Bathing in the Splendor of Ancient Stone

Gosh, I love British Life and Culture class. This past Saturday was the double trip to Stonehenge and Bath! It was a long day, but it was really a lot of fun. Possibly what made the trip especially fun is that I spent it with my great group of friends here that I have come to know a lot better over the past couple of months. These were my second visits to both places (last year being with the London Theater Seminar), but I enjoyed them both so much better this time around!

Me at Stonehenge

Stonehenge is a windy, odd place. What are these rocks? Who put them there? Why was this construction built? Millions of theories are abound and no one knows its true intended origin. Most assume it seved as a sun dial. Due to excessive wind, I had no patience to listen attentively to my audio guide. Luckily our proffesor Philip was an awesome tour guide and offered tidbits about the rocks that were rather interesting.

The funny thing is, my friends and I were drawn to things other than the rocks. My sheep-obsessed friends took pictures of the animals within their enclosure, while I was drawn to the sky. Rays of sunlight were gleaming through clouds in a way I had never seen before. Well, I have seen that effect on those spiritual greeting cards, but this was real and amazing.

clouds and rays

After most of our group bought out the entire stock of bargain Stonehenge calendars in the giftshop, we were on our way to Bath. The city is approached from above, and a great aerial view was awarded to anyone who wasn’t sleeping on the bus. This city is beautiful and golden. All of the buildings are made of golden Bath Stone, giving it a unified and splendid appearance. Even Burger King is made of Bathstone! Philip gave an informative walking tour of the city, and we walked as far as the Royal Crescent. Regency architecture at its finest!

Bath Crescent

Afterwards, we toured the Roman Baths rather too quickly due to time constraints. Last year I got to spend more time touring the Baths so I didn’t feel out that I missed out on too much. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Pump Room restaurant was closed so we were unable to taste the Bath water, which is not so yummy so I’ve heard. However, it is believed to have healing powers.

Roman Bath

All in all, a great day! Next week we are seeing Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” by the Royal Shakespeare company, and then we are touring Parliament and the Globe theatre. Tomorrow, my friends and I are travelling to Dublin, Ireland, for St. Patrick’s Day!
Well, top ‘o the morning to you!

Festivals Galore!

Hello again!

Fall has arrived here in Wellington, and with fall comes rain. (Something that I hadn’t taken into consideration when packing all of my tank tops and tshirts) But despite the weather, New Zealand continues to provide fullfillment for the curious, adventurous individuals with a drive for experiencing such a brilliant culture! (Yay!)

Aside from University, which I attend 4 out of the 5 weekdays, there have been festivals and celebrations galore the past couple of weeks! The first one that I went to with my friends, Solny, Matt and Chris was a music festival bringing the summer-long Anual New Zealand Arts Festival to a close.

a local pipeband

It was held on an absolutely beautiful, sunny day down near the bay. We found a spot on the grass amongst hundereds of other people: Families, students, locals… all of whom enjoyed a vast range of live music for free from an acoustic, folky/bluesy band, to a south african band, a pipeband, and ending with Wellington’s own and favorite: Fat Freddy’s Drop.

Fat Freddy

Fat Freddy’s Drop is a group of Kiwi guys who “truly embraces the New Zealand spirit” by playing an audience-uplifting medely of instruments and create a reggae sound that can’t help but make you groove- sitting or standing.

The next big celebration held here in New Zealand was my friend, Solny’s birthday, for which a whole mix of wordly kids (American, Kiwi, European, and Asian) went out to a nice Indian restaurant to eat while wearing bright red party hats. After singing happy birthday amongst her bright candles flickering in a plastic choo choo train setting and embarassing her a proper amount, we walked the 20 or so minutes back to Stafford House through the city without removing the hats once. It was so much fun to watch people smile at our party hat mob and take pictures of us.

Solny

We also couldn’t help but celebrate with one of our favorite statues… That night, we decorated a bunny cake (mistaken at first to be a mouse) quite beautifully and Solny made her wish for the 20th year of her life! Yay, Solny!

New World

We also couldn’t help but give her a New Zealand memento… just in case she doesn’t remember where she celebrated her 20th birthday.

a nice nz memento

The next adventure was one I just got back from today! My flat building, Stafford House, put on a day trip for anybody who wanted to sign up. For 20 dollars, we had a bus ride to Carterton, where we checked out the Paua Shell Factory & Shop, Pukaha Mount Bruce (New Zealand’s Wildlife Centre for Breeding Threatened Species), and *exciting drum roll…* A night-glow hot air balloon festival!
We were greeted kindly onto the Japanese bus (the symbols at the front of the bus mean “No Smoking”) By our driver, Rick.

our bus driver

He then took us the long way up to our first stop through a more New Zealand-y scenic route along the beautiful yet deathly frightening windy roads across the mountains. I had mentioned the state of many of the roads here before, but couldn’t provide a decent picture- so I thought I’d try again. Is it not absolutely gorgeous?

like I

When we got to the Paua Shell Factory, the woman who greeted us told us a bit about the rarity of finding Paua Shells and of processing them. She showed us many types of shells- one of which is found off the coast of California, another of which is found only in the northern banks of the Mississippi River, some off of Australia’s coast, and then the ones genuinely unique to New Zealand- they just so happens to be the most beautiful of the bunch! “Perhaps America can do it bigger, but we can do it better!” our guide commented when showing us the difference in the brilliant colors of the two shells. I’ll have to agree with her.

paua shells

We were shown them before cleaning and polishing, and then after. It’s an amazing difference!

After the Paua Factory, we headed to the Nature Preserve, where we took a beautiful walk through a bright green, mossy forest

NZ National Wildlife Fenter for breeding Threstened Species

and checked out some of the rarest birds in the world. One of which is the Takahe. At one point, sightings of the Takahe were so rare that they were presume extinct! Luckily, that was eventually proven wrong, though they are yet one of the most rare birds in the world to this day, native only to New Zealand.

one of the world

After a sighting of the Takahe, we ventured to the Kiwi house!

oh boy oh boy!

Because Kiwi birds are nocturnal, they were kept behind large glass, lit up with red light. While it was difficult to see them clearly, we still could watch them eat and walk around. What a funny bird! Did you know that Kiwi birds have nostrils at the end of their beaks? It was fun to watch them sniff around the ground. Another crazy fact is that the Kiwi bird’s egg is almost the size of their body before being laid! This was my attempt at a long-opened shutter while in the nocturnal house.

nocturnal...

This picture’s a little better, I suppose.

better picture

While continuing around the nature preserve, we saw a great variety of birds and eels… and ducks… throughout the walk.

They have ducks here

At last it was hot air balloon time! We hopped back on the bus and arrived at the Hot Air Balloon Night Glow Festival just in time. While they didn’t take off from the ground, they lit on and off, often to the tune of a musical medely. The colors of all of the balloons were beautiful!

ooooh ahhhh

What better way to finish off a perfect day trip with than fireworks?

ahhhh oooh

So celebrations galore! Other than all of this excitement that I just filled you in with, school has begun to really pick up, and work due-dates are coming up quickly. Our last weekend before mid term break (During which road trip number 3: The South Island is all ready being planned) is just this next one, and then the rest of the term is just going to fly by! I can’t believe how quickly this crazy adventure is going by!

Sibling Stint in London!

This past Thursday, my brother Jeff came to visit! After my morning lecture, he traveled to Kingston and I showed him around the town. After he got a coffee to aid his jet lag, we went to my favorite pub in town. The pub is called…well, I don’t know exactly, it’s changed ownership so many times, so I call it Lloyds/JD Wetherspoon/Kings Tun. Good food as usual, however the environment was too quiet and calm for my brother who was almost falling asleep in his plate.

For a change of scenery, we traveled to central London. My brother’s hotel room luckily had two beds so I jumped at the chance of a mini vacation! It was nice to leave the flat for a little while, visit with Jeff, watch TV (which I rarely have access to) and take a hot shower (with good pressure!). We ate dinner at a great Gastro Pub called Anchor and Hope. The wait was long, but well worth it! The pub’s setup was quite new to me, as we were seated at large wooden tables along with total strangers. We overheard some interesting conversations to say the least!

Jeff and Me

On Friday, Jeff and I went to Camden Town, which is like a combination of Swinging London, New York’s East Village and New Paltz! Camden is known for it’s many markets that sell clothing, music, art, and crafts among other things. I must have passed at least thirty people with florescent hair and ten with mohawks.

Camden

Afterward, we traveled to Highgate where Jeff lived when he studied abroad in London eight years ago. He noticed that some things had changed, but it seems that he felt right at home. It was nice to visualize his experience and compare it with my own. We ate lunch at a very old pub called The Flask, where the painter William Hogarth often dined.

Later, we walked around Hampstead Heath, which is the most rural spot in London. It is quite easy to forget that you are actually in a city. The Heath is home to the famed Kenwood House (featured in the film Notting Hill), Parliament Hill (the highest spot in London), and many of the most interesting trees I have ever seen. It is really a peaceful area, but it can also tend to be muddy, so remember to bring your Wellington boots! To complete the day, we ate at another wonderful restaurant called The Bull which had a giant sculpture of an “elephant” outside of it (?) then wandered aimlessly around Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. The area is almost equivalent to Times Square in New York, but most of the stores were closed so we weren’t able to see much.

Hampstead Heath

A bit of New Zealand tradition, both “then” and “now”

I think that I might begin this blog with a couple more cultural aspects of New Zealand. Starting with: The Maori. I’m currently enrolled in a course called Maori Society and Culture, which after only 3 full lectures I have found to be incredibly interesting. The second day of class, we all went to the marae (pronounced: Muh-rye) on campus to go through a Maori (pronounced somewhat like “mow (like “now”) ree”) welcoming ceremony.

our campus marae

The Marae is the area outside of the meeting house. It is a sacred area in which all sorts of community events take place including various ceremonies, weddings, parties, etc… It is also the area in which the welcoming ceremony takes place. This is (now) a very theatrical routine, though in old times, the maori tribes would go the same routine to check if the unknown intruder comes in peace or in aggression. As we walk up the lawn to the Marae, our representative (our female Maori professor) trades a number of calls back and forth with another woman representing the Marae. We then were invited to sit down- women in the back, males in front, and they continued. An older man go up and recited a number of words all spoken in Maori, followed by a younger man carrying a stick. He (I believe) Represented the young warrier sent out to see if the visiters come in peace or harm. If he didn’t return, the tribe would know that it was not an amicable visit. After his many lines, the visiters are all officially welcome, and go around to everybody in the tribe to partake in the Maori Greeting: The Hongi, which is the pressing of noses. Then we could take off our shoes and enter the house. The other bonus part to this is that, when invited into the house, one typically doesn’t leave until they share food :o).
The House itself represents Father sky and Mother Earth together, and there are a number of other panellings streaming down the ceiling representing other various gods decended from those two, who then turn down the wall to the various mortal maori tribes. Just about the entire building is carved (like you can see from the outside of the house as well, and it is absolutely beautiful!

close up of the carvings

That’s the best I can do right now with the Maori welcoming ceremony- I can assure you that many more interesting bits of information will come! At the end of the semester, we are required to either do a night stay in the Marae and wake up for class the next morning, or write a paper (if at ALL costs the night stay cannot be done). How exciting!

~*~*~*~

Just today I went down to the Warf to check out Dragon Boat racing.

dragon boat race start

For a decent description of the dragon boat racing history, check out Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Boat

I personally had never heard of, let alone experienced dragon boat racing before, but the entire city celebrated this weekend long event (it continues through tomorrow) of Dragonboating as a festival!

dragon boat race start

The boats are very long and narrow and hold a co-ed team of 20 paddlers, a caller (in the front) and a steerer (in the back). Walking through the many many tents set up with teams who came from all over to compete in this two day long festival, we could see teams resting up and preparing for their race.

~*~*~*~

Why not skip around in time? So, while just today I checked out the traditional dragon boat racing, just last weekend my friends Aurora, Solny and I took road trip number two in a Mazda with a sweet little driving reminder on the dash board:
a friendly reminder
We can’t remember the model, but it ended up aquring the name Xena, and Xena took us on the Irondrive: Up to Taupo (oh how we love it there!) to check out the anual Ironman New Zealand! : “The World’s Best Race, In the World’s Most Beautiful Place”
Ironman NZ
What was especially cool is that I knew of somebody from NY competing int he competition, and we were able to meet up with him and watch his race. What was especially unfortunate is that Taupo had their worst Ironman weather in history. Absolutely tremendous winds which resulted in the cancellation of the swim as well as half of both the bike and swim. While it was only 1/3 of the exertion the athletes had planned on performing, it seemed apparent that the weather made up for the lack of distance covered.

~*~*~*~*~

I think that’s enough jumping around and back and forth for now… BUT, If anybody has something in particular you’d like me to blog about, I’d love a mission!

:o)

The Great Odyssey Continued…

Throughout the rest of the trip we pretty much switched from hiking to beaches… both white sand and black- both beautiful. The beaches often looked out into the ocean or into a beautiful torquoise-blue sea with islands in view, white-capped crashing waves along sharp but gorgeously shaped rocks, and tall, naturally carved cliffs with tall, twisting trees growing off the edges.

one of the beaches we checked out

One night, we had found a camp ground with about a 200 meter walk to the beach, and the girls all decided to spend the night on the beach, gazing up to the starry sky that stretched from horizon to horizon. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. One constellation that is actually familiar down here is Orion and his belt. Both hemispheres apparently share the Great Hunter in the sky. We woke up the next morning and took a refreshing swim in the Southern Pacific ocean before we met up with the guys again and continued on our adventure.

Eventually we made it back down to Napier, known for its art deco and wineries. We spent our last two nights in a really great backpackers place right outside of Napier on a port. The last morning, Aurora, Solny and I woke up a 5:30 to catch the last sunrise of our trip across a black sand beach.

The Great Odyssey

Things in New Zealand are still absolutely wonderful! The sun has been out the past few days, I went to a Maori welcoming ceremony, been noting all kinds of differences between New Zealand and the States, I’ve found some beautiful running routes, met my two flatmates, and classes offically began 27/Feb. However, first and formost- before you all topple off of the edges of your seats, I think I am going to tell a story. It’s a story of adventure, excitement, leaf collecting, picture taking, sky diving, left hand-driving… An Odyssey.

*Clears Throat*

Here we go!

The Great Odyssey Road Trip consisted of 7 young Americans: Seth, Alida, Aurora, JC, Solny, Dan and Jason. Barely familiar with one another, the 7 of us loaded up into a Honda Odyssey and started on our way, me being the first driver. Driving was much easier than I had imagined, and I caught on quite quickly.

Driving on the left hand side

The roads throughout New Zealand are loooong, windy, and have little to no shoulders on them. But the scenery was gorgeous! Our first stop was in Tongariro, where we had considered hiking the crossing. It’s supposed to be one pretty darn cool hike:
http://www.doc.govt.nz/Explore/002~Tracks-and-Walks/By-Region/007~Tongariro-Taupo/008~Tongariro-Crossing.asp
However, not everybody was quite up for the hike, and it was later in the day than would have been ideal to start, so we did a shorter hike instead, which was still quite beautiful. The Tongariro Crossing will be completed before I come home though, I can assure everybody of that!

We settled for a shorter hike

That night we drove up to Taupo, a very touristy city along Lake Taupo. The Maori Legend of Lake Taupo is that a party of Maoris working their way inland came across this huge basin. Dismayed, the Leader of the group, Nagtoroirangi, plucked a huge totara tree and hurled it into the bottom of the basin with intention of reseeding a forest. However, the tree landed upside down and the branches pierced holes in the earth, allowing water to gush upwards and fill the basin, creating a giant Lake. On the scientific side, the Lake was actually the result of a number of volcanic explosions. The most recent of which was about 1800 years ago, about 60 cubic kilometers of earth blasted and left a massive crater.

...everywhere

The rumors are true… there are sheep EVERYWHERE. They’re really quite beautiful roaming the hill sides. What I also found especially cool was the textured paths the sheep made on the hill sides while roaming back and forth to get up and down the steep climbs.

These falls are sacred to the Maori

After waking up in a free camp ground we had come across the night before, the Odyssey Gang ventured over to Huka falls, “New Zealands most visited natural attraction”, to enjoy some breath taking scenery before jumping out of a plane 1200o ft above the ground. Huke falls is a river sacred to the Maori tribes.

The Great Odyssey Gang

The Great Odyssey then ventured on a good 2 hour hike up to some hot springs- making many many stops along the way to check out the vast variety of different foliage in this part of the world.

there are so many different plants here

Then it was time. We packed up, got organized, and headed to the airport while listening to Tom Petty’s “Free falling”. (How appropriate). The guys went up in the plane while the girls got all suited up on the ground. Then it was our turn…

ahh!

I’ve got to say that Sky diving is quite possibly one of the coolest feeling things I have ever done in my life. From the height that we did, we experienced a 45 second free fall before the parachute was pulled. However, because of the height we were above ground, the acceleration felt like nothing, and I could rather just enjoy a pure view of the ground that I’d never had before. WOW!

After cooling down from the excitement and the altitude, we headed further north to Rotarua- famous for the boiling mudpits. We stayed at a back packers place that night called Cactus Jack’s. It was all set up and decorated like an Old Western town, which was kind of cool to find in New Zealand.

mmmmm sulfur

The next morning we had intentions of making a short drive to check out the Craters of the Moon (Where there are also mud pits- two in one!) We didn’t realize, however, that the drive took us all the way back into Taupo. Luckily we love it there. Most of us… :o).
The next adventure in store for us: Zorbing!

just...zorbing

What on EARTH is Zorbing you might be asking? It’s basically rolling down a hill in a giant orb. The “Z” comes from New Zealand- where the idea was developed. While I didn’t personally take part, those who did said that it was a whole lot cooler than it initially appeared to be.
Those who take part in Zorbing are known as Zorbonauts… I was almost convinced to zorb simply for the title!

the girls the guys

…The rest of this blog won’t fit I guess, so I’ll try to finish the tale of the Great Odyssey tomorrow…

A Royal Yet Humble Weekend

Well, I’m just about over my cold! On Friday, I celebrated by taking a long excursion down the river Thames to find Hampton Court Palace. I really needed to make up for all of the opportunities to explore that I missed last week. Something about my hour-long walk along the Thames was immensely satisfying. For the first time, I was really exploring the countryside of Britain. Only walkers, cyclists, boaters and fishermen could be seen along the paths. Pavement eventually turned into clay, surrounded by tangled grass and broad trees. There were no cars, no buses and I half expected a horse and carriage to come rolling around the bend.

ThamesPath1

My first glimpse of Hampton Court Palace was not disappointing. From behind a great stone wall, the building loomed in the distance and it looked rather inviting. I ventured on to the Palace grounds and wandered the beautiful gardens that are open to the public. Once I arrived back at Kingston’s town centre full of shops, it was hard to believe that just an hour before I had been standing in the Palace grounds in the countryside!
ThamesPath2
ThamesPath2

The theme of my weekend thus became Royal Residences. The following day, I went with a couple of friends to Windsor Castle, the official residence of the Queen. I expected it to be a small, modest castle but it turned out to be a sprawling fortress! To add to the excitement, the Queen was actually in residence as indicated by the royal flag. Inside the state apartments were various displays of art, china, armor, shields and weaponry. Most beautiful was the garden moat surrounding the Round Tower on the grounds. Although I enjoyed my tour of the Castle, I wound never want to live there due to constant drafts, large size and uber elegance. Unfortunately, I had placed my camera’s memory card in the wrong bag and do not have pictures to share. However, I plan to go back!

As my weekend did involve visiting royal residences, most of my joy came from being in the countryside and observing the local environments. Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle were impressive, but imposing, and rather guarded. The countryside, however, possessed an open quality and a humbleness that appealed to me more than crown jewels ever could.

Sickly, but Scholarly!

Hello everyone! The delay in my posting can be attributed to an illness I somehow acquired this past week. It’s been fun but exhausting adjusting to the London lifestyle, which is basically being a pedestrian. Londoners walk everywhere in all types of weather, especially the pouring rain. After my own walk through London in the rain on Sunday, I felt rather run down and so began my fever week. Luckily I did well on my Monet presentation despite the fever. I hope I’m 100% better by the time my mom and brother come to visit. Since being sick is not exciting, I will discuss the second of our fieldtrips instead.

On Saturday of last weekend (which seems like an eternity ago), I visited the old university town of Oxford with my fellow study abroad students. With collared shirts and lace-up shoes in mind, most of us felt we should dress “scholarly” when visiting such a place. We toured the Sheldonian Theatre which holds convocation and graduation ceremonies. The round wooden building features a dome which offers amazing views of the Oxford Colleges. It was quite a climb, but what a view!
OxfordfromdomePedestrians roam London, and bikers wheel their way through Oxford. With the exception of bicycle shops, I had never seen so many bicycles in one place. I ate lunch at a pub called “Eagle and Child” where J.R.R. Tolkien (author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and C.S. Lewis (author of the Chronicles of Narnia) would often meet for literary discussion and a pint. I felt considerably humbled by being where such great authors and minds gathered, that I later bought myself an “Oxford University” sweatshirt to instill some intellectual pride.

We met our professor, Philip, for a historic walking tour of the city. The tour ended at Christ Church, which was the highlight for most people. The reason? Christ Church was a filming location for the Harry Potter films. Its staircase is indeed the one that is supposed to lead up to the Great Hall of Hogwarts. I had never seen so many people take pictures on a staircase before. As a Harry Potter fan myself, I’ll admit that I posed for a few as well. The building’s own “Great Hall” was beautiful, but I left quickly due to no heat. It was colder inside the building than outside.
Interior

What impressed me most about Oxford (aside from providing a film location) is its age and history. Some stones walls, almost caked in black soot, haven’t been cleaned since the middle ages! The place had a real Gothic, medieval quality about it. I realized I would not want to be a student at Oxford, but I would really like to visit again!

Driving on the left hand side of the road…

Good morning, everyone! (Sunday morning, that is…) The majority of you are probably waking up Saturday right now… crazy! I was thinking about dates the other day, and realized that if I were to have been born at the exact same moment, but here in New Zealand (or anywhere else past the dateline) I would have been born a day ahead… I’d have a completely different birthday- not to mention Zodiac sign! (I knew what being on the cusp meant before, but now it makes even more sense).

So this is an incredibly brief blog simply with the intention of keeping eveyone on the edge of their seats. You see, as one of only a couple other kids who is of vehicle renting age, I have to wake up early early tomorrow to go rent a van for myself and 6 others who I’ve known for barely a week- one that I have yet to meet even! We then are heading up North and road tripping/camping a big loop to just about the top of the North Island and back down before classes begin on the 27th. To give you a small taste of what this road trip entails: I will be the first person in our group of people to drive on the “wrong” side of the road! (I have enough trouble remembering which direction to look before I cross the road on foot!) We then are going to hike, camp, sky dive, go to white, sandy beaches, hike, camp, etc… until next Saturday! So goodnight, my friends… and you will be hearing from me with stories apleanty soon enough.

:o)

…PS. I have indeed been paying close attention to the direction of flush in every toilet thus far… Unfortunately, they all seem to just go straight down. I can assure you that I have not yet given up on my mission to find a circular-directional flush.

From an entirely different sky…

I’m here! And it’s beautiful, and sunny… and a city.

The trip over here went much more smoothly and was much more relaxed than I expected it to be. I drove up to Rochester airport in a snowstorm, checked my luggage, handed off my winter coat to my parents, and went through security… up until I went through security, I had all kinds of nervous knots in my stomach and wished that my parents could hold my hands through everything. But as soon as I got to the other side of the scary metal detectors, I suddenly felt completely independant and ready for whatever was to come. I waved to my mom across the glass walls who was easily spotted in her bright green fleece and arms waving back and forth like a flourescent traffic flagger… :o)

I gradually met up with different people going over to New Zealand throughout my 22 or so hours spent through airports and the air, and was able to sleep the majority of the overnight 13 hour 15 minute and 5 seconds of airborn time across the Pacific Ocean. (On the coolest Jumbo Jet I’ve ever seen…)
Our jumbo jet!

Once we finally all got here, we were dropped off at our halls and greeted quite kindly by the Kiwis who ran our building. They later took us around town to some of the good places to know (such as the grocery store- as we are on our own for food while living in the Stafford apartment building. Living here is unlike anything I’ve experienced before.

Window view to the left Window view to the right

My window overlooks, well, a city. There are tall buildings to one side and to the other a big green hill covered in trees. Because it’s all so new, I’m waiting for the moment that I feel like I really do live here. I imagine it will be once classes begin and I have a daily schedule to follow.

I have been here only three days and things all ready feel totally familiar, as the result of getting lost in the city countless times and then finding my way back with everybody. I’ve been able to befriend quite a few really cool people all ready- mostly other Americans so far, but I can’t wait for the other local students to move in so that I can start meeting Kiwis as well.

For now, I’m learning what it’s like to live in a city, because it is very much one. The streets are lined with coffee shops and cafes. Wellington supposedly has the second largest number of cafes and coffeeshops in the world next to Manhatten! It great having things so close- we walk everywhere that we need or want to go, and though I’ve been running (I’ve signed up for a 7k road race this weekend!), it feels great being so active all of the time. We have found a local farmers market up the street that happens every Sunday, and the produce is great! (And much less expensive than a grocery store). Wellington is a fairly decent size, but very clean, and beautiful buildings. The architecture here is very unique, yet EVERYTHING compliments one another in a fantastic, harmonious way. Another thing that I’ve noticed is the amount of sculpture and artwork throughout the city- the sidewalks are decorated in tiling, there is sculpture everywhere, and even the manhole covers take part in the decoration! What’s unique about the artwork here compared to that of NYC or any other city that I’ve been, is that it all relates to one another and tells the story of the New Zealand culture.

Decorated manhole cover

Just yesterday some of my friends and I went to the beach and had our first swim in New Zealand ocean water, then my friend, Aurora and I dug a great big hole in the sand… topping off the complete beach experience! I all ready got a minor sun burn on my face… (I was luckier than others.) I also just found out that we are under a hole in the ozone layer, so sunscreen is even more my friend that it ever was before! Some of the foliage here is unlike anything I’ve ever seen! And the sea life- we found a starfish yesterday thinking that it was one of the greatest treasures that we would find in this water! Then we looked around the bottom of the clear clear salt water and counted nearly 20 more only around our feet.

Aurora and I in our super deep hole (we The starfish that we found

Orientation starts tomorrow for us, so I’ll be meeting even more people, and get to know even more of the city and what’s going on. Random brochures and flyers for events can really only do so much…

There is a rugby game coming up that some of my friends and I are going to check out- get a taste for the city’s rugby pride (which seems to be pretty significant), and sometime before classes begin there is a small group of us who hope to go camping and hiking for a few days further up the north island. so hooray!

I hope that everything is going well with everyone!