My last days in Wellington were beautiful. The gale-force winds and freezing temperatures mellowed out, another visitor came to the house (Monika's brother Ollie), and I got to see a little bit more of New Zealand's beautiful moody capital city. On a gray day, the island from which Island Bay takes its name looks a bit forbidding.
On the Queen's birthday holiday, Ben took me to the Maranui cafe. It was closed for renovations until recently, and he was really excited to see it open again. It has a old lifesaver club or surfer club feel, with beautiful windows overlooking the beach.
Here you see a lovely view of Wellington's premier surfing beach. It's rather flat. But the non-watery part of Wellington is rather... wavy, if mountains could be considered land-waves.
Hank is a charming little baby, happy and gurgly and snuffly, and generally doing all the lovable things that babies do. I got to hang out with him and Monika quite a bit during the week; in fact, while we were sitting in downtown Wellington, we actually saw Jemaine! As in Jemaine Clement! The HipHopOpotomus himself! I wasn't quick enough to be paparazzi, so look at the adorable Mr. Hank instead. I really like this picture-- he looks so mischievous, and the background distortion helps the effect.
In the hills by Ben and Monika's house, an old church has given some of their land holdings to traditional Maori owners of the land, and they've built an urban Marae. They're also looking into doing some native forest regeneration in the area, as it's all currently covered in thorny gorse. Ah, England has given the world so many lovely things, hasn't it? Why am I going there again?
This strange house-truck almost looks like a baby version of the Marae. Monika says someone really lives there!
On Saturday, we took a beautiful long walk along Wellington's rocky shore to see the red rocks and a seal colony. The Maori story says that the ancestor who discovered Wellington cut his hand on the rocks, and that's why they're stained red. It's probably an iron deposit, because the area used to harbour active volcanoes. Hey Benedict: if I'm recalling any of this incorrectly, please correct me in the comments or an email-- my memory is feeling a little vague. Must have been all that scotch.
The Red Rocks were beautiful in the low slanty afternoon light, the sun hidden behind the cliffs, the clouds colouring the water dark.
Hamish and Ollie spent about twenty minutes throwing rocks into the sea. I couldn't believe how long it kept them occupied. Then again, maybe taking pictures of people throwing rocks in the sea is the sillier game.
One of the genius parts of raising a baby while also having housemates, I think, is that Monika and Ben have help with the carrying. Anna and Hank get along very well.
The seal colony was teeming with big fat sea-dogs, snoozing and lounging and playing in the water. They were beautiful. Well, in a big fat sea-dog way. Seeing them sleeping on the rocks made the jagged landscape seem more peaceful. Of course, we saw our share of losers, forcing four-wheel drives along the path. Two particularly prattish teenage boys were going after a seal, trying to wake it up and get it to move. Then their dad started taunting the seal, too, and the seal got up and started charging him! The dad backed off real quick, all humiliated, especially because his act of cowardice was seen by a bunch of lousy hipster-types (us). The older boy had his camera out, trying to catch a picture of the seal going after his dad, and he screamed, "Dad! It said 'Insignificant Memory!' " Oh, we could only hope his life would acquire some more significant memories soon.
I decided, in the end, to come back to Sydney two days early, to spend more time with Craig and to say a proper goodbye to Sydney. On my last day in Wellington, Benedict led me and Hugo on a beautiful hike up some hills.
Hank loves going on walks, too.
Later that day, Monika and I went to the City Art Gallery and saw an amazing John Pule exhibit. I really liked Wellington, its gorse-covered hillsides and its moody, unpredictable weather. The nice people who live there didn't hurt either. I left for my flight at 4:15am on Monday morning, and little Hank woke up around 3:45, so I got to say a last goodbye to him and Monika. Thanks again, for hosting me and for being such lovely friends. Thanks, too, to Anna and Hamish for being so gracious.
I guess this is my last post from Sydney. I'll be back in Atlanta on Monday, and I still haven't packed. It's been just about two years since the first post. I can barely believe it. I've spent the last week hanging out with Craig, eating dumplings, seeing the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House one last time. It looks pretty much the same as it did two years ago, when I first saw it, but it means a whole lot more to me now.
Today, Craig and I went to a Sydney Biennale art show at the MCA, symbolically sort of coming full circle. The Biennale of 2008 was one of our first outings in Sydney, before we were even entirely sure where we would live. In 2008, we were mesmerized by Yinka Shonibare's Victorian costumes sewn of Dutch "African-style" wax-printed fabrics. This year, Angela Su's delicate, otherworldly, biological, fantastical drawings drew me in.
I'm going to keep up the blog, but it'll need a new name. Start thinking of new names-- I'm going to do another polled competition, and this time I'm sweetening the pot with an actual gift that will be mailed to you! I also think this is an opportune time to give the blog a new and better home. Blogger and Google have introduced irredeemable new features that I can't stand, so over the next few weeks, I'm going to be transitioning to a Wordpress blog. Have patience, and I will get there.
It's going to be very hard to leave this place, to leave my friends and everything I know, and especially, to leave Craig here, even if it might be for just a short time. I'm looking forward to spending time in a new exciting city, but I'm worried that doing it all without Craig by my side will be more than I can bear. I've ended up liking Sydney quite a bit, and I have often found myself comfortable and happy here. Two years ago, even one year ago, I would not have believed that leaving would be so difficult. But, two years since I first stepped foot here, as I'm leaving, I find it doesn't feel so simple or easy. I have been so lucky in Sydney, and I already miss this city, its kindness and my friends here more than I could have thought possible. If any of you Sydneysiders find yourselves Manchester-way, you must ring me. And I will see you again next time I find myself this side up.
And Atlanta folks: I expect a good lot of time with all of you this summer! Ok, now I better get packing...