In one of the more interesting projects I’m tracking, a group of New Zealand students is preparing to build an eco-friendly Kiwi bach on the National Mall in Washington, DC.  Really. They’ve got their plot all picked out, and the blueprints are looking good.

Dubbed FirstLight, the team is composed of students from Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Architecture and Design who are participating in next year’s Solar Decathlon.

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I go to a lot of events.  Some are purely work.  Some are a mix of work and socializing.  Some are fun.  Some aren’t.  Every now and then one of them can feel like a root canal without anesthesia.  But every now and then one of them can, instead, be like swimming with dolphins or walking on clouds.  I had one of that latter type this past Sunday.

Dr McWaine and I spent a few hours in Newtown Park on a sunny and warm Wellington day at a Special Olympics Regional Athletics event for clubs from Wellington, Hutt Valley, Kapiti, and Manawatu.  More than 50 athletes competed in races, long jumps, and shot putting.  A few dozen family members and other supporters – including Dr McWaine, net ball star Irene van Dyk, and me – cheered the participants on from the sidelines.

Off and running.

Off and running in Newtown Park.

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WHEELS UP

After spending the morning further exploring Christchurch and its environs, Secretary Clinton has just departed to continue her Asia Pacific trip. Dr. McWaine and I are standing on the tarmac with Minister Brownlee, Mayor Parker, and other dignitaries as the Secretary’s plane lifts off, happy that the Secretary was able to spend three days here in New Zealand, the longest stop on her journey.

She is now on her way west to Melbourne where she will join U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other officials for the annual AUSMIN ministerial meetings. Held regularly since 1985, AUSMIN is the principal forum for bilateral consultations between Australia and the United States.

The Secretary will then head home to Washington, with a final stop in American Samoa en route.

The full journey: 12 stops, 13 days, and more than 31,000 miles. Click through for larger Photo.

The full journey: 12 stops, 13 days, and more than 31,000 miles.

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OFF TO CHRISTCHURCH

Secretary Clinton started her day today with a private discussion with a group of students who recently participated in the Embassy’s Connecting Young Leaders conference.  The Secretary has consistently demonstrated a deep and meaningful commitment to engaging youth as she travels, and she always enjoys her interactions with students.  This morning’s conversation was no exception.

The Secretary with our young friends (from left to right) Emily, Keoni, Mahani, Areti, Kieran, Edon, the Secretary, Hori, me, Sam, Horiana, Nick, Kate, and Andrew.

The Secretary with our young friends (from left to right) Emily, Keoni, Mahani, Areti, Kieran, Edon, the Secretary, Hori, me, Sam, Horiana, Nick, Kate, and Andrew.

The Secretary is also deeply committed to supporting the Department’s local and expat staff at our Embassies and Consulates abroad and, particularly, the spouses and children of our hard-working colleagues.  She specifically asked that this morning’s schedule include a meet-and-greet with our Mission New Zealand staff and families, and we had a wonderful, morale-boosting gathering with about 100 folks from our Wellington and Auckland extended family.

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