Back when I frequented LJ, my friends page slowly get emptier and emptier. Occasionally it would be dotted with someone apologising for having not updated in so long. I always wondered how it was possible to drift away. But now it's my turn. The odd thing is that I'm always around LJ. Usually I'm updating cakecrumbs
or moderating bakebakebake
. I guess by the time that's done, my motivation for here has gone and the journal I intended to write never happens.
So. What's up with me?
Most notable, I suppose, is that I gained my second degree. I finished my Master of Science (Zoology) with Distinction. How I finished so well after all the crap I went through I don't know, but I did. It was a wonderful experience, a still ongoing experience to a degree. My supervisor was always the type to make me do all the hard work from the ground up. Being my first research project I made a lot of mistakes. But I learned a lot of lessons. Many more than if I had of been given a research project on a plate the way many of my peers have.
One of the most important lessons was that of collaboration. The Zoology Department at Melbourne University was endlessly supportive, but no more did this shine through than during my seminar. Towards the end of the degree we all have to give a 20 minute presentation (including question time) on our research in front of the whole department. Like most people, public speaking fills me with fear, but speaking in front of senior researchers (many of whom are world leaders in their respective fields and some are called on by various governments for advice) felt like torture. Add to this that I had to go last due to my supervisor being in an ethics meeting (she's the head of the ethics committee) for most of the day and I could not have been more nervous.
I felt like a train wreck but it apparently went well. I was approached by so many members of the department afterwards congratulating me on my presentation and offering me advice and information. Even during question time I had more people offering information and further insight than asking questions - a far cry from the complete grilling some other students got. The Head of Zoology even came to find me after to say congratulations -- my supervisor was sitting in front of him during my presentation and she told me she heard him mutter, 'Wow, that was really
good," after I finished. What had filled me with fear turned out to be a really positive, encouraging and motivating experience for me.
After the thesis madness was over (I ended my degree not sleeping for three days in a row to get my thesis done on time. That was not healthy) we only had a few days to get a PhD project lined up. So my supervisor and I decided it would be better to have a year off, work on getting my research published and getting my life in order before starting PhD, rather than rushing into a project for the sake of it.
In the interim, I went on my first real holiday with Cameron. We went to New Zealand and I had so many firsts it was like a cherry squishing festival.
I spent a lot of it getting my Tolkien geek on. I strolled through Hobbiton and drank ale at the Green Dragon. I carried the One Ring through the black gates of Mordor and all the way to Mt. Doom itself. I sped through the Ford of Bruinen at 80km/hr muttering, "Nîn o Chithaeglir lasto beth daer; Rimmo nîn Bruinen dan in Ulaer",
before singing at the foot of the Misty Mountains. I woke to sunrise over the Misty Mountains, before travelling beyond them to search for gold. That said, our gold hoard at the end of it would have made Thorin embarrassed for us.
When I wasn't having a geekgasm no one else in my company related to, I spent time drinking in the scenery. Rotorua was magical, from its bubbling mudpools and geysers, to the traditional Maori welcoming, cultural celebration and hangi feast. I walked to the foot of Franz Joseph glacier, and flew to the head of it, the latter of which being one of the most incredible experiences in my life. I spent time with endangered critters, such as the yellow-eyed penguin and the adorable kiwi bird. I travelled the country from the tip of the north island to the base of the south, travelling by plane, coach, bus, helicopter, gondola, steamship, locomotive, ferry, jet boat and minibus -- half of which I'd never been on before. I walked along the stunning harbours of Auckland where I arrived, to the broken streets of Christchurch right before I left, where I was inspired by the ability of the residents to stand up and begin to rebuild despite the constant quakes that still plague the city even while we were there.
But the best moment was travelling out to sea on a small boat and stumbling upon a wildlife encounter so amazing it eclipsed anything I've experienced as a Zoologist. A large school of barracuda could be seen feeding on schools of smaller fish below the surface, who were attracted to the area by a school of krill. This in turn attracted the fur seals, who surfaced with their enormous catch to slam it on the surface of the water in an attempt to break it up into bite sized pieces. This attracted an enormous flock of hundreds (if not thousands) of birds, including the impressive and endangered Southern royal albatross as well as two other species of albatross, 4 species of cormorant, and a number of species of gulls, petrels and terns, all vying for the scraps being flung about by the seals. It felt like stepping into the middle of a wildlife documentary.
I was sad to leave such a beautiful country, but if the experience taught me anything, it is that I am incredibly lucky to live here in Australia. For New Zealand reminded me so much of home, a home I have only seen a tiny fraction of and is every bit as beautiful. My only hope is for a long life spent exploring as much of these two countries as is possible, and working to conserve it all.
All the rest can wait for another time.