Day in Devonport

I explained the crazy event of last night but I never said what I did during the day yesterday, Noember 26.  I explored a bit of the city’s waterside.  I first went to the Voyager Maritime Museum.  They had great exhibits progressing through time.  It began with the Maori traditional fishing and boating.  Then the introduction of Europeans discovering New Zealand lead to immigration.  Through time, boating has popularized into a sport of yacht racing.  There were exhibits of the different small classes of boats, Peter Blake, the Olympics, and the America’s Cup all relating to New Zealand.  It was great to see how New Zealand identifies with the sea .  To explore of the sea culture of New Zealand, I took a walk along the harbor.  The KZ1, the yacht sailed in the America’s Cup in 1988, was on display outside of the museum.  In the harbor, the Vodaphone yacht was being worked on by a crew member.

I got a little bit of a later start today, November 27.  My hostel room doesn’t have any windows so it’s pitch black with the lights off and I woke at 10:30 thinking it was the middle of the night.  I got going though and made a plan to explore outside of the CBD.  I headed down Queen Street to take a ferry across to Devonport.  I missed the first one by a minute so grabbed a coffee and flipped through guides.  The ferry ride was short only 15 minutes across and we unboarded in the central village.   I stopped at the information center to get a map and then followed the walking trail through the town.  I started with poking around the shops in the central villiage.  There were book stores, jewelry, and souvenir stores.  I then headed more inland up the path to Mt. Victoria.  The high point had views across the harbor of Auckland.  The view of the landscape is really unlike the rest of pristine New Zealand.  After hiking down, I stopped for lunch at Five Loaves Cafe where I enjoyed an omelet outside.  I’ve been enjoying finding nice meals but affordable which makes eating out well worth it.  After lunch I  continued walking down towards Cheltenham Beach.  I wasn’t really expecting a beach day.  This surprise made walking along the sand and touching water extra fulfilling.  I headed up and down North Head to see the other views and back into the village to catch the ferry back.

Back in Auckland, I met with Meera (a similar girl I met at the Comedy Show who’s at the same hostel) for dinner.  We grabbed some Asian food in a food court and chatted until she had to leave on her coach to the South Island.  It was great to make a new friend based on the same interests – at a comedy show, getting wifi, and a student abroad.  After dinner, I was heading back to my hostel and walked by Little Mexico, where our group had a farewell/thanksgiving dinner.  I recognized the owner, Jose, outside and told him that I was with the big group the other day.  He invited me in and made me a huge passionfruit margarita.  It took me a while to finish so I stayed and chatted with him and other customers coming up to pay their bill.

I am a little bored with the straight updates of activities so I have a more interesting post coming with KIWI-isms!


It’s a small world


I have a few updates that I will write tomorrow but I have to share what just happened!  I’ll begin with the beginning of my night.  I had loved the stand up comedy in Melbourne so much that I thought it would be cool to check out a show here.  The Classic Comedy Club and Bar was hosting a raw comedy night with discount student rates so I thought I’d check it out.  I sat with a few cool people and after the show I went to get wifi and met someone who was at the show.  She was doing a similar thing that I am, after studying abroad she’s traveling.  We decided to head next door from our hostel to the Globe Bar.  We were just hanging out watching some of the weird events going on there.  Then I got the feeling that I often get – you see someone who looks like or acts like someone you know and it reminds you of them.  Only this time… it was someone I knew!! It was someone who I’ve grown up swimming with and working with.  She was there studying on a mini term with UNION COLLEGE.  I met all of her friends who all had connections to my program.  We spent the night exchanging names and stories, gettting drinks, and dancing. Unfortunately, they are all heading out tomorrow on their program but it was so great to feel that close connection after being away for so long!

November 25

The Brown family left today, which means I’m the only from the group in the North Island of New Zealand.  Most everyone else made it back to the homes in the States!  They’ve been posting lots of updates to facebook and pictures from our trips.  The connection is still really strong and I feel like they are still here – although we’re separated by a hemisphere, 10 time zones, 2 continents, and oceans.  I’m being safe, savy, and learning a lot about independent traveling.

As for me, I explored by foot yesterday the Auckland area.  In the morning, I went to Parnell to La Cigale French Market which is only open on Sunday mornings.  It had some outdoor food stalls offering lots of samples of hummus and dips.  Indoors there was a permanent french shop selling kitchen supplies, home accessories, cheeses, breads, and coffee.  I sat down for a while to read some local magazines and have a long black.  Sometimes those coffees feel so strong and get my heart going so I had the energy to walk around Parnell.  The area had lots of art galleries and shops that I poked through.


Back in the CBD, there was a Santa Parade.  It was pretty funny to watch some of the different floats and think about how kind of creepy parades really are.  I won’t say much more about that but I did watch the hour long parade.

After I head up north down K road and further down before catching a bus back into the CBD to hang out at my hostel.  I cooked dinner there and hung out before heading to bed.  The hostel living is different – it’s kind of fun having the experience: everything is really shared (the rooms, the common areas, the kitchen, the tv) but you meet a lot of people from all over the world.  My room is also weird, theyre are no outdoor windows so I wake up feeling like it’s the middle of the night – but it’s not and it’s time to go explore today.


Last night’s dinner was a great way to say goodbye to the group.  After the paper, we spent the afternoon walking around Auckland.  Everyone met at 7:15 in the YMCA hostel lobby all dressed up bottling our mixed emotions.   We walked through the city in our oversized group to the restaurant where our group squeezed into a small room with two long tables.  The restaurant, Little Mexico was nice – we had preordered our meals and kept ourselves busy while they came by talking and ordering drinks – tequila shots and coronas.  After our food finally came, we went around the room to give thanks.  We were a put on the spot but everyone stood and shared a great, heartfelt message.  I said how I knew I always wanted to travel to Australia.  I was so thankful and fortunate for the Professors who accepted me into the program and let that happen and for the group who I’ve made such great friends with along the way.  It was a different goodbye because in a sense, we had already said goodbye to Australia and the traditional program.  We have been traveling together as a group for the past two weeks and are ready for some separation.  So, it was bittersweet – I’m certainly sad that the memories won’t continue but so satisfied with the ones we’ve already made.  I also don’t think I was as struck by the goodbye because I’m staying to travel for a little longer.

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Today, November 24 began early.  The first group flight left this morning at 4:30 on a shuttle to the airport.  I woke to say goodbye to Lauren and fell back asleep until it was time for me to checkout.  I took my bags down into the CBD to Xbase hostel where I will be staying for the next few days.  It was to early to check in so I stored my bags and set out to explore Auckland.  I first headed down to the warfs.  Of course after studying sustainability down under for the past 3 months I had to check out the Sustainable City Showcase (nerd status).  There were lots of stalls set up relating to different aspects of sustainability – transportation, lifestyles, fashion and beauty, clothes, homes, business and workplace, and food and community.  Everyone stall had something different to share.  I talked to many people about their projects and was able to share a little bit about what I’ve learned from observations and differences from the United States in exchanged for gaining lots of new information.
After I headed to the Britomart Farmers Market.  It was smaller than I had expected but it still was a nice setting with vendors selling their produce, falafel, mini pancakes, and cheeses.  There was also a craft gallery in an building next-door.  There was one artist who made cufflinks and keychains from old typewriter keys.  I thought it would be something my dad would really like but they were pricey (I took you a photo though).  After a morning of walking, I stopped for a cappuccino at Raw Bar in a little alley off of Queen Street.  I read the local magazine to find the next place to explore – the Silo area.  I first checked into my hostel and then caught the bus, for 50 cents down to the Wynward Warf.  The Silo area was appropriately next to two large Silos on the harbor.  There was a small market with food carts and crafts.  I bought my mom a card that was made also using a typewriter.  I sat at a picnic table that was made out of a wooden door to write her a letter while listening to the DJ play Bob Markey.  It was a nice day out for being in the harbor and looking at boats but I’m planning on exploring more of the harbor area on Monday when I go to the Maritime Museum.  So instead, I chilled out for a while before meeting up with the Brown family.
My professor, Meghan Brown and her family have another night in Auckland before traveling.  I’ve really loved getting to know this family on a different level than a Professor-student because we’ve shared more than just classes and office hours.  We’ve shared experience – field trips, sea sickening ferry rides, hikes, long bus rides and a breakdown, and massive slumber parties in a Morae.  Her family is part of the whole HWSUC family.  We met up for dinner and after went to their stay for some leftover thanksgiving pies and final dinner cakes – lucky they got all of the leftovers.  The kids were fun and got all hyped up on sugar so before they crashed, we all said goodbye.  Again, I am so thankful for them and the experience of a lifetime they have given me.
I’m thinking that most of the group is probably in LA on a layover now.  I hope they have safe travels the rest of the way home!  As for me, I will continue exploring tomorrow.

Moving On

Whoa, I’m officially a second semester senior at HWS.  My Fall term finished today.  We took our final in the YMCA hostel that we were staying in.  Half of the group took it on the floor of the gym and the other half in the staff room.  We had 3 hours to write about our observations of sustainability in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.  I justified why it was worth the expense to travel across the world to have this experience – and it was soo worth it.  It’s been the time of my life experiencing so much in Australia and New Zealand with HWSUC.  Our group has become one – I feel that I have gotten to know everyone personally.  There are ups and downs within the group but we’ve managed to function all of the way through.

We’re having a final dinner in a few hours at a Mexican place to “give thanks” for all of the experiences we’ve had.  I know it will be bittersweet to leave this abroad experience behind but take forward all of the amazing memories.

I’m sad to see the group off tomorrow.  I’m staying in Auckland for 5 days before flying to Fiji for a week.  So the travel adventures aren’t over yet and I’ll have more experiences to update you on.

From Rotatura to Rotarura

These past 3 days have been packed with activities. We had a unique cultural experience with New Zealand’s indigenous population, Maori (see wiki). We travelled a little outside of Rotarura to a traditional spot.  The Marae is a meeting place for the Maori people that is like a church and gathering room where the population comes together for a meeting.  You need to remove your shoes before entering and there is no eating or drinking inside.  Inside, we were greeted in a traditional manner and welcomed into the family.  They sang a song, our group sang the American national anthem.  We then lined up shake hands the Maori way – shake hands, touch noses to share a breath, and touch foreheads to share our thoughts.  It was a strange way of greeting – almost how you feel in Europe when they kiss both cheeks.  As Americans, we have a large personal space that is rarely compromised, especially when first meeting someone.  However, it was their traditional way and we all shared the experience.

We then share Koi, a feed or a meal. After, We had a long day listening to Garry talk. He was a unique guy – he was half Maori and half German, has 7 kids but has never had a monogamous relationship, practices herbal medicine, hunts to eradicate the invasive possum population, and generally lives in the bush. He talked a lot by sharing his perspective which really forced us to question him. He also showed us some bush medicine. He combined tutu leaves in oil to create an extract. When combined with bees wax, it created a balm. The bush medicine information provoked the strongest response from us. Since all of bush medicine was is foreign to us, it was difficult to accept his info as facts.  I couldn’t see how the balm would cure cancer. However, I used the balm on my lips and cuts without any side effects.

Herbal medicine making

They prepared us a large dinner with 5 different kinds of meats they hunted and vegetables grown from their garden. After our minds were filled with new knowledge and belly’s filled with koi, we retired to the Morae. All 31 students, 2 professors, 2 spouses, and 3 kids on mattresses and in sleeping bags sprawled on the floor. It was the largest slumber party I’ve ever had.

Sleepy Time

Out 2 days were filled with activities. We began November 20, by walking through a rainforest. We discussed different techniques for managing and trapping possums. These introduced species have multiplied in New Zealand and are damaging the ecosystem. We didn’t see any on our walk but our leader pointed out and identified lots of new fauna, mostly ferns and large trees.  The bush walk was similar to our Terrestrial Ecology field trips led by John Hall.  We stopped a lot and looked at different trees – a little dry, or wet, in the rainforest but unique enough.

After lunch we geared up in bathing suits, wetsuits, booties, and helmets to go white water rafting!  This was much more exciting and adventurous.  Our 6 person boat was had a guide Jose who led us down class 4 rapids on an 8km river. We paddled hard, screamed over every drop, ducked under bushes, relaxed in the on calm water stretches, an splashed other boats – it was tons of fun!

In the afternoon, we had some down time.  The guys all gathered with Sean to learn the Haka.  This dance is now performed to get the tribe’s energy pumped up to envoke fear to oIt was traditionally performed before a battle, but in modern times is used used in sports – like the All Black Rugby team.  The women are not allowed to participate because they are sacred and will not be the ones hunting or fighting.  Us women, instead balanced the energy on the Marae by practicing yoga with Meghan.

The next day, November 21, we broke up into 3 groups to rotate through the day’s activities. I began my day with a bush walk by a waterfall. We were lead by a woman, Bubba, who studied and practiced herbal medicine. I found the information really interesting and chatted with her through the walk. We discussed opposing pharmaceuticals and along with our conversation, she pointed out different plants and their traditional purposes and modern day use. The waterfall was a nice 7 m drop where we watched a whitewater raft go over.

Next, we listened to some information about managing water quality in the lake next to the Morae. Water management is different than it is in the US – as I will write about in my final paper.

We finished the rotation with another outdoorsy activity, stand up paddle boarding. I had demoed some of these with the Boat Locker at home but this was a really fun experience taking a paddle through a stream with flows from a cold spring pool.

We departed the Morae in the afternoon after thanking and saying goodbye to our new Moauri family. I appreciate how they shared their knowledge and I learned a lot about a new culture by talking to these individuals. It opened my eyes to a unique culture. My own perspective couldn’t have completely changed in these few days but I certainly gained a more worldy view.

As we got on the bus to return to Rotarura, we found out the big local news news: the Tongariro mountain erupted yesterday! They were predicting the pressure was building the day of our hike but no one could predict when it would blow. There were people hiking through when it erupted and that could have been us!

Off the bus, we entered society again at Rotarua, at the same hostel we stayed at before the Morai. I took a run through the park which was one of the most unique paths I’ve ever taken – through geothermal pools. The tectonic plate under New Zealand creates a fault with cracks that allow the heat from within the Earth’s core to rise up. In water, the gas heats the pools and mixes in minerals. Along the path, there were bubbling waters and muds and steam floating off of the surface. There were also man made pools for people to sit and dip their feet into.

Geothermal Springs in Rotarua

Our program has spent a lot of time together in a group. It’s a unique study abroad experience that instead of gaining independent experiences through traveling. we are managing group relationships. The group dynamic had changed a lot since the beginning of the program and even more throughout our trip trough New Zealand. I’m having hugely mixed emotions with the end being so near. I’ve loved meeting and getting to know everyone in this group – some people deeper than others. Learning about other has also taught me a lot about myself – one of the most valuable lessons of this abroad experience.

We’re now on our way up north to Auckland on the bus with our storytelling driver – time to stop for morning tea, I’m sure going to miss this snack time in the states.

Final days

According to the date, it is Thanksgiving Day here.  The location doesn’t seem to match though.  It is absolutely crazy that today, November 22 I have been away from home for 3 months with only 2 days left of this program. We’ve just arrived in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city located in the north of the North Island. Here, we have the day to prepare for our paper tomorrow.  We just were brought closer to home with an apple and pumpkin pie!  Those are not popular items here so we had it specially made.  Yummy

Tomorrow we will also have a final dinner at a Mexican restaurant and then Saturday our group will part ways. Most people are flying home and some are going straight to Fiji. I’m extending my travels by staying in Auckland for 5 days and then going to Fiji for a week!

Snerd reflections

Studying abroad is a huge learning experience of many aspects. There’s the college classroom leaning which combines textbook material with lectures for exams and papers. There’s also the real life learning experience where you learn about a new place and also learn about yourself. Thinking about all of those factors, what did I learn?

Marine Biology: considering I haven’t taken a biology class since freshman year of high school, I learned a lot of basic biology like terms and classifications of organisms. The knowledge became real as I observed the organisms outside of the classroom when snorkeling and walking the reef flat on the Great Barrier Reef.
Terrestrial Ecology:
Sustainibilty Down Under: my final paper will be a synthesis of the observations I’ve made in Australia and New Zealand and the US. I’ll share these later

Brisbane: This was the city I spent the most time in. Inherently I learned how to get around. I fully learned the public transportation system and became well oriented with the city and outer suburbs.
Counties: Spending 2 months in Australia taught me a lot about the nation. I learned about their history, culture, sports, politics, laws, and other factors through observations and conversations. I could recite these facts, or you could research Australia. From these facts, I was able to make comparisons to the United States. This drove many of the conversations I had, “oh that’s different in the US”, “we do/have/say that too”. I think other people involved in the conversations also benefited from learning about the US.
Traveling: So far, I have taken 7 flights and i’m not even home yet. Ive also taken about 10 buses a week to commute, trains for weekend trips, and longer bus rides for field trips. This has taught me a lot about traveling, especially how to pack. I’ve been good that I didn’t overpack, I came with the 50lbs bag limit. I didn’t buy too much and I sent a box home by seamail. However, I have sometimes found myself underprepared. I have learned to find a better balance for what I need – not too much but not too little. It’s safe to be a little over prepared but not to a point that it becomes a struggle.
People: I have learned so much about our group of 32 students, 2 professors, their spouses, and children. While learning about them as individuals, I have learned about our interactions. There are always going to be people in a group that you don’t particularly get along with. However, in this tight group setting, I had to learn how to deal with this tension so as not to throw off the dynamic.
I also met many people along the way. I found the easiest way that I’ve met people is by asking a question – which happens a lot when you are touring a new area.
Myself: skills, weaknesses, likes dislikes. In lamington, I liked how we were inspired to critically think about our future paths after graduation, which is coming soon in May. My path has never been clear cut. I don’t know specifically what career I want, if I want to study more, or where I want to be. I realized to incorporate my likes to shape my path. Talking about these interests developed ideas for a path – which I am not excited to pursue.

Tongariro Crossing

I’m by no means an extremist but I’ve done a few intense things.  Today’s hike on November 16th, definitely can be added to the list of top extreme things I’ve done.  Last night, after a discussion of Whale Rider, we crashed in our double bunk rooms at the Discover Lodge.  We woke at 6am for breakfast and then gathered all of our layers of gear.  We took the bus to Tongario National Park for a hike over the volcano crossing.  The Lonely Planet recommends this crossing hike as “one of New Zealand’s life-changing experiences and rates it as the world’s finest day hikes”.  The Hike is 19.4km and ascends 765m and decesnds 1126m.    The hike began easy, flat land of a different, unique terrain.  Starting off in many layers, I had to shed them along the way.  Then we began our assent up steps and rocks.  It wasn’t too steep and I kept pushing through.  As we rose to a higher elevation, the terrain changed and so did the climate and weather.  The air became thinner and much cooler as a breeze came through.  There were also patches of snow streaked by the wind on the side of the mountain.  Stopping for too long was difficult because my body temperature would quickly drop.  So, I trekked on through.  We rose higher and the wind picked up and blowing moisture right on the side of our face.  My fingers got icy cold and went numb, I kept pumping my arms to get the blood flowing through them.  There was little stopping and we pushed onwards.  The view from the top of the mountain was limited by the cloud but it started to clear as we descended.  You could see the turquoise sulfur pools emerge.  The moisture in the air started picking up, and it was soon raining and we were drenched.  We stopped after about 11 k at a day hut to wolf down our sandwich.  We were so wet that it made us too cold to stay put so we pushed on the rest of the way.  The features of the hike changed the rest of the way.  As we defended down, everything became visible and the sun even began to shine through to warm our bodies and push our hearts.  There were steps, long paths, and trees grew around the trail creating a wet forest.  Then we came across a stream with waterfalls.  The water looked clean but had a milky tint.  We followed this stream the rest of the way and before I realized, we had reached the end of a 19k, strenuous, and truly rewarding hike.

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Sustainable Day

It is so amazing that we are able to have college field trips on the other side of the world to learn about sustainability practices.  It really makes a difference to be able to learn about many methods and regulations for sustainability dealing with energy, waste, food, and diversity.  Learning about the unique systems of Australia and New Zealand forms comparisons in my mind.  Our final paper topic incorporates these observations of sustainability between the countries.  There is no better way of learning by these observations with first hand experiences.

This morning, November 14, we took the bus to the West Wind  Farm.  It a large field in Makara that had open pastures and wind turbines sweeping the land unto the shores of Cook’s Straight.  Off of the bus, we celebrated my roomie, Phil’s 21st birthday, with muffins (birthday drinks to come later).  We then set out to hike around.  The land was so natural and green.  It’s been different seeing so much grass, New Zealand has much more fertile soil and weather to support these growing conditions.  The views of the ocean were also amazing as the land dropped off the edge.  Even more special, was the rare occurrence of a solar eclipse in the southern hemisphere.  From where we were, we were able to a partial eclipse, 75%, at 10:34.  The weather was perfect for supporting our viewing.  We were given two sheets of paper and a pin to make a hole in one to create a pin-hole observation.  The point of this is to allow the sunlight to come through an opening and shine on another surface – so that you don’t look directly at the sun.  Since the moon was passing in front of the sun, it created a shadow on the paper.  We watched as the crest slowly got smaller and smaller.  We played around with different methods – making multiple holes, making words (HWSUC), looking through the large scope, and playing with our hands.  Even cooler were a pair of solar glasses that we borrowed from another group.  With them on, you could look directly at the sun and see where the moon was covering it.  It was really special to observe this phenomenon.

My HWSUC Eclipse

Then came our wind turbine discussion.  We learned lots about this specific site – there are 62 turbines that can potentially generate 142 megawatts, enough to power 70,000 homes.  However, since wind isn’t always present, its expected to reach this capacity 47% of the time.  This rate is still much higher than turbines in the States.  It was also interesting to learn about how they transported the materials there to build such large structures.  We continued the morning by hiking around.  Lauren and I hiked down the steep Makara walkway to Opau Bay, had lunch, and pulled ourselves back up the hill.

Wind Farm

Energy is a large aspect of sustainability and inherently it produces waste.  To learn about the other side of this, we have studied waste systems in Australia.  To compare it to New Zealand, our next stop was to the Wellington area’s landfill.  We unloaded the bus right in front of a Secondhand treasure store.  We quickly made the connection that it was related to the landfill as it was part of a recycling effort.  We toured and learned about the other parts of recycling – plastics, paper, aluminum.  We learned about hazardous waste, compost, methane collection on the rest of the tour around the different stages of the landfill.  It didn’t smell particularly great so I’m excited to go up north to Tongariro tomorrow for some fresh air!