Joanna Cho / 조은선 is a writer living in Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
OPINION: For the past three years, I’ve been trying to make a ski trip happen. Last year was the only time a small group of us were keen and committed to going.
But we didn’t manage to ski. It was raining, and there wasn’t a lot of snow.
We did go up the mountain, though, and when we finally found a park and stood in the miserable sleet, I saw I was the only one who’d come with the right gear.
I’d borrowed ski pants, jacket and gloves from a flatmate, but the others were shivering in jeans and sneakers; my friend Georgia was in a lovely eggshell blue jacket with, like, wide lapels and good tailoring – it had no business being up the mountain.
I thought what the f..., took off one glove and let the three of them take turns with it.
We took the lift down to Happy Valley, which was crowded and grey. It was all slush. We stared at the spitting snow machine for a while, then sat in the cafe nursing some beers we’d brought with us. And then we left.
Recently, there’s been talk of “the uncertain future” of ski fields. Part of me is gutted, but I’m also thinking about cognitive dissonance and sci-fi.
Cognitive dissonance happens when you have contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the same time – for example, eating meat when you disagree with the impact of industrial meat, or smoking when you know it’s bad for you.
We know something is off, and this is a huge mental toll, so we try to reconcile these thoughts, and make them consistent, by doing such things as avoiding talking about it, seeking confirmation bias or rationalising. Whatever it takes to reduce the discomfort.
I just had a phone call with a friend in Australia who played golf last week. He said, “Yeah, I know it’s for rich people and it’s a waste of land and all that, but … it’s really fun.”
And I replied, “True, cos that’s how I feel about ski fields.”
The reality benefits rich people, climate change, greenwashing and stolen land, but a voice in my head goes, “But … I wanna slide down a hill …” but, of course, that voice is hedonistic, and sometimes it should just sit down.
With the future being so uncertain, I’ve been wanting to read more sci-fi. What other genre can imagine new worlds and ways of living like that?
Sci-fi raises public awareness of the things that humans know to be our downfall, makes us engage with problem solving and adapting to new societal and environmental rules, and makes us empathetic towards aliens – who, let’s be clear, are real.
Anyway, I recently learnt about “gunk” and “junk”, which are part of mereology, a branch of philosophy.
In simple terms (and I know nothing deeper about it), gunk applies to any whole that can be divided into smaller parts, and junk is the opposite – parts forever becoming greater and greater wholes.
I’m thinking about towns relying on tourism. I’m thinking about jobs, history, the treaty, posterity, and sports. You start with one thing and very quickly realise it’s never just one thing.
Despite our plan to ski falling through, we had a really nice weekend.
We stayed in a rundown Airbnb in Raetihi, down the end of a long, wide road with low houses on one side and a field of sheep on the other, with a big hill ahead. In the evenings, the cold mist shrouded the Withnail and I scenery.
That was the weekend Georgia and Tae got together, and Hannah and I had fun being annoying in the mornings – chopping wood, playing loud music, and sending Moki the dog into their bedroom.
We walked around the sleepy town, went to the dinosaur museum, collected eggs from the coop and lit the fire.
There were glitches. A man in a pub was racist and I cried; twice Moki snuck off.
But my friends put their arms around me, and Moki sprinted back when called from the other end of the misty street.
It felt like another world, it made us alert and giggly. The sun made two trips around the Earth and the snow bunnies leapt around.