Wednesday, October 12
The room smelled manly when I woke up this morning, as England, Wales, and Italy got themselves ready for the day. Ireland was still in bed when Josh and I went downstairs to make ginger apricot porridge for breakfast. (Side note: oatmeal is so much more exciting when you call it porrige.)
Today was our "walk around Wellington and mooch free things off the city" day, and we've got a Lord of the Rings bus tour (!) booked for tomorrow. First mooch stop: the library for free WiFi. After our 30 minutes were up and it kicked off our IP addresses, we continued to our second mooch stop--Te Papa (means Our Place) Museum which advertised free admission. Neither of us are big museum people, but they advertised some interesting exhibits about the Maori culture, including a chance to learn the haka, a traditional Maori war dance that has become iconic to Kiwis (for instance, the NZ rugby team does the haka on the field before games).
Te Papa is a good museum. Very kid-friendly and ADHD-friendly, and still interesting to those of us who aren't kids and don't have attention deficiencies. To be honest, I was a little disoriented at first because there wasn't a clear, predetermined, right path to go through the museum. :) Some highlights of Te Papa:
* Colossal squid - this thing was massive and creepy-looking. They found it a few years ago near Antarctica and managed to freeze, transport, thaw, study, and preserve it here on display at Te Papa. I don't remember the exact specs, but this thing was at least 8 feet long, and the blurbs said that its eyes were the size of soccer balls.
* Learning the haka - they allowed only six people in at a time, so we had to book our free tickets a couple hours in advance. They directed us to walk in and stand on a circle in the carpet, facing a giant screen, and we could see a silhouette of ourselves on the screen. We also each had a life-sized (pre-recorded) person projected on the screen in the spots that each of our silhouettes was. So a video of a woman was projected on the screen, overlapping with my own silhouette--so it was easier to mirror her movements. A Maori man on the screen walked us through how to do each move individually, then we had a practice run-through of the haka, then we did it for real. "For real" meaning we did it again with our silhouette guides. Then, after we exited the room, we could watch a video recording of what we actually looked like. As with all dancing I've ever tried to do, it did not come naturally to me, and I looked really robotic. But it was a lot of fun!
* Earthquake simulation room - they had a lot of exhibits about various forms of natural disasters--earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, water, etc. There was a room set up to simulate a level 5 aftershock while watching footage from a much stronger earthquake that happened years ago.
* Free WiFi - about halfway through our museum wanderings, we discovered free WiFi in the building. So we spent a considerable amount of time camped out with our electronic devices going.
After we had milked Te Papa for all its worth, we set out in search of food. Parents had asked me to take Josh out for a belated birthday dinner while here, so we were on the lookout for a birthday-worthy restaurant. First we tried the Hippopotamus Restaurant, but their food was pricey and sounded too fancy for our palates. Then we went by Flying Burrito Brothers, but they weren't open for dinner yet (we skipped lunch so wanted an early dinner). We looked for Fidel's, which The Lonely Planet recommended, but didn't see it. So we decided to postpone the birthday dinner for tomorrow and go to Hell Pizza tonight. HP is a widespread New Zealand pizza chain, and woman was that pizza good! We got two pizzas: the first had peanut satay, sweet chili, chicken, capsicum (green peppers), and onion; the second had apricot sauce, chicken, pine nuts, spring onions, cream cheese, and rosemary.
Because the clouds looked mischievous, we headed back to the hostel rather than walk around more. Fabio told us about the apartment he looked at today; Josh, Harry, and I swapped stories about the colossal squid and haka class, and told Nick and Fabio they needed to go to Te Papa to see the squid; Harry and Nick reminisced about UK television shows from back home; we all shared stories of all the places we've travelled. I'm really enjoying hostel life! It's cool to form community with complete strangers who will never see each other again.