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[View from Marius' family home over suburban Oslo] [Christmas morning] [Christmas skiing...day 2 at -5C, first attempt was -23C (-9.4F)]

Christmas Eve in Oslo

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In Norway, the festivities are on Christmas Eve. Marius's family was very welcoming and served so many delicious foods! My favorite was probably the lefse and gomme, but it is so hard to choose with the variety that we had over the holiday. I also really enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner of ribbe (pork ribs) and Christmas day dinner, which was halibut. Now Marius and I are starting our diets so that we don't look so chubby for New Years. Thank you, Engebrethsen family, for having me and giving me a wonderful Christmas! I need some tea to try out my mug that Mom sent me and the teapot that Marius' family gave me as well. Marius is going to hang the plaque in the kitchen today. We really appreciated the gifts, Mom and Dad!
Hope everyone had as wonderful a Christmas as I did!
[Marius and his sister, Katrine, decorating the tree with Norwegian flags] [Me and Uno, their Wheaton terrier - he was my shadow] [Trying on my new jacket from Marius' parents - Thank you!] [Christmas morning …

Snow in Bergen

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It isn't a common thing to see snow in Bergen because of the warm sea water that keeps the city above freezing temperatures, but this week we have been getting snow each morning! Marius and I took a long walk into the city center and back to see the Julehuset (Christmas house) store -- a mini Bronner's. We wanted to explore more, but I was too cold and wimped out, so we'll have to continue exploring another day.
[Looking over a snowy Bergen] [Sunset at 3:30PM] [Old fishing town style in downtown Bergen - my favorite] [In Julehuset]


Skiing in Geilo

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The past week we were in Geilo with some of Marius' friends and my friend Borghild. The first day I wasn't so successful keeping on my feet when we were skiing...I blamed a poor wax job on the skis. But the next time we went out I did much better and it was a great trip. Now we're back in Bergen and soon we drive back to Oslo for the Norwegian-style Christmas. Lots of driving, but it's not so horrible since it's such a beautiful landscape!


Norge

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I arrived in Oslo at 9:30pm local time after getting stuck in Frankfurt for 7 hours because of the snow. Now I am in Bergen and it's only been a few days, but I got to see a bit :)
[Don't let your dogs poop by the playground.] [Baking gingerbread cookies!] [Driving to Bergen through the snow: "Snowy, but the driver was extremely skilled so we got to Bergen alive." - Marius]

Flying to Oslo

Currently on my layover in San Francisco. Surprised that I got so many questions from airport security in Auckland when I was leaving -- I was pulled aside for questions three times! Then on my flight to San Francisco we had the worst turbulence I have ever experienced. I was just waiting for the freefall...but we made it out ok, and I actually got to sleep more than usual on this flight. Slept for roughly half of the flight. In a little bit I'll be on the next long flight to Frankfurt. I think this one is 13 hours...not too sure. Luckily my last leg is only two hours to Oslo. Very excited!

23 Seals

"The Department of Conservation is condemning the brutal killing of 23 seals, including eight newborn pups, on the Kaikoura coast."
This has been in the news the past couple of days here. It is disgusting that people can do such a thing. Last year there were three people arrested for throwing rocks at a leopard seal, and a rugby star with two of his friends were arrested and finned for shooting a fur seal when they were fishing.
The seals on the Kaikoura coast are still acting very alert, as this event really caused panic within the seal colony. I hope that the people who did this are at least jailed.

For Mac

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Mom's Visit to NZ

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I had a very nice and amazing trip with my mom for the two weeks she was here. I tried to give her as many highlights as we could fit in her time here. She arrived Saturday (Nov. 20) and we spent the rest of that day and the next walking around Auckland. I showed her my campus and where I like to go; including: the aquarium, Mission Bay (closest beach), Auckland Domain (park and museum), and the restaurants. We ate so much food!!
The following Monday we flew down to Queenstown, probably the nicest "city" in NZ. We slept in a tent and I FROZE! We spent about two days there before heading to Te Anau where we spent another night FREEZING before we began the Milford Track -- 33.5 Miles/4 days of hiking out to Milford Sound. It was, hands down, the best hike I have ever done. Mom wasn't used to the hills so much, being from the flat mid-west, and was quite stiff. We met a great group of people from all over and got to know some of them in the four days we all spent together. …

Mom is here!

Yesterday morning my mom got in town. She's doing well...no sign of jet lag yesterday once we got some coffee in her after lunch. She woke up early today though. Yesterday was a University campus tour and downtown Auckland walk. Today is the aquarium and Auckland museum. Tomorrow we fly to Queenstown for the world famous Milford Track!

Diwali Festival of Lights

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[I broke down and had to check out Bollywood] [The view from my apartment building]
This weekend was not only Halloween, but also the Diwali Festival of Lights and the Auckland City Marathon. From my apartment I could hear lots of music and I could look out the window and get a good view of the stage. The music was very loud and quite distracting from my exam studying, but today I took a look at what all the commotion was really about. It was really cool! A variety of Indian food, some clothes and jewelry, and then the weekend long Bollywood Dancing competition. It was really fun to watch!

Another countdown:

6 days to the first exam of my final year in NZ 22 days til my mom arrives in Auckland42 days til I fly to Norway
In other news, I have been constantly asked if I am Canadian. But then I tell them Michigan and they say "oh, well I was pretty close!" A good handful of customers have thought I was Canadian. And there have even been a few from Michigan and one told me "Nice to hear a familiar accent again." Love customers like that! It makes the work day so pleasant.

The Moelling gene

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I have been getting more active in conservation efforts, but it has been limited to posting my opinions on the New York Times website. I commented on the Climate Denial by republicans and am proud to say my comment (out of 200+) is a highlight in the top 7 and has been recommended by 29 readers so far. [I'm proud of myself, and happy that people out there actually read comments and agree.] I've got the Grandpa Con gene! I bet soon I'll be protesting and writing letters to the paper just like he does. This has got to be in the blood!

The gannet colony

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Saturday was a day at Muriwai Beach. Not to go swimming or sun bathe, it's too cold for that still. But instead it was to count the gannets at the local colony and study their behavior. It was very interesting to observe the meanings behind their behaviors. Watching birds will never be the same. Our recorded population counts had to be accurate because the Auckland Regional Council uses them to keep an eye on population dynamics. I also managed to get lots of bird poop on me. But on a bright note, I saw a seal! I wasn't embarrassed on the trip about all the bird pooh on me, but once I got back to the city I started to get a little self-conscious. All part of being a biologist though!
[The seal] [Covered in bird poop!] [Beautiful Muriwai gannet colony site]

Da Big UP Deal

Proud to say that 10 years and $58 million later, Michigan will protect 271,000 acres of land from development in the upper peninsula with the 'Big UP Deal'. This connects and protects nearly 2 million acres of wilderness in da yoop. So how does this relate to a New Zealand context? 10 years ago New Zealand told countries in Copenhagen that it will have 10% of its coastline divided into no-take Marine Protected Areas by 2010. They have yet to accomplish this because of a fight back from the public that wants to continue fishing in certain areas that are subject to no-take zoning. Goat Island was the first no-take marine reserve in the world. Where are we now? Certainly not 10% of the coastline and 2011 is fast approaching. Time for Kiwis to learn from Michigan and lead the way in no-take marine reserves and show the world that an ecosystem can certainly fight back under this management plan.

Huge storm hits NZ

New Zealand is just getting beaten from every angle this season. A storm the size of Australia is currently on top of New Zealand. The low pressure system was brewing southwest of the South Island and hit land Friday afternoon. It's still working its way across with violent winds, heavy rain, and even a tornado was reported in Tauranga. The South Island was hit with snow and Friday there were widespread power outages, but not in Auckland (thank goodness). The weather is quite bipolar, switching from heavy rain to sunshine every 30 minutes or so. Makes it difficult for me to time my jogging schedule today!http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10674029
[PHOTOS FROM THE STORM.]

More news from TreeHugger.com

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Another bit of New Zealand featured on TreeHugger.com this week: the first hourglass dolphin in 150 years was found on New Zealand shores. They are more commonly found in the Antarctic regions, and very rarely do they take a trip north to the south island of New Zealand. Would have been cool if it was sent to Auckland University, but Massey University got it instead and then to Te Papa Museum in Wellington for further study.

Bright side to the Christchurch earthquake

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A little kiwi bird, named Ricktor, hatched shortly after the earthquake, which gives some light into the dismal state of Christchurch. Kiwis are an endangered species and the national symbol of New Zealand.

Busy bee!

Handed in a lab report this afternoon...next are 2 tests on Friday. YIKES! So this week I will be only home for food and sleep and the rest of the time will be on campus, and of course one hour saved for my daily jog (except today because I'm feeling too stressed today).
Then I have 2 Marine Dynamics reports due on the 24th, another ecological physiology lab write up due the 27th, and my MASSIVE fish biology reports due October 7. Man, oh man, it doesn't stop, eh? But that's good. Keeps me distracted and on task until my mom visits in 66 days!

Fish biology at the marine lab

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For the past three days, I spent a total of 23 hours in the lab identifying species of lantern fishes, dissecting 2 different local species of herbivorous fishes, and then examining their gut contents and digestive system.
The first day was fish taxonomy. We had a jar of 13 different species of lantern fish that were no more than 5 inches long. Most of them were only 2-3 inches long. We counted photophores, gill rakers, and fin rays. We picked out one of our identified species and will have to write a full description of the fish.
The second day was examining the digestive systems of herbivorous fish. We dissected a parore and a butterfish. First we had to remove the digestive tract to measure it and save the contents of the first segment (the stomach) and freeze them for the next day. Then we removed the skin from the cheek of the fish to see the musculature of the jaw apparatus and further down, removing the gill arches, to examine the pharyngeal structure. (Sorry if the photos seem t…

Dog sitting on Waiheke Island

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[Jet jumped all over my course notes!] [The view of the bay from the second floor balcony]
Hannah and Sonny went for a dive at Poor Knights, but I have assignments to do, so I stayed back and watched their two dogs for them. Kalie was great! Very well trained and a sweetheart...Jet was a handful of a 7mth old giant. He woke me up at 5:30AM to take him out to pee. Then they were both noisy so they got breakfast and I tried to get an extra hour of sleep. It was a beautiful day on the island today so I went for a run and took Jet for a walk to try to get some energy out. Then spent a bunch of time studying fish biology and working on assignments.
Tomorrow morning I head back up to the Marine Laboratory in Leigh for a 3-day fish biology field course. Hopefully I will have something cool to tell.

Some pictures from the Marine field trip

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Some photos, courtesy of my classmate Aron, from the Leigh Marine Laboratory.
[Measures how much energy a fish spends at varying swimming speeds.]
[Diving for kelp to be measured by our class - sadly I am not one of the divers.]

Earthquake in Christchurch

At 4:35AM today there was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake 33 kilometers outside of Christchurch. The quake was felt in Wellington, but I didn't feel it in Auckland (probably because I was fast asleep). A state of emergency was declared and there was an aftershock just before 8AM at 5.2 magnitude. The quake was 10 kilometers deep.
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2010/09/03/world/international-us-quake-newzealand.html?hp
So yup, I'm safe.

Marine Dynamics at Leigh Marine Lab

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Spent the last two days at the University of Auckland's marine laboratory up at Leigh (Goat Island Marine Reserve). We arrived at Leigh, welcomed by beautiful sunny weather at 9am on Tuesday morning. We spent half the day at a computer graphing light composition versus depth. But after lunch we got to go out on the university's boat for the best part of the field course.
I'm pretty sure that one year of my tuition fees paid for the boat, and then the next semester of fees paid for all the fancy equipment on board. It was really neat to see it all up and running. We used an underwater camera to see the differences in kelp at different depths around the harbor. A diver working for the university pulled up some samples and we measured and weighed them...to be graphed this week.
We were finished for the day by 4:30, which gave us time to explore the tide pools around Goat Island and hang out with other classmates. That night we were in the onsite dorms, which were brand new and…

Weekend on Waiheke

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Saturday afternoon I was invited out to Waiheke Island to Hannah (from MI) and Sonny's (originally from Singapore) house. They have two 'puppies': Kalie (1 yr old) and Jet (5 months). This past week the island suffered from heavy rains which destroyed the foundation of one house, which made the New Zealand Herald, so naturally I took a photo. They showed me a few cool beaches on the island, Hannah and I knitted, we had a fire in their little wood stove, and this morning took Jet for a walk and play on the beach. It was a much needed weekend. It was soooo nice and relaxing. I can't wait to go back and hang out there for a weekend again! Thanks again to Hannah and Sonny!

The start of my last year in NZ

I now have 11 months until I finish my degree at the University of Auckland. This year will be full of marine biology studies. I'm taking fish biology, ecological physiology, dynamics of marine systems, and adaptive design. Fish biology is my favorite course so far, but my ecological physiology lab was really interesting, since I got to dissect two different marine fish (a mullet - 38cm; and a trevally - 43cm).
I'm very excited for my mom to visit in November. The first day I'll give her the Auckland tour and she got us booked to do the world renowned Milford Track! It's going to be a great visit, and I'm really looking forward to it.
It is really raining hard outside and the scaffolding outside of our building sounds like it's taking a beating. Is this an unseasonal tropical storm or something?

Thailand

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On July 5th I landed in Bangkok at about 11:55AM local time. I got a taxi to my hotel which was supposedly only 15 minutes from the airport, but it felt more like 30 minutes. I spent the day getting used to the heat and time difference. The next day, I asked the reception to call me a cab to take me to downtown Bangkok, but we had some language difficulties so I was taken to a shopping mall instead. Then Marius arrived and we managed to get to central Bangkok to Wat Pho.
I didn't think to look up the local customs before hand, but because we were wearing shorts and I had a tank top, we were loaned out clothes to cover our legs and shoulders at the Wat. They were very attractive (not). We spent some more time exploring Bangkok and were also interviewed by students in an English class.
The next stop was Phuket (Karon Beach on left). We got a flight down there and spent a couple days at Karon and Kata beaches. I loved the food! Then we had to take a bus from Phuket to Chumpon. There …