We're baaaack! (I feel like the little girl from Poltergeist.)
And it was wonderful.
(Warning: long post) I hardly know where to start, there's so much to report on. I notice that everyone wanted a knitting report, which I'm happy to give, although I have no update photos. I did, in fact, end up overplanning the knitting, but only by one project (which is about what I'd expected). I finished the better part of a first sock, and maybe five or so inches of the half-pi shawl, which turned out to be perfect conference knitting, as I'm knitting it up in garter stitch, so I didn't have to look at what I was doing at all. It's a very flexible knit, in that I could put in a row of (k2tog yo) here and there, as well as the (k1 yo) rows that are meant to double the stitch numbers, so it kept me happy during two days of talks. The sock took a bit more paying attention, although the stitch pattern isn't at all difficult; it's just that I can't do p3tog without looking. But an hour or so of knitting should finish that first sock, and then I can cast on for the second. Pictures tomorrow, I promise.
It turned out that travelling with Older Daughter was wonderful. She was a real trooper on the long flights, although I could wish she'd slept more. We landed on Monday the 30th at 5 in the morning, when it was still pitch-black, and made it through customs and were at our hotel by 6, where they kindly let us check in so we could take a nap. Older Daughter tried to insist that she wasn't at all tired (she'd slept less than three hours on the plane, compared to my almost seven), but the minute I turned the lights out, she was gone. After napping for an hour or so, we cleaned up, had breakfast, and headed for the Auckland Museum, which has both an excellent exhibit of Pacific Islander and Maori artifacts, and a performance by Maori singers and dancers that I wanted to take her to. We walked there, which was a bit of a schlep, but which woke us up and got us out into the (cold) sunlight.
I adore the curves of Maori carvings, and tried very hard to get pictures of the designs on the 75-foot Maori war canoe on display, although the lighting made that difficult.
The dancers let us take a picture with them, which Older Daughter insisted that I be part of.
We spent the rest of the day walking around Auckland (OD begged to be allowed to bungie jump off the SkyTower; the answer was a firm "no", so she took this picture to console herself -- that little dot is a person),
finishing with a lovely and early dinner at the harbor.
The next day we went to Kelly Tarlton's underwater adventure (OD's choice), which was good fun, and included a snow cat trip through their penguin exhibit, and some glass tunnels winding their way through the aquarium, so that you can see the underneath of the sharks and rays swimming about. We then took the ferry to Devonport, and had a lovely wander up the volcanic core, which provided excellent views out the bay, and back towards Auckland. We also found a used bookstore, which pleased us both.
On our last day in Auckland, we packed up so that we could check out, and then headed to the Auckland Art Gallery. Unfortunately, the older side (it's in two buildings) was closed, so we couldn't see the exhibit I'd been interested in, but the newer building had a wonderful display of art from contemporary Maori artists, so we went away happy, and headed for the airport to fly to Wellington (NZ's capital).
I should mention, in all of this, that it kept getting colder as we headed south, and getting darker earlier at night, and light later in the morning. In Auckland, that worked out well, as we were tired enough to be in bed by 7 each night, and willing to lie in bed reading until 7 in the morning, but by Wellington, we had to get up early to go to the conference. It's hard to walk to the bus in the dark! The two days that we spent there were mostly at the conference, and I have not a single picture of Wellington, if you can believe. Someday I really have to go back there when we can spend time in the city, which seems right up my alley, from the little time we spent outside. Older Daughter and I did get to do a few things, though.
On Thursday evening, to my great pleasure, it turned out that the Te Papa museum was open until 9, so Older Daughter and I walked over after the papers were done for the day. It was a nice little walk along the harbor, and we were there just as the sun was setting. The exhibits were amazing. We only got to see a small part of what was there, and focused on the Maori exhibitions, in no small part because I found it so fascinating to compare to the ways in which Native American-focused exhibits tend to look here in the U.S. My very favorite exhibit was one which was geared towards showing the ways in which contemporary Maori and Pakeha (European-descended Kiwis; I've checked, and it is my sense that the name is not derogatory -- Stella, do I have that wrong?) artists create pieces which are influenced by one another's traditions. To that end, the curators had set up one hall with traditional Maori art, and one with European art from the 1800s. Then adjacent halls displayed contemporary Maori and Pakeha artwork, with a discussion of the ways in which each tradition has been influenced by the other. The part that I loved about it was the clear understanding that Maori culture and art are living, changing traditions, rather than the unspoken message in so many museum exhibits about Native Americans, that they are long gone, or that the traditions which inform their art are static (so untrue); I think that perhaps Americans find it safer to believe, or to act as if they believe, that the indigenous peoples here are long gone. Perhaps less to apologize for? I don't know, but I did love seeing another way of handling the situation of settler/native.
My paper presentation took place on Friday afternoon, last talk of the day. No one fell asleep, and no one laughed, and there were some interested questions afterwards, so I'm going to call it a success. Older Daughter and I stayed for the business meeting afterwards. By the way, have I mentioned that she was amazing during the whole conference? Almost no complaints, and she sat through talk after talk, reading or drawing or doing her cross-stitch, sometimes paying attention and asking me questions afterwards. As this was the International Gender and Language Association conference, there were some things that required explaining (for example, after the plenary talk which explored the question of why lesbians have been constructed socially as humorless; the talk included some clips of very funny stand-up comedians, but you can imagine that quite a bit of it went right over her head), and one speaker kindly warned me ahead of time that there was some swearing in some of his data (the rule for Older Daughter is, as it has always been, you can know these words, but they should not yet be in your active-use vocabulary), but generally it went swimmingly.
After my talk, I figured that we deserved a treat, so we went out to dinner at Kai's, a modern Maori restaurant, where the food was spectacular, and nicely set off by the New Zealand wine I ordered with it. We finished with kumara pie (like sweet potato), which was so good that we had to stop ourselves from licking the plate. No joke. The restaurant even had a Maori phrasebook at each table, which of course thrilled me no end, and the owner kindly allowed us to keep our copy. And then we headed off to pack and go to bed, so that we could get to the airport the next morning for our flight to Dunedin.
I think that I'll finish my report of our trip tomorrow, as the last three days were the most fun and eventful of the whole trip. We spent them with Stella and her family, and had a complete and utter blast with them. I also enhanced my fiber stash, and had it enhanced by Stella, immensely, and I want to get some pictures of that up. So, more tomorrow! Meanwhile, Older Daughter has just woken up (jet lag), and I need to get some food into her before she growls too loudly.