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.

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Posted on June 16, 2012, in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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