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How a Poem I Wrote In NZ Ended Up In An Opera

I don’t often write poetry. Sometimes I get the odd one, but I almost never share my poems.

But when I do, they become opera arias…

Story time! New Zealand and I adopted each other long ago. I love the landscape, the people, the culture, the history…but when I backpacked around the country by myself, I got a little homesick. To be clear: I had an amazing time, with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and I do not regret a single second.

And I also missed home.

 

Of course, lately I've been pining for New Zealand...I think I left my heart there.

Of course, lately I’ve been pining for New Zealand…

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So, one day while riding the InterCity bus between towns, I stared out the window at the impossibly green, mist-shrouded hills, and I composed some verse in my head. When I got to the backpackers’ that night, I tapped it out on my phone. Several weeks later, when I came home, I transferred it to my computer.

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I liked it. Nothing super fancy or experimental; I wanted something simple. It had an interesting meter, though. The pattern of stressed syllables reminded me of someone running. Which was exactly what I wanted. It captured those nights in hostel bunk beds, staring at the bunk above me and trying to work out which direction home lay. I figured the poem might be interesting set to music (again, that very bare, understated pub song feel), but I don’t compose. Heck, I barely write poetry.

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I came home. I forgot about it.

Fast forward to January 2013. I was rewriting the libretto for East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon. Since I was eighteen the first go-round and the performance requirements had changed in the interim, I was mostly rewriting from scratch.

Rose (our plucky young heroine) had an aria. There were some duets and trios, several chorus numbers for the kids. But the White Bear/Prince didn’t really have an aria of his own. I started thinking about how the enchanted Prince would feel: roaming through the northlands, lonely and just wanting to be warm again, waiting to come home…

And a spark of emotion and memory flared.

I dug into my files. I found the poem. It already had a strong meter; I’d already wondered if it would work with music.

Time to find out.

I slipped that poem into the opera almost unchanged (I think I altered the tense of one verb, maybe?). And there it’s stayed. My partner in this—composer Norbert Palej—did a beautiful job with the aria. I didn’t tell him what it was really about, and yet he crafted a lovely piece. The music aches.

Nothing you write is ever wasted. You never know when thoughts, emotions, and memories will reappear to inform your creative work. Save it—because someday, it may find its home.

-KT

 

Cool Thing of The Week

You didn’t think I’d go through all that without showing you the poem, right? I mean, it’s part of an opera now: I think I’ve lost any rights to qualms over sharing it!

I was waiting for the passing

Of the bleak and bitter night,

For the fleeing of the shadows

And the coming of the light.

I was waiting for the dawning

Of the absent summer sun,

And the waiting warmth that spurs me

On the distant roads I run.

I was waiting for the tasting

Of the season on the air,

For the old familiar fires

Breathing smoke upon my hair.

I was waiting for the greeting

And the chorus from the hearth,

For the end to all my calling

From the very end of Earth.

I was waiting for the sighing

When I stood before your door.

I am waiting, and so dying –

Waiting just a little more.

 

Ka hoki atu ahau ki a koe, Aotearoa; kei te aroha ahau ki a koe.  I'll come back, NZ. I do love you. :)

Ka hoki atu ahau ki Aotearoa; kei te aroha ahau ki a koe.
I’ll return to NZ. I do love you. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Of Dead Laptops and Back-ups

So, my laptop died.

It was never quite the same after I mailed it home from New Zealand. For a while, I had one consistently good USB port, one which was dodgy, and one dead. Then the other day, I noticed that my laptop wasn’t charging…even though it was plugged in.

Unplugging, re-plugging, and all sorts of fiddling did nothing. To make matters even more fun (whee!), I’m currently in Virginia on a three-week interning spin with my dear friends Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. So, a bit far from home.

Fortunately, Pip and Tee are wonderful people. They drove me to Best Buy and waited while the Geek Squad determined that they might be able to ship my laptop back to Canada, where Future Shop might be able to possibly replace the power port to maybe extend my laptop’s life another couple of weeks.

And then they patted my shoulder as I coughed up the money for a new laptop.

There is never a good time, but this could have been better (oh hai, MFA tuition). But the most striking part of this whole experience was transferring the files from the old machine to this new one. The issue wasn’t one of space (again, wonderful friends that Pip and Tee are, I had the use of all the external drives I could ask for).

No, the main issue was time. Once that battery goes, the old machine’s done.

(And yes, I know about pulling hard drives…but I’m in Virginia. I’m not sure how or if I can get the old laptop home.)

So it was like standing in a burning house, wondering, “What do I save? What do I grab first? What can I leave behind?” All the while knowing that every second of indecision brings you closer to that final shutdown.

It’s probably the historian in me, but I like having links to my own past. Detailed records, a personal archive that is there, even if I rarely dip into it. Maybe it’s a security thing, knowing that I can always reconstruct things if necessary.

Obviously, getting the writing to safety is always top priority when things get squirrelly, which is why I’m actually pretty good about backing things up.

Pictures and music vied for second place. A 2011 family trip to Costa Rica, the last we took before my dad died. My New Zealand photos. Even just images for Black Creek and this blog – more a matter of convenience and posterity, but still.

iTunes is fine, so I grabbed whatever extra stock music and sound effects I could. Luckily, I pulled the raw Hapax files ages ago (they were large and numerous), precisely because of this fear of, “What if I need to go back in one day?”

That’s a fear I face now, with the videos. I got the final cuts of all my Black Creek videos, but very little raw footage or sound files. I can’t see why I would ever need to rebuild those videos from scratch, but if ever someone asked, I probably couldn’t. That worries me, even though it’s completely irrational. Again, I blame my historian streak.

But at the end of the day, the important things are really the things that are me. The writing, the music, the photos. Most other things can be found again, edited again. Music is challenging to replace; writing and photos can be almost impossible.

Which is why I will give the customary “Back your stuff up” speech. When my laptop died, I already had the entirety of my fiction backed up elsewhere. I did go back for a few university essays, but the writing was safe.

Most of my photos are on Facebook (though there are always strays). I’ve used Google Drive more and more lately; it holds the music for the kids’ opera, the videos, and a few other random documents. I have my own intern Dropbox now.

It’s easier than ever to protect your data. Yes, emergencies happen. Yes, the unforeseen is…well, unforeseen. But if you can take any steps to mitigate potential disaster (knowing it’s not always possible)…then please, save yourself the heartache later.

Here are some photos that I would have been sad to lose.

KT

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Dad tanned. I do not.

Arriving at the Dunedin flat. Too mundane for Facebook, but it brings me right back.

Arriving at the Dunedin flat. Too mundane for Facebook, but it brings me right back.

I like the perspectives no visitors see.

I like the perspectives no visitors see.

I do like the furballs...

And I do love the furballs…

10 Things No One Told Me About Backpacking

Hey pals,

Sorry it’s been a while. While I have been lucky with internet lately, it’s been the “check email, check facebook, oops, out of time” kind of internet.

Luckily, there is free internet here in Kerikeri (which is the northernmost town I could get to on the intercity bus system), hence this post.

Without further ado…

10 Things No One Told Me About Backpacking

10. You actually do sleep a lot.

I’d been preparing myself for six weeks of poor sleep, anticipating drunkenly stumbling roommates, roommates that wanted to read at 2 am, and hard beds.

Actually, in many smaller towns, there’s not much to do when the sun goes down, and most people have been out sightseeing all day, so many people turn in early. Add sleeping on long bus rides, and I’m clocking more hours than I have in years.

9. Hostel parties don’t always happen at hostels.

Some of this may be due to my selection process: I was careful to pick “quiet” hostels. Still, most of the time, people who want to go drink don’t stay in the hostel. They go to bars, leaving things relatively quiet.

8. “Clean” and “dirty” are not absolute states, but a spectrum.

Clothing is never just “clean” or “dirty” (nor are you, for that matter). There is a spectrum ranging from “washing-machine clean,” to “I washed it in the sink clean,” to “it still smells ok clean.”

You don’t want to know about the gradations of “dirty.”

7. Internet is everywhere, if you know where to find it.

I thought I’d be mostly disconnected while travelling, but I’ve been able to check things pretty consistently. Most hostels have internet for a price, some have it for free, and you can find it free around cities: in libraries, cafes, and the random “hotspots” in Auckland.

6. You read a lot.

I love the book exchange system in hostels. I love it so much, I may do a separate post on it. For now, suffice it to say that I’ve plowed through several novels already.

5. Kid rules still work.

Remember when you were a kid at a function with lots of adults, and a few other kids? Typically, the kids get sequestered in a basement or rec room and a movie is thrown on. How do these kids, who have never met each other, coexist peacefully?

Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be loud. Play nice.

People slip into movie lounges, watch, and then slip out again. As long as they follow the above rules, no one ever minds.

4. Backpacking is like a constant frosh week.

Ah, frosh week, that magical time when people are so desperate for friends, they’ll talk to anyone. Solo backpackers are the same way. Eye contact made? Instant conversation!

3. Fight Club was right. They are “single serving friends.”

Nonetheless, you know you’ll probably never see them again. While random conversation provides enough social contact to keep you on this side of sanity, it doesn’t last long.

2. Always, always ask for student rates.

This is less in regards to hostels, and more for general travelling. An adult ticket to the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower is $28, which feels like a lot. A student’s is $18, which feels much better. A student ticket on Wellington’s cable car is $1. The only catch is that you do need an ID. I have two, from Toronto and Otago. Since the latter is a New Zealand university, I’ve been using it to avoid hassles. Thus far, I’ve been so glad to have it.

1. You develop a rhythm.

A new city every few days, no longer than three nights in a bed, constantly changing people? How do you develop a rhythm?

Get into town; find the hostel; drop your stuff; locate the supermarket, i-Site, and library; sightsee; write; sleep; wake up early; sightsee; write; sleep (repeat until departure); get on the bus…

And do it all over.

And there you have it: 10 Things No One Told Me About Backpacking, or, 10TNOTMAB. 😛

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.

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.

Favourite Māori Words

One of my favourite classes this term was Introduction to Conversational Māori. And yes, please note the use of the past tense — I’m done, but for exams. I’d wanted to take at least one class in New Zealand that I couldn’t take anywhere else, Māori seemed to fit the bill, and I’ve always loved languages, so I was a keener from the first lecture.

Māori is completely different from any other language I’ve studied (read: French and Old English). It’s from the Polynesian group of languages, which may or may not be derived from a distant branch of the Indo-European “family tree” that encompasses a huge number of languages. Grammatically, it’s both relatively simple and surprisingly complex. Whereas in English and French, verbs are conjugated to show tense, number, and mood (I run/he runs/we ran; je vais/je suis allée/vous iriez), Māori uses particles:

I am running: Kei te oma ahau.

I ran: I oma ahau.

I will run: Ka oma ahau.

Easy, right? Sure, except that Māori compresses an awful lot into each word. Consider the difference between “tēnei ngeru” (this cat here by me), “tēnā ngeru” (that cat over there by you), and “ērā ngeru” (those cats over there, away from both of us).

Or, “Ka hoki mai ahau ki te awa” (I will return (as in “come back here”) to the river) versus “Ka hoki atu ahau ki te awa” (I will return (“go back there”) to the river).  

So, obviously, I love it. But that’s enough of a grammar lesson: Māori has some great words, and I wanted to share some of my favourites.

 

More coolness. The taniwha: a water spirit, typically a guardian.

KāingaPlace where the home fires are kept burning

The āi diphthong makes kāinga a fun word to say, but I love the literal translation. In Māori, there’s a sharp distinction between where you are from, and where you currently live. Kāinga refers to the latter; I’m from Toronto, but right now at this moment, my kāinga is in Dunedin. That being said, it’s one of those words that can be interpreted metaphorically, so I could technically say that my kāinga is in Toronto, which would tell you a lot about my feelings, ties to home, and so forth.

WhakapapaFamily tree/genealogy

Whakapapa is another important concept. Where you come from and who you come from greatly influences who you are. It’s also the name of a town on the North Island. Fun fact about  Māori: wh- is pronounced like the English f. “Hang on,” you say. “Doesn’t that mean that whakapapa would be pronounced like…”

Yes. Yes, it is, which is why I was greatly amused when my flatmate, while booking her post-exam travels, exclaimed, “Sweet as! I’m taking the Naked Bus to Whakapapa!”

Tamariki Children

Many words in Māori sound like what they mean. Maybe it’s just me, but I think “tamariki” sounds like a perfect word for children. Same thing for puku (stomach) and waiata (to sing/song).

PīwhiBeef

However, many words are loan words from English. Not sure if anyone’s noticed this, but New Zealand is kind of isolated. When the Europeans arrived, they brought a lot of things for which no words existed in the Māori language, so extensive borrowing of words occurred.   Māori also has about half the consonant sounds that English does, which leads to some really cool patterns in transliteration.

Beef is a perfect example. There’s no B in Māori; it tends to become P (as with Britain – Piritene, bread – parāoa, and bus – pahi). The long ī is the same sound as “ee.” Wh, as we’ve discussed, sounds the same as f. Thus, “pīwh,” but since you can’t have a word of one stressed syllable ending in a consonant, the unstressed i gets tacked on the end to create pīwhi.

Cool, eh?

KanikaniTo dance/a dance

Following those sound laws, we take the unstressed i’s out of kanikani, change the k back to a c, and get “cancan.” Considering the abundance of gold prospecting and settler towns that sprang up in New Zealand through the latter half of the nineteenth century, I can only imagine what the Māori were thinking.

TumuA safe place to dock one’s canoe

My favourite word in the whole language. The Māori/Pacific/Indigenous Studies Building is called “te Tumu.” Finding “safe places” seems to have been a predominant theme over the last year or so. Maybe that’s why the concept resonates with me so much. Certainly, it seems to be cropping up in my fiction more and more.

Keeping a Cool Head

I know I typically post towards the end of the week, but I did have a few things I wanted to discuss.

I now have all four of my essays back. Three of the four went as expected, and I was happy. Perhaps I got complacent. Actually, I did get complacent, because the last one absolutely blindsided me.

I passed, but it’s a great deal lower than the marks I usually get, and I’m not pleased. For those who know me well, this is (for once) not a case of my having ridiculously high standards. Trust me, you would not be pleased either.

So: shock, and if I’m being honest, some anger. And as long as I am being completely honest, my first instinct was to snap, to rave, and vent.

But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m taking a second, sober look, and I think that, in this case, the principle of “Pick Your Battles” applies.

This was not the most amazing piece of academic writing I have ever produced. The others weren’t my best either, but they were still better. However… I’m on exchange. Yes, it is called Study Abroad for a reason, but realistically, I’m here just as much for the learning outside the classroom. I can learn history anywhere. There are some things about myself, and about life, that I can only learn in New Zealand. Presumably for this reason, every class I take here is judged at home on a pass/fail basis. As long as I pass, I get the credit, but the mark will never, ever show up on my University of Toronto transcript, and does not factor into my GPA.

So really, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter. I’m not saying that in a nihilistic way, but rather in a “it is not particularly relevant to my ultimate goals” kind of way. When I’ve cooled off, I’ll see if there’s anything I can learn from the comments, but otherwise, getting upset over a paper that will not affect my GPA or my grad school prospects seems like a waste of energy.

Moreover, it reminds me that the time is coming when I’ll be looking at reviews, which is the other reason why I am choosing to let this go. When I get my first negative review, am I going to rant? No, of course not. I don’t want to be That Person. Again, this is training to Pick Your Battles.

The “good” thing about rejection, bad reviews, and bad essays is that you can usually learn something from them. But if not… then perhaps a bit of perspective helps. One bad review in a heap of good ones loses some of its bite. One bad essay in three years of university looks less like an indictment of my academic skills and more like a bump in the road. And when I think about all the things I’ve done and seen in New Zealand… I know that those experiences are far more valuable to me as a person than one more A would be.

As I mentioned earlier, I do set high standards for myself. I want to do well. I want to write well, and tell good stories, and perform good history. But when things don’t go as I’d hoped… well, then I simply ask for the ability to handle them with grace and dignity.

K.T. Goes to the Beer Factory

EDIT: OVER A YEAR LATER.

After moving into the historic brewery at Black Creek Pioneer Village, I’m pleased to say that I’ve started developing a taste for beer. At least, I like OUR beer. 😀

There is a great irony in my life. I find beer absolutely fascinating. Honestly, my interest in it started by accident. I have my Smart Serve and an extra person was needed in Black Creek’s brewery, one of my roommates back home is a would-be brewmaster who has several books about beer… Regardless of how the interest started, I’ve been hooked ever since. The history behind beer, brewing methods, tasting notes, alcohol volumes, and International Bitterness Units (IBUs, of course)… it’s all so cool.

But I don’t like beer.

Not one bit. I have never been able to handle more than a few mouthfuls of any variety. Friends mock my grimace when I choke it down. I have grown fond of white wines, but almost every other type of alcohol just makes me gag.

So it was really interesting to go on a tour of the Speight’s Brewery with two friends of mine. The tour was as follows: you get to learn about the history of beer, walk through the brewery and learn how they make beer, and then finish in the brewery bar for twenty minutes of unlimited access to the taps. One friend was quite clear that he was only interested in those last twenty minutes. I was equally clear that I only cared about the first two parts of the tour. The third member of our little band was somewhere in the middle.

Oh my God, it was awesome!

The guide was a wizened, perky guy who spiced his history with asides on current Dunedinites’ drinking habits. We learned about how the Ancient Egyptians first started brewing beer, and then how Europeans made “ale,” but then added hops to make it real “beer,” and how when Captain Cook arrived in NZ, he brewed beer to ward off scurvy. We learned how the barley is malted, and how the room corners are rounded to prevent accumulation of dust, bugs, and contamination. We learned how unfiltered, uncarbonated beer (i.e. Black Creek’s historic beer) is called “green beer,” and how the University of Otago devised the method of condensing hop powder into convenient pellets.

Then the guide asked, “So who here likes beer?”

Every hand but mine went up.

Nonetheless, I did try everything. As expected, I ended up giving most of it to a grateful (and increasingly chatty) Friend No. 1, though there was a cider that was palatable. Still, it was good to be able to actually taste the porter’s “hints of coffee,” as opposed to just learning by rote that they’re there.

But the true measure of my interest?

The appearance of beer-appreciation podcasts on my iPod. 😀

I am such a geek.