Monday, March 2, 2009

Entering the Land of Kiwis

After a nice conversation with the gentleman seated next to me on the plane, I arrived in Auckland around 3 PM on February 16th. *Happy Birthday, Anna!*

As I write this, I have been in New Zealand for nearly two weeks! Wow, I am falling behind in updates already!! So here is a snapshot of what has been happening since arrival.

Met up with Des and Lois, family friends, at the AKL airport and traveled to their son’s home. We stayed there for 3 days times. Day one: visited Sylvia Park, an amazing, rather huge shopping center! Very modern, clean, and nice. Tried on some boots, enjoyed lunch at Hollywood Express (where they play all American music from Hollywood and such), and then picked up a phone from Dick Smith’s Electronics. I’m now on the Vodafone NZ Network for one year. J I mustn’t forget the three times that we enjoyed tea… just on day one! Regular tea, pomegranate and grape tea, you name it! Even purchased “tea for two” at lunchtime! Tasty and more relaxed than the US style of “go, go, go.” *Happy Birthday Holly!*

Day two: Relaxed for a bit at home, then headed to look around the city. Drove to Devonport, took the ferry across to Auckland Central City, and looked around a bit more. Got a feel for the area, which is nice now that I have to be navigating alone many times! Checked out Britomart, which is the central transport center for the downtown area. Visited their son, David, at his workplace near Queen St. Then headed back after breakfast/lunch/tea! We didn’t have the “chilly bin” (portable cooler), so we went to New World for groceries just before heading home. Found some strange veges… broccolini?! Purple sweet potatoes? But ended up with some super yummy whole grain bread, fresh fruit, and shampoo! Home, cleaned up, and then had evening tea. Then we headed out to help David’s friend move into her new apartment. Location: Parnell. A beautiful place with many old cafes, brick roads, and much more! Even a Chocolate Boutique (where Bill Clinton has visited...)! Walked down the street to find amazing side streets and adorable homes. Wonderful! After that excursion, we headed home and enjoyed a long sleep.

Day three: Highlighted by Mission Bay, wandering about the city, and more! Took the puppy, Chelsea, for a walk! Lovely spaniel of sorts. Learned a bit more about the Kiwi language. J If someone asks you over for tea, it’s not necessarily going to include a cup of tea. Nor does it limit itself to tea alone. It may be dinner included, or may just be for a chat! That aside, we took a nice journey to the Mission Bay area. Very nice day, sunny and all! Saw the city from across the bay, which was also sweet. There is a long strand of beaches surrounding Auckland (a big difference from mid-Missouri!), so we took a look around. Trying to get my bearings by doing so. After a relaxing day of lounging, beaching, and chatting, we enjoyed tea and dinner. Watched the news about Obama and the US Economic Stimulus Plan. The States are always in the news and everyone has questions about my opinion of this and that! Oh! And David loves airplanes and actually has a home theater with plane seats in rows! Wow! After dinner and cleaning up, we headed to a little cafĂ© downtown somewhere. Drove around for quite a while, including ending up under the Auckland Bridge! There are houses under the bridge; it’s quite strange! Had a tall glass of hot chocolate and then returned home again.

Day four of Auckland: Woke early. Finished packing and headed to my new home! Located in New Lynn, a suburb of Auckland, it took quite some time to travel due to traffic. Arrived around 8:40 and Wendy, my host mother, arrived at 9 AM. Greeted with a hug, moved in, and unpacked! Orientation began at 4 PM, but was picked up around 2:45 to travel to the city. Met a few new friends, began orientation with the other homestays, and then met with the big group of IES kids! Gael, the coordinator of IES here in Auckland, bought us some sparking apple juice: quite nice, really!

Anyway, after our initial meeting and all, we each journeyed home and prepared for our adventure at the Maori marae (meeting place). Headed to Leigh on Friday morning. We were welcomed onto the marae (in pouring rain) in style and then performed the nose-touching greeting. After some introductions, tea, and moving mattresses into the marae, we had a lovely time relaxing, learning a haka (song) and then putting a war dance to the words. One of the girls taught me how to weave a flower, which was pretty sweet. Learned a lot about the history of Maori people, including stories, moko (tattooing), and much more! We were supposed to be snorkeling and doing other outdoor activities, but sadly the rain interrupted our plans… Went to a pub, Sawmill something or another, to listen to a (regae?!) band called “The Ragamuffin Children.” People go barefoot very often, which is sweet! Enjoyed a chai latte, chatted with a few new friends (American, German, and native Kiwis), and tried to resist dancing to the live music!

Finally, on Saturday, the rain let up! We divided into groups and were able to head down the huge hill to the sea. Went fishing with hand reels and then loaded into sea kayaks for a journey in a sheltered cove of sorts! Had a wonderful time!! Found a giant sting ray, ate some kina (sea urchin --- hmmm…), and soaked up the sun for a bit. Then it became overcast again… lunch, weaving, and a final goodbye as we performed our newly learned haka. Headed back to Auckland Uni and settled on spending the evening in the city. Attended Starlight Symphony, which was INCREDIBLE!!!! Loads of music, picnicking, laughing, and then a fireworks and laser show!! Yay! Even took pictures with men in yellow spandex suits! They were ridiculous.

Free day! It’s quite a journey to catch the (correct) bus and get home to New Lynn… A 1.5 hour journey at least! But I successfully read the timetable (with a bit of help) and caught the bus in time on Sunday morning! Attended church with Wendy and the kids, then had lunch at a “Welcome Gathering” of sorts at Mt. Albert Baptist Church. Fun times and nice people. Relaxed for the remainder of the day and just got settled a bit more.

The following morning, international orientation began! Left home at 7:30 AM to arrive at the welcome meeting by 9:30... I believe I took the wrong bus, but still not really sure…

Regardless, the Kiwis do a wicked awesome welcome! Dancing, war songs, and tea! What more can you ask for?! And we even got two different welcomes on different days! Toured the campus (a bit smaller than Mizzou’s campus, but almost 50,000 in the student body!), enjoyed lunch on campus (at Slurp) for the first time, and then headed to a scavenger hunt of the city! When they said “of the city,” I wasn’t exactly expecting a 2.5 hour trek around the world… but that’s what it was! Quite a great time, met new friends, and had many laughs! And to think I didn’t even want to go. Now I know my way around the city a bit more (but definitely a lot yet to learn…).

Orientation week flew by! Thought I might head to Christchurch, but that didn’t work out. Then planned to go camping in Piha, but that didn’t work either due to a lack of transportation and the rainy forecast. L Sad, but it worked out just fine in the end! Hung out in Auckland, got to see the city a bit more, and spent the night at a friend’s dorm two nights in a row! Went to Globe Bar, but was a bit too loud for my liking. Visited Mission Bay once again, which was nice. Learned the ropes of public transportation in a place that’s not the best at city planning… Signed up for Dessert Club and a few more clubs of the sort! Attended Life Group (on two different occasions). Relaxed in the sun and played at the pool with the kids. Orientated myself on campus and such! Signed up for classes and finally got that settled. Now I’m taking Ancient Egypt history! Sweet as! Also visited Lynn Mall and Foodtown with Wendy and Fleur.

And now I’m moving. My current location is too far from Uni and it is not the best idea for me to be walking home alone from the bus stop (usually about 20 minutes walk) especially in the dark. Moving to Remuera Road, which is only 10-15 by bus to the Uni, or about a 45-minute walk. Much closer and should be a positive thing! Everyone is very understanding, which is nice. I’m very grateful for those who have helped me with setting up new accommodations and shifting (it’s not called moving here…). I’m also a bit sad to be leaving because this is a lovely family, but will be visiting for dinner again soon!

Time to go for now! Love and miss you all. From Auckland, XOXO.

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