Saturday, 10th, December, 2011.

Finally I get to go scuba diving in the sea. Mario drove the scuba diving team to cable bay. A small stony beach with large green hills surrounding it. The water was blue and clear. We went through all the safety checks with our diving buddy and talked about what we would be doing during the dive. We got all our equipment on, we had to have very heavy weight belts to counter balance the buoyant wet suits. The water was cold and refreshing. Even after just a few minutes on land in the wet suits I was becoming uncomfortably hot.

We followed the sea bed out to about 6 meters deep. Small transparent jelly fish floating around, flat fish skimmed along the now sandy sea bed and a school of silver fish shimmered past. We spent about half an hour going through all the safety skills we had learnt in the pool before. How to equalize the pressure in your ears, how to make rapid accents.

Holly the woman who had just finished her marine biology degree was trying out how to expel water from her mask. She filled it up too much and I think she must have breather in water through her nose. I watched as she panicked and started to try and swim to the surface. Mario the instructor grabbed her BCD jacket and gave her the hand signal to calm down. She looked at him and nodded, giving him the ok sign and emptied her mask and calmed down.

There were sea urchins and hermit crabs all around. I was swimming back to shore when I saw a little crab scurrying across my view. I went down to have a look, the brave thing raised its claws and darted around aggressively in front of me, A large flat fish scooted past in a cloud of sand.


These past few weeks I have been learning the very dry very boring information about scuba diving. All the safety features. Now finally I have properly fallen in love with diving.




Wednesday, 7th, December, 2011.

Heather the traveller has left Fairfield house. Heather started traveling after her husband died. She had spent most of her life working incredibly hard, on farms or trying to run her gym. She has a calm and acceptance about her.

From what she said and from what I can feel she learnt this the hard way, of being stressed for too long and maybe she finally had to give in to relaxing as she has grown older ‘’I was so angry and stressed when I was younger, I think your allotted a certain amount of anger in one life time and I used it all up at the beginning’’ she laughed. ‘’In the morning I wake up and remember how I used to get up at 3 in the morning to help on the farm, or I would get up and exercise but now I am so content to stay in bed and relax, its great’’ she went on.

She left in her caravan to meet some other friends and to take a trip with them.

Today at Thai boxing I was sparring with a jerky wiry young man, he would dart in and throw kick and punch combinations aggressively but not with all his strength thankfully. He came in fast with a front kick and followed up with strikes to the face. I stepped backwards and threw a front kick out just as he jumped towards me. Unfortunately he jumped straight onto my kick. I mean he jumped his groin right onto my foot. I caught him straight on and after connecting a millisecond after his feet landed back on the ground he followed and sank to the floor clutching his groin. He lay for a while groaning and then got up and hobbled around as he fought the pain.

I felt so bad; it’s not a great way to win friends by kicking them in the Willy. Eventually he calmed down and he sat the rest of the lesson out.


Sarah has been having some trouble at work recently. One of the other waitresses called Amber is constantly telling Sarah what to do. Sarah has been putting up with it for weeks but tonight she was tired and told Amber to stop telling her what to do, that it was the supervisor’s job to tell her. Amber responded by shouting abusively and slamming doors and behaving like a child.


When Sarah came home after work she was worried and confused. ‘’ I try to be polite and kind but I don’t want to give Kiwis the impression that they can boss Chinese people around. I just couldn’t take it any more’’ She said.


7th, December, 2011. Rain all day. I just stayed at home sleeping and reading until 5 when I went to Thai boxing. During our sparring session I was put against a short muscular man who I hadn’t seen at the gym before. It soon became apparent that he didn’t muck around with that tippy tap shit and he was also very handy with the leg kicks ( or should I say footy?) he landed a good few kicks to my ribs which giggled my guts around uncomfortably and would rush in peppering my face with blows. My tactic of kicking the front leg as my opponent comes in wasn’t working as well as it had on my other opponents and by the end of the minute I was suitable shaken.

But once you get over that fleeting feeling of shame and anger of being thrashed you can see the good it has done you. You realise that while you were skipping in that field of fake flowers thinking you had this Thai boxing game all sussed out and that you were getting better by the minute, what was really happening was you were getting complacent and you simply hadn’t had the imagination to know that you were at the bottom of a very long ladder.


A good smack in the chops, all your strikes easily checked and countered, these are things which bring you back down to earth to the far more interesting arena of the realistic student.


Monday, 5th, December, 2011. David our Korean friend came back from his work in Motueka to visit us. He has been there for a few weeks doing kiwi tree pruning. He was saying how he sometimes made 400 dollars a day when he was fast. They got paid per tree they pruned. David is going further south tomorrow to Otago to work during the cherry picking season. You can also make good money there but right now I have lost my money making drive and really I feel that for unskilled workers in NZ the price you pay for making lots of money is too great. You pour your energy into physical labour and no matter how much money your making you are always making your boss far more. I don’t want to come away from NZ, 5 years older, haggard and burnt out just to make an extra few thousand dollars.

Sarah, David and I went down to Nelson to sample the beers in the sprig and fern tavern. We bought the taster tray again and sampled 6 different beers. As we were trying out the different beers one of the smiley waitresses came up and handed David his wallet back ‘’ someone found it out back in the smokers area’’ She said. David had quite a lot of cash and many cards in his wallet but it was all returned. I wondered if someone would have handed it back in a UK bar, I knew exactly what would have happened in China. NZ is a very special country indeed.

I remember when I was living in Yang shuo China and a roll of money dropped out of my pocket, I noticed and turned around to see a very old woman with a hunched back scurrying towards it, she picked it up and began hobbling away. I ran after her and asked for it back. At first she refused but I insisted and she took a 10 Yuan note out and handed the rest back. I didn’t really feel like getting into a struggle with an elderly woman so I just left.


On the walk back David told us about how strict his father is. ‘’When I had graduated from high school I went to the hair dressers to get a cut and I got a perm. When I came home my father was furious, he grabbed some scissors and forcefully tried to cut my hair’’ David said.

Sarah told a similar story of when she had gone to the hair dressers as a teenager and got her hair dyed. Her parents on finding out shouted at her and made her go back and get it changed ‘’long hair is distracting, so we always had short hair at high school.

I also had a similar story of when I was 23 years old and shaved my head, when my Mum found out she was not impressed. Harping on about how I looked like a criminal and a thug and that people would treat me differently because of it.


I thought about parents and children and the many power struggles, how both parties try and lay claim to who the child will be.


We got home and stayed up watching the BBC program ‘’Wild China’’ a beautiful program mainly shot as a nature program but also bringing in how Chinese people interact with nature. There were about 6 episodes and I just realised how large China is. How even if they did 100 episodes there would still be so much to explore.


Wednesday, 30th, November, 2011.

I had stayed up far too late last night. Sarah had got back from work at 1:00 in the morning and we stayed up chatting. This morning I was so tired, I had many nightmares about spiders last night. I would open my eyes and hallucinate seeing spindly staggering spiders on the ceiling. I would curl up and watch them fearfully and try and edge myself away and then I would get up and turn the light on. There were no spiders apart from one clambering over my pillow. I shudderd involuntarily and getting a glass I scooped it up and flung it outside. ‘’but what if it just came straight back in?’’


Today Catherine got Sarah and I to weed a steep flower bed. I was going at it with my fork, fairly flying through the weak rooted grass, flinging it all around satisfied with my progress. I stopped for a moment to mop my brow when I felt a tickling sensation around my stomach. I lifted up my t shirt and there was a large hairy spider scaling my abdomen. I shouted loudly and jumped in the air feverishly whipping the spider off. I took my gloves and t shirt off and marched around searching my skin with great paranoia.


After Thai boxing I attended another of the scuba diving theory lessons. Today we were learning all about the effect pressure has on your body and the air you breath. What I found interesting is that your lungs actually turn the air in into a liquid, The blackberry shaped Alveoli then absorbs it into your blood stream.

We learnt that air compresses to half its size at 10 meters, so at ten meters underwater you would need to breath twice as much air. If you rose to the surface too quickly then the air in your lungs would expand and bust them and the oxygen and nitrogen in your blood steam would double in size and could cause brain embolisms.

We learn about nitrogen narcosis which sometimes happens to divers who go below 18-24 meters deep. You get a euphoric drunk feeling and loose common sense. Mario our instructor said he has seen divers trying to give their air regulator to fish when they have nitrogen narcosis.

Mario talked about a group of scuba divers who were performing a drift dive, they went down and swam into a powerful current which ripped them down to 90 meters and then spat them back out. Most of them died and many of their bodies where never recovered. At 90 meters the air in your body would be condensed 13 times smaller and if the current then throws you up to the surface the air with expand again to its original size within your veins and lungs.

Mario told many horror stories but he added that these people caught in a current were diving in a dangerous place and if you are just sensible you with easily come away with no damage. He told us how he burst his ear drum a few times and how it’s like someone shoving a red hot poker into your ear hole.


Tuesday, 29th, November, 2011.

Back to painting the trellis again, I thought I had dodged the bullet but it’s come back to haunt me. Now I am putting on the cream main coat. During our morning coffee break I spoke to Roger, an elderly man with white hair and a delicate frame. He is a volunteer who does wood work at Fairfield house. He has a faint tooth whistle when he speaks and every time he does it I have to stop myself from grinning    ‘’ s(toot!)o Tim, Is(toot!) S(toot!)arah working tonight?’’.


Roger used to be a news reporter on TV. He spoke about how he had to leave after a few years because he found he was getting too jaded ‘’ Those boys were all heavy drinkers, you know it really made you cynical knowing some of the stories you were not allowed to report or other which were given an angle. We used to drink every lunch time, my boss was one of the heaviest drinkers and he died young’’ Roger said remembering his work.



We had a very spirited lesson in Thaiboxing today. Lots of sparring and I managed to catch one right on my nose which stung horribly. I can condition my shins and arms and stomach but there isn’t much I can do about my nose. I stayed after the class hitting the bags and training on my own as Isaac hadn’t left yet. He approached me and taught me one on one.

Working on half timing were you cut your opponent off just as they are making an attack. He taught me all sorts of interesting tactics which I have never thought of before. Practising in the gym working on new aspects of thai boxing I remembered why I love martial arts so much. That excited feeling of doing something new and being able to pick it up quickly, forming a bond with your teacher.

It’s one of the most unique and meaning full experiences I have ever experienced. I have had it with all my teachers, those moment where the world fizzes with energy, where your mind is open and free and all worries and thoughts are gone. You are there fully at that moment refining yourself with the help of a master. You feel like what you are learning is deeply important, that you are blessed to be given this knowledge.


Monday, 28th, November, 2011. When I arrived at Thai boxing today the gyms floor was stripped of its plastic cover and bare unpainted wood was revealed. I asked Isaac what had happened and he shook his head in disbelief. ‘’it was my boys 18th birthday on Saturday and him and his mates couldn’t get into a bar because some of them were underage so he asked me if they could have a party here at the gym. I let them, then the next day I came in and I was going to teach a woman’s kick boxing class and the whole gym was a complete mess, like a flood of alcohol all over the floor. I had to cancel two classes that day, I was pretty pissed off’’ he said as he sat on the edge of the boxing ring.

I for one was a little surprised that he allowed a group of under 18 year olds to drink in his gym. The class was relaxed as I think many people were hung over from the weekend.


Straight after the class I drove to the swimming pool and met up with Mario. I signed up to an open water scuba course last week and today I was going to get my first taste of it in the pool. There was a group of 4 other people taking the course. A girl who had just finished her degree in marine biology and who needed the course to get a job and another man who works on private boats and needs the course to be able to do repairs underwater.


We started by slowly going through all the procedures for attaching the scuba tank and up to the 1st and second stage breathing apparatus, how to turn the air on and attach the BC waistcoat on. Soon we had put our gear on and we all slipped into the pool. We practised safety drills like how to reattach your breathing apparatus when it comes out, how to make yourself neutrally buoyant so you don’t fall to the bottom or float to the top. The first few breaths I took underwater felt incredibly peculiar and I was tense and wide eyed but soon I relaxed and we practised swimming and practising drills in the deep end of the pool.

One thing which surprised and disgusted me was how dirty the pool water was. Hairs, jelly like things floating around miscellaneous flex’s. ‘’ and this is a good day’’ Mario laughed as we all spoke about the dirt ‘’you don’t want to see it on a bad day’’ he went on.


After two hours we had covered all the basic safety drills and we got out and showered and put away our gear. Scuba is an activity which is gear intensive. There is so much you need and it just makes you realise that what you’re doing is very unnatural. Humans are not meant to breath underwater. My mouth was sore from biting down too hard on the breathing mouth piece.

I had a chat with Mario after the course and it seems that there are a few jobs available for scuba divers in Nelson but only after you have completed your advanced diving course, but I have decided to look into it. Many mussel farms and boat cleaning company’s need scuba divers. It’s a fascinating subject.


On another not I have finally published my first article. Although admittedly it’s online it is still a published piece. The web site ‘’ wrestling roots’’ takes articles from people who have trained in traditional wrestling styles and I contacted the web master and he accepted a piece from me. Also I contacted another web site called backpackers board. Com, which publishes articles online about travel in NZ. I sent a few outlines and they are interested in some of them and at 10 pounds an article they are not well paid but this is just the beginning and you have to start somewhere.