Monthly Archives: September 2014

Life Updates

I’ve been in New Zealand for almost 3 months now. I have less than a month of classes left and then almost a full month of finals. I have just over 2 months left in New Zealand. It’s hard to believe the semester is so close to coming to a close, but at the same time I feel like I’ve been here for a really long time. I feel incredibly close to my friends here. I think I got really lucky in finding people I like so much so quickly. I don’t know what I would do without them!

It’s been really nice to have a semester of something different, to be able to relax and just have fun with it. I was in need of some time away from campus after a stressful year of Organic Chemistry! I’ve learned a lot about New Zealand history as well as New Zealand today through all three of my classes. I’ve learned a lot about the environmental history of New Zealand including how the country was physically formed and the effects of humans on the native ecosystems. Māori Society has taught me a lot about the cultural history of New Zealand. I’m impressed at how well Māori culture is incorporated in New Zealand today. The Māori people seem to have a much larger presence here than Native Americans do in most parts of the US. I’ve also learned a lot about the political history of New Zealand through my environmental politics class. There is a big election going on right now so I’m working on figuring out their political structures, processes, and all 10 of their political parties.

No one ever really seems stressed out here. Of course most the study abroad students are taking it easy this semester, but the kiwi students never seem stressed either. I’m not sure if it’s just this University or if it’s the same all around New Zealand, but everyone always seems very relaxed. I love Whitman, but I do get pretty stressed out from my classes sometimes! Also, on a completely unrelated note, all the kiwi students go through TONS of bottled water. Looking around the library right now, almost half of the students I can see have bottled water on their desks. I used to think of New Zealand as being pretty environmentally conscious, but there have been quite a few things I’ve been surprised about in that regard.

This weekend I’m going on a wine appreciation tour sponsored by the school. It’s almost the same group as went on the ski trip I did through the school. We’re going to a bunch of wineries near Queenstown on Saturday, spending the night in Queenstown, and then hanging out in Queenstown for a few hours on Sunday and visiting a few more wineries on our way back to Dunedin. I’m looking forward to it, I think it’ll be a fun trip.

I’m also thinking of skipping a couple days of classes next week to make the long trip up to Abel Tasman National Park at the North end of the South Island. We’re planning on doing a 3 day trek along the coast. I’ve been wanting to make it there for a long time, so I’m really excited. We’ll have to cross our fingers for good weather!

Mt. Cook

This weekend I had the joy of visiting Mt. Cook National Park. Standing at 3,754m (or 12,316ft), Mt. Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. And it is incredible. When we first arrived on Saturday we couldn’t see any mountains through the clouds and sprinkling rain, but we could still hear the glaciers cracking off and rumbling down the mountains far above us.

We drove out into Hooker Valley and found the campground and trailhead. We walked about an hour and half on the Hooker Valley track to a glacial lake. Slowly, as we walked, different bits of mountains were exposed through the clouds until we realized we were completely surrounded by incredibly huge, majestic mountains that we could only see the snow covered bases of.

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Huge icebergs were floating in the lake and the glacier rested at the far end beneath Mt. Cook. The clouds made the views more dramatic, but I wished I could have seen the whole mountain. When we were walking back, the sun started to come out for a bit and I turned around and saw one of the lower ridges of Mt. Cook peeking out.

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After our hike we decided to check out the nearby village. We stopped in the visitors center, which was along the only road in the whole village, only to find that it had closed at 4. One of the signs said the nearest ATM was in Twizel, and some of the group needed cash, so we decided we’d go check out Twizel and get food there figuring it couldn’t have been that far back. Well, it really was pretty far back, but by the time we realized that it wasn’t worth turning back around. It was about a 40 minute drive, but we found a really fun little cafe called the Razza to hang out in.

One strange thing about restaurants in New Zealand is that they almost all have a full Chinese food menu no matter what type of food is advertised. This cafe was not an exception, with the classic burgers, fish and chips, and Chinese food. It was a raffle night and it was definitely the place to be in Twizel on a Saturday night! It seemed like the whole town was in there watching the Rugby games and competing in the raffle. Kristin won a caramel chocolate bar with her one and only raffle ticket. We ended up staying there for almost two and a half hours, all the while dreading the cold of camping.

We headed back to the campsite in the Park after dark. We had begun to set up our tent earlier in the day only to see a sign warning that the birds will destroy/attack unattended tents. So, we set up our tent in the dark, keeping an eye out for the sinister birds the whole time. There were a few camper vans at the campground, but we were the only ones in a tent. And for good reason. It was freezing. We woke up to a tent and car covered in a thick layer of frost. But we also woke up to clear blue skies and the sun shine sliding down the mountain tops high above the valley floor.

We did a short hike called the Tasman Glacier Walk up to a look out point on a glacial lake and glacier on the other side of Mt. Cook. We hung out up there enjoying the full views of the mountains and the sunshine on our faces for a while before heading back down to the car.

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We stopped at Lake Tekapo on the way back to the East coast and went to the hot springs to fully unthaw ourselves from the night before. It was very relaxing and great to warm up after such a cold night with such a view of the lake and mountains. Then just 45 minutes outside of Dunedin we made a brief stop at the Moeraki Boulders.

Me standing on a boulder

 

Frisbee with the Kiwis

This past weekend I went to my first ultimate frisbee tournament since D1 Nationals last May with the Whitman Sweets. I’ve been missing the Sweets a lot lately as school is getting started at home and they’re welcoming in all the new freshman. It’s very strange not being there with them. It makes being here seem real in a way it didn’t before.

I’ve been playing pick-up games here once or twice a week. It’s very relaxed, a lot of the kids play barefoot, but it’s usually a lot of fun. It’s always co-ed, though not that many girls show up. As it starts getting warmer out I am much more inclined to go, so hopefully others will be too.

We went to a three day tournament with 7 guys and 4 girls, 6 of which were American and the rest were from here. I crammed into a van with most of the team and we drove up to Christchurch on Thursday afternoon. The tournament is called Uni Games, which is basically their version of a national college level tournament. There were 8 teams in total from around the nation, though it really wasn’t that far to travel for anyone since New Zealand is so small.

We were a pretty rag-tag group. We lost most of our games, and had a blast doing it. Our team was so much fun. I’m really happy with the group of people that ended up going. I didn’t know any of them that well before this weekend, but I feel like I made 10 amazing new friends.

We arrived in Christchurch Thursday night with nowhere to sleep. We had brought a couple tents up with us so we ended up camping in the trees next to the fields. We got up at 6:30am so as not to get caught, but all the other teams ended up finding out anyways because they thought it was funny. Our story spread amongst the other teams enough for a Christchurch player to offer up a room to a group of us. We crammed seven of us in on the floor of that teeny tiny room for the next two nights.

Since our accommodations (and everything else) were so open ended, I wasn’t really ever able to charge my phone so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures to share from the weekend. But I will share a couple pictures that I didn’t share before, just to spice up this post a bit.

This koala ready for her close up

This koala ready for her close up

 

This mama with her lil' baby

Mama koala with her lil’ baby

 

This crazy scary giant bird

This crazy scary giant bird

 

Sunset on Sydney Harbour

Sunset on Sydney Harbour

 

A nicely timed rainbow

And a nicely timed rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d also like to wish my Dad a very happy birthday today, as well as a happy late kiwi Father’s Day (it’s in September here!). And a very happy 17th birthday to my little sister Lizzy in a couple days! I wish I could be there to celebrate with you guys!

Oz

Well, my trip to Sydney, Australia went great! I am now back in Dunedin, enjoying the spring time warmth.

We arrived in Sydney in the morning after only a few hours of sleep. We wandered the city for most of the day, exploring Newtown and the area around our hostel. We ate dinner at a cute little cafe outdoors under the heat lamps and then found out there were fireworks in Darling Harbor that we shouldn’t miss. We made our way through Chinatown and happened upon N2 Extreme Gelato, a famous Sydney ice cream establishment that uses liquid Nitrogen to make their creations. Most delicious, smoothest ice cream I have ever eaten. We were so into our ice cream we barely made it to the fireworks, but we saw most of them.

Best ice cream I've ever tasted

Best ice cream I’ve ever tasted

The next day, after a much better night’s sleep, we climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge. we donned our jumpsuits and made our way up to the top. It was a beautifully sunny and warm day with great views of all of Sydney. Afterwards we walked through a market in the The Rocks and ate fancy pancakes at Pancakes on the Rocks

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On another beautifully sunny day we took the bus out to Bondi Beach. We did a long beach walk from there to Coogee beach where we ate a picnic lunch. The waves were full of surfers and the beaches full of tourists. Our day at the beach felt like summer, which was a welcome change. That night we had dessert at at a Belgian Chocolate bar, before exploring the city at night a little bit.

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We took a train and a bus to get to Featherdale Wildlife Park where we got to feed at pet kangaroos and koalas. You could buy an ice cream cone filled with some sort of grass for a dollar. Then you would go crouch down and wait for the kangaroos to hop up to you and eat it out of your hand. They could just hop around as they pleased, and were not shy at all, especially when you were holding food for them! The koalas sat curled up in their fake trees and happily munched on leaves as we took pictures with them and felt their oddly woolen fur.

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We got back to our hostel to find that someone had gone through our things and had taken a charger and a converter. The people working at the hostel were really rude and creepy so we decided to leave even though they refused to refund us for the nights we wouldn’t be staying there. In the end we were all so much happier to stay in a hostel we felt safe and comfortable so it all worked out.

Betsy and I went to the aquarium for a couple hours that evening where we found Nemo!

42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

The  next day we took at two hour train ride out to the Blue Mountains. When we arrived, the little town of Katoomba was blanketed in a thick fog. We were shocked to be able to see our breath as we got off the train and quickly found a cafe where we could sip some hot chocolate. Afterwards we stopped in a tour agency to find out about where to go and the woman was utterly unhelpful. She told us we wouldn’t be able to see Three Sisters through the fog, the main attraction, and that there were no waterfalls to see. Well, we walked out to the trail and happened upon multiple gorgeous waterfalls and panoramic views that were at times fully obscured by the fog, but were mostly only made more dramatic by the fog. We made it out to Three Sisters just before the rain started and the fog settled down even thicker.

Three Sisters

Three Sisters

The rest of our time in Sydney was spent wandering the city, eating delicious food, shopping around in Market City, walking through neighborhoods full of fancy boutiques and cafes, a boat tour of the harbor, meandering through the Royal Botanic Gardens, and searching for little bits of wifi.

Now I’m back at school with only 6 weeks left of the semester and spring sunshine beginning to shine through the trees.