We said goodbye to these South Island vistas and turned towards Wellington!
Each semester, one student from each HECUA program abroad takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Halla Dontje Lindell is HECUA’s student blogger for the New Zealand program this fall semester. Halla is a Macalester College student majoring in Political Science and Environmental Studies. Click here for Halla’s previous post, an initial reflection after her first few weeks in New Zealand.
Greetings from the welly windy city of Wellington, New Zealand! The tardiness of this post is a testament to how much I’ve had on my mind in the past few weeks; it’s been an overload of information¹ and opportunity², and an exciting³ and challenging⁴ time.
The last you heard from me, I was road tripping through the North Island from one learning experience to the next. My cohort finished out phase one of our program with a stay at a Quaker settlement near the mouth of the Whanganui River (read a wee bit about the pioneering legislation that granted the Whanganui River a legal personality here).
Paddling a waka on the Whanganui River.
The last evening of our trip, we enjoyed traditional Māori fare, complete with green-lipped mussels, kūmara, and beautiful pikopiko, and gathered around the fireplace to share poetry and closing thoughts.
Then we went our separate ways for a spring break week. Myself and two of my mates (shout-out to Ethan and Elena) took the opportunity to explore the South Island. We flew into Dunedin, drove a rental car up the west coast, tented at Department of Conservation campsites along the way, and then ferried back across Cook Strait. It was a novel experience to have a spring break while friends at home were looking forward to a fall break, and to drive on the left side of the road instead of the right. The spectacular sights were made more meaningful because of what we have learned about Māori history and perspectives. One of my favorite parts was an icy dip in the Blue Pools after a muddy day hike.
A dip in the Blue Pools.
Now, I am feeling settled into my home stay, my internship, and the city. I’m living in the suburb of Southgate, with beach access a half mile down the hill. My host mom is a radical gardener who loves to talk politics, and my host dad works for the very ferry company that took me across the strait at the end of spring break. On Mondays and Fridays, I meet my class in the Innermost Gardens of Mount Victoria – a community garden complete with a big compost heap right outside the building we use – for lectures, discussion, and presentations. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, I head to Bowen House for my internship with James Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party and newly confirmed Minister of Climate Change. I’m still sorting out exactly how to act in such a professional environment (I’m pretty awkward…), but I’ve gotten to witness an exciting change in government and help out with social media, COP23 planning, and research into sustainable business in the country. Swapping internship stories and experiences with the other HECUA students on Monday and Fridays is a highlight. On weekends, I’ve explored Cuba Street, spent time studying in Wellington Central Library, and made a visit to Weta Workshop. It’s been good, and I’m grateful to be where I am.
I’m in New Zealand as a student, so I’d remiss to sign off without sharing some of my academic learning. The assigned readings for our most recent class centered around Māori women, and the one that stood out to me was an article about decolonizing research methodologies, written by Māori anthropologist Linda Tuhiwai Smith. She writes about growing up in indigenous communities where “research was talked about both in terms of its absolute worthlessness to [the indigenous communities] and its absolute usefulness to those who wielded it as an instrument.” She calls for voices that are academically informed by critical and feminist approaches, and ones that are grounded in indigenous contexts, histories, struggles, and ideals. It was a reminder to me to seek out such voices as I study.
—- Notes —-
¹Information: One incredible fact is that the average Wellingtonian boards public transport 72 times per year. I’ve joined the swelling ranks of Wellington public transport users, and my morning bus commute takes about 30 minutes.
²Opportunity: Amidst many fun opportunities, I have the opportunity (along with 3 of my classmates) to be the “team shadow” for a group of high-schoolers competing in an moutain biking, running, tubing, and obstacle adventure race this weekend. I just hope I can keep up…
³Excitement: The weather is getting warmer everyday!
⁴Challenge: I’m continuing research for my Independent Study Project, which will culminate in a paper and presentation. I’ve never had an an assignment this long or open-ended before, and not getting overwhelmed continues to be a challenge for me.