the worst.  I will leave this wonderful place tomorrow, but a big part of heart will be here in Dunedin.  I’ll take the pain, though, because the alternative is a heart locked safely away, and I never want that.

It’s like jumping off the bridge…you just have to let go of what seems safe….go all in….open yourself to something new.

For now, goodbye frm Dunedin.













Perspective….and more of the bucket list.


This is a GT (if you fish, you are salivating right now).  A giant trevally.  30 kg of pure muscle.  This GT was photographed by my niece, Christine, on the Great Barrier Reef.  And if you dive, and if you dive and have a bucket list I would be bet the Great Barrier Reef is on it.  And here’s why.






Truly some of the most beautiful coral I’ve every seen (and like the sunrises from my last post, I’ve seen a bit of coral in my life).  And the amazing thing is how much of Great Barrier Reef there is to explore.  Over a thousand km!  A lifetime of diving wouldn’t begin to cover it; I was very lucky to have had this chance, and I want to come back (again, and again).

And if the bucket list is the highlight reel of your life, what about the day-to-day living?  That’s where living in Dunedin has given me even more perspective on life that I could have hoped for.  Like last night.  I stayed at the hospital a little late to give the registrars a lecture, and then we all went out for dinner (Del Sol, one of the few Mexican restaurants in town).  After dinner it was late, by Dunedin standards for a Monday, and there was NO ONE driving in the streets.  (Dunedin, especially around the Octogon, on a Friday and Saturday night, with the Univ students, is a different kettle of fish).  Back in the Bay Area of California there are millions of people crammed into one lovely little part of the state.  It is beautiful, but it’s crowded.  I don’t think you realize how crowded it is until you are in a city which, literally, has no traffic.  Where it’s possible to walk everywhere in town (we walked from the hospital to dinner).  Where you can walk into your favorite wine store (which here in Dunedin is Wine Freedom, to be sure) and the owner manning the store shouts out, “Dave!”.  The same owner who offers you a ride to the airport in case I didn’t have one.  There is just something about this town, maybe the Southland (the South part of the Southern Island), where everyone is just so friendly.  Where some of my colleagues as work, knowing it’s my last week here, insist on giving me a hug goodbye and are genuinely sad that I am leaving.

And the patients I care for at the hospital…they are the salt of the Earth.  Just honest, hardworking folk, who are kind, understanding and gentle people.  Today I helped teach a registrar (similar to a resident back in the US) how to do a thoracentesis (take fluid out of the chest from around the lung).  The man having the procedure couldn’t have weighed more than 40 kg; yet he just sat right up in the bed, didn’t mind that I was teaching someone (with several medical students watching), and thanked us all, individually,  at the end of the procedure, saying it was the easiest thing he’s every gone through.  Practicing medicine is always rewarding….always…but here it just seems more so.  Because the overwhelming majority of the people are just extremely grateful you are here to help them, and are vocal about their gratitude, and appreciate everything little thing you can do for them (it’s like they don’t even expect they will get better, and when they do, they are so happy).  I truly hope I can retain some of their perspective on life (for my own life) and be grateful for what I have, and gracefully accept what life throws my way.

And I will end today with the image of driving to work this morning, in the near light of dawn, as the full moon hung low over the hills surrounding Dunedin, its glowing image reflecting off the still waters of the Otago Harbour. (or Harbor, if you want to spell it THAT way).  Yeah, I’ll miss that…



Reflecting, and a bucket list

This is it.  The countdown.  My last Sunday night here in Dunedin (for now…..).

I didn’t really know what to expect when I moved here a year ago.  I don’t think I tried very hard to imagine what it would be like….I have moved enough in my life (this is the 7th country I’ve lived in) I just assumed I’d figure it out (I did).  But, moving here was on my bucket list (one of two things, if you remember; the other was becoming a doctor).  And it was everything I had hoped it would be for me, but even more importantly for my family (this the first extended stay out of the US for all of them.  So, what was so special about being here?


See the smiles?  We had so much family time (OK, maybe the boys might have said TOO much family time)..but nevertheless, as a parent, I know the boys will be under my wings for such a short time and it was just heartwarming to see them having so much fun (and to have a job here which allowed me the time to be with them as much as I was).  Life…work…in the US seems so, what’s the word?…consuming.  Here, Deb and I really got to be with the boys. We made it almost every single one of their sporting events, which would be a Herculean feat to attempt back in the US.

Another thing I hope I never forget is the drive into work each day.  We live out on the Otago Peninsula, on a meandering road which follows the Otago Harbor for about 10 km.  It’s just serene to drive along the water each morning, and just last week we were greeted by this sunrise.


Probably the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen….and I’ve seen many a sunrise.  And I’ll miss listening to Nz radio on the drive into work and home again in evening.  My favorite station is 91.8FM- the Edge Radio.  The disc jockeys are hilarious!  They say things and do things you could never say or do in the US (lots of four letter words).  They have this one segment called, “What it feels like.”  Here, the three disc jockeys spin a wheel, and the winner (loser) of the spin has to play the game, “What does it feel like?”

Because of this segment, here are some of the things I now know:

1.  I don’t want to pee on an electric fence.  (it hurts)

2. I don’t want to shoot my bare foot at point black range with a paintball gun.

3. I don’t want to walk through a wall.

4. I don’t want to be human pinata.

See what you learn by traveling abroad?

I’ll miss the weather reports.  Which tell you what the weather was like today.  So funny.  And, strangely enough, I’ll miss the weather.  Northern California, especially in the summer, is just one blue sky after another.  Nice, to be sure…but where is the drama?  Last Thursday my buddy Eion (pronounced Owen; he’s from Ireland) and I had a coffee outside in the after because the weather was SO nice.  Then, on Friday we were greeted with this:


The coldest day of the year, and lots of snow (even at sea level).  Then, on Saturday it was back to sun (and about 50 F).

There is lots more coming, but I wanted to talk a bit more about the bucket list.


This is Luwak Coffee, which my sister brought me from Borneo.  That’s a picture of a civet on the front.  I am, truly, a coffee hound and Nz has been good to me since they take their coffee seriously here.  Why, I’m considering investing in my own espresso machine when I get back to the US (that sound you just heard is Deb saying NO).  Anyway, the civets eat the coffee beans and then, how to say this delicately….they eliminate them.  The droppings are collected (now, THERE is a job!) and roasted and that is Luwak coffee.  For a coffee hound like me, it was a treat to taste this very rare (and delicious) coffee.


And it would be impossible to talk about Nz and a bucket list with talking about jumping off a bridge.  Quite honestly, it was never on my bucket list.  But of all the things I’ve done here, it has been one of my favorites.  No just for the thrill of it…and it was stunningly thrilling…but because it really was metaphor for our decision to move here.  We didn’t know what it would be like, and no matter how long you stand there and look over the edge, you will never really know what it’s like until you jump.  So, just jump.

More posts this week (I

Tell me it isn’t so…..

First, my apologies for a whole month without a post.  Wow, things have been busy…In my defense, for two weeks we were in Australia (new tourist motto: great beaches, but not a lot of hotel internet) and then after our return to Nz, we are busy getting ready….to….leave…Please, say it isn’t so.

One of the great things about Nz (and this is NO secret to anyone who lives in Nz, and especially those who spend the winter here) is it’s just a 3 1/2 hour flight to Australia.  There is even a direct flight from Dunedin to Brisbane! So, here’s a little bit of our two weeks in Australia.  Enjoy being a tourist!

We spent two days in Sydney.  Wow, what a city!IMG_7725

I guess it’s human nature to compare and contrast, but the city reminded us a lot of San Francisco (in a good way).  We loved the vibe of the city, right there on the ocean, the hip back street markets, the great seafood.  We could have spend many days there.  IMG_7751

The iconic Sydney opera house!  How could we live in Nz and not go to Australia?  How could we visit Australia and not see the opera house?  Being right there, touching the tiled roof of that so photographed landmark gave me pause.  It had always been something I had wondered if I would ever see…..and then here I was.  Was this part of my bucket list?  Did I even have a bucket list? I’ll get to that at the end of the post… We had so much fun exploring the city (there was a lot of walking!, just ask the boys….)  Our second evening in the city was just spectacular. wandering around Darling Harbor.


From Sydney we flew North, to the Whitsunday Islands (to Hamilton Island in particular).  There we met my sister Karen, her two daughters (Michelle and Christine) and their spouses (Dave and Sam, respectively).  So, nine of us in total.  We spent a week on Hamilton Island, and I’ll just say it was too short a time.  First of all, who wouldn’t want to stay longer on an island where everyone drives a golf cart?  We had rented apartments…and each apartment came with its own golf cart….sweet.  Then, there was the view.  Our west facing (meaning, we could watch the sunset every night) apartment was amazing.  Here’s our first night’s view.


On Hamilton Island there are hundred of rainbow lorakeets (a beautiful bird!) and also wild sulfur cockatiels.  Those cockatiels are cheekly birds, very smart (said to have the intelligence of a three year old), and not at all intimidated by anyone.  They will get into your house and rummage through your belonging….and they love jewelery.  Fortunately, we kept our doors closed.

They are always hungry, and were serious considering stealing Deb’s beer.



We also saw a cute little wallaby!

We went to probably the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to… (7 kilometers of the finest sand you’ve ever seen.)  The sand was so fine, when you picked it up and let it fall on your hand, you couldn’t even feel it.  I’m talking, of course,  about Whitehaven Beach, which is frequently mentioned as one of the best beaches in the world.  There we playing cricket and beach volleyball and managed to get a group photoshot (from left to right…Dave-or Skip as we call him, Michelle, Karen, Sam, and Christine)



We also visited a zoo, and those who wanted got to hold a koala (yes, they are as cute as they look).

From Hamilton Island we flew to Cairns, and the drove up to Port Douglas (way North) to one of the oldest rainforests in the world.  Lots of adventure here.  One day we went on a boat up a river to see those wild saltwater crocs we see so often on Animal Planet (and, When Animals Attack!).



Crickey! That’s a big croc, Mate!  About 12-13 feet long.

But here we were on the coast, both in Port Douglas and also in Hamilton Island, and so we had to dive the Great Barrier Reef…




Matt and I wanted to our hand as fishing one day, so we fished a reef about 10 miles offshore.  The bright orange fish is a coral trout, and we were told it was the tastiest fish around…and they were right.  It fed all nine of us!


When we left Port Douglas, we sadly had to say goodbye to my family (I guess they all have jobs and stuff like that), but we continued on with our vacation and flew South to Brisbane and then drove to Mooloolaba (it’s pronounced just like it’s spelled, Mo Lou La Ba).  Boy, did we have fun there!  Just a half hour away is Steven Irwin’s Australia Zoo, and that was a destination for all of us.  It was really, really cool.  Lots of kangaroo’s, just hopping around and you could even feed them!


We also went to a very hip little town called Noosa, where the surfing was outstanding.



And I will never, ever forget the sunset that night as we walked along the beach, savoring every last moment of the warm (remember we were coming back to Dunedin in the winter) sun.



So, that’s a very quick synopsis of 14 days in Australia.  And now back to bucket list idea.  I’ve had only two things that I absolutely wanted in my life.  One was to become a doctor, and the other was to take my family aboard for a year.  (check, check).  But, I’ve never really made up a bucket list on paper.  Instead, I try to live each day fully, have no regrets, and seize the opportunities which present themselves.  That being said, in the back of my mind I think there are things I want to do before I surf my last wave (so, maybe I do have a secret bucket list after all).   And as my time in Nz comes to and end, I thought it would be a good time for reflection, so I will do my best over the next 7 days to reflect my experience here, and what’s it meant to me and my family and we’ll see just how well I did on my list.  Stay tuned, I will try to post again tomorrow…..

Until then,






The Gift


Five years ago this July, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  It was a terrible moment, and I remember so vividly sitting with my sister Karen in the waiting area outside the recovery room where my dad was laying, asleep in a drug induced slumber after his diagnostic procedure.  His doctor came out an told us what was found on the endoscopic procedure.  He didn’t need say much more….I knew the average survival of someone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Months.  This was it, I thought.  My dad, who didn’t have any chronic illnesses, was not taking any medications, and someone I thought would live forever (just because I’m a doctor, doesn’t mean I’m immune to logic) was likely to die by the next Christmas.

So, with this new information, our family rallied.  We were determined to make every day count.  No matter what was going on in our busy lives, we would take family trips together, have a family dinners once a week.  We would squeeze every last drop of living out of the next few months.  IMG_0355

And we did just that: Las Vegas (above), Jackson Hole, Carmel, San Francisco, Paso Robles, salmon fishing in Alaska, salmon fishing in Oregon, Hawaii…we did it all.  So many great dinners, so many great moments.  We got together to watch Stanford footballs games, and cheered when they beat USC (sorry, Trojan fans).  And we got lucky, because dad’s cancer responded to chemo and radiation, and he had…no, we all had….almost five years of full on living.

In my last blog, about jumping off bridges, I talked about full on living.  Tim McGraw has a song, “Live life like you’re dying.”  A fan or his music or not, it’s a good message.  After all, in reality we are all dying just a bit every day.

And that brings me to this blog.  Cancer has been called The Gift.  Not because you would really want to be told you had cancer, but the diagnosis of cancer brings to the front that you are indeed mortal, and it’s a reminder that you had better (if you haven’t already) begin to live the life you want.  Say the things you want to say, be with the people you love, and do the things you want to do.  And that is what New Zealand has been to us.  A gift.  And here are some of the gifts of the last few weeks.


On Wednesday, I drove to the Balcutha hospital, as I normally do about once a week.  It’s a small hospital (maybe, 12 hospital beds) in a small town about 100km from Dunedin. It was unseasonably warm for June (14C).  During lunch, I walked across the street and admired the mighty Clutha river (one the largest in Nz) reflecting the winter sky.  What a sight

Last week we went up to Timaru, a town about 200km North of Dunedin, to go to our former nanny’s (Mallory) and her husband0-to-be Nate’s engagement party.  You see, Mallory went to high school in Timaru, and she was back here for a party with all her high school friends.


The party was fantastic, as was our time in Timaru.  There is a big park at the oceanfront, and on crisp clear Sunday morning we strolled through the beautiful park.




The boys didn’t need to be told to have fun….

On the way home, we stopped in Moeraki, a small fishing village about 45 minutes North of Dunedin, and home to the famous Moeraki boulders (which I have pictures of in previous blogs).  Moeraki is also home to Fleurs Place, a famous Nz restaurant infamous for its fresh seafood.



The food was amazing….truly one of our greatest lunches ever.  And Fleur herself was there, helping cook and serve….as she always is.

The drive to Timaru was beautiful, at sunset, with snow capped mountains in the distance.


A couple of weeks ago the All Blacks were in town to play England.  If you’re not from Nz, you won’t understand the passion Kiwis have for rugby (in general) and for the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team (specifically).  It boarders on hysteria.  We got tickets to the game months ago (it’s a sold out event, in a stadium that seats about 1/4 of the population of the city of Dunedin.


There we are in our All Blacks scarfs.  Mallory and Nate had just arrived in Nz the night before, and they HAD to make the trek down to Dunedin for the game.


Matt never tires of tricking ophthalmologists into thinking he needs eye surgery.

The previous week we had organized a wine tasting of some California wines we had brought here, and it turns out we ousted all the Dunedin eonophiles and they, too, brought out some of their prized California wines.


We even sampled a 1994 Ridge Montebello.  Wow!  In the lineup are wines from Justin, Belle Glos, Regusci, Cliff Lede, Ravenswood, and I’m sure I forgot something…  It was a great evening.

About two weeks ago, on a rare Saturday in Dunedin (we are often not here on the weekends) we went to the boy’s high school fundraising carnival.


For a few dollars, you got a sledgehammer, a pair of safety goggles and got to whack the heck out of an old car.  It was fun.

It’s funny what happens every Monday when Deb and I return to work after a weekend off.  One of our colleagues never fails to ask where we’ve been.  And invariably, when we tell him, he just shakes his head and admits he’s never been there.  Now, with just weeks before we return to the US, we cherish our time here even more.  We know this will end.  We are bound and determined to squeeze every last drop of fun to be had, to relish each moment.  Why, just yesterday as we were leaving the grocery store I looked up at the clouds and saw this magnificent sky.


Life is short.  Make every moment count.  If you love someone, tell them you love them.  If there is a bridge, and sufficient tethering equipment, just jump!


Enjoy, and cheers,










It was 30 years ago, 1984, and Van Halen’s title song could be heard ’round the nation.  “Jump.  Just go ahead and jump!”


The photo above is in Auckland, and that’s Deb in midair…..

Ten months ago, when I boarded  Air New Zealand’s 747 bound for Auckland I knew about the Kiwi tradition of bungy jumping.  And I wanted no part of it.  My brain was (seemingly) in control.  I had 3 kids to put through school, a parent and grandparent to watch over…..so, so much responsibility.  For the first three months I was here by myself, and I lead a safe, pursuit of trout oriented life.  Then my family arrived, and we started vacationing for real.  We rode in helicopters, sea planes……so it was naturally bound to happen we would find ourselves near a bridge, or a canyon, thinking about taking a jump.

About three months ago we were in Queenstown, and the boys and I took our first leaps (I blogged about it then..).  We returned to Queenstown a month or so ago….bound (bad pun) and determined to do more jumping.  You might say we jumped at the chance to do it again (worse pun).  Even Deb jumped (but don’t tell her doctor that).

What changed my mind?  Why the change of heart, from conservative forward thinking doctor, to an adrenaline junkie?  (Alright, maybe nothing that dramatic…)

Why the confident smiles (or even goofy faces…if you’re Matt) as we stand on the Kawarau Bridge?

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What is life, if not the sum of your experiences?  My first jump, well chronicled in a previous blog, really got me to thinking.  I remember standing up there on the ledge, looking down into the canyon more than 200 feet below me.  And I remember the nice young men, who stood there with me after securing the web of harnesses, saying to me, “OK.  Whenever you’re ready, you can jump.”  Time stood still.  Truth was, I wasn’t ready.  I would never be ready.  How can anyone be ready to jump off a ledge?  But I jumped anyway.  I’d had months to think about that experience, and the next time we found ourselves in Queenstown, I didn’t need to be asked if I was ready.  I was ready. The men at the platform of the Kawarau Bridge  (the original AJ Hackett bridge jump) counted down…”3″…..”2″…..but I was leaping off the bridge before they said “1”.

I think jumping has become a metaphor for our time here in New Zealand.  Living life full on.  No holding back.  If the door’s open, go through it…if it’s not open, see if the door is locked, and if it’s locked, try the door anyway.




We try something new almost every weekend.  From spearfishing in a very, very cold ocean so close to Antarctica, trying our hands at target shooting, to jumping off bridges, ledges or tall buildings.

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Nike came up with the slogan, but it’s true.

Just do it.




When words aren’t enough.

New Zealand is a majestic country.  Sometimes, even when you’re right in the thick of the majesty, you know you can’t capture what is right in front of you….though you try if you’re lugging around a Canon 7D.  Isn’t that what man has been doing since he (she) figured out how to recreate images…whether on a cave wall, a canvass, a piece of photographic paper, or a computer screen.  On a recent trip to Queenstown, we were blessed with magnificent weather.  Sunny and crisp one day, snowing the next.  The mountains surrounding Lake Wakatipu and the town of Queenstown are breathtaking.  It’s no wonder one of the ranges is named ‘The Remarkables’.  So, in it’s heavenly form (since we were sent to Queenstown by an angel), I’ll let the pictures do the talking.


This was the view, directly across Lake Wakatipu, from our rooms.  We stayed at the Matakauri Lodge.  If you ever get the chance to go there, please do (a treat, for yourself…you deserve it).  You’ll be in good company….The Royals (Kate and William stayed here when they were in Nz two months ago…), Brad Pitt, rumored to be there this weekend….



The hotel has a dock….to park your yacht.  When we first arrived the afternoons were very windy.  And the whitecaps on the lake provided an amazing contrast with the deep blue lake. The next days were colder.  Cloudier.  In the morning, clouds hung low in the sky.  It was erie.



But sometimes the sun would peak out just before sunset…just to tease you.




Then the storms came in and changed the whole landscape.  Snow, capping the mountains.



And the snow continued to fall.  On our way out of town, passing through the vineyards of Gibbston Valley, our last image of this amazing place.


It stayed cold here in Southern Nz for a few days.  It even snowed in Dunedin the following day.  But the cold didn’t last, and the following weekend we were treated to bright sunshine and warm (13 C) temperatures.  And, for days there was no wind, and the Otago Harbor was like glass.





With weather like this, I had to head out to Allen’s beach and capture the cliffs and the Pacific.


One of the great things about winter this far South is the light, which provides amazing contrast on the hills.


But the water was magnetic, drawing me back.


And, finally, one evening the sun set behind Stuart Street, which rises up through the hills surrounding Dunedin.


So that’s my world….which I enjoy sharing with all of you.





Mum’s Day 2014


Yes, I’m a bit behind…but it’s still May.  Back home in California I end up working most of the Mother’s Days, so it was real treat for both Deb and I to be off work that day.  (I asked to be put on the schedule that day, but to no avail).  Autumn was holding off winter, and we woke up to bright blue skies that day.  “What would you like to do today, Debra?”  We all asked (knowing she would answer with a four letter word…..’HIKE’).

So off we went…

It had been a cold night, and we were braced for very chilly temperatures, but after a short drive towards the end of the peninsula, we arrived at the trailhead to very pleasant 60 F weather and clear skies.  It was a beautiful hike out along the edge of the peninsula, with high cliffs towering over the Pacific, a hundred feet below us.


Of course, we walked through lush verdant fields of grass… and of course we saw many sheep.  And of course, since Matthew was with us he chased the sheep.


It was so peaceful (after the sheep ran away, forcing our little sheep herder to pursue a more relaxed pace).  Is there any better sight for a parent than watching your kids blissfully walking along a path?



We hiked for about 5km; a respectable distance (except in Deb’s book).  Then, we were off to town for a Mum’s Day lunch at a cafe.


Now, you might not think this is so dramatic, but remember, it’s mid-May, in Dunedin, and they are SQUINTING from the bright sunshine.  It was warm, too!.

We had a great lunch, and then it was off to the beach (you can’t let a sunny day go to waste) we were watched surfers and strolled along the sand.  Then it was off to some Gardens just down the road from us.


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You can see the sun casting long shadows; we squeezed out every last ounce of sunshine that day.  Then it was home, and I cooked a seared venison dinner (sorry, for the vegans in the audience) paired with a Central Otago Pinot.

Deb smiled the whole day, and of course we did too.  I was thinking of all the mums we know in our lives, and wishing them, too, a happy Mother’s Day.

That was two weeks ago.

Yesterday it snowed in Dunedin, and the city basically shut down.  The boys didn’t have to go to school (they were SO disappointed!).  But, we’ve got our wood stove, the heat pumps, and some nice Pinot, so it’s all good.

Sweet as,