I arrived in New Zealand Friday morning, at about 6:30 AM, after leaving LA at 10:30PM on Wednesday. We immediately went to the Kiwi International and checked in and got showers.
We then walked around the city, to stretch our legs and see the sights. This is the Sky Tower and a cinema.
While walking, we got stuck in this downpour and had to take shelter for a little while.
We got down to the harbour, which is quite beautiful. These are ferries which you can take to the many islands in the bay.
While on the bus, we quickly learned why Auckland is known as the City of Sails.
We walked along this beach to get to North Head, where we climbed an extinct volcano for some magnificent views. At the top, it was incredibly windy and threatened to blow us off, but the views were worth it. After that, we took the bus over to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World, where we saw huge stingrays, sharks, penguins, and other New Zealand aquatic life. We then went back to the Kiwi International, where we got ready for dinner. I called Jeff, which was really great. We then went to a fancy pizza place which had a bunch of weird types of pizzas. One was salmon - it was delicious. There were other types, none of which I was sure what they were (except for the cheese kind). We came back to the hotel, and almost everyone was completely exhausted by this point (I only had about 3 hours of sleep on the plane). A group of us took a short walk down Queen Street, passing by a strip club called The White House (quite amusing) and a group of Hare Krishnas on the way. Then I fell into bed and immediately was asleep (which is completely unheard of for me).
The next morning we got up, had breakfast in the hotel, and had to be on the bus to go at 8:30. The trip to Rotorua took us through rolling green hillsides with stunning mountains in the distance. There were tons of cows and sheep and even a couple of deer farms. We stopped for lunch at Matamata, better known as Hobbiton. The farm where the Shire was filmed is quite close to Matamata. We had our first good old NZ meat pie at a little cafe. I got that and a hot chocolate (I have a new love affair with hot chocolate) for under $5. We then walked around, got pictures in the little hobbit hole and with the Hobbiton sign. We also went into a "$2 and More" store because the name intrigued us. We then loaded back on the bus and got into Rotorua. The first thing we did was go to the Agrodome (passing the Zorb site on the way) and see the farm show. It was absolutely great. Steve, the guy who ran it, is hilarious and actually mentioned Auntie Jane. We saw sheep, and sheep shearing, and cow milking (in fact, Alex Horn from our group actually milked the cow), and some sheep dog work. Then we went to Rainbow Springs to see trout, native birds, and a kiwi. It was neat getting an idea of the native flora and fauna. Then we checked in at the Sudima Hotel (a very nice place!) and got dinner. We couldn't find the Fat Dog, a recommended place, so some of us ate Thai and some of us (Ally, Stacy, and I) went and found a burger place, Rapscallion's, which was good and had cheeseburgers on special for $4-90. After that, there was an optional excursion to the nearby Polynesian Spa, which I went to. It was really nice. Then we called it a night.
On Sunday, we had breakfast at the hotel and then got on the bus at about 9 to go to Wai-o-Tapu Geothermal Park. We saw some 'boiling' mud, the Lady Know geyser, and a lot of other cool geothermal stuff. We then had a lunch break in town. Karin and I went to Takeaways. We then went to the Zorbing park to Zorb! This was something I had been looking forward to for a while. We got into our togs (that's swimsuits for you) and piled into the back of a Jeep for a crazy bumpy ride up the hill. Then we got in line to wait to get into the giant plastic balls. It was really cold outside. I went with Kate and Becky in my Zorb. You dove in as they put some hot water in the bottom and waited for them to open the gate. You were supposed to try to stand up and walk toward the hill but it was hard to stand so we just leaned on that side. Then there was a crazy slide down to the bottom. You rolled around a lot and got really wet. It was awesome. Then you got out feet first (I, personally, fell flat on the ground, quite painfully). We got pictures with the Zorb. After everyone had gone we all laid flat in the path of a Zorb and got run over. That was cool too, especially if you had your head turned toward the oncoming Zorb - what an awesome sight: a giant ball rolling towards you. We then went back to the hotel, turned in some forms, and then had some free time. I spent it going to an ATM. After that we got on the bus for the Tamaki Brothers Maori Village. The guy driving was funny and impressive: he could say hello in 50 languages, with appropriate accents to match. When we got there, there was a powhiri (formal greeting ceremony), a tour through a replica of an 18th century Maori village, a poi and haka performance, and a hangi (food cooked in an earth oven). The food was good, and it was a really incredible experience. We then went back to the hotel, hung out for a while in someone's room, and went to bed.
The next morning we had breakfast and then went to the airport to fly to our respective destinations (there were Wellington people in our orientation as well as Otago people). Our flight left at about 9:30 for Christchurch. We then had a layover there, and also the most relaxed airport security I've been through (Rotorua had no security). The flight to Dunedin took us over some beautiful scenery - heaps of mountains. It was so exciting. We then loaded up in taxis according to where we were living and went and got keys for our flats and moved in. It felt like we were being separated so fast and was a little overwhelming that we were now on our own.
Orientation was an amazing experience, I absolutely loved it and would so want to do it again.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
So, here I sit, amazed to say that I really only have 2 days left before I depart for New Zealand. It's so unreal... I've been so excited about it for so long and now it's nearly here! I can almost not believe it. But there are certain things that make it so clear it's happening: I've got my housing assignment: 363 Leith Street. I got a list of other people in my Arcadia orientation group, and their addresses for the semester. We received an orientation itinerary. I've talked to my Kiwi hosts, Sarah and Jess. Probably the most clear indication that I'm about to go is that I'm pretty much all packed. I didn't have any trouble fitting what I needed into 2 suitcases: one is about 30 pounds, the other 20, so they're well below the limit. I'm surprised: I'm usually terrible at packing light. But I knew I had to, so I did. And I visited Jeff this weekend, and said goodbye. It was sad, but we'll be able to talk on Skype, which is really nice. Tomorrow is my last real day in the States for about 4.5 months (Wednesday doesn't count, I'll be in airports or traveling the whole time). It's weird to think that. Despite loving the Rufus Wainwright song "Going to a Town," I'm not "so tired of you, America." I mean, sure, America has its problems, but I love it all the same. Mostly I'll miss the people I am leaving behind. I am really excited to embrace new people, and a new culture, and learn and experience so many new things.