Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Off to Otipua and Aoraki. Reflecting on Christchurch and its connection with Antarctica.

I've been in Christchurch for just over 3 days and I am heading off to Otipua, a small community west of Timaru, to stay with my daughter Anita and her three children.

After six days on the beaches in the Bay of Plenty and the bush of the Urewera region last week, I want to see the big mountains. It is only an hour and a half from Otipua to Aoraki Mount Cook so hopefully during a fine spell, I will travel to Mount Cook.

In the last few days, I have been out walking with Ruia and we have taken a few photo that I have posted below that exemplifies why I love New Zealand. Lyttelton and Christchurch have a close connection with Antarctica, and I have been reflecting a little on the 13 months I spent there many years ago. In the winter of 1970, we were the smallest group at that stage, to winter over in Antarctica.

When I walk among the ferns in the forests, I feel protected.

I think it was Shakespeare who wrote, " That time of year or when yellow leaves or none do hang.... The bare branches and falling leave tells me it is winter.

The Kowhai is my favourite native flower and I have three trees flowering in my house in Christchurch along with the daffodils and Camellias.

I love walking over the Port Hills and around Lyttelton as is a sort of 'Turangawaiwai' for me. My Father was born here, my grandfathet ran a fishing boat here, and it was the port that Shackleton and Scott departed for Antarctica.

I saw Tui in the Urewera but in Christchurch, I see only sparrows.

While strolling around the Port Hills and Godley head, I thought of those soldiers, men and women, who defended our country here and abroad. On Godley head there are many coastal defence artillery posts built in 1940. I could hear the voices of the men and women who built and kept these posts during the war years.

The entrance to Lyttelton Harbour where Scott and Shackleton departed for Antarctica. I walked over these hills on Monday. See reference below.

Morning, Discovery and Terra Nova at the Port of Lyttelton during the British Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904.

Scott and Shackleton chose the Port of Lyttelton as the New Zealand base for their Discovery, Nimrod and Terra Nova expeditions. Scott was reportedly given two choices of base for his first expedition: Melbourne and Christchurch - each of which had a magnetic observatory. He may have chosen Christchurch simply because it was closer to the Antarctic, but the presence of his cousin, R.J. Scott, a Professor of Engineering at the University of Canterbury, may also have had an influence. As in Port Chalmers, there were generous offers of goods and services from the Harbour Board and local businesses. Scott and Shackleton were rewarded with similar generosity on their subsequent expeditions, as was the Australasian Antarctic Expedition when its ship the Aurora called at Lyttelton in 1912.

Shackleton's ship Nimrod,which used Lyttelton as a base.

A 2007 study carried out by Lincoln University estimated that Antarctic-related activities directly contribute $88 million each year to the Canterbury region, with an indirect benefit of $155 million. They directly contribute $133 million to the New Zealand economy, with an indirect benefit of $282 million.
It wasn't until the initial stages of Operation Deep Freeze that Christchurch began to be heavily used again. Harewood Airport, now Christchurch International Airport, was the base for 14 of the aircraft involved in the first flights between New Zealand and the Antarctic in December 1955 (four others were based at Taieri Airport, near Dunedin), while Lyttelton was the base for seven supporting United States Navy vessels. Operation Deep Freeze was subsequently supported by many New Zealand ports, but its New Zealand base remained in Christchurch. Regular support missions continue to be flown from the airport, while the port is used to refuel and replenish supply vessels.

In 1969 as a 21 year old, I flew from Christchurch to Antarctica where I was a science technician and wintered over at Vanda Station. So Christchurch has been a departure point for me on a number of expeditions throughout the world. In 1968 before my departure to Peru on a New Zealand mountaineering expedition, I stayed with Harry, Hillary Pene and Ben Evison in their home in Scarborough. From their home we could hear the booming buoy that warned ships of danger. Two days later I left Lyttelton on a ferry to Wellington.

Christchurch has a special place in my heart's history.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Back in the bush, back in New Zealand

Back in the bush again. Kahanui stream in the Urewera. Photo: Tania McKerrow.

Misty mountains, sunlit solitudes, beaches curving to infinity, meandering rivers, towering podocarp forests, Maori on horses and living in isolated communities, a small gas station at the entrance to the valley where the owner sells fuel, repairs cars, sells food, cooks fish and chips and repairs shoes, seemingly at the same time. The red-tipped dawns, the frosty mornings, singing streams, river crossings and scrambling up hills are just some of the meories I am taking away from the Waiotahi valley, river and beach where I have been exploring for the last six days. What made it so warm and was having my daughter and seven week old daughter Aliyah with me most of the time.

Early morning on the Waiotahi River. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Just over 8 months ago I had total knee replacements in both legs and since then I have been building up to walking 7 km and later 10 km a day. My trip in the Urewera region was an opportunity to see if my new knees would be able to take me up hills, along bush tracks and cross rivers again. I should have never doubted Ed Newman's skills. They carried me where ever I wished to go.

The Waiotahi valley is a remote Maori region inhabited by Tuhoe and Whakatoea, On Saturday afternoon when I was cycling from the road end down to where I am staying I saw at least ten children walking between farms. All were Maori. Two of guys who work at the centre, Barlow, Whakatoea and Richie, Tuhoe, run the farm and are storehouses of Maoritanga. Their main marae is at the entrance to the Waiotaha valley.

Tania told me how she stopped at a gas station near Opotiki a week ago and watched 10 Maori teenagers ride up on horses. Horse riding is in the blood here and most oi the hunting is done from horses as the dogs flush the pigs and deer from the ridges down in to the vallies where they are shot.
On Sunday I watched Ritchie and his relatives catching a runaway horse. Horses are their main form of transportation in the eastern foothills of the Urerewa.

During my six days in the hills and forests we went down tro Waiotahi Beach and neighbouring beaches and bays.

Ohiwa Harbour. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Bread, parcels or mail. Take your pick. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Ohiwa Harbour. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Whale island from Waiotahi beach. Photo: Bob McKerrow

That broad arc of the Bay of Plenty. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Tania pushing 7 week old Aliyah along Waiotahi beach

Monday 27 July

It is right in front of you, raw elemental landscapes. Welcome home.

I am leaving today for Christchurch via Whakatane and Auckland. We drove down the Waiotahi valley to the sea shore then past Ohiwa harbour, Ohope Beach, Ohope and to Whakatane for breakfast. Scrambled eggs and ham in a croissant. That coastline is superb. Flew from Whakatane, saw White Island, near Tauranga and saw Waiheke Island as we prepared for a landing in Auckland. “This is my land and I am firmly rooted in it,” wrote Albert Wendt. Today as we flew down the North Island, I felt I owned this country. Sprawling Auckland, Port Waikato and the Waikato river, Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngarahoe were plastered white and stood out proudly. Over a teal coloured Taranaki Bight, and then beneath Mount Taranaki.

All the ranges and ridges of the lower north island were covered with fresh snow. the Tararua. Ruahine, Orongaronga. The islands of Kapiti and Mana were visible.

Then it was home across the Cook Strait to Malborough and Canterbury. The Southern Alps were gleaming white.

From Godley Head looking across to Christchurch. Photo: Bob McKerrow

As soon as I unpacked my bags, my daughter Ruia took me to the hills and we walked down tg Godley Head.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

In the Urewera

Waiotahi River

I am in the heart of Whakatoea and Tuhoe country. The Tuhoe, that Maori tribe made famous by the book ‘Children of the Mist’ by Elsdon Best, a people who repulsed British incursion into their remote lands.. This is a land of legends, spirits, remote forests, misty mountains and crystal clear streams which run to the mighty Pacific Ocean.

It is Thursday, having arrived in Auckland last Monday, 20 July.

My daughter Tania and her husband Al, and 2 month old baby Aliyah live here on the nabks of the Waiotahi river. Al is deputy Director of the Kahunui Outdoor centre, which runs outdoor courses for teenage high school students from Auckland.

I left Tauranga about 1 pm yesterday afternoon and travelled in south easterly direction, into the Bay of Plenty passing Te Puke, Matata and into Whakatane where we stopped to stock up on food for the week, and I bought myself a pair of hiking boots. From Whakatane the road climbs up over a spur and then one gets a marvellous view of Ohope beach. Pohoutakawa trees dot the roadside.

Then down into Waiotahi beach where they sell fresh and cooked oysters, produced on an oyster farm in Ohiwa island, A matter of a hundred yards off shore is the island of Ohakana. This is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in the North Island.

My daughter Tania and her husband Al live about an hour away from here at Kahunui, up the Waiotahi River in the forests of Urewera

On arrival yesterday afternoon Tania was excited to get a big parcel of new nappies (diapers) by post. They are cloth an quick drying, and more environmentally friendly than disposable ones. Then she said, “ Dad, do you mind getting your feet wet ? “ Never one to miss and adventure I replied, “ Why not?”

She slung Aliyah onto her front with a piece of cloth and headed up the road we walked up a stream and waded through its icy cold waters. Aliyah started crying and was hungry. Tania put her to her breast, tightend the cloth sling, and crossed the river again. We walked another 20 minutes or so crossing the stream at least five more times, all the time admiring the Podocarp forests.

Soon we came across a group of twenty or so students, who were on a survival course. Al and two other instructors were there. They had made shelters out of any dead material they could find, and together with one piece of plastic, had a home for the night. One young women proudly showed me the bivouac she had made.

I was so happy to be in the forests again. Being there with my daughter, grand daughter and her strapping Father Al, brought a dimension I have never had before. Three generations in the forests. I thought of my great father who explored the forests, mountains, rivers and lakes of Otago and Fiordland almost 150 years ago. Six generations of McKerrows have been in the forests and mountains of NZ.

Harp Tree up Kahunui Stream

Pohutakawa Tree in Ohiwa Harbour

Low tide at Ohiwa Harbour

Kahunui Centre

Stand of Kahikatea

Waiotahi river

With daughters and grand children in Tauranga. Tania holding Aliyah left and Kira right, holding Leith. I am in the middle. (all photos taken by Tania Burns)

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Harry Watson -Kiwi in the Tour de France

The great Harry Watson

I am leaving in a hour or two for a one month holiday In New Zealand I have children and grand children to visit, remote places to visit, and of course my growing love, cycling. With the Tour de France on it is time to be inspired by the world's greatest sporting event. I plan to do quite a lot of cycling and feel so inspired by the feats of the legendary Harry watson. It was you Jamie who introduced me to Harry Watson. Thanks !

I suppose it was Dad that first got me interested in cycling. In our cellar was his old black roadster bicycle with double forks. My Dad, Jim McKerrow, used to tell me the story of he and a friend cycling from Christchurch to Dunedin on gravel roads somewhere around 1928, when Harry Watson was competing in 'le Tour.'

When New Zealander Haydon Roulston got third on the stage last night in the Tour de France, I thought of that brave cyclist Kiwi Harry Watson who finished 26 th overall in 1928.

His bicycle had become a crutch. Leaning against it, he gazed up the twisty mountain road that lead to Col du Galiber (2556 metres). Behind him, 3500 kilometres of France had passed beneath his tyres. Ahead, almost 2000 kilometres remained. It was too far. Most competitors had already pulled out, leaving him to trail the Tour's field of survivors. Yet despite saddle sores, diarrhoea and chronic fatigue, he struggled on.

The 1928 Tour de France was almost a perfect 5377-kilometre outline
of France. In 1928, New Zealand's professional road cycling champion, Harry Watson, joined the first English speaking team to take part in the Tour de France. He was only 24 years old, and despite his team being unfairly handicapped by bizarre race rules, Watson managed to finish 28th in general classification.

The 1928 Tour de France was almost a perfect 5377-kilometre outline of France. Here the lead riders pass through the city of Sete on the

Armed with the experience gained in France, Harry returned home and proceeded to set race records that lasted long after he retired. He pioneered the use of derailleurs and tubular tyres in New Zealand road racing and between 1929 and 1935 won seven national road championships in succession, a record that has not been achieved by any other rider since.

How have other New Zealanders fared in the Tour de France ?

The only stage win by a New Zealander in the Tour de France was a team time trial. Although Chris Jenner didn't finish with the core of his Credit Agricole team, he is still credited as sharing the stage win - he got to stand on the podium that day.

Few New Zealand riders have completed the world's greatest cycle race. The first was Harry Watson, who in 1928 was part of a four-main 'down-under' team. The team was supposed to have ten riders, but their six European teamates failed to show - a major handicap given that 15 of the stages were over 380 kms long. Watson still managed

Our highest-placed Tour rider ever was Tino Tabak, who finished 18th overall in 1972. Eric McKenzie completed four Tours in the early 1980s, finishing third in one stage. Nathan Dahlberg (1988), Stephen Swart (1994, 1995) and Julian Dean (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008) are the other New Zealand finishers.

Dean has gained a reputation as one of the best lead-out men in the world, helping set up his team's fastest rider as they reach speeds of up to 80 km/hr before crossing the finishing line in the frantic and dangerous sprint stages. In 2009 he is a member of the Garmin-Slipstream team working for the young American sprinter Tyler Farrar. If he completes the Tour he will be the first New Zealand rider to achieve this five times. Another first in 2009 is to have two riders in the Tour peleton, the other being Haydon Roulston on the Cervelo Test Team.

Chris Jenner retired from professional racing in 2004. Apart from his Tour stage, he won the overall Le Télégramme in 2002, two stages and the overall of the Tour of Wellington in 2001, as well as stages in the Tour de l'Ain and Tour de l'Avenir in 1999.

So let's raise a glass to Harry Watson, that great New zea;and cyclist and let's hop Haydon Roulston can win a stage on the current Tour de France.

And if you want to read more about Harry I can recommend New Zealand Cycling Legends 2: Harry Watson - The Mile Eater by Jonathan Kennett. For those of you who are interested, who were the other great 'pre 2nd World war cyclists ?

Bill Pratney

Long before Le Mond or Armstrong defied death, Maori rider Bill Pratney was left for dead after an horrendous racing accident in 1930. Two road races using the same Auckland course in opposite directions, one amateur and one cash, collided on a corner. One rider died and Pratney appeared lifeless. Fortunately someone noticed his hand twitch and he was carted off to hospital where he remained for three weeks. He came back to win a championship title in every distance up to 120 miles, and he just kept on going. "Bye Bye Bill" was his nickname, as he had a fearsome finishing sprint. After competing in the Australian Masters Games in 1995, the 87 year old Pratney rode 900 laps of the Brisbane velodrome to raise money for bibles. Unstoppable.

Nathaniel Hall

‘Nat' Hall was one of New Zealand's greatest penny farthing cyclists. By the end of summer 1890, he held five national ‘path racing' records ranging from ¼ to 20 miles and all the national championship titles. In July 1890, The Canterbury Times reported: "Well does he deserve all that he has won for in every race that I have seen him ride he has ridden as a gentleman should and never have I seen him guilty of any of the ‘tricks of the path' ... to the disadvantage of a rival competitor."

George Sutherland

In 1896, at 18 years of age, George Sutherland won three national track titles in one afternoon. The next year he won them all, and was still winning national titles ten years later. After several years thrashing both the local competition and visiting international stars, he crossed the Tasman and took fastest time in the Sydney 1000. He also raced at the 1900 World Championships in Paris and at the 1900 Olympic Games as part of a British team in a demonstration event.

Jack Arnst

One of the famous Arnst sporting family, Jack was a champion on both road and track between 1903 and 1910. He gained fastest time in the 1903 Timaru to Christchurch and the Warnnambool to Melbourne. He also gained fastest time in the 1909 Timaru to Christchurch, but was later disqualified for accepting pace from his brother, Arnst, who had earlier pulled out of the race. Many racers were disqualified for minor infringements of the rules that year. He went on to set long distance cycling records, including the Christchurch to Dunedin in 12 hours and 21 minutes.

Phil O'Shea

O'Shea was the champion of champions. He reigned supreme on the road from 1911 to 1923, winning both New Zealand and Australian championships. He was also a master of the track, dominating local riders to such and extent that overseas champions were imported to provide him with serious competition. His popularity lasted long after he had retired from cycling, and even in the 1960s newspapers were claiming that he was New Zealand's greatest cyclist. He is the subject of a biography written by the Kennett Brothers in 2005 called Phil O'Shea - wizard on wheels.

Hubert Turtill

Hubert Turtill's cycling career started at the age of 13. By 1934, he had won every New Zealand cash track title and had moved on to race in Australia. He won a number of Australasian Championship titles before heading to Europe. His racing dreams on the Continent were foiled by the outbreak of the Second World War. When he retireed from racing, Turtill settled in Christchurch as a bike builder.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Hotel bombings in Jakarta

Red Cross volunteers remove a body from the JW Marriot hotel.

This morning I got a phone call at 07.43 a.m. from my colleague Javier, saying, " I heard an explosion and just looked out the window and I can see smoke pouring out of the Marriot Hotel."

Within minutes the Indonesian Red Cross Society had deployed seven ambulances and 42 disaster response volunteers and paramedics.
Those volunteers have been providing first aid and other humanitarian support at both locations, as well as at hospitals where the injured have been transported.

PMI volunteers preparing a stretcher to carry out the injured to hospital.

Volunteers from the Indonesian Red Cross Society responded immediatedly.

"Our medical team evacuated five injured people from JW Marriot Hotel to the hospital," says Rukman, a senior disaster management officer with the Indonesian Red Cross Society, which is known domestically at Palang Merah Indonesia (PMI).

Two restoring family links teams are working with hospitals to identify those who were lost or injured so that families can be informed. PMI also responded to requests from hospitals for Rhesus A-Negative blood for survivors, and is coordinating with the expatriate emergency blood donor committee to be ready in mobilizing volunteers with Rhesus A-Negative blood type if required.

The PMI (Indonesian Red Cross) were on the scene quickly working with the Police after the bomb blasts.

As soon as I arrived at work this morning I switched on the TV and watched the drama unfolding while dealing with international media from Australia, Bangkok, London and Oslo.

I met the Chairman and Secretary General PMI and offered help.

Later in the day our Disaster Management Coordinator Wayne Ulrich de-briefed the brave PMI emergency teams when they returned to HQ. It is no easy task attending to the injured and removing dead bodies after a bomb blast. They desribed gruesome scenes to Wayne. Adding to the pressure and uncertainty is always the chance of another blast. i really admire these gutsy volunteers.

I was saddened to read that one of the foreigners killed was a New Zealander, Tim Mackay whose photo is above. He is one of nine people killed when bombs went off at the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott hotels in Jakarta. Mr Mackay, 62, had gone to the Marriott Hotel for a business meeting.
Thirteen other foreigners were among 50 injured in the blasts, the Associated Press reported.
The facade was ripped off the Ritz in the powerful blasts.
A further unexploded bomb has since been found at the Marriott Hotel, Indonesian police said.

Last night (Thursday night) I was invited out to a dinner in one of the top Jakarta hotels for a farewell party for a senior UN leader. Some top politicians were there for the three hour function. As I was carefully checked by security officials, a thoughi crossed through my mind, " we could so readily be targets here."

When your number is up, its up!

Thanks to Jasom Smith IFRC, KL and PMI for permission to use photos.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Just got back from a field trip in Aceh, and later, From survivor to volunteer.

The village of Mate Ie, in Aceh Jaya district of Aceh province. We visited this village to monitor the integrated community development approach of the Canadian Red Cross. Note the transitional shelter attached to the rear of the house. The villagers lived in the transitional shelters for 3 years while their permanent house was being built. Photo: Bob McKerrow

It's been an amazing journey south of Banda Aceh to inspect a number of the 40,000 houses built by the Red Cross in Aceh after the tragic Tsunami operation of late 2004. We visited many of the 4000 houses built by the Canadian Red Cross along 75 km of coastline between Lamno, to south of Calang.

I travelled with Nina Nobel and Menaka Tennekon, from our Tsunami office in Kuala Lumpur, and Ebrahim Faghihi who runs our Tsunami recovery operation in Aceh.

I have worked more than four and a half years on the Red Cross tsunami operation in India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and for the last three years have been in charge of the Red Cross Tsunami operation in Indonesia.

Above, Iskander, the village chief (left) at Lho Kruet talking to me in front of his new house and new village. Meneka looks on. She is our legal advisor for the tsunami. Here the Canadian Red Cross have built 3480 houses, with each house having a clean water supply and state of the art toilets. In addition to livelihood, risk reduction, gender. Photo: Galal
From left to right: Ebrahim Faghihi, Abdel Gadir Galal, Bob McKerrow, Menaka Tennekon, Nina Nobel, and the house owners, mother, father and daughter right. A Canadian Red Cross staff member in front. The name of the village is Kareng Ateuh

Photo: Galal

I feel a great sense of pride when I monitor the work done by our various member Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in Aceh and Nias. It is a truly integrated community development programme with permanent houses, transitional shelters placed at the back for extra space, quality water supply, toilets, community centres, schools, clinics, livelihoods and power supply. We have built back better and beneficiary satisfaction is very high. The Indonesian Red Cross have trained villagers in risk reduction and first aid, so with earthquake resistant houses that can withstand floods, this is part of a wider risk reduction programme.

We also had a look at the municipal water supply in Calang built by the American Red Cross and inaugurated last month. This is another high quality programme bringing clean water and sanitation to 6000 people.

I have travelled this coast line over 15 times and never tire of the beauty. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Each visit I make, I find some outstanding red cross worker. On this trip, Abdel Gadir Galal impressed me beyond expectations. Born in the Sudan, Galal has a strong community development background and has worked in the Tsunami operation since the beginning. He has supervised the construction of 4000 Canadian Red Cross houses, and the other integrated components of water and sanitation, community centres, roads, drainage, livelihoods and community activities. As we walked about the villages everyone greets Galal with a broad smile. He replies in fluent Bahasa. It is our delegates like Galal who live in these remote corners of Indonesia, and their Indonesian Red Cross counterparts, who are the unsung heroes of this massive operation. I salute you Galal !

Now its back to reality. A heap of mud splattered clothing in my suit case, a report to write, consultants and staff to meet and paper piled high in my in-tray and 200 emails wanting an answer. This is the price of travelling and talking to the recepients of our work.

I just had a look at our website and saw this article written by Nanda Aprilia from the American Red Cross

Cut Resmi at her home in Banda Aceh. Photo: American Red Cross

Banda Aceh: From survivor to volunteer

When the tsunami came, Cut Resmi was planting flowers in the yard of her home in Banda Aceh. The waves swept away one of her two children and destroyed her house, leaving Cut, her husband and their surviving son homeless. After the disaster, Cut says she was devastated and felt nearly hopeless.

“I gave up and never imagined that we would have a home again,” she says. “I just tried to think about my son, who was still very young and needed me to be strong.”

Cut and her family found refuge in temporary barracks built for individuals displaced by the disaster. Soon after their arrival, the American Red Cross and Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) psychosocial support programme began providing support to survivors in the area.

Support networks

Early on, the programme focused on barracks and temporary living centres to provide help for those who needed it most - survivors like Cut who had lost nearly everything in the tsunami and were separated from the traditional support networks of friends, family and neighbours that enable individuals cope with and overcome tragedy.

Along with several fellow residents, Cut took part in activities focused on helping affected individuals to cope. Altogether, the American Red Cross and PMI provided emotional support to more than 30,000 survivors like Cut in the six months following the disaster.

Actively engaged in community life before the tsunami, Cut soon became a community psychosocial facilitator, helping to organize supportive activities within the barracks and providing solace to those who were still grieving.

Heal from the trauma
“Survivors really needed this kind of assistance,” she says. “It allowed us to come together and begin to heal from the trauma, even while we were still unsure about the future and mourning those we had lost.”

Four years later, she and her family have moved into a new home on the land where their old village once stood. Cut has started a small business selling clothes and remains active in her community. So when the American Red Cross and PMI community-based first aid (CBFA) programme began in her village, she was eager to get involved.

The programme addresses the longer-term health needs of tsunami-affected individuals through outreach and education about emergency first aid as well as common health threats. The disaster destroyed more than 400 health facilities and displaced or killed nearly a third of all health workers in Aceh, further weakening a healthcare system strained by nearly three decades of conflict.

Preventable diseases

Though significant progress has been made in restoring health services, many, especially those in rural areas, remain unable to access basic health care. Preventable diseases such as dengue and malaria remain common and are all too often fatal.

As a health volunteer, Cut feels empowered to educate her friends and neighbours about health risks and how to avoid them. For several hours a week, she visits fellow villagers in their homes and discusses common health issues in their community.

In total, the programme will train volunteers like Cut to educate individuals in 140 villages in Banda Aceh, Aceh Jaya, Sabang and Bireuen.

Life and death

“Other mothers often ask me questions about their children, about nutrition or about how to detect if there is a serious problem, like dengue,” Cut says. “I am glad that I can provide information and help people, as it could be a matter of life and death.”

Through first aid and other emergency training, Cut says she feels prepared if there is another disaster.

“Before, I would have been scared and might have panicked,” she says. “But now I know exactly what to do if some is seriously hurt and needs assistance.”

Sunday, 5 July 2009

A pie cart shaped my life - Now an endangered species

It was at a pie cart in this North Island town in 1957 that New Zealand rock ’n’ roll was born, at the hands of a country singer., Johny Cooper

“It’s about running different lines, sharper angles and reconnecting with the rest of the backs,” explained Jim Western using salt and pepper shakers as players, knives for the angles on the pie cart counter. Sometimes he would use sauce bottles to demonstrate moves near the goal posts. Jim was a rugby guru.

This morning I woke up thinking of pie carts, especially the one in Dunedin that was run by Jim Western, not far from the Exchange in Rattray Street, Dunedin, on the road to the wharf.
Pie carts have served cheap hot food to travellers and locals nationwide since the 1930s, and they've been the repository of countless untold stories and is an indelible part of Kiwi culture,

Ping, Ping the China man Henry Leong serves the long-haired crowd in 1975. Image Daily News. Copy from Puke Ariki Pictorial Collection TS2006_1003.

Jim Western was a master of back play strategies and when it was quiet in the pie cart, he would show us attacking strategies.

Jim Western and his pie cart shaped my life as a teenager and the lives of a few other young rugby players and athletes who gathered there to hear Jim’s wisdom. Jim spoke pure wisdom whether on rugby, athletics, or how to live your life, or politics. Jim had pure mana. Mana of the highest order. He also made the best Pea Pie and Pud in the South Island in the mid to late sixties. He could also serve up a delicious steak, onions, eggs and chips.

I used to visit Jim’ pie cart quite often as my good friend Duncan Robertson worked there in the weekends. Duncan and I played rugby at High Street School, at King Edward Technical College and at Zingari Richmond. Duncan later went to to be an outstanding All Black. I also dined at Jim’s pie cart with another All Black, Keith Murdoch, in 1967 after a match between Eastern (Palmerston and Waikouwai-iti) and Zingari, played at Palmerston. Keith drove me home in his Mini minor that night, and we stopped at the pie cart for a feed, before heading to the Ravensbourne pub. Jim would pass on his knowledge freely to those who wanted to learn, but would be tough on anyone who broke his rules. He was afraid of no one.Jim's pie cart was a house of learning, a storehouse of treasures and food.

At the age of 15, I was curious to know who were these painted women who would come in to the pie cart, usually dragging heavily on a top brand filter tip. When I asked him, Jim said matter of factly, "they make their money working on ships down the road at the wharf."

When Jim dcecided it was time to close the pie cart, he would shout loudly, "Time Gentlemen and let's drop the sides." A woman just fresh off a ship eating a pie and coffee replied, "Not on your life darling, you are not going to get me to drop my strides in here."

It was always fun to be there when Jim dropped the sides, and he'd invite me in for a cup of tea, before driving home. You were the only one that mattered when Jim Western spoke to you. He cared about you, could see your potential, and would try to help you in any way possible.

While searching the web for more information on Pie Carts I came across a new book entitled The Great New Zealand Pie Cart, co-authored by Lindsay Neill, Claudia Bell and Ted Bryant, has gathered the history, characters and anecdotes from the past and present for a nostalgic taste of what the authors call "Cafe de Kerb".
Neill and his co-authors describe the pie carts as an endangered species, disappearing as the range of cheap eats continues to diversify, with a huge range of ethnic eateries and franchised fast-food now part of the mix. Neill reckons nationwide "you could nail them (pie carts) to the fingers of two hands". Although with the book's publication next month, he's cheerfully expecting to stand corrected, and will no doubt be contacted by people saying "why didn't you do our cart?"
Neill says pie carts are a great social leveller, where everyone from "stock brokers to down-and-outs" gets the same service, the same basic value-for-money food, and a face-to-face meeting with their hosts and cooks. Neill's cart-as-common-denominator theory is perfectly expressed in the photograph on the book's back cover of a Mongrel Mob member in full regalia queuing at a cart with a bunch of young women beautifully groomed for a ball.

Johnny Cooper – 'The Maori cowboy'
New Zealand music wouldn’t have been the same without Wanganui. It was at a pie cart in this North Island town in 1957 that New Zealand rock ’n’ roll was born, at the hands of a country singer.

Johnny Cooper grew up on a farm in Wairoa where he played guitar to the shearing gangs. He became known as ‘the Maori cowboy’, crooning country ballads with his band, the Range Riders, which was formed in 1952.

It was Cooper's third rock ’n’ roll recording – ‘Pie cart rock’n’roll’ (1957) – that took him into local music history. Cooper often had a meal at the Wanganui pie cart late at night after a talent quest or dance. The menu was basic: pea, pie and pud, with a choice of takeaway or dining in by perching on the narrow seats in the hot and stuffy carts. It was there one night that Cooper told the pie cart proprietors, Arthur and Geraldine Dalley, that he’d write a song about their cart. ‘Pie cart rock’n’roll’ was born and, with it, New Zealand's first home-grown rock 'n' roll song.

Pie Cart Charlie

When Pie Cart Charlie died in late 2002, the Chrischurch Press paid tribute to him.
Dukes and drifters, mayors and merry- makers -- all in a night's work for Pie Cart Charlie.
From a central city pie cart, Charles Herrett dished up pea, pie, and pud to all and won their lasting affection.
Mr Herrett died last week after a long illness. An era might have ended when the last cart was towed into the rising sun, but as long as Pie Cart Charlie was around, the memory lingered.
He could tell of Old Barney, who helped set up the cart in Cathedral Square each evening in return for four cold pies. He could tell of famous customers -- the Duke of Edinburgh, singers Howard Morrison and Gracie Fields, and actor Sir Ralph Richardson. Former Christchurch Mayor Neville Pickering was a frequent visitor.

On the job in 1975 - the lovely Daisy Lee. Image Daily News. Copy from Puke Ariki Pictorial Collection TS2006_1001

Pie cart on Ariki Street, New Plymouth
For more than 25 years, Ping's Pie Cart stood on a vacant lot next to the Army Stores on Ariki Street and served hot nosh to late night diners. After midnight, Ping became the most popular man in town.

Most of his patrons on Friday or Saturday night would head first to the pictures at the State, the Regent, the Opera House or Mayfair, before heading to the back bar of the Royal for a sly after-hours pint.

Or there would be a dance to rock up to, first at the Trades Hall and later at the War Memorial Hall or the Star Gym. And after all that socialising, there was always the stop at Ping's for pea, pie and pud.

If Ping was world famous in New Plymouth, then Henry Leong, Ping's cousin, and Daisy Lee, Ping's niece, weren't far behind. For years they worked the counter, first with Ping and then without him when Ping retired and Henry took over the business.

Henry was a small man too, but according to Jock Ross, a young constable at the time, he would have made a brilliant policeman. "The man could pour oil on troubled waters as easily as tomato sauce on pies."

Even today, Henry Leong has a fresh, infectious laugh despite the fact he's old enough to have retired many Peking moons ago. "I worked at the pie cart for 14 years, on and off," he says. "From 16 to 30."

Daisy Lee

If Ping, Henry and Daisy are remembered as "lovely, lovely people," then there's no doubt that Daisy was the loveliest of all.

Rumour has it the young men, who worked directly across the road at the Social Security Department, would wander into the typing pool late in the day, not to chat up the typists but to stand on tip-toe at the window, trying to catch a glimpse of Daisy with her beehive hairdo and her short-short mini skirts.

To Daisy, those days seem a hundred years ago. "I was only young, for God's sake," she giggles." It's not surprising she was such a stand-out babe back then because, in 2006, she still has the figure, the hair, the smile. And she's still in the food industry, serving customers with her customary charm at Aromas Café in Devon St.

Pie carts such as Tokoroa's (between 50-60 years old) have served untold numbers of meals to travellers and locals, and they've been the repository of countless untold stories. (see photo above)
The Tokoroa cart has its own chapter, trawling the memories of the Hoeflich family who owned it for two periods over about 30 years, involving Diana and the late Hans Hoeflich and their daughter Liebling. The cart is described in the book as "the family heirloom", but the family's circumstances have changed and last week the Hoeflichs sold the business to their friend Judith McCloskey.
"Mum's always been the main woman, the driving force, the pie cart's been like one of her children," Liebling Hoeflich says. "But it's made it much easier to move on knowing it was in good hands. I don't think Mum would have sold to someone she didn't know."
The Tokoroa caravan has not been without its ups and downs. A few years ago it narrowly escaped damage from a lightning strike on a nearby oak tree, and during the 1990s there was a local outcry, and a petition of protest, when some town councillors sought the cart's closure. Liebling says there is now "wonderful support" from South Waikato District Council. "They've been very good to us in the past few years."

I am returned to New Zealand in two weeks times and I am looking forward to buying a copy of The Great New Zealand Pie Cart, co-authored by Lindsay Neill, Claudia Bell and Ted Bryant.

If there is anyone out there with a photo of the Dunedin Pie cart, or better still, one of Jim Western, I would love a copy.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

New water supply and a Kiwi cop in Aceh

"We have clean water in our village now," says a young boy in Calang.

Last week I spent time in Aceh province where the Red Cross has completed almost 40,000 houses. Most of the houses have high quality water and santitations systems.
Children from Calang showing an interest in the workings of the pumping station. Photo: American Red Cross
One of the main reasons for going to Aceh was to inaugurate the Calang City Integrated water supply and sanitation system built by the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross has been working with communities and the municipal authorities in Calang City to construct a new water supply and sanitation system. Calang was almost wiped off the map when the boxing day Tsunami hit in 2004 and few people were left alive.

One of the many islands that dot the coastline of Aceh province, Indonesia. Photo: Bob McKerrow

We flew from Banda Aceh to Calang in a Cessna 206 last Thursday morning and were delighted to be able to inspect the water supply and sanitation system that benefits 1,440 families and supports the water needs of over 6,000 people living there. I talked to a number of householders and they were thrilled to have not only a new Red Cross built house, but excellent water and sanitation systems.

Inspecting the holding tanks and pumping station of the American Red Cross water system in Calang, Photo: American Red Cross

The project has involved constructing a brand new water supply system channeling water from Alue Sundak stream direct to homes and expanding an existing water treatment plant at Krueng Sabee River to accommodate the water needs of the entire city.
Shaking hands with the Bupati (district chief) at the inauguration of the American Red Cross integrated water supply system in Calang. Pak Iyang Sukandar secretary general of Indonesian Red Cross (l) and myself centre in the dark shirt. Photo: American Red Cross

I have about 100 foreign and nearly 1600 Indonesian staff working for me here in Indonesia and nearly all are hard working and highly committed. I am very proud of the work we are collectively achieving. One person and am very proud of is Jodye, a NZ policewoman who is in charge of security. Here is an article about Jodye Tomalin from the Waikato Times:

Daily kidnap threats are just part and parcel of the job for Tokoroa policewoman Jodye Tomalin, now based in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

Miss Tomalin, who took up a 12-month position as security co-ordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement (IFRC) in April, said her staff had to always be on high alert.

"Banda is quite good at the moment, but you have always got to be aware," she said.

She has to oversee the security of 1600 staff, making sure she knows where they are at all times and the risks associated with travelling to certain areas.

"You can't let your guard down because we get daily reports of kidnappings. Things can happen at any time. So I have to try to keep an eye on everyone."

Banda Aceh is the capital city of the Aceh province which had been ravaged by 30 years of civil war before the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami hit, killing more than 100,000 Acehnese.

A peace agreement was signed months after the disaster and things have been relatively quiet ever since.

"(The Acehnese) are an amazing group of people and are just so positive about the future."

Miss Tomalin, who has been a constable in the New Zealand police force for 11 years and was serving in Rotorua before she shipped out, said working for the Red Cross was very different to policing. "Here it's more about education and making the staff aware of their own security."

This is the first time Miss Tomalin has worked for the Red Cross.

She was inspired to get involved with the organisation after a six-month deployment in East Timor with the New Zealand police in 2007.

"It was a fantastic experience. Our contingent was so well respected. The Timorese had a bit more respect for us as Kiwis than they did the Australians. I think because the way we come across is different to other countries.

"I just loved the whole living in a developing country thing."

Head of Delegation for the IFRC in Indonesia, Kiwi Bob McKerrow, said Miss Tomalin was doing a great job.

"She's good. Really good. I had to fight to get her though because people said 'she can't work in Aceh because she's a woman and it's a Muslim society'.

"But Jodye has gone in and done a good job. She's a tough Kiwi policewoman."

Miss Tomalin grew up in Tokoroa and started her policing career there. She also worked for 18 months in Putaruru and six months in Motueka, before working in Rotorua.

Thanks to NICOLA BRENNAN - Waikato Times for permission to use this article.