Tag Archives: otago

Liquid Sunshine

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Otago Clocktower

Otago Clocktower

My first few days in Dunedin have been extremely pleasant; I’ve been living in a flat that is cozy in nearly every way without actually being warm. The outside is quaint, each bedroom is charming, and the living area is…Well, the living area looked like a 1970’s office space until my flatmates and I took it upon ourselves to do some rearranging. When we arrived, the kitchen table was up against one wall, right beneath a large bulletin board with a series of flyers on how to conserve energy and what to do with our rubbish. An oversized calendar, a wall clock, a microwave, and a jubilee of pens all succeeded in making the space look like an old-fashioned corporate break room.

In a matter of minutes, we relocated many of the informational flyers and the clock, moved the microwave off of the kitchen table, and scooted the kitchen table away from the wall. In an attempt to spruce the place up, my flatmates and I posted a series of memorable quotations on the cork board that had already been uttered by one of us in the past week. Given the time it took us to revamp the kitchen and accumulate odd inside jokes, we expect that our flat will grow to be more homey as the days go by.

Meanwhile, I am hopeful that I will grow more accustomed to the cold the longer I live here. Walking down the streets of Dunedin, I’ve seen women in dresses, runners in shorts, and several people in T-shirts. I’m still routinely losing feeling in my extremities and wishing that a fleece onesie will magically appear in my room. I’m certainly not the only one; I think my laptop may also be wishing for a fleece jacket or a trip to Hawaii right about now. My third night here, my computer felt like a block of ice and refused to hold any charge. Thinking it was on the verge of collapsing, I rushed it to the library and prayed that some heat might revive it. The jolt of warmth seems to have set it right, but I have taken to tucking it into my bed when it’s not in use.

As for the New Zealanders, their warm personalities seem to counteract the cold weather. Coming back from the library the other day, I turned a corner just in time to watch an adorable three-year-old who was walking with his father trip over an orange cone which marked a construction zone. I immediately froze; I could see that tears were about to come to his eyes, and I was worried he’d gotten scraped up by his spill. But before so much as a wail from the child, another man walking in front of me scooped the little tike off the ground and placed him into his father’s arms. What shocked me wasn’t just that it took under three seconds for this whole event to take place, but that there was no look of “Who is this man picking up my child?” on the father’s face. There was virtually no other exchange between the two men; one smiled his thanks while the other hurried on his way. Perhaps the little boy was just as stunned as I was, because the teary-eyed look had vanished as soon as he’d found he was no longer lying facedown on the ground, but rather was being hugged tight in his father’s arms.

Inspired by this display of kindness, I asked a woman walking a few paces in front of me if she needed help carrying two bicycle wheels. She gave me an odd look and shook her head “No” and I realized that maybe they weren’t all that heavy, and instead of being a nice gesture it looked like I was trying to steal one off of her.

As I wondered why anyone would steal a single bicycle wheel without a tire on it, it started to rain. In a few short moments (as is customary in Dunedin) the sky was completely overrun by clouds. While I watched giant droplets slide off the hood of my rain jacket, I couldn’t help but smile as I thought back to another drizzly afternoon a few days earlier. I had just been about to leave the post office when I remarked to my friends how the rain had come back full force since we had ducked inside. A man who had just walked through the doors quickly corrected me, saying “It never rains in Dunedin! There’s only liquid sunshine!” So, while I probably won’t offer to carry anyone’s bike wheels for a while, I can certainly strive to embrace the type of Kiwi attitude that is capable of turning storms into sunshine.

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Fear

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When people hear that I’m studying abroad in New Zealand, they tend to ask a lot of questions. The first usually being “Why?” (Except from Lord of the Rings fans, who unswervingly offer their approval of my venture). For the sake of those who do not know what it’s like to binge watch 12 plus hours of hobbits marching through majestic mountain scenery or have Frodo’s face tattooed to their arm, I will tell you why I chose New Zealand.

It all began when I was five, when I dreamed of traveling to Australia. As some of you may know, Steve Irwin was one of my childhood heroes, and I never quite outgrew the desire to go to there and wrestle crocodiles, or at least meet people who did. I wanted to be out in the wild, and spend my time snuggling with koalas and kicking it with kangaroos. But as I began to look into Australia as a study abroad destination, I started to discover that less Australians wrestle crocodiles than one might expect, and that the country housed a plethora of large cities and poisonous animals (something Irwin should have prepared me for), both of which would limit my access to the outdoors. By the time my study abroad adviser told me that I was really looking for New Zealand and had laid out the study abroad pamphlet in front of me, I was sold (it didn’t hurt that I had also found out that koalas have an extremely high rate of chlamydia). With it’s unparalleled beauty and it’s unrivaled access to the outdoors, New Zealand quickly jumped over my previous study abroad considerations like Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.

It’s also not entirely uncommon when you mention New Zealand to hear stories about past vacations and business trips, and uncle’s friend’s sister-in-law’s flightless bird’s visit to Wellington. I’ve heard stories of dangerous roads with the most beautiful views, and tales of miracle men magically parachuting from the sky to save stranded drivers, and once, I was taken to a kind woman’s house to be shown a magnificent painting of a young Maori man. Most of the time, I love and appreciate the stories that people share with me. They make me feel like I’m not going to fall off the globe without a trace if I take a 20 hour flight across the world, and they confirm that I’ve chosen a good place on the map to live for five months.

But as I begin my trip, I think that what holds the most relevance for me is something that came up during a conversation with my neighbor just before I left. We were standing in my backyard, surrounded by the organized chaos of my younger brother’s high school graduation party, when she asked “Are you scared?” For a brief moment, I felt shocked, and then I felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for her question. I’d spent countless hours talking with what felt like hundreds of people about my trip, and I’d been asked what felt like hundreds of times if I was excited to go, but no one had ever asked me if I was scared. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what I felt. In that moment, I felt shell shocked, caught somewhere between consciously knowing I was leaving and utterly incapable of accessing the emotions that go along with that realization.

I supposed that maybe once I stepped foot on the plane that would take me from San Francisco to New Zealand, leaving my parents behind to enjoy another day in the city, I might be utterly terrified. Maybe I wouldn’t be scared until I arrived at the airport on the other side of the world, or once I made it to my flat, or once orientation began. Although I wasn’t certain when that moment (most likely, moments) of fright would hit me square on, I knew that it would happen. And I appreciated that my neighbor understood that being frightened of an experience and valuing it were not mutually exclusive: “I was nervous to go to Spain when I studied abroad, but I think it’s good to be scared. If you’re not scared, then you’re not out of your comfort zone, and then you’re not really gaining anything from the experience.”

It’s these words that I will carry with me as I set off for New Zealand. Instead of being ashamed of whatever fear I may recognize in myself as I move forward towards this adventure, I will embrace it. It is only when we embrace our fear that we turn it into a tool capable of helping us grow. If we are ashamed of our fear, we either push it down or let it push us down, and either way we are limited and consumed by it. When we embrace our fear, exciting doors we never knew existed are opened, and the colors appear brighter and more beautiful than they ever did when we were merely comfortable and secure.

As I prepare to hop on the plane tonight, and any denial that protected me from my nervousness has started to melt away, I realize that I am starting to feel afraid. When I realize this, all I can think is, “Well, I must be doing something right.”

 


 

 

Exactly three weeks ago, I published this post on my travel blog, The Wonderful World of the Wanderer. 21 days in Dunedin has proven my theory: I really must have done something right.