Volunteer Day and Marae Visit
I hope this rapid-fire burst of blog posts is making up for the deafening silence that you all were getting from me earlier in the semester. My tendency to be a perfectionist with assignments and actually going to class (more of an achievement here than at Valpo, where it’s undeniably compulsory) made traveling and such more difficult than it seems to be for other people. I’ve spent a lot of weekends in Dunedin (more so than I thought I would) just hanging out with people and doing silly activities that aren’t exactly conducive to exciting blog posts. Which I was a bit worried about for awhile…am I not fully appreciating my experience abroad? Will I have regrets when I come back home and there are holes in my knowledge of New Zealand? However, my concerns about such aspects of being abroad were appeased after having a conversation with one of my friends who was abroad in Germany this semester. She’s had the opposite experience; she was traveling almost every weekend and very rarely stayed in Reutlingen and said she regrets the fact that she was just beginning to forge strong connections with people until right before she left. I, on the other hand, feel like I’ve met some really wonderful people who I will hopefully stay in touch with long after I leave this country. So, to everyone who’s wondering if you have to have the funds and time to travel during your entire experience abroad, know this: you really don’t. There’s a lot that you will take from a semester abroad that is not necessarily going to be reflected in the number of postcards or t-shirts you acquire.
Anyway, moving on to events of this weekend! Our weekend opened with a bang Thursday night when our flat hosted a “Fright Night” themed party. Now, you may be wondering how Thursday was our big night rather than Friday; I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but every single person in our flat has no class on Fridays, so we’ve all been spoiled with three day weekends the entire semester (something that I never have achieved, and never will be able to achieve at Valpo). We all decided to dress up, if a bit reluctantly (myself included….I’ve just never been really into costumes), but, looking back at the pictures, I’m so glad that we did because it ended up being lots of fun and we took some pretty funny photos.
Friday was rather low-key, but then Saturday was our IFSA-Butler volunteer day. We left Dunedin at a totally reasonable hour (9 am) and arrived at the Orokonui Eco-Sanctuary about a half-hour later. Now, for whatever reason, this particular event had a substantially smaller showing than any of our other program activities ever had. There’s roughly 40 of us all together, but only 13 people made it our for this day. I don’t know if it was because people were busy with finals or traveling or what the deal was, but they really missed out on a great day and I feel sorry for anyone who couldn’t come.
That’s not to say that I was thrilled during the entire experience. When we arrived there in the morning, it was pretty cold and windy and I don’t think anyone was particularly excited to plant for two hours. However, it ended up not being rough at all since the planting sessions were rather sporadically done for probably about twenty minutes to one half-hour at a time. Also, when you were concentrating on the work rather than the cold, it was not bad at all. We were also (as usual) sustained on a diet of coffee and chocolate, which was more than enough motivation for all of us to go on. It was also a particularly fun group of people who were there, so we all ended up having a great time joking and laughing and playing in the mud.
Our group was also lucky enough to be given a free mini-tour of sanctuary during a break from our work digging holes and planting trees. We saw tui and bellbirds and a few others whose name escapes me. Unfortunately, our visit to the sanctuary came just days before they were set to receive a few of the rare Takahe. Luckily, we had seen them less than week before in Te Anau, so that wasn’t as much of a disappointment as that otherwise may have been.
We were all also able to get our animal fix in since the rangers had a little dog, Jess, who was a Border Terrier mix with them during the entirety of our working experience. She was very friendly, and ecstatic to have a dozen people all offering to pet her throughout the day. Jess was a retired working dog; when the sanctuary had bigger issues with pests, she was responsible for catching the stoats, rabbits, cats, and possums that plagued the native plants and wildlife. Since the sanctuary has been pest free for over five years now, her “job” was (thankfully) no longer a necessity, so she gets to spend her time being adorable.
After we concluded our work at the sanctuary (around 12:30 pm), we were loaded back into the bus and headed over to a Marae for lunch. It was a really nice experience; we always love free food and it’s always so interesting to hear about the different traditions and stories that each Marae holds. This one had some particularly impressive carvings on the front; I was obsessed with the dolphin on the front (as you’ll probably notice from the number of pictures I post of it). There were also some GORGEOUS views out in front of the Marae of a beach that I need to get back to at some point before I leave because it’s looks absolutely unreal.
We headed back to Dunedin at around 2:45, were home by 3:30 and then left with the rest of the day. A few of us actually commented on how we were sad to be done already; it was such a lovely day and honestly definitely one of my favorite IFSA-Butler activities to date. It really makes me sad that in less than two weeks, we’ll already be having our farewell dinner and then the semester will really be drawing to a close. This was our last major event, and thus slightly bittersweet. BUT I shouldn’t be getting too sad yet; my countdown until Brigid arrives is down to 4 days and I AM SO EXCITED!! So, be prepared for an epic post as I rediscover Dunedin and Queenstown!
Also, the beginning of this album has a few more pictures of the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. Enjoy!