Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sitting on the floor

I moved all my stuff to this flat a week ago yesterday. As I sit here in a completely unfurnished living room, listening to the sweet sounds of a sander, I am thinking that we should’ve waited. To any future Fulbrighters: it’s much easier to move into an established flat than to try to set one up for a year. But I’m still pretty sure that it’ll be awesome once it’s done. We’ve already leapt the hurdles of a leaking washing machine, a closet that was a boarded up chimney with the charred ashes coming out to prove it, truly nasty carpeting and an oven that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in 10 years. Oh wait. That’s because it hadn’t. Word’s still out on whether our dishwasher will ever work.

There were some interesting moments. I spent Saturday and Sunday night on Marcus’ couch (at my old flat) which weren’t my most restful nights of sleep. (I woke up at 4am on Monday to find the tv blaring, Marcus asleep on the other couch and all the lights on – including one I didn’t know how to turn off.) Monday night was a truly awkward sleepover in the living room with Michael – the Aussie creative writing masters student whom I still didn’t really know at the time. We were trying to avoid the paint fumes so we put our mattresses down in the living room. Apparently I talk in my sleep. A lot. Just the way I want to introduce myself to my new flatmate. (In case you’re wondering, among other things, my unconscious self would like you to “check the website.”) I also still don’t have curtains (which means interesting gymnastics behind my bed when getting dressed in the morning – my windows face out onto the street). Still it’s getting there slowly but surely and I’m sure it’ll be awesome. At least my room’s cheery. (See picture.)

At home I am one of the least religious people ever. Other than being a very knowledgable Jew at age 5, the result of going to a Jewish preschool, most of my experiences with religion have been academic or accompanying more devout friends to the occasional Passover seder or church service. I figure, why change that now I’m in New Zealand? So that’s exactly what I’m doing. Tuesday, Julie (my new flatmate and the other Fulbright) and I went to a Passover seder. It was probably the most fun seder I’ve ever been to. (Except of course, for the moment in one seder where my father – from whom I get my Jewish genes – when asked to read the story of Moses’ mother sending him down the river to avoid death, confidently declared that “She let the basket go, bearing the baby Jesus.” Um, Dad, wrong religion.) No one made any reference to Jesus during this seder but we did have a “lamb bone” made from brown paper and duct tape and an orange on the seder plate. (Supposedly some chauvinist rabbi in years past said that “women belong in synagogue as much as an orange belongs on a seder plate.”) Also, one person put bacon in the salad they brought. Whoops. Possibly most importantly for me, I finally, at age 22, for the first time in my life found the afikomen! (For those of you unfamiliar with Passover tradition, the afikomen is a piece of matzah hidden during the seder that has to be eaten at the end. Generally the children search for it and the one who finds it gets a prize – or gets to ransom its return.) This was huge for me. Yes, I may have run off to find it before anyone else thought to look and yes, I may be a decade too old for this sort of thing, but I was happy.
Today I explored my Christian side. Julie’s Catholic and her family’s really big on Easter. She anticipated getting homesick so I said I’d go to mass with her. It was very interesting and the music was awesome. Peter (Lifland) always liked being in church for the music. I can totally understand why. Perhaps more interesting to me than the mass is how big of a deal Easter is here. Everything was shut on Good Friday and you couldn’t drink at a restaurant or bar if you weren’t eating. Today again everything is shut for Easter Sunday. Also, schools get a holiday break for Easter. Even my university has a 5 day weekend. It’s crazy! (Not that I’m complaining about time off.)

Yesterday Julie, Michael and John (whom Julie and I had met at the seder) went to red rocks, this rock formation on the south coast of Wellington. The rocks are covered in an iron oxide that makes them turn red. Local Maori legend is that the rocks are red from the blood of a historic chief’s daughters. There were particularly rough seas and they were worried about their father so they beat their hands on the rocks. The walk itself was gorgeous (pic above) – we got there about 3 in the afternoon and were out at the point at sunset. Made the walk back a bit dark, but whatever. (Pictures on picasa soon.) Perhaps the most exciting thing, though, was we saw a fur seal! We’d heard there was one around on the rocks near the shore, so I was climbing down to the rocks when I saw what looked like a log… with a face. Seals are awesome. It woke up and started stretching, almost posing, which was awesome. If the wind wasn’t strong enough to lift me up (it was really hard to stand at some points) and the sun wasn’t going down, I could’ve stayed there for hours. (I’ve been well trained by the summers staring at anoles.)

In other news, I continue to wait by my email for word of what the tuatara cells I’m looking at actually are. Hopefully the guy will email me soon. Oh the joys of research. I’m going to start volunteering at the SPCA pretty soon. Julie and I had an orientation last Wednesday. I also played my first truly successful April fool’s joke. I managed to trick my dad, brother, Emma, Kyle, Zach, Hal, Sungmi and Will (basically, your standard mix of friends and family). All of them know my former flatmate smoked a lot of pot. I convinced them that I’d been at a party at my former flat; the police showed up to a noise complaint and found people smoking pot, took down my name and that had eventually filtered back to Fulbright. I then wrote a fake email from Fulbright that said because I’d been somewhere where people were breaking the law, I had to write a formal letter of apology to the US Embassy, Fulbright NZ and the New Zealand government in order to keep my Fulbright. It was awesome. Also a little unfair since I played the prank on them on April 1 here, which was March 31 there.

- moving sucks. But we’re so close! … Now to get our hands on some furniture.
- I’m attempting to catch up on 22 years devoid of religion in one week. Also, I found the afikomen. Finally. I am awesome.
- Oranges apparently belong on seder plates. Who knew?
- Seals are awesome. Seals at sunset in New Zealand are even awesomer. The wind in Wellington, not so awesome.
- I have finally successfully fooled someone (or 8 someones) on April Fool’s day. My life is complete.

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