Jack in NZ: Email

“I had had an adventure, tasted forbidden fruit, and everything that followed in my life – the food, the long and often stupid and self-destructive chase for the next thing, whether it was drugs or sex or some other new sensation – would all stem from this moment.” – Anthony Bourdain on eating his first oyster

“We’re the first culture in the world that puts 1,500 miles on average under each morsel of food” – Joel Salatin

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” – Proust

“’I do work,’ said Frederick ‘I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days.’” – Frederick by Leo Lionni

“Drink your tea” – Eastern Towhee

To: Parents

Cc: Sister

Subject: Re: Feeling like a Kiwi yet?

Message:

Unfortunately the weather this week is pretty lame, so I’m staying around Dunedin. I’m planning on doing a local hike and catching up on work and reading/writing.

So Much to See

Penguin colony was pretty neat, saw about 20 birds (~1% of the world’s population, pretty crazy), and the surrounding area was beautiful. It was a secluded spot, protected by farmland on all sides, difficult to get to without some sort of Department of Conservation/farmer connection.

Jack in New Zealand

I’ve resolved to feed myself from the farmers market as much as possible, got a good-sized and reasonably-priced haul yesterday, including some lamb chops, ground venison, whole walnuts, and a winter savory (a thyme relative) plant. Also went to an Indian grocery store and bought some whole star anise/cardamom pods/garam masala and cheap peanuts. The owner was there and we chatted about India (he was a Sikh from Delhi) for a minute.

Otherwise, I’ve just been doing work around here. I haven’t been going to my biology or chemistry lectures because they post them online, but I do sit down for a few hours each day to take notes/do homework etc. Working at home is pretty nice, I get to stick to a sleep schedule and snack throughout the morning, also no running back and forth between my house and campus. Chemistry is very dry (and the labs are soul-sucking, I almost wish I took the upper-level section), biology is much more interesting. My writing class is very enjoyable. I’m narrowing in on a topic for my major project (something related to the philosophy of farming/food, looking at it from scientific/social/spiritual/artistic viewpoints). More stuff about classes will be in the next blog.

A friendly reminder from the local ethernet port

I’ve also been making progress in Modernist Cuisine (the massive 2500pg (only 2319 to go!) cooking tome by a former Microsoft CTO) and On Writing by Steven King, and paging through Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, which is incredibly entertaining. I’ve been trying to sit down and write for an hour every day, but it’s been kind of hard to make it a habit, sometimes it flows and other times it doesn’t (I’ve noticed word output is generally proportional to my caffeine intake, though quality varies (I’m gradually learning that editing is a useful skill to cultivate)). The blog should be submitted by tomorrow, but it seems to take a few days before the abroad office publishes. I’m decently happy with this one. It’s a little funnier and lighter than the previous two. Sticking to the ‘ideally weekly’ schedule the office has set (but not enforced (so far)) is going to be difficult. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better for my sanity to put out something I’m happy with every two weeks than it is to rush to get something done that I’ll cringe at later, possible stipend reduction be damned (though as I continue to cultivate the writing habit I think it will get easier to churn out good quality stuff more frequently).

I’ve recently binged a bunch of Joe Rogan’s podcasts. He hosts a great talk show and has had guests like Russell Brand, Sam Harris, Eddie Huang, etc. on to chat about interesting things. My kiwi-host is a big fan of him and is a neuroscience student. He lent me one of Sam Harris’ books and we’ve had some interesting talks about, as Dewey Finn would say “your head, and your mind, and your brain too”, as well as nutrition and exercise (he’s a big weight lifter).

I’ve been running more regularly (5/7 nights this week), and I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things. I’ve also been meditating regularly and highly recommend it (along with exercise) for everyone. I’ve been doing 15-20 mins a day and it’s been great for stress reduction, mood, general appreciation of things. Here’s a good video if you are interested in trying it:

Dan Harris has a pretty interesting story on how he came to start meditating. He had a panic attack on Good Morning America as a result of cocaine/ecstasy abuse related to anxiety/depression issues. He subsequently took time off to research happiness and discovered mindfulness meditation, and wrote a book about it called ’10% happier’ (which I have not gotten the chance to read yet). He had an interview on the Colbert Report that was pretty good.

The social scene around here has also been pretty fun. I went out to a party on Thursday with some new friends I met through a Richmond friend (his flat complex is the place to be), and I met a fun Kiwi girl who I saw again on Saturday night (don’t worry Mom, haven’t fallen in love yet (with a girl, at least (the country may be a different story))). I’ve been hanging out more with one of my flat mates who’s fun and likes to cook. I went to a coffeeshop after my farmers market visit on Saturday with her and some Richmond friends. We ate chocolate chip pancakes that were as delicious as they were overpriced and drank flat whites.

I’ve also picked up a book on hydroponics and intend to get a setup going soon (no fish allowed in flats, but I don’t pay for the electricity so I can get some grow lights). My fern is on its last legs, one day it was fine, the next it was withering, gave it some water and put it closer to the sun and it’s perked up a little (though I don’t have high hopes). The other plant is still hanging on. I’ve also purchased a pretty sweet-looking cactus. It’s about three feet tall and has badass spines. It is difficult to kill, so hopefully it won’t be joining the fern.

Cactus

Overall things are going very well. I’m cultivating a fun and productive routine, taking care of myself, and enjoying the outdoors (whether I like it or not (last night’s jog through the botanical garden had an unfortunate sleet interlude)). I’m hoping to get a car or some other form of transport lined up to do more weekend traveling. I think spring break will be the next big opportunity, and I may go with some friends to the Abel Tasman track in the northern part of the South Island. I also don’t have to hurry to see things as much as I thought. I’ve got about 5 weeks of time during the finals period with only two finals to take (writing project is due before the period starts and counts as my final (and it’s also going to be fun to write)), so I’ll have a large stretch of uninterrupted time to travel while the weather is nice.

New Zealand

Hope things are going well at home. I wish I had saved up more summer memories (I think I appreciate Fredrick the more I meditate), still cold and damp here.

Lots of love and safe travels,

Jack

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