Friday, November 21, 2008

Megan is OK; the scooter is not

Megan asked me to write this because she is too busy marking papers at this moment getting ready for the end of the school year reports.

Here's what happened: On Tuesday morning on the way to work, Megan turned right toward school. It was typical morning rush hour traffic, and it's always a challenge making a right hand turn onto that street. Megan says she checked right and then checked left before crossing, but she forgot to check right again because when she got half way across the street she was hit in what the policeman called "a full side impact." Megan doesn't remember all the details but the next thing she knew she was lying in the middle of the road, turned around facing the direction she came from, her motor scooter was further down the road, and her shoes were on the other side of the scooter.

The whole neighbourhood mobilised to help. One of Megan's students lives right across the street from the accident and came to help. The driver of the car that hit her called 111 for an ambulance. A tow truck arrived almost immediately to pick up the pieces of the scooter. Our neighbour, Margaret, also a teacher at Dio, stopped to help and to take the news to school. Some street repair construction workers placed orange traffic cones around Megan and re-directed traffic a safe distance away. A gardener from the cemetery brought a blanket for Megan. The medics came in an ambulance to check her over but by then she was already sitting on the kerb and the scooter had been pulled to the side of the road on the verge. The police came and interviewed everybody. Then our neighbour Brendon stopped to help with the tow truck which took the scooter to an insurance assessment yard. Then Brendon brought Megan home where she called me at work. She was a little bruised and sore but mostly shook up from the trauma. I hopped on my bicycle and came home to be the primary care giver.

Megan spent the rest of the day recovering, napping, and checking for new bruises and abrasions. Thursday she went to the doctor to have her wrist xrayed because it was sore and blue. The wrist is OK - just sprained a little - but the doctor thinks she may have cracked a rib because she feels pain when she coughs. He said it would be a waste to xray for the rib because they can't treat it anyway. He said if the rib had fractured and punctured her lung, then they could treat it but I guess that didn't happen.

The worst part is that Megan can't sit still for more than an hour so she went to work Wednesday so she wouldn't get so bored. Then she felt tired because her body really needs time to heal, so she decided to work only half a day Thursday. Even that was too much. Friday she has a morning meeting but she won't teach for the rest of the day. I feel like I need to tackle her and pin her down to stop her, but she won't stay still. When she is sitting quietly she continues to mark papers. Grrrr.
Megan says that I shouldn't make it sound worse than it is or people might get alarmed. I think I captured the escence of it pretty much. She is a very lucky girl. That's two close calls in the last two months. Remember the taxi and muffin incident at Trafalger Square? I told her that there is to be no more impacts with cars. This trend must stop.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NZ Election vs. US election

A few days after the American election, there was an election New Zealand, too. Clark vs. Key didn't get as much worldwide media attention as Obama vs. McCain. Go figure.

It was a beautiful, sunny spring day to go to the polling booth at a local church. And it seemed sensible to hold an election on a Saturday instead of a Tuesday. The polling place was well-organised and efficient but not high-tech: paper ballots to be marked with a pen, cardboard private voting booth and cardboard ballot boxes. Surprisingly, the poll workers were not all octogenarians like they seem to be in US polling places. My favourite part in both countries is getting the sticker that says "I voted."

That evening, we went to our neighbour's house for dinner and results, which was a lovely way to spend my first NZ election coverage ... even if our hosts supported the 'wrong' party.

The NZ election only covered two things: which person you want to represent your local electorate, and which party you want to control Parliament. Two ticks. In comparison, my American ballot had over 30 different offices to vote for, from President, Senator, and Governor, all the way to local judges. And there are no primaries in NZ; each party has already chosen their favourite from within.

Voter turnout in NZ this year was 78%, a bit lower than the usual 80%. The US voter turnout was a record-breaking 68%.

In both countries, the populated urban areas voted more liberal (Democrat or Labour) while the rural areas voted more conservative (Republicans or National) Although the colours are reversed (conservative National is blue), both the US and NZ election maps looked the same: all one (conservative) colour in the heartland with pockets of the other (liberal) colour in the cities.

Obviously, I was not as elated with the New Zealand election results as I was with the US results. In New Zealand, the conservative National Party took power from the liberal Labour Party who had been in control for the last 9 years. Fortunately, the conservative party in NZ is not as far right as the Republican party in the US. But I was still a bit sad that my friend Helen was no longer Prime Minister. I felt smug being able to say I lived in a country with a female Prime Minister.

Since the US swung left and NZ swung right in the same week, many people have asked if it makes us want to move back to America. The answer is not yet. I think it's going to take a long time for America to recover from the Bush years. But it feels good that moving back to America is at least an option now.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

the morning after

Here is the front page of the New Zealand Herald on the day after the American election:

PS - I wonder if the headline and photo will be just as big after New Zealand's own election, which is happening the day after tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tears for Rosa, Martin and Obama

I dreamt last night that Obama came to my house to remind me to vote. I'd already mailed in my ballot with great satisfaction a few weeks ago, so I don't know why I was dreaming about that, other than the obvious reason that I have been bombarded with US election news for the last 2 years ... and remember, I live in NEW ZEALAND! Yes, there has been a front-page story in the New Zealand Herald nearly every day. (Coincidentally, there is also an election in New Zealand happening on November 8th. Do you think US papers have been running front-page stories about the NZ election day after day? Nah, me neither.)

But I have been consumed by this election, even from 8,000 miles away. First of all, I love politics. I have doorbelled for candidates, served as a page at the state capitol, and attended presidential campaign rallies for candidates from Hubert Humphrey to Al Gore. I became a history teacher, so I taught students about the Declaration of Independence and the Electoral College. I can even sing the Preamble to the Constitution. Yes, I love politics.

So that explains a bit why we were so crushed by the direction that America had been going. In 2004, when George W. Bush was elected for the SECOND time, - I could forgive America for making a mistake by electing him the first time, but to RE-elect him was beyond comprehension - we couldn't take it any more and we left the country.

Many people questioned our decision to emigrate: "He'll be gone in 4 years," they would say.
But it wasn't just the President that we were fleeing. We were fleeing the millions of Americans who think like Bush. The ones who think it's okay to invade other countries. The ones who are against gay marriage. The ones who want to teach creationism but not evolution. The ones who were deluded enough to vote for a man who gives tax cuts to the rich, and the ones who didn't bother voting at all. And they would all still be there. We felt that we were just too liberal to fit in any more.

Today, I was still nervous that McCain would somehow steal the election (like Bush) so I couldn't allow myself to really believe Obama would win. All day at work, I was so excited that I felt like a teenager in love. Couldn't concentrate. Butterflies in my stomach. Election results started coming in at about 1:00 p.m. NZ time, so I had my computer set to NPR (similar to BBC) and listened to the live feed while I half-heartedly marked papers.
Luckliy, I didn't have a class 6th period. Students and staff alike would see me and ask how the election was going. Everyone knows I'm American because a)I talk 'funny' and b)I've been wearing my Obama pin every day for weeks. Last week I even wore a shirt covered with dozens of old campaign pins from McGovern, Carter, Dukakis, Clinton Gore, Kerry, and Obama. I even have a (Bobby) Kennedy bumper sticker. All those pins and stickers would have looked best on my Jesse Jackson '88 T-shirt, but I couldn't find it amid the boxes. Puckishly, I have fond memories of wearing my Jesse Jackson shirt just to make my dad mad.

After school, I went running on the treadmill, but I didn't want to miss any of the returns so I brought my computer to the gym (thankfully my school is wireless, including the gym), plugged it in, balanced it on the treadmill, and ran 5k while listening to NPR. Pretty pathetic, huh. Then I arrived home just in time to hear John McCain's concession speech. I found Curt was already home (indeed, he'd come home at 2:00 just to watch election results) and I found him with tears in his eyes. I was similarly moved. Obama's win gave me hope that maybe America has finally woken up.

Our neighbour arrived with a bottle of champagne and we all toasted the new chapter for America. There are even fireworks going off outside tonight in New Zealand. Not because of the American election, but because it's Guy Fawkes Day. But I can pretend they are celebrations for Obama instead.

How does it feel?
It feels too good to be true.
It feels like pride, something I haven't felt about America in ages.
It gives me goosebumps.
I am so overwhelmingly relieved that in this election, the other America spoke.
Tonight ... tonight brought tears to my eyes.

Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Obama could run.
Obama ran so children could soar.

author unknown