March 13th, 2008

Well, that breeze that blew up last night worked wonders, and this morning has dawned brilliantly clear and blue. Looking out the window at seven this morning, the apartment blocks over on the other side of Wusheng Lu were bathed in gold from the rising sun- simply dazzling.

There’s still a breeze blowing now, a gentle one, and it’s nice to have the windows open and feel that fresh air coming in (the apartment really was getting a bit rank) and know that the air probably is quite fresh and breathable. It’s also good to hear the background noise of everyday life outside. Don’t feel quite so isolated this way.

Now, I should get myself over to the library with my books to study, but….

I dunno, I just felt absolutely shattered by the time I got out of class yesterday afternoon. Wednesday is now my longest day, starting with one class at eight, then two more in the afternoon. Not too strenuous, really. But three? four? straight days of gloomy, murky weather seemed to have left everyone looking as shattered as I felt.

And then, of course, I had to wake up at seven, knowing I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, but not feeling any more rested than I did at five yesterday evening.

Well, I think at about eleven I’ll take my books, a bowl and a pair of sticks, get some food from the cafeteria before the rush sets in, and study in the office for a couple of hours before lunch. Then into the library tomorrow morning bright and early.

Finally got a Country Calendar DVD last night and I was pleasantly surprised to see the box contained two disks. There’s another box which hopefully also has two disks, but a Kiwi colleague is trying to watch the programmes she couldn’t get her DVD player to show her on her laptop. We’ll get that box when she’s done. Not that I ever really watched Country Calendar back home. No, my only real memories of the programme involve watching the dog trials with my maternal grandparents way back when I was still in primary school, they lived in the Wellington region, and they were still in reasonably sound health. They loved the dog trials.

Anyway, we got these DVDs because when my parents were here they brought a New Zealand tourism promotion DVD to show lzh’s folks. Of course, like almost anything promoting New Zealand, the focus was on the Great Outdoors and adventure sports and exciting ways to almost-but-not-quite kill yourself. There was a little bit of Maori culture and agriculture- of the showing off for the tourists variety, of course- and urban landscapes thrown in, but still, New Zealand’s marketers really need to pull themselves out of this rut and start showing a more diverse, and therefore more accurate, picture of the country. Well, lzh’s father’s response was, “Don’t they have farms in New Zealand?” And so of course we all thought “Country Calendar!” I mean, it’s a Kiwi institution, one of those things like the Goodnight Kiwi that you just can’t ever imagine not being there. Oh. Oops. Um, anyway…

So we got the DVDs of Country Calendar. Trouble is, lzh’s response was a little mixed. We’re going to have to be very selective about which programmes we show her parents.

Put it this way: Biodynamic apple orchards, dog trials and sheepdog breeding, and perhaps shearing- good. Half-wild cockies mustering wild cattle from the slopes of Mt Hikurangi before DoC culls them (although lzh didn’t see them using helicopters to flush the cattle out of the bush- that was cool), guy who lives in a tent in the middle of the Ureweras (although he did have a solar cell charging batteries to run a TV and other electric appliances), and wild landscapes devoid of people or any sign of human presence (beyond, of course, what Kiwis would recognise as non-native vegetation and obvious deforestation- but neither lzh nor her parents have the background to see what I see there)- bad. Showing those “bad” things would probably result in lzh’s parents confiscating my passport and chaining me up inside the farmhouse lest I take their daughter off to this distant wilderness populated by about five people, all of whom look and act wilder than the wildman of Shennongjia.

Actually, one thing I noticed in the one disk I got to watch last night was the sheer amount of programming time and space given over to organics, biodynamics, and other more progressive methods, or just “progress” in general. There was a German family living the most self-sufficient and organic lifestyle possible just outside Oamaru; biodynamic apple growers in the Hawke’s Bay; a Cantabrian running on organic flaxseed business, both growing his own and contracting with 40 (I think) other farmers throughout Marlborough and Canterbury; a Maori woman in the Wairarapa? Southern Hawke’s Bay? can’t remember where, exactly, who set up a successful shearing business in part to combat the old stereotypes of shearers; and a woman who lost her husband in a car crash but who went on to build up a dairy farming business- conventional farming, sure, but they paid some attention to her more progressive pasture management, allowing her to explain how she doesn’t let the cows graze a paddock too intensely, leaving the pasture healthy and ready to bounce back once the cows have been moved on, and therefore she doesn’t have problems with weeds or gorse.

Pity that so many others are sticking with older, destructive methods or even going industrial. New Zealand has a long, strong tradition of progressive policies, it’s a tradition we need to promote before it’s buried under the weight of stupid, short-term, narrow-minded thinking coupled with industrial agriculture.

Oh, and one interesting comment from lzh was along the lines of: All those successful business people are Maori.

Well, she only saw some of the programmes, and there were plenty of successful Pakeha represented, too.

Anyway, it’s interesting watching lzh react to Country Calendar, as it was interesting watching her family react to that tourism promotion DVD, and it will be interesting to watch their reactions to the Country Calendar programmes we show them (although, we’re going to have to provide running commentary. For whatever reason, TVNZ didn’t think a Mandarin sountrack or Chinese subtitles would be worth the effort. Can’t think why). Somehow, a hell of a lot gets lost between how New Zealanders present themselves and their country and Chinese ideas and assumptions about the world. Somebody’s going to have to do some seriously hard work on that if we’re going to make a success of this free trade agreement. After all, we already have a pathetic-enough reputation in China business circles as it is.

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