Wednesday, September 24, 2008

39 days until takeoff

I look at that number and think, "Jesus, man, time's flown... but I'm also really excited to see everyone again. Or am I? Yes, yes I am. Of course I am. Why do I keep thinking about this? Does, like, a single hour pass when I'm not so caught up in my own pathetic countdown that I can just ENJOY being here in New Zealand with the little time I have left? Is that so hard? Is it, AJ? IS IT?!?"

So that's pretty much what's currently looping through the superb, surround-sound Bose speakers in my head. Yesterday marked three months of me being gone from the US, which got me pondering. When I first arrived in Dunedin, I would stumble awkwardly through my bathroom, thinking "this is my shower? And I have to put my towel here? And the water kind of pools up around my feet because the drain is so weak?" Then, in the kitchen for breakfast: "why are the plates in this cupboard? And what the hell kind of jam is this I'm using? Why does it taste so weird? What's going on?!?" Lately, though, I've grown so accustomed to everything that I don't even think about how it was once so odd. I have a hard time remembering how jam in the US tastes (better... but exactly why is vague), and as for the plates, OF COURSE they go on the far left-hand side. The final blow of my acclimitization hit me last night, while my flatmates and I watched Adaptation, a superb film. Chris Cooper's character was driving his van down the right side of a highway in Florida, and I cringed in expectation of a head-on collision. It seemed so... wrong. Horrified, I sat for the next ten minutes fake-driving a car in my head and trying to keep to the RIGHT side of a road. Thankfully, it's still a talent I possess.

To borrow an earlier used phrase, what the hell is going on? I swear I'm not going to be one of those people who returns from studying abroad and can't talk about anything else, but this madness is getting to me.

Event-wise, I found an incredible, top-secret Mexican restaurant last night. It's wedged in a narrow, three-story building behind a bar. The food was expensive, but the ingredients were all so choice. They had SEVEN different types of mole sauce for their enchiladas, and whichever you selected was applied LIBERALLY to the food. Tonight I'm going to see this Maori Reggae band called "Katchafire." Supposedly they're pretty decent. School's drawing to a close (only two weeks left and I'm free through January 5! Except for finals...), and I leave for Australia very soon. Crazy.

I'm writing this in the library. On my way through the main lobby area with all the cafes and shops and stuff, a girl turned around and ran smack into me with handfuls of garbage and a cup of coffee. The coffee dropped and spilled all over the floor, and she stood there looking stricken. This, as my careful readers will know, is yet another example of how absolutely, mindlessly ignorant Kiwis are of virtually everyone else who may temporarily be occupying their surroundings. They time their driving so that one can never make a dash across the street, they park their shopping carts horizonally across shopping aisles, and they walk in the absolute middle of pathways (which renders circumvention virtually impossible). Anyway, rather than apologizing profusely, running for napkins, and offering to buy her another cup of coffee (as I would in America, no doubt), I just stood there, glaring at her. I gruffly apologized, to which she said, "Oh... I suppose it's okay." suppose? SUPPOSE?!? Nothing along the lines of this whole mess being HER fault left the girl's lips, and after like fifteen seconds of uncomfortable eye-accusing (which is when my eyes repeatedly mouth, "it's your mess, bitch"), I left the scene. Coffee still covered the floor, and her friends all stared as I walked away, clearly shocked. I, however, counted the devastation as a personal triumph.

Maybe 39 days really is enough time...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sunday Morning (The Velvet Underground & Nico, 2:56)

So I figured I should write SOMEthing because it's been exactly a week since my last post, which is a longer dry stretch than I ever anticipated for this blog. I've been conducting some pretty frantic research in the library over the past several days, and at this moment I have exactly three more books and five journal articles sitting beside me that need to be sapped of any relevant materials. This past weekend saw both a pirate and a martian party. I bought a fake beard and an Oriental-themed purple mumu with big gold stripes around the sleeves to use for both (deckhand, crazed alien zealot). Dunedin is incredibly sunny. All the trees and bushes are erupting with color, and I broke a sweat walking here today because it's so much warmer (and muggier... cue ominous music) than usual.

I've got this new craving for Gatorade, which isn't sold here, and it's driving me wild. Who doesn't need to indulge in the heavily processed delights of Fruit Punch or Lemon-Lime every now and again?

I think that's about all there is. Let me check...


Sunday, September 14, 2008

An Adventure of Grand Proportions

This weekend marked a tumultuous turning point in the Dunedin environ: spring is here! It's actually warm out, things are blooming, and warm breezes work their way inland from the bay at regular intervals. Heedless of the preferential treatment our ludicrous universe suddenly seemed to be granting me, I promptly packed myself into a small rental car with three friends and headed west (which, as you avid New Zealand geography buffs already know, is the terminally cold portion of the island) to Fox Glacier. The 8-hour drive marked my first time BEHIND the wheel of a vehicle that purposely dominates the left-hand side of the street, and I got used to it remarkably quickly. What's not so easy is distinguishing the windshield wipers from the turn signal, which are also reversed: every time we navigated an intersection or pulled in for gas, the back seat would burst out laughing. After dark, possums become something of an obstacle, but seeing as they're a pest in NZ the act of dodging them is condemned, so we hit two. One was so large the front left tire made funny sounds until I readjusted the molding around it.

The Fox Glacier Township has a population of 250 people, and we were the only inhabitants of our hostel that we saw for the entire two-day stay. FGT is tucked into a misty rainforest setting, with intimidatingly dense jungle snaking up the sides of sheer cliff-faces that make up the base of the West Coast's mountains. A massive rock slide had halted all glacier expeditions for the past week (something we had no idea about until we arrived) and our group of 8 was the first to tackle a makeshift trail up the cliffside next to the glacier (which, in turn, accesses the safe portion of the 13-kilometer long hunk of ice). After overcoming my fear of heights during a 270-feet stretch of path that required hugging a sheer rock face AND holding onto a thick metal chain to avoid falling down a 333-foot cliff, I donned crampons and a spikey walking stick to tackle the glacier's surface. What I wasn't expecting was a gloriously terrifying hike through several deep crevasses (so narrow I had to take my backpack off and scoot sideways, and with walls so icy blue and tall I felt underwater) as falling ice emitted whip-like cracks every few seconds. The adventure lasted roughly 5 hours, and we returned exhausted.

Not exhausted enough, though, to keep from heading to FGT's sole bar at 9:00 to watch the All Blacks play Australia in rugby. Nearly the entire population of the township showed up as well, and a rowdy time was had with a crowd mostly aged 40+. They were crazier than us, though, and when we headed out of town at 10 am the next morning a couple dozen still sat perched on the bar's front deck. yesterday entailed lots of driving and a nearly obscene amount of stops to document the west coast's various beauties (coastlines, jagged peaks, waterfalls, crystal clear rivers, etc.). We managed to reach Wanaka by 4, which made possible a trip to Puzzling World. It's a crazy tourist attraction that's filled with illusion rooms and an enormous, two-story maze. You all know how I love mazes, so let me tell you that this thing was more fun than any other I've tackled (on paper or in real life, for that matter). Some genius arranged it in such a way so that my logic always failed, and I knowingly walked in countless circles because my brain simply refused to accept the proper path, which was always the last place I expected. Regardless, I eventually found my way up the labyrinth's four towers AND made it through the exit in like an hour and a half.

Then there was more driving. I met a lot of colorful characters, and I could spend a lot of time regaling you all with their endearing antics, but my finers are a-hurtin' (more from the scalding hot dishes I just washed than from typing) and I need to read 300 pages of Humphry Clinker (the official worst book of 1771). Take it easy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Case Studies

Those of you who genuinely care about me have probably been terribly concerned over the past several months about the character types I'm currently stuck in a flat with (Curtis, read: house). Are they boring? Insane? Unhygenic? Slutty? Fret no more, dear readers, as this posting is devoted entirely to four concise descriptions that will flesh out the less important inhabitants of 3/167 Dundas Street.

Shannon - Recently turned 21, from Alberta Canada. Her room shares the bottom floor with mine, and that's about the only similarity we have. She's a health sciences major and is way into working out (though you can't really tell). Here's a colorful anecdote that I feel sums her up sufficiently:

(While walking to gym)

Shannon: (spastically skip-walking) Ouch! My lip hurts so bad! I can't believe it's bitten again...

Me: (bored and not really paying any attention) You bit your lip? I hate that.

Shannon: (in an obvious attempt to make it known that she's getting around) Welllll, I wasn't the one who bit it... Oh look at all those seagulls over there on the field!!! Aren't they so cute? (Subject changed so immediately and awkwardly that the full impact of what she just said is craftily made even more jarring, except for I don't care.)

Toby: 20, Vermont. History major (though you'd never guess). He's nice and all, but he pretty much lives at another flat with some guys and girls that he bonded with during his orientation in June. It's like, Jesus Christ man, do I not even exist over here? Just kidding. We watch movies and episodes of "Arrested Development" all the time, and wile away anxious minutes before dinner by making extreme fun of Shannon. He refuses to turn on his space heater and spends the overwelming majority of his time cocooned inside a sleeping bag. Watching him hop from kitchen to living room is great fun.

Mel: 22, Invercargill (New Zealand). Mel terrifies me. She's a physical education major (I know, right?) and has this barking laugh (think of that one obscenely stupid playmate from "The Girls Next Door) that's surpassed in unpleasantness only by her terrible humor. She could write for "Friends" or something, it's that stale. Don't get me wrong though, I'm far from a Mel-hater. She's an amiable lady and answers any question I may have regarding Dunedin. Meat for her must be burnt before consumption, so I never really look forward to Thursday night dinners. When she puts her hair down she looks like someone else entirely.

Liz: 22, Invercargill. History and Spanish major. Liz is incredibly kind-hearted and soft-spoken. She works at the library and would likely dazzle me with her extensive vocabulary if she didn't speak so goddamned quickly. Exercise is out of the question, because her knees are like warped with arthritis. Walking down stairs for her is a major endeavor. It's not all peaches and cream, though. Whenever she disagrees with something she gets a really annoying look on her face (think comic disbelief gone awry), her movie collection is pitiable (Love Actually, Boondock Saints [just try and argue that one with me, I dare you]), and she accidentally ruins the horrifyingly small portions of almost everything she cooks.

So there you have it. Also, if you haven't seen "The Graduate" yet, go rent it. I don't know where I've been working for the past summer to never have given it a shot (certainly not a kickass video store that needs more support...).

Friday, September 5, 2008


So I'm writing this from our living room. Shannon is wearing a tiara, and there are origami cranes, party streamers, and massive banners reading "happy 21st!" hanging from the ceiling. Mine was slightly more subdued. "Gossip Girl" is on the television right now (Someone on screen just said, "Fashion is not of comfort. it's a party Jenny, either dress up and swallow that, or head back home. It's up to you... Alright people, who's up for a little game of truth or dare?) It plays on channel 3 (of 4), and the girls watch it most nights.

Today I went with a bunch of people to the live butterfly exhibit at the Otago Museum, and it kicked mega-ass. The temperature inside was a sweltering 29.8 degrees Celsius, and an array of over 500 butterflies fluttered by (did that just trip you up? mwahaha) three levels of tropical plants, waterfalls, and and plexiglass swing bridges. 'Twas a blast, 'twas. I did notice, though, that an ominously high amount of the little buggers had missing or damaged wings. What gives? Maybe people don't look where they lean against the railing as much as they should (which I NEVER have a problem with, and this parenthetical statement is NOT supposed to suggest that I DID, in fact, squash one of them....). Less entertaining and more terrifying were the spiders (of both the funnel and bird-eating variety) stored behind precariously thin glass walls on the ground floor.

This week I spent all of my time in the library chipping away at the first paragraph of my English paper... I think an actual grasp of the topic at hand (could I have turned "grasp" and "hand" in that sentence into some kind of clever thing?) would speed up the process, but I jusssst donnnn't wannnt tooo. Is there such thing as adult-onset ADD?

Also, tickets to Australia have been booked! I'll be down under (even though right now I'm kind of under that under, understand?) from October 11 - 24. Does anyone who's been have recommendations? I'm thinking Sydney, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast for sure. Some scuba diving will be in order.

That's about all I can think of right now, which is mostly due to the fact that I'm STILL recovering from last night (where I was forcibly removed from the library and made to drink copiously against my will), but the hangover is in that final floating-head stage, so worry not (just take it as an excuse for the poor diction and ridiculous attempts at humor [sorry, humour] in this entry).

Until next time, my dear friends and relatives.