Friday, March 19, 2010
Tramping is like herping
Oh dear. I keep telling myself I won’t write these epic posts that cover 2 weeks at a time. And I keep doing it. Maybe I’ll learn eventually. Maybe. So the highlights of my life:
Last weekend I went on my first “tramping” trip. For those of you who are unfamiliar with New Zealand slang, “to tramp” is to go on a multi day hiking/ backpacking trip. It has nothing to do with promiscuity. Geez, between “tramping” and “herping,” I’ve managed to make all of my outdoor adventures seem like adventures of a different kind.
The tramping: I joined the Victoria University Tramping Club last week. Last weekend was their “freshers” tramping trip, an easy 2 day, 2 night hike through Tararua Forest Park. When we left on Friday night, it was really windy and rainy but the weather was nice for the rest of the weekend. I was able to borrow a backpack and a sleeping pad from one of my office mates and off I went. I was in a group of 5 people: 3 American study abroad students and a Kiwi freshman guy led by a former member of the tramping club who was visiting from Norway and felt like leading a trip for old time’s sake. As the ovo-lacto vegetarian group, we were affectionately dubbed the “Octopussies” by the tramping club president, who after a few beers could only remember that the term “ovo-lacto” started with “o.” I didn’t mind the nickname that much but I’m not sure how fond Wilbur was of it.
The actual tramp was gorgeous. (As always, pics are on picasa and I finally figured out how to make sure I had the right links and they’re accessible. Links to each of my picasa albums are on the upper right hand of the blog.) When we got to the Tararuas on Friday night, we camped immediately. Even though it was intermittently stormy we still got some amazing views of the Milky Way and the Southern sky. Fun fact: Orion can be seen in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. I was excited about that. Another fun fact: Orion is the only constellation I can actually find. Fun fact 3: There are about 10 million “Southern Crosses” in the sky. I still don’t know which is the real one.
Saturday, we walked for 5ish hours from the carpark and over a suspension bridge (about 70m up! I was really proud of myself for getting across. The department of conservation had helpfully posted a sign about it being dangerous to cross in high winds b/c it sways so much. Thanks, DOC.) From there we walked through the forest, along a river and down to Totara Flats, a nice grassy area next to the river. I also went swimming in the river (if jumping and flailing in response to the near freezing temperatures counts as “swimming”) which was fun. Some brave people were jumping off a rock on the opposite bank into the river. Since I am afraid of heights (recall my standing on top of a rock on the senior class trip while everyone in the class jumped into the river twice before finally throwing myself off) and lack a blubber layer, I passed. That night I passed out at 9:30. I’ve never slept so well in my entire life. I did, however, keep sliding downhill in my sleeping bag only to find myself crushed into the fetal position against my backpack. My legs were also intensely sore and bugbitten. I can’t complain though – one of the girls in our group rolled her ankle 3 separate times on Saturday. She still beat me to the top of the hill though. I’m the tortoise, not the hare. Yup, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.
Sunday we walked along the river and up a huge hill (400m elevation gain – roughly 170 bottles of beer on the wall, for those of you who are wondering) to descend the other side into the carpark and go home. (Yup. I said “carpark.” I’ve also completely organically started calling “French fries” “chips.”) We also walked across another, smaller suspension bridge that was supposed to be restricted to 1 person only. Fortunately for me, the person following me was Wilbur and being the delightfully immature 18 year old boy he is and despite my pleas that he stay off the bridge as I was afraid of heights, he decided to get on the bridge while I was walking across and jump on it. At least we know immaturity is an international phenomenon. The walk itself was really gorgeous. I kept feeling like I was walking through Middle Earth. It was the classic forest, with the liverworts and moss, really pretty roots and awesome tree ferns dotting the forest. It was also kind of painful. When we stood up after the 2 hour bus ride, I almost couldn’t walk. My knees and butt have never actually been asked to pull my weight and they were very shocked that I had demanded so much of them.
I’m going rock climbing with the tramping club tomorrow. That should be fun as well.
In lab things are going well. I test stained a couple of blood smears and they came out well! I emailed one of the technicians here at the university asking for her advice on which stain to use. She told me the name of the stain and suggested that I “stain it as soon as the blood smear is dry. Don’t leave it overnight.” Which was helpful. But kind of irrelevant – the majority of my samples have been sitting unstained for over 22 years now. My “fresh” samples are 2 years old. But they worked! I was pretty excited. I’ve put a picture to show you what tuatara blood cells look like. They’re weird (for a number of reasons but mostly) because their erythrocytes or red blood cells are nucleated! Mammalian red blood cells don’t have a nucleus. That makes the tuatara blood more visually interesting but also harder to find leukocytes (white blood cells) in. However, the staining is going well, so I’m pretty stoked. It is annoying though because it takes 7minutes for me to stain 2 slides and I have definitely 50 and up to 160 slides to stain. Not to mention I still have to figure out what these little blobs actually are. A problem for next week.
Probably the biggest news I have right now is that I’m moving! I am moving into a 3 bedroom flat with Julie (another Fulbrighter; labor attorney). Her roommate is completely nuts and she was looking for a new flat. She found one but needed two roommates and I decided to be one of them. It’s pretty close to the university and we’ll be living with this nice Australian guy doing his masters in creative writing. I actually decided to move into the flat (still haven’t seen it) a couple hours before leaving on my tramping trip. I came back from a weekend without cell reception to find out we’d gotten the flat and Julie’d already found our third flatmate. Pretty sweet. I only foresee one problem with this: Julie is half Italian, loves to feed people and is trying to gain weight.
I’m a little sad to be leaving my current flat. I really like my current flatmate and the flat; it just made more sense to live with Julie, whom I eat dinner with at least twice a week anyway. I’m hoping Marcus and I will stay good friends though. We’ve had some funny adventures. Ask me about them.
Other than that, nothing much to report. A couple days ago there was a lunchtime Fulbright lecture at the American embassy on the attitudes and perspectives of New Zealand and American scientists and to some extent the interaction of scientists and public policy. (How they feel about their jobs, what’s working, what’s not, etc.) It was a very interesting lecture although I think the more interesting part might have been trying to get into the embassy. We were not allowed to take pictures of any part of the embassy and upon entering the embassy were required to leave anything electronic in the guardhouse. Will someone please explain to me how I am going to bring down the embassy (of the government that is funding my stay here) with an ipod shuffle, a USB key and a computer charger. (I brought my laptop to work but hadn’t had to plug it in yet.) Side note: the rules don’t change if you “really love America.” Julie tried that tactic.
Hope all’s well with you. It’s starting to get cold here. Sometimes. Wellington faces directly South to Antarctica and when those Southerlies start blowing, it’s crazy. I thought I was going to fall over walking home from work one day. As Marcus told me, never leave home without your jacket, no matter how nice it looks.
- Tramping is awesome and, like herping, has nothing to do with sex.
- I’m in bad shape. My body has decided to punish me for that.
- I’m afraid of heights and the department of conservation isn’t helping.
- But I’m coming back for more. I’m so sporty.
- Tuatara blood is awesome! And confusing. But mostly awesome. And really really old.
- I’m moving! Julie and I are officially attached at the hip more so than we were before. If I start talking about “The Man” or the benefits of unions, it’ll be evidence that we share a brain too. I may also not be able to fit through doors in a short while.
- No one likes America and I’m off to google ways of using USB keys as offensive weapons.