The exciting thing about four straight days of orientation in a brand new country with a whole slew of people you’ve never met before is…

There isn’t any. It’s just dread.

I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s important to mention first that on my flight to LAX there was a little girl sitting behind me, kicking my seat the whole time while making a noise that sounded like the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” And the very LA-ish guy next to me clearly tried to have a casual chat with me but I think I accidentally snubbed him (by accidentally I mean I started listening to a podcast instead of even looking at him).

And on the flight to Auckland I had the middle seat. So I slept on my tray table in the same way you might sleep during a particularly boring class. You know, that specific sort of method that doesn’t involve actually getting any sleep but makes you feel like you’re making a statement at least. In this case, the statement was “I can’t get any sleep in this uncomfortable position.” By the time I actually figured out how to work my little TV dealy (well, figured out how it worked AND got the colors corrected. I technically watched some Flight of the Conchords and 30 Rock, but I couldn’t actually see anything), the flight was nearing its end. Which is to say: I may never know what happens in the rest of Hannah and Her Sisters. No one ruin it for me.

The students in my orientation group all had to pile onto a charter bus. This is where the dread starts to come in.

Basically, it was like my entire life from kindergarten up to freshman year of college: I sat down, obviously left a seat next to me open, and even though no one knew anyone else, no one would sit next to me until it was the only seat left on the whole bus. I am not joking. The guy that ended up next to me was actually told to sit there by one of the women in charge of our orientation because he was sitting in one of the front seats which she needed for microphone access.

This will give you a fair idea of how the social aspects of the whole of orientation went. For example, everyone went out for drinks every single night of orientation (with people getting very drunk on three of those nights)–I never did, and no one noticed. On the last day of orientation, I was still encountering people who claimed they hadn’t seen me the whole time.

The first day I latched on to the other seemingly friendless nerd: a sort of nerd cliche who was very dedicated to Fedora wearing. I dubbed her (in my head, obviously) Hatso as a result. Given my incredibly poor performance on the first day when we hiked up a dormant volcano, the pair of us became the very, very lame crime-fighting duo Hatso and Fatso. It’s really a shame that I wasn’t a bully in elementary school.

We stayed in Auckland for a day before leaving for the small tourist town of Rotorua. Rotorua’s famous for smelling really, really awful. Like sulfur. Because there’s a lot of geothermal activity in the area, involving a lot of sulfur.

On the way there we stopped off at the ever exciting “Agrodome” which sounds really cool but in reality is just a sheep farm where an adorable man in a very small shirt explains the different breeds of sheep to you. His shirt really was very small. And the rams really did, as one of the orientationeers pointed out to me, have enormous balls. We also stopped by Rainbow Springs, some sort of wildlife preserve/mini-zoo. It housed a kea, which is a sort of parrot that apparently has the intelligence of a five year-old. The important thing about it is: the preserve described it as having an “in-your-face attitude.”

Even better was the geologist guy at the geothermal park in Rotorua (it was literally called Thermal Wonderland) who described a particular pool in a crater as so mineral-y and acidic that “If you put a gold ring in there, it would turn black. And you wouldn’t get it gold again. Unless you did a lot of scrubbing.” He was not trying to be funny. He said it with more earnestness than any person has ever said anything ever. He also clutched his sides uncomfortably the whole time.

After some sort of terror-flight on some sort of tiny, cramped contraption that looked exactly like this:

transport into Wellington

transport into Wellington

I arrived in my very, very cold flat. The first night I tried to go into town…but without a map. And by the time I was finished tramping up the hill back to the flat to get the map, I was too exhausted and sullen to do anything. So, I did the natural thing: I put on three pairs of socks, every pair of pajama pants I had with me, and all my sweaters on and watched episodes of the Simpsons I’d seen about a million times.

Things are looking up. One of my flatmates has arrived, I’ve figured out how to warm up in a less ridiculous manner, and I’ve succumbed to the fact that I will be spending 100% of my time in Wellington panting, being very red, and forcing people to stop and wait for me to catch my breath every few minutes whenever I go anywhere.

Soon to come… staring at your neighbors creepily through opens windows: a global passtime.

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