Wednesday, March 27, 2013


New Zealand is all about ferns.  Specifically the silver fern.  Check out the image below.  It's the International Symbol for New Zealand (I'm making that up).  But in real life it is a self-selected symbol of New Zealand, especially for their international athletic teams.  Because the whole place is covered in ferns.  See this list of ferns in New Zealand: thanks for the link, Te Papa!
This is at the top of the South Island, and probably half of the plants in this picture are ferns.  Little ferns, giant ferns, ferns that look like trees, ferns that look like animals.  If you told me that every plant in this photograph was a fern, I would believe you.
Fern that look like trees.  This was shot with the photographing machine pointed straight up into the air.
I don't even know what this is, so I bet it's a fern.  Some sort of weird, weird prehistoric-type fern.
When I made this photograph, I thought it was just cool-looing moss, but it might be a strange mossy fern.
Dried fern, or fern that is supposed to look like this?  I don't know!  It wasn't crunchy like you'd expect a dead fern to be...
Giant tree ferns!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Roadside Picnic: Nelson

After buying summer fruits and avocados, and laughing at the Illicit Venom, at the grocery, we headed out into the real world.
We didn't head into Nelson proper, we just passed by, through the Marlborough wine region of New Zealand.  It was so pretty, and as it was well past lunch, we stopped and picnicked right off the highway.

This is a perfectly fine activity in New Zealand, as the highway is one lane going in either direction (narrowing to one lane total for most bridge crossings).  We picnicked for at least 40 minutes and only about four cars passed by us.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Ferry into Picton, Appropriately Colored!

Ah!  These photos are from the point after which I realized the white balance was not right.
Passing the ferry headed in the opposite direction, from Picton to Wellington.

Having safely and easily arrived in the South Island, we picked up our suitcases and our rental car.  We ended up with an adorable little silver thing, who will feature heavily in future stories.

All three of us were registered as drivers, though in reality Rachel would be the consistent navigator and the driving would alternate between Katie and I.  So, I was the first one behind the wheel, which was located on the right side of the car.  

Other conservators had arrived for holidays prior to the conference, and had rented cars.  Their advice to us was essentially, "You'll be fine - just ignore your instincts."  Which was right.  You'd be laughing, ready to turn, and whoops!  Hit the wind shield wiper toggle instead of the turn signal...

We practiced by taking a short turn around the parking lot.  All was successful, so we headed out into the world!  

Directly to a grocery store, to stock up our Mobile Pantry!
Illicit Venom.
Puppy Food.  If I had a puppy, I would feed it this exact food, because I would have this exact puppy.  This brand's adult dog food had an adult black lab on it, and an older dog food with a white-muzzled black lab on it.  Sold.  I'd buy this for my (hypothetical) black lab.  Advertising win.
I wouldn't fee this to any puppy of mine.  What's the 'meat' component in all of these different flavors?
Sanitarium makes a huge range of foodstuffs for people: it must be like the Kraft of New Zealand.  They make this repulsive yeast-based spread called Marmite, a New Zealand version of Vegemite, that goes on toast and stuff.  Sanitarium and Marmite have been in the news recently: the one Marmite factory in Christchurch was damaged by the big earthquake, so there had been massive shortages, and Kiwis were depressed.  But!  The shop is finally up and running: read it here!

But man, Sanitarium.  Non-ideal name selection!
Okay, more dog food.  It was just so funny!  Click on it and read the names, and try not to laugh.  
Hound Log.  Dog Roll.  Wag.  Bruno.
Apparently they also make them for people.  Codename: luncheon.
We tried to get Rachel to purchase some Tofu Luncheon, but it kind of did look like a roll of vomit...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

On Holiday!!! And I Forget to Change the White Balance...

The conference ended on Friday, and early Saturday morning co-worker Rachel and I met our friend Katie (also featured in New Mexico last spring) for a week of road-tripping across the South Island.  It seemed like it would be a pain, and unnecessarily expensive, to take a rental car across to the South Island via ferry when we could just pick one up there.  So that's what we did.  Rode the ferry as normal people, avoided the car crunch, and picked up on rental on the other side.

From the ferry's top deck, headed out from Wellington.

I had to tinker too much with these photos: I accidentally had the white balance on the camera wrong and the color was all wacky.  They're still kind of cray-cray, but I've mostly accepted it.

We're approaching the South Island!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wellington Eats

New Zealand Breakfast!  Start.  My.  Day!
That tea, along with the Spiky Melon and the Man Yogurt, was scored at the grocery store.  Along with magnificent peaches, plums, and avocados...  It was beautiful summer, so everything good was in season.  The tea is more mild than English breakfast, and has a little bit of bergamot.  Like English Breakfast and Earl Grey had a mild-mannered baby.

I also picked up some kiwi berries.  These you can find at home (at least in Philly) at the fancy-pants farmer's markets.  I've had them before.  Just like kiwi fruit, but with no fuzzy exterior.
There is obviously some British influences in New Zealand - they are a member of the Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth is the head of state.  Even without seeing her face on the money, you'd still know of New Zealand's close historical ties with Britain.  I mean really, meat pies, sausage rolls, everywhere.
I even had a meat pie at the Te Papa cafe.  I think it was venison?  It tasted good, but the insides looked awful.  The girl who gave it to me was like, want ketchup?  I said no, and then she shrugged and said people usually did, so then I said yes.  I wanted to experience my meat pie the New Zealand way!  Which is apparently with Heinz 57.
Based on the advice of a local Wellington dude who was working the conference table, post-day of our talk, luggage resting comfortably in our hotel room, Rachel and I headed to the Mighty Mighty to people watch, catch some live music, and have a well-deserved drink.  Our Wellington contact said it was a divier place, but it seemed wonderful - bright and clean - to us!
New Zealand's close (relatively, compared to Germany for instance) physical proximity to Asia also means that there is a fair amount of Asian eats in Wellington.  Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, Korean, etc. I did have the World's Biggest Sushi for lunch one day.  I tried to put the chopsticks in as a size reference, but it didn't really work.  Let's just say they were regular sushi the size of futomaki.  Salmon rolls on steroids.
Night Market!  In the summer, every Friday off of Cuba Street in downtown Wellington!  Yes please!  A whole passel of us young'ins went and ate Szechuan noodles and a variety of dumplings, cooked as you watched.
Dumpling boat!  Dumpling fork!
Wha-ha-ha!  Starburst sucks!  It totally does!
But in all reality, a suck is actually what Kiwis call lollipops.  Rachel and I have extended this terminology to include hard candies, and spent all of last week jet-lagged, wandering around the lab asking people if there were sucks anywhere that we could have.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

It's a Melon!

It's a kiwano melon!

Gross looking inside, and tastes not worthwhile.  Lesson learned!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What's That?!!

I found it at a grocery store!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Man Yogurt

Like the smart travelers on a budget that we were, and because they summarize the Character of a Nation, we (Rachel and I) made sure to hit up the New Zealand grocery stores for supplies!  Our goal was to acquire suitable breakfast materials.  Neither of us favor large breakfasts on a daily basis, and the price wasn't it worth it for us to eat toast and tea (the breakfast of champions!) of the hotel buffet in the mornings.

Both of us bee-lined for this yogurt because of it's yummy flavor combinations and the promise of fruit, seeds, grains, and barley together.  Look closer.  

"This is men's yoghurt and you are a man.  Now find a spoon, fork, or spade and dig in."
The man theme continues.
"A man must not own more than one aftershave at any one time."
"It is acceptable to eat yoghurt - when it's Mammoth yoghurt and it's thick and chunky and it's made for men."
Turns out that all of the other American conservators, most of whom are ladies, hit up the New Zealand grocery stores as well.  All were attracted to the Man Yogurt as well, based upon the promise of fruit, seeds, grains, and barley, only realizing that it was for men much later.

We figured, hey, the American Woman is a tough broad.  If she wants to eat the Man Yogurt, she's gonna eat the Man Yogurt.  Nobody can stop her.

Monday, March 4, 2013


In Wellington.  Painted on the side of some kind of food truck?  Or other mobile shopping facilitator?


Our suitcases arrived, the sun came out, and our talk went great.  Time to enjoy Wellington worry-free!

The conference venue, Te Papa.
The lecture hall was lovely, and the conference so well-put together, they really outdid themselves.  I would go into specifics, but it would be too dorky.  Excellent workshops, excellent tours.  Picture below is the balcony off of the tea-time reception space.

The opening reception was held at the National Library of New Zealand, where we were formally welcomed in a Maori welcoming ceremony.  We were all led in quietly together (all 150 conference attendees) by a Te Papa conservator.  The Library staff was collected together inside, and one of the Maori women on staff was singing a song, asking if we were friends or foes.  Our leading conservator, also a Maori woman, sang back that we were friendly.  The welcoming singer then had us all come in and sit down together.

After that, we had a long speech/prayer/intention, first in Maori and then in English, about the conference, the goals, the participants.  Then more brief speeches by the director of the library (the equivalent of our Librarian of Congress) and the minister of culture.  After a second song by the entire Library staff, we were expected to sing a song in return!  In Maori!  Such pressure...  We'd been handed little slips of paper with the words printed on them, and told the tune would be "How Great Thou Art," no doubt to make things easy for us.  After the song, wine, aperitifs, and freedom to wander (food and drink free, of course) through the exhibits on the ground floor.

Te Papa is right on the water. 
Never fear: there are gaps in the dock where you can leap right into the harbor.

Suspended fern sculpture above a courtyard outside the Wellington town hall.