Finding Home in a Far Away Place
It has been over a month since I last posted and things have really changed. I have found my place and my people. I have had some incredible (a word I will have to retire from my vocabulary after this trip) experiences. It wasn’t really cemented until this past weekend that I am exactly where I need to be, but now that I feel that way, life couldn’t be better. Here’s how I got there:
A few weeks back I attended the Tramping Club’s annual Bush Ball, an incredible and bizarre trip. We tramped for a few hours in Mt. Aspiring National Park, then had a big party, band and all, at one of the huts. On the way home a snow storm hit, one of the biggest New Zealand has seen in some time. We were forced to stop, for what ended up being two nights, in Alexandra. One of those nights was spent at the local high school, watching 80s movies on the French classroom’s projector. Alexandra’s only claim to fame is a giant clock on the side of a mountain, which I managed to hike up to and smack my forehead on. I got a big bruised bump and spent the rest of the trip telling people that they should have seen the other guy. I made some great friends on this trip, ones that I have stuck with for other adventures. Connecting with the Tramping Club has been really great, I am off on another tramp this weekend!
I’ve been playing ultimate frisbee for the past two weeks. The group is a collection of mostly American players, including my fellow blogger Sarah, but a good one nonetheless. I only have a few months of experience in the sport under my belt, so right now I am getting a good kick in the pants by these excellent players, but I absolutely love it! What makes ultimate such a great sport is the people that are drawn to it, so everyone is friendly and helpful. I am already getting better.
This weekend was when everything really came together. I had spent the week feeling a bit down, so when one of my friends from Bush Ball, Jackie, asked if I wanted to go to Queenstown, I jumped at the opportunity. My flatmate, Stephen, whom I have also become good friends with, had just traveled there and came back claiming his life had been changed. I had to go! The night before leaving I headed to a party with Jackie. There I saw people from Bush Ball, people from frisbee, and met new people as well. There are so many international students, but the community is so small. I hugged a friend from Bush Ball only to find a fellow ultimate player tell me that they are flatmates! I could tell that this was the beginning of my life in Dunedin. I found myself feeling more welcomed and accepted than ever before. This was the point where I stopped wondering what was at home in America and started calling this place my home.
The next day we left for Queenstown, a four hour drive from Dunedin. It is in the middle of beautiful tall mountains and is thus a big ski town as well as the extreme sports capitol of the world, the first commercial bungy jump is just outside of town. Jackie and I voyaged up with a few French and a Kiwi I had not met before, as well as a Swiss friend from Bush Ball. We hiked amongst the mountains, had a picnic with the view, and kayaked in the clear blue lake. It was amazing. At night we would hang out in our hostel room with the Australian, Chilean, and a Hong Konger we shared it with, and then hit the town, seeing lots of familiar faces from Dunedin, as well as meeting new people. It is a great town to go out in. Going out in Dunedin can be a bit intimidating. The style is very specific. The local girls tend to wear short black skirts, black tights, puffy black Katmandu jackets, and lots of make-up. There is way to much color in my wardrobe for the town! Walking to class today I saw a horde of nearly ten of them all dressed exactly the same. In Queenstown everything was far more relaxed because, what person who has been out adventuring all day wants to spend so much time and energy getting made up? It was more about having fun together than appearances or reputation. At the end of the night everyone ends up at Fergburger, the local burger place, stuffing their face with a delicious midnight snack.
The last morning in Queenstown was crazy. I went bungy jumping! I am afraid of jumping from heights. It isn’t a huge phobia. I don’t cry and have panic attacks, but I convert completely into a mother. When my friends jump of cliffs or docks into water at home I can’t help but say, “make sure you jump far enough out!” or “don’t go head first!” I shriek when they hit the water, as if it were actually concrete and I certainly don’t do such jumps myself. I hate this, so what better way to get over it than bungy jump? I chose the Nevis bungy. At 134 meters with an 8.5 second free fall, it is the tallest bungy jump in New Zealand. Go big or go home! I was the second one up. Watching someone fall so far right before you doesn’t really help the nerves. When it was my turn they attached me to the necessary lines and shuffled me out to the edge. With pump up music blaring and me looking straight ahead they yelled, “1-2-3!” and off I was, flying through the air. My eyes were closed, I can’t imagine how much more frightened I would have been with them open! I could feel my body slowly turning until I was completely vertical, headed straight for the river below. That 8.5 seconds lasts long enough for you to think and worry about the fact that you are free falling. I screamed and swore like a sailor. Just when I was about to really get concerned, I hit the end of the bungy. Immediately all that worry was washed away. I opened my eyes to find myself inbetween two steep green mountains and above a bright blue river, all dusted with the snow that was falling, like me, from the sky. I went from terror to absolute euphoria. I could have hung there for ages. It was possibly the most incredible moment and feeling of my life. I don’t think I am afraid of jumping from heights anymore.
It is weekends like this that make me forget that I am not at summer camp. Somehow the falling snow just doesn’t rub it in enough. I can’t wait for more adventures in this distant crazy land I call my home.