Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mama's Got a Brand New Flat

Well, it's actually not brand new, and it's not my own...but I finally found a place to live!
It's on the bottom floor of a beautiful little villa in Kelburn (about a 5-minute walk to campus), and I'll be sharing it with another 30-something who seems just lovely.

This was the 6th place that I looked at, and I'll admit I was getting discouraged. I had had my hopes set on another place, but the flatties there chose someone else, and my ego was a bit bruised. I kept trying to convince myself that it wouldn't have been the right place for me, it wasn't meant to be, blah blah blah. But when there aren't many other options, it's hard to take that all to heart.

So, at the very least, this is a relief...and a delight! I immediately felt comfortable there, and really loved the general atmosphere of the place.
I move in in a couple of weeks (either the 12th or the 17th) and am going to spend that time searching the 2nd hand shops for furniture, etc.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Tougher than Roaches

Just got off the phone with my mom.
After a few minutes of me venting about how I'm trying to learn to be patient, as this "limbo" phase is taking longer than expected and gets a bit frustrating at times, she said,

"Just remember what we always used to say: You're tougher than...what?"

"What?" I said

"You're tougher than...what was it?"


"That's right: you're tougher than roaches."

Haven't heard that in, I don't know, 20 years or something. But it's exactly what I needed.
Thanks, Mom.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Rimutaka and Wairarapa

On Wednesday, Uncle John and I took a road trip over Rimutaka Hill to the Wairarapa region, which houses (among many other things) Martinborough, which is a major wine-producing region.

Image hosting by Photobucket
Uncle John on the swinging Bridge

Image hosting by Photobucket
Tall tree

Image hosting by Photobucket
Clear water under the swinging bridge

Rimutaka must mean “And-by-‘hill’-we-mean-‘mountain’-as-we-Kiwis-are-prone-to-understatement” . Rimutaka Hill is ridiculously high for a hill. The roads wind up to the summit and down to Wairarapa, unless you want to take the train, which goes straight through the hill.

Image hosting by Photobucket
Near the summit of Rimutaka Hill

We first stopped in Featherston, where we stopped at a heritage museum which told us all about the former railway line (which ran from the mid/late 1800s until 1955). The railway needed a number of locomotives to climb the mountain, due to its steep descent, and a safe way to climb down the mountain, due to its sharp decline, so they built a “fell” system in which an additional rail was built between the two normal rails, and a special break system would clutch onto the middle rail in order to help drag the cars up, and decrease momentum on the way down. Once the tunnel was forged in the 50s, the railway line was taken out of commission, and the former railway track turned into a hiking trail that many use to this day.

Once we left Featherston, we headed to Greytown, which still has many of the old buildings from the 1800s in full use. It’s a pretty little town that almost looks like a movie set, it’s so darn cute.

Image hosting by Photobucket
a Greytown shop

We then headed to Carterton, which has a Paua shop and factory. Got my mom a belated something for her birthday (Hi Mom! It’s on its way!), and then went on to Martinborough.

Martinborough is a sweet little town that houses many vineyards. Thanks to the patriotism of the founders, the main center of town is laid out like the Union Jack, with criss-crossing streets to mimic the stripes of the flag.

We had a glass of wine (duh) at a café in Martinborough, then headed back to Lower Hutt around 3:30.

Last night I also had the privilege of watching young Lauren McGuinness in a water polo match. She plays for her school, and this was the first game of the season…and very cool to watch, I must say. But, goodness gracious, does it look exhausting.

Looking at a flat this weekend. Keep your fingers crossed.

And I’m a little lonely right now, guys, as I’ve officially passed the two week mark without you. Please email me and let me know what you’re up to and how you’re all doing.

Much love,


Image hosting by Photobucket

Monday, February 20, 2006

A new week

Sorry to have been out of touch lately.

Here’s my last week in a nutshell:


  • Powhiri (incredible – I am now determined to learn as much as I can about the Maori culture/tradition/lifestyle as I can. After all, it’s one of the reasons I came to NZ.)
  • Changed my Graduate Diploma in Arts degree in English Lit to a BA(Honours) degree in English Lit. This apparently has a lot more clout if I choose to pursue a Master’s degree, and would only require an additional year of research.
  • Enrolled in graduate classes: Drama & Theory, Drama & Theatre in Aotearoa NZ (Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand; it means “Land of the Long White Cloud”), Modern Fiction: NZ Fiction for Children, and Renaissance Studies: Literature and Cultural Politics).
  • Went to a “Nightlife in Wellington” outing with a TON of other International Students. I was completely shocked to see how many Americans are enrolled at Vic. They’re mostly study abroad students on an exchange program, 19 years old, and use the word “dude” incessantly. Needless to say, it’s a bit disappointing to be surrounded by them, as I didn’t come this far to meet more Americans. Plus, these kids don’t seem to understand how our behavior is a direct representation of our culture here. But I’m trying not to judge. :)
Views from the train on my way in to Wellington:
Image hosting by PhotobucketImage hosting by Photobucket


  • Went back to campus to pay the additional NZ$709.80 that my new degree is costing me, bought some of my textbooks, and met two of my theatre professors, who were very warm, welcoming, and accommodating. They also suggested I pay attention to their notice board for auditions, as their directing students have a ton of projects coming up that they’ll need to cast.
    Views of Wellington from outside the Theatre office building:
    Image hosting by Photobucket
  • Opened a bank account with the National Bank of New Zealand.
  • Went to a party hosted by the Victoria International office.
  • Went to look at my first flat (I didn’t take it) which also happens to be on the same road that my friend Tracey had her first flat. I’m starting to notice a trend…
  • Came back to Lower Hutt.


  • Sat around the McGuinness’, on their deck , in the sun…
  • Spoke to Tracey! (at around 1am her time).


  • Bought a mobile phone!!! Drop me an email if you want the number…
  • Went into Wellington at 2pm to watch the yachts involved in the Volvo Ocean Race leave Queens Wharf. The Volvo Ocean Race is an around-the-world yacht race that started in South Africa and hits stops all over the world. They took a pit stop in Wellington for a few days, and yesterday was the restart of the race. Try to check it out if they stop in your area (they hit New York in May). It’s really cool!
    Image hosting by Photobucket
    Image hosting by Photobucket

  • Took a drive around Eastbourne and Wainuiomata, which was spectacular to see.
    Image hosting by Photobucket


  • Went back into campus to buy the rest of my textbooks and go to the PostGraduate Students Association orientation.
  • Got my Vic Student ID card
  • Got my student email account.
  • Met a woman from Brooklyn (holla!) who runs the Career Services office!

Finally, here's me starting on a tan. You have to wear SPF 30 sunscreen every couple of hours, as the hole in the ozone layer is apparently right above NZ.
Image hosting by Photobucket

Friday, February 17, 2006


It's been so hectic with getting enrolled in university, finding my way around, and looking at flats that I haven't been able to sit down and give a good update (or more photos).
I'll try to do that later today or tomorrow.

Hope you're all well and are thawing out from that massive Eastern blizzard!


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Shake, Rattle and Roll

So apparently there was an earthquake last night.
Nothing to be worried about, as it wasn't huge (update: 5.9 on the Richter scale), and since Wellington and it's environs are smack dab on a fault, they apparently happen all the time.
It was enough to wake me from my slumber, however, which is always a disorienting experience.

Yesterday was Orientation for International Postgraduate students. I was on campus and in lectures and seminars from 9:00 till 3:30...and I haven't even enrolled in classes yet!
One thing's for sure, they are really conscious of the experiences an international student can have, and seem to cover all the bases before you even realize you needed to know anything.
From 9-11 we had our official Orientation session, in which approximately 150 postgrad students (Masters, PhDs, Honours, and Diploma) attended.
Then there was a "Banking in NZ" seminar, followed by an "Accommodation" seminar.
Had just enough time to run out for a sandwich, and then had to come back for an "Insurance" seminar, and finally a "pre-Enrollment" seminar.
We then had to queue up to get our insurance situations checked out, and to have our passport information entered into their system. I'm telling you, they cover all the bases.
Today is a little more fun, as at 1:30 I go back to campus for a powhiri (traditional Maori welcome) at the University's marae. Since the Maori culture is one of the main aspects that attracted me to NZ, I'm really looking forward to this.
Tonight is a "Nightlife of Wellington" tour...and oh yeah, I have to pick my classes, get them approved and enroll.
I met some interesting people yesterday: from Samoa, Fiji, Texas, Toronto, and Germany.
There are a lot more American students than I expected...but hopefully I'm the only one from New York!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's Tuesday down here, so as my Valentine's Day gift to you, here are some photos:

Image hosting by Photobucket
me in Auckland airport waiting for my final flight.

Image hosting by Photobucket
A recently-sprouted butterfly in the McGuinnesses garden.

Views of Wellington from the Wind Turbine:
Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

One of the bays where Aunt Jane and I had lunch on Saturday
(we sat and ate on a deck just past where the cars are parked):

Image hosting by Photobucket

Photos of Wellington Harbour before my visit to Te Papa Museum yesterday
(these were taken with the panoramic functionality of my camera, but I haven't figured out how to post them that way. Please use your imagination:)

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lazy Sunday

Someone emailed me requesting information about the classes I'm taking, and other school info.
Until Wednesday, which is Orientation, I have no idea!
In fact, a lot of my life here is hinging on Wednesday - I can't really start looking for a flat or a job until I have the school fundamentals put in place, or at least the beginnings of it.
So for now, as I've told my folks on the phone this morning, I'm pretty much in limbo. As all my fellow New Yorkers know, that's a really weird place to be.
It's hard to find and/or build a community of my own until I know my schedule, and that ain't happening until Wednesday at the earliest.
So until then, I'm learning my way around Wellington and the Hutt. Today (if the rain stops) I'm hoping to do some walking around this area. Yesterday, Aunt Jane drove me around the various neighborhoods of Wellington: Oriental Bay, Lyall Bay, Island Bay, other bays. There's even a Brooklyn here, and it looks like a lovely - and hilly - place to live.
We went up to the Wind Turbine, which is atop some pretty impressive hills, and I was able to take some gorgeous panoramic shots of Wellington as a whole. Again, my apologies for the delay in posting photos. They'll come when I can set up the internet on my laptop, and that too is part of my "Wednesday" mantra.
Hope you're all well. I'm missing you like crazy.
I'm a little bit lonely (and a little bit rock n' roll), but that's to be expected. :)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Saturday is starting out great

Hello all!
First, let me describe my evening to you: Lauren McGuinness (my lovely babysitter) and I watched my first Kiwi rugby match last night over fish and chips. The Hurricanes (Wellington) were playing the Blues (Auckland) and it was a pretty awesome game. I can see why this country is so rugby mad (of course, even if I didn't, I'd have to lie and say that I did in order not to make any enemies).

Yesterday, my second full day here, I was able to find my way into Wellington proper. The McGuinnesses (I'll have to go into more detail about them later, as they deserve their own blog. Thanks Tracey!) live in an area called Lower Hutt and you take the train (or bus) into Wellington if you don't have a car. I know, coming from New York, the train system here doesn't compare, but never having ridden it before, being able to get into town on my own felt like quite an accomplishment.
Highlight of the train ride: about 7 minutes into the 20 minute ride, the trees drop away and if you look out the left side of the train, all you see is water, sky, and a few islands off the coast. I'm going to try to take a photo to really give you an idea.
One thing you'll have to do if you visit me in Wellington is ride the cable car. Truly impressive and fun. I took it up to Salamanca Road, then got off to walk up to the Kelburn campus, which is one of the three Victoria University campuses, and where most of my classes will be.
Wellington itself, or what I've seen of it so far, is nothing like what I expected, although no one led me astray in their descriptions. It's beautiful and hilly and has a very distinct personality. My least favorite part is the City Center, but that's only because the last thing I want to see right now is a city. I'm sure once I've been here a bit longer I'll appreciate it a whole bunch more.
Now because I've been staying with them and they've been so wonderful to me, here's a little about the McGuinnesses:
They are close relatives of my friend Tracey Bradley, whose acquaintace I made thanks to our NZ connection and who has become a very cherished friend. Any transition I make into life here is all thanks to her.
The McGuinnesses are made up of Jenny, "Uncle" John, Lauren, and Reece. John and Jenny have taken Reece down to University in the South Island this weekend, so Lauren and I have been holding down the fort till Jenny gets back on Sunday.
Then there are the various aunts, nephews, sons, brothers and spouses that make up the rest of the McGuinness clan. I've only met a few of them so far, but their warmth is definitely a common McGuinness trait.
Today, Aunt Jane is taking me into Wellington to explore some more. I'm hoping to do more of the touristy things to help me get more acquainted. Most notably, Te Papa museum, which is celebrating its birthday today and will have all kinds of things going on to celebrate.
I'll take photos, but you'll have to wait until I can hook my laptop up to an internet connection before I can post them.

That's it for now. Beautiful blue skies outside. I'm a little parched - perhaps I need some more water from the tap...


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Kia Ora

I made it! I'm fine!
Am working on dial-up so this need to be brief. Will write more soon with a better connection.
The flights were cool (James Brown was on my flight from Seoul to Auckland!), the McGuinnesses are amazing, and I''m drinking water straight from the tap.
More to follow...

Friday, February 03, 2006


It's my last night in New York for a while. Somehow, I managed to complete most of my packing and it's still a decent hour.
My father opened up a bottle of really good wine (he asked if this was a "special occasion"... knowing full well the answer) ...
and now I am sitting in my room, staring back and forth between the bags that will travel with me and all the stuff I'm leaving behind. Which is a lot. Which is the point. :)
I've gotten some really really wonderful, sweet, loving phone calls today wishing me a safe trip and telling me how much I'm loved, and I am really feeling it. Thank you guys so much.
I try, as we all must do, to live my life doing the right thing. For the first time, I've adjusted it to doing the right thing for myself. And it's friggin scary...kinda like the scary of jumping out of an airplane at 13,500 feet. I think (hope) that the adjustment is going to be the most painful part; but once my mind and body do adjust, it will start to come naturally.
Thanks for all your well-wishes, your support, and your eff-ing enthusiasm!
The next time you hear from me, I'll be on foreign soil and will hopefully have lots to say.
Love you,
and oh yeah, guess who I saw last night...


The day before tomorrow

I'm hopeless. I leave tomorrow and I still haven't packed. It's amazing how far denial and procrastination will get you.
I'm using the gift of a 90-minute massage from my mother this morning, and am hoping it doesn't wipe me out for the rest of the day. Somehow I've got to get my act together.
Last night Mike and I went to dinner, met some of his friends at a cigar bar (blech. never again!) and then came home. I'm very very sad to leave him. Hopefully I'll have my packing done by tonight so he can come over and we can try again to say goodbye. Last night was spent mostly just trying to wrap our heads around the whole idea.
I still have to post photos from the goodbye party, which was a wonderful wonderful night. I might try to do that on a break from packing.
It's amazing how much of a hard time I'm having with all of this. I've been excited for so long, and I never expected the depths of emotions coming up at the thought of goodbye.