Two weeks have been spent beyond my home, the Land of the Long White Shroud. More specifically I have been in Australia. Principal purpose was to attend the unveiling of the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell on February 23. I had been in contact for some time with Mr. Canberra Peace Bell, Michael Rabey. Four years ago he and his wife Joan took the Christchurch city tram to the Botanic Gardens stop and went for a wander. They came across our world Peace Bell and thought what a great thing it was. Could they have one in their own city? Four years later, after much fundraising, it has been unveiled in an idyllic lakeside location in Canberra’s Nara Peace Park. Nara is the Japanese sister city of Canberra.
Michael and Joan kindly hosted my Canberra visit. My sole additional task was to front up with a lunchtime talk for the Burley Griffen Rotary Club. Subject was the Rebuild of Christchurch and a spiel about how the World Peace Bell came to be in Christchurch. I took a pin drive of images and the event went down well. I owe the greater part of the success to the glass of wine with my gorgeous lunch.
Michael was delighted to learn that my inspiration for the New Zealand World Peace Bell was from a visit to Cowra to attend the annual Cherry Blossom festival. There, I had discovered the Australian World Peace Bell and heard the story of the first WPB being presented by Chiyoji Nakagawa to the newly established UN in 1954.
``What happened to my country in WW 2 should never happen to any other country,’’ was Nakagawa’s message. He was referring to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
My thinking was Nakagawa was a brave man. At the time he was mayor of a Shikoku city. I then thought of New Zealand’s former Prime Minister, David Lange, introducing our strict anti-nuclear policy in 1987. Also a brave man.
So I went about negotiating for a New Zealand World Peace Bell, eventually unveiled in Christchurch Botanic Gardens on October 3, 2006.
Michael and I agreed to gamefully promote the lucky trans-Tasman visits that led to Peace Bells in Christchurch and Canberra.
I met some great people in Canberra. The bell housing is based on the shape of a Japanese fan. The architect, Frank Kasparek, told me his efforts were inspired by the design of the World Peace Bell in Christchurch.
At the unveiling commenced with an intriguing Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony. It told us wisely about our relationships with the land. I was also delighted to meet Bill West, Mayor of Cowra, and Katsumi Sato, International Director of the World Peace Bell Association in Tokyo.
Incidentally, the day before the unveiling (February 22) Michael Rabey set up the bell for me. Once the striker was in place I was invited to ring the bell. I looked at my watch. It was 10.47 am.
I suggested I wait four minutes. I then rang the Canberra bell. It was 12.51 pm (New Zealand time.) The exact moment the bell in Christchurch was being rung to commemorate seven years since the disastrous Canterbury earthquakes.
My next stop was Adelaide where my mate, John Berry, gave me a great day concluding with a visit to the Parade of Light where selected inner city buildings became impromptu screens for creative projected imagery. So very impressive.
Next afternoon I took a flight west to Perth to catch up with family, including my son Michael, wife Tiffany, and four grandchildren. I also completed the purchase of a new bicycle, a Giant Expressway 1 (folding bike). I managed 80 km mostly on the city’s brilliantly- extensive separated cycleways. One ride was joined by 7-year-old grandson, Cooper. He comfortably managed 12 km and learned a bike ride with granddad included a coffee stop.
Returned home on the Air NZ seasonal direct flight from Perth aboard the B787-9 also known as the Dreamliner.
For me Dreamliner has associations with Australian indigenous people.
Pleased to be safely home I, am feeling grateful for another, albeit brief, inspiring travel experience.