Saturday, 16 March 2013

Surprises... (March 12 - 15 2013)

March 12th
Well! After my wonderful experience with the hospitality of Air New Zealand security, I was finally on my way to finding the City Lodge, where I'd be spending my nights for the next three weeks of my life. I was glad to find Matt relatively easily. He'd already informed our liaison here in New Zealand about my situation, so no worries there. We found a shuttle service easy enough, which happily guided us to the right bus and then escorted us in high style to our place of dwelling. The city lodge has a hotel vibe when you first walk in, but I have come to find out it is very similar to a hostel in the way it is set up. I do admit though, with a few more amenities than other hostels I've come to know.
I was planning on an ambush... but I got bored.
After we arrived and met with Yvonne (and after sufficiently explaining my fun at the airport), we were informed that our internship had been canceled due to some unfortunate circumstances. This was surprising news to say the least. I almost didn't know what to think, so I just smiled and laughed about our situation. Yvonne assured us that she was working on other options for us, and so we adjourned to our rooms for some well needed rest and a cold shower. Damn the humidity was wicked... I had to take cold showers.

This first night wasn't that eventful, aside from some delicious food-court curry Yvonne treated us to. Then it was sleep, a long restful sleep for which I am truly grateful.

March 13th
The BLAT. Can you guess what the acronym stands for?
This morning we accompanied Yvonne to a meeting to find out what our options were going to be for the next three weeks or so. Before this though, Yvonne showed us a wonderful breakfast meal I have come to know as... The BLAT. It was good.
Right after our meal I had the pleasure of watching this little guy strut around.

Well, I should correct my previous statement, Matt and I didn't actually go with her to the meeting, we just hung out around the area in case we were needed afterwards. We walked around the University of Auckland, as well as the adjacent park (Albert Park). It was a splendid park with some pretty cool trees. We found some cones that showed possibilities of serotinous adaptation. Now I wish I'd taken a picture of the cone.

Oh Yea!
This was a pretty cool tree, I would have to say.
I would like architecture in the future to look something along these lines... for all buildings.

We walked through the park for a bit and found what I've deciding to dub as, "Pebble Stairway". This widely used staircase lead us to a fine display of artwork at the Aukland Art Museum that would have a reverberating effect I wouldn't even begin to feel until three weeks later... you'll read about it later. Sadly, I didn't get the chance to go all the way through, which I'm now kicking myself in the but for. These were some of the more compelling pieces of art I found, so I'll go ahead and post them after this piece of poetry I decided to go ahead and include in this blog. Let me explain: As I was remembering this time spent in Auckland I felt a moment of inspiration, so I plucked the feeling wafting over me out of the stream of creativity, and then wrote this poem... thought I'd share it.

Someday I'll walk those tall white rooms again,
perhaps with boldly new art on their colorless walls
for me to capture reflected photons from
as I wander
through the cemented steal pillars downtown,
Kiwi Town...
losing myself among the shady knolls
found only in Albert Park while the
sun shifts their shadowy position with searing speed...
only recognizable by slowing

the need to avoid our stillness.

Someday, Oneday...
only if my flight happens to be
on a Saturday.
in Kiwi Town,
soon to be homeward bound.
Not by plane or  sea or even
space shuttle,
But by bringing my center out,
and then back in again
on the great spiral that takes you
away from yourself just enough
to comprehend the immensity constantly growing...
within us all.

Do you see what I see...???
The simplest surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street pistol in hand and firing blindly as fast as you can as fast as you can pull the trigger into the crowd anyofdlk;afjdalfjdalf;jdafl;dajd;a..............
Challenge Accepted!
Woah buddy! You win the staring contest.
Can you see the little guy? He's tearing that tail... I think.
These are similar to the colors we'd see during sunsets in Auckland.

This one speaks for itself.

Stare at this for 89 minutes... and you might feel how I did while simulating weightlessness.

This reminded me of something Adam Jones (Tool's guitarist) would paint.
Hmmm... very interesting. (curiously rubs the several hairs upon chin)
I had a good long look at this one.
Each woman has a different face, and is unique in so many different ways, revealing the imperfection inherent in each artist... but also so similar in their hue/aura.
  These two were pieces of art on the staircase just across the street from the museum. I love street art.

token flower picture :)
laaa, la, la, lah
Woah, that guy dropped his sandwich!

That looks uncomfortable.

Matt and I headed back to the building early, to make sure we'd be there when Yvonne came out. We were informed that we could have the day to do as we pleased, and then would meet again later in the afternoon to find out about our options. That was very fortunate for me since it happened to also be my birthday, but on Mountain Time, not New Zealand (my watch said "-11", not sure what that means). So, we took advantage of our opportunity and started walking.

We eventually found our way to what I thought was Chinese food, but I'm thinking it may have actually been Japanese food. Which is absolutely fine with me because it was very good indeed! The sake also made me stereotype it a bit as Japanese... I think Matt might be more sure of this than I am. I'll have to ask him about it (note to self). We glided on in a relatively meandering sorta way, until we eventually realized it was getting close to closing time (around 8pm) and decided to get some more food for my birthday dinner. I'm never really excited to celebrate my birthday, mainly because I just don't care. I've found that I'm beginning to measure things in seasons, and school years now... which coincide very nicely with the seasons. Speaking of seasons, look at that sun! Booyah! I can't believe it every time I think about our star... the life giver... taker... grand baker of ovens... our eternal link to the beginning of it all. That one thing.
One of the few times (except Easter weekend/Good Friday) I captured the majesty of an empty street... oh yeah, and the sun.

Our meandering didn't last long this time before we found a one-in-a-million sushi shop. I say one in a million sarcastically, but I mean it seriously. We happened to walk by this one in that moment, on that day, month, year, millenium... I would have to say more than one in a million. Needless to say, it was yummy.
 We hung out in my room and ate some awesome tasting sushi. It was made in front of us and consumed accordingly. We even got these cool little balls of Wasabi, including also an aptly capped squirt bottle filled to the brim with soy sauce, and then of course, the ginger. I don't think any sushi meal I've ever had was complete without, the ginger. All three ingredients actually. Dang, now I really want some sushi.
I would have to say that Montana micro-breweries are among the best in the world (thinking about the fine Steinlager we washed our sushi down with), because I have yet to taste any as good elsewhere. I feel that's probably something that will be true until I taste a better blend somewhere else. Truths, aren't they weird? They exist and then they don't. They are true until they aren't. Truths are truths until they become lies. We hold truths so dear, yet so willingly ignore they're message... we... are all at the center of our own
universe.       man... that's deep

March 14th
We were no longer in suspense, our surprises had been sprung upon us and the mystery was but a figment of our vivid imaginations once again. In other words, we found out what our internship was going to be, which was a relief. I was a little worried that I was going to have to go hang out on the beach all day or something.

I forgot to add in the last page that Yvonne had done some hunting and found three options for us to chose from. It felt nice to be able to pick our placing. We had three options: we could work with kauri (Agathis australis) dieback and water/nutrient cycling, or we could capture and dissect rats, or we could work for the Auckland Council. Matt and I deliberated a little bit, almost tricked into the cool sounding rat dissections, but then decided on the kauri dieback and water/nutrient cycling. The types of measurements we were to do and the science I was to be a part of is still sinking in. Although only a little over two weeks, my experience in New Zealand with the University of Auckland will profoundly change my perspective forever.

After our 9:30 breakfast at the cafe just down the road from the building we were staying in, we returned to our rooms. Not for long though. Matt and I were eager to see more of the city, so we turned our backs on the amenities, televisions, and electric boilers, venturing into the unknown. For me, a city is far more foreign than any wilderness could ever be. I feel so out of place among so many people, and when ever I get to thinking about everything going on around me, it can be a bit mind blowing. I'm definitely not a city boy.

blinded by the Sun
It seemed like we fell nice and smoothly on our way down to the Winyard Quarter. My first impression was, this place looks pricey. We walked around in an aimless manner at first, searching out an adequate sit down for some fish and chips. This statue to the right stuck out to me right away.
Eventually hunger won the tide and pulled me over to the place where I was to eat the only fish-n-chips of my entire voyage. It was pretty good, but I'm still not sure if it was worth the thirty bucks I payed for it.

Who am I kidding, this was the best fish-n-chips I've ever had! Wouldn't trade it for a 29 dollar plate of fish and chips.
Jump around! Jump up Jump up, and get down!
Once our bellies were full and our smiles curled, we continued on to the Maritime Museum as we had planned. It was amazing.

I would almost just keep it at that, but there's so much to say. I promise I won't bore you too much.

This miniature probably doesn't give the sea craft full justice, but it was pretty none the less. The child in me wanted to MacGyver the glass open and then take the boat out for a test drive with some GI Joes. I decided that wasn't a good idea.

These canoes must be the pinnacle of aviation technology. To cross the vastness of the Pacific Ocean without modern navigation tools is a feat not easily accomplished by anyone.They were so successful in designing a seaworthy vessel that the same layout is used to this day for modern ship crafting. If it ain't broke, don't fix it... right. I say, fix the shit out of it, and try to improve. I feel like there is always room for improvement. That doesn't mean it'll actually get better, but why not try. Well, I guess sharks are one of the many exceptions to this rule. They've succeeded.
And then along came the human with ideas of growth and domination. We grew on land, and then dipped in the sea. We grew in the sea, and spread across the globe. Now, we are growing out of control. So it is, so it's always been. If we are truly great, we will learn the lessons of all those who would warn against this lack of control. We are such beautiful inventors and artists, able to contemplate the heavens and smile at fire. I just hope now we can take this growth paradigm and imbue it with our creative spirit,
with our love and hope, and then stop for a while so we can all just take a breath.

That was a nice breath I just took. Can you take a breath with me... just breathe in, and then out. It's nice to be aware of these things. I find that the more I recognize the smallest of details in the world around me, the more I'm encouraged to keep light in my heart. I see the natural order of things and find comfort in the knowledge that I
am apart of something so grand, that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the iceberg with the most advanced methods and instruments. Some of the last frontiers will not be physical barriers, they will be barriers of the mind... barriers of the soul. My heart tells me these things are what connect us all to the grandest of all artists. An existence I've been blessed with, as have we all...
The Universe.

Sharkbate ooh haha!
There was this place where we could draw a card, and then find our person on the wheel. This young woman was alive at some point, breathing, and seemed to have had a hard journey during the 23 years she walked this planet.
This guy made me jump when I first saw him. I was paying attention to the wooden humpbacks hanging from the ceiling and then looked down to find this old man fashioning a tool of some kind. I can't remember what it was. I think he's sharpening a harpoon point.
He's like, "Dude! Get me outa here!"
It was getting a bit late, so we headed out. I don't either one of us wanted to have to be asked to leave.We both knew the next day would be our big introduction ceremony, so had some alone time to ourselves for the evening. I always enjoy a bit of alone time, especially after being contained along side hundreds of respiring people in a flying cigar tube with jet engines and sprawling wings for hours on end. Sorry, I think I'm now a little jaded on the whole flying thing. Too bad I didn't have a rocket horse, I might enjoy that more I think.
March 15
We got to go to the lab today! I was so excited to finally start working, I don't do well with nothing to do. My mind jogged over the possibilities as Yvonne, Matt and I made our way down and then up again to crest Albert Park's hill top fountain area, across Princes Street, down passed the Alfred Nathan House and across the grassy knoll with the constant statue in front of the good old Old Coral Hall, then down through the underpass, up across the food courtyard, and into... The Building. The lab we spent our time sorting littler and roots in was the geology lab if I'm not mistaken, but our immediate destination was Luitgard Schwendenmann's office. Luitgard is a very kind woman, who seemed to always have a smile painted on her face, seldom did I see her doing otherwise. After we located her research cave of wonders our trio crossed over to a meeting room where our group would become a quartet. Too bad we didn't have any instruments... only instruments of speech and mind on this session.

Cate Macinnis would be the guide to my encounters with gigantic beings of ancient wisdom, yet still only children among their elders... the giant kauri's of Huapai. This day would not come right away though, I would have to be patient before I could see a healthy kauri stand. Unfortunately Cate was ill and had to refrain from speaking loudly, so our words were few. We'd have our conversations later.

We parted ways with Cate after our meet and greet, then Luitgard brought us down to a small lab where the samples were being kept. After just a bit of meandering we ran into Donald van der Westhuizen, the Master's student we would have the joy of assisting in sampling soil respiration, dendrometric change, photon density on the forest floor, soil moisture and conductivity, and last but not least we helped gather litter samples. These were the field measurements we did. Today we were going to sort roots thought, roots out of drought baked soil samples. Detrimentally, there's been a drought in New Zealand that hasn't had an equaled in 50 years, so the soil was especially dry, which made for difficult tweezing.

In order to avoid breaking the roots into tiny little chunks and making it nearly impossible (with time constraints) to pick all of them out effectively, we had to first soak the samples in warm water, preferably with little to no use of hands. Due to the extreme nature of the soil moisture when the samples were taken, we had to use our hands, slowly massaging the roots out of the hard chunked dirt. Then, once the sample was sufficiently massaged, we poured a little bit at a time into a sieve to be sorted. This is when the fun begins.

We put our sieves in a white tray to assist with visually identifying the roots against a light colored background, and also to fascilitate the further breakdown of the soil around the roots with added water. Our task from this point until we couldn't see any more roots was to use large labratory tweezers to pick through the samples for roots, and boy let me tell you, some of those suckers were small. Some samples went fast, others took well over a half hour to get through, each of them separated by the routine of dumping the water from the tray, emptying the remaining soil from the sieve, rinsing the sieve, and then working the soil in our massaging bucket. The final act before we would start the sorting again was to pour enough soil to be worth the trip, but not so much that you can't distinguish dirt from root. Then it was pretty much just rinse and repeat after this. Until the cosmos empties and the sun shines no more... or until there's no more soil samples to sort.

 I hope that covers it. If I missed something, feel free to post comments. You can also visit my website and Fedex any donations and/or good thoughts to my email address at Memory Just kidding, or maybe not?

We sorted roots until a little after 3pm and were given the OK to hit the up and down sidewalks of Downtown Aukland. So we did, going straight back to the City Lodge to prepare ourselves for the coolness that was to be, The Silo Cinema. But not until we'd stuffed our faces with artfully created pizzas, courtesy of La Porchetta Italian Restaurant.

Here's a couple of links that are very good references for the research we were helping with.
Luitgard Schwendenmann -
Cate Macinnis -

The beautifully useful Toe Toe (genus Austroderia)... o yeah, and the Sky Tower too!
I never would have thought I'd be watching a documentary about the great Bob on the side of a silo on the northern coast of Auckland's Viaduct. (Jeeze I'm good at run-ons). There must have been over 500 people there, dare I say over a thousand maybe! Concession stands lined the waterfront with food, drink, and souvenirs that would capture the attention of even the most un-souveniry of us. Matt even scored a record with Jimmy Hendrix painted full faced upon the recycled vinyl. I thought that was pretty generous of the concession man to give that to Matt. He seemed to appreciate the awesomeness that is Jimmy's guitar playing. Yvonne bought some freshly fried donuts to grub on, I only went for one though. You know, to keep it special. It almost reminded me of a piece of frybread from back home, but a mini sugar coated version. I can't lie, it was the bomb. And so was the view. Seeing the lights on the water and feeling the cool breeze...
Finally, after days sweltering in humidity, my face was graced by the soft ocean air, cool and welcoming to me in that moment of clarity that had spawned as I gazed over the reflections in the water before me. I realized that we are all reflections of the world around us. We all share this, I feel. Our entire existence is malleable, like how Napi fashioned people from clay, we are constantly changing with the tidal movements of our oceans... with the ebb and flow of our atmosphere... and the cyclic rhythm of our beating hearts.
I love these hats!

Halfway through the documentary both Yvonne and I agreed to head back. My butt was hurting anyway from sitting on the concrete (there were no more seats left when we sat down to watch the silo). We had a nice conversation about my family and her's as well. I believe that it's always a good things to learn about other people. After the walk 'home' I was pretty tired and ready for bed, but then ended up hanging out with Matt for a while. We also had some great conversations between us, leading to a later night and a few beers to keep our minds swerving for good subject matter. This weekend had plans written all over it, but I guess that's the thing with plans...