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?

IMG_2226 IMG_2231 IMG_2228

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.

AJHA406021128524 IMG_2230


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.


IMG_1723 IMG_1710

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,




The Underwater World of the Cook Islands


Let’s see, where did we leave off?  A warm tropical sunset, Mai Tais on the deck?  Yes, somewhere like that…..

Much of our trip to the Cook Islands was spent in the water, so much so in fact I wanted to dedicate most of this post to the underwater world of the Cooks.  In Rarotonga, we stayed at Sea Change Villas, almost exactly at the half way point around the island (from the main town, and only town).  Our villa was just across the street from the beach, and as I mentioned before, it didn’t take us long to get into the water (minutes, in fact).



The reef which surrounds Rarotonga provides a great, sheltered lagoon for snorkeling.  Most of the water inside the reef is only about 4-6 feet deep, or even more shallow at low tide.  At times, it was life being inside an aquarium.



It was easy to lose track of all the different fish we saw.  Easily a hundred different kinds of fish.


There were many of the same fish in Atutaki, but there we also saw many more of the giant clams.  There were huge!  The largest was over three feet long, and as impressive as the size was, the colors were also so vibrant.




And the corals….wow.  So many different kinds, so many different colors.






Also in Atutaki, we saw Great Trevaly….huge fish (45 pounds) which came really close to us….wondering if we had something to eat, or maybe wondering if we were good to eat.



Too bad Matthew didn’t see one when he had his spear (of course, it would have taken it, and him, out to sea).


On our last snorkeling day, we saw some amazing fish, but none more spectacular than this lionfish.


Ohhh, I miss it all so much.  And there was nothing life spearfishing in the chilly Dunedin waters last Sunday (water temperature about 49 F) to remind us of just how great the water was in the Cooks.

And I’ll leave you with a funny story.  Deb and I were talking this week….just idle banter….and Deb wondered aloud where we might go for our 20th wedding anniversary (it’s still years away….but she’s a planner!).  I had just read more about the Cook Islands, about how there were 15 of them, some of them so remote a ship might only come there once a month….with pristine lagoons and abundant fish.  I said, “That’s the place I would want to go!”

“Oh.”  Deb mused.  “I was thinking Paris.”







Now we’re Cookin’ !!!


One of the great things about living in New Zealand is your proximity to the South Pacific.  Just after Easter, the first term of school ended for the boys, and Deb and I somehow managed to get a week off work during the boys’ two week break between terms.   Hmmmmm, where to go?  The Cook Islands are a 3 1/2 hour flight from Auckland, with daily departures flying Air New Zealand, so it didn’t take long to pull the trigger and book our flights.  So, Friday evening after work/school we headed to the Dunedin airport and boarded a flight to Auckland, where we would stay the night before our flight to Rarotonga the next morning.

The Cook Islands, we learned, are spread out over thousands of km in the South Pacific.  There are 15 different Cook Islands you can visit, but the only international airport is on the island of Rarotonga, an island with a population of about 9,000 people.  About 80,000 people visit Rarotonga each year; we added four to that number.  We boarded our flight Saturday morning, and stepped off the plane in Rarotonga on Friday afternoon (crossing the international date line).  It was inspirational.  The airport, as you would imagine, was small and you stepped out of the plane into the open air….ahh…but what warm tropical air it was!  We were met by a driver from our lodge who offered Deb and I champagne and the boys chilled water.  A good start.  We drove to our lodge, and within minutes were in our swim suits heading to the beach with our masks and snorkels in tow,  to catch the last bit of sun.  The water was soooooo warm! (about 80F).  The sun set about an hour later, and this was our first sunset  (not altered at all by any photoshop).  Yes, we thought, we are going to like it here.


That night, after basking in the glorious sunset, we set out for dinner.  We didn’t have a car yet, and our lodge had said there was a restaurant just a few km down the road that offered a pickup and drop off service….well, that seemed like an easy choice.  Another easy choice for Debra was deciding what to order first…..


This started the intensive and exhaustive comparative study of who makes the best Mai Tai’s on Rarotonga. Such the researcher, Deb is.  That night Ryan and I had the catch of the day, which was broadbill (swordfish).  It was amazing, and a good introduction to outstanding fish dinners to come.

Our next day, Saturday, coincided with the weekly market day in town.  The boys wanted to stay and chill in the room (we had our own deck and plunge pool, so who wouldn’t?) so Deb and I rode the lodges’ bikes into town.



There is one road around the island which is about 22 km in circumference.  Our lodge was exactly at the half way mark around the island, and that meant about a 45 minute bike ride into town.  Most of the island people drive scooters and it’s not uncommon to see two people on a scooter, or one person carrying a bag of groceries in one hand and driving the scooter with the other.  The island had many mountains, but fortunately the road near the ocean is all flat.  At the Saturday market, there was all sorts of food, clothing and knick-knacks.

IMG_1951 IMG_1947 IMG_1942

And fresh fish!


Yep, you’re reading that right.  $20 for a fresh yellowfin tuna!

In the afternoon, after we returned from the market, it was back to the beach.


The water, for us, was like a magnet.  On Rarotonga, like many of the Cook Islands, the island is surrounded by a coral reef (you can see the waves breaking on the reef in the distance).  The reef keeps the lagoon waters calm, and I think you can appreciate the lagoon is also quite shallow.  In Rarotonga, in particular, the water inside the lagoon is shallow, and rarely more than 6 feet deep.  Since we went snorkeling almost every day (and many days we went twice a day) I’ve decided to post another (whole) blog on the underwater life (and pictures) of the Cooks.

Saturday night, after our first whole day, it was back to more exhaustive Mai Tai research….


It’s a hard job, but as the saying goes, someone has to do it.

On Sunday, the boys and I went out on a charter fishing boat to try and catch some tuna.  The seas outside the reef are not calm.  We were all sporting scopalamine patches, and we didn’t get seasick, but was that water rough!  We were tossed around like a Cesar salad at the Ritz.  But in the end, we got a yellowfin and two skipjack tuna.  They filleted the yellowfin, and we had about 5kg of fresh yellowfin filets…..the best tuna we have EVER eaten!


Since the minimum age for driving a scooter is 16, we decided to rent a car for the remainder of our trip (also, it was far cheaper….only $35 a day to rent a car, compared with $25 a day per scooter).  You definitely want some mode of transportation on the island, since there are great snorkeling spots at several different locations (remember you have bring all your gear, too), and when going places after dark it gets a bit dicey unless you’re in a car (they don’t want people riding bikes, or scooters after dark because of the high rate of accidents).

One of the unique things about Rarotonga (and I’m sorry I didn’t get any pictures of this) was all the dogs we met.  The dogs rule the island.  They are everywhere.  They stand in the middle of the street and just look at you when you’re heading towards them in a car.  Fortunately, the maximum speed limit on the island is 50km/hour, so it’s easy to stop, but the dogs there just have no fear of cars.  Or anything really.  But, they were also so friendly!  We made many, many dog friends during our visit there.  One time, while Matt and I were fishing in the shallows for bonefish, a couple of dogs followed us.  Fishing for bone fish is a sight fishing kind of thing…..and as soon as we spotted a bonefish and started casting to it, one of the dogs ran and jumped in the water to chase the fish.  It turns out that for certain dogs, this was a favorite past-time.  Chasing fish.  Well, Matt and I never hooking a bonefish, but we made a lot of dog friends….

About a 45 minute flight from Rarotonga is the island of Atutaki.  The lagoon of Atutaki is huge, and the snorkeling is supposed to be even better there than on Rarotonga, so after talking with some of the locals about all this, we decided to do a day trip there.  Oh, and this year, for the 50th Anniversary of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, all the photography for the models was taken on the island of Atutaki…but that had NOTHING to do with our decision.  Interestingly, Air New Zealand’s safety video (the one you ignore when the plane is taxiing for take off) this year uses the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and was filmed in Atutaki.  But again, this had nothing to do with our decision.


Here is the bustling Air Rarotonga desk at the airport.



We boarded the plane early Wednesday morning for our trip to Atutaki.  The Rarotonga airport is a metropolis compared with the Atutaki airport.  Our day on Atutaki was a water-themed day.  We went from the airport to a pontoon boat, on which we would spend most of the day.


We headed offshore, out towards the reef and the islands surrounding Atutaki.  The deep blue color indicates the deeper water of the lagoon, and then the water turns turquoise as it gets shallow.  Our first stop was honeymoon island (we were thankful to be the only boat there, as I feared the boys might explore the island, only to find honeymooners there seeking solitude…).  On the island were the largest hermit crabs we’ve ever seen.


And, some of the most beautiful water we’ve ever seen.


It was a bit of mixed day weather-wise at the beginning of the day.  It was actually raining a bit when we first boarded the boat, but as the day progressed it got more sunny.  The dark clouds provided a very cool contrast with the water colors.



For lunch, we motored out to One Foot Island, and there saw water colors I’ve only dreamed about.


The boat driver (boat owner) employed his whole family in this business.  His wife drive a little bus, which picked us up at the airport and took us to their house where the boat was docked.  His kids did a lot of the cooking and preparation for the lunch on One Foot Island, and the food was so authentic and tasted amazing…especially after snorkeling all morning.  There is a shack on One Foot Island which also doubles as a post office, and you can  (for $2) get your passport stamped there (we did).  After lunch, we snorkeled for another hour and half, and no one wanted to get out of the warm (82F) water……. but, we had a 4:30 flight back to Rarotonga, and at 3:30 we were still in the water.  Our boat driver knew we had the flight to catch, and where we were snorkeling was a 40 minute boat ride from his dock, which was a 15 drive from airport.  So, at 3:35 he got us out of the water.  Don’t worry, he said.  We’ll be there in plenty of time.  We tried not to worry (it’s difficult to do, even in paradise), but sure enough we arrived at the airport at exactly 4:30, in ‘plenty’ of time to walk onto our (awaiting) plane.  No worries, mate.

It was an easy flight back to Rarotonga, and by the time we landed we were already wanting to go back to Atutaki.

In Rarotonga one day, we spotted this sight, which we were fortunate enough to capture…..


I wonder if the chicken sensed the irony.

There is one minigolf course on Rarotonga, and it was great fun.



The rest of our time on Rarotonga was spent snorkeling, eating amazing fish, and completing our exhaustive beverage research.  We enjoyed all being together, off work and out of school…it was good to relax.  I wonder if that’s something I can learn to put on my CV ?  ….”He’s a guy who really knows how to relax.”


Our last night in Rarotonga was memorable for it lingering sunset and, again, more liquid research.


As the evening progressed I saw one of the most unusual sunsets I’ve ever seen….to the left, where the sun was setting the sky was a deep blue, and to the right the sky was pink, reflecting off the high clouds above the island…so in one picture there is both a blue and a pink sunset….wow!


The flights that leave Rarotonga are interesting.  For example, our flight left Rarotonga at 2:30am.  Ouch!.  We were able to sleep for a few hours before our flight, and all in all, it wasn’t as trying as we thought it was going to be (we got into Auckland at 5:30, and boarded a plane for Chirstchurch and then one more plane to Dunedin).  How could we tell we were nearing Dunedin?


The dark clouds gave it away.

But, firmly lodged in our memories is this..



Next- the underwater world of the Cooks.








Happy Easter! (sponsored by the New Zealand dental association)

It’s Easter morning.  Deb has gone to work already, and I’m the only one awake in the house.  This is the sunrise outside our front window right now.  No kidding.


The Otago harbor is glassy, an unusual site especially for the last week, during which we have been pounded with rain.  It is a quiet morning.  Outside, the morning stillness is broken by the call of a tui bird (a song similar to a mocking bird), and inside the house there is the hum of the heat pump I have just turned on (no central heating for the Dunedin homes, which are most heated by ‘heat pumps’, or electric heaters, installed in a wall of the house).  A mug of Peat’s Anniversary Blend coffee sits steaming on the coffee table in front of me. I grasp the warm mug, which takes a little of the chill off my hands on this Autumn morning, and sip the dark brew.  That needed  fuel of life begins to coarse through my veins, and I feel alive.  Life is good.

The Peat’s Anniversary Blend was a thank gift from our out-of-town company, Dylan and her mom, Desirre, who arrived two days ago. They have always wanted to see New Zealand…now, here there are.  While it’s fun to live here, sharing the joys of living here brings it up a notch.  I was very fortunate to not be on call this weekend.  By this weekend, I mean the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Easter weekend.  It was just last week I found out I had all four days off (everyone, except those on call do).  Really, I asked.  All four days?  Why do I get Friday off?  “It’s Good Friday.”  They answered.  Alright, I kind of understand.  What about Monday, though, why do I get Monday off? (I know, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, and should never look a gift horse in the mouth) “It’s Easter Monday, of course.”  Right, Easter Monday.  How could I not have known that?  How big of a Holiday is Easter here?  Well, on Good Friday, there were no grocery stores open.  None. (And, quite suddenly, the HUGE crowd at the New World grocery store on Thursday night makes sense….back to the tool shed comment).  In fact, virtually no stores were open, anywhere.  Wow.  I wouldn’t have guessed that.  We did find a couple of restaurants open, and had a great dinner at Salt, in St. Clair overlooking the stormy surf.

Yesterday, Saturday, was the Dunedin Farmer’s market.  I’ve written about this before, but it’s always a treat to experience it through new eyes.  Deb had to work yesterday, and the kids weren’t interested in the market, so Desirre and I braved it alone.  We had so much fun and I had to admit, Desiree’s ‘let’s just try it’ spirit was infectious.  I even sampled the New Zealand Whiskey…..at ten in the morning.  Ouch.  We bought so much stuff!  Lettuce, cheeses, wild venison, free range eggs, potatoes (which we had to buy, because they were named ‘Desiree potatoes’), falafel mix and hummus.  Some of the eggs we bought were normal size, and then the farmer also had some ‘extra large’ eggs.


We asked him how these eggs came to be so large, thinking, maybe it was a bigger hen or a different variety of hen…but no, he said, on his farm he let the hens die of old age, so some of older hens only laid an egg every third day or so.  These are the eggs that are so large.  He didn’t have many chickens on his farm, he said, just enough to know them all by name.  About 150 or so….


Much of the lettuce here is hydoponic, and it’s so beautiful that when we got home we put the lettuce in water and we’re using it for a centerpiece.  And then we’ll eat it.


After a holistic, Earth-friendly trip to the Farmer’s market, where else would you take an out-of-town guest but….The Warehouse…Dunedin’s answer to Walmart.  Desirre and I were on a hunt to pick up some Easter egg coloring supplies.  Only, it turns out, no one does that here.  OK, we’ll have to look up how that tradition started, but what next?  It’s not like people here don’t celebrate Easter (heck, they gave me four days off work), they just celebrate it differently.  Like, with chocolate.  The thing here is Easter chocolate.  And when I say chocolate, I mean A LOT of chocolate.  There were aisles and aisles of Easter chocolate.  Each aisle seemed to advertise a bigger and bigger chocolate Easter egg.  I think I managed to find not only the biggest chocolate egg (1kg of chocolate!), but also the one of the most unusual.  And, this stuff has been selling for weeks before Easter.  Somehow I think the dental association is behind all this…



Last night we went out to the end of the peninsula where the albatross colony lives, but we were there to see the blue penguins.  These are very rare, and they are the smallest penguins in the world.  They go out to sea in the early morning, and stay out at sea all day, finding food.  They are wary (they probably seem bite size to a lot of predators) so they wait until dusk to come in to shore to sleep.  It was dark as a large group (almost a hundred) of us walked down a long path to the viewing platform by the seashore.  Then, we spotted a raft (that’s what a group of blue penguins is called) of them came swimming into shore.  They waited, just momentarily, at the surf’s edge, then used the surf to propel themselves up on to the rocky shore.  They then hopped up the rocky bank and waddled to wherever their particular nest was located.  The low bar penguins nested close to the shore, but those over-achievers nest high up the hills, some as much as 400 meters up a steep hill…..a long waddle for a little penguin whose stature, on a good day, barely stretches to one foot.

It’s now almost 11pm on Easter evening.  It’s been an awesome day.  This morning, after a pancake and bacon breakfast, we headed out to soak up some sun at the beach.  The weather was absolutely amazing…maybe even the best day ever in Dunedin since I’ve been here.  No wind and about 22 degrees and for almost the whole day, pure blue sky.  Wow, what a day!


When we got back from the beach, we colored (no dye to be found) Easter eggs…..seemed weird doing this to free range eggs, but we’ll be eating devil’s egg sandwiches most of the week so why not free range deviled egg sandwiches?




Then we had the kids go upstairs for a bit while the grown ups hid the eggs, and then we let them loose to find all 18 of the eggs (we were too easy on them….it only took them about 10 minutes to find them all).


We wanted to squeeze every last ounce of sunlight out of the day, so after the Easter egg hunt we went kayaking in the harbor, and then off to Sandfly beach to see some yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions.  We made a nice roasted chicken dinner with potatoes and kumara and had a fire outside and some marshmallow roasting.  We star gazed until just a few minutes ago, and the sky was dazzling…..just billions of stars (and I saw two satellites).  Just now, there is the sound of rain drops on the roof, which means it’s time for bed.  What a Dunedin day…what an Easter.

We hope all of you had (and have, for those of you on the ‘other side’ of the dateline) a wonderful Easter.


Friday Night (Southern) Lights.

When my two youngest boys, Ryan and Matt, signed up for ‘summer sports’ teams at Bayfield High School at the beginning of the academic year in January, I was proud of their choices.  Matt, who is a year nine (or freshman) in the high school signed up for softball (they don’t have hardball baseball here) and volleyball.  He’d never played volleyball, ever.  Ryan signed up for water polo, futsol (indoor soccer on a basketball sized court) and track.  Ryan never liked soccer back in the US, and after one or two seasons at the tender age of 6 or 7, he knew he’d had enough.  And yet, here he was,  giving it another go.  Must be something in the water here.   Back in the US I work at the hospital every other weekend, which makes attending sports games challenging.  My job here, on the other hand,  is much more flexible, and I can attend the overwhelming majority of the boys’ games.

I went to Ryan’s first water polo game about six weeks ago and watched the kids struggle.  Most had never played water polo before.  At one point, I thought I was going to have to revive my life saving skills and jump in to help one of our players who was having trouble just swimming to the other side of the pool.  I looked around for the coach, and saw the team had a manager, but no coach.  Gulp.  What else could I do?  At the end of the game (we lost by many goals) I took a deep breath and introduced myself and asked the manager if she thought the team might like a little help.  You’re hired, she said.  Now, I was all in.  I also asked Matt if he would consider trying out some water polo to help the team; he’d never played before, but said, “Sure, why not?”

Water polo season ended with last night’s game, and this post, whilst (how about that for a Kiwi word?) seemingly about sports, is as much about what life  is like for an American family living in Dunedin.

Bayfield High School is one of the few co-ed school in Dunedin.  The more prominent high schools, such Otago Boys, Otago Girls and John McGlashan are single sex schools.  There is about an equal mix of boys and girls on our water polo team, and most of them had little prior experience with water polo.  Our smaller players don’t even stretch to 5 feet tall.  I’m not sure if even our strongest swimmer could swim 50 yards of freestyle in under 30 seconds.  I was the ‘coach’ at the next week’s game, and tried to help as best I could, and even though there was some improvement from the prior week, I turned to the manager and commented, “I think we are going to need some practices….”  Most of the sports teams for the high school don’t practice much, and some not at all.  Our manager, Mrs. Alibone (who is also the boys’ science teacher)  arranged some pool time at Otago Boys (Bayfield doesn’t have a pool, Otago Boys High School has it’s own indoor pool).  After the first practice, I overheard one of the kids say, “I can’t believe it!  We practice for a whole hour!”  Yes, many of the sports teams, when they do practice only do so for 20 to 30 minutes.  I saw, in our first practice, we were going to need a little more swimming strength, so I offered optional swim workouts one or two evenings a week at the local community pool.

What was really interesting was with each practice, someone new would show up.  “Hey.”  They would say.  “I heard this is fun, thought I’d give it a try.”  Sure, have a go….everyone is welcome.  Day by day we got a little better.  Yet,  even at the end of the season there are a few players who still couldn’t quite master an egg beater kick, but it didn’t stop them…

Last week the championship games began.  I told the team if we won our first round, I’d get in the water with them for the next practice.  We won, and yes, thirty-five years after my last water polo practice in college, I got in the water and practiced with the kids this week.  I didn’t drown, which was good since I was the only doctor there.

Yesterday was the championship game, against Logan Park High School. We have never beaten them, and we lost to them 6-0 in the beginning of the season.  We had our work cut out for us.  We were tense.  Ryan told me he couldn’t even eat his lunch at school, he was so nervous.   It was a very hard fought game, and it was 1-1 at half-time.  Our players sensed we had a chance to win, and really stepped it up in the second half.  The other team had one really superb player on their team, but each time he would break away and get the ball, two of our players would be all over him.  He was near the goal several times with the ball, and our goalie rushed out and stole the ball from him.  We shut them out in the second half, and won the game 3-1.


We then rushed down to the Edgar Center (the large indoor sports area in Dunedin) for Matt’s volleyball game.  They also won, beating Otago Boys in the third (and deciding) game.

I still had some work to do at the hospital, so after Matt’s volleyball game we drove the boys back home and got them dinner, and then Deb and I headed back to the hospital.  After we finished the work we had a nice relaxing ‘date night’ dinner at a restaurant called Table Seven just a block from the hospital.  It’s a great little place, on the first floor (for the US, second floor) overlooking George Street (which is fun to do, on a Friday night).  It was a great time for Deb and I to talk about the day, the week, and indeed our whole time here so far.

We sat there at the big picture window sipping Central Otago Pinot while awaiting our first course of beetroot and feta salad.  I talked about how much fun it was to go to the very small Balclutha hospital each week.  It’s about sixty miles Southwest of Dunedin, but the scenery makes the drive pass by quickly.


We continue to marvel at the scenery here in Nz.  A couple of weeks ago we headed into Central Otago.  Matt and I had plans to drift fish the Clutha River while Ryan and Deb cycled the Central Rail Trail (a 65km leg, this time).  We awoke in Cromwell, where we had spent the night in this great little Motel, to a sunrise rainbow.


And then later that day Matt and I hooked into a few fish….

IMG_1834 IMG_1836 IMG_1842

The fall colours were beginning to show, and the clear water of the Clutha provided a great contrast to the greens, yellows and browns.


Even the drive to work in the morning is often spectacular, like this sunrise we captured last week.


Deb and I  both remarked how the people here seem to reflect the beauty of the surrounding nature.  Everyone is so genuine, so nice, so helpful.  They are proud, and rightly so, of their country.

But like most parents, a good part of the conversation was dominated by talking about our children.  Ryan wants to stay here, period.  Even Matt is warming to life here, no small feat for a 13 year old.  We love how the boys are trying new sports, new languages (Matt is learning some German), and making new friends.  It wasn’t long before our conversation turned back to that day’s water polo game.  The boys played their hearts out, and saw some real success.  They saw, too, that a little extra effort goes a long way (that’s always a good one, if you’re a parent).  It was a proud moment to have all the kids gathered up by sports photographer for the championship photo.  Here it is, the Bayfield High School Water Polo Team.


It’s almost impossible to capture the essence of life in Dunedin without being here.  I could not have envisioned working as a doctor AND going to my sons’ water polo games…..let alone coaching the team.  Yet, here I am, doing all that.  Deb and I are old enough to understand how fortunate we are to live this dream.  It’s  a priceless experience.

Thanks for following,







A Weekend in Wanaka

It is autumn.  Though it is still light at 8pm, the sun has set half an hour before, and if you wake before seven o’clock in the morning night still rules the sky.  We have sensed winter closing in, and with that, fewer opportunities for outdoor pursuits.  Our weekends have become a frenzy of ‘let’s get there now, before it’s too late’.  Not that there won’t be beauty in the winter, but being California folks we like to see places while wearing shorts.  It’s just who we are.

So last weekend (I’m only a week behind in the blog!) we headed out to Wanaka after Ryan’s and Matt’s water polo game.  If you’ve ever been to Wanaka, you won’t need me to recount its beauty.  If you’ve never been there, I’ll do my best to describe what a magical place in the world this is.



We arrived in Wanaka just after dark and the lake reflected the glowing evening sky.    If you have ever visiting Lake Tahoe, on the California/Nevada boarder, you know the setting.  A big, beautiful blue lake, surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks.  Wanaka is all that, though it’s like going back in time and visiting Lake Tahoe 50 years ago.

On our first morning we rented kayaks and paddled out to Ruby Island.  Matt preferred to stay in he kayak (as you can see) and paddle around the island, while Deb, Ryan and I hike around the small little island.  We found a little wild apple tree, and munched on some apples during our mini-hike.  Yum.


Deb and Ryan checked their stomachs mid hike to see who was the most skinny (really…after eating an apple?).

Later that afternoon we went to ‘Have a Shot’; a place out by the airport with a golf range (the sheep mow the grass), and indoor and outdoor shooting ranges.  We thought we’d give it a try.

IMG_1820 IMG_1819

The boys were amazing!  But what was really amazing was when we went back the next day, Deb tried it.  She said, “Oh, I”ll be terrible at this.  I’ve never shot a gun before.  I’m too nervous to even shoot!”  The guns were 22 caliber rifles, and the targets were 20 meters away.  Deb got 23 bullseyes out of 25 shots, putting all of us to shame, and winning the admiration of the staff, who were seriously considering whether she was a secret agent with the FBI.

But I got ahead of myself.  Sunday morning (before Agent Debra had her chance at the range) we went for a hike into the Rob Roy Valley.  The views there were simply some of the most stunning I have ever seen (and I’ve done a lot of hiking).  I won’t try to describe what I saw…I’ll just show you.





The Matakitaki River runs along the floor of the valley, with towering mountain peaks on either side.  Beautiful.  Our hike was up through another valley to a glacier.


While we were there, the glacier calved; that was an incredible sound, and incredible site!  We were happy to be on the other side of the valley, as well.


The runoff from the glacier turns the stream a turquoise color, which almost makes it seem like someone came along and colored the water.  We also passed a waterfall, and there was a rainbow in the water fall.


After we got home that afternoon, we went up the winery along the shores of the lake, Rippon winery (for a little wine tasting, to go with our hike).  That’s something you don’t find at Lake Tahoe…a vineyard alongside the lake (hey, somebody get on that!).



You can see Ruby island just offshore…

On our final day of this three day weekend, we went into Arrowtown, just outside of Queenstown.  It is a very quaint little town with cute shops and great food.  It was truly an autumn day.


And then, on the way home we passed the 45th parallel,


and stopped in Aurum Winery to pick up some more of their very tasty olive oil (some of the Souther- most olive groves in the world) and a few bottles of the wine, too.

We managed a sunset that night at home,


And the next morning, as Deb and I were driving into work, there was full moon setting before the sun came up.


Deb and I have relished every minute of our time here.  New Zealand is a special place, to be sure.  There is beauty around every corner.  We certainly feel fortunate to be here, and to have the time to enjoy this wonderful country.  And while I  can show you pictures of the beauty, I cannot as easily show you the New Zealanders, who make living here such a delight.  They are some of the most heart warming, friendly people in the world.  When the boys are I are jogging, everyone we pass smiles.  Deb and I have frequently find ourselves commenting, after a conversation with one or the other locals, “They are just so genuine, and so nice!”

Hope you enjoy what we’ve shared,









If your sons jumped off a bridge, would you?

You’ve all been there.  Your child (or you, perhaps) did something of questionable judgement, and the rationale for the action was “Well, everyone else was doing it!”  Then you say, or hear, those words, “So, if they jumped off a bridge, would you?”  (You’re SUPPOSED to say NO, by the way).

Swing 05 - Multi

So, there we were just 10 minutes outside Queenstown, on a platform about 100 meters above a river.  We had decided to ‘do’ the ‘The Canyon Swing”, which is a 60 meter free fall straight down, and then strapped in a full body harness you swing another 200 meters to the other side of the canyon.  And, if all went well, the nice young men at the top would hoist you back up to the platform.

This was (I’m sure you’ll be surprised) my idea, and the boys were all for it.  Debra, having two of those pesky ‘X’ chromosomes which actually cause you to sensibly answer questions like, “What could go wrong?” chose to sit this one out.  Smart girl.  I was hoping to go first, but Matt beat us all to the punch when they asked for volunteers.  Here, in the multishot of the jump, you can see him calmly smiling, suspended 100 meters above the canyon floor.  I can tell you, I would not look so relaxed.  In this particular ‘jump’, you are suspended above the canyon, and the nice young men ‘cut the cord’ when you’re least suspecting it.  Now, doesn’t that sound fun?  Matt was all smiles, and actually did the jump twice.

Swing 04 - Multi

Ryan went next.  He, too, make it look smooth and easy.  For his second jump, he just simply leaned backward and fell into the canyon.  Deb, watching from the platform above, just about had a heart attack.  Oh, to be young, do a jump like that, and come up and say, “Can I do that again?”

I went last.  I did feel safe, having seen Ryan and Matt survive their jumps.  There were also three guys, each of whom did his own separate safety check before they let me near the edge of the platform.  I had opted for the ‘pin drop’ jump, where you placed your hands behind you, interlock your hands, and keep them that way for the whole jump.  I very nervously made my way to the edge of the platform.  Never mind I knew I was strapped in, just inching towards the edge of the platform was nerve racking.  I stood there on the edge of the platform and looked over the edge. Big mistake…for two reasons.  First, of course, it was terrifying to look down.  Second, the young men up on the platform like to have a little fun, so the minute I wasn’t watching them, they pushed me towards the edge (all the while holding on to me so I didn’t actually go off the platform).  Boy, that was funny! (for them).  When I got the OK to jump, my feet suddenly became lead weights.  I will be honest…jumping off the platform was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done.  Every brain cell in my body (all three of them) was yelling “Don’t jump!”.  But, my kids had jumped, and everyone was watching me.  I couldn’t chicken out.


01 - My First Canyon Swing - Multi-shot

Here is what it’s like to free fall 60 meters.  First, it’s not like the cartoons you watch.  You don’t, as you jump up and off the platform, hang there suspended for a moment before gently beginning your descent.  The very second you jump off the platform, gravity grabs you by both ankles and yanks you downward, screaming towards the canyon floor.  You don’t have time to savor a moment of being weightless, or watch birds on your way down.  You just hope the harness and cables hold.  They did, of course, since here I am writing about it.  Maybe if I did a second (or third, or fourth?) jump time would slow down and I could more fully ‘experience’ the fall.  Maybe…but one jump that day was enough.

All that being said, we do plan to go back there and do it again…(that’s the Y chromosome talking).

Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand, and as you can see, we took advantage of that fact.  We all had the weekend off, and the weather was still good, so  after finishing work on Friday, we drove just three and 1/2 hours to adventure town, Nz.  We stayed in a wonderful apartment on the lake, with a beautiful lake view.  It was site to wake up to Saturday morning.  No moss growing under our feet, though, so Saturday we were off to jet boat the Dart River….where fashion is king!


The jet boat is a pretty common site on these rivers in Nz because they can travel in water as shallow as 4 inches deep.  We first took a bus from Queenstown to Glenorchy, a very small town on the banks of the Dart River.  Though small, Glenorchy is famous because of the all the movies which have been filmed in that area (yes, some Lord of the Rings, but many others as well).  Interestingly, even the mountains depicted on the bottle of Coors Beer used to be the mountains around Glenorchy (until the CEO of Coors Beer came to Nz, and was told this story, and went and checked it out for himself….and it was true….so he changed the label a bit).  The ‘boat’ seats about 10 people, but in reality it is just a thin shell of metal housing an 800 horsepower engine.  It’s a blast.  You literally fly up the river at about 45 mph.  The scenery was spectular!



There was just one breathtaking vista after another.  We got out of the boat about 30 miles upstream, and went for a little walk in the forest.  There was some remaining set material from the the Hobbit movies, and my how Ryan has slimmed down.


You would like to think we would want to relax after this, but no.  We went straight from the jet boat ride to the gondola.  What an amazing view of the Queenstown area from this vantage point…




Once at the top of the mountain, you can ‘land luge’ it a bit.  It was so fun!


I think we went on the luges about 10 times.   It was blast.

What a paradox New Zealand has been.  On the one hand, I’ve had so much more time for my family here.  Quality of life is important to New Zealanders, and despite my full time job, I’ve been home for every dinner, been to the majority of my kids’ sports games and even have time to be the water polo coach for the high school water polo team.  All that, and I have time to reflect on how fortunate I am to have this time.  And then, on the other hand, is the no-holds-barred, petal-to-the-metal adventures we’ve had (almost every weekend).  We are indeed, fortunate to be able to live here and enjoy the bounties of New Zealand.  This Queenstown trip was two weeks ago, and we’ve just returned from a (three day) weekend in Wanaka….which of course will be my next post.





We ain’t got no stinkin bananas!

Here’s the deal.  We have a normal size (for New Zealand) refrigerator.  We have two teenage boys, who consume on average 8 to 10,000 calories a day.  Our day basically revolves around keeping the boys fed.  For breakfast, Deb stands at the refrigerator and passes me food (eggs, English muffins, crumpets, bacon) and I cook it as fast as I can, and we just hope the boys get full by the time the refrigerator is empty.  Then, it’s off to work at the hospital, which is strategically placed across the street from the New World grocery store.  We buy as much food as our Subaru Legacy will hold, come home and organize the assembly line that is called ‘dinner’ in some homes.  We can usually buy enough food for dinner that night and breakfast the next morning, but that’s it.  For lunches, each boy brings a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jam and they makes their own sandwiches.

It was a surprise this week, then, when we couldn’t find bananas at the store.  We asked the nice young man in the produce department, “Hey, where are your bananas?”  Thankfully, he knew we meant the fruit.  He was surprised, he said, we hadn’t heard about the shortage.  What shortage?  We wondered.  A boat from  the Philippines had broken down, he said, and no one in Southern New Zealand had bananas.  No one.  Not a single store.  They didn’t expect any for about week, until they could get some from Ecuador.  Oh, that’s right, we live on an island.  And you don’t need to remind us it’s not a tropical island.  Well, it’s apple season.

Last Friday our good friend Ryan Hubbard and his brother Jeff came to visit us.  They had been in New Zealand for about a week, having lots of fun around Queenstown and the West Coast.  It was great to see them, and we enjoyed a nice dinner on Friday night with a typical beautiful evening view.


We started a fire in our outdoor fireplace and planned to roast marshmallows after dinner, but in typical fashion it began to rain just as it got dark.  So, we enjoyed a little bit of the fire in rain, roasted a few marshmallows in between rain drops, and planned our outing for Saturday.  We decided to go to Nugget Point on the Southern Coast (they hadn’t spend much time on the coast).



It doesn’t take too much imagination to see why this is called Nugget point.  It was a great afternoon, and though you can’t see them, there are dozens of seals on the rocks below (many with little pups).

On the drive along the coast, we spotted a yellow-eyed penguin (it’s very unusual to see them on the shore in the daytime), and had to stop and say hello.


He was a cute little guy….hopefully not lost, but he didn’t seem phased at all by us taking pictures of him.  My son Ryan said this is how celebrities must feel, with people stopping and taking pictures of them wherever they go…

We were sad to say goodbye to Ryan and Jeff later that day, but they had a plane to catch the next day.  Our Sunday was a different story.  Our Ryan had a school debate practice, so he stayed home while Deb, Matt and I headed into Central Otago.  Our plan was to go to Naseby, where there is a curling rink.  But, as we left Dunedin the weather improved dramatically (that happens a lot), and we stopped in Middlemarch and inquired about renting bikes for the Central Rail Trail.  Sure, they said, so since was a clear blue sky 70 degree (25C) day- we don’t get many of those here- we switched gears and decided to go bike riding. (Did you catch the pun?).  Deb hadn’t brought any shorts, so she picked some flashy new ones at the bike store.


IMG_1688 IMG_1692

The van took us up 42km up the road to the Central Rail Trail, and then the plan was we would bike back to the store.  Matt wasn’t initially as excited about the (long) bike ride, so we bribed him with a “V”, the local energy drink.  Here are the before and after pictures.



He was faster than us the whole way!

It was a beautiful ride.  For the first 15km we followed Taeri River in a canyon, and it was magnificent.



The Central Rail Trail is a 150km track that used to be a rail line, but after the railroad went broke, they decided to put dirt on the tracks and convert the rail into a biking track.  It’s fantastic.  No cars, incredible scenery- everything you want in a bike ride.  Along the way are cute little stopping places, like in the town of Hyde (where there is always lots of drinks and treats to help sustain you for the ride).


Sometimes they get the signs wrong, but you can’t be real picky about this sort of thing.


It was a terrific day.  We headed back to Dunedin just before dinner time (which in our house is anywhere between 1pm and 10pm).  Later that evening the hills across the bay were stunning as the fog rolled in.


We certainly made the most of that weekend.  This week it is back to school, work, volleyball, softball, futsol, running and water polo.  Gee, I wonder why they eat so much?

Next weekend, if all goes well, we are off to Queenstown.