how to be a better person…

30 September, 2009

… indeed!

Paul mentioned this new book soon to be released by Seb Hunter (of Rock me Amadeus fame) that tells of his sometime hilarious experiences in the world of volunteering. I also have a little story regarding my recent experience here in Auckland.

As a disclaimer, let me first stress the following:

Volunteerism is big in NZ, the poster at the offices of Volunteer Auckland mentions a figure in excess of a million volunteers countrywide. That’s remarkable considering the total population is around four million.
Kiwis are justifiably very proud of this tradition. I in no way want to discredit the good work done by so many people.

In the absence of any concrete offers for paid work, I decided some time ago to offer business analysis, process modeling and/or application development services voluntarily. It’s a good idea. I get an entrance into the marketplace, it closes the gap in my cv, i practice my trade, very likely learn new things, it allows me to gather local references that would be useful when a potential employer eventually considers my application for paid work.

the_dignity_of_labourI easily found various volunteering possibilities on the local websites.

I selected three jobs in Auckland, one to develop a database for a cattery using MS-Access (yech, but i can do it), another to automate unsubscribe functionality for a community website, and another to build an intranet of employee profiles and contact details for someone. There were many others but remote – Wellington, Canterbury, Dunedin, Christchurch, Napier, Invercargill, Hawke’s Bay.

This looked great, many ways there to be useful, especially two of them, both located in the south, near Manukau City where Colleen works, so i could easily get there as needed. I emailed the contact addresses provided, making sure to include reference numbers for each position.

That was in early September, Sunday the 6th. On Monday i packed up some stuff and drove down to the Bay of Islands for a short holiday.

On Thursday, back in Auckland, having had no response i called them. Noone knew anything about the applications sent, “…we don’t always get to read our emails…“. Also this was the first time i was offered the rationale “…you know, we’re all volunteers here…“. Ah so. Anyway, an appointment was made for Tuesday, no not next Tuesday, but for the following week, 11 days hence, “…first thing in the morning…“, which turned out to be 09h45.

On 22 September i have my appointment during which the interviewer tells me that they themselves have a proposal (with high level scope and requirements specification) for a revamp of their own website. The proposal has been lying fallow since May because they couldn’t find anyone to volunteer for this, and they were now considering actually paying for this.

She showed me the summary brief and i got very excited. This was a substantial piece of work, and i was confident i could do it, given the chance. They had an intitial deadline for middle of the year, and now late September, not having started anything they were still hoping to see something before year-end.

I volunteered straightaway. The interviewer said i would have to discuss the actual status of all this with the CEO who was away until Thursday. I was asked to call her then.

On Thursday i called their offices at around 08h30. The recorded message informed me that they were open to the public between 09h00 and 15h00. Fair enough, i called again at 09h15 and heard the same recorded message. Third call 09h35, still just this recorded fiction of their opening hours.

I called again after ten and now they were up and running, but the CEO was not yet in the office, still on her way from the airport… “… she should be in by 11h00 for our staff meeting, so she won’t be available until 13h00. Can i perhaps be of assistance?” So i told her i was keen to find out more about this need they had for a website developer, that i was qualified, that i was available, that i was volunteering, etc.

Oh yes, we’ve waiting for more than 5 years now …you know, we’re all volunteers here…, but it looks like this year something will happen. I think they are going to hire a project manager. I don’t really know the details. But do call back later.

I call back again at 13h15.

To be continued…


this is the mother…

23 September, 2009

… i flew off in June this year, ending up winded in the dust with a broken rib and bruised. Seen here with her freshly born foal. Aren’t they just beautiful.


who’s a nudnik?

23 September, 2009


Touched by the Zimbabwe sun!


14 September, 2009

I’ve been meaning to show you some of the artwork my friend Willie has been doing lately.

a lot of hair don't make a jesus

Then here’s one of my favourites from the Dark Pilgrim album.


… and a collection of 2009 work you can see here.

hellhole of the pacific

14 September, 2009

Just across the bay from Paihia and Waitangi lies the little town of Kororareka, today called Russell. Since the earliest European visitations, this settlement acquired a reputation for lawlessness and depravity. The Bay of Islands, as a safe haven from the open ocean, attracted whalers, sealers, missionaries, adventurers, land speculators, tricksters, traders in trinkets, muskets and alcohol, a host of renegades and runaways from the penal colonies of New South Wales. The missionaries, the Crown emissaries, and all other respectables clustered in Paihia and Waitangi, but the scum of the earth held sway just across the bay.

It was in Kororareka where Hone Heke cut the flagstaff down, not once, but four times in all.

the ficus in the hellhole of the pacific

the ficus in the hellhole of the pacific

Today it is a quiet pretty village with a small bay of anchored yachts, a few museums and some seriously unaffordable real estate.

There is a very handsome police station, built in 1870, and next to it an enormous ficus.

French Catholics from the recently formed Society of Mary (les Marists) built the Western Oceania mission station here in 1841-2. The main building underwent various transformations during its history, from printing press to tannery to private residence.

It is called Pompallier House today, named after the bishop who led the Catholic mission to New Zealand. He never lived there. During his time in Northland he acted on several occasions to frustrate English ascendancy in the region. Did a spot of filibustering at the Treaty signing.
It’s a little museum that demonstrates the printing and tanning activities that used to take place there.

birth of a nation

8 September, 2009

I spent three hours today at the Waitangi Treaty grounds. It’s easy to let time slip by in such a tranquil place, panoramic views of the Bay of Islands, rolling lawns, a grove of mixed plantings in a small valley, camellia, kauri, fern, oak, a real bastard mix started in the mid 19th century and looking deceptively “Urwald” original, indigenous, ancient. I imagine in mid-season the place is overrun with people, but now it’s perfect.
I came away with a copy of Paul Moons history of Hone Heke, warrior chief, military strategist, politician. Some of the old chiefs belongings are on display, including a lonhandled axe, and the attendant that took my money for the book laughed that almost everyone asks whether this is the axe, you know, the one, the one that he used to chop the flagstaff down? It isn’t, but Hone Hekes fame rests largely on that act of defiance.

There were many others.

Next… the hellhole of the pacific

up country

7 September, 2009

I am in the Bay of Islands. Drove here from Auckland this afternoon, it’s a three-and-a-half hour trip up the Northern Highway. Have just settled into a spacious motel apartment with an impressive seaview. This is Paihia, and a ten minute walk along the coast road north is Waitangi. The area is steeped in history, both Maori and Pakea.

The Northlands are the birthplace of colonization, both European and Polynesian. Maori legend has it that Maui caught a very big fish that became what we know as the North Island. The Northland peninsula is the tail of the fish.

Here in Paihia there is a mission station that dates back to 1823. Across the bay in Russell there is a printing press built by Roman Catholic missionaries (read French?) that printed forty thousand texts in Maori according to the LP guide. Needless to say, a ferry trip across there tomorrow is on the agenda.

There is an old stone church, Anglican, its noticeboard refers to both Anglican and Roman Catholic services. Sweet, only in New Zealand… 🙂

Then of course, the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed here in 1840. And a controversial document it has remained ever since.

More tomorrow.