Rick in New Zealand

April 16, 2002

rick_mugEn route to my new job, I had a 1 day stopover in Hong Kong, one of my favourite cities; the famous Star Ferry, double Decker buses, fantastic high-rises and bridges begging the question what happens when the big Quake hits.

Hong Kong was a day filled with anticipation for me too.

After 60 hours en route I finally descended into Auckland. It is a spectacular city seen from above with much water everywhere. This was my first time to New Zealand.

I scooted through customs despite admitting that I had no work visa (yet) though I was arriving for a full-time job. The friendly and casual official waved me through.

One more flight took me on to Christchurch on the south island (mainland!).

It is a great adventure to be living and working in another country. I am thankful my eccentric lifestyle and philosophy affords me the freedom to do so. And the generous support of friends and family, of course. My brother Randy bailed me out in last minute banking confusion.

By the way, I was feted at thanks-for-leaving parties in both Saskatoon and Calgary. Thanks to everyone — especially for the awesome sheep cake in the toon!

In NZ I was met at the airport and whisked to the CSG (Christchurch School of Gymnastics). It is a terrific facility; about 12,000 square feet with an additional spectators gallery above, bunjie pit, excellent matting and new equipment. It is remarkably clean and spacious though the smell of stale sweat hangs in the air just as it does back home.

You might expect I would go straight to sleep then — nope — Rugby was on TV. Rugby is a religion in Christchurch. The Crusaders are undefeated! An infidel Canadian here must immediately be educated in the intricacies of the sport. (One stadium is known as THE HOUSE OF PAIN.)

New Zealanders as you probably know are friendly and down-to-earth. I have been very impressed with my welcome here. One of the gym families has put me up for the first 7 weeks in a guest suite with private entrance. The rumoured kayak transport to and from the gym looks not to be feasible. I bike or walk instead along the lovely Avon River which is crowded with ducks and rowers.

The gym is very well organized by the Executive Officer and my boss Avril Enslow who is one of the top judges in the gymnastics world. The competitive girls are fit and quite good. My predecessor, a Russian coach, has done a good job emphasizing basics.

He eventually came to grief coaching the teenage girls. This is an old story in gymnastics.

Everyone sums up the club with one phrase; great potential.

It is a good challenge for me and one I am enjoying a lot so far. (This after 9 hours in the gym today.)

We plan to build up the boys program this season and add trampoline sports and aerobics in the near future. We even offer Adult Recreational gymnastics. No doubt the club is on the way up and it is fun to be a big part of that progress.

See you down under?


I always have part-time work for visiting gymnastics coaches.

– Kiwi Rick


Interested in a gap year? In the process of planning a gap year? Loved your own gap year? Have no idea what we’re talking about?

The ‘gap year’ is (very) loosely defined as any amount of time taken out of normal life in order to whoop it up in different parts of the world.

There are no rules and the definition is broad to allow for all types of adventures.

Grown Up Gap Years by Tony Wheeler, Lonely Planet author and co-founder:

Another gap year? Been there, done that. Mine is ancient history, almost 30 years ago, when I managed to reach Afghanistan on my early ’70s gap year. I’m far too old now, aren’t I?

Come to think of it, however, I have had another, more recent gap year. In 1996 I moved to Paris with my wife, Maureen, and our two children for a year. We’d kicked around the idea of living somewhere else for ages and finally decided to do it before the children got too far along in their school careers. We enrolled them in an international school, near the Eiffel Tower. With emails, mobile phones and so on, I figured I could work out of Paris just as easily as anywhere else in the world. It was terrific, none of us wanted to leave at the end of the year.

So why shouldn’t there be more gap years – even at my age? Not everybody can shift workplaces as I did, but these days more people can manage time off. Indeed, for many, retirement no longer means simply carrying on in the same place, as if nothing has changed apart from the daily journey to work. Gap years shouldn’t just be for the young, though being young at heart is probably a requirement. And these days people seem to be able to manage this long after their passports shout ‘slow down.’

A couple of years ago I joined a trek in Tibet. We faced a seven-day walk across Nepal simply to reach the start, yet one of our fellow walkers was 74 years of age. The trail, which included crossing a pass higher than the Everest Base Camp, didn’t faze him. I later learnt that his gap year travels have taken him from the Himalayas to the Kalahari.

After a lifetime of travel, I hate the thought of stopping in one place, and the idea of serial retirement villages has become a favourite conversation topic: a year in New York would be fun; we’ve always wanted to spend longer in Japan; and another year in France certainly wouldn’t hurt. House-swapping, renting a flat, even buying a Land-Rover and spending 12 months driving from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, have all featured in those dreams.



to New Zealand

Mar 10, 2002

rick_mugI have been looking for work. I really need a Masters degree in Education in a hurry — preferably from a prestigious non-accredited University based on my present knowledge and life experience.

Anyone know where I can get one? …
Ian Wright’s job was not available.

I’m a sucker for the Olympics. You?

The Salt Lake City Games had some great moments. I loved the opening ceremonies. Curling was fascinating. (I must be a Canadian.) Skeleton was great. Cross country skiing was impressive.

The best was short track skating — no question. Madder than rollerball.

The hockey games were energizing. My favourite players were Wickenheiser and Fleury. There’s something primal about gladiators with sticks.

One sad line on this Olympics is the fall of the Soviet Union as a proud sports superpower. They are coming to grips with the beginning of the end of their world leadership in my field, amateur sport. Tiny, disorganized countries like Canada are starting to win more medals at the Olympics.

The media has this simplistic fixation on medal counts ignoring more important stats:

+ percentage of personal bests
+ performance / capita
+ performance / tax dollar spent

Besides the Olympics I have never been less interested in TV.

I’d watch more TV if only they had my kind of show on the air. Someone should broadcast nothing but bikini clad chicks posing in the surf for hours.

I heard Moby speak on copyright infringement — downloading digital media without payment to the artist. His interesting twist on this issue was to speculate that — if this kind of theft is inevitable in the future — only those musicians who can draw a live crowd will be able to thrive. Musicians must return to their roots as performers. He feels that many artists tour today only to boost CD sales & that many are not entertaining live.

I’m a digital artist too.

Check my latest page on my hiking site:

The West Coast Trail

Everything you NEED to know to hike the West Coast Trail. (Is it on your life-to-do list?)

WL recommended some great books, the Hyperion series by an amazing author, Dan Simmons. This is science fiction at least equal to Dune and the Azimov Foundation series.

The other significant book of late was given me by RS; Quest for Adventure, by Chris Bonnington, 1981. Bonnington, a famed mountaineer, compares 21 true stories of adventurers who challenged oceans, deserts, snow, mountains and space. The guy who first rowed across the Atlantic, for example.

The Golden Globe challenge was one of the best. Of the many who set out to sail around the world single-handed, a near impossible task, only one succeeded. One committed suicide. Another who might have won the race, came to despise our ferocious, competitive society — he kept sailing another half a world to Tahiti.


Looks like I am off to New Zealand in early April.

I will be Head Coach of the gym club in Christchurch, south island.

Christchurch peninsula
Christchurch peninsula

Come visit. 🙂

Enjoying Winter in Canada

Feb 1, 2002

rick_mugBetween intense bouts of job seeking I’ve been working on hiking hiking web sites. The Nootka Trail is the first in what I hope will be a series.

Farewell to Peter Gzowski, a hero of mine with whom I spent many hours.

I managed to squeeze in a trip to Parksville with my parents who have rented a rustic log cabin for 3 months of winter. They normally go to the States or Mexico but thought to try Canada this year. Parksville has amazing tidal flats — you can walk the sea bottom forever at low tide. They are at the
Tigh Na Mara resort.

We took a drive across the Island to Long Beach and Tofino where storm watching is the big draw in winter. We were impressed with the Wickaninish Inn — big glass windows overlooking the wild surf. Actually there are 2 Wickaninish Inns; the original which is now an interpretive centre in the National Park and the new Resort near Tofino.

RS & KZ hosted me in Vancouver. We saw the amazing Lord of the Rings (part 1) and went mountain biking on the rough trails of North Van. Within an hour we were on our way to the hospital for wrist surgery for Michael, the one experienced biker with us. But the biking was fun while it lasted!

More recently I joined in our (sometimes) annual ski trip. This year ET, WL, & SGL drove to the mountains via Calgary. We stayed on the hill at Sunshine so that Keiran (age 3.5) could take downhill lessons too. Amazing powder! Over 70 cm during the 3 days we were there.

Enjoying winter!

– Rick (-30 C)

skiing Sunshine. Photo by Warren Long
skiing Sunshine. Photo by Warren Long

Happy Holidays! – Canada

Dec 24, 2001

You know those infrequent mass e-mails veiled behind the Blind Carbon Copy feature feigning intimacy while delivering a self-serving update on Rick’s recent doings?

This is one.

(Disclosure: I stole this introduction from Dean Kalyan)

rick_mugFall in Saskatoon is a wonderful season. Beautiful. Unfortunately — it’s winter.

I’m living near the University again. I love the buzz and energy of the U of S. There’s always something happening.

I’ve been working a bit for Keith at Kinesiology. It’s rumoured that my office is Browser’s Internet Café at U of S.

I was impressed that the E-plant came off again this year. It’s symbolic of the glorious chaos that is the University phase of life. In this annual frosh ritual the Engineering students kidnap one of the Agricultural students; lock him up for a week, feed him only beer and pizza, then crucify him on a gigantic E in the centre of the University.

The Agros rally to rescue the captive. A sprawling melee ensues where the painted combatants (red agros and blue engineers) grapple, ripping each other’s clothes off. (Warriors duct tape their clothes as armour.)

This year, for the first time, the kidnap victim was a woman. At U of S, I run noon hours with Bill and Doug. We were hitting the shower post-run along with dozens of blue-painted naked engineers. In walked one lone red naked Agro student … I’ve got to admit, that guy had balls.

I’m coaching at Taiso — but not too many hours / week. It’s been nice after my burnout last season.

It may be time to find a paying job in 2002. Let me know if you have any suggestions for me.

Earlier this Fall I stayed up late to watch the Leonid meteor shower — amazing.

Good on Canada for honouring our hero Nelson Mandela with Canadian citizenship. (Which Alliance MP hinted that Mandela was a terrorist and refused to return his phone call?) There are some true freedom fighters … Mandela, Gandhi & the Dali Lama.

I took a trip to Kansas City in October to help document the Kansas City Royal Barbeque Championships. Attracting 50,000 people, this is the biggest barbeque competition in the world. Huge prize money.

My friend Ron’s team had qualified for KC by winning US$1000 in Oregon.

Barbeque competition is weird and wonderful. But why do people take a perfectly tasty activity — scorching dead beast — and obfuscate it with rules, alcohol and the most subjective judging scheme conceivable?


The only thing odder would be to reward little girls for doing difficult stunts high on a narrow beam.

All the best to you and yours in 2002!



Last time I asked for intelligent, left-wing spokespeople who might responsibly balance all the (high-paid!) right wing types. I got some suggestions:

Billy Bragg
Rick Salutin (Globe and Mail)
Rex Murphy
CBC radio
Peter Gzowski

Happy New Year!