The Inevitable Anticlimax

Happy (very) belated Thanksgiving, my friends! I’d hoped to write sooner, but the business of packing my existence into a suitcase and backpack and hauling it several hundred kilometers has rightfully occupied most of my attention of late. But now that I’ve reached Jugglers’ Rest and feel pretty much settled, I’ll present y’all with the abridged version of the terminus in Dunedin. And in a few days, I’ll relate the story of my travels and new beginnings here in (ridiculously) sunny Picton.

First, though, I’ve some business to attend to. The interwebs here in Picton are somehow mildly allergic to my Middlebury email account (or perhaps vice-versa). I can receive messages just fine – and many thanks to those who have written – but the outgoing mail server won’t permit me to respond. I’m working to rectify the problem, but I anticipate failure. Bah! Perhaps I should just sign up for Gmail or whatever. I’ll keep y’all posted.

Anyway, let’s rewind two weeks and go from there. The sad business of bidding farewell to Shadowfax quickly proved a mere prelude to my other cleansing and simplifying duties. I took every effort to minimize waste during this period – making numerous trips to the Salvation Army with bag upon bag of clothes, doodads, gewgaws, and even the occasional widget. I also challenged myself to devise a nutrition regime that struck a balance between health and using up absolutely everything in the refrigerator. The health side of things ended up thoroughly compromised (I had to use up, like, seven sticks of butter), but I wasted almost nothing – and since this has resulted in neither obesity nor heart attack, I’ve declared my eating strategy a success.

When I wasn’t grazing and/or cleaning, I wandered idly about town, taking random photographs and collecting little souvenirs. With two days remaining, I (finally) spent an afternoon at the Otago Museum – and felt rather foolish to discover that such a wonderful series of exhibitions had stood literally less than three minutes from my flat all semester, and I simply hadn’t bothered to poke my head inside. There was the obligatory Maori hall, along with a series of exhibits focusing on the diversity of other Polynesian cultures. Most impressive were a beautiful gallery of Japanese textile art and the Museum’s latest addition – a three-story artificial rainforest populated by amphibians, fish, and thousands of swarming butterflies. The whole operation was quite impressive, but I think my favorite aspect was simply witnessing so many children burst into peals of delighted laughter as uncounted butterflies swooped down to perch upon them. I would have expected some to be frightened or repulsed, but there was neither crying nor cringing for the entire hour I wandered the exhibit’s footpaths and catwalks. At this point, some of you may be casting about for pictures; I can assure you, there will be plenty (and some good ones at that!) come December.

I spent my evenings hanging out with Annie – a winsome girl from Smith – and her Kiwi flatmate Simon. We chatted and watched a few movies, most notably the latest Harry Potter flick, which I found rather one-dimensional but quite entertaining nonetheless. And on the eve of my departure, Annie and I dined together at Eureka (another of Dunedin’s fantastic restaurants) and had a wonderful time. I enjoyed listening to the timbre her voice, and her enthusiastic stories of friends and home. The food, for its part, was just heavenly. Eureka’s bill of fare featured simple European and Mediterranean flavors – selected and cooked by some sort of culinary wizard. We started off by sharing a delicious flatbread accompanied by olive oil and a flavorful dipping mixture of crushed nuts and spices the menu referred to as dukkah. Not sure exactly what it contained, but coriander was definitely involved. For our mains, Annie chose a honey-glazed salmon dish. I snuck a little taste and thought the flavours and textures truly remarkable. My pork fillet with mustard and lemon cream sauce was almost as good, and I absolutely inhaled the accompanying mashed kumara and steamed asparagus. Inhaled them, I tell you! I think we were both pretty much stuffed by this point, but everything – weather, occasion, company, and so forth – conspired to encourage some indulgence in the form of pecan pie and cheesecake. The pecan pie was yummy; the cheesecake fantastically so. We lounged and talked for a while after the friendly waitress cleared our plates, then contentedly ambled home as the Dunedin sun reluctantly slid behind deserted university buildings. And that was my last glimpse of it.

For you see, the next morning I rose before the dawn. I lethargically downed a bowl of porridge and guzzled the last of the orange juice straight from its carton, then wrestled my huge suitcase down to the curb – and with a simple tug on the doorknob of 505A Great King Street, the epic chapter that was my semester in Dunedin creaked slowly to a close.

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~ by Jack on November 27, 2007.

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