Thursday, August 26, 2010

I learn

Well, it's Spring Break! They don't call it that here, though; it's the mid-semester break to the Kiwis, as it's not yet warm enough to be called spring. We'll be going to Wanaka and Queenstown after the weekend for a stay at our Kiwi host Katya's house, as well as an extreme sport exploration. Most of us plan on doing the Nevis Bungee jump, which is the third largest in the world. We planned to go on a tramp (hike/camp) this weekend, but our group was unable to rent a van, so we are re-formulating our plan...

We were, however, able to go camping in the Catlins a few weeks ago with about 20 people. This is one of the more wild areas of New Zealand, complete with sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins (the rarest penguin species in the world), and beautiful scenery.

Me in tree!

One of the highlights was a park-like area containing the mechanical art pieces of a local craftswoman. The park was closed due to it being off-season, but we did see an undulating whale sculpture and a sheep skeleton pedaling a bicycle.

Turn the wheel and it undulates!

We also made it to Moeraki Boulders, a beach with some unusually shaped rocks. These rock formations are almost perfectly round. I don't fully understand the geology, but as I was told the central particle attracts other particles equally on all sides, resulting in round rocks of all sizes. Unfortunately, all of the small ones have long since been taken as souvenirs, but the large ones are still a popular tourist attraction.

Conquering the Moeraki Boulders.

We found a strange native creature in one of the rocks...

One of the best parts of being here in New Zealand is having the time and freedom to explore new interests. I am only taking three classes, and while challenging, they do not offer the same workload as Willamette classes. This allows time for things like camping, taking salsa dance lessons, going to shows, and exploring New Zealand. I also discovered that I like to draw and have been doing that quite a bit. It all reminds me that a liberal arts education teaches you about things, not how to do things. I didn't realize it, but I was missing this aspect of education, and I've rediscovered it here.

Impressionistic portrait with sharpie.

Portrait of my flatmate Katya with graphite pencil and charcoal.

I hope that this post finds you all well. Enjoy beginning school, Willamette Students!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I Film

Last time I mentioned the Life in a Day project, an invitation to anyone and everyone in the world with access to a digital camera to record one day in their lives: July 24, 2010. Not only will this project culminate in a greater understanding of the world for people in the present, but it will provide a source of memory for the people of the future. What happened in the world on July 24, 2010? Who lived, loved, and feared on that day, and how have we changed? The night of the 23rd my flat heard about this project and decided participate in full, making a list of everything we wanted to do and film with our day.

We all woke up around six in order to drive to the organ pipes and view the sunrise, filming our introductions in the car. The organ pipes are a beautiful collection of rock hexagonal columns resembling organ pipes near Dunedin. It's about a 20 minute walk from the road, and the pipes themselves are at the top of a tall hill. Somehow we decided that it would be a good idea to go through the whole day barefoot, so we all began to walk up this cold and sharp gravel path. About seven steps in the smart people among us turned back to get their shoes, and only Jethro and I were left to make the climb raw style. It was slower going for us, but our feet got quite the workout and the pain was cathartic, making the eventual summit all the more rewarding.

Once we topped this precipitous stack of sheer columns, we saw that our surroundings were enveloped with thick, breathy clouds like the vapor that rises off of dry ice. Instead of witnessing the sun rise in all its glory we just guessed that it had happened from the waxing light, but the rays soon burned holes in the thick mist and we could see how the dropped sharply all around us into the gentle sheep-spotted hills of the Otago bay. I professed to the camera that I have a persistent fear of heights, manifesting in a recurring dream in which I cling to the limber top of a very tall tree and I whip with it in the wind, desperate to hold on. I cope with it by challenging myself to climb tall things. It's never hard until I get to the top and look down.

The spotty view from the organ pipes.

From the organ pipes we drove to the beach, where we all swam in the nicely chilled ocean, hula hooped, rolled down hills, and Jethro surfed. We also practiced beach acrobatics. Jethro did three great wall back flips in a row and some running forward flips. I attempted to emulate and landed on my face—maybe I'll have better luck next time. We also visited a playground, climbing on Fred the Whale and sliding down a dragon's back. I love playgrounds!

Mackenzie in Fred the Whale's mouth.

From there we explored Cargill's Castle, an abandoned ruin built in 1877. Originally a mansion, this building has also been a hotel and host to adolescent parties. Now it is an interesting—if dilapidated and dangerous—place to explore. History seeps out of every rotten floorboard, broken window, and carved word on the place, and the view from this structure is incredible. A long, rocky drop signals the break between land and vast, restless ocean.

The view from Cargill's Castle.

Jamie, my flatmate, had recently decided to prove to herself that she can still be confident and strong without superficial trappings, so on the evening of the 24th she made the first cuts to her curly locks, and we shaved the rest.

Jamie, more beautiful than ever.

This reminded me a lot of when I shaved off my long hair. Both of us felt that we needed to be able to be free of that part of ourselves. Fortunately her head is much more pleasingly shaped than mine.

Jethro then fire danced for the camera and gave us each a go, and then we used his digital camera to create light graffiti, in which the shutter is held open long enough for us to use flashlights to create the appearance of...whatever we want. The creative potential is great, and it's a lot of fun at the same time.

We then had a rendezvous with the green fairy, muse to many a famous artist, absinthe—a new experience for most of us. Flaming shots are much fun, but none of us felt unusually affected by the drink. We rounded out the night with hours of dancing in town, and finally lay in bed at six in the morning, a full 24 hours after our day had begun.

We had some issues uploading our videos. The project requested all of the unedited footage we took (almost three hours), but all we were able to upload was a brief 10-minute collection. We hope to put together a longer, more representative video for our families and friends soon.