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.