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Monday, September 27, 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Week 8, Thoughts and Ramblings

A sea lion scratching itself with me watching. Photo by Joel Davidson.
This past weekend, Jen's cousin Joel Davidson, with whom she grew up in Helena, and his wife Rebecca stayed in Dunedin. We spent an evening and most of a day with them and had a great time. They both serve in the military in Hawaii (thanks guys!) and are enjoying a couple of weeks of vacation down here on the South Island. We took them to Sandfly Bay, and although I was reluctant to return just a week after our last visit, it turned out to be a remarkable evening: the sea lions were very active, and we saw the rare yellow eyed penguin. Even better, Joel and Becca are serious photographers, with Joel beginning the move into the professional ranks, so I have some amazing photos to accompany this journal. Check out for more of Joel's great photography.  

The rare yellow-eyed penguin. Photo by Joel Davidson.
Six weeks ago today, we arrived in Dunedin, after a long trip from Missoula. It's hard to believe, as the time has truly flown. With the kids' two week school break just beginning, some summer-like weather finally settling in, and a long road trip planned, it feels like the first leg of our year in New Zealand is over and that a new one is beginning.
The Bardsley family, September 25, 2010. Photo by Joel Davidson.
Also new is the sense of feeling settled, and of normal life returning: buying groceries, paying bills, getting the kids off to school, going to work, cleaning the house, taking the car in for repair, etc. If you've wondered whether normal life would leave you alone if you could just go to another country for a while, I can tell you that it won't. In fact, because so many decisions must be made, the probability of some difficulties arising certainly increases.
Sea lions mixiing it up on the beach. Photo by Joel Davidson.
Fortunately, with the difficulties comes a hard-fought perspective, that it's the challenges you've come here for; not directly, of course, but it's those that break you open. In our lives back home, we've worked hard to achieve a measure of security, but security demands predictability, and there's the rub.
The kids at Sandfly. Photo by Joel Davidson.
So, it's with a sense of gratitude that I write today: for the experience of living in this remarkable place and the challenge of making it work; for new experiences and growth amongst same old bullshit; for both the sacred and mundane.
Jen and I at Sandfly. Photo by Joel Davidson.
Adios amigos. Photo by Joel Davidson.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Week 7, Northerly, Southerly, Easterly, Westerly

Snow in the hills at the start/finish of the Haggis-Hunter 6 hour MTB race.
In Montana, we're used to the weather coming from the west, governed by the steady jet stream.
In the southern hemisphere, there's a jet stream as well, but it stays to the south, circling Antarctica.  This is why, I've reasoned, New Zealand weather seems to come from all directions. And it's the prevailing winds, which change on a near-daily basis, that are key: the worst is a southerly, coming up from Antarctica with a frigid wind-chill; better is a northerly, bringing some warmth from warmer climates; a westerly is what we're used to back home and can be just as nasty; and easterlies are rare, but when they come, people lose their minds, or so I'm told. NZ weather forecasts, no matter how brief, tell the direction of the prevailing winds.
You may be saying, "Who cares?" If so, I don't blame you, but there's a reason I'm telling you this. You see, this past weekend, we had a 6 hour mountain bike race planned. It was going to be Jen, Alex, and I swapping laps on our local track. We scheduled a sleepover for Ellie, I borrowed a light for the night portion of the race, everything was ready. But then a big storm and a southerly flow coupled to make some winter-like conditions. There was snow on the hills around town, and the wind chill was downright frigid. Smartly, the organizers cancelled the race.
So what I'd planned to be a journal about the race, is a journal about the weather, at least thus far.
Ellie at Sandfly Bay
Things cleared on Sunday, and we made it out to Sandfly Bay. It was one of our best outings. The place is stunning, and there were many sea lions lounging on the beach, which was very cool. On a little side excursion, I got too close to one that I didn't see and got barked at - lost some years off my life I think. To end the day, Alex and I had to return because he lost his cell phone jumping off of sand dunes. Thankfully we found it, and also discovered that the place is no less beautiful on a return visit.
Sandfly Bay from on-high

Looking back toward the hills.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Week 6, Digging for Clams

A clam bed in Purakanui Inlet
One of the things my brother's Kiwi friend told me just before we left for New Zealand was, "If a Kiwi invites you to come to their place to stay, they mean it, so don't hesitate to go."
My host here in the Physics Department at the University of Otago, Colin Fox, has a crib (what we'd call a cabin in Montana) out at Purakanui, which is a little settlement on Purakanui Inlet, about half-an-hour out of Dunedin. Last week he invited me to bring myself and family out and stay sometime, and so following the advice of my brother's friend, I said, "How about this weekend?" So that's what we did.
We spent an evening, had a great meal, with chowder made with clams (cockles here) just taken out of the bay, and some top-notch tacos, stayed the night, and took a walk the next day. I was so taken by the clam chowder the previous night, that I filled my coat pockets with clams and made my own chowder later in the day. It turned out great.
And speaking of digging for clams, work is going well. I've been going in every day and participating in the mystery that is research. It's a strange and wonderful thing that I have the time to pursue ideas of my choosing and passion. Thus far, I've  been working to wrap-up projects begun in Missoula, but am soon heading into new terrain.
Colin Fox mustachioed.
Fun on the rope swing.
Ellie gives it a shot
Alex's first swim in the NZ sea.
Joyful Ella.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Week 5, A 'Sweet As' Beach and Ride

Jen and the kids at Murdering Beach
I'm starting to get used to the weather pattern here in Dunedin: back and forth between rain, gloom, and wind, and blue bird days, and everywhere in between. I was raised on frequent comments about the changeability of Montana weather, but in comparison, Dunedin weather is downright schizophrenic. One day I'm lifted up by a perfect sunny day and the next hunkered down in winter mode. Okay, so maybe I'm not used to the weather pattern here, yet.

For our family outing this week, we drove half an hour out of town with the intent to hike Hayward Point, but ended up turned back because the track was closed for lambing. The presence of baby sheep in the fields here reminds me that it's spring, though my internal seasonal clock is still backwards: I could swear that we're experiencing fall weather right now.

Less than a mile along the road back from the Hayward Point trailhead, we turned off on a steep road down to Murdering Beach. Apparently a murder did occur here at some point, giving the beach its awful name. Or perhaps it was named by the locals to keep the tourists away, because this is a wonderful spot, with calm surf, tidal pools, and a perfect vantage point for the sunset.

Tidal pool at Murdering Beach

Also this week, I brought the camera along on what has become my standby bike ride: up Leithe Valley Road, where it turns to dirt down to Waitati, and then on pavement up the backside of Mt. Cargill, and down into town. It's a great mixed dirt-road/pavement 35km ride with great views and lots of climbing. The only way it could be better is if I had a cross bike (which they don't sell here) instead of my mountain bike.

Otago Harbor from Mt. Cargill Road.

Leith Valley road heading in towards Waitati, Blueskin Bay and the Pacific in the background.

Blueskin Bay in the distance.