I'm back home in Independence, Mo! I can't believe how fast this past semester went by. Four airplanes, 5 airports, and 24 hours later, I've made it back to my central time zone.
Okay, well I know I've been home for more than a couple days now, but it's been such a whirlwind. Visiting with family and friends, cleaning out my bedroom, packing for the next semester...I haven't had much down time to update this blog.
I'll stop here for now. More pictures to come and a final summary of my travels. Stay tuned!
Four more days until my classes at Vic are officially over for the semester! I did not have any classes today because it is the Queen's birthday. Haha...it feels so weird to be saying that..."the Queen's birthday." It seems like only people who know her personally would talk about stuff like that, and not little ol' me from Independence, Missouri. Anyhow, I spent my day off working on some school stuff and watching tv shows on my laptop. It was quite relaxing actually. I finished my final studio project and prepared myself for my presentation on Thursday, and now I have the rest of the time to just breathe and wait for the week to come to an end. I am pretty nervous about this presentation, and I am usually not like this...at least not this nervous...scared even. I have two presentations this week at Te Aro -- one for my Colour, Pattern, and Light class and then studio. Tomorrow I will present for CPL in front of my professor and a guest critic. It shouldn't be too bad since reviews for that class are usually pretty informal. And all I have to do is explain a few pretty pictures I made! Sounds easy enough, eh? Thursday I believe there will be two guest critics, my professor, and tutor...so perhaps that's why my nerves are a little high this time around.
This past week was quite interesting in studio...ha! To say the least. I don't even think I should say, but talking about it makes me all giddy inside, so I'm just going to tell you. I got in my first ever tit for tat with a studio professor! I've never gotten so frustrated with a professor before that I've actually shown it...I mean I normally just say ok, sure, I understand, I'll fix it. But this time she was just completely out of line. Ok ok, so there was no actual yelling involved or throwing of paper around...I did make some pretty big gestures with my arms and probably couldn't control my facial expressions. Other than that, it was a rather mild tit for tat...but for me to speak up like that is HUGE!
So this was the first step she crossed. She asked me (in her French accent), "Why do you use planters, why not just put the plants straight into the ground?" I replied, "The site is originally a parking lot, the soil is going to be very compacted and it will be hard for plants to grow in those conditions." She replied, "Just uncompact it." And I just laughed...later, after speaking with Ben he confirmed that uncompacting is a bit more complicated than my professor was letting off...that the soil would undoubtedly be contaminated as well as compacted. In short, my professor thinks design is all unicorns and rainbows.
This was the next step crossed. I told my professor that there is a nice view out to the hills if you're standing on the site looking north...and so I wanted to frame this view by angling the building facade and not block that side with very many tall plants. She said, "I don't buy the view." WTF?!? What does that mean? I said, "Ummm....ok...but the view is there, I'll show you a picture." O.M.G.
This was the final straw. Tim the tutor called my design concept "generic." Basically that it was not "site-specific." I threw my hands up and said, "W-w-wait...I did NOT just haphazardly draw lines on the paper!" I then went on to explain why I drew each line. Every line. In a frustrated tone I'm sure...at this point I was up to my eyeballs in anger. Tim withdrew and said, "Ok ok, the design works, maybe you just weren't explaining it right...maybe it's your rhetoric (which he pronounces this with an emphasis on the second syllable)."
That's another thing, what's up with design people here saying "orien-TATE-ed?!?" If I hear oriented pronounced that way one more time...and "bollARD." The accent is on the first syllable, not the second!
Okay, that was my vent session. I might end up removing this post after I've fully gotten over that whole episode.
On a brighter side, I go on my ten-day South Island tour starting next Sunday! I leave Wellington from the Interislander Ferry Terminal and take a ferry to Picton. I will stay overnight one night and from there, my Stray bus will pick me up to start the tour! I will be traveling all along the west coast, down to Queenstown, back up to Christchurch, and then fly back to Wellington. In total I will be seeing eight different towns on the South Island, so many landscapes, mountains, glaciers, lakes, and ocean! I am very excited to get out of Wellington for a while and see the other half of the country. It will be very cold...I've heard that Queenstown already has snowcapped mountains. I've even started packing my backpacking backpack for the trip...clothes for layering and food. Lots of food...I don't want to have to spend a fortune on eating out. Plus, I plan on sailing at Abel Tasman, glacier hiking at Franz Josef (if they've opened it back up), and possibly horseback riding through the mountains in Rangitata.
I'm in the home stretch...basically. I only have 1 month, 14 days, and 13 hours left in New Zealand. My sisters came and went in the past week, and I bid farewell to them (twice) just this afternoon. The Airport Flyer bus didn't notice them waiting at the bus stop (I'm not sure how he didn't notice Mng Meg's bright PINK suitcase...) and drove right past, so we had to wait another fifteen minutes for the next bus. Anyways, so here I am again trying to get back into my normal routine of classes and other various city stuff...
Our week together was filled with many firsts. When I met them on Sunday back at my flat they were already in bed with the curtains closed, exhausted from walking up the BIG hill. I was happy that they were able to find the place all right...and I knew that the hill would be a killer. At least it was a good workout :)
We had a couple meals out in the city, one of which was at Fisherman's Plate - a little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese/American restaurant. Mng Meg was in the mood for some pho. It was pretty good, a little different from the Vietnamese place back home...I think it was the excess of pepper and the meat was different. We discovered a kiosk on Manners that serves GLUTEN FREE French crepes! We shared the "caramellou" (dark chocolate and caramel) crepe. TWICE. Two days in a row. We would have gone a third time had the line not been so long, but we resisted. Mng Meg and Mng Christine tried Abrakebabra, where Mng Meg discovered that "tomato sauce" here is actually ketchup....so she had ketchup on her kebab...I wouldn't recommend it. We got coffee a couple times at the Gloria Jean's on Lambton Quay, and the second time I tried a cafe mocha with GF orange and almond cake. That was delicious as well.
On Friday we went to the Adrenalin Forest! We managed to get through 4 out of the 6 levels, which was an above average adrenaline level. By level 4 I think we were all pretty exhausted, but we survived. At one point there was a high wire that spanned probably 50 feet and 5-6 stories off the ground. And the following platform we had to hold on for dear life on the "Commando Flying Fox" - a zipline that spanned probably twice as far as the high wire. On the same level there was another high wire towards the end, and by that time I felt like my arms were about to fall off. Altogether we zipped across at least half a dozen Flying Foxes, and the next morning we all said our entire bodies were on fire. My paranoia of heights was definitely tested, but I would do this again anytime! Oh, I didn't mention that our adventure through the Forest was unguided...the professional high ropes course people stood at the bottom looking after us, but other than that we were trusted to go through the course on our, clipping and unclipping our hooks and pulleys. Mng Christine was in charge of providing her camera for documenting our experience, so unfortunately I'm unable to post any here...but trust me, we had fun.
On Saturday we went on our 8.5 hour Ultimate Lord of the Rings Movie Tour! You probably think that is a long time, but we saw about 25 different places from scenes in the films. And all of these places were located in the Wellington area and greater region. A little van drove us north to the Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt Valley, the Kaitoke Regional Park, Miramar, and Wellington's Mount Victoria. We ended at the Weta Cave - a museum of the Weta Studio's work...they are essentially the creative brains behind the scenes...doing makeup, digital renderings, costumes, animation, and other effects. We saw where Weta studios are located within the Miramar area, where the main actors in LOTR lived during filming, and even saw a HUGE green screen they used for the film.
If you were wondering, "weta" refers to a native spider of New Zealand. I saw a ton of them crawling around the Waitomo Caves at the beginning of my adventures in NZ. They are related to the grasshopper actually...so they have a grasshopper-like body and 8 spidery legs, and they can be as big as my hand!
We saw where Helms Deep and Minas Tirith were built and filmed, scenes in Rivendell, the Hobbiton Forest, Isengard and the gardens of Isengard, and the Hutt River where Aragorn laid with his horse and Borimir floated on after his death. The tour was very interactive, but the three of us didn't want to participate in the role-playing activities. We watched as the tour guides brought along props and costumes to let the tourists re-enact scenes fron the movies and get pictures...it was pretty funny.
On Sunday we relaxed and did a bit of shopping. I think Mng Meg ended up purchasing about nine new tops! Mng Christine bought 3 dresses and a few tops as well. Luckily we hit up all the places with summer clothing sales...that's one good thing about New Zealand's opposite seasons...while their summer clothes are going on sale, they can wear them when they get back to Missouri's summer.
I think they are both happy to go home and bask in the sun again.
My sisters arrive in Wellington tomorrow at 9am! I am very excited to see more familiar faces here on the other side of the world. I made us an itinerary of places to see, food to eat, shopping and hiking adventures. It's a pretty full schedule for us, especially in addition to my uni classes.
Tuesday will be the beginning of our hiking adventures! To the top of Mount Victoria. It will be my second time since I went with Ben during his visit. Depending on the weather this should be a pretty good workout for us.
I am psyched because on Friday we will be taking the train to Porirua (about 45 minutes north) to go through the Adrenaline Forest. I am crossing my fingers that it won't be rainy and cold that day...because I've already purchased our tickets. I don't want to be doing high ropes courses and ziplining in the freezing rain. That sounds just terrible.
On Saturday we will be doing the Ultimate Lord of the Rings Movie Tour around Wellington! Well technically the bus will be taking us out of Wellington city for quite a few stops (25 total!). More hiking and photo ops! I haven't been to any scenes of the LOTR movies yet, which is weird since I've been here for three months already....
Between all of our hiking trips I am sure they'll be doing lots of souvenir shopping. Good times!
Last night, after dinner at A-Roy Thai and gelato at Kaffee Eis with the ladies, we walked along the harbour for the first time at night (my first time). It was very peaceful.
Tomorrow I will be taking a field trip with my Peopling of Polynesia class to Palliser Bay, the location of an archaeological site. Because of this trip I won't be able to pick up my sisters from the airport....but hopefully it will be worth the wait. It's going to be a two-hour long bus trip there and two hours back, lunch at the site, and a mapping assignment. I've never been to an archaeological site before this...I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow either.
Weather here in Wellington has officially turned to winter. In the past week it has rained 4 days, my umbrella has turned inside out 4 times, and I've slept with long sleeves, long pants, and a hoody with three blankets. Oh how I miss summer back home...
I received my first mark today for my first assignment in the New Zealand school system. And "mark" is the New Zealand equivalent to "grade." Anyhow, my first assignment was an 800-word essay over the Powhiri (Maori ritual of encounter) for my Maori Society and Culture class. I submitted this assignment nearly three weeks ago and finally found the mark posted on Blackboard. I received a 7.9 out of 10, which here in New Zealand is a pretty high A! I am not sure why they rarely give grades higher than an 8.0 out of 10, but apparently they must severely curve everyone's grades. I am satisfied. Tomorrow I will submit my second essay for the class, a 1200-word essay over the Treaty of Waitangi.
Here's the brief back story of that document, a founding document of New Zealand history! After the passing of the Declaration of Independence on October 28, 1835, New Zealand declared themselves the sovereign rulers over a sovereign territory...they no longer had to play nice with the nasty Brits trying to take their land away from them in scandalous behind-the-scenes deals with the New Zealand Land Company. Then, scandalous land deals still commenced and the British felt that they should help the Maori out by passing the Treaty of Waitangi a few years later. These two guys, Freeman and Williams worked on drafting the English and Maori versions of the Treaty...and somewhere along the way, Williams decides to translate the Maori version differently than what was originally said in the English version.
For example, Article 1 of the Treaty states that New Zealand will be under the sovereign rule of the Queen of England. That guy Williams tells the Maori that they still hold sovereign rule and the Queen is more like a governor for them...so the chiefs of the Maori tribes are like, "Ok cool!" Article 2 of the English version of the Treaty states that all Maori can have their land back but they are only allowed to make future land dealings with the Queen of England. Williams again is tricky. He tells the Maori that they have all their land back and any other type of property and they also have the protection of the Queen of England so those scums from the New Zealand Land Company can't deal with them anymore.
Then, another guy Hobson has been in New Zealand trying to get Maori chiefs to sign the Treaty...he needs enough signatures to bring back to England to declare the Treaty official. After about 60 or so signatures, he's like, "Ok that should be enough! The Treaty is official!" He didn't even go throughout all of New Zealand to tell all the Maori about it, so some didn't even know for years after the Treaty was passed that the Treaty even existed. Some network of communication, eh?...
So...my essay was about why the Treaty is regarded as a contentious document.
And today I also took my very first New Zealand school exam...in my Peopling of Polynesia class. I feel like I did pretty well, but I won't officially find out for a few weeks I'm sure. Two questions on the test were essays...I found my hand cramping up halfway through the first response! I am not used to writing out essays, nor am I used to writing in pencil...both are equally miserable. Luckily, I pulled through and was able to complete the exam right before the timer went off. After all that studying, I think I deserve to give my brain a break. Unfortunately I have more impending deadlines soon approaching for studio and thesis, so I won't be able to take too long of a break. Perhaps chocolate will help!