Monday, March 20, 2006

Here is the in-depth answer to "New Zealand" -

Things are amazing. This city is beautiful (I added six more pictures of it on my New Zealand picture compilation thing here: http://photobucket.com/albums/v91/someoned1fferent/New%20Zealand/), but it feels like San Francisco in a way that I don't like. But it's better. There are few bums, and the bums there are play beautiful music on exquisite instruments. Bums like this:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v91/someoned1fferent/New%20Zealand/NZ.jpg

I know that guy probably isn't a bum, but he's unique enough to highlight. He had the batteries hooked up to his FOOT and he was twitching and fidgeting and playing beautiful music like I have never heard. Unfortunately, I only had 20 cents or I would've contributed more to the cause. I'd love to know the name of this instrument(s) if anyone is indelibly musically inclined.

Otherwise, the music here is terrible. Top 40 lists are basically party music from a band called Crazy Frog, with a bunch of assimilated sounds that you've probably heard from time to time in movies, commercials or otherwise. The big music event coming features P.O.D and the Presidents of the U.S.A. Not exactly top-shelf entertainment.

But the city isn't lacking in art. Wellington is the art capital of New Zealand and it shows in the streets and in the people and in the words. There are art museums all about and I hope to explore most of them. I have visited a few already which resulted in my "shearing" of a sheep at one of the humurous interactive games in residence. This can be seen in the photo album. The most telling example of the fixation with art is in the New Zealand International Art's Festival (http://www.nzfestival.telecom.co.nz/) which recently concluded here in Wellington. Music, plays, shows and otherwise were featured from all over the world, including but not limited to Spain, Africa, the U.K, the U.S, Australia, Japan, and more.

I was able to see one show called "Bright Abyss", hailing from France, and it did not disappoint. Featuring amazing theatre-of-the-absurd storytelling and feats of physical and directorial excellence, it was quite a sight to behold. The next part of the festival, which was most engaging and entertaining for me, was the Readers and Writers week where writers from around the world congregated to discuss their craft and aspects of our world (traveling, Bombay, evolution, religion, the short history of progress, Virginia Woolf, and on). The most famous of which were Michael Cunningham (wrote The Hours which was made into a film) and Robert Fisk, a hugely popular British journalist known for his work in the Middle East as well as the war documentation that goes with it. Unfortunately I was not able to see Fisk talk as all of his events were sold out previously, but I was able to purchase his daunting 1000+ page book "The Great War For Civilization: The Conquest Of The Middle East" and get it signed, as well as other books by Cunningham, Bosnian immigrant Alexandar Hemon, and Berkeley poet Robert Haas.

The event was entirely entertaining, informative and inspirational. Amazing, surreal poetry captured the spirit of the poets, both in war poetry and touching and self-deprecating dives into the consciousness of the writer. Cunningham touched on the imbalance and undefinable nature of literature - definitely not categorizable into "fiction" or "non-fiction", and further sprawled into the life of Virginia Woolf which he detailed in his book The Hours. I was most touched by Cunningham, who offered beaming words of encouragement when I talked to him afterwords and displayed a veracity and swagger unparalleled in the other writers. I am already deeply engaged with his book "Specimen Days", which I recommend to any committed reader. I plan to write him and thank him personally when I find the time. The most important thing I took from the event was the absolution of a book idea - something I have documented and hope to explore and research fully as time permits.

My classes are engaging. I am taking Asian Studies, Civilizations and Cultures of Islam, Religions of India, and Principles of Marketing. For once I am completely and absolutely passionate about my coursework and engrossed in the teaching and the ideas and the concepts being presented. The course load is strong but I feel I can carry it and achieve my goal of a perfect mark. The teachings themselves should leave me with a geographical comfort with Asia and all that encompasses it. And, of course, some analysis of marketing. But that isn't *quite* as remarkable as the mysticism and spiritualism and imperialism so delineating in the other courses. To compliment my coursework I have joined a Buddhists for World Peace Club which will help fulfill my inquiries about that faith, as well as a Writing Club and a Tramping Club that will help me further explore this amazing country.

My social life is blossoming and I have met a group of awesome friends who I am spending most of my time with. My closest friend, Brandon, actually attends Chapman even though I had not seen him previously. He works at Paramount Pictures and is an awesome source of inspiration and insight in regards to life, career and the like, and hopefully I am to him likewise (doubtful). We have similar aspirations of high achievement and that is a common denominator between us. My other close friends are from Maine (a super-liberal socialite who has two parents in the Peace Corps, thus having no place to live he is going to NZ for the entirety of his schooling), Colorado (6'7 basketball player, as well as the most selfless girl I have ever met who has aims to be a school teacher), Minnesota (soccer-playing, very religious and very cool guy), Missouri (super-short.. but cool girl, also religious), and California (attends UCSC, highly entertaining and funny chick, Asian). Quite obviously we are an extremely diverse group but it does not restrict us from having an awesome time. Unfortunately, I have not met any CLOSE New Zealand friends but I have met quite a few that I am friendly with and often engage in conversation. There is an awesome sense of community at the flat that I stay in, which also happens to be superb and a work of absolute divinity.

Normal social nights consist of going to the bars (hey we're legal here!) until 3-5AM and having a great time or playing poker, which we have just recently picked up. I won my second ever game! Hopefully that will help financially support my times here. Since arriving peppered other social nights have consisted of playing Who Wants To Be a Millionaire at bars or Quiz Night (tonight!) with fellow flat-mates, to go with an awesome $5 cruise around the harbor that just occurred. This weekend I am looking forward to spreading my wings and going to the supposed best one-day-hike in New Zealand and then going skydiving about four hours north of New Zealand.

I like this city but I hope to here forth not stay here on the weekends and instead check out the rest of the country. I am uncertain what I am going to do on my two-week break as most of my contingent of friends are having family or U.S-indigenous friends join them for their journeys (wherever that may take them). I will juggle some things and see what other options lay open but I may just go on a voyage of self-discovery. Who knows.

I think that's about it. Clearly not IT, not even the surface, but for now, I think that's the most I can explain with words of my experience. It's an awesome experience. Awesomeawesomeawesome. I miss all of you but I don't miss the country. Time to go on exploring the infinite abyss. Adios.

Love,
Ross

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