And that’s all, folks

Standard

So this is it, I guess. I’m surprised at how sentimental I’ve been in the last couple of days, between hugging people a little too long and a little too often, to basically tearing up whenever I hear “ay brew.” Exaggerating a little on the latter part, but whatever. Rather than bore everyone with deep introspective paragraphs reflecting on how I’ve grown as a person and what this semester has meant…I thought I’d do all that in bullet points! Because what says brevity like bullet points, really?

  •  I go to school with the coolest kids in the world. From the ridiculous amount of fun Max can bring to even the most boring of situations, to the leadership and outdoor knowledge that just basically oozes of Luke, and everyone and everything else in between, I’m proud to call these people my friends. Run-on sentence, but oh well. So many of the people I hung out with this semester were back home from St. Lawrence, but we just never got a chance to become friends. Whether that was because we ran in different social circles or because we were a little intimidated by each other, it was still a stupid reason. Either way, we’ll be back in full swing in the fall, likely starting off with my 21st birthday on the first Thursday of the fall. So much for good first impressions…
  • Capsicum means pepper in New Zealand. And Cougette means zucchini. And kumara means sweet potato. I’m not sure the reasons behind the discrepancies, but figured it’s a fun fact. Shows I picked up some culture here, no?
  • American cuisine reigns Supreme. Hope I don’t get in trouble because I’m sure Iron Chef has that copywriter somewhere, but it’s true. We get a bad rap for all the fast food joints that litter just about every interstate but that’s not what American food is all about. I miss thin crust pizza. It’s sort of weird, in New York all pizza is considered Italian. Here, pizza is just a food group of its own. Sort of weird. However, checking out the farmers market in Dunedin a couple times has absolutely inspired the gardener within me. Get ready, Mom, I’m about to tear our backyard apart!
  • They party too hard here. I wouldn’t last more than a semester as a “scarfie.” I love you, Kiwis, but Cindy’s + Monkey Bar more than once a month is too much for me. Maybe I’m getting old.
  • Short videos are cool. Max has been documenting our weekends and has made me realize how much more even a couple seconds worth of video can capture a person or a moment much more than a picture. Depends on the context, I guess, but I think I need to invest in a camcorder at some point in the next year. Max interviewed all us in the last week or so and will be putting out a final video at some point, which I’ll upload here. Thanks, Max!
  •  Complaining is useless. It helps that there wasn’t much to complain about at all this semester, but the complete lack of it amongst our group has made me realize how much time and energy we waste, and how much negativity we spread, but complaining about meaningless things
  • Americans are generally not well traveled.  The average kiwi has been to so many awesome places, and has a ridiculous amount of stories and friends abroad.  It helps that New Zealand is so small and the urge to explore elsewhere probably hits kiwis a lot younger than it does Americans, but still.   Just now on the cab ride here to the airport, I talked to an older man who traveled all across Canada and America back in the late seventies, in a ford firebird (or thunder, or something fancy sounding like that) he bought off a used car lot in Nebraska for $200.  He traveled up to Alaska, and watched the world series at a pub at 2am when it was still light outside.  Crazy!
  • Recycling is easy.  I should have been doing it more often, and earlier.  It’s crazy how engrained it is into the culture here, even the laziest of kiwis wouldn’t think of throwing cardboard into the garbage can when it could be put in the recycling bin.  Good on em.
  • I need to listen to more live music.  Especially living so close to NYC in the summertime, it’s surprising that I haven’t taken advantage of Open Mic nights earlier.  Tuesday nights at the Bog this semester always promised a good time, and a chance to see people who were ordinarily goofballs really get into whatever they were singing/playing.
  • New Zealand doesn’t really have cool animals…Unfortunately I didn’t make it up to Australia to chill with any kangaroos but I think the scenery down here absolutely made up for frockling with whatever poisonous species I would have encountered up north.  However, yesterday I learned a bit about a species of bird that hangs out in the botanical gardens.  It eats the berries off of this massive bush, which actually ferment in its stomach while it digests – meaning it gets absolutely obliterated and passes out somewhere.  Drunk birds.  Potentially a new app? Let me know if you want to invest.
  • I love my family.  Obviously, I loved them before I left but I missed the heck out of them! And my house.  I’ve missed that big dining room table, and being able to count onhaving the herbs I want in the cabinet. I think most would be surprised at how often a group of students our age talks about our families – everything from a strange gift from dad to how different you are from your brother.  On long hikes it was pretty standard to pair up with someone and talk about their parents or siblings.  Heck, even in our trivia game back at Luxmore hut we had a question – how many siblings are there among the ten people in the group? Everyone got it right.  Hearing so much about a person’s family also typically makes the first encounter with them particularly hilarious.  As much as we would have denied it at age thirteen, or even seventeen, people ARE their parents in so many ways.

It’s been real, New Zealand, and I promise I’ll be back within the next ten years.  Until then, thanks for the new twang to my already thick long island accent, a dozen new best friends, and really a hell of a semester.

Next stop for places I want to travel : Africa, Switzerland, Ireland.  Give me a couple years and hopefully this blog will be back in full swing.

 

Punk’d

Standard

The boys + Emma pulled an admittedly epic prank in the form of a three-way room swap while the rest of us were in Wellington. Not only that – they made sure everything in the new room was identical to the original, right down to the dirty socks left at the end of my bed and the streamers left on Zoe’s floor from her birthday banger. Even worse (or better) they filmed it all. Take a look – reactions around 5:50 probably the best part. Sorry for the profanities, Mom.

Also, if you haven’t already, check out the videos tab up top. Max has been editing our weekend adventures into incredibly impressive short films with a bumpin’ soundtrack.

Weekend-ing in Windy Wellington

Standard

This weekend we finally made it up to Windy Wellington. From the skinny jeans in every direction to the art galleries and cafes on every corner, to the muesams and film festivals, it felt sort of like San Francisco breeded with Burlington, and a little bit of Providence in there too. In other words, it was super-down to earth, a little bit hipster, and the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

Looking out on the harbor

We got onto an hour long flight Thursday morning, and were happy to find that there were stand-by seats for Mel and I. Things were already looking way better than the last attempt. We arrived in Wellington with a whole day ahead of us, and decided to grab some snacks from the grocery and lay on some rocks by the water for most of the afternoon. After a hectic last week of classes and tons of hiking in the weekends before, it felt like a well-deserved break. We met up with Max’s brother Eli, who works in Wellington, for dinner and ice cream. Let me stop here and say that kaffee ice was literally the most mind-blowing dessert experience of my life. I got chai gelato and never before have I had something that so accurately tasted like it was supposed to….which is sort of probably a bad sign for artificial flavors, but either way it tasted like Christmas.

After I finally shut up about the ice cream, we geared up for the night and took the town by storm, as per usual, and generally just caused a ruckus. We played a bit of pool – thanks to Thomas for all those years playing on the table in the basement, made me feel like I knew what I was doing.

Getting fierce

The next day we decided to take in a bit more of the Wellington culture, and check out some of the markets and galleries. I was reminded me that art is more than just a portrait or an abstract drawing…here’s a uh, piece, made completely of toast!

Fascinating, I guess. I was mostly confused on how it didn’t get moldy. Not sure I’m cut out for the art scene. We went by the water to rent some rollerblades, and I immediately became aware of how long it’s been since I’ve been on a pair.

Getting the hang of it?

I decided to get ambitious and try out the skate park which was sort of a horrible idea – luckily there’s no pictures of that. We got some ice cream cones and continued blading around the harbor for a couple hours, until I got a flat tire and we had to retire (desire, hire, fire, wire, chicka yeah). Not before Mel, Eli, and Eliza bladed through the grocery store and got kicked out by security. Oh well.

Blading along

We finally got some real Mexican food at the Flying Burrito brothers, as per a recommendation of a kiwi we met the night before. It absolutely did not disappoint. I’ll post a picture of me after eating a frighteningly hot hot sauce. It’s pretty embarrassing, so don’t expect it to see it on Facebook – only for my loyal blog followers (read: Mom).

FINALLY.

We went out for another night on the town, and then took it pretty easy the next day. While Zoe and Eliza headed south to check out Nelson for a couple of days, Mel and I needed to catch a flight home to study for finals. Unfortunately it was the Queen’s birthday, meaning that there weren’t any direct flights to the small Dunedin airport. We ended up having to go up north to Auckland, then all the way back down to Dunedin – sort of a pain, but Air NZ’s customer service was pretty great about making it happen for us. Kudos.

On another note, I just finished up my first final. My hand is sore, which I
think translates into a pretty good effort. Three more to go, and then back to the home of the free and the land of pizza. And the brave. But mostly pizza.

Loving Luxmore and Lackadaisical Last Days

Standard

With less than a month left, I’m finding myself appreciating each “sweet as,” Dunedin sunset, Rob Roy ice cream cone, and even my chilly room a little bit more. Okay, so not that much that last one but all of the other ones are true.

The week started off great, as I got to work with a food stylist on a recipe I’ve been developing throughout the semester. Since I had to give a fifteen-minute presentation on the recipe, I could ramble here but I’ll just leave you with the picture. Beautiful, ain’t it? There’s also a video from a presentation I had to do with a partner. Not my best work in terms of public speaking, but figured the relatives would find it enjoyable.

Vegetable Quinoa Salad

This weekend we were back off again, this time to the Fiordlands. We couldn’t have imagined a more fitting way to spend Luke’s 21st birthday than outdoors until dusk, eventually retreating to a wood-burning stove. The first two hours of the hike were relatively flat, but gradually turned into switchbacks that reminded me the Appalachians a little bit. (B&B-ers, you know what I mean…think Daaz Mountain Road). Max and Dave thought it would be funny to play a trick on the birthday boy, and kept sneaking rocks into his pack throughout the hike. Luke isn’t the type to complain out loud, so he just sort of kept on his way. Prank fail. Once we were above the trees, we were surprised to find out strong the winds were. Our friend, the littlest one in the group, kept losing her balance. Sort of sad, yet pretty hilarious to watch.

Sunny skies

Once we got to the hut we met some other backpackers, including a guy who graduated from Washington U a couple days earlier. I was surprised to have been asked by a Dutch woman if I was German, to which I said no. I think she was sort of disappointed that I yet another American, but oh well. We whipped up burritos in the candlelight, and feasted together as a group of thirteen. This time around, though, we had brownie scramble for dessert. Before you assume that’s some sort of hardly legal concoction, it’s actually just brownie mix stirred up with water. More like brownie goo. Max and I had been brainstorming on the hike up and recited a pretty epic poem for Luke before diving into dessert. After dessert we played a trivia game made up of questions about the group. A sample:

Zoe fell hard on a beach. Spell that beach!
Describe in detail the hats of 7 different people in the group.
Name the spirit animals of four other members of the group.

“From the rolling hills of vermont, to the chaotic streets of Dunedin…”

The next day we took slowly, but managed to eventually make it out to the caves. The night before was torrential down pouring, and winds whipping so hard the bunk beds shook. In the morning, Mother Nature redeemed herself with the biggest rainbow I think I’ve ever seen. We then headed into the caves. With water flowing beneath our feet and each step more slippery than the next, it sort of felt like we were doing some Indiana Jones level stuff. At some points we had to be on our hands and knees, and in other we had to suck in hard and wiggle through. I was a bit out of element without a headlight (that’s what I get for buying the $10 one…) but made it through okay with the help of everyone else. Safe to say that with the headlamps off, I’ve never experienced a colder and darker darkness. Eerie, to say the least.

You can’t see it in my face, but seriously claustrophobic at this point

After basically sprinting out of the caves, we took the hike down pretty quickly.

Quite the motley crew

I separated from the group for a bit and pretended I was Katniss and casually chucked some sticks around and investigated some plants. Sometimes you have to get weird… Anyway, never before have I experienced the forest so close to the water. Sort of a strange but cool phenomenon to have green surrounding you in every direction, yet hear waves in the background. We grabbed some burgers and fish and chips on the way home, in typical Sunday-night-feast-mode. Cheers to the last week of classes, and a possible trip to Wellington this weekend!

Snowy Sunrises and Slippery Slopes

Standard

Okay so that’s not the best alliteration I could have come up with but it’s the best I’ve got with class in a bit.

Now that I haven’t posted in about a month, it’s safe to say I’m due.  I’ve been in Dunedin for the past three weekends because most of us have had lots of assignments to catch up with.  There was a food festival in the North Island that Emma, Max, and I were supposed to go but my stand-by ticket didn’t work out.  Emma and Max has grabbed the last two and we sort of stood at the airport in a very cliché romance novel sort of way as we realized I was going to get left behind.  They tried to stay behind but I basically pushed them onto the plane and said I’d see them on Sunday.   My friend Dave and I headed to the local pound to cheer up.  Because really, what guarantees a good time more than puppies?  The weekend still ended up being a blast, as we had a couple of fun nights in town and a great day spent on Aramoana beach, where Zoe fell a couple of weeks back.

Mom, he fits in my suitcase real nice I promise!

Weekdays have become increasingly more eventful as the work load temporarily dies down before our month of finals.  We’ve been cooking delicious dinners just about every night, from roasted tomato basil soup with a chicken avocado salad to breakfast for dinner.  It’s been nice having a group of friends to cook with everynight, certainly makes me excited for apartment life in a couple of years.  We’ve also become regulars at the weely open mic nights at a small Irish pub called the Bog.  Max, our friend Mike, and I covered one of our favorite songs by the Lumineers.

The night we (pretended) to start a band.

Anyway, this weekend we headed out to Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand.  The mountain range is called the Southern Alps, and for good reasons.  If someone had plopped me down at our campsite I would have absolutely said we were in Switzerland.  We got into our campsite before dark and set up our tents.  Immediately we realized how drastically the temperatures have been dropping since our last camping trip a couple weeks ago.  Most of us were in bed by 8, if not earlier.  Unfortunately the cold made sleep a difficult task, but thoughts of a warm hut the next night was invigorating enough to keep us going.

Campsite

We set out to the hut around 11.  The hike started off with tons and tons of stairs – one guide said upwards of 1800.  It’s safe to say most of us are still walking sort of funny three days later.  There was a beautiful lookout after the stairs, after which point we headed into the rocky part of the hike.  Before we knew it every step was into at least an inch of snow.  We crossed over the ridge and literally had out breath taken right out of us.  It’s difficult ot put into words how small I felt at that moment.

Emma and I coming up towards the hut

Anyway, Emma and I were taking it slow in the back of pack and had trekked out a bit off the track to get a better view.  She dared me to snow angel in my t-shirt, and obviously I had to oblige.

Snow angel-ing

We trekked on for another half hour or so before we heard a booming sound to our right, and watched as an avalanche crashed down the mountain.  We were greeted by some yells of our friends on the porch of the hut, and immediately it became clear that this was no ordinary hut.  Set in the middle of the mountains and bright red, it felt more like a ski resort than a backpackers hut.

Sunrise over the mountains

We got into the hut around 4:30, and mostly just sat on the porch taking in the last rays on sunshine until dinner time.  After burritos we passed out pretty early since we were trying to catch the sunrise the next morning.  Compared to the night before, all of us were sweating in our sleeping bags.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been more grateful to be that overheated.

Hanging near the hut

The next morning we took about as slow as possible.  We all woke up for sunrise.  Some of the group was ambitious enough to throw on all their cold gear and hike up to a peak about 30 minutes out, but Emma and I just cuddled in our sleeping bags and peeped out the window to catch the sunrise.  Eventually we made it out to the deck, and were greeted with this view.  Note – absolutely no photo enhancing done here.

After eating a warm boat of oatmeal out on the porch and laughing as our friend Dave comatosed on one of the mattresses in the snow, a brilliant idea came.  We decided to use the mattresses as sleds.  We put on all of the waterproof gear we had and headed outside.  After trying to ride the mattresses like a snowboard and ending up with a face full of snow, the girls decided to hike back up the hill and race down.  It didn’t go exactly as well as planned, with a bit of crashing and flipping but no serious injuries.  We decided to get a bit more ambitious and start launching off of a small lip.

Launching

After a while the landing became a bit hard and face plants became more painful than funny, we decided to call it quits and head back down the mountain.  We took it slow until we crossed back over the ridge, at which point we decided it would be safer to take the trek as a Luge rather than trying to step down the slick edges.  The sharp switchbacks and large snow banks made it feel like a real racetrack, and even with a few causalities to most of our pants we couldn’t stop laughing.  We also saved at least a half hour or so.  It was then time to descend the dozens of flights of stairs at which point most people had shaky legs.  Luckily we were back in the car in no time, and even stopped to get fish and chips on the way home.  Life is good here.  One month left!

Coping with Copeland Track

Standard

This week we left early Thursday afternoon, for a six hour drive up north to Copeland Track. As soon as we set up our tents it began to pour, so we didn’t have a chance to do much that night. It rained so hard that most of us didn’t sleep more than an hour or so throughout the night. But we woke up and packed up our tents, while the rain continued to pour. Our friend emma convinced me to buy these rain pants earlier on the semester, and while they’ve mostly just taken up precious room in my pack each weekend they finally came in handy.

One of many super long bridges along the track

We began our trek up to the Welcome hut around eleven, and quickly realized that we seriously underestimated the rain. From stretches of 15 feet that were so muddy they felt like quicksand, to raging rivers to cross, we all agreed it was the most intense hiking we’ve done so far. Within thirty minutes of starting the hike, there wasn’t an inch of any of us that was dry. About four hours into the hike we reached an especially treacherous raging waterfall. The two woofers in the group, Luke and Dave, set out to see if there was any reasonable way to cross it, while the rest of us shivered. To keep spirits up, we broke into our chocolate supply and did a little bit of confessionals. Find mine and Laura’s here.

Dave came back up to the rest of the group and explained that there were essentially two big falls to cross. One was moving very quickly and forcefully, but was reasonably shallow. The other was about 2 feet high, but not moving too quickly. The boys spread themselves out to offer hands whenever necessary, and grabbed the packs off of some of our more clumsy friends and brought them across. It was by far the most stressful moment of the hike, with raging water in every direction and each rock more slippery than the next, but we all got through just fine.

It continued to pour the rest of the way up, and we trudged along, jumping over streams every fifteen minutes or so. We did continued our “confessional” type interviews to keep things lively, while Max and Dave brainstormed spirit animals for everyone. They revealed them later on that night. I was given a “baby rhino,” for my “big personality and feistiness,” or something along those lines.

View in the morning from the hut

Spritis began to sink as the end started to feel further and further, and by the time we finally were sure we were there we saw another 30 minutes to go sign. We trudged along and as soon as we arrived, the others greeted us in high spirits. We immediately sprinted to the natural hot springs, only a couple yards from the hut. They were absolutely steaming, and before we knew it the sky opened up to expose the mountains surrounding us, which were at this points surging with dozens of waterfalls. It literally felt like a fairytale. The perfect end to a tough day, wouldn’t it be nice it life always worked that way? Didn’t meant to rhyme there…

Natural hot springs

We were absolutely esctactic to find that we were the only ones staying in the 31 person hut that night, which was not exactly surprising considering the weather. We whipped up a delicious meal of burritos. We played dozens of different games, and one of our friends began a pretty interesting motage of close-ups of people eating. I’d include a picture but they’re a little gross.

The hut looking a little disheveled with all of our stuff

The way down the next morning felt like a completely different hike, considering the lack of streams. We stopped and ate lunch on one of the bridges. Emma and I decided to get a bit create, and made chocolate peanut butter quesadillas. Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you can’t be gourmet!

Yum

On a (somewhat) academic note, I just returned from my Food and Consumers lab this afternoon, after whipping up a delicious vegetable quinoa salad. Shout out to Butter Beans for inspiring the recipe! Next week we start writing an article featuring the recipe, and begin photographing the food. Obviously my favorite part of the class is testing everyone else’s dishes – from a white chocolate lemon bar, to mango chicken kebabs, to a blackforest macaroon with rasberries, I never leave that class without beginning to resemble Veruca from Willy Wonka. The blueberry girl? You get the gist of it…

With exams and final assignments coming up, we’ve decided to stay in Dunedin this weekend with maybe one or two trips out to the beach. Might be another two weeks until the next post, so hopefully this one was sufficiently exciting! Keep an eye out for a video I’ll post in the next couple days, which will be ac opmliation of all of Max’s go-pro footage from the weekend.

Wishing Wanaka’s Water Was Warmer While we Waterfall-ed

Standard

A low-key weekend compared to our usual adventurous romping, but still a great one.  The week started off fabulously, with a “rave in the cave” to celebrate our friend Eliza’s birthday on Tuesday.  To clarify, by “rave” we really just mean cheap speakers, an iPod, and a couple of bottles of wine. We had two cars packed to brim set out to Long Beach, where we camped out a couple weeks back.  Song highlights include: No Air by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown, No Speak Americano, Me and Julio down by Schoolyard and of course, a little Avicii.   There were about 12 of us this time around, so it’s safe to say things got a little more out of hand.  After recapping the night in the morning, all while refusing to get out of our sleeping bags, we decided to walk back on the beach and play in the sand.  We started this game where someone scribbles some random lines in the sand, and someone else has to try to make it into something distinguishable.  I was impressed with some of the creativity within the group, but then Max made everything into something phallic and the game ended…fairly typical for Max.  We convinced a couple of the others to wiggle out of their bags and jump in for a quick swim before class, but by this point the waters absolutely frigid even when the sun is shining hard.

 

No pictures from the cave...but here's some of us chasing some sheep

Usually we’re all out of town off to adventure by Thursday night, but we decided to stick around this week and take some SLU kids visiting from Australia out for a night in town.  We must have jumped between 4 or 5 difference bars, chasing the good music and vibes.  Highlights include several strange hats, freestyle battles, convincing a night-shift construction worker to take off his shirt, and our friend Hannah desperately trying to convince Velvet Burger to re-open and our other friend Zoe kicking the door in frustration, ultimately breaking it and sounding off a fierce alarm.  I didn’t witness this firsthand, but it sounds like they made a clean breakaway.  Zoe promised to buy Velvet burger at least 3x a week for the rest of the semester to pay them back for the damage…good deal on both ends, I think.

 

Understandably sluggish by Friday morning, we sat in the driveway with our packs for a while before heading off to Wanaka.  We ended up taking an accidental detour that luckily turned out to be extremely scenic (I think most detours around here are…).  A 5.5 hour drive ended up taking about 7 but as always, hours around here fele shorter because of the good conversation and tunes.  Our car finally met up with the two others we were traveling with, and we whipped up a delicious meal of pasta and vegetables. Most of us were still catching up on sleep from the night before, and passed out in our sleeping bags before 9pm.

 

Wanaka

The next day we had a relatively short hike planned to check out the glaciers.  Emma whipped up delicious breakfast burrittos and we didn’t exactly rush to get the day started.  Dave and Max dug up sleeping pads from our carefully packed trunk and started some sort of make-shift boxing game.  They look a lot more graceful in the picture than in real life…

Power stance

 

The hike was gradual and wider than usual, making it plenty social.  By the time we reached our destination, we had only spent 2 hours hiking.  The glacier were unreal, although we couldn’t help but wonder how much of them will have melted away if we returned to the same spot in a decade.  Some of the glacier was bright blue, which I found out happens when ice becomes incredibly dense.

Glacier

We saw a waterfall about a half mile off from the “end” of the hike, and decided to wander on up there for a shower.  The rocks ended up being pretty loose, making each step more treacherous than the next.  All of us made it up there and back safely, though…even Zoe!

 

Sweet rock carved smooth by dozens of years of glacial water

We decided to head back to our favorite campsite for the night, at Moke Lake in Queenstown.  This is my third time to that campsite, but the view never seizes to do much other than take my breath away.  Set in between dozens of golden mountains on each side, all reflected on this stunningly still lake, you can’t help but feel like it’s some sort of a hideaway.  That night we were relatively low-key that night as well, after being somewhat comatose as a result of one of the most epic burritos I’ve yet to experience.  Although we wanted to sit around and admire the stars, the cold sent most of us sprinting to our sleeping bags.

 

Honking to get all the cows out of the road on the way out of Moke

The next morning we didn’t have much of a plan.  Luckily Queenstown never seizes to disappoint, and a group of us found a perfect climbing tree that sat over the water and admired the sunny day.

Skipping rocks by the boats

About 6 other St. Lawrence students couldn’t pass up the opportunity to skydive because, well, YOLO (you only live once).  All in all, certainly one of our more relaxed weekends but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Also, I slept more nights in my sleeping bag than without it this week.  Sign of a great one, I think. Life is always great here.

ALSO just added a ton of new pictures to the “picture” tab. Check it.