New Zealand

4 million people :: 40 million sheep. Yep, it’s true and by the likes of all the lambs I saw just getting their legs under them ~ I’m going to say their pushing 41 million in the sheep department. 
: )
New Zealand reminded me of home surrounded by water … & wine. It was the place I could start my immersion back home. By that I mean, we spoke the same language (shame on me for not knowing 3 or 4 ~ my next life), familiar surroundings (mountain ranges & such) people I know (old neighbors moved there) and wine. What a lovely, lovely place. I never made it to the North Island but something tells be I’ll be back. Two familiar faces (Matt & Kim) and 3 happy tail-wagging dogs of every size & color welcomed me in the sweetest way. There is something very grounding about cuddling on a couch with a pup. 

My first weekend was spent filming some of the farmers of the Otago Region. I had no idea what to expect ~ and was wowed off my feet. Hosted by two lovely people Olivia and Shaun from the New Zealand Merino Wool Industry. The first farm I visited was owned by Andrew & Tracy, a young couple with three very polite and enthusiastic children. Turns out Andrew and Tracy climbed Kili years ago. In fact Andrew was all set to propose at the summit, but Tracy wasn’t able to reach the top due to altitude sickness. So, Andrew went on to the summit alone and managed to propose on the beach in Zanzibar. I told him of my donation of socks to the porters and he understood how valuable that is/was. The next day we drove past Queenstown to Bills farm. Bill is an older gentleman and has been doing this his entire life, as did his father. At this point he now has someone managing his farm for him. He told me in his next life he’d like to come back as a coffee farmer. : ) He has one of the largest sheep farms in the Otago Region. I watched & filmed a “gang” of sheep shearers do their work. One of the largest gangs around ~ 10 shearers and the team that supports them. I was able to film the “classifier” while he worked, which is the one person deciding if the wool meets the critical standard for Merino Wool. He does so visually and by touch. The entire process is and was a privilege to witness. These farmers are nurturers. They are scientists, weathermen (women), biologists, computer programmers, vets and mothers & fathers. They love being outside and connected to the planet on so many levels. THIS was my introduction to New Zealand. 
Olivia dropped me off in Queenstown after our days of filming. She grew up there so she made sure to play tour guide with lots of quirky information and jot down suggestions for me and my limited time there. Queenstown is an adventurers paradise. Budgie jumping, paragliding, rafting ,helicopter tours, skiing & snowboarding, mountain biking, sailing, water skiing… The list is endless. Take all the parts you like about Vail, Aspen, Telluride smash them together and throw a gigantic lake with the most unreal color of water (oh, and a mountain range called The Remarkables) and you’re “close” to Queenstown. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect - the bar below my room was open until 4:30am, so there is that. 
The water ~ I can’t begin to try to explain the color of the water. A color I’ve never seen before. That night I had dinner with 2 couples that welcomed me to their table. One was a young couple from Australia (teachers who spent time working on a ranch in WY) the other an older newlywed couple (he was a widower and she … She had introduced him to his first wife a lifetime ago). They had just married in Fiji and he surprised her with Queenstown before going home to Wellington. We were all strangers. We ate, drank, laughed and talked. It was perfect. 

The remainder of my time in New Zealand was in Dunedin. My old neighbors moved here a year ago in search of a better life, and they found it for themselves. It was so nice to be around people I knew in a foreign land and have them show me around. We went to the Muso Club one night and listened to Matt’s band, drank yummy wine and cook dinners at their house. We walked the dogs, I ran errands with them and they showed me the peninsula they now live on. They are former college professors that now own/run a tex-mex food cart, Tex Atago (“tacos way south of the border”) There is nothing like it in New Zealand and they do a great job. They are a true to life taco cart on the South Island and business is booming. The best part … They’re happy. They have landed in their bliss and that was beautiful to witness.  
I interviewed Starbucks partners at three different locations on the South Island asking them about their dreams. All different ages, nationalities and backgrounds. I traveled to the southern most point I could go to, without going to Antarctica, watched a sea lion sunbathe on a rock and a blue penguin peek out from under some stairs. I saw Royal Albatross sail above my head and walked dogs on a beach along the South Pacific. I drank wine with my friends, told them of my journeys and filled them in on my life. I was dipping my toes back into my life and it all felt good. 

Now I am nearly half way on my way home. I’m back in Bangkok (making sure to drink a Singha and eat some Thai food) on my way to Beijing. I’m tired, excited, happy and sad to see it all ending. But something tells me this is only the beginning of something new for me. I’m not sure how or what that means but I DO know the world isn’t as big as I once thought. I do know I will see much more of this planet before my days end. I do know that regardless of where you call home we all strive & struggle with the same things ~ just on different levels. I now know and question the “have” part of my life and value those things differently than ever before. And, I do know we all have similar dreams ~ that I know with every ounce of my being.