Nature, Landscape, and Night Sky Photography by Zach Schierl

Well…those 5 months went fast

Yes, yes, I have lapsed in the blogging department. I know. I’ve been rather busy flying, unpacking, repacking, visiting with family, and administering the Junior Ranger pledge to roughly 8 billion children (and two 30 year old women as well).  But now, as I sit here in the fourth different place I’ve called “home” in the last 14 days, soaking and suffocating in a pool of my own sweat, I venture it’s time for a little catch up.

By virtue of having tickets on Air New Zealand rather than Jetstar or Qantas, I was able to leave New Zealand without any delays due to the annoying Chilean ash cloud that had parked itself over much of the southern hemisphere, which, coincidentally, is where New Zealand happens to be located.  Not only this, but flying Air New Zealand offered me the added bonus of getting to watch the Richard Simmons safety video not once but TWICE! WAHOO!  Anyways, when I left Dunedin the thermometer read 3.7 C (again, that’s just a hair over freezing for all you humanities/social science majors out there).  Upon touching down in Phoenix at 10:00 PM the pilot came on the intercom and said “The temperature is currently 109 degrees. Welcome to Arizona.”  Welcome to Arizona indeed.

Clock Tower and Moon, University of Otago

I recall writing something in an early post about New Zealand not feeling like home, despite its overall awesomeness.  Perhaps this had something to do with the novelty of being in a new country that I was experiencing at the time, the fact that I was away from Dunedin more often than not during the first couple of months abroad, or maybe I just hadn’t settled in properly yet.  Whatever the reason though, by the time I left, that statement was not nearly as true as it was when I first wrote it and had I not had a summer of park ranger-ing and Mars researching to look forward too, leaving NZ would have been a lot harder than it was.  Despite all of the awesome places I visited, my favorite aspect of my semester abroad was most definitely all of the different people that I met during my time there and I have to say that it was rather weird and unpleasant saying goodbye knowing that I will probably never see many of them again.

I honestly don’t think I could have asked for a better 5 months in New Zealand.  Other than Bank of America shutting down my only source of access to my bank account and a poorly timed adverse reaction to a spider bite, everything else pretty much went 100% as planned. Despite the deceptively small size of New Zealand (at least it always looked so small sitting there in the ocean next to Australia…) I managed to see a pretty darn good chunk of it. I’ve been geotagging my photos all along and the resulting Google Earth map gives a good idea of the geographic territory that I covered:

Where I've been....

There are many things that I will miss about New Zealand: first and foremost, my five amazing flatmates; Jesse, Sarah, Stef, Nina, and Kat and all of the other people that I met while abroad, bacon butties, The Lofts, Dunedin itself, bacon butties, the relatively laid back, low-stress New Zealand lifestyle, the weather (a winter without any snow! what a concept!), traveling and hiking as often as humanly possible,  karaoke and trivia nights at the Baaa, having the time to actually enjoy my weekends rather than spending most of them doing massive amounts of homework, bacon butties, how New Zealanders pronounce “bear” and call the letter Z “zed”, a well-developed public transportation network, and never having class until 11am and consequently getting sufficient sleep for the first academic semester EVER.

Things I will not miss: incredibly expensive food, crummy internet access, only being able to contact people in the US via skype and email…yeah that’s about it I think.

Central Libray, University of Otago

Despite the noticeable discrepancy in the length of the above lists, I am thoroughly enjoying being back in good ol’ America. It’s great to return to Arizona so I can go back to legally carrying around my concealed firearm whenever I go out and knowing that my government will bail me out if I make unethical financial decisions and squander millions is really just one big load off of my mind.  But seriously folks, after two short days at home visiting family and ingesting copious quantities of REAL Mexican food (read: NOT Chipotle or Taco Bell. Yes I did just lump Chipotle in with Taco Bell. Deal with it.), I headed up to Bryce Canyon National Park for 9 days where I began working as an astronomy interpreter/ranger. The final four days of my stint there coincided with the absolutely crazy but loads of fun 12th annual Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival which is apparently the largest special event put on by any National Park Service unit in the western U.S.  Needless to say, I enjoyed every minute.  With amazing views of Bryce Canyon (which is NOT actually a canyon btw…) just a few minutes walk from my doorstep and easy access to the beautiful and spectacular landscape of southern Utah, I can’t wait to go back for the month of August.  However, as of this afternoon, I am in Lancaster, PA to being work on the planetary geology research project that will eventually become my senior thesis.

Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon National Park

Oh, and for those of you that were wondering, the Bryce Canyon Junior Ranger Pledge goes something like this:

“As a Bryce Canyon Junior Ranger, I promise to do all I can to help protect our National Parks. I will collect litter when I’m out exploring, and show respect for nature by not disturbing anything wild.”

The worst is when parents get out their little video camera and record you administering the pledge to their kids. I guarantee you I’m in at least half a dozen YouTube videos by the end of the summer. Grr.

Bryce Amphitheater

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