New Zealand II: Pies and Studies
March 11, 2002
Life in the wooly land of New Zealand continues to be quite decent, even though Winter’s waking from it’s blissful slumber. I’m not entirely certain I’m happy to be experiencing two soggy autumns in one year, but my optimism continues … after all, winter means snowboarding, and snowboarding means a good time. Especially now that I have my insurance straightened out: It was touch and go for a bit, but thanks to full coverage for lost baggage, mental anguish, and “kidnapping” ransom, I think I’ll be able to afford a fairly luxurious lifestyle this year.
Bishop Julius Hall, where I live, continues to be an adventure. For most people here, the sweet taste of freedom is still a new and exciting flavour, and the ruckus of youthful corruption continues into the wee hours of the morning, seven days a week. Thankfully, my bedroom is not on the ground floor, and my close neighbors are respectably quiet – they don’t complain when twenty of my good friends descend upon my room with libations and good cheer.
The only adventures I’m not particularly keen on are of a culinary nature. Even though we’re a relatively small lot to feed, the cooks are of an institutional mind set: boil everything, and cover it with remarkably bland sauces. Boring would be a pretty good way to sum it up, which is a sight better than disgusting, but it still wears a bit thin. They don’t even stock such necessities as Tabasco sauce – apparently, some people might think it’s too hot. I was under the impression that it came in optional, easily avoidable, startlingly red bottles for that very reason … but I could be mistaken. Thankfully, there are a few cheap and tasty restaurants within a few minutes walk from the hall, and my good buddy Alex has a kitchen where we’ll be whipping out thai curries and other such flavourful things.
Meat pies are probably the most remarkable food I’ve found which are distinctly absent from the American diet. They’re hand holdable pies filled with hot meats, cheeses, and vegies of questionable origin … but they’re delicious, cheap, and filling. Roadside convenience stores (known as “dairies” down here) stock them at all hours, and they make for great snacks in the middle of the night, on the way to the skate park, on the way to a friend’s house, between classes, after paint balling, pranking, sleeping, rock climbing, drinking, or any other activity which hasn’t impeded one’s ability to mumble “pie” and scrounge up a dollar. If you’re interested in trying one of these delicious creations, but you don’t happen to be in a British commonwealth, they’re sold under the brand name “Ausie Pies” at Costco. Highly recommended.
But enough about food. University is about learning, not eating, and I suspect you’re somewhat interested in the sorts of things I’m learning about. At least, I hope you’re interested.
Out of the six courses I’m studying (mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, art theory, economics, and management science), I’d have to say linguistics is the most fascinating, followed closely by art theory, both of which happen to be taught by amazingly intelligent and humorous professors (and I’m sure that’s not a coincidence). In general terms, linguistics is the study of how we communicate each other: how we make sounds, how we form them into words, and how we string our words in coherent ways so that our fellow human beings can understand our (hopefully) meaningful thoughts. The kicker is that I’m going to have to develop a perfect kiwi accent if I want to have any hope of passing the class – a particularly interesting challenge, with a surprising twist: the rural kiwi accent is extraordinarily similar to the “down east” Maine accent. Go figure – I have to travel to the opposite side of the world in order to learn how to decypher what people from my birth town are saying.
Art Theory is fascinating in that it doesn’t seem to directly address art. It’s a philosophy class, and somewhat redundant to my formally titled philosophy class. The professor has assured us many times that we will eventually get around to an art-oriented discussion, however I’m not too picky – he’s an absolutely marvelous lecturer. Not only does have an extraordinarily engaging presence, but he’s a bit of a non-conformist, and gets quite worked up over how political correctness has ham-strung modern philosophic thought. He doesn’t pull any punches, and has a lot of things to say about almost everything. He’s also an American – and while I don’t particularly care about his native origin, he seems to cater to a lot of Kiwi stereotypes about loud Americans with questionable opinions.
The classes I could do without are my mathematics and management science classes – but I’m going to stick with them through the end of the year. I’d feel like a real idiot if I couldn’t finish a 101 maths class, and I think my biggest problem with the management science class is the lecturer – she’s the antithesis of my art theory professor … amazingly dull. But, the course material is interesting. It’s about studying, evaluating, and designing socio-economic systems. The most obvious application is business, but I think a lot of the principals apply to government and some of the social sciences. It’ll add an interesting perspective to my economics course as well.
Anyhow, all things considered, things are going quite well down here. I hope this letter finds all of you in good health and spirits, and I suppose I’ll be writing again sometime in the next few weeks. Now I think I’m going to go scurry off and find something to eat.