Saturday, April 29, 2017

Autumn Red and New Car

I'm nearing the last stages of the thesis writing, and it's not a pleasant task to have to go through drafts you wrote years ago and update and edit them. It's not something we really teach or encourage undergraduates to do, then suddenly it's all you're doing at the graduate and professor level, because you have to get feedback and make edits on almost everything you write if you're looking to get published. In this environment, there are always seemingly more pressing things to occupy your attention (sometimes they are more important, sometimes not), so it becomes a challenge to stay focused and move through the additional research and writing. I'll get there eventually, but it will take a lot of effort.

Meanwhile, the mostly not-very-good summer has gone away and turned into a cold autumn. I can turn the heater up in my office, which is nice, but the walk to and from the parking lot is still cold and windy. The high next week is supposed to be 52F (11C) and rainy some of the days, so I'm not looking forward to those. The leaves changing color are still pleasant to see, although they really clutter up the car crevices and the parking lots and walkways everywhere. The garden only had a few crops manage to produce through the colder weather -- the cucumbers are still churning out a couple small one -- and my sunflowers had a brief but nice run for a couple weeks when it was nice out. They grow so tall!

We sold our car that had been pretty good to us since we bought it two weeks after we arrived because the auto shop said that it would have some major repairs coming up and wouldn't really be worth fixing since it had so many miles/kms on it. We sold it to a traveling American and it only took a week or so to get another one from an American backpacking couple who needed to get rid of theirs. It's a little 'newer' and has its own quirks, but we got it new tires and a tune-up, and hopefully it will last us for as long as we need it. It rides like a Cadillac compared to our old car though, which is a bit hard to get used to. And I've never had a white car before, but at least it's two-toned. There was a big spider living just above the driver's seat that came out while I was driving one night and it stayed there for several weeks, but we let it build its web back up and finally were able to get it out of the car and send it on its way into some plants.

A friend highly recommended I attend a spoken poetry evening with a famous Palestinian poet, Rafeef Ziadah. Admittedly, I don't know much about the issues, but she was so passionate and her stories were quite moving about the losses she and others have suffered. It is great to hear poetry performed live, and her musical accompaniment was also very good.

Rafeef Ziadah

Kraft Mac & Cheese (albeit freezer kind) finally makes it to NZ!! $5 though...

Can't resist clearance chocolate Easter eggs!

Autumn sunsets

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Orana Wildlife Park, Shakespeare, and Chinese lanterns

We had our last round of visitors scheduled to come during our program, and we got the chance to go to a new place that we'd been meaning to visit before we even moved here: Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch a little ways past airport. The day we went, we had a very packed day with the park in the early afternoon, an outdoor Shakespeare play 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' in the early evening, and the Chinese Lantern Festival in the late evening.

Some highlights at the park were the lion feeding where the lions climbed onto the enclosed truck to get some scraps, some fun birds like a talkative tui and a mischievous kea, and a lot of tuatara lizards, including one that was just perfectly positioned for a close-up. The cheetahs had also recently been fed and were pacing around and looking so graceful and lean. Big cats really are so similar to domestic ones and so beautiful. The Shakespeare play included one of my former students, and it didn't rain on us so that was good. We popped over to the lantern festival and the timing was good because it was by then dark enough to see the lanterns lit up nicely and we saw lots of new ones -- it's a nice annual tradition in the park downtown.

Now we are nearing the final stretch of completing our theses, which means long hours and getting frustrated at having to go back and re-edit and re-write and cut words and add them and patch holes in arguments and all of the other work to put together an 80,000-word tome. We're not planning other travel or conferences or much of anything to be able to focus on the writing. It will be a challenge for sure.

caught this little critter with its tongue out!

my favorite NZ bird: the tui with two voiceboxes and fun warbles

the very intelligent kea

"Two Gentlemen of Verona" with a swingin' sixties theme

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Aoraki Mt Cook on a sunny, clear day

This was my third visit to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, and the weather was absolutely incredible -- sunny and clear and reasonably warm! It was such a lucky opportunity that we were there on that day, and it really made a good final day of our roadtrip. I took lots of photos of Aoraki, since it is the first time I have seen it so clearly and for so long. Doing the Hooker Valley Track walk offered us incredible views the whole way in and out. And there were still a few icebergs on the glacial lakes to check out.
view from Mt Cook Village

our first 'peak' at Aoraki/Mt Cook :)

view looking back at Lake Pukaki with its gorgeous turquoise water

this kind of reminded me of the shape of NZ

Hooker Glacier

Monday, January 30, 2017

Stewart Island

The ferry ride to get from Bluff (at tip of the South Island) to Stewart Island was terribly rocky, and people were getting sick left and right (yes, some threw up). It's an hour-long ride, too. There was a storm going on so we couldn't see much outside of the windows with the crashing waves and rain. I usually don't get seasick, but I did this time and almost lost it. The boat was battered hard several times by big waves -- I suddenly had even more sympathy for the people who immigrated to New Zealand via a three-month boat ride that we had just learned about at the Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin. There's a recreation of the sleeping quarters there -- no windows, just a small hard bunk.
little town of Oban, the only on Stewart Island
We made it to the hostel (a small, quaint place where they don't even give you keys because there is a trust policy that seems to work alright) after toting our luggage in the rain and later headed down to the dock again to see the little blue penguins come in for the night. There were only three, but they were cute to watch as they swam up then hurriedly slipped behind the rocks to make it to their hidden nests on shore. We came back the next day too and saw three again, but one did a little show and jumped off a rock into the water before disappearing.

The next day we lingered in the hostel waiting for the rain to let up. We darted over to the visitor center, me trying in futile to use an umbrella and having it not work at all and then expressing my anger at NZ weather. I'm not a fan of being wet. By mid-day the rain had cleared enough that we suited up in our rain gear and went out for a walk along one of the shore paths. It was nice enough and we saw some NZ birds along the way and some cool seaweed on the rocks. At dusk, we went to a nearby area that is known for kiwi sightings, but unfortunately we didn't get to see any -- just lots of other birds hunting for worms in the rain-soaked field. The short rainforest trail we took was cool though, and haunting at night. It's nice to not have to worry about predators here.

naughty kea birds about to be fed on someone's porch
New Zealand wood pigeon (so big!)
rainforest walk


treated ourselves to fish & chips after the hike

The ferry back the next day was much better and calmer. We all stood at the back in the fresh air to avoid the claustrophobic feeling of the cabin, and it seemed to work and no one got sick this time.