Saturday, February 29, 2020

More Kiwi Hospitality

Umbrella for Two
The next day, in the evening I visited my old judo club. I was so happy that it grew with so many more people. One of my Senseis, a white guy named Cameron, spent the whole time catching up with me. He taught me the most in ground fighting and strangling people out back in the days. I saw some old faces. One guy named Matthew called out to me - "I remember you!" They call him "Sparkles" now. He was just a kid, about 15, when I left and a green belt (which is about half way to black). Now, he was a black belt. (I won't tell you which belt I am, but I graduated a degree after I left NZ). I have to say an amazing feeling came over me to see that the club had grown. I appreciated seeing all the new faces. A Russian teenager wanted to talk to me, so I spoke to him in Russian. He was like where did you learn?! Although my part was small in growing the club, I felt like I contributed too in the growing success of it. Most of the leadership fell on Cameron, and he did and was doing an astounding job.

I enjoyed one comment that Cameron made about Matthew. He said although Matthew wasn't the best technically, he had the courage to go up against much heavier players than himself and a lot of times he won. Not all the time, but when the odds were against him he wasn't afraid of going to mat with his opponent. If that was all I heard at my time at the judo club - my trip there would've been worth it. But it got better.

Seeing everybody made me really miss the club, and I told everyone I would come back soon. After training, Cameron took me to eat at a place that was a 3-minute walk from my old house. It was Indian. Cameron was generous to pay for my meal. Nothing beats Kiwi-Indian food. I don't know why it tastes so much better there. I had butter chicken and garlic naan. The creamy butter chicken sauce was out of this world. I wonder if it was because of the high quality dairy product. I've had Indian food in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London. It's still best in New Zealand for some reason.

The waiter was talking to me. His family owned the restaurant. He said he was doing his Masters in Strategic Studies in Victoria University. Cameron had a fantastic memory and said, "Did you know Paul graduated with that years ago?"

The waiter said, "Really?!"

I told him about the program a bit and all my old teachers. I don't know how much it's done for my life to be honest. Probably most people with Masters would say the same thing. Most of my knowledge of strategy has come from experience and mentorship.

* * *

I had a Kiwi piggy bank I forgot to break. Before I left to New Zealand, I broke it open, and I had a heavy amount of Kiwi change. My mom was watching me separate out all my money and was finding it all interesting. I had some Aussie coins in there too that I was separating out and not bringing with me.

Before lunch with Matthew, I deposited my money in my Kiwi account. My bank card didn't work! The lady looked at it and said, "I haven't seen a card like that in ten years!"

"Well, I guess it's been that long since I've come back to use my bank account." The bank tellers issued me a new card.

They counted up all my money. I had $64 NZD! Sweet. (That's about $38 USD.) I used most of it to buy coffee during my stay there. My final purchase was a pinot noir for my professor back in the States. I bought him a beautiful wine called Pick and Shovel from Central Otago.

* * *

Earlier in the day - my friend Matthew bought me lunch by the beach. We sat outside. I had a sandwich and glass of wine. I asked him if it was ok if I took off my shirt. Can you imagine a person shirtless at a restaurant? But it was by a beach on a summer's day and nobody seemed to mind. I wanted to tan; so, everyone would know I came back from a holiday.

Lunch was short. We caught up. I wish we had more time. But that was all the time in the world we were going to have, at least for now.

* * *

Later in the day, I met with an old friend Paul - who is probably one of the richest people in Wellington. He's an entrepreneur, who invests in the poor overseas, mainly Bangladesh and India. We walked to the park together. He put on a hat. I didn't.

I did most of the talking, and him; the listening. Paul wanted to know what I was doing back in the States. I told him about my cases and my sabbatical. Most of the time was taken up with my stories.

But here's one thing he told me that really hit home. He said to me, "The principle in spending money and living life is that you should live your life in a way that maximizes the good you can do for others and the world." That was important for me to hear.

That was all the time I was going to have with him.

* * *

On another day, I had lunch at one of the best cafes in Wellington called Neo. The owner is a friend of mine. I had the best chicken salad in my life there. He told me that he uses thigh meat, which doesn't go dry. He brines it. Then he dips it in buttermilk before coating it in breadcrumbs. Because I don't eat much bread, I had him put the chicken in a salad, and I drizzled extra dressing on it.

The friend I met was Neil. He's a scientist. We caught up some. I'm grateful he made the drive out from a little further away and bought me lunch. Neil was telling me that he was working on a project about a farmer woman who has visions of Heaven. Very interesting.

* * *

In between meetings, I caught up with former boss, Brett. He bought me a cappuccino, which tasted wonderful. His daughters had grown up. He moved up as a director. I told him about my time in law school and as a lawyer. That was all the time we were going to have on this visit.

* * *

Finally, I spent the rest of the time with Catherine's family. We had dinner together. Spiros was there too. I could feel the time slipping away from me. It was like watching the sands of an hourglass fall the bottom. Two of their adult children sat with us at the table. We held hands, as a family would, and I prayed for the family. And they prayed for me.

Because the airplane ticket was way overpriced to Auckland, I had to buy a bus ticket. They took me to the bus stop. I brought the abalone with me, the most important gift I had. There, waiting for me, was Kirill. It was a really pleasant surprise. He figured out my bus stop and came to surprise me with a good bye. Really humbled by it all.

I gave everybody a hug, and I was on the night bus back to Auckland. It'd be a 12 or 14 hour ride. A flight is only 45 minutes. But the road is windy and through mountains.

* * *

That was it. That was my time in Wellington.

I was really humbled and impressed by everyone's hospitality and generosity. It was hard to accept, because on such short notice, I didn't even bring these people any gifts. In any event, special thanks to all those who welcomed me back!

I'll do my best to be back soon.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Kiwi Hospitality

 By: Ghislaine Howard
My friends Catherine and Spiros opened up their home for me to stay in Wellington. The first thing I did, after Andre dropped me off there, was put my containers of abalone in their freezer. My hosts were kind to feed and house me, and I talked with her son, who had just come back from his OE (Overseas Experience). Americans don't do OEs, but it's expected of a Kiwi - because NZ is a small isolated Western country. Young Kiwis are expected to go abroad and spend a few years there to learn. So Anthony told me about his experience in Southeast Asia, India, and then Europe. He had grown up. I remember when he was just a kid and all their other kids. But after a few hours staying with Catherine, my friend Kirill and Winnie came and picked me up. Kirill brought a styrofoam container for my abalone. I measured it. All the abalone would fit in it.

Kirill and Winnie and their new daughter and I got lunch at the botanical gardens. It was crowded. We just caught up, and since I left - it appears they had a lot of tragedy since I left. Cancer claimed the lives of both their fathers - which was sad. (It was then a force of ideas flooded my mind. Why is cancer an epidemic in New Zealand?

I ordered a small kid's soup and glass of red wine. But when they brought out the food, I knew the bill was wrong. They overcharged us. I told the waiter about it - who was upset I pointed out the mistake. I just felt that things weren't right. Kirill got a refund. But then they messed up on our order again.

The waiter started getting aggressive with me; so, I took it to his manager and all was made right. I got the family a nice little credit too. You can take the lawyer out of litigation, but you can't take litigation out of the lawyer.

It was a bright and warm sunny summer's day. So, I took off my shirt and walked through the garden to tan. I wanted to be dark, so everyone could know I came back from a nice holiday. (Actually, it was in New Zealand - I met a German who told me he wanted a nice tan so all his friends could know he went on a nice holiday. I liked the idea - and it's stuck with me since.) 

It was nice walking through the gardens. I tried to grab a duckling by the pond, and the mother duck flew at me and quacked at me. She didn't like that.

At one point, a young Kiwi guy came up to me and asked what else he should see in Wellington. He was from somewhere North - the East or West Cape. I can't recall. I told him to see Red Rocks by Island Bay - where they filmed a lot of King Kong. On a Sunday afternoon, my friends and I would have a picnic out there I told him. Then he had to go, and I did too.

Their daughter was a handful. She defied the parents at every wish. I wonder how so many kids are born so rebellious while others are not. She could be a bad little girl. When her father would take her away from the playground she would scream: "Help me! Help me!" I wonder where she learned that from. It made seem like her father was kidnapping her.

Later, we went to Kirill and Winne's place and had Chinese takeaway. 

Kirill and I met nearly ten years ago. We had a little Russian group we were all part of. We were all young and single and we'd go out and have fun almost every night. It was a fun little community to have. One of the best times we had was when we went skiing and snowboarding together and rented out a little cabin.

We talked about how one of our friends - a son of a kleptocrat - bought two fancy cars. Crashed one, then got deported back for tying up his girlfriend in some sexual play. He took pictures of her in bondage. She went to the police with it and said he kidnapped her. He was deported immediately. His rich Russian parents tried to bribe the police - but they wouldn't have any of it. Such, such were those days.

After dinner and drinking a shot of whiskey, while smoking some of a cigar with Kirill, I was able to pray for the family before I left. Kirill took me to Catherine's place on a scenic drive through the bays, and I got to pray for him too after he dropped me off. 

At Catherine's place, Spiros was sitting on the couch watching television. I sat with him and talked to him about my day and what happened since last time we saw each other. Catherine offered me a glass of red wine. She drank some. I drank some. We talked and the time quickly ran out on us. We all had to go to sleep.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Final Catch

Andre and me
The next day, Andre and I went free diving again for abalone, only this time with his young daughter. There were heaps of Asians around trying to dive for abalone, but a lot of them were really poaching undersized one, which are easier to get. A Cantonese real estate agent that barely knew Andre tagged along with us, even though I didn't want him to. He was a novice diver, unfit, and pudgy and wanted to know a good dive spot. But Andre, didn't want to get into conflict with him. Real estate agents - they always pretend to be your friend - while they take you for a ride. (No offense to my friends who are; it's just the nature of the business.) The want for abalone amongst these people really showed me how greedy and desperate people could be and how they could fake niceness to get what they wanted.

Anyways, I thought it was awesome that Andre brought his daughter with us. She really bonded with us just walking to our dive spot, and at such a young age, she was already learning to free dive. Because she was still little, we had to walk slowly with her.

While walking a mile into our track, I realized, again, I forgot my weight belt. This time in the car. As a result, I had to put rocks in my wetsuit, but they still weren't enough to keep me buoyant. Nonetheless, the rocks still helped and I managed to be heavier and sink some. As a result, I was able to catch 5 pauas (Maori for abalone).

But on trying to pry a big abalone from the rock, my blade snapped. The rust and corrosion had damaged the integrity of the knife at the center, and it just broke. I had a handle and a broken knife now.

It reminded me of how engaging in bad conduct and addictions rot aways at the integrity of one's life, from the inside first. It renders one disabled in virtue and function. It's a terrible place for person to be in. Just as a knife can lose its virtue by being brittle and dull, a person can lose his or her virtue by not functioning in character.

Finding the blade yesterday made me feel like I was on some ancient quest - as when the young Arthur pulled Excalibur from the stone. But now my weapon cracked. But the quest still did not end. I had to go on. (The same with Arthur too. He loses his sword to the Lady of Lake as well, who still has it apparently.) Now the sea had my broken blade for eternity.

Back on shore, Andre finished his catch. The real estate agent gave us two abalone for showing him our spot.

We measured them, and they were undersized. We gently put them back in the water. As I said - he was a no-good poacher. Remember what I said about real estate agents?

Andre gave me his plastic scraper and his catch bag, which I tied to my waste. I added more rocks in. From there, I spotted and took 10 more abalone from the sea.

I puked once, because once again, I caught up in the swell. I felt really sea sick after I left the water, but I was successful. And my feet were numb from all the icy water that filled my wetsuit. I was getting the chills. I have a saying about the New Zealand seas - "That water doesn't love you."

Three of us were in the water. That allowed us 30 abalone. This time I matched Andre or caught one more - depending on how one counts. We both caught our maximum amount of abalone for the day.

I was happy that my skills as an abalone diver returned. Men are respected for their skill to provide.

While walking back, I remembered my mother and her request and thought she would be happy with everything I did to make her happy. If she only knew how much work and suffering went into bringing what she asked for. Her precious abalone.

On the trail, we talked about dinner. Andre's daughter wanted fast food. She asked which fast food restaurant I wanted. I picked KFC.

While Andre drove back into town, I asked him questions about what he would do if he could do life again. He mentioned a few things.

I didn't really have much to say. I wondered a lot about how different my life would've been if I stayed in New Zealand. But I said - I don't have a crystal ball to see how life really would've been different had I stayed. Maybe it would've been worse.

Towards the end of my last job, I did tell him that I felt like I was dying every day, because I wasn't being challenged. I was comfortable and secure during my last days in New Zealand. But my mind was atrophying. Nobody likes pain and challenge, but it's what makes men and women strong and skilled and tough. And law school provided that for me.

I often wonder if it was worth the extraordinary financial cost. Seeing where I am today, I have to say Yes. I'm certain the rigors of law school and the amazing intellectual environment took my thinking to a place I wouldn't be at, if I didn't go.

For dinner - Andre bought us KFC. We made it five minutes before they closed. Drawing on my skills of lawyering persuasion, I convinced her we wouldn't be there much longer and wouldn't interrupt their closing down. So, the staff let us stay and eat.

His daughter was talking to me a lot. I remember when the family visited me in Los Angeles, and she was shy and hardly talked. Also, on my last visit, she was shy and timid and didn't say much. Now she was talking heaps and asking a lot about me and what I remembered about her. I told her what I could recall.

After, we both went to Andre's place - shucked the abalone - and cleaned them. After, I took a hot shower. Andre took one too.

The next day, Andre and his daughter took me to my next destination.

My time with Andre left me really humbled. And how many times have you heard me say that?

When he visited me in Los Angeles, we spent a lunch and dinner together. What's that? Half a day.

But here he was, spending over two full days with me, housing me, feeding me, picking me up at the airport, and taking the trouble to organize my trip. In some ways - the difference is that Kiwis have more time than a busy Angelino. I get that. But I think that Kiwis do hospitality better than I do, and they also understand the preciousness of mate-ship. Our time together here is short. And I'm glad Andre taught me how to take my hospitality to the next level.

Like I said - I was left really humbled, and it would happen again with my other Kiwi friends.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

A Proposed Model For the Problem and Solution of the Coronavirus (2019-nCOV)

(c) Linkoping University
This is a proposed model to define the problem and solution of the coronavirus (2019-nCov). This article proposes that the main difference between corona and the common flu is that besides the damage the flu virus inflicts - it also manipulates the immune response by suppressing it. The evidence that leads to this hypothesis is the fact that Thai doctors have successfully prescribed anti-HIV medication to treat the virus. A withdrawn paper alleged that there's peptide similarities between HIV and 2019-nCOV. Even though the paper's been withdrawn, the alleged findings explain what's happening. Even a Cameron student recovered with antiviral HIV medication. (Updated on Mar. 10, 2020.) Antiviral HIV medication's effectiveness against Corona explains the mechanism of the disease.

On June 16, 2017 - I helped an anonymous author named GX8 - publish a paper on HIV - On Human Immunodeficiency Virus’s Potency to Freeze the Immune Response. You can read it here.  (After re-reviewing, a second edition should be published.)

Anyways, the paper's main argument is that the mutation theory on HIV is incorrect. Instead, it proposes that HIV is lethal for two reasons. First is because the virus directly parasitizes white blood cells. The second is that the virus then manipulates and suppresses the immune system by freezing the helper cell response. In short, the backup immune system becomes paralyzed, leaving the patient vulnerable to secondary infection, which then in turn leads to death.

Understanding this explains why Corona is potent and what it's doing. Besides attacking the body the way a flu does, it also suppresses the immune system or freezes the back up helper white blood cells. In short, it's not only attacking the body, it's also manipulating the immune system.

For those who are weaker, mainly the elderly, death is likely. For all others, the body will take a longer period of time to rid itself of corona than it does the flu.

Is it as deadly as HIV? Probably not. This is because although more contagious than HIV, corona is not parasitizing white blood cells - which in the end cripples the immune system further.

The problem with corona is that it's airborne. As a result, it's highly contagious, unlike HIV. A healthy person can recover from Corona, but it'll take longer than having a regular flu.

Given the evidence that anti-viral HIV medication reduces the HIV viral load, it may suggest that HIV medication works by disrupting the replication process of the virus. If it follows the pattern of the mechanism of antibiotics, the medication would block the virus from being able to produce its capsid (or protein shell required for its survival). The fact that HIV antivirals works against corona and even SARS suggests the substrate theory of HIV antivirals is not correct. If this theory is correct, that means the proteins and synthesis of them required to build the capsid in the host of all these viruses are similar. (But none of this can be proven without data, which is needed.)

In any event, all this suggests that HIV cannot be cured with antivirals, because a critical mass of cells are still infected with it. HIV antivirals can aid in eliminating corona, however, because a different type of cell is being parasitized.

My theory of the coronavirus is also easily proven. One only needs to test the number of CD4 and CD8 counts of a person infected with Corona. If I'm correct, one or both of these counts should steadily drop, with the greatest drop being at the climax of the viral load. The white blood cell counts will go up again, but at much slower rate than when one has the regular flu.

Also, CD4 and CD8 counts need to be measured when an infected person is treated with antiviral HIV medication.

If I'm correct about Corona, then it suggests that treatment cannot be solely directed at treating the infection. The patient's immune system must also be stabilized to counteract Corona's potency to manipulate and suppress the immune system. One final way to eliminate the virus is to slow its reproduction cycle. Further research should be done to validate whether this theory is correct or not, especially since it's easy and cost effective to do.

PS: After more research last night, I have a better understanding of Corona, which may contradict what I wrote here, though not necessarily. I'll write another article, later, but one finding that sheds light on Corona's operating mechanism is that a high level of CD4 counts makes one virtually immune to the virus.

The Abalone Quest

My Chinese-kiwi friend and me on the Wellington Coastline
When my mother dropped me off at the airport, she gave me her order: Bring home abalone. And every boy wants to be a hero in the hearts of their mothers.

In Auckland, I found a flight on my miles from Auckland to Wellington. It was more miles than I wanted to spend, but at last minute - such flights were horrendously dear. And Wellington was calling. I had to go.

I had no problems at the airport this time. When I landed in Wellington, my Chinese-Kiwi friend, Andre, picked me up. It's been over four years since I saw him.

We stopped by his house for only five minutes, and we were already off to the coastline with the free diving gear I brought home with me. I haven't used my dive gear since I left New Zealand over ten years ago. Imagine flying into the airport - only to be whisked away on a free dive excursion immediately.

It was summer in New Zealand and the weather was good. The sun was shining. From the capital city of Windy Wellington, we had to drive a good forty five minutes to an hour to our dive spot. We drove through the hills and the farmland to arrive at the rocky coastline. From the car park, we put on our wetsuits. I had to carry my fins and hoodie and my gloves and my boots and my mask and snorkel.

Do you see the seal?
New Zealand water is cold; it's 15C or 59 F. It's only 3 or 4 hours to Antartica from New Zealand. So you can imagine how cold that water is.

So I brought 7 mm wetsuit. My friend has a 5 mm one. You definitely need a hoodie, or your head starts to hurt in the icy water. First it's cold; then, you get a headache. Then it starts pounding in your head, and finally, you get numb.  Eventually, the chills and shivers run through your body. For me, it almost always starts at the feet.

With our gear, we had to walk about another 3 miles (5 km) to the spot. While walking, we talked about our times together, when we dove New Zealand's South Island waters to catch abalone and crayfish.

I remember Andre and I caught so much abalone together in the South Island. My brother was with us. So, I sent it home for my brother to bring home to Mom.

My mother was so happy. That was ages ago, though. And she needed to be happy again.

Back then, Andre flew in on a small airplane to the South Island. I met him at the airstrip.

We drove through the top of the South Island. We all took a fishing boat out there, and Andre reminded me of how he got sea sick. I gave up my spot on the boat; so he could lie down. But I was sea sick too in those choppy water. To be honest, I didn't even remember the whole incident, until he reminded me.

Andre's an impressive swimmer and free diver. He was a champion swimmer for New Zealand. He helped me improve my swim strokes while I lived in New Zealand. I don't know if I remember though my lessons; it's been so long.

One time, Andre dove down and found a lobster and grabbed it with his bare hands. He had no fear. The spiny lobster shell ended up tore up his hand as it flickered its body through his bare hands, but he was determined to get it.

I cooked it up for dinner for us that night. Those were good times. We were young and privileged and free and had only one concern then. That was to enjoy life.

Abalone's important to our family. My mother always alleged that it made one healthy to eat. It's also a delicacy in Asian cultures - especially the Korean and Chinese ones. Because of the overfishing of it, many species are extinct or close to it - like the white abalone in Los Angeles.

A good size abalone costs $50 USD. Some people don't seem to understand the value of them, but usually, because they haven't had it properly prepared. I've had it prepared in so many different ways from raw to steak to fritters to soup. Mom knows best; she always makes it in a soup.

I've had so much experience cooking abalone, I feel like nobody knows how to prepare abalone better than me. Over my lifetime, I've caught hundreds of abalone and had the luck of learning how to cook it in all types of ways from French to Chinese to Korean to Kiwi.

Abalone grows really slowly. But for some reason, it grows much larger in cold water. The same species of Haliotis Iris grows much larger in the South of New Zealand than in the warmer waters North. Even though abalone is being farmed these days, the farming can't keep up with the demand from Asian countries.

We finally arrived at our dive spot, where we saw a few New Zealand brown fur seals. And in distance, we saw the fins of either dolphins or killer whales out there. We assumed they were killer whales, because the seals were swimming back to shore frantically.

We put on our wetsuits. My wetsuit was tighter at the chest. I reckon my shoulders muscles are larger from the boxing than when I had the suit tailored.

My friend gave me a screwdriver to get the abalone. But immediately upon entering the water, I dropped it. I don't know what happened.

So my friend came back and found in the seaweed and gave it back to me. Andre told me, "You're useless - aye?" I felt that way This wasn't going to be easy. I was rusty; I haven't dove for abalone in over four years.

We walked into the icy water. And then I swam out. I started diving in the waters and saw the abalone hidden between rocks and seaweed. But there was a problem, I didn't have enough weight. I didn't bring a weight belt. And because of it, I kept popping up too quickly - not giving me a chance to stay down long enough to pry off the abalone.

It reminded me to a time where my Marine Biology mentor and professor, William Hamner took us to the aquarium. There was a huge Pacific Cod in the tank. It's funny what I saw and what he saw. It was the difference between what a novice and an expert sees.

I saw a big fish. He then told me, "Look, Paul - how big that fish is and its incredibly buoyant. It's a mystery how they regulate their buoyancy. For you to be as buoyant would take a careful calibration of lead weights, and even then, you couldn't achieve what that fish was doing." Some lessons, for whatever reason, stay with you for life. And I wasn't buoyant, because I didn't have my weight belt. I kept floating like a log in water.

On top of that, there was a strong swell. A swell is where the water swishes back and forth. And the great force of it, was dragging me around the water like a rag doll. I was feeling really sea sick.

I would try to grab onto the rocks, but the swell was so strong it knocked me off and bumped my knee against a rock. This was going terribly for me. And because I couldn't focus, I lost Andre's screwdriver. It was gone. Now I wasn't going to get any abalone now.

But something inside of me said that I wasn't ready to give up. And I managed to still pry three abalone off with my own barehands. You have to do it fast, or they'll suck onto the rock. Then they're glued on there, and it's impossible to pull them off with your bare hands.

Being swished around in the water like that, made me wonder if the leviathan lived in those New Zealand waters. It would suck in the water and spit it out and create a whirlpool to get caught in. The Maori people believe that guardian spirits or monsters live in those waters. They call it the Tangiwha (T-ang-i-fa). In the West we call it the leviathan.

Even the Bible speaks of the leviathan. In Job, God tells Job that the leviathan scales are stronger than any armor and that human weapons, like spears, cannot pierce it's skin. While diving in the water, I had a vision of the Leviathan calling to me.

The Leviathan dragged me into his cave. (Why all these monsters live in caves, like dragons, or Grendel, Grendel's mother, or cockatrices or  lamaias, who knows?) He had black scales and looked like a massive dragon. He raised his long neck and head out of his water, then lowered his head to make eye contact with me. His eyes were like ice blue sapphires, and inside, there was a burning fire sparking inside. He bore his teeth, and his incisors had the look of viper fangs. He was a ferocious. And many have died of fright just by making eye contact with him.

According to one legend, he asks three difficult questions. If he doesn't like the answer - he kills you. If he likes all three, he grants you your wish. Each question is supposed to be harder than the last one.

And through psychic powers, he talked to me in my mind.

He asked me, Why are you here?

And I answered him, Because, it is who I am.

 I was here when the earth was laid. What can you possibly have to tell me?

All life is just a progression toward, and then a recession from, one phrase — "I love you."

He growled, while hearing the answer. Then he asked, Where did you learn that from?

It doesn't matter, because the person who taught me stole it from someone else.

Son of Adam, what do you request?

To finish my quest. That's why I'm here.

Your request is granted.

And with that, I popped up to the surface for air and the sky was above of me. I was useless without my screwdriver or a weight belt. And I felt stupid and shameful and dumb. Here was this Kiwi champion swimmer, and the fact that I only have three abalone made me look like the proud but know-nothing American.

I started free diving in search of the screw driver. And I saw a sudden neon lime green handle. I dove for it, and behold, hidden in the seaweed, I found a diver's knife! It was rusty, but it would do. And a few feet away, I found the black case for the diver's knife. What luck!

Andre came back full of abalone in his catch bag. He asked me why I didn't have more; I said - because I need a weight belt.

Andre emptied out his catch bag, which attached to the waist. He measured my three abalone - which were all undersized; so, we tossed them back. That sucked. Then we filled up the catch bag with rocks, and I went diving again.

This time, over an hour, hovering near the sea floor, I was able to get my catch with my new dive blade. I called her Red Rust. It was like flipping a steak off.

The trick with catching abalone is first spotting large ones. Then, you come back up for air. Then you go back down, hold onto a rock nearby, because the water is pulling you in a direction. Then when you have a chance, you quickly flip it. That way, it doesn't suck onto the rock. And if you have to fight the abalone, you waste more oxygen fighting with it. And that you don't want to do.

I got sea sick in that water. I felt queasy and threw up my lunch. The particles of brown and red floated through the water. A grouper came by me and started eating my slurry lunch. I had to keep going though. I needed to catch my share - or it'd be shameful. And my mom wanted her abalone. Some years, she rewarded the relatives that made her happy and withheld them from people that upset her that year. It was a currency of influence she enjoyed to have in the family.

That day, I caught 7 abalone. 10 is the limit per day. Given all the challenges, I did well. And I could hang my head up high that the American didn't disappoint. Had I caught nothing, I knew Andre would remind me later about how I caught nothing and had to take his catch to Los Angeles. But that didn't happen today.

I persevered, even when the odds were against me, even when I lost my tool. It was a good lesson in improvisation too.

The problem was we had to walk back 3 miles carrying heavy abalone. We took turns carrying the heavy bucket. It was like carrying rocks back. No wonder why they call it black gold. At times, it felt like my arms were going to fall off from carrying the weight.

But on our way, we chatted about life - while the sun was setting. The hills were behind us. They looked like the same ones in King Kong - where the monsters come crawling down the hills - ready to attack humans.

At one point, I realized, I lost the dive knife walking. I had to walk back for it, and I found it on the ground again. Why is this whole knife thing such a problem for me?

Andre was at the carpark, talking to his friends - who were envious that we had so much abalone. They tried to tell me I couldn't bring it home to the United States, but that annoyed me, because I already knew the law allowed it.

Then, they asked Andre if they could go out with him next time. That bothered me, because I felt like they were using him. But that's how greedy people could be to get their abalone. Andre told me they were an envious kind of people that lied a lot to impress others. They must of had a bad catch, but I think Andre enjoyed his reputation of being an impressive free diver.

Andre bought me Indian food for dinner. That was kind of him. I bought myself some red wine at the market. It wasn't the best, though We brought the food home, and we ate and drank.

Andre shucked and cleaned the abalone. I took a hot shower. Then he took a hot shower. The hot water running through my hair and head felt so good from the cold freeze from icy New Zealand's water.

After, we played a game of Uno with his daughter.

Andre's an early sleeper. So we all went to bed early. I was going to have lunch with friends tomorrow, and then, we were going to go back to dive for more abalone.

Andre bought me Indian food for dinner. That was kind of him. I bought myself some red wine at the market. We brought the food home, and we ate and drank.

Andre shucked and cleaned the abalone.

I took a hot shower. Then he took a hot shower. The hot water running through my hair and head felt so good from the cold freeze from icy New Zealand's water.

After, we played a game of Uno with his daughter.

Andre's an early sleeper. So we all went to bed early. I was going to have lunch with friends tomorrow, and then, we were going to go back to dive for more abalone.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Korean Kiwi Wedding

After exploring the City of Auckland with an new Northern Irish guy I met named Pete, I had to head off to a Korean-Kiwi wedding. Pete told me about all the conflict between the crown loyalist and the Irish nationalist. He had a cool accent. I told him about how I wasn't allowed to go to those areas according to the US State Department back when bombings and shootings were taking place. We drank coffee a lot together. He even told me about how Game of Thrones was filming outside of his front yard. After drinking a glass of red wine with him in the Auckland City Central, my judo sensei and I had to head off to the wedding.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing; I did it five times.
I knew two other people at the wedding - the groom and my judo sensei. We all knew each other about eight or nine years ago. We were all part of an immigrant community, and we needed each other to survive, because we didn't have family in New Zealand. So; there was a special bond between all of us.

My immigration experience in New Zealand really helped me appreciate my parents more. I remember my first year in Kiwi land was tough, and I spoke the language, and I had a good education. When my parents arrived to America - they couldn't speak the language, and they didn't have an education. I can only imagine how difficult their lives were.

My favorite memory with the groom was that we took a car and slept in it the night before our hike at the Tongrariro Crossing. It was a last minute trip; that's why we didn't even have a place to stay. I remember looking at the stars that night, and the sky was lit with a million glowing stars. Now he was getting married, and I was at his wedding.

I also remember that my judo sensei, and I would walk to the rocky beach on a beautiful Sunday afternoon - when the sky was bright blue and all the families were eating and drinking at the beach with their children. They would help me carry my dive gear then, as I'd dive for abalone for all of us.

The groom got married at a destination kind of wedding. Most of the guests were Korean, Koreans from the Republic of Korea and Koreans that were native kiwis. The venue was beautiful, and you can see the pictures below.

I was sat at a lawyer's table. I guess his wife knew a lot of Kiwi attorneys. It's not the first time I've been to a wedding, and I was sat at an all lawyer's table. We talked a lot about travel. They all had significant travel experience.

The ceremony was short and beautiful. We all had a good time.

It was time to start getting ready for my journey to see my friends in Wellington.