A weekend away

Been fairly calm the past couple weeks.  Canoe Club activities a couple weekends ago were a bit thwarted by the rainy weather.  I went kayaking with them on Saturday, March 5, on the Puhoi River.  Began down pouring the second I pushed off from the dock, but that didn’t matter much after I managed to flip my kayak over.  I am quite good at zig zagging, so a few more hours of practice will be needed.

 

This past weekend, I took a bus down to Tauranga and visited a very nice couple from Michigan.  The wife, Megan, actually grew up here in New Zealand (Tauranga specifically) and met her husband, Tom (from Holland, MI) while he was traveling in the country.  They have moved back to NZ for roughly five months.  I had the pleasure of meeting them back in January because they live a couple houses down from Justin’s parents.  They graciously offered to host me during my stay here and have been very helpful in making travel suggestions.  Friday night I was treated to a delicious dinner of snapper fish that Tom had caught earlier in the week and Megan prepared with a bread crumb and spices mix her mom had created.  The best meal I’ve had since being here.  Saturday, Tom took me to Mt. Maunganui where we hiked to the top.  It only took an hour, but provided a beautiful view of Tauranga.  We had intentions of going to the beach, but the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan had New Zealand under a tsunami advisory causing the beaches to be closed.  My understanding is that the north tip of the North Island saw slightly higher waves, but there was no damage.  The entire time I’ve been here, the coverage on natural disasters has been nonstop, given the earthquake in Christchurch and now Japan.  But even though NZ is a small country, the people are still standing strong together and quick to assist all those in need.

 

Saturday evening, we went to Megan’s parents house that is situated on a kiwi fruit farm.  Her dad gave me a tour around and explained the different kinds of kiwis and the picking process that will happen in May/June.  We then had a dinner of beef (from a cow raised on their farm), potatoes, green beans, and kumara (NZ’s sweet potato).  Sunday started with breakfast at a local café and a driven tour around Tauranga.  Then I hopped on the bus back to Auckland.

 

Nothing too big planned for during the week.  This Saturday, I’m going to a college rugby game.  It’s the Auckland Uni Blues vs. Wellington’s Hurricanes.  While I am not exactly a sports fan, seeing a rugby game is a must since it seems to hold as much (if not more) importance to Kiwis as football in America.  Then on Sunday, I am going canyoning in the Waitakere ranges (www.canyonz.co.nz if you’re unfamiliar with the activity as I was until a few weeks ago).

 

Until then, I’m curious to see what insanity will happen in the city on Thursday for St. Patrick’s day.  Kiwis sure do know how to party on any normal night, but a night strictly set aside for drinking will likely be a memorable one.

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Week one of classes

First week of classes is finished.  Interesting difference from American university, classes have “coordinators.”  My history class is the only course I’m taking that has just one professor/lecturer.  The other classes are being taught by at least four different lecturers.  But one person is allocated to organize the course and does the bulk of the lectures.

On Wednesday evening, I decided to go out with some friends.  Good thing didn’t have class until noon on Thursday.  After said class, went to the beach for a little bit and  I got some Hokey Pokey ice cream.  It’s a New Zealand creation.  Honey ice cream with chunks of butterscotch.  Absolutely delicious.

Thursday evening was unforgettable.  Around 11p, we headed out.  My flatmate with his guitar and clarinet, someone else with a bongo drum, and someone with a painting he found in the trash and was going to modify it.  We sat down on Queen by Victoria and the guys just started jamming, improvising, playing requested songs.  The clarinet got passed around and we each tried our hand at it.  I had such a fun time attempting to get notes out of it and improvising with the much more experienced guys.  As we were doing this, people walked by cheering, some would sit and join in drawing. We found a hubcap and had that sitting out where some people threw in coins.  There were a couple of local guys that stuck with us almost the whole time.  It was so exciting to be there and just go with the flow with whatever was happening around, creating music, watching the art develop on the painting.  This went on until about 2a.  Then we went back to the flat to drop off the instruments.  A few of us went out to a young bar called Cassettes, just off Queen.   Needless to say, I am a bit sore and tired today, but it’s the happiest I’ve been this whole time here.

This weekend, I have plans to take day trips on Saturday and Sunday with the Canoe Club.  Many pictures will be taken and hopefully I’ll learn how to successfully roll a kayak.

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The Beginning…

Two weeks and one day in New Zealand  and finally getting a blog started.  I have been keeping a journal of my study abroad process since August, but I promise not to bore you with those tedious details.  I’ve been working with the program AustraLearn to make this possible.  My journey really began on February 11, 2011 when I boarded a place in Detroit, Michigan, at 9a.  I landed in San Francisco, California around 10:30a.  Waited around that airport until 7p, when my flight departed for Auckland, New Zealand.  We landed around 5:30a on February 13, 2011, crossing the entire Pacific Ocean, International Date Line, and Equator.  The first night here was spent at a lovely Best Western in Auckland near Queen and Victoria Streets (a prime location to walk up and down the main downtown area).  Early Monday, we departed for Rotorua, with a pit stop in Matamata where Hobbiton Tours are based out of (add to list of things to do).

 
In Rotorua, we got situated in our severely cozy hostel rooms.  We received a lesson in the traditional Maori Haka.  That is a dance like custom that is done for new visitors to Maori villages to determine if the arrivals are friends or foes.  On Tuesday, we had our “Day of Adventure,” which we had a choice from a few options.  I decided to go whitewater rafting and enjoy an afternoon at the Polynesian Hot Springs Spa.  Whitewater rafting was incredible!  All the scenery around us was beautiful and it was a rush flying down the river through all the rapids.

 
Wednesday, we were split into two groups to do different activities.  My group got to visit Rotorua’s Thermal Village.  Twenty three Maori families live in the village with a combination of modern and traditional.  We saw natural pools of scalding sulfur water and several geysers.  The village is situated over the thinnest crust in the world.  We also saw a performance of Maori dances.  Later in the evening, we had a more extensive lesson in Maori culture and attended a Maori dinner, called a hangi.  The food was cooked in the naturally heated ground and was absolutely delicious.  Thursday, we were treated to an adventure of cave diving.  I was able to go “blackwater” tubing—which  meant laying on inner tubes and pulling ourselves along a rope in the pitch dark, only glowworms lighting our way at times.

 
Friday, our AustraLearn group of about 70 students were separated and taken to our individual universities.  Around twenty of us made the three hour trip back to Auckland to move into our flats.  I moved in with four other Americans (since then, one has moved out and a second year Uni Auckland student  took her spot).  The first few days were busy with grocery shopping and buying necessary household items that I left behind for the sake of saving weight on my luggage.  Took an afternoon to walk around One Tree Hill Park, the location of a Maori monument and a high enough point to see over the city of Auckland.

 
The past week has been orientation sessions, travel sessions, and general acclimating to the city.  I am planning future weekend adventures (especially since I do not have classes Friday) and will hopefully start planning my two week spring break (even though Albion is starting their spring break this upcoming Friday).  I have successfully completed my first day of classes.  My psych class is 570 students and my history class has around 80 students.  A much larger campus to adjust to.

 

For now, I am enjoying the wonder of technology and will Skype with my parents so that we can watch the Academy Awards together.

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