NZ South Island – The West Coast: A Step Back in Time

I am writing this blog post in Sydney, Australia. I am obviously behind but I am having trouble finding the time and energy. I am sitting on a patio just down the street from our very small apartment in Potts Point and drinking a long black coffee. A Sydney post will come later.

The South Island Story

From Queenstown, Bruce and I rented a car and set off on our own up the West Coast of the South Island. Bruce’s driving on the left hand side of the road is getting better and the South Island is a good place to practice becuase there are no busy cities. I have fallen in love with Google Maps and it now gets us everywhere we need to go – stress free 🙂

We chose the West Coast because the scenery is spectacular and because it isn’t as busy  with tourists – both things we love. What we didn’t anticipate was the things that go with rather remote, rural areas:

  • Very limited access to the internet, and mostly dial-up. Oh my! This is an issue because I am still trying to get a book chapter done and finalize things for my time at the Australian university
  • Limited interesting eating options – we don’t eat dinner out that much but we love fun happy hour snacks. 

Can’t have it all! The nature was spectacular. Here was our route and some highlights:

1. Haast Pass – This spectacular drive through the mountains that goes along Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. Our first night was at the top of the pass in Makarora, just outside Mount Aspiring National Park. A very simple cabin with an amazing view of the mountains all around. Access to wifi cost $10 for 500 MB (which I used up in about 10 minutes becuase I hadn’t closed the apps running in the background). Definitely a big step back in technology time.

2. Frank Josef (town and glacier) – Even though this was billed as very touristy, it wasn’t at all by North American standards. Walking up to the glacier was an incredible walk through the ages. The glacier is quickly receding and local businesses predict that the tourist business here will be in trouble in the next 20 years. In Frank Josef we actually stayed in a motel unit in a backpackers lodge (that was all that was in our price range). I was quite worried but it was a positive experience (for one night :). There was a nice feel amongst all the young backpackers, it was quiet at a reasonable hour, and there was wifi (shared but reasonable for e-mail).

3. Hokitika – The beach here is know for its driftwood art and was amazing – not busy, beautiful sunsets (my favorite), great for walking, beautiful rocks (collected a few). Our unit was steps from the beach and I enjoyed some great down time (except when a creepy guy bothered me when I was reading and no one else was around so I had to pack up and leave). Too bad.

Learning and Growth

  • The World is Spectacular – The South Island of New Zealand is absolutely spectacular. There are so many corners of it that I would still love to explore. We are blessed to be able to experience it.
  • Progress – Yes or No! Although we often wish for simpler times, I realize that I really like my high speed internet and my wine bars. Nature is awesome! But so are some of our urban pleasures. 
  • In Hokitika, we talked to some local business people and they don’t really want progress – they like it just the way it is.

What are the urban pleasures and conveniences that you would have trouble doing without for more than a week?


The next post will be about our “pursuit of the ultimate adventure” in our last stretch on the South Island. 

Queenstown NZ – Nature’s Majesty – Oh My!

IMG_20170304_093838He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains.
(Psalm 95:4 )

The Story

My niece’s Kiwi husband had never IMG_20170302_192009been to Queenstown and Milford Sound so
we decide to do this trip with the four of us. Oh My!

Many reviews of the Milford Sound excursions describe it as bucket list material and it certainly is. The views everywhere are absolutely amazing.

We flew down from Auckland and started our five day tour of the Queenstown area, which is surrounded by mountains. A view from the top of the  gondola on the first night was spectacular enough. The next day we drove to Te Anau (2 hours) and went to Milford Sound from there. Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) is another 2 hours drive from Te Anau and is one of many fjords (the most 20160620_045842accessible) on the southwestern coast. Our morning drive from Te Anau into Milford Sound had unbelievable views of mountains all around, probably some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen.

After much deliberation as to  which tour (of many) to book,  we had chosen a smaller boat and an excursion that included kayaking. It was a good choice. – no tour bus, friendly personal staff, kayaking in small groups, great views, and extra time in the sound with the kayaking. As. you will see in Bruce’s video,  it was spectacular.

Bruce’s video of Piopiotahi –

On our final day in the Queenstown area we did a bike ride along the Queenstown Trail inIMG_20170305_131841 the Gibbstown area which had 6 wineries on route. Needless to say our group was a little light headed on the return ride – uphill and against the wind – cruel. Another spectacular afternoon.

Learning and Growth

  • The incredible majesty of nature, not just its immensity but also its existence for thousands/millions of years reminds us of how our human existence is temporary and rather small in the big scheme of things. I feel very blessed to be able to experience the grandeur in this part of the world.
  • Re accommodations: Booking accommodations for me is quite a stressful part of travelling since I need to sleep well if I am going to enjoy the days’ activities. Things I have learned about  booking accommodations in NZ are:

1) (recommended by my 30 something step children)) was very good because most places give you the option of cancelling up to a few days ahead in case you find something better or change your plans. This worked quite well since I could book things from home knowing we had something and could spend more time looking if I had a chance.
2) Book a Bach. (Recommended by my 20 something niece) is an airbandb type site for New Zealand.  The accommodations are really like cottages though so quite basic. I think I prefer the airbandb standards.
3) Accommodation is expensive in NZ so with a budget of $150 a night and wanting the option of being able to cook our own food – and if possible a separate sleeping area –  we are staying mostly in one-bedroom motel style units with a kitchenette. Everywhere we have stayed has had comfortable beds with nice bedding. Everything else about the units has been fairly basic but has met our needs.

What are your strategies and tips for booking decent and reasonable accommodation in places you have never been to before?

  • Re Travel planning: I suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). This was a label my niece gave to the state that I experience when I am travelling and get quite uptight about “the plan” and what we are going to do. It’s true. I tend to overplan and over think things with the goal of maximizing every moment and experience. Seems to be a bit exhausting for my travel mates 🙂 Some of you with whom I have traveled in the past may have had the pleasure of this experience with me 🙂 IMG_20170303_194458
  • Re New Zealand’s South Island. In the South Island of NZ in March, anything  that is not on the tour bus trail is not busy at all. In Te Anau,  we watched a beautiful sunset on the beach and there wasn’t another person around. img_1001
  • When the sun isn’t out, it is chilly. I had left my down coat at home at the last minute but I needed it. I ended up buying another one and have worn it a lot.  Layers are the key.

Cheers from the Queenstown area!

The next post will be about our travels up the West Coast of the South Island.

Auckland – City of Harmonius Contrasts

The Story 
Arriving in. Auckland. The flight from LA to Auckland went quite smoothly after good advice from my niece who lives in Auckland:

  • Take a late evening flight (We left LA at 9:30 pm)
  • Treat the flight like a long night(watch a movie, have dinner, take a sleeping pill and sleep as long as you can, wake up, read, have breakfast) and before you know it, you’re in Auckland with almost no jet lag and a whole day ahead of you. Very cool! 

We spent our first week in NZ in Auckland with my niece and her Kiwi husband. As well, I met another cousin (of Dutch heritage) for the first time who grew up in NZ.  They all have travelled quite a bit and describe Auckland as the best place in the world to live. It is an amazing place with so many harmonious contrasts.

Pakeha (NZ European) and Maori. New Zealand has done a better job than most countries of co-habitating with its indigineous population (or maybe vice versa). Maori is a second official language; many towns are named in Maori and it is common to see both languages on signs. My niece works in a social service organization where she is 1 of 6 white people in a staff of 100. Both her and her husband have spent lots of time with Maori and Pacifika (people from Pacific Islands. They are teaching us to pronounce the Maori language. The first lesson was the alphabet song, which is quite catchy. The story on One Tree Hill in Auckland is a good example of the tensions

Maori Alphabet Song –

Story of One Tree Hill in Auckland (also inspired a U2 song)-

Tasman Sea (West Coast – Rugged) and Pacific Ocean (East Coast – Tropical). Auckland is surrounded by water and at one spot in the city, the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean are less than 5 km apart. On our second day, we got to go on a friend’s sailing yacht to a lovely tropical beach island (Motuihe) just outside the Auckland harbour. What an amazing way to start our visit! A couple days later we drove to an awesome beach on the west coast (Te Henga / Bethells). Every time you head out in the car, there are amazing ocean views.

Bruce’s videos of Motuihe and Te Henga. 

Motuihe (East Coast)
Te Henga  (West Coast)

Socialism and Capitalism. Just like Canada, there are many tensions in this country as they try to upload socialist principles in a world that is capitalist. Real estate prices have gone through the roof. Social programs and education budgets are being cut or under incredible scrutiny for “effectiveness and efficiency”. The gap between the rich and everyone else continues to grow. In this country of only 4 million, food costs are almost double of that in Canada yet they have a “living wage” standard that is much better than our minimum wage. We are finding it very expensive but are happy to spend our dollars on local wines and craft beer. Cheers from Hallertau brewery.

Learning and Growing

  • Re Technology:
  • Taking decent selfies is hard. Those of us over 30 need some lessons on how to look good in a selfie.
  • The under 30s have a grasp on using  technology  that we need to learn from.  My niece helped us get a NZ SIM card set  up on an  old  phone.  It is now loaded. with data and phone capability for NZ. Very cool. My cousin showed us an app called Navigator which is a GPS that runs from satellite so you can use it without data
  • Re Culture
  • My husband is learning to drive on the left hand side of the road. It is hard on his brain and scary for the passenger. 
  • Crazy house prices in cities all over the world are making it very difficult for our young people to get started
  • Re Self and Others
  • It is so wonderful to have friends or family to “show you the ropes” in a new country. 
  • The more you push yourself out  of your comfort zone,  the easier it becomes.

What technology tools and apps have you found helpful/useful for travelling?


    Next stop: Queenstown – NZ South Island

    La La Land – Land of Dreams and Possibilities

    “Everyone has ocean’s to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?” ( Amelia Earhart)

    The Story

    This was our first visit to Los Angeles and we stayed for five days with my nephew and his wife. It is hard not to think about the fun and popular movie LaLa Land when visiting this city and even for a person who doesn’t watch many movies or much TV, it is amazing how this city catches you up in a story of big dreams and endless possibilities.

    We arrived in LA the day before the huge storm that went through. The news showed flooding and sinkholes with cars but we just experienced big winds and lots of rain. Everyone talked about how they hadn’t seen so much rain in years and everything in the city kind of came to a halt – Internet was unstable and no one wanted to drive or go out. From our view, it was nothing more than a good rain storm – something we get several times every spring and fall. So, we didn’t get sunny days on the beach but we still had a great experience in the city.

    Power of Dreams: My nephew is pursuing his dream of being a comic book artist and illustrator. His Armenian wife is completing a degree in creative writing and Armenian culture at UCLA pursuing her dream of becoming a writer. Her Armenian family welcomed us and shared hopes and dreams for their lives. Everyone seems inspired to be and become. It’s contagious. 

    I visited the UCLA campus for a few hours. I have always loved walking around post secondary campuses, a place where the dreams of students are cultivated and celebrated. I dropped in on their teaching centre and was fortunate to get to talk to one of their directors about their work and vision for teaching and learning. 

    The Magic of Movies: We did the Warner Brothers Studio Tour and you couldn’t help but get caught up in the magic of films. From the enthusiasm of our guide, to the experience of being on sets (Big Bang Theory, Two Broke Girls, Ellen), to the fabulous displays of movie props and costumes (Batman, Harry Potter), to the interactive exhibits about all aspects of movie creation (screenwriting, costumes, set creation). Although the stars get all the glory, all the talent and patience that goes into a movie is amazing.

    The Endless Horizon of Possibility: We drove up the Pacific Coast highway to Santa Barbara and the coastal views and ocean waves were amazing. The endless horizon that stretches out before you, the powerful waves that roll in constantly always remind me of the divine and universal energy that exists around us and is more. Always inspirational!

    Learning and Growth

    • Even “stars” work hard at their craft – A scene in a TV show is shot 5-10 times to get different camera angles and the actors have to redo the scene exactly the same way every time for consistency; Even famous screenwriters are doing 10-20 drafts of scenes before it is 
    • Teaching Centres at a large universities like UCLA have similar challenges and visions to those we have tried to pursue at CTLAE – promoting pedagogies that involve active learning and critical thinking, using assessment as a tool to promote higher quality learning, using educational technology to enhance engagement and accountability in larger classes, using Course design processes to engage faculty in being more intentional about learning and using a variety of tools and strategies to achieve learning goals
    • My twenty something relatives are a wonderful group to hang out with. They accept you for who you are, help you catch up with the technologies and perspectives of today’s culture, and are so welcoming and hospitable. What a pleasure to spend time with them.
    • Blogging with just an ipad is challenging 🙂

    What inspires you to dream and explore new possibilities?

    This summer, my husband and I took a course on creating and editing videos. He is creating short videos for different parts of our trip and having fun developing his skills. As you will see, they are still quite amateur but even these take hours to pull together. The sound is the biggest challenge and we don’t really have proper editing software. This first one won’t work on an iPhone because of the song he included. Lesson learned for next time 🙂

    For what it’s worth, here is his creation for Santa Monica pier.

    Route 66

    Reading, Reading

    Lonely Planet versus Bill Bryson


    What we see depends, to a great degree, on how and where we look.
    (John Lubbock)

    As is my style, I like to read a lot about something before trying something new – probably not the best “adventure” personality but that’s what I got. If you read some things, you would never go anywhere – certainly not Australia (unfortunate). If you read other things, you think that people only have good experiences when they travel (I wish that were true). So, what has been on the reading list as we prepare for this adventure?

    Blogs and Websites

    Many thanks to Ruth for her blogs on travels in New Zealand and Kim’s family for their blog about their adventure around the world. These blogs gave a nice mix of the good and challenging aspects of travelling. Not all rosy, but magical in so many ways!

    Ruth in New Zealand – 2005

    Ruth In New Zealand – 2011

    Kim’s Family Adventure Around the World

    Trip Advisor of course is awesome for its extensive reviews of everything related to travelling. (Thanks to the 30 something adults in my life) for easy access to booking accommodations that gives you flexibility for cancellation and which offers wonderful alternatives to hotels when travelling.

    If you have a favorite or particularly useful web tool for planning travel, please share it in the comments.


    1. Bill Bryson’s Sunburned Country

    Bill does not exactly describe Australia as the
    place everyone would want to visit. Here is what he says on p. 6

    “[img_0931Australia] is the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and of the largest monolith, Ayers Rock (or Uluru to use its now-official, more respectful Aboriginal name). It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures – the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish – are the most lethal of their type in the world. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. … If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback. It’s a tough place.”

    2. Lonely Planet – Really. That perfect?

    So, when you read Lonely Planet, you imagine only wonderful things. In lonely plaent books, no one ever gets sick, looses luggage, gets things stolen, stays in a bug-invested hotel. Why is that? maybe it truly is how they choose to see it.

    lonelyplanet_queensland A quote from p. 7….

    Growing up in chilly southern Australian towns, the very notion of Queensland – with its beaches, islands, sunshine and swaying palms – was irresistible in our imaginations. Towns like Mission Beach, Noosa and Port Douglas assumed near-mythical status, demanding to be investigated at the first opportunity. Then, when the time came to actually explore the Sunshine State, the reality didn’t disappoint. And we haven’t stopped exploring since. From the tropical north to the booming southeast. Queensland is an essential Australian destination.”

    Learning and Growth

    Enough reading – time to live it, embrace the great and the not so great, trust your gut, push the edges of your comfort zone.

    I hope we have the “Lonely Planet” experience but I am prepared for some “Bill Bryson” moments. I suspect, learning and growth will come from some of each.



    A comfort zone can be a beautiful place, but not much grows there.




    Working the Lists

    A Journey of a Thousand Miles begins with [Many, Many] Small Steps
    (Lao Tzu)


    Planning details for our big adventure have turned out to be quite a bit “bigger” than we naively thought when we first had the idea to travel to New Zealand and Australia for several months. Bruce and I  “worked the lists” and managed the “pressure” in our own ways 🙂

    • Annique prefers endless digital lists, binders, stickies, and wine
    • Bruce prefers clipboards and beer

    At the end of this post is a list of some of the many things we had to think about. Many thanks to others (Kim, Joy, Ruth) who have shared tips from their adventures with us.


    1. Men and women plan very differently – or maybe its just Bruce and I
    2. A 3 month trip is like planning about 8 different trips – not sure I’d do that again
    3. Although we say we live in a global world, so many things are still very country specific – there is still nothing global about visas, banking, driving, insurances, phones, plugs and chargers
    4. People are awesome and love to help – we have fabulous family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. We are excited about the many new awesome people we will meet on our travels.
    5. I have so much to be thankful for – I am truly blessed to be able to go on this adventure with my husband. There have been several reminders in the last week that it is important to “Seize the Day“! We never know what the future may hold.



    1. Try to let go of some of the details – Not going very well but will keep trying
    2. Try to keep anxiety under control – mindfulness meditation and exercise are key
    3. Photography helps you see things differently and notice things in new ways – Thanks to 3 great photography courses in Coursera, I have learned to look differently
    4. Focus on the journey and you will get there – hopefully in one piece with a manageable debt





    The voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes. (Marcel Proust)



    Our Lists – We’re almost there !

    • Paperwork – visas, tickets, insurances, passports,
    • Transportation – getting around at each location, getting to and from airports, driving on the left, insurances, buying a vehicle in AU,
    • Accommodation at each location
    • Finances – bill payments, income tax, access to funds (enough and then some), AU bank account (for Endeavour program)
    • Technology – Computers, Data storage, Cameras, Photo storage, Music, Phones,
    • Packing- Layered clothing, Medications for 3 months,
    • Scuba stuff – equipment servicing, gear,
    • Endeavour Fellowship – Lots of paperwork and forms, need access to CTLAE files to do work at JCU
    • House – insurance, snow removal, plants, car storage
    • Contacts

    Some useful travel planning sites

    • Skyscanner –
    • Kayak –
    • airbandb

    If you have other travel tips for us, feel free to share them here. Otherwise, we’ll keep you posted on our adventure as it unfolds. Here’s a bit of what lies ahead.

    Adventure Down Under




    What do we know empirically about teacher professional learning in higher education?

    This post is created for EDC 2013 as part of my workshop on teacher learning processes and their importance as part of the educational development puzzle.

    I will share some of the findings of Kreber, McAlpine & Weston, and Akerlind. However, the knowledge in the room at this conference is awesome and I thought we might capture what other empirical work people have found particularly influential in understanding teacher learning processes in higher education, as it relates to development in teaching practice.

    These will be discussed using the lens of Billett’s model of co-participation

    Billett, S. (2009). Personal epistemologies, work and learning. Educational Research Review, 4, 210-219.

    Billett, S. (2009). Conceptualizing learning experiences: Contributions and mediations of the social, personal, and brute. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 16, 32-47.

    Akerlind found, through interviews with 28 university, faculty that they see growth or development  in teaching in a variety of ways including:

    • as increasing comfort/confidence in teaching
    • as expanding content knowledge
    • as expanding their repertoire of teaching materials and/or teaching strategies
    • as improving students’ learning and development

    Åkerlind, G.S. (2003). Growing and developing as a university teacher: Variation in meaning. Studies in Higher Education, 28(4), 375–390.
    Ă…kerlind, G.S. (2005). Academic growth and development: How do university academics experience it? Higher Education, 50, 1-32.

    Eraut found, through extensive research with engineers, accountants, and health practitioners, that there were a number of interconnected individual and contextual factors that influenced professional learning in the workplace.

    Individual learning factors included:

    • feedback and support
    • confidence and commitment
    • personal agency
    • challenge and value of work

    Context factors that affected learning included:

    • allocation and structuring of work
    • individual participation and expectations of performance
    • encounters and relationships with people at work

    Eraut, M. (2007a). Learning from other people in the workplace. Oxford Review of Education, 33(4), 403-422.

    Kreber found, through interviews with 9 academics, that identity was a continually negotiated construct involving personal theories of teaching and learning, perceptions of self, social context, and occupational context.

    Kreber, C. (2010). Academics’ teacher identities, authenticity and pedagogy. Studies in Higher Education, 35(2), 171-194.

    McAlpine and Weston found, through 10 years of research on faculty reflective processes, that goals were central to all actions and decisions related to teaching and that growth in practice was influenced by these goals as well as the cues that faculty monitored, their decision-making processes, their knowledge and experience, and their corridor of tolerance.

    McAlpine, L., & Weston, C. (2000). Reflection: Issues related to improving professors’ teaching and students’ learning. Instructional Science, 28, 363–385.