Smoke.

We are starting to get consistently late in posting. I had intentions of getting my post out on the weekend, but I frankly just couldn’t find the ambition to care whether or not I did it on time. This is because last week was maybe one of the worst weeks I have had since I can remember. It was a mixture of night shift and a never-ending headache so consuming that I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of a dense and blinding fog of apathy.

But my update should really start about three weeks ago.

There was a wedding I was supposed to go to on the last weekend of August. August had been ferociously busy for me and by the time the wedding was a week away the thought of having to drive eight hours each way to attend my sixth wedding of the summer (I’m including the ones I photographed) was too exhausting to entertain. So with a heart full of guilt for missing a very dear friends wedding, I bailed at the last minute.

Turns out that it would have been even worse than I thought had I decided to attend. So much more than just the exhaustion that would have come from driving that far in such a short time.

On Saturday my mom and I were out of cell phone reception for a few hours in the afternoon. When we got back into range we received a barrage of texts and voicemails from my brother and my dad saying things like “call me as soon as you get this!” Never a good message to get. I called my brother and he answered with, “how much do you know?” Also a terrible thing to hear. Turns out my dad had been in a pretty serious mountain biking accident at the Fernie ski hill. At that point he was in the Fernie hospital and they were saying he had multiple broken ribs and a suspected pneumothorax. He was waiting for an ambulance transfer to Cranbrook so that he could get a CT scan.

While it was a very stressful few minutes, we were fairly quickly assured that while he was badly hurt, he was definitely okay. He was transferred to Cranbrook later that evening. He had a CT scan and we found out that he had five broken ribs, all acute fractures (broken all the way through), one broken in two places, and two ribs displaced. He also did have a punctured lung and had blood in his lung and air in his chest cavity. There were going to keep him in the hospital and see if he needed a chest tube.

Then we went to bed.

In the morning I woke up to my mom bursting into my room. She told me that my grandma had called and my grandpa had just died and she was on her way over there and could I call my siblings and let them know.

I should interject here that my grandpa had cancer. He had it for about four years and just recently had reached the point where they decided to stop treating him. It was a mixture of running out of different drugs that would work against that cancer and just the fact that his health was declining and chemo is rough on the body. He had just spent a few weeks in the hospital before they made the decision but he was supposed to continue to recover at home and have a few months. No one was expecting it to come this fast. I think it was something like ten days after he came home. So while it was not a completely unexpected thing for him to pass, it was still a shock and no one was ready.

A bit later than morning, my dad’s doctor came and told him that he was going to need a chest tube right away and that they would be moving him to the ICU.

The next week was basically split between my grandma’s house and the ICU. I took two days off work to be around and spend time with my mom, grandma, and dad. Then I went back to work and fit in visits to the ICU and my grandma’s around my work schedule.

My dad slowly got better and a week after the crash he came home and things quieted down. This was also the time I got switched on to night shift for a couple weeks and the forest fires got really bad.

The first week of night shift was not so bad. It was really smokey, but I was coping alright. The second week however, was a whole new story. This was last week. Early Tuesday morning the smoke rolled in a whole new kind of thick. It was insane. By the end of the shift I had a headache and as you know from the first paragraph of this post, it was to last a loooong time. By Thursday I was a complete mess. There were four of us on night shift (two of us on clean up and two millwrights) and we would sort of joke about who looked the most like shit each night. I’m pretty sure I won every single night that week. And I was in such a fog of smoke and pain that all I could do was weakly agree that I did, in fact, look like complete shit.

I thought that maybe getting off night shift would clear the headache. A caffeine pill gave me a very brief reprieve on Friday and I foolishly thought that perhaps I finally beaten the headache. Nope. It came back Saturday morning with a vengeance and I still could not manage to think straight. It felt like someone was forcefully and consistently stabbing me in the eyes.

I was supposed to be on night shift again this week. But thankfully something changed and on Friday afternoon I got a call saying I had been changed to afternoon shift. However, the headache persisted and I was beginning to think I either had a brain bleed, meningitis, or a brain tumour and on all accounts was on my way out of this world in a whirl of smoke and pain.

BUT! I did not die. I can’t remember which day (because it is all a smokey blur), but it rained and cleared a lot of the smoke out of the air. Then it got cold and kept raining and I could see the mountains again. When I came back to work on Monday I still had a headache, but I the mill yard was clear. One of the millwrights who had been on night shift with me the week before told me I looked 100% better than I had on night shift. I told him I still had a headache and he told me that the smoke had given him a headache too. (He said that he had a constant headache before his two week vacation to California. Once he got out of the smoke he said it took a full week for the headache to go away. When he came back into the smoke he said it within two days the headache was back).

About halfway through my shift on Tuesday it was like a light switch turned on inside my head. My headache wasn’t completely gone, but I felt the light come back on behind my eyes. It was like a fever breaking; the heavy fog I had been in just suddenly lifted. On Wednesday I woke up without a headache for the first time in over a week. Over the rest of this week I have slowly been feeling better and better. I think I went the whole day yesterday without feeling like anyone was stabbing my in the eyes.

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So there is my update. I have had a kind of terrible month, but things have sort of calmed down and I have a bit of hope that they are (slowly) on their way up.

Here are some fun before and after photos of the mill yard:

 

ALSO. I did an interview/guest post on another blog about working in a sawmill and being one of the only women in a male-dominated work environment. You could read it if you want to here.

Classes

I’ve started school again, and had my first classes for every course, and I’m already in the midst of a stress break-out. School! I love to learn. I hate being graded. I recently learned that med school at the U of A is pass-fail and you know what? Everything should be pass-fail (Obviously the standard for med school students is still VERY HIGH don’t worry). My life would be vastly improved if I didn’t know if I got an 80 or a 90 and only knew I passed. I am an anxious person and good gracious, the difference of effect between an A and a B on my psyche is extreme.

BUT I thought I’d tell you about the classes I’m taking.

Instructional Practices

The main assignment in this class is a 30-35 minute long instructional session where I teach my classmates how to do something. My ideas so far are: how to coptic bind a book, how to go into the woods without dying, how to tell how old a house is (extreme basics of architecture), or how to make sure your friendships last (e.g. making friendship bracelets).

Advanced Scholarship & Research

This is my most intense class this semester; it’ll probably involve me trying to use and understand data-scraping software and might include me presenting at a conference and will for sure involve a lot of original research, which I haven’t done before. I’m feeling daunted.

Canadian Children’s Literature

For this class I am reading so many picture books and middle-grade literature. I think it’s going to be great. I’m going to do a presentation on Ryan North, Canadian Author, which means I get to talk about choose-your-own-adventure versions of Shakespeare.

History of the Book

I switched out of a Wednesday night class into this Friday morning class and I am so glad I did. We are going on a field trip to a book binder and to a paper maker. During our first class I got to hold and flip the pages of a book of hours from the 1400s. The special collections at the UofA has an original manuscript of a treatise on witchcraft that predates the Malleus Maleficarum (written in 1486).

I heart NZ.

Last weekend I was supposed to attended a wedding. I was feeling pretty run down and exhausted from my crazy busy last month so at the last minute I bailed. In hindsight it was actually a really good thing as a couple significant and crappy things happened that weekend and I was able to be around and help/support my family. When I told Graham I couldn’t come to his wedding he was very nice about it and in lieu of attendance asked me for some NZ recommendations for their honeymoon. We all know that I LOVE NZ and love talking about it so I took this request seriously and put together a document that was almost for sure more than what he was expecting or wanting.

They were kind of after things that were free or not too expensive. So I kind of broke things down into how much they cost as well. I also split it into North and South Island. I only did places we actually went so I could personally attest to their awesome-ness. Also all the photos are photos I took, not ones from websites or anything. So they are pictures of the actual places we saw and that you can get to as a general tourist.

I thought that maybe other people might be interested in reading about my favourite places (that I have been so far) in New Zealand.

NORTH ISLAND

– Cathedral Cove (free)

This was one of my absolute favourite places. It is on the Coromandel Peninsula, which is about even with Auckland only on the East side of the Island. It is only accessible by boat or by foot. So you park in the parking lot and then walk about 40 minutes along a trail to get there. It is totally worth it. (If you have seen the Prince Caspian narnia movie – you know the scene where the train tunnel turns into a sea cave on the beach – this is that beach).

 https://www.thecoromandel.com/activities/must-do/cathedral-cove/

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– Hot Water Beach (free – although you might want to rent a shovel)

I don’t have a good photo cause we were only there after dark. It is literally right by Cathedral Cove. Like the parking lots are maybe 10 km away from each other. There is thermal activity under the beach. At low tide if you go out you can dig a hole in the sand and it fills up with hot water. Most of the campgrounds (and maybe other places as well) rent out shovels and have the low tide times posted.

 https://www.thecoromandel.com/activities/must-do/hot-water-beach/

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– Putangirua Pinnacles (free)

These are the paths of the dead. They were made by the dead and the dead keep them. My photos don’t really do them justice. It was near the end of our month and I was too tired to bother trying to get really good photos. They are down on the south end of the North Island, near Wellington. You drive down to the Putangirua campsite and then hike up to them. It is not a hugely long or strenuous hike. They were pretty darn cool.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/wairarapa/places/putangirua-pinnacles-scenic-reserve/things-to-do/pinnacles-track/

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Tongariro National Park (free)

This is mordor. We did the hike to Taranaki Falls, but there are tons of hikes you can do here. It is super pretty and you can see the volcanoes, unless it is super overacst like the day we were there. They you don’t get to see the volcanoes at all.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/central-north-island/places/tongariro-national-park/

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Waiotapu Thermal Park (not free)

So the Rotorua area is full of volcanic activity. There were tons of parks and places to see. We went to this one particular park and were pretty happy with it. There was a geyser, bubbling mud pits, green lakes, steaming craters, etc. I feel like it had a pretty good variety of the volcanic-y things in the area. I really loved the champagne pool and got some pretty sweet photos. We spend a whole afternoon there and by the end we all kind of had a headache from the sulphur smell. This whole area is pretty sulphur-y, but also full of hot springs. I looked up their website, it is $32.50 for adult admission. You might be able to find something cheaper or even free, to be honest we didn’t really look too hard. It is more that this one was close to where we stayed the night before.

http://www.waiotapu.co.nz

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Pukaha Wildlife Park (not free)

This is a little wildlife park in the southeast of the North Island. They have quite a variety of NZ birds. There is a nocturnal house where you can see kiwis. They have a white kiwi! It is not an albino, just a recessive gene thing. So probably similar to a spirit bear type of thing. They also have eels and you can go to an eel feeding where they straight up feed this massive eels with a giant spoon. According to their website, admission is $20. So not too much.

http://pukaha.org.nz

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– WELLINGTON

I absolutely loved Wellington. There was TONS to do in the city and the surrounding area. I will list a few of our favourites:

Lord of the Rings Scenery (could be free or not free)

There are tons of Lord of the Rings locations in the city/surrounding area. Instead of trying to drive around the city and find them ourselves, we just booked on a tour. We did this one: https://roverringstours.co.nz/tours/full-day-tour/ . They also have a half day option I think. It was kind of expensive, but you really do cover a lot of ground and they show you a TON of locations that you would not be able to find on your own. Lots of shire stuff, Rivendell, Isengard, the river Anduin, the quarry where they shot Helms Deep/Minas Tirith. Also your lunch is included as well as admission for a tour at the WETA workshop. For us it was totally worth it to see all that stuff and not have to drive around ourselves and try to find it. If you don’t do a tour, at least go to Mount Victoria. It is a park in the middle of Wellington where they filmed a bunch of the scenes between the shire and Bree (so the “get off the road” and the “mushrooms” scenes and all those shots of the hobbits running through the woods from the black riders).

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Te Papa (free)

This is a HUGE and awesome museum right on the waterfront in Wellington. Admission is FREE! They have a colossal squid!

https://www.tepapa.govt.nz

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Circa Theatre (not free)

We went to a play here. It was the best play I have ever seen. It was actually directed by the actor who played Gloin in the Hobbit, Peter Hambleton. We loved it so much we went back again the next night. However, the plays change over here fairly often. So, obviously, that particular play’s run ended a long time ago. But it is a cute little theatre, right across the lot from Te Papa. If you are into theatre I would check it out. I remember it being not super cheap, but I loved it.

http://www.circa.co.nz

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The Embassy Theatre (not free)

This is the theatre that all the LOTR movies premiered at. It is just a movie theatre, but it is kind of old school and fancy. We went to a movie and it was pretty cool. It costs the same as any movie theatre.

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SOUTH ISLAND

– Castle Hill (free)

This is sort of in the middle of the island near Christchurch. It is amazing and fantastic and you HAVE TO GO. They filmed the final battle scene of the lion, the witch, and wardrobe here. I mean, it is just rocks, but it is really really cool. People definitely go bouldering on some of them. We just walked around and looked at them mostly. I wish we had spent more time here.

http://www.christchurchnz.com/walk-canterbury/castle-hill/

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Mount Sunday (not free, although maybe it could be?)

This is also right in the middle of the island, close to both Christchurch and Castle Hill. This is where they built the temporary Edoras set. It was absolutely amazing. This was the place in NZ I was most excited about and had decided I definitely needed to see. I wasn’t disappointed. We did some research to find out if we could get there on our own. We found conflicting answers but it seemed to be that you could get 90% of the way there on your own, but the last little bit was on private property. So we played it safe and just booked on a tour that had permission to cross onto that property so that we didn’t trespass. We booked with this company: https://hasslefreetours.co.nz

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Lake Tekapo (free but also options to pay to do cool stuff)

This place was amazing. There was a hot spring attached to our campsite. The lake was beautiful. And there is an observatory overlooking the town. It is an astronomy research centre for one of the universities. All the lights in the town are shielded from above. Apparently they have one of the most ‘light-pollution free’ night skies in the world. You have to pay to go up to the observatory at night, but it is free to go in the day. We went in the afternoon and the view was incredible. Like maybe the best view we had anywhere in New Zealand. If I ever went back I would probably do a night tour.

http://www.earthandsky.co.nz

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Lake Wanaka (free)

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Another super pretty lake town worth checking out.

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Moreaki Boulders (free)

These are on the Southeast coast. They are pretty darn cool. Basically just a whole bunch of spherical boulders on the beach. Nearby there is a lighthouse (Moreaki Lighthouse) where we saw some yellow-eyed penguins, which are a super rare type of penguin apparently. Also seals.

http://www.moerakiboulders.com

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Kaikoura (free but also options to pay to do cool stuff)

This is one of the coolest little towns ever. There are hella seals everywhere. Things may have changed a bit since the earthquake. This area was pretty heavily affected. When we were there before the earthquake, there were a lot of seals along the coast north of the city. There was also a little inland waterfall (Ohau waterfall) that was basically a nursery for seal pups. The adults would leave them there when they went to sea to hunt. It was a little walk off the highway inland and it took you to a waterfall where there were probably close to a hundred seal pups swimming/playing in the pool. The town is super cute and if you go out along the point there are more seals. There are lots of ocean-based options. You can go whale watching, dolphin watching, seal watching, you can swim with the dolphins, go sea kayaking, etc etc. Rachel and I went kayaking. It was pretty great. We went with this company: http://www.kaikourakayaks.nz It was kind of the offseason when we were there, so the tour didn’t fill up and it ended up being just me and Rachel and the guide. It was super great. We also went to a sheep shearing show. Which sounded like a kind of a weird thing to do, but ended up being super fun. There is a guy out on the point who shears two sheep everyday. This is his website: http://pointbnb.co.nz/sheep-shearing/ if you want to learn about sheep, see one sheared and hang out with a pretty funny dude, I would recommend him. It’s pretty cheap and he teaches you quite a bit, lets you feed his ram, and lets you take pictures with his amazingly well trained sheep dog.

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Pancake Rocks (free)

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Super cool rock formations. They are along the West coast. Sometimes the highway along the west coast closes due to bad weather. It is pretty narrow and windy and prone to large storms. So definitely check the weather report before you set off.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/west-coast/places/paparoa-national-park/punakaiki-pancake-rocks-and-blowholes/

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Cardrona (highway between Queenstown and Wanaka) (free)

Cardrona itself is a ski resort. We took the secondary highway (maybe not even an actual highway) from Queenstown to Wanaka instead of taking the regular highway. It takes you through the Cardrona pass. It is one of the most memorable drives for me, it was super beautiful. In Cardrona there is this super rustic little hotel ( http://cardronahotel.co.nz ) that looks like something right out of Lord of the Rings on the inside. We stopped and had lunch. It was really great. I think this route would be much less awesome if it was winter or the weather was bad, so again, probably check the road reports before setting off.

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Hamner Springs (not free)

The drive to Hamner was super pretty. We decided to go because the Hot Springs looked pretty amazing. They were. There are like at least ten different hot spring pools. We went in the evening and just did the hot pools, but I was looking on the webiste and it looks like they have a whole other area that has a waterslide, cold pools, a lazy river, etc. It was super great and the website says it is $24 for a single entry or $29 for a single day with a return entry. So you could make a pretty great day of it if hot springs appeal to you.

https://hanmersprings.co.nz

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Wharariki Beach (free)

This is way up at the very top of the South Island. It is on the tip of Farewell Spit. It is an absolutely beautiful beach. You drive up as far as you can go and then park and walk a bit to get to the beach.

http://www.newzealand.com/ca/article/wharariki-beach-walk-to-cape-farewell/

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QUEENSTOWN

Queenstown is super cute and has a lot to offer. It is a little Banff-y. We stayed in a hostel by the lake and it was fantastic. There are a few really great places along the lake:

Twelve Mile Delta (free)

I think that those scenes where Frodo and Sam are with Faramir are filmed around here. You know that part where they climb up the bank and look over at the armies of mercenaries with the oliphants. I think we found that bank.. Glynis though that the shore was the place where Frodo leaves the Fellowship. I don’t think it is, I think that place is a little lake south of Queenstown, but it does look pretty darn similar. We did a hike/walk through the area and it was pretty great.

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Paradise (free unless you get stuck and have to get towed)

So when you venture past Glenorchy, it is probably best not to do so in your rental. There are some roads in NZ that are uninsured. Turns out this is one of them. Or at least there is an uninsured road up there and if you end up getting pushed off the road by a camper van and need a tow they will probably just assume you were on an uninsured one and make you pay for the tow. But it is very very pretty. There are lots of tours that go up that way. A guy named Alan from this company stopped to help us twice while we were waiting for the tow truck ( http://www.glenorchyjourneys.co.nz ). He stopped on his way back with his tour to see if we needed help. Then he drove back out later on his own time in his own vehicle to make sure we were okay. He was amazing, so helpful and gave us his card and I still have it in my wallet. That’s how great he was. If you are thinking of taking a tour, I would 1000000% recommend you book with Glenorchy Journeys.

 

Celebrity Dreams

So I was for sure supposed to post on Sunday and it is now Friday BUT I was on my honeymoon so I’m going to go ahead and say I get a free pass.

I was trying to decide what to post and thought to myself, “I could tell Raiah about how my lack of spatial awareness caused me to hit myself in the eye so hard that I got a small cut and bruise,” and then I realized that that’s the whole story right there and wow: boring. So I was at a loss. But then I saw you tweet something so I knew you were near your phone and I remembered that I finally had a celebrity dream on par with your celebrity dreams and I was THIS CLOSE to texting you when it hit me: blog post time.

Here’s how the dream went.

I was at a track meet of some kind, in a big field on a hill, having a grand ol’ time. I put my arms up to cheer or something when, oh no, a piece of my wedding ring came off my finger and fell in the long grass. In my dream my ring was extremely ornate.

My dream self immediately went into panic mode and searched the ground around me, only to find about 5 other rings but not the piece of my ring that I absolutely must find. So of course I holler for my brother Elias to stand on the spot while I run to the car and get the metal detector so that I can find my ring. I need someone trustworthy to stand there and mark the spot but Elias won’t cooperate and it is a disaster. My dream self is so mad and distraught. Yelling! Screaming! Crying! Elias is running around like he can’t even hear me! He’s not going to help!

In this moment of distress and need I hear a calm, reassuring, kind voice behind me that says, “I can stand and mark the spot for you.” I turn around and behold: Justin Trudeau has volunteered to help me. At last I can find my ring. Justin Trudeau gives me a warm, respectful hug while Sophie smiles, and I am immediately at peace and wake up.

I know you have had a bad week of the highest order, and I hope that Justin Trudeau and I have brought a glimmer of joy to your day. Before writing this I sat down and read your wedding speech to me, and it once again made me feel loved, cherished, and like I am capable of being a good person. I’m probably going to go back and reread it a bunch in the depths of winter when the dark has got its claws in me. You are such a beautiful and good friend to me, and I want all of the best things in life for you. It’s mushy, but I stand by it: the world is full of love, and I love it. I love you lots.