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Sibling bonds

As a parent, I’m very interested in teaching our kids important life lessons – like ‘treat other people the way you want to be treated’.  Sometimes the lack of noticeable progress can be quite frustrating, and other times they clearly demonstrate that something has sunk in (even if it’s only briefly).

This past summer we visited Lake Tekapo for a few days, and I wanted to share one moment with you. Even although the lake water is quite cold due to the glacier runoff, I took the kids for a swim at a spot where the water was supposedly a little warmer. While there, they found a large concrete block some distance from the shore on which to sun themselves warm after getting sufficiently cold playing in the water. I snapped this photo while they were relaxing, sharing a snack, and soaking up the warmth of the sun. It seemed to capture a glimpse of the positive sibling bond that can be shared between brothers and sister – as opposed to sibling rivalry which is much, much more common.

Siblings sharing a relaxed and positive moment together

Siblings sharing a relaxed and positive moment together

It would be nice if they could have more of these moments of friendship and cooperation, even throughout the teenage years.  I am posting the photo as a reminder to myself that there’s always hope.

Dad’s Recommendation:
Don’t give up on an adventure just because the water is too cold, or some other seemingly unpleasant impediment … something surprising may happen as a result.


Just a little bit further … follow the road to the very end

It’s easy to visit the popular locations, those which are easiest to reach, the place that everyone knows about, and it’s usual the default / safe plan for your trip.  However, if you are prepared to be a little bit more adventurous – consider exploring what’s further down the road … and perhaps follow it to the very end.  Obviously it’s a good idea to have a glance at a map before you do this, as in some parts of the world the road may take you thousands of miles across a large continent.

Our family recently followed the road to the end, primarily to find the last beach along a particular volcanic harbour in New Zealand.  After passing several small townships, we reached the end of the pavement at a nice looking holiday-house type community.  However, we continued onto the gravel road, past the “No Exit” sign, and after a short, but adventurous, drive – we found a beach that our daughter later said was her “favourite beach in New Zealand!”  Best of all, we were the only ones there for most of the time we visited!

The surprising beach we found at the end of the road.

The surprising beach we found at the end of the road.

While this little beach looks remote, it was only about 10 minutes from the nearest shops, and about 40-45 minutes from the city.  We loved the fact that  it felt remote, and our view included no developed land (no buildings were in sight) plus a nice view out over the Pacific Ocean.

Feeling remote - not far from town.  (Note, if you sailed straight over the horizon, the next place you land would be Mexico!)

Feeling remote – not far from town. (Note, if you sailed straight over the horizon, the next place you land would be Mexico!)

We also explored a very short walkway, and found “the niftiest, coolest little rock cove in all the world” – according to our son Luke.  Mind you, I’m with him on this one as it was totally awesome – and photos can’t do it justice (it’s a 4D experience, not suitable for 2D pictures).  There were little caves and tidal pools, shells and shellfish, cool volcanic rocks, natural hanging gardens, old jetty piles from some bygone era, and lots of interesting things for kids of any age … or even those of us just young at heart!

Hidden cove with many treasures to explore.

Hidden cove with many treasures to explore.

You’ll note that I’m not sharing the exact location of these beaches … primarily because I don’t want to find it crowded the next time we visit!!  Obviously some of the locals know about it, but I’d prefer to keep it a well kept ‘secret’.

Dad’s Recommendation:
Check the map, but don’t be afraid of exploring a little bit further down the road!


Disaster Recovery – Overview

Some of you may know that I have been involved with some large scale disaster recovery efforts – from an infrastructure planning and reconstruction standpoint (tsunami in Sri Lanka, war in Iraq & Afghanistan, and earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand), with recent expertise on Infrastructure Resilience.

An earthquake destroys most of the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand

An earthquake destroys most of the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand

In overview, it does seem like there are some very common phases which people may go through after a big disaster:

Denial – this isn’t happening to me!
Isolation – nobody understands what has happened to me!
Anger – this shouldn’t be happening to me!
Bargaining – what will it take to make this go away?
Depression – there is no hope of ending what has happened to me!
Acceptance – this happened to me, and here’s what I’m going to do.

The phases above are commonly associated with the grief cycle, which is a little different to the disaster recovery cycle which could be defined as:

Preparation – the best benefit for every dollar invested – not well publicised
Disaster Event – it’s never convenient or expected – more often captured on handheld smartphones etc
Response – civil defense, search and rescue, and emergency services – all on TV
Restoration – temporary restoration of services, facilities, and infrastructure (aka short-term recovery)
Reconstruction – permanent restoration of services, facilities, and infrastructure (aka long-term recovery)
Improvements – the addition of systems, methods and materials that we didn’t have before (aka mitigation measures)

There are three (3) years of goodwill following a large disaster.  If there has not been significant progress made by that time, the affected population will respond in very negative ways (more protests, more violence, more crime, and more votes to oust the offending government officials).  “Significant Progress” isn’t measured in how many workshops that officials attended during this time of goodwill, nor how many latte’s they had while discussing the problems with one another, nor the number of community meetings that were conducted – ‘significant progress’ is measured in terms of physical works to benefit the community.  Signifiacnt progress can be things like:
  • Debris removal and “make-safe” measures
  • Demolition of unsafe structures
  • Protection of iconic heritage structures
  • Repair or reconstruction of infrastructure
  • Repair or reconstruction of damaged homes
  • Repair or reconstruction of community facilities
  • Repair or reconstruction of iconic city facilities

However, the common problem in the implementation of these works is that we need empowered leaders who communicate and engage with the appropriate stakeholders at the appropriate time, to develop collaborative outcomes that everyone can embrace and support.  Further, there are another six phases which we should be aware of – common to many projects and apparently they are also common to recovery.  I’ve added some phrases which you might hear … or more likely won’t:

  1. Enthusiasm (“We’ll fix everything back better than it was before”)
  2. Dissillusionment (“We’ll never be able to achieve everything that was promised”)
  3. Panic (“Everything is costing more than we expected, taking longer to build, and not as nice as we hoped.  Hire more people!!”)
  4. Search for the guilty (“Surely somebody screwed something up, and we’re going to find out who”)
  5. Punishment of the innocent (“We found somebody to be the scapegoat – too bad they did all the good work”)
  6. Praise and glory for the non-participants (“Look at all the great work I did”)

It doesn’t seem to matter where you are in the world, but sadly it appears we make the same mistakes over and over again.  I am reminded of the wisdom in one old proverb which says:

It doesn’t matter how far down the wrong road you have gone, turn around.

Dad’s Recommendation:
Leave a constructive comment if you would like me to write more about this subject.

Kaikoura – There’s lots to sea

 As the visitor information says:  The seaside settlement of Kaikoura, situated midway between Christchurch and Picton on the rugged east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is overlooked by majestic mountains, which are snow-capped for many months of the year.  Few places in the world can boast of such natural wonders as those offered by land and sea in Kaikoura.  This unique combination of ocean and mountains offers stunning coastal alpine scenery and a host of eco-tourism oriented activities, including whale watching, dolphin swimming, walks, and much more!

Looking south at the coastal hills - the big mountains were behind me

Looking south at the coastal hills – the big mountains were behind me

We took a day-trip from Christchurch, although a long weekend would have been a much better idea!  The road from Christchurch gets progressively more curvy as you get closer to this seaside town, and passes through a number of short tunnels along the rugged coastline (which the kids just loved).  The mountains drop straight into the Pacific Ocean, into an area called the Kaikoura Canyon. The canyon extends northeast to join the Hikurangi Trough, which in turn connects with the Kermadec Trench, one of the deepest spots on earth (10,047 m at it’s deepest point, or 32,963 ft).

Simply put, Kaikoura is an ideal place for a wildlife nursery – hence the abundance of baby whales, dolphins and seals.

There are over 20 seals in this sea shore photo

There are over 20 seals in this sea shore photo

Not the most common driving hazard to watch out for - Seals!!

Not the most common driving hazard to watch out for – Seals!!

Our daughter checking out the tidal pools for anything to "discover"

Our daughter checking out the tidal pools for anything to “discover”

Here's a bashful seal pup we encountered on the short 10 min walk to the Ohau Stream Seals.

Here’s a bashful seal pup we encountered on the short 10 min walk to the Ohau Stream Seals.

Dad’s Recommendation:
Sometimes a day trip just isn’t enough time … so make sure the preparation and total driving time still allows for a suitably long visit at your destination.  If you want to see the whales, AND the dolphins, AND the seals, AND do some walks, AND check out the shops in Kaikoura township, plan on spending a weekend!


Braided River Treat

My son Luke was recently a good neighbour to the man living next door to the holiday house we had rented in Lake Tekapo (he had offered to help dig a hole that the man was digging in his garden).  The man was so taken by this offer, that he offered Luke a free flight around the Southern Alps the next day.  So the next day, we went for a flight …!  Before we got to the mountains, we passed over one of the spectacular braided rivers that are found in New Zealand.  From what I understand, many people have not seen a braided river, so I thought I would simply attach a few photos to give you a glimpse of one from the air.

This is the Godley River which feeds into Lake Tekapo

This is the Godley River which feeds into Lake Tekapo

I also thought it would be a good idead to attach a close up view, so you can better see the detail of this braided river.  The colour of the river is natural, and is typical of glacier melt … I believe it’s how the silica particles in the water reflect the light.

A close up view of the braided Godley River.

A close up view of the braided Godley River.

Given the circumstances, I thought I should also add a photo of Luke standing in front of the plane that we went up in.  It was a perfect day for a flight, without any clouds to speak of.

Luke in front of the plane

Luke in front of the plane

Dad’s Recommendation:

Teach your kids to be a good neighbour … and don’t turn down free flights when they’re on offer.