The Tundra

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The illusion:

New Zealand is a tropical paradise.  It is ideal for days spent outside on a beach somewhere basking in the sun, eating ice cream, and basically enjoying general warm merriment.

The reality:

Snow Hill

Yes, it’s true that a great deal of this country is full of warmth, sunshine, and smiles.  But remember, New Zealand is about one thousand miles long from top to bottom, meaning there is no universal climate.  Dunedin is on the 45 degree latitude line.  For a point of reference, so is Montreal, Canada, just in the northern hemisphere.  This means, it gets pretty darn cold here, and today, we saw the first snow of the season – an entire centimeter has fallen upon us.  The Pennsylvanian in me did not bat an eye at this, but as it turns out, a dusting of snow is all it takes to derail business as usual here.

Perhaps most shockingly – CLASSES WERE CANCELLED.

Snow Cancelation

Now, to the credit of many professors, not ALL classes were cancelled, but a considerable amount of students were able to get a bit more shut-eye than they would have otherwise.  My first class WAS cancelled, unbeknownst to me, so I went to class and sat there in solitude for 15 minutes.  The thought that classes could even potentially be cancelled had never occurred to me.  While it was all a textbook non-event for me, it became obvious that others did not see it that way.

It seems that Christmas came early for the student community.  Normally my walk to my first morning class is a sullen one, with few people around, and a penetrating silence.  Today, people were sledding down hills on trashcan lids, running around the streets, having snowball fights, building snowmen, or simply walking around and taking in the sights.  It made me happy to see something that so many people back home think of as a pest, to be totally appreciated and celebrated here.  It’s amazing what a little frozen precipitation from the sky can do.

Snow Sledding

Now, as I’ve said, New Zealand is a long country with climates varying greatly as you travel.  The University of Otago (my school) is the oldest and one of the largest universities in the country, so lots of people aren’t actually from here, and clearly did not pack for the weather:

Snow Shorts

I’ve seen people walk around here in shorts and dresses on cold days, but come on!  That can’t be healthy!

I think what I find so funny about all of this is that New Zealand’s regarded as a small country (it’s about the size of Colorado with the same population size), yet since it stretches out across so many miles, something as commonplace as the weather can be vastly different between different people and their locations.  It’s also strange how it snows regularly down here, yet no one seems to have snow shovels/plows.

From the sounds of it, everyone is nice and warm back home.

Take care,

~Jake

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