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.

24 April 2010

Easter Break - Saturday 3/4/10 - Wellington

I plan to sleep in somewhat, though I know my plans will take up the entire time they're allotted. Te Papa (the national museum) opens at 9 and closes at 5, or so I think. My plan is to spend the morning in the museum and then catch a city bus to the zoo for the afternoon. But I'm woken early by people moving around in the room. I set off in search of Wholly Bagels, now knowing Te Papa doesn't open until 10AM. I eat my breakfast and read my guidebook until I can head over to the museum. People have told me you could easily spend a day or more in Te Papa, but I know how I feel about museums and I figure it won't keep my attention that long. Now, if I've ever seen a place my dad would love, it's this one. A free museum filled with mostly natural history. Every room is filled with interactive panels for you to learn about the things you're looking at. The first place I go is called "Our Space" and the floor is made of glowing square with satellite images of New Zealand. Some of the squares you can stand on and they light up TV screens on the walls with pictures of places within the square. I move on to the sort of animal section where they have tons of taxidermied animals and skeletons. New Zealand is the world's bird land and they need more than one room to show them off. They even have a scene depicting the world's largest eagle (now extinct) attacking the world's tallest bird, the Moa (also now extinct). There's a giant squid here as well and a video on how they caught it. They tell you about how at the ends of the tentacles the squid has these hooks to catch its prey and the hooks can rotate around. They even have a giant model so you can move a hook around and get a better picture. There are some interesting cultural and historical exhibits as well. They have a Maori prayer house and traditional clothing. There's a room about how the Maori's got to NZ, which has a model boat and when you look at it from one side there's a hologram play going on about life on the boats. A section called passports tells about the various peoples who came to NZ when it was just becoming a place to settle. Many Polish children were sent over by boat during the second world war. Apparently back at this time they were offering free passage to many people. I push a few buttons on a panel and find out they would have paid my way to NZ. However, I try another panel for a few years later and they wouldn't even have let me in the country. There's a display about the geography of NZ and natural disasters that take place here because of its location. They have a map of NZ you can move with a lever to see how the shape of the country has changed over the last million years and how it may look after the next million years. They even have a room you can stand in and it replicates how it feels if there's an earthquake. Let me take this time to remind you this is all free. There's a painting section and two or three sculptures, mostly from more modern day artists, but I buzz through those pretty quickly. I take a quick glance around the top floor at the silver and gold pieces they have, but there are very few of them and I go quite quickly again. Finally I pay for something: there's and exhibit called "A Day in Pompeii." Thinking back to my Latin days in middle/high school. I figure the exhibit might be worth it. After all, I"m only going to be here once, or so I need to think to decide on what's really important. It's well worth it and I just keep thinking "I wish Mrs. Keeley was here to see it," (my old Latin teacher). I learn all about life in Pompeii and get to see many artifacts removed from the site. There is of course a whole section about the fateful day of the Vesuvius eruption. Along the wall there's a time line of the 2 day catastrophe including excerpts from the only surviving eye witness account. They have body casts as well. These are not real bodies, the bodies decomposed a long time ago, but they left holes in the ash. These holes were filled with plaster and then the plaster was removed to show the form of the person who had once been there. Finally there was a 7 minute 3D film depicting the time line of the eruption. Quite possibly the best #D I've ever seen, though the actual material of the film left something to be desired. By the end I feel it was well worth the money. I end my experiences by paying for two "rides." The first you sit in a "submarine" and they take you to an underwater volcano off the NZ coast. The second they just show footage of NZ, both rides move around with the movements on the screen. I wouldn't say either of them is particularly worth it. I grab a sandwich on my way out at 5PM, at some point I decided I liked the museum too much and I would just skip the zoo. I head back to the hostel where they switch my room to a four bed one, but I think I would have preferred to stay in the 23 bed one. At least it's fairly quiet, but I still don't sleep that well.

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