Color Me Bold

When I arrived in Wellington, New Zealand on July 7, 2018 I did not know what to expect. My expectations were quite high because IT’S NEW ZEALAND; do I need to explain more?  I arrived a couple of days earlier than my classmates and professors. I did this to get the lay of the land and to decompress from my ordinary life, a life filled with ups and downs and a whole lot of smiles. But mainly I arrived early to be bold–to be the person I am deep down inside and not let my anxiety get the best of me. Another reason was to avoid feeling exhausted when the program started. As I slept, two days flew by without a whisper, and I only cruised the land a couple of times and ate some really good food. Sweet Mothers’s Kitchen was my go to for just about anything: coffee, breakfast, southern food and fries. It wasn’t until my classmates started to arrive that I had the urgency to do things other than eat and decompress. I was starting to feel and act bolder than usual. My personality was full-go color, and I was bolder than ever to try new things. Why is that? Maybe it’s because I wasn’t alone in a whole new country. Fast-forward to when a vibrant classmate, Kourtni, and I met up to tour the local art museum, Te Papa.

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is New Zealand’s national museum. Te Papa, or “Our Place,” opened in 1998 after the merging of the National Museum and the National Art Gallery. The full meaning of the museum’s name is “container of treasures.” And some of the main treasures that have been contained or collected are housed in these areas: Arts, History, Taonga Māori, Pacific Cultures, and Natural History.

I went to Te Papa twice, and both times it was a unique experience. It’s recommended that visitors go more than once because this museum is huge. If you don’t want to spend a whole day there, just break it up into segments. You shouldn’t have to worry about the cost to get in because it is FREE. We all like free, don’t we? The first time I went I was with Kourtni, and it was awesome.  We escaped the rain, but we got to see some of the coolest art exhibits that I have seen in a long time. My favorite of all was made out of acrylic paint and stainless steel (picture 1), and the other of ribbons and sanded terrarium (picture 2). Seeing these exhibits made me reflect on choices I have made before coming and decisions I will need to make when I return home. These colorful exhibits made me think: how do I live colorfully? How do I express my pain in a colorful way? All I could think about was how can I color my life with a bold font

The second time we went was as a class, and we experienced a private tour of the museum. Luckily for Kourtni and me, we toured areas that we had not seen on our first visit such as the special collections library and the floor decorated with teachings from Māori culture and history. Te Papa “retains deep ancestral links to the indigenous Māori people. The Museum recognises the partnership that was created by the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, te Tiriti o Waitangi, in 1840” [1]. They have a copy of the treaty right in the entrance of the private library. During this visit, my anxiety got the best of me and I knew right then in there that this is how I insert the bold font into my life. I had to get through this episode and continue to be colorful: joyful, positive and loving. It was a hard transition, but while learning about the history of the Māori people, I think it was only fitting that I toughen up and survive. 

I had an amazing time at Te Papa, and if you’re ever in Wellington, this is definitely something to add to your itinerary. It is fun, interactive, child friendly and accessible–all the things you need in an engaging museum. According to Wikipedia, 1.5 million people visit yearly.  I highly suggest adding to that number. You will walk out a different person with a new meaning of life. I did. I am now colored boldly (changed spiritually). I can honestly walk away from this visit and say it helped me at one of the most confusing times in my life. I ask you, what has colored you bold? 



Visit Te Papa Online


pic 1Picture 1. A shadowed Kourtni looking at the Helen Calder work, Everything in its right place (Arrangement for seventeen colour groups, 17/51).


art-renew-holl-102.tifPicture 2. Tiffany Singh’s rainbow-colored installation, Indra’s bow, 2017–18.


Children’s books in historic homes: Dromkeen, Pinerolo, and Nutcote

Here are some of the historic literary sites that made such an impression on us in Australia: Dromkeen, Pinerolo, and Nutcote.
Dromkeen Homestead (built 1889) was the first home of an extraordinary Australian picture book collection now housed at the State Library Victoria, which we also visited. At Dromkeen we were hosted by Bernadette Joiner, whose family bought the property and now maintains it as an educational facility with presentations and exhibits. Author Mark Wilson led a writing workshop for us in the gallery room, where an exhibit of his art was hung.  The Dromkeen staff served us  a most excellent tea, including Bernadette’s famous vanilla slice. She had also placed many well-chosen books on display for us, including those with an Aboriginal focus. 
Pinerolo, the Book Cottage, is the home of retired publisher Margaret Hamilton. For thirty years, she published picture books from Australia and elsewhere, raising the profile and production standards of Australian books on the world stage of children’s literature. Margaret showed us all the phases of publishing a picture book, illustrating her talk with ORIGINAL query letters, roughs, galley proofs, etc. Oh, and the walls are hung with original art from books that she published! Her papers — a real treasure trove for publishing researchers — were organized by her husband, Max, a librarian, and are now housed at the State Library New South Wales.
Nutcote is the home, now a museum, of author-illustrator May Gibbs (1877-1969), creator of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and other well-loved Australian children’s book characters. At Nutcote you can see the trees that inspired the Gumnut babies and the villainous Banksia Men (see drawing, below) of her stories. In addition to being prolific, May Gibbs was very independent and resourceful. Nutcote was designed for her by architect B. J. Waterhouse with many innovative touches. Here too our hosts served an excellent lunch (yes, more  delicious food!) on the back patio. The garden looks out onto Neutral Bay, with Sydney visible in the distance. The next day we were excited to see a ferry called the May Gibbs! 

We enjoyed the many stories our hosts, docents, and the artifacts themselves had to tell at Dromkeen, Pinerolo, and Nutcote. Then what a treat to return to our texts with greater insight and familiarity through this privileged glimpse into their history!

3 Understandings of Clarity

For months or years, depending on how far you look back into my life or how much I share, I have been contemplating where my life journey will take me. And if, like me,  you suffer from any mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, you know those thoughts can become obsessive.  When I was told about the iSchool Down Under opportunity, I was unsure of whether I should apply. With encouragement from a professor, I did.  I interviewed, and I was accepted. Upon arriving in New Zealand, I had a lot of doubts about what to expect, but given what I learned about the program and its mission, I knew I was doing the right thing. Over the five weeks I spent studying abroad, I learned things that will help me deal with my depression and anxiety that works for me that I hope will work for those who deal with similar issues. Below are three lessons that you can apply anyway, anytime.


1. Building Community

My anxiety has always made me struggle with meeting people and dealing with a large crowd. For some reason, I didn’t struggle as I normally do in these situations, especially given that I would be living with 13 strangers. Maybe all the pre-trip orientations that were required before we actually arrived at our destination eased my mind, but  after spending five weeks with the same group of 13 diverse individuals in three different cities and two countries, I have learned the importance of building community.

When building a community, it’s important to be yourself–flaws and all.  Our group bike rides showed my biggest flaws, but they helped me realize that I have lost a great deal of self esteem over the years. And there is no greater peace than finding and building or re-building self esteem with the help of other people, whether they are long-time friends or new acquaintances. 

2. Find Peace in the Unknown

There is beauty in not knowing something. I struggled for years with letting myself relax with not knowing the unknown. However, I found peace in the unknown when I spent a day with myself, getting lost in a city, Melbourne, that I didn’t know. Normally, GPS helps me, or I am traveling with friends, but in Melbourne,  I didn’t rely on either of these. Being among my classmates and knowing that they were getting lost on their own and having fun made me want to do the same. Use precautions, of course, but go somewhere and learn yourself and think about you. I found power in wandering the city alone, but but you don’t have to be alone.

3. Time to self

When I found peace in the unknown, I found peace in spending time with myself. It’s important to spend time with yourself because energy is transferable. When you are living and spending time with the same group of people for five weeks, from sunrise to sunset, your energy starts to clash. It doesn’t have to be personal, but if someone is going through a bad time, you might feel that tension and take it the wrong way and start feeling badly about yourself or that person. In situations like those, you have to break away and decompress so you don’t make a situation worse or project those bad feelings onto someone else.

Although I knew these three lessons before, studying abroad shifted my understanding of them.  And I hope others will benefit from these reflections. 




Parramatta City Library Embedded Librarian Day

On our last few days in Sydney, our class was sent out in pairs for a day of embedded librarianship in the West Sydney area. My partner and I were sent to Parramatta City Library, a public library.

The city of Parramatta is rich with immigrants from around the world, and it is evident that the public library works hard to support the needs of this community. They do this in a number of ways: by providing collections in a number of languages, access to council documents, and providing a Justice of the Peace daily (to sign documents and such). The website further supports these communities by linking information to area language clubs and English classes. On the day of our visit, an outreach coordinator was touring a group of women to show them how toddler story time is done at Parramatta City Library, and how they could offer a similar program in their respective organizations in their native languages.

In addition to physical resources, the library also offers a number of programs ranging from book clubs for adults, to knitting clubs, health talks, and a number of book programs for children to celebrate National Book Week. While we were there, we got to see a little of their toddler story time (aimed at children ages 2-4). They had 25 children and their caregivers in attendance. The library offers this story time three times a week but can only take 30 children and their caregivers per story time (due to health and safety and space restrictions). Caregivers must sign up in advance to get a ticket to attend (totally free) and can only attend story time once a week. Library staff said that most sessions are full.

During our whirlwind tour of the Parramatta City Library, we met almost every member of the staff, but two stick in my mind very clearly. One is Mari, who is in charge of community partnerships and provides a number of outreach services. One thing that the library does is provide organizations, such as community centers or doctors offices, with a red box that has discarded library books. These books are free for the taking and replenished monthly. This is very different from the library I work at, where discarded books stay in the school district and cannot be given out for free since they are purchased with taxpayer money. I thought this was a very neat way of further supporting the community and advertising the library. We also met Johany, who is responsible for home library services. He has his own library from which he pulls materials but will also use the main library to fill patrons’ requests. He said that he gets to know his patrons pretty well, and if he sees something that he thinks a patron might like, he picks it up to place in their library basket. I thought this personal connection was very sweet.

The Parramatta City Library is looking forward to the future. They are currently located in a temporary office building where they have been for several years while waiting for council approval for a new library branch, which will hopefully provide some much needed space. Library staff were not sure if the new library will have a larger children’s area but are hopeful as they anticipate continued growth in the immigrant population.

We had a great day at Parramatta City Library. We were able to meet with almost every department, and it was amazing to see everyone’s commitment to the community they serve. All the departments have to work together to provide the best services possible. They were incredibly welcoming, and it was a great day!

A Vegetarian’s Food Review of Wellington, NZ

Wellington is home to many culinary delights and a plethora of cafes. In addition to the variety of cafes and restaurants to enjoy in Wellington, we enjoyed many tea times at the academic conference we attended and during all the meetings with librarians. These short 20-30 minute tea breaks offered time to decompress from learning and to share food and drink with people we didn’t know beforehand. While the food is delicious and an experience all on its own, it may be more special because of who you share the food with!  

What surprised us the most was the quality of the food at nearly every cafe where we ate! Here, in no particular order, are my favorite Wellington cafes.

Cafe Neo (132 Willis St, Te Aro, Wellington)

A delightful cafe on one of the main drags. It had many vegetarian options and served a killer breakfast. One of my classmates and I stopped here during our first few days and reconnected. I had the sautéed, seasoned, mushrooms on toast with a beetroot crème fraîche.

Raumati Social Club (34 Poplar Ave, Raumati South, Paraparaumu)

This was a cafe that our group stopped at toward the end of the rainiest mountain bike ride ever around Paekakariki, a thirty-minute train ride from Wellington, (seriously, picture torrential rain and drowned rats on bikes). Raumati Social Club was just the cafe we needed, offering a warm atmosphere, a place to hang our coats, and delicious food. We bonded over being absolutely soaked and pondered how wet we would get in our last twenty minutes of riding to the train station. I had a cinnamon latte and Challah French toast with creme fraîche and raspberries. It was absolutely delicious.

Scorch O Rama Cafe (497 Karaka Bay Rd, Karaka Bays, Wellington)

Located right by the water, Scorch O Rama Cafe offers picturesque views and nerdy items galore (like an entire wall covered in comic book covers, a Lord of the Rings- themed menu, and a bathroom door painted in the style of the TARDIS). It was a great place to chat with our group about every nerdy thing we had seen so far on our Lord of the Rings tour! The Scorch O Rama also boasts of being the local cafe of Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Rings cast– and rightly so as the food was delicious! I had toast with avocado and roasted vegetable hummus with greens on top and a cinnamon latte.

Bernie’s on the Bay (139 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, Wellington)

Conveniently located in the outside of a gym (that housed a pool I frequented), this cafe featured specialty drinks and delicious pastries. The cheese scone toasted with butter was delicious! A great quick stop for morning espresso and treats! I typically stopped here for something warm and savory after working out at the pool before joining everyone for the day.

They don’t have an official website, but below is some information on their cafe from Facebook, and Wellington. 

Facebook Information for Bernie’s on the Bay

City information for Bernie’s on the Bay

Cafe Duppa (66 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, Wellington)

Located near the water, Cafe Duppa features simple and flavorful breakfast foods. This was also the place we frequented most often for its delicious food and convenient location near our YHA hostel. Small groups of us ate here several times, took in the atmosphere, and discussed what we would be doing that day. The porridge was delicious with a berry compote, candied pecans, and Greek yogurt. They also have a build-your-own breakfast which is equally amazing.

Sweet Mother’s Kitchen (5 Courtenay Pl, Te Aro, Wellington)

The very first cafe I went to in Wellington! An Americana dive bar with deliciously rich food. A classmate took me here upon my arrival, and it was a great first place to eat delicious food, and get to know someone else in our small study abroad group! I had truffle mac and cheese, and it was absolutely divine!




Gecko Press: Publishing Refreshing & Honest Children’s Books

I was happy to hear from Julia Marshall, founder and director of Gecko Press, at both the Australasian Children’s Literature Association for Research (ACLAR) Conference and at a visit to the press’ offices. The Gecko philosophy of select, publish, and promote “curiously good books” really resonated with me before these experiences and after hearing from Julia at the conference, then speaking to her in the more informal setting of her workplace. I was really impressed with how that philosophy guides her decisions in a deeply authentic way.

A Gecko catalogue, signage in the office and homemade cake and flowers they had ready for our visit

At ACLAR, July 12-14 at Victoria University of Wellington, one of the statements that stuck with me was how Julia believes they “often do better with books not deemed suitable for children” although these “aren’t the safe road, or the easy road.” After experiencing children’s literature in my own life, and as a Library Specialist focused on youth services for 5 years, I want to say that the choice to take the difficult path when it comes to children’s books is essential to exposing future generations to thoughtful and questioning material that allows them to see themselves (uncertain, diverse, childlike, older than their years, whatever their identity may feature) in what they read. Books that cultivate topics that push boundaries in this way or “break the rules” position children as being capable of more—thereby placing them at the center of hope.

This center of hope was a recurring theme during our study abroad and can be seen in much of Gecko’s work. In particular, the book Duck, Death, and the Tulip introduces children to the theme of death in a non-traditional way–one that could be shocking to some adults. Here, we meet Death personified and open to answering Duck’s questions: “Will I have a halo?” “Who knows?” “What about the dark place with fire?” “Probably not.” Overall, Death is presented as a friendly character, a part of life, who is there and ready when life gets the better of Duck (or us humans), and who doesn’t have all the answers to what will come after our time on this Earth. The ending provides an overwhelming sense that in the end, Death will take care of you when your time comes, and that death is part of life–not in a scary way. I found this take completely innovative and one that epitomizes Gecko’s approach to the majority of their work–refreshing and fresh. Trusting children with the capacity to handle tough topics, while embracing their questions is an approach that ultimately respects children, holding them in high regard. Visiting with Julia Marshall reinforced for me how much this approach to children’s literature shouldn’t be an anomaly;  it should be the norm.

As we continue in our graduate programs, I hope all of us can remember how to take the “curiously good” approach to youth services and work with children in a refreshing (and honest) way. Thanks to Julia and her work at Gecko for all she and her staff do to contribute to the world of children’s literature, publishing high-quality and high-content texts.

P.S. Our class also got to attend a performance of Duck, Death and the Tulip at Circa Theatre in Wellington, which brought the book to life in a poignant and beautiful way (For more on the play, see Kaylynn’s blog post on it)!

Sydney Street Art, a Social Commentary

Arriving in Sydney, we dived into a street art tour of Newtown, a neighborhood of Sydney. Guided by a local artist, Craig (you can see some of Craig’s ongoing work here at Bunkwaa), the work surrounding the building walls in this part of the city really highlighted for me the ongoing conversations–both political and cultural–among the people of Australia. 

Among the street art you could see and feel the layers of conversation, much tied into dreaming, borders, and refusing to be forgotten. For the first time since we’d been in Australia, you could see our class come alive at the visceral work around us–alive and acknowledging the deep and difficult past/present of the aboriginal people. Our reaction spoke to the power of this work on its own. Craig also spoke of each artist that he knew, why they were working, how the neighborhood values and maintains the art found in Newtown, and he openly shared varied perspectives on Invasion Day (formally acknowledged by Australian government as Australia Day). The rawness and honesty in the work around us told the stories of the people here in Sydney and represented a more diverse Australia. 


Another powerful moment in Sydney was shared with one classmate, Erika, as we encountered Psychic Poet on the streets one evening. Psychic Poet is an Intuitive Typewriter Poet who moves around with his typewriter and paper, offering to write you a personalized poem. He asks for one word from you and a minimum of $5. Erika and I had both noticed this set up one day while walking to the train but didn’t have time to stop in the midst of everything.

I think it was meant to be that we found him again on one of our last nights in Sydney. I offered the word “hope,” and Erika “books.” Without having talked to us yet, or knowing why we were in Australia, Psychic Poet spent about 5 minutes on each poem, handing us poems deeply connected to our identities and conversations she and I had been having earlier that night. Namely, the value of libraries/books and the necessity for hope to sparkle.

Between both of these experiences, it is without hesitation that I say street art is alive and well in Sydney and asking some essential questions for our present and our future in this world.