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Behind the Mask…

Chinese Masks

Masks in a Chinese craft shop

Since I’m off on a mini holiday and leaving before the birds even think about chirping tomorrow morning, I thought I’d give you a virtual tour through China during the next four days. I hope to pop in and chat during the day, so I’m going to leave you with a question.

If you could pick any mask to wear what would it be? Something elegant, something silly or something else?

My husband would probably pick a snorkel mask since he loves snorkeling. I have trouble getting him out of the water when we’re on holiday! I’d pick a half mask–one that would be perfect for a Regency masquerade ball. A mask to conceal yet seduce…

What would you choose?

Faces of China

One of my favorite things to do when visiting another country is to wander around the markets. I like to see the different types of food, and of course, do some people watching. These are some of the photos hubby and I took during our wanders.

China

Banana Lady

China

Sugarcane Lady

China

Grape Man

China

Handicraft Lady

The Chinese people enjoy sightseeing, and we encountered many groups of local tourists at the Great Wall, on the Yangtzee River and visiting the Terracotta men. They’re big on photography, and if we smiled at anyone we’d find ourselves in the middle of a photography session. This couple grabbed me to pose in their photo. In fact, most of our group ended up in their photos. It was a real hoot.

China

Me and Random Tourists

Which one is your favorite?

In Search of The Sun!

It’s winter here in New Zealand, and I’m looking out the window at the rain. I could do with some sun! This photo was taken on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. Hubby and I were sitting at our favorite bar on the beach, drinks in hand and people watching, when I saw this cute little boy.

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

If you’re spending time in the sun today, tell me about it. Let me pretend it’s warm and summery here in New Zealand…

Rituals, Yams & Pentecost Island

During our recent holiday we were lucky enough to stop off at Pentecost Island. It’s a mountainous island, which is covered with lush green trees.

Each year between April and June, the men in the southern part of the island jump 20 to 30 meters from tall, very rickety looking towers with vines tied to their feet. The ritual is believed to ensure a good yam harvest and is also used to show acceptance into manhood.

On the day we visited Pentecost, it was very hot and humid. The adult men chanted while several young boys climbed the tower and prepared to jump. Medical staff from the cruise ship were on hand in case of injuries. Below the tower is an area of tilled soil and the vines must be carefully tied, the length judged so that when the man/boy land dives, his hair will just touch the soil. The ritual cannot be performed too early in the year because the vines aren’t elastic enough to bear weight.

I watched two land dives and couldn’t watch any more. It was the creaks and groans of the vines that I didn’t like. The sounds raised the hairs at the back of my neck. There was the creak and then a thump when the diver hit the ground. The first young boy was obviously winded because he took a while to get to his feet. An older man whisked him up and the crowd cheered. I heard later that some of the young boys jumped twice. In my opinion they must have rattled their brains the first time. I can think of better ways to ensure a good yam harvest. Manure, anyone?

Pentecost Island

Here’s a photo of the tower. As I mentioned, it doesn’t look very strong. There are actually people standing on the tower, getting ready to jump, but it’s difficult to see them. I refused to walk any closer to get a good photo. The land diving wasn’t my cup of tea!

It’s said that AJ Hackett got the idea of bungee jumping after hearing about the land divers.

What do you think of this ritual for ensuring a good crop?

Travel: Lifou, Loyalty Islands

Lifou, which is part of the Loyalty Islands, is a beautiful spot with lots of greenery. The snorkelling is very good here too, although access is down a very rickety and slippery wooden ladder.

Lifou

Once onshore, we walked up a hill to the old chapel on the headland. It was very pretty and the locals had placed flower arrangements inside. They ask visitors for a donation.

Lifou

The white chapel

Here’s one of the locals. The pretty teal color was very striking against the greenery.

Lifou

The snorkelling was excellent. We were there early when it was relatively quiet. Once the other passengers on the ship turned up, the area became noisy and there was a little silt kicked up, which caused vision problems. The ladder access was a bit tricky too.

Lifou

The Week That Was

The months are passing so quickly. We’ll be off on holiday again very soon. This time we’re going on a cruise of another part of the Pacific. We’re visiting Norfolk Island, Vanuatu and Noumea. I’m looking forward to the short ten-day break.

Mr. Munro visited a school or play center recently for his work. They had a worm farm and Mr. Munro arrived home with everything he needed to create his own worm farm. We already recycled all our kitchen waste into the compost bin, but these days I have to separate out the onion and garlic skins and any citrus scraps. I keep forgetting and that means a telling off. I think I’ve got it straight now, although I haven’t worked up the courage to peer inside the farm to see if I can spot the worms.

The garden has also received a bit of a makeover with some lime chips and some solar lights. It’s made a big difference and the garden is looking very pretty. The lime chips should also stop the weeds coming through. Yesterday, Mr. Munro planted some spring bulbs (rununculars and freesias) because he knows how much I like them along with some garden greens and coriander. I get the job of watering.

Bella has been a little horror since I last posted about her training. I’ve been calling her a devil dog and she’s lived up to the name. She will insist on biting when she gets over excited. I know it’s a puppy thing but I wish she’d get over it. At other times she’s so cute I just want to squeeze her. Ah, the trials of owning a puppy!

Cute Bella

In writing, I’m currently working on a short hot historical and I’m also adding a few words to the follow up story to The Bottom Line. The follow up story belongs to Julia. It’s given me real fits. I don’t think I’ve ever started a story so many times before. The current version has me excited and I’m cautiously optimistic that Julia’s story is on its way.

How was your week?

Labyrinth Relaxation and Plotting

Cottage Grove Labyrinth

I took this photo of a labyrinth at The Village Green Resort in Cottage Grove, Oregon. It’s a simple turf labyrinth and is a replica of one from 9th century Aachen in Germany.

I didn’t realize there was a difference between a maze and a labyrinth and learned differently during my visit. A labyrinth has one entrance and one exit. It doesn’t have any dead ends. A maze has a high hedge (or corn in modern mazes) and is actually a puzzle because it contains lots of twists and turns and dead ends. Mazes are used for entertainment such as the one at Hampton Court near London. I’ve explored the Hampton Court one and managed to get lost but finally made the center with hubby’s help. Labyrinths are used as a compliment to meditation or prayer. I walked this one and found it very soothing. I think it would make a good spot for plotting a book or for pondering plot problems.

Have you ever explored a maze or walked a labyrinth?

Happy New Year

Milford Sound, New Zealand

This photo shows Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand. I’d never visited this part of New Zealand before. The area is known for its high rainfall, but we had fine weather and spectacular views of the pristine water, mountains and bush. The scenery was stunning.

I’d like to wish everyone a happy, safe and prosperous New Year. All the best for 2011!

Oh, Give Me a Home Where The Buffalo Roam!

Camera Critters

I took this photo of bison in Yellowstone National Park. They’re very big up close and dangerous, yet many of the tourists we saw were busy stalking them with digital cameras.

Bison_YellowstoneNP

To view more animal photos visit Camera Critters

Snorkeling with Sharks and Stingrays in Moorea

Camera Critters

I interviewed Mr. Munro this week about his recent experience snorkeling with sharks and stingrays.

Moorea

What made you decide to snorkel with stingrays and sharks?

Moorea is a small but beautiful island. We could either explore the island or do some sort of water activity. When I read about swimming with sharks the theme music to Jaws came to mind. The stingray part of the excursion sounded just as dangerous. Steve Irwin anyone? In the end I decided you have to take risks occasionally because you can’t stay wrapped in cotton wool all your life. Besides, I could have fallen off my bar stool or slipped on the wet deck…

Tell us a little about the experience. Were you apprehensive?

Apprehensive was an understatement! I finally gathered courage and entered the water with my snorkel gear. It felt as if I were getting into a tepid bath. I still wasn’t too sure, but it seemed okay, then the guide started throwing dead fish into the water. I thought he was mad. Then I realized he was “on” the boat and I was in the water. I decided perhaps I was the idiot!

How close did you get to the stingrays and sharks?

Stingray

After the fish throwing things happened quickly. A stingray glided past, then another one. They wanted to play, swimming right up and over me, wanting to be stroked and rubbed. I was so excited I forgot about the sharks. That was until something caught my eye, heading straight for me through the clear water. The problem with wearing goggles is that everything is magnified. The shark looked enormous. It was actually only one meter in length. There were about six or seven black tip reef sharks circling, deciding if I was on the menu or if the guides’ dead fish were more appealing. I’m happy to say the latter seemed more popular for a snack. Being surrounded by stingrays and sharks, I was overcome with a sense of euphoria, not fear at all. The sharks kept a respectable one or two meters distance all the time.

Mr Munro and Shark

Snorkeler and Shark

Black Tip Sharks

What else did you see during your time snorkeling?

There was a lot of other sea life around – lots of different fish – and coral, but the coral wasn’t that exciting. I was very fortunate to follow a moray eel for about a hundred meters as it went from rock to rock looking for and eating fish. That was almost as exciting as the sharks!

Fish and Coral

Moray Eel

Would you recommend this experience to others?

I’d put this experience up there at about number three or four on my list of life experiences. Seeing the gorillas in Rwanda is number one on my list. I really enjoyed my swim with the sharks and stingrays, so if you get a chance to visit Moorea … do it!

To see more animal photos visit Camera Critters.