New Zealand’s Lost Horizons

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

Thinking about leaving New Zealand I will miss the seals, sea lions, birds, ocean, and the friends-til-the-end I have made. (The photos here are all taken by my dear friend Balazs Kiglics and you can contact him about his photography work which is all amazing and happily shared.)

Besides spending many days in our offices in the University of Otago’s Languages & Cultures department together, our little group, which includes Balazs, Noi, László, Marialuisa, and Li-Jiun, often make food and go for hikes together. You will notice that none of us have Kiwi names, so there is also a bittersweet undertone to these gatherings – what would we do without one another? (More on this another time.)

Standing at the top of the Flagstaff Track in Dunedin’s Northeast Valley last week,  I thought about where we will all be soon. It will be wonderful to have people to visit in Bangkok, Taipei, Turin, and Budapest (and to have people visit me wherever I am).

I love the pinnipeds and albatrosses and all our crazy flightless birds. But for me the interior of New Zealand is bleak and silent, even though it is almost surreally stunning. The Kiwis have managed to kill off, in just a few hundred years, all nine varieties of the giant moas and scores of other bird species. Only two endemic mammals, the two breeds of short-tailed bats, live here. So coming from the comparatively  teeming forests of Bavaria and Florida, New Zealand seems silent, sad, and empty. What is Eden without animals?

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