Chronesthesia Love and Time Travel Shanghai International Film Festival

Shanghai International Film Festival – Chrono selected!

Chronesthesia got into Shanghai!

 

We first got the email in February, 2017. I was in the South Island on a voluntary tour of primary schools for a charity organisation called Duffy Books in Homes.

“Congratulations!” it started. “Chronesthesia has been selected for the 20th Annual Shanghai International Film Festival.” In the body of the email was this little nugget: The festival will cover in-country costs for a representative to attend the festival.

 

Well, there you go! My collaborator Simeon Duncombe, being so swamped with work, couldn’t commit to a festival that wasn’t happening for another four months. Same with producer Kelly (job + kid), while producer Steve Barr had business in China so was flying back and forth a bit. We decided to send the director, writer, lead actor and editor (me!). Obtaining a visa was the only thing that gave me pause for thought. And lo, this did take a few weeks.

 

Chronesthesia Shanghai

Preparing to go

 

Our first challenge was to secure subtitles for the DCP of the film. These were to be in English as the festival would translate them into Mandarin. Our amazing distributor here in New Zealand Madman sent through subtitles for the hearing impaired. With the help of a post production guru in Wellington, I was able to write the subtitles into the DCP. I have since spoken to filmmakers who’ve found this process a lot easier than I. Again, Academy Cinema who helped out so much with our journey making the DCP, allowed me to test the subtitled DCP in their gorgeous cinema. After two attempts, we got it working and sent it to China!

 

June arrived and my Visa hadn’t been applied for yet. I was working on a TV show and the hours didn’t lend themselves to me skiving off and getting errands done willy nilly. However, thanks to my lenient and helpful bosses, I was able to sneak away and stand in line for an hour and a half. A week passed, another hour and half wait, $140 paid and I received my passport back with a shiny China visa printed inside.

Going to Shanghai

 

The flight was only twelve hours direct with Air New Zealand. The festival was covering some nights accommodation in the Ritz Carlton Portman hotel (FLASH!) but the flights and additional expenses were on me. Luckily, in our beautiful and small country we have a tax funded governmental organisation called the New Zealand Film Commission. One of the many incentives they provide is the Talent Development Fund. It’s a pool of money the commission grants to up and coming filmmakers for career development.

 

Tourist stuff

 

Substory:

Last year, when we found out we got into Austin Film Festival and the American Film Market, Steve and I applied for the Talent Development Fund. They granted us funds for the trip, but due to visa complications I couldn’t make it. There followed the darkest two weeks of my year. Everything I’d worked toward, everything I’ve ever wanted to do, filmmaking on a global scale as my end game, and I had an incredible opportunity in front of me due to a film that Simeon and I had made. And I couldn’t go! Heartbreak. Fast forward six months and the NZFC granted me funds to fly return to Shanghai and live while there. Legends!!

 

I checked in, I saw the great Steve Barr, we had breakfast, then it was time for the festivities to begin. First things first, I needed to register for the festival! I had a free pass with thick lettering on my lanyard underneath a photo of my handsome face reading: FILM REPRESENTATIVE. This got me into any films I wanted to see, as well as events.

 

Steve and I bought some fruit and beer from a small shoppe down a side street. We paid $2NZD for 500ml cans of beer. We bought quite a few… Then we high tailed it back to the hotel to make our night’s plans. We consulted the hefty program book and found there was only one event that night. It was sold out. No tickets available. We couldn’t go. Then, what could we do? Sit around and drink in the hotel room all night? Not such a bad idea, definitely not the worst way to spend a night, but my first night in Shanghai? My first time ever in China? No way.

 

Sneaking into the gala

 

We were in Shanghai to celebrate a film that we’d spent a long, long time making. I had written this thing in the wee hours before work, we’d shot it in the weekends forgoing any chance of relaxation, and I’d struggled with the edit over countless hours on my 13″ screened laptop. Phil at Underground Sound had put in weeks of evenings, Conor had worked through the nights on the score, and Madman had backed us for distribution in Australasia. No, we wouldn’t aimlessly drink in the hotel room. We’d find a way to get into the event.

 

The event was the SIFF gala. A flouncy event where everyone would be dressed up watching interviews with stars followed by performances on well lit stages. Steve and I dressed up. We downed a few beers and got excited. We caught a taxi to the venue and were surprised to find a police presence outside. Reticent, we approached the barriers. And were waved through. Nervous, we approached the door. And were waved through. Tense, we rode the escalator to the third floor. And we smiled at by security guards.

 

Admiring the view in the hotel robe

 

We were wowed upon entering the main hall. Camera swooped overhead on cranes. Lines of chairs faced the long stage where lights blared down on presenters. We hurried down the aisle and found some empty seats. Not an easy feat but we were an hour into proceedings so there was opportunity. We realised the entire thing was in Mandarin. We couldn’t understand it. Thirty minutes passed. Still in Mandarin. So we left, giggling like schoolboys at our blind courage.

 

Meeting other filmmakers

 

We decided to take a taxi home. But before that, we wanted to walk it off. The night air was warm and wet, and we were still buzzed. A handsome white man stood speaking to a gorgeous Chinese girl at the outskirts of the event. I swung around and chanced a question, “Excuse me, are you a… do you speak English?”

“Ah, yeah, how are you man?” His accent was singsong.

“Irish?” He nodded. “Hey, we’re doing great, did you check out the event?”

Conversation flowed from there and ten minutes later we found ourselves in a taxi heading across town to join the couple (he a director, her a producer) and their younger friend (crew on their film) for a drink at a bar near their hotel. A plethora of international filmmakers also at that hotel joined us. Macedonia, Estonia, France, Germany, Israel, China, America and New Zealand were all represented in the form of drinking, chatting directors and producers and actors.

 

Our first night and we’d found our people.

 

We got caught in the rain a lot

 

The Chronesthesia Screenings

 

The screenings themselves – and perhaps we always knew this would be the case – were the highlight of the trip. A car picked Steve and myself up from the hotel and drove us an hour through traffic to the multiplex for our most important screening: the Q&A screening. A lady in clicking high heels ushered us into the building and into the crowded elevator. Up to the top floor… out we get. Led down a corridor. Into a room. A VIP room. Wow.

 

The festival had printed our Chronesthesia posters of multiple sizes. The table was covered in them. Three festival representatives were in the room with us and told us to help ourselves to the coffee and water and would we please sign the posters? Of course we would. We’d love to. This is what I live for. Our translator Sapphire was a gorgeous and sassy lady who tried her best to intimidate us and make us nervous for the screening. But it didn’t work – we were too excited. With the signings over, it was time to enter the cinema.

 

Signage about the festival covered the corridor. A large Chronesthesia poster with Chinese translation printed on it sat at the opening. More photos were taken of us, including an adorable polaroid, then we entered the cinema. It was larger than I expected. 400 seats. All full. Feeling very honoured, Steve and I watched from the staircase as the film was introduced in Mandarin. Then the MC held her arm up – our cue – and we walked to the front. Applause! Wow, that was easy.

 

Feeling very important in the Very Important People room

 

We gave a quick introduction of the film and how it was made. It’s a strange feeling to talk to an audience who doesn’t understand your language, knowing they don’t know what you’re saying. After our spiels, Sapphire stepped forward and spoke in rapid mandarin then we saw recognition and understanding spread across the cinema. Right before we were due to start the film, I grabbed the microphone and spoke the phrase I’d been practising for the past few days: Wo xi wang ni men hua xi huan wo di dianying: I hope you enjoy the film.

 

The film played. It went great. The Q&A was busy. We ran over time. I could’ve talked for hours and hours to this audience. They were attentive and smart and genuinely interested. We were gifted a bouquet of flowers and a plush toy each, then we posed with the audience for a photo. Coming out of the cinema, I had a lot of things to autograph. This made me feel like a rockstar, which was a nice feeling.

 

Hayden Weal signing Chronesthesia

Feeling like a rockstar

 

All up, we had an amazing time. I could write on and on about Shanghai and the various tourist things we did, but that’s not exciting. I want to do more festivals! What a blast!

 

Also, check out my vlog about the trip!

 

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NZ’s third most populated island

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As fate would have it, an invitation to spend some time there was extended to me. For New Year’s Eve no less. My little sister Lana was visiting for the Christmas break and I hadn’t spent decent time with her for a number of months. She came to the Chronesthesia premiere (attended all three scheduled screenings – but not the fourth screening added because it was so popular), and I hadn’t seen her since. What a perfect opportunity for some brother sister hang time, mixed with a new experience in a new place with interesting people I had yet to meet.

 

Turns out the people staying there were amazing, the place is amazing, and spending time with me sister is still amazing. Here’s a vlog about it – it’s basically great people smiling for seven minutes. Worth a watch all the same.

 

 

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Travelling for Post Production Meetings (VIDEO)

 

Travelling for meetings

 

 

What a time to have moved away from Wellington! Have a couple of meetings scheduled? It’s no longer a scooter ride, now it’s a nine and a half hour overnight bus then a hire car to come back up. On the other hand, absence makes the heart grow and grow and grow, so when me and Simeon catch up it’s like seeing a long lost lover.

 

Simeon Love

How could you not love him?

 

Things are really starting to heat up in the post production train. Simeon has been working on the visual effects in the film, in particular the climax sequence (which has 50% of the film’s effects). I’ve been having meetings with various producers and filmmakers about the current cut, finding out what works and what’s not quite hitting.

 

Here’s an awesome video about my latest trip down to Wellington:

 

 

 

The biggest issue with the film right now is the dense plot. Most people can tell what’s going on character-wise, but because it’s a twisty, turny time travel plot, some of the important plot points and clues are being missed, while others are obvious. It turns out we are gonna have to do some pickups. We’re scheduling them for early in the New Year.

 

Pickups means I’ll have to cut my hair and don the Dan costume again. Get back into the character. However, Michelle Ny now resides in Auckland, Nova is a year old and it’s noticeable, Shane Rangi is overseas, Cohen is busy as heck, which means the pickups will feature myself and possibly a new member of cast, or one of the supporting cast.

 

HJWBTS

 

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Relaxing and Hot: Tenerife

 

 

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One of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is frequented by vacationing Brits. Pale, overweight, zooming around on their hired motorised scooters (those things should be reserved for the handicapped), they dominate the tourism scene in the South, and it’s for this reason I highly recommend staying in the North. We’re in a place called Santa Cruz and a lot of the locals don’t speak much English. This might sound like a roadblock, but everyone we’ve chatted to seems to be only too happy to stumble through half conversations.

 

Abby Damen Tenerife

Abby swimming in the picturesque beach of Las Teresitas

 

While we’ve been here, I’ve been getting into the hit craze of ‘vlogging’. Yes, I’m very late to this particular party, but I’m here now. It’s a fantastic way to keep people up on your travels, and I love making films. The act of shooting and editing pleases me. Check some out!

 

 

While we love the place we’re staying, Santa Cruz, hiring a car opened up the whole island to adventures.

Hayden Weal Santa Cruz

This is me standing by a fountain in Santa Cruz. Fun fact: They’re shooting the fifth Bourne film here right now!

 

Once we got that car, we used the google machine to find some sights worth seeing. First stop, a 5000 year old tree…

 

 

Puerto de la Cruz Abby Damen

Puerto de la Cruz on the opposite side of the island is a lot more touristy

 

We decided we needed to find some waves. Most beaches in the populated areas are calm beaches, inlets from the sea with no major swells. Lovely to laze in, no good for body surfing and splashing about. We asked around and heard that Benijo is a beautiful place, so we geared up and took a drive, bringing along a gorgeous German for the ride.

 

 

Sophie Abby Tanaga Benijo

Sophie and Abby relaxing on what we thought was Benijo beach

 

Being here for five weeks meant we could go exploring more than most tourists can. We took a trip down the South West part of the island in search of rock pools. The town of Garachico is well known for having bad luck due to a volcano eruption demolishing the town, then earthquakes flattening the place once it was rebuilt. As a result, there are lot of old crumbling ruins, and Tenerifians have managed to make it into an attraction. The best part of all though: Nature’s Wave Pools.

 

 

Ah, the good times we had. Nearing the end of our month in Tenerife, we decided we’d do a day where we simply got into the hire car and drove. Any direction for any distance, and we hoped we’d come across a beach. Being an island, this was a hope easily fulfilled.

 

I present you, our last video in Tenerife, Lucky Dip Day

 

 

And that concludes our trip to Tenerife. Next stop is a fourteen hour whirlwind trip of planes, trains and automobiles to Lecce, Italy.

 

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Vlog Day in the Life

 

I caught up with a good friend the other day and he asked, ‘Have you been editing Chronesthesia nine to five?’

My output of work on the feature film front has been rather high of late, so it was a fair thing to ask. But I’ve also been doing other stuff, as we’re officially traveling. Swimming, running, eating a whole lot of food, activities of that ilk.

I figured it might be fun for you to watch, so I made my first vlog in the form of A Day in the Life. Please enjoy and subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’ll be making more videos in future.

 

 

 

#HJWBTS

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bikes, music, film, art, relaxing, food, politics

 

That’s what Berlin has. Truthfully, that’s what most cities around the world have, but Berlin seems to be dominated by these things especially, and it seems to be populated solely by people who care about them more than they do other things.

 

I am going to litter 27 photos throughout this post, as there are too many great memories to neglect any of them!

 

Riechstag building Berlin

Abby standing on the roof of the parliament building

 

1. Above is the tour we did to the Reichstag building. There is a glass dome on the top which allows any member of the public to peek inside and view the inner workings of the German government. There’s a lot of this talk after Word War II, the German government trying their best to go in the opposite direction the Nazi party ended up going in. The result is one of the coolest cities in the world.

 

 

Abby by the canal Berlin

Lounging around by the canal

 

2. This is a picture I took very early on in the trip. It features Abby reading in her underwear by a canal. The canal side was busy every day, at most hours of the day. The evenings were the most popular time to hang near there, with a cheap beer bought from the corner shop or ice cream from a popup shop (which were never too far).

 

 

Abby Berlin

The ‘typical’ view of a European street

 

3. Walking home from a beautiful park that was near our second accommodation in Berlin, I was inspired to take a picture of Abby in the sun. The cobbled streets and trees brushing the apartment building walls is something we don’t get in NZ, but which in Berlin is commonplace.

 

 

Abby canal Berlin

Abby sits by another canal, watching some swans

 

4. This is pretty. When the sun came out, this was the best place to be. Everybody just kinda lies there. Not many had books like us, some of them may have a guitar or beer, but the majority of people merely sit/lay and look at nothing.

 

 

Abby KoncertHaus

The Berlin Symphony Orchestra play on these stairs in the summer

 

5. There’s a large empty square courtyard with three beautiful buildings on it in the main city centre of Mitte. Two cathedrals face each other and either end, and this KoncertHaus rests in the middle. The Berlin Symphony orchestra play for free on the stairs during the summer evenings.

 

 

Breakfast Berlin

Conor, Abs, Anna and me

 

6. We stayed with the buff, handsome Niuean Conor Lui for a few nights when we arrived, then later when in between accommodations, with the intelligent, bubbling Anna Wright. Conor asked a passerby to take this photo and I’m glad he did. It’s a memory now, officially.

 

 

Berlin Bike

Biking in Berlin is the norm

 

7. One of the most pleasing things about Berlin was the public’s attitude toward bicycles and the bicyclists on them. It’s understood that cyclists have the right of way when on the road, and there are bike lanes on the majority of streets. We signed up to CallABike, a rental service that hires bikes out very cheaply. 9 Euro a month!

 

 

bookshop Berlin Kreuzberg

Another Country bookshop in Kreuzberg

 

8. This is Rose Burrowes (instagram extraordinaire) sitting in the shadows of a great secondhand bookshop in Kreuzberg called Another Country. In Another Country, you can buy a book for cheap and return it once you’ve finished reading it and receive your money back (minus a euro and a half)! So it’s basically a library you don’t have to sign up for.

 

 

breakfast Neukölln

Turkish breakfast in Neukölln was a change of pace for us

 

9. Growing up in NZ, I’m used to big breakfasts. Bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns, sausages, mushrooms cooked in butter and maybe a fried tomato half or two. However, we struggled to find this in Berlin. There were some places, sure, like CabSlam in particular, but the prices were always higher due to being hot with tourists. The common thing in the neighbourhood we stayed in was Turkish Breakfast. This consisted of a plate full of different cuts of meat, bread, fruit and a boiled egg. With a coffee, this turned breakfast into a finger licking extravaganza.

 

 

Berlin lake HJW

The only time we swam in Berlin

 

10. The entire two months we spent in Berlin, we only swam once. Together with Anna and her friend Tom from England, we took a tram for half an hour and walked through the woods past families, drinking teenagers, smoking hipsters and picnicking couples to find a cosy square of dirt to lay our blanket down.

 

It’s not common to put your head under the water, but it was refreshing all the same.

 

canal

Biking to Mitte through Friedrichshain uncovered pearls

 

11. We often biked to Mitte from Neukölln through Kreuzberg or through Görlitzer park, keeping out eyes on the path in front of us, away from the many enthusiastic but friendly drug dealers. However, the time we decided to go a different way brought us to the busy and exuberant Schlesische straße via this lovely canal with bridges and parks surrounding it.

 

 

Reichstag Berlin

Reichstag dome

 

12. The audiotour as you walk up the Reichstag dome’s spiral walkway is informative and objective about the city’s turbulent past. Highly recommended.

 

 

Abby Berlin fountain

Kreuzberg fountain

 

13. I took this photo on our last day in Berlin. We biked through Kreuzberg to drop off some books, have a last coffee and bow goodbyes at all the amazing cafes and restaurants on Oranienstraße.

 

 

Helios statue

Helios in the Neues Museum

 

14. We didn’t visit many art galleries or museums while in Berlin, as it’s not something that seemed worth spending the money to us (there is so much else to do!), but we did make visit the Neues museum to see Nefertiti’s bust and the skull of a Neanderthal. While there, I had to take a pic of Helios coz he looks so damn suave. Check him out! #fitspo

 

 

Hayden Church

We jumped off our bikes and took this one in a hurry

 

15. Cycling through Kreuzberg, I had to jump off and grab this photo. When there are this many beautiful spots and sunshine blaring down, it amazes me that this isn’t busier. What a great place to read a book (or thumb through a bible if you believe).

 

 

holocaust memorial

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

 

16. Between the business orientated area of Mitte and the Brandenburg gate is a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. It’s an expansive area filled with concrete podiums of differing heights, all leaning in different directions, lined in a massive grid. The architect, Peter Eisenman, claims there is no symbolism in it, but the first thought that strikes most minds is coffins. We did the walking tour and were told some great tidbits about this piece, especially the Degussa controversy. Go read about it.

 

 

Abby Neues Off cinema Mad Max

Mad Max at the Neues Off cinema was one of the first activities

 

17. Our arrival to Berlin coincided with the release of Mad Max and due to all my filmy friends back home texting about it, we had to check it out. Luckily, there’s a lot of fantastic cinemas in Berlin. The Yorke chain seem to be the coolest and most boutique, so we saw Mad Max there. Awesome spot near Hermannplatz.

 

 

Mitte shopping

Rainy days in Mitte are still cool

 

18. Despite it being the summer months and temperatures reaching 37 degrees, we enjoyed a fair share of rain. We made the most of the stylish shops in Mitte, and found some funky cafes down colourful alleyways.

 

 

Hasenheide outdoor cinema

Outdoor cinema at the Hasenheide park was a highlight

 

19. One of the greatest memories of all of Berlin is the Freiluftkino Hasenheide. The fact I can pronounce that now is a major source of happiness for me. It translates to openair cinema at Hasenheide park. We saw Magic in the Moonlight there (one of my top 20 films of last year). It was 7 euro and there was 1 euro coffee, chocolate and popcorn on offer. Tiered seating, a massive screen, loud sound and pinkish clouds in the never-quite-black sky made for a memorable evening. Not to mention Emma Stone and Colin Firth. Wonderful company.

 

 

rooftop love

Sending out rooftop love across Berlin

 

20. We stayed for three weeks in a modern, well equipped apartment on Weserstraße in Neukölln with two great friends, Rose and Jono. We were on the top floor and had rooftop access for a day before we were told not to go up there. Luckily Jono snapped this photo while we were up there. You think this photo’s amazing? Jono makes a living from his photography, as well as keeping a strong ethical stance in his endorsements. Check out his work.

 

 

Rose Burrowes

Rose backlit by sunset on our way to a rooftop bar

 

21. Rooftops abound. Such a wonderful place to visit on a nice evening, of which there were many during June and July in Berlin. On our way to Neukölln Arcaden on Karl Marx Straße, it’s perfectly legal and acceptable to have an open vessel on the streets.

 

 

Berlin city

Statues and glorious sights are everywhere

 

22. I took this when Abby’s friend Becca was passing through town and we were walking through the alleys finding a nice spot to have a coffee. My back is pressed against the railing to the canal here and we are near the museum Island.

 

 

sunset

Sunset in Templhof airspace

 

23. Okay get this, there’s an old airstrip called Templhof. It’s not used anymore, so it’s open for the public to walk around, picnic, exercise, race their bikes, teach their kids to ride their bikes, walk their dogs, or just stand in awe of the amazing sunsets.

 

 

templof sunset

Another Templhof sunset

24. This place is neat. We had a delicious naughty meal of Schiller Burger and watched the sun go down, ignoring the smell of dank weed smoke that I’ll forever associate with the free-spiriters of Berlin.

 

Templhof picnic

Picnic in Templhof

 

25. We had the pleasure of meeting Molly Pavlovich, an extremely passionate traveller who takes some incredible photos of the amazing places she visits on her website The Boheme Road.

 

Here we are having a picnic.

 

 

Französischer Dom

French cathedral (Französischer Dom) in the Gendermenmarkt across from the German cathedral.

 

26. This is me on the walking tour, learning a lot about Berlin history. This is definitely worth doing.

 

 

Berliner Dom

This is the Berliner Dom, a large cathedral on Museum Island in the Mitte borough. It was built over a hundred years ago.

 

27. Walking through Berlin became the favourite thing to do for us. We’d cycle our CallABike to a good parking spot then wander, using CityMaps2Go app to navigate ourselves (it doesn’t use data – GPS only). We’d stumble upon cafes, shops, art galleries and generally pleasurable views of architecture and parks.

 

Even though I’ve posted all these pictures and taken a mental amble through a lot of memories, I haven’t mentioned the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the wonderfully engineered window and door design, Sahara kebab shop, Falafel Jacob, the Sony Centre, the great vintage stores in Friedrichshain, Shakespeare and Sons book and bagelshop on Warshauerstraße, or the Berlin wall!

 

There’s so much to see and do in Berlin. I recommend it very highly.

 

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Dresden, Germany

 

 

Here some quick facts about Dresden for educational salve:

  • It was heavily bombed during World War II. Over 90% of the damn place was scorched
  • It’s got water flowing through the middle of the city, separating the Old Town and New Town
  • It’s considered the cultural, political, educational and economical centre of Germany
  • It was kinda cold while we were there
  • Everyone bikes everywhere

 

<img src="http://www.haydenjweal.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/FullSizeRender-4-381×550 viagra generika online kaufen.jpg” title=”Dresden Frauenkirche, rebuilt years after World War II bombings with some of the remains (the black bricks” alt=”” />

We got a Bla Bla car trip from Prague to Dresden for ten Euro each. It took two hours and we were dropped off at a train station out of town. It’s a major credit to German public transport that the train/trams were on time every time. Super cheap too.

You say to Germans, ‘Love your public transport system,’ and they look like 😐 at you because they’re so used to it. I guess people from certain parts of Africa might be impressed if they experienced New Zealand public transport, it’s all about perspective.

 

 

Here’s a video of us walking around Dresden

 

WOOHOO HJWTRAVEL

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Prague, Czech Republic

 

In anticipation of our trip to Europe, we’d heard a lot about the charms of Prague. The gothic architecture, the cheap food, cheap beer, friendly people, and many more pleasures to explore. So we booked a place on Airbnb for six nights and got pumped about it. It was a great place to visit.

 

Here are some things we learned:

 

  1. Change your money before you go. Find a currency exchange in your own country or get enough Czech Koruna (Crowns) to get from the airport into the city to visit an ATM. The airport exchange rate is a rip off and the majority of the exchange vestibules in the township are rip offs too.
  2. GET A TRAM TICKET. In Paris it’s very difficult to jump through the turnstiles without paying undetected (especially due to the video cameras), but at least you don’t get inspected. In Prague you do. The fine was 800 crowns per person, which works out at about $80NZ. Not too bad if you blackride the whole trip. We got snapped on our second to last day and because we didn’t have enough money, no identification on us and no MasterCard, we left them little choice but to arrest us. Luckily, after almost twenty minutes of broken English and furious hand signals, they took what money we had and shooed us down the street.
  3. Prague in the sun is immeasurably better than Prague with grey skies. The buildings are painted different pastels colours which pop with glorious vibrancy in the sun but look like old porridge under clouds.
  4. Prague people don’t like loud noises or people talking to them in public. ‘Dobreden,’ we’d say, smiling. 😐 face back 90% of the time.
  5. Prague rocks if you like beer. Brilliant Czech pilsener is cheaper than fizzy drink and coffee, and marginally more expensive than water viagra preisvergleich. Wine is also cheap as chips.
  6. Big breakfasts are difficult to find. Czech people don’t seem to want to eat anything of substance in the mornings. An oily black coffee and piece of bread does the trick for the general public. We found some really funky cafes that served a cracker breakfast and we paid significantly more for it.
  7. The price of things tend to be associated with the amount of English the staff speak. The higher the vocab, the higher the price tag.

 

Check out some pics

 

 

Here’s a kinda long and boring video of us walking about Prague.

 

 

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This year me and my partner Abby decided we’d escape the pesky Wellington winter and travel Europe. We couldn’t exactly ‘afford it’, but we could afford the tickets and once we had those locked in, forced ourselves to save everything we could.

 

Our first stop, Paris! The cheapest place to fly into, and what do you know, 2015’s most visited city for tourists.

 

 

Here’s a video of us walking about some nice places

 

 

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Streat Cafe Melbourne – Coolest Cafe in the World

Most cafes make money. Sure, they make food, provide differing degrees of service, provide a venue for catch-ups and a lot of them provide wifi to surf the net and read great articles like this one. Streat Cafe Melbourne do something else. This almost decade young enterprise provides training, life-skills and hands-on hospitality experience for homeless youths.

 

Streat Cafe Melbourne

Luke, one of the nicest hospitality workers we met during our time in Melbourne (and check out that sweet mo!)

 

We got off the tram at Newmarket stop, swiped the electronic travel card my sister had provided us with across the graffiti-stained monitors and trundled our suitcases down the peeling wooden steps. The hot air’s fingers caressed my dry hair and coaxed the sweat out of my dehydrated pores as we walked through the township, past policemen on horses, a group of Somalian men smoking outside their store, the famous Laksa King, busy House of Dumplings and a public toilet that could win Most Effective Use of Smell in Melbourne.

 

Despite the picture I’m subjectively painting, Newmarket/Flemington/Kensington is charming. Trams bundle past and people nod at you with a smile; it’s like walking through 1940s New York, or at least how they make it look in films.

Traveling since 4:30am had left us bleary, blurred and hungry. The only question I had time for was: Where can we eat?
“The girls love Streat Cafe,” my sister said. “They actually just got back from there.”
“We did! It’s amazing!” one of the flatmates called from down the hall.
I raised my eyebrow to my girlfriend. She shrugged. Her eyes said, Feed me anything.

 

Streat Cafe Melbourne

Streat has a great backyard outdoor area with flora and brick

 

Once we walked in, we knew it was exactly what we were looking for. The atmosphere was immediately welcoming. Clean, organised, and the two baristas behind the counter flashed relaxed smiles when they saw us. I counted one moustache and one beard: evidence that this was to be a good visit. Calculations complete, we took a seat in the outside area out the back, admiring the faux grass, real trees, wood and brick.

 

Streat's impressive stats

Streat’s impressive stats

 

We were served by an Australian gentleman. This came as no shock as we were in Australia. His traditional manners combined with his ‘bros’ and ‘dudes’ made for a comforting and relaxing dialogue. He asked us where we were from (Wellington, New Zealand – the self-proclaimed little cousin of Melbourne), handed us menus, took our coffee order and recommended certain dishes. Once he was out of sight, we turned into schoolgirls, complimenting his dress sense and immaculately groomed stubble (that I was admittedly jealous of). Then, we flicked through the back page of the menu and were blown away.

 

What we learned is that Streat Cafe is an ethical, morally virtuous cafe. Not only do they ensure top of the range service and product, they contribute to society in more ways than economical. They train young people who have found themselves in unfortunate circumstances. Homeless, marginalised youths between 16 and 25 who can’t find a job because they lack skills, but can’t gain skills because they lack experience, and can’t gain experience because they can’t find a job, are up-skilled at Streat Cafe and are taught life skills to aid them in whatever future endeavour they aspire to.

 

Streat Cafe coffee

Delicious and aesthetically pleasing flat white

 

This sparked the inevitable discussion that I’m sure most Streat first-timers indulge in.

“Will the food be good?”
“Will an unwashed drug addict bring it out?”
(This question never actually came out of our mouths, especially in such vocab, as the environment had already assured us we were in a clean, hospitable place.)
“How good can youths with little to no experience really be in a kitchen?”

The answers, in order, are: YES, NO, REALLY GOOD.

 

Streat Meals Melbourne

Fruit and porridge, Salmon, eggs, Vegetarian, Meaty, we covered all bases

 

Streat Cafe have goals for how many youths they want to help. By 2020, Streat wants to be helping one youth per mealtime. Three a day, which equates to 1095 a year.

Sounds like a steep climb, but they’ve already dialled up over 30,000 hours of training since conception of the program.

At the back of the menu, there are multiple ways a customer who feels passionate by the cause can support the program (listed below).

 

After our meals and second coffee, we took another couple of minutes of the guys’ time with some banter and questions, asked if it’s okay to take a few photos and write a blog entry, shook hands and promised we’d be back soon.

We were back soon. We ate there twice more before we left Melbourne, and while we visited many cafes on our trip, none left us more invigorated or altruistically stimulated like Streat. Next time you’re visiting, drop in to 307 Racecourse Road in Flemington, 5 McKillop Street in the CBD, or Melbourne Central near the escalators. Tell them you read this article (that might score me a free coffee next time I’m over there).

 

Streat cafe Melbourne

Streat’s menu, page one. “We all live on a street. Not all of us in a home. Thanks for changing this.”

 

If you feel like getting involved, these are some ways:

 

Share
Tell others about Streat, share a coffee or a meal with friends at Streat, or just share a coffee or a meal with someone less fortunate than yourself.

Connect
Join the Streat mailing list streat.com.au, follow Streat on twitter @STREATmelbourne, @STREATcafe, like Streat on Facebook.

Buy or Donate
Buy Streat coffee or a cookbook at the shop, make a donation (donations over $2 are tax deductible).

Partner of Volunteer
Streat has volunteers and student interns in a bunch of areas. They also have a lot of business and non-profit partnerships so have a chat to them about possibilities.

Get involved.

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It’s cool to read. It’s cool to achieve. Books rock.

That’s the Duffy motto. Another thing I found myself saying a lot over my time down South to the kids was

If you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything

I assure you I didn’t plagiarise the phrase from Doc Emit Brown from Back to the Future, I credited the hell out of him as Back to the Future was a recurring star in my yarn.

“Who wants to guess my favourite movie?”

“ME ME ME ME ME!”

“It’s got a really cool dude in it who plays guitar and skateboards, and he goes back in time and meets his parents when they’re his age…”

Single out a raised hand. “Yes?”

“Ben 10?”

“Nope… yes?”

“Barbie and the Crystal Unicorn?”

“… nope. It’s got a time traveling car in it…”

“BACK TO THE FUTURE!” a few would shout at once.

Interesting what kids remember.

 

moody southland

Moody early morning shot on the way to Queenstown for the day

 

I had the weekend off so spent all Saturday in Queenstown, the most touristy and gorgeous place in New Zealand. Action packed with bungy, skydiving, tourists and cafes up the wazoo, I love visiting Queenstown whenever I get the chance.

I rose at 6am, showered and hit the road. Once there, I ate a whole lotta food and drank a whole lotta coffee and read my book. I walked around too, but I spent 80% of my time stationary and reading.

 

Queenstown beach

Sun made Queenstown even more beautiful than usual. Lying on the sand and hearing kids play made it funny.

 

After walking through the shops, around the frisbee golf course and through the rose gardens, I drove to Historic Arrowtown, a gold rush settlement twenty minutes drive away, and wandered through the curious, eerie old Chinese opium huts, imagining what it may have been like in the 1800s.

 

Chinese huts Arrowtown

These huts reminded me of The Luminaries, Man Booker Prize winning book written by 26 year old Eleanor Catton. Which I read all 1000 pages of – goal!

 

I finished the book I was reading, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, while chowing down on a steak sandwich from an Arrowtown pub. The 900 page detective thriller novel had snuck up on me. I enjoyed reading it and barely noticed how much I thought about it, craving it when I was at work, wishing I could read it while driving, letting my coffee and toast go cold over breakfast as I pored over it.

It’s now one of my all-time favourite books. I am Pilgrim. Check it out. Apparently the author is writing another two books centred around the character Pilgrim and there is talk of a film adaptation. Which makes me very happy.

 

Hayden J. Weal Oteri beach

Oteri Beach – Burt Munro used to race his Indian motorcycle here, setting a world record of 136 mph.

 

I got back to Invercargill late at night and stayed up until 5am binge-watching Masters of Sex, the drama comedy TV show starring and produced by Michael Sheen. Dr. William Masters, a well respected obstetrician, finds himself ostracised by the scientific community after choosing to study sexual arousal.

After a deliciously fatty feast at The Bach cafe (Invercargill’s best cafe, Southland populace unanimously agrees), I drove to Oteri Beach. Ten kms West of Invercargill, the sand is hard enough to drive on so you can have a ball speeding around the 26km-long beach, the same sand Burt Munro used to drive upon.

 

Invercargill winter gardens

The Invercargill gardens are a joy to walk through. The best bits are the colourful flowers.

 

I wandered through the gardens, amusing myself by lying to children. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Sunday is the most popular day to walk through the gardens and I passed by many families, the young children playing in the fountains or pushing each other on the swings. Two little girls were playing with the brass statues that surround the fountain. Three squirrels, frozen in place hovering over their brass nuts, were being prodded and poked by them.

“Did you know,” I started, getting the girls’ attention. “These squirrels used to be real, but they were turned into statues by an evil witch because they were greedy?”

“No,” the braver of the girls said loudly. “They’re just ornaments.”

“Ah, I wish it were true,” I said. “They might come back to life one day, once they’ve learnt their lesson. See, they used to steal nuts from other squirrels, so the witch decided they’d learn a lesson if they were forced to stand here and watch all the kids playing. She thought maybe they’d see how to share and be more compassionate.”

“And that one,” I went on, pointing to the giant eagle who faced the playground. “He used to flap his wings, frightening people and making them fall over. So the witch made him be the Watcher of the playground. Now he has to look out for any bullies and make sure everyone is safe when they’re playing.”

The girls shrugged and kept on playing.

 

Clockwise from top left: New River School, Lumsden school, Tisbury School, Mataura School.

Clockwise from top left: New River School, Lumsden school, Tisbury School, Mataura School.

 

Monday brought with it two schools, and Tuesday three. The kids were as enthusiastic as I hoped, asking hilarious questions I could never have expected like, “What did you eat for breakfast?” and “Do you have a sister or brother and do you like them?”

No children were scared of my video, they all cheered when the building exploded in Hot Rob and laughed when the picture of me as fat dwarf in The Hobbit came up. My throat had began to itch and my voice was fading by this time, from the constant talking or late nights, I couldn’t tell. I was eating fairly well, treating myself to large salads and fizzy Berocca drinks every day, but I couldn’t deny it; it was getting worse. I felt myself sink into the world of the sick.

On Tuesday after being interviewed for the EnSign, Mataura’s local newspaper, I set off to Dunedin. By the time I got there, my head was throbbing and my vision blurring. I drank as much water as I could and attempted to convince myself I was okay.

 

Dunedin Hayden

Dunedin’s Signal Hill lookout is amazing!

 

A good friend’s little sister Sarah took me up to Signal Hill lookout. You can see all of Dunedin from up there, she said. Aha, she was wrong. The mist had rolled in, a drizzle had dampened my festive spirits and the view was nothing but a grey miasma. Instead, we went to Nova, a restaurant in the Octagon and treated ourselves to chocolate desserts and caught up.

I retired early, one hundred pages in to the new book I was reading, I Know This Much Is True, a psychological family drama gifted to me by someone I met on my travels. After talking about books and movies and music, she promised me it was a good read. She was not wrong.

 

The view from my motel room. Despite all the activities Dunedin has to offer, I couldn't drag myself from the floor.

The view from my motel room. Despite all the activities Dunedin has to offer, I couldn’t drag myself from the floor.

 

I woke with an aching back, searing throat and delicate skin. Pitching my coat tightly around me, I sprinted to the corner store and loaded up on lozenges, pills, salves and medicine, then dosed up. Time had sped up strangely and I noted with shock that I was due at St. Joseph’s so I rushed into the car and swerved through the traffic in the pouring rain.

The students of St. Joseph’s were finishing Kapa haka practice when I arrived so I sat in and admired their loud voices, envy creeping over me. However, would you believe it, fate threw me a solid; St. Joseph’s was the first school I visited with a microphone! Where before I was feeling close to fainting, as soon as I stood in front of the hundred or so smiling faces and heard them greet me in a collective chant, adrenalin threw me strength.

I talked and talked, the croaky voice lending me a mystique reserved only for grandfathers, giving my stories a fireplace glow. The video went down a treat and the kids were buzzing about the boxes of books they were being gifted.

I figured out at the second school to give the books out last. The kids couldn’t concentrate on a thing once the book’s had be given, it was trouble enough saying ka kite.

 

Hayden J. Weal dunedin

7am view. Frostily gorgeous.

 

I did finally make it up Signal Hill to admire Dunedin from above. What photography fails to describe is the roaring wind and sub zero temperature. Regardless of the flu and cold, it was beautiful and I stayed for long enough to balance the camera precariously on a stone turret and set the ten second timer. When this was done I hobbled back to the car and turned the heater up to full.

 

Dunedin moody beach

Moody and rough, it was the perfect place to sit for a lemon honey ginger drink and read

 

Bathgate, Carisbrook, Pine Hill, Brockville and Concord schools were all a lot of fun. By rule, I should’ve been blending the memories of the schools together but I still remember the nuances of each school and the unique kids that went there, especially their questions.

“Did you see How To Train Your Dragon 2?”

“I did and I loved it. Did you see it?”

They all yell “YES!”, and I can tell that even those who didn’t see it join in. Even those who are more interested in wedging the glob of snot from their nostrils yell “YES!” because that’s what their peers are doing.

This herd mentality worked to my advantage when I showed the kids my work. I’d explain that the video I was about to show them was ‘funny and scary and very exciting’. After that seed was planted, it ensured they’d laugh, hide behind their hands and cheer. The power to manipulate children is too easily granted and we must wield it with discerning care.

 

Duffy Carisbrook, Brockville, Concord

Carisbrook, Brockville and Concord school.

 

Getting back on the plane to Wellington, I found myself experiencing the same strange sense of loss I get after finishing a particularly good book or film. Like I’d gotten to know heaps of friends and I’d already had to say goodbye without knowing if I’d ever see them again.

I hope to catch up with all of these kids in the future and the way the world works, it’s not an outlandish hope. Fingers crossed for another trip soon! Thanks Duffy!

 

PART ONE OF MY TRIP HERE

 

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I’m traveling the deep south of New Zealand in a hired car, staying in motels and chatting to young kiwi kids about reading and filmmaking every day.

It’s like a genie appeared, “What’s your ideal way to spend your time, Hayden J.?”

And it’s granted.

I’ll tell you how, and why, I’m here. Duffy Books in Homes.

 

Hayden J. Weal Bluff hill

I got to walk around Bluff hill!

 

Duffy Books in Homes is a charitable foundation started by Alan Duff, author of Once Were Warriors (yeesh – grisly kiwi story there) which provides a minimum of five books a year to over 100,000 kiwi kids scattered throughout 530 low decile schools.

 

St Teresa's School Bluff duffy

Enthusiastic kids at St. Teresa’s school in Bluff were stoked on the books

 

Basically, Alan Duff wanted more adults to encourage more kids to read, and the key to getting that happening was hooking the kids young. Get them reading. Get them educating themselves unknowingly so they can grow into the kinds of people who encourage more kids to read and educate themselves and so on and so on.

 

My sexy hire car. The challenge was keeping the girls away.

My sexy hire car. At that point I knew: my biggest challenge would be keeping the girls away.

 

Duffy Heroes

 

Duffy Heroes (or Duffy Role Models) are people who’ve achieved a dream and who love reading and want to pass on their love of reading to the young ‘uns.

Grant Roa Uncle Rawiri

Grant is Uncle Rawiri in masterpiece NZ film Whale Rider

Having achieved my lifelong dream of becoming stunningly gorgeous, muscular and modest, I was put forward by a very good friend (and fantastic actor) Grant Roa to be a Duffy Role Model.

Needless to say, I was honoured and jumped at the chance.

My first school, Newfield Park School in Invercargill, were a good crowd... except for the 5 year olds who cried through my video

My first school, Newfield Park School in Invercargill, were a good crowd… except for the 5 year olds who cried through the video I showed them. Jack and Chops freaked them out.

 

I did a mini tour around the Wairarapa region last year and had a whale of a time. It’s so much fun, even though I don’t personally buy these books for the kids, or even pick them (the kids themselves pick them – a great many generous sponsor buy the books), I feel like Santa Claus rocking in there, yarning about being Bilbo and how cool reading is, then reaching into my sack and handing out books to super pumped kids.

 

This horrible woman works for parliament. She turned her phone on before landing then sniggered when I asked her to obey the rules. I reported her.

This horrible woman sat next to me on the plane. She works for parliament. She turned her phone on before landing then sniggered when I asked her to obey the rules. I reported her with pleasure.

 

They have a special Duffy song and a special assembly for the book giving. It’s an event. The schools Duffy supply for are selected from areas ‘where the children are most likely to come from bookless homes’ so imagine how much getting free books means to them. Back in my day, books were books and we’d shrug at them. These guys are genuinely excited about being gifted their very own books to take home.

 

Bluff School Duffy books in homes

An awesome class of readers at Bluff School plus a creepy dude in the middle

 

This year, Duffy celebrated it’s twenty year anniversary and the donation of TEN MILLION BOOKS viagra kaufen im internet. They held a governmental breakfast at Parliament and Dr. Ben Carson, along with the honourable Hekia Parata span some yarns for us.

 

Bluff sign post

This is mandatory in Bluff, okay? Even the locals do it.

 

There was one guy who spoke at the anniversary. Sometimes you know when you’re hearing something that you’ll never forget. Well, this guy and his speech was one of those times. He was one of the first Duffy kids ever. His school – a poor school – had been chosen for the first year of Duffy. And this guy – a young boy who was being abused at home and struggling to learn – had been gifted a book.

 

fernworth school invercargill

Sweet crowd at Fernworth school give me what they call a ‘ferny’ welcome

 

This young boy grew up into a young man, cherishing the books he received from the Duffy program, and he became an opera singer and traveled all over the world. He spoke about his life and we were all transfixed, hanging on his every word. Then he turned to Alan Duff, who was as enraptured as the rest of us, smoked salmon and hash brown breakfast going cold, untouched, and said, “I want to say – because I’ve never had the chance to say this – thank you, Alan. I don’t know if even you know how much those books meant to me.”

 

This is my sunset from the motel I'm staying in

This is my sunset from the motel I’m staying in

This is me looking at the sunset from my motel in Invercargill

This is me looking at the sunset from the motel I’m staying in

 

I was a mess, my smoked salmon extra salty from the tears drizzling down my cheeks and through my messy beard.

Weeks later, when Jacqui Whyte, Duffy Theatre administrator, asked if I’d consider a trip to the South Island to tour some schools, I couldn’t email back fast enough. With YES in capitals.

 

Takitimu school in Nightcaps win the award for the most remote location in the world

Takitimu school in Nightcaps win the award for the most remote location in the world. Drove for an hour and a half through rolling farmlands to get to them

 

Eight days. Sixteen schools. That was the plan. Easy.

The schools would be mixed sizes and the students, as usual, an eclectic variety. And it’s strange, I’ve found that at every school, no matter how big or small, there’s always one student that calls out, interrupts, disrupts, jeers, jokes, jibes or jips me. And it’s usually because they’re excited.

I must extend my thanks to all the teachers who delicately rebuked the children I struggled to deal with. The deserve a pay raise.

 

Stormy beach at Taramea point, just past Riverton.

Stormy beach at Taramea point, out of Invercargill, past Riverton.

 

In the afternoons I explore Invercargill, walk around the heritage trails and indulge in unhealthy but delicious food. I read my book, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (and wow, it’s SUCH a good book) and edit the photos I’ve taken in the day. I’m living the dream.

I have made a short video to show the kids. It features some of Jack and Chops, Hot Rob, and some stills from The Hobbit featuring me as a number of different characters. On my first day, at Newfield school, some of the younger pupils got very scared and started crying. The principal had a few stern words to me, so I’ve added a verbal disclaimer and you know what’s strange? Saying the video might be scary gets the kids even more excited to see it.

 

St Patrick's school in Nightcaps has a total of 14 students. You see all sorts.

St Patrick’s school in Nightcaps has a total of 14 students.

 

It started raining today. I took a photo of it.

 

Raindrops on the window

 

I’m halfway through the trip and already I’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm of these kids. Stay tuned because there are more photos on the way.

 

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LAST DAY

 

With the Auckland crew gone, me and Dan remained. It was time to hang up the Mentor tags and head home.

 

Travelling debris. Stubs of boardings passes and info packs.

Travelling debris. Stubs of boardings passes and info packs. Which do I need to keep?

 

Last day | 9:15am

I’m at breakfast reading and I never want to leave. It’s perfect. Better still, a pack of Greek families seem to have checked in bringing with them cute daughters with dark features and shapely bodies that aren’t hidden by long flowing sheets of dress. I’ve managed fruit and coffee but that’s all. I’m doubting my ability to eat proper solids yet. Don’t know where Dan is but the rest of the crew got on the plane safely. I don’t have long left in this country and I’ll miss it.

 

4:37pm

The whole day has gone by! Okay I’ll list it quickly. I’m currently on the KLIA Ekspres with Dan and we’re heading to the airport. Our time in KL is at its end. I ate breakfast and took a lot of time and read plenty of my fantastic book. Then I went to my room and packed. Then I sat by the pool, swam, read by the pool and drank a watermelon juice. At noon I checked out and the concierge tucked away my bags so I could explore the city for my remaining four hours before meeting Dan. He had work to do all morning – poor sap. But he enjoyed it!

 

 

I guess because of the crowds, a lot of Malaysians who reside in the city don't care about personal bubbles

I guess because of the crowds, a lot of Malaysians who reside in the city don’t care about personal bubbles

 

I walked around the mall for an hour, digging the chilly aircon, then bought a ticket for Mr. Peabody and Sherman. A movie! I spent some of my last day in KL in a cold darkened room with kids watching an animated film. And it was awesome. Before the film though I shelled out for a massive Mexican meal of chicken quesadillas and a coke light. So delicious. Read more of my book. A dream solo day really. After the film, feeling emotional due to a sweet family film in my hungover vulnerable state, I walked back to the hotel and sat in the lobby with Dan until a taxi picked us up and took us an interesting way through the city to avoid traffic and dropped us at Sentral station. On the day we’re leaving, I find I’m finally used to the money and ticket system.

 

5:40pm

MASSIVE lines at the airport security. Me and Dan are hungry. Have picked a line each to see who wins. It’s like betting on which pebble will spiral down the drain first. Zero control – zero stakes – zero reason why not.

 

Long airport lines

 

7:04pm

Got to the airport and waited in the long lines (I won the first and Dan won the second) and had some French sandwiches. Getting ready to board and standing in front of the most obnoxious Aussie couple and I felt my blood pressure spike immediately. I needed to breath deep. If they’re near me on the plane I’m gonna lose it.

 

Wednesday 7:17am AUS time/4:17am Malaysia time/10:17am NZ time

Arrived in Melbourne and swapped my SIM card back. We got lucky and weren’t near any annoying Aussies on the plane. Such a blessed relief as waiting in the lines before boarding was next level. Good gosh, some of them had no respect. Obnoxious bastards making jokes about the missing MH370 plane. Didn’t sleep much. Watched Silver Linings Playbook again.

 

coffee, Melbourne airport, Dan Slevin

Shouted by Dan (thanks mate), it was savoured as we watched plans taxi the tarmac

 

8:26am

Having a coffee shouted by Dan in a lovely cafe overlooking Melbourne’s never ending flatness. Orange light is pouring in and I’d call it officially daytime. The wifi is shit. Dan popped me on his personal hotspot for a second so I could txt Abby and the crew. Realised I forgot my house key and nobody is home. Fantastic. But here’s the thing about having considerate and caring friends: these things tend to get worked out.

 

 

Wellington Airport

One more photo, then let’s go home.

 

3:45pm

Caleb put a key in the power box for me. Just landed in Wellington to a flurry of txts and emails and whatsapps. Missing the trip already.
It is finished.

 

 

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Sunday 11:54am

I just slept for a decent half hour on the air-conditioned-but-still-hot bus from Sri Tamplak to Meleka. We’re heading to the beach! Two hour trip there and two hours back later today, and I’ve been loving the new book Ostrich I bought yesterday, taking care to read it slowly and thoroughly to soak in the cleverness. It’s funny and smart and I’m excited to see where the story goes. Breakfast was a lovely affair, as per.

 

Melaka

Melaka

 

I had two omelettes with everything and two cups of coffee then needed to piss before holding everybody up while I ran to the gym to sneak a towel into my bag for the beach. Foolish! Cameras everywhere would’ve caught me and there are clear signs stating the strict prohibition of taking towels out of the pool area. Stay tuned. Anna is two rows ahead of me, Dan and Aidee who are in the back row with a lovely young girl who smiles and shrugs every time conversation is made.

 

2:14pm

Arrived in Melaka bus station, taxied to the township and we’re dropped off a drab industrial area that seemed to be the end of the island. There was no beach. There was merely a large metallic wall that we could hear water behind. We walked in the heat through the old town ogling the long lines of European style facades then found the large sail ship in the middle of the town.

 

Jonker street

 

From there walked along a river to a very western looking restaurant and because we were all in danger of hanger, stopped to eat. I got two very very spicy dishes, one of them sting ray, and Dan got an interesting lasagne-rendang combo. Crazy. My tummy hurts and I have a runny nose but it’s funny.

 

Stingray soup!

Stingray soup!

 

3:25pm

We had durian! An amazing desert style thing that was a cross between ice cream, yoghurt and lassi, served with chocolate sauce. Met up with Aidee’s friend and his cute Indian friend and they took us to Jonker Street, a busy road full of stalls and small shops that reminded me of Khao San Road in Bangkok. We walked along the road and suddenly it was time to catch a taxi back to KL. We’re in a taxi now.

 

Aidee's friends who introduced us to Durian dessert

Aidee’s friends who introduced us to Durian dessert

 

8:01pm

Finally, finally got back to the hotel. What was planned to be a quick trip to the beach turned into a whole day trip. Sun is gone. My balls are chaffed. Battery ran dead on the bus but on the major plus side the new book Ostrich I’m reading is fantastic! Pita Sharples is here now and by the looks of things the whole NZ crew has arrived. I feel weirdly jealous like I want to keep KL for just the five of us. They were in suits, sweating up a storm in spite of holding professional posture.
Heading out to tea now at a restaurant for more chats and good times.

 

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Johnny Barker walking through the city looking swish

 

Monday 12:33am

It’s past midnight and I’m not even tired! Eek I’ve acclimatised to this time zone. Had an amazing dinner out with the team, drank asahi and talked films and had a blast all night. Then we retired to Johnny’s room to watch the 48hours short video he’d edited of all the teams then we watched HOT ROB! So stoked. They enjoyed it and were nice about it so I’m feeling warm fuzzies. Me and Aidee plan to hit the gym in the AM which sounds great in theory but I’m not sure I’ll be keen in seven hours.

 

10:19am

Just spent a wonderful two hours at breakfast chatting and eating and drinking coffee and discussing and laughing with the team. Spent a decent half hour on the toilet instead of at the gym before breakfast thanks to the stingray yesterday. Dan has work to do today but the rest of us are free until the dinner at 7pm. We plan to hit up the Chinese markets on Petaling street. I did a great fart in the elevator on the way up here too. Very proud.

 

Hayden J. Weal Kuala Lumpur markets

HJW in the markets!

 

1:36pm

Sitting in a tourist trap bar but it has air conditioning so we’re stoked. We have walked through the markets and bought a whole bunch of crappy pap that made us happy. Friendship bracelets and incense, knockoff perfume and Nike shorts. Our mango juices are shitty sugary fakes and I bet the food will be delicious and gross.

 

2:59pm

Catching metro back to hotel. Phew it’s hot hot hot! Bought a cool white t shirt with guitars on it and we all got friendship bracelets awwwwww.

 

Bracelet shopping with Annie and Johnny

Bracelet shopping with Annie and Johnny

 

4:33pm

I am zonked. Big day walking around in the blistering heat, zipping into shops to buy stuff and eating crap and finally back at the hotel. The governmental dinner is tonight so Dan has been stuck organizing all day while we go have fun together. I’ve come to really love these guys, they’re like minded and hilarious and easy to be around. I bought another book at the mall and had to borrow some ringgit from Johnny. Gonna hit the pool on level 10 for a while then might even get a bit of gym action in before the dinner. Gosh, I can see myself getting smashed and being an idiot…

 

Invitation to the NZ Week night

Invitation to the NZ Week night

 

5:59pm

I just fell asleep by the pool for twenty blissful minutes. Swam, read my book, now it’s time to iron my shirt and head down for dinner. Less than twelve hours until the crew leaves so I better get drunk for them. Malaysia rocks.

 

Tuesday 2:33am

Holy shit I am lying in bed drunk as hell after Dan bought the entire table endless amount of whatever they damn well pleased. The winning team joined us after the ceremony. The ceremony itself – now that was an interesting story – lots of inappropriate action but also a couple of awkward statements in the middle of a charismatic and diplomatic speech.

 

Limi Mata Ikan | Rima Mata Ika

Limi Mata Ikan | Rima Mata Ika

 

The video played fantastically and the crowd loved it, then we got up on stage and bowed and shook hands with people, we met Jimmy Choo and the Malaysian ministers (what an honour) then we were confronted by a rude, drunken MP called Melissa Lee, telling us the debris of MH370 had been found so we weren’t to celebrate too loudly. We would’ve totally understood had she not been blowing smoke in our entire table’s faces as she spoke. Later, Dan told her what’s up (after she’d stumbled over and inducted herself uninvited into the group) by way of a non-flinchingly stern telling-off. It was so intense and everyone congratulated him on if afterward. We sat in the lobby until just now drinking with the winning team and getting photos. Amazing. The plan is to rouse at 5:30am and eat breakfast with the crew before they leave. Fuck. It’s 2:40am.

 

Standard drunken crowd snap

Standard drunken crowd snap

 

7:02am

Yup, turned the alarm off in my sleep. Missed them.

 

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Malaysia HJW

Malaysia and the Mentors – Part 5/7

It’s time to do Kuala Lumpur!

 

 

With the 48hour film festival being completed, I leave Kuching and make my way to Kuala Lumpur to join the other NZers where we cease to ‘work’, instead spending our time traveling and enjoying Malaysia.

 

11:19am
I have been notified, while I was enjoying a grande hazelnut latte from Starbucks (in Paddy’s honour – my father) with the lecturers, that my flight to KL has been postponed by an hour and a half. I have to check out of the hotel at noon and don’t need to be at the airport until 3p.m. so Aliff is gonna grab me and we’ll have lunch to wile the time away. I’m not feeling tired at all; I’m hitting that second or third or tenth wind.

 

Guilty expensive pleasure

Guilty expensive pleasure

 

12:22pm
One shower later and I’m ready to go! Saying a teary farewell to my room here and will miss Kuching. It feels like I hardly got to explore it at all! Mingled with my sadness is an excitement to rejoin the group in KL. I can’t wait to hear about their experiences with their 48hour teams. I wish we had a behind the scenes crew with us. Yusry is waiting for me downstairs so it’s time to go to the airport now!

 

Free food and luxury. I don't really fit in with my messy hair, stubble and sneakers

Free food and luxury. I don’t really fit in with my messy hair, stubble and sneakers

 

3:09pm
I have been sitting in the gold lounge happy as a pig in shit. I’m reading my book, a cup of strong coffee and selection of tasty chocolate treats next to me, and a call will soon emit from the loud speaker when it’s time for me to board. Easy as that. I checked in here at the airport then Aliff picked me up.
We went to a small restaurant cramped in between a sweaty carpark and a noisy motorway. We enjoyed a delicious local dish made of noodles, beef and egg. After which I was very full by this point and struggling to stay alert so allowed myself the privilege on slipping into a stupor on the way back to the airport. Now I’m here. Cosy and comfortable. I’ll be in KL soon.

 

To prove it happened

To prove it happened

 

6:32pmtaxi
I have arrived in Kuala Lumpur! I’ve taken the KLIA Ekspres from the airport to Sentral Station. I found myself getting infuriated by even the slightest noise, like the overweight man who kept hocking phlegm into his mouth and swallowing it. Anyway, having finally arrived, I’m currently in a 35 ringgit ticket premiere teksi ride, sitting in rush hour watching the meter rise. Darn, this was to be my beer money.

 

10:38pm
Turns out the taxi only cost 38 ringgit! Cheap as considering the time we spent in traffic. To better that, Dan bought the beers in the mezzanine bar anyway! Legend! Not to self: I must repay him somehow. I got to the hotel, checked in fast without any problems, then made my way to my room. On the 28th fucking floor. The hotel is 29 floors high, and I’m rocking floor 28. A smoking room, so it stinks of cancer-causing tar, but holy shit the view.
I dumped my gear, lamenting my phone’s newly depleted battery, and ran down to meet Anna, Johnny and Dan in the bar. We had a couple of drinks and caught up and I haven’t laughed so much for a long time. What a classic crew of people! So lucky to have them here and to be a part of the group. We swapped stories and Johnny sounds like he got a raw deal with his teams, poor guy, but dealt really well and they even have to films to show for it!

 

Checking in is sometimes the best bit. Lovely staff.

Checking in is sometimes the best bit. Lovely staff.

 

After beers we went for a walk to a gigantic mall and had a cheap dinner. 10pm came around fast, meaning the mall closed, so we came back and all agreed to call it a night. It’s been an exhausting few days but tomorrow is a free day with no strings. We’re meeting at 8am for breakfast together. Too excited to sleep. The hotel is incredible.

 

Saturday 6:52am
I’ve woken up instantly alert so I’ve stayed up. I have plenty of time so I’m txting Abby and looking out the window until breakfast time. This place is awesome.

 

View from my hotel room

View from my hotel room

8:03am
I’m sitting at breakfast. I’ve eaten a big bowl of fruit and a coffee and am waiting on the others, regretting not bringing my book down. I don’t know if I’ll finish the current novel I’m ready as I’ve already read it. I’ll go shopping for one today, there’s gotta be a decent second hand book shop around right? Stay tuned. View from my room as the sun comes up is spectacular and I’m feeling very very honoured to be here. Johnny just arrived for breakfast yay!

Aw, a student put me on Instagram!

Aw, a student put me on Instagram!

3:18pm
What a day! We are doing KL. I started off with a magical breakfast of fruit and omelettes in the hotel and laughed and chatted with the team. Then we all got together in Johnny’s room and watched the 48hour films! They all exceeded our expectations and lots of laughs were had. Dan joined us and told us their judging decisions which were as we expected. My teams got best actress and that’s it. We all went for a walk in the stifling hot streets, grabbed lunch, then had a swim. We’re currently lying in the sun together and listening to music. I really wanna go get another book so I have another piece of literature to associate with the trip.

 

5:25pm
My battery is running low as we’re heading to Batu Caves in a large taxi. I’m sitting in the boot as I’m the youngest and smallest.

8:09pm
Woohoo, the Batu caves were a whole lot of fun and we caught up with Aidee’s teammates and had dinner. My hip is killing me and my battery is low so I will not bore you with the–

 

Aidee Walker, Batu Caves

Aidee Walker at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur

 

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Malaysia and the Mentors – Part 4/7

In Post Three, we left the teams at noon with just under twenty four hours to go until the end of the 48hour competition. Things are heating up. Emotions are running high while hours of sleep are running low.

 

Wednesday | 4:32pm

The edits are coming along fine but the editors have a severe lack of things to do. They are currently sitting around making tiny tweaks on their small amount of footage, waiting for the rest of the crew to shoot something so they can edit more. I’m gonna head back to the hotel at 5pm as I’m getting a little sick of hearing Jerry the editor scratch his hair and body (these things happen when you’re in a small room with one other person for a prolonged period of time) then I’ll come back with Aliff around 9-10pm and stay until morning. It’s gonna be uncomfortable but I’ll manage.

editor sleeps kuching 48hours

Crew members need sleep. 48hour film festival can be detrimental to one’s health

Earlier, I went for a fantastic poo. But sadly – it pains me to relive this -no toilet paper. There isn’t any toilet paper in the whole university despite its 20,000 students. So, I crouched on the soaking wet toilet seat (as the douche next to it must be regularly used) and proceeded to shit all over the back of the seat on accident, not being used to the angle. Only one of two nuggets landed on the seat so I washed them back into the bowl with the douche, the fact dawning on me that this is possibly why the seat was so wet in the first place. Now I wish I at least photographed them as evidence like a national geographic journalist capturing the trials of a traveller aboard.

Afterward, I tried to ignore the fact that the cleaner was in the bathroom and would’ve seen my poo still in the toilet, as the fucking thing didn’t flush either. It sat there, as pathetic as the foreigner it recently escaped from. I hurried back to the cinematography building with a sweaty, shitty arse and a longing for the creature comforts I’m used to.
Hours later when I couldn’t bare the itchiness a second longer, I requested some tissues and excused myself for a well deserved, long awaited wipe.

 

7:50pm

Had a fifteen minute sleep in my hotel room. Strangely, today is the first time I haven’t fallen asleep on the way back from the university in Yusef’s hot car. Usually the heat, fatigue and winding roads drags me into a slumber quick smart but not today. Today I was wide awake the whole trip, txting and whatsapping and restless.

After my nap, I woke up and sat on my phone then read with a coffee. I’m waiting for Aliff to pick me up now. We planned to have a big dinner together but he has cancelled this as Team Skywar are still filming and he wants to be there for it. I have rushed out to grab a bite to eat before the final fourteen hours of the competition whack me over the face.

Cats Kuching

Cats everywhere in Kuching. Just everywhere.

I’m the only diner on the top floor of this restaurant next door to the hotel. It smells faintly of human poo – maybe that’s why. That, and the stray cats vying for food.

 

10:28pm

We are crammed in Aliff’s office, crowding around a table with four MacBooks on it. Two teams editing their films side by side, it’s beautiful really. The editing assistants source music and sound while the editors try to put together their masterpieces. I watch, gnawing my fist at their toddler-like pace. No, that’s rough – I’m letting the lack of sleep get to me. I have to remember that for them, this experience is exciting and new. They’re funny. They still call me Mr. Hayden which I secretly love because it makes me feel like a grown up and that I have something to offer the world that isn’t merely a childlike naïvety, the thing I’m most praised for.

We all gathered for the final stretch in Aliff's office. Two teams, four MacBooks, and a whole lotta brotherhood

We all gathered for the final stretch in Aliff’s office. Two teams, four MacBooks, and a whole lotta brotherhood

We are officially in our last quarter, time-wise. Aliff is pressuring Skywar to reshoot shots and I’m not in a place to argue. There are conversations regarding colour grades, sound design, all sorts. It’s heavenly. Exactly my nerdy kind of scene.

 

Thursday | 1:10am

The intervening hour and a half was spent shooting for the crew, and eating for us. Me, Aliff, Chong and Justin went out and got a cheap spicy feed from a surprisingly busy outdoor market. We sat and drank hot milky bubbly tea and slurped our noodles with shellfish and jalapeños, discussing the differences between NZ food and Malaysian food.

malaysian food

Delicious, spicy, juicy Malaysian food and wonderful company.

The plan was to get a Starbucks coffee after, my shout, as they’d never had one before, but midnight ticked over while we sat there and we watched the lights go out. I promised them one in the morning as they are quite expensive and considered a superfluous luxury. Now I’m settling in for a small nap while the editors edit their new footage. Both teams have completed their shooting. Good times!

 

5:48am

The edits are basically locked, sound, music and colour grade being the chief concentration these last couple of hours. Of course, the lecturers have taken control, leaning over their students and prying the keyboard to change what they feel needs to be changed which I can imagine to be infuriating for the students but they don’t say anything.

I slept on the hard floor and am feeling more tired and fatigued than usual. It’s almost welcomed as I felt I wasn’t putting in enough effort before, but now I am. I went through Skywar’s edit with the assistant editor while the editor scratched himself in his sleep on the floor and made small tweaks to sound to clean it up, always taking care to check and explain to the assistant editor so she understood I wasn’t cleaving into her work unduly. This was a lengthy process as explaining these edits to a friend would have taken time, but to someone who speak English as a second language? Despite this, we got there.

Is there a more satisfying feeling?

Is there a more satisfying feeling? The exporting!

I haven’t watched a full cut of Xpress’s film yet because they are constantly bent over two laptops working furiously at it and I don’t want to interrupt, but will have to soon.

Aliff really wants to use copyrighted music so I’ve had to explain that it would render their team disqualified. He finds this unfair. He wants to use the song Killing Me Softly.

Time is ticking away. We have four hours to complete the challenge.

 

10:08am

We have crossed the finish line with roaring success!! Everyone clapped and we all took a whole bunch of photos to celebrate. For that glorious moment, everyone forgets how much they smell and itch and ache. We are all filmmakers! And the films are surely Oscar worthy!

Success! Celebration!

Success! Celebration!

Both teams completed and exported their films with a healthy amount of time to spare. Time for Starbucks then back to the hotel for a lengthy shower.

 

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Malaysia and the Mentors – Part 3/7

48hours malaysia begins!

In March 2014, 4 kiwi filmmakers were shipped to Malaysia to mentor a group of universities through Malaysia’s first ever 48hour filmmaking competition as part of NZ week. See Part 1 and Part 2.

When we left, I was in the depths of University Sarawak in Kuching, the small island about an hour’s flight from Kuala Lumpur. The students were assembled. Two teams. All facing me and a projector screen with a countdown on it.

 

Kuching University Sarawak 48hours

Two film crews gather, twitching and nervous but excited

 

Wednesday 10:54am

Announcement of the start went down an absolute treat! The teams (Skywar and Xpress) clapped and laughed and cheered when they were awarded their numbers and assigned genres. They gasped when Dan made the rules clear even though I’d spend the last day explaining these…

Team Skywar got Thriller and Team Xpress got Road Movie. As soon as we said goodbye to Dan and the KL teams, they hurried off to start brainstorming. Aliff the head lecturer and most accomplished English speaker expressed his many concerns, he seems to be letting the pressure get to him after almost an hour.

The students have not settled on ideas yet. They’re sitting in big circles in their beautiful air conditioned atrium plotting and discussing. I feel confident for them.

 

Team Skywar (top left) and Team Xpress (bottom right) brainstorm their ideas

Team Skywar (top left) and Team Xpress (bottom right) brainstorm their ideas

 

12:18pm

The pressure is not getting to them. The writers are writing, the directors are prepping, art department and camera are getting gear ready, and I’m wandering between the two groups asking if they need help. Which they don’t. I am tethered to this massive university though, and walking around in the sweltering heat is exhausting. I’d love lunch or a coffee but I’m not sure it’s quite that easy. They have a fruit stall … oh it’s on the other side of the lake, about thirty fives minutes walk. Aliff is still panicky but I’m sure he’ll calm down once he realises the students are onto it. He feels responsible for everything they do.

 

The rules.

The rules.

 

4:17pm

The students are killing it! We have two interesting and well thought through scripts. They both aim to turnover their first shot at 5pm. I went for a walk through the university and almost collapsed from the humidity so sat by the lake and read my book for a while. I tell ya, I prefer this ‘mentoring’ to competing. So far I’m impressed by the students initiative and hope they can keep up their energy and amiability with one another. Wondering why I haven’t had the urge to do a shit yet as I had a big greasy breakfast and lunch. I need fruit juice and coffee.

 

7:08pm

We’ve decided to take a break. Aliff agreed that we’d both go home and let the students work their magic then return around 8pm to see how they’re going. In that time, I’ve hit the gym for an average workout, sweated it up in the sauna, put my phone on charge for the third time today and went out to the most popular seafood restaurant in Kuching called Top Spot. I’m really living the high life. I had chilli king prawns with rice and vegetables and a watermelon and orange freshly squeezed juice. The entire experience cost 40 ringgit, the equivalent of NZD$13. Amazing. Now I’m stocking up on coffee so I can stay up late with these teams!!

 

Top Spot Kuching

The incredible spread of Top Spot in Kuching boggled my mind because I could afford it – a world first

 

10:47pm

Team Skywar are shooting their first scene. Team Xpress are shooting their third. The footage looks amazing and the leading lady in Skywar’s film, Kalai, is gorgeous. Put a static shot of her on the screen for seven minutes just smiling and looking at the screen and I’d be happy. Aliff is panicking more than the students which is creating a really nice juxtaposition as he is looking casual in shorts and a tight tee. Compared to their ideal time plan, hey are behind which is to be expected, and I’m seeing a lot of time being wasted by the usual pitfalls (arguments) but if they get enough footage to edit with they’ll be able to make up for it with sound and music.

 

Kalai, the beauty of Skywar's horror film

Kalai, the beauty of Skywar’s horror film

 

Thursday 12:23am

Team Xpress are doing okay. Not a lot of communication in either teams which is always the way with beginners. I’m tired and starting to feel gross as I’ve been sweating all day but Aliff insists we stick around for shooting despite the students not asking us anything and their general indifference to our presence.

 

Team Xpress's lighting setup

Team Xpress’s lighting setup

 

12:47am

Back with Team Skywar and they’re starting to fade. People are slumped on desks, lying on the ground, sitting on the floor leaning against the walls, falling asleep. They have four shots remaining in this scene so I’ve suggested they send their post production team home to sleep, and consider shooting their final scene tomorrow while the editing is happening. Most of my suggestions are falling on ears that are untrained in English.

 

Around take 40, the tears came due to emotional fatigue

Around take 40, the tears came due to emotional fatigue

 

4:09am

We are still shooting. Oh yes. I am still here. Eighteen hours into the competition. We’re shooting in a tunnel with a light and everybody is in remarkably good spirits considering. It’s raining too.

 

4am

4am

 

5:54am

Back at hotel for a three hour nap then breakfast then back to set. The world is spinning.

 

Coffee. Fruit. Happiness.

Coffee. Fruit. Happiness.

11:56am

Woke up at 9am and had a rushed blurry shower then hurried down a breakfast before my pickup with Yusry. At the uni I found Jerry editing Skywar’s film in the upstairs editing room. He has assembled all seven shots they’ve filmed – perfect. I helped him lay atmos in and a couple of sound effects. Because he doesn’t understand English very well, and I speak no Malay, this was a very fun exercise.

 

Editing with a foreign language speaker. I really felt for him.

Editing with a foreign language speaker. I really felt for him.

Aliff turned up and put in his thoughts. He emphasised the bad lighting and awkward angles instead of commenting on the edit and I got a bit annoyed by this. What’s the point in lamenting what’s been done? Despite lacking footage and story, it’s a cool little film that we can make effective with sound effects and creepy music. Saffwan, the AD of Xpress, sent me a picture of them shooting. They’ve written their film with night and day scenes so they have something to do today. Very clever. I look forward to seeing their edit. I have an overwhelming feeling of deep appreciation for my collaborators back in NZ. I txt the guys and told them that no matter how frustrating it is editing with each other, I now have the experience of editing with a non-English speaking amateur student. Communication is so key.

 

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Malaysia and the Mentors – Part 2/7

Malaysia Part 2 of 7: Meeting the Students

Last time we caught up in Malaysia Part 1, it was mid-morning, I was crouching on a toilet in the Kuala Lumpur airport ready to board my Malaysia Air flight to the beautiful island of Kuching. I knew I’d be mentoring a handful of film students through their first 48hour filmmaking competition and that the language barrier would perhaps be a hurdle. But there’s no way I could’ve anticipated the depth I’d lose myself in.

From KL to Kuching, leaving the group to fly solo

From KL to Kuching, leaving the group to fly solo

 

March 17th – Monday – 2:03pm

I am off the plane. I have traveled through customs and immigration without understanding a word of any signs or dialogue. I am in a car that has been boxed in, sweltering hot in the back seat, and have thankfully met the wonderful young men who know where to take me so I can check into a hotel and dump my bags and relax.

 

Malaysia airport

Kuala Lumpur airport – bigger than Wellington

 

5:32pm

Hayden J. Weal in a taxi

“How many students are there, I’ve been told around ten.”
“Forty.”
“…”

So…the lovely men who drove me here kindly informed me that I’ll be lecturing for six hours to forty students tomorrow. Jumping Christ. I could talk about filmmaking for six years, no worries, in English, but apparently the language barrier in Kuching is significantly higher than in Kuala Lumpur. Which leaves me with no idea how to go about it. But right now, after thirty hours of traveling, I don’t really want to think about it. So I took this photo to remember how I felt.

 

 

I checked into the hotel that I’m staying at. It’s waterside. It’s called the Hilton… hahahaha. Five stars and very nice of course. I came up to my room, got on the wifi, had a nice long shower and set about trying to find my way around. First things first, I was running outta battery so had to find an adaptor. My good friend Caleb had offered me one but I forgot about it. I also forgot briefs. That’s right. Ten days and one pair of briefs.

 

Hilton hotel Kuching

Showered and admiring the views

 

I washed all my stinky clothes in the basin, hung them up on the makeshift clothesline in the shower, then explored. The waterfront here is beautiful. Colours everywhere, a murky brown river flows down the length of the city and a great big golden-spired event centre type building stands proudly among the trees over the bank. I walked in the stifling heat, loving every second, bought a skanky little chicken kebab for about $1.20 and a cheap orange juice and kept walking, stopping into shops. The trinkets on offer seem to be the same crap from Thailand and Bali except more expensive. I didn’t buy any.

 

Kuching waterfront

I got a local to take this for me. They were friendly and played my iPhone like a violin

 

I got back to the hotel and scored an adaptor from reception, hit the gym (after having to don my pink socks and dressy shoes as covered footwear is compulsory) then rocked a swim in the pool that they have here, because they have a pool, filled with water and the temperature is perfect for swimming. I’m currently sitting naked at my luxuriously large and ornate wooden desk pretending to be professional.

 

6:13pm

Possibly living the coolest life ever. I’m sitting in an open air restaurant overlooking the river and it’s pouring with rain around me. I have a watermelon juice and my dinner is to be coconut prawn curry. I’m surrounded by couples or groups of friends. I am the only sole diner. After this I’m going to walk along the boardwalk back to hotel and make some notes about what I’ll talk about tomorrow.

 

Kuching boardwalk

Aw little boats and fairy lights and a stormy sky

 

Tuesday 4:03am

I fell asleep some time between 9 and 9:30pm without writing anything down. I must’ve drifted off because I’ve just woken up, naked save for a book slumped on my chest, and all the lights are on. Either I drifted off or a hotel worker is playing games with me. The loudest thunder I have had the pleasure of hearing in my life is shaking my room. Absolutely gorgeous. Bright flashes on white announce the lightning then seconds later big giants fight in the sky.

 

7:36am

I got up at 6am and answered txts from Abby, my girlfriend. She’s stressed at work. Then I checked twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatsapp and skype, showered hunched over (like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation) and dressed, staring out at the sheets of rain that made the view of the swimming pool look like a painting. Also, I’m really confused by all the cat statues. I haven’t mentioned that yet. They’re at every intersection. And these aren’t little statuettes or ornaments, these are great big looming concrete canine cliques.

 

Kuching cats

Placed at every intersection in Kuching are cat statues. There’s a cat museum too.

 

Me and Dan Skyped about the day and he reiterated the important of leaving political comments out of the films, particularly about the disappearance of MH370. I was to be strict on this.
I’m at the breakfast buffet with my book, lounging and sighing after overeating, and gulping the strong coffee despite the laxative effect it’s surely to shortly have.

 

8:19am

After waiting in the lobby for 20 minutes, the coffee’s taken effect. Instead of waiting for our scheduled break time, I had to fast track it. I’m currently sitting in a warm stall (even the seat’s warm!) hoping the Unimas (Kuching university) representative doesn’t show up while I’m here. I told the bellboy where I would be so all should be well. Stay tuned.

 

8:33am

As predicted, I came out of the toilet to a waiting driver. Am en route to university now.

 

On my way to Unimas, significantly lighter

On my way to Unimas, significantly lighter. Yusry the driver always has a smile ready for me

 

11:12am

Lecture’s going very well. As expected, the students don’t understand most of what I say but we have some helpful translators who clarify things when it gets too confusing, which is often.

 

Kuching Unimas

Head film tutor Aliff and I in Unimas

 

I have set them up into teams to do a directing activity, they are to make a scene with the constructs I’ve given them (one character tries to get a secret out of another) and they’ll perform them for us soon, and the class will give suggestions how to make the scene better. The timid students are already having a hard time, especially the girls. I showed them all Hot Rob and was greeted with applause and smiling faces, taking snaps on their phones as I was speaking. I feel like a rockstar.

 

Hot Rob Malaysia

Hot Rob plays to students in Kuching Unimas, Malaysia!

 

7:51pm

Wow, long day. The lecturing was great. After class they all wanted photos with me which took about ten minutes. They seemed to want every possible combination: me with them, me with their friends, me with them and their friends, me with them and their friends but on the other side, etc. was a lot of fun. Then Aliff took me to the mall and his crew shouted me a massive lunch of Malaysian food. So good! After that we went to a phone shop and I scored a SIM card. I am now on the system.

 

Kuching Unimas students

I’m always happiest surrounded by female film fans

 

The second half of the day’s educating was significantly more challenging. I talked about 48hour filmmaking for the first hour. Pitfalls, rules, ideas, tips, team spirit … Then I seemed to run out of steam. The students were dead silent the entire class, sometimes giving me a slight tip of the head to let me know they could hear me, but for the most part I felt like I was talking to a wall. Or seventy walls. Made of eyes and Islamic headgear. However, we powered on and made the most of if – I showed them Timelanders – nothing. No response whatsoever. After we finished I was driven home by Yusry and fell asleep the entire hour long drive, exhausted from non-stop talking.
Back the hotel I went to the gym, swam, then walked to the waterfront. I caught a 50c boat across the river and am now sitting in an open air food court. Each eatery has their own space where a garage door opens up revealing a cramped space full of cooking gear and a smiling family. A designated number and a specialty food is painted above each stall. I have ordered a nasi goreng Sarawak from one place and a watermelon and orange juice from the neighbouring lady. Very excited. Kids playing with cats surround me as I wait at a brightly coloured picnic table.

 

Sarawak food

Cheap, open air, friendly, colourful – Sarawak, Kuching rocks

 

Wednesday 7:00am

Dinner was lovely, although underwhelming considering I ate the local specialty dish. It was very soupy. However, the watermelon and orange juice was incredible so I got a second for the walk back for the jaw-dropping price of NZ50c. I wandered back to the hotel and retired early, about 8:30pm, and read with a coffee lying naked on my bed with the curtains open and air conditioning at the perfect naked temperature.

I woke up at 6:30am, the thought like a lightning bolt – 48HOUR FILMMAKING MALAYSIA BEGINS TODAY. Time to shower, take my sweet time over breakfast and enjoy the hour long drive to university where the film students await.

 

9:19am

48hour filmmaking Malaysia

The countdown to the first ever 48hour filmmaking competition Malaysia begins

Forty minutes until the competition begins. We have a mac set up with Skype directly to Dan and the team in KL. It’s being projected onto the big screen with nice loud sound. Students are starting to file in now and you can feel the nervous energy in the air. When I asked if they were ready they all said YES MR HAYDEN nice and loud. The most confident they’ve been since I met them. I wonder how that confidence will keep over the next two days…

 

Malaysia 48hours

Skype setup to Dan Slevin and co in Kuala Lumpur – we are ready. Countdown begins now.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 3

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Malaysia part 1 of 7: Getting There

 

In March of this year, I traveled to Malaysia with four amazing people to mentor film students through their first ever 48hour filmmaking competition. Dan Slevin chaperoned Johnny Barker (omigod Shortland Street hottie!), Aidee Walker (omigod Outrageous Fortune Hottie!), Annie Duckworth (omigod hottie!) and myself (…).

 

Aidee, Johnny, Annie and I. The 48hour Malaysia Crew.

Aidee, Johnny, Annie and I. The 48hour Malaysia Crew.

 

The story from the beginning. Back in February, I was duly stocking shelves at Light House Cinema Cuba for the eleven hundredth time when my phone buzzed. It was a tweet from Dan Slevin, Wellington film lover/reviewer and magazine editor (among his many other skills and talents). He asked what my email address was.

 

Dan Slevin Wellington

Major thanks for Dan and Ant Timpson who selected me as one of four mentors to travel to Malaysia

 

‘Huh,’ I thought, hopes running high, ‘Our relationship, contained almost solely to 48hour business, may be progressing. Does he want to hang out for a coffee? A beer? A night alone in a hotel?’ Obviously, I sent him my email address asap.

 

Five minutes later, an email came through from him with one line:

What’re you doing March 18th – 26th?

 

As fate would have it, I would be shooting the third season of Girl vs Boy, a TV show for young adults that I star in, so after a stressful amount of emails back and forth with producers, I was able to free up those dates. I’m eternally grateful to those guys for their understanding and compassion and patience (turns out I’m not in the new season that much due to looking ‘too old’).

 

Girl vs Boy nz

Does that guy look old?

 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent out a whole bunch of material about our mission to Malaysia. In a nutshell:

 

LIMA MATA IKAN/ RIMA MATA IKA was the name of NZ week in Malaysia. It’s a Malay phrase that translates to Five Fish Eyes and it’s nearly the same in Maori so that’s why… yeah, I didn’t get it either. The purpose of the week was to ‘celebrate the linkages between NZ and Malaysia’. Maori carvers would go over and demo their skills, there’d be a game of touch rugby, a business dinner, a food fair, and a 48hour filmmaking competition. Dan would be managing the entire 48hour comp (as Wellington manager for the past decade, he was well practiced) and four kiwi filmmakers would mentor a handful of students each.

Hayden Weal panic

This is me in the airport being calm

 

 

My initial response was panic. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was in over my head. I couldn’t be trusted on what Dan referred to as ‘a diplomatic mission’, could I? I’d be representing Aotearoa as a filmmaker, my greatest dream, was I good enough?

 

Then I calmed down and realised: this is an all-expenses paid trip to Malaysia with some awesome people. Whatever I’m not sure of, I can learn. Take a deep breath and remember: whatever happens, I can deal with it.

 

What follows are the notes I made in my phone throughout the trip accompanied by photos we took.

 

Sunday 26th March – 2:36pm

 

Arrived to airport safely. Packed. Found Dan and started with a hug. Relationship progressing already. Romance. We’re in the Wellington International Airport security line. Will I be scanned for explosives? Sniffed out for drugs? My stubble isn’t long enough yet. Once the beard comes in you can bet I’ll be up there being fondled next to the other passengers who look vaguely Southern Eastern. But for now my rectum feels safe. It’s relaxed. Oop, gotta give them my phone…

 

Sunday 26th March – 7:14pm:

 

<img class="wp-image-333" src="http://www.haydenjweal.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/transfer-1024×768.jpg" alt="Dan Slevin travel" width="500" height="375" srcset="http://www.haydenjweal viagra aus indien.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/transfer-1024×768.jpg 1024w, http://www.haydenjweal.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/transfer-300×225.jpg 300w” sizes=”(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px” />

Sydney airport friendliness: system error

 

Have just checked into Sydney airport and facing a three hour wait until boarding our flight to KL. We will be arriving at 3:20am, then I’m looking at mucking about until noon where I’ll fly to Kuching, then take a train or bus to my accommodation. Very exciting and slightly daunting. Even that three hour flight seemed tedious, all the films having either being good ones I’ve seen or crappy ones that I haven’t seen for a reason, so I vouched to read my awesome David Lodge trilogy instead. Dan’s chatting to his lassie, discussing their new domestic life together, and I’ve just bought an expensive beer called James Squire from the bar here, taking pleasure in the paywave feature of my debit card. You just scan that shit and zap, money’s gone from your account to the bar. Apparently some scoundrels have already figured out machines that can deduct money from your account so all they have to do is sidle up close to you on a crowded bus or train and hold the contraption to your pocket. Just like that, you’re poor and they’re rich. More reason to distrust the greater society. Next time someone grinds on me in the bus I’m gonna step away instead of jacking them off like normal.

 

7:29pm

Thought heaps of time had passed and surely it would be time to board our plane. I am wrong. Have reread my travel info so I know exactly what I’m in for now. The next flight is 8.5 fucking hours long. That’s like, Europe material, it hardly looks like we go that far on the map. Must be a slow plane. The barman here is a caricature of an Aussie, twangingly harsh accent, shark-like countenance and overtly friendly recommendation of beers and he is our saviour.

 

8:26pm

 

Hayden J. Weal airport

Thanks to wifi and James Squire beer, the wait wasn’t so bad

 

 

Time has passed with two beers and good conversation. Txting Abby from my iPad, tweeting about pilsener with Beth Brash and discussing Sam Neill films with Dan. Did anyone see Daybreakers? My boy Ethan Hawke rocking a relatively low budget Australian made vampire flick. Dug it heaps.

 

Monday 17th 4:30am (Kuala Lumpur time)

 

Kuala Lumpur Airport

The Kuala Lumpur Airport seems to go on forever

 

Arrived in the KL airport, waiting an hour for the Ekspres train to take us into the city. It’s this train that costs 150 ringgit (about $30) and speeds through the countryside to the city. Free wifi onboard is a treat, as is the instrumental version of I Just Called to Say I Love You. Looking out the window I can see the city transformed into meagre clusters of lights on a blanket of night.

 

4:56am

Train smells of old wet carpet but we’re in good spirits as my remembered Indonesian phrases of Selamat Pagi and Terima Khasi have roused small but genuine smiles from the ticket lady. Free wifi everywhere is making twitter, Facebook, photo streams and iMessage fun. I’m gonna concentrate that instead of these notes. Excuse me.

 

6:07am

After meeting our friendly and attractive (surprisingly young and stylish) Dutch guide Martyn (oh yes, with a y) who speaks incredibly American sounding English, checking my luggage through to Kuching and taxiing to the Prince hotel, we have encountered our first sticky problem. Check-in time is noon. No problem for me, as I am due to arrive in Kuching later this afternoon, well after twelve, but for Dan who is more than ready to check into his room and have a shower, it is less than satisfactory. Add on the $800 deposit and our time in the gorgeous, plushly decorated sparkling lobby has become lengthy and somewhat uncomfortable. I can’t get on the wifi without a password but I have no desire to interrupt them as they figure out the necessaries. Tensions after a 24 hour travel time have spiked.

 

Hayden J. Weal hotel

The Prince Hotel is five stars. It’s where we’d be staying.

 

9:08am

I am now in a taxi en route to KL central to catch the Ekspres train back to the airport to catch a plane to Kuching. My taxi is currently stationary due to traffic so I’m watching the meter run higher and higher. Not that I have to worry about that too much thanks to the excellent per diems I’ve been generously supplied with (thanks again, NZ Government). My taxi driver speaks fair English which is helpful, and he seems to love my jokes. I call them jokes but really they’re simple phrases that he perhaps doesn’t understand.

 

We had a wonderful five course breakfast at the Prince hotel and met with Anna, Aidee and Johnny. They’re all awesome and ready to make dirty jokes after ten minutes of small talk – a feature I find irreplaceable in a good human being.

 

Johnny Barker Annie Duckworth Aidee Walker

Clockwise from left: Johnny Barker (The Locals, Shorty Street, 48hour two time winner), me, Annie Duckworth (producer Candlelit Pictures), Dan Slevin (universal man of letters), and Aidee Walker (Outrageous Fortune, Step Dave, director of various awesomes).

 

So now, my lone journey starts. With a bit of luck and determination I can stay awake until nighttime, get a decent sleep so I’m up bright and early for these workshops I’ll be holding… I’m still waiting on details about what the fuck I’ll be doing exactly. Although, and this thought hits me like nails to the bowels, I think I’m in charge of the curriculum. As in, everything… Yeah. Poor kids.

 

10:35am

Sitting on possibly the most uncomfortable toilet of my life doing one of the most anticipated and glorious poos of my life. It’s been almost 48 hours since my last delivery, possibly more so, and all this airport food and black coffee has combined to make quite a pleasing parcel.

A sensor on the back wall causes the toilet to flush however, so every time I lean forward I am treated to an invasive and unwelcome clean of my arse crack via dirty toilet water. One hour and a half until my flight leaves so I’m looking at a lot of book reading and ostentatious strutting while really just itching my poohole through my jeans.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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