It’s been a while since my last blog post so I wanted to give a quick update. I arrived in New Zealand on November 11th. I spent the first few days trying to readjust my internal clock and getting myself sorted out before making my way to the city of Hamilton. Here, I met with two people from the Waikato Regional Council, which is responsible for writing the aquaculture plan that governs the Waikato region’s marine farming as well as for approving the consents (aka permits) for new marine farms in the region’s waters. Both talks were really interesting, but as I’ve had a rather heavy travel schedule recently I haven’t had the chance to properly write up my notes from the meeting.
Tomorrow I’ll travel to the South Island and spend the week jumping around to conduct interviews with scientific researchers in Nelson and a consent officer in the Marlborough Sounds District, as well as visit a public hearing for a new marine farm in the sounds before I finally arrive at Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon, where I’ll spend the following 1.5 months working with the animal husbandry team. Once I’m a bit more stationary and have the time/energy to process all my notes from these meetings, I’ll surely try to share what I’ve learned from these interviews. Certainly, I’ve already learned quite a bit and am very excited to explore this entirely new (for me) territory but I want to make sure that I do it properly so I’ll hold off for now.
Although I’ve been fairly busy with traveling and arranging interviews, I have found some time to do some exploring. While in Auckland I hopped over to Rangitoto Island, a 30-minute ferry ride away, where I spent a day hiking and appreciating the new environment I’ve found myself in. I’ve spent the past few days in Rotorua, and have done even more hiking here; I’ve visited geothermal hotsprings (and even swam in a hot/cold river), hiked among some California Redwoods, and visited a crystal-clear spring on the north side of Lake Rotorua. I had the fortune to meet up with some other travelers with a car so we’ve been able to visit many hiking spots that would be somewhat difficult to walk to.
It’s been somewhat surreal to finally be in New Zealand. I’ve spent so much time planning and waiting to actually be here, so in one sense it feels as if I’m finally living out a life-long goal. At the same time, the culture shock of arriving to New Zealand from Thailand has been much more powerful than I would have expected. Certainly, the cost of living feels astronomically higher here, and it’s taking some time to adjust to the new prices of accommodation and food. And food itself has been a whole “new” endeavor. I didn’t cook for myself once while in Thailand, simply because it cost the same to eat from a street food vendor and I wouldn’t be able to make anything half as good. I’m now cooking almost all my meals again, which is nice in the autonomy it allows me but also a bit frustrating as I’ve restricted myself to a rice and beans diet to save money. I knew this was coming, it’s to be expected, but it’s sad to leave behind all my favorite Thai foods for the relatively unexciting flavor palette I’m now returning to.
I’ve also found myself feeling somewhat strangely isolated. Part of it has to do with the good friends I had to say goodbye to in Thailand, a lot of it has to do with the isolation I feel as an American who’s still reeling from the election of our president for the next four years, part of it has to do with the constant hopping around I am currently doing. I’ve barely stayed anywhere long enough to “take root” so the sensations of “being on my own” and “living out of my backpack” have been rather strong in the past week. Although I’m excited for all the new territory to explore, I’m still regaining my footing after the big move. I guess you could say that I’ve been feeling the (aqua)culture shock deeply, in a variety of ways, and often in unexpected moments.
This is not to say that the culture shock has been inherently bad. Uncomfortable? Yes. Invaluable? Also yes. Now that I’ve officially been 4 months on the road, I’ve become much more patient with myself and am much better at allowing myself to explore this discomfort rather than try to escape it as soon as possible. It gives me an opportunity to learn more about my project and myself. I’ll write again very soon with photos and more thoughts once I have the energy to type it all up!
Sending my warmest wishes to everyone at home, especially as Thanskgiving rounds the corner,