Friday, May 6, 2011

Tahiti... my 2nd last post!

Time for what has now become a monthly blog post and unfortunately, I have to brag about yet another vacation! This past week I was in Tahiti with the 5 other exchange students from my District and our awesome chaperones, Rotarian Ron and his wife Sharon.

We left a very rainy cold Auckland to arrive in hot, humid Papeete, Tahiti; greeted by several Rotarians who presented us with flower necklaces. There were 2 things that felt very strange about being in Tahiti; the first was speaking French after a year of neglecting my studies and the second was driving on the right side of the road again! I have to admit, I am very worried about driving and crossing the street when I get back to Canada, as driving on the left has become natural to me.

Being Welcomed, the Tahitian way!

We were hosted by Rotarians during our stay; my host Claude and Monique were French and had a very impressive house with an even more impressive view! We spent our days touring the island, eating tropical fruit from the side of the road, snorkelling and swimming in crystal clear water. We also attended the District Conference with the Rotarians and had the opportunity to speak about the Youth Exchange Program. (Emphasizing that any program that brings you to Tahiti for a week, has to be incredible!) We learned about all the Rotary projects, and I have to tell you, there are SO many more than you think!

The view from Claude & Monique's: Moorea in the distance

Solene enjoying an ice cold coconut

The week went by far too quickly; as has my Exchange Year. Time flies when you're having fun! I now have less than a month and a half left in New Zealand and the reality of coming home is starting to sink in... Someone asked me what colour my room back home is the other day, and I was shocked when I had to think about it for a minute!

I'm with my 4th and final host family, Don and Elrose (they have 3 grown sons and 2 grandchildren). They are absolutely lovely and so welcoming, as is their extended family. I feel bad that I haven't spent a full week at home with them since I moved in as my final months have been so busy!! Well that's all for now Canada, see you in 44 days!

My new host parents, Don & Elrose, enjoying a mini pumpkin pie 
(it has become my specialty over the year, as so many Kiwis want to try it!)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Somoa, Tramping, Dragon Boating and Aussie!

Hello everyone! I'm sure no one is surprised that I have again neglected my blog writing duties. So here comes another massively long post. I'll try and keep it interesting so you can actually read the whole thing! But first, I feel I should mention the earthquake in Christchurch. Although it pales in comparison to Japan, the devastation was heartbreaking to NZ. I'm fine though, I was actually in Samoa when the earthquake hit.

So Samoa. I went for 5 days with my counsellor Bob as he was going there on business. It was amazing! It was so so unlike anything, anywhere I'd ever seen before! Beautiful beaches (as you can see in the photo) but also absolute poverty in some places. The beach you can see in that photo is actually the one where the tsunami hit back in 2009. Most of the island lives in huts, with communal meeting houses. It is very bizarre seeing a little thatched roof hut with a sign on it that says "top up your mobile here!", but that's Samoa in a nut shell for you!

Typical Samoan scenery

Just after that I went on a tramping weekend with the students of 9910. We tramped Mount Ruapehu, which in winter time is a ski resort, and the Tongariro Crossing. Mt Ruapehu is a volcano, as are most things in NZ, which means there are absolutely no trees. There are big boulders and not much else, which makes tramping more like rock climbing. To be honest, I did not enjoy myself! But the Tongariro Crossing completely made up for Mt Ruapehu! It was a full day tramp and packed so many different types of scenery into one day- so beautiful!

About to die on Mt Ruapehu

Top of Mt Ruapehu (Lord of the Rings fans... Recognize anything in the background?)

Sulphur Lakes at the Tongariro Crossing

Since school has started back up I've been very busy! Between Peer Support, Stage Challenge (a dance show) and Dragon Boating, I haven't had a dull day! Just recently my Dragon Boating team competed in our first (and only) regatta. My school hasn't even made the finals since 1993 (the year we were all born) so were we ecstatic when we placed 3rd in the overall finals!

Looking pretty professional 

Hard to see, but we're wearing medals!

Most recently I was at the Gold Coast in Australia with my host parents. They have an apartment right on the beach at Surfers Paradise, known for nightlife, theme parks and shopping. We were so busy over the week, but by far the highlight for me was seeing all the weird animals Aussie has to offer! NZ doesn't have any native animals other than some birds and a couple bats, so it was SO cool to hold a koala and pet kangaroos!

Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast

Beyond excited! (They're really soft!)

Eating Emu, Crocodile and Kangaroo (so sad after just petting them!)

That's all for now! Coming up soon, I'll be moving to my final host family, going to Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island and Tahiti for District Conference with the other exchange students. So much to pack into my last few months... I can't believe it's almost time to go back to Canada!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

End of Summer, Start of School

Sorry sorry sorry sorry. I know I'm getting terrible at updating, just too busy have a good time!

The school holidays have just ended and school is back in session. (Although it stills feels like summer vacation as the heat is stifling). My last few weeks of summer were fantastic. I spent a week in the Coromandel (the getaway spot for many Aucklanders) with my host family and another exchange student, Solene from France. We spent pretty much all of our time boogy boarding at the beach and attempting to get a tan... Although Solene and I both had to wear SPF 70 to avoid burning!

Cathedral Cove, Cormandel. (Used in the opening scenes of Narnia 2!)

New Chumms, Coromandel. 

I'm pretty much a pro...

I also celebrated my 18th birthday this past week, which felt very strange; I don't feel old enough to be 18! It was a really nice day, although it was raining. I had lunch with the other exchange students in the city and then dinner with my host family. My Rotary Club also gave me a huge chocolate cake!

Thanks Rotary Club of Pakuranga!

Family friends from Canada, Norm and Dianne, were on holidays over the break and I had the opportunity to meet up with them for dinner. It was so crazy seeing people from my Canadian life here in NZ! I talked their ears off about New Zealand and about the differences/similarities between Canada and NZ. Look out everyone I will be talking about my exchange heaps when I get back!

Dinner with Norm & Dianne from Canada!
I also went to Big Day Out a couple weeks back with the other exchange students. BDO is an all day concert featuring heaps of different artists on 7 stages. I went to see Wolfmother, Lupe Fiasco, Naked and Famous, Phoenix Foundation, M.IA, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and even Rammstien! It was such a fun day and amazing to see so many different bands in one day!

Through a Rotarian at my club, I was also able to spend 24 hours at a fire station, riding along in the truck to calls, day and night! Although I did miss a few calls during the night, even though lights and bells go on when there is a call! Guess I'm a deep sleeper... The firemen were all super nice (and some of them super cute as well!).
Decked out in fire gear. Looking totally legit.

School has started back up; I'm in Year 13 (Grade 12) which means that I'm now in mufti (regular people clothes-- not uniform). I also get the privilege to leave the campus during lunch and just generally be a lot cooler than younger years! That being said I'm involved in the 'Peer Support' program at school. Year 13's hang out with Year 9's and help them adjust to high school. We also go to camp for a couple days to bond and build self confidence. Camp is next week and I'm very excited!

The week after camp I will be heading off to Samoa for a week with my counsellor! I'm really keen to see Samoa and see their completely different way of life. I will also be the speaker at one of the local Rotary clubs there! Should be amazing, although it'll be very very humid! (It's been crazy humid in NZ lately as well!)

I'm with my 3rd host family now and I have just over 4 months left. I actually can not believe how quickly time has gone by! I'll be coming back home before I know it... Next week is Selection Weekend back home, where Rotary will choose a new exchange student to come to NZ and I will officially be replaced! Sad!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Christmas and New Years

Christmas in New Zealand is rather bizarre. The carols are the same ("I'm dreaming of a white Christmas"... no joke), the cookies and treats are all the same, and children/ exchange students still go to department stores to sit on Santa's knee. Despite all this I often forgot that it was the holidays season. If I came across lights or decorations while wearing shorts I would think that someone had been lazy and left them up all year!

Yes I am wearing shorts in a Christmas card photo!
(Hallie a visitor from the States, Greg, Kelsie the dog, Myself, Sue and Graham)

Although it felt nothing like Christmas I spent a wonderful day with my host family. They surprised me with so many prezzies! Many of which to help me remember my time here, which I loved and I think they liked their presents as well! My host mother Sue has spent the entire previous day cooking a delicious Christmas lunch to which I contributed a pumpkin pie (my new speciality) which my host brother and dad had never tried! Unfortunately, they didn't like it...

Domestic Bliss

Putting on a brave face

After stuffing myself with lunch I then proceeded to my counsellor Bob's daughter's house to stuff myself full of dinner! It was lovely to be able to spend the day with my counsellor's family as well as my host family. 

Although I still believe Christmas should stay in winter, New Year's is another story completely! On New Year's eve I was on the beach dancing under the stars with thousands of other people. It was the most fun New Year's possible and a swim in the ocean definitely started off 2011 right!