Thursday, 7 February 2013

Auckland - home!

At Bethells Beach, West Auckland with the lovely Emma
Well, I'm home - safe.  A year of travel, exploration, learning and occasional navel-gazing and I'm back in NZ, house-sitting in a near-empty house with a near-empty bank account, wondering what happens now..!  In a way, the whole year was 'for' this time now.  A year away from the NZ life to gain a fresh perspective, and to see what that would do for me.

Being back in Auckland after an 8-year absence (uni, work abroad) is wonderful.  Nick, who's never lived here, feels like he's on a tropical holiday - and I'm loving having so many familiar places and people about.  And this city has upped its game!  Just keeping up with the cafes is hard work (although a task that I'll humbly accept).

After a Christmas and New Year of reconnecting with family, friends and country, and having more than my share of swims, NZ craft beers and coffees, the year proper is now commencing and it's head-down for the job hunt.  There are broad plans for extra study later in the year, as well as some art lessons/practice - but first things first, let's sort out how to pay the rent.

After a year of being a nomad and setting up camp countless times, I can't wait to find a place (come on, magically cheap central Auckland rental...), unpack a few of my things (cook books, I have missed you), and enjoy the regularity of a job, home, friends.

I know I'll be abroad again before too long - the Pacific Northwest must be revisited, as must Finland, and the whole East Coast of the US is calling my name... but I'm not a nomad at heart, and it's great to be home.

Before I sign off, I did promise pictures of my trips to Finland and Italy (Bologna/Ravenna).  So, without further ado...


Ravenna had been on my 'oh, that would be amazing' list since 6th form Art History class, when I learned of the unique mosaics at the Arian Baptistery in particular, and their interesting (to me...) back-story.

We visited for a long weekend, and stayed in nearby Bologna (known to Italians as 'the fat' for its superior cuisine... sounds good to me!) with some fantastic San Franciscans in the historic quarter via Air BnB.

Top left: The Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna.  Right and bottom left: the Arian Baptistry.
The Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna.  Despite studying this stuff for years, it was really magnificent.  Turns out scale counts for a lot, and those angels/saints really feel like they're flying right atcha.

Bologna food market
Glorified nutella-bomb.  Amazing.
Trying to cheer Nick up after we missed a train.  Coffee/pastry time!

So, despite my 'oh we couldn't, we're going back to NZ in a week... we have no money...' we made it to Ravenna.  I have Nick to thank for talking some sense to me and making me realise that a long weekend was better than not going and regretting it, and we had a wonderful (emphasis on the full, that food delivered big time...) weekend - my introduction to Italia!


My time in Finland was a solo venture, while Nick visited his grandfather in the Netherlands.  Finland for me is a place of 'I don't know why - I've just always had to visit'.  I spent one week travelling from Tampere, out to the coast (Rauma), up to the lakeland (central Finland), and down to Helsinki (southern coast).

For my first few days I was taken under the wing of a wonderful, friendly children's psychologist/therapist, who I met on the airport train to JFK - in February!  We got on like a house on fire and she'd said 'if you're ever in Finland...'  Pirjo put me up in an apartment all to myself (her work apartment, set up like a home to help with kids' therapy), and was the most wonderful host, while I took myself off for architecture safaris around Tampere - a city known as 'the Manchester of Finland' (a dubious title), built up around the cotton industry (Finlayson textiles, brilliant).  Pirjo also took me for my first Finnish sauna - a log cabin in the woods by the obligatory freezing-cold lake.  

Crazy Finnish doors in Helsinki
At the Alvar Aalto museum in Jyvaskyla.   Top right: the cafeteria which Aalto designed.  Bottom right:  Aalto and his wife; original hipsters.  Left: a caption from the museum.  Beautiful, whilst also confirming my suspicion that maths is horrid.
Upsettlingly, my SD card gave up the ghost half-way through the trip.  So - the misty midnight sauna, the wooden village by the sea, the wooden vernacular church in the lakeland - all will have to take on some kind of mythical status in my mind.   I'm sure there's a lesson in there about living in the moment or something... but it still sucked! 

I do however have photos of the second half of my trip - Jyvaskyla, Helsinki and a trip out to Porvoo, another old wooden town.  So, here we are:
Porvoo - an old wooden town just outside of Helsinki.  I did about 99% of my Christmas shopping here - such beautiful crafts that were really unique from shop to shop.  The lady from whom I bought a hand-knitted bolero was thrilled to hear it was going all the way to NZ, and made a note that she must tell her friend, the garment's creator.
Speaking of crafts, it gets dark early - crafting is a big deal in Finland.  Top left: late afternoon at the craft shop, stocking up on knitting supplies.  Remaining images taken at the Museum of Finnish Craft (Jar with red thread, bowl with 'peas' made from pencil nubs, stones in soap dishes...), all the work of artist Anu Tuominen.
Helsinki railway station
An anti-mining campaign through the streets of Helsinki.  Apparently Finns are pretty quiet, reserved people, so a march like this was very unusual and shows how important environmental issues are to Finns.  Fair enough!

A cold, beautiful morning in Porvoo

Local church, Porvoo

A week was not enough.  Finland was the second place on this trip that I didn't want to leave, and I'm already wondering how/when I can get back there.  I was told repeatedly that I'd come at the worst time of year - but the low skies, short days and cold stillness had a quiet, strong beauty that I could feel.  I can see why the Finns are renowned for being people of few words and deep thoughts; there's something about the landscape that has an almost immediate effect on the character.  I hope that one day I can experience that for longer than a week... it seemed rude to be there for such a short time, when the place felt like it had so much more to say to someone who would listen.

But for now - I'm trying to regain that inner stillness while I figure out what's next for me here, in Auckland.  Not so easy when the sun's blazing and the cafes are calling... but I'll strike a balance somehow!

Now, I've been told by Nick that he's whipped up a couple of short video clips of our year.  Which is exciting!  When they're finished, I'll post them here - but for now, here I am back in NZ and that's the end of the trip!

So - thank you for coming with me, thank you for reading and hopefully enjoying the odd story or picture with me.  I hope 2013's a good one for us all - over and out!

Love as always.

Sarah x

1 comment:

  1. I`m glad I thought to look this morning , Sarah !
    All very good . The photos of the baptistery in Ravenna are dazzling . i had heard about how wonderful it was from my mother who loved Italy.

    Love , Sally