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Entry #18 A - New Zealand Continued

Still wonderful

0 °F

Dunedin

I had stayed at the Albatross B & B the last time and I was looking forward to being back. The first thing I did was take a lovely warm shower! Ah, the joys of being clean!

I wanted to walk that day to make up for the lack of walking the day before and I left messages for both Charles and Tim from the Thailand Earthwatch project in February. Charles, the primary investigator was free the next day for lunch and Tim agreed to meet me for drinks that night.

The city had not changed much, in fact the only thing that I found different was the location of the yarn shop where I had shopped last time. It was still close to the Octagon, sort of the center of town. There wasn’t much on at the main theatre, but the alternative theatre looked good and I decided to watch Keeping Mum. I also located the wonderful University Bookstore again and got my bearings of where to find Charles tomorrow. I went to the Isite in Dunedin to make some reservations for the Wellington and to confirm my bus ride from Waitoma back to Auckland. The Thai lady who was helping me was having a very bad day and although her voice was pleasant enough on the phone, she did a lot of eye rolling. We kept working on my little list of things to accomplish and by the end of our time, I think she was having a much better day and I gave her a hug.

I met Tim at the Octagon for a little drink, but I ended up ordering hummus and bread, as I did not have lunch. It was good to see him and see what he was up to. We ended up at another bar for a glass of wine and then I was invited back to his apartment to meet his roommates and eat cake. Grad students in NZ live and look just like grand students in the US. Thrift store furniture, bookshelves made out of planks and blocks, ramen for dinner and interesting books and videos. It was fun to talk to them. On the way to his apartment, we went to the local grocery store and Tim advised me about the distinctive NZ candies to sample. Pineapple lumps, Maro bars, peanut slabs and various other Cadbury’s that we can’t get in the States. Pineapple lumps are pineapple-flavored candy (sort of the shape and consistency of Bit-O-Honey) covered in with a thin layer of chocolate. I really liked them and after I had opened them, I had wished I had bought some more. Mayby Australia will also have them. It was a great evening.

The next day I sort of doodled around until it was time to met Charles. I went to the good bookstore and picked up a book by Charles so that I could get his autograph. It was fun to be on the campus and to stand on a bridge over the New river, which was a thoroughfare for the students across campus, and just watch the students. Again, the uniform of the NZ student is very similar to the US. The main color is black, the main look is baggy, and it is not uncommon to have 2 if not 3 different colors of hair on both sexes.

Charles has officially retired from his chair of the department, but is still adjunct faculty. His office is small with lots of papers and one reconstructed pot from Thailand. It was a cold day so we had soup and wine at Butterfly’s. I sure hope that I can make it back to work with him next year in Thailand for the last year of his data collection.

Next I revisited the Otago Museum, one of my favorites from my last trip to Dunedin. There were many of the same exhibits, but with more knowledge under my belt, I saw them with a different eye. By the same token, with more knowledge under my belt, the museum did not take as long or hold my interest as it had before.

I went to the little, tiny alternative movie theatre near campus and saw a documentary called In Search of Mozart. I was the only one at the viewing and had a cup of tea while I watched the film. The seats were incredibly comfortable and wide and in front of the first row, there was a pile of huge red cushions and two red couches where you can stretch out.

I needed to do some laundry and just up the hill from the Albatross, was a coin operated laundry facility tied to local Mediterranean eatery. I ordered a chicken wrap and got change for the machines. The wrap was excellent and the machines did not take too long. I was able to catch up on last year’s gossip from a NZ Woman’s Day magazine (similar to our People Magazine). By the time I got home and was folding the laundry, I realized that I had left behind my washcloth. I am not sure if it didn’t make it out of the washer or the dryer, but when I went back the next day, it was gone for good. I had left a black glove in Dunedin before, so maybe it is off to join it.

I have found a British TV show that I like called Judge John Deed. When I can, I try and catch it wherever I am and it was on the telly that night.

On my last full day in Dunedin, I took on two new places I had never been, the Cadbury Factory and the historic Olveston House. The Cadbury Factory gave us a tour of behind the scenes of chocolate making. After donning our very attractive hair nets, and beard nets for the gentlemen if needed, and collecting our little goody bag that we would add to along the way, we followed the young man in the purple overalls around the factory. (The hair net will be available for inspection once I get back home). We learned about all the ingredients that go into the chocolate – milk, cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar. I also learned that the US leads the globe in annual chocolate consumption (16 kg per person or 35 pounds of chocolate per year). At several stops, we were given small bars of chocolate of various types. We were told that there was also a shop at the end of the tour that only ticket holders could patronize. We learned that the hollow eggs that are bought around Easter are all made between the months of June and January. Obviously, that division was not working as we went past. Actually, the only line running was a boxing line and we watch small bars of the Dairy Milk bars being loaded into boxes. Finally, we were about to enter the large purple silo. I asked if this was where the Umpa Lumpa’s lived, but apparently not. This was the chocolate waterfall. Sure enough, he opened the shoot and out poured 100’s of gallons of liquid chocolate. I ended up being collected and recycled and was changed out every year. It was fun and it smelt wonderful.

I went off to the little shop, but based on what I had bought the day before, I selected a few of the sample size of both varieties I had never seen and old favorites such as Crunchy, and paid my $1.80 NZ (slightly over $1US) and left.

Like most cities in NZ, Dunedin surrounds water and climbs steeply up the hills that line the natural bay and harbor. The Olveston was up one such hill and it was just one of those “wee hills” I had heard so much about. As I was coming down the hill towards the Albatross, I saw a student was a huge backpack trudging up the hill almost parallel to the incline. If you have ever seen the pictures of women carrying sticks on their back, that is was the student looked liked. Just a wee hill!!!

The Olveston House was built between 1904 and 1906 by an English architect for a Jewish Family of four – dad, mom, son and daughter. When the daughter died in the 1960’s, she gave the house and contents to the city and with the stipulation that it be turned into a museum. It was absolutely gorgeous. At the time of its initial occupation, it had very modern conveniences included in-door plumbing and even a shower, electric lights and an internal phone system between the rooms. As it was a kosher house, there were two sets of copper sinks in the butler’s pantry and kitchen for washing the meat separately from other items. The family traveled extensively and collected many things including pictures and ceramics from around the world. My favorite room was an alcove they called the Persian room as it had a peak out window that overlooked the formal entryway and staircase.

The grounds were beautiful and the antique car was in a glassed in garage.

I went home to pack and get ready to fly to Wellington the next day.

Wellington

I love Wellington. It was the first city that I really got to know in NZ and it is small enough to feel intimate, yet large enough to have everything you want.

I stayed in my second YHA and found it very nice. It was the largest with 150 rooms, no tv in the room, but an excellent book exchange, central location, very quiet and an excellent bed. I also learned that when you have a shower curtain with a squeegee but no tub, even though the floor slopes to the drain, it is best to wait to put down the bath mat until after you have showered and squeegeed the floor. This YHA also had two tv lounges and a video selection, but the rooms were very small and were usually filled with tons of people, some of which needed a shower. They also had an internet room with phones and also an internet computer up in the laundry room on the 6th floor, also with a TV.

I always pick up the local tourist info when I arrive at an airport, and on the shuttle ride to the city, I learned that Te Papa (the National Museum) had a special exhibit of the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) Movie Memorabilia. Some of you may know that I am a huge fan of these movies, so that was a definite must see for me. I learned in the brochure that there were special guided tours on Sunday only, (I arrived on Sunday) and I was going to just be able to make it as my YHA was just around the corner.

I had a wonderful time on my tour. My tour leader, John, was originally for Portland and had a bit of a stutter. I was the only one on his tour and as I had viewed most of the extended DVD’s with the making of the movies, I was pretty up on the back-story. It was a fabulous exhibit and very well done, with movie clips to illustrate certain things and interviews with the actors and technical crew. When we got to the palantir (the all-seeing-glass ball), John admitted that he was the glass artist who made the balls for the movie. One of my favorite displays was the wax image of Boromir in the canoe that they sent of the imaginary digital water falls. The guide said that at times, his hands seem to move due to the humidity in the room and the heat from the lights. If you look long enough, you really do expect the figure to breath because it is amazingly life-like. The scale models were very intricate, even to see the miniature washing hanging on the lines.

There was one area where you could have your picture taken with a friend, and you would appear to be similar to Frodo and Gandalf in the cart. The man who works that station had been in the movie and had been just to the left of Sean Bean in the counsel of Elrond. He sat with me and I have the photos, one with me hobbit-size and one of me Gandalf-size. It was good fun. They also introduced me to a Maori gentleman, who was both a guide and a film instructor in college. He had many stories to tell about the movies. Everyone I met in the exhibit was wonderful and I had a totally enjoyable three hours. So much fun.

After the museum, I stopped at the grocery store on the way back to the YHA and bought yoghurt, fruit, cheese and apricot bars for my snacks. I had bought tea and a little cereal from the front desk at the YHA, so I was set for a while.

That night I decided to henna my hair, as it was looking very dull. I spent the evening blogging in my room and waiting for the Henna to finish.

The next day I did a little shopping, got a ticket to the play that was on right next-door, called Kirsty who I had met in Doubtful Sound and arranged to meet her for dinner. I checked into the other theatres but did not find anything else that I wanted to see.

I went to the art gallery and saw a modern photo exhibit and revisited my favorite museum, the Wellington Museum of the City and Sea. It still had the delightful hologram movie of Maori legends.

I met Kirsty for dinner and we walked to a little café near my place. It was wonderful to share a dinner with someone who was close to my age and who was having her own adventure in a different culture and country. I ended the evening feeling wonderful and very happy with the world and myself.

The next day I had planned to take a trip on a local train to an outlying suburb of Wellington called Porirua to see an art exhibit. I had spotted this brochure in the airport when I arrived. On the bus to get to the train station, the bus driver got into an altercation with a car in front of him. Not good energy after that on the bus.

The train was fun and very easy, but I could not see much on the landscape as we went through lots of tunnels. I followed by vibes and very wisely asked for directions to find the art gallery, as my first inclination would have taken me in the totally wrong direction. The gallery was small and had two exhibits, one with ancient Maori totems that had been presented to an Englishman who was in NZ in the late 1800s. There was also an excellent exhibit about the Tiki image and how it had been taken into popular culture. I wanted to take a specific train back in order to try and get to the Katherine Mansfield house, a famous NZ writer. I ended up getting back with only an hour to go up a step hill and tour the house, so I went back to the YHA instead. I did not have anything planned for the next day and was beginning to loose power over this. I felt I was not spending my time in NZ wisely and was getting lonely. My time with the groups recently had shown me again that I was missing people to share things with.

I went back to the YHA and got onto the web. In my present mood, emails that were really no big deal, felt scary and I made the mistake of answering some of them, not always with a generous heart. I finally realized what I was doing and gave myself a good talking to. I realized that I needed a routine for tomorrow so I went downstairs to see what they could recommend. There were brochures for half-day trips to the recently opened natural gardens, but that was only in the afternoon. I needed a full day. I found a tour of local LOTR’s sites, but the person at the front desk said that it was full. I found another brochure for a very similar tour and I asked them to call and see if it was available. It was, so I was all set up. Instantly, I felt much more grounded and happier. I was also going to the theatre that evening and was very much looking forward to that. I realized at this point that reading and/or more importantly answering my emails when I am not in a good space is not a wise idea.

When I arrived in the theatre, I went up stairs to the drinks lounge and there was a lady with white hair playing beautiful classical piano pieces. I had a glass of white wine and talked to the orange tabby cat that was on the landing.

The play was called Mum’s Choir. It was about the 5 children, 3 girls – 2 boys, of Mum who were returning to the family home to coordinate Mum’s funeral and wake. Mum’s sister, Auntie Nola, was also going to be there. There was a large grand piano on stage and from time to time, almost all of the actors went over and played a song on it, or sang at it. Mum had been very musical and over the course of the play, you found out that all during their childhood, the siblings had sung and put on musical productions. One of the sisters was unmarried and had been living close to Mum and taking care of her. The oldest son was a music teacher and had promised Mum that the kids would sing Favre’s Requiem at her funeral. That did not go over well with the group. The youngest sister was heavily pregnant and the middle sister kept hoping her son who was in the army would be able to make it back for the funeral. He did in the second act. The younger brother had emigrated to Aust and had a lovely tenor but appeared to be the black sheep and was the only one who had not made it back to her bedside before she died.

Auntie Nola was a stitch and commandeered Mum’s electric lounge chair before anyone else could put his or her name to it. There was a wonderful scene with her sitting in it for the first time and using the mechanism that would both eject you out and recline you back in the chair. At one point she was totally reclined and dozing when the phone rang. You can imagine how funny it was to watch her try and get out of the chair, when she could not remember were the switch was to get the chair to sit up straight.

Early on in the play, the casket with Mum was brought in center stage and they opened the casket. From then on, during all the musical numbers they would gather around it, pose by it or actually sing into the casket.

Before all the kids knew that Auntie Nola had arrived, she appeared from the kitchen in one of Mum’s polyester dressed, with matching cardigan and hanky in the pocket. She gave the one’s who did not know she was there a fright. Mum had a special cookbook that they all wanted and the sisters were all arguing about who made the best meals and argued themselves off stage to the kitchen. The next thing you knew, out came the sisters in Mum’s dresses, cardigans with hankies, hose that ended at the knees and bedroom slippers and gave us an Andrews Sisters song.

The actors were great and the voices were of normal people, not trained MT performers. The actress that played the youngest pregnant sister was the actress I had seen the last time I was in Wellington. It was wonderful.

Long story short, they made it through the Favre, the spinster sister gave a wonderful eulogy that had me in tears and the play showed the tender and yet funny side of a family dealing with the death of their mother. At the end of the show, the entire cast, including the Maori man who played the middle sisters son, sang a Maori song with movements and invited the audience to join in which they did.

I am not sure if I mentioned this, but sing-a-longs are ever present and very popular in NZ and Aust. Music is big and people don’t seem to care how they sound, they just sing along. Does that happen in the US in anyplace other than churches and baseball games?

This experience brings to mind again how different it feels for me to watch white European people know, sing and feel in touch with Maori music and culture. Do we do that in the US? I know some of the words from God Save the Queen, and I am of English ancestry, but I don’t feel incredibly closes to the UK. It is interesting to watch.

I was up and ready the next day by 9am for my LOTR’s tour. Again, I was the only one on this tour. I constantly amazes me that in NZ, tours go with only one person. I love it and really feel that I get a wonderful insight into not only the tour but also the NZ culture. Ted was wonderful. His brother works for WETA Digital, the side company that did all the digital computer work on the LOTR and King Kong movies. We drove around to various sites, most of which are totally restored to their former look after the movie finished filming. We went to several parks and even three years later, you could see the exact branches and plants that were in the film. Quen had his picture taken in the Frodo Tree and Quen and I sat where the four hobbits had hidden under roots as the Black Rider went by.

I had a wonderful day. Note to self – Not too many days back to back without an agenda from here on out. Flexibility is great, but I am better on a least a tentative schedule, especially when I am on my own.

The next day, I had an 8-hour train trip from Wellington north towards Auckland. I was going to get off the train in Otorohanga and then take a shuttle to Wiatomo where I would get my tour the next day of the black water rafting and glowworm caves. There was nothing exceptional of usual about the train ride, it was very pleasant and I had both seats to myself. Most people slept so I spent the time with my knitting and remembering how to knit in the continental style. We did have a bit of a delay and I was a little concerned that I would miss my shuttle but Bill, with the shuttle service, met me at the train and took me to the local grocery store to stock up on food and money as it they would be closed when we made it to Wiatomo. He had lots of local history to tell and very cute humor. I love NZ and Kiwi’s.

Posted by ladyjanes 03:24 Archived in New Zealand Tagged postcards

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