On being an American, hiking, and (lots of) rain…


First week of classes, done! It’s too early to tell how difficult classes will be, but so fair the workload seems fair.

In the past couple of days I’ve started to become a lot more aware of being American. I was at the post office getting my 18+ card so that I don’t have to carry my passport everywhere, when I noticed how long the line was. I immediately become frustrated that the system wasn’t more organized, with different lines for people with different tasks and even a kiosk that could do whatever task didn’t require face-to-face interaction. One of Max’s flatmates from Spain has said this is perhaps the most easily detected difference between America and other countries; in the states we’re almost grossly accustomed to instant gratification. Fast food rarely takes more than six to seven minutes, banks almost never have lines more than five minutes, and if we want to watch a movie we can play it instantly on our computers. To be fair, I didn’t have anything better to do in the next hour than stand in line for ten minutes or so. As I realized I had some time to kill I struck up a conversation with an older woman in town, who ended up knowing one of my professors and had some awesome recommendations for a cheap lunch joint (The Cook Tavern, $4 burger and fries!). See where I’m going with this? Instant isn’t always better, after all.

This week was pretty bad weather, but I motivated some of my flatmates to go on a hike up to Signal hill, a great lookout of town and the shore. We knew the general direction of the lookout but weren’t exactly sure how to navigate our way upwards as there were about three or four different paths, each one with forks every couple hundred yards or so. Picture a corn maze, but with soggy trees and an upwards incline. We were able to find some clearings in the trees on our way up for a peek of the island, but the rain clouds were too thick at the top to see much. Part of the lookout contained rocks imported from Scotland’s Edinburgh castle, symbolizing the ties between the two countries. Dunedin (Da-knee-din) was settled by Scottish settlers, who originally wanted to name it New Edinburgh but decided Dunedin, the Celtic form of Edinburgh.

Mushroom on the way up to to the top. Looks like Toad, from Mario!

It was disappointing that we missed the view, but we figured there would be plenty of time to do the hike again. On the bright side, this time around, I was wearing hiking boots, wool socks, and a rainjacket….it’s safe to say I’d learned my lesson by this point. Unfortunately the rain was so intense that being prepared or not became somewhat irrelevant. The rain here (and we’re certainly seen enough of it at this point!) is not like anything we get on the east coast. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the freak storms that would break out in Colorado and Arizona. It comes down hard and thick, and switches directions constantly. In other words, rain coast or not, umbrella or not, you’re getting soaked one way or another. At this point the hike went much longer than originally anticpated, and we were all absolutely starving. We decided to sprint all the way home, desperate for food and hot showers. For the record, running slightly downhill is the best. You feel like a stellar athlete without doing very much work at all. We were amped to find that Kiri, one of our kiwi-hosts, had prepared an delicious meal of enchladas and rice! One of the best meals I’ve had here so far, if for no other reason than it was piping hot after a freezing day.

Sopping wet up at the top

This weekend was my other Kiwi host, Sophie’s, 21st birthday. We had upwards of 50 kids in our flat and backyard; it was an absolute blast! Happy birthday, Sophie!

On a final note, myself and four other international students have invested in a cheap car (1996 Mitsubishi “faded maroon” Lancer) so that we can start to travel all over the island. Dunedin offers plenty to explore, but we’re eager to check out the west coast (Mt. Cook, Milford Sound, Fiordlands, Queenstown) and especially to do some hiking.

On a seriously final note, I found forty bucks on the ground last night! What should I spend it on?


2 responses »

  1. $40 sweet..Go grocery shopping and cook a nice meal for the flatmates.. I bet the grocery stores are different there but I’m sure you could figure something out.. Glad you’re having fun 🙂

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