Slaughterhouse Seven: Tales of an Arachnid Murderer
As we traveled northwest from Queenstown, crossing the Southern Alps, the landscape began to thicken: more forests, more waterfalls, more humidity, and more bugs. We arrived in Hokitika, a rural town that prides itself on it’s jade shops, fish and chips, and oceanfront location. Our hostel was eclectic and quaint (so quaint our group of 18 filled the entire building). Every room was painted a vibrant color dotted with native bird paintings. The pukeko, the weka, the kiwi—all sorts of birds danced about on walls, pot holders, salt and pepper shakers, and shower curtains, making known their significance to Kiwi culture.
In addition to the birds were bugs. Upon entering our egg yolk-yellow room was a spider the size of my fist. It greeted us from the bedpost, raising its two-times-too-long fang-like feet at us. I was left with a choice: fight or flee. Unexpectedly, I chose fight. I rolled up last week’s The Otago Times and whacked the arachnid to its death. Feeling mighty and as if I had squashed my fear of spiders (a life-long phobia attested by hundreds of “DAD! THERE’S A SPIDER IN MY ROOM CAN YOU COME KILL IT!?” events), I unpacked my bags.
Five minutes later, another fang-feet spider (what it’s actually called I’m unsure) emerged on the window. Knowing that I would have to sleep with it in the same room did not settle with me, so I re-rolled The Otago Times and added a tally to the death toll. Where this internal might came from I have no clue, but the killing streak continued, slaughtering seven fang-feet spiders in one day. By day three, the sighting of bugs didn’t faze me. A mere newspaper whack took care of the job, and although I am covered in 23 bug bites (and counting), I have come to the realization that a) they are more afraid of me than I am of them and b) I am a mean, unstoppable bug killer.
Bugs aside, our weekend in Hokitika was quite calm and delightful. We splayed sandy towels and stolen airplane blankets on the beach under the scorching sun along the shores of the Tasman Sea. The water was a tolerable temperature, but the waves had such a strong pull—so strong rocks on the beach were uprooted and tossed about in the water—that swimming was unsafe. Instead, we spent hours on the beach, making the several kilometer trek to town along the water instead of on the highway, coating our toes in fine, black sand.
While the majority of the time we were in Hokitika it was the weekend and therefore did not have class, on Friday we went into town and sketched repetition. This process is something we’ve focused on as the quarter progresses. Depending on the location, we analyze and sketch, using different lenses such as form, experience, pattern, and process. The outcomes vary from person to person, making the sharing of ideas almost more enriching than the sketching itself.
This multifaceted exercise is both fresh in idea and helpful to our individual studies. I’ve found that it makes me think about intricate details, which then lead to ideas for creative writing. For others, whether they’re majoring in public health, biology, or landscape architecture, their unique outlooks vividly develop as the quarter continues, as demonstrated by sketches. The variety of perspectives our group offers has played a key role in our studies. In addition to these exercises, we are constantly considering, comparing, and opening our thoughts, making for valuable, interdisciplinary learning provoked by our surroundings and sense of place. And these surroundings—the fang-feet spiders, the fine black sand, the Tasman Sea’s devil-like waves—are precisely how New Zealand so perfectly feeds into our educational process.