Monday, December 20, 2010

South Island Tour

It is going to be extremely difficult to keep this post short. I have just returned from a 3 week tour of the South Island with 16 other exchange students (from my district and another close by). This has definitely been the highlight of my exchange so far! We traveled by bus all over the South Island, sleeping in backpackers.... well we put our stuff there at least. It all started in Wellington, the nations capital... (this would be a good time to pull up Google Maps and find New Zealand)

Solene (France) and Oriane (Belgium) with 'The Beehive' Parliament Building

We then took a ferry from the North to the South Island and arrived in Picton. From here we went on a 2 day kayak trip.

First view of the South Island from the Ferry

Yves (Argentina), my kayaking partner

We then drove down to Christchurch where we visited the Antarctic Centre, the Christchurch Cathedral and all the amazing parks/gardens. (Christchurch is the garden city!) Despite enduring a devastating earthquake back in September, Christchurch was as beautiful as ever and showed hardly any signs of damage.

The A-team enjoying a Hagglund ride at the Antarctic Centre

So sad I'm going to miss it...

We then continued down to the Catlins where we went on 2 practise tramps (or hikes if you're Canadian) in preparation for the Milford Track which we would be tramping later in the trip.

Tramping on the beach in the Catlins

Despite trying out my borrowed boots before the trip, I developed some nasty as blisters half way through our first tramp! They were absolutely disgusting and I wasn't able to wear any shoes except jandals (flip flops) for the next 5 days!

Blisters; what a pain in the... heel...

We didn't have a moment to rest; the next day we were biking the Otago Central Rail Trail. Although I've never seen them, I was told this is Lord of the Rings country. (This is on my list of things to do during the holidays!) 

Solene (France) taking a break, er, I mean posing for a photo

As you can imagine, with 17 exchange students, there was a bit of shenanigans that went on during the trip!

Solene (France) is the target of an attack from the boys

From Otago we went to Te Anau where we did some last minute preparations for the Milford Track. We enjoyed one last real meal, then border the boat that would take us to the start of the track.

Before we were sweaty and disgusting!

Our first day was only a one and a half hour tramp. A bit misleading for the days that followed. We had a swim in the water coming down off the mountains and played cards before hitting the sack to prepare for the day that followed...

Renny (Finland) infront of the beautiful backdrops of Day 1 

Day 2 was sunny and beautiful. We swam under waterfalls and drank from crystal clear streams (sorry for the flowery adjectives). At the end of the day, I realized swimming had maybe not been the best idea; when I took off my red bandana I realized that the red dye had leaked out and had been dying my hair all day! Many Avril Lavigne jokes ensued...

The views of Day 2

Day 3 was straight up the mountain and then straight down again. The views were, again, spectacular. When I was told that the Milford Track was one of the most beautiful tracks in the world, I thought the Kiwis were just being cocky again. But it really is some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen!

Oriane (Belgium) on top of the world!

The last day was bittersweet. We were so sad that that part of our trip was over, but SO looking forward to a shower and food that hadn't been rehydrated!

A very happy moment!

We spent the following day on a boat in the Milford Sound. I'm going to have to let the pictures speak for themselves or this post will NEVER end!

A view from our boat in the Milford

Chile, Belgium, Brazil, Brazil, France

Our next stop was the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown! We had a free night, so the girls decided to go out for a quiet dinner without the boys!

Enjoying a meal with just the girls!

We later met up with the boys at a burger joint called 'Fergburger'. The burgers are huge, so naturally money was bet on how quickly they could be eaten...

Leticia (Brazil) beating the boys in the burger 'eat off'

A view of Queenstown

Of course we had to partake in the thrilling activities Queenstown is famous for; bungy and sky diving! I was way to scared too do a bungy, so I opted for sky diving. I thought I was going to throw up when I was about to get on the airplane, but once I was inside, I was only excited! I jumped from 12 thousand feet, with 45 seconds of free fall. 

A little bit scared...

But then only enjoying it!!

The rest of the trip flew by. We stopped at Mt Cook and looked at some glaciers and icebergs...

Glaciers and icebergs...

But before we knew it, we were back on the ferry to the North Island. I'm so sad it's over, but so glad it happened!

The last glimpse of the South Island

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beginning of Summer

Okay so much for writing more often... In my defense, I've been done school for about a week now! I got some really good news in my last week at school; I got accepted to the Dragon Boating team and to the Peer Support Program. Peer Support is a program helping year 9s transition from intermediate to high school. With Peer Support I will attend year 9 camp and from what my friends have told me, it sounds like a lot of fun!

Other fun things that I've gotten up to lately have been paint balling and kayaking with the other International Students at Pakuranga College. Although I did get some pretty disgusting bruises paint balling was really really fun! The rest of my team were all German and during the heat of the game they all began yelling in German to each other... so most of the time I was shooting blind!

 Getting a little intense...

I also went a tour of Eden Park (home stadium to the All Blacks). My Rotary Club organized a tour of Eden Park as it has just been redone for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

In the All Blacks showers!
I'm heading off to the South Island for a 3 week tour with the other Rotary Exchange Students on Sunday. I reckon I'll have heaps of stories to share after that trip!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yum Cha, 42nd Street and an Improvised Jane Austen Comedy Musical

Well it's definitely been a while since I last posted! I appologize in advance for this ridiculously long post and I will try to make an honest effort to post more frequently.

I moved into the Rea's, my second host family, a week and a half ago. My host dad Graham is the Chair of Youth Exchange for my district, so I'll have to be on my best behaviour! I am their seventh consecutive exchange student, so obviously they've had a bit of practice! Their son Greg is finishing up his exams at Uni and will be moving home in a week or so. It'll be so strange to have a sibling again... I was just getting used to this whole only child thing!

Last weekend I went with Rotarian Robyn to see one of her sons Barnie in a very out there musical about a cowboy who's wife is bucked from a horse and bounces between the Earth and the Moon. The cowboy has to shoot his wife to put her out of her misery. There were only two actors and an amazing 3 piece band. The "stage" was set up like a campfire in the dessert; our seats were hay bails covered with checkered blankets. It was really different, but really well done and very entertaining.

A fellow Canadian, Sue, and some idiot with their eyes closed!

The following day I went with Rotarian Ian and his Canadian wife Sue for some Yum Cha (delicous Chinese food). Afterwards we went to a Chinese Buddhist temple for a Cherry Blossom ceremony. The temple was massive! I didn't expect to see something like that in NZ!

This past weekend was Labour Day weekend in NZ (so stange to have it in October). I went to go see 42nd street with Rotarian Bill and his (again) Canadian wife Lynn. These Kiwi guys obviously have very good taste!

My new host parents Graham and Sue at Raglan

The following day I went to a little beach town, Raglan, with my host parents. It was the most amazing day and it was a very cool little town. Up until then I hadn't been to a 'proper' beach; after seeing the surf beach at Raglan, I just can't look at the beaches around here the same way!

Austen Found: The undiscovered musicals of Jane Austen

Yesterday I went to go see an improvised comedy musical loosely based on the works of Jane Austen. It was hilarious. One of the best shows I've ever seen! Lucy, a rebound from Sweden, invited me to go last minute and I'm so glad she did! Although I laughed so hard I got a stitch, I can't see non-Austen fans enjoying... or understanding the show!

Only 10 days left until study leave, which means freaking out about exams for my friends and summer vacation for me!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

School Holidays

I've had the last 2 weeks off school AND we've had good weather!! For the first time in 3 months (yes, I've been here for 3 whole months now!) we've had a week without rain! It's been amazing, especially with the beaches so close by.

Getting creative

Thanks to Rotarian Bill and his wife, I've finally seen an official rugby game in NZ.  The match was Auckland vs. Hawks Bay; it ended in a draw. The game was at Eden Park where the Rugby World Cup finals will be played next year (2 months after I leave!). I also participated in the Breast Cancer Walk with another Rotarian Kelvin, his wife and some of their friends. The walk was at night under the stars and had a very festive atmosphere!

I'm in the jumpsuit, the Rotarian's in the tutu. Go figure.

I had quite a few "firsts" these holidays; I made it over to Waiheke island finally, Rainbows End amusement park and the Auckland War Museum.  I went to Waiheke with another Rotarian Robyn. We had lunch at her son's newly acquired cafe and I got to chat with her very colourful family. Robyn herself is a fascinating woman. One of her stories began, "When I lived with the gypsies in India.."

Being a rebel at Rainbows End

Rainbows End was definitely on a smaller scale then say Wonderland back home, but I still had heaps off fun with my friend Laura. The same can be said about the Auckland War Museum. Again, not the largest exhibits but I enjoyed a lovely lunch with my friend Amber as well as some colouring activities that may or may not have been meant for small children...

All glamed up for the NZ Music Awards

The following day Laura and I went to the NZ music awards. It was a really good time, although often I did not understand the cultural references or jokes. I did however know most of the musicians who performed and some of them really deserve to be famous in more than just NZ.

A very successful Thanksgiving dinner!!

As much as I wanted to cook a traditional turkey dinner for my friends, I was extremely nervous something would go wrong! Luckily Laura and her family were super helpful and supportive, even when I was freaking out about taking the giblets out of the bird. Most of my friends had never had turkey or pumpkin pie before, but I think they rather enjoyed it! (Or at least they said they did...)

Back to school next week, I'm dreading it after enjoying these past 2 weeks so much. But only 4 more weeks until summer holidays!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Spirit of NZ

My home for 10 days!

At the beginning of September, I spent 10 days sailing on a huge sailing ship with 40 other 'trainees' my age. I thought the program was going to be mainly a learn to sail program, but it was so much more than that. Not only did we learn to sail, but we also did team bonding activities, cleaned up a beach, watched dolphins and went from a 5 hour tramp (hike). One night, we paddled to shore for a BBQ and campfire. Someone brought a guitar and we talked until dark. Paddling back to the ship in the dark was a little creepy (think the first Harry Potter movie) but that was definitely my favourite night!

My Voyage, number 586

Although the ship was huge, the living conditions were rather, well, cramped. Bunks were stacked in threes and folded away in the morning. Not that it mattered, the only thing we did there was sleep. When I first arrived I was worried that people would become snappy with each other after 10 days at sea in such a confined space, but everyone got along swimmingly!

The 5-star accommodations

Speaking of swimming, every morning at 6:30 we were woken up and made to jump into the ocean. Keep in mind, it is still winter in NZ! The first couple of days, jumping in was torture, but by day 4, it was just a lovely wake up. Other duties on the boat included cleaning the ship every morning (this was done in groups called 'watches'), helping with food prep, manning the sails, keeping the log book and performing night watch. Whenever we were on night watch, the crew would say to us, "Now remember, there are 51 lives on board and this is a 17 million dollar ship!" I'll have to check my insurance policy again, but I'm pretty sure it would not have covered that...

Keeping warm and dry in 'yellows'

The weather was pretty good, it only rained well... every day, but only a little. The 2nd day the ocean was rather choppy and I saw my lunch twice, but never got sea sick after that!

Getting pumped to climb the rigging!

We had the opportunity to climb the rigging of the main mast right to the top! Although I look super excited in the above photo, I was actually so scared! Singing loudly and very out of tune with the other trainees was the key to overcoming my fears.

Ecstatic I've made it to the top!

On the last day, the trainees took over the ship, running everything from our course to the time table. (We still woke up at 6:30 though!). We elected the Captain, 1st Mate etc. from amongst the group. Obviously my sailing skills were not up to snuff as I was elected Cook! With my friend Heidi, we cooked all the meals for 50 people in the tiniest galley, but it was so much fun!

What a good house wife... boat wife?

By the end, we were all ready for a shower and a sleep in a real bed. But everyone agreed, if we could have had some fresh clothes, we would have done another 10 days no problem!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Earthquake

Just a quick update to everyone that I was not affected by the Christchurch earthquake at all. I was on a large sailing ship called the Spirit of NZ out in the middle of the ocean when it happened and was completely safe. Although there was extensive damage in Christchurch, especially to historical buildings, no one died, which is a miracle. I will update on Spirit soon!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rugby, Marae and Zumba

Tramping through mud to watch our school's rugby team win!!

Last Saturday, Laura (in above photo) and I braved ridiculous amounts of mud to watch our school's rugby team play their final match. Slipping through the mud was completely worth it as our boys pulled out a victory against a school with some very big boys! Afterwards, the opposing team performed a "haka", the first one I've seen live in NZ! It was kind of scary, but mostly awesome.

I'll be seeing some more Maori culture this weekend as Rotary is running an orientation/Moari culture weekend at a local Marae. (A Marae is the meeting place/spiritual centre for Maori people). This weekend is for both inbounds and outbounds and should be a good laugh.

Yesterday Roger, Cathy (my host parents) and I went to their son Darrel's house to have dinner with his family. We had delicious Thai food. Unfortunately, Patricia, Darrel's wife, and I were going to a Zumba class afterwards and the Thai food did not agree with that! Despite a belly full of noodles, the class was SO much fun! Patricia and I didn't know what the heck we were doing, but we had a ball shimming to the (very loud) music! It was so nice of her to invite me along and I look forward to doing it again soon!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Learning a little history...

Massive Maori Canoe at Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Last weekend wast spent north of Auckland in Kerikeri with Rotarian John and his wife Jose.  This was my first foray out of Auckland and I was very excited to see more of the country. We stayed with family friends of theirs Warrick and Penny who are also involved with Rotary.They own a kiwi (the fruit) orchard and until this past weekend, I don't think I could have told you what a kiwi tree looks like!

It was a fairly rainy weekend (surprise) but I was still able to do a lot of touristing. John and Jose took me to Waitangi where we took a ferry to Russel (NZ's first capital). Russel was settled by European whalers but is now a quaint little town with an amazing view of the ocean. We then returned to Waitangi to visit the Treaty Grounds where, you guessed it, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed!

The Treaty of Waitangi is essentially a peace treaty between the Maori and the British Crown giving the Maori ownership of their own land and giving them the same rights of British subjects. The grounds have been maintained beautifully and we enjoyed a lovely lunch there.
The stump of a Kauri tree used to make the above Canoe!

Obviously there is so much more to say about the Treaty Grounds, but if I give it all away, how will I entice you all to come visit for yourselves? This weekend I'm having the only other two female exchange students over to my house. Oriane is from Belgium and Solene is from France. It should be a lot of fun, even if we have to wake up for an 8:00am Rotary Meeting the next day!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The best way to a Kiwi's heart is through your imported maple syrup

Basically Martha Stewart

Yesterday before school I made some of my friends some delicious pancakes so they could eat maple syrup on something other than their fingers! In NZ real maple syrup is very expensive so the Kiwis resort to tragic substitutes like "Golden Syrup" and "Maple Flavoured Syrup".  Clearly my friends enjoyed my nation's pride quite a bit more!

Enjoying some 'grade A' tree sap

After breakfast, we took the ferry into town for a Travel and Tourism field trip. It was really fun and I finally got to go up the Sky Tower! (Like the CN tower, only smaller with a better view!) Also in the past week I got to meet the other inbound exchange students in my district; they all seem very lovely and their English is fantastic. I can't wait to get to know them better!

This weekend I'm heading up to Keri Keri in the Bay of Islands with Rotarian John and his wife Jose. I'm very excited as everyone has told me how beautiful the area is! You can look forward to seeing those photos in my next post!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tree Hugging

Planting a seedling for Rotary's Tree for Survival

On Tuesday, I spent the day getting dirty. Along with a class of 14 year old boys and Rotarians over 800 seedlings were planted for the Pakuranga Rotary Club project Trees for Survival. The initiative plants native trees in needy areas to try and rehabilitate NZ's nature, one tree at a time. Students at local schools grow the trees in class and then spend a day planting the trees in areas around Pakuranga. Although I got a little (lot) wet, it was a very memorable day. I was able to experience the beauty of the more rural NZ.

I had a lovely dinner with Rotarian Peter and his wife Sue on Wednesday. It was a very relaxed evening and we had some interesting discussions about exchange as they've hosted many students.  Sue's from Chicago and we had a fun time chatting about the North American winter! I must admit, walking in the rain is no fun, but I'll take it over dirty mid-February slush any day.

Meeting Gok Wan! ...kind of

Tonight I went with rebounder Chloe to catch of glimpse of fashion guru Gok Wan. Chloe's sister was helping to run the event, but even so, the queue was too long so instead we went to dinner with Chloe's parents and her other older sister. It was really lovely to be a part of their family dinner. As Chloe went to Germany with Rotary this past year, they know all the ins and outs of exchange. They were so inclusive and I really enjoyed myself. It was also really nice to have a conversation that wasn't about my exchange or Canada!

Friday, July 30, 2010

3rd week completed!

This scary looking blue chicken is called a Pukeko

Tomorrow will mark the official end of the 3rd week in New Zealand! I'm already starting to forget that this place wasn't always home. But there are a couple of Kiwi things that still catch me off guard. For example when I walk to school, instead of squirrels, pukekos line the sidewalk. I have gotten the hang of crossing the road, but I have been known to still try and get into the wrong side of the car!

Roger and Cathy's grandchildren are here for the weekend; Davon is 3 and Alana is 1. They are very big fans of Canada.... well they are very big fans of maple syrup, but hey, that's a start! I'll have Davon watching hockey in no time! (that's real hockey, not field hockey). 

On August 8th I have an Inbound meeting at Youth Exchange Officer Graham Rea's house; this is not only an opportunity for Graham to lay down the law, but also a chance to meet the other exchange students in district 9920. I've seen how close the Inbounds in my district back home became, so I can't wait to meet everyone!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First Day of School

Pakuranga College has many attributes; their uniform is not one of them. But I will say one thing, although ugly, it is really comfortable.

I'm taking English, Classical Studies, Travel and Tourism, Physics and Journalism. All my classes seem quite easy, excluding physics of course! Everyone is always very interested when I say I'm from Canada, but they don't seem to know very much about 'the Great White North'. Today, when I told my Tavel and Tourism teacher that I lived near Toronto, she exclaimed "Oh! Near Banff!" ...Not quite Miss. But to be fair, besides sheep and Lord of the Rings, what did I know about NZ before I came?