Thursday, July 31, 2008


Hey everyone,

So this post really has nothing to do with New Zealand, but I wanted to let you all know really quickly that this website,, is a really really cheap online bookstore with used and new books for sale AND free, carbon-neutral shipping in the US. Plus, all the profits go to promote literacy worldwide. I've already bought like four books off it this morning. What an incredible steal!

Leaving for Queenstown in two hours. Should have something cool to say by Monday. Take it easy. 

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday: Sunday's Weekday Equivalent

It's strange to experience sitting under the stars at night and realizing I'm looking at constellations unknown to the US population. On a clear one, the Milky Way is incredibly prevalent; in fact, the sky's contents are all much brighter down here in the South Pacific. 

It's funny to think you all keep on going about your daily routines while I'm here, and that time hasn't frozen North of the equator since June 24th. I try to picture all the little details, like Curtis and Matt buying lunch meat at Safeway (peppered turkey, most likely), Simone waking up hungover with half of last night's costume still on, and Erin sitting with Jeff in the evening (hopefully watching something badass) as something little and fierce kicks inside her. 

It's scary to get up every morning and wonder if I'll understand even half of what's said to me in a thick Kiwi accent . Usually I do, though the exact percentage varies depending on alcohol consumption and/or how intrigued I am by the speaker. 

It's shocking to realize how much more I like you all after we've been separated for some time. I'm having fun, but I can't wait to get back and make the most of my fleeting youth (I mean, Christ, I'm only 19 years away from 40). I've managed to surround myself with some really cool people, and I need to stop taking you for granted. 

It's boring to have to come up with new stuff to type for my blog every few days. After a while, I end up settling for uninformative, unconventional drivel like this. Wohoo. 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

One Month Deep

So I've been here in New Zealand for a month now, and absolutely nothing has turned out the way I imagined. Such is the condition of my life: one random event after another in no way meeting the criteria I'd previously established for it. Rather, it's all one mega surprise after mega surprise, and I'm not sure which I'd prefer in the end. My fevered dreams of a foreign land crammed with hundreds of really close friends, insane parties/events every night, and a life-changing message that weaves its way subtly through the proceedings has instead been replaced by a few dozen acquaintances, crazy parties/events once or twice a week, and a mental process that hasn't so much witnessed epiphany as it has begun to eat itself. Bluntly stated, I feel a little different in the head, and I have no idea what three more months of this (literal) madness is going to do to me. 

That's not to say I'm not having fun, though. Rather, I've settled into my NZ life of school and homework contentedly, and everyday I seem to have no problem with whatever crummy book or drab paper I have to digest/churn out for the professors. It's a good life, the one of an apathetic student. Last night some acquaintances and I ate dinner at a reasonably priced sushi restaurant and then watched The Dark Knight in a packed theater full of cheering students. It kicked ass, and (cliche as it is by this point) I must admit Heath Ledger dominated the screen. His performance is captivating, and every time he appeared all I could do was stare in delight. Anyway, I digress...

Next weekend I'm taking a small trip to Queenstown for skiing and clubbing (wohoo?), which means this weekend I have to work my way through three full novels and two minor paper for film studies. Naturally, I figured the best way to begin what's sure to be an epic, three-day bout of procrastination was to update my blog. 

A quick note about the students of NZ: they are all entirely the same. What at first appeared to be a mess of shocking hairstyles, ludicrous footwear, and tight pants has slowly revealed itself as a mess of mass-produced hairstyles, ludicrous pointy black boots, and tight pants... on everyone. Hope that made sense. I think the most unique thing about me right now are my adidas, which don't protrude past my big toe for six inches to culminate in an epically pointy leather nubbin. Oh well...

Hope everything's going well with all you people. I still miss the burritos and salsa. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008


This week I skipped three classes and am about two books behind, reading-wise. Someone should have done something nasty to Daniel Defoe before he had the time to put pen to paper (or, more appropriately, turd to toilet paper) and fashioned the travesty that is Robinson Crusoe. Aghh. Aside from that, though, the weather this week has been incredible for it being the dead of winter, and though I haven't been out every night, Wednesday was insane. A bunch of us International students met by random chance at Refuel, a crazy bar located on campus with a cieling made of old vinyl, for $3 pint night. I think it went well...

This morning I woke up early for a magical tour of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. I went in thinking Willy Wonka, and no doubt the company's management knew that's what tourists would want. In the lobby, a veritable mountain of golden chocolate bars proved too enticing a photo opp to pass up, and small (dare I say Oompa-Loompa-ish?) puppet creatures pranced along the sides of the hallways to the candy-inspired melody various tunes. The tour itself was only slightly fascinating (think Tillamook, then think brown instead of orange), but at the end we walked to the top of an old grain silo to witness the unleashing of a thunderous chocolate waterful. When asked what purpose such a device served, our guide 'Cocoa Joe' replied, "to entertain tourists. We only change this chocolate once a year." Awesome.

A few more random things: haircuts here are ludicrous. 80% of all the guys have either like rat or duck-tails going on, shaved sides, and mohawks of varying degree. One small cup of coffee (we're talking small small, here) costs $3.50. The Dark Knight comes out NEXT Friday (Jesus, man) but it's okay because I already bought my advance ticket. Finally, drinking in public is completely legal. One could, were they so inclined, walk down the side of the street chugging a bottle of wine and not be bothered. 

The majority of this weekend simply must be spent studying, so don't expect anything too enthralling for a bit. 

Monday, July 14, 2008

AJ's Blog: The Interactive Experience

This isn't an orthodox post (but, then again, I'm not a very orthodox person). Instead of the usual, here's an example of crazy New Zealand commercials. The below-linked ad for Cadbury runs about ten times a night:

Here's a video of the Jaffa race on Baldwin Street:

And finally, a taste of what my birthday weekend (coincidentally the culmination of the Undie 500, which I suggest you Wikipedia) will be offering riot-wise. It happens every year:

Also, for those of you with Facebook, I've posted some fairly mundane photos that give a general idea of the geography of my whereabouts. Above was a taste.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Exhaustion sets in

During the past 24 hours I have:

- Been sober for 12. 
- Watched the All Blacks lose to South Africa on a giant screen set up downtown with thousands of cheering fans. 
- Attended a dance party. 
- Slept for like...3.
- Intently walked to the library at 11:00 this morning. 
- Just as intently blown off said plans for studying to spend a day on the Otago peninsula. 
- Seen penguins. 
- Gone caving. 
- Ran in the ocean. 
- Froze my ass off. 

Now I have an antire book and a half to read by Tuesday. I'm skipping my first class tomorrow to watch 30,000 Jaffa balls (big chocolate balls) roll down the previously blogged-about Baldwin Street as a kick-off for Cadbury's weeklong Chocolate Carnival. 

Something else that's curious: No one here is aware of the existence of cilantro. How the hell am I supposed to introduce these people to pico de gallo without cilantro?

Also, the level of clothing sophistication I see on men and women everywhere is astounding. New Zealanders take pride in their sharp attire, and the last thing I expected for myself upon arrival was to actually WANT to shop at like every single store I walk by. I should look so classy...

Finally, POST SOME COMMENTS GUYS! I wanted some fun interaction to go down on the comment pages, but only Curtis and Eilean have so far given their two cents on any of this. To quote Gob, Come on!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


So the last few days have been pretty insane. I've started all my classes and still go out every night. This combo can't last forever, though, because I have to read TWELVE FULL NOVELS for my two english classes in the next 13 weeks! Jesus Christ. Campus is nuts when there are students here. Everyone travles in hordes and goes absolutely crazy as soon as the sun sets (which, coincidentally, is right about now). Costume parties are the thing here, and everyone I've observed has also managed to work in some sort of intimidating, blunt instrument with their get-ups (think golf clubs, tennis rackets, lead pipes). 

Today, however, has been the wildest of all. I woke up to a beautiful blue sky, no classes, and $40 for beer. On my walk to the post office, I began noticing hundreds of insanely costumed students everywhere, and soon figured out that "reorientation" here consists mostly of everyone skipping classes for the last three days of the week and partying at the pubs. Neglecting to bring my camera was my only mistake today, as the costumes were pretty elaborate. We're talking clans of identical speed racers, inmates, transvestites, angels, circus animals, hobos, and Speight's fanatics. 

The best part though, was a crowd of hundreds that had gathered in front of the Captain Cook Pub, in the middle of the day, drinking as they waited in line for admittance. Families walked by as several distinct moshpits formed in the rowdy queue, and it's a wonder no children were hurt from the careless flinging (and resulting explosions) of empty beer bottles. Every pub in town was exactly the same, and the neighborhoods proved no exception. On my way home to write this, I walked past two half-burned couches in the middle of the street, as well as three trashed rugby players who were rolling sizeable boulders into an intersection. 

For once in my life I wish I didn't have to read. 

Saturday, July 5, 2008


The past few days have been nothing short of crazy. I'm meeting some pretty cool people, the weather has been either glorious or detestable, and school starts tomorrow...

All the international students went on a train ride through the Taieri Gorge. The cars were all built circa 1920-ish (I think), which means I felt like I was riding the Disneyland Railway because everything was so ornate. We're talking dark wood, small chandeliers, the works. I finally got my hands on some meat at the BBQ we stopped at, breaking my unintentional vegetarian streak. For the return journey, I stood outside on the small porch thing that rests on the back of each cart. Sheep were everywhere, and when we careened through any one of the myriad of lengthy mountain tunnels, the wind rushing past my body sounded like the choirs of hell all preaching at once. Yeah, it was that intense. 

Yesterday saw extreme rain and wind. I sat and read until heading out for the night. Beer here gives me insane hangovers, but the party was definitely worth it. Ridiculously individualized students from all over the world were crammed into one small flat, and most of the conversations were so choice. There was this one monstrously sized Canadian with a shock of crazed blonde hair, an even wilder beard, and teeth the size of something that teeth usually aren't as big as. He played guitar and knew the most ridiculous songs. 

Today we went out for breakfast and I had the most ornate french toast.The bread itself contained berries, and the two pieces were divided by an incredible fruit salad and whipped cream so thick that, should I have felt like jumping on a trampoline, it would have served the purpose. Shit, what a terrible analogy. 

Anyway, a trip to Baldwin Street (the official steepest street in the world) soon followed. And holy shit, it really is steep. Apparently last term some girl wheeled a "shopping trolley"  all the way to the top, got in, and then died from serious head injuries during her attempted descent. Anyone who would even consider going down that street attached to a pair of wheels is probably on their way out anyway. I mean, it's so steep that I can tell I'll be having recurring nightmares about being back at the top again and somehow falling off. Maybe that says more about my general state of paranoia than how steep the street is, but whatever. That's all for now... Take it easy, everyone. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The End of Week One

So Sarah showed up, the weather's been undeniably nicer, and everyone around me seems really, really pumped for the next four months in New Zealand. I'm kind of vacillating between immense elation and tremendous despair, and I have no idea why. These are the facts: I'm in Dunedin, I will be for at least 16 more weeks, and nothing I can do at this point is going to change this space-time coordinate of mine. Accordingly, I need to fucking make the most of it.

Yesterday I bought a bunch of groceries, hung out with Sarah, and then went to The Bowler (a local pub) for an incredibly professional (and incredibly difficult) trivia contest. My group ended up winning a $20 bar tab. Kickass. Today, I attended our three hour orientation, went to K-mart for a desk lamp, bought two bottles of wine, and am now waiting for some people to show up at our flat with a movie. All of Otago's international students were at the orientation today, and we filled a lecture hall. Everyone's really into talking up everyone else and making connections (networking, as I learned it's refered to on the East Coast), which is okay, but I can't get past the desire for something more substantial in a friendship. I suck, I know. Club-wise, I'm going to try and take a series of classes that help one become more knowledgable about beer, wine, and mixed drinks, in addition to "LitSoc", which bore the following description: "for English majors, minors, or those interested in the subject who would like to participate in literature-fueled wine and cheese-tasting afternoons, cinema/theatre outings, and the company of other avid literature enthusiasts." Does that sound like a complete riot or what?

Fun NZ factoid for the day: Their garbage cans here actually say "Rubbish" on the receptacle slot. I thought that was pretty hilarious.