Blown Away by Windy Wellie

Hoonan_7_2Feelings of finality and closure have become more tangible as our program makes its way north, creeping closer to Auckland. Last week we traveled from Christchurch to Nelson, a quirky harbor town near the Abel Tasman National Park. We held class in the National Park, hiking to a beach to complete a sketching exercise, in which we used only colors not represented in the landscape to draw our surroundings. While hiking back, we walked in silence for 20 minutes. Our group (usually termed a “gaggle of girls”) did not chat or giggle; the only noise came from footsteps on the rocky beach and through the dense, black-mossed forest.

On Valentine’s Day we drove to Picton to catch a ferry to Wellington. Cupid must have not been feeling very loving, because our drive was cursed with tight, frequent curves along steep cliffs. Already nauseous, we loaded onto a ritzy, bizarre ferry that resembled a hybrid of a casino and a modern-day titanic ship. With the Tasman Sea to our left and the Pacific Ocean to our right, we plowed across the rocky passage to the North Island.

We arrived, windblown and queasy, to the city. Wellington—also known as “Windy Wellie”—wasted no time impressing us as we dined on seafood and danced ‘til dawn in streets shut down by the masses of youthful partying people. After a sleepless, decadent weekend, we put down our wallets and picked up the books. Taking advantage of the rich offerings in Wellington, we had a full week of school activities. From walking tours held by urban planners and city council members, to café and museum visits (to Te Papa, the city’s massive, impressive museum free to the public), our school week was packed to the brim with interactive exercises.

Hoonan_7_1One day we were fortunate enough to attend an all-day panel at the University of Otago’s School of Public Health. Different established academics spoke on topics regarding climate change. Professionals seated along with a gaggle of girls listened to different research topics, making for a modified, intimate TED talk-like setting. As the audience sipped drip from paper cups, researchers discussed the necessity of using reusable materials, such as paper cups. Speakers talked of reducing wasted at work, and workplaces can mitigate the use of paper by digitalizing papers. We read these findings off of the big paper packets full of printed PowerPoint slides they prepared for us. During one discussion, an audience member stood up and demonstrated how she used these papers to make a fortune teller. She was not in attendance after lunch.

In the late afternoon, we snacked on sushi and crumpets, and at the end of the session we were gifted calendars, cardstock certificates confirming that we made it through the whole day (for no one but ourselves to relish in), and a platter of cheeses. It was an enriching day, to say the least. Other academic endeavors we completed during the week (such as writing an ekphrastic poem from Te Papa’s art gallery and completing a landscape architecture mapping exercise along Wellington’s waterfront) nicely juxtaposed the intense seminar atmosphere, as they allowed for a calm, individual thought processes and even more perspectives to consider in the windy city.