Monday, May 25, 2009

The Kiwi trust factor

This article clearly portrays New Zealander's level of trust. I wouldn't think Wellington people would be the most trusting, so this is quite an interesting article.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Windy Wellington

Last weekend I went the capital city of New Zealand. Wellington is known for its extreme winds and higher paying job market. Many political elites and businessmen bustle through the downtown area. The downtown area reminded me of a larger city in America. Everyone had places to go and people to see. During working hours people would practically run you over if you stopped on the sidewalk and give you the “how dare you disrupt the flow of traffic” look. Yup, sounds like America. The feel of the city was refreshing in a way, since I love the city life.

I was in Wellington to visit Parliament. While most students my age thinks this sounds really boring, I was quite excited. I was acting like a little kid that was getting to go see the newest exhibition at the Henry Doorly Zoo. I ran up the drive of Parliament, ooo-ing and awing. I think my friends were even laughing at my bizarre excitement. But I can’t help my interest in government and politics. Plus the government buildings were really pretty. I’m a sucker for old architecture.

I sat in on the government official’s voting session, which would be similar to America’s Senate voting on a bill. It was quite a lot like Nebraska’s Senate actually; except NZ representatives shout out their votes instead of entering them electronically. The leader asks the representatives who is in favour, and all who are say I (in their awesome accents). If reps disagree they shout no. It was pretty entertaining. I also took a tour and learned a lot about NZ government.

After going to Parliament, I found a Borders bookstore and just about had a heart attack.
I have been looking for the Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama since the day I arrived in NZ, but all of the local bookstores don’t have it. When I ask the local stores if they sell it, they laugh at me and I’m sure they say “stupid American” after I walk out of the store. But I did find the book in Borders and this enhanced my already gleaming political spirit.

Oh, and I found an Italian restaurant in Wellington. This was huge because NZ doesn’t know anything about a good Italian pasta dish — they don’t even have alfredo sauce (NZ pizza sucks too.) My Kiwi friend, Hayley, took one bite of the pasta dish she ordered and said, “I now understand why you are always talking about how much you miss Italian food. This is amazing.”

On Sunday evening I ate dinner with a Kiwi family. They are originally from Troy, NY but moved to NZ last year for the husband’s work. They have two sons about the same age as my brother Tanner and sister Taya. The boys were quite entertaining. The family lives up in the hills overlooking the city. Their house was gorgeous and had huge bay windows surrounding the house. Rachel, the mom, made two of my favorite appetizers, bruschetta and artichoke dip and we had shrimp and chicken kebabs for dinner. It was fabulous and so nice to take a break from my typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich traveling meal. Rachel seems to love NZ but is a bit homesick. We chatted with her about what we miss about the states that we never realized we would miss. Like grape jelly, pizza and alfredo sauce. Rachel had Dr. Pepper and A&W rootbeer soda, which doesn’t exist in NZ. We all started to laugh because she was really excited to have American soda for us. Rachel was a blast and I am so glad I met her.

Everything else is still going well in NZ. Final exams start in June. Most of my final exams weigh 50 percent or more of my final grade and last three hours... so I am a wee nervous.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day dreaming

Written 6 May 2009

What I listened to while writing this blog:
Eli- by Caribou, Cheap and Cheerful- The Kills, Jacksonville- Sufan Stevens, Let your Love Go- Bread, Teachers- Daft Punk, Without Gravity- PlayRadioPlay!, The Calendar Girl- Stars, Shady Lane- Pavement, Digital Love- Daft Punk, Kamera- Wilco, Here in my Room- Incubus
Oh and I just broke my ipod screen fml

Most interesting part of my day:
drank 2 black coffees and liked them. Big deal. Ate a Kiwi and salmon salad. Yum. Listened to the Backstreet Boys, danced in my underwear and my neighbor saw me through the window. Yeah. Embarrassing, I know. “Everybodyyyyy.. yeahhh…. Rock your body... yeahhhhh….. Backstreets back alright!!!”

I’m sitting on the 8th floor of the James Hights library, my usual studying spot. I’m preparing to dominate my law essay about Lord Devlin. It has been raining for a day straight. I’ve always hated rain back in Nebraska. But here, I’ve grown accustomed to it and don’t mind it. I actually like it. When it rains it doesn’t pour with huge 90 mph gusts of wind like in NE. It just rains. I walk around without an umbrella and just pull my hood up and remain dry and don’t get frizzy hair, because there is no humidity. On the higher levels of the library there is a great view of Christchurch; that’s why I study up here. Sometimes I think I have no intentions of studying, I just come up here to day dream.

To my left sits the Cashmere port hills, and to the right the snowy Southern Alps. The rain has just stopped and the clouds are gorgeous. They are blues, pinks and yellows and sitting very close to the cashmere port hills. I love the port hills. That’s probably where I’d want to love if I ever moved here. The skyline is breathtaking. The clouds move so fast in NZ. I’ve never seen clouds move so fast. Some move faster than others so it looks like they are playing tag with one another. I love to watch them.

The lights at the library turn off if they don’t sense a person around. It’s amazing the way NZ preserves energy. The library is so old school, but its technology to preserve energy is still at the top of its game. I keep thinking someone is turning the lights off on me or that the library is going to close, but then I remember that the lights turn off to save energy.

My law teacher was talking about how NZ isn’t as eco-friendly as everyone makes it out to be. They still use cars, planes and heating. I wanted to laugh when he said that. NZ is the most eco-friendly place I have ever been. EVER. Possibly in the world, if you are only considering government established nations. It is unthinkable to ask people to stop using planes and cars for travel. NZ does the best it can without being unrealistic. So many people ride the bus and bikes or walk. Way more people than I’ve seen in the states. If my law teacher would come to Nebraska and see that there barely is an established recycling program on campus he would have a heart attack. Let me rephrase that, all of NZ would. I never really thought to recycle too much while in the states because Nebraska doesn’t make it convenient to recycle. I mean come on, if you have to go way out of your way, how are you suppose to make recycling a habit? Or if there isn’t a recycling program, how does one recycle?

But in NZ I’m scared not to recycle. If someone saw me throw away a recyclable, I would get scolding stares. I feel pressure from the NZ society to recycle. I feel guilty, like I have sinned, if I don’t recycle. Even at my flat when I don’t feel like recycling because I’d have to wash out a jar, I feel the presence of the recycling gods watching over me and threatening to send me to hell if I don’t recycle. And I don’t even believe in hell. If only NE cared so much about the future of our environment.

Last week I saw a different side of my NZ friends. He was talking about intellectual stuff. I was so surprised because he’s usually being a jerk and trying to be “funny.” We talked about the existence of god and the future of the earth. He said something so profound, I didn’t even realized he had deep thoughts. He said, “if there is a god, the only reason he put us here was to protect and take good care of the planet. And look what we’ve done to it. We’ve destroyed the natural cycle of life through medicines and have advanced technology to the point of ruining the environment. I would rather that human kind be wiped out, than have the Earth die. The earth is what was meant to live and if that means I should die to preserve it, so be it.”

This conversation I had with my friend helped me find a new found respect for him. It reminded me that everyone has an intellectual side; some just chose not to share it.

Kiwis are so serious about preserving the environment. It seems like a lot of Kiwis don’t acknowledge the existence of God. They are more loyal to the environment than the belief in a higher power. Many Kiwis are not religious or if they are, they do not share their religious beliefs.
This convo with my friend was the first time I’ve heard the name of God be mentioned in a friend conversation. No one has ever asked me about my religious beliefs. And when he asked me what I believe in I almost felt uncomfortable. I was the only person in the room that believes in a higher power. But I wasn’t aware of that until I was asked.
Religion is not a common thing to be talked about among Kiwis. People are quieter about their beliefs, not because they are ashamed, but because they feel their relationship with god (or the lack of) is a private matter. There are many Christians in NZ but they have a more subtle way of sharing their beliefs.

For example, I wanted to write a story for the newspaper I work for about a Christian group that cooks dinner for international students once a month. The founder of the group declined to do an interview with me and requested that I not write about the group. He feared writing about it would jeopardize the intent of the group. He felt publicizing the group would pressure Christian beliefs on its members. He said to me, “we’re afraid with wide publicity, other Christian Kiwis who would want to manipulate the intent of the group and make it about something were not entirely wanting to make it about.”

American Christians are very open about spreading the word of God, and try to shove the word of God down other people’s throats. If I would have asked a Christian group at home if I could write a story about their group they would be more than willing.

Here, the Christians I’ve come across don’t force the belief of God on you. They are kind to you and act in a way God would. They show you compassion and then after they’ve got to know you, they will share their beliefs with you.
I really like this approach to religion because this is how I act in America. I don’t like forcing anything on anyone, and I very much so believe my relationship with God is between him and I. I’ll talk to friends about it, but I don’t preach to a choir that doesn’t want to hear my singing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two weeks of traveling

New Zealand’s beauty never ceases to amaze me. The beauty I see on a daily basis is astonishing. Being surrounded by beauty has created a soft spot in my heart.

It is fall now and we are heading into winter. Yesterday was the first day I really noticed the leaves changing to shades of yellow and red. And last week there was snow on the Southern Alps, which is quite unusual for April.

For the past two weeks I was traveling around the south island. My university has a long fall break (April 4 to April 26) so I have time to explore NZ. I’ve pushed myself to try so many new things. Everything I’ve experienced has been amazing and life changing. At the end of every day, I say, “today was an amazing day.”

I’ve hiked through a few rainforests and a glacier. I went bungy jumping, white water rafting and climbed massive rocks at a place called Castle Hill. I’ve jumped off a few 30+ foot cliffs and went boating through the clouds. I’ve seen the Tasman Sea, Mt. Cook (the tallest mountain in NZ) and the steepest street in the world. NZ has the prettiest beaches, waterfalls and trees.

Each day I experience is just as perfect as the next. It’s sounds too good to be true. And it is. I’ve never been so happy in my life. Monday I hiked up a mountain that looked over gorgeous Wanaka Lake. I laid at the top of the mountain for a couple of hours to meditate. It was so nice to listen to the wind gusting the trees around me. At night I laid on a beanbag outside my hostel and star gazed for a few hours. I saw three shooting stars.

Being surrounded by beauty makes me a happier and more peaceful person. In New Zealand I’ve found my inner peace and tranquility. Traveling around NZ has taught me more than any college education ever could. I think Americans sometimes don’t understand the true meaning of education.

I’ve noticed that every European I’ve met traveling has seen the world and they’re the same age as me. They are so well rounded and have prospective. Traveling before starting college is acceptable in Europe. Americans see young travelers as irresponsible kids who don’t know anything about finances and a proper education. Americans only see it acceptable to travel at my age if you are studying at a university. Even then, my family wasn’t too keen about me studying abroad.

I’ve learned more about culture, life, happiness, love and education just through traveling and experiencing a different way of life. Americans often forget that there are other things to learn about life besides getting a degree to make money. Traveling has brought me more happiness than I even know how to experience. I’ve learned how to love life, people and myself. At home I always had a problem with fully opening my heart to people and myself. But being in NZ has taught me how to love completely and without hesitation. I constantly feel so incredibly free.

I don’t know how I will bring myself to leave New Zealand. I love it so much. And I love the NZ Alissa. I don’t want to return to my busy American lifestyle. It has been so nice not working for once in my life. At home I have never been unemployed since I was able to start working. I thought it would be hard for me to be unemployed in NZ. But it actually was exactly what I needed. I needed to learn that it’s okay to take a break and relax.

Before I left the states, I knew the value of hard work, but I didn’t know the value of relaxation and true inner peace. Both are needed to have a balanced, happy life. So many Americans have no idea how to relax. Even American vacations seem like are chore. Americans plan every detail of their family trips and follow a schedule. The hard working parents often don’t turn off their cell phones and take business calls. If you’re going to take a vacation where you worry about work, responsibilities and stress then you might as well not even go at all. People need to learn how to embrace the power of silence and self-reflection while on vacation. I know doing this has completely rejuvenated me when I travel. I still manage to do the touristy things, but I take time everyday to relax and forget about responsibilities.

I was traveling over Easter weekend, which was weird for me. It was the first holiday I’ve been away from my family. My family has an Easter egg hunt and a meal at my grandparent’s house. My grandparents hide eggs for all the adults too, but they’re not too hard to find. Usually one of the adults (usually my dad) shows up early to grandma’s house and re-hides everyone’s eggs in harder spots so my aunts and uncles have to look for ages. It’s quite funny.

This Easter I went on a two-hour cruise through the Milford Sound. Milford Sound is located in a rainforest and has beautiful rocks and waterfalls. It’s often mentioned as one of the prettiest places in NZ. The clouds are so close to the rock formations and there is a lot of fog from all of the rain. The Milford Sound cruise boat sails right through the clouds. I felt like I was in heaven. The sun peaked through the clouds; I was sure that God was going to appear. The view was breathtaking.

Easter night I ate dinner with my friend Stephanie’s family in Queenstown. Steph’s parents made us a delicious meal in their hotel that had a great view of Queenstown. It was a great Easter and I didn’t feel as home sick as I thought I would. Steph’s parents are great.



New Zealand differences

Kiwi phrases:

Sweet as, or “insert any word here as”= cool

Keen= sounds good, I’m down

Cheers= thanks

Mate= friend

Piss, on the piss, pissed= alcohol, getting drunk, drunk

Dodgy= shady or bad

Knackered= tired

Wanka, tossa= someone who’s a loser

Togs= guys bathing suit

Toilet= bathroom

Tea= dinner

Tramping= hiking

For ages= a long time

Uni= university

College= high school (all grade and high schools wear uniforms)

Diary= planner, date book

Lecture= class

Trolly= grocery cart

Boot= trunk

Chilly bin= cooler or ice bin

Lift= elevator

Polytech= community college

Blow wave= blow dryer

Partner= boyfriend or girl friend

Mum= mom

Petrol= gas

“Ay” added to the end of a sentence= ?

maggot= drunk

ichy bite= a bug bite

mint= cool

choice bro= I don’t know exactly how to translate this

give way= yield

cultural differences:

- driving on the left side of the road and the passenger seat on the left

- outlets turn on and off to conserve energy

- light switches flip down to turn on

- turn your key left to lock a door and right to unlock

- toilets have a half flush and fully flush button (to conserve energy and water)

- recycling bins are everywhere- glass, plastic, cardboard, organic

- t.v. show series are a season behind the U.S.

- temperature is measure in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit

- distance is measured in km instead of miles

- weight is measured in kg instead of lbs

- NZ is 17 hours ahead of US central time right now

- Minimum wage in NZ= $12

- No tipping waitresses, cab drivers, hairstylists (20% gratuity is added onto bills on holidays)

- Lectures that start after 12 p.m. start 10 minutes after the hour

- Kiwi’s don’t know Spanish

- NZ used the UK English way of spelling. ex) z=s so capitalization= capitalisation

- Blinkers in cars flick the opposite way

- Heat and AC systems are rarely used.

- Hot water bottles are used to heat beds

- Tip Top and Deep South are the two main NZ ice creams (both made here) They have about 8 flavours. My favorite being hokey pokey (I seriously don’t know how I’m going to live without hokey pokey). Some other weird flavours include: orange chocolate chip and boysenberry.

- Everyone is into 80’s and 90’s music.. Kiwis don’t know the band Journey (what a crime). They are also into electronica and reggae music.

- After dinner lattes take 20 minutes to arrive

- -NZ coffee shops have no idea how to make my favorite coffee drink (a skinny iced caramel latte). The put in ice cream, whole mile and whip cream= the exact opposite of what I asked for. Haha

- Farming= sheep farms, deer farms, and cow farms

- There are separate faucets for hot and cold water (which I still don’t understand)

- Manual cars are popular v. automatic

- NZ doesn’t have pre-made alfredo pasta sauce, cookie dough or cake icing.

- Bridges in NZ are only one way. So they have to be shared by both ways of traffic

- Eggs aren’t stored in the fridge at the grocery store but on a store shelf.

- NZ’s version of Ramen noodles sucks

- Seat belts strap from left to right on every seat.

Here's a post I wrote Mar. 16, but I forgot to post.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been sick. Nothing too major, just cold/flu type symptoms. It was probably just a bad sinus infection. But over the counter drugs weren’t doing the trick (I tried them all) and I could barely stay awake in class because my head was so heavy. So I decided to go to the doctor… I learned a lot about New Zealand’s take on medicine.

Sally, my doctor, told me to toughen up and just go “sleep it off.” She didn’t prescribe me meds like my doctor in Nebraska has so many times in the past. I told her that I had been sick for over a week and I really need to get some schoolwork done, but I wasn’t able to concentrate with my headache. Sally replied, “Well have you heard of aspirin? I’ll prescribe you aspirin to help the sinus headache.” I started to laugh. Was she serious? Aspirin?

Once she saw I was getting upset with her suggestion, she said, “Ok, ok I'll prescribe you a nasal spray too, don’t get upset.” Then she really had me going. I knew aspirin and nasal spray weren’t going to do anything for me. It baffled me that she wouldn’t prescribe me anything. Sally then began to lecture me about how the United States over prescribes medicine, which builds up immunities.

This experience just showed me how easily manipulated U.S. doctors are. It is so easy for American’s to get their hands on medicine. Aspirin is available to anyone, and most of the U.S. is probably immune to it. If I tell my doctor that I’m not feeling well, she always gives me some sort of antibiotic. And if my Nebraska doctor didn’t think I needed meds, but I insisted on them, she would give them to me. Sally on the other hand, only gave me nasal spray when I demanded antibiotics. What a jip. So I was sick for another week and toughed it out. I slept tons and didn’t do much school work.


By Friday, I was feeling like my good ole self (just in time for the weekend.) I was quite worried that I wasn’t going to get to go on my weekend trip. I as real iffy about going on a trip since I was sick all week, but I planned a trip anyways. I went to the Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika, NZ. The trip had its ups and downs, but overall it was a blast. Every year, Hokitika has a Wildfoods Festival. The festival is supported on the theme of gross, bizarre foods. You can eat anything from live worms to sheep testicles. My friends and I ate them all. 


I left for the festival on Friday with three guys in a station wagon they just bought. Nick and Chris said they would give me a lift when I ran into them at the tramping store on Thursday. I had never seen their car, but the car ride seemed promising. We hit the road about 2:30 p.m. and things weren’t looking so good. I was crammed in the back seat with my friend Blake and some surfboards. The car didn’t start when we were in the parking lot. Nick told us all not to worry because it did this yesterday. Nick jumped out and stuck a key into something under the hood. Chris tried starting the engine again, and by golly it worked. I wasn’t really comfortable with their car starting methods, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I kept my trap shut. We were off. We drove for about an hour and a half. Blake and I entertained ourselves in the backseat by making Pringle faces. All was looking up. Once we reached the mountains, things went down hill, literally. The ole station wagon couldn’t make it up the mountain. We were driving in first gear and going 20 km per hour all the way up the mountain. Cars were zooming past us and honking. Blake and I sunk down hiding behind the surfboards. Then the car stalled and we were stuck on the mountain. So we sat there with our flashers on deciding what to do. I jumped out of the car and started pushing. I yelled at Chris to hit the gas. Blake jumped out of the car and started pushing to. Before long, we were running and pushing the car up the mountain. We were really getting stares from the other cars now.


We made it to the top be then realized there was another steep hill around the bend. So we had no choice but to turn around. We went to the mechanic and he couldn’t fix the car without doing more tests on it. He said we should probably just go back to Christchurch. I really didn’t want to miss out on the festival since I already had tickets and a camping spot. So I got some of my other friends to pick me up in their van. It all worked out and I made it to the festival.


We ate so many weird foods and saw a lot of weird people dressed in costumes. My friends and I ate Wildfoods mountain oysters (aka sheep balls), lamb tail, Hu Hu beetles and grub, worm sushi, deer heart, grasshoppers, etc. It was a great time. At night we went to the beach and had a campfire. There were about 20 bomb fires along the beach and there were guys fire dancing. It was amazing and so relaxing after our crazy day. We camped out in the countryside next to cows. Being near cows reminded me a lot of Nebraska and made me feel at home (even though I don’t see cows too much in NE.) My friends and I fed the cows and hung out under the stars. It was a great trip. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Getting cozy in New Zealand

Well I have continued to stay quite busy to say the least. I have been slacking on my blog entries so I have a lot to cover.
I am still enjoying New Zealand and am starting to get adjusted to the slower pace of life. Every new experience I encounter I am usually thinking, “Wow this is just like home, but better.” From coffee to ice cream to my courses, I like everything better. I even feel safer here. There are no snakes (thank God) or scary animals that could kill you like there are in Australia. People consider graffiti or knocking over a mailbox a big crime. And the local grocery stores have a real problem with shopping cart thieves. SO don’t try to steal a shopping cart from the grocery store. They have sensor magnets on the wheels that will stop the cart at the end of the parking lot and the Countdown will prosecute shopping cart stealers, not like I know from experience. Oh and a small gang started up in Christchurch a few months ago (gasp).
I’ve decided the only the only ways I have a chance of dying is by getting hit by a car or drowning in a rising river. I’ve seen two people get hit by cars in one week. It was actually quite funny to see because neither person got hurt. Cars drive like maniacs and don’t yield to pedestrians (even through they’re supposed to.) Someone tried to hit my friend Steph the other day. At first I thought, “I won’t be super mad if a car hits me because I could just sue the driver.” But then I was informed you can’t sue people. You can only claim hospital bills and the driver would face criminal charges. So I run for my bloody life when a car is heading my way.

I’ve even got used to the driving differences (I think). Everyone drives on the left side of the road and therefore walks on the left side of the sidewalk. I’ve started to get slightly irritated with people walk on the right side of the sidewalk. And I finally look the correct way when crossing the street. But I haven’t quite realized that if I want to drive I need to get in what we would call the passenger seat in America. On Saturday I got in a car for the first time. A guy told me to get in, and I accidentally got in the driver’s seat. I felt stupid so I just said, “oh I thought you wanted me to drive” and he bought my joke (I’m pretty smooth.)

The weather is so unpredictable. Sometimes you’ll see all four seasons in one day. I think since the island is so narrow, weather just moves really quickly. Like today, it was absolutely gorgeous all day and there weren’t any clouds in the sky. Then around 7 p.m. it started pouring rain. Rivers rise really fast when unexpected rain hits.

But the weather is about the only fast moving thing here. New Zealanders chose to be very meticulous in just about everything they do. If you order a latte after supper (Kiwis call dinner, tea) you will wait 20 minutes to get it because it is made and served perfectly. Just last week, a suburb of Christchurch was going to have a meeting about whether or not it should build/fund section 8 housing (which was done ages ago in the states). My lectures are even slower because they start 10 minutes late, which I love.

My courses are great. I’m actually enjoying class and pay attention. The University of Canterbury is exactly what I thought American universities would be like (but they never were). The professors treat you like adults and courses are very independent. You don’t have any busy work, just a couple of essays and one final exam. Canterbury doesn’t require you to take a bunch of stupid general studies that make you “more well rounded.” Canterbury wants you to focus on your degree and to get in and get out. When people ask me what I’m studying, I rattle off a list of courses I’m taking and they always think I am quite ambitious to study so many areas. So to stop confusing the Kiwis I’ve started to tell them I’m focusing on law and politics; I don’t want to look like an over achiever. My professors are all quite interesting, diverse and have good resumes. A Maori native teaches my NZ history course. My law course is taught by four different professors who specialize in different area that pertains to their lectures. My art history teacher is from France and has the cutest accent. My media and politics professor is from Canada and had us watch this amazingly funny clip (you must watch, the second half is the best):
I’ve never seen someone talk to a news anchor like that. haha

Journalism is a wee bit different here but still the same. I enjoy watching the news on TV because the accent makes it so much more entertaining. I saw a story about sheep (which was a lead story since there are more sheep here than people) and I saw a series of stories about teen pregnancy on the rise. I went to my first newspaper internship meeting two weeks ago. I didn’t really know what to expect. I showed up at the office early and a bit nervous. I met the editor and he introduced me to everyone. He was supposed to tell me about the paper and my duties, but he didn’t say much. I thought we would have budget meeting to assign stories, but that’s not the case. He told me to call him when I have a story idea and I will probably be able to write it. At home this would be awesome. But here, I don’t know the community well yet so I’d rather him assign me stories. I’m calling him tomorrow with a few of my ideas; we will see how it goes.

One thing that is particularly interesting about NZ is its use of natural resources. Eighty percent of NZ electricity is produced from hydroelectricity. Citizens do not have to pay for water, which is just crazy. Recently, the farmers have started to take advantage of the abundance of water and have used an excessive amount for irrigation. This has left a lower water supply for Christchurch. Since there are not restrictions on water, the government doesn’t know what to do about it.

*** My adventures…

My travel buddy is a girl named Stephanie who is from upstate New York. Her dad works for the military. He takes supplies down to Antarctica. Each time he makes a trip he gets to stop in Christchurch, so that’s why she wanted to study here.
Two weeks ago I traveled to Akaroa (aka. Crater lake) which was absolutely breath taking. Stephanie invited me to tag along with her and her father’s coworker. We had a lovely day and I was so grateful to get to go. Akaroa was formed when a volcano erupted and water from the Pacific Ocean filled the crater. We went on a boat ride and saw seals, dolphins and penguins in the wild. It was pretty amazing.

I’ve also toured the city I’m living in. Christchurch is called the city of gardens. I went to the botanic gardens and went on a bike tour around the whole city. My favorite part about Christchurch’s downtown area is probably the river that runs through the city and the botanic gardens.

This past weekend Steph and my other friend (Colleen who’s from Connecticut) went to Nelson (which is at the top of the south island.) The seven-hour bus ride was gorgeous and had so many curvy roads.
We planned to go kayaking in the Abel Tasman Sea on Saturday. The weather turned really nasty on Saturday, with high winds and lots of rain. Not the safest for kayaking, but we decided to go anyway. The company we chose to kayak with was the only one who braved it out and dominated the water. Kayaking was so intense and I felt so hardcore. I paired up with a British leader and we road the waves like it was our job (well I guess it is his job.) We even surfed a wave in the kayak and the British guy said it was the best surf he’s ever had. It was a real blast and I’m so glad we went.

*** More culture
My first week here I joined a group called operation friendship. It sounded really cheesy, but I thought it would be fun. Basically, once a month I get to go a Kiwi’s house for dinner and hang out with old people. To my surprise it was fun. The Kiwi family’s house I went to was located in Sumner. The old guy who hosted the party is a pastor for a local church and is really passionate about his Kiwi heritage. We played stupid games and at tons of food. It was definitely cheesy, but I’m glad I went.

During the first week of courses there was a club fair, just like we have at home. But the clubs here were different. Basically the reason to join a club at Canterbury is to drink. Every club booth I went to mentioned drinking. Oh and there is a drinking club. To me this was unreal. School sponsored clubs in the states would never support college-drinking habits, let along encourage them. Even the hiking club encouraged students to BYOB on the weekend hiking trips. It’s hilarious. But I understand why there is a strong drinking culture here. There is nothing to do after 5 p.m. Everything in the city is closed except for the bars.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Settling in.

I absolutely love New Zealand. The country is gorgeous, the people are friendly and the air is too. I have been quite adventurous and traveled nonstop. I’ve explored three cities in four days. I have been out of bed by 7 a.m. and go until 12 a.m. because I can’t seem to want to sleep — I have too much exploring and learning to do. I’m surprised by how fast I’ve adapted to the time change. I am 19 hours ahead of America’s central time, so I’m a day ahead, which is weird. So if I wish you a happy birthday a day early on Facebook I apologize.

This week I have learned more than I ever imagined. The cultural differences are more profound than I expected. I didn’t think the language would be too different, but I feel like I am learning a new language. Kiwis speak a different kind of English. I often get weird looks from the locals because I say something they aren’t familiar with. And I have the deer and headlights plaster to my face when I hear a thick NZ accent. My flat mate told me that her boyfriend was a Maori and I thought she said he was moldy. Which moldy could be a term for something bad or smelly, right?

I learned to never say bathing suit because I’ll get made fun of (Kiwis call suits togs.) If you ask where to buy a fanny pack you’ll get pointed in the direction of the tampons. And having sex is now shagging.

If you are asking a question you add eh to the end of your sentence. (ex. “You have to go to the dairy, eh?) And if you think something is bad ass, awesome or cool you say ‘sweet as’. The first time someone said ‘sweet as’ to me, I thought he was telling me I had a sweet ass. I said excuse me, but I think you could have kept that thought to yourself.

Feb. 14 I was hiking through the most beautiful forest I’ve ever seen. It had the red wood trees of California, tropical trees of Hawaii and trees that looked like they were from Georgia. After I was finished hiking I was telling a guy how I was exhausted. When he responded I heard, “Yeah I’m always naked after tramping.” I began to giggle and said I really didn’t need to know that. Then I realized he said knackered which means tired.

I was on the north island for four days. I went to a sheep sheering show. I went zorbing, which is where you get inside a giant rubber ball with your friends and some water. Then some guys push you down a steep hill. It was so much fun and I couldn’t stop laughing. I am surprised that American hasn’t adopted zorbing because it would be extremely profitable.

I learned how to do the native Haka dance that was created by the Maori people. There is so much passion behind the dance and it is quite intimidating. The dance is done before rugby games, which is the football of America. All real men play rugby. I also went caving, which was amazing. I’ve done a lot of caving with my family in the states, but nothing too intense or physically demanding. The cave I went in I had to travel on foot, climb, crawl and swim for two and a half hours. It was a gorgeous cave located on a hilly farm.

The reality of my new home in New Zealand is just now setting in and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I finally settled in Christchurch on Saturday Feb. 14. The city definitely suits me well. The city is rather flat but you can see the mountains in the distance. The weather is comfortable, about 60 to 70 degrees now. It has about 400,000 people and a great public transportation system. The downtown area is always busy and the mall is huge. The beach is about a 20-minute bus ride east (my internship is located right next to the beach.)

Six people live in my flat but I’ve only met two of my flat mates. I am the oldest, which is different from home. I am usually the young one hanging out with the juniors and seniors. Our flat reminds me of the Real World houses. It’s coed and we have one bathroom with two toilets and two showers. I have four male roommates; three are west coast Kiwis. I have one American roommate and he is a musician from San Francisco. Amy is from the northern point of the south island. My neighbors are awesome. They had a party the first night I got into town and welcomed me with open arms. One was on New Zealand’s next top model and another is allergic to gluten, so he can’t go check out the breweries with me. I am thrilled to be one of the few Americans in my apartment building because I don’t want to just make friends with Americans. Most of the Americans from my study abroad program are several apartment buildings away from me.

While studying abroad I planed to try a lot of new things, but I never expected to try so many new things at once. The supermarket alone was an adventure. There are some American foods I will miss, like Triscuits and cookie dough, but I think I will be bored with American food when I have to return to the states. NZ food has so much more flavor and is very different. Tonight my friend Stephanie and I spent two hours at the dairy just looking at all the amazing food. I didn’t see any American brand foods and there were heaps of variety.

Monday I have orientation. Campus is so peaceful and beautiful. There are streams, waterfalls and biking trails that run through campus. There is an amazing bar/dance club in the student union (which is just weird to me.) Classes don’t start until next week, so I am going to travel this week. I’m going to a spa with hot pools just 90 minutes north of Christchurch.

I love wine and NZ has some pretty sweet vineyards. I’m going on an eight hour wine tour, through five vineyards for only $75 NZ (which is about $40 US.)

The cost of living is a bit on the steep side for Kiwis. I’m so happy that the exchange rate is so good so the cost of living is pretty cheap for me. Groceries work out to be normally priced and everything else is super cheap. So if you want a new digital camera or something just let me know, I can get it for you cheap. ☺

NZ is really big on texting and quite a bit more advanced than the states. NZ turned to texting because it is so much cheaper than calling. You can text to go food orders or text the parking meter to pay your parking fee. Today my bank texted me to tell me about my account. It’s amazing.

Soon I will adapt to the cultural differences and I think I will be more comfortable. Right now I’m really excited about being in NZ, but I’m a little freaked that I can’t see or talk to my U.S. family and friends whenever I want to. Yesterday culture shock hit me. I never thought I would experience culture shock. Everything was going wrong and there was nothing I could do to fix it. So I did the logical thing — made myself a drink and had a party at my flat then went to the university bar. Sounds like a good fix, eh? Well the study abroad program said during orientation that self medication is the worst way to deal with culture shock. But I proved them wrong. It was the perfect way for me to relax and everything is better now that I can communicate with friends. So try and stay in touch. I’ll keep updating you.