Watching American Baseball in an Irish Pub in New Zealand
And my friend Brigid’s long-awaited visit to New Zealand has come and gone all too quickly. Her arrival (and subsequent departure) were, admittedly, touched with some bittersweet feelings on my end. Because her coming here, while so much fun, also means that I am nearing the end of my time in New Zealand. And it’s become the same way with my family, who seem to be under some kind of agreement to alternate messaging daily, always including a countdown to when they, too, will be here. Again, though I am far beyond excited to see them, I also can’t help but also be depressed at the thought that my days in this country are severely numbered. These feelings of apprehension must be being converted by my subconscious into those of anxiety; I keep having extremely weird and slightly unsettling dreams about going home. The most nightmarish one for me was one in which I walked into my house and Jazz completely ignored me. Quite pathetic, I know, but for me, a very real concern.
Anyway, enough of that an on to more concrete and interesting aspects of the past few weeks. Brigid arrived late on a Thursday. Mike and I took his car to pick her up at the train station and we managed to squeeze her giant suitcase into the trunk (I swear, she brought more clothes for her two-week visit than I did for me entire semester). The next day, Friday, was the start of the weekend for me since I have no classes (not that I really bothered going to any of them during this week anyway; it was all review and I am not overly concerned with how my performance on finals will be), we had the entire day at our disposal. Unfortunately, I quickly came to the realization that while Dunedin is an excellent place to spend a semester abroad, it is not an ideal location to vacation at for a long duration. I was already running out of ideas for entertainment by about 3 pm. To be fair, we did get up and start moving quite early in the day since was on a hybrid Chicago/NZ time, but still. I rapidly became very concerned with how I was going to keep her trip interesting so that it was worse coming all this way. At least the weather was cooperating (on this day) so the botanical gardens were a great way to keep us entertained for a few hours.
Saturday, our main event was the Speights’ Brewery tour in the evening. During the day, we walked to the farmer’s market with Porter and a few of my neighbors so that we could try some of those absolutely delicious crepes that they serve every week. They never disappoint and on our way home we stopped for some coffee(thanks to Mikem I am officially a connoisseur of most cafes in Dunedin), before just hanging out in the flat before our tour. While the tour itself was on the boring side (unless you’re really into learning the mechanics of brewing beer or the history of the factory), it becomes totally worth it during the last twenty minutes when the taps are opened up. If you’re a lightweight like myself, that is more than enough time to warrant spending twenty dollars in preparation for a fun night in town.
As a result of the festivities from the evening before, that Sunday was extremely low-key. Brigid and I, along with Porter, staked out positions on the couch and proceeded to watch the entire first season of Supernatural. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of that feat.
On Monday, we attempted to atone for our apathy from the day before by going on a hike (that is what people go to New Zealand to do, right?). We did the trail that leads to the Ross Creek reservoir. Though it perhaps does not offer quite as stunning of a conclusion as either Signal Hill or the Pineapple Track, there is a waterfall along the way which makes it the favored route in my book. As with the first time I did this trail with Jenny, I brought along my camera only to have the battery die after I had taken only about three pictures. You’d think I would learn eventually, but apparently that’s one lesson I’ll need to be taught at least once more. That evening, we went to trivia night at The Bog, an Irish bar, with Jenny, Kristen, Mike, Sherry, and Tim. It was a really enjoyable night, even though our only real collective forte was Entertainment (surprise, surprise). We placed thirteenth our of 21 teams so there’s definitely room for improvement. One of my favorite comments came from people watching before the start of the game from some random guy sitting at the bar. He said (and I quote), “So, we’re watching American baseball in an Irish pub in New Zealand.” Maybe you had to be there to find that statement as funny as we did, but NZ culture is, in a strange way, summed up in that statement, particularly in the Scottish town of Dunedin, with its constant influx of international students and visitors.
On Tuesday we did probably the most touristy activity in Dunedin by our participation in the Cadbury Chocolate Factory tour. Now, I’m really not one for factory tours, but I was desperate for novel activities at this point. I also had heard that this tour was really fun (some people even likened it to the fictional Willy Wonka factory) but I was not all that impressed with it. But again, that could just be because my desire to know how chocolate bars are made is so limited. Also, the “free” chocolate included in the tour was not of the varieties that I particularly care for. In New Zealand, chocolate covered marshmallows(usually in the shape of a fish) are quite popular, but I am more interested in a solid block of chocolate than that.
Wednesday, we went with Mike to St. Clair’s beach for the afternoon. It was absolutely beautiful, as usual, but quite a cold day, so we watched the surfers from the warmth of a cafe along the coast. As Thursday was Brigid’s last day in Dunedin, we had made plans to explore the peninsula, but were foiled by a complete lack of cooperation on the part of Mother Nature when the heavens opened up for most of the day. We did go to town for a bit in the evening, but it was a relatively quiet night, presumably a consequence of the final examination period commencing.
Friday, we left (relatively) early for Queenstown and checked into our hostel at around three in the afternoon. I then finally made my dream of bungee jumping a reality by making our booking for the following morning. There could be no turning back now. We grabbed dinner early at the Cow (again, they ensured my continued patronage with their excellent choice of music: this time it was the Beatles and Aerosmith…and the food was good too) before chilling at the hostel for a bit before checking out the nightlife in Queenstown. Brigid and I begann the evening by checking out the Below Zero Ice bar (which is apparently the largest on in all of Australasia). It was a bit on the expensive side ($35 for entry, one cocktail, and one shot) but it is something of a novelty and the inside was so ‘cool’ as to classify it as money well spent. I (of course) forgot my camera but Brigid took a few pictures on her phone that I will try to post eventually. I’d recommend visiting it, if only to have the opportunity to smash your ice glass. Later in the evening, we were lucky enough to be adopted by three local, non-creepy Kiwi guys who taught us how to play pool and took us around to all the best bars in the city. It was a really great night, even with them taking every opportunity for further psych out Brigid by sharing every horror story they’d ever heard about bungee jumping once they learned that was on our agenda for the next day.
Saturday was the monumental day of my first-ever (because there will be more) bungee jump. For monetary reasons, we chose the Kawarau Bridge jump (also, it’s pretty cool to say you’ve been on the first ever commercial bungee jump in the world. And the LOTR cast supposedly all made the jump, so also kind of an added bonus). It’a 43 m above the Kawarau river, and I actually think it’s a more striking location than that of the other big jump so I’m really happy we did it because the pictures turned out incredible. They made Brigid go first (to her horror) and she only needed a tiny shove to get off of the platform. Next was another girl (ironically, also from Chicago) who was traveling by herself, then finally, me (I swear, they made me wait the longest just because I was the only one not terrified). I had no issues making it off the platform (in a beautiful dolphin dive…thanks to all those years of swimming) but once I was in the air all the fear that I probably should have been feeling earlier kicked in and I screamed a sound I never want to hear myself make again (but probably will when I make it back here to do the 134 m Nevis jump). It was amazing. Even with all the anticipation and expectations that I had been building for the past few years, it still exceeded them. Everyone who goes to New Zealand should be obligated to try it. And buy the pictures. They’re priceless (but don’t purchase the video unless you want to provide an opportunity for blackmail).
The rest of the day in Queenstown was just basically us exploring the little paths surrounding the city and buying a few souvenirs from the many, many shops littered throughout the city center. I introduced Brigid to Fergburger (you can’t come to this city and not at least try it; waiting in line is practically a rite of passage in this town) and went out for a bit but Brigid had an early start for Milford Sound in the morning and I had to head back to Dunedin for my finals.
And that about sums up our week! I also briefly will mention that our IFSA-Butler Farewell dinner was the Thursday before I left for Queenstown. It was a fun to see everyone and the food was (as usual with these events) spectacular, but it was also depressing to think we’d already reached the end. This semester has flown by and my only consolation at the moment is that I’ll have a few more weeks to travel with my family before completely saying good-bye to the place that has become home.
Anyway, enjoy the pictures! The ones of me bungy jumping were obviously not taken by me, and are all at the end.