Saturday, 17 October 2009

The Ninth One: Thermal under where?

Let the lord of the Black Land come forth! Let justice be done upon him!

Tick, tick, tick...BOOM! (I regret typing that as I saved this earlier and am about to post it while I’m in an airport) I was in the hospital and they have on many of the wards and in the hospital offices a chart of what to do in certain emergencies. I was idly having a glance at one of these and being generally unsurprised at the content; fire, phone system failure, bomb threat, volcanic eruption, flood...hang on...VOLCANIC ERUPTION! I didn’t read it but I imagine it said something like, “The entire area the hospital is set on is a giant geothermal hotspot. If the volcano erupts you will be blown sky high. In the event of an advanced warning leave as fast as possible and try not to think of Pompeii!”

The threat of the ground exploding beneath my feet has been a general theme of my recent travels, having visited two areas of recent geothermal activity.

The first one was The Craters of the Moon. Sadly this didn’t look anything like the actual craters of the moon and even more disappointingly it wasn’t made of cheese. It was however a fairly creepy walk across a desolate landscape populated only by those hardcore plants that give live in a soil with high sulphur content, extremely hot ground and where small portions of the ground frequently disappear in a puff of smoke. This is probably how the triffids got started. There was smoke coming out of the ground which was too hot to walk on so they had put down wooden walkways. I wouldn’t have picked wood as a very heat resistant material but there it was. Apparently this all started in this area in the 1950s when they built a local geothermal power station altering the geophysics of the area causing this but to go a bit “boiling mud”. They don’t mention that when they talk about renewable energy! In any case, at least now I can say I can moon walk.

The second “Journey Across Stuff from the Centre of the Earth” was a boat trip on Lake Tarawera in the Waimangu geothermal park. Again very nice with lots to learn and a multitude of bizarre rock formations that you get when you force energy from the middle of the earth to the top. I found out that where the ground goes bright yellow in these areas, it’s not actually sulphur (as I have been telling everyone) but a type of algae that like the triffid plants from the moon, just loves to live on a temperamental bit of ground. Is there an algae equivalent saying of “the foolish man built his house upon the sand”? I suppose not. I don’t think you could class algae as foolish. This area was apparently formed with an eruption June 10th 1886. If you’re foolish enough to ask where the volcano is, then you’ll get told, “We’re in it. This whole area exploded then filled up with water to form a lake. Anything else? Look at the swans and try not to think about it”. Thanks tour man.

Of course there isn’t really anything much to worry about as both of these areas are considered dormant in terms of volcanic activity. Then again, it doesn’t become active until it explodes which removes the comfort from the previous thoughts.

I also went kayaking. This was good and I was in more danger of getting wet than of exploding. I can live with that. I’ve rarely stayed wet forever whereas if you explode there is a sense of permanency about the whole process. There were swans there too. Perhaps they’re following me. No matter, I imagine if you’re getting stalked by swans then you soon know about it. They tend to stick out a bit. Unless that’s why all the swans in New Zealand are black. Stealth. Oh well, if I vanish in the next few weeks I know what I want on my gravestone. David Steele. Killed by stealth swans. Look out!

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Eighth One: To the crystal dome!

You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and you! Well, I go and I will trouble you no more. But do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell.

First some old business. In the last blog I forgot to mention what happened when I went to Mount Ruapehu. Nothing much. It was big and impressive as mountains tend to be. It was also used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. There was no burning eye on top of a tower to be seen. I would mention it but everyone here in New Zealand is obsessed with Lord of the Rings. Won’t stop going on about it.

(Myth I would like to spread #2 Everyone in New Zealand is obsessed with Lord of the Rings. They like it because there’s no swearing in it.)

This weekend I went to Hamilton. (Not the real one in Scotland, the backup they have in New Zealand in case the one in Scotland gets destroyed.) There is not much to report about Hamilton. It was raining the whole day so I can only assume that it always rains in Hamilton. There is a statue of Richard O’Brian dressed as Riff raff from the Rocky Horror show. I don’t know why. I think it would be better if the statue was of him playing the harmonica in the crystal dome. But sadly I don’t get to decide what pointless statues people erect (he he). For all I know there’s a plinth featuring Noel Edmunds on the other side of town.

There was a great story in the museum about the first white settlers to come to Hamilton. They were sailing up the Waikato river and this woman, Theresa somebody or other walked up to one of the other people on the boat and asked if they would hold her baby. They happily obliged and were probably quite surprised when she jumped overboard and swam to the shore laughing. She later became reasonably wealthy selling signatures as the first white woman to set foot in “Hamilton”. One day we may look back at this story and see the start of reality TV stars. Possibly today! (Probably not today)

Unconnected to this I also found out that foreign reindeer are not allowed to enter New Zealand. Apparently they carry some sort of disease that affects cows. New Zealand having a highly agricultural economy can’t allow this to happen. That is why even to this day, in New Zealand, it is always winter, but never Christmas.

I have also had my Maori Health/pronunciation class. This was very good and in the very least should help me with looking at road signs and saying my destination properly. This would be even more useful if I had a satellite navigation system. I don’t but it would be really useful. That’s why from now on when I watch the Haka I will nod afterwards and go yep. The pronounced that right. Unless it’s live in which case I’ll say nothing. I would very much like not to get beaten up by the New Zealand rugby team. Or all the Maori people.

A large part of my elective was to be experiencing how Maori health beliefs interact with “Western” (I don’t like that term but don’t have a better one) medicine. So this bit of teaching on Maori health beliefs was very handy. What I liked about it was that while I may be unaware of a lot of traditional Maori culture and particularly with how it should apply to medicine, was that essentially you could get around it by being polite, respectful and generally nice to your patients. For example it doesn’t matter if you don’t know that the pelvic exam shouldn’t be carried out because it is sacred as the source of all your future children if you explain carefully why it needs to be performed, ask if there’s any particular problems the patient has with it and then following this politely gain consent for the important examination. Obviously it’s good if you can be aware of your patient’s culturally held health beliefs but it is not essential. If you just assume that as a human being they care about what happens to themselves and that you respect this and ask them about what they think before you barge in and ram them in an MRI machine then it should come good.

This is obviously what I actually think but also a prelude to what I have to say next so you don't think I'm completely a terrible person. All kids that enter the library have to agree to be quiet and not run around like instead of blood they have amphetamines. If they don’t agree to this, they can still come into the library, but if I am there and I am trying to write some of my elective report on Maori health beliefs then they risk by being attached to a catapult, flung over a distance of 25 metres where they will land in a pile of books which on closer inspection will turn out to be copies of Hairy MacClarey from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd. On fire. The fire will then be put out by throwing rotten kiwi fruit full of water onto the flames. The children won’t die. I’m not evil. They will just learn not to run and scream in the library.

Last year was the 25th anniversary of the release of Hairy McClarey from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd. Since I used to love this book and since I didn’t know about the anniversary and since Lynley Dodd is from New Zealand I thought I might as well say Happy Birthday Hair McLarey now. Good dog!

Has everyone forgotten about that awful kids in the library paragraph yet?