A Travellerspoint blog

July 2008

massive storms &c.

frightful weather we're having

storm 10 °C
View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

it's suddenly very cold here, and apparently we are about to get the worst storm in 10 years. i went to this international barbeque thing anyway today, where we saw them shear a sheep or two...too bad i forgot my camera...anyway, we just got back and there's intense wind outside so i'm hiding out in the library for a little bit hoping it will clear up enough for me to walk home without breaking my umbrella. also, it's warm here, and it's not all that warm in our apartment. and i haven't got internet there. i think i'll be able to make do with just the internet on campus and it'll save me about $100 overall if i can...

alan lightman is coming here. he's going to be giving a lecture as part of a science-humanities symposium they're doing in october, and is also supposed to deliver one lecture in the literature and science class i'm taking.

we saw romeo and juliet the ballet version the other night (both of my roommates are dance/psych majors). it was good, although it was also three hours long. that's a lot of ballet. i went to see another play on my own last night -- still nobody wants to come see plays with me. it was pretty cool, it was created and performed by a group of 11 girls aged 16-22 with a company called MASSIVE that did the same thing with a group of boys not too long ago. singing, dancing, stories from their diaries about growing up in auckland. this is a very multicultural city and the show highlighted that -- a vietnamese girl born in hong kong grown in auckland, a half-chinese girl, a samoan, maori, kiwis (white new zealanders), etc. i actually had emailed the company a little while ago telling them i'm interested in this sort of thing and asking if they had any opportunities for me to work with them, and i'll be meeting with one of the artistic directors (or something) sometime soon. so that might turn into something cool. i hope so, because there isn't really a student theatre scene at the university to speak of, not much, but there's a lot of culture and a lot of new theatre happening in auckland. i hope i can get involved in some of it.

Posted by ctamler 20:23 Archived in New Zealand Tagged events Comments (0)

rain on rangitoto

all seasons in one day
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i climbed a volcano today and it was flipping sweet. actually, here, they say "sweet as." originally i thought they were saying sweet ass but it was actually the option that makes even less sense.

you take a ferry to rangitoto, which is the most recent volcanic island here, formed about 600 years ago. and you hike up to the crater, which is absolutely huge, and not bare like i expected it to be but full of vegetation and just impossible to capture the enormity of it on camera. and then up to the summit, a bit past the crater, from whence you can see a far-off view of the auckland skyline, and sailboats, and so forth. it was raining and sunny alternately on the way up -- "alternately" is on a scale here that is totally foreign in the states, the weather changes ridiculously quickly, on the weather channel they don't really forecast only tell you what it's like right now -- but this turned out to be perfect because when we got to the summit the sun came out and there was this giant rainbow over the water and over auckland. gorgeous.

it's also kind of a strange little island, because before wwi, new zealand got nervous that somebody was going to invade, and so they started fortifying. amped it up during the war and during wwii, and rangitoto was one of their main spots, because of the great 360 degree view it's got. submarine nets, minefields, cannon, the lot. and of course nothing ever happened. nobody ever invaded. the remains of some of these things are still there.

it's a relief to be exploring during a non-tourist season. the weather is not bad, especially if you are used to pittsburgh -- it's basically like autumn in pittsburgh, except the weather changes more quickly and is more unpredictable -- and there's so much to explore, so the relatively small number of tourists who are here get spread out all over i guess. europe was so insane with tourists, especially italy. it was so crowded with tourists in italy that it was essentially not really enjoyable -- italy was the least favorite leg of the trip for all of us.

stuff is still really expensive here, though. i've just resigned myself to being painfully in debt to my parents when i get home -- i mean this is despite the fact that the program is almost completely paid for by my chancellor's scholarship/other scholarships. i save as much money as i can by never eating out, getting cheap groceries, not drinking in bars (a pint's usually $6 or $7, mixed drinks can be twice that), washing my clothes in the sink...but everything you do costs money and there is just so much to do here. when am i ever again going to get the chance to see the nz rugby team play the australians? or the royal new zealand ballet perform romeo and juliet? go skydiving in THE place that started it all? see a cave full of glowworms? i have to do it while i'm here. it's not like europe, where it's likely i'll be back many times. nz isn't really close to anyplace else or on the way to anywhere. so this may be it.

Posted by ctamler 15:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

supermarkets and class schedules

rain 14 °C
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one of the first things that i learned when i got to auckland (the driver who picked me up from the airport told me this) is that a lot of german students come to study here. there is apparently some kind of exchange set up between u-of-a and germany where students from either country can attend university in the other country and pay the fees they'd pay at home. this is very attractive for german students, who tend to already have good english anyway. kiwis don't take advantage of it nearly as often because of the language barrier.

well, this bit of information was proved quite accurate when at the international student orientation, the orientation leaders were asking the audience "who here comes from (insert country here)?" american students were easily the largest group, but the number of german students was actually not too much less – especially considering how far behind all of the other groups were.

the upshot is that i have fallen in with a group of german postgrads (a dangerous crowd, i know, but i am trying not to let them have too bad of an influence on me), so the german experience lives on. i am also officially taking a first semester of german here, and now i have guinea pigs, oops, i mean friends, to practice on.

i always find it interesting how much you can tell about a place from its supermarkets. in germany, there tended to be a very small selection of pre-packaged, pre-sliced bread in grocery stores. this is because germans love their fresh bread (and rightly so, it's delicious there). there are bakeries everywhere and every day or two you go to a bakery in the morning to get a fresh loaf or rolls or pretzels. in new zealand, i haven't seen a real bakery yet. in the foodtown supermarket there is a long aisle of pre-packaged, pre-sliced bread...none of it any good, either. two of my german friends here, juli and thomas, were comparing the breads they had made their sandwiches with and were in general quite sad about the bread here.

however, what they do have at foodtown is the largest collection of yogurt that i have ever seen. in containers of all sizes, flavors of all kinds. my yogurt proclaims that "it's the acidophilus and bifidus that keeps your family healthy!" they even have an aisle full of dry yogurt cultures so that you can make yogurt on your own.

of course, there is also a lot of fish here. the other night we made sushi and it was delicious.

on a different subject entirely, we've all spent the last week wrangling our class schedules. most of the other ies students seem to be taking the "easier classes, more time to experience the country" route, and while i considered it for a while, being the school addict that i am i just can't bring myself to do it. i console myself with the notion that an important part of getting to know a country is getting to know its educational system, and one of the main reasons i came here was because i could directly enroll in the university and interact with actual students. plus, my classes are exciting: a class called "literature and science," which couldn't be more appropriate; a history of science class; an upper-level drama class that seems like it'll incorporate theory and performance; and the aforementioned german.

in the course of getting approval for these classes (classes come in 3 stages here, and anything above a stage 1, which all of mine are except for german, you have to get approved for if you're a study abroad student – most of them have prereqs), i've met and talked to a number of professors. they've all been super friendly and helpful. the response i usually get to "can i sign up for this upper level class?" is:

"well, let's see. what year are you?"

"um, this is my fifth year."

"five? is that normal?"

"yeah, no, four is normal, but i have three majors, so it's taking me a little bit longer to finish – "

"three majors? well, i'm pretty sure you'll be able to handle this course."

this is a little scary, because i feel like my prior education is being put to the test a bit here. hopefully it is up to the task. u-of-a is ranked in the top 50 schools internationally...

other fun things that happened in the course of talking to professors: i learned a bit of trivia from one of them, talking about the crazy different point systems that schools have (at pitt, 3 or 4 credits is a normal class; here, 15 points is a normal class, but about equivalent to 4 credits for us, so we take 4 classes here). he said that the reason they do 15 points is that normally, you would take 60 points per semester = 120 points per year = 360 points in 3 years, the normal time here to finish a "degree." it's kind of like a sick joke on the part of the educational head honchos: you need 360 points to finish a degree, like the degrees of a circle.

Posted by ctamler 15:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged educational Comments (0)

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