Ethics Proposal Submission Celebration

I spent most of this lovely Tuesday inside, working, planning and submitting my ethics proposal for final review (now I just wait for the committee to meet and sendme changes). I started some serious scheduling of school visits, researching and reading and just general project housekeeping. I also had the opportunity to Skype with Mary Green’s Leadership class at KSU, and teach a class to MAT students at Reinhardt University

After a productive day that lasted until dinner time, I enjoyed dinner with the Ludbrooks, then decided that it was a lovely night for a stroll and relaxing on a rooftop bar I had passed a few times, (across the street from the church I have been visiting). The views from the rooftop were great, and I enjoyed the sunset as I sipped my old fashioned.

On my way back home I was reminded a bit of the universality of the university experience, as it is orientation week here in Wellington and what do I run into on the street, but toga-clad university students. Even over 8,000 miles away – some things do  not change!


The Great War Exhibition and Pukeahu National War Memorial Park

Monday was my first actual school visit, and we visited a lovely high school and had some great conversations with the staff – while most of my project is focused on younger students, I found that it was very beneficial to have the opportunity to see “where the students are headed” and talk about the options for secondary schooling in NZ.

After we finished at the school, I decided I would visit the Great War Exhibition, which was put together by none other than the famous Peter Jackson (it often feels like I am a little bit of a Peter Jackson groupie here in New Zealand, but I will take it – I might totally pull a fan girl moment if I run into him on the street, by the way, #justsaying).

All silliness aside, this exhibition was well done, moving and seriously though provoking. In the US WWI is discussed, but in many cases, education, knowledge and information of WWI is much more overshadowed by WWII – I think owing to the length of our involvement in WWII the US, as well as the fact that, for me (and many of my peers as well), I had a grandfather who fought in WWII, so I was “invested” I guess?

For New Zealanders, the Great War was one of devastating loss. As an isolated island nation, it was also the first glimpse many Kiwis had, post colonization, of the world outside of New Zealand. This journey was well done, and really opened my eyes to the historical roll that NZ forces played in the War. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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For more information, and much better images than I could hope to capture, visit the Exhibition website:

Just down from the exhibition is the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and the Hall of Memories. These touching memorials serve to commemorate the losses New Zealand has had in War.

I have a few pictures below, but you can also learn more at the websites: and

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One really cool thing on display was from a school project at one of the local Girl’s High School.

The assignment was to design a gown with the position of being pro or anti conscription in mind.  I loved the gowns, as well as the thoughtful explanations (what a cool design project idea as well!).

Walk Lights in Welly

This is just a short interesting post to share with you about the wonderful, wild world of Welly.

Typical walk lights might look like (little green men, right?):

and many lights in Wellington do.

However, there are 3 locations where the walk lights in a surrounding area take a very different form. I was quite intrigued after seeing this light:

during my first week in Wellington, and had a conversation with the Ludbrooks, because I was curious.

I learned that the Cuba Street Lights were changed in early 2016 to honor Carmen Rupe,  a famous drag queen who made transgender and equal rights a hallmark of her life. Carmen’s story (here and here) is quite fascinating and she was certainly a trailblazer for equal rights in a very tumulus time.

As I dug deeper, I learned that the Cuba Street lights were not the first lights to change. In September of 2014, as a part of New Zealand celebrating the 122 anniversary of giving women the right to vote (the first country in the world to grant universal suffrage to women, mind you) the lights around Parliament in the Thorndon area were changed to Kate Sheppard – who was truly the catalyst in the NZ Women’s Suffrage movement.



I actually saw these walk lights when we toured Parliament, but was busily rushing back to the Fulbright office, and didn’t really think about what I had seen until after I started researching this post, then I visited the National Library, and passed them walking home.

Then I was intrigued, and saw mention that a third light had been added, of a ANZAC soldier at the WW1 memorial, or Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. I happened to be in the area a few days ago, and took a walk a few blocks out of my way, and lo and behold, I was able to confirm that these lights also had a different figure.


As is typical, my curiosity got the best of me – I wanted to know more – so I turned to google, and discovered that the soldier was a Wellington-born soldier who received a Victoria Cross for his heroics, Captain Alfred Shout .

More about Captain Shout

While quite fascinating, these lights have not been without controversy, as you can see in these articles:

Even with all the controversy, the lights seem to be a unique point of pride for Wellingtonians, and the discussion continues of who is next. John PlimmerKatherine Mansfield? Peter Jackson? A sports figure?  Someone joked to me that the Do Not Walk Lights in Miramar near Weta should be Gandalf – in the “you shall not pass” pose. . .

I for one, think it is a brilliant idea. . .

What about you? Creative Light Ideas?


EduCamp Welly

Saturday morning my alarm went off at 7 AM. I was headed to #EduCampWelly – and event I had been excitedly waiting for since probably I found out I was headed to NZ last April. This particular EduCamp had been reccomened to me by so many people I actually lost count, so that was a good sign, right? For my non-teacher friends, an EdCamp is a participant-driven professional learning conference, often labeled as an “unconference” because the sessions are lined up by the participants – that day – and you never know what the day will bring. This video kind of helps explain how it works:

Ed Camps are some of my favorite professional learning opportunities, because of the networking and conversations, and #EduCampWelly was no exception. From the moment I stepped foot on the Raroa Intermediate Campus, I was welcomed with the famous New Zealand Hospitality – in fact, when I walked in – immediately people knew my name – I felt like I was home, amongst my favorite, passionate educator friends as we discussed all of the “teacher shop talk”. I was able to finally meet some social media friends face to face, and make great connections and have fantastic conversations about my inquiry project, school visits and just general life in New Zealand.

I attended sessions on STEM and Math, Global Connections, Project Based Learning and a tour of the school.

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The day ended with Pizza and Prizes. We closed the event, and I even received a traditional kiwi prize of a Cadbury Chocolate Fish, for traveling from the furthest away! 🙂

Then we had pizza, and refreshments. (for my US friends you will not believe that one of  the beverages served to us with our pizza, at a school event,  was beer. I was beyond shocked (and pretty excited, if truth be told).

Great Day, Great People, Great Connections, all for a small Koha (gift/donation)?

Totally worth the early alarm on a Saturday!

A day at the New Zealand National Library in Wellington

Upon the recommendation of Sue (@staffdevjnkie), 2016 #FulbrightTeach to NZ, I set out to explore the National Library of New Zealand in Wellington. It was the perfect place to go where I could work on finalizing my Ethics proposal while still seeing some sights and exploring when I was done – so off I went, devices and notes in hand.

What a cool place – it was like 1 part library, 1 part makerspace, 1 part museum and 1 part awesome cafe.

Interesting display about the naming of locations in New Zealand
You can play games off of the internet archive. Oregon Trail anyone? Don’t click on the link below if you don’t have free time – trust me on that!

So, a library, with video games – can it get better? Why yes, yes it can. . . Behold – the 3D printer station:


You can bring your .stl, .obj or other 3D files here, and print them – when I go into 3D printer withdrawal, I know where I am headed!

But wait . . . There’s more . . .

As if more proof was needed that this is a place for Merry, they have a fantastic coffee shop and cafe – called Home.


So yeah – all of that and several museum type exhibits that I could explore? A heavenly way to spend a Friday.

And from my favorite exhibit, of New Zealand Cartography (map-making) we have the explanation of why it is indeed “Windy Welly”:

And I know, better late than never Merry – I apologize in advance for the spamming you are all about to receive as I update my blog. I obviously need to find a workflow for updating – maybe I will get there before I head home.

Working and More Underwater Adventures

Tuesday was a relatively less adventurous day  – the weather was gorgeous, but alas, I did have to work. I had a great online class class with my Reinhardt students on Assistive Technology and using Excel for data collection, and spent some time reviewing, grading and commenting on their work. Then I responded to some emails regarding school visits and set up a few meetings with folks in New Zealand.

I did take advantage of the gorgeous weather and worked from the balcony for much of the day – it is a fantastic view:

It was amazing how quickly the day went by, and soon Joanna was home and it was dinner time. Julian prepared our dinner – a very nice fish, veggie and soba noodle dish, which we enjoyed on the balcony, then I made my first trip to the big grocery store, (a nice little intro for me, as this will be the one by my apartment), joining Joanna for her shopping. It was very much like an american supermarket, but their was a much larger fresh seafood and produce department, and quite a few of the names were different. I will have some fun later sharing the “american” section with you all – and I have decided that I will make my goal each time I go shopping to get a “new” thing to try.

We got back to the house and I was able to enjoy the NZ famous “Hokey Pokey” ice cream – a vanilla and honey comb toffee ice cream that is most excellent.   Julian also had a lovely cocktail and coffee ready for us on the balcony – all in all a pretty great evening.


I awoke to a gorgeous and unexpectedly free day on Wednesday morning, as our Fulbright group’s school visit for the day had to be cancelled.

Since it was so pretty, I decided to take full advantage of the day, and I got a ride with Joanna to Island Bay, on her way to work complete with snorkel gear, including flippers this time and my underwater camera, as well as lunch and my surface (in case I decided to work) and set out – I might have looked like I was going on a trip with my bag so loaded up!

When I got to the bay I headed to the snorkel trail again – but there was no one else there, and knowing it was irresponsible to  snorkel alone (and knowing that I would be in trouble with some of you if I did – you all know who you are), I sat on the bench and just enjoyed the calm bay and birds around me while I enjoyed an apple, and even spotted a pod of dolphins out in the water.

After a very peaceful hour, a diving crew showed up, and so I chatted with them a bit, and went in, again with the promise to wait on the beach once I was out since they had full wet suits and tanks, and would last longer in the water than I would.

Again the water was chilly, but the clarity was amazing, and the pictures hardly purvey the beauty of the underwater world I found myself immersed in. I saw anemones, limpits,  triplefin fish, wrasse, cod, spotties and crayfish. I even wandered upon a octopus and a few sea cucumbers in the deeper ocean floor. I took my time going around the trail savoring the time and enjoying the sights until I was just too cold to continue. I stayed in the water for about an hour – a lovely hour immersed in the underwater world of Island Bay.

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And a couple of videos:

After I was finished exploring the lovely water, I dried off and warmed up (my toes might have been a little blue) by sitting in the sun for a bit and enjoying my lunch on the beach, I went in search of a cafe with WiFi and a warm coffee. I found a lovely cafe, Floyds, with the most friendly and accommodating staff, and I enjoyed my coffee and a savory cheese muffin while I wrote and attempted to get caught up with my blog.

My flat white from Floyd’s

Joanna picked me up by the cafe on her way home so I didn’t have to spring for bus fare back to the city, and I enjoyed a restful evening at home.

And with that my friends, I am all caught up – well until tonight! 🙂

Writing, submitting a draft, snorkeling and a kiwi-style takeaway dinner at the Bay

Monday (Feb. 20) was another stunningly beautiful day, and as much as I was itching to play, I did have work to do. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon (until about 3:00) finishing the draft of my ethics proposal and ironing out last minute details to send it to my university supervisor for her to take a look at it and give me suggestions, feedback and changes. I got it all finalized, entered into the system and submitted to her, complete with information forms, permission forms and interview schedules. Then I decided it was time to treat myself, so I set off on a snorkeling adventure before dinner. While I did not have anyone to go with me, I banked on the fact that it was a lovely day, and that the Kiwis would be taking advantage of it, and I could find some buddies at the reserve when I arrived, and I was not disappointed. The area around the reserve does deserve some attention – Island Bay is just amazing.

Upon my arrival at the Taputeranga Marine Reserve – I found a father and son duo who were more than happy to be my check-in buddies as we did the snorkel trail.

I went in ahead of them, and promised to remain on the beach until they completed the path so we all knew we were out and clear. The water was cold, but I wasn’t too chilled (however, I will be investing in a warmer wet suit before I do any snorkeling in NZ outside of the summer (brrrr)).

The water was not super clear, so the images I captured were not the best, and I had a GoPro malfunction about 1/2 way through the swim, but you can still get a sense of the beauty – and I have a reason to go back! 🙂

It was a fabulous experience!

As I was leaving the reserve I found the quintessential Kiwi van – it made me giggle a bit.

After I changed, I met Julian and Joanna, who had ordered takeaway Fish and Chips for dinner, and we went to pick them up (all of Wellington had the same idea it seems) then we headed to Paradise Point to meet their son Bart, and his wife Fiona for a traditional kiwi picnic dinner. Bart and Fiona even brought diving booties and flippers for me to borrow for future snorkeling – such nice, kind people – have I mentioned how fortunate I have been to get connected with their family? We had a lovely dinner, great conversation and scenery that just couldn’t be beat.

After we left Paradise Point, Julian and Joanna drove me around so I could see the more remote Owhiro Bay, and as the sun was setting it was just beautiful.

What a full, adventurous day!

From a dreary Friday to a Sunny Sunday and a Rainbow

Friday I awoke to a gross, rainy day. I decided that was a sign, since the weekend was pretty full that I should go ahead and do laundry and work from the house that day – so I did.

I also caught up with folks from home via Skype and texting, did a fair amount of work for my RU class, and just generally spent the day being productive (admittedly in my PJs for a large chunk of the day).

Friday night I decided I had a hankering for pizza, and although I could have ordered delivery decided to brave the wet, fairly gross evening to venture to a pizza place. NOt far from the house is a pizza joint I read about, Hell Pizza. While the website and menu might be a little disturbing I was assured by folks that it was good pizza. So I donned my handy Columbia rain jacket – which has been one of the most essential things I brought with me, by the way, and set out to get dinner.

Once there I found a substantial wait, so I hung out while I waited on my pizza – I ordered the snack size “Lust Deluxe”. Interesting fact – they don’t serve beer at Hell (make of that what you will friends).


The pizza was yummy. I finished it and set off for home.

Saturday morning was an early day, as I had a ticket to the Greater Wellington Brewday (Beer Festival) which was in Upper Hutt at the Trentham Racecourse, so I had a train to catch.

Wellington Train Station is small, but like any good train station, there is a Platform 9 and 3/4 – in this case a dry cleaners!


I actually made it to the train station in time to catch an earlier train, so I went ahead and caught it, which gave me time to spare once I got off at the Trentham stop – so I crossed the street and had a nice coffee and toast with “streaky bacon” and a poached egg at the Trentham Mess Hall  (probably a good choice before heading to a beer festival)- the decor was on point!

After my brunch I crossed the pathway over the train tracks to the Trentham Racecourse where the event was held. The weather held out better than I expected for most of the day – and the showers were minimally invasive, as I had found a nice spot to camp between samples inside one of the white tents. I chatted with fun people from NZ, Europe and even a fun couple from the US who were in NZ following a cruise and headed home the next day. The music was great – cover bands that played songs I knew, and the people watching was even better. My personal favorite was the guy dressed as a German Bar Maid, fake breasts, stockings and all – complete with a mustache and full beard.

Interesting note though about alcohol service in New Zealand – they are rather stringent with service. If you are intoxicated – you will not be served more beer – period. There are posters everywhere about chilling out before you get more – in bars and restaurants too. I enjoyed sampling beers from local brewers, and have quite a few to try and find for later. It was a fun day, and once things were wrapping up I took the train home, stopped by the grocery, fixed dinner and relaxed.

Sunday morning started kind of rainy and gray, but since I overslept and missed church last week, I thought I should really get myself moving, so I did. I walked to church and arrived with time to spare, so I got to listen to their choir having their first practice of the year, and thumbed through the New Zealand hymnal, looking for familiar, and not so familiar hymns. Worship was great, and I love the tea time following worship, because it kind of forces me to socialize and meet new people. I met some lovely new friends, including a fellow PCUSA’er currently living in New Zealand!

After church I decided to grab a quick sandwich for lunch in a little cafe, and on my way home stopped by a chocolate shop for a coffee (my new obsession – a flat white) and mini chocolate treat.


In the time since I had left the house, it had started to turn into a gorgeous day, so I thought I would go home for a bit and grab my beach gear then take a trip to Oriental Bay and actually get in the water. I waited for the worst of the midday sun to die down – y’all know this girl burns if the sun looks at her sideways, right? Then walked from Aro Valley to Oriental Bay. I even stumbled upon this cool “container coffee cafe”- with a pretty cool story and mission – it was closed, but I plan to visit again soon.


While a little chilly, it was quite nice to spend time in the water, and made me wish I had brought my snorkel gear from the house (I did at the last minute throw it in my suitcase to come here, and I am quite thankful I did). I have never seen so many crabs, sea stars and other sea life right on the floor of a beach like I did today. I did take my phone with its limited waterproof abilities (terrified at every step, mind you) out to capture just a bit of the beauty, but I will go back with the proper go pro and snorkel gear soon.

After my water adventures, I just hung out on the beach, and realized that sunset wasn’t far away, so decided to just hang out and see if it was going to be another spectacular sunset (we have had several nights of just stunningly colored skies). The sunset was not super colorful tonight (still beautiful mind you), but instead of the sunset colors, I was rewarded with a spectacular rainbow that started as a vertical sliver across the bay and later grew into an rainbow that boldly shot across the bay, bright, defined and colorful. It was truly a sight to behold.  I also got to see the Oriental Bay fountain and trees light up after dark. Such a neat area!

This image posted on the Wellington Live Facebook and Instagram by @benwoodphoto is just stunning, and captures it beautifully. (I am also in the picture, on the beach!)

At this point, it was late, so I started home, and ended up taking an Uber when I realized that the park path I would take home I wasn’t going to reach until well after 10:00, and it is a little dark up there – my general rule is after 10:00, if I am walking home alone – it is time to spend the $5.00 on a cab or Uber.

What a great weekend!

A beautiful, peaceful oasis – Scorching Bay

Thursday morning I started by stopping by the Fulbright New Zealand office to get my very snazzy business cards. I also had the pleasure of joining the #FulbrightNZ crew for their daily coffee time – it was a blast, and I loved chatting with the staff and fellow Fulbrighters Karsten (Grad Student) and Beth (Teacher).


After  I got my cards and left the Fulbright NZ office I was headed to the University to work on my ethics proposal, when I realized that it was a gorgeous day – and we have been told to take advantage of those days – and since all I needed to write was my surface, I thought I would take it on an adventure with me to a beach that I was told was one of the best in the Wellington area – and for the sake of validation and research, I thought I needed to check it out. So with bus and walking directions in hand (or in phone) as the case may be, I set out for Karaka Bay and Scorching Bay, on the north end of the Miramar Peninsula and at the entrance to Wellington Harbor.

I got off the bus in a very residential area and started the trek down the pedestrian path to the bay – and I went down, and down and down.

It was a gorgeous walk with spectacular views of the bay.

And all of my walking was rewarded as soon as I stepped out of the bush when I emerged and was greeted with this lovely view.

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Check out a panorama of the pier here:

From the pier I started down toward the beach – a very peaceful, quiet stroll – weher for much of the time it was just me on the road – I kind of felt like I was in my own personal paradise. I did refrain from stopping by the lovely house that was for sale – I am pretty certain that a second home in New Zealand – on the beach none the less is well outside of my financial reach!

These are just some things that caught my eye as I headed to the beach area and cafe.

When I arrived at the Scorching Bay Beach – it was lunch time, so I popped into the famous Scorch-o-rama Cafe for lunch and had a very nice fish and chips while enjoying the views of the bay. I knew it was a good restaurant for me because they have geekery all around with various Star-Wars, Superhero, Lego, Game of Thrones and Video Game things all around (even extending into the bathrooms!).

I mean – does this not look like a restaurant I would enjoy?

After I had my lunch – I then walked out to the beach – y’all – it was so gorgeous and peaceful I can’t even really put it in words. I used my snazzy travel blanket (Thanks Lisa!) and settled in and wrote, then read a few articles and journals as the waves crashed around the rocks and on the beach. I’m telling you – not a bad way to work today, for sure.


I spent the afternoon at the beach, then headed home. After a quick dinner with Julian and Joanna, they headed to the airport to a sculpture thing in Auckland, and I headed upstairs to watch the glider show and sunset from the upstairs balcony before I headed to bed.

Hobbits, Dragons, Trolls and More – a tour of Weta Workshop

Wednesday Feb. 15th was another lovely day – and I again began my day by being productive. I went by the University to write for a bit, then decided I wanted to make my first foray into the world of Peter Jackson, by visiting the Weta Workshop in Miramar – so, I left the university and caught the bus to Miramar.

Weta is a neat place – unfortunately no pictures are allowed inside due to legal copyright and ownership regulations – what I can say is that I saw (and touched) really cool props from movies like the Hobbit, LoTR, Narnia, and more and even watched some 3D printing and laser cutting of props for “unknown” upcoming shows.

I learned lots about their prop fabrication process – which in many ways took me back to high school theater prop design – it really wasn’t that much different.

I also learned where Weta got its name – and why there are pictures of these insects on everything.


Weta is a type of insect found in New Zealand (similar to a cricket) – and they have a fascinating story of survival, adaptation and evolution- and lots of conservation efforts are aimed at protecting them.

What was really cool to me is that Weta (the workshop – not the insect) uses a software in their 3D design that I have used with my students – so it was cool that I recognized that – the tour guide (who works in the shop at Weta) was super impressed that my students were using it at the “primary” level.

I also saw the Thunderbirds are Go miniatures set – which was pretty fascinating and the process they use for filming is amazing.

I did visit the cave (gift shop) but I was good – and purchased nothing, even though there were some things that made my geeky heart pretty happy. I also have a few pictures below of the trolls and entrance – but you can visit the website to see a little more.

On my way home, I walked by my apartment and my favorite place in Wellington – teh waterfront – and was happy to see stairs are in place – at least some temporary strains – so hopefully progress is happening – slowly but surely. 

Then I ventured home – just in time for a beautifully colorful sunset.