I spent the spring semester of 2010 studying in New Zealand through the ISEP program. I used this blog to keep an account of my school experience and as a record of the adventures I found. Hopefully it can serve two purposes: to have kept my friends and family informed of my travels and experiences; as well as to serve as a reminder of how important the study abroad experience is, whether it's in New Zealand or not.
13 February 2010
I took a walk around campus yesterday to get my bearings a little and stretch my legs. I found that there are numerous places within the campus (including one in the dead center) that one can pretty much disappear into the woods. The trails are clear and there are labels for many of the plants. It's nice to know I can get this far away from Hampshire without having to give up roaming through woods. This was one of the particularly interesting looking trees I encountered along the way. One thing that really separates this place from the Northeast of the U.S. (aside from distance, the equator, and the accents) is the number of different types of trees all growing right next to each other. It's like a mix of New England and California. There are pines I swear are in my back yard in New York bumping up against palms that could have come from my grandma's house in Santa Ana. I counted eight distinctly different trees within a ten foot span along the road. This is the center of campus. The building to the left houses the bank, dining hall, book store, travel agency, ATM, and about six other things I can't now remember. In the back you can just make out the library through the trees. Aside form the ducks roaming around and the birds I hear all the time, but can't see in the trees, there is virtually no animal life. I saw one moth so far and no other insects of any kinds. I suppose I should be tipped off by the lack of screens in the windows, but usually there is a least several types of insects buzzing around. Perhaps it's just been too windy for them. There is one bird that seems to live somewhere in the Rotary courtyard that loves to sing in the morning. The funny thing about it, is the song sounds like the opening to "Caring is Creepy" by The Shins. The oddest thing about the campus that Jessica and I agreed on yesterday, was the lack of squirrels. They abound on the Hampshire campus and you can't go anywhere without one running across your path practically under your feet. Here, there is not a single one. While reading about the history of New Zealand before arriving here, I did come across some things about the flora and fauna. New Zealand separated from Gondwana (the precursor supercontinent that consisted of the land that would later become Antarctica, South America, Africa, Madagascar, Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Arabia, and the Indian subcontinent) before the evolution of mammals. Before humans came to New Zealand the only mammal here was the bat and that had immigrated, it was not a native. Without predators birds took over, making New Zealand a famous Birdland. By the time humans arrived nearly 1/3 of all birds had lost the ability to fly and some even had lost their wings. The largest birds were two species of Moa and were about 12 ft tall, weighing 510 lbs. They were preyed on by the great New Zealand eagle which had a wingspan of about 10 ft. When the first Maoris settled, they used the Moa as their primary food source and hunted it into extinction. Easter Island had a similar problem of running out of food quickly and they resorted to cannibalism. The theory for both places is that the people who landed there took several generations to kill off their food source and by the time they needed more they had lost much of their knowledge of sea travel as well as possibly believing they were the only people and place in the world. New Zealand had only just begun to resort to cannibalism (only done in cases of revenge) before white settlers discovered the islands and introduced cows, pigs, and chickens. One theory suggests that this introduction of new species is what saved the Maoris from starvation. On the other hand, the European settlers also introduced rabbits, hares, weasels, stoats, and ferrets which quickly took over. The introduction of the Australian opossum was one of the most devastating and today there is a hunting season for them and they are eaten regularly. I am still awaiting my opportunity to taste test one.