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Tue, Jul. 22nd, 2008, 05:57 pm
Thunderous

Up until two days ago, I had heard thunder a total of 3 times in New Zealand, and each time there was only like one little rumble and then nothing.

Just now heard thunder for the second time in two days. Several rumbles just now, and on Sunday there was an excellent fully-fledged thunderstorm complete with lightning and hail that lasted for like an hour. It was especially exciting because I was hiking down a mountain in deep woods at the time, so there were tree branches cracking in the wind and it was dark as night except for the lightning flashes.

It's weird to go for a couple of years without seeing a real thunderstorm.

Tue, Jul. 8th, 2008, 08:10 pm
Platypus!

I went to Australia and saw a platypus! And not like in a zoo, a real wild platypus living in a stream in a rainforest in the mountains in Eungella National Park.

There was lots of other cool stuff in Australia too. Going to write a long description of it all now.

Sara kindly drove me to the airport in Wellington for my 6am flight, which meant we had to leave Palmy at about 3am. Made the flight just fine and got to Brisbane and took the train to Weezy's house, where Tim was waiting for me (Weezy was at work). She got home that evening and we started planning our exciting road trip up to the Whitsundays. Louise, Tim and I were all going, and also Seth, a co-worker of Tim's. We had to figure out a way to fit all of us plus all of our stuff (including camping and fishing gear) into Tim's tiny 2-door car with almost no trunk. This was difficult, especially because Seth is 6'4".

We made our plans for where to sleep, what to do, etc. The next day Tim and Louise worked again and I stayed at their house and packed and made zillions of banana-nut muffins to use up their overripe bananas. We left that evening, managing to squeeze into the little car, drove for four hours or so, snuck into a caravan park to camp for the night, then snuck out again the next morning before the office opened. Spent the whole second day driving as it took about ten hours to get to Eungella. We stayed that night at an eco-lodge and went on a nocturnal animal tour and saw the platypus and a wallaby.

The next morning we drove another two hours and were finally at Airlie Beach, where a boat was to take us to the incredibly gorgeous Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. Except when we got to the boat the boat-man said he couldn't take us to Whitehaven because the seas were too high. He suggested we go to Crayfish Bay on Hook Island instead, which turned out to be way better than going to Whitehaven. This is because Crayfish Bay turned out to be completely deserted. For two days and two nights we had our very own private tropical beach, on a bay full of amazing coral reefs and surrounded by rainforest. It was incredible. We were there a third day and night as well, but some other people came and were there for the last night. They were nice though.

It was wonderful. We camped on the beach, spent our days snorkelling and exploring and lounging around by the ocean and climbing to the top of a cliff overlooking our beach, and cooked lovely meals and had bonfires every night. Tim and Seth spent most of each day fishing, which was good because it gave me and Weezy lots of us-time. They finally caught two fish on the last day that were big enough to keep, so that night we grilled them over the fire and even I had a few bites and almost liked it.

We did not get eaten by any of the scary Australian creatures, although there were a few around. The campsite had a toilet stall but it was home to an enormous bird-eating spider, so I declined to use it and went in the bushes instead. I did get bitten many times by sandflies and still have little specks all over my hands and legs (they take forever to go away), so it looks like I have smallpox or something. I also got stung on the knee by something that I have tentatively diagnosed as fire coral (thanks to Google and Wikipedia) but it wasn't too bad, has almost healed but is still a bit itchy.

We were sad to leave our island paradise on the fourth day. The boat picked us up in the morning and the plan was to get back to the car by about noon, drive for five or six hours, then stop somewhere for a nice dinner (it was Weezy's birthday that day) and to sleep in a hostel or something with actual beds. This did not quite turn out like we had hoped, due to the boat becoming beached an another island while picking up some other folks. So we were stuck there until the next high tide, five or six hours later. Could've been worse, though, because the island we were marrooned on happened to have a fancy resort hotel, so we hiked over to it and took advantage of their showers, pool, hot tub (which was not very hot), pool tables, and buffet lunch.

Finally got back to the car at about five that evening and drove an hour to Mackay, where we had a very lovely dinner at an Italian restaurant. We had a lot of trouble finding accommodation, finally resorting to a room above a bar in a tiny little town a bit farther south. It was so awful that it was funny. The room was directly above the bar, which contained a juke box that was programmed to blast a song every half hour. All night long. Plus the place looked like it had not been cleaned in 50 years. And it smelled funny. And the beds were too short for Seth. It was awesome. We left as quickly as possible in the morning and spent the entire next day driving back to Brisbane.

I had one more full day on my own as Weezy and Tim had to work again, so I took the train into the city and walked along the river and through the botanical gardens and went to an enormous used bookstore and a Picasso exhibit at the art museum (which turned out to be, not an exhibit of paintings by Picasso, but an exhibit of paintings by various artists that had belonged to Picasso, which was not what I had wanted to see and was therefore somewhat unsatisfying).

The next day I had to say goodbye to Louise in the morning as she left for work, since my flight out was in the afternoon and I would be leaving her house before she came home. Tim came back from the lab early to drive me to the airport. Got into Wellington at midnight and took a cab to the home an Alpine Club friend, Katie, who very kindly let me crash in her spare room. Had a nice breakfast and chat with her the next morning, then killed time wandering around Wellington until my bus at noon. I like Wellington, especially because there is a Lush there, where I bought some soap.

And that was my trip. It was awesome. Reeally didn't want to come back to Palmy, where it is bitterly cold; the day after I got back it hailed all day. Ugh. Maybe after vet I will move to Australia.

Wed, Jun. 18th, 2008, 04:30 pm
Done with 'xams!

I'm now finished with my exams, which means I am officially HALFWAY DONE with vet school! Yippeeee!
And the second half should be more fun than the first half. Not that it hasn't been fun, but as far as the stuff we learn actually being interesting and whatnot. And getting to do cool stuff like cut up live animals instead of dead ones.
Exams went pretty well I think.
Very productive day after the exam finished at 10:30 this morning. The 11:05 bus that I had planned to take back to my house didn't show up, so I walked home, which took until 12:00 but was very pleasant as it was lovely sunny fall weather. Then I changed my oil (with some help from Leith, but I can definitely do it by myself next time). Then I phoned the dentist and made an appointment for Monday. Then I took Hank for a walk and let him run around off leash for the first time since he hurt himself, as his wound is nearly healed.
Ok, so that's not THAT productive, but I think it's pretty good given I had just finished two-and-a-half weeks of stress.
Tonight we are celebrating end of exams by going out to eat at Mr. India, followed by socialising at the Celtic, followed by going to see The Happening. I haven't set my hopes too high for the movie since Shyamalan's last movie was so awful, but it'll be fun anyway.
So now I have a few days to get caught up on some housework and get organised for next semester and maybe go for a one-night tramping trip somewhere, and then I go to Australia! Hurrah! Going kayaking in the Whitsunday Islands-- google them, they're beautiful. Can't wait to see Louise.
Ok, time to get ready to go eat yummy curry. Mmmm, curry.

Fri, Jun. 13th, 2008, 07:44 pm
Reading withdrawal

I miss books. As in good, well-written, intelligent, entertaining books read for pleasure. And I especially miss books that a) meet all these criteria and b) I have not read before. It seems like it's been months since I've read such a book. I have done SOME non-school-related reading, mind you-- my brain cannot survive without it-- but I'm pretty much stuck rereading the few novels we have in the house, since I'm too busy studying to go to the city library in search of good books. They have some good stuff there but it takes forever to find it, and mostly the good books are checked out so you have to request them and then wait several days for them to be returned before you get to read them. And I can't just go buy new books due to the insanely high prices here.. still haven't figured out why books in New Zealand cost 3-5 times what they do in the States. It's just as well, though, since lately I have had almost zero free time for reading. Sigh.

So this afternoon I had a fit of book-lust, flipping back and forth between Amazon and the Palmerston North City Library Catalogue, frantically compiling a long list of books that I want to read and that they actually have at the library. Now I must resist the urge to go check some of them out NOW, since I still have two more exams to study for and it would be dangerous to have such books in the house. But rest assured I will be hitting that library the moment I've clicked "submit" on my Pharmacology computer test on Wednesday. And then I will spend the next three weeks blissfully reading as much as I want. Well, in between travelling in Aussie and working at the dairy farm and getting caught up on the things we learned this semester but aren't getting examined on until November (which includes most of the semester of Microbiology and a good chunk of Clinical Studies). But you get the idea.

In the meantime, I would be very happy to take recommendations for more books to add to my list. I don't even go into bookstores because the temptation to spend too much money is so great, so I have no idea what new books are out that I might enjoy. I miss working in a bookstore.

In other news, my Pathology exam today went really well, which was expected since I studied reallyreally hard for it and it's a subject that is actually interesting and relevant. So that's good. Also Richard had his surgery the other day, which also went well, though he's still being kept in the hospital for another three or four days with a chest drain in. At least he's in the nice private hospital in Wellington instead of the crummy public one here in Palmy. Also he's on an epidural drip so he has no pain (or much feeling at all, for that matter) in his entire body.

Now I'm just waiting for Russell to get back from his job in Wellington so I can use him as an excuse not to study. Not that I really need an excuse since I seem to be doing just fine at not-studying without him here.

Only 2 exams to go...

Sun, Jun. 8th, 2008, 08:48 am
Medical updates

Richard is still in the hospital, it is now one week since he developed a spontaneous pneumothorax. He still has a chest drain in and they x-ray each day to see if the lung has healed and reinflated, which it has not. Monday they will decide if he needs surgery, which will probably be the case; if so, he will be moved to Wellington to have surgery there. So poor Richard has been sitting in his hospital bed in the Acute Stroke Ward for a week, sharing a room with three stroke patients; he's only allowed to get up for 30 minutes at a time a couple of times a day, because the rest of the time he is hooked up to suction. He gets lots of visitors bringing him candy, though, and he'll get out of taking most if not all of his exams. Still, I think I'd rather take exams than have pneumothorax.

Meanwhile, my baby dog Hank somehow managed to hurt himself the other day while out running at the river; we were watching a movie when I noticed blood on the blanket he was lying on, which led me to discover that on his left side (mid ribcage) he was missing a patch of skin about the size of a US 50-cent coin. The skin was completely gone, exposing the muscle fibers underneath. Stupid dog didn't even seem to notice! So I took him to the vet the next day unsure whether they would want to suture it or just manage it as an open wound; it was sort of a toss-up between the two so we decided not to suture. Instead I have to clean it with saline and change the bandage a couple of times a day, and Hank has to wear a full-body stocking to hold the bandage in place-- it looks very silly, like a tight tank-top. He is a very good patient and holds still for bandage-changes, didn't even move or make a sound when I snipped off a bit of necrotic skin with scissors. He seems a bit more subdued than usual and has less of an appetite, so we're keeping a close eye on him for fever and other signs of infection. Poor baby, this is what he gets for speeding madly through the bushes, I'm sure he ran into a sharp stick or something.

Exams start tomorrow! I'm having trouble keeping motivated to study for them, though. The one I have tomorrow is Immunology, which is not terribly difficult but I find it extremely boring, so I haven't studied much at all yet. The campus library opens in an hour, though, so I'm going to go sequester myself there with nothing but my immunology notes. Then I have a Parasitology lecture test on Wednesday and practical test on Thursday, both of which should be pretty easy since they're just straight memorization. Pathology exam on Friday will be challenging, but I've studied quite a bit and I like pathology. Then the next Monday is the Clinical Studies exam which will also be challenging, will need to cram all weekend for it. Finally that Wednesday is a little half-hour Pharmacology test, which covers everything we've done this semester but is only worth 5% of our grade for the course, so I find myself with very little motivation to study for it.

Ok, time to change Hank's bandage and get ready to go learn some immunology.

Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008, 07:51 pm
Wild game party

Last night we had another successful barbecue/party to celebrate the end of the semester's classes and to eat the delicous animals that Richard has killed which have been taking up most of our freezer space for the past few weeks.

Unfortunately Richard himself was unable to join us, which was very sad since all the meat came from his hunting. This is because Richard was in the emergency room at the hospital having tubes inserted in his chest. Yesterday morning as he was walking back from the river he suddenly had excruciating chest pain and shortness of breath; he went to the emergency room and his chest x-ray showed a pneumothorax on the left side, meaning his left lung was leaking air into his chest cavity and consequently had collapsed by about 40%. This is not a good thing, and they have no idea what caused it; apparently spontaneous pneumothorax is more common than I would have thought, and tall skinny white males under 40 years old (which pretty much describes Richard) are at higher risk than the general population. So yeah, I went and saw him once yesterday before they put the chest tube in, and then today I went and hung out at the hospital and studied for about five hours. He can't leave until the lung has healed itself and isn't leaking anymore, at which point they'll be able to take out the tube. I saw his x-rays before and after tube placement, they are pretty cool.

Very sad that Richard couldn't come to barbecue, but apart from that it was heaps of fun. About 30 people showed up in all. Leith and Sara and I spent all day cleaning house and cooking (and not studying, of course); we had roast turkey stuffed with good old Pepperidge Farm stuffing, roast goose stuffed with a couscous/wild rice/apple/hazelnut mixture that was quite yummy, and venison steaks marinated in red wine/blackcurrant juice and cooked on the grill. Everything came out perfect and delicious; I particularly liked the goose. Other people brought various side dishes and desserts.

We also surprised everyone by providing a pinata shaped like a sheep and stuffed with all sorts of yummy candy. Leith and Sara and I spent hours making this pinata! It was awesome. It even had a scrotum containing chocolate testes. It was strong, too, took a lot of whacks to break it open, and the scramble for the candy was fun because it was pitch dark in the yard. Good times, good times.

So now that all that is over I was actually able to start studying for exams today. Not too stressed about this exam period because we only have 6 exams, and three of them are only worth 5-10% of the grade for the entire course. Can't wait to get through them, though, and then we get three weeks off, part of which I get to spend in Australia! Hurrah.

Final note: The naked calendars have been printed! They actually look pretty good. I'll be sending a bunch to the US for Mom to distribute, so let me know if you'd like to purchase one in support of drunken naked vet students. :-)

Fri, May. 23rd, 2008, 06:38 am
Indiana Jones

Yesterday we drove to Wellington to see the new Indiana Jones movie. It came out in Palmy as well, of course, but for big long-anticipated movies we like to drive down to the city where there's an actual big theatre with huge screens, stadium seating and, dare I say it, decent surround sound. Besides, road trips are fun! So we left at about 2:30 to drive down there, see a 5:00 show, have dinner, and drive back.

**Caution: not really spoilers coming up per se, but I will give my opinion of the movie which may ruin it for some. Don't know how to do that LJ cut thing.**


So I hate to say it, but I thought the movie kinda sucked. It started off OK, and I was impressed at how well Harrison Ford has held up; except for the grey hair he barely looked any older than in Last Crusade. But it only took about fifteen or twenty minutes for the ridiculous things to start happening-- and for the next two hours, whenever I thought it couldn't get any more ridiculous, something completely and utterly absurd would happen. It was just trying WAY too hard. I don't know what they were thinking, though I expect George Lucas is to blame-- that man really needs to just stay away from making movies. Ah well. It was still much more fun seeing it in Wellington than it would've been here in Palmy, what with the humongous screen and comfy seats and make-your-teeth-buzz sound system.


OK, spoilers over.

After the movie came Phase II of the Wellington Road Trip Mission, in which the objective was to Eat Mexican Food. (The only "Mexican" food in Palmy is the $20 burrito they serve at Lone Star Steakhouse.) So our plan was to go to this restaurant that all the Americans talk about called Flying Burrito Brothers, which was supposed to be about as close as you can get to realy Mexican food in New Zealand. We got the car from where we'd parked behind the theater, which turned out to be a big mistake because we then drove around at random, in the dark, in an unfamiliar city, trying to find a parking place near the downtown. Ended up parking a couple blocks from the restaurant, but the restaurant was unexpectedly popular and had an hour-and-a-half wait, so we started walking around looking for something else. Luckily we found another restaurant that served Mexican-type things, which turned out to be almost directly across the street from the movie theater and our original parking place. Ah well, it's fun to drive around strange cities with three people each shouting different suggestions/directions at you, right?

Food was good though (I had quesadillas), and Leith and Javi drank many mojitos and margaritas, so the trip home involved much laughter and loud singing and stopping to let people pee by the side of the road (since gas stations and fast food places in New Zealand towns tend to close at 9pm). Got home at midnight and tumbled into bed, where it took me over an hour to fall asleep since I have a sore throat and am starting to get congested. I hate getting sick. But I love road trips to Wellington!


PS. Gas here just hit NZ$2/litre, which works out to US$7/gallon. Ugh.

Mon, May. 12th, 2008, 11:20 am
Caves and geese

Led my traditional caving trip to Indecision Cave for MUAC on Saturday. It was a pretty fun trip, less hectic for me this year since I actually limited the number of people who could come; last year we had 35 people which meant we didn't have enough helmets, so I had to scramble around borrowing bike helmets and duct-taping flashlights to them and stuff. This year we had 19 people, which was the perfect group size. I took half the people in through the dry, rope-ladder entrance while Alastair took the rest in through the waterfall abseil entrance. Then in the cave we pretty much splintered off into little groups of four or five and went exploring. The water level was as low as I've ever seen it, I didn't even get wet above the knees. Saw some pretty glow-worms and had fun using my indestructible camera to take photos. I also found a neat chimney climb that I had never been up before, which surprised me because I thought I'd been to every part of that cave. It was a really great chimney, I climbed up and down it twice just for fun. Last year I only led one caving trip for the year, hopefully this year I'll be more organized and take a second one next semester.

Yesterday was mainly spent finding ways to avoid working on my stupid pharmacology assignment, which is not actually a pharmacology assigment but more like a "critique this article and tell whether the experiment was designed well and don't bother actually learning anything about any drugs". Feels like a bit of a waste of time, so instead of working on it I did things like clean my room, walk my dog, play with my caving photos in photoshop, and-- the most fun of all-- pluck and clean the freshly-killed goose that Richard showed up with at about 7pm. He had killed a duck too, but he just cut the breasts out of that to take home and cook, while the goose was quite nice and plump-looking so he turned it over to us to prepare for roasting, since he has no clue how to roast a goose. Neither do I for that matter, but I assume it's a bit like roasting a wild turkey, which I have done successfully. So we spent a long time plucking (gooses have a TON of feathers, yo!) and then Sara demonstrated her expert goose-gutting skills (only took her like 2 minutes to get everything out) while I removed the wings and feet and head, and we were left with a beautiful-looking bird to stick in the freezer until we decide to roast him. We also kept the heart and neck and gizzard (plus the heart and gizzard from the duck) to make yummy giblet gravy. I can't wait to cook him, I've never had goose. This weekend Richard will probably kill another turkey, and he's picking up the venison from the deer he killed a couple weeks ago, so maybe next Sunday we'll have a huge feast.

Tue, Apr. 29th, 2008, 06:44 pm
yummy

I just made myself the most awesomely yummy dinner, so I just had to share. I cut a chicken breast into strips and simmered them on the stovetop in lime juice and hot peri-peri sauce. Ate them wrapped in a tortilla with sprouts, tomato and a few dabs of sour cream, and a side of brown rice with salsa. It was gooood.

I have yet another parasitology test on Thursday night-- that will be our third parasitology test in four weeks. But it's the last one until finals, when we'll have two more. I think we don't have any more tests at all this semester actually, just a little assignment for clinical studies and a big assignment for pharmacology, both due in the next couple of weeks. Less than five weeks of classes left in the semester! Scary.

We had a long weekend last weekend (yay for Anzac Day!), so I went tramping in the Tararuas with three other people and two dogs. It was heaps of fun. We went to Mt. Holdsworth, which I've climbed twice before, but this time we went along the tops and down a different way, making a big loop. Was about 25 kilometres total, with lots of steep climbing and descending. The first night we camped up on the tops, above the bushline so it was quite exposed, but we had good weather and didn't get blown off the mountain. The second night we camped way down in a river valley. It was a great trip. My flatmate Leith came along despite having had surgery to remove metal plates and screws from her ankle about ten days earlier; this was fine until just before bedtime on the first night, when she bashed her ankle against a rock and the wound came open and started bleeding profusely. So I got to use my first aid skillz and bandage her up, but it made the next couple of days interesting because she couldn't put on her right boot or put too much weight on the leg. She made it through ok though.

I suppose I should stop procrastinating and keep studying my parasites. I'm getting awfully tired of cestodes and trematodes and nematodes. At least we'll be done with the wormy ones soon and can move on to exciting things like fleas and ticks.

Mon, Apr. 21st, 2008, 11:03 am
hobbity goodness

Yet another weekend of not doing much studying has passed. Semester's half over now so maybe I'll start studying more soon. Can't be that bad since I've been doing well on all these tests we've had lately.

So instead of studying this weekend, I was supposed to go climb Mt. Ruapehu and then party at the Alpine Club hut, but sadly that didn't happen due to bad weather. The party was moved to Rob's/Russell's house in town though, so I spent most of Saturday making my hobbit costume, then went to the party Saturday night and didn't get to sleep until like 4am, so spent most of Sunday sleeping.

My costume was great! I made feet by papier-mache-ing around a cheapo pair of shoes, painted em flesh-color and glued on a bunch of real human hair from my flatmate's hairbrush (yes, I know it's gross, but they looked great!). I also made my hair very curly (almost too curly, when I tried to brush it out at the end of the evening it sort of turned into a huge afro), and I made my ears pointy by pinching them into points and supergluing them in place; people were very impressed by this, although it was rather painful. Didn't have much time to find really good hobbity clothes so I just wore a long skirt and a shirt I found at a secondhand store.

The party was not that exciting, only about twelve people showed up, but there were some good costumes. I'll post photos on Facebook later. I got third prize for my costume, which earned me a big bar of chocolate-covered turkish delight (which is one of the most nasty chocolate bars imaginable so I left it behind for others to enjoy). Mostly people played Guitar Hero III for hours. And hours. And hours. Was fun to hang out with people though, and show off my costume-making skills.

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