Sunday, June 29, 2008

Blue Skies

So yesterday (again) I woke up to frigid rain and cloudy skies. After a piece of bread for breakfast (which I stole from Toby), Toby showed up and I went with him, Eden from Colorado, Marissa from Montana, and Stefan from New York to the Octagon. We hung out at an art museum, hit up a video store, and went shopping. Then I ate at McDonald's - a terrible overseas habit - and headed back to Eden's to watch Talladega Nights (I know, I know).

My finger that had been injured from falling on my ass the night before had, at this point, started oozing, so after dinner at a shady Thai restaurant I went to New World grocer and bought band aids some hydrogen peroxide. What ensued involved the very painful scraping off of my infected skin under the hot water faucet, the even more painful pouring of hydrogen peroxide onto the freshly grated wound, and then the application of a band aid which wasn't too exciting at all. 

Such was my day. I don't really think I want to keep hanging out with Toby and his crew because they're way too mutually exclusive for my tastes. I feel like an unappreciated fifth wheel, and I also have an inkling that none of them are going to make any other friends throughout the coming months. There remains the possibility, though, that these excuses represent a thinly veiled attempt by my isolating-friendly subconscious to sabotage any hopes of me making new friends. What should I do, people? I need some advice...

Today, I awoke to shockingly blue skies and ice on the ground. I'll take this weather any day over the rain. Plus, Sarah gets in... Take it easy. 

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yesterday (or, Thank God for Sarah Horton)

So yesterday I wheeled all my crap through the frigid rain to a substantial looking flat that I'm to be living in for the next 16 weeks. Naturally, I knocked on the door. No one answered. This anticlimactic little twist was yet another in a long line of things that haven't quite turned out the way I was imagining them in my head. Thankfully, though, I had a key, which I used to let myself in. My room is on the first floor. It's huge (like the size of two or three bedrooms in Eugene houses) and came furnished with all my basic necessities. There is, however, no central heating, so I have to make do with an obnoxiously loud space heater that sits next to my bed 24/7.

After unpacking, a guy named Toby from Vermont showed up and introduced himself. He then promptly left for the farmer's market without inviting me, so I just sat on my bed and tried not to think about the fact that this was only day three of 4.5 months in a crummy little country with frigid weather and absolutely no people my age who seemed to be interested in making friends. In an attempt to right the profoundly unjust situation I'd mentally cornered myself into, I put on my jacket and resolved to find the farmer's market regardless. I made it about three blocks before the rain and the wind became so fierce that I gave up and turned around. It wasn't a good afternoon. 

So to make a long story short I finally ended up walking downtown, where I bought a case of beer which I was determined to distribute to some new friends by the end of the day. Of course, I had to lug the fucking box all the way across town again, during which time I discovered two other much closer liquor stores. When I returned it was like 2:30 and my Kiwi host Liz was finally up and about. People sleep in late here. We talked in the living room for a while, and then Toby showed up again with three other Americans. They all seemed about as scared, desperate, and cold as I was, so I gave them beer in exchange for a place in their group. We walked around to all their flats (by which point the sun had set, at like 5:45), found a place called McDuff's that fills two liter bottles with beer for $6.70, and at one point sat around an emormous wooden table in a house with one working lightbulb in our snowjackets, watching each other's breath issue from frozen mouths as we talked about the incredible summers we were all missing back home. 

I ended up making it to a cool house party with a ton of other exchange students, but I still can't shake this terrible feeling of homesickness (again, tell my parents nothing). My one consoling fact rests in the thought that a day from now Sarah Horton, high school friend and cohort in all things crazy, will be here to share this "incredible new zealand adventure" (just keep repeating it, AJ) with me. That's it for now. Take it easy. 

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Today I woke up at 7 am for some insane reason, had the breakfast which was delivered to my hotel room the night before, and walked to a pay phone to call my parents. The sun didn't end up rising until about 8:45, at which point I had walked to campus to check everything out. The University of Otago itself is half castle, half ultra-modern, and the mix actually looks quite appealing. By noon, I'd walked downtown, checked out a bunch of crazy New Zealand stores, had eaten at one of like two dozen indian restaurants (kickass!), bought a cell phone, and had made it back to the Cable Court Inn. I guess I walk fast. 

Anyway, it's still really cold and I haven't met anyone yet because my program begins tomorrow. Plus, all the students are gone on the breaks, so right now Home Improvement and I are keeping each other company. A few minor notes: Food here is expensive. Dinner, without exception, is like $16 per plate. To go out to bars I need an 18+ card to prove my age, which requires that I find a chemist to take a passport-sized photo, I pay a $20 fee, and then I have the four-page application signed by an official Justice of the Peace. Where the hell am I supposed to find one of those? Also, New Zealand television is hilarious. Their commercials are wildly inappropriate and most of their programming ran in America during the mid to late-90s. 

That's about it. Tomorrow should be more exciting. 

The Trip

So after the tearful family goodbye (of which none were shed by yours truly), I boarded a plane in Redmond and later rather than sooner found myself waiting amid a throng of foreigners in the LA airport. A crazy man stood beside me. His bell-bottom jeans were covered with, at the very least, 50 or so multicolored iron-on patches, his unkempt hair trailed down to mid-chest, and his eyes were barely discernible beneath the shadowed brim of a well-worn cowboy hat. Whichever fool ends up sitting next to that guy, I told myself, is in for a real treat. 

Twenty minutes and two seat changes later, I was the fool sitting next to that guy. His name was Mike or something, and we struck up a reluctant traveling friendship (which are the worst kind, by the way). Nevertheless, Air New Zealand put on a grand show for me, as my personal 8.5-inch television screen played over three dozen movies, four dozen newly released CDs, and multiple episodes of above-par television shows. I also had a glass of pinot noir with dinner, which certainly didn't hinder my ability to talk friendly with the freak beside me. 

Anyway, I didn't sleep at all, except for a brief nap right before landing which entailed a really cool dream about hang gliding... and then I arrived. In New Zealand! Kickass! Unfortunately, I forgot to declare two small jars of jam - which I'd lugged across an entire ocean to dole out to what will surely be the ungrateful hands of vegan flatmates - an error in judgment that nearly resulted in my being strip-searched. Still, I persevered, and two short plane rides later (Auckland to Wellington, Wellington to Dunedin) I was only running thirty minutes late and had made a friend who let me sit next to the window for the entire second leg of the trip. His name was Fraser and he informed me: that the view out the plane window was unparalleled this morning, as he'd made such a trip for four years in a row now and had never seen a clearer day; that I would be seeing a lot of him at parties around campus, as where I'll be staying is "right in the thick of it;" and that the book he had, despite being an Oprah pick, was still quite good. 

So to make a long story short, both of my bags ended up being lost, which means I had to endure an entire frigid day wearing only the t-shirt I'd had on for the previous 48 hours. Everyone's been really, really friendly, and my attempts to match their levels of optimistic enthusiasm have left me exhausted. There are a lot more indigenous Maori people here than I predicted, driving on the left side of the road is way crazier than I ever imagined, and I'm proud to report that the student neighborhoods here make The Cave and UO life in general look clean by comparison (way to go, guys). Tomorrow is my last day without anyone else being here, so I'll probably update again for lack of having anything else better to do. I'm excited to see how this all plays out. 

Take it easy, everyone. 

Monday, June 23, 2008

First Post

Hey everyone,

So this is the blog that I'll sporadically update during my Great New Zealand Adventure to keep you all in the loop. Feel free to leave comments whenever you like, as it'll be interesting to see how friends and relatives end up interacting. 

One rule: DO NOT MENTION THIS BLOG TO MY PARENTS. they are keeping their own form of communication with me and, should they discover this, any writing of drunken escapades, risky debauchery, or other action that would no doubt send my mother into an immediate bout of tears will halt. 

Hopefully I'll update soon. Take it easy.