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 (http://www.australearn.org/) 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 Zealand...at 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:
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),