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Blogger in New Zealand seems to be stuck in Japanese, so I’m not a hundred percent sure what I’m doing here. Tomorrow it will have been two weeks since we left… or rather, the day after tomorrow back home.

We landed in Auckland. Auckland is boring. Think Seattle with nothing to do. They call it the city of sails, but we walked along the wharfs for a long time and saw only motorized boats, and not many of those. We did catch an Allblacks vs. Wallabies game being held in Auckland, though we could only make it to the local sports pub. NZ won. New Zealand rugby is the best in the world, they say. The fans certainly were riled up about it.

We arrived in Kawerau, a geothermal hotspot, a week ago. We were met at the bus stop by a fellow with a wild gray beard: our host for a few days, my boyfriend’s father’s brother’s wife’s penpal’s husband. “I’m Rod,” he said. When we got to his house, he showed is, in quick succession (spurred by our honest curiosity, no doubt) his moonshine sill (legal), his equipment for making colloidal silver (healthful), his backyard greenhouse (useful), and home videos of amoebas under a microscope. Lily arrived shortly, and made us a fine dinner of beef, veggies and Pavlova, the local dessert made of eggwhite, sugar, cream and kiwi fruit. After we went to see the glowing worms in the hills and the southern stars in the sky.

With more hospitality than I have perhaps ever seen, they took us to see the sea, the bush, local animals, bubbling mud pools, and vegetation… much vegetation, and a lot of volcanic rock. Daniel climbed everything he could.

On Wednesday we left for the south Island, and arrived in Kaikoura late in the afternoon. Kaikoura sits between the mountains and a deep offshore marine trench, and is the best place anywhere to see marine wildlife. So far we have only seen a few seals, however. They charge quite a bit for whale watching tours. We clean the hostel in the morning and get to know the others staying there. Traveling is always good for meeting people who challenge the coziness of home. We get asked ridiculous questions (“is everyone in America fat?” — to Daniel in a bathing suit, of all things) and make fast friends, if only for a few days. Tattoo artists who take pleasure in arranging the bed linen well, because it makes the world more beautiful. 22-year-old chefs with greasy hair who eat while taking notes about the food. Biochemists studying mitochondrial oxidation, who still smoke.

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