Tuesday 11 Jan 2011 - Tuesday 18 Jan 2011 23 °C
So I've been here for 2 weeks and I still love it! Auckland is an amazing place. Even when the weather's crappy it's still beautiful. I'm settling in. I bought myself two low tables, one holds my books and the other is my nightstand. (Mommy, you'll love them! They've got tiled tops.) I also bought a guitar. Now all I need is a desk, chair, and a bike so I can bike around Waiheke Island. (It's supposed to be awesome to cycle around.) I'm even starting to pick up some kiwi slang: "Sweet as." or "Sweet as, bro.", and "Na night." And yes, the locals do say those things all the time. :P
On Tuesday, Evan and Courtney (my new friends :P ), took me to Mission Bay, which is a popular beach in Auckland. It's not the most beautiful beach, but it's easy to get to. You can see a great view of Rangitoto (newest volcanic island in Auckland region, only 700 years old!) and the city center. We played on the beach and built a sand-lump with hotels for invisible people. It was a lot of fun. We swam in the ocean and I discovered a new stress-reliever: there's this seaweed that looks like a bunch of green grapes all on one string, but the balls are hollow and thick-walled, so you can pop them like bubble wrap! But better! Haha. Then we went for lunch and dessert at a really good italian restaurant along the Mission Bay restaurant strip.
The rest of the week I spent doing work (right now work just involves reading papers in coffee shops it's wonderful). I walked around a little, went to a movie, explored a reserve near my house, bought furniture, etc. Thursday night I started dance! It's great! Everyone is very friendly and interested in the Canadian girl. The teachers are really good! The teaching system is a little different here -- they only have one beginner social class, and then it goes right into bronze, then silver, etc., so I didn't know what level to start in. I went to the bronze class and asked the teacher to keep his eye on my dancing/improvement to help me figure out which level to take. The classes are 24 weeks each, so lots of time! Also, if you pay for silver, for example, you can go to any or all of the 3 silver classes in the week, PLUS all the bronze, and beginner social classes you want! It's a nice system, so it's only one price for as much dancing per week as you want. Which is actually really good, because it's expensive, so I'm gonna be going to a lot of classes. Anyways, the way it's taught here is that in Bronze, which is kinda like a cross between Pre-Bronze and Bronze at home, they focus on moves unless the technique is SUPER important to doing the move correctly (ie. Samba). And in Silver they focus more on technique, and a few more moves.
After two Bronze classes (I went to one last night, Monday, as well), both teachers decided that although I don't know all the moves for Bronze, my attention to detail and questions about technique and leading are more than good enough for Silver! So I tried it, and although it's challenging, I pick up things well and I can do it. There's only about 10-15 people per class, so it's very personal and I get a lot of help. I LOVE IT! So I'm taking Silver and Bronze here!!!!! At home I think it translates to taking Pre-Bronze, Bronze, and a bit of Silver since they have a level between Gold and Silver called Silver Star. The leads are a bit different here, and they don't let me go very far left that's just they way they teach it (more social, less competitive I guess), so I'm gonna need some adjustment when I get home, but I'm looking at it as good following practice!
Saturday I bought my guitar and had to haul it around on my back all day while I went to Auckland Domain, Wintergardens, and the Museum. (It wasn't worth the bus fare to go home and then come back.) The Domain was beautiful! And the Wintergardens were absolutely stunning. It was super romantic, so I got a little down, but it was also the most beautiful place in the world! So I think the awe overtook the sadness and I was fine.
(Below: The artsy-fartsy pic of the sunflowers was taken specifically for Jacquie.)
I ate my lunch with the ducks and by the time I got to the museum, I only had an hour before it closed. I put my guitar in the bag check and entrance is by donation, so they told me to just go in since I didn't have much time. I went through the kids interactive section and then straight to the volcano room. Of course! They had a house that simulated what would happen if Rangitoto erupted. It was frightening. They even have a sign warning you when you enter that the simulation is disturbing to some. I discovered cool rocks and facts and things and had a great time. lol. :P They have a library at the museum that you can go into and read from during business hours, so I might have to go searching for more NZ specific volcano info.
(Below: The picture of the elephant is a real (taxidermy) elephant! And yes, the fish in the jar are dead baby sharks. There were all sorts of preserved animals in jars, including a gecko which made me sad. I miss you Gus! Lol, the rest of them were cool! The picture of the map is a picture of all 48 volcanoes in Auckland alone. :P)
On Sunday, Evan and I took the morning ferry to Rangitoto and spent the whole day on the VOLCANO! Sooooo much fun! We took a long hike around the left side from the harbour and up to the summit, then down into the lava caves and back to the ferry. I didn't get to see the right side of the island because we were sooooo exhausted by 3pm that we just wanted to go back. Not to mention sunburnt, despite layers of sunscreen. I had a great time. I'm glad that Evan came with me, we talked about all sorts of things including what we miss from North America (Evan's from the USA, but don't worry, he's a nice American :P). I'm pretty upset with the fact that NO ONE here knows what perogies are! And you have to search forever to find dill pickles! Jeez.
(Below: In the photo of me at the summit you can see the crater of Rangitoto in the background, the picture doesn't do it justice. It was sooo steep and crazy big. Very cool. The last pic below is of a huge lava cave that we didn't go into. I wanted to climb down into it, but it was about 5ft deep at the shallowest part and I wouldn't have been able to lift my body out again at that angle. If I go with Dad I'll make sure we bring ropes so we can go explore it without getting stuck!)
Today I'm working in Starbucks on Queens St. (my new favorite hang out), watching the rain come down. It's still +22 outside, and the rain is a refreshing change. I'm glad I have research work to do, so I don't feel upset about not being able to do anything productive outside today. I have Bronze and Silver class tonight, so 3hrs of dancing, just like last night. :S I think tonight's Quickstep and Rumba, so that's exciting!
Yesterday I finally got to meet Bruce. He's really nice. I talked to Heide and Bruce about staying for 8 months and they said sure. So now I'll get to see this Turbidity Current project almost to completion! The only thing I'll really miss is the final presentations. I'm very excited. The research I'm doing and things I'm learning are already interesting me, and I haven't even got to the experiment stuff yet! It's great. Plus, turbidity currents combine my interests in Hydrology and Geology! PLUS there's huge engineering applications all over the world, even in Canada -- on both sides of the country. :P This is a great experience, and I'm gonna come out of it as an expert in Turbidity Currents, with a published research paper, all during my UNDERGRAD degree! Bazinga!