Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Learning to Love Dunedin

First off, I would like to thank everyone for their care and concern regarding the earthquake that took place in the Christchurch area yesterday.  I am about five driving hours from Christchurch so I am perfectly safe, but I appreciate all of the thoughts that were sent my way.  I was sitting in our living room when I thought I felt the couch vibrating, as if the clothes washer in the next room had gone into overdrive and was now shaking the whole flat’s floor.  My flatmate from California informed me that I had just experienced my first earthquake, and to be honest, I was a little bit excited.  

It wasn’t until hours later when we were visiting the Dunedin Public Library that we realized just how horrible that little vibration had been.  People were crowded closely around a small television set, grimly watching as a teary-eyed reporter tried to shout over the noise from a nearby burning building.  The images showed emergency personnel desperately trying to evacuate those who were trapped inside.

As we stood for a moment of silence at our international orientation meeting this morning, I realized how much of an outsider I was.  This awful event was bringing New Zealanders together from all over the country, and while I can sympathize with the situation and also shed tears over the fallen buildings and lives lost, it’s just not the same.  I wondered if this is how international visitors in the U.S. felt during Hurricane Katrina or even 9/11.  Any human being can understand and participate in the waves of shock and sadness that follow such devastating events - but as a foreigner, there’s still a sense of detachment.  It’s like attending the funeral of a friend of a friend.  You can offer condolences and hugs, but mostly you just stand in the back and watch sadly as those who really knew the deceased mourn and lean on each other for support.

My heart goes out to those affected by the earthquakes of the past six months, and I was glad to learn that the University of Otago will be offering support and relief services to refugees and those on campus who knew someone in the Christchurch area.

On a much lighter note, I have also attached several pictures from my adventures around Dunedin during the past few days.  My flatmates and I have slowly been locating the necessary things - like the grocery and thrift stores.  It’s amazing that I can find just about everything I need within a twenty-minute walking radius - as opposed to the thirty-minute driving radius I have at home.  It’s been a joy learning my way around and I’m glad to get my bearings before the culture shock sets in too heavy :)

[Ducks in the Botanical Gardens - a small reminder of home]

[Fresh strawberries that I found at the Farmer’s Market (YUM) and eggs from the grocery store - which they don’t refrigerate.  Odd]

[Path through the Botanical Gardens which I take to get to the nearest grocery store - sorry for the sideways view]

[Also Botanical Gardens - specifically the rose garden]

[Botanical Gardens]

[The Monkey Bar - officially the first nightclub I’ve ever visited.  Of course it was in a church...]

[My UniFlat on Leith St. which I share with my five flatmates]

[The pretty path I take to campus, just a three minute walk away]

More to come!  Once I get them off of my friend’s camera, that is...


  1. Elly, I am so proud of you, I could just bust! Just know when it gets tough (and you have probably had the toughest go with the earthquake already), there are folks back here that are pulling for you, bursting with pride and some little bit of jealousy for your new experiences.

    Love, your JoeyAnne

  2. I awoke this morning, for the second time after hearing of a two hour delay, to the reporter speaking of the devastating earthquake in NZ. I immediately pulled up the map on your blog to make sure you were far enough from harms way to feel the Earth move, but not have to jump in the tub. The egg carton says '8', is that a brand name or do they sell eggs in cartons of eight there? Congrats on getting your bearings and adjusting so quickly. I never had a doubt.

  3. A hard post to write, I am sure, but I really did appreciate your perspective and honesty. You are getting to see a nation in mourning, which quite often defines its true character. Embrace it, lend a shoulder and an ear, watch how they strive to overcome this tragedy together. As to your photographs, they are wonderful! They really give a great sense of your surroundings and make me long for spring to quickly arrive (just had a snow day, and a two delay to start off the week this week ~ I love the snow, but the cold can go away). My favorite pic was The Monkey Bar, and, yes, the fact that it was a church. This will bring chuckles for much time to come! Loving you, Mom

  4. @Beth: To be honest, I have no idea what the ‘8’ means, but they do sell them in cartons of ten. Also weird.

    @Everyone: Thanks for the support :) It’s been quite the adventure so far - and it just keeps going!

  5. Elly: My son Ben spent six months at Otago U. back in the summer/fall of 2002. He left just a week before the third "Lord of the Rings" movie debuted in Auckland. I enjoyed watching all three movies and knowing that he (and now, YOU) got to see much of the breathtaking scenery that was such a big part of those films.

    Ben had a four- or five-day orientation gig that all the new students went through, and he took several hundred photos to share with us. Unfortunately, after his very first night of sleep in his shared flat, he stepped out of bed and directly onto his iBook that he had left on the floor beside his bed! Two weeks later, a gracious Mac tech at the university was able to recover all the files and we finally got to see them.

    One of the most fun ways we kept in touch was to play "WordRacer" on the 'net together while being on opposite sides of the Earth. Crazy.

    God's speed to you and your wonderful experiences in a far-off land with abundant beauty and a myriad of opportunities!

    ~Dave Padula
    P.S. I met and became friends with your Dad (and Mom) through them maintaining the Macs at New Pig Corp. near Tyrone. Haven't communicated with your Dad in a coon's age, but your Mom is clearly a kindred spirit that loves nature's beauty and also cherishes each day that goes by with her family and friends. Top notch, that Mom of yours...

  6. hi Elly,
    This will be a short note as my previousLONG one got lost. I had to consult your mom for instructions.I think I know what to do now.
    I enjoyed your notes and above all that you are save.
    We still have some snow here so it is nice to see the greenery there.
    Are your flat mates from USA,
    Enjoy your experience and I promise my next note will be longer

  7. Hi Elly,
    Are you getting settled; both mentally and physically? I hope that you are starting to enjoy and thrive as you no doubt will.

  8. @ Dave - What a coincidence! You’ll have to ask your son if he has any recommendations for hiking trails, places to visit, etc. It’s been a couple of years, but things don’t seem to change too quickly here :) Thanks for your kind words and wishes - and don’t worry, I will keep my computer on my desk!

  9. @ Aunt Margery - It is nice and green here! I love it! And three of my flatmates are from the States (CA, CO, and MA). Then one is from Norway and the other is our Kiwihost. Glad to hear from you and looking forward to your next note :)

  10. @ Beth - I am definitely feeling more settled as each day goes by. I’ve begun cooking with some of my flatmates, going on a couple of adventures with new friends, and finding the cute cafes and thrift shops. Classes started today, so I’m a little out-of-sorts again, but I’ll catch on soon!

  11. Elly, I'll see if Ben recalls anything particular near Otago. I know he went with some friends he met there on a two-week bus trip all over the south island, hiking (or, for the kiwis, "trekking") a number of places along the way. Get into the groove with your studies and let the rest come to you. What fun! P.S. By the way what "profile" should I choose when commenting? Nothing looks remotely familiar!