Friday, April 01, 2005


I arrived in Sydney on Monday afternoon, my work clothes did not...this is the story of the best laid plans gone awry.

Sydney is a VERY large and beautiful city. You may recall they hosted the 2000 Olympics and the ability and ease to get around as well as the overall beauty and safety of this city, I am sure, were all contributing factors to their success.

I jinx myself back on St. Patty's day and can now confirm, it is unlucky to not wear green on March 17th no matter where you are in the world. I (accidentally) did not wear even a pinch of green, and now I am suffering the consequences of my shortsightedness. To my family and Maureen O'Connor I apologize and promise I have learn my lesson about properly honoring the saint day of the leprechaun. You can bet your lucky charms, I won't let this happen again.

I should have known what I was in for. I worked too hard on my self created March 17th project and I crossed too many "t's"...with this commitment, I was destined for a train wreck or should I say project management scope creep. My efforts to be well organized, forward thinking and buttoned up are now, in hindsight, a recipe for more than a wardrobe malfunction but a wardrobe disaster.

On both March 16 and 17 I worked closely with the UPS staff in NZ and all the related companies they are associated with, like FLY AWAY. I needed to ship a box of documents and all my professional clothes as well as shoes to Sydney. They gave me the box, the waybill and I was relentless in confirming process with them. I also had all the staff at the Medina Hotel in early and often on this project and this team had a clear understanding of everyone's role and responsibly. As it turns out UPS can take the box or reservation--they just can't keep it!

On March 28th, I taxied out to my hotel near the Sydney Harbor. I check-in and got to my room expecting to see the box--and as you're guessing, it wasn't here--11 days after the 17th of March.

It's now April 1st in AUS and I'm no fool, but I can share, I still have NO professional clothes. I go to my appointments and think--maybe this is a pilot for a new reality show called, I Dare You to Humiliate Me. Sydney is a cosmopolitan town--it's not causal Friday for work attire here. When I arrived on Monday and did everything but rip the backrooms of the hotel offices apart, I finally accepted that at least for now, my box wasn't' here. I walked as fast as possible to a large department store and was greeted by a worker that said, sorry, we are closing. Of course you are, I responded. I went across the street to the Polo Ralph Lauren store and grabbed a pair of black pants, the price--$989.00. There is no way in the world I am paying a thousand dollars for a pair of black pants. I hung my "I'm not Irish worthy" head and walked back to the hotel. It was now 5 PM and all stores are closed on this Easter Monday.

In my hotel room I got busy and laid out all of my clothes to see what type of outfits I could put together. I came up with two--I can go to my meetings as sporty spice girl or southern casual spice chic. This is as good as it gets. To accessorize, I painted my toenails, made an extra effort in blow-drying my hair and picked out a lipstick to match my toes. Linda Barrow would be proud with my creativity with limited supplies--embarrassed, but definitely proud of the effort. Most people wouldn't have the courage to go to a professional meeting in a major international city dressed like they were off to a picnic or rugby match. But I drive a mini-van, so I am well prepared to stare embarrassment straight in the eye and face it head on. I'll admit, this is really testing me. Each day I come back to my hotel room and still no box. This humiliation game is becoming sport for me now--no way in heck, I'm buying new clothes.

Jill will roll her eyes at this one--but the UPS people never sent package as promised 3 weeks ago because they had a question about the Blue Cross billing number. UGH! Why didn't they just call me? By Wed. of this week, the box had made it to the Sydney airport and by Thursday it was held up in Customs. Fine with me--I am now in a comfortable rotation with my two outfits. Honestly, I am walking into major CEO offices and looking like I am about to ask--which way is the beach? I had to file 6 forms with Customs confirming there are not animals or plants stored in with my clothes and they have not been on a farm in the last 30 days. It's Friday now, and still, no box.

Friday at 3 PM--the box arrived and by its appearance, did a tour of duty in Iraq. My poor clothes had huge red stickers all over them with "quarantine inspection". Did they think I l had placed little Derby in one of the pockets? Oh well--the good news is I've got my goods. I head up to North Australia--Queensland area tomorrow. I am going to go out to the great barrier reef on Sunday. I'm scared to death, but I'm going to do it. I wonder if they'll be willing to put me in a cage and lower me down off the boat. I might just wear one of my business suits out on the reef....that'll be a sure fire way to divert attention away from the killer sharks. Oh, I'm so scared.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005



The in-flight movie is the Incredibles and they accidentally put in the Japanese version. Hopefully that was a mistake and I am still headed to Sydney. It is Easter back home so I am hoping everyone by this time is chock full of chocolate and marshmallow peeps. Save the black jellybeans for me—I’m coming back in 21 days. Oh goodness—I am witnessing the proof that AUS are more like Americans, than not—after 7 weeks of in country flights and amazing silver tea and coffee service on all the NZ flights…the Qantas Australian in-flight beverage service just started and it’s a huge silver clangy cart filled with every soda or fizzy drink you can imagine. My time in Xanadu is really over. Many have told me Australia would jump at the chance to be our 52nd state and now I really believe it. The giant soda cart is enough creditable proof for me. It's "Incredible!".

I certainly have gotten comfortable getting around areas that I know little or nothing about. I am so comfortable, I am now heading to AUS without any paperwork for my itinerary. I am lucky that I vaguely remember that I “think” I am suppose to be staying at the Medina Hotel at the Sydney Harbor—so with fingers crossed that is where I am going. I am certain as well as hoping, Julie—my in-country coordinator will have a packet for me when I arrive outlining every step I take for every appointment she made. Julie has been a dream to work with and I will get to meet her towards the end of my trip when I am in Melbourne.

I think the flight attendants are trying to kill me—they just came to my seat with their awful carts and offered me beef tips or fish—this is the worse anti-Americanism I’ve experienced so far. Beef or Fish?..are you kidding me?…I’ll have cheese, fruit and a cappuccino, thank you very much. They didn’t even respond and moved on to the next isle. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

I have three hours on this flight to get my diplomacy attitude adjusted and in-check. I really need to concentrate or this will be a long 3-4 weeks. It’s not my fault I am now addicted to all the great foods and sweets from New Zealand.

Although I did have one horrible culinary experience in NZ that I haven’t even had the stomach to write about. I’ll try now. I was in the South Island for the first time and a guest at someone’s home for dinner. I did start to panic as I was thinking, oh goodness, what if it’s lamb or worse yet, deer. It turned out to be pork—specifically pork chops—they were well done and I thankfully I got the one with more bone than anything else. As it turned out it was the least of my worst food experiences over the next 48 hours. The following night I was being treat to a fancy schmancy restaurant in ChristChurch—I quickly noticed they had absolutely nothing on the menu I recognized. All sorts of horrible fish and freaky meat dishes were featured, even brains and something called white bait. I settled on the appetizer version of the scallops. When they were served I noticed they were mixed with carrots so I made sure I had a carrot with each bite to hopefully mute or drown out the other flavors. No such luck—and you want to know why? Because the orange thing was no carrot but some gross part of the scallop call something like the protein sack. Ugh—it was a near death experience, honest. Okay—now, here is the worse…Bob G. gave me the great suggestion that I should really look into end of live care issues when on my fellowship and I agreed this was a good idea. I met with a nursing home and also spent time with the staff and management of an Alzheimer Care Home. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about the care of aging adults in this country. These kind people also had the nursing home cafeteria prepare our lunch. I was sitting there eating institutional soggy asparagus sandwiches and I’m sorry, I have a hard enough time going to my mother’s rest home and feeding her the mush they are served, let alone eat it myself. I was a woman on the edge. In the end, I managed—but this was proof enough for me that I could eat a can of worms on Survivor to advance or win an immunity or reward challenge. I have no doubt now and can confirm, I need no more practice.

The flight attendant just stop by and offered me a Muslim meal....why are they doing this to me? I said, no thank you...but if you locate some boiled irish potatoes, I'll take them.



Don’t get me wrong—there are still plenty of gains women need to make in NZ. But for the most part—women hold many if not most of the highest positions in New Zealand. It is my understanding this is reason alone to make the Australians think the New Zealanders are a vegemite jar short of a full breakfast. From what I gather, Australia doesn’t have women leadership high on their priority list—but I will figure this out first hand and for now, will give them the benefit of the doubt.

I do know in New Zealand—girls rule and if you don’t like that, you should work on getting over it (or move to Australia). For example, here is a short list of some of their finest women leaders. I will start with the Queen of England herself as she is held in high regard with “heaps” of respect from New Zealanders. What I find most important are these same people have always had a deep respect for the Queen—ever since she succeeded to the role when she was only 21 years old. Others include: Prime Minister, Helen Clark, Governor General, Sylvia Cartwright, A Supreme Court Justice, Speaker of the House, Margaret Wilson, Mayor of Wellington, Kerry Prendergas, Chancellor of Victoria University, Rosemary Barrington, CEO of Telestar Clear—Eisenhower Fellow Rosemary XXX and NZ golden girl, 2005 athlete of the year and Olympic Gold Medal Cyclist, Sarah Ulmer.

I think a recent quote in the New Zealand Herald sums up the positioning of women in critical roles: “Forget about women being able to do anything. The problem vexing some men is that women appear to be doing everything!”


I signed up for another special journey on one of New Zealand’s train transfers—this time the TranzCoastal train from ChristChurch to Pictone. The train led us out of ChristChurch across the braided Waimakariri River and through the farmlands of North Canterbury. We moved east and hugged the coast all the way to Kaikoura and if it was up to me—this would have been a one-hour stop to allow for viewing the fur seals and whales—two things this region is famous for. I was fortunate on one of my flights out of ChristChurch to Wellington to spot a huge whale from my window seat, as we were getting ready to land in Wellington.

In this coastal area on the eastside of the South Island there are spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean breaking onto rocky outcrops on one side and snow clad mountains on the other. We ventured through Dashboard Pass and across the Wairau Plainsand finally into Pictone. We had less than 45 minutes of wiggle room to recover our bags, walk about 200 kilometers and catch the last water taxi for the Sound. We are heading to the Endeavour Inlet. Named in honor of one if Captain Cook’s ships.

We took the water taxi out to the Sound to the Bach, a picture perfect get-away in any country and in New Zealand considered a traditional vacation home. What is interesting is this home is only 35 miles the from point to point to the Tramposch’s home in Wellington, but takes more than 5 hours to access due to the Ferry and water taxi that is necessary to reach this property. The convergence of two mighty oceans—the Pacific and Tasman—come together in the Cook Straight and together produce some of the most difficult waters in the world to maneuver through. In the Marlborough Sound, there are no cars and thank goodness no golf carts--the only way to get around is by your own two feet. This area also allows for mountain biking. The Bach sits right on the Queen Charlotte Track with international trampers coming by frequently. There was lots of rain on Friday night so it made being inside the tin roof Bach even more relaxing. Peggy cooked an amazing meal, Bill christened the new cast-iron fire stove by lighting a fire and the wine, as always, was great. There are seven of us enjoying this experience. In the morning the sun came up early indicating blue skys and a beautiful day. The water on the Inlet looks crystal clear with all shades of blue and the mountains across the way are brilliantly green. After we downed 3 or maybe it was 5 plungers of coffee we headed out to the Furneaux Lodge. They said if we arrived by 10 AM they would still serve us breakfast—they are famous for their french toast and I would add to that list, their omelets. After a hearty breakfast we headed out on the trail to visit other Baches in what is called the Pines Community.

We met up with some sheep, cows and then a butt ugly pig. We thought it was a “captain cooker”—pigs that are the descendents of the lil pigs that Captain Cook brought over with him. But this pig was a kunekune and we were told that despite its extreme need for an extreme makeover, it is a nice and gentle pig and if you can get past his looks, he likes it when you scratch his head—unfortunately, I couldn’t manage to get past his looks.

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to lazy loafing on the Bach porch soaking up the sun and surrounding beauty. Some brave souls went down to the dock and jumped into the freezing salt water that is full of stingrays and jellyfish—these silly people were all encouraging me to join them. Without a wager on the table, I didn’t budge. Besides—it’s high time we had our afternoon tea.

Life moves kind of slow out at the Bach on the Sound and that seems to be just perfect to me. By early evening, we went up the road to a Bach that has been in a NZ family for a long time to have a drink and some nibbles. Two Fulbright fellows, Allison and Brenna had volunteered to cook tonight’s meal and they packed in all the food and preparations from Wellington. When we returned to our Bach the table was set, the candles were lit and the room smelled great—they created a fantastic Mexican meal including fresh guacamole and chips, corn tortillas with chicken, a fresh corn salad, home made sangria and a Mexican chocolate cake with white icing for desert. I don’t make this stuff up, I just report the facts. If you find yourself starting to worry about my frequent and abundant food intake, I appreciate your concern. I need it.

It is now Easter Sunday and the fun of the week travel is about to end. We drank lots of coffee on this rainy morning and exchanged a wee bit of candy to celebrate the holiday. We swept out the Bach, gave it a good cleaning and went down to the dock to stand in the rain for about 40 minutes to catch the water taxi back to Pictone. We made it to the Ferry with just enough time to drop our bags off, pick up our boarding passes and take the two little doggies, Ruby and Olive to the Ferry Kennel. We secured the same great seats in the “CLUB LEVEL” room an immediately began to enjoy the free cappuccinos. This trip was different than the smooth ride over last week and gave us a command performance on what it is like to sail in rough, turbulent waters. I felt a little nauseous but it didn’t develop into anything worse and I was happy all other attendees in the CLUB were keeping their cookies down. My last taxi trip to the Wellington airport and I ended up with a driver that had taken me out there once before—a very nice gentleman from Wellington. New Zealand Air couldn’t see fit to put us on the earlier flight at 5:30 PM and made us wait for the seat we have confirmed on the 7:00 PM flight. That’s all right!

I’ll miss New Zealand greatly, the people, the places, all the plenty and all the bounty throughout this clean, green, beautiful country! I’ve learned so much about their health care issues, health promotion and prevention programs, innovative programs and ideas, areas of strength and areas huge opportunity in philanthropy throughout the country—particularly, the business sector giving back and making a difference. I met so many wonderful people that have made a tremendous difference in making this an enriching and amazing experience. I’ll miss New Zealand, for sure. I learned heaps and I hope I left behind as much as I received. I’m all snapped up now and ready to go off to Australia.

I need to make certain I don’t let too much time slip by before I return.

Check out these pictures of the surrounding area and confirmation of the ugly piggy. (TOO BE POSTED ASAP).



I have good news to report—as of this very second and this writing, I am still alive. This is despite my daredevil adventure for four hours this morning. It seems impossible or a least absurd to travel all the way to Queenstown, NZ and not go to Milford Sound. I don’t mind being a nut but I certainly don’t want to be labeled as crazy so even before we picked up the luggage and rental car at the Q’town airport, we were meeting with the Milford Sound fly-in, cruise-around, fly-out staff. Day one flights were already booked and as it turned out our luck didn’t improve as day two weather conditions kept all fights grounded. Our last and final chance was on day three and expecting a no-go 7:10 AM inbound call, the prompt caller said we will pick you up by 7:20 AM. In hindsight, I like this tactic as it gave us no time to think, process or second-guess the day-one adventure enthusiasm or decision-making. In a flurry we were jamming our suitcases and running around getting ready for simultaneous hotel checkout and taxi pick-up. At the airport we were put into a group with orange boarding pass people—these orange pass people were all from Australia and very nice. The pilot instructed us to board with big people towards the front with the smallest of our group in the back. I rushed to the back but was redirected to the middle. I liked our pilot, Rob, from the moment we all met him. Young—but not too young, handsome, professional and nice to all of us selected to be orange pass people on his plane. When we were departing I noticed the yellow boarding pass people were boarding a twin-engine plane—that’s when I noticed we only had one engine. This is also when I started to get religious and began to think WWBGD…”What Would Bob G. Do?” He knows everything about planes and I was wondering—a bit too late—would he be on this kind of craft? As it turns out, the take off was great; I felt as if we were floating, the sights from the plane were so beautiful and so close. My nerves were working me over as they were trying hard to get the best of me, trying to stop me from enjoying the splendor and fantastic mountain scenery, trying to get my mind to give in and waste time worrying—what if? What if our little single engine starts to have “issues”? What if a gust of wind moves us an inch off course and we kiss the side of these mountains? What if, as they say here, the weather changes in a snap from glorious to crap? Excreta, excreta.

I hate to write this as I hated even more that I was starting to think…maybe Dan Quayle was right when he said something like…”it’s terrible to have a mind when it’s wasted”. There I was with so much to enjoy but my mind was in overdrive thinking of all the scary possibilities and even all the people that had been in planes nicer than this one and had not been too lucky--JFK, JR, Payne Stewart, The Big Bopper (who is the bog bopper?…I don’t even know, but I was thinking he died in a plane crash), Leonard Skynard—who is not even a person but a fake name for a bad band that I know little to nothing about. Anyway, despite these initial moments of mind overtaking brain matter fear—I pulled myself together and settled in to absolutely enjoy this incredible trip that was breathtaking, beautiful and worth any small amount of trepidation. And really—don’t you agree, its more frightful to be thinking about Dan Quayle than the impact of any small plane turbulence or near death experience?

Here are the pictures to, in and from the Milford Sound…enjoy and make this is a must see when planning your trip to NZ. SORRY...I WILL POST THESE AND OTHER PICTURES AS SOON AS I CAN! CHEERS!


This town is the most beautiful to me, so far!

When you arrive in Queenstown the landing is much like an adventure ride. First the plane makes it over the mountain range and begins flying low through the gorge with the mountains on both sides of the plane and through the double pained plastic window appears to be within arms reach. You circle lower and lower until you finally land. Queenstown is beautiful and just has to be a slice from heaven. The mountains are the southern part of the New Zealand Alps, the lakes and rivers are crystal clear blue and aqua, the town is more than you would expect plus a bag of chips. This town seems very wealthy and well versed on how to leverage its natural resources and amenities for the many visitors it welcomes to their paradise. Day one was pristine, picture perfect, blue sky's, puffy white clouds, incredible majestic mountains and amazing waters. Have I mentioned the food, wine and coffees are all great here as well?! Please BOB G., I beg of you can't we find a business here to buy, acquire, turn-around, re-invenent--anything you suggest and I am happy to relocate for the good of our business growth and expansion.