Critical Reflexivity and Occupational Therapy.

Hey friends. I know you’re all probably dying to know more about what I am doing/learning in school, yes?

Part of the reason I have been blogging less is that my writing efforts have had to be directed elsewhere. But I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone, or feed two birds with one scone, as it were. I had to write a final essay for my Occupation and Society: Theory and Practice class that I was proud of and I thought I would share it with you as a way to both put together an easy post and share what I have been up to these last few months.

The essay is about critical reflexivity. If you are unfamiliar with the term, here is a very basic definition.

Critical reflexivity involves aspects of reflection, in addition to the act of interrogating one’s situatedness in society, history, culture, and how this may shape one’s values, morals, and judgments at both individual and social levels.

I took this definition out of a lecture by an OT named Erin Duebel. There is no citation on the particular slide it was on, so I can’t say for sure where she got it or if she wrote it herself. Anyways, that is a vague description. Feel free to give it a goog if you would like more.

The question given to us was this:

Discuss why it is necessary to be critically reflexive about our traditional understandings of occupation, disability, and inclusion. What are the implications for occupation-based research and practice?

I feel that I should point out that this essay had a VERY strict word limit. So I feel like I actually wrote a slightly better essay, but then had to revise the living daylights out of it to get it under the word limit. So if it feels short or like there was much more to say, know that there was, I just wasn’t allowed to say it in this situation. Also it was clearly outlined to us that we needed to thoroughly cover each of the underlined topics – hence the ‘paragraph dedicated to each’ format. Anyways, enjoy:

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Critical reflexivity seeks to question the “conditions under which knowledge claims are accepted and constructed” (Kinsella & Whiteford, 2009, p. 251). Within occupational therapy it aims to challenge current practices and enact change to improve client-centered practice (Phelan, 2011). As occupational therapists, we have assumptions about what occupation, disability, and inclusion mean. Constructed ideals and patterns of thought and action are increasingly viewed as ‘norms’, and as the only correct way of approaching a particular issue (Kantartzis & Molineux, 2011). Critical reflexivity is necessary because it insists that we closely examine our assumptions about occupation, disability, and inclusion in order to determine if the way we approach and define these terms is helping or harming our clients. Challenging these assumptions leads us to challenge the way that we conduct research and the way we practice occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy theory has long-standing and ingrained assumptions about occupation. One of these assumptions is the idea that individuals choose to participate in occupations they find meaningful. Christiansen (1999) states that “individual persons create their unique identities and life meanings through occupations” (p. 556). When we critically examine this idea, a few important things stand out. First, it is reflective of a western culture that values free choice and independent occupational identities (Phelan & Kinsella, 2009). Overall, Phelan and Kinsella (2009) state that the idea of occupational choice shows itself to be rooted in “white, middle class, American and European culture” (p. 87). Second, it is making the assumption that free choice exists and that each person has the ability and self-efficacy to build their own occupational identity. It does not take into consideration occupational injustice or concepts such as occupational deprivation, occupational marginalization, and occupational apartheid (Whiteford, 2000; Hammell & Beagan, 2017; Kronenberg & Pollard, 2005). Considering these two factors, it becomes clear that while some individuals may have the privilege of selecting their occupations and building their occupational identity, that is certainly not the case for everyone. Thus we cannot assume any particular client has the ability, or the desire, to choose their occupations in this way.

The most common disability discourse in healthcare is the individual/medical model. While the social model of disability is not an obscure discourse, the biomedical model dominates most, if not all, areas of healthcare and rehabilitation. As a result, many of the theoretical models of treatment localize disability within the person. Some disability scholars claim that when these dominant perspectives guide rehabilitation professionals, they may introduce interventions that are unhelpful or even harmful to disabled persons (Kielhofner, 2005). It is important to point out that as a profession, occupational therapy has a more client-centered and holistic view of disability than some disciplines; however as Phelan (2011) points out, despite these views, occupational therapists often are “still overshadowed by dominant power structures strongly embedded in the systems we work within” (p. 166). Critically reflecting on disability and the way we approach impairments in occupational therapy may result in the need to reject the typical ways of approaching and treating these impairments. This rejection of the normal medical approach may be the appropriate reaction to the realization that “the health care system may be organized in a manner that denies true client-centered practice” (Phelan, 2011, p. 169). As has been mentioned, one of the reasons critical reflexivity is so important is because of our so strongly held assumptions that our societal ‘norms’ are, in fact, the only right way to do things (Kantartzis & Molineux, 2011). We must be willing to reflect on and challenge our western way of approaching disability and rehabilitation.

Attempts at inclusion that do not involve critical reflexivity run the risk of pushing marginalized people further away. A great example this is the First Nations version of the MoCA (MacLachlan, 2018). In the adapted version, the animals have been changed from a lion, rhino, and camel to a salmon, eagle, and wolf. Clearly, this was an attempt to adapt the test to be more inclusive towards Indigenous people. However, as Janna pointed out in her lecture, the issue with using the MoCA in Indigenous populations was never about the recognizability of the animals, it was about the structure of the test and the way in which western society views assessment (MacLachlan, 2018). By only changing the pictures and doing nothing to the structure of the test, it felt patronizing instead of inclusive. If we reflect on this problem critically, we can see that Canadian health policies and practices have been shaped by the legacy of colonization (Hojjati et al., 2017). In fact, while reviewing the Canadian health care system, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (RCAP) found that Canadian healthcare models were oppressive to Indigenous people because they failed to recognize Indigenous culture (Jull & Giles, 2012). This relates to the earlier point by Kantartzis and Molineux (2011) about the way society tends to adopt a single viewpoint as the only correct way to do something. In this case it is the idea that our western form of cognitive assessment is correct and the only way to accurately assess cognition. Taking this into account, it is easy to see why efforts to make colonial assessment more palatable to Indigenous people by using pictures of salmon might elicit a negative response. These same principles apply to other minority and marginalized groups. Mulé et al. (2009) state that those marginalized by gender expression and sexual orientation are “largely excluded from mainstream health promotion research, policy and practice” (p. 2) and as a result often face bias, discrimination, and a lower quality of care.

Critical reflexivity has implications for research in occupational therapy. Reflecting critically on our foundational beliefs results in an understanding that this profession, at its core, reflects Eurocentric values and perspectives (Jull & Giles, 2012). Iwama (2006) points out that these “long held universal assumptions and practices continue to transcend cultural boundaries in places and people outside of the cultural contexts where the ideas originated” (p. 224). Since this is the case, we must recognize that our definitions and ideals do not adequately describe the values and experiences of the society we seek to serve. A solution to this discrepancy is collaboration. A commonly used phrase in the disability community – “nothing about us without us” – applies well here. If we want to apply our research to a certain population, members of that population must be involved in the process. Mulé et al. (2009) point out that in order for the healthcare system to adequately include the LGBT community, their unique and specific needs and issues must be recognized. Jull and Giles (2012) state that to work towards inclusive and culturally safe practice, the profession of occupational therapy must partner with Indigenous people. If we are seeking to produce research that will result in outcomes that are applicable to those outside the white, middle class culture in which occupational therapy was founded, we must include them in our research. We cannot claim to understand cultures and experiences we have not lived, and when we act on the behalf of others without their input, even with good intentions, we can easily do harm. As Bailliard (2016) states, it is “possible to cause injustice through naive and ill-informed attempts to promote justice” (p.8).

An important implication for occupation-based practice concerns the way we address internalized oppression. The pervasiveness of ideas such as colonization, ableism, and the medical model of disability mean that for many, they have become the ‘norm’. In her article about self awareness and social cognition, Heotis (2018) states that “a familiar way of thinking is likely the most accessible and easiest way for the thinker, whereas other ways are relatively difficult” (p. 24). In other words, when these ideas are ever present, it becomes easy to rely on them as the only available options. If there is an underlying message that impairments must be eliminated, clients with impairments are more likely to internalize a negative self-image (Kielhofner, 2005). This means that a therapist may encounter clients with impairments who have very ableist views. What then should a therapist do? Suggesting a client may not overcome their impairments and encouraging the acceptance of them may be discouraging and upsetting, while at the same time, focusing on impairment reduction may reinforce negative views of impairment and contribute towards internalized ableism (Kielhofner, 2005). Is it more client-centered to simply accept their ableist views and adopt rehabilitative goals to strive for independence and able-bodiedness? Or is it more client-centered to educate them and attempt to introduce a new way of thinking and thereby expose the internalized oppression? There may not be an easy answer to this, but it is important to reflect critically on these ideas so that we can see that this issue exists, understand that we will face it in practice, and begin to prepare ourselves to deal with it in the most client-centered way possible.

If we choose not to engage in the important work of critical reflexivity, we become complicit in oppression and injustice. Jull and Giles (2012) state that a lack of critical evaluation of the values on which occupational therapy stands actually promotes injustice and that as a profession we must end our “unquestioning acceptance of its core assumptions” (p. 74). A theme that has been repeated in this paper is Kantartzis and Molineux’s (2011) statement that “within any society, a way of life emerges that members perceive to be the usual and ‘healthy’ way to live, the only possible way of doing things” (p. 62). Critical reflexivity demands we reflect on and challenge these assumptions about the ‘right’ way of doing things. This does not mean that our societal ‘norms’ are universally untrue, but while they may be correct for some, or even most, they do not apply to everyone. And if the goal of occupational therapy is client-centeredness, we cannot be content with “most”.

 

References

Bailliard, A. (2016). Justice, difference, and the capability to function. Journal of Occupational Science, 23(1), 3-16. doi:10.1080/14427591.2014.957886

Christiansen, C. H. (1999). Defining lives: Occupation as identity: An essay on competence, coherence, and the creation of meaning. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53(6), 547-558. doi:10.5014/ajot.53.6.547

Hammell, K. R. W., & Beagan, B. (2017). Occupational injustice: A critique. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 84(1), 58-68. doi:10.1177/0008417416638858

Heotis, E. (2018). Cultivating self-awareness: Dual processes in social cognition. Journal for Spiritual & Consciousness Studies, 41(1), 22-28. Retrieved from http:// search.ebscohost.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=131637447&site=eds-live&scope=site

Hojjati, A., Beavis, A. S. W., Kassam, A., Choudhury, D., Fraser, M., Masching, R., & Nixon, S. A. (2017). Educational content related to postcolonialism and indigenous health inequities recommended for all rehabilitation students in canada: A qualitative study. Disability and Rehabilitation, 40(26), 1-3216. doi:10.1080/09638288.2017.1381185

Iwama, M. K. (2006). The Kawa Model: Culturally relevant occupational therapy. New York: Churchill Livingstone.

Jull, J. E. G., & Giles, A. R. (2012). Health equity, aboriginal peoples and occupational therapy. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79(2), 70-76. doi:10.2182/cjot.2012.79.2.2

Kantartzis, S., & Molineux, M. (2011). The influence of western society’s construction of a healthy daily life on the conceptualisation of occupation. Journal of Occupational Science, 18(1), 62-80. doi:10.1080/14427591.2011.566917

Kielhofner, G. (2005). Rethinking disability and what to do about it: Disability studies and its implications for occupational therapy.American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59, 487–496.

Kinsella, E. A., & Whiteford, G. E. (2009). Knowledge generation and utilisation in occupational therapy: Towards epistemic reflexivity. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 56(4), 249-258. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1630.2007.00726.x

Kronenberg, F. & Pollard, N. (2005). Overcoming occupational apartheid: A preliminary exploration of the political nature of occupational therapy. In F. Kronenberg, S. Simo´ Algado, & N. Pollard (Eds.), Occupational therapy without borders: Learning from the spirit of survivors(pp.58–86). Edinburgh, UK: Churchill Living-stone Elsevier.

MacLachlan, J. (2018). Occupational Perspectives on Justice and Rights: Implications for Practice [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https:// eclass.srv.ualberta.ca/course/view.php?id=45749#section-9

Mulé, N. J., Ross, L. E., Deeprose, B., Jackson, B. E., Daley, A., Travers, A., & Moore, D. (2009). Promoting LGBT health and wellbeing through inclusive policy development. International Journal for Equity in Health, 8(1), 18. doi:10.1186/1475-9276-8-18

Phelan, S. K. (2011). Constructions of disability: A call for critical reflexivity in occupational therapy. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78(3), 164-172. doi:10.2182/cjot.2011.78.3.4

Phelan, S., & Kinsella, E. A. (2009). Occupational identity: Engaging socio-cultural perspectives. Journal of Occupational Science, 16(2), 85-91. doi:10.1080/14427591.2009.9686647

Whiteford, G. (2000). Occupational deprivation: Global challenge in the new millennium. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63,200–204. doi :10.11

Books – 2018

So a couple weird things happened this year regarding me and books. First, I read a heck of a lot of non-fiction. Second, I listened to a lot of audiobooks. If you know me well, you know I am a ‘read a physical copy, fiction only’ type of reader. The answer to this weird year is that I worked at the sawmill for a large portion of it. Working at the mill meant that I had nearly two hours of commuting time every day in which I could listen to books but not read them – I get carsick plus it was always dark at least one way (hello shift work). Sometimes I had even more time where I could be listening to a book during the day, it depended on which particular job I found myself in. So that explains the audiobooks. But the reason for the non-fiction is related. I have tried audiobooks before and never really liked them because they changed the way I experienced and imagined the story. I started out listening to podcasts and when I got bored of those I realized that non-fiction books were kind of like listening to podcasts. I started out with autobiographical books that were read by the authors (very much like podcasts) and slowly branched out from there.

Here are the books I read. If there is * it means it was an audiobook. I ended up listening to a couple fiction audiobooks. This was mostly unintentional. I didn’t know The Hate U Give was fiction until after I had started it. And One More Thing was read by the guy who wrote it, so it slipped in as well.

Fiction

  • A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  • One More Thing – BJ Novak*
  • Equivocation – Bill Cain
  • The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Slapstick – Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Outside Circle – Patti LaBoucane
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas*
  • Birdie – Tracy Lindberg
  • Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
  • God Bless You, Mr Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut

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Non-Fiction

  • Bossypants – Tina Fey*
  • Yes Please – Amy Poehler*
  • Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick*
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling*
  • Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling*
  • The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher*
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: a black lives matter memoir – Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele*
  • Wildflower – Drew Barrymore*
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou*
  • Mom & Me & Mom – Maya Angelou*
  • The Last Black Unicorn – Tiffany Haddish*
  • Orange is the New Black – Piper Kerman*
  • Beautiful Boy – David Sheff*
  • Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher*
  • Confessions of a Sociopath: a life spent hiding in plain sight – M.E. Thomas*
  • Tweak – Nic Sheff*
  • We All Fall Down – Nic Sheff*
  • Hamilton: The Revolution – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter*
  • A Million Little Pieces – James Frey*
  • The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson*
  • Quiet – Susan Cain*
  • 12 Years a Slave – Solomon Northup*
  • Bitter Medicine – Clem and Olivier Martini
  • Hunger – Roxane Gay*
  • You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me – Sherman Alexie*
  • This Will Only Hurt a Little – Busy Philipps*
  • I’m Afraid of Men – Vivek Shraya*
  • first, we make the beast beautiful: a new journey through anxiety – Sarah Wilson*

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My recommendations/favourites:

  1. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (Sherman Alexie) – This book was beautiful and has stuck with me in a visceral way. I think it was even more so because of the way Sherman read it. It is the first of his books that I have read and I must read more. It is a book that reflects back on his relationship with his mother and has a lot of stories from his childhood on his reservation. I highly recommend it.
  2. When They Call You a Terrorist: a black lives matter memoir (Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele) – If you want to learn about how the BLM movement started, this is the book and these are the people. It is very good and got me started on a trend of seeking out books by those who have had different experiences than me and doing my best to listen. I know it might be more enticing to read The Hate U Give if you are looking for a book about BLM because it is fictional and there is a movie, but you should really read this one instead. Or better, read both. But I would recommend this one first.
  3. Beautiful Boy (David Sheff) / Tweak (Nic Sheff) / We All Fall Down (Nic Sheff) – I know this is three books, but it is the same story. You kind of need to read all three to get the whole story. These books were very very engaging. At times they were sad and at times they were very frustrating. It feels like a very real description of addiction and the struggle to reach recovery. The upside of venturing into these is the knowledge that Nic is very much alive and well today.
  4. Bitter Medicine (Clem and Olivier Martini) – I had to read this one for school, but it was very good. It was written by brothers from Calgary and tells their story of learning to cope with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and interact with the health care system. Olivier drew the pictures and Clem wrote the words and together it is both powerful and informative.
  5. One More Thing (BJ Novak) – I love a good book of short stories and this is one of those. The first story in the book is one of my favourite short stories of all time.
  6. God Bless You, Mr Rosewater (Kurt Vonnegut) – I love Vonnegut. He has been my favourite author for years. I am working towards reading everything he has written.
  7. Birdie (Tracy Lindberg) – I selected this one off a list for one of my assignments last semester. It is fiction, but was written by Indigenous author and the events that it portrays very closely mimics things that have and continue to happen to Indigenous women. It is powerful and moving. If you want to start to understand the legacy of trauma embedded in Indigenous families and how it affects people differently, you should read this book. Even if you don’t, you should still read it.
  8. Quiet (Susan Cain) – This book is about introversion and helped my understand myself a little bit better.
  9. Mom & Me & Mom (Maya Angelou) – I read two Maya Angelou books this year and both were very good. She is a beautiful writer. I put this one on the list because I loved the way it used vignettes and stories throughout her life to show the relationship she had with her mother and how it changed and flowed.
  10. The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) – This book took me FOREVER to finish. I’m talking like over a year. But it was a good story! And it left me with that heavy sense of accomplishment you get when you finish a long but good read. I am not going to dive into another Dostoyevsky right away, but I will be reading more of him in the future.

Movies – 2018

I watched quite a few movies this year. This is not all of them, just most of them. Movies were included in this post because I particularly liked them or liked a part of them or they felt significant in some way or they were critically acclaimed movies I finally got around to seeing. Some movies I saw this year I didn’t include. Either because I didn’t like them/found them boring (hello, Ready Player One) or because they super didn’t live up to the hype and I didn’t understand why everyone loved them so much because even though parts of the movie were unique, the story as a whole was so unbelievable predictable that it almost wasn’t enjoyable at all (I’m looking at you, The Shape of Water).

Not all of these movies came out in 2018, but they are only included if I watched them for the first time in 2018. Anyways, here are the movies. I present most of them without comment or judgment simply because that would make for far too long a post. Please feel free to engage me on any of these movies the next time you see me or in the comments and I’d be happy to tell you what I thought. I will give my top 10 at the end.

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20th Century Women

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A Royal Affair

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A Simple Favor

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Almost Famous

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Annihilation

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Beautiful Boy

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Black Panther

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Blindspotting

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Call Me By Your Name

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Carol

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Crazy Rich Asians

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The Danish Girl

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The Edge of Seventeen

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Ex Machina

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Frances Ha

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Girl, Interrupted

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Happy Anniversary

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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I, Tonya

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Ingrid Goes West

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Landline

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Landline

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Like Father

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Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

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Mary Poppins Returns

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The Other Woman

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Sleeping With Other People

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Thor Ragnarok

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Up in the Air

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Okay, my top 10 (in alphabetical order, not in ranked order because it was hard enough just picking 10):

  1. 20th Century Women – a simple, authentic, indie drama. Honestly, my favourite kind of movie. Feels authentic and genuine without being overly heartfelt and emotional. I think this was the first time I’d seen Greta Gerwig act. I immediately looked up other movies she was in and watched Frances Ha, which was also very good.
  2. A Simple Favor – this movie is equal parts awkward and suspenseful. It was a very weird combo of feelings I shifted between while watching it. It went from absolutely cringeworthy – so awkward I can’t even watch – scenes to the biggest jump scare I think I’ve even encountered in a theatre. If I had been holding popcorn I definitely would have thrown it and I’m pretty sure I actually made audible noise. It manages to straddle a few different genres and leave you feeling like you watched something unique. I would definitely recommend it.
  3. Almost Famous – I met the lead singer of The Matinee in the summer of 2016 and he was shocked that I hadn’t seen this movie. He told me that I had to watch it and I told him I would. Then this fall I saw The Matinee play again here in Edmonton. I had to tell him I hadn’t seen it yet. I remedied the situation pretty soon after. Turns out he was right and this movie is fantastic. I don’t know how I missed it. I feel like I need to watch it a bunch more times because it had so many things to say about so many different things. It left me with the feeling that I definitely didn’t take it all in the first time. I loved it.
  4. Beautiful Boy – I listened to the books this movie was based on while I worked at the sawmill. It is based on the books David and Nic Sheff wrote about Nic’s meth addiction. The books were very good and I was looking very forward to the movie. I think I would have actually enjoyed the movie more if I hadn’t read the books first. I was so concerned that they were going to get the story wrong that I couldn’t just relax and enjoy the movie. But Timothée Chalamet was fantastic, the soundtrack was AMAZING, and it was filmed in the quiet sort of indie way that I love. I am not sure I am in love with Steve Carrel as David, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the movie for me.
  5. Black Panther – I feel like a million other people have watched this movie and written things about it. You already know what made this movie so good so I will just say that I liked it a lot.
  6. Blindspotting – this movie didn’t play at any theatres around here so I spent months waiting for this movie to finally come to iTunes so I could see it. It was written by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal and is set in Oakland. It felt very important while not being overly heavy. Daveed and Rafael also play the main roles and they are both amazing. The movie follows Daveed’s character as he navigates his last three days of parole and witnesses a police shooting. You should watch it.
  7. Ex Machina – This is one I missed when it came out. I would definitely say it is in my top three for the year. I love this genre. This movie was beautiful and quiet and the first time you watch it you have no idea what is going to happen next. I love it. I’ve watched it two or three times this year and it feels like one of those ‘watch at least once a year’ kind of movies.
  8. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – If you are picking up on the clearly defined type of movie I am into, it is probably no shock to you that this is on the list. I loved this movie. It made me nostalgic for NZ and it was quiet, beautiful, and unique.
  9. I, Tonya – This one mostly made the list because I was not expecting to enjoy it at all. I wouldn’t have chosen to watch it except that I was on a plane and the options were limited. I was almost annoyed that I liked it. But that scene, were Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding is re-enacting Jeff Gillooly’s statement that she chased him with a shotgun and she turns to the camera and says, “this never happened,” won me over. It was the way that the movie was made that I loved.
  10. Landline – I love Jenny Slate. You might remember me writing another time about a movie I liked called Obvious Child. Well, this movie was made by the same people who made that one. I watched it in my hostel in Wellington and I had to watch it in two sittings because my daily wifi allotment ran out halfway through. And yes, you guessed it, it is a quiet, genuine but not trying too hard to be heartfelt, indie drama.

Honourable mention: Mary Poppins Returns – Maybe I am including this because I saw it most recently. But I don’t think so. I wasn’t expecting to love this movie, but I wanted to see it because Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins seemed like a great fit and I do love me some Lin-Manuel Miranda. Movies feel different now than they did when the first Mary Poppins was made; that is to say, I don’t think you could every recreate these days how those old movies feel. So this one didn’t feel like the old one. But it also didn’t feel like a watered down sequel. It lingered with me much longer than I thought it would and some of the songs are still stuck in my head. Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda were fantastic. I liked it a lot.

Vax.

As you know, my program (Occupational Therapy) is a course based Master’s program which consists of about 40% fieldwork (i.e. practicums or placements in the community). This means I will be interacting with and treating people in any number of environments and circumstances. It then makes perfect sense that in order to be in those places (hospitals, clinics, outpatient programs, home care, etc.) and to work with those people (babies, children, seniors, etc.) I need to prove that I have had all of my vaccinations. Both to protect myself from any diseases clients might attempt to pass to me and to protect clients who have not been vaccinated or have weakened immune systems (we all know about vaccines and herd immunity, right?).

Anyways, it turned out to be a slightly more involved process than I initially thought and in the end I was actually missing a few vaccinations. So here is the outrageously interesting story of my vaccination journey over the summer (spoiler: it’s not actually that interesting).

I should preface this with some history:

I don’t particularly like getting vaccinations. I mean to say, I don’t enjoy them. Who does I guess. When I was a child, I was given allergy shots for a few years. If you don’t know what that is, it is when they inject you with slowly increasing doses of certain allergens in an effort to desensitize you. Each round would be a particular allergen or combination of allergens. The first shot would be 1 ml, then a month later 2 ml, then a month later 3 ml, etc. until you were at the point where you were getting 9-10 ml shots. Now, I can’t recall if those numbers are exactly right. Maybe they are wrong, but the premise is correct. And the take away for me was that the first few shots you barely felt, but by the end they were absolutely massive and were quite painful. After a round is done, they begin another one.

Now, to be honest, these didn’t bother me too much. I certainly didn’t like getting the big ones. But they didn’t leave any lasting issues with injections themselves. If anything, they made other vaccinations seem like no big deal. I had just received a massive allergy shot, I wasn’t even concerned I’d feel the little Hepatitis B shot I had to get in school.

BUT THEN. Oh then. I was about to leave on my first trip to Australia and decided I should get Hepatitis A vaccinations. I was just about to leave and didn’t have time to go in to a doctor, but luckily for me (spoiler: it was not lucky), I could get in to a pharmacist to get them done. The pharmacist suggested I also get Tetanus since it had nearly been ten years since my last one. He said he would do the Tetanus in my left arm (since it tends to hurt more) and Hep A in my right. He started with the Hep A and when he put the needle in it hurt like the dickens. Not like, “ow that feels like a lot of liquid in my muscle” pain, more like “I’ve just been thoroughly stabbed” pain. I got instantly dizzy and while he did the Tetanus shot in my other arm I tried to make my eyes focus and stop blurring. As soon as he was done the second shot (which didn’t hurt at all, by the way) I passed out in the chair.

I have never fainted before, at least not out of anything other than extreme illness. And even then, I am not sure I have. When I woke up, the pharmacist was in a sort of quiet panic. I had to call my dad to come and pick me up because I still could not see straight and I certainly couldn’t drive. It took the rest of the day for the dizziness to wear off and the pain in my arm only got worse. I could not move my arm for two or three days. It was horrendously painful. Turns out (as I learned later – when I got my second Hep A shot a year later and explained previous experience to the doctor) he hit my bone with the needle.

Needless to say, this has coloured my feelings about needles being put into my arms. I am still almost always fine. But every once in a while I get just a little bit of a vasovagal response (I get light headed and woozy). It has never lasted more than a few seconds and I have never again fainted (most likely because I have never again been hit in the bone with a needle). But it means vaccinations are no longer the “no big deal” they used to be. It also means that I have to check yes on the “have you ever fainted after an injection” box all the prevaccination forms. Which is annoying and forces me to tell the story over and over and then assure them that I will not faint as long as they don’t push the needle into my bone. Sometimes they still make me lie down while I’m getting the injection.

I also think time has something to do with my feelings about vaccinations. The longer it has been since I have had a vaccination, the more likely I am to feel not awesome about it. I think this is because the most memorable vaccination experience I have (the one that most readily comes to mind) is the terrible one. But as soon as I have a good one I remember that they are not that big of a deal. All this is to say, by the end of this process, vaccinations felt like no big deal. But at the start, it was a less appealing process.

It’s also worth including that these vaccinations and tests came right in the middle of my second and third HPV vaccinations. I missed getting HPV vaccinations when I was younger and finally decided on my own to get them done. They are a doozy of a shot and are more likely than most to cause fainting.

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Anyways, back to this summer. The first thing I had to do was locate my vaccination records. If you had your vaccinations done through school or at a Public Health Unit, the records should be there. However, when I was a baby, there were no digital records, so while a few of my vaccinations were probably on record at the Health Unit, I was forced to rely on written immunization records given at the time. Luckily for me, my mom was diligent in keeping these and she knew exactly where to find them.

With these records and my program requirements in hand, I made my first appointment at the Health Unit. At this appointment, a public health nurse officially entered all my recorded vaccinations into my official record and we went through the requirements for my program (public health nurses are great!). The requirements for my program are:

  • Three doses of Tetanus/Diptheria (with the last dose within ten years)
  • A dose of acellular pertussis given after the age of 18
  • A strong history of varicella at 1 year or older, positive varicella serology, or proof of vaccination
  • Two doses of measles, mumps, rubella
  • A minimum of three doses of Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis B serology to prove adequate immunity
  • A tuberculosis skin test (and follow up chest x-rays if required)

My tetanus/diptheria were all done (thanks to the pharmacist who also gave the fateful Hep A vaccination). I had one dose of measles/mumps/rubella (they changed the dosing after I received mine – if you were born before 1995, there is a chance you also only got one MMR vaccination, which means you are susceptible to getting the diseases and also means you can get your second booster for free from Public Health. Which you should do because you don’t want to get the mumps. Remember all those hockey players who got mumps? They are all older than 1995 and probably only had one MMR vaccine and then they got mumps!). I had all three doses of Hepatitis B and although I have a strong history of varicella (chicken pox), I was only 8 months at the time so I required serology to prove my immunity. I had not had a pertussis vaccination after the age of 18. Pertussis is whooping cough and apparently (as my mom related to me from personal experience) it is absolute hell to get as an adult. So even though this one wasn’t covered by Public Health, I felt good about getting it. So this means I had to get a pertussis vaccination, a MMR vaccination, Hep B serology, varicella serology, and a Tb test.

Unfortunately, all of these things had to be done in different places. The Tb test could only be done at the local travel clinic. Pertussis is offered as a dTap (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis). While I was more than up to date on tetanus and diphtheria, my last dose did not include pertussis. This was is considered outside of the government vaccination plan, so I had to pay and have it done at the travel clinic as well. So that is where I started. A Tb skin test is a test that requires two appointments scheduled two days apart. At the first appointment they inject some stuff (neutralized Tb) under the skin of your forearm. Then at the second appointment they measure your reaction. The appointments have to be precisely spaced and if you miss your second one, you have to start all over. When I returned for my second appointment I was also given my dTap. My Tb test was negative, so no chest X-ray needed.

(A few days after this I had to get my third HPV vaccination, which was unrelated to this whole deal, but added to my general vaccination load).

Then it was off to the doctor for blood work. For Hepatitis B, it was a check to ensure I did not need an additional round of vaccinations. They had to measure the antibody level in my blood. It was similar for varicella. Since I had the disease so young, they were not sure I would have retained my immunity. If I was not immune, I would need to get the full round of varicella vaccinations. It took a few weeks for the results to come back. I was found to have adequate immunity to both, which saved me from multiple additional injections.

Lastly, my final measles, mumps, rubella. I got this one for free at the Public Health Unit. MMR is a live vaccination. This means that I could not get it before my Tb test as it could affect the test results. You can’t get a TB test if you have had a live vaccination in the last 4-6 weeks. Live vaccinations are not given intramuscularly. The are given subcutaneously (just under the skin). This allows the body to absorb the vaccination slower, which is important given that there is live disease in the injection. I got this vaccination about two weeks before moving to Edmonton. She informed me after giving it to me that I should expect to experience symptoms around 7-10 days after the injection and that they could last up to 5 days. Mainly fatigue, body aches, a rash, and other flu-like symptoms. I was very excited to hear that these would hit me just as I was scrambling to pack and move. Luckily, however, they didn’t seem to bother me too much.

Then the public health nurse went through my forms and records again and we made sure everything was filled out and backed up (did I mention public health nurses are great?). Once I got to Edmonton I had to make an appointment at the University Health Centre to have my forms and records inspected and approved. Luckily the public health nurses I saw were diligent and this was a relatively painless process.

So there you have it. My immunization records are up to date and I am approved to do my school placements. My advice to anyone reading this is that it would probably be a very good idea to locate and take a look through your own immunization records. Before this, I really had no idea what vaccinations I had and just assumed that because I was vaccinated as a child and got all the offered vaccinations in school I was up to date. You might be missing a MMR! Your tetanus might be overdue! You might not have a current pertussis! It would be real bummer to come down with a terrible disease simply because you were unaware that you weren’t protected. If you are missing any vaccinations from the government vaccination plan, they are probably free for you to get. You just need to go to a public health unit. And even if you have to pay, wouldn’t it be better to pay $50 for a pertussis vaccination now than to suffer for months with a insatiable and painful cough?

Get your vaccinations friends.

Imprinted.

I often attach memories to music. It is not uncommon to remember a memory when hearing a song, or to think of a song when I think of a memory. But often it is transient and requires me to be in a reflective mood to actually pull the memories up. I can easily just listen to the music without recalling. But with some songs, I have memories burned so deeply into them that I cannot hear the song without actually reliving an entire memory in my head every single time I hear it.

Music has always been very important to me and I have always seemed to use it to connect to and relate my emotions. So it makes sense that sometimes it would be a vessel for strong memories. Sometimes mundane things that I wouldn’t normally remember become burned into my memory because of their attachment to a song or an album. Sometimes it is the first time I hear a particular song and whatever I happen to be doing becomes ingrained, other times it is a song I have known for a long time that becomes associated with a memorable event. I am sure this happens to everyone? It must. Anyways, I thought I would share a few of these imprinted music memories with you.

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Yeah – Usher

I am in grade eight and on a basketball trip. I am in a nondescript hotel room and it is the first time I have ever watched MTV. This song is brand new and plays over and over. MTV is always on in our hotel rooms and I watch this video multiple times every weekend as we travel from tournament to tournament. I’m going to embed the video because the music video is part of the memory. When the song starts now, I see Usher alone on that dark dance floor with those lights behind him and Ludacris in that bucket hat.

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Waiting on an Angel – Ben Harper

I am a camper and Caleb is singing this song. He tells me about Ben Harper. Alex is in my cabin and we ask him to sing Waiting on an Angel every time we see him.

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The Parting Glass 

It is dark and I think we are in the sauna and I am in PIT and Lewis is singing.

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Me vs Madonna vs Elvis – Brand New

I am at camp and Jesse is singing. Molly and Joannah are there and we don’t know the name of the song so we call it the sad song. Joannah doesn’t like the sad song, but Molly and I keep asking Jesse to sing it. He always does.

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I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing – Aerosmith

I am directing a camp for the first time and a cabin sings this song at the talent show. They pull me and Amy up to the front and sing it to us. We are extremely suspicious of their intentions and at the end of the song they pour cupfuls of glitter on us and it takes me days if not weeks to get it out of my hair.

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Hands Down – Dashboard Confessional

I am driving in a car with Amy and we are screaming this song at the top of our lungs.

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Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

Glynis and I are singing this song at a coffee house or talent show of some sort. It does not go well. There are too many words and we have not practiced enough. When I think that maybe I want to sing in front of people, this is the memory I pull up to remind myself I don’t.

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Lies – Chvrches

I am driving to the mill with my brother and it is very early but there is a beautiful sunrise and the bottoms of all the clouds are pink. He introduces me to Chvrches, they are new and only have a few songs out. We listen to this song often.

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Moles – The Courage

I am at a little outdoor amphitheatre at a small college in Spokane and it is my 23rd birthday. I am seeing Noah Gundersen for the first time and I am standing at the front and he is so close and I can’t believe I am there. I am so entirely and perfectly happy and he plays this song. I have never heard it before and it is beautiful.

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Undone – The Sweater Song – Weezer

I am in COLTS and Josh sings this song every single time he puts on, takes off, or is wearing a sweater of any kind. I am sure it was not quite as often as my memory tells me, but seriously, in my memory he is ALWAYS singing it.

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Bronte – Gotye

I live in Lethbridge and am going to the University. My roommate shows me the music video for this song and tells me it made her cry. I am having trouble sleeping so I make a playlist that is just this song five times in a row and then I listen to it on repeat until I finally fall asleep.

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Closer – Tegan and Sara

Glynis and I are at a Towers and Trees show in the basement of a bar in Calgary. They play a cover of this song and we dance. The lead singer is dancing in the crowd and now I can never hear this song without thinking it needs more tambourine.

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Broken Song – Towers and Trees

I am laying in the shade at the back of Annex Park in Fernie half asleep in the afternoon. Wapiti is going on and Haley and I are taking a break from the sun. This song gets to the bridge and we both wake up and slowly sit up and fumble for the schedule to find out who is making this beautiful noise. We go and meet them when the set is done and the lead singer is very nice.

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Words in the Water – Thrice

It is 2012 and I am leading PIT. Sami is singing.

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I Could Have Been Your Girl – She & Him

I am driving along the north coast of Tasmania. The ocean is on my left and is so close. The sun is shining and I am peaceful and happy.

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Dust Bowl Dance – Mumford and Sons

I am in the basement of the sawmill by the head end of the 1085 belt. I am sweeping the concrete in a dark corner around a waste conveyor.

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Two – Ryan Adams

I am sitting in the living room and my brother is teaching me how to play a song with him on the guitar. I don’t really know the song while he is teaching me, but then we play it and it is this song.

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San Antonio Fading – Noah Gundersen

I am driving by myself in my car, I think somewhere between Cranbrook and the Crowsnest Pass, and even though I have heard this song a hundred times I listen to it and it makes me cry.

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Friday – Rebecca Black/Glee

I am in Graham’s old civic. We both live and work at camp and we are driving into town to help with youth group. It is Friday. We only listen to the Glee version because it is this weird thing where there is a combination of two things that we don’t really like (Glee + Friday) that makes a thing we like. There are often lenticular clouds.

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Thunder – Imagine Dragons

I am in Vancouver with my dad watching the Maori All Blacks. I am excited, more excited than I thought I’d be when I bought the tickets. The All Blacks crush Canada and I love every minute of it.

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The Calling – The Killers

I am in the TSB Bank Arena in Wellington and the band has just come out for the encore and Brandon is wearing a ridiculously shiny golden suit. I am covered in confetti and streamers and I am perfectly happy.

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New Slang – The Shins

I am in Wellington by myself walking down Courtenay Place. It is busy and I have my headphones in. People are swarming and weaving around me and it feels like I am in an indie movie.

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Occasionally an entire album has a distinct and vivid memory attached.

Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park

I am 10 years old. I just got a new discman and I am using it to play this cd over and over and over while I do my paper route. I listen to the same cd every single day. When Papercut starts I can actually see the sidewalk and the houses on my old street.

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A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out – Panic! At The Disco

It is 2010. I am in my first semester at the U of L and I am taking Biomechanics. The final is worth a very large percentage of my final grade and it is not a particularly easy class. I close myself off in the basement of the library for a full week to try and study. I listen to this album for the first time and then listen to it incessantly for the entire week.

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Goodnight – William Fitzsimmons

I am in Tasmania. I listen to this album while I am falling asleep every night.

Travelling alone, or NZ 2018 pt. 2.

I’m not sure if this will be an interesting post or not, but I will describe for you the process of planning and booking my trip. I felt like since I was travelling alone, it was important for me to be a bit more pre-planned and pre-booked than I might normally be to save myself from getting lost or stranded somewhere along the way. I would definitely say that I was way more prepared for this trip than for any other trip I have taken. Last time I was in NZ I think we booked our car rental in advance, but literally nothing else. So this trip was much different. I’m glad I took the time to plan it out well, I think I used my time far more efficiently and saw and did a lot more because of it. I also had very little stress while I was on the trip because I did not have to worry about any of my accommodation or transportation.

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Okay, so I should start out by saying that New Zealand is very likely one of the safest places in the world to travel alone. I am kind of a big chicken and also have never travelled completely alone before, so it seemed like a good fit. It would have been too intimidating to try and plan my first solo trip to a place that (1) wasn’t particularly safe, (2) I had never been before, or (3) where I didn’t speak the language.

Even still, the lead up to the trip was accompanied by, I guess not really a fear of something happening to me, but more just fears that I would be lonely, get lost, or just not enjoy the trip as much as I would if I was a friend. See, I’m not really a do things completely by myself person. Up to this point I was only ever interested in travelling with a friend. But that was not an option for this trip; it was either go alone or don’t go. I am getting better at doing things alone. Something about getting older, having more life experience, and generally liking myself/having confidence in my own abilities made it so that I was willing to consider a solo trip as an option. Also my heart has been literally burning to get back to NZ the last few years. And it all turned out very well. Turns out travelling by yourself is great.

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FLIGHTS

The first thing I did was obviously to decide where in NZ I wanted to visit most. I knew I wanted to spend a full week in Wellington. I also knew I really wanted to go to Wanaka. It quickly followed that it would make sense to fly in to Wellington then work my way down the south island and fly out of Queenstown. Wellington to Queenstown is a short enough distance that it would give me the chance to move kind of slowly and stop for a few days in a few places on the way. I started looking up things that were going on in Wellington during my trip and realized that The Killers were playing there during the last week of my trip. So I very quickly decided to flip the trip around and fly into Queenstown and out of Wellington.

The next obvious step was plane tickets. There is no sense in planning anything until you know for sure that you are going and what the exact dates are going to be. This meant waiting until my vacation request was finalized at work and then monitoring flight prices for a month or two. I actually really lucked out and got some pretty cheap flights. What happened is that I had kind of forgotten about checking flight prices for a few weeks. Then one morning after a night shift in January I remembered and opened the Kayak app on my phone to do a quick search on the bus ride home from work. And what do you know, flights were $500-$800 cheaper than I had ever seen them. So when we got back into town, I got in my car, went directly to a travel agent, showed her the flights and asked her to BOOK THEM RIGHT NOW.

I have booked flights through a travel agent before. I have also just booked my own flights on the internet before. I decided to book with a travel agent this time for a few reasons, the biggest one being that when you book and insure your flights through a travel agency they give you a toll free number and then if anything goes wrong (i.e. you miss a flight, lose your luggage, etc) you just call the number and THEY FIX IT FOR YOU. I mean, I’m sure it’s not a flawless system. But knowing that I had someone who would rebook my flights, arrange hotels, etc should something go wrong was a nice assurance. The only difference in price between booking yourself and booking with a travel agent is a booking fee (at least at the travel agency I have used). In my experience this fee is between $30-$40. Then you have access to 24/7 assistance throughout your trip.

Also travel agents understand how airlines work better than me so I can just say “please try to get me a window seat on my long flight” or “could you see if you could get me on an earlier flight to cut down this layover?” and they know what to check and how to do it. I know I could probably do those same things myself if I wanted to. But $40 to have someone who knows what they are doing do it and ensure that it is all done correctly is worth it to me. Travel agencies often have deals set up with airlines and travel companies, so sometimes they have access to cheaper fares. In this case, she was able to find the exact flights I wanted and give me the same super cheap price I had found online. I literally took in my phone, showed her the flights I had found on Kayak and she went and found the same ones for the same price.

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TRANSPORTATION

Last time I was in New Zealand there were three of us travelling together. We rented a car and split it three ways and it was pretty affordable. I looked up how much it would cost me to rent a car on my own and very quickly decided I needed to find a different option. I had heard the buses are pretty good in New Zealand so I did some research and quickly landed on the InterCity bus company. With InterCity you could book single trips or buy passes. They sell their bus passes not by length of time (ex. a month long pass) but by time spent on the bus (ex. a 30 hour pass). This meant that since I already knew the places I was going to need to travel between, I could buy a pass for almost the exact amount of time I would spend on the bus.

The pass I got was called a Flexipass. You decide how many hours you want to buy and the pass is valid for a year from the time you purchase it (obviously the more hours you buy, they better deal you get on those hours). You can pre-book all of your trips online and you can log on and make changes up to two hours before a trip. You can add more hours to your pass at any time. Also you can book Interislander Ferry tickets with your pass. Buying a walk-on ferry ticket from the ferry company costs $65. If you book your ferry ticket through InterCity, you just pay for the ride with hours same as you would if you were on the bus. The ferry trip is about three hours. A three hour top up to your Flexipass costs $35.

InterCity buses also have wifi. Which was a huge selling point for me. Pretty much all my Instagram photos and stories were uploaded from either a hostel or a bus. It was so very convenient to be able to use bus rides to check emails, upload photos, and catch up with any messages I had.

Lastly, every driver I had was great. They were kind and helpful and most of them would sort of tour guide a bit as they were driving. Not talking constantly or anything like that, but they would point out things of interest as we passed and would sometimes give you a bit of the history of an area. As a tourist it was great. Also if I wasn’t feeling it I could just stick in my headphones and browse Instagram.

It was fairly easily plan out my route online. The only hiccup I encountered was when I wanted to go from Wanaka to Kaikoura. If I had a car, I could have easily done that trip in a day but it spanned three different buses so it was a bit more complicated to coordinate and I had to break the trip up over two days and take a stop in the middle in Christchurch. That was a relatively small issue though. Booking ahead of time with this pass gave me the peace of mind of knowing that I definitely had a seat on the buses I wanted but also the peace of mind of knowing I could change and adjust my trip at any time.

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ACCOMODATION

Before I went on my first Australia/New Zealand trip I had a friend recommend YHA hostels to me. Take this now as my recommendation to you. I have stayed at quite a few YHA hostels in New Zealand (Wellington, Queenstown Lakefront, Wanaka, National Park, Picton, Hamner Springs, Christchurch Rolleston House, Taupo) and I have had only good experiences. I know that when I stay at a YHA hostel I can expect it to be clean and safe. Every YHA I have stayed in has had a kitchen, laundry facilities, and secure storage. (Not all have secure storage in the rooms, which is best, but they all had somewhere secure you could keep valuables). YHAs also all have free wifi. Sometimes it is not the fastest connection (especially in the evenings when everyone is trying to use it) but you get 2gb per device per day and that is pretty great.

Once I knew where I was going and  how many days I would be in each place, I started booking hostels. I felt a bit nervous booking and paying ahead of time. My brain was saying things like “are you sure you want to tie yourself down to such a rigid schedule” and “what if something happens and you get delayed.” But YHAs have a reasonable cancellation policy and I knew that if I did end up changing my plans I could get most of my money back. Also I would rather lose $30 than show up and have them tell me they have no rooms.

YHAs (and most hostels, I assume) have a number of different room options. You can book anything from a private room to an eight bed dorm room. Obviously, the more people in a room the cheaper the bed. Last time we stayed in a few hostels and since there were three of us we usually just booked out a three bed private room and split the cost. It ended up not being too much more than a bed in a share room. This trip that was obviously not an option and I was going for cheap, so I usually booked into the bigger share rooms. I stayed in four, six, and eight bed rooms.

The hostels that had storage lockers in their dorm rooms were my favourite. There is a locker for each bed, you bring your own lock, and voila! no more lugging all your stuff around so that it doesn’t get stolen.

I imagine that if you are a very light sleeper shared rooms might be a terrible option, but I didn’t really have too many issues. I did make sure that I brought a sleep mask and ear plugs. I never ended up wearing ear plugs, but I did use the sleep mask every night. Also, there was a snorer in almost every shared room I was in. Usually I got to sleep before them so it didn’t bother me too much. (If I can fall asleep initially, nothing can really bother me too much).

Staying in share rooms means being a bit more organized. If you are getting up early to leave for the day, you have to pack the night before. You do not have the luxury of waking up, throwing on the light, and figuring out what you need for the day. Technically you could do that, but I’m guessing that if you did, the other people in your room would physically pick you up and throw you out the window. If you are leaving in the morning, you need to have as much of your stuff as possible packed the night before and then do your last minute packing and bed stripping silently in the dark. Basically you just need to take some extra steps to be respectful and accommodating to the other people in your room.

I had very good experiences in all my rooms. I met some nice people and usually had the option to engage and chat with other travellers or just sort of keep to myself. Nothing of mine was stolen (I was pretty diligent about locking up my camera and laptop, but often left clothes, shoes, etc laying on my bed).

Staying in hostels also allows you to save even more money because you have a place to both store and cook food. Sometimes hostel fridges smell a bit funky, but YHAs have a pretty thorough kitchen cleaning schedule. The staff clean the kitchens every day and most seemed to clean out the fridges and storage areas weekly. They provide labels you were required to use that included your check out date. Any food that was not labelled or was past the check out date is thrown out. YHAs are also pretty environmentally conscious and all had extensive recycling facilities.

I bought a YHA membership. It costs about $25 for a year and it gets you a cheaper rate at any YHA hostel as well as discounts on some other tours and activities.

I basically just booked into YHAs in every town I was visiting. The only time that wasn’t an option was Kaikoura. Even over a month in advance, there were no hostel rooms available at the YHA in Kaikoura for the nights I wanted to spend there. I broadened my search, but it turned out there were no rooms in any hostel for those two nights. I realized I was going to have to either skip Kaikoura or book into a BnB of some sort. I love Kaikoura and skipping it wasn’t going to happen so I started looking on AirBnb. I decided I could handle the higher price of an AirBnb for one night, but not two. So I changed my bus trip and increased my stay in Christchurch from one night to two (thank goodness for this or I never would have gotten to hold that lemur’s hand). Then I found a nice little BnB on the point. It actually ended up being so perfect. I was the only person booked into the BnB that night so I got the entire guesthouse to myself. Kaikoura was about half way through my trip and I didn’t realize until I got there how much I had missed having my own sleeping space. I lounged around, turned the light on and off when I wanted to, and played music while I fell asleep. It was so so restful and refreshing.

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So at this point I had flights, transportation, and accommodation booked. Before I started booking I was worried that by doing so I would lock myself in too tightly to a schedule. I thought that I should leave more of my time open so I could decide in the moment where to go and where to stay. But honestly, so much peace of mind came from having these things booked. It was calming to know where I was going to go and that I had a place to stay. Also, at this point, everything I had booked could be cancelled or rebooked with very little loss to me.

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ACTIVITIES

By this time I had known I was going to NZ for months. As a result I had sort of gotten my heart set on a few activities in the places I knew I would be. Some of them (i.e. climbing Roy’s Peak) required nothing more than simply showing up in the areas and doing the thing. But some required booking a spot on a tour. Again, I was a bit worried about locking myself in too rigidly to a schedule and not leaving days open to do things as they came to me. I figured out what I needed to book ahead of time by looking at each activity and asking myself how devastated I would be if I showed up to try and book it on the day and they said it was full.

I had printed out a calendar page for April and had all my flights, bus trips, and accommodation drawn on to it. It was easy to see which days I had available in each place. This helped me figure out which activities would be more time sensitive (like there would be only one day where I would be able to do a certain thing) and which ones could fit into a variety of places.

Things I pre-booked:

  • The Killers concert: by the time I had flights, this concert was already sold out. Once I knew I was going to be in Wellington on the night of the concert, I started obsessively checking the certified ticket resales on the ticketmaster site. A few months later a general admission ticket came up and I jumped on it. I paid almost double the initial ticket price, but you know what, it was 100% worth it.
  • Hurricanes game: when I planned my time in Wellington, I made sure to schedule it so that a rugby game fell on one of the days I was there. Turns out that this game did not sell out and I could have bought a ticket on the day, but still, I knew I would be crushed if I had missed out.
  • Milford Sound: we didn’t do Milford Sound last time and it is kind of a NZ classic. I booked this tour from Queenstown. I picked this company because they had a backpacker rate and therefore ended up being cheaper than anything else. The bus portion of my tour was on an InterCity bus (wifi and charging stations!) and the cruise was through Jucy.
  • Wine Tour: I decided I really wanted to do a wine tour this trip and I found this company. They offer a full day wine tour for significantly cheaper than any other company I found. They also had good reviews. I only had one full day in Picton and I quickly realized I would be very disappointed if the tour on that day filled before I got there, so I booked.
  • Glenorchy: I knew I wanted to try and get to Paradise and I found this small family run company that offered tours. I put off booking this one for a long time because it wasn’t quite as burning “I need to do this” activity. But since it was out of Queenstown and within a few days of the the start of my trip, I did end up booking it in advance.

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Everything else that I did I just booked while I was there or walked up on the day. Really, the only other thing I booked at all in advance at all was the lemur/meerkat experiences at the Wellington Zoo. I think I booked those a week or so in advance. I often had a vague idea of things I wanted to do in a place and just sort of played it by ear once I got there. Like I knew I wanted to go to Te Papa and to a play at Circa, so once I was in Wellington I sort of felt it out and picked a day and went and did them. When I was in Christchurch I knew that there were some museums and galleries around my hostel. So when I woke up I wandered around to a few of them. Then when I didn’t have anything to do in the afternoon, I wandered down to the iSite to browse through some activities and ended up at Willowbank feeding grapes to lemurs.

I feel like I had a good mix of pre-planned and spur of the moment activities. The part of my trip on the south island, when I was moving around every few days, was more strictly planned. This allowed me to ensure I would see the things I wanted to see and not waste any more time than necessary in moving from place to place. My time in Wellington I left almost completely open (I just had concert tickets and rugby tickets). This allowed me to settle in to Wellington and tackle all the things I wanted to do in an order that made sense once I was there and let me take things like weather and how I was feeling into the equation each day. When you only have one day in a place, you will do an activity (i.e. Milford Sound tour) rain or shine, sick or well. But when you have a whole week you then have the option to wake up and say, it’s really cold today, perhaps I will hold off on the outside activity and go to the museum instead. It worked very well.

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I’m sure there is much more I could talk about but that feels like a good summary. If you ever have any questions about things I did or how I planned them, or if you are ever looking for New Zealand recommendations, seriously come talk to me. I will never get tired of talking about travelling there.

 

A brief look at NZ 2018.

I have been meaning to write a post or two about my trip. But I keep putting it off because it feels too daunting. If I write a post, I should post pictures, and if I’m posting pictures, I need to go through all my photos and edit them. And then that feels like too much work and I just go to sleep instead. But I am here to do it now. I may not have photos for everything and some of them might not be edited and beautiful, but it will be okay.

Here is (briefly) where I went and what I did:

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QUEENSTOWN

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I flew into Queenstown and it was beautiful. The mountains felt so close you could almost touch them.

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I went on a day trip to Milford Sound. This was a 5 hour bus trip into Fiordland, and 2 hour boat tour, and then 5 hours on the bus back to Queenstown. Fiordland was unspeakably beautiful. It was kind of overcast, not too cold, and kind of windy. I got to stand on the front of the boat while they sailed under a waterfall and dolphins appeared right underneath where I was standing on the deck on the way back to the harbour. There was a really great girl named Bri on the bus with me and we took photos for each other at some of the stops and it was great. She took some amazing photos of me on her phone and I have still not quite given up hope that she might still email them to me. (I’m guessing not though due to the fact that it has been almost two months. Note to self: next time make sure that in addition to giving my email, get their email too).

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I went to Paradise. Last time I was in NZ, we got stranded just outside of Paradise and spent the entire day on the side of a tiny back road waiting for a tow truck. This time I made it.

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WANAKA

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I climbed Roy’s Peak for sunrise. This was something I decided weeks before I went that I HAD to do. So despite the fact that I had come down with a pretty significant chest cold/sore throat, I woke myself up at 3 am, walked the 6.7 kilometres from my hostel to the trailhead, and then slogged up the mountain in the dark. Honestly, I was miserable. But you know that because I sent you a constant string of texts that said “I AM MISERABLE,” “MY FEET HURT,” and “I WISH I WAS DEAD.” (Very early in the morning NZ time was late morning/early afternoon Canada time – which was very convenient and allowed me to talk to someone while I was alone and miserable in the dark). I also did not bring hiking shoes with me. I figured one day of hiking was not worth it for the amount of space they would take up. This was a mistake. I have never had so many blisters on my feet at one time. I did make it to the lookout for sunrise, which kind of made it all worth it. Before the sun came all the way up it was windy and FREEZING, but beautiful. Then I walked all the way back. The first hour or so of the downward climb was the only part of the hike I enjoyed. By the time I got to the parking lot and started the walk back to Wanaka I was in some severe blister/foot pain. The last couple kilometres were honestly agony. Like when all you can think about is how much you hurt. But you have no choice but to keep walking. By that time I was also very much feeling the sore throat and chest cold. It was all around bad. However, now that I am fully past all the pain I am glad I went.

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CHRISTCHURCH

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The hostel I was staying at was right in the heart of the CBD, which was awesome. The Canterbury Museum and the Botanical Gardens were literally across the street. I went to both of those places in the morning of my day there. I was also just down the street from the Art Gallery, which I stopped in at in the afternoon.

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I went to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and fed grapes to ring-tailed lemurs. It was kind of a spur of the moment decision to go and involved me figuring out the buses and busing out to the edge of the city, but oh man, was it ever worth it. It was a very magical time. I didn’t know how much I loved lemurs until there was one sitting on my lap holding my hand. If I am ever back in Christchurch I am doing this again. Like, even before I do something I haven’t done before.

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KAIKOURA

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I arrived on the bus, booked on a whale watching trip, and then ran across town on my blistered feet to make it for the sailing. I was super nervous that I was going to get seasick because they were so many warnings about seasickness and I sort of tend towards motion sickness, but it was all good. We only saw one whale. It was a bit disappointing if I’m being honest. But that whale was still cool. His name was Tiaki and we saw him surface twice. We also very briefly saw some dolphins.

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I stayed at a lovely little BnB up on the point because even more than a month in advance there were literally no hostel rooms available anywhere in town. But it was so wonderful to have my own space for the the first time on my trip. I walked down into town and bought a bunch of jewellery. I have a soft spot for things made out of Cat’s Eye Shell (or Shiva Shell) and Kaikoura always has the goods.

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PICTON

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I decided I really wanted to do a wine tour this trip and the Marlborough region just seemed like the right place to do it. I went on a full day tour and we visited six wineries and a chocolate factory. I now know a reasonable amount about Sauvignon Blancs and could probably pick one out of a line up of white wines (although I apparently still do NOT know how to spell it – you should have just seen the number of attempts I made at sauvignon where spell check told me it had no suggestions before I gave up and googled it).

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WELLINGTON

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I went to The Killers. It was the best concert I have ever been to, I loved it so much.

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I went to the Wellington Zoo, which is kind of in the city, and is basically a hill on top of a hill overlooking the city (my feet were still not feeling super great après Roy’s Peak). I fed meerkats and black and white ruffed lemurs. It was wonderful. The meerkats were especially entertaining and gosh do I love lemurs.

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I went to Te Papa. Te Papa is a really great (and free!) museum down on the waterfront. I was there right before Anzac day which meant that the Gallipoli exhibit was packed and had massive lines. I went to Te Papa last time I was in NZ and the colossal squid was my favourite part by far, so you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the exhibit that holds the giant squid is being rebuilt and is closed until next year.

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I walked through Mt Victoria, went to the lookout, and found the spot where they filmed the “get off the road” scene in LOTR.

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I saw a play at Circa Theatre. This is the theatre where I first saw Equivocation, which is still the best play I have ever seen. The play I saw was called “The Lie” and two of the actors in the play were also in Equivocation, which was quite nice.

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I took the Cable Car up to the Botanical Gardens, went to Zealandia, and saw a show at the Planetarium.

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I went to the Wellington Museum and the New Zealand Portrait museum.

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I went to see a rugby game. The Hurricanes were playing the Sun Wolves and can I just say that rugby is so much more interesting national sport than hockey and if I lived in a place that had a rugby team (like Wellington) I would buy season tickets.

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I have many many more photos, quite a few videos, and a lots stories that didn’t make it into this post because I know it gets tedious when people talk about their vacations for too long. Also it would be far too daunting to write a post that long. But I am always happy to talk about New Zealand, so if you want to see or hear more, you know where to find me. Also I will probably post pictures from the trip on my Instagram for the next year. Also all the videos I posted to my stories while I was away are saved in my highlights and categorized by city. I am probably going to write another post about my trip where I will talk about what it was like travelling alone and how I planned for it. I’ll probably sneak some more photos in that one too.

One before I go.

As you know, I am a week away from leaving on my NZ trip and therefore am elbows deep in online bookings and piles of clothes and toiletries. I am hoping to blog a few times while I am away and keep you updated on the cool things I get up to. So for this blog post I will not really bother talking about the trip. Besides, blog post about getting ready to leave on a trip seem about the most boring thing ever. “Will she pack the vest and the jacket? Or just the jacket?” Riveting stuff.

I figured I’d give you an update on my last couple months. I have talked very little about what has been going on with me the last little while on this blog.

Just under two months ago I hurt my knee at work. I’ve hardly posted anything about it because it is a WCB claim and if you have any experience dealing with the WCB system you probably know that it is always a good idea to keep claim information as private as you can. That it is not outside of WCB’s practice to investigate people making claims and use social media posts against them. This makes it sound like I had something to hide. I didn’t. It was a very open and shut “she smacked her knee at work and then it swelled up really big” type of thing. I had witnesses and same day first aid and emergency room reports and I diligently followed all of my doctor’s orders. Which meant sitting with my knee up for weeks and weeks. Very boring. Nothing out of the ordinary or questionable in any way. But still, it is good practice to keep the details between the doctor, physiotherapist, employer, and WCB case worker. You know.

I will, however, share with you this one picture of what it looked like the day I hurt it.

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Crazy, right? I did no actual damage to my knee (that we are aware of). No torn ligaments, broken bones, or damaged cartilage. But it has taken two months for this swelling to go down and it is still not all the way gone.

This has meant that for the last two months I have been on modified duties at work. No stairs, no ladders, no kneeling, and only very limited standing and walking. Which means desk work. I have been re-writing the planer mill’s JSAs (job safety analysis) and training manuals. At first it was a really great break and I felt really good about the job. It really needed to be done and I had the skill set to do it. I still feel good about it, but now it feels more like I am back in school and being forced to write papers all day.

Working all day in a quiet office got a bit boring, so I started listening to music while I worked. I pretty quickly go bored of music and moved on to podcasts. I found this new podcast that I love. It is called Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. If you don’t know, Dax Shepard is Kristen Bell’s husband. He has guests come and he has very real and genuine conversations with them. I was not expecting to love it as much as I do.

I realized I should save up some episodes so that I had something I loved listening to while I was sitting in airports and riding on buses on my trip. He does one episode a week that is around two hours long. So about a month ago I stopped listening to them and now have about four saved up for my trip.

So then I was again without something to listen to. But the podcast made me realize that I really liked listening to people telling stories about their lives. So I made the understandable jump to autobiographical audiobooks.

I should take a quick time out to talk about my position on audiobooks. I am NOT against audiobooks. I think they are great. But I have never been able to listen to them. I can’t. I have tried and it is too different. I feel like I am cheating somehow by not actually reading? Even though I know that I am not and I don’t think that about other people when they listen to audiobooks. And that is not really even the problem, its more that it feels different. It feels like I am experiencing the story in an entirely different way and I don’t like it. Apparently I am very attached to my own inner voice and having someone else read it changes the entire experience for me in a way that prevents me from enjoying the story at all. I once found this quote which maybe sort of explains it:

“I’ve never listened to an audiobook before, and I have to say, its a totally different experience. When you read a book, the story definitely happens inside your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes.” (Robin Sloan, Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore)

I have, of course, not read the actual book that comes from, just the quote. But it felt true when I read it and maybe explains the difference between reading and listening and why I like one and dislike the other.

BUT. I found that listening to an author read a book they wrote about their own life felt more like listening to a podcast. So I was totally okay with it.

So over the last few weeks I have been ripping through audiobooks. Here are the ones I have listened to.

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Bossypants by Tina Fey

I’ve been sort of kind of meaning to read this one for a while. It was good! I must say I sit slight more on the Amy Poehler side of this friendship, but I love them both and this book was enjoyable and Tina is badass and awesome.

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I have this book and have read it before but it was wonderful to have Amy read it to me. Amy is amazing and Leslie Knope is maybe the greatest character there has ever been on TV.

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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

I did not really know anything about Anna Kendrick except that she was in Pitch Perfect. Did you know she started out on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony when she was 12? I did not. This book was really good and I really enjoyed it.

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

I have read Mindy’s books before. But just like with Amy’s book, it is great to have the author read it to you. It feels like a podcast. Mindy is great. This book was written before The Mindy Project began and is focused more on her time in college and writing for The Office.

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

It just seemed right to follow it up with this one. This one is more about her time working on The Mindy Project. She is still great.

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The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I am almost done this one. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I do have to say I did not love this one as much as some of the others. I guess I just didn’t like the style of the reading as much. I did find it to be very relatable at some points. It was also kind of depressing at other points. I have a hold on Wishful Drinking at the library.

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One More Thing by BJ Novak

I am part way through this one. So the jury’s still out on my conclusion. I LOVED the first story. Some of the others have been a bit meh. We’ll see how it finishes.

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I mostly just went to the library website and tried to find as many of these types of audiobooks as I could. It turns out that I am a lot more interested in autobiographies written by females. I did try to listen to Rob Lowe’s autobiography. But I got a couple chapters in and was bored. Turns out it was going to be mostly about his childhood, family, and his time on the show The West Wing. I wanted it to be an entire book about playing Chris Traeger on Parks and Rec. I did’t really give it too much of a shot.

I have a couple on hold I am waiting to listen to (Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking and Tiffany Hadish’s The Last Black Unicorn). But if you have a recommendation within this narrow niche of audiobooks, let me know.

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So that’s it. My last few months have almost entirely been either sitting in an office writing manuals or sitting at home with an ice pack tensored on my knee. Luckily, however, my knee has progressed enough that it should not interfere with my trip and everyone involved in my claim has given me the a-okay to go.

I hope you are excited to see NZ blog posts and hella photos. I will be posting a LOT on my Instagram and I will try to get a few posts up here too.

How to never take a compliment, a crash course.

Step 1: care very much about what people think about you. This step is not necessary, but will really help to enforce the idea that you need the compliment, which will make it so much worse when you are never able to accept it. If possible, have one of your love languages be ‘words of affirmation.’ That way you can simultaneous crave the affirmation of people in your life while also ensuring you never receive it.

Step 2: disregard any compliments given to a group you are a part of. They were obviously not meant for you. They were for the other more talented and/or prettier members of the group. They just addressed it to the group because it would be very awkward for everyone if they didn’t. If they really meant it they would have come talk to you away from the group and addressed their compliments to you specifically.

Step 3: any nice words spoken to you at a time when it is normal or expected to compliment someone also don’t count. They are obviously only saying that nice thing because it is the convention and social politeness dictates they do. You’re supposed to tell girls they look pretty at weddings. You’re supposed to tell someone they’re great when they’re having a bad day. Therefore you must assume all nice things said to you in those situations are only said because it would be more awkward to not say them.

Step 4: if someone says a nice thing in response to something you asked them, you were fishing for a compliment and it doesn’t count either. What were they supposed to do? Tell you that the dress looks terrible? Tell you your idea is terrible? You put them in an awkward position and they said the nice thing to try and make you feel better. It is insincere and you brought it upon yourself. If they really liked the dress, they would have told you without you asking.

Step 5: did someone compliment you after a performance, presentation, or some other public appearance? They could be sincere, but make sure you remember how when you were a kid at camp people would clap louder for the terrible acts in the talent show so as to not make the child feel bad. It is probably safe to assume they are doing this to you. The more enthusiastically they congratulate you, the more sure you can be they don’t mean it. And if they offer a generic, unenthusiastic compliment, they don’t mean it either since a public performance of any kind clearly falls into the category of ‘time when you are expected to compliment’ (see step 3).

Step 6: is the compliment you received generic? If so, throw that out too. Things like “you look nice” have no meaning anymore. They are the generic platitudes that have been repeated so many times they have lost their meaning entirely. Like when someone asks how you are and you reply with, “I’m good, how are you?” without even thinking. They come out of people’s mouths without even thinking and serve as no more than generic niceties and conversation filler. If they really thought something about you looked nice, they would have been more specific.

Step 7: was someone earnest and forceful in their compliments? If so, see the “people clap louder for the bad acts out of pity” part of step 5.

Step 8: if someone offers you a unexpected, specific, relaxed compliment at time when no social convention dictates they should, and with no prompting, assume they have read this post and are just giving it to prove they can. You can safely assume they don’t mean it either.

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I think that about covers it. There should now be no situation in which a compliment will strike you as sincere and you can live your life in the quiet misery of knowing that no matter how hard others try to make themselves seem sincere and like they admire you, you can see through it. You’re welcome.

2018.

I have high hopes for 2018. There is potential for some big changes to take place, but I am not going to publicly broadcast them at this time. I have learned my lesson on that front. When final decisions are made and plans are officially set, then I will happily share them. But there is one particularly exciting thing that is already confirmed, so I am very happy to announce it here and now.

It has kind of been a weirdly, sort of kept but not really, secret for the last month or two. What I mean by that is that I have not posted anything about it or contacted anyone to tell the about it. The only way you would know is if you have seen me or talked to me recently in person. It also involves time off from work, and my work is an insane gossip factory, so pretty much everyone I work with knows about it. Which is a bit weird when a lot of my friends don’t know.

ANYWAYS! The news: I AM GOING TO NEW ZEALAND!

I am going in April, for three weeks. Three weeks is the maximum amount of vacation I am allowed for this year, so I booked all three weeks back to back and then I will not get anymore time off for the rest of the year. But it will be worth it!

I am going by myself because all of my friends are in school or can’t justify paying the flight fees for just a few weeks. I really only asked a couple people to come, and they couldn’t so I’m doing my best to embrace the idea of going solo. I’m actually pretty alright with it and I think it will be good for me.

I have a vague outline of the trip:

I am flying in to Queenstown. I will, over the course of approximately two weeks, work my way from Queenstown up to Picton. I am hoping to definitely hit/spend a few days in Wanaka, Tekapo, and Kaikoura. I would love to spend a day at Castle Hill (our time there last time was cut pretty short). But exactly how it will all work out depends on the transportation mode I choose. I am kind of leaning towards busing at this point because rental cars are stupid expensive when you are by yourself. But busing probably removes the option to go to Castle Hill. So I haven’t fully decided yet. Then I will ferry across to Wellington and spend an entire glorious week in my favourite city of all time before flying home.

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I am very excited. I also probably need to really sit down and do some planning. I have my plane tickets booked, but that is all. I feel like solo travel requires a bit more preparation ahead of time. But I am still stuck in the “its still a long way away, I don’t have to worry yet” stage. And I know this month is going to fly by and it will come so quickly.

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If you, or anyone who might be reading this, has any solo travel tips, any NZ travel tips, or any must see places along my general route, hit me up! I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to see, but it is mostly based on going back to the places I saw and loved last time. So it would be super awesome to mix some new things in.

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I have been trying again to make it all the way through editing my photos from my last trip. This time I am actually doing it systematically and thoroughly. Not just jumping from place to place and photo to photo whimsically. It is making me more excited and reminding me of things that we did and places we went last time. I feel like a a thread of freshly edited NZ photos is a good way to end this post.

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