Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Made a second trip to the grocery store today.  New World's Metro is pretty much the NZ equivalent to the US Hy-Vee.  I needed some laundry detergent, dish soap, rice, milk, and eggs.  I am trying very hard to watch what I spend, especially on food.  I am going to budget in only one night out for food a week...if that.  Meals here at "cheap" restaurants are still at least $15 when you add a drink.  The McDonald's 5-pack of nuggets is $2.50...and that price is half-off from $5 for a limited time only (according to a friend).  Outrageous.  My Kiwi flatmate, Amanda, said she'd go with me to the weekend fruits and veggies market on the harbor.  It comes every Saturday and Sunday.  She said the prices are way cheaper than the grocery store.  If I do that, I can stock up for a week or two and then only buy milk, eggs, and bread at the grocery store.  I guess I'll  be keeping to a very minimal diet...I already feel myself shrinking, my shorts are literally sagging, and it's only been 2 weeks!

By the way, the most reasonably priced grocery store in town is still a 15 to 20-minute trek from my flat.  And the hills!  Oh my goodness, there are so many hills.  I will never allow myself to carry one item over ten pounds from the store back to my apartment.  I think my body is getting used to all the strain from walking and carrying bags around town.  I haven't been waking up sore.  Gosh, I hope I don't have projects at school that I'll need to carry back.  I suspect I won't be building any models.

Studio is only one day a week for 50 minutes, so I'm hoping that's a sure sign that studio here will not be as strenuous as studio back home.  Classes start this coming Monday.  I have checked my course schedule online, and they are called "papers" here.  Later on in the week I will have to sign up for tutorials...those will apparently be a mad dash to sign up for so I'll have to battle my way through the lines to get the times I want.

This is mainly for my parents, but for anyone else who cares to know, this is my papers schedule:

Monday:: Landscape Architecture Studio 8:30a-9:20a; Peopling of Polynesia 3:10p-4p
Tuesday:: Colour, Pattern, Light 8:30a-9:20a; Sustainable and Regenerative Design 11:30a-12:20p
Wednesday:: Peopling of Polynesia 3:10-4p
Thursday:: Peopling of Polynesia 3:10-4p
Friday:: Sustainable and Regenerative Design 11:30a-12:20p

This week has been orientation week for Victoria University.  So far I have attended the mandatory orientation and enrollment day, a block dinner, and a pub quiz for Everton Hall.  Victoria also has a group for all international students called Victoria International Leadership Programme (VILP). There are some seminars to attend and socials to meet new people.  It seems interesting, so I may join this semester.

The socializing has been quite fun, but now I am afraid I have come down with a little cold.  Perhaps it is the weather change or time change or I could have caught this from someone else.  In any case, my voice has been lost since Tuesday and my nose is a bit stuffy.  I bought some tea and honey and throat lozenges yesterday.  Additionally, I have been taking some tylenol and trying to get some rest.  I am hoping to feel good as new by the time my classes start...wouldn't want to take sick day my first week.

Still getting used to the city, the whole navigation thing...I haven't gotten lost yet.  My favorite streets so far are Cuba Street and Lambton Quay.  There are lots of little shops and cafes and restaurants, the most life in the city.  I'm pretty sure I can find my way to the School of Architecture and Design and back home just fine.  My roommates told me the safest route back home, well-lit and usually traversed by many walkers at all times of the day.  I think that'll be one of the most important things I could learn about the city at this point.  I know back home I would stay in studio until late hours of the night, but here I will need to be extra conscious about walking home in the daylight or with someone else at night.

Today was the first day this week it has rained.  I've been thankful for the isn't as warm here as I thought it would be, but the water is beautiful.  I hear the wind in Wellington is the worst!  According to my flatmates, umbrellas are kind of a bad idea in the rain...good thing I brought two with me!  I mean, I suppose I could try them out just in case, they are pretty sturdy umbrellas.  If they do happen to turn inside out, I have my warm fur-lined raincoat.  I am not looking forward to walking to class in the wind and rain in the coming months.  Some people say they've been blown off the sidewalk, that's how bad the wind is here.  Joy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

From the flight into Wellington.
I will be spending the first night in my Victoria University flat tonight - Everton Hall.  The Americans I met during the AustraLearn orientation are staying at Wai-te-ata, Stafford, and Te Kotahinga.  I write at the end of my adventures in Rotorua, but at the beginning of my journey in Wellington.

I cannot sum up my first week in New Zealand in one or two sentences. It is, as I had expected, a beautiful green country with rolling hills and blue water. During AustraLearn's ( Bridging Cultures Program (which is, for those of you who do not know, the organization I went through to organize my study abroad experience) I was able to participate in a number of activities. These included:

 Tuesday - Arrival in Auckland, a walk up to Mt. Eden, dinner (gluten-free smoked salmon pizza) Wednesday - 3 hour drive to Rotorua, check into hostel, learned the Haka (a Maori traditional war dance), drive to the Blue Lake and walk, dinner provided by hostel
Thursday - Whitewater rafting along the Rangitaiki River, half hour at a Polynesian spa, and traditional Hangi dinner (the Maori cook the food underground!)
Friday - Waitomo Caving adventure, propelling and zip lining through St. Benedict's
Saturday - Community Day (cut back overgrown paths for the Kokako Park), walk to the Hot Springs Sunday - flight to Wellington, which brings me to now.

 To be quite honest, last week is most likely going to be the most exciting week I will have in New least in that amount of time. I don't think I'm going to have the energy to do that many strenuous activities in one week ever again. Every day after Tuesday I woke up to sore limbs...and the first day I was already sore from carrying two huge luggages and two carry ons through the airport and to my hotel room! I know how pathetic that sounds, trust me.

Okay, so you must be thinking, "Why is she just now writing her first post after being in New Zealand for a week??" Believe it or not some countries around the world, New Zealand in particular put a cap on people's Internet usage and/or make you pay a hefty fee to use Internet in 15-minute intervals! This is definitely something I'm going to just have to get used to while I'm here...unlimited access plans are are definitely limited to come by.

Oh! So I know you all have been waiting for me to reveal this information. Here is my address for the next five months:

Samantha Jarquio
12 Everton Terrace, Flat 2, Kelburn Campus
Wellington, New Zealand 6012

If the shipping rate isn't too terribly outrageous, feel free to send me some goodies. But speaking of "goodies," New Zealand has a TON of gluten-free food here and even at restaurants. I've already had gluten-free pizza twice and a burger with a gluten-free bun since I've arrived. So many cafes here have gf cakes and pastries, and the hostel I stayed at in Rotorua offered me gf bread every morning for breakfast. And the best part about the gf stuff here is that it doesn't cost that much more than regular food items! Almost everything's organic here, and the other day I saw avocados at $0.40 each (NZ$ of course). According to many of the Kiwis, Wellington has a big cafe scene...guess I know where I'm going to be spending most of my time if I'm not on campus in studio :)

I've learned a lot this past week, and not just that I miss my family and friends back home in the States. The New Zealand culture is very diverse but also deeply rooted in Maori traditions (hence, why I will probably have an extremely difficult time remembering street and city names). The Kiwis take care of their land and make sure other people respect it as well. The slightest bit of mud on the bottom of used hiking boots you bring in your checked luggage is removed with a pair of tweezers and put in its own biohazard ziploc at the airport before you enter the country. I think I'm going to like it here.

Sincerely yours, all the way from Aotearoa (Maori word for New Zealand),

Thursday, February 9, 2012

And so the final countdown to departure begins.  It is still ten days until I get on the plane for New Zealand, but I already started packing about four days ago.  But if you count the day after Christmas when I set all my new luggage out to examine their sizes and how much I could possibly fit in them, I guess it's been more like a month and a half since I started organizing all my travel gear.  For all inquiring minds, I depart from Kansas City the 19th of February, off to Dallas, then Los Angeles, then 18 hours to Auckland to stay a week for orientation.  My final destination will be Wellington, which of course as you all may have guessed, will be my home for the duration of five months.

I should probably make myself a to-do list before I leave, as in an "adventure list."  I bought this travel guide for New Zealand a while back and I haven't even read it.  I mean, if skimming counts as reading then yes I have read the guide, but I really should have taken some notes.  Just yesterday I looked up my apartment location relative to campus.  Yesterday!  I feel like there are some study abroad students who have probably printed off a map and drawn red lines on it to mark all the best restaurants, shopping, etc.  I figured I'll get lost and make wrong turns a bajillion times the first couple weeks, as many of you have probably figured as well, I am a horrific navigator.  The only way I'm going to remember how to get from place to place is walking/riding there myself.

Ok.  First post almost complete!  Here is the beginning of my list of things to not forget to do before I leave:

1. Find more gluten-free food to pack (must be able to fit in my luggage).
2. Don't forget to pack underwear!
3. Make my parents an itinerary (they will freak out if they don't know where I am).
4. Make Ben an itinerary/class schedule (he will freak out if he doesn't hear from me).
5. Say farewell, etc., etc.

Adventure list to be continued...

Luckily, AustraLearn has an online to-do list for everyone, with very specific deadlines for each item.  They have taken care of sending out my student visa application (which according to NZ laws restricts international students from working anywhere, on or off campus), booking a travel agent for my flight itinerary to and from NZ (through STA Travel),  setting me up with accommodation (they take top 5 preferences, a survey of your personality, and tell you how much each place will cost), and helping me pick classes to enroll.