Well I am here! First let me say thanks to everyone that kept me in their thoughts and prayers and were supportive as hell! I really appreciated it and my travel time went fantastically. My luggage did not get lost, customs did not attack my luggage (two girls in my group got searched and had to wait like 30 minutes while they went through EVERYTHING, so I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that), and I ate and slept decently. I even got to sit with a nice guy named Dane who is in AustraLearn and will be up at Auckland University where I plan to visit him at one point or another. I also met a really nice girl named Allison who I might travel to Australia with after the semester ends. There’s also an awesome girl named Chambree who reminds me
of Julia because she is so nice and social!
We drove through Hobbiton!
YAY!!! I might take a Lord of the Rings tour at some point—they’re everywhere! Those movies took over the damn country as far as I can tell.
Right now I am still in that Honeymoon phase. Everything is amazing and beautiful. There are MOUNTAINS everywhere and it’s foggy and rainy (my favorite weather!!!). It’s a bit cold, but I packed my big jacket so I’m fine. I actually forgot a scarf, so I’m going to crochet myself a new one! Wow now I know why Julia’s blogs were always so long. It’s hard to write about all this in any kind of sense. From now on I am going to have a little heading and then a description of it, so people can skim easier as I now realize that I will be unaware to stay concise…
Bus Tour of Rotorua
Rotorua is the city we’re staying in and it is a geothermal hotspot
—all of New Zealand is, but Rotorua especially. The city has been based around tourism since I think the 1800s, specifically a place called the Blue Baths which is a spa that uses the water from geyser thingies. There’s all these places that are fenced off with steam coming off them, all throughout the city. I even saw one that was just in someone’s back yard. This is what they look like:
My favorite one was in a field where they used to play rugby and it just exploded like 3 years ago and destroyed the seating area—you can still see the handrails going into the geyser thing:
Yes they do have q-tips!!!
And a kiwi asked me for the time and I got all nervous!!! But managed to answer! Yay me!!!
This was an awesome nature conservatory. We got to see a goose that wanders around the park and was absolutely adorable, as well as a ton of fish and birds. All the time I saw birds I thought of Tyler, so it was really quite nice. We even got to see a Kiwi bird, but I couldn’t take a photo because they are nocturnal so it was in a dark area. It is supposed to be very good luck to see a Kiwi bird, as they sleep about 18 hours a day. Our bus driver, Lefty, said that he’s only seen a Kiwi twice the entire time he’s lived in New Zealand. I was also very brave and asked our tour guide about volunteer opportunities with conservation programs, and she pointed me towards the NZ Department of Conservation and even made a few calls for me. I am excited to check that out once I have less expensive internet!
FANTASTIC!!! Chambree and Lefty and I shared a zorb, and this is what that means: you hope into a huge plastic inflated ball with a bucket full of soapy, hot water in it. And then you roll down a hill. It sounds absurd, but it was absolutely fantastic. Chambree was screaming the entire way down. Just look at how wonderfully clean we looked afterwards.
The Maori Experience
This was really awesome, even though the whole time I
was thinking about what Viki would say from a master anthropologist point of view. We went to a village of the native Maori people and saw some of their dance, songs, and way of life. Then we got to have a hangi (feast) and I HAD PAVLOVA!!! Pavlova is THE Kiwi dessert, and it’s kind of a meringue. Very very yummy. I also ordered my first legal drink: a Tui. It’s a beer and it’s fantastic. Does everyone remember how I don’t like beer that much? Yeah well that’s crappy beer. All the beer here is so good! Why didn’t you people tell me??? Tyler? Matt? ZACH? Anyways, the funding that bought me this beer was thanks to Kristi :) and it was yummy and I even took a picture of it...
All of us AustraLearn folks went over the International Dateline
and completely missed the Fourth of July! So, to make up for it, our fantastic Lefty threw us American Day! We all went to the 2 Dollar Store (yeah TWO DOLLARS! HA) and bought costumes. I was a Military Commando guy and Chambree was a biker chick. I found most of Chambree’s costume and put on her fake tat’s, so I am extremely proud of both of our costumes. Lefty dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, but he looked a bit more like Shrek or the Hulk…
Anyways, it was fantastic and afterwards Chambree and I hit the hot tub for a bit. It was really nice that we got to have an American celebration and we all really appreciated it.
This was probably the coolest part of orientation. We went caving. It’s called repelling (I’m probably spelling that wrong) in the states, and absailing (again with incorrect spelling) here in en zed. Chambree and I went at the same time, and we chose to do the “wet” option, which meant that we got to absail down two waterfalls as well as one really long, dry cliff. We were down in the caves for almost four hours. Chambree explained a bunch of geological stuff to me because she’s been caving before, and then the guides explained the same stuff later and I felt like a genius because I already knew it all! This was me absailing down one of the waterfalls:
I think I look pretty damn calm! Oh also there were glow worms in a bunch of different parts of the cave, and it looked like glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. It was really a workout too, and my abs and arms are still a bit sore from it. It’s definitely one of the most fantastic things I’ve done in my life.
So, orientation was absolutely marvelous and definitely worth my money. I met a ton of great people, and I now have Allison to go to Aussie Land with and a bunch of people that I will hopefully see a few more times in NZ and some when we all return to the States…
Here is some of the best NZ Slang:
Shrapnel = coinage, change
Togs = swimsuit (and we’ve been yelled at for saying swimsuit)
Uni = college
College = high school
Hostel = dorm (in addition to regular hostels)