Kia Ora! Welcome to New Zealand!
Kia ora!! It’s taken some time to get this blog up and running but I’ve finally been able to log on and start my first post. I’ve only been in New Zealand now for a little less than 3 weeks but already I don’t know how to fit everything I have done into a single post! It has already been an incredible experience with the trips we have done and the people I have met and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store for me!
I think I’ll start this blog off with a post about a few of the adventures I’ve had so far. Firstly was IFSA Butler’s orientation at Shakespear Regional Park just north of Auckland. Our plane arrived in New Zealand at 6 am (after a 12 hour flight) and we were immediately gathered up and bused to the park. Even though many of us complained about jet lag and just wanting to sleep, our excitement for a new place kept everyone wide awake. Upon arriving to Shakespeare park The Butler and YMCA staff where we were staying kept us busy and moving all day long. In between our many breaks for food and tea, we went for a wander (a short walk through the park), we learned to play rugby, and we went for a relaxing evening to some natural hot springs and a trip to the local pub. It was a great first day in New Zealand!
The rest of the time at Shakespear Park was incredible. We did so many things over the next few days from sea kayaking, to mountain biking, tramping, rogaine (sort of like a competitive scavenger hunt across the peninsula), rock climbing, archery, and a few meetings about our coming semester at University. Finally our stay ended with a trip to the city of Auckland where we all bought cheap phones to talk to our new friends, and then a trip to a local Marae. The Marae is a village of the indigenous people of New Zealand, The Mauri. Our visit consisted of learning about and participating in traditional ceremonies and eating tons of delicious food. We also walked through the village at night and learned more about Mauri culture and got to watch a performance of some traditional Mauri dances. To top it all off we spent the night at the Marae, all sleeping under one roof for our last night together. The next day we split up as most of the group traveled to University of Otago and the rest of us, including me, traveled down to University of Canterbury. Our orientation came to a close and we moved into our new flats and prepared for classes the coming week.
We arrived to Uni (everyone here shortens University to Uni) about 5 days before classes started and we really only had one day of required orientation so a few of us Butler students decided to travel to Akaroa for the weekend. Akaroa is a small fishing village on the Banks Peninsula just southeast of Christchurch where we were staying. We hopped on a bus tour that took us through the peninsula with a sparky old driver named Graham. Graham never stopped talking the entire 2 hour trip telling us about the history of the area and other random but really interesting things. It was a really interesting bus ride! Once we arrived in Akaroa we picked up the keys to the bach (holiday house) we had rented for the weekend. It was really cool to stay in the house as it was cheaper than any of the backpackers in the area and gave us a nice place to relax. Once we were moved in we grabbed our backpacks and headed up the mountain for a 7 hour tramp (or hike as we say in America) along the ridgeline of the volcano that formed the banks peninsula. The views on this tramp were absolutely incredible!! It wasn’t easy climbing the almost 900 meter hillside, but the views from the top were second to none!! We all took tons of pictures and then made our way down the hill; even stopping to watch the sunset and the stars come out. This was just as beautiful as the view from the top of the mountain as I have never seen so many stars as we did that night! Our day ended with us all returning to the bach and going straight to bed. The next day was a little easier as we tramped along the coast taking in the beautiful views of the bay. We walked through the local gardens and visited the old lighthouse and walked by another local Marae. We then ventured a little off the beaten path as we found our own way back through the brush. This was a really cool trip as we only used a small map to guide ourselves back across the mountain to our bach. We then visited the local butcher and grilled up a delicious meal of steaks and lamb ribs. We ended our weekend with a trip to the local pub where we met some local Mauri guys and played a game of pool. The next day we walked around town and boarded our bus back to Christchurch as classes were starting the next day.
All in all it was an incredible 2 weeks to start our journey in New Zealand and now classes have begun and we’ve started to accept the reality that we’re actually here to go to University. I think this post has been long enough for the first one so stay tuned for a few more posts about the transition to University life in New Zealand! Cheers!