snaps of tonga

I was very fortunate to be able to take a work trip earlier this year to Tonga – specifically Tongatapu, the largest island in the group.

Each morning I drove the length of the island to the work-site. And the length of the island in the evening. Literally… I could not have driven much further.  My sleeping quarters at the resort were within a few paces of the western shore, while the only background noise at my remote work-site (besides the occasional thud of a coconut falling), was the waves crashing on the coral reefs.

So anyhow, I had plenty of experience driving in Tonga. Something like 600 km on an island that at its widest point is only 30km. First note to self. Avoid driving after dark. There are no reflective road markings – that I recall anyhow. There are few street lights in many villages. But more importantly, the roads belong to everyone…cars, bicycles, pedestrians, oldies in wheelchairs, soccer-playing children, pigs, dogs, cats, chickens. Literally, the road belongs to everyone…equally.

I was driving along one afternoon, enjoying the music and the warm breeze, and had to jam on my brakes to avoid a dog napping on the centreline. He looked at me with an irritated glance, got up, shook himself, and sauntered off.

Tonga has marked pedestrian cross-walks, just like in New Zealand, but of the hundreds of people I saw cross the road as I drove, I only recall one person who crossed at a cross-walk. And it could very well have just been coincidence that he crossed at that cross-walk rather than some other point on the road.

I did suffer my fair share of bouts of spoiled Westerner frustration with the random hazards and the slow driving pace (the 40 kmh speed limit was sometimes clearly too high, especially after dark!). But eventually I came to realise – this situation with the roads perfectly reflects what I saw throughout this culture – that above all else, it is about the people. It’s not about getting places fast. It’s not about who has what “rights” at what place on the roadway, and at what time. It’s about the people you are with, and how good of a time you are having with them along the way. It’s about honouring them, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, whoever they are. I realised: I can respect that.

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The below photo was taken along the waterfront walkway of Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital city, just a stone’s throw from the fence of the king’s palace. (Yes, those are chickens in the background.)

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fermented applesauce

Three months ago I made applesauce using my lazy-man’s method. Which is:

-wash apples
-quarter them and throw them in a blender (peel, seeds, and all)
-add a little lemon juice
-puree (a heavy duty blender like a VitaMix does this beautifully).

Usually I eat the result within a few days, but this time I sealed the result in quart canning jars and put them on a shelf.

I just opened one for the first time, three months later. The seal was tightly bulging outward, so I knew some excitement was in store. And it was exciting indeed! Picture pressurized applesauce, shooting out of a jar, in all directions. Before cleaning up the mess I had just made, I had a taste of the substance coating my hands. Mmm, this is good stuff!

So what happened? Because the applesauce was never heated, it retained the natural enzymes and other microorganisms present in and on the apples. Once bottled, those little guys got down to work digesting the sugars in the applesauce (i.e. fermenting it). A byproduct of fermentation is CO2, which explains the pressure (“carbonation”) in the bottles. Was the result spoiled and unfit to eat? Not at all! The pressure and CO2 atmosphere made the environment inhospitable for “bad” bugs to multiply. In effect, the applesauce was protected in the opposite way to the normal method, which is prolonged cooking to kill as many bugs as possible, then creating an inhospitable environment with a negative (vacuum) seal.

My result is definitely more healthy than applesauce preserved in the normal way. Now I just need to find a way to release the pressure without the champagne-bottle effect!

And the taste? I actually prefer it to the original applesauce. It is has a pleasant fizzy texture on the tongue, and the taste is complex – slightly sour or tangy, and reminiscent of cider (or as you North Americans call it, “hard cider”).

Another successful food experiment. 🙂

*genius*

The reason we have so few geniuses is that people do not have faith in what they know to be true.

 

Genius learns from nature. Talent learns from art.

 

Genius is to believe your own thought. To believe what is true for you is ultimately true.

 

Genius is the ability to see the obvious.

 

A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are the portals of discovery.

 

There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him.

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my personality

I took a personality type test recently. The resulting description almost took my breath away, it so eerily (nearly) perfectly described me! I think I am not a very self aware person, so any insight into myself is useful. I am finding myself making some changes based on what I’ve learned. For example it said that I thrive on theories, and when I find a solution to a theory I am considering or a project I am working on, I will then shelve it and move on, but because I am that way, I need to place importance on expressing my thoughts in an understandable way. Part of the reason I have been blogging more is to try that idea out, and it does feel good to try and express my thoughts instead of holding them in like I naturally do.

OK, this is going to be a book. Venture on if you dare, and if you care to learn about how David’s inner machinery works. This is all true of me, with very few exceptions. (copied from http://apps.new.facebook.com/my-type/?page=gtd&type=INTP#)

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thoughts and dreams

How can I make my strong desire for responsible home construction and property development into a functioning occupation and/or a way to provide income, without becoming a paid “expert” / “specialist”?  How can I enable others to learn and practice responsible living without making a “career” of it?  Other than writing a book…I’m not sure.  And I don’t see myself writing a book anytime in the foreseeable future.

-What I do not want to do: like Marty the contractor at the straw bale house I visited, build a house for someone.  Nor, like other local “eco” builders, building fashionable houses with all the latest expensive eco gadgets.  
-What I do want to do: enable, or build alongside, the person or people who will live in the house.  Enable them to live mortgage free.  Building simple, mostly small, super comfortable, personalized, fit-to-location homes, at little cost or dependence on corporate or imported products or services (that is, small scale and local).  

I think I could do it, I have enough knowledge to get me started, and I have the physical ability.  But there are a few speed bumps: 
-Building codes and planning committees that for the sake of convenience and standardization cater toward conventional building and thus (perhaps unintending), restrict other ideas that are just as valid and, in many respects, more wise.
-The fact that I live in a country where convenience is a virtue, where specialists abound, and where building is an industry managed by specialists rather than something in which nearly everyone participates in some way.
-And the fact that despite the steps I have taken to have a simple and uncluttered life without debt, and barter whenever possible, there are still some expenses (like the internet access that makes this post possible) that are unavoidable in my current situation, requiring some sort of cash income.

 Until a path becomes clear, I am going to learn what I can, and give the dream time to mature…