Dunedin and The Hobbit

Dunedin – the second-largest city on the South Island and home of the country’s oldest university, the University of Otago (where I’ll be studying for the next 7 months).

I spent some time exploring the city and found a parked bus whose sign read, “This bus is out of service. Taking a wee nap.” I love New Zealand. Near the centrally located “Octagon” (if you’ve ever been to Seattle, the Octagon is kind of like Pioneer Square on steroids), my family ate at an Italian restaurant, Etrusco. I normally go for bowtie pasta, but this time I had regular spaghetti and, while eating it, I felt like this guy

I’ve heard from multiple Kiwis that, as you travel farther South in New Zealand, the weather gets colder and the people get friendlier. The temperature certainly dropped; the weather in the South is just as fickle as Washington’s. It’s summer here so I wore a dress one day and I could just hear the wind declaring, “You shall pay for your presumption!” However, I wasn’t sure how people could become any friendlier than they already were. Then I met the owners of Etrusco and both points were proved correct. Upon learning that I was to be studying at Otago, but knew no one in Dunedin, these strangers who I had just met offered to be my family and encouraged me to come by the restaurant any time. My faith in humanity has been restored.

For those considering traveling to New Zealand, here are some pointers. Because you’ll probably do quite a bit of walking, it’s a good idea to be aware of proper road etiquette. Pedestrians rarely have the right of way. You ONLY have the right of way when crossing at a designated sidewalk with the little green man flashing (not the little red man. He means stop). My poor dear mother failed to understand this and multiple times nearly gave me a heart attack with her reckless road-crossing ways. “But we’re walking, so we have the right of way!” she claimed. No, Mom. Not only do we not have the right of way at this moment in time, but also, please check for cars before you cross even when it is your turn because I’m pretty sure that you being in the right is going to be of little consolation to the crushed and flattened you lying on a sidewalk with massive internal bleeding from blunt force trauma.

One of my favorite stores that I saw on my walk (it’s located quite close to the Otago campus)…


bet you can guess where I'll be spending all my free time

bet you can guess where I’ll be spending all my free time

I was also a fan of Rialto Cinemas. Very old-fashioned and classy and ritzy and huge. And, of course, it plays movies (yeah, I already signed up to be part of their film club….). We’re in New Zealand, so what could my family see other than The Hobbit. And it was just as beautiful the second time around. Actually, it was even more magical because I could recognize locations from the film and think, “I was there… I stood where they stood, I might have touched something that was touched possibly off screen because I’m not really seeing anything right now.” I know that some people were less than impressed with the film, but you can’t deny the visual appeal. A second viewing involved (slightly) less gawking afforded more time for paying attention to specific lines and forming cogent thoughts. Here are some of those thoughts:

  • I normally like 6 ft men, but Thorin, for you, I’d go dwarf. Oh wait. According to this brilliantly comprehensive quiz – Universal Fandom Quiz – I’m an elf. Thorin doesn’t like elves. And I’d be super tall. I’m not sure how we could make it work. Oh well. I’ll take Thranduil/Lee Pace instead, all stoic on his reindeer. Maybe he’ll make me pies.
  • Radagast (played by one of the old doctors from Doctor Who) and Sebastian the hedgehog. Precious and ridiculous. I want a hedgehog.
  • This is more like a fairy-tale than The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m so forcing my children to watch The Hobbit.
  • Thorin: “The orcs desecrated our sacred holes.” Interesting word choice. What exactly we talkin’ ’bout here?
  • Saruman: “Excessive consumption of mushrooms yellowed [Radagast’s] teeth.” Bro, you’re one to talk about upkeep of appearance. When was the last time you clipped those fingernails?
  • Gandalf: “Everyday deeds of everyday folk keeps evil at bay…. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid and he gives me courage.” Love.
  • The Goblin King is distinctly un-scary. And bejowled (I just made that word up). He looks the product of Jabba mating with a pimple. I also kept expecting him to say, “Hobbits are friends, not food!” (Yes, he’s voiced by Barry Humphries who also did he voice of Bruce from Finding Nemo)
  • Some character talking about Azog the Defiler: “So, you think his defiling days are over, do you?” I think this is such a great line. I don’t know why.
  • Gollum- what a singing voice. Ever considered a record label?
  • The riddles in the cave scene bears an uncanny resemblance to BBC’s creeptastic Old Greg sketch. Added bonus: both Gollum and Greg say “love games.”
  • I’m pretty sure that was the first time the Wilhelm scream was applied to a goblin
  • Bilbo: “I know you doubt me, I know you always have, and you’re right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my arm chair, and my garden. See, that’s where I belong; that’s home, and that’s why I came cause you don’t have one… a home. It was taken from you, but I will help you take it back if I can.” Must. Hold. Back. Tears.
  • Azog has a very well-developed and full-throated evil chuckle. I would like to see him holding and stroking a white and fluffy cat.
  • Songs:Musicals::Eagles:Tolkien…. what I mean by this: In musicals, songs are used to gloss over and solve seemingly impossible problems. Shit’s about to hit (or is hitting) the fan, but quick break into a snazzy dance number, and suddenly everything is reconciled. Now with Tolkien, those eagles pop up whenever all seems lost. And poof. We’re-gonna-die-for-sure-this-time situation averted. Now that I think about it, why didn’t those eagles just fly Frodo and the Ring right over Mount Doom so he could drop it in? Oh, right. Because then the story would have tanked.
  • Once again Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords makes it into Middle Earth. I would like to him as an elf singing Frodo, Don’t Wear the Ring
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I LOVE that both stars of BBC’s Sherlock are in The Hobbit series (Benedict Cumberbatch as the Necromancer and Smaug, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo…. mortal enemies!). If you’ve never seen Sherlock, please do yourself a favor and at least check out the first episode (there are only 2 seasons and 3 episodes in each season- super easy to get through)
Do the creep

Do the creep

While we’re on the topic – 10 things to look for when watching ‘Lord of the Rings’ This is a fascinating list.


Coming down from my Hobbit high, it was time to say goodbye to my beloved family, not to see them for the better part of a year. Parting is such sweet sorrow. We had our last meal in the Good Earth Cafe, near my flat.

latte-makers here are big on milk foam. It's heavenly

latte-makers here are big on milk foam. It’s heavenly

Someone thought I looked like I was younger than 16 (really?) and a waitress assumed that my sister was the elder who would be attending University. Apparently I look like a child. Reminds of the times when people would come over to my house and ask me, “Oh, your sister is so pretty- is she a model?”

No. She isn't. And neither am I, in case you were about to ask.

No. She isn’t. And neither am I, in case you were about to ask.

The family couldn’t bear to leave me. Their last ditch attempt to spend time with me was disguised as a request for me to come back to the hotel with them so that I could see the taxi that was picking them up. Tempting offer. Father says, “Stay together as long as possible!” I say, “Cut the cord as soon as possible!” We parted at the cafe. Many tears were shed. But not by me- I have tear ducts of steel. I’m determined to smile. My last vis-a-vis, spoken words to my family were “Live long and may the force be ever in your favor.” I topped that off with a farewell wave that combined Spock hand, zhoom zhoom lightsaber slash, and Hunger Games finger thingy- whatever they do in the movie. Remember the nerdiness, dear family. Remember it well.

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4 Responses to Dunedin and The Hobbit

  1. Larry Holdren says:

    Another vehicle vs pedestrian thought – remember the machine is coming at you from the unexpected direction!

  2. Marcia says:

    We had dinner with your family upon their return to “real life”. They all love you so much and were touched by your phone call. Have a wonderful time in NZ! Your blog is wonderful. We are all hooked on your adventures and await the latest installment. Now that you have come out of your crysallis, spread your wings and FLY!….

  3. Dale Holdren says:

    Hah! I will never be able to listen to screams again and even think about taking them seriously!

  4. Jessi says:

    First of all, LOVE the Pushing Daisies referene. Lee Pace makes me smile.

    Also, you think being mistaken for the younger sister is bad…Do you remember the time we were at Universal Studios and the waiter thought I was 13? I had just turned 20!

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