17 March 2008

No earth-shattering news from the antipodes lately but there has been a few happenings of note…

Our first US visitor arrives in Wellington. Well, I don’t know if he counts as a true visitor because he did not come for us, nor did he stay long. But, Dr. Andy Read (my PhD advisor at Duke) turned up in Wellington on Feb. 20th. With only 2 days notice via an email on Monday morning about his whirlwind tour of New Zealand to converse on Hector’s dolphin conservation, I turned up at his talk Wednesday morning with my current supervisor at NIWA, David Thompson. Pretty funny, pretty bizarre: Andy, David and I in the same room in Wellington chatting away. Worlds can collide right on top of you. Seeing Andy was great. For the first time I was no longer his student but his former student and current colleague. And friend. We chatted about life, here and there. Family and friends. Plans and research. It was really wonderful, but for the first time I felt homesick. I missed my friends. Those who know me best.

For the past month, an international arts festival has been hosted in Wellington. Daily Todd would pour through the adverts and reviews of the shows, concerts and productions. Unfortunately each event cost between $45 and $75. So, we decided to fulfill our cultural, yet poor, spirits with one splurge of entertainment. We choose “Le Vie”. A performance by a bunch of French-Canadian, ex-Circe de Sole folks. I have to say that we chose well. Our big cultural night out on Friday March 7 began with homemade Greek pita pizzas, a walk through the woods to town, and a free acrobatic performance in the civic center composed of rings, trapeze, ropes, el Diablo, fire, girl in a tiny box, flips and flops, twists and turns. Very entertaining. Then we walked to the location of our main event and sipped on wine until it began at the late hour of 10:15pm. Why so late? Because this show is ‘risqué, edgy, wild’. David had told me hours before heading to the show that it consisted of audience participation and contained male nudity. Full frontal. Hmmmm…. This could be interesting. I hoped that these two components were not simultaneous. Thankfully, they weren’t. The show was great. In a small theater (more like a round stage in a bar) the actors made us laugh, jump, hold our breath, and feel the sinful emotions of envy, lust, pride and guilt. All while they spun from the ceiling, leaped over our heads and twisted from chains. It was a surprising, entertaining show. A fantastic evening.

We’ve had a hedgehog visit our garbage the past couple of weeks. What a cutie he was eating our waste, barely gave us a wink when we check out the clatter he was making. Small and furry looking, with a pointy nose and small eyes. But, Todd bought us a proper garbage can and now we have no hedgehog friend. Until he finds our waste again.

Last Friday Todd and I acted as “Whale and Dolphin Experts”. We were asked by David and his wife Sarah to speak at their daughter and son’s school on the topic. So we put together a slide show of photos, video and audio clips and went off to class. After some general background we talked about how we conduct research on whales and dolphins and the risks they face. We spoke in front of about 100 kids ages 5-8. The older ones had been studying whales and dolphins and knew their stuff. They asked us some good questions like “Does a baleen whale spits out the water below or above the water?” and “How do you get the tags back after you put them on the whale?” This was followed by an evening of wine and pizza at David and Sarah’s, and some car racing video games. Then, with a good buzz on, Todd and I rode our bikes DOWNHILL (emphasis here) to town. For seven minutes we did not pedal and we leaned into the turns and felt the breeze whip past our eyes and ears. Wwwwwwwwhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Probably the most exciting event over the past few weeks was the arrival of our stuff from the States. True! Only seven weeks after packing our stuff up into 11 cardboard boxes in the back of Danielle’s house we were lugging our boxes up the steps to our cottage Strong Todd and unpacking, many times asking “why did we bring this?” 11 boxes!!!!After all the warnings to not expect our stuff for another 3 months, at the earliest, I was happily surprised to get a phone call from Main Freight Shipping saying our stuff was in Auckland. After only 1 hour dealing with customs and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries I had my forms in hand and awaited inspection and clearance of our boxes. We used a do-it-yourself style shipping company called UPakWeShip.com and I have to say it was pretty painless. We packed up our boxes, drove them to a warehouse in Norfolk and were told 6 weeks later they would arrive in Wellington. Hard to believe but sure enough, that was the case. We had to handle all the port service fees, inspections and paper work but as I said that was pretty simple. Every other American I have spoken to about shipping stuff over told me horror stories of stuff never arriving, being lost at sea, or wet/damaged upon arrival. Not the case here: Go with UPakWeShip.com! Now we just have to figure out where everything goes….

Todd’s job prospects have picked up. He had one interview last week at GNS (Geological and Nuclear Sciences), another crown royal institute like NIWA. He would be ‘geonet technician’ – installing, maintaining and troubleshooting the network that monitors geologic activity in NZ. Pretty cool. And, today he got a phone call from NIWA offering him an interview for another position Todd applied for as a marine physics technician. That’s lined up for Wednesday. So two good prospects for another pay check. Wooohoooo!

New neighbors moved in to the cottage next door. All I can say in ‘young’. A couple in their early 20s. Studying something, somplace. When our landlord was curious about how they would pay the rent, it came to light that the woman is a dancer at the popular men’s club downtown. I guess that’s easy money from drunk men on a Friday and Saturday night.

I’ve been keeping busy with two of my favorite activities: soccer and ultimate. New Zealand Ultimate Nationals are coming up in 2 weeks and I am enjoying playing with the women’s team. I am looking forward to the tournament (especially since I am missing Co-egg with Lookout and Fools Fest with my Duke reunion team this week! Boo hoo!) I started playing with a women’s soccer team: Wellington United. It’s the first all women’s team I have played on in almost 10 years. No less, the league is a proper 11-a-side, 45 minute halves, ten teams around Wellington, we play in real stadiums and the season runs through September. This is the real deal. I have been hesitant about joining the team. Not sure how committed or competitive I want to be with soccer these days. I had those days already and am not too eager to go back. Ultimate has always been a good middle ground for me: Competition in perspective, a good way for me to unwind without getting frustrated about the level of play, skill or effort. But, so far the soccer has been fun and easy going. We had a scrimmage yesterday and it felt good to run around the pitch again with women and not be worried about being rolled over by a 6’4 man every time I had the ball at my feet. Although my experience is easy to recognize (no ego here, just the truth) my teammates try hard, can pass the ball around, understand the game and are there for the same reason I am: To have a good time. No more, no less. And, beers always follow any good footie match.

That’s about all from down here. Oh, except that Todd and I went on a wonderful bike ride on Saturday around the Mirimar peninsula of Wellington. A few hours of bike riding past bays, hills, beaches, and trees to a nice picnic spot on the south coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Wellington Beach Click here for some photos of the trip: http://flickr.com/photos/23078002@N04/sets/72157604134945738/. It just reminded me of what a beautiful place we live in. Wellington is easily one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. So, there is really nothing to complain about here, except the lack of friends. There is no rushing this, I know. And Todd is my best friend and all I really need. But as I go through my days here I see, feel and hear things all the time that remind me of friends back home. A girl I saw running on my way to work this morning looked just like Christine jogging along the streets of Beaufort. I could have sworn I saw Ben driving his car last week. Todd thought I was playing soccer yesterday with both Erin Lebreque and Angie Coulette. And we picked out this bottle of wine at the store Bell Bird wine!, reminding me of the days on Russamee when we would look behind us in the creek and see Prendergast climb out of the Bell Bird. (Not a bad bottle either, Sean.) I am constantly thinking of things I want to tell Gretchen and my mom, but the stupid time difference impedes our skype time. Every dog I see reminds me of Mango. It’s great to have my memories and my friends. I just want you all with me here now, to laugh and live in Wellington together.

We are headed to the Queen Charlotte Track for the 4 day Easter holiday this weekend, so check back in a couple weeks for photos and a blog about our tramp through the fiords and hills of the Marlborough Sound in the north of the South Island.


3 responses to “Happenings

  1. kelly stewart

    we really miss you too Leigh and Todd. it’s great getting to read about how you are doing. sorry the time difference makes it hard to communicate. I always forget that although you are behind us in hourly time, you are ahead of us by a day… will try to get a better handle on this!

  2. I’m a little happy Andy made you homesick. It means we get another post from you. Your posts are unlike ordinary posts, you Superwoman of the posts. I see you’re saying “pitch” instead of “field” now. So: You’re making New Zealand a home.

    I had a lovely walk with your mom this week. more on that via private email.

    You are wise about not pressuring a rush for friends. You are wise about counting Todd your rock. To Todd: Good luck with the job.
    I think of you every day.
    Kisses from cold New York City

  3. Leigh,

    Hi there! Greetings from Wilmington! Sorry it’s taken so long for me to visit your blog. I’ve had your e-mail saved with the e-ddress forever and have been waiting for a minute to come up for air. Tonight is that night!

    Your tales of your adventures have my gypsy heart longing to join you! As your friend said, your posts are very well-written and thoroughly enjoyable to read. I feel as if I’m there with you at moments…Of all the places I’d like to visit, New Zealand has always been in the top three. One of these days : )

    I’m stoked that you’ve found a place Mango can live also. I know how difficult that can be. The situation forced you into what looks like an amazing little cottage, so you can’t really be upset about that!

    Good luck to Todd on the job front. I feel his pain. If not for Tim, I’d likely have left Wilmington by now. Ah, the power of love… Take care and I’ll be thinking of you at Co-Egg this weekend! Keep the posts and Kiwi tips coming!


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