we recently came back from New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori) to attend a wedding. no, it wasn’t bloody like the GoT episode – it was just the bride was Vietnamese and her gown was a shade of crimson.

despite also having a tea ceremony after the nuptials, it was not at all stuffy – i found their vows funny and they even had a jumping castle for the adults.

not only did we travel overseas to get there and drive a long way to attend the event but we really wanted to be there on that joyous occasion. unlike some destination weddings it made sense to me. although the groom (who’s my wife’s cousin), the bride’s a Kiwi and most of her relatives are still there. it was at a garden for people to feel more at ease and so that there could be other “fun” activities. it was a balance between fiscally responsibility and meaningfulness – i think most couples spend so much time, money, and effort on just one day instead of being mindful about the remainder of their lives together: there’s even a stat that states the more money that the couple spends on the wedding, the likelier they are to break up.

we also had a little time to do a few “touristy” things. we drove aways for most destinations but being on several OZ road trips the NZ views were much more picturesque. My son took several photos using a proper digital camera of the scenery – to keep the post downloadable, i exported a select few to “smaller” files.

Rotorua – Landscape
Rotorua Nightscape

DISCLAIMER: The copyright of all the pictures is his and these were shared with his permission.

we also saw a geyser:

Rotorua Geyser

while there are kangaroo crossing signs in OZ, NZ have them for cows. i thought the dairy products were already good in OZ, but they were better in NZ as their milk is much creamier (and i could tell as i like my cheese, coffee (although i’m partial to doppio and ristretto, i get lattes in countries that have good milk), and ice cream). That said, vegans close your ears, cows are bred better in OZ for eating.

there were too many photos so in the interest of space and download speed i’ve decided not to share all of them.

we had a chance to witness a Haka performed live – prior to that we’ve only seen it on TV, mostly by the All Blacks prior to a rugby match. we know it was for intimidation and, if possible to avoid conflict. it was also interesting to learn that it is used to “warmup” major muscles so it makes a lot of sense in the sporting context.

because i’ve always been a nerd (it would be a misnomer to call me a John Ronald Reuel Tolkien geek, although both can be socially awkward, because more than just being an enthusiast i can get quite cerebral about the topic. case in point, when Gandalf in the movies (played by Sir Ian McKellen) utters the words: “You shall not pass!’ in the original text it was will not shall – it was a “happy accident” that wasn’t edited out of the film) we also visited Hobbiton.

interestingly, the movie set is in Matamata which translated in Filipino means eye-eye and the whole Fellowship of the Ring was formed partly because of the expanding reach of the Eye of Sauron.

i even tried to read the books (as i was a fan of fantasy novels). alas, i wasn’t able to finish the books (i attempted The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring) as some words were a bit obtuse for me (my excuse was that i was young and English wasn’t my primary language) and the author was a Professor of English Literature at Oxford. i instead settled for the cartoons and movies.

in any case, i want to return for a longer time but their accessibility facilities can still be improved…

today (November 19) is UN World Toilet Day. i know it’s to promote sanitation and health but, with your indulgence, let me “hijack” it to discuss some of my concerns about accessible toilets. it may be crass and gross to most but to me it’s a microcosm of how disability is viewed/treated by society at large: a few do it for the sake of compliance and to merely adhere to the law, while most are well-meaning but “misunderstand” the issues because “designers” have no lived experience (whether personal or ancillary) or lack proper awareness.

doors. some doors are “too” heavy without a spare set of hands. another “pet peeve” of mine is when there is another set of doors: this is extra effort because i’s another “obstacle” and there usually isn’t enough space unless you close the first set. moreover, my wife or son sometimes need to hold the door open for me to get in and out. furthermore, a few open the “wrong” way so that i need to position my walker to the side in order to open it (i always wonder how people with wheelchairs manage).

locks. some people no longer or aren’t imbued with the necessary dexterity to operate locks: i’ve used the facilities a number of times without engaging the locks or spent several minutes to unlock it (and it’s really bad for me as i have claustrophobia and can get terribly anxious).

space. i understand there are costs involved but sometimes i can’t turn and need to exit “backwards”. i also encountered a few that requires you to “park” your mobility aid elsewhere to use the facilities – there was even one with a wall separating a toilet. in such cramped quarters, how can people using wheelchairs safely transfer to the toilet itself.

handrails. there are a few with “misplaced” handrails or items (usually toilet paper) placed atop where you are safely meant to grab. i’ve even encountered some without any handrails – they just assume that everyone will just sit down but you may need to hold on to something to adjust your seating or help you get up.

toilet paper dispensers. i’ve yet to find one that’s easy to use. i can understand the intention but you have to be adequately nimble to get any TP: sometimes your fingers need to navigate a “small” opening to either get the first square or because after you tear a few off it goes back “in”. These are often sharp and is problematic for me as i’ve got co-ordination issues and occasionally involuntarily movements – i can’t even imagine someone with “severe” movement disorders.

lights. a few have them have the switches behind the door. automated ones are usually handy but i find they don’t detect you when you’re on the throne and cut-out after a certain time – i have to “furiously” wave my arms to get the light back on and even tried moving various body parts to no avail.

smell. unfortunately, i’ve got a keen sense of smell and most do double duty as parents’ rooms with nappy (diapers to you American-English speakers) and when there is something in the bin (or trash can) it can get a bit “whiffy”. Alternatively, the bowl isn’t flushed because it was hard to do by a previous user; they forgot or don’t care; the flushing mechanism doesn’t work or doesn’t function well enough – whatever the case may be, the result is the same: it stinks.

i’m sure there are other things i’ve missed as the topic gets me worked up. on second thought, hotel bathrooms need a seperate entry as my family and i like to travel a lot. i need to say this because the country by far with, IMHO, the “best” accessible toilets is by far Australia.

there are even chairs in a few toilets. you might ask: isn’t this a good thing? yes and no. for people that need support, it’s wonderful thing but it’s a subliminal indication that persons with disabilities can’t or shouldn’t participate in the community independently.

CAVEAT:  you might have noticed that my title format has slightly changed.  i’m still starting it off with what ever comes to mind and after the colon i’ve appended what i think the post is about (you might interpret it differently or have an alternative understanding when you “read between the lines”).  it has been brought to my attention that some readers may not want to go through the entire thing for the title to make any sense.  this is not an egregious attempt to increase ‘likes’  or to act as ‘click-bait’ but shouldn’t it be part of ‘sharing’ to make stuff ‘more digest-able’ – looks like i still have a ways to go.

i underwent a medical procedure recently – recovery time is typically from one to two days –  because of my age it took me three days. so i temporarily stopped my daily exercise program for about two weeks – this affected me but i didn’t notice right away.  it became first obvious to me at a speech pathology session.  i used to get through them just fine even if they were during the afternoons – i didn’t feel winded afterwords but my sound production performance faltered occasionally.  Moreover when i went to my regular neurophysio appointment, she could physically feel the difference – i found out that apparently pain can also cause your muscles to “relax”.  At first i had done this to reduce my anxiety levels (but perhaps because i now take a natural supplement for it it’s less pronounced) but, also very importantly, getting my core strength up not only helps me avoid falls (and minimises potential injury) but also helps my speech.  Suffice it to say i’ve started up again and hoping to get back to the level i once was.

these aren’t directly related but are also from recent “trips” outside my house so…

i want to whinge about the three (let me be clear: not all or even a majority of them) taxi drivers driving skills were really bad:  the sudden stops-and- starts, not slowing down enough to take a round about, or abrupt jerking of the steering wheel.  These gave me a headache despite sitting in front and having the road visible – imagine how much worse i would have felt if i sat in the back.  i was going to complain about another thing but in hindsight one of my drivers was “self-obsessed’ that he would have acted that way to an “able-bodied” passenger.

Despite using my “letter board”, some drivers (not only taxi drivers but one support worker), still misunderstood me.  i suspect it’s either because they’re not patient enough to listen or having a preconceived notion of what i’m going to say (Ding!  Ding!  Ding!:  it’s usually wrong).  i understand that my speech can be hard to understand especially since this is probably the first time we’ve talked (on a few occasions i get the same drivers) but mistakes ca be avoided:  like going the wrong direction, it’s on the other side, that’s the wrong address, accidentally running me over,  etc.

we just want to feel listened to.  here’s a video by Purple Orange (it kind of reminds me of the You Can’t Ask That format on the ABC) about diverse communication shared on Darryl Selwood(Ph.D.)’s blog:  http://darrylsellwood.com/?p=998.  While i don’t  relate to everything said, i agree with the central premise of respect and the underlying theme of “not judging a book by its cover”.

it is very easy for me to accuse the drivers of not thinking: parking too close to the incline, the ramp, or curb so it’s “tricky” for me to get into or out of the car;  dropping me off by an entrance with only stairs ; driving “far” the door so need to cross the street, walk “some” distance, or negotiate a challenging surface (like inclines, uneven surfaces, pebbles, etc.); ask me directions or instruct them where to pass or stop; or turn the meter on while i’m still trying to get in the car (i believe the law states it should be only activated when i’m seated).  sometimes they can’t be bothered or are in a rush but sometimes i think it’s because they haven’t been exposed to or educated about disability – these are tasks they take for granted so there’s a need for more “training”.

FINAL WORD (let me know if these prompt helps with readability or i should go for more “traditional” headings – i know a poll is a more suitable for this but i probably won’t get enough respondents for a truly statistically valid result and, frankly, confronting my readership numbers scares me).  There’s a tension between keeping the post short-and-sweet and making it comprehensive enough to be informative – after all like they say, perfect is the enemy of good. Moreover timing is an issue, some thoughts have an ‘expiry date’ while others not so much.  While Twitter isn’t for me (trolls aside), it take me some time to type – this has the added bonus of letting me reflect and not simply reacting, All-in-all, i’m still struggling with the balance.  Furthermore, i feel the pressure to post frequently – as evidenced by the number of “self-corrections” right after i publish – when i should learn to recheck my drafts first.

 

i have just got back from medical leave “recently” and have been “out of commission” for the last few days due to a procedure (it should have taken only two days to recuperate but due to my age it took me longer to recover – i’m still not 100%).  Lately, i’ve been “scrambling” to salvage any hope of completing my research degree.

kindly excuse my “radio silence” for the last few (and probably next few) days.

 

barely breathimg

October 5, 2019

i’m currently taking natural supplements daily to help combat my hay-fever (rhinitis to be technical),  It helps a little but I can feel when the pollen count is high (even when the entire house is closed) or even when it’s only moderate if a window’s left open.  It can manifest itself through itchy eyes, constant sneezing, blocked nostrils, or in really sever cases, an inability to breathe.

i noticed today that i exhibited the first two symptoms – which i noticeably have less of.  However, my wife propped a window open as she was cooking – even once i closed it i knew i was too late and the pollen had already gotten in the house because i couldn’t stop rubbing my eyes.  Later, i had a string of sneezes – which i now rarely do.

it was only once we lived in Adelaide that it became obvious – i lived in Melbourne for a year and was unaware of it then – some say it’s because the wind here blows through deserts.  even when i was in the Philippines and Victoria i sneezed consecutively ( my record is 27. if i recall correctly) so i must have had some form of allergy.

you need to understand that for someone with claustrophobia the prospect of not being able to breathe is a really terrifying proposition.  Moreover, sneezing “wildly” for anyone using a rollator, forget steering but trying to maintain upright balance.

it’s  more prominent now since it’s Spring.  It’s “harder” to do my daily speech exercises now as my nose is blocked. it can be quite challenging to produce the correct sounds while also multiplexing breathing with the mouth – co-ordination is not a strength these days!

ironic

October 2, 2019

it was “surreal” last night.  on ABC last night, it featured MoJo (an iconic advertising consultancy and, eventually, a “full-blown” agency)that influenced and shaped Australia.  For those that don’t know, ABC  is a national TV channel that’s mainly funded by the government and disallows all forms of commercialism (including ads) – you can’t even discuss (much less promote) any brands on their shows.

it was so meta.  Admittedly, they have a programme called Gruen that “humorously” critiques ads but this somehow felt different as it impacted Australian culture.  It can be argued that it was simply a mirror and a true insight into the Australian zeitgeist.

While prior to them “proper” American or British accents were used to voice over commercials, authentic Australian enunciation and expressions were instead  used (although they were considered “vulgar” by the “establishment”). i think this “honesty” was greatly appreciated by the Australian public. i now believe that you should never be ashamed of your actual heritage despite what you were “taught” and the constant stream of messages to put you down. i’ve got a feeling that’s why they dislike the old country so much – it is said that POME was originally an acronym for Prisoner Of Mother England.

Hogs (Paul Hogan better known by some Americans as Mick “Crocodile” Dundee) was the human face of a former tourism campaign – i challenge anyone to say it wasn’t effective as Australia moved from the 78th preferred holiday destination by Americans to the 7th.  Prior to him, it was all wildlife (like koalas and kangaroos) and he was even recognised, arguably, as Australian of the Year for its success.  The catchphrase was even adapted to the Yanks: “put another shrimp on the barbie” – as no one Down Under referred to them as “shrimp” but as “prawns”.  They say a real measure of a tourism campaign isn’t just about the foreign visits but also abut how good the locals feel about their country.

learning to un-learn

September 30, 2019

my accent (along with my disability) makes it difficult for me to be understood.  My English was influenced by American (as they “imposed” their educational system on us, unlike the Spanish who “chose” us to be “ignorant”) but someone born Sate-side could easily tell i didn’t grow up in America.

we spoke English at home as my parents spoke different dialects – sadly it was their only common language.  i learned Tagolog (comprising most of Filipino) from the “streets” (as this was only a subject in school during my time – the medium of instruction is in English).  Suffice it to say, my vocabulary in Filipino isn’t “great” or “refined”.

Although i was taught the letter “j” in our alphabet, it is pronounced as “h” in our native tongue – so producing a “hard j” is more difficult for me (and is further compounded by my current speech quality).  During my education, “z’ was not part of our alphabet (i think it’s now included) so this is also not an “easy”  sound for me.  Essentially, my condition impairs my ability to produce “active” (that is, with the voice turned on) sounds.  While previously i made “fast progress” through daily practice and sheer will, i need to be more conscious now as i have a tendency to revert to old habits as my speech patterns are already well established {this is not helped by my age).  Case in point, (unlike consonants) there’s an “acceptable” range for vowels which children “easily” mimic and older people struggle with (that’s why it’s easier for you to learn another language ehen your “younger”).

i’ve got such a “bastardised” accent (as my pronunciation of syllables doesn’t “neatly” fall under one language) that i can pose a challenge to my speech pathologist.  =)