Thursday, 17 September 2015

Final Post

My last week in New Zealand was bitter sweet. We all decided to stay in Wellington to have a relaxing last week as opposed to trying to fit another trip in. I hung out with the people I had gotten closest to and Sofie joined our crew as she was also back in wellington from her weekend in Rotorua. We went to our favorite bars we sat on the sittin dock, we went and watched the beautiful oriental bay fountain cascading into the calm waters reflecting. We had a final dinner with the crew and simply enjoyed each others company. It felt right, it honored our time together in a beautiful way and it felt good spending our last week in the city that had been our home and held us for the last 4 plus months. On our last morning we packed up our final things and headed to Ekim’s for a breakfast burrito. We then said goodbye to Sofie and the gang of 5 headed towards the bus stop. Maggie and David stayed for an extra week so we had to say our goodbyes at the bus stop. It was sad and surreal. Bitter sweet. It felt as though we were deeply honoring our time there we all clearly shared something incredibly unique and special. Deep connections and experiences that words can’t touch, even thoughts cant touch, the types of experiences that live deep in my bones and soul and truly have no need to be spoken. And though I am sure this crew will stay in my life in some capacity it will never again be like it was at that time of our lives where we lived a short walk from each other in a wild new world. Where I could grab Justin anytime to play hours of epic ping pong or where I could find someone to walk to the waterfront to simply be with. Entering that bus represented the shift from that wonderful world to whatever beauty and challenge would come next. As I entered the bus with Justin by my side and Alexa in front quiet tears filled my eyes. We watched as David and Maggie slowly disappear into the distance and I felt a deep sense of gratitude come over me. This stage was over but it was perfect.


And with that my life rolls on, full and vibrant. And though this specific journey comes to an end it is also the beginning of something new, something unknown and experiences that will shift me in stunning ways, some subtle and some probably intense. Thank you New Zealand for all the gifts you have given me and for enriching my life. Thank you to all the people I met, those who enriched my life with a smile and those that I expect to have as my brothers and sisters for many years to come. My love and gratitude to all of you and this beautiful life I feel profoundly honored to be living. With that I will sign off in regards to this trip to New Zealand and I turn the page with excited anticipation of what the next chapter will hold.

Te mauruuru,

Aiden 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Rotorua and Hobbiton

11/06/15 – Bus To Rotorua

Justin and I got up early and grabbed a Macdons hunger buster before hopping on our Naked bus up towards Rotorua. Our bus driver was a funny grumpy little man who spent much of his time complaining about previous passengers to someone sitting in the front seat. One story he complained about was a woman who had gone fishing and had put a chilly bin full of fish in the luggage compartment of the bus. After the long ride the Chilly bin had flipped over and the tape securing the lid had failed spilling fish and fish water, from the melted ice, all over everyone’s luggage. A woman then sued Naked bus for thousands of dollars worth of damage to her dresses and apparently in total it ended up costing $18,000. He finished his tale by stating, “That’s why no chilly bins are allowed on our busses now.” We drove through beautiful rolling green hills and past Tongoriro, which was now snow-covered listening to podcasts before making it to Rotorua 8 hours later. We checked into our backpackers and then headed into town to explore. We walked through a night market and passed many closed stores before stopping for dinner at an awesome restaurant called Fat Dog. We each got burgers that were held together by shish kebab skewers and were roughly 10 inches tall (Photo 1). Twas a loverly meal. We then stopped off for a beer at a local craft beer bar before heading back towards the backpackers. On our way we heard music coming from a huge bar called the Pig n Whistle. We stopped in to watch for a little while and ended up staying for 3 hours watching Agent Smith, which consisted of two middle aged bald men playing covers. They were incredible! The lead singer would alter his voice for each song matching the tone and feel of the original sometimes to a point where it felt eerie. He also used a loop pedal to create more complex arrangements. The pedal would not only loop but could be set so he could harmonize with himself. He could also tune his voice up an octave or two which allowed him to sing both the male and female parts of songs like Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to know”. He could also altar his voice to do a perfect Foster the People impression. It was endlessly fascinating. We sat thoroughly amused for hours with almost a private show. We were on a huge covered back deck area with only 5 to 10 other people. We also witnessed an amazing interaction. There were two German girls sitting at the table next to us who had just purchased drinks as they sat down two bogans approached and said can we sit down. And in one swift motion one of the women stood up and said we need to go gesturing to her friend. They both left immediately abandoning there two full drinks to avoid this situation. It was truly incredible! I have never seen someone read a situation and react more swiftly it was very impressive. We chatted with the bogans for a bit who were perfectly pleasant to us but clearly had one thing on their mind. They left a few minutes later after chugging their beers to go back on the hunt. Agent smith finished up their set and we headed back to the Hostel to crash out.

12/6/2015 - Day on the Town

Woke up at 930 and walked into town to grab breakfast. We found a fairly cheap spot in the food district of Rotorua called Nando’s. I grabbed an eggs Florentine and Flat white. As we ate we watched little birds flying around inside this little restaurant picking up crumbs and bits of fry left on peoples plates. It was incredible because these birds had it all figured out and knew exactly how to get in and out. The main door wouldn’t fully close and there was a 2 to 3 inch gap. The birds would fly around grab some food and then fly right to the door, land hop through the opening and t then fly off. We watched 4 or 5 birds continue to do this.  Then a few moments later another truly shocking thing happened. A man walked in who was larger than any man I have ever seen. He was probably shorter than I but he was ripped beyond belief. He had to be a professional body builder. His upper arms were probably the size of my waist and were without doubt larger than my thighs. I couldn’t stop looking at him. He was fascinating. He had a tiny little girl with him who seemed to be 3 or 4. She was the size of his forearm. It was beautiful to watch this hulk of a human being interacting so delicately and lovingly with this tiny little girl. The whole experience was bizarre and gorgeous.
Just before breakfast we had stopped by an I-Site to see what things we could do around town for cheap or free. A woman gave us a map and circled all sorts of things including volcanic activity, redwood forest and museums.
Once we were done with breakfast we walked along the giant lake seeing lots of bubbling mud and other thermal areas. One end of the lake was white with sulfur sediment. It was interesting but didn’t really capture our attention for long as it was all very similar. We saw a few hot pools that had a plaque that said that there is a gas emitted from some of these that were similar to laughing gas. It was very dangerous for the first people who discovered them because apparently they would bathe and start laughing and getting loopy and then pass out and many would drown as a result. (Photo 2)
 From here we walked past the museum, through a sculpture garden and then decided to head up through the redwood forest to a lookout that apparently had a view of all of Rotorua and a geyser. It was a very long walk there but we eventually made it and the redwoods were stunning! We hiked through them for a bit and then were dropped off onto a trail that brought us through clear-cut forests to the lookout. (Photo 3) We were unimpressed with the later part of the walk. We then turned back and walked along the main strip and counted roughly 50 hotels on just over a mile of road. We were completely baffled by this. We then stopped off at the store and picked up ingredients to make a pasta dinner at the hostel. We hot tubbed for a bit meeting our new roommate Sofie and then crashed out in preparation for Hobbiton the next morning.

From here on I am writing a few months after returning but felt it was important to finish this off and post it to tie up that last ends of my trip.

We got up early from our sleepy little hostel and walked a few blocks down to the MacDonald’s to grab our go to brehfass the hunger buster and then walked down to the pick up point for our bus to Hobbiton. He hopped on the bright forest green bus and were on our way through beautiful rolling green hills towards Matamata. We pulled into the gift shop parking lot a bit over an hour later and then headed in to begin our guided tour of Hobbiton! We walked in through a little garden path to our first hobbit hole (Photo 4) they were beautifully maid and looked as though at any moment the large circular doors could open and a fluffy footed creature would invite us in for tea. The gardens were beautiful and maintained to match the books. Real and fake moss blended perfectly. It truly felt as though we had walked into another world. The hobbit holes were varying sizes ranging from 110% scale to 50% scale to allow for the movie magic to allow some characters to seem huge like Gandalf and others to seem tiny like the Hobbits. We walked through the winding trails passing hobbit holes of the baker and the town drunk, the fisherman and the beekeeper (Photo 5). We got to walk around bag end and learned that the massive tree on top is fake and has over 200,000 fake leaves on its branches. We learned that all the hobbit holes are simply facades and the farthest you could go in to any was about 3 meters just to allow a camera crew behind the door so they could shoot from over a characters shoulder as they opened the door overlooking Hobbiton (Photo 6). We then headed down over a bridge past a mill (Photo 7) to the Green Dragon, which is a fully functioning tavern (Photo 8). We got a beer that is only brewed for Hobbiton and had about 15 minutes in the Green Dragon before heading back towards the parking area. The tour in total was under an hour and full of people. It felt very touristy, which isn’t my scene but it was incredibly beautiful and did feel amazing to experience a bit of the movie magic that went in to making some incredible films. We caught the bus back to Rotorua and reconvened at our hostel. We met up with some of our hostel friends including the wonderful Sofie that we had met the night before who happened to be living in Wellington for a few months and grew up and lives a few minutes from my home back in NC… Small world. At this point I don’t fully remember what we did next but I do know I had an opportunity to drop in with Justin while relaxing in our hostel hot tub and talk about life, family, home, fears and all that good stuff. I’m hoping our paths continue to cross Justin is a truly amazing human being.
Later on in the night our whole room found our way back to the pig and whistle to watch agent smith again. This time they had the full band and put on another incredible performance. One particular song stuck in my head though although sadly I could not understand the lyrics I thought they were singing “down low” and the mystery continued for over a week before Sofie finally figured it out when we were all back in wellington. It was long train runnin by the doobie brothers. I can’t tell you how grateful I was that she figured it out. Now its one of my go to jams!
The next day we got up and Justin and I had breakfast with Sofie and our other awesome friend from the hostel Rachel we then headed down to the water and enjoyed each others company before hopping back on the Naked bus back to Wellington.
We listened to music and comedy on our ride back. Reentering the city was a surreal feeling. Paloma faith was in our ear holes as we road along the bay looking at the city lights ahead. Our last excursion was officially ending as we entered our last week in New Zealand.



Photo 1 - Giant Fat Dog Burgers

Photo 2 - Laughing Gas Hot Pools

Photo 3 - View of Rotorua

Photo 4 - First Hobbit Hole

Photo 5 - Beekeepers Hobbit Hole

Photo 6 - View from Bag End With Green Dragon

Photo 7 - Mill Next to Green Dragon

Photo 8 - Inside Green Dragon

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Jumbo Circuit

Thursday 04/06/15
While Maggie was busy finishing up some work and taking a final Justin and I buckled down and tried to plan a trip through the Tararua mountain range for the weekend leaving the next morning. I found train tickets to Masterton and then a taxi that would take us from the station to the trailhead. We then went by the Docsite (Department of Conservation) and picked up hut tickets and maps, stopped by the train station to buy our tickets and then over to New World to pick up food for the trip. And in just a few hours we had a 4-day trip planned leaving the next morning at 8:25am!


Friday 05/06/15
We were up at around 630 and made the 30-minute trek to the train station with full packs. We met Maggie at McDonalds to grab a hunger buster and then headed into the train station to begin our journey. It was an hour and a half ride to Masterton. We passed through lower and upper hut, continued through farmland and beautiful countryside, passing small mountains covered in shrubs in full bloom giving the hillsides a beautiful yellow hue. A few trees had turned orangey yellow and were the only visual hints that autumn was upon us. We passed by the vast green fields of deer farms stopping only at tiny little roadside train stations, which consisted of only car parks and a platform, before reaching the end of the line in Masterton. As soon as we exited the train and grabbed our bags someone poked their head out of a door and said, “are you going to Holdsworth? Aiden right?” We hopped in the van and half an hour later we were at the trailhead!

We started up along the river passing over a large wooden bridge. The trail was very well developed and the foliage was unlike any I had seen thus far. It was a vibrant green with thick moss covering large trees that had an old powerful presence. Ferns were everywhere, small ground ferns were interspersed between the trees and massive tree ferns pushed up creating beautiful delicate circular patterns that brought a unique vibrancy and life to the canopy.

The trail split and we headed up the hillside towards Powell Hut. A little ways up we joined two trampers at a rocky overlook. They were long time friends. One had moved to the UK for 15 years and had just moved back to New Zealand. He had called is high school friend to tell him he was back and asked him what he was up to on the weekend and the other already had a tramp planned so they decided to go together on a tramp they had both walked many times but 15 years had passed since their last adventure together. This was their reunion hike. They were incredibly friendly and showed us gps gadgets on their phones and pointed out things to watch out for on their map. They headed off a different direction after wishing us luck on “the endless stairs”.
As we continued up the temperature dropped and thick mists and light rain started making its way through the thick mossy trees (Photo 1). The trail narrowed and the pitch increased dramatically. The cold light rain matched the feeling of the forest perfectly, every plant seemed to be in exactly where they wanted to be. All the moss was turgid with water and the forest felt robust and full while simultaneously seeming to relax into the cold day. After some time of steep climbing the endless stairs began. First just a few sets of 8 to 10 stairs. All the stairs were all roughly knee level and this repetition almost immediately gave my legs a deep burn to fight the cold. After a kilometer or so we hit the real challenge, the endless stairs our friends below had spoken of. As we looked up the trail we could see staircases stacked one after the other heading straight up the hillside before disappearing over a false summit or simply softly disintegrating into the mists above. The burn was ever-present and deep creating the beautiful opportunity to challenge my mind and not give credence to its false claims of true exhaustion. Each step was a new challenge that allowed me to push through the pain and fully own my bodies true ability. After some time the canopy gave way to an exposed ridgeline the light rain began to bounce off of our bodies and packs as it turned to sleet and hail. The winds picked up hinting that we were probably atop a mountain range but the mists held us close allowing us to see only a few meters around yet keeping the staircases above in full focus. We pushed on up the snow-covered ridgeline and were passed by a man with a small dog heading down the mountain he simply said that he had a fire waiting for us above. We continued up stairs for another 15 minutes or so and then rounded a corner to see Powell hut perched on the side of the mountain. Though we had only been hiking for two and a half hours we had gained more than 900 meters of elevation over only a few kilometers of track. This made the hut a lovely site to our tired bodies. We excitedly took off our wet gear and stoked the fire to warm up and relax. A little while later two other trampers and their lovely border collie Lexi (Photo 2) joined us. We sat by the fire all night taking breaks to look out over the far off city lights whenever the fog would clear, before heading off to sleep.


Saturday 06/06/15
We slept in until about 8:30 and had a leisurely morning and a large breakfast of wheatbix with scroggin, apples and peanut butter. We then packed up, took a moment to see the view that had been obscured the day before (Photo 3) and headed up the ridgeline towards Jumbo hut. The entire hike today was along a snow-covered ridgeline. We had been warned that this trail was marked but not very clear and mist and fog could almost completely obscure the trail from view. Another tramper warned us that the ridgeline gets very narrow, 2 to 3 meters wide at times, and winds can get up to 120 km per hour. With all this said it was a gorgeous clear day. We hiked up through the snow and to the Mt. Holdsworth summit at nearly 1500 meters. Holdsworth had a huge metal structure marking the summit covered with 3 or so inches of windblown ice. We continued on enjoying a day that seemed perfect for tramping with warm sun, frigid air and crisp vivid views. We happily scampered down the trail stopping only for stunning views with the exception of the time when we were stunned by MEGAWORM! This thing was by far the largest worm I have ever seen stretching out roughly a foot long. (Photo 4) We continued on and paused for an apple break at the summit of Mount Jumbo where it was shockingly cold (Photos 5 and 6) before heading down the ridgeline to Jumbo Hut. The whole hike took us 2 hours instead of the estimated 4 so we had tons of time left in the day. We had lunch and spoke to three girls who stopped in on their way up to Powell Hut. We decided to simply have a relaxed day and sit by the fire all afternoon. After an hour or so Lexi and her parents joined us at the hut and just after they arrived brisk winds and sleet began pummeling our little hut. One more lone tramper with a brilliant red beard joined us for the night. We got the wood stove crankin to fight the cold, had a lovely pasta dinner and then climbed the small ladder up to our little loft for the night. The winds were incredibly loud and powerful. They screamed down from the snowy peaks and over the roof less than a meter above our loft pelting the siding with snow and sleet. The wild cacophony wrapped our little cabin with a wild wonder that made our warm little loft all the more cozy and ushered me into a deep restful nights sleep.


Sunday 07/06/15
We slept in again today and had a leisurely breakfast sitting by the fire. It was just the three of us left in the hut as we packed our belongings and tidied up the hut (Photo 7) before hitting the trail once more. Today would be an even shorter day, as we only needed to go down roughly an hour and a half to the river and Atiwhakatu Hut. We descended down the incredibly steep mountainside using roots as steps and handles to keep us from falling. The forest quickly went from frozen alpine shrubs and ice covered grasses to thick lush green mosses and endless ferns. We made it down to Atiwhakatu Hut very quickly and dropped our packs and had lunch at a table near the river. After lunch we gathered and split wood in preparation for the nights fire and then headed up a different trail along the river for a day hike while the daylight lasted. We found a nice spot in the river with large mossy boulders and tree ferns (Photo 8). We sat for a while chatting and then decided to set up small rocks atop the boulders and tried to snipe them off by throwing the river rocks at our feet. After successfully knocking them all off we continued up through the very overgrown trail pausing for a few beautiful views, a tree throne and to allow Maggie to recover from giggle attacks brought on by Justin and my unbelievably chortlesome quips and general jocularity. We turned back to beat the darkness back to our hut. We were incredibly lucky to have the 26-bed hut completely to ourselves that night. After some time and a full team effort of scavenging for small dry kindling we finally got the damp wood to light and got a roaring fire going. The darkness filled the hut leaving almost nothing visible except the three amber specks from the incense I lit. I decided to light the candle I had found in a previous hut and the whole space came to life with a warm amber glow. We were all sitting on a mattress I had dragged in front of the wood stove. While sitting here we had the brilliant idea of lining tables up with each other from the back wall towards the fire to create a back support for another mattress to act as a makeshift couch. We lined up two long tables and then two benches perpendicular to them and it was exactly the right distance to make our couch. We sat down and all three of us immediately burst into uncontrollable giggles, as this was the most perfect, comfortable couch we had experienced. We opened the stove door to reveal stunning coals and sat there all night mesmerized by the perfection of the moment we had collectively created. We had dinner, hot chocolate and tea and the conversation would effortlessly flow from ruckus laughter, to quite contemplative confabulation, to silent wonder with our attention fixed on the stunning bright colors of the coals. This was one of the most perfect nights of my trip. All my senses were at peace and joyfully relishing the moment. The incense, the warmth from the fire, the light from the candle, the couch holding our tired content satiated bodies, and the deep feeling of belonging and companionship that I felt without question in the silence from the two delightful and profoundly inspiring people who I was lucky enough to share this night with. (Photo 9) After all drifting off to sleep on our couch we rallied enough to bring three mattresses to the front of the fire allowing us to sleep in the literal and figurative warmth we had created.


Monday 08/06/15
We woke up had a hearty breakfast of wheatbix with apples, peanut butter, scroggin, hot chocolate mix, and chocolate bars. We then went to the river where we stood out on rocks and soaked up the sun and our surroundings for half an hour or so. We then tidied up the hut, set up some incense for the next trampers and headed back down the trail along the river towards the car park.

It was a stunning day with bright clear sunlight beaming from above. The track took us through thick lush forests that were almost tropical in feel. Through tree fern forests and passed massive moss covered trees that towered above us. (Photo 10) It took us on single person swinging cable bridges over beautiful mountain streams, across winding slatted wooden walkways through marshy valleys and then up to a sunlit ridgeline trail (Photo 11) looking down on the river before emptying us back into Donnelly flat and finally the car park. We sat in the sun by the river and had an apple and peanut butter as we waited for our taxi. We were then whisked away back to the Masterton train station and then back to Wellington. We gathered our bags and went up to D4 to grab a dirty beer before going our separate ways to unpack and clean up. We reconvened for fish n chips at the Mount Vic Chippery to feed our tired bodies and give a wonderful end cap to our journey. Thank you Justin and Maggie for being genuine incredibly people, I feel honored to have you as friends. And thank you to everyone else who showed interested in my life by reading this.


Photo 1 - Mossy Misty Forest

Photo 2 - Lexi

Photo 3 - View From Powell Hut

Photo 4 - MEGAWORM

Photo 5 - View From Mt. Jumbo

Photo 6 - Us Atop Mt. Jumbo

Photo 7 - Jumbo Hut (With Our Loft)

Photo 8 - Our River Spot

Photo 9 - Atiwhakatu Hut (Maggie Sitting, Justin Sleeping)

Photo 10 - Me With A Gian Tree

Photo 11 - Trail Back To The Car Park

Finished My Classes, TP Results Are In and My Friend the Fountain

Finishing Classes
I have finished up my classes and it is a strange feeling. I had each class only 12 times and looking back on them already feels kind of like a dream. My final printmaking class was particularly surreal. All we had to do was turn in our final prints and then we were free to go. I was the only person who had finished prior to that class so everyone else was furiously working trying to finish and I simply handed my work in. My professor looked at my final prints and smiled saying I nailed the colors, which was something we had discussed earlier. Then in that moment it hit me that this was my last class. I wouldn’t run into my professor around campus or be able to swing by his office if I wanted to chat. We both seemed to simultaneously have this realization. He seemed sad and we both sat there for a moment not knowing how to say goodbye. I thanked him for all he had taught me and shared how grateful I was to have been introduced to printmaking. He was incredibly humble saying all the work came from within me he was just there if I got stuck. But in my opinion that is a sign of a truly great teacher. I was guided and learned the skills enough to be able to confidently create my own works but had an unbelievable safety net if I needed it. He said I could easily start an etsy or ebay selling my prints and thanked me for my hard work telling me that the studio was always open to me whenever I would come back. As I left the very familiar and beautiful bittersweet feeling, that fully encompasses gratitude for an amazing experience and sadness, which I have grown to love as I take it to be a strong sign of an experience being important and having value in my life. And John and printmaking have both been very valuable to me. Thank you John.  


Oriental Bay Fountain (from my journal)
After finishing up all my classes I am left with a sad, reflective feeling and have a strange amount of free time. I have felt drawn to go sit down at Oriental Bay and be quiet and reflect on my experiences. I am sitting watching the Crown Fountain shoot sheets of colorful water droplets up into the air and then watching them fall in sheets that float gently through the air. (Photos) Each color shift has my heart sink, not with sadness but with beauty. The colors are so rich that I easily get lost in them. I feel as though I will miss the waterfront and living so close the bay. I will miss the long clouds soaring low across the skies. They are strikingly powerful yet elegant and graceful, and thin enough to almost always allow the moon to shine through encompassing it in a rainbow. I will also certainly miss this fountain. It has such a powerful presence. Watching it puts me in a meditative place that always allows me to relax and feel what is within me easily and fully. It feels like a supportive loving friend that silently holds me through gaze alone. Currently it is supporting me in feeling many strong emotions. But it allows them to just be with no advice, without trying to change anything or make me feel better. It is just present with me doing its thing. I am struck be this amazing feeling that I found a home on the other side of the world and this has me feel more connected to the world as a whole. I am not just a part of a small place that I grew up but I am a part of this whole planet and much more. It has me feeling on even a deeper level that I will always be ok, even on the other side of the world from “home”. The city lights reflect in the still bay and my friend the fountain continues doing its thing. I look forward to the next time I get to spend time with this fountain and feel confident that we will have more time together down the road. Do you ever feel moments from the future in the present, kind of like a reverse déjà vu? That is how I feel right now. I feel myself here in the future. I can feel my body and a sense of returning home and quietly reconnecting with an old friend. A large cargo ship is now effortlessly gliding behind the fountain causing soft white reflections and glassy smooth waves from its wake.

I just moved up to the top of a building that overlooks the bay and the fountain from above. A few moments after moving the fountain turned off. And as I watched the final drops softly land on the surface of the bay. I felt a sadness as thought a friend had left too soon. Then only moments later a fully tatted guy in a hoodie emerged from the shadows and walked up to me startling me because I couldn’t hear him with my earbuds in. I quickly removed them and greeted him asking how he was doing tonight and he then said, “great man, want a cigarette?” I told him no but thanked him as cigarettes are very pricey. I was struck by how genuine and caring his tone was. He then looked at me and said, “Holy shit! This is a sick view eh?” I told him he should come back when the fountain is on. He said, “I certainly will, have a great night bro.” He then disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared. It was a simple encounter but it brightened my spirits considerably and put a huge smile on my face and into my heart. You never know when you will be gifted with a connection. I thought I was totally alone and then a guy, who most would consider to be stereotypically sketchy, comes up to me and offers me a cigarette and was incredibly present with me for a moment. As soon as one friend left for the night another immediately arrived just to remind me that anything can happen. I love this life!


TP Results Are In!
On a completely different note I have been flabbergasted by the sheer amount of toilet paper my three-person flat seems to use. So this week I decided to actually do a study to see how much we used in one full week. And the results are in. In 7 days my 3-person-flat used…. Drumrolll…. Ten and a half rolls of toilet paper! Meaning each of us uses a half a roll a day! (Which is definitely not the case for me) I have no idea how this happens but it seems to be about the pace I have imagined all semester long.


New Coffee Shop!
I walked into the Preservatorium on a warm sunny windy day in wellington and the man behind the counter said “from north Carolina right? I remember you came in the other day with another guy.” I was very impressed as this is only my second time in here. We had a wonderful little interaction he told me he had a friend that went to a camp outside of Raleigh. It is amazing how much like home wellington feels at times. I am sitting here looking over this little coffee shop with a feeling of belonging, comfort and contentment. I feel joyful with excitement bubbling through my body. It is also endlessly entertaining to watch people fight against the wind to open the door and then see their reaction as the wind slams it behind them. The intense wind adds to the cozy warm feeling within this little shop.


That is all for now just a quick little update. I hope everyone is doing well! Thanks for reading.









Random Purse


I decided to try and weave a purse out of the Harakeke leaves for fun and this is what I ended up with!


Maori Final Carving

Here are a few photos of my Maori final. It is a carving based around the idea of whakaapa and I will happily discuss it with anyone interested in learning about it but at this time I do not feel drawn to try and type about the concept as it doesn't feel like it would do it justice.






Friday, 29 May 2015

Drawing Exercises

In the second half of the semester in drawing the body we went through many exercises leading up to drawing the clothed figure. I have posted some below. We started creating a small scale three dimensional skeleton with fully functional joints to understand the structure within the body. We then Built a full size fully functional joint to understand more intricately how they worked. Next we moved on to drawing the skeleton and then drawing the musculature system. We then explored the body through feeling by closing our eyes and drawing aspects of ourselves by using only touch to gather information. Lastly we focused on fabric and how it drapes over the body. The idea was to build up an understanding of the human body layer by layer.


Skewer and Tape Skeleton with Fully Functional Joints


Skewer and Tape Fully Functional Elbow Joint


Drawing Of Nose Using Only Touch

Drawing Of Neck Using Only Touch


Full Size Skeleton

Full Size Musculature

Fabric Still Life

Self Portrait Focusing on Fabric

Printmaking Finals and Tests

Here is a collection of some of my prints from this semester. There are a few test prints as well as my finals for both halves of the semester. Assignment 1 was to make 3 prints the dealt with either cotton, wood, or oil in its natural habitat. One print needed to be image based, one texture based, and one needed text. I chose wood and decided to use the cross section of the Ponga (or silver tree fern) as my subject matter. My prints were woodcuts with mono print backgrounds. My texture print represented the Ponga when alive, my Image represented the Ponga dead, And my text print represents the Ponga's rebirth or the spores creating new life. 

In assignment 2 we had to use the material we chose, wood for me, and make three prints based on how humans have interacted with this material. I decided to have a transportation theme to tie my prints together. For my image print i chose to do a drypoint of a ship, for my texture I focused at the textures of a weathered railroad bridge, and for my text I chose to make a penny farthing. The whip was printed in a long rectangle to represent that ships were exploring vast uncharted territories. The Railroad was a taller narrower rectangle showing that it still explored vast open land but that all of it was charted. And the penny farthing is square because it mostly was used for relatively short distances and in well developed areas. The three shapes though different are equal in area. They are also displayed in chronological order. There are some color tests and then below those are my final three prints. 


Feather Print Test

Feather Print Test #2

Assignment 1 Final Prints (Texture, Image, Text)

Color Fade Test Print Ship

Color Fade Test Print Railroad

Color Fade Test Print Penny Farthing

Ghost Print Background Test Print

Assignment 2 Final Image Print

Assignment 2 Final Texture Print

Assignment 2 Final Text Print

Thursday, 21 May 2015

A Chance Encounter Returning from the Hospital, Rugby, A Powerful Storm, The Mac Wizard Strikes Again, A Wild Fistfight and an Earthquake!

Hello again everyone! The last two weeks have flown by and it is starting to hit me that my time here is beginning to grow short, which is a sad feeling. My workload has picked up in these last weeks and my last day of classes is only 8 days away. I was talking to my friend Justin and we agreed that the time on the south island felt like two of the longest weeks of our lives but in an incredibly positive way. We were experiencing and doing so much, which had each day feeling full. Each moment was saturated with beauty and incredibly vivid expressions of life. I have been back for over a month but it feels like only a week or two. My guess is because there is routine, familiar places and experiences and even though it feels like I haven’t done much the truth of the matter is I have still done quite a bit in the last few weeks.

A Chance Encounter
Today 05/05/15 I went to the hospital where I was quickly seen and told my hand was healing exactly how it should be and that all was well. That however is not exciting part of this story. On my way back from Newtown I walked around Countdown and took a shortcut to avoid the main road by turning down a little residential back street full of small houses. I passed little yards with small feijoa trees with little feijoas bobbing in the wind. I passed the first block and decided to cross over the street I turned and looked to see only a lone cyclist riding up the road. He was on an old red mountain bike, wearing a black helmet with a red and gray sporty looking jacket. He was peddling quite hard and seemed to be struggling to keep the bike moving. He passed about one meter in front of me and turned and looked me dead in the face… It was Bret McKenzie. My eyes widened and my heart skipped a beat with excitement. He road up and turned at the next street. I followed, my eyes searching each driveway in hopes that I might be able to say hello. I got to the end of the little street and turned back onto the main road. I searched in the distance for a red bike and then ahead I saw him reemerge from a corner dairy and mount his steed once more before disappearing over the crest of the next hill. This is my first true celebrity sighting and it happened to be one of the few celebrities that I would actually be excited to see. I only wish he had been walking so that I could have said hello. Perhaps the future has this in store but for now I am thrilled to have seen Bret in his natural habitat.

Rugby Game
I was lucky enough to experience my first rugby game a few weekends ago! Tean (the study abroad network) provided tickets in the second row to a wellington hurricanes game. The atmosphere was alive and the game was wildly exciting. The players run out and immediately start playing. It is a running clock and there are almost no dead balls. It is constant action for 80 minutes separated by a 10-minute half time. I wont go into detail but Wellington won by a try with the crusaders knocking on their doorstep as time expired. This experience has me wishing rugby were a bigger sport in the US!

Paquiao Mayweather Fight
The next day was the Manny Paquiao Floyd Mayweather fight. A few friends and I went to a nearby sports bar to watch. We got there early and had some food while the opening fights took place. As we sat and watched the fights a silver balloon slowly floated into the room hovering perfectly in space only two meters from the floor. It seemed to be meandering and checking everything out. It felt incredibly surreal watching this silver balloon float through a wooden sports bar, between bar stools and tables effortlessly moving with seemingly no breeze or anything to propel it. After a minute or so it very slowly began its way up to the apex of the wooden rafters. The whole experience felt otherworldly. About midway through the second fight the bar began to fill with people. When it was time for the main event there were hundreds of people packed all around us cheering wildly for Paquiao. About halfway through the fight the balloon decided to gently float above the massive screen. It then gracefully moved directly in front of the projection causing violent boos from the crowd. It then bobbed off to the side shifting the crowd’s reaction to cheers before floating back in front of the screen as though playing with the crowd trying to bring people into the physical moment. It then hovered up and disappeared back into the rafters. Much to the chagrin of the crowd Mayweather stayed undefeated by unanimous decision. The fight wasn’t particularly memorable but this balloon has stayed in my mind. It snapped me out of the illusion of entertainment and back into a stark appreciation of life and the magic it has to offer.

The Mac Wizard Strikes Again
A few days ago a friend of mine tried to sign on to Netflix on my computer and it froze for a very long time. I force rebooted it and was met with a blinking question mark on an off white screen. This didn’t seem to like the best sign. The next day I decided to pay the Mac Wizard another visit. He clicked around for a second and then with a disheartened look told me that this usually means the hard drive has moved on to the big apple store in the sky. He decided to take it apart and check. And to his surprise and my relief my hard drive was in perfect condition, but the cable that connected it to my logic board was broken and apple’s estimate to replace this $25 part was … drummrolll… $532. But have no fear the wizard had yet another trick up his sleeve. I purchased an external hard drive case and he put my hard drive in it and showed me how to boot my computer through an external drive. So I am good to go at least until I make it back to the states!

A Night of Inspiration
I had been working for hours and needed to get out of the cube and let my body move so I decided to walk down to the waterfront. The night was wild and stormy with an electricity in the air. The wind funneled through the empty streets giving my body something to push against as I walked. When I got to the waterfront I sat against a street lamp on a 5 or 6-meter wall above the main walkway with the bay directly in front of me. It is an amazing feeling being almost completely alone in such a large city. The night was incredibly alive. The water was a deep inky black with choppy waves sweeping across the bay before forcefully crashing onto the rocks, launching water high into the air. Every few moments I could hear something that felt directionless and haunting. It sounded as though hundreds of giants where exhaling in unison. The sound would grow louder seeming to come from all directions the trees around me would start to whip violently around excitedly adding their loud whispers to the wild cacophony. Then in an instant I would be struck by blast of cold enlivening wind. These gusts would come quickly and unexpectedly from any direction and were so powerful that I had to cling to the lamppost for support so as not to be cast from my perch. Each rush of wind perfectly encapsulated both the power and energy of fear and inspiration. The trees in front of me would at times bend completely sideways as though they were bows being drawn by a hunter. They would stay flexed for what seemed like an eternity creating a moment of stillness in the madness before releasing their stored energy and pushing through the gusts. The clouds above were a deep ominous gray and moved at a blistering speed and with powerful purpose. Every now and then a patch of sky could be seen with a few stars piercing through before the next cloud would devour it. Every few minutes it would rain for 15 seconds or so before the cloud blew over. When the rain came the raindrops would appear to dance in slow motion, hovering above my head like little amorphous vibrating gems illuminated by the radiant silvery white light cast from the lamp above me. With each far off whisper growing louder I could feel my body tensing and my heart rate quickening in anticipation, and as each squall engulfed me it brought a wild smile to my face and had me feeling profoundly alive!

Surreal Fist Fight
Just a couple of nights ago I went out with a few friends to a nearby bar called the Southern Cross. This bar has an incredible atmosphere. When you first enter it has a coffee shop feel, with small tables that invite intimate conversations. Just beyond, there is a beautiful bar with a hardwood dance floor behind and pool tables off to the side. Behind that there are massive windows and glass doors that lead out to the patio where there are padded U-shaped bench seats that line the exterior, each with dozens of colorful Chinese lanterns hanging from the tin roof awnings above. In the middle there is a small bar with Christmas lights above, surrounded by a brick patio with tables and chairs. There is also a freestanding chimney with an elevated fireplace at waist level. On this night we pulled a table right up to the fireplace and looked out over the whimsical patio sipping our tasty beers and watching a group play giant Jenga. We sat soaking up the lovely vibes and the warmth from the fire when a beer bottle came skidding across the bricks past our table. We saw bouncers break up what seemed to be a small fight and then everything went back to the chill amazing vibe and no one seemed to think anything of it. As we sat enjoying each others company “Oh What A Night” by the Four Seasons (https://youtu.be/QVj6dDPGM2k) came on adding to the fun feeling of the night. As the chorus kicked in we saw a small group of people form in front of the bar about 8 meters in front of us. Then as though in slow motion 25 to 35 men and women all flooded this group and everyone began throwing unwieldy haymakers at seemingly anyone around them. Everyone was punching everyone. We sat calmly watching as a bar tender tried to pull two apart before getting nailed in the face with a powerful blow. Another man was bleeding from his eye and had his shirt ripped off. A team of bouncers rushed in ripping people apart while punches continued to rain down from all directions. All the while “what a lady what a night” floated down through the crisp night air over the beautiful dappled light cast by the Christmas lights. After a few minutes of this the bouncers finally managed to separated everyone. The din returned to a calm chatter and all was peaceful once more. We didn’t see anybody removed from the bar and there was almost no mention of it afterword. Only minutes later it felt as though we had dreamt the whole thing. The only thing that had me believing it did in fact happen was the large bag of ice the bartender held to his face.  This was one of the most surreal things I have ever seen. It truly felt like a movie where incredible violence takes place in slow motion and is juxtaposed with fun music and beautiful lighting. We all sat in disbelief chatting by the fire until closing.

Earthquake
I felt my first earthquake! I was in my flat on the seventh floor when suddenly the walls started to move like slightly undercooked noodles wiggling in a light breeze. It felt as though I was tipsy and couldn’t focus on my surroundings. It was less shaky than I expected and more like a slow s curve wobble. It lasted for maybe 5 to 10 seconds and then tapered off so slowly that it was hard to tell when it was actually over. It left me grinning as it was something I have always wanted to experience.


All right I think that does it for my last few weeks. I am going to sign off for now but before I go I have attached a few images, thank you for reading!



Sculpture at Waterfront Taken On One of My Night Walks
Sculpture at Waterfront Taken On One of My Night Walks

Sunset from My Living Room Window

Sunset from My Living Room Window



Sunday, 3 May 2015

X-Rays, The Mac Wizard, Xmas Light Fish and Life Lessons From A Baby

 Hello again all! I have been back for a few weeks now and am settling back into city and school life wonderfully. Its amazing how quickly time flies by when back in a familiar area with a schedule. I feel like this last two weeks have only been a few days although a lot has happened. When I was in the south island each day felt full and the time seemed to be far longer than two weeks, in a great way. Now days often blur together and fly by. I only have 4 more weeks of school left now, which means I only have 4 of each of my classes remaining, that in and of itself is a completely crazy feeling.

So what has been up in my world over the last couple of weeks?

X-Mas Light Fish and Mirror Bay
The second night back in Wellington I was lucky enough to go for a walk with my wonderful friend Maggie. We decided to head down to the waterfront and when we arrived we were blown away by how calm it was (I realize that was interesting phrasing). It was a dark night and no one was at the waterfront. The water in windy Wellington bay was unlike I had ever seen it before, motionless. It was glassy still giving the sailboats in the harbor a perfect reflection to the tip of the mast as though placed upon a giant inky black mirror. It was completely silent, which added to the eerie beauty of the situation. It was often hard to speak, as even a statement of awe would diminish the very thing that helped create the feeling of wonder. We continued along the water until we found ourselves at the end of the Clyde Quay Warf peninsula, which is a long apartment building that juts out into the water and separates the marina from the open bay. We stood at the end looking out on the water when something caught my eye. Below us in the deep glassy greenish water there appeared to be thousands of little flashing lights. The mystery drew our attention and the world around melted away bringing only these lights into focus. With time we realized it was a massive school if tiny silver fish darting around in a wonderful dance. As they would turn their silvery sides would reflect the lights from behind us creating the illusion of flashing lights beneath the water. We watched transfixed by this gift. After some time being tickled with glee and reminded that there is always beauty if I just stop and take a moment, we decided to continue on towards Oriental Bay. We walked along another marina with the boats perfectly reflected in the water below. We paused to listen to flute music coming from the absolute other side of the large bay, hundreds of meters away. The water was so still that the sound flew across its surface all the way to us a from a musician our eyes could not even see due to distance. We continued on to the beautiful oriental bay where we sat and chatted for a long time watching the incredible fountain carry shifting light up to 16 meters above the waters surface. Every now and then a huge barge or cargo ship would come into the bay creating perfectly even glassy waves that would distort and bend the colorful reflections from the fountain and nearby streetlights creating a mesmerizing scene. The waves would float across the bay shifting to match the contour of the beach before disappearing with a soft crisp wave crash. It was a still night that felt as though it was holding me and welcoming me back to the city, a gentle shift from the serenity of nature back to the beauty of the man made wild.

The Mac Wizard
After only a couple days back my computer started acting very strange. It stopped connecting to any wifi networks and stopped reading memory sticks and external hard drives. I took it to the I.T. department at Massey and they managed to get my Internet working but only in the Massey library. I called up my Internet provider and they did a ton of troubleshooting with me over 3 calls totaling 6 and a half hours. Still nothing worked. So next I called an apple help line in Australia and spent another 5 hours over 3 calls troubleshooting with them but still no luck. I went back to the Massey I.T. department and after a few meetings they finally understood I had a real problem. This led to another meeting where the man helping me decided it was time to pull out the big guns. He led me through a tiny door that opened up into a massive room with 30 or more I.T. guys all typing away. As I entered the typing slowed and heads turned. Eyes peered over screens to check out the new person who had just entered their lair. I was led to the back corner of the room where I could see one solitary man sitting with his back to me. He sat with stacks of macbooks to his left and a few massive monitors to his right. This was he, the man the other I.T. guys I had spoken with referred to as the Mac Wizard. He introduced himself as Ken and then ran through many tests. He determined that it was not a hardware issue. It was magic watching Ken work. He effortlessly glided through my system in ways I didn’t know possible, digging out corrupt files as he searched for the root problem. Ken whipped through my system leaving nothing but organized clean files in his wake. He finally determined that my hard drive would need to be completely cleared. He took a complete backup of my computer on his, then wiped my hard drive clean, reinstalled a fresh version of my operating system that he had and then reuploaded all of my documents. This only took two days. So after nearly 12 hours of phone calls, 5 IT meetings and much googling on my part, Ken fixed everything in just over a day. And it was completely free. So much gratitude! And Ken certainly lives up to his title as the mac wizard.

X-Rays
I injured my right thumb almost a month and a half ago heroically helping a friend. What was I doing you ask? Something not for the faint of heart or weak willed. It was a dark night in Wellington with the wind howling past my 7th story window, when my flatmate came to me saying she needed someone with incredible strength to help her and thought perhaps I might be of service. I agreed to give it my all. She then handed me the impossible… a jar of pasta sauce that up until that point was deemed unopenable. I wrestled with it for 20, nay, 40 seconds and then felt a little tweak in my thumb followed by a pain. I didn’t think much of it but over time the pain grew stronger. I assumed all would be well so I went to the south island and continued on my daily life but the pain didn’t subside. After returning I went to the doctor and got a few x-rays. Nothing broken but there is more space than usual between a couple of the bones where my thumb meets my hand. So the next step is to see a hand specialist. The amazing thing is all of this is free except for the $25 x-ray. Its not too bad but figured I might as well get it looked at and take advantage of this amazing health insurance. I will keep you updated on how it is going. Oh and if you are curious I totally opened that jar.


Coffee Shop Baby
I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop typing away on one of my blog posts about the south island when I felt a calm presence watching me. I looked up from my computer and was met with striking deep sapphire eyes calmly relaxing into mine. These eyes were fully present and belonged to an adorable little face that peaked over his mothers shoulder while stood speaking with a friend. These little eyes stared unapologetically into my soul. I felt connected and deeply seen. We continued looking into each other with the only change being a slight smile creeping onto our faces. After a few minutes his mother was finished and started walking out the door. The little face smiled took a last look and then, with a slow blink turned to see where he was headed. This experience was stunning on many levels, most of which words cannot adequately convey. It was a wonderful reminder that we are born with the innate ability to connect deeply and that the fear of vulnerability is not naturally within us but in fact a learned trait. Thank you coffee shop baby I hope that skill of connection remains natural for you as you continue your beautiful life. I feel deeply touched to have seen you and shared a moment of our lives.


Little surprise
Upon returning from the south island I had a couple little surprises in the succulents that live on my windowsill. There were two clover plants in different pots that had grown entirely while I was away, each bursting many leaves (Photo 1). It was a great surprise, as I love clover and am always inspired by the natural world. I feel like I have new friends that fold up each night and sleep next to me and then wake up with me each morning, opening to soak in the suns rays. One day it was particularly windy outside and one of the clover plants was in front of my open window while the other was safe from the winds power. The one in front of the open window folded up in broad daylight to protect itself from the wind while the other stayed completely open. WHAT! How cool is that? NATURE IS AMAZING!

The last noteworthy experience I will speak about was printing in the studio a couple days ago (photos in printmaking post). It was a public holiday so I had the entire huge printmaking studio to myself. I spent 5 hours playing, exploring and learning a new technique with my music filling the space helping facilitate a wonderful creative vibe. Outside there was a storm raging. Rain was falling sideways and the wind was so violent, trees bent horizontal. The only other time I have heard wind like this was during a hurricane. The more the wind raged the more energy I seemed to get. It was inspiring and helped create my own special creative bubble while also letting me feed off of the wild energy.

All right I am going to sign off for now! I hope you have enjoyed the stories from my past two weeks. I will write again soon about my first Rugby game, some thefts and hopefully other amazing adventures. I wish you all the best! Love to you all.


Aiden


Photo 1 - Surprise Clover