Monday, 7 July 2014


photo ©Michael O'Brien

UPDATE: It's a year since Emily took off her cervical collar and started her next stage of healing.....she's doing well.

ORIGINAL POST: Emily is an exceptional woman that I've had the privilege to photograph. We've kept in touch and over time I've got to know her a bit more. Shortly after this portrait session Emily went to New Zealand to live and work. While there she was in an accident that nearly left her paralyzed. Before leaving NZ to come home and heal she wrote the following. I'm happy to say that she is recovering rapidly. I include it because it says more about her than anything I could ever write. Here it is: 

Dear New Zealand,

This has been one of the most amazing and life-changing years of my life in many ways. 7 great learning experiences (of which I could go on) about life, love and land and explanations as to why you are such a liveable and admirable country:

1. First and Foremost ( Something I have never felt so grateful for in my entire life, and that is something that is very individualistic to your country and you could not experience anywhere else in the world, including as a citizen of my own country): THE HEALTHCARE. Not only have you saved my wallet approximately $100, 000-130, 000 grand for a helicopter, 2 weeks in a hospital and 3 surgeries, 24 hour care, a private room, etc. etc. Your system continues to care for patients through physio, extra help, gym, psychologists, etc. I owe you my life.

2. THE KIWI'S WARMTH AND GENEROSITY. From the moment, I stepped a foot on this country complete strangers to new mates have been so welcoming, giving, selfless and will go the extra mile for you, more so than I've seen in other Western countries. Not only, reaching out to me, but extending a helping hand to my family as well, in times of need. And loved all the kind words, visits and flowers while I was in the hospital.

3.0VER 70 DIFFERENT ECOSYSTEMS. As described by someone I met along the road, "It's like squishing all the good parts of Canada together, into more realistic distances, without the middle bits" I was particularly impressed the geothermal areas and as a mountain girl, could not miss out on the alpine opportunities. The coastline has been breathtaking and have even enjoyed the views out the windows while driving through the bush. As my trip was cut short, I will be back for more!

4.THE PERFECT CLIMATE FOR A GRAPE TIME. Working as a wine consultant in the heart of Central Otago, getting to taste all of New Zealand’s fine wines and getting free wine tours with all the companies. Enjoying wine that is 100% grown, not made and in many cases has sound environmentally friendly practices. From some of the world’s best Pinot Noirs to the tropical flavours of the Savvie B’s, you sure made my working in the Wine sector a tasty and outstanding industry.

5.INVALUABLE WORK EXPERIENCES. Being from such a universalist country where rules are rules, it was refreshing to be hired based on trust of my experience and knowledge. I was given the opportunity to work the job of my dreams teaching in the Adventure Tourism Department in the Adventure tourism capital of the world at the college level in courses that I am very passionate about and doing amazing field trips and allowing for practical learning.

6.SAFETY. Leaving your door unlocked, never having to worry about your things. And when you do loose a purse with an expensive phone, camera and money in it, it’s in the same place you left it the next day. How children are allowed to say hi to strangers and are able to be left roaming freely at a rugby game. (Having a child left unattended at a North American Football game would be a parents worst nightmare!) To hitchhiking posts that are endorsed by regional councils in certain areas such as Wanaka to get to the ski lifts, to be more environmentally friendly. Not many councils would be able to get away with this sort of initiative as the risks would far outweigh the benefits.

7.THE CULTURE. An infusion of the West, Polynesian and Maori ways. Being so laid-back especially in the workplace! Being able to show up late, take off your game face, and letting loose with the best staff parties (which I’ve not experienced outside of Hospo and Tourism in Canada) where the champagne is flowing on the bus starting at 11 a.m. Time is slowed down and is more chilled, there is no rush, even if theres a full line at a store, the salesperson will still have a wee chat to ya. No pushing on the streets or on public transport. And a great sense of humour, with similarities to the Brits but with an added touch of bluntness and vulgarity. Can really let loose and know how to have a good time, and are completely accepting for who people are and can be 100% yourself at all times!

Thank you New Zealand. You are truly a sustainable and great country and the only one I could live in so far that I’ve traveled to other than my own. All you need is a bit more pow pow and better insulated houses and I am sold.

Warm regards, Emily