Sunday, July 18, 2010


So, Emma told me I needed to write another blog post. She has a point. I haven’t written anything since late June. I’m sorry that I’ve disappointed my readers (all 12 of you) – I know how you wait with bated breath for my blog posts. So here’s what I’ve been up to:

The stuff that confirms that the Frank neurosis is immune to even New Zealand’s laidback approach to life: I spoke with this amazing vet who does conservation work in Africa. Basically he has what I consider to be a dream job. He asked me about my future plans and why I wanted to get a DVM, why I wanted to do a PhD, etc. I’ll spare you the “Hannah insanity” but basically I’ve never been more confused about what I want to do with my life as I am now. I need to make decisions about applications for next year but I can’t figure out what I want to do a PhD in or where I want to go. *heavy sarcasm* I love confusion. I was at lunch this afternoon with Julie and the family that hosted her for a bit when she was waiting to move into her original flat. I had just met her host dad and he asked me what I want to do after New Zealand. Took him all of 2 minutes to figure out that I actually have no idea. Love it.

Anyway, that makes it seem like my life is a lot more stressful than it actually is. (Most of the time I just ignore the vet school stuff. Yay procrastination.) So one highlight of the past few weeks: (I’ll post again tomorrow. Scout’s honor. – That still counts if I quit in 7th grade, right?)

I got to go sheep herding! I felt like a true Kiwi. One of my coworker/ advisor people at Vic has 11 sheep up on some land just north of Wellington. They were in a paddock across the street and down about 100 yards from their land and Sue needed to move them back to her land. Because of all of the potential wrong paths the sheep could take, she needed a lot of people to help her move them. It was so fun. I got to stand next to this bridge and make sure they ran onto the bridge instead of next to it. (They thought about trying to run past me but I was too scary.) After they were past me I chased them. There’s something very fun about running after livestock. Yes, I am 8 years old.

After we got them into the paddock, we needed to treat their feet. I helped by holding the sheep as Tom, Sue’s boyfriend of 18 years, trimmed their hooves. It was kind of like what I did at the vet clinic, only with sheep. I was even able to lend my professional advice about styptic powder. I felt special. Even better, Sue lent me a jumpsuit to put over my clothes. That made me feel really official. (I was also really cold. There was a lot of frost on the lawn when we initially got there in the morning. I thought I was going to freeze.) Unfortunately I stupidly charged my camera in preparation for the sheep and then left it on my bed. Sue’s invited me back to see the lambs in the spring and for any other visits to her land so I’ll get pics then. I’m so excited! I think they were pretty surprised that I was perfectly happy/ really excited to lie on the ground subduing a sheep. (Doesn’t really jive with that whole “cultural ambassador” image.)

It was also really fun spending time with Sue outside of the lab and getting to meet her partner and his family. (Side note: The word “partner” is very popular here and means any significant other that’s long term, regardless of sex or marital status. This confused my mom a lot. She spent a great deal of time convinced that the vast majority of the New Zealand population is gay.) Back to the sheep: I LOVED the sheep but it was also really fun just to hang out with a family. (Siblings, parents, nieces, etc.) I felt very privileged to be able to crash their family party. And Sue made carrot cake. I love carrot cake.

Sheep were not the only animals I hung out with that Sunday, either. (And I’m not counting the 3 girls under 10.) The former owner of Sue’s land still keeps her horse there and Raider and I became good friends. (Confession: I’m not quite sure if the horse’s name is “Raider” or “Radar.” They sound pretty much identical in the Kiwi accent and for the first time, I think, I was surrounded by only Kiwis.) I was standing in the paddock watching the sheep tending and this horse comes up to my shoulder. I started petting him and got to scratching his back. He did that funny thing where he stood really really still and held his head out at an odd angle. If you’ve ever hit the perfect spot on your dog’s back, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I half expected the horse to pick up its foot and start scratching the air the way my puppy does. When I did stop to go watch the sheep again, I was promptly driven into the fence by a head butt to the butt. He eventually gave up, sniffed my head a bit, chewed the fence and then walked away to be antisocial.

I was also a huge hit with the dog. And there were tons of kereru (large native bush pigeons – very pretty) feeding in the trees above the sheep. I had never seen so many in one place before. Add on that the weather was bright, sunny and crisp and it was a thoroughly perfect day. The valley we were in was gorgeous: one slope was covered in pines (a Californian species that is farmed here – nonnative but still pretty) and another was covered in native bush and almost glowed in the sunlight.

Despite all of the amazing things I just described, the highlight of the day was a brief moment on the way home. We had just pulled out of Sue’s land and had gone down the road about 70m when coming down the opposite side of the road is one of the fanciest Jaguars I’ve seen (and certainly the most “flash” – another Kiwi word – car I’ve seen while being here)… pulling a trailer with two sheep.

I love New Zealand.

- I’m crazy. But you knew that. And confused. But you knew that too.
- How many people does it take to move 12 sheep? Answer: 11 Kiwis, 1 Irishwoman and a crazy American.
- Even Fulbrights enjoy getting a little dirty (especially when it involves looking ridiculous by wearing 3 layers under a blue jumpsuit).
- I miss family gatherings so much I’m willing to go to them even when it’s not my own family.
- I’m tight with a horse whose name I don’t know. Language difficulties continue.
- Apparently Jags come outfitted with trailer hooks.