Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Visual Summary of my South Island Tour.

Abel Tasman National Park

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

Beach in Punakaiki

Franz Josef Glacier Hike

Mirror Lake

Dolphins! On the way to Queenstown.


Mt. Cook

Rangitata, Big Tree Walk

0 months. 0 weeks. 0 days.

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!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Four more days...

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.

Just let me survive this week.  Please.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

1 month 14 days 13 hours

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.

Friday, May 11, 2012

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...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Victoria Marks

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!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

While Ben was in New Zealand.

While Ben was in New Zealand. A summary.

It's been a while, but I finally have some exciting NZ adventures to write about.

Alas, Ben's visit has come and gone in a week's time, but we managed to fit in a week's worth of fun, including hiking and touristy museums.  Here is a day-by-day summary of our adventures together.

Day 1:
A walk around Lambton Quay and Hell Pizza delivered to our door.  Gluten-free of course.  Rested up for the hiking in the days ahead.

Day 2:
More walking around the main streets in Wellington.  Went around the Wellington Harbour and the small stretch of beach.  Some shopping and gluten-free burgers for dinner at Burger Fuel, biggest and best burgers in town.

Day 3:
Spent the midday hiking up Mt. Victoria, highest point in Wellington.  It took us about an hour's hike up to the top and we took some amazing photos of the city.  Sandwiches and coke for lunch at the top.  Dinner at the General Practitioner - ribeye and scallops.

Day 4:
It got a bit cloudy and misty today, but we managed to make it out when it finally cleared up.  Looked around the Te Papa Museum along the harbor in the morning.  Then took the bus to Brooklyn and hiked up to Wind Turbine.  Yes, there is actually a wind turbine at the top.  Some more great panoramic views of the city.  Dinner at The Tasting Room - lamb and sirloin...not as good as the ribeye the day before.

Day 5:
Took the train to Masterton and a bus to Martinborough - wine country!  Spent the morning and early afternoon tandem biking it through half a dozen vineyards.  So many grapes, so much wine tasting.  Bought a bottle of Te Kairanga Sauvignon Blanc for the evening.  Dinner at the Martinborough Hotel restaurant - lamb and chicken...oh!  And some shoestring fries with "tomato sauce" and aioli.

Day 6:
Returned to Wellington.  More shopping on Lambton Quay, Cuba Street, and Willis Street.  Grocery shopping for Vogel's gluten-free bread so Ben could return with half a dozen loaves.  That bread is $7.99 a loaf and worth every penny!

Day 7:
One last walk around Kelburn Campus, packed up Ben's luggage and headed to the airport for his departure.

It is now the second week of my mid-semester break from Victoria University.  I am still planning a tour of the South Island in June, and will hope to have that itinerary all sorted in a few weeks tops.  This is the bus company I am looking into. (http://www.straytravel.com/) I've heard great things about this bus tour system and I think I will meet lots of people from around the world!   I believe that after being in this city for over a month now, I have seen almost every nook and corner of it.  I've also realized that it is not as big as I had originally thought it was.  Very dense and not sprawled out too far.  Although the 20-minute walk the main grocery story makes it seem much larger that it really is.

Ben was surprised to walk so many hills, but I think he appreciates the rather flat terrain of Kansas much more.  Haha!  I think I appreciate Kansas even more too!  I mean, the hills and hiking are beautiful parts of NZ, definitely, but sometimes I wish I didn't live at the top of a steep hill...walking to and from the city and school is a killer.

So...13 more weeks to go, and my stay in Wellington, New Zealand will be complete.  I look forward to more traveling adventures to come.

Monday, April 2, 2012

It is an exceptionally nice day out.  I decided to do some studying outside in the grass for a while and soak up the warm sun.  And I was also getting tired of being cooped up in my room just typing away.  Fortunately, there is a little patch of grass right outside of my flat complex with some tables and benches.  It's rather peaceful, a little cool breeze throughout the midday with no one out here but myself.

I realized it has been a while since my last post and thought I could update you all about what's been happening lately...I am in the final week before my two-week long semester break...well, technically the break will be two weeks plus a day, because we get Good Friday off!  Woohoo!  I have a presentation this Thursday for studio and finished the last details of my presentation boards last night.  Today I dropped off my file at the printing services and will pick up the hard copies this afternoon.  Crossing my fingers that they will look as good in the physical form as I think they do on my laptop screen.

I attended my first tramping (hiking) club meeting last Tuesday.  It turns out that the activities are a bit more "extreme" than I had originally anticipated them to be.  A few people gave previews of what upcoming activities will include.  They showed some really beautiful places, but I don't think I'm quite ready to participate in advanced rock climbing or glacier hiking just yet.  A few girls and I have decided to organize a few hiking trips on our own instead.  Just your typical hiking up mountains and through shallow rivers, nothing too physically straining.  Not that I don't want the extra physical exercise!  We've been talking about taking a hiking trip in the beginning of May to Tongariro Crossing.  You may want to google that for yourself.  It will be about a four-hour drive, we'll hike a long ways, stay over the weekend, and head back to Wellington on a Sunday morning.  I'm very excited.  Mostly excited to get out of the city for a while.

I had my first NZ movie theater experience this last Sunday!  I went to see The Wrath of the Titans with two of my flat mates.  I quite enjoyed it.  There is a food court in the movie theater!  Much like what you would see in a mall's food court.  An elevator takes you to the second floor with concessions and more theaters...you order your ticket and concessions in the same place.  Unfortunately, they did not have liquid butter dispensers here at the Wellington movie theater...that was rather disappointing.  But the seats were very comfortable, kind of a suede material with cup holders of course.  Oh!  And they have assigned seating, which I thought was strange.  There is a section of each theater called the "Gold Lounge."  It's more expensive than general admission of course...but that's because there are servers that wait on you to bring you food and beverages, even alcohol!  Oh! And they have lazy boy seating in that section.  So crazy!  Although, I've been to a theater back home with lazy boys already and the tickets were still only $7.  The student price on the weekend (for 3D) is $16.80....I don't think experiencing the Gold Lounge is going to be put on my NZ To-Do List, but it sounds pretty nice.

I cannot wait for this week to come to an end.  Tomorrow is hump day.  Hopefully that means the rest of the days will go by in a flash.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The band members of Six60.  Haha!  I don't even know their names, but they were talented :)

This is a good song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JC_Z3WBkeo
Ok so...scratch the beginning of my previous post.  Mng. Christine did not mail my care package just yet.  Instead when I went to pick up my parcel from the office I was surprised to find that my new glasses have been delivered.  Just a little random update:  my original glasses somehow got scratched and the protective film on the outside of my right lens was beginning to peel.  So I ordered a cheap-o pair from a site called zennioptical.com.  Very useful since I am all the way over here and there is no such thing as America's Best Contacts and Eyeglasses to hop into to order a new pair.  Luckily, America's Best gave me my prescription before I left for NZ!

The Six60 concert was really good.  I have finally experienced the Wellington nighttime scene (I know lame right?  I've been here a month and I've just now gotten out into the city at night?!?).  Emily, Quinne and I got to the concert venue pretty early and ended up waiting another hour and a half before the music started.  The venue was all standing so we got to get spots right up next to the front of the stage.  Quinne and I felt "unworthy" to be so close since we both aren't too familiar with the band...clearly there were some real die hard fans out there.  There was an opening act of three guys playing techno for a little less than an hour.  I'm not a huge techno fan so I was not too enthused about them...pressing buttons and whatnot.  Sorry, if you like techno...

After the opening act there was a set change...took another half hour to get that finished.  Oh my gosh, my anxiety levels were through the roof at this point.  I have never been to a concert that played more radio music over some loud speakers than actual live music.  While set changes and waiting was going on that's what they did to entertain us...And then Six60 finally came on stage.  I stood at the front with Emily and Quinne for the first 3-4 songs and then Quinne and I decided to go to the back because our ears were being blasted.  We stayed there for the remainder of the concert.  I enjoyed the band, aside from waiting for long periods of time to finally hear them.  And the dinner before the concert was delicious!  Yummy burger and fries :)

This weekend has been another homework weekend.  I got out of my flat a little bit yesterday morning to do some grocery shopping...it was misting the whole way, so by the time I got to the grocery store I was drenched.  Oh well, I've gotta get used to it!

I'm thinking about joining the tramping club here at Vic!  Tramping=Hiking in Kiwi talk.  They take some weekend hiking trips and also day trips.  I really want to try it out.  All this city is making me miss nature and green.  Not that Wellington is all concrete and skyscrapers.  There are trees everywhere and parks and little pocket parks.  But I want to see forest and mud and rolling hills.  Anyways, I think I'm going to attend the tramping meeting on Tuesday this week to sign up!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

One of my lovely sisters, Christine, was so kind to send me a care package!  I received an email from the flat office that it had arrived this afternoon...around 3:30pm.  After reading the email and getting myself all worked up about getting to finally see what the package contains, I rushed downstairs to pick it up, only to find that the office closes at 2pm Monday-Friday.  You cannot believe the disappointment that washed over my face as I saw the office hours hanging on the front door.  I wonder why the office would send me an email after office hours...they could have at least saved me the extreme disappointment by holding off from sending me the email until tomorrow morning when the office is actually open so I could pick it up promptly after.  Oh well, I will just have to wait...the anticipation is killing me though!

Into my third week of classes now.  I still have yet to feel the pressure of school that I usually get back home.  I suppose that is a good thing, considering I have a lot more downtime to spend exploring the city of Wellington.  However, due to the weather I have not gotten out of my flat very much aside from walking to campus for class.  The Wellington mist and wind in combination is a type of weather condition I cannot remember ever experiencing anywhere else I have traveled.  It most certainly puts a damper on my sightseeing endeavors...1. Even a heavy duty umbrella in this crazy wind could not hold up, 2. Sideways mist/rain seems to get everywhere even if I'm wearing a long rain jacket with my hood up and gumboots, 3. And all these hills.  I still have yet to make it from Te Aro (the design campus) back to my flat without being out of breath.  I think I am getting in better shape, considering I have no choice other than to walk every day.

It's funny...on my way to Te Aro it usually takes me just under 20 minutes, but on my way back uphill it takes an extra 5-10 minutes.  Suffice it to say, I definitely like the route TO campus much better.  I guess I haven't mentioned this:  Victoria has four campuses spread out around Wellington; I have classes on two of them.  This means that on two days out of the week I have to walk from one campus to another in a matter of 30 minutes.  Both of these walks are from Te Aro to Kelburn Campus, and that is basically all uphill.  If I am fully charged in power walking mode I can make it there in about 20 minutes, out of breath and sweaty.  One positive side to the weather transitioning into winter is that I won't be too soaked in my own sweat walking from one campus to another.  Although if it's not my own sweat seeping through my top it will more likely be the rain/mist.

I took a Maori key words test online for my Maori Society and Culture course yesterday.  I passed!  And without asking my flatmates for help.  I am thoroughly enjoying both of my Maori/Polynesian courses this semester...slightly more than my design courses (shhh...).  So far the lectures have been about Maori/Polynesian origins/settlement/beliefs/mythology.  It's all very interesting.  The one aspect about both courses, however, is all the Maori names.  Take for example all the Maori gods/goddesses: Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the earth mother; Tawhirimatea, the god of winds and storms; Tangaroa, the god of the sea; Tumatauenga, the god of humankind...and so on.  The key words test was mostly over beliefs and the hierarchy of society.  So for example in order from largest unit to smallest: Waka is a Maori confederation (literally means a group of canoes); Iwi, the people/tribe; Hapu, clan (also means pregnant); Whanau, immediate family.

Goodness, those words don't even begin to cover the surface of everything the lectures have covered so far...and you are probably falling asleep trying to pronounce them.  Anyways, I just mean to say that I enjoy learning about the Maori/Polynesian culture.  It is quite a nice break from my regular design classes.  I'm going to need to write all those out over and over until they are embedded in my head for examinations... :(

Ha!  And then for my Colour Pattern and Light course I'm doing some interior design thinking...never thought I'd be doing that for an actual class!  But again, it is interesting to get out of my normal routine of landscape architecture morning, day and night.  For my current assignment in CPL, I am exploring materials/textures/colors for a particular type of interior space of my own choosing.  I have decided to design a palette for a kitchen...and so far I have had a pretty good time in my lab googling wall tiles, flooring, and fabrics.  We have an in-class review next week...how do you suppose I argue about colour, pattern and light?  Then again, how do you argue about anything subjective/artsy in general?  Well...designers tend to have a critical eye about everything...I guess I shall wait and see.

Last random thought of the post!  I am going to a Six60 concert this Thursday on Tory Street.  Oh!  This is a great website for finding tickets for events in NZ (http://premier.ticketek.co.nz/).  They are a New Zealand band that has a reggae/island/pop sound.  I'm very excited to be going with my friends, Emily and Quinne.  Burger Fuel for dinner on Courtenay Place (they serve GF buns) and then music into the remainder of the night.

That's it for now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cuba Street flash mob about climate change.
First studio assignment.  Finished.

I had to find studio supplies at two different stores, Gordon Harris on Ghuznee Street and the Art Shoppe right down the street from the first place.  These are where most design students would recommend buying supplies and tools.  A breakdown of the supplies I bought for my first studio assignment:

3 sheets of large foamcore - $6.99 ea
1 bottle of Tacky Glue - $12.99
1 Exacto with extra blades - $9.00
1 cutting mat - $14.99
1 metrics scale - $8.99
21 photos printed - $0.29 ea
The grand total: $73.03

I really hope I'm not going to have to buy modeling supplies all year.  I suspect most of my work from here on out will be using trace on base maps and then digital production after that.  Anyhow, I survived my first presentation in front of my new studio classmates and was satisfied with my performance.  I am definitely off to a better start this week...I am finally comfortable with getting around the city on my own and I almost have my schedule memorized.  I spent most of my weekend doing homework.  Thank goodness for the flat bbq, I got to go outside and sit in the sun for a while on Saturday.

It was a bit misty on Sunday, but I forced myself to get out of my room and do some walking around Cuba Street.  I guess I haven't really described Cuba yet...it's essentially the main pedestrian street in the city with a ton of shops, restaurants and cafes.  The School of Architecture and Design is right off of Cuba so I get to walk through it every day that I go to my design classes.  One great thing about Cuba Street (and Wellington in general) is the cafe/coffee shop scene...there are so many in the city!  Every couple of stores there is a coffee shop or a cafe or a bakery.  I'm not even kidding.  I don't even think I'll be able to try all of them while I'm here.  Every couple of days or so I pick up a vanilla latte or chai latte from Midnight Espresso...it's a coffee shop on the corner of Cuba and Vivian, so that's right next to the School of Architecture and Design.  Their chai latte is absolutely to die for!  They sprinkle nutmeg on top of the foam and it's so delicious.

Last Friday, I went to my first sushi restaurant (not my first time trying sushi, of course, but my first sushi restaurant in New Zealand).  It's called Wasabi Sushi.  As you can imagine everything was really fresh.  It was one of those sushi restaurants that just make a lot of sushi and put it on a conveyor belt for you to grab at your seat.  And every plate is color-coded so you know the price.  I spent only $10.70 on three plates of sushi.  It was so good!  I think this week I want to either get burgers or this Mexican place everyone keeps saying is really good.  The burger place (Burger Fuel) has a gluten-free selection...yummy!  Don't worry, I'm not wasting all my money on eating out every day...but I do save one day a week to get dinner out with friends.  I think that's pretty reasonable.

I can check "See a flash mob in Wellington" off my list of things to do while I'm here (that wasn't really on my list).  Also on Friday I witnessed a flash mob happen while I was on Cuba Street.  The truth is, I knew it was happening so I rushed down there with some friends to check it out and get some pictures. It was about climate change and how we all should be aware of it...etc. etc.  Before the group started dancing, the "leader" preached to us all for a bit about what they were doing...I don't know if that's the normal protocol for flash mobs...I had the impression that people just broke out in dance in the middle of some place, no introduction.  Anyways, I was standing on the side listening and waiting and the leader guy all of sudden came up to me and said, "You sir, have you heard of climate change?!?"  Hold up, did he just call me "sir?!?"  Yes, he most certainly did.  I'm going to hope that he was just caught up in the moment and it slipped out...although, he didn't make an effort to apologize or correct himself.  Suffice it say, I was not at all embarrassed by it...I'm sure not many people realized his mistake.  I mean, come on, I was wearing a skirt, tights and flats for goodness sakes!  And I like to think that I don't actually look like a man.  But yes, if you were wondering, my dignity is still intact.  When the dancing and music finally started, it turned out to be a pretty cool flash mob experience.

I wonder what I will encounter next weekend.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

 The Wellington beach in the evening.

 The view from the Botanical Gardens.

The Wellington harbor.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I have finished my very first landscape architecture studio this morning and safely made it back to my flat...in about a 35-minute walk.  What I thought was going to be a studio period of only 50 minutes turned into being a studio period of 3 hours.  Apparently my "lecture timetable" deceived me...and what I also found out to be very important is that I have another studio time on Thursday for about 3 hours, which is also not present on my "lecture timetable."  So far, Victoria University has been thoroughly informative, don't you think!?

My studio mates are all very welcoming.  I found it odd, however, that the ratio of male to female was approximately 3:1.  I didn't count everyone to be sure, but there are only 5 females, including myself, and probably 15 or so guys.  It shall be an interesting dynamic for sure...I'm not used to that, considering the ratio is the other way around back home.  I am taking a 300-level studio so I am a year older than everyone else in my class...perhaps this means I'll have an advantage over them...I certainly wouldn't want to be the underdog, or the American student who knows nothing about landscape architecture in New Zealand.  But I feel pretty confident about my studies, I can say that honestly.  Everyone had to pin up their projects from last year (our French professor wanted to know what everyone's skill set is like, so she has a feel for what she's going to be dealing with). 

I didn't have anything to show obviously, but sometime this week Sabrina (the French professor) wants to go through my portfolio.  I am glad I thought to bring it.  That's kind of terrifying to think about.  I wonder if I'm going to have to do this portfolio showing in front of the entire studio.  I suppose I wouldn't mind all that much. 

We spent about 40 minutes of our studio time exploring our project site, which is occupied by mainly industrial buildings along the harbor and near the railway station.  It's not too big, and isn't the largest scale project I have ever worked on.  I think it will be interesting to see what we all come up with.  We did not get a project briefing today, which was really disorienting for me because: 1. I don't know Wellington all that well yet so I was meandering around for a bit like a chicken with my head cut off; and 2. I have no idea what the final goal of this project is without a project brief!  Sabrina said she still needs to look it over one more time before she gives us the project brief...all I was thinking was, "It's the first day of studio...you should already have this ready for us!"

Our assignment for today was to sketch what we "feel" about the project site.  What did I feel?  Well...it was nice and sunny.  The water is pretty.  I could hear the roaring of the barges and some planes flying by.  I felt like the architecture was a bit dull since it is mainly industrial land.  Oh and, where the hell am I?!?  Now, do I feel my sketches reflected that?  Absolutely not.  I haven't sketched just to sketch for ages now.  All I brought was my tiny sketchbook and a pen that kept smearing.  The side of my drawing hand was nearly all black by the time I finished just three sketches.  I'm off to such a great start!

I seriously underestimated the weather in Wellington today.  I dressed for cold: jeans, boots, flannel shirt, leather jacket, and a scarf.  I made the judgment based on the past days this week, which have been cloudy, rainy, and cold.  That is not the case today.  After walking for 35 minutes back to my flat, I tore off my jacket and scarf and just watched the sweat run down my forehead.  Wellington weather is so unpredictable, gray one day and cheery the next!

I have one more lecture today...Peopling of Polynesia.  I'm excited about this one.  Hopefully I'll have proper note-taking tools for this one.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Made a second trip to the grocery store today.  New World's Metro is pretty much the NZ equivalent to the US Hy-Vee.  I needed some laundry detergent, dish soap, rice, milk, and eggs.  I am trying very hard to watch what I spend, especially on food.  I am going to budget in only one night out for food a week...if that.  Meals here at "cheap" restaurants are still at least $15 when you add a drink.  The McDonald's 5-pack of nuggets is $2.50...and that price is half-off from $5 for a limited time only (according to a friend).  Outrageous.  My Kiwi flatmate, Amanda, said she'd go with me to the weekend fruits and veggies market on the harbor.  It comes every Saturday and Sunday.  She said the prices are way cheaper than the grocery store.  If I do that, I can stock up for a week or two and then only buy milk, eggs, and bread at the grocery store.  I guess I'll  be keeping to a very minimal diet...I already feel myself shrinking, my shorts are literally sagging, and it's only been 2 weeks!

By the way, the most reasonably priced grocery store in town is still a 15 to 20-minute trek from my flat.  And the hills!  Oh my goodness, there are so many hills.  I will never allow myself to carry one item over ten pounds from the store back to my apartment.  I think my body is getting used to all the strain from walking and carrying bags around town.  I haven't been waking up sore.  Gosh, I hope I don't have projects at school that I'll need to carry back.  I suspect I won't be building any models.

Studio is only one day a week for 50 minutes, so I'm hoping that's a sure sign that studio here will not be as strenuous as studio back home.  Classes start this coming Monday.  I have checked my course schedule online, and they are called "papers" here.  Later on in the week I will have to sign up for tutorials...those will apparently be a mad dash to sign up for so I'll have to battle my way through the lines to get the times I want.

This is mainly for my parents, but for anyone else who cares to know, this is my papers schedule:

Monday:: Landscape Architecture Studio 8:30a-9:20a; Peopling of Polynesia 3:10p-4p
Tuesday:: Colour, Pattern, Light 8:30a-9:20a; Sustainable and Regenerative Design 11:30a-12:20p
Wednesday:: Peopling of Polynesia 3:10-4p
Thursday:: Peopling of Polynesia 3:10-4p
Friday:: Sustainable and Regenerative Design 11:30a-12:20p

This week has been orientation week for Victoria University.  So far I have attended the mandatory orientation and enrollment day, a block dinner, and a pub quiz for Everton Hall.  Victoria also has a group for all international students called Victoria International Leadership Programme (VILP).  http://www.victoria.ac.nz/home/vilp/. There are some seminars to attend and socials to meet new people.  It seems interesting, so I may join this semester.

The socializing has been quite fun, but now I am afraid I have come down with a little cold.  Perhaps it is the weather change or time change or I could have caught this from someone else.  In any case, my voice has been lost since Tuesday and my nose is a bit stuffy.  I bought some tea and honey and throat lozenges yesterday.  Additionally, I have been taking some tylenol and trying to get some rest.  I am hoping to feel good as new by the time my classes start...wouldn't want to take sick day my first week.

Still getting used to the city, the whole navigation thing...I haven't gotten lost yet.  My favorite streets so far are Cuba Street and Lambton Quay.  There are lots of little shops and cafes and restaurants, the most life in the city.  I'm pretty sure I can find my way to the School of Architecture and Design and back home just fine.  My roommates told me the safest route back home, well-lit and usually traversed by many walkers at all times of the day.  I think that'll be one of the most important things I could learn about the city at this point.  I know back home I would stay in studio until late hours of the night, but here I will need to be extra conscious about walking home in the daylight or with someone else at night.

Today was the first day this week it has rained.  I've been thankful for the sun...it isn't as warm here as I thought it would be, but the water is beautiful.  I hear the wind in Wellington is the worst!  According to my flatmates, umbrellas are kind of a bad idea in the rain...good thing I brought two with me!  I mean, I suppose I could try them out just in case, they are pretty sturdy umbrellas.  If they do happen to turn inside out, I have my warm fur-lined raincoat.  I am not looking forward to walking to class in the wind and rain in the coming months.  Some people say they've been blown off the sidewalk, that's how bad the wind is here.  Joy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

From the flight into Wellington.
I will be spending the first night in my Victoria University flat tonight - Everton Hall.  The Americans I met during the AustraLearn orientation are staying at Wai-te-ata, Stafford, and Te Kotahinga.  I write at the end of my adventures in Rotorua, but at the beginning of my journey in Wellington.

I cannot sum up my first week in New Zealand in one or two sentences. It is, as I had expected, a beautiful green country with rolling hills and blue water. During AustraLearn's (http://www.australearn.org/) Bridging Cultures Program (which is, for those of you who do not know, the organization I went through to organize my study abroad experience) I was able to participate in a number of activities. These included:

 Tuesday - Arrival in Auckland, a walk up to Mt. Eden, dinner (gluten-free smoked salmon pizza) Wednesday - 3 hour drive to Rotorua, check into hostel, learned the Haka (a Maori traditional war dance), drive to the Blue Lake and walk, dinner provided by hostel
Thursday - Whitewater rafting along the Rangitaiki River, half hour at a Polynesian spa, and traditional Hangi dinner (the Maori cook the food underground!)
Friday - Waitomo Caving adventure, propelling and zip lining through St. Benedict's
Saturday - Community Day (cut back overgrown paths for the Kokako Park), walk to the Hot Springs Sunday - flight to Wellington, which brings me to now.

 To be quite honest, last week is most likely going to be the most exciting week I will have in New Zealand...at least in that amount of time. I don't think I'm going to have the energy to do that many strenuous activities in one week ever again. Every day after Tuesday I woke up to sore limbs...and the first day I was already sore from carrying two huge luggages and two carry ons through the airport and to my hotel room! I know how pathetic that sounds, trust me.

Okay, so you must be thinking, "Why is she just now writing her first post after being in New Zealand for a week??" Believe it or not some countries around the world, New Zealand in particular put a cap on people's Internet usage and/or make you pay a hefty fee to use Internet in 15-minute intervals! This is definitely something I'm going to just have to get used to while I'm here...unlimited access plans are are definitely limited to come by.

Oh! So I know you all have been waiting for me to reveal this information. Here is my address for the next five months:

Samantha Jarquio
12 Everton Terrace, Flat 2, Kelburn Campus
Wellington, New Zealand 6012

If the shipping rate isn't too terribly outrageous, feel free to send me some goodies. But speaking of "goodies," New Zealand has a TON of gluten-free food here and even at restaurants. I've already had gluten-free pizza twice and a burger with a gluten-free bun since I've arrived. So many cafes here have gf cakes and pastries, and the hostel I stayed at in Rotorua offered me gf bread every morning for breakfast. And the best part about the gf stuff here is that it doesn't cost that much more than regular food items! Almost everything's organic here, and the other day I saw avocados at $0.40 each (NZ$ of course). According to many of the Kiwis, Wellington has a big cafe scene...guess I know where I'm going to be spending most of my time if I'm not on campus in studio :)

I've learned a lot this past week, and not just that I miss my family and friends back home in the States. The New Zealand culture is very diverse but also deeply rooted in Maori traditions (hence, why I will probably have an extremely difficult time remembering street and city names). The Kiwis take care of their land and make sure other people respect it as well. The slightest bit of mud on the bottom of used hiking boots you bring in your checked luggage is removed with a pair of tweezers and put in its own biohazard ziploc at the airport before you enter the country. I think I'm going to like it here.

Sincerely yours, all the way from Aotearoa (Maori word for New Zealand),

Thursday, February 9, 2012

And so the final countdown to departure begins.  It is still ten days until I get on the plane for New Zealand, but I already started packing about four days ago.  But if you count the day after Christmas when I set all my new luggage out to examine their sizes and how much I could possibly fit in them, I guess it's been more like a month and a half since I started organizing all my travel gear.  For all inquiring minds, I depart from Kansas City the 19th of February, off to Dallas, then Los Angeles, then 18 hours to Auckland to stay a week for orientation.  My final destination will be Wellington, which of course as you all may have guessed, will be my home for the duration of five months.

I should probably make myself a to-do list before I leave, as in an "adventure list."  I bought this travel guide for New Zealand a while back and I haven't even read it.  I mean, if skimming counts as reading then yes I have read the guide, but I really should have taken some notes.  Just yesterday I looked up my apartment location relative to campus.  Yesterday!  I feel like there are some study abroad students who have probably printed off a map and drawn red lines on it to mark all the best restaurants, shopping, etc.  I figured I'll get lost and make wrong turns a bajillion times the first couple weeks, as many of you have probably figured as well, I am a horrific navigator.  The only way I'm going to remember how to get from place to place is walking/riding there myself.

Ok.  First post almost complete!  Here is the beginning of my list of things to not forget to do before I leave:

1. Find more gluten-free food to pack (must be able to fit in my luggage).
2. Don't forget to pack underwear!
3. Make my parents an itinerary (they will freak out if they don't know where I am).
4. Make Ben an itinerary/class schedule (he will freak out if he doesn't hear from me).
5. Say farewell, etc., etc.

Adventure list to be continued...

Luckily, AustraLearn has an online to-do list for everyone, with very specific deadlines for each item.  They have taken care of sending out my student visa application (which according to NZ laws restricts international students from working anywhere, on or off campus), booking a travel agent for my flight itinerary to and from NZ (through STA Travel),  setting me up with accommodation (they take top 5 preferences, a survey of your personality, and tell you how much each place will cost), and helping me pick classes to enroll.