Sunday, March 20, 2011

I'm on a Boat

It's been a while since I've had to attend class regularly, and I have to say its hard getting back into the swing of scholastic life. There is so much going on here, and I want to do it all, but I keep reminding myself that despite it all I am here to study. So I spent most of this week going to class which mostly consists of learning Pacifica Dance and the Maori art of making a fish hook. All and all I really have no right to complain.
But this weekend I decided to be a bit of a tourist. I went on a four and a half hour boat cruse in Auckland Harbor. The goal of the trip was to see as many whales and dolphins as possible, but it turned out that sail boats are a much more commonly found sea creature.

Being on the water for that long rejuvenated my soul. It was probably around 70 degrees with a nice slight breeze coming off of the ocean. I was in heaven. And I got to see the city from a completely different angle.

The marine life is thriving in New Zealand. There are tons of fishing, sailing, and pleasure cruses all around, yet the harbor did not feel crowded. It was great seeing these big fishing boats motoring along passing by several great and foggy mountains.

After seeing tons of boats, and enjoying the coast of New Zealand, we did manage to find one pod of dolphins. They were pretty quite, but very friendly swimming up to the side of the boat affording lots of excited tourist to take their pictures.

Even though we only saw one pod of dolphins, the trip was completely worth it. The company I went through even gave all passengers on my boat a free pass to come again since we didn't see very much of New Zealand's nature marine wildlife. So next time I hope to be showing you all pictures of Orka Whales!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My week in Auckland

So I've spent my first week in Auckland, and I am pleasantly surprised. I never thought of myself as a city girl, but I feel like I could live here. Don't worry, I'm not moving to New Zealand... yet.
This week was a little uneventful. I was back and fourth from Empire (where I'm now living), and the international office on campus trying to figure out my class schedule. I finally got it finalized on Friday, and I'm officially taking four classes. My favorite one is MAORI 240. Our grade is based off of a paper and a practical project. We choose a Maori artifact and do research on it and how it was made. Then we make the item in the traditional Maori way. I think I'm going to try and make a fish hook out of wood and bone.

This last class I learned how to make fiber and twine from a plant using a mussel shell and obsidian. I'm also taking Kapa Haka, which is another Maori studies class where I learn about Maori song, dance, and culture. I'm also taking Pacific Song and dance which looks at other Pacific cultures. The last class I'm taking is Pacific Archeology. I think I'm going to have a pretty interesting semester.

After my first week of classes I decided to explore the city a little bit, and walk to the Auckland Museum which I can see from the window in my room. The walk was very scenic and took me through a public park where tons of teams were playing cricket. On my way through the park and cricket games, I found Auckland's Wintergardens.

There were lots of little statues, two green houses, and a fern garden. In one of the green houses there were several kinds of eggplants, and some hot peppers growing making it very colorful.

The other green house had tons of strange tropical plants and trees. One of my favorite plants was a purple stemmed hanging plant. If anyone knows what this is I'd love to know!

After I walked around in the Wintergarden for a while, I figured it was about time to head into the Museum. Now, there was an alternative motive for my seeking out the museum. My MAORI 240 class had already been to the museum, so that they could get an idea of which artifact they would like to study and then make. So I felt that I should go and see what I could find in the way of ancient fish hooks. I found a few, one of which I showed you above, but there were tons of cool Maori artifacts, and pacific memorabilia.

I'm excited to do some more exploring, and I'll let you know how my ancient hook making is coming along!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Newer Beginning

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote. I arrived in Waikato one bag short, but other wise ready to get to my new school. Feeling a little naked without my biggest luggage bag, which happened to be filled will all of my clothes except the dirty ones I threw into my shoulder bag, I put my chin up and enjoyed the short car ride from Hamilton Airport to the University of Waikato. The surrounding area was beautiful, but quite rural. I felt almost that I had arrived at the JMU of New Zealand. And I have to be honest, I was not comforted by that thought. In fact, my reaction was quite the opposite. I immediately felt like I wanted to go home.

I knew that the transition from Canterbury was not going to be easy, but after two days at Waikato I quickly discovered that this was not the experience I've been waiting a year and a half to have, so I sent AustraLearn a quick e-mail asking if it was possible to transfer to Auckland. I know shocker. One of the reasons I say Auckland is because of the fact that all of my friends are there. I missed being able to go on day hikes with Keri, Kendal, and Lynn very much, but I also wanted to transfer because some of the classes that I wanted to take at Waikato were canceled or not actually offered this semester.

AustraLearn was amazing. They called me the on Friday morning at 7:30 am, and asked me about why I wanted to switch, and explained to me that Auckland's enrollment was actually closed, but they would try. They explained to me very kindly that is was not looking very likely. I was no and off video chat with my parents. I was pretty upset at that point. This was not how I had imagined my trip, but they were great calming me down, and being supportive. By that afternoon, AustraLearn had created a miracle, and not only got me into Auckland University, but AustraLearn put me in a flat with Kendal. I couldn't believe my luck. So on Sunday morning, I repacked my things, (fortunately my bag with my clothes had arrived on Thursday), and took a bus to Auckland were I was welcomed by my Canterbury friends.

The view from Empire Apartments is incredibe. I look over the beautiful city and some of the harbor. I'm still getting settle into all of my classes, but I can't tell you how happy I am to be here, and explore this great city.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The New New Beginning

The last two post I wrote about the incredible experiences I had at Dunedin, but what I didn't write about was the big decision I had to make while I was there. As you know the earthquake devastated Christchurch, and the city will never be the same. Tanks are still stationed around the city, and the death tole continues to rise as the rescue mission turns into a one of recovery.
Throughout last week my e-mail was flooded with advise from both UC and AustraLearn, the program I'm traveling through, about whether international students should stay and wait for classes to resume or transfer to another UNI. At first I was adamant about staying. I love Christchurch and the people there. I had already made a close knit group of friends, and I had gotten to know the surrounding area fairly well. I was settled, but then more and more information came about the devastation, and the possibility of not being able to complete the semester if another larger quake shock Christchurch. I knew I didn't want to leave, but the facts and uncertainty of what was going to happen was over riding my stubborn will to stay.
So as the week progressed Keri, Kathleen, and I feverishly searched the internet looking at the UNIs we could transfer too. Kathleen liked Otago in Dunedin, so she was pretty confidant about transferring there. Keri and I wavered about Victoria in Wellington. I was more attracted to Massey U in Palmerston North, but they really didn't have the classes I was interested in taking. One thing was sure thought, I did not want to go to Auckland. So I had a couple of choices, Victoria in Wellington, Palmerston North, or Waikato in Hamilton. I decided not to go to Palmerston because of the lack of classes. I was nervous about Victoria because the UNI is in the middble of the city, and I am not a city girl. So I looked at Waikato, and found some classes that I liked. They only draw back was that Lynn, Kendal, and Keri were all thinking about Auckland University. I knew if I went to Waikato I'd have to start all over again.
Well at 5:45 on Tuesday morning I left for Waikato. I've only been here for a day, and the UNI has been great getting me enrolled and signed up for classes. There are a few other AustraLearn people here, so I do know a some other students. My flat mates are very nice. There are two German's, another American girl, a Kewi, and a Swed. We all share a bathroom and a kitchen, but we all have our own rooms. I'm going to my first class today, and it's club day, so hopefully I can find a Equestrian Club to join! Wish me luck!