Rebecca Hamilton is one of thousands of Kiwis who have returned home because of the global pandemic. She has moved from one capital – Washington DC – to another (albeit former) capital in Okiato, Bay of Islands.
The differences are stark. Okiato is not exactly replete with people with a CV like hers - ballerina, worked for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, worked as a journalist for the Washington Post in the Sudan and Reuters in New York and is now a full time law professor and mother of four young kids.
But "Bec" Hamilton personifies multi-tasking to a dizzying degree. She works remotely as an associate professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law. That means getting up at 3am to cope with time zones and she continues to contribute to the Washington Post.
She has four children under the age of 8, including 3-year-old identical twins and as a master of under-statement says her life is busy. But it's been that way for a while.
As an only child, she was brought up by her mother after her father died when she was 2. At just 15 she took off on her own to Australia and joined one of the feeder schools to the National Theatre as a dancer.
"I realised I was never going to be a prima ballerina and there were other jobs that weren't as tough on the body and paid more than the minimum wage."
In New Zealand, school hadn't interested her but with encouragement from a woman friend, she enrolled at the University of Sydney and suddenly became what she calls "the world's biggest nerd" to complete a BA in psychology with honours.
She planned to complete a PhD in neuro psychology but after working at the Villawood Detention Centre that housed refugees seeking asylum in Australia, she thought "the whole system is totally inappropriate" and U-turned to apply to do a masters of public policy at Harvard University. She was accepted, much to her own surprise.
During the summer break she worked for an organisation involved in community work in South Sudan during the civil war and what followed was a series of the unusual which seem to be her hallmark.
Her first job out of Harvard was with the International Criminal Court in The Hague (where she met her husband, Ben). She was then awarded a fellowship to write Fighting for Darfur, a book covering the genocide in the Sudan before she went back there as a journalist for the Washington Post covering the peace transition.
"It was a dream job," she said. But nearly a nightmare. On her last reporting trip she was detained by special forces for eight hours, locked up with other detainees and held without valid reason.
Back in the US she worked for Reuters covering New York's legal domestic round until she found it unfulfilling enough to enrol at Colombia Law School with a view to teaching.
That's what she does today but remotely from the Bay of Islands. For the moment there is nowhere else she would rather be, but the question is, for how long?
Giant wetā moving north
Before the end of the year, volunteers and staff from Project Island Song will be helping to escort some visitors from Auckland to the Bay of Islands and placing them in new homes.
It's called translocation but these are not your average guests. The new arrivals belong to New Zealand's giant wetā species and the largest of these, coming north, is wetāpunga.
The arboreal insect spends most of its life up in trees which accounts for its very long legs. Like many of the native species wetāpunga are completely unable to survive in the presence of introduced predators and is why Auckland Zoo introduced a captive breeding programme to help restore the species back to islands where it once thrived.
The wetāpunga breeding programme is highly successful. Hundreds of adult wetāpunga have been released onto Tiritiri Matangi in the Hauraki Gulf over the past several years. It has significantly bolstered the existing population by adding to the genetic diversity of those wetā already present on the island from an earlier release.
Wetā have an intriguing fact sheet. They filled the role of rodents before land mammals came to New Zealand, although their behaviour and diet are quite different and at 190 million years they are older than tuatara.
Females are heavier than males and can weigh up to 35 grams, which is heftier than your average house sparrow. There are more than 70 endemic species of wetā in New Zealand, including 11 species of the giant wetā and wetāpunga is the largest of these.
The first translocation of around 120 wetāpunga will take place in early December on the islands of Urupukapuka, Moturua and Motuarohia. An estimated 75 people will be involved in the first release and other translocations will take place over a three-year period.
Project Island Song is the Bay of Islands' wildlife sanctuary and the islands have been pest mammal free since 2009 as the natural ecosystems are being restored.
Old traditions continue
The oldest working church in New Zealand celebrated its 184th birthday last Sunday with an even older tradition.
The congregation of Christ Church in Russell gathered for the ancient custom of clipping, a word that is Anglo Saxon in origin and derived from "clyppan" meaning to embrace or clasp. It usually involves holding hands in a ring around the church building followed by a blessing by a senior church member but in this case the small congregation merely walked around the historic church.
The blessing was conducted by the newly-appointed Archdeacon for the Mid and Far North, the Reverend Jonathan Gale, who was making his first visit to Russell in his new capacity and experiencing "clipping" for the first time. He is responsible for the Waimate Archdeaconry, including the Wellsford and Mangawhai Mission Districts and the ministry units in the Mid and Far North.
Apart from being Christ Church's birthday, Archdeacon Jonathan also noted during his address that the November 22, 1963 was the anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy and the anniversary of the deaths of writers Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and CS Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia).
Other church notables to have blessed Christ Church during a clipping ceremony include the current Bishop of Auckland, Ross Bay, and the late Jim White, the former Assistant Bishop of Auckland.
Christ Church is possibly one of the few Anglican churches in New Zealand that still has this ceremony and there are a diminishing number of churches in England that carry on the tradition. Each church honours it on a different day. Christ Church chose the Patronal Festival to celebrate "clypping".
When the Russell church (Te Whare Karakia o Kororāreka) was built in 1835 the services were held in both English and Māori. In part, that tradition continues today. Services entirely in Māori are held on the fifth Sunday of any month, conducted by priests from the Waimate-Taumarere Māori Pastorate. The final Māori Pastorate service for this year will be held on November 28.
Inaugural Paihia community Award
Community group, Focus Paihia, has introduced a Community Volunteer of the Year Award.
The first winner was Terry Halliday, described as "an all-round good guy we're lucky to have in our community."
He spends many hours maintaining the Opua-Paihia walking track, the Haruru Falls track and the footpath between Haruru Falls and Waitangi and regularly picks up rubbish between the two areas. He recently filled nine bags of rubbish from these two areas alone.
After 78 years in Paihia, Halliday is known as a local historian and is considered an ambassador for the town. He was the Paihia School caretaker for many years and still returns to school to help out.
Steven Gray, one of Paihia school's ex-pupils, related his memories of the man and his duties:
"He doubled as a version of the school's informal dentist, frowned upon in these modern times I'm sure.
"As 5 to 10 year olds we would sit outside room 3 at morning tea and Halliday would pull out our loose teeth, job done, no mucking around!"
In recognition of his win, Halliday was presented with a carved trophy made especially for the award by Arama Davis. The prize also included a voucher for a four-course meal for two at Terra Restaurant.
Five other locals were nominated – Paulene Witcomb (children's music club), Ann Truscott (voluntary groups), Jennifer Pickering (Paihia Football Club and Ngati Hine Health), Jan Baker (town improvement) Mark Johnston (walking track).
An honours board will be permanently displayed at the Paihia Op Shop to celebrate the inaugural award and name the first and future recipients.
Hospice Mid-North unveils Memorial Wall
Early in October, Hospice Mid-Northland held a ceremony to unveil and bless a new Memorial Wall that commemorates loved ones who are no longer here.
The Hospice in Kerikeri Rd formerly had memorial bricks lining the garden near the patient cottage but they didn't withstand the weather, the plaques were lifting off and needed to be replaced.
The Kowhai Wall was designed by Phil and Tracey Taylor from Xstream Profiles who donated their services. The kowhai, in fact, is the official flower of hospice.
There are 16 kowhai names in place with order for another eight to be placed in the new year. There is space for 100 kowhai flowers and on either side of the path there are newly planted kowhai trees.
Anyone can support the kowhai memorial wall by buying a "flower" to engrave a name in memory or honour of friends and whānau. They do not need to have been cared for by Hospice Mid-Northland.
Fundraising manager Adele Woodward said just 42 per cent of their income is from the Northland District Health Board so events and other initiatives are a constant to help keep hospice solvent.
"The design of this memorial area was inspired by the concept of being looked after and as well as being a beautiful art piece, it is the symbolism that is meaningful," she said.
The cost of a flower is $185 including GST. They can be ordered from the website and the flowers are blessed prior to being added to the wall.
Visit hospicemn.org.nz for more information.
• Email Sandy Myhre at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any news you'd like to see in Bay News.