I Should Really Be Studying...

Monday, 18 June 2012 13:11 by ams016

Well hello.

It's me again. You may not remember, as it's been forever since I posted. Which is my fault....just been too busy enjoying every second of my life here in New Zealand. :) (which is the nice way of saying I have been too lazy to write)

So anyhow, now that I have something that I should actually be doing instead of writing, I have decided to post. Not sure how long I'll go for, but let's give it a shot. :) I REALLY have no motivation to get any work done in the near future.

Since I last posted, so much has happened, though my travels slowed down for a bit until recently. I spent a weekend not long after we returned from the South Island out in Opotiki, in the Bay of Plenty area, at my friend Maria's house. Kelsey Pelton and Hana Wellington went along with us, making it a half Kiwi, half American trip out east :) Maria lives in a small town, on a kiwifruit orchard right across from the ocean. So yeah.... that pretty much means she lives in one of the coolest places on earth! To have hills, farm land, grass, trees, and the country just across the road from a lovely, quiet, and private beach? That sounds like a dream! Lucky for us, it was real :) The four of us watched the rugby, ate a picnic lunch, wandered about the town, had a bonfire on the beach (with as close to American s'mores as we could get), played many, many rounds of "Never Have I Ever" and generally had a blast on the sand under the stars :) Also, Maria's mum cooked us some great as food during the week. It was certainly one of my favourite weekends!

Also, in the time since the South Island, I've atteneded another Chiefs rugby game (who are still top of the table!! Go Chiefs!), gotten very involved with the Hamilton Women's Volleyall Club and played in two tournaments, one here in Hamilton, and another in Rotorua, taken a trip up to Auckland and visited a friend from home who is studying there, made and strengthened heaps of friendships with the amazing people from the church here on campus, and of course, visited Hobbiton (and GEEKED OUT quite a bit, I might add!).

Hahaha okay... so when I list it all like that, it does seem like I did quite a bit :) Let me expand...

Rugby: Now that I have lived in New Zealand for four months, I must admit that I have become quite fond of this game. I will miss cheering the Chiefs on and screaming with the crowd as they fly around the field working hard for a try!

Volleyball: Man, am I gonna miss these girls! One of the women who plays on the team was the one who took me to my second rugby game. She got a free ticket through work or a friend or something, and invited me along. :) They are so kind, and very willing to let me play with them, even though I am only here for a short time. And, they are quite talented as well. It has been a privlige to get to keep traning here, and to spend time with them all. I wish them all the BEST for the New Zealand national tournament they have in a month or so. :)

Auckland: Definietly not my favourite city, but it's nice. Bigger than Hamilton by far, (which isn't hard at all, mind you) and it's by the waterfront, which is nice too. Good to get into a bustling city for a bit, but certainly not where I'd like to live. Much more comfortable here in Hamilton :) However, I spent the day walking about the city and catching up with my best friend from home's cousin Amanda, who I've known since I was little. It was actually great to have that taste of home here in another country :) And it was also quite interesting to see how our experiences were much the same, but also very different, as we have studied in very different cities.

Hobbiton: Wow....words. There are just none. Haha, this was certainly a HIGHLIGHT of my trip here!!! It was something I said I wanted to do ever since I found out I'd be headed here to NZ. And it lived up to every expectation! It was a bit surprising, because I don't think I quite expected the set to feel so fake and real at the same time....hard to explain, but it was weird feeling like I was on a set for a play or something, cause you could see the fake props, see how it wasn't real.......but at the same time, the plants in the garden were real. The hobbit holes just looked EXACTLY like they do in the movie, especiallly from far away. And the whole little town just felt so magical. I didn't ever want to leave, and I surely want to visit sometime again. Such a lovely place. Oh, and seeing pieces of set that will appear in the new Hobbit movie coming out in the fall - yeah. Haha, THAT was sweet as too! Definetly WELL worth the money, and something I will remember forever :)

....And as for friends? Golly. I have SO many here now, that I reckon I could live off their hospitality and house-hop for about two months or more when I return for a visit :) Tears are already threatening to fall when we talk about the fact that I only have about 10 or so more days until I say so long to New Zealand for now. And that just seems like too soon :( So, for now, I am holding on to each and every moment with all I have, and cherishing all times I have with these friends until my feet leave the ground.

For example, today I was meant to be studying for finals.... Haha, but, if you know me at all, you know it didn't last long ;) Especially when you know that I was studying with my great friend Patrice, who I actually only met about a month and a half or so ago. However, I feel I have known her for ages, and I know we will be friends for a long time. Our study turned into eating lollies, watching youtube videos, and drinking heaps of Just Juice. (for Americans, that's pretty much the best juice you can get over here. So yum)

And now, my procrastination that started this morning and has continued through this afternoon and into this evening (meaning the fact that I'm writing all of this right now when I'm meant to be studying), will continue into this evening as Patrice is coming to pick me up in just a moment to head to a friend's flat for a movie night. Then, of course, I'm headed to her flat for a sleepover. Naturally. ;)

Oh, and really cool thing: this afternoon I FaceTimed on my iPod with two of my best friends from home, and they were chatting with me and Patrice for a good half hour or more. I love how technology can shorten the thousands of miles separating good friends, and bring them together. :) Seriously miss my friends at home, but to get them back, I'll have to exchange it for then seriously missing the AMAZING kiwis here.

....ahh!! Patrice just texted me :) gotta go friends! Hope all is well. Not long now till I return to the US of A.

Stay tuned for my update of my trip to Oz this past week! (Australia, for those who don't know the nickname).

Bye!



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My Apologies!!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 03:30 by ams016

Oh my.. I am SO sorry that it has been so long since I have blogged here last! Life has been flying by so quickly here, and I've hardly had a free moment to update. I shall attempt to recount all that I've done this past month in the next couple of entries and hopefully bring us back up to date!

 

To finish off the South Island trip blogs:

After visiting Christchurch, Kelly, Jackie, and I traveled west towards Fox Glacier. We stayed overnight at Arthur's Pass, in the midst of a mountain range. It was so beautiful waking up to mist and clouds hanging low over the mountains that surrounded us. :) The South Island is a truly gorgeous place.

Once we reached Fox Glacier, we parked and walked along the trail to the glacier. There were huge cliffs along the way that reminded me much of the "Cliffs of Insanity" from The Princess Bride. Had many movie quotes running through my head at that moment. ;) Then we finally reached the glacier. Having never seen one before, and not even knowing what a glacier really was, I was in for a surprise. It was essentially a huge frozen "river" of ice in the mountains, settled between two peaks. I learned that a glacier acually recedes and procedes up and down the mountain based on the weather from five years before! It takes that long to affect the glacier. Having expected somehthing more like an ice burg (no idea why that was in my head...I have the strangest expectations sometimes!), seeing this giant cylinder of ice was amazing. It was bigger than I was expecting, but we were gutted that we couldn't get closer. We didn't pay for a tour that would take us on the glacier, so we were stuck at the barrier about 100-200 yards from it. However, as we were standing there, a couple jumped the barrier, walked down the rocks, and climbed up to a mound of dirt and stones about 50 or so yards from the glacier. Kelly, Jackie, and I looked at each other, grinned, and hopped the barrier too, completely disregarding the signs that were posted about tourists who had been killed by getting too close. We were safe, we were mindful of how close we were (well out of the way of the falling ice, don't worry!!) and yet we had a much better experience than if we hadn't gotten closer. I'd do it again in a heartbeat :) ....the only downside were the parents with young children who glared at us for being bad influences :P

Once we left there, we traveled south to Wanaka, another lovely little town. I just love how so many places in the South Island are surrounded by amazing mountains and hills and lakes. The night before we arrived in Wanaka, we stayed at a campsite and slept in our car once again. That night, by the lake, I'd never seen so many stars in my life. The sky was filled with them, and I think I stared at the sky for ages before I finally was able to force my eyes closed and fall asleep :)

Once in Wanaka, we explored the town a bit and settled into our hostel at The Base (an awesome, student-oriented backpackers hostel). While exploring the town, I managed to purchase a "Captain America" poster for my room for only $1. Probably the happiest (and nerdiest) purchase I made that week. :) That day we also went on a walk up mountain in the town, and got to look out over the town, the lake and everything. That has to be one of my favorite things about New Zealand: almost anywhere there is a bush walk you can go on, up a mountain or hill and look out over everything. So beautiful :) The next day we noticed there was a Gypsy fair in town, so we wandered about that for a bit as well. Obviously, we avoided the dodgy as stalls that offered piercings and tattoos, but other than that it was really neat. Reminded me a lot of the Renaissance Faire back home.

Then we traveled from Wakaka to Arrowtown, which was one of my most favorite places. :) Arrowtown is a small mining town that housed a lot of Chinese immigrants years ago during the New Zealand gold rush (which happened just around the same time as the US gold rush), and many of the buildings and houses have been preserved or rebuilt for tourists to walk through. Since it's Autumn here, the trees were all changing color and falling and the colors made this small town simply amazing to look at. There were small shops lining the main street, bush walks through the woods, and a cute open picnic area where we ate our lunch. Honestly, it reminded me of Pennsylvania so much. This little town could have fit right in back home (aside from the huge, NZ mountains that is) and the history of it all reminded me of all the field trips I would take as a young homeschooler. Could definitely have seen my mom taking us there had I been born and raised in New Zealand and not in the US.

On our way out of Arrowtown, we also luckily saw something really, really neat. There was a beautiful asian woman taking her wedding photos amoung all the reds, greens, yellows, and browns of Arrowtown's trees and woods. Her white dress standing out from all of that was simply amazing. She kept smiling shyly at us cause we kept staring. I couldn't imagine a better place to have wedding photos taken :)

Then finally we were off, back to Queenstown. Ah, I love that place. Can't wait to visit it again sometime in my life :) We took a long walk around the lake, stopping to sit on some large boulders along the shore. Thankfully, it wasn't a disaster that arvo, because my camera fell out of my pocket while we were sitting on the rock, and slid down right to the edge, a foot from falling off into the water. Would have been SO gutted if I'd lost it! God was good and kept it from falling in, and I was extremely relieved, and then laughed for quite awhile about it with Kelly and Jackie, amazed I hadn't lost it. Later, we partook of the famous Fergburgers (definitely a must have!) and had four wonderful Cookie Time cookies while we were there :) Two as dessert one night, and two for dinner with ice cream the next. It was a lovly way to end our South Island experience :)

It was very sad to enter that plane and fly off back to Auckland. However, we were all exhausted by this point, and ready to get back to the halls and have our food made for us and a warm bed to sleep in every night :) But after being on our own for a week, roadtripping the South Island, in a country we'd never been to before a few months ago, I feel so strange staying in one place. I know going home will not be the same after all of this. So much more I want to see and do here that I know I won't be able to in the short amount of time left. But this fact makes me happy rather than sad: it means I need to come back. :)

 

So, there's the first post in awhile!! I'll have more up later today, and hopefully get all caught up here soon! Thanks for hanging in there with me :)

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Friday, April 13th, 2012

Friday, 13 April 2012 04:19 by ams016

We have made it to Christchurch now! :)

Yesterday we were in Dunedin, having driven there from Queenstown. Let me tell you friends, the sights were GORGEOUS along the way! New Zealand is SO beautiful down here on the South Island, and I loved driving through the mountains, along the rolling hills and rocky valleys. Ah, I could live down here :) Also, we found all the sheep! Haha they have been hiding down here the whole time ;)

Anyhow, our drive was lovely. Four hours or so behind the wheel is fantastic. I drove for the first two hours or so, and honestly, I'm going to be so confused when I get back to the states: it's starting to feel natural driving on the left side of the road! But it was an easy drive. The main highways are literally just like backroads at home. Lovely :)

Then Kelly drove for the last two hours or so, while Jackie and I continued to oohh and ahhh and take photos. We arrived in Dunedin around 8ish on the 11th, and spent the night in our cute little car. It was quite the adventure, however it had to be the COLDEST night I've ever experienced :P But not altogether uncomfortable :)

Yesterday, we did the Cadbury World tour (more expensive than Chocolate World, but you get HEAPS more free chocolate!) and that was great, except we had to do the shortened tour because the factory was closed in parts for the holiday.  But it was still really neat, cause you actually get to walk around through the factory with a tour guide (or you usually do, when the factory isn't closed) and that's a lot cooler than jumping on a ride and listening to singing cows :P

After that, we lunched in Dunedin, walked around to some shops, and then hit the road again. The drive was once again gorgeous, but this time we got to drive along the coast by the ocean nearly the whole time :) We even stopped and stood on the beach for awhile, which was fantastic. Haven't been to the beach in ages. Kelly and I split the driving again, and this time we drove through more open country with mountains in the distance.

We arrived in Christchurch in the evening agian, looking to stay in a hostel. We did not want to have to sleep in the car again :P After striking out at the first place we checked out, we called a second hostel and could book a double room for fairly cheap, and they were willing to put a third mattress in the room for us, but only if we could get there in 15 min! Needless to say, we got quite lost, what with Christchurch being confusing to navigate to begin with, and then with all the construction and closed roads from the earthquake. So we called the receptionist back and she very kindly talked us through directions to the hostel, and we safely made it to our warm beds last night :)

And now today we're wandering around this beautiful, but sad city. I can't believe the earthquake was over a year ago now! There's still so much damage, and many aftershocks happening. Still haven't felt one ourselves, but maybe before we go ;)

And anyhow, we've now been in the library here in Christchurch for awhile now, and we're ready to head off again! We've been chatting about directions and places to stay and places to get cheap petrol with a nice New Zealand man sitting right next to me, so I think we're finally sussed and ready to go! :)

Thanks again for reading, and I'll update again when I can! And of course, I'll add pictures when I can too :)

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April 11th, 2012

Friday, 13 April 2012 03:55 by ams016

Well, we made it to the South Island! ....and it's FREEZING! :P

Haha, okay, it's not that bad, but after feeling like summer up in Hamilton, Queenstown is certainly a chilly change.

Anyhow, today is our second day of our trip to the South Island for fall break. Yesterday we traveled at a terribly early hour (3am) to the Auckland airport. Jackie, Kelly, Josephine (who was hitching a ride with us to visit family) and I were given a ride to the airport thanks to our good friend Chris who generously offered to drive us that early in the morning :P Upon arriving in Auckland, we found that our flight had been delayed an hour and a half, which apparently isn't surprising for JetStar, the airline we used. But, this gave me an hour and a half to sleep in the airport, which was fabulous :)

The flight was great, very quick, and we landed in the cutest little airport! Queenstown is litterally a small village in the middle of mountains. It is gorgeous :D We then went to travel around the town a bit, then while Jackie and Kelly went skydiving, I toured the town on my own, which was fantastic :) Then we met back up, ate dinner (some amazing leftover Subway) and then checked into our hostel, and toured the town again at night.

Since we were exhausted, we crashed early, and then woke up to eat a nice continental breakfast, pack up our stuff, and take it back to our rental car. (Speaking of the rental, it's the cutest little vehicle ever, and the girls are actually letting me drive! Haha I LOVE it :D Can't wait to hit the open road this afternoon!) Today Kelly went bungy jumping while Jackie and I spent the afternoon in town again. (Kelly is alive, by the way ;) and apparently she had a blast!) In a few hours, we're gonna hit the road again and head to Dunedin, where we'll spend the night and then hit up the Cadbury chocolate factory in the morning! Going to be another great day :)

Already, the South Island is amazing! Pictures are being uploaded to facebook as I write this, and there are more to come! :) I'll update again when I can!

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Balloons, April 1st, Easter, Planning, and a Birthday :)

Sunday, 8 April 2012 19:14 by ams016

Kia Ora again!

Whew, this week has flown by and I totally forgot to update again! Unfortunately, with the holidays finally here it meant getting a LOT of homework finished while trying to plan our South Island trip and get class selections for next semester sorted out all at once. Talk about stressful!

Anyhow, I'm in the middle of finished homework in the middle of the night, but I just can't focus and thought updating this would be better use of my time :)  So, last weekend....

Last Saturday was the Balloons over Waikato festival, and that was great. It was pretty much a huge town fair, with thousands of people in attendance, a band playing American oldies (complete with dancers in poodle skirts), chips, ice cream, amusement park rides, and, of course, hot air balloons! When it finally got dark enough, the band stopped playing and a soundtrack replaced them. Huge stacks of fire blew into the air around the balloons at the same time as the balloons were being inflated, and then allowed to glow by the light of the fire inside them. With the music playing, the balloons glowing, and the fireworks display right afterwards, it was easily one of the prettiest evenings I've had here in Hamilton so far. Plus, I got free chips afterwards while hanging with the RA's outside College Hall, and that, along with the continuation of our Star Wars movie marathon, just made the evening even better :)

Then during the week it was work, work, work. I am the copyeditor for the Valley Humanites Review at LVC, and finishing up the editing of those papers, along with needing to write three of my own for different classes, all while trying to do everything else I wanted (movie nights, volleyball practice, getting my ears pierced again, and various other exciting outings) proved to be fairly tricky. Needless to say, I can't WAIT for my history paper to be finished, so then I can finally breathe again!

April Fool's day was also this week, but I found it quite anticlimactic here. In New Zealand, April Fool's only lasts until noon anyway, and nobody really pranks each other. Coming from a family of corny, crazy, pranksters, it was strange to not have to worry about anything jumping out at you or falling for any jokes or tall tales my friends might tell me. But overall, it was still a good day, even if I didn't get to prank anyone :)

And other than that, this week has been pretty mellow. Volleyball practice here is going great still, and I enjoy playing with the team a lot. The girls are quite good, and of course, they are all very nice. Keeps me in good shape for the season back home!

Finally I guess, today is my birthday. First birthday I've ever had out of the States, and it's my 21st. :) My friends here in NZ are actually fantastic, and they are throwing me a birthday party. Didn't expect one here one bit, and what with us leaving for the South Island early Tuesday morning, I was surprised anyone thought of throwing me one at all! But I'm looking forward to it quite a lot :) A REAL homecooked breakfast, movies, ultimate frisbee, and who knows what other kinds of fun await me and my friends tomorrow. Can't wait :) (...now if only my homework would finish itself!) :P

And yes, I did mention that we are leaving for Queenstown on Tuesday! We'll drive up to Auckland at 4:30am on Tuesday, arriving there by 6. Flight at  7 or 8ish, and we'll arrive down south by 10am :) (times are very tentative as I don't remember off the top of my head, but it's something like that!!) Then we'll travel to Dunedin, Christchurch, the Fox Glacier, and hit up the Cadbury Chocolate Factory somewhere in there too :) Going to be 8 days of amazing fun :) ....but yeah, haha, of course I still need to pack. I'm not worried though. It'll get done ;)

So yeah, that's about what's going on with me! I'll try and update as often as I can while we're away, even just to say where we are and how much we're loving it :) And again, pictures to be posted on Facebook soon, with hundreds more coming after this trip, I'm sure :) Have a GREAT Easter everyone! Mine here was wonderful. First time having it out of the country, and first time experiencing Easter in the Fall. Very strange, but good at the same time :) So, have a great rest of the weekend and of break, and we'll chat again when I'm back from our second big adventure abroad!

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Black Water and Glowing Worms

Tuesday, 3 April 2012 15:04 by ams016

Hey everyone!

 

Sorry once again for my delayed post: life has become quite busy with assignments and such becoming due. Finally starting to feel like I'm actually here for school and not for vacation. :P

So anyhow, here's what I've been up to over the past month...

Last weekend the eight of us (Kelly, Jackie, Lacy, Kelsey, Oliva, Kara, Morgan, and I) all went blackwater rafting at the Waitomo Caves. It was a fantastic afternoon! We left at around 10am with the most fantastic bus driver ever :) His name was Murry, and he's probably one of the coolest people I've met here so far. (Though pretty much every New Zealander is pretty cool, so he's one of very many) :) Murry chatted with us the whole way and even stopped at a small tourist area since we had extra time and gave us a bit of history on Kiwi culture over the years as we walked along and saw all the displays. (Pictures are on Facebook for anyone who wants to see...I unfortunately don't have free wifi at the moment or I'd totally upload a few to here) :(

Anyways, we finished there and headed for the caves. After we filled out the paperwork saying we understood the risks of going caving, we were sussed. A half hour or so passed until our tour guide was ready, and then we were off to get our wet suits!

AK, our tour guide with the sweetest name ever on her boots, AK-47, took us down to where the suits were and the first thing she told us was "Do NOT pee in your wet suit. It will stay there and stink and NOT be cool for anyone!" Haha, so after that awkward moment, she set us off to find the right size socks for our feet and then set us up with the rest of our suits. It was just a bit gross to be putting on a suit that quite likely someone had worn just a few hours before, but we got over it. But getting the wet suits on was quite another story. Haha I think we spent about 15 minutes in the bathroom yanking and tugging on these things, trying to get them to fit nicely. It was more than comical :)

So once we had that all figured out, we hopped on the bus and drove out to where the caves were. We first were instructed to grab inner tubes that were just the right size for us, and after much laughter, joking, and picture taking, we practiced jumping backwards off a small ledge into the water so our tour guides could make sure we knew what we were doing once we made it into the caves.

After our little practice, we walked down a long path through the woods to where a small stream flowed into the ground. At first I thought we were going to keep walking, until I realized everyone had stopped and were waiting for the small group of people that were climbing out of the ground to move along up the trail! And once we saw them climbing out of the ground, we realized that that was our entrance into the caves. :)

Seriously, one of the coolest moments in my life happened just a few minutes later: I rolled my inner tube down into the crevace and then climbed down myself into a cave full of stalactites, stalagmites, boulders and water. It was amazing as :) Literally gasped when I walked in and sat down with the rest of my group.

Again, we took many pictures and then prepared to venture through the caves. Jackie, Kelsey and I volunteered to go first right off the bat, and eagerly grabbed our tubes and practically ran to the opening of the tunnel leading through the caves. About 5 minutes in, the tour guides stopped us and had us sit around the wall of the tunnel and turn out the lights on our helmets. Looking up, we saw specks of green glowing all across the top of the cave: these were the thousands of glow worms, little maggots that give off light as they grow. Gross, I know, but it was super cool! Later as we floated down a small river undergroud, we all leaned back and just stared at the glowing ceilings. It looked like a starry night sky hidden deep in the earth. :)

Throughout our trip we jumped off of two small waterfalls, watched our tour guide fall into a massive hole (which he knew was there, he just tried to freak us out a bit.... And it worked), and ate chocolate fish :) All with tons of pictures, laughter, freezing water, and of course, singing at the top of our lungs. What else is there to do in a long dark tunnel with no one around to hear you except glowing maggots and a handful of your closest friends? :)

Afterwards, we were treated to some toasted bagels and hot tomato soup to warm us up. And once we returned to the bus we found that Murry had gone to the grocery store while we were under the ground and had purchased snacks and drinks for us all. Let's just say we had quite the party on the way home. ;) Best ending to a fantastic morning!

 

And that was about it for last weekend. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and then Sunday was church and more stuyding. Classes have started to really take their toll and working on assignments is actually becoming a necessity :P However, I've found I'm just as good at procrastinating in New Zealand as I am in the States! Some things just won't ever change, I guess :)

Well, this weekend there was a hot air balloon festival at Uni, called "Balloons over Waikato," but I don't have enough time to write about that here. Hopefully tomorrow or by the weekend I'll post again telling all about the lovely evening it was. Reminded me so much of my town fair back home, just about 4 times bigger. Also, in that post I'll certainly mention April Fool's day. It's quite a different tradition over here than back at home.

And then of COURSE I'll prepare you all for our South Island trip coming up in one week! We (Kelly, Jackie, and I) have already booked our tickets to fly to Queenstown, we've booked our hostel, looked at prices for skydiving, and tentatively planned out our time there! It's gonna be amazing as, and I can't wait! But first I have my 21st birthday here in New Zealand, and that promises to be a great day as well. So much to look forward to in this coming week. Just gotta finish two papers and I'm sussed for awhile :)

So again, sorry that's all I have for you right now! But I do have to go: I have lectures tomorrow friends! I hope to write again very, very soon. Thanks again for reading, and I miss you all! :) Take care!

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Mt. Doom and Narnia all in one Epic Weekend

Wednesday, 21 March 2012 01:29 by ams016

Sorry to keep you all waiting for the update about this weekend, but it has been a crazy couple of days after an amazing weekend! :) And just because of how amazing this weekend was, I'll be uploading some photos on here to show just how epic it was. However, to save my internet, I'll be uploading the hundred or so other pictures I took to Facebook when I head into town and get free wi-fi, so check them out there soon!

The Departure:

We were scheduled to leave on Friday morning early, 9:00am, to catch our bus. There were eight of us going: Kelly, Jackie, Olivia, Morgan, Kelsey, Lacy, Kara, and I. The Fellowship of College Hall. We had prepared the night before, packing all of our stuff, making our food, packing our water and other beverages, and attempting to get sleep. (Which of course didn't happen for me, but then again, I don't ever go to bed early anyhow) When we woke, we all met at breakfast early, made extra sandwiches to take along, gathered ourselves and our strength, and headed off to the bus stop early, waiting patiently for 10 minutes for our bus to arrive.....

...Yeah, right. I wish this was how the story started! :) However, the real beginning is a lot more exciting ;) In reality, we tried to get as prepared the night before as we could, but people were still pulling things together in the morning. And we did make sandwiches that morning for the next day; signing up for cut lunches so we can take them along for an extra meal was Kelly's fantastic idea :) However, we were NOT all ready ten minutes before we had to leave, and our little Fellowship was all out of sorts. Eventually, about 7 minutes before the bus was to come, Kelly, Jackie, and I began to walk to the bus stop by ourselves in order to hold it for the others until we all arrived. However, we thought the bus left at 9:05am, but it was actually due to arrive at 9:00. Big oversight on our part. So, instead of making it to the bus and holding it for the others, we actually saw our bus drive to the stop while we were still about 50 yards away and then watched it pull out and drive away.

Without us.

The the rest of the girls arrived about two minutes after that, and we all began freaking out a bit, wondering whether that was our bus for sure or if another was coming. It was technically a minute or two early, and it didn't really wait longer than 15 seconds at the stop, which was annoying and we felt quite ripped off. But after a few minutes of deliberaton, Kelsey quited us and said, "Well, that was our bus. We can keep talking about it or we can figure out what to do now." And figure something out we did. We literally sprinted to the bus stop at the Uni and took a bus into Hamilton city where our connecting bus was to be picked up. But of course, the bus driver was on the phone and didn't leave for about 5 minutes after we had boarded, and we only had 25 minutes to make it into town and catch our connection. There was so much nervous chatter on that bus as we started at the clock and called two of our friends to find out the number for the Naked Bus, the bus company that was to take us to Tongariro. We did NOT want to miss out on this weekend!

Eventually, we made it into the city with a few minutes to spare. Someone called out, "There's our bus!" before we realized there were actually four Naked Buses lined up along the road. As soon as the bus parked, we were off and sprinting. We inquired at the first bus, but that wasn't us. Nervously, we walked up to the second, and Morgan showed the driver our ticket, asking if this was our bus.  The cheery man smiled and said that it was indeed! He welcomed us abord, took our bags, and said we should take our seats. As I climbed into that bus, I have never felt more happy, excited, and relived in my life. And I wouldn't have changed that morning for anything! It was such an adrenalin rush booking it to our connecting bus and made the whole trip that much more worth it. Plus we were very proud of our quick thinking ;)

The rest of the trip went by pretty calmly in comparison. We had four more connecting buses to catch then and an hour layover in Rotorua and other towns along the way. But, it was my first real trip through the New Zealand countryside, and that was gorgeous. So many rolling hills and I was continually imagining hobbit holes built into every one :)

 

The Arrival:

After the long trip, we finally arrived at our hostel. It was fantastic because we got two bedrooms to ourselves with three beds in each, (two single, one double), our own bathrooms and a little kitchen sink. Bedding was provided, and so was complimentary hot tea, coffee, and hot chocolate :) And on the way to our rooms, we came accross the most EPIC thing I had ever seen in my life (because I hadn't gotten close to Mt. Doom yet). Bolted to the wall was the backup staff of Gandalf the Grey for the LotR films! I had a serious geek moment while looking and, yes, touching this staff :)



What a beautious thing :)


The Journey:

Early the next morning, we all awoke excited and jittery. We were about to embark on the most wonderful hike of our lives. Needless to say, we all got up and ate breakfast (mine a healthy mix of chocolate-flavored breakfast drink and strawberry frosted Pop-tarts. Breakfast of champions right there) and none of us missed this bus. We were ten minutes early, and by the time we were rattling down the road in the van with about seven other hikers, we couldn't wait to get started. Believe me when I say that I STARED at Mt. Doom the entire ride there. The mountain (or volcano, I guess) is so gorgeous in a very sinister and evil way. One look at it and you'll never doubt why Peter Jackson used it.

After being dropped off and taking the usual touristy pictures, we started off around 7:30am. The trek was to take us most of the day, and we were eager to begin. At first it was cake. Just like a normal hike (or tramp, as they say here in NZ), only a LOT more beautiful. We probably took about 30 photos just in the first 45 minutes :) But as the going started to get more difficult with more of an uphill climb, our little fellowship began to get split up. Some could move faster than others up the rocks, and with Kelly's knee being sore (she jammed it during our first week here), she needed to just keep going at her own pace and not stop for fear it would stiffen up. But Olivia, my dear friend, had a much slower and more casual pace, and so I decided to stay with her and we ventured the crossing together. Again, pictures will not be able to adequately show how simply AMAZING and breathtaking this tramp was, but I'll share a few to try and help you see :) For most of the afternoon, it was Oliva and I, working hard to make it up to the top of the crossing (being passed by 75 year old women trampers who were much more fit than us), and while we were tramping we pretended (of course) that we were Samwise and Frodo, helping and encouraging one another to the top and the end of our journey :) I'm sure you guessed, but the LotR quotes were flying :)

Finally, Olivia and I made it to the top! We were so proud of ourselves and I'm especially proud of her. Best tramping partner ever :)



 

 

And then of course, there was seeing Mt. Doom in person. This changed my life :) If you like tramping and ever have the chance to go to New Zealand, do the Tongariro Crossing! You will NOT be disappointed :)


 

The Denumont:

While this day was fantastic, and the tramp up was fantastic, the way down was just as beautiful. Sliding down a mountain of ash and sand, past glittering blue pools of water, small lakes, winding through a wooded mountainside and finally down a wooded trail to the bottom the mountains and the crossing. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. However, by this time, my knee was killing me and I was so exhausted and tired that all I wanted was to be done and lying on the grass waiting for our bus back to the hostel. And soon enough we were there, ending our long day around 3:45pm. But every minute was well worth it :)

That night in our hostel we crashed, eating as much as we could and watching American Idol before falling asleep by 9:30pm. We slept in the next morning, packed up our bags, and hung out in the game room until the bus came to collect us. And to make what was an amazing game room to begin with even better, there was a plain as wardrobe in the room, smallish and undecorated. But once you opened the door, you were greated by Aslan's face welcoming you into Narnia and the hidden DVD room, complete with surround sound and a huge projector screen, that was behind the wardrobe. So natrually, Kelly, Jackie, Olivia, and I sprawled out in the room and watched the Dark Knight. An epic end to a completely epic weekend :)

The ride home was then uneventful. We made every bus and slept most of the way.  It was lovely and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

 

...So there you have it friends! Sorry it took so long for this update, but I hope it was well worth the wait. And now I can add that since it's taken so long to post this, I can say that the midnight showing of The Hunger Games is FANTASTIC. Actually quite good and while still not as good as the book, it did a very fine job of capturing the essence of the novel. If you haven't seen it, go watch it now. In New Zealand. Cause they have WAY better theaters than we do in the States. We don't get awesome plush chairs all to ourselves with a giant screen far enough away that even front row seats are great. What an experience :)

Well, that's all for now! I'll update soon and more often, I promise! Black water rafting this weekend, and I'm so pumped for it. Gonna be another great day :)

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Preparing to take on Mount Doom!

Thursday, 15 March 2012 14:52 by ams016

Just realized with the crazyness of this week that I haven's updated this blog for a few days! And I don't really have much time right now, but I feel this momentous occasion deserves a quick post!

Friends, this weekend the girls from LVC and I are hiking the Tongariro Crossing, otherwise known as the home of Mount Doom! :) This is an experience I've been waiting for since the Lord of the Rings films came out, and I can't BELIEVE I am finally headed there! We're leaving early tomorrow morning, about 9am, and we'll arrive at our hostel at about 4:30pm. Then we'll stay overnight and start out bright and early in the morning up the mountain. It'll be about 8 hours of hiking, which is pretty intense, but I have faith in our little group. We can do it!

And we're prepared: lots of food and snacks and water, and we've saved quite a bit as well! No cost to tramp the mountain, just had to pay for the bus to shuttle us to the hostel and pay for two nights out there. Overall, a pretty cheep weekend for how amazingly memorable and awesome as it will be :D

So, tonight I'm finishing up packing for this epic trip! I honestly can't wait to get going! Pictures will be all over my facebook when I return, so look out for them! And I'm sure there will be a lengthy post as to how the trip went as well :)

Have a great night everyone!

Ally

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New Zealand Reminds Me of Home

Saturday, 10 March 2012 10:51 by ams016

Kia Ora! (Hi!)

So, I’ve spent a full week here in New Zealand, fully moved in and attending classes, and now I can honestly say that New Zealand reminds me so much of life back in the states. They listen to the same music, they watch the same TV shows, the same movies, and we play many of the same games. In the words of one of my Kiwi friends, they “pretty much live off of you Americans.” …Which is VERY strange for me. I mean, I knew there would be a lot of things that we would have in common, what with the internet and the globalization of so many chains like KFC and Burger King (Big difference here tho: OUR BK’s don’t have flat screen TVs playing music videos all day. That’s standard for every fast food restaurant here :P) I expected NZ to be similar to home in some ways, but I didn’t expect it to be… quite like this.

But with all these unexpected similarities, there are still many little differences, and those stand out so much more because so much of our culture is the same. Like, for instance, they drive on the opposite side of the road and there’s a roundabout at practically every intersection. That was something to get used to. And having the driver’s side on the opposite side of the car has gotten me into trouble at least twice now. I just can’t get used to going to the left side of the car to get in the passenger seat!

Also, much of their speech is different. First off, there accents are cute as, and I wish I was better at mimicking them. :) And while they know so much of our slang, I’ve had to ask some of my friends to repeat what they’ve said and define it for me on many occasions. Here’s a list of just a few words that have thrown me for a loop:

Sussed --  as in “Are you sussed?” Meaning: “Are you finished? You sorted? You done?” (When my friend Ben asked me this at the Warehouse (NZ’s Wal-Mart) before we left, I stared at him wondering what on earth he was saying to me…..)

Jandals – which are actually flip-flops.

Cotton buds – Q-tips

Nappies – diapers

Singlet – tank top

Lemonade – lemon-lime soda like Sprite. Definitely NOT the lemonade we have in the US!! They don’t have that here.

Fizzy drink – soda

Chips – French fries (however, actual chips are also called chips…. It’s confusing)

‘Mean’ and ‘Stoked’ – exclamations of coolness and happiness that they use so much more than we do at home.

Lollies – any kind of hard or chewy or sugary candy. Lollypops are the same as home, with a stick.

Biscuits – cookies, basically. Crackers are not very flavored and don’t ever have anything on them. So, our cheese filled crackers at home would be called biscuits here.

Chur – “sure.” New Zealanders were also surprised that we say “shweet” just like they do here. Haha :)

A&E – “Accidents and Emergency.” Basically our ER.

Tomato Sauce – Ketchup substitute that definitely does NOT taste like ketchup. It’s not as sweet.

Jumper – sweatshirt

Leaver – a student in their final year of high school. Year thirteens, since they go for one more year than we do.  They’re called “Leavers” not “seniors.”

Hotdogs – battered sausages on a stick, kind of like a corndog.

Cello tape – Scotch tape

Glad wrap – saran wrap

Rubbish Bin – trash can

Chilly Bin – a cooler

To tramp – To hike. They don’t really say “hiking” here.

And there are many, many more.  Another thing that’s funny is that so many of our words are pronounced very differently here than at home. For example, aluminum is pronounced “al-YOO-min-E-um “ and zebra is “zeb -RAH” here. It makes for some very funny conversations :)

But thinking about all of these differences in the little things of life makes me miss home…. My little sister just got her permit this week, and I didn’t realize how much I would miss going out with her driving for the first time. My other sister is gaining independence and going out every Tuesday and Thursday volunteering at many different places around Lancaster. And my other friends at home are enjoying their spring break and getting ready to finish the second half of their semesters while I’m just starting.

And it’s not even just that…. I miss the little things, like ketchup and Mini-Wheats, and other Americans who use the same expressions and words with the same accent that I have. I miss my dog, my parents, making my mom laugh every day, and seeing my friends as often as I had been before I left. It’s just weird. Little things are just jumping out that I miss, things that I never thought I’d miss. Like hearing American accents and people knowing about the place where I live. Which was why it was so insanely amazing when Kelly, Jackie and I met a man during O-Week who was promoting a Christian group on campus who knew Pennsylvania and Lancaster County well! He had studied at LBC for two years in the 90s, and was so excited that we knew what he was talking about. Nobody in NZ knew that area, and he was the first man we had met who knew our area as well, and who knew before I even said it that my town is referred to as Etown by everyone who lives around or in it. Just that little taste of home made me happier than I ever thought it could. :)

But at the same time that these bits of home are jumping out and making me homesick, I wouldn’t want to go home right now at all. There are still so many things that I love and am fascinated with about New Zealand and the people here. One of my floormates has invited us to her house near the top of the north island of New Zealand for the weekend, and her father is one of the number one exporters of the Kiwi fruit in NZ. (And yes, I’ve been eating a TON of those fruits here. Soooo good) And when we go there, we’ll be renting a car for the trip, and I’ll get to finally drive on the left side of the road! I can’t wait for that! And then this weekend we’ll be tramping Mt. Doom hopefully, which is something I’ve been waiting forever to do! Not to mention we still have Hobbiton to visit and various key places to visit near Wellington and on the south island when we take a trip down there over Spring break in a few weeks. And of course, we can’t forget our trip to Australia during finals month, which includes a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. But one thing I can say, is that I’ve never felt like more of an American than I do now, in a different country, where the history I’m learning about isn’t the Civil War, or Christopher Columbus, or the Louisiana Purchase, or about Martin Luther King, Jr., or about Kennedy’s Assassination, but rather about the Maori people, and Captain Cook who discovered these islands, and about Kate Sheppard who won NZ women the right to vote before any other women in the world. It’s crazy learning about a world where your own country isn’t at the center…. Definitely a scary, interesting, and very healthy experience.

…..So basically what I’m feeling is a bit of latent culture shock and homesickness, mixed in with my absolutely fantastic time here. It’s just the weirdest mix of feelings I’ve ever experienced. Hopefully once the semester really gets into full swing, with practices for volleyball and Frisbee and rowing starting up, my life will become busier, especially with our weekend travels, and I’ll have less time to worry about missing home.

I can tell already that I’ll have quite a bit of homework from time to time, but my classes are amazing, so I don’t really mind. Plus, I only have one class on Mondays so I can work on my assignments then, rather than the entire weekend. And that suits me just fine :)

Well, I guess that’s about all for now. This weekend was a bit of a quiet one. We were going to visit Matamata and the Hobbiton set, but our plans didn’t work out last minute, so we went to the Hamilton Zoo instead. It was very nice, but it would have been better if the tigers hadn’t been hiding from us…. But oh well. Hope all is well back home, and I can’t wait for our weekend adventures to begin next weekend! I’ll keep you all posted!

 

 

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Semester Beginnings

Monday, 5 March 2012 14:31 by ams016

It’s been a few days since I’ve updated you all on what’s been happening here in Hamilton, and let me tell you, there’s been a LOT going on!

Last week was mostly all orientation and moving in, so not a lot happened. I’ve become very good friends with most everyone on our floor, to the extent that I want to steal some of these lovely Kiwis and bring them home with me! :D But besides orientation and such, the only other exciting details of last week was realizing how crazy Thirsty Thursday can get here. It’s just a much different culture in New Zealand than America, and I’m not just yet quite used to the fact that 18-year-olds are legal to drink. This makes a HUGE difference over here, making drinking more of a socially acceptable form of hanging out and having fun, which I’ll admit has kind of thrown me for a loop. Being an RA back at LVC, it’s hard to remember that drinking with your friends with the door open before 10pm in the halls is acceptable, because hardly anyone is underage here. However, this has made me appreciate my non-alcohol floor that much more: when we want to just study on the weekend, we don’t have to worry about any parties going on, which is very nice :)

Anyhow, to go on about last week, Friday night was the BOCS party, a night where each of the halls (Bryant Hall, Orchard Park, College Hall, and Student Village) dressed up like something starting with the first letter of their hall and were then bussed to a club in town for a night of dancing. In College Hall, there were many cowgirls, cops, cupids, and cheerleaders; the best, however, were the Chinese students who went as Chinese (love that one! Haha), and two of our RAs who went as Catdog :)

My costume, I will admit, was pretty awesome as well. I dressed up like one of our RAs, a guy named Cameron, who sports the very popular style of having a rat tail down the back of his neck, a style that you might well know has not been popular since the 90s back home. :P So, I barrowed one of the other RA’s polos, bought shoes exactly like his, and then pulled my hair up and had Jayde, my RA wrap a strand of my hair so it looked exactly like his. And I’ve got to admit, it was quite a success!!

Then we spent the rest of the weekend exploring the campus some more, watching Despicable Me with our floor full of Kiwis, and then attending church on Sunday (which was very different from home, but still good. I’m excited to see how next week turns out as well!) And then Sunday afternoon most of us LVC students and some Kiwis from College hall went to the Hamilton gardens. They were beautiful, and we loved every minute of it! There were Japanese Gardens, British Gardens, the Itialian Garden was AMAZING, and there was even an American garden…..which looked more like a pool with a picture of Marilyn Monroe in the background. Not exactly an east coast garden….  Anyhow, the best part of the trip was that we all got free flowers at the end, and some of them were kinds I have never even seen before. It was fantastic :)

And now I’ve just finished my first day of lectures. I only had one, History of New Zealand: Fresh Perspectives, but it was good. I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it a lot, I’ll just have to get used to the different grading system…and the fact that my final exam is worth 50% of my grade!! Tomorrow I’ll have my three other lectures, so I’ll probably update then and let everyone know how all of them are.

Also, sometime in the near future, (as in within the next three weekends) we want to head to Mt. Doom and tramp that lovely mountain. Apparently it’s on the north island and only an hour or so away from us! I can’t wait :D

Finally, I can’t wait until things get settled in for the semester around here. It will make blogging a lot less fact-based and I’ll be able to get back to blogging about my musings on the differences between life in NZ and in America, because there are many things that aren’t the same, and still so many more that are. It’s certainly gotten me thinking, and I know I’m not going to view this place or the world the same again. Already I know I won’t want to leave when the time comes, and that forever I’ll want to come back and visit, and visit so many other places in this world as well. America isn’t all that’s out there folks, and I want to experience every last bit of this amazing world.

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