Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Year in Review

So, I’m twenty-one today.

No big deal.

This is certainly one of the more…interesting birthdays I’ve had. As I type this, it’s actually five days before my birthday. I’m sitting in a hostel in Picton, NZ, taking advantage of free Wi-Fi to write this post in advance. When it actually goes out, I’ll be in Fiji, having spent most of my actual birthday on a plane.

Strange, eh?

As much fun as it is to look ahead, birthdays are also a good time to look back on the past year. When I turned nineteen, I mostly remember being excited to turn twenty, because it seemed like it would be a big year.

It certainly was.

I found a home.

This was the year I moved out of res, and into my own place. I love my house. I can’t repeat that enough. I love my house, and I had two of the best roommates ever. Pranks, adventures in Christmas tree decoration, James Bond, Donkey Kong, extravagant cooking, a spare room (that is huge for student housing – we had so much space, there was an entire room we didn’t know what to do with)… I’m the kind of person who needs a safe place to come home to every day. This was the year I found it.

I found a job.

In May, 2011, I was kicking myself. I had decided not to return to my summer job as a camp counsellor, but I couldn’t find another job to replace it. Thankfully, my uncle offered to take me on at his restaurant.

Then I got the call.

I had applied to be a Theatre Programmer at Black Creek Pioneer Village, but had assumed I hadn’t gotten it. Turns out their timelines were different than I expected. I was in.

Oh. My. God. Best. Job. Ever.

I spent last summer running around as Peter Pan and Anne of Green Gables, while working at the restaurant on my days “off.” The people, the history, the actual work itself… I loved it so much that at the end of the summer, when my contract expired, I went to my boss and said something along the lines of, “I love it here. Can I please stay?”

She said yes.

While I’m in school, I can only work on-call through the fall and winter. But that’s ok. I found more than a job, I found a happy place. What’s more…

I found my groove.

I admit: I suck at the work-life balance thing. Through the fall, I was working two jobs, attending choir and Quidditch practices, and taking a full courseload. I was sleeping maybe five or six hours a night. Often, the only social time I got was during two-server shifts at the restaurant, or on long bus rides home from Black Creek.

But I was so happy. I was so, so happy.

I might not have seen them much, but between my roommates, my uni friends, my choir ladies, and my coworkers at both jobs, I had good people in my life. I was exhausted, and stressed, and oh-so-slightly burnt out, but I hadn’t felt so good in years.

And then…

I found a publisher.

In November, I had the idea of podcasting Hapax. After all, I had six weeks between my last exam and my flight to New Zealand – what else was I supposed to do?  In December, I heard that Dragon Moon Press was holding an open submission period. I hemmed and hawed, and finally submitted Hapax on Christmas Eve. I didn’t tell my voice cast until the request for the full. Even then, I cautioned them, “It’s a nice ego boost, but probably nothing will happen.”

Something happened.

They liked it. They wanted to publish it. When I first read the email, I had been battling a stubborn cold, and was so sick, and so drugged up with cold medicine, I couldn’t be entirely sure it wasn’t all a Nyquil-induced dream.

After a flurry of emails and phone calls, I spent two hours walking around and around Trinity Bellwoods Park, trying to process it. Six months on, and I sometimes still have difficulty believing it.

I found an adventure.

But I couldn’t just stay in Toronto forever, playing with podcasts while my friends went to school. In February, I flew to Dunedin for a six month stay in the Land of the Long White Cloud. I’d planned this trip for a ridiculously long time, but all the planning in the world doesn’t really prepare you for life in a new country. It’s been detailed on this blog, but let me say – it’s exceeded my expectations in almost every way.

Otago was fun, but it was time for me to see the rest of the country. The South Pacific is a big place, and I’m so excited to be exploring the edge of the map.

And… that was my twentieth year. My thanks to all of you who made it so special.

North Island Ahoy!

 

I have about an hour’s worth of internet here in Taupo, so I thought I’d spend some of it updating here, since my internet in Fiji next week will be really, really patchy( maybe expect not to hear from me at all).

To get to the North Island, I took the ferry.

Prior to this, my only ferrying experience had been the Toronto Islands Ferry. So, I was envisioning passengers crossing the Cook Strait on hard, wooden benches, stamping their feet on corrugated metal decks to stay warm, and occasionally running into a cramped, dingy washroom.

It wasn’t like that.

The Interislander Ferry I took could fit about 500 people and their cars (as opposed to the ones without cars, which fit a few thousand). I never did figure out how many decks, but at least five. There were multiple bars, a playground, and a cinema. Instead of hard benches, the seating areas had padded armchairs clustered in quartets, with tables between.

As I took my seat, I was gloating. “I get to do this voyage again in July!”

I was at the front of the vessel, and since there was an observation deck overlooking the nose (bow, I guess, if we want to be all nautical), I spent the first part of the voyage out there, gaping as we cruised by the ridiculously green Marlborough Sounds.

When we hit open waters, I retreated inside for some writing time. But then, it hit.

Seasickness.

I never get seasick. Not that I’m on boats that much, but still. What’s more, the seas were light, and I was on a floating airport lounge.

Still seasick.

After curling into a tight ball failed to cure anything, I grabbed a “travel sickness” bag and went back on deck, hoping to get some wind on my face and the horizon in view. All that happened was that I got cold, and very nearly lost my gloves overboard.

Eventually, I fell asleep out of sheer misery, and only woke up when we entered the Wellington Harbour, and the waves turned into ripples.

And thus, my glorious arrival on the North Island.

Dunedin by the Numbers

After four months, it’s time to say goodbye to Dunedin, and explore the rest of New Zealand and the wider South Pacific. My term at Otago has been unlike anything I could have imagined. I’m highly impressed that all of my profs learned my name (it was also slightly unsettling… I hadn’t realized how accustomed I’d grown to the anonymity of U of T). I’m far more grateful for U of T’s resources. I like that Otago gives exam topics/questions in advance. I learned that I really, really like the bike lanes and public transit around the St. George campus in Toronto.

But I think I’ll present an overview of the past four months in the form of a list. Here is… Dunedin by the numbers.

1.70 – Price of a Learner’s Cone at the Rob Roy Dairy

60 –Estimated average age of the jazz quartet that plays the Robbie Burns pub

4 – Ascents up Baldwin St (incidentally, the steepest street in the world)

3 – Expeditions out to the peninsula

240 – Minutes of walking before we gave up and accepted that we were stranded on the peninsula

2 – Shots of espresso in a Long Black

3 – Sandman books in the Dunedin Public Library’s collection (that I found and borrowed, anyway)

0 – Times I got bored of seeing the Southern Cross

5 – Classes this term

4 – Bank branches guaranteed not to eat my card

90-120 – Minutes spent in the Good Earth Café every Café Sunday

3 –Photo requests from friends back home

2- Photo requests accomplished thus far.

(Lost Count) – Times I’ve nearly been run over

5:30 – Awakening for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service

3 –Nationalities living under one roof

1 – Ring to Rule Them All

1000 – Highest I can count in Māori

18 – Recommended inside temperature in degrees Celsius, according to NZ Health

6 – The actual temperature in our kitchen

9000 – Words written for essays

1 – Wild penguin sighting

16 – Most books I ever had out from the library at one time

251 – Pokémon officially recognized in this flat (sorry, but if it came after GSC, it doesn’t exist to me)

182 – Approximate age of a wonderfully massive and craggy tree in the Botanic Gardens

(Too high to count)  – Times the creepy robotic self-checkout kiosk voice has chirpily reminded me to “Please place item in the bagging area!”

15 + – Weeks to switch my instinctive “default” from right to left

4 – Amazing, challenging, wonderful months

Thanks, Dunedin. Let me summon my very best Māori and say “Ka roto koe i taku ngākau, e noho ana.”

You’ll always have a place in my heart.

Olveston and Au Revoirs

Last term, I met a Dunedinite who was on exchange to U of T. Our meeting wasn’t arranged or anything: we just happened to be in the same history class, and we just happened to be sitting near each other when the prof said, “Discuss amongst yourselves.” From her accent, I was 99% sure she was from New Zealand, but the remaining 1% of doubt made me keep my mouth shut – mistaking New Zealanders and Australians is not entirely unlike mixing up Canadians and Americans. No one really minds, but you’re better off not doing it.

Luckily, she mentioned Otago, and the rest is history.

Literally. We hung out a few times over the course of the term, including an expedition to Black Creek for a dose of Canadian history. When the term ended, it wasn’t sad, because we would both be in Dunedin in two months or so. In fact, I had one of her suitcases to take down with me, and she promised to pick me up from the airport.

I mentioned in one of the early posts how nice it was to have a friendly face waiting at the airport. Again, then: SO NICE. Much the same pattern continued this term: we bumped into each other every so often, had coffee a few times, and then, for some New Zealand history, went to Olveston House.

Except it was pouring rain when we went…

Olveston is a large, early-twentieth century house that’s been preserved as a historic site. It’s essentially Downton Abbey’s baby brother. We were the only ones on our tour, which was awesome, because we could ask all sorts of questions throughout. The turn-of-the-century is a really cool period, because there’s still a strong Victorian undercurrent running through everything, yet it also seems so modern.

I mean, Olveston House was equipped with all the latest technology when it was built, but still. The kitchen had a “Frigidaire,” custom-made in Ohio so that it could handle the funny NZ plugs. There was an in-house telephone system. A gramophone.  A car in the garage outside.

The kitchen

And yet – the bread board in the kitchen was identical to the one in Second House at BCPV. The library and dining room were undeniably Victorian: darkly wallpapered, and bedecked with little ornaments. Gas lamps coexisted peaceably with electric lighting (the guide assured us that the fixtures were the originals).

“The lamps look just like ours!” I hissed to Sarah as we followed the guide into the butler’s pantry.

She hesitated. “The ones at Black Creek, you mean?”

I had to laugh. “Yeah.”

How I wish I had my own gas lamps…

All too soon, it was over. Knowing that this was the last time made it very, very hard to close the car door, wave goodbye, and step into my flat. Skype, Facebook, and email are great ways to stay in touch, I don’t deny that, but…

But it’s sad. Unlike last time, there is no, “Ok, meet you on the other side.” I’ve been lucky with the people I’ve met down here. Yes, I am “the most nostalgic person ever.” And yes, I’m well aware of the irony here, considering how homesick I got in April.

So, I’ve decided not to say goodbye. Instead, my New Zealand friends (and my American friends), get a “see you later.”

Hey, you never know.

The Transience of Things

Because exam preparation wasn’t enough fun… As I study, I’m also trying to figure out the logistics of packing up my life and sending it to the other side of the world.

Again.

Coming down, I just brought everything on the plane. The return is tricky, because I’m not going home right away. I’m backpacking, which means that I can’t lug all my worldly possessions with me (well, I suppose I could, it would just be terribly inconvenient and nerve-wracking). I found a luggage forwarding service that will handle my clothing and books, but almost no one wants to touch my laptop.

The luggage forwarders requested that I do an inventory of my possessions. Counting everything down to the last sock certainly gives some perspective. Most of my things can be replaced. Clothing, books, even my beloved mug… none of them would cause an absolute catastrophe if they went missing, my weeping bank account aside.

My laptop, on the other hand…

Those SF stories of uploaded personalities suddenly don’t seem so futuristic, not when so much of my writing, my photos, my music, and all the audio for Hapax-the-Podcast are on a machine.

While NZ Post will ship the laptop with great reluctance, there is a degree of risk. I’m mainly concerned about Hapax-the-Podcast (there are enough copies of Hapax-the-Novel floating around to set my mind at ease, and The Next One has always been on USB). The fully-completed episodes can be converted to WAVs/MP3s and transferred to USB easily enough – those still languishing as Audacity projects are a lot harder to move around/access on another machine.

But before I flew to New Zealand, I took all the dialogue out of each episode. I converted all of it to WAV files, copied everything to another USB, and left it in Canada. So, worst case scenario, my actors’ work is safe. Would re-editing and re-scoring everything be a pain and create an insane production schedule? Absolutely. But it means I’ll never have to say to my cast, “Hey, guys, remember how much fun we had recording? Well, guess what – we get to do it all over again!”

I can see their faces now.

Although I’m working feverishly to finish as much as I can before departing, it’s entirely possible that my laptop will show up when it’s supposed to, undamaged, with everything safe and sound. I certainly hope so… because despite my backup plans, I feel terribly insecure sending so much of my life into the big wide world with nothing but packing peanuts as protection.

And there was much rejoicing… or vehement cursing. We’ll see.