I just got my renewed passport in the mail. It was a quick turnaround taking just 2 weeks without paying extra for speed. I mailed it on October 16, which turned out to be the last day of the federal government shutdown. Maybe mailing it on that day sounds like an act of faith, but I brimmed with confidence in the State Department and the US Postal Service when I dropped my old passport and my check in the mail. I have had a passport since I was 16 years old and I retain a certain nostalgic attachment to this travel document and the inscription inside: “The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”
When I renewed my passport in the past they returned my old passport with a hole drilled through it like a used deck of cards from a casino. Alas, this time I did not get my retired passport back. Gone forever are the stickers from The Kingdom of Cambodia and 10 years of country stamps (when I could get customs to stamp it).
My new passport is covered in stiffer navy blue paper and every page is designed to inspire, from the Liberty Bell and quote from George Washington, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair,” to a space vehicle on the back inside cover. Does this mean that I will need my passport if I go on a voyage to the moon?
There is new electronic technology incorporated so there is a new admonition to not bend or “expose to extreme temperatures,” so if I go to Antarctica I will need to insulate my passport! There is also a new page of important website addresses that made me look for the ubiquitous, “Like us on Facebook.” I guess the State Department has not stooped to that yet.
My overall impression is a document that is no longer as serious as dignified as passports of yore. In fact, it rivals the US Park Service “passport” for information and childlike inspiration with drawings of eagles, buffalo, cowboys and longhorns. However, it acts as the passport to enter foreign countries and legally return home and that is serious and inspiring.
UPDATE: I received my old passport in the mail on November 4. Not sure why it was sent separately, just glad to be reunited.
English speakers have a couple of dozen superlatives at our disposal to express complete amazement: stupendous, boffo, awesome to name a few. As I watched the World of Wearable Art show unfold, I just kept saying “Wow!”
The level of creativity and inventiveness made such a deep impression on me in the few examples I had seen in museums that I timed my visit to New Zealand around the 2 weeks of the show. You have to plan as the tickets go on sale in January and many of the evenings sell out quickly. My friend UK Sarah was willing to go with me and make a girls weekend in Wellington on the strength of my enthusiasm, and then she saw a few of the previous entries on display in Rotorua and she became a convert.
Fortunately we had friends with a flat near downtown so we did not have to find lodging. We could walk to the TSB Bank Arena in Queens Wharf, even with our heels and fancy dress. You do not have to dress up, but it can be part of the fun. It is an audience who will admire your effort. I received several compliments on my wrap while standing in the inevitable line to the ladies restroom. (The restroom is a must stop before the show–no intermission!)
The stage is set so each creation can come out from a centerpiece and progress out on to one of five runways. The fashion entries rotate around in a choreography to music so there is always so much to look at and enjoy. Dancers and, in one set, circus performers, add to the visual stimulation. There is so much to delight the eyes, the biggest challenge is figuring out a strategy for focusing attention to avoid missing any of it.
We bought the “premium plus” ticket for the 25th anniversary show. This ensures the quality of the seats and includes the program. It is $25NZ if you buy it separately and greatly enhances the after-show experience as each design is featured in photos. It also helps to explain the sections or themes for the show. At the end of the performance they announce the winners of each section and overall winners.
Anticipation can sweeten the experience of an event and it can lead to disappointment. The World of Wearable Art was satisfying in every way and worth the effort.
Today the new archway to the Gateway Garden in the UC Davis Arboretum was dedicated. The artist, Christopher Fennell, used shovels donated from the community to create this unique entrance. The arboretum is under construction and will extend the gardens from Gateway Housing to the Davis Commons Shopping Center. If you want to walk there, you can park in the shopping center (Whole Foods and Gap) at 1st and D Street and find it at the back of the parking lot. This new archway makes a fitting entrance.
The Arboretum is just off Highway 80 (main campus exit) and provides a peaceful and beautiful place to walk or bike and enjoy diverse gardens. The University and Davis community have collaborated to create a multi-dimensional educational experience–from a teaching nursery (with great plant sales) to a native plant garden with informative interpretive signs. I especially like the oak grove with beautiful ceramic benches and a public restroom covered in amazing ceramic murals.
I woke up at 5:50 a.m. this morning and my very first thought: What is the tour route?
I knew it was going to start in Yorkshire, England and I heard hints about London. The start date is July 5 and the final stage will finish in Paris on July 27. Now I know there are three stages (of 21) in England: Leeds to Harrowgate, York to Sheffield, Cambridge! to London. Then the route returns to France and, on the anniversary of World War I, visits many of the famous battlefields of France: Lille, Ypres, Reims. There are three mountain ranges. This will be the most serious challenge to following the Tour in 2014 as the access to starts and finishes is limited and hotel rooms in small resort towns will be scarce. There is only one time trial, no team time trial, and two rest days.
The 2014 Tour de France route will be announced tomorrow October 23rd. I anticipate an adventure following it, so I bought a lightweight and small foldable chair to take on my trip. It will provide a comfortable place to sit while I hold my preferred spot at the start or finish of a stage.
The photos show the highly portable chair ($69.00 US) next to typical soccer chair from Target ($9.99 US) to give perspective. I also compared the amount of time it takes to set up.
The Target chair takes 3 seconds to unfold. The REI chair takes about 3 minutes and I was able to only after consulting instructions. Both are comfortable. The REI chair is obviously much lighter and more compact.
It is another step in preparation for a splendid adventure.
There are six reasons to do the Wellington Botanic Garden: 1) you can arrive by cable car to the top of the garden and walk down (brilliant!); 2) you can marvel at the long established plantings on steep hillsides; 3) you can chat with the staff in the Visitor’s Centre; 4) you can get a toastie and a coffee in the Picnic Cafe in the Begonia House; 5) you can see a lot in a short amount of time or you can meander all day; and 6) you can enter from any point in the garden–there is no admission charge!!! (Thank you City of Wellington.)
The cliche, windy Wellington, played out. Hurricane force gusts of wind buffeted us as we walked home from dining out. However, Wellington is not so easily dismissed. As the capital city, it has many paradoxes–just like New Zealand. They celebrate Katherine Mansfield for largely inventing the modern short story–something she did while living in Europe.
Wellington hosts some wildly creative people, including WETA studios and the World of Wearable Art–and the national government. They have a beautiful botanical garden with a lush history of plants–and a freeway that rips right through the heart of the city. It makes for a stimulating place to visit. There is no shortage of great coffee and restaurants. Just be sure to carry a waterproof jacket. And best not to watch your plane land in the airport (eyes shut tight!).