A Travellerspoint blog

pink city

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

it's breast cancer awareness month. they've lit up the skytower for the occasion:


(i didn't take that picture, by the way.)

the other night on the way to parnell, kirstin and i encountered hordes of pink-clad people. most of them, actually, were dressed as pink fairies. we witnessed one catch her wing on a street lamp. we'd forgotten about bca month, so we asked a pack of fairies (flock of fairies? gaggle of fairies? ring of fairies?) what they were doing. some bca 5k walk in the domain.

we passed through the domain. floodlights all gelled pink. fairies flitting to and fro. costume contest. a pink inflatable arch. pink fireworks. we lugged our case of steinlager and i wished i was doing something. my aunt just found out she has breast cancer. i sent her a card today. it seems weak, like watery tea. they caught it early, so fingers crossed, she'll be ok.

Posted by ctamler 19:20 Archived in New Zealand Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (1)

by special request

dedicated to charles franklin, who complained

all seasons in one day
View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

things have been slow on the travel front since mid-semester break, thanks to school, but the weather's improving and people's moods (mine included) with it, which has made auckland a more pleasant place to be. last weekend cody, kirstin and i did make a trip to ruapehu for skiing and boarding, but unfortunately, the weather wasn't in a friendly mood. saturday we had to quit after lunch because we could no longer see, and sunday the pouring rain meant all the lifts were closed. we had a good time at the uasc ski lodge with other uni students, though, and learned some excellent new circle of death rules, including:

1. boxhead.
2. the game card.
3. the forehead-on-the-table-if-you-swear rule.
4. paddling.
5. a modification of "four floor."

additionally, there was a game involving dice and cups which was also choice.

my lingering illness has made the last week and a half not quite as excellent as it's had the potential to be, but i think i am finally kicking it in the proverbial balls.

the weekend prior to the ski trip (i'm jumping all over the place here, and you will just have to deal with it), i went to work with prayas, an indian theatre group, in mt. albert. i'd seen them perform in an original production jointly created with another local group, called our street, a few weeks ago; again, had the experience that i was learning far more about local culture and issues in that hour and a half of theatre than in almost all the rest of my time here put together. the piece was set on a particular street that most of the people in the cast live on or are very familiar with, and there were a lot of projections showing the street, characters based on people who live on the street, and so on. the big, boisterous audience clearly had a large contingent of non-regular theatregoers, family and friends of the big, boisterous cast, and it was absolutely charming to watch them get excited to recognize themselves and the place they call home up on the stage.

i sent one of the organizers an email afterwards, not expecting anything to come from it, but nearly a month after the show i got a call from sudeepta, prayas' secretary, asking if i wanted to come in and volunteer with them. so, that was my sunday september 28: five hours with prayas.


they are writing a new play, based on stories from a book by an indian man who moved to canada, to which they are adding their own experiences as immigrants to new zealand. this was their first meeting to start to collect some of those stories, and though it was more sparsely attended than they'd hoped, the stories were fascinating to listen to. makes you want to visit india -- someplace noisy, dirty, friendly; someplace full of family, where you squeeze twelve people into a tiny toyota and drive down the street blasting your horn. where the food and the smells and sounds are strong, rich, and bright. the antithesis of empty little new zealand: huge, jam-packed india, with a sour note of social and gender discrimination, beamed on by bollywood's shimmery lipsticked mouth. these people are homesick for india in a way that can never be cured, because they themselves will tell you that they can never really go back -- only as a visitor. and you feel their homesickness and even begin to internalize it, make it your own, want to share in it.

or maybe it is just how much i miss pittsburgh peeking through.

for the last two hours of the workshop, auckland playback theatre came in and performed. cool to see, because i've never gotten to experience playback in action before. i left with an invitation to come back to the next meeting (tomorrow), the suggestion that i might be able to help them with the writing of the play before i leave, and the promise that the next meeting would have many more people with "lots of interesting boys" (mainly a comment on how female-dominated the group was on the 28th).

other than that, my life's been mostly about german, writing essays, and trying to plan a trip back to the south island. by the bye, i discovered this wonderful website that's enabled kirstin, zack and i to grab a free car for a week to drive around the south island and back to auckland. it seems like it's legit. i'll report back on that once the trip's successfully over (scheduled for november 4-12).

oh, and last night, we had our farewell ies meeting and dinner. gael warned us all about reverse culture shock and showed us some pictures of our first days here. i'm not worried about reverse culture shock (which i am now choosing to hip-ly abbreviate "rcs"). i've been places much more unlike the states (mongolia, anyone?) and didn't experience it. in fact i don't think i've experienced regular culture shock here, either. i think you have to just expect the culture to be different, and then there's no real "shock" to have. i'm more concerned about what everyone's lives have become, how i fit back into that six and a half months later. many friends have been great about keeping in touch. but even with the ones who're good, i've missed more than half a year of day to day experiences, and that is the kind of thing you can't remedy, should it be something that seems to need remedy.

it's almost time for life in pittsburgh to end for me, anyway, so maybe it's fine if i don't really fit back in to things easily. maybe it will make me more ready to leave at the end of next summer. it's not a good thing to feel too settled.

dinner was incredible: denise and i split appetizer (or entrée, in weird nz terms) and dessert, which meant crumbed mushrooms and pavlova, a very nz dessert and delicious, made of egg white on top of cream -- a melt-in-your-mouth meringue. for my main i had kumara gnocchi, which was basically one of the best things i've ever eaten.

afterwards i let denise, charlie, dbo and laurie take my ih virginity with a game of mafia (including a pile of other ih people). then a night that looked like it might be going to fizzle disappointingly ended up panning out: we actually made it to a sake bar just off of customs, where we broke five glasses doing makeshift sake bombs. hilarious. the first couple of rounds we tried to do them the "real" way, by laying chopsticks over the beer glasses and balancing the sake shots on them, then chanting and banging the table to make the sake shots fall in (which is how the glasses kept breaking). this didn't work particularly well as the sake shots kept falling in of their own accord, before we were ready, and you would have to chug the thing without sufficient mental preparation. this was, i repeat, hilarious.

it was a good night that ended up with us laughing our asses off at this video, still one of my all-time favorites:

in dbo's room; i passed out on his bed and later was transferred to brian's extra bed. so i didn't go to german this morning, following my usual trend of not skipping classes until the final weeks of a given semester, and then skipping. a lot.

i'll bring it all back home with a quote from last night: this is what happens when you say you're going to lick a butt and you don't lick a butt.

Posted by ctamler 20:31 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

glaciers don't fuck around

and neither do we

all seasons in one day
View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

second half of mid-semester break also a resounding success. kirstin, cody, zack, rajan and i left for queenstown, the adventure capital of the world located on the south island, on sunday morning. for me, kirstin, and zack the transition was abrupt, to say the least: from tropical paradise to christmastown in about 24 hours.

queenstown is tiny and beautiful, sparkling its lights prettily around the edge of a clear deep lake flanked by mountains. the mountains are snowy and on a lovely day thick white clouds wrap their peaks in down. we skipped rocks on the lake, went for a brief walk at twilight, and settled in to our hostel (bumbles, which i emphatically recommend to anyone traveling that way) for an early night.

this was necessary. we woke at 3:30am monday to leave thirty minutes later for the franz josef glacier, nearly a five-hour drive away. our full-day tour in the pouring rain was well worth the drive, wet, and cold. a thick frozen tsunami shouldering its way between two mountains, the franz josef puts the gobi glacier to shame. we wore spikes on our boots and tightened our hoods round our ears. aj, our guide, swung rhythmically at the ice with his pick, slicing shallow steps into uncharted glacier territory. we slid through ice caves and scaled ice stairs. the glacier has all the geographical features of a mountain, down to mountain streams and valleys, and so it's kind of like someone carved a mountain out of hard blue ice. finding your way back down and out is like trying to escape a maze by following every corridor to its end.

kirstin navigates the maze:


near the glacier guides office were the best public toilets i've ever encountered. they opened and locked automatically, informed you via voiceover how much time you had left to pee, dispensed soap/water/hand-drying air automatically, and played an instrumental "what the world needs now" as background. warm, clean, and metallically inviting, i also recommend them to anyone traveling that way.

ten hours of driving, seven-plus of glacier hiking...we collapsed into bed as soon as we got back.

we opted for a half-day at coronet peak on tuesday, which ended up working quite well for me, as i was worn out by 4pm completely. i haven't skied in about five years, and though it didn't take me as long as i'd feared to get my legs back (what little legs i had to begin with, that is), it still took me until the end of the day, by which point i was so wet and exhausted from falling and hauling myself back to my feet that i couldn't have kept going even if we'd had more time. the weather was bad too, awful visibility and snow thickly and wetly falling (THICK and WET: the words of the week), and one of the lifts was closed. zack is normally a skier but decided to board like kirstin and cody, which meant i wasn't the only beginner for the day, so i didn't feel that i was holding everyone up as much as i might have otherwise.

we rewarded ourselves with mexican food that night and an episode or two of "are you afraid of the dark?"

kirstin, zack, and cody did the nevis bungy jump the next morning; i slept in and finished enduring love. yes, lame, but delicious too. it was a beautiful warm day, gentle sun, clear skies. we returned to coronet for another glorious half day, by far the trip's best. the snow was largely slush, but the view was so incredible that it didn't matter. once i worked past my initial soreness i felt more confident by leaps, and what an atmosphere to take a spill to, at worst: the snowed curves of mountain cut by sleek gray rock, and beyond cloudy borders the shock of green, sheep-dotted, where small bright houses took root and lakes shyly mirrored sky. we'd all stop every few minutes to unzip our jackets for a bit of air, lift our sunglasses, and let queenstown wash our eyes.

yesterday was wednesday's opposite, surly and willful, raining in town and up at the remarkables snowing steadily through the dark cloud that cloaked the ski park and washed all our vision to white. really, you just couldn't see. the nice fresh powder alternated all too frequently with chunks of ice, and the trails were either beyond basic or quite-to-extremely challenging. cody and kirstin had a great time, but zack and i were struggling. with better visibility it would have been greatly improved. by the end of the day i was having more fun because i'd decided to try some jumps, and took a few runs where i'd hit them with increasing bravado. got a little air once or twice though i was without question a big wimp still. but i made a start and that's what counts.

point being, i loved skiing again. friends at home take heed, you are being dragged to seven springs this winter and you are going to learn to ski whether you like it or not.

today, of course, was another beauty, but we got on our qantas flight like good little kids and back at the auckland airport waited for hours while zack chewed out air new zealand for losing his wallet. kirstin and i amused ourselves by tossing coins. it was a nice excuse to keep from going back to wellesley and facing the prospect of returning to uni on monday. not a cheery one after such a spectacular break.

Posted by ctamler 06:01 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

da cooks

our rarotongan adventures

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

just got back from rarotonga, one of the islands in the group that makes up the cook islands, somewhere between here (auckland) and hawaii. it's our spring break from uni and this is the ies semester-break field trip. we spent six days there and did a lot of stuff, so i'll have to stick to the highlights, but overall, it was awesome.

my favorite adventures:

1. biking around the island. i think it's about 32km in circumference, and quite flat, so not a bad ride; but the day was unbelievably blustery, and about half the group turned around before we got halfway. the rest of us trooped it out, though. there were about 15 minutes when i thought i wouldn't be able to make it: pedaling right into winds of near-cyclone proportions (that's what we found out later! not exaggeration), you literally feel like you're going nowhere. but it was absolutely worth it, especially since we could hop off any time we needed a break and run down to the beach a few meters away for a dip or a coconut.

2. the cross-island hike with pa, our bleach-dreaded tour guide who always referred to himself in the third person. a pathological liar (or a compulsive storyteller), but a good guide. he took us up and over rarotonga, including to the base of the needle, the huge rock somewhere in the center-ish of the island:


it was quite steep a lot of the way, with twisted tree roots forming natural ladders to clamber on. old, old trees with folds in the trunk like cardboard slabs. curled ferns. a clear stream you could drink from. trees with trunks and branches that curved around in slender parabolae, creating a three-dimensional web. beautiful, strenuous, exhilarating.

3. boggle. zack, kirstin, dan b., and others, we played a lot of boggle. it's a rediscovered addiction.

4. the stars. on the few clear nights, they were breathtaking.

Posted by ctamler 17:05 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

crosswalk olympians

street theatre's easier than you think


when i learned that the drama paper i'd enrolled in this semester at uni auckland was going to include a street theatre project, i was apprehensive. and our haphazard, short rehearsal process did little to calm my fears -- although i usually left rehearsals strangely exhilarated, even a little excited.

and then we performed them.

the first piece happened in the quad. the group, decked out in lab coats, cleared a grassy section, expelling a pair of students eating lunch at a picnic table. they moved the tables, staked out the area, and threaded the stakes with caution tape. after they hung a sign that read "PIGEON ERADICATION IN PROGRESS" they proceeded to spray the area thoroughly with liquid from a container clearly marked corrosive. they took notes and samples, and sprinkled bait (bread crumbs from a bag) on the ground. when some pigeons actually appeared, they lured them closer with bait and sprayed them with their corrosive liquid.

a man looking on: "what the fuck did those pigeons ever do to those fucking nerds?" pause. "that's what's wrong with this fucking country."

then one of the scientists began to act odd. he tried to peck up bits of bait. he tried to flap his wings. the other scientists' eyes widened in terror. he came at them. they flurried and fled, scattering through the quad. a bit animal farm at the end of it.

i missed the second piece while helping the pigeon eradicators clean up, but it had something to do with a cult.

the third piece took place in albert park. we sat on benches around the empty fountain. a woman in a tall wig (think marge simpson hair, only neon pink) led a troupe of four girls in flowered bathing caps and striped suits down the path. they halted at her whistle and she placed her giant yellow bag on a bench, producing a boombox that she placed on the edge of the fountain. some fifties era music played from it. the girls got into formation and dove into the fountain. there, dead serious and supremely committed, they executed a synchronized swimming routine that lasted for a good five minutes. when they climbed out, their pink-haired coach gave them each towels. (remember the fountain was empty.)

my group was last. we headed down to the queen street crossing in front of the whitcoulls -- it's a big, crowded crossing with animated walk/don't walk signs that feature loud beeping and strolling green or frozen red men. our three athletes, representing france, nigeria, and new zealand, stripped off their track suits to reveal their spandex unitards and numbers while rebecca (the olympic official) and i (the coach) set the props. kayleigh looked particularly stellar in a hot pink unitard over a fatsuit.

when we were prepped, we waited for a crossing light while the olympians continued to warm up. at the light, rebecca and i ran out into the crossing, a ribbon stretched between us: diagonal crossing first. rebecca blew her whistle to start the race and the three athletes sprinted through the ribbon.

from the next corner we had a relay race, the next slow-motion, the next a hurdles race (involving crates!) and the last, an egg-and-spoon race. the fat olympian dropped her egg.

our medal ceremony was last, and i think a picture will speak louder than words:


i'm off camera, throwing the confetti.

and verdict? it was awesome. so much fun. it makes me want to do street theatre all of the time. we got countless stares. some guy stopped us to take our picture. we were being cheered on from various corners. we also had a donut thrown at nigeria and we got called fags and fairies, but that's part of the fun, too.

Posted by ctamler 23:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged events Comments (0)

new zealand slang

i'm beached as, bro

overcast 16 °C

for anyone who is curious about what new zealanders sound like, and to hear a bit of nz slang:

i guess you could also watch flight of the conchords...but that would take effort eh?

Posted by ctamler 15:27 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

putting down roots in aotearoa

rain 12 °C

last sunday, sarah and i volunteered to plant trees on motutapu, a relatively old island connected to the relatively young island of rangitoto (the volcanic one we'd visited weeks before). motutapu used to be a thickly forested island, but the maori deserted it when rangitoto started to appear out of the ocean about 600 years ago, and (more recently) the europeans burnt down the forest to make farmland. only a few ancient trees survived.

now there is a major reforestation project on the island. they hold the current guinness record for most trees planted in one session -- i forget the exact figure, but it's over 5,000, planted by 200-some volunteers. our group, about a quarter of the size, dampened by hours of rain, managed only about 1,200 -- pretty decent, still, i'd have to say.

one group (sarah and me included) went planting in the morning, when the rain was heaviest. we braved it for a couple of hours, taking turns digging and planting the tiny seedlings and a sapling or two. one thing about kiwis, they're used to being shat on by weather with how variable it always is here. so they were staunchly cheerful in the face of the steady wet and cold, and jollily cautioned everyone not to get hypothermia (they were being serious, of course).

we headed down to the shed for lunch, looking a bit like this:


...and while the afternoon group went out to plant, we got a treat: in better conditions we'd all have planted all day, but because of the rain we got to dry off a bit and then keep warm with a hike. i didn't bring my camera, but soon regretted it. we got to see what the fruits of our efforts will look like not long from now. a grove planted five years ago boasted trees taller than me; a grove planted ten or fifteen years past was really beginning to look like a forest.

where we emerged, a road divided the replanted chunk from an unplanted one, and we saw the stark contrast, the empty and sterile farmland dotted by mournful and curious cattle, and the thick, drooping leaves of trees and ferns, birdsong, life renewing itself.

they use seeds from within a 100-meter radius only, and this summer are carrying out a massive pest destruction project to rid the island of its feral cats and stoats and porcupines and so on, so that they can introduce native birds when it's clean.

we were fucking cold and wet by the time the ferry came to take us home. but the end-of-the-day sizzle was hot, the company good, and libby, gael's friend, gave us some fudge cake. and we left some trees for new zealand to remember us by.

Posted by ctamler 23:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

rotorua, taupo, hell's gate, left-sided driving

adventures in adventuring

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

i am a thrill-seeker now, if you didn't know. i jumped out of an airplane last weekend (which was incredible)


-- and, what is probably more dangerous, i drove. probably for a total of 6 hours or so...now before you scoff please take a moment to remember that in this country they drive on the left side of the road. driving here is like learning to drive all over again -- especially because the controls are on opposite sides too...turn signal on the RIGHT. it's practically inconceivable. it's a damn good thing they don't switch gas and brakes (the only thing they don't switch...), otherwise accidents would definitely occur.

anyway, i was a rockstar, although every time i made a turn i had to keep telling myself "think left think left think left."

the left-side-driving thing has another interesting effect: people walk on the lefthand side of the sidewalk/other walkways here. so i am always running into people. but of course, the few times i remember to stay to the left as a walker, i inevitably come across other people who are for some reason staying to the right -- rebels? americans? idiots? who knows. walking here is hard.

my friend thomas fell into a river over the weekend when we were in rotorua. another friend zach jumped across it, and thomas wanted to do it too, but he jumped short of the bank by about a foot and fell in instead. it made me think of christina because my first reaction was to laugh hysterically at him as i'm sure she would have done too. let's face it, it was hilarious.

i saw a live kiwi bird for the first time, and one thing you should know about kiwis is they are much bigger than you think they will be from pictures. like the size of small dogs.

thomas, kirstin, zach, fabian and i went to hell's gate: a geothermal reserve near rotorua.


it takes its name from one of its thermal pools, christened by george bernard shaw, who named a lot of the other things there too. like "the infants," a spread of bubbling pools that reminded him of children at play. or "sodom and gomorra." at the end we got to carve little plaques. i love free souvenirs.

Posted by ctamler 15:26 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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)

(Entries 28 - 36 of 43) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 »