Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Last Post Before I Go...

It is officially my last night in New Zealand... Ah!  It has been a crazy last three/four weeks since I last posted, full of travels with my boyfriend Chris, final exams, and a visit with my long-time idol Jane Goodall!  I wish I could devote more time and energy to catching you all up on my past few weeks, but I am utterly exhaaaauuuussted.  So I hope you don’t mind another quick photo journey... 

Chris Tours Kiwiland:

Unfortunately on Chris’s first day in New Zealand, I had my first final exam.  We spent the entire day inside on the couch, me struggling to cram as much information about Africa into my head and Chris struggling to keep his eyes open after his big trip.  I made up for the next day with some local Dunedin activities: tours of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory and Speights Brewery.  We were the last tour of the day at Cadbury, so the nice guide emptied his pockets full of chocolate into our eagerly awaiting hands.  We made a stop at Velvet Burger, a renowned chain in NZed, and then made our way over to the brewery.  We learned about as much as we could about the history of beer (both world and NZed) and then concluded the tour with a ‘drink-as-much-as-you-possibly-can” 20 minute tasting session at the brewery’s bar.  (Don’t worry - the glasses were very small.)

[Cadbury Chocolate Truck @ Factory... complete with stylish hairnets]

The first weekend Chris had in New Zealand involved us renting a car with my flatmate Elizabeth and traveling to the adventure capital of the country: Queenstown.  Though our funds were a little short of the bungy jumps or sky dives, we still had a wonderful time walking around the chilly town, enjoying yummy food and picking up souvenirs for friends.  The first night was spent on an organized bar tour - a fun way for tourists to experience Queenstown night scene.  The next night Chris and I went out for a romantic dinner, complete with locally-made cookies-and-cream fudge for dessert.  We spent some time wandering around the Queen’s Gardens and even made a stop at the Kiwi Birdlife Park eco-sanctuary, where we saw our first kiwi birds!!  I was not able to take pictures in the kiwi houses, but they were much bigger and more awkward than I had previously imagined.

[Not a real kiwi... but close enough.]

[Lake Wakatipu]

[A statue in the Queen’s Gardens.  My guess - The Princess and the Pea.]

[An example of the other wildlife in the Kiwi Birdland Park.]

[View of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu from the top of the town’s gondola ride.]

After returning home from our Queenstown trip, Chris and I took advantage of the rented car to visit Dunedin’s local beaches.  We got very lucky with the weather (minus maybe the wind) and had a lovely day walking on the sand...

[Tunnel Beach]

[Tunnel Beach]

[St. Clair Beach]

No time to rest yet!  The very next morning, Chris and I boarded a flight to Wellington, NZed’s capital.  We spent two long days walking around the city, visiting the many museums, galleries, gardens, and observatories (most of which were free - yes!!), and eating way too much food - our favorite pastime.  I’m a little sad that I didn’t get to spend more time exploring the North Island, but we had a lovely mini-visit and got to see lots.  We enjoyed being there in the middle of the week as everything was calm and quiet, and we didn’t have to squeeze through any crowds to get anywhere

[Chris posing with NZed’s extinct Moa bird and giant Haast’s Eagle.]

[Example of crazy trees we saw in Wellington’s Botanical Gardens.]

[One of the many beautiful flowers in the Gardens’ hothouse.]

[NZed’s parliament building - fittingly dubbed ‘The Beehive.’]

[Wellington Harbor]

After Wellington, Chris and I returned to Dunedin to relax for the rest of his visit.  We walked around the city, including the Botanic Gardens, visited some familiar buildings on campus, and watched a lottttt of movies.  

[A YUMMY cake made by my flatmate Elizabeth on Chris’s last night in NZed.]

And... Everything Else:

It felt nice to let down after classes were over, but by the time Chris left, I was very ready to finish up my finals and begin my own journey home.  It was only as the last ten days flew by that I realized I was actually LEAVING New Zealand, maybe to return at some undetermined future point in my life.  The things that had become familiar to me were about to be gone forever... So instead of being sad, I completely immersed myself in studying for my final three exams.  Not entirely sure what to expect on Otago’s exams, I studied what I could and did my best.  With exams out of the way, it was finally time to face the facts.  One by one, my flatmates began to leave in a whirlwind of papers, luggage and frantic goodbyes.  Now, only Ida and I are left sitting in an eerily quiet flat.  In less than eight hours I will be picked up by my own shuttle to begin my own trip back home.  Sigh... at least I got to spend my last day in New Zealand living a dream I never thought possible: meeting my idol, Dr. Jane Goodall.  I spent the whole day with her, starting with a small group discussion followed by a lunchtime seminar, and then I ushered for her open lecture that evening.  What an amazing, inspirational woman!  By the end of the day, everyone who had had the wonderful chance to meet her felt motivated to go out on their own and save the world - and because of Jane and her encouraging words, it felt absolutely possible.

[Jane and I]

So, I guess good-bye for now New Zealand!  I hope to see you again very, very soon.  You’ve done so many things for me... the meaning of which I can not even begin to comprehend at this late hour.  Once I’m home and settled, I will return once more to my blog to reflect on my past four and half months.  By then, I will hopefully be much more competent and relaxed than I am right now.  What I do know is that I’ve had the adventure of a lifetime - of which I hope I’ll remember even the smallest details several years from now.

[Me on my last day in Dunedin, posed in front of Otago’s clocktower.]