I've made my way to Auckland, New Zealand, and what a beautiful city it is! It's obvious why they shoot so many movies here (Lord of the Rings, Avatar, King Kong, etc.) One my first night in town my friend and host, Colleen, took me to the Wine Cellar. I was treater to plum wine and some seriously good live blues, courtesy of Tom Rodwell (guitar) and Joe Pineapple (bass). The music was so good I just had to bootleg the concert on my iPhone. Here, have a listen:
I've had some top notch "tour guides" since the second I got here. So, when I'm not reading or watching the 1st season of "The Wire" (caution: may be more habit-forming than the Cheesesteak Shop), I'm off visiting another corner of this beautiful island.
Marine Reserve near Long Bay
Black Iron Sand Beaches of Waitakere
Looting Grandma's Garden at Orewa Beach
I knocked down three good books last week. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle, was recommended by Colleen. More than anything, it made want to stop B-S'ing and finish my application (I did one of the essays last week!).
I picked up Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America back at Hafa Books, the used bookstore on Guam. It was interesting and damn funny, but it wasn't exactly breaking news. The saddest part about it was realizing how much the (U.S.) economy has tanked since the book was published in 2001, and that things have only gotten worse for most folks.
My friend, Jamie, recommended The Alchemist as a great short read that would be perfect for me on my journey... she was right. Paulo Coelho manages to squeeze a whole lot of food for thought into the story, but one parable stuck out as deep and relevant to my life right now. So, here goes:
A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for forty days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived.
Rather than finding a saintly man, though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world. The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man's attention.
The wise man listened attentively to the boy's explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn't have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours.
'Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something,' said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. 'As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.'
The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was.
'Well,' asked the wise man, 'did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?'
The boy was embarrassed and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.
'Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,' said the wise man. 'You cannot trust a man if you don't know his house.'
Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.
'But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?' asked the wise man.
Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.
'Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,' said the wisest of wise men. 'The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil in the spoon.'
Bibliography of My Trip
> Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human - by Richard Wrangham (2009)
> Angels & Demons - by Dan Brown (2000)
> Last Words: A Memoir - by George Carlin (2009)
> Say You're One of Them - by Uwem Akpan (2008)
> Long Walk to Freedom - by Nelson Mandela (1994)
> The Da Vinci Code - by Dan Brown (2003)
> Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - by Jared Diamond (1997)
> Foundation & Earth - by Isaac Asimov (1986)
> Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle - by Moritz Thomsen (1969)
> The Alchemist - by Paulo Coelho (1988)
> Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America - by Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
Reading list continued on 2/16 post