Saturday, February 6, 2010
Getting my bearings
Whew! It has been a long couple days in Wellington. Mostly my calves are killing me from walking up and down all the hills. This is what I get for never exercising, well, ever. Most of the walking has been a part of flat hunting. This is a perplexing and somewhat daunting endeavor. I have spent many hours scouring a number of flatmate listing websites and I've sent dozens of emails. (Yes, I know, I'm not a Kiwi. I'm saying "flat" not apartment because that's what everyone here calls it.) There seems to be some pressure to decide very quickly whether one likes the flat or not. I liked a flat today and found out 6 hours after I left that they'd given it to someone else. I'm seeing two more flats tomorrow and hopefully the one I liked yesterday will still be available. Fulbright won't let me be homeless, right?
Other than the mad flat search, I've been doing a fair amount of meeting people and exploring. I met with Anne, one of my advisers, yesterday. (I didn't know she'd be my adviser until yesterday but she seems lovely.) She's an immunologist. It seems like whatever I work on with Nicky, my original adviser, will be tied to the work of a graduate student working on salmonella infections in tuatara. (She invited me to collect samples on Monday but I'm in stupid Fulbright orientation.) The project seems like it could be very cool ... as soon as I/we figure out what it will be exactly. I need to do a ton of reading about tuatara but right now my brain is so fried from exhaustion and flat hunting, it's amazing I'm typing complete sentences. (Assuming I am.) Perhaps more exciting than meeting Anne, I saw my very first live tuatara!!! It was in an exhibit in one of the university buildings, but I was pretty excited. (pic at the top)
I'm also getting a crash course in Kiwi vocabulary and slang. After being perplexed for a day I finally figured out that "sweet as" is the complete phrase and I stopped waiting for the noun to follow "as." (It means something to the effect of "it's all good" or "no worries.") I also found out that "capsicum" is a bell pepper, "aubergine" an eggplant, a "paper" is a university course and that I just graduated from "uni" and not "college" which they use to mean high school. Although I'm beginning to master these phrases, I am still completely baffled by the Maori words that are frequently used in newspaper and magazine articles, usually without definition. I think we learn a bit of Maori at the Fulbright orientation; maybe that will help.
Perhaps the biggest event going on right now in Wellington is the 7s tournament. This is a tournament for the Rugby Sevens in which 7 member rugby teams play 14 minute long games. (Don't ask me anything else about the game. I know nothing.) Teams are here from all over the world (including the USA). Why is this relevant to a girl who knows nothing about rugby or sports in general? Because the entirety of Wellington has been overrun by drunken people in costumes. (Apparently it's a huge tradition to dress up in costumes for the 7s, especially in groups.) In my flat hunting and various other runnings about town I have passed: 20 men in black hotpants, tights, orange tank tops and orange wigs; all of the power rangers; Thomas the tank engine and friends; assorted fruits and vegetables -- inexplicably accompanied by a calendar; daisies; assorted men in drag; 4 people dressed in MC Hammer toting a boombox which played "Can't touch this"; a number of native Americans; priests; nuns (men and women) and my personal favorite: 5 grown men dressed as the spice girls. I still feel bad for the guy who had to be Ginger Spice (... though he really did rock the Union Jack dress). I was spared an event of last year: a picture in the paper of a man in a Borat mankini after 12 hours of partying. Other famous costumes include the 101 dalmations (there actually are 101 people moving in a pack all dressed as numbered dalmations) and the Marilyns (a herd of men dressed as Marilyn Monroe who attend every year or pass down their costume when they cannot attend). I was also escorted to a flat viewing by 3 drunk guys (one soldier and two martial artists) who discovered I was American. It's been fun. (Also, to my roommates or anyone who saw our costume Halloween 2008, I saw 4 guys dressed as the ninja turtles wearing nothing but painted tighty whiteys and body paint. I think we've been beaten.)
Other than that, I've met the other Fulbrighters in Wellington now. They all seem very nice and interesting. It's also nice to have someone to talk to/ not have to sit at a restaurant by yourself. More about them later. Wellington continues to be exceedingly beautiful. I wandered around the botanical gardens today and stumbled upon a small hillside completely covered by hydrangeas of all colors in full bloom. It was gorgeous.
- My calves are about to revolt any second now. Hopefully I'll have an apartment to show for it.
- After 18 months of talking about them, I have finally seen my first real live tuatara!!!! (It didn't move and it was behind glass, but I'm taking it!) And I also have provided photographic evidence that they are really cute!
- Wellington is overrun with drunk people. Turns out it has something to do with this rugby tournament. And here I was thinking that people usually wear extensive body paint, dress up as characters from avatar, Alices in Wonderland, crayons and lollipops. At least I know that Secret Santa is not a fluke; men everywhere love drag.
- Oh yeah, it's still really pretty. And summer.