I still find myself looking for Polaris out of habit, but realise that New Zealand is too far down for that. Here, you can see the Southern Cross shining bright and clear.
Anyway, the real story is that on Friday night, we went down to the Ward Observatory in Wanganui, which houses New Zealand's largest unmodified refractor telescope. The Wanganui Astronomical Society opens the observatory up for public viewings every Friday after sunset. I went up into the darkened dome and said hello to the people there and we exchanged names and pleasantries even though we couldn't see each other's faces. They were knowledgeable old men who had been looking at the southern skies for years.
The first thing I saw through the telescope was the craggy and dimpled surface of the moon. This was followed by a view of Jupiter and his handsome stripes. I also saw Jupiter's moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. But what made the evening special was the eerie red light in the darkness of the observatory and meeting the members of the astronomical society. They spoke so passionately about the hundreds of volcanoes on Io and dispensed many other bits of celestial gossip...it was the most fun I've had while also learning a lot about deep space and the intricacies of telescopes.