Search Chasing Jessie

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This is just the beginning!

My first weekend in New Zealand I found myself with a rental car cruising the North Island. You have already had the pleasure of reading the many farces and many first (unnatural) moments of left-side driving (PS- The steering wheel is on the right side too...) with curbs hopped and windshield wipers turned on every 5 minutes. Silly, exhausting, and SO well worth it.

View from on the trailor
Friday morning I drove like lightning from Wellington to Cape Kidnappers (rental car company “forgot” to pick me up Friday morning!) to see the world’s largest gannet colony (it is a bird, by the way). I arrived just in the nick of time to catch my tractor trailor coastal tour along the South Pacific. An hour and a half tractor and trailor pull down the Cape Kidnappers coastline yielded a several “get out and walk” moments to lighten the load as we got massively stuck between rocks and sand (and birdshit). I'd like to think this was the fault of the drivers, and not the overindulgence of any passengers...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Stay Left, Look Right

Here is the summary of my first 3-day driving adventure on the opposite side of the road:

(Number of times…)

2: Honked at and/or flipped off for driving slow in the fast lane. They are switched.
3: Turned into the wrong lane. Obviously switched.
3: Curbs hopped. Oops!
4: Attempts to get in on the passenger side of the car to drive.
25 or more: Turned on the windshield wipers instead of the blinker. Switched too.
Every single time: Reached with left hand to put on seat belt. Came up empty every time.

I don’t know how many of you have had this joyous experience, but it is one that leaves you very uncertain at all turns. And there is always the extremely menacing feeling of a car traveling directly at you in your lane, but it is actually in the correct “right” lane. Oh man.

Now I just look left and right at least 5 times before turning or even crossing...

Picture below was written on the blackboard by the program director to the students (and staff!) for their first weekend away. By the end of the day it had been partially erased, resulting in my (mock) motto for the Pacific!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Book of Kiwi

And so I have begun my trip to the other side of the world in the wonderful South Pacific!

There is a saying amongst New Zealanders of their country: “God’s own.” It only took me about one week before I was sure of my thoughts on that reference: Yep, I agree. My first thoughts upon stepping off the plane in Wellington were (after thinking I would need about 5 more coffees to make it through the time difference…), “Oh man, pinch me again!” I have stopped pinching myself and have fully settled in to the luscious surroundings and relaxed culture. I am getting used to this in a hurry.

New Zealand is a small country made up of 2 islands, which they have skillfully named the North Island and South Island. I am living in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, located at the southern tip of the North Island. Wellington has a very special climate in the world; it is pretty much the first city that interferes with the winds blowing off from the Antarctic. Yes. Special indeed. And chilly, particularly by the summer season!

No worries, I have managed a weekend trip or two in shorts and tank tops, reappearing with pink cheeks!  Summertime in the southern hemisphere – this is awesome.

All of my previous moves overseas have involved foreign languages, so this English-speaking land is a delight. One small snag though… I have this association of “foreign country = foreign language,” which in the past has predominantly been French. To my delight I find I am transcribing my thoughts and phrases into French. Every time someone answers a phone, I expect to hear, “Bonjour!,” and I read and french pronounce random words to myself. HA! Not so much… However, there is a strong presence of the founding tribes of New Zealand, the Maori, and the culture is strong and present here, not stifled as in so many lands, including the US. I am learning much more than just the European-based Kiwi society.

Lake Hawea
My work here is much busier than I had predicted, but I do have 3-day weekends. every. single. weekend. hot damn! Basically I put in ~45 hours per week in 4 days, then take off for 3 days and leave it all behind, exploring all the nooks and crannies of NZ by foot, boat, car, ferry… Right now it is a busy and lovely way to live!
Lake Matheson and Mount Cook
I have more pictures for you all than I can organize currently, but expect wildlife and beautiful scenery soon!
A short “PS” to thank all of those that helped me move out of Atlanta, which was a huge feat: Mom, Rob S, Mike R, Bruno F, Michael McD. I could not have done it without you guys, mentally or physically.