Friday, April 16, 2010

Bay of Islands

Sorry for the loss of contact everyone, it has been a busy last few weeks!
This post is about the last weekend of March.
Kaytee, Carly and I decided we needed to complete our road trip from the previous weekend, with Mark there in spirit, so we rented a car and headed to Paihia. Carly drove us successfully all the way there (without even running out of gas). We stayed at a cute little hostel called "The Pickled Parrot" for the night, then were up early and into town the next morning. We went on an all day boat tour of the bay, and they day started out grey and bleak. It was cloudy, windy and cold. On top of this, we were wet from a dolphin swim. Part of our tour was swimming with the dolphins, so when we found a pod we jumped in the frigid water and swam with them! I got within a meter of one, but then they swam away. It was pretty exciting-but didn't help up get warmer. However, a couple hours into the tour the clouds burned off and the sun came out in full force, and it was absolutely gorgeous. We saw numerous beautiful islands, went through the hole in the rock, and were just overall amazed by the blue water. One of the highlights was our lunch break on a beautiful little island beach. It was wonderful to relax in the sun by the beautiful water.

Carly trying to get on the top bunk. She is miniature so it was a little difficult for her. Kaytee and I were quite entertained.
Hole in the rock!

Incredible blue water

Beautiful sights

A cute seagull that was hovering with us on the boat for a while, and letting someone hand feed it out of the air!
The three of us at the dock.

After the ride we wandered around town for a little bit, and had some fish and chips at a little shop. We then headed out, with a few planned stops along the way. Our first was the treaty house, but once we got there we decided against it because it cost $20 to get in. Next was the glo worm caves, which had closed at 4:30 (it was about 6:30 by now). We even tried to stop at a dairy center of some sort... which was a bust. However, all these failures brought us to a beautiful waterfall before dark.
Here is the stream up to the waterfall.

The waterfall itself

Me falling off the edge

Overall it was a wonderful weekend with good friends and good memories. The week following wasn't quite so relaxing, but still good. I had to write 2 papers, so that consumed most of my time. However, the highlight of the week was Mark returning to New Zealand. He came back early on Wednesday morning, so Nicole and I woke up at 5 to go meet him at the airport. We got him safely home to us, and had a yummy pancake breakfast.

The next day officially marked the start of break. A group of 4 of us Americans, Kaytee, Matt, Mark (still jet lagged) and I headed on a plane to the South Island!

Story of our trip coming soon =)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A bitter good bye.

I'm not sure who decided it was a good idea to let four Americans go on a road trip without a Kiwi, in New Zealand, where everything closes at 5 and they drive on the left side of the road. Never the less, on Friday at a bit past eleven Mark from West Virginia, Andrea from Oregon, Kaytee from Ohio, and Carly from California hit the road. The plan for the weekend was to do Bay of Islands on Friday, 90 Mile beach on Saturday, and Cape Reinga/Kauri forest/home on Sunday.
Kaytee driving on the wrong side of the road. Scary!

One we started out our plans changed a bit. We got to Bay of Islands too late to do a tour, which was how we wanted to experience it, so we decided to visit the Kauri forest then continue to Kaitaia, where our 90 Mile Beach and Cape Reinga tour would leave from, and spend the night their. We stopped for fish and chips, then headed out of town. Our first stop was the Kauri forest where we visited Tāne Mahuta, which translates into 'Lord of the Forest'. This is the oldest known Kauri tree, estimated to be about 2000 years old. It has the following measurements:
Trunk Girth  13.77 m
Trunk Height  17.68 m
Total Height  51.2 m
Trunk Volume  244.5 m3
Me with the Lord. We're pretty tight.
 Kaytee and I also got really excited about a tree that had a fuzzy spot on it.

Mark and I at what we decided was the 'Union Tree'. First he wouldn't hold my hand, so then I didn't let him hug me. We finally decided to be friends.

Unfortunately for the rest of our trip, my mates claim I angered the Lord of the Forest by expressing my desire to climb it. I didn't, but supposedly the threat was bad enough. After spending some time with Tane Mahuta we headed back out of town in the direction of Kaitaia, where we were to spend the night. What we didn't plan for, was the gas station in the nearest town closing at 7:00, and us arriving at 7:30. This misfortune was, of course, because of my angering the Lord of the Forest. With our gas light on, we headed to the next town, which turned out to be far away-and didn't make it. We stopped in the middle of no where, and Mark and I began meeting some locals. We went and talked to one lady who told us the nearest open gas station was about 30 minutes away, and closed at 9:00 (at this point it is around 7:45). We thanked her for her help and headed to another person's house, who we noticed owned a tractor and boat. At this house we met our life saver Conrad, who just happened to have a 25 L of gas he sold us and siphoned into our car. We were out of there by 8:15, and made it to the Shell station with 15 minutes to spare. Our only complaint was that they had already unlocked the bath room and wouldn't open it back up. We filled up the car, then stood behind the boot and ate our dinner of peanut butter sandwiches and peaches, and finally headed to Kaitaia, where we got to our hostel for the night and went to bed, thanks to Mark for his driving on windy, unlit roads so late at night.

Here we are on 90 Mile Beach (which is actually only about 56 miles long)
Getting ready to slide down the hill!

Kaytee caught me napping on the bus. How could I be sleeping with such a beautiful view in the background???

We were getting picked up in the morning at 9 for our 'Sand Safari' tour, so we got going early (for us) and headed out on a bus, complete with 4 wheel drive. After stopping to pick a few more people, our tour began. We drove on the actual sand along 90 mile beach, racing the tide. We stopped a few times for photos and to sled down the sand dunes on little plastic sleds (I can't remember what this is called), which was super fun. We then headed to a different beach where we had lunch, and they even had a vegetarian option! We then headed out again, and went to Cape Regina, which is the Northern most point in New Zealand! After this we stopped by a beautiful white sand beach, then to an old Gumdiggers park. We got to see a silver fern, the symbol of the All Blacks rugby team, as well of lots of cool old sites from the gum diggers. Our final stop was at a shop where they sold things made of old Kauri trees that have been dug up.
Here are all of us in front of the Light house at Cape Regina 
 Mark and I at the Northern most part of New Zealand!
We made a pit stop for ice cream =)

We arrived at our hostel exhausted and all ready to crash, when we received some unfortunate news. Nearly all of us had text messages or voice mails from someone saying Mark's little sister had e-mailed them and he needed to contact his family ASAP. I won't go into detail, but I would like to ask for prayer for Mark and his family, because his father suffered a heart attack and died. After this we went straight back to Albany, where we rushed to the airport to try and get Mark a flight. The flight we were trying for, at 11 that night, didn't end up working out, so we took him back to our flat. He got a chance to pack up everything properly (our friend Matt had done his best to get things together while we were driving), and we spent one last night and morning with him, then he headed home to West Virginia Sunday afternoon. We all miss him, he is my best friend over here, and wish that things hadn't happened like this, and that he could still be here. It is still unclear if he is going to be coming back to finish the semester or stay and be with his family this term.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A weekend of beaches

I know I have no room to complain-but I never want summer to end here. It is absolutely incredible out, and I'm loving the sunshine. I can't really grasp the idea that it is going to start getting colder soon... it just doesn't make sense!

However, I have been fully taking advantage of summer while it is here. Last weekend was glorious.

Friday after classes I had an "International Student Welcome Party," complete with cheesy games and yummy food. After the party I went to a different kind of party at the Ferg, a doctors and nurses party to be exact. My friend Jenny and I dressed up as patients, complete with bandaged heads and sharpie cuts. It wasn't as packed as the freaks and geeks party, but we still had a great time dancing.

Saturday we had an early start (well, for us) and headed to goat island to go snorkeling. We stopped in a little town on the way for lunch, then headed to hire our gear. The guy at the shop was a funny lanky guy with a knack for guessing people's shoe size. We got all our gear and headed to the island. It is a beautiful, black sand beach, and the sand is hot enough to burn the bottom of your feet. We suited up and headed into the water. Once we were out there and I was past the initial excitement, I realized one of my flippers was not fitting correctly. After checking that I hadn't switched one with someone, I decided to go back to shore and ditch them so I didn't get blisters. The swim back out to meet up with my friends was a tiring even because I was fighting the current and flipperless, but I made it. My favorite fish that I saw where these big silver and blue ones, and I also saw a manta ray. We eventually headed back to shore to lay on the sand for a while. We were all a bit tired, and my legs had just had a nice work out. The miss-sized flipper ended up working out well for me, because I got a $9 refund (the total gear was $25) and my legs are nice and sore, a feeling I love. After falling asleep in the sun (luckily Mark woke us so we weren't too burnt) we headed out and went to Jess's favorite beach. It was a bit of a drive on a gravel road, but 100% worth it, especially to me because I wasn't driving.

On Sunday I had a lazy morning then went to another peach in the afternoon, Long Bay, this time with my friend Scott. I lazed on the beach and had a nice long swim.

One fun thing that happened this week was a visit from Sue Jackson! I was one of the luck ISEP students who got to see her. She came to my Molecular and Cell bio class (unfortunately for her it is the only class I have on Wednesdays). She also introduced me to passion fruit, we bought some from a stand on the way back from class, and it is amazing! I can't believe we don't have it in the states, I'm already anxious that I may not be able to find any. Then we had a delicious dinner at a Thai restaurant.

This weekend, which ends in 45 minutes when my first of the week begins, was fun as well. Friday night I went to a party at Dale's massive house and lost a few rounds of pong, and Saturday I went to Piha beach. It was a little chilly, and I was tired, so I avoided the water, but it was still gorgeous, and i had fun walking around the sand. I was tired from a lack of sleep Friday night, so I opted to stay in on Saturday night and crashed by 11:30, and didn't wake up until nearly 11 on Sunday. I did a bit of studying, went to the gym, and Sunday night went to a "Young Nats" function where I met John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand! (See photo below) Pretty awesome, even if I still don't really understand NZ politics.

Overall, an exciting last couple of weeks, now I'm off to class!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mailing Address

In case you want to send me some salsa-because it just isn't the same here!

Flat 14
548 Albany Highway
Albany, North Shore City 0632
New Zealand

Saturday, February 27, 2010

O Week Ends and Classes Begin

 The craziness of Orientation is coming to a close, and I'm going to have to start thinking about studying again. Monday I went to a "Freaks and Geeks" part at our on campus bar, the Ferguson, and Thursday I went on a pub crawl, also through the school. The pub crawl was super fun. There were 140 of us and we went to 6 different places. Outside of the school events, on Wednesday my lovely friend Jessica took me, Mark and Nicole (2 of my flatmates) around Albany. We went inline skating adn then to Campbell bay for a walk on the beach. Friday was a quiet night-recovering from Thursday. On Saturday I relaxed at home during the morning, then went to the mall with Mark and Nicole during the afternoon. At 5 we went to a rugby game, which was really fun, even if I still don't understand quite all of it. In the evening we had a few friends over to hang out, and now Orientation week is officially over.

However, partyng isn't the only thing Idid this week.
For the record, I am taking:
Intro to Social Anthropology
Practical Ethics
Molecular and Cell Biology
Food Chemistry

I had my first one or two lectures in all of my classes this week. Overall I think all of them will be very interesting. The lecturer in Food Chemistry is a tad dull, but the subject itself is interesting enough I  think to make up for that. I also will only be able to attend my Intro to Social Anthropology lecture (which is only once a week) for the first half of the term, because after that my Molecular lab is at the same time, so that should be interesting. I have to buy my books tomorrow, which I think will be spendy, but otherwise it is looking like it will be a good term.

Here are a few more New Zealand terms for you (again-Kiwi: American):
Nappy: Diaper
On the chop: Intoxicated
Trolley: Shopping cart
Lemonade: Sprite 
Jandal: sandals, typically flip flops

Friday, February 19, 2010

Heaps of freckles and crazy kiwis

I made it to Massey! I moved in this Monday to Millennium Village, and I'm in a flat with Mark, an American from West Virginia, Aaron, and Nicole. Aaron and Nicole are Kiwis, and both first years just starting at uni.
Orientation week has been fun, I've been meeting lots of fun new people. There are quite a few other Americans in Millennium Village, as well as lots of locals and other international students. O week is fun because no one has started their papers yet-so there isn't any stress and it creates a good environment to get to know people.
Last night I went out dancing with my flat mates Mark and Nicole, and some other friends, Jessica and Will. This was my first time going to downtown Auckland, and it is quite the place. There were people everywhere! It is definitely not Spokane.
Here are a few words I have found to be different (Kiwi on the left, translation on the right):
Tea: dinner
Paper: a class
Stationary: paper, or general school supplies
Diary: a planner
Course: your major
Yin: cool
Hot pool: a natural hotspring

There are tons more-but those are the ones I can remember right now.

I'll post some picture of my flat mates as soon as I take some. For weekend plans, I'm not sure what is going on today-but tomorrow I'm going to a hot spring! It is a thing organized by our accommodation director, and sounds super fun. I know it is a hot spring, but rumor has it there are water slides too!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blinding people at the beach

As promised, I spent yesterday afternoon at the beach-and it was gorgeous. Warm weather (even if it was a bit cloudy sometimes), warm water, and good company made for a very enjoyable day.  While playing in the water I kept stepping on something that was a fairly odd shape-and when I picked one up it turned out to be a live sand dollar! (or a similar animal at least) They were everywhere, but I didn't see a single dead on on the beach.

There were, however, heaps of whole shells everywhere, which must be common here because I was the only one who seemed impressed.

I was also educated about the sea-life; apparently what I've always called a "clam" is really a scallop, and clams are something else. We also found a mussel and oyster shell. This variety can be seen below, the large shell is the mussel, the top left is a clam, the top right is an oyster, and the ones in the middle are scallops (I think). I'm not really sure what the bottom right is, but it was pretty.

In the evening I went for a walk in a rainstorm to get some take away Chinese food, then I had a quiet evening home.

Today, which is Sunday (and Valentines day) here, I started the day at church, then Susan and I went to Robbie and Christine's for lunch. I also nearly died of excitement when I saw a hedgehot cross the road. (I want one so much, it was adorable!) We were joined by about 7 or 8 other people, in addition to the 6 in Robbie's family, which apparently is a normal Sunday occurrence. We had a tasty meal, then I played some card games with Katrina and one of her friends, and Susan and I headed home. I came into my room to pack (I move into my own place tomorrow), and was interrupted by a long Skype conversation with Joy, who was also joined by Kenz, Bethany, Kristina, Tanya, and Rebecca. Now Susan is fixing some dinner, so I better get going!

I'm excited to move in tomorrow, but I'm not sure when I'll have internet set up there-so don't get upset if I'm not in contact for a few days. (That is primarily directed to my mom and dad)