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.