Back in Aotearoa

Japan was a crazy ride, but after close to a year in the land of the rising sun it was time to head back to the land of the long white cloud. Here’s what I’ve been working on over a lot of the past month – looking at the capital city, Wellington, and its culture and identity. Working on such a positive and exciting project was heaps of fun, especially with such a huge multimedia element. Proud to be part of such a talented team! Check it out here.

Marriage: Whose name to keep

I’d been thinking about writing about this for a while, and it all came together at the start of this year for a story in Your Weekend magazine. It was quite a personal issue for me – always difficult to write about – but I got a lot of good feedback and was pretty happy with the results! See what you think.

Death in custody: NZ Drug Foundation magazine

In the past decade, more than two dozen people have died in police custody – and over half of them were high at the time. What is going wrong, and what needs to be done to stop drugged and intoxicated detainees dying in the hands of the police? Michelle Duff reports.

By all accounts, Francisco De Larratea Soler was a colourful character. He had travelled the world, was a hit with the ladies – and enjoyed a drink or two. The day before he died, Mr De Larratea Soler was excited. He was a long time in recovery, and his children were planning a visit from overseas. That night, he went out to celebrate.

When police found him, it was 11am. He was shirtless, spreadeagled on the street. They took him back to the cells. They thought he’d sleep it off. But when Mr De Larratea Soler closed his eyes that Friday in 2008, he slipped into unconsciousness, a deep drug-induced coma and, finally, death.

Not that anybody noticed. Because for the entire 8 hours Mr De Larratea Soler was dying, not one person got close enough to check if he was breathing.


“Feminism is nothing if not an accumulation of small victories.” – thank you, The V Spot’s Rhiannon and Holly

Quest for the perfect cup

I guess I should have been prepared for this. Back home in New Zealand, you could say coffee was my thing. In fact, before I became a journalist, that’s what I did full-time for two years – I made coffee.

In cafes and bars in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia, in Queenstown, Wellington and Tauranga, New Zealand and in Dundee, Scotland, I worked as a both a barista and a bartender. That’s barista as in someone who makes coffee, by the way, not the commonly confused barrister – a type of lawyer. Kind of an important distinction, unless you don’t mind your local waiter writing your will.

I worked part-time at local cafe Floraditas while at journo school, and when I did finally become a real-life journalist one of my very first gigs was writing a cafe review column for the local rag I worked for.

Some cafe owners weren’t so keen on my reviews.

Living in Wellington – arguably New Zealand’s coffee capital – for the past couple of years, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for me to have two, even three espresso coffees a day. A takeaway flat white walking through Aro Valley on the way to work, a long macchiato at around 10am, and a mocha over an interview in the afternoon. Even though my round was mostly general news, I still wrote about it whenever I could.

So, moving to Japan. An interesting twist on my coffee obsession. Would it last? Would I have to settle for green tea? The answer, at least so far, is no. While there’s nowhere in our town that sells espresso coffee – gulp! – I managed to find a local roastery in Akita City (an hour away) that does a damn good espresso blend. It was not cheap – we’re talking Y1200 for 200 grams, about $30 – but it’s lasted about two weeks so far, which I figure is still cheaper than dropping $8 on two espressos a day. And I invested in a percolator from Amazon Japan, which does a slightly better job of bringing out the flavour than the plunger I packed with me from back home.

Oh,and I did find espresso at a cafe the next city over, but at Y450 a pop (around $8) it’s hard to justify. Maybe once a week? Also, a legendary place called Caffe Gita apparently exists near me, where the owner allegedly roasts his own beans.

The quest continues.

Still, what I wouldn’t give for a bag full of Havana beans right now…


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