Tuesday, 4 March 2014

More New Zealand yayness

I like dreaming. And I do it a lot. About realistic things, unrealistic things, and things that are completely bonkers. Going to New Zealand was one of my dreams for so very long, so realistic that it bordered on a plan. And now here I am. It seems to be a place where dreams come true. Adventures that seemed far out of reach are happening to me spontaneously. I let myself get dragged into things, and I love it.

My studies not least. That's nominally what I'm doing here, after all: being an exchange student for half a year. I'm taking a course on galaxies and the formation of them. It has actually been my main research interest for the past few years, still I haven't actually taken a course on the topic until now. So while many of the concepts are already familiar to me it is nice to finally get to learn it all properly, and I also pick up quite a few new things. I'm also doing a research project on colliding galaxy pairs, which is greatly interesting. All in all I find it so intriguing that I'm now fairly convinced that galaxies in general is indeed a research area which is interesting enough for me to continue working in. If you feel thrills of curiosity throughout your whole body while reading a paper or looking at a couple of fuzzy blobs on a picture that must be a sign that you're doing the right thing with your life, right? Or possibly just a sign of budding insanity. I don't really care as long as it makes me happy!

The third course I'm taking is on Antarctica. This continent of eternal winter which I have also been dreaming of for so long. I am positively mesmerised: at every lecture I am almost dazed with fascination, and the lecturer already knows me as the somewhat over-enthusiastic student in the front row who asks ridiculously many questions. I really can't help it though. I get to learn GEOLOGY! Tectonic plates, continents, volcanoes, rocks, fossils, glaciers, the changing appearance of the Earth. “Geology is just physics slowed with trees on top” some genius said (Terry Pratchett, if my memory doesn't fail me), and yes, my background knowledge of physics does make it easier for me to ask intelligent questions. But to an astronomer the geological timescales are actually fairly short. Processes taking millions of years are considered to be fast when studying stars, so while most of my classmates marvel at the slowness of continental drift I can't help thinking things like “wow, Gondwana only started breaking apart 180 million years ago, that's practically yesterday!”. Astronomy does weird things to your brain when it comes to perspective.

And all the stories it creates in my head. It certainly triggers my imagination to think about what this now-frozen continent was like in warmer times with strange species of dinosaur roaming it, rivers flowing across the landscape and now-extinct trees growing all over. Oh how I'd love to go there. Some day… In the meantime I'm enjoying the hell out of this land. As of right now the rain is pouring down in a horizontal fashion, and has been doing so for the whole day, so it feels exceedingly much like Skåne. What did not feel like Skåne was going mountain-hiking to the peak of Mount Peel the other day and actually finding a bit of snow at the top (though it's still summer here)! That reminded me more of the Swedish alps, and the surrounding forests gave me flashbacks to the wonderful northern parts of La Palma. Both of them places I love to bits, so along with its touch of endemicness it made me fall even deeper in love with New Zealand. 

Let's just face it, I'm never gonna shut up about how much I love this place. I quite like Christchurch as a city also. It is still a bit crumbled in places due to the earthquake three years back, but all in all the city seems to be alive and well. To my great delight there are lots of gardens and trees, and the city is more spread out horizontally than piled high vertically. Maybe a bit too much traffic for me to feel relaxed and safe while walking around, though, but I suppose I am rather spoiled in that area. But there is a river, and if you follow it for five hours or so it leads you to the sea! The pacific ocean. It was wild, and cold, and wavy. Not very pacific at all, but I love it anyway, despite the fear and respect I felt by just jumping into its waves very close to the shore.

So yeah, studying and exploring, that's pretty much what I'm up to right now. I'm greatly excited to get to see more of the island I'm living on, and to learn more on islands in general: both galactic and continental ones. And I've done a whole bunch of nerdy stuff that has made me ridiculously happy as well, but that is the subject for another time. See ya later, as they say around here.

Love and excitement,
Winterdragon

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