I have been reading a lot lately. A philosopher named Edmund Burke, particularly. He was born in Dublin and worked in the late 18th century, a time of turbulence for most of the world. He supported the American Revolution and was noted for writings on conservative liberalism. The world again is changing before our eyes, so my dad dug up some quotes from this guy and it has been reassuring. When I got the news today I was sad, scared, confused, depressed but I was reminded by Burke that thought will not die. The beauty of democracy guarantees that. How I will face the rest of the time here I am not quite sure. The Chinese seem oblivious to this, perhaps rightly so as the have no involvement in their own political processes. Once I would like to share the idyllic mentality, but the world is waiting. It seems like everything hangs in the balance and could tip any day. The rules have been rewritten. “In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority.” That is Burke.
Something I’ve learned while studying alongside Chinese students and studying under the local professors it is that the world is about to be turned on its head. Their creativity, work ethic, and devotion to success cannot be compared to the students of the United States, who seem to have fallen far behind the rising global standard for education in my opinion. Additionally, any class taught in the U.S. on Asia and the Pacific cannot compare to the firsthand experiences gained from living here. The more visible indicators of Asia’s rise, including the increase in share of global GDP and prevalence as a manufacturing superpower are clear, but I do not think the capture the pace at which the change has begun to occur.
Any walk down a street in Shanghai and you will see young professionals, dressed to a T moving hurriedly through the swarms of pedestrian and electric scooter traffic, their phone conversations drowned out by frantic honking. Shanghainese spoken loudly by shop owners and slurred over intercoms at bus and subway stations, cab drivers hailing passengers rather than the other way around. Open stalls where peddlers sell fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and stranger things that I’d rather not mention are commonplace. Overladen scooter-bike hybrids full of bottles that can fetch 10 Mao (about 5 cents) take part in the hustle of city life, where each person is trying to earn their stake. Hurling themselves into a world of commerce and progress, some westerners would question the tactics these people are using to eek out a meager living under the feet of foreign brands. But I think it is for just that reason that these people will scrape and claw to gain ground in any way that they can. They have been under the Louis Vuitton boot, the heel of Prada, behind the screens of our Apple phones, melted down into the plastic toys, sanded into the furniture and shipped to the west. As long as this machine grinds unceasingly, the west may still have the advantage. But I think something else will happen. Chinese ingenuity can’t be kept under the thumb of the west for much longer. Collectively the people are advancing at a mind boggling pace. It is time we start teaching children in the U.S. Hanyu.
Being here for three weeks now, I am beginning to know the ins and outs of the city. The towering buildings can be daunting, but a few blocks up a side street or into a quiet neighborhood park one can find moments of peace and quiet. Such stillness also comes late in the evening several residents from the buildings surrounding the campus come to the canals to fish, with poles longer than 10 feet dangling bait over the murky waters. It is very dark, but you can see the glimmer of the metallic lures and the waving of the rods. They sit in silence, and do not seem to catch much when I am watching. Maybe I am bad luck.
We went up the Great Wall last week, the only man made landmark that can be seen from outer space. The west side of Juyongguan Pass had a staggering concentration of Australian and Turkish tourists, and I had to make this climb according to our program leader, but my eyes were set on the seldom tread upon east wall. There I could only make out one other person scaling the heights. I rushed up the popular wall, and the descent was much like skiing. I should have saved myself for the latter half of the short time we were allowed on the wall, my quads burned and ankles crumpled at times. There was a temple on the east wall where one German sat, drinking a beer and musing at a large steel bell. He motioned for me to take a stone and ring the bell, so I did so, but the sound was drowned out in the traffic below. I moved further down the wall to the east, toward Beijing. Crossing one fortress outcropping I could see down into the valley on the other side. Suddenly the sound of traffic disappeared, replaced by the clucking of chickens and the slow roll of a freight train.
Today I went to a Buddhist temple in the heart of old-town Shanghai, near the popular Yu Gardens, yet removed from the tired tourist shops with haggling sales people who would try to convince you that a simple beaded bracelet was a priceless relic of ancient China. But the entrance to the temple was unassuming, just as I have found many of the treasures in this place are. At the door we were given bundles of incense, and then proceeded to walk out into a courtyard. We were the only ones there it seemed. Still unable to get a good glimpse of the temple, we climbed some stairs to a terrace, where we saw the actual opening to the temple and several people standing inside. Monks in pale orange clothing stood, bowing three times in each direction, holding their incense over their head. Sitting to observe this custom, I tried to understand what they were doing. Seeing this compelled me to bow as well, standing outside the structure with the sun behind me.
The buildings that swept the sky around me at this time reminded me that the temple is where you make it. An oasis of calm in the middle of traffic, where you can deliberately concentrate the mind on the life that you are living. Sometimes you have to put yourself in the loud places to reconnect with the quiet ones instead of always running to them for solace. The ebb and flow of the city is teaching me things, and this is hopefully one of many lessons.
The first three days in Shanghai have been nothing short of spectacular. Having never been to Asia I knew little about the east and what it had to offer. As of now it has surprised at every corner. From the first night in town as a jet-lagged traveler, having drinks with a myriad of international and Chinese students, to the second day getting adjusted to campus life, then the bus system and subway, it is clear to see that this is truly a global city. I feel like a rock in a stream surrounded by running water, and now I am only an observer. I think that soon when classes start and the internship gets underway I will be an active participant in one of the fastest paced cities on the plant. Dr. Bian, a professor and coordinator of the international students programs urged us to go off the beaten path to truly understand Chinese culture, and that is what I intend to do. I am here for a reason, and am excited to call this place home for the next few months.
June 8th: Today we got a day off from the hospital to have a tour around Oursense and go to a private spa with hot springs! The tour was given by a tour guide and we were shown many main points in the city both today and historically. We walked around town and were shown different popular shopping areas, one of which was the marketplace. The marketplace consisted of one larger central building surrounded by many smaller, individual stands selling various items. One thing I thought was weird is that the fish was stored on ice and was out in the open as opposed to being behind clear glass or plastic case. After that, we went to Las Burgas, hot springs that are in the city of Ourense – they are VERY hot. They also have mineral properties that can resolve certain skin conditions. While we were there and the tour guide was talking, people would come and fill up containers of water to take home and quickly run their hand through the water and rub it on their skin. After that we went to the main cathedral in Ourense (Catedral de Ourense). I’ve never seen a more beautiful church ever! The tour guide said it was also used as a fortress because Ourense is so close to the border of Portugal. After a group lunch, we took the “spa” train to a private spa with hot springs! As a rule, we could not take pictures of the spa because it was private, but the surrounding area was beautiful! The hot springs also contained the same mineral properties that the tour guide talked about in Ourense (the surrounding area of Ourense also has a very large number of natural hot springs). We were allotted two relaxing hours in the spa; after which we reluctantly left the spa, but we all had very smooth skin!
After returning from the spa, one of the things I had for dinner is what I would consider the Spanish equivalent to mozzarella sticks; they were called “triangulos quesos” and were served with a very sweet tomato and pesto sauce. Yum!
June 9th: Today at the hospital was the first day that I did not follow the doctor I’m shadowing this week into the OR; instead, she was seeing patients today – and she had approximately 56 on her list! The way this was set up was very different from the U.S.; all the patients (a lot of them) waited in a large waiting area and waited to be “buzzed” into the doctor’s office based on their number (it reminded me somewhat of being called at the deli line). The patient enter the doctor’s office, a room with a desk, computer, chair for the doctor, chairs for the patient and guest, and an examination table. The doctor sat on one side of the desk typing notes while talking to the patient who sat on the other side of the desk. More often than not, the patient would then be examined for whichever urological ailment they were in the office for. The major thing that was very different from the United States is the time that the doctor spent with each patient: sometimes it was as little as about five minutes with almost none lasting longer than about twenty minutes! This goes back to the differences between Spanish and American health care systems; health care is “free” because it’s included in people’s taxes. Which leads me to the feeling that more people go to the doctor more often which leads to many patients to be seen. I believe there may have been one other doctor tackling the list of the 56 patients for the day, but I’m not exactly sure. All I know is that I saw a lot of different patients in the span of time I was there. The number of patients I saw today was much larger than the number of patients the internal medicine doctors I shadow back home see in a day. My doctor was extremely busy today and therefore couldn’t translate what was going on after she saw each patient, but from what I got out of the conversations (which were very fast – too fast and complicated for my years of high school and one year of college Spanish to comprehend everything), the majority of the patients did not have an issue, it was either more of a check-in or because an issue they thought they had. Of course, there were a few that I saw that did have a problem. During an endoscopic check for bladder cancer in one man, the doctor did find cancer and it was actually that patient’s second time having bladder cancer.
While I did not get the “thrill” of being in the OR today, I learned many valuable things today, most importantly the differences between Spain and America’s health care systems and what that translates to for everyday patient care. It also put some things in prospective: I tend to get annoyed when the doctor is late for my appointment or I have to wait, but the people in Spain wait a long time to see the doctor for just a short amount of time, nothing compared to some of my very long and thorough doctor visits when I’m sick. Also, today was important because it highlighted that medicine isn’t all exciting surgery; sometimes you need to meet with nonsurgical patients, even if the length of the list is intimidating and you’d rather be in a surgery.
Later that evening, we had a group dinner with all the fellows and the site coordinator to talk about our day. Also, it was one of the student’s birthday! So of course, we all had a celebratory glass of sangria!
June 10th: Back to the OR! Today I got to see three procedures! The first was an endoscopic procedure to get a sample from the kidney (through the urethra, bladder, ureter, to the kidney) to check for kidney cancer. The second was to break up a kidney stone; it was really amazing to watch the laser break up the kidney stone so it could be pulled out of the patient, I actually got to see the kidney stone – strange to think that such a little thing can cause so much pain! The next patient also had a kidney stone; however, the ureter was very narrow in this patient and the doctors had to put in a catheter-like tube to enlarge the ureter so they could go back in and remove the stone at a later date. This was my last day in Urology, even though my doctor said I could come back anytime I want; while I did enjoy urology and all the surgeries I got to see, I should give the other specialties I’ve been assigned to a chance too! After leaving the hospital late in the afternoon, I treated myself to churros and chocolate (probably my favorite thing that I’ve eaten so far) and a late siesta which was much needed after this busy week.
“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know I will be happily infected until the end of my life”
Studying abroad was something I knew I wanted to do when I started college, but I could’ve never imagined the experience being as incredible as it was. I learned so much inside the classroom and out, met so many people, and visited more countries in four weeks that I previously had my entire life. I won’t be the same returning to LVC–I have so much more perspective on the world, and I have 9 great new friends who I share so many incredible memories with.- Devon Malloy
Wow! Hard to find words for what just happened.. was a once of a life time experience that was surreal. I visited five different countries in just four weeks and had the time of my life. One thing that that is compelling to me is how unique everyone’s story is. It just goes to show that everyone truly had the ability to make this study abroad experience whatever they wanted it to be! Till next time Europe.. budapest… mic drop.–Blake Lutz
I transferred into LVC this spring semester and never in a million years would I have seen myself traveling the world with an amazing group of people from Lebanon Valley and Xavier. These memories and friendships I have made will last a lifetime and I wouldn’t change it for the world. To people that are questioning if they ever want to study abroad- DO IT. You’ll never regret it. Even though you go outside your comfort zone, its a truly amazing experience. I traveled to Budapest Hungary, Brussels Belgium, Amsterdam Netherlands, Munich Germany, London England, and Dublin Ireland. I truly wish I could stay here a whole semester, because a month isn’t enough. I wasn’t really friends with the people from LVC before the trip but I guarantee that I will be as close returning as I am now. I didn’t know what to expect meeting the Xavier kids but after spending a month with them I felt like I have known them my whole life. Booking flights, hotels, hostels, trains, buses, taxes, made me a lot more confident not only traveling but in myself as young man. Lastly, to our Professor Will Delavan and Jill Russel, thank you for the opportunity. I guarantee that you have sparked a journey of traveling that I will carry on the rest of my life. Sincerely, Nicholas A. Tucker.
Even though you have the amazing opportunity to visit lots of countries while studying abroad, don’t forget to take in the many wonders that Maastricht has to offer. It is truly an incredible city that I’ve been lucky enough to call my home for the past month, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.–Jillian McCueMake your dreams happen. I have been privileged enough to go on this journey and I have made amazing friends along the way. I was was able to accomplish and go after my dreams. I have finally made a trip to Italy and now I will never be the same. Explore the world, try new things, and get involved in new cultures. Take new leaps and bounds because I know I will never forget it. Explore the world and be open to new things.–Marla Scacchitti
This trip has been an amazing experience and has taught me so many things about myself. Being able to navigate foreign places and immersing myself in other cultures has allowed me to grow as an individual. It has improved my confidence more than I could ever imagine. Having the opportunity to take in all the beauty that this wonderful part of the world has to offer has been amazing. I am so happy that I decided to come on this trip, it has been such a great experience. To the LVC and Xavier students, thank you for making this trip a wonderful one filled with memories I’ll never forget. The friendships that I’ve made here will be for a lifetime as we have grown so close over a short time. To Will and Jill, thank you so much for this opportunity. It was more rewarding than I ever thought it would be. To all future MU students. Enjoy the time you have here, it is a beautiful part of the world and your time here will be gone sooner than you think.— Brandon McMinnAfter hearing stories of my friends and their study abroad adventures, I decided to look into a European vacation myself. I was lucky enough to have family that were more than willing to help me accomplish my dream of studying abroad. During my time here I have gained knowledge than I can explain. I have also gained friends that I know I will continue to hang out with and make memories with. I am forever thankful for LVC giving me this amazing opportunity. Thanks to the students, LVC and Xavier, that make this trip more than I could hope for.–Gianna Rossillo
Get a bike and most certainly travel every weekend but don’t forget to appreciate the town of Maastricht and walk through the streets if you have time, yes walk don’t bike. My problem which I just realized now after selling my bike and having to walk was that I viewed Maastricht as more of a place where I had my bed and had to take classes rather than yet another beautiful and special city of its own to explore and you can’t take this in as well rushing around on the back of a bike. So my greatest advice would be to purchase a bike as soon as possible, as this will help you be able to wake up for class 15 minutes before and be on time as well as make it super easy to get to the train station but for a leisurely stroll around the city, walk. It won’t hurt you being that you won’t eat the healthiest and it lets you take in the culture a lot more. Don’t be afraid to get lost, that’s what a gps and data plans are for. Also if you end up finding your way with a little help from others and mostly on your own, it is pretty damn satisfying. Branch out and make friends with not only LVC kids you didn’t know but all of the people you encounter here. Do new things and travel to crazy places because at the end of the day you will not regret anything except maybe dropping too much money on a late Friday or Saturday night. All in all this will rank at the top of experiences you’ve had up to this point in your life so appreciate every second of it. You will build life long relationships with people you never thought you would. A month may seem long but it truly flies by. Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way and gave me this amazing opportunity. Jill, professor Delavan, fellow LVC students, and Xavier students you have made this something I will never forget.— Evan Lysczek
I would tell every student to step out of their comfort zone and study abroad if they are given the chance. I’ve had the opportunity to make many new friends, lifelong memories, and explore the world. It’s truly an experience you’ll never forget. -Aaron Alexander
Friday June 3rd: I arrived at the Madrid airport in the morning with two other Atlantis Project fellows that I (thankfully) met before getting on the plane in Philadelphia. After grabbing my luggage and getting through customs, which went so much smoother than I thought it would, I was greeted by an Atlantis Project Coordinator who was gathering students that were arriving at the Madrid airport around that time.
From there, we were taken by bus to the hotel that we’d be staying in for orientation weekend. We had the afternoon to walk around the nearby mall and get food. Surprisingly, the mall was very similar to an American mall and even had a large number of American stores. Today reminded me a little of the first day of college; fellows were from all over the United States and Puerto Rico, so very few people knew each other before coming to Madrid and everyone was trying to make friends for the weekend and the rest of their fellowship. However, one thing very different from making friends during orientation weekend at school is there was a much wider variety of people from a variety of places, as opposed the large central Pennsylvania and surround area population of LVC students. Most of the fellows come from very large schools that they don’t consider to be “that big” (I couldn’t believe someone thought a student body of 20,000 was average). Luckily, my new friends and I weren’t so horribly jet lagged that we made it through the whole day without sleeping, but going to bed later that night did feel amazing.
Saturday June 4th: Today was orientation day and all the students (approximately 75, I’m not sure of the exact number) sat in a meeting room in the hotel in which we listened to speakers reiterate the purpose of the Atlantis Project (which is to allow students to have shadowing opportunities they might not get in the U.S. – for those of you who don’t know, getting a doctor to shadow can be like pulling teeth if you don’t have a connection with one – and to allow students to see how a different country’s health care system operates), go over important cultural differences to be aware of, talk about some economical differences between the United States’ health care system and Spain’s health care system, and a current medical student gave advice for getting in to medical school. One thing I found interesting was the difference in health care systems. Spain’s health care system is a largely public system which is paid for by taxes. The amount people pay for taxes varies based on income and other related things, and health care is regulated by the central government, sets policies for all areas, and regional government, sets policies for that specific area. There was then discussion on which health care system is better? United States or Spain? While the United States has a more expensive health care system, Americans have a lower life expectancy but they do have a higher health condition than Spaniards. We ended the day with a bus trip to Madrid which we were allowed to go off on our own. One of my favorite places I went to was Plaza Mayor where a group of us got tapas of tortillas and shrimp with sangria, all very delicious!
From taking Spanish before, I did forget that tortillas aren’t chips like we call them in English, but a combination of eggs, potatoes, and cheese. After exploring the city for a while, my friends and I got a taxi ride back to the hotel to go to bed.
Sunday June 5th: Early in the morning, I got on a bus with fourteen other fellows to head to Ourense, Spain, a city above and close to the boarder of Portugal. The bus ride took about 6 hours, but I did get to see the beautiful landscape of Spain. Compared to Pennsylvania, it’s much hillier, and as you’re driving you see a lot of hills, grass, and open land and every now and again clusters of buildings. When we finally arrived, we talked about what things would be like in the hospital and how our orientation would go tomorrow.
The day before we got our assignments for which specialties we’d be shadowing. The first week I’m with urology, the second I’m in pediatrics, and the third I’m with hematology. I’m very excited to meet the new doctors and see different specialties. After meeting with our Site Coordinators, we were free to walk the city of Ourense, which is smaller and much less crowded and busy than Madrid. I had a delicious (and cheap) meal of breaded chicken, rice, and salad, and I’m finally starting to get used to the Spanish eating times of a lunch around 2 and dinner around 8. One thing I’m not used to is going to bed at the same time, because of eating dinner later and it being light out so much later here. But, tomorrow is an early day at the hospital with much to learn so a good night sleep is more than necessary!
To all the history buffs, political nerds, and globally minded souls, this blog goes out to you.
My name is Olivia and I am a Senior, Political Science major with Law & Society and potentially Global Studies minors. I chose to take part in a fantastic study away opportunity in the heart the nation’s Capitol over my last Fall semester. The Washington Center provides a comprehensive learn, live, and work experience that trains young professionals through a high-intensity internship and multiple professional development courses. TWC, for short, helped me land my internship at Citi Global Government Affairs, where I am an associate who provides substantial analysis of International Trade and banking regulations to senior ranking officials, and maintains communications with over 100 countries around the world. I had just finished up multiple public sector internships from the Summer, mostly related to Congress, so jumping ship to private international affairs has been quite a change, but I am hopeful to broaden my skills as I approach the real world.
I am no newbie to the District, however I have never been a resident. The first couple of days were filled with confusion. The District is an incredibly accessible place, if you remember your four quadrants…
I took an Uber ride for the first time and requested the opposite quadrant from which I lived in, and quickly learned my lesson with a 17 block hike back home. My neighborhood, affectionately called NoMa (Northern Mass. Ave), is full of luxury high-rise apartments and colorful row homes. Northwest is where most Washingtonians work and it is home to Capitol Hill and the National Mall. The other two quadrants sport a plethora of living styles, from completely eco-friendly and green, to the unfortunately run-down and rougher neighborhoods. DC is also incredibly close to Baltimore, College Park, and Silver Spring, Maryland, and Arlington, VA. You would never know you were in a city less than 10 miles wide because each day you will hear a different language, see a new international flag in your taxi, and eat food from an exotic culture. For a place that seems to be everyone’s temporary residence, I’ve never felt so at home.
I have been in D.C. for just over three full weeks and I have not been able to keep my blogging up to speed with my adventuring. This post is dedicated to the basics.
Week 1: Train, sleep, walk, speak as many languages as you can, repeat.
Week 1 I helped welcome over 200 international students to Washington, D.C. and got them acquainted with the neighborhood. We gave them metro cards, learned a bit about where they were from, and then taught them how to act like Americans… Naturally, we gave them Five Guys and taught them how to Whip and Nae Nae.
Weekly Tip: When traveling across the National Mall, wear VERY comfy shoes, and bring plenty of water.
Week 2: Early birds get the worm at the gym, Starbucks, internships, and at the bar.
Week 2 was all about getting acquainted to your work week. My internship is a 9:00am – 6:00pm grind, complete with a 20 minute metro commute and one hour to network at lunch. I learned how much I truly valued a short walk to class, a couple of people in line for coffee, and the speed of sandwich making. Those things don’t even cover the grueling, yet rewarding research internship I go to four days a week. Thankfully, Lunch and Happy Hours are where the work world tends to shed their structured exterior to relax and break down the dress code or etiquette barriers that so often precede your interactions during business hours. The rest of the week consists of a couple of classes, late Thursdays and mid-day Friday, which luckily, LVC has prepared me very well for. Stay tuned for some interesting projects, D.C. scandals, and life after business hours coming soon!
Week 3: Family dinner and a show
I just finished week 3, and I’ve settled into a weekday routine that is finally manageable between work, class, and friends. I have also seen about half of the National Mall, two concerts, over 10 restaurants, a couple of sporting events, and learned a few conversations in Belgian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Italian, to name just a few highlights. The events may be non-stop in D.C. but I still managed to find time for some beloved visitors from Pennsylvania! On top of that, my TWC family and I cook dinner in our apartment each Tuesday, and invite a good portion of our floor to try some traditional American college food. Now, don’t be dismayed, we have a pretty nice kitchen and a couple of stellar chefs who have whipped up Tex-Mex tacos, Pan-Asian stir fry, and gourmet breakfast for dinner. Dinner is followed by laughing off the work day, making weekend plans, and hopefully starting a pretty great political debate.
“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Next time stay tuned for awkward encounters, Trump Rallies, and what it truly means to be a D.C. Native or just a Day Walker…
Several days after our generally successful foray to Wellington, we headed back to Lake Taupo, a destination we had always driven near, but never visited, to resolve a bit of unfinished business. In the shadow of Mount Doom sat carvings, inaccessible except by boat, several summer’s of work now condensed into a convenient guided tour. The carvings ranged from the traditional faces of Maori deities to a naked etching of the sculptor’s girlfriend at the time, whom I doubt would be super pleased with the amount of people taking pictures of her stone likeness.
I had spent study week on a road trip, now, I was determined to spend the whopping two week long finals period for a last bit of cavorting and merriment. For the New Zealanders, many of them retaining an admirable level of post semester motivation, there was plenty of time to study and ensure the preservation of their GPAs. For me, there was plenty of time to seal myself into my room and watch Netflix without that usual annoying obligation to socially interact with other people.
Wellington is a city trying very hard to be San Francisco. Between the art deco buildings and the cable car, it’s a wonder that they didn’t import a scale model of the Golden Gate Bridge. Las Vegas certainly doesn’t have the same qualms about monument theft.
What was notable, at least for me, about my arrival to Wellington was my newfound conservancy when it came to spending money. I believe I’ve mentioned before how I’ve been blithely burning through my money on trips and such with the mindset that, as a visitor to a country on the other side of the world, it would be a very, very long time before I returned, if at all. However, the cavalier attitude that I’ve taken towards currency had put me in a bind, and suddenly, the desire to see and do as much as possible was replaced with a vague, gnawing dread that everyone was out to get into the sweet, leather folds of my wallet.
Paid wifi? Yeah, right. City parking? Not likely. Vending machines? What utterly despicable leeches. No, I didn’t care how compelling they were, candy bars hanging seductively against their plastic housing, ladies of the night wrapped in crinkly cellophane.
Fortunately, Wellington offers a number of attractions that are mercifully free, allowing me the chance to hoard my money a little bit longer until I could pull an Ebeneezer Scrooge years in the future.
Economics aside, I really, sincerely, for real this time, recommend the Wellington museum for its sheer size and sheer lack of required payment. Much of the week had, given the cold and rain, been a slog through a multitude of museums and art galleries, all eager to give you your daily suppository of New Zealand knowledge.
That said, Wellington did something right, in the way it conveyed a subtle mood with its exhibits, through organization, music, and yes, the occasional Lord of the Rings prop, a staple of New Zealand attractions. I may have come dangerously close to learning in that museum, because when we left, I realized that the breeding habits of New Zealand birds had stuck in my mind. You think I’m joking. I’m not.
But, for every Wellington, saturated with culture and hipsters, there was a tourist attraction that was slightly under par, trumped up for the sake of the locals with little regard to whether it would be an actual desirable place to visit.
For instance, when we attempted to visit the coveted hill elevator of a sleepy coastal town, we found a deserted concrete tunnel, complete with a single downtrodden bench and an ancient elevator that may very well have been the understudy for the Tower of Terror.
Although there was an attendant to give us a ride and our guts remained mercifully knife-free, the opportunity to clank on up to a hilltop view of the town that could be accessed by road was pretty overrated.
Once we got even further away from Wellington, into New Zealand’s scenic swathes of farmland, towns didn’t even bother trying to distinguish themselves with a tourist trap, becoming simply, “that town with the one lane bridge” or similar. We had become well acquainted with the country’s rural areas, but hadn’t quite anticipated the desolation of some of these areas, often a few houses with a beaten up sign signaling a nearby school. These were the sleepy little country towns that seemed just remote enough to harbor some kind of dark, Lovecraftian secret.
But soon, the quality of the buildings and genetic diversity of the people improved, and then immediately took a dive as we arrived in Hamilton. But it was home, and we were exhausted. With only a few loose ends to wrap up, this was our last great expedition through the sheep infested ranges of New Zealand.