Left Side of the Road (8/3/09)

Last week at about 4:00AM Thursday morning, I booked a car online for the weekend. My flat mate Elizabeth and our across-the-street neighbors Emily, Lauren and Aron decided it would be awesome to get out of the city for the weekend, but it wasn’t until late on Thursday that we decided on a destination – Hawkes Bay. After some car rental issues we ironed out on Friday morning (only Lauren is 21) we packed our silver Nissan sedan and I got behind the wheel and got ready to drive on the left side of the road.

So weird.

Once we got out of the city and onto the highway, it was a much less stressful drive. The most difficult part of driving was keeping my eyes on the road because the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. We saw the sunset on the Kapiti coastline, which is just north of Wellington and then continued the rest of the drive in darkness. After stopping in Palmerston North for dinner at a Subway (where they do NOT have American cheese and the turkey has no preservatives), Aron took the wheel and drove the remaining two hours north to Hastings, a small city just south of Hawkes Bay. We had “booked” a hostel just before we left Wellington and at about 9:45, we located the Sleeping Giant. Apparently, though, this hostel is not frequented by backpackers. Instead, it is a hub for migrant workers. After we saw one of these workers polishing his gun in the lounge, we decided it would be best to find another place. Luckily, there were a few to choose from and by 11:00 we had settled into our home for the night, opened a bottle of wine and planned our weekend.

Saturday morning we headed towards Napier, a centre of this region. However, when we saw a sign for Cape Kidnappers, our plans changed and we turned off the main highway to see what many guidebooks have referred to as a must see for this region. These coastal cliffs are home to the largest gannet colony in the world. What’s a gannet? I didn’t know either…but here’s a picture:

Gannet

Unfortunately, I didn’t take that picture. The hike out to the gannett colony takes about 5 hours round trip and since it’s the middle of winter, the colony is rather sparsely populated. However, we did get some gorgeous pictures of the scenery.155

We then loaded back into the car and finally arrived in Napier. After exploring the city and finding a new hostel to stay in, we drove out to two vineyards on the outskirts of town. Hawkes Bay is one of the largest wine producing regions and is the oldest in the country. We visited Mission Estate, the oldest vineyard in Aotearoa and Church Road, a sister vineyard that was the first in New Zealand to produce a red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon. We took a tour and dd several tastings at Church Road and then headed over to Mission for more free tastings. I bought a few bottles of white that I hope to bring home without having to pay a customs fee. Mission also had a sweet bottle of Syrah, which typically I don’t even like but would consider shipping a case to the US. With the Hawkes Bay vineyards under my belt, its Malborough next. This is the true heart of New Zealand wine country and luckily where Natalie (my kiwi-mate) lives. Her parents have offered to drive us around the vineyards there and I can’t wait for that. This is a cuvee from Church Road Winery

One litre of wine a day for 60 years.

One litre of wine a day for 60 years.

These large fermenting tank holds enough wine for you to have one litre a day for 60 years. I want one.

Following the tastings, we went grocery shopping and returned to the waterfront lodge, where I made steak, corn, potatoes and a blue cheese sauce for dinner. The best part of this? $6 each.

Sunday morning we headed south again to the small town of Havelock North which is at the foot of Te Mata Peak, a 399 metre tall hill. We tramped to the top and saw spectacular views of all of Hawkes Bay as well as the Mt. Ruapehu, the tallest mountain on the North Island and featured as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The views were absolutely incredible and the landscape we tramped through was just a beautiful.

311

Te Mata Peak, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand

Following the top of the mountain, we headed down to the redwood forest at the base of the mountain. On our way, we found a sweet cave on the side of the hill, where you could see so many shell fossils that showed how this mountain had originally been part of the sea bed. We sat in the cave overlooking a valley, eating steak sandwiches and drinking the Syrah that I had bought the day before. What an incredible day.

Te Mata Peak, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand

Laughter, Te Mata Peak, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand

We followed this amazing mountain with a trip to Ocean Beach to watch the sunset. It was cold, but totally worth it. It really reminded me of spring break in Myrtle this year. A bunch of friends on the beach having a good time.

Ocean Beach, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand

We conserved money that night by eating ramen noodles with eggs for dinner. Add on the cookies (Tim Tams…more about these later), milk & bread and dinner cost us each $2.50. And that’s NZ$.

We had to leave Havelock North early Monday morning to make sure that we were back in time for classes at noon. Leaving at 6:30, we saw the sunrise over the mountains while driving, stopped for pies in Palmerston North (more about pies later too) and arrived safe home in Wellington at 11.

I don’t think that I can pick a favorite part of the weekend, but it was so awesome to get out of the city and explore this country a little bit. It was a completely spontaneous weekend full of good friends, good food, good wine and good times. In two weeks I’ll be heading north again with a bigger group of people and I can’t wait.

This country is slightly smaller than Colorado, and it seems like I’ll never be able to see it all. Which is making me realize how big the world is, and how much of it I’ll probably never see. But I’ve got enough trips planned before I leave the country and then I’ll be adding Australia and Fiji to the list, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

I’ll put up the rest of my pictures this weekend, so stay tuned for them.

Left side of the road, North Island, New Zealand

Kia Ora,

Liam

Rubbish (7/23/09)

After 5 days of near perfect weather, Mother Nature remembered its winter here and sent gale force winds and spitting rain. And so, on little sleep and no coffee (I’m still not sure how I’m able to survive that one…) I walked all the way to the Beehive for my first exploration into New Zealand’s government. I was hoping to sit in the Defence committee’s meeting which turned out to be in a completely different building. The woman described it as “the pink building” which I assumed would be easy to find. Turns out there are three pink buildings in sight of the Beehive. I got it right on the second try and got the necessary sticker that I need to prove to my professor that I attended. Finally found the right meeting room, just as all of the MP’s were leaving. So far, a great start to my day.

Since I was already down in that section of town, I decided to wait until the general session of Parliament started that afternoon. I hunted for a decent place to eat and stumbled across this great little dive down an alley next to Parliament. I had my first Fish & Chips in New Zealand and found out that this place sells its entire left over stock for one dollar each. Daily. So when money starts to run out…

After lunch, I headed back to the Beehive for the Question period that opened the General Session of Parliament, receiving yet another sticker:

Parliamentary Stickers

There was a short opening ceremony involving the Speaker of the House, a huge scepter and a prayer. Then questions began. Oh my god. If there is this much yelling and disorder in the US Congress, its obvious why nothing gets done. I expected some hostility between the government (National Party) and the opposition (Labour Party), but not nearly to the extent that it existed. There is a loose sense of order that only results in complete silence when the Speaker demands it. Quite often, members of the opposite party are mumbling about the “rubbish” that they are hearing. One MP read a newspaper and a book before leaving when the debate got too loud. There were plenty of times when I thought I was in a high school cafeteria, not the Gallery of the New Zealand Parliament. But such is politics.

My experience today in Parliament has left me anxious to see more. I’m definitely excited to head uptown again to see different aspects of the governing structure. However, it has also left me a bit confused since I know next to nothing about New Zealand government and an equal amount about the political history of this country. Google has been my friend this afternoon, helping me to learn a little more about the key players in this game as well as some of the recent history of politics. Hopefully next time, I’ll be a little more clued into some of what the MP’s were shouting about.

Bed now, but more again soon.

– Liam

Earthquakes, Swine Flu, and Harry Potter (7/15/09)

Sunset, Wellington Harbour, Wellington, North Island, New Zealand

This week, an earthquake on the South Island that registered 7.8 on the richter scale and both of my american roommates came down with swine flu.

I, however, successfully survived the first week of class.

My classes are good so far and I think I’m going to enjoy them…with the exception of Pacific History. This was unfortunately not what I was hoping it would be and I have replaced it with World Religions. This class looks to be awesome since it has 6 professors teaching it. Each of these professors (or lecturers as they are called here) is an expert on a major religion so I think that this class will be very interesting and a lot easier than Pacific History looked like it was going to be. Speaking of religion, here’s a sweet church I saw downtown last week.

New Zealand Politics is probably my favorite class so far. The professor is British and our biggest project for the semester is going to be actually going to Parliament to watch the action unfold. This should be pretty interesting…I hope 🙂 Speaking of Parliament, here’s a picture of the Beehive, which is the name of NZ’s Parliament Building.

International Relations is great. The professor is an American from Boston who makes a ton of jokes about the States. This gives the class of mostly Kiwis a good laugh, but since most of them are true (albeit quite liberal), I usually laugh right along with them. Sometimes I think they don’t think actually get the joke…but then I don’t understand half of their slang so I guess its a fair tradeoff. I don’t have a picture of anything related to this…so here’s a picture of Victoria University’s campus!

My education class is not what I expected it to be. Instead of a survey of different educational systems in the South Pacific, this class will focus on how education must be altered when dealing with students from impoverished or minority backgrounds. Definitely a class that will come in handy in the future (that is…if my hands-on experience in Newburgh fails me).

Of course, it’s not just been class here. I saw a whole different side of town last week. The business/government district of Wellington have a much more “big city” feel than the downtown section I’m a little more familiar with. More chic shops and expensive restaurants as well as Mrs. Higgin’s Cookies. Hopefully next time I visit this shop I’ll have my camera. They make huge “American style” cookies. Most other cookies, or biscuits, are crunchy and I had been missing warm, melty cookies. I naturally got chocolate chip and also tried a local favorite, the ANZAC. ANZAC stands for the Australian-New Zealand Army Corp. who fought in Turkey in World War I. These soldiers are remembered by a Memorial Day and by this cookie, which was a popular way to feed the troops since they travelled well. The ANZAC Biscuit is a simple cookie similar to an oatmeal cookie, made with coconut. It was so good. Luckily, Mrs. Higgin’s prices weren’t too bad, since I don’t think I’ll be able to help myself when I make my weekly trips to Parliament.

I also passed by the railway station that I (apparently) came into almost two weeks ago. However, I was picked up right at the outdoor platform, so I never saw the building until a few days ago.
The train station also has a small dry cleaners inside known as Platform 9 3/4. With Harry Potter only a few days away, this really got me excited for the sixth film.

With that, I’ll leave you with a link to more photos and a picture of a sweet bird I saw down at the harbour.

Cheers,

Liam

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=287318&id=713885494&l=577bfa7418

REAL Kiwifruit (7/10/09)

I seriously cannot believe how slow time is going. It feels like so long ago that I was working crazy hours between Washingtonville and Torches and hoping that the sun would finally show its face! Only a week later, I’m still hoping the sun will come out. The weather here is very similar to what we’ve been experiencing in New York. I hope for all your sakes that the sun is shining a little more now than it was before I left. Somehow, the on and off rain is much more bearable when I’m overlooking the Wellington Harbour or watching the mist roll off of Mt. Victoria.

the view from my street

I think I’ve finally worked myself not only onto the correct sleep cycle but the more important eating cycle. Today was probably the first day when I was hungry at the right time of day. Food has been delicious so far. I’ve eaten at some places in town while exploring with the other internationals (although this will stop once classes start, to the great enjoyment of my wallet). Wellington has a huge mix of cuisine options, similar to the city. My two favorites are a Malaysian place that not only has good food, but CHEAP food & a crepe stand that makes both sweet and savory crepes. Shopping at the supermarket yesterday was eye-opening. Partially due to the exchange rate and partially due to getting used to what is cheaper here, I was a little surprised to see some of the prices. Staples like orange juice and yogurt were crazy expensive. However, the biggest bargain came when I found a bag of about 10 kiwifruit for $1.69 (and that’s New Zealand Dollars!). Which reminds me, kiwifruit here is SO much better than in the states. Apparently, we eat kiwifruit mostly from Chile. The kiwifruit here is a much more vibrant green and a little more tart. And that’s the rundown on kiwi food.

Classes start on Monday so I’m getting myself all setup for that. I am taking Introduction to International Relations, New Zealand Politics, Pacific History & Pacific Nations Education. The best part of my schedule is that I only have lecture on Monday & Tuesday. I will have tutorials too, which are like discussion sections in the states. Typically these are on the same day as the lecture so with any luck I’ll keep all classes to the first three days of the week, leaving a 4-day weekend for exploration =).

My Flat!

Flat life is awesome, which makes me even more excited for HKLZ house in the spring (although the rates here are much cheaper…). My kiwimate, Natalie, is from Blenheim, which is on the South Island and basically the center of wine culture in New Zealand. She has already offered to drive us around to all the vineyards during the midsemester break in August. Hopefully then I’ll be able to see more of the south island while using weekend getaways to explore up north. Kevin is from Maryland but goes to school at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Elizabeth is from Ohio and goes to school at Wooster University. Our flat is awesome and I know we’re going to have a great trimester together. The best part about the housing is that we are surrounded by other international students from all over the world. I have met people from Italy, Germany, Denmark, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Great Britain and of course, the States. There are also Kiwis that live here, but most of them aren’t here yet.

Victoria University is home to the New Zealand School of Music so I am hoping to get involved with something here since I won’t have music classes, UDMB, MelUDees or Phi Mu Alpha to keep me busy over the next semester. Luckily, I have scored an audition with the Chief Executive of the New Zealand Symphony who directs Varsity Voices. It only meets once a week so it won’t overwhelm my schedule, but still allow me to take advantage of performing.

Sorry for such a long one, but there’s so much that’s been happening. Email me your address for a postcard OR send me a letter =)

6A Landcross Street
Kelburn, Wellington, New Zealand 6201

More soon…

– Liam

Auckland Wanderings (7/5/09)

Its been almost 4 days since I left New York and yet it feels so much longer. I had a great flight to LAX sitting next to a Lebanese Business man who turned out to be a great seat partner. Layover in LA was full of expensive food and some good phone converstations. Finally, I boarded my 13-hour Air New Zealand Flight direct to Auckland. It. Was. So. Long.

I made it through customs successfully and took a shuttle to my hotel getting there just in time to make it to my harbour-side room for the sunrise. =)

Auckland is an incredible city, the “big” city of New Zealand (1.2 million people). I spent the morning on the waterfront before climbing to the top of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. I hate heights, but I had a blast. The view could only have been better if there was sunny. I was the only one on the walk/tour while everyone else there was bungy jumping, which simply terrifies me. After the bridge climb, I got a coupon for a restaurant on the harbour where I had a server from Galway, Ireland. She’s on a work visa from the University of Galway and was excited to hear that I’ll be travelling there in December. I explored all over the city until it began to rain.

Was it really necessary for NY’s weather to follow me halfway around the world??

I went back to the hotel and watched the sunset. I then had dinner 190 metres above the city in the SkyTower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. The food was INCREDIBLE and came with a paired glass of wine. Full, I headed back to the Hotel for a short night’s sleep, watched the sunrise in the morning, and boarded my train by 7:30.

This train ride has been one of my best decisions so far. The seats were really comfortable and the views were incredible. Food was reasonably priced at the dining car and attached to the front of the train was an outdoor viewing car which was not that popular during the trip thanks to the rain and cold temperatures. I arrived in Wellington at 8:30 Sunday night and after checking in, headed down to the city with my roommates and some other Americans. The first place we went to didn’t accept a NYS driver’s license as an acceptable form of identification, so we had to leave. After we found another place, we hung out for a few hours, getting to know each other. I then had the best night’s sleep I’ve had since Spring Break.

Today, I got a cell phone for my time here, had coffee in a cafe, explored Wellington’s Harbour and visited the Te Papa National Museum. Which reminds me: there is no coffee as we know it hear. What am I going to do?! I’m trying to adjust to the Long Black, but its very heavy so we’ll see. They also don’t put cream in their coffee, only milk, which I’m also adjusting to. Wellington is my kind of city. It’s not too big and not too small with a lot of variety. I could never move this far away from NY forever (don’t worry mom) but know I will enjoy living here for the next five months.

That’s all so far from New Zealand. Orientation tomorrow and enrolment on Wednesday so I’ll update again later this week. I’m glad to be settled in a permanent place and look forward to exploring the area more.

Talk to you all soon,

Liam

Pictures from Auckland: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=281466&id=713885494&l=27d5385327

Pictures from the train and Wellington: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=282624&id=713885494&l=4148bc852f

Here Goes Nothing (written 6/30/2009)

Wow. I can’t believe that after over a year of planning, I am FINALLY about to travel halfway around the world. I knew I wanted to study abroad before I took the SATs in high school. I became even more excited after I heard about Ellen’s adventures in South Africa. And now, I have less than 48 hours left in NY.

For those of you that don’t know, I will be taking off on 2 July at noon from JFK and after two flights and a long layover in L.A., I will arrive in Auckland at 5:25AM on 4 July. Due to the time difference, I end up losing a day! Please don’t do anything exciting on the 3rd. I’ll be spending the day in Auckland, most likely climbing the harbour bridge and visiting the SkyTower, New Zealand’s tallest building. After a night in a hotel, I’ll take a 13-hour scenic train ride to Wellington, where I will settle into my house and get ready for orientation & classes.

I’m not sure of the internet situation in Wellington, but will try my hardest to update this page at least once a week. Pictures will be posted on Facebook and I will put public links to those albums on this page. PLEASE download Skype, as it will be the best way to get in touch with me (AIM works too…)

I love you all and I can’t wait to share stories and pictures over the next 5 months.

Noho ora mai

– Liam

P.S. That’s Maori for Goodbye!

Well here I am, back in upstate NY after a good five months on the other side of the world.

It’s sort of funny that the one thing that every and anybody wants to know right off the bat is “How was it?”… Taking that question into consideration on the spot, about half a million experiences, faces, lessons, landscapes: memories… everything that I gained while in New Zealand runs through my head, and with a deep breath the only thing that I can respond with is something along the lines of, “Great!” With a smile.

Even stepping back and taking the time to write about what I’ve taken out of New Zealand is very difficult, and I’ve got to say that I’m rather pleased that I kept a journal with me while over there! Study abroad, I imagine, opens up different opportunities for each individual who goes, and likewise each person takes out what they learn for themselves, depending on where they are at that time in their life, and can reflect on it in their own way…

However, something that I’m sure holds some similarities for most travellers is the leaving and returning… I had a very difficult goodbye to say to New Zealand: friends and home. But when considering how meaningful each goodbye and everything that seemed at the time like a loss was, the experience was, at the same time, pretty spectacular to be able to experience… My mom has always said, “It’s better to leave a place before you’re ready than stay too long” afterall, which is so true! I’d rather only have great things that are drawing me back to a place to remember than simply remember wanting to leave. I mean, who would really want that for a memory?

I returned to the US in a state of exhaustion, emotional drain and lack of sleep, but I was welcomed by a friend of mine in the LA airport whose sight cheered me up instantly! I was in my home country again! The first thing that I remember noticing was the sound of what seemed to be an all around exaggerated American accent- everywhere! And then I noticed how slowly the clouds were moving across the sky compared to the constantly fast moving sky of Wellington- the windy city!

Since I returned to the States, I’ve continued to notice a number of other differences between places, caught up on a whole lot of necessary sleep, and I’ve slowly re-acclimated to the hot weather! Though I didn’t return home right away, it’s taken the past 2 1/2 to 3 weeks of being back in the states to feel fully recovered, and I’ve got to tell you, everybody was right! Now that I’m back and settled, I’m antsy as to go on another overseas adventure!

While I can’t tell you everything about New Zealand that I have experienced, I do hope that I’ve been able to do justice to the small, beautiful country down under.

Other than a thanks for reading my blog, I lastly want to tell ANYBODY who is considering study abroad to do it. You will not have an experience and travel opportunity like it any other time!

-Alida

STUDY abroad?

Victoria University

Barely over 3 weeks left here in New Zealand, classes just finished yesterday, and
I’m finally blogging something about Victoria University! To confirm
the curiosity of those of you wondering whether or not I do actually
attend university here, I do! As a matter of fact, I am enrolled in
three courses here (called, “papers”). There are four victoria
University campuses throughout the city of Wellington, two of which I
attend. Though I live a 5 minute walk from Pipitea campus, which is
primarily Law and Commerce, I take classes up hill at Kelburn (the
main Uni campus) and at Te Aro, which I walk 25-30 minutes through
the city to get to.

Each course here is worth slightly more than classes at home as far
as points/credits go, and therefore a minimum of 3 classes will
enroll you as a full time student. However, the classes require a
bit more work, as there are three hours/week of class time per paper
and another extra hour of the week allotted to a mandatory tutorial.

Most classes require students to buy “Notes” which is basically all
of the readings photo copied and binded together in one big book,
cutting down the number of books necessary to be purchased.

One of the classes that I’m enrolled in, and my favorite, is Maori
123, Culture and Society. Funny enough, a vast majority of the class
consists of study abroad students, and a few kiwis (many of them
Maori). In the class, we’ve basically learned the background of the
indigenous culture of this small South Pacific country, and the
di/progression of it throughout the past centuries. It’s been an
incredible way to understand much of the atmosphere of this country,
and a great way to involve myself with some Maori traditions with at
least a little understanding of their background, passions and
beliefs. I would highly recommend a Maori class of some kind to
anybody studying abroad over here in New Zealand!

I’m officially done with Uni on June 16th- my last final exam, and then I have 10 days left to find some more adventures before I join the rest of you back home for summer… What’s everybody up to, anyway?

See you all soon :o)

Wellington…

…Is a beautiful city right on the harbour of Oriental Bay on the southern tip of the North Island of New Zealand. The city skyline can be seen while walking down along the harbour.

from the harbour

…Is Windy!
Wellington is...

and is full of all sort of plants, both indigenous and introduced.

…Is the capitol city of New Zealand. One can stroll right outside of Parliment as they please- night and day! (Amazing, huh?) There are also free tours of the buildings on the hour daily. The far building is known as “The Beehive” here in Wellington. Apparently that end was meant to have mimmicked the other half of Parliment, but they ran out of room! The older half is made up of solid marble blocks taken from various places throughout New Zealand.

They

…Has everything within walking distance. Weekly I walk across the front of Parliment, working my way to the local grocery store, New World.

Grocery Store

…Is the home of the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere, second in the world only to The Todaiji temple in Nara, Japan (Northern Hemisphere).

The law library...

This is the Victoria University Law School on Pipitea Campus (One of 4 Vic campuses throughout Wellington)

...is a giant maze!

…is easy to commute in and out of. There is also a free shuttle from the Railway Station to the Interislander Ferry Terminal for connection between the two islands!

Race transport...

…has artwork everywhere. This includes that all too famous bucket fountain designed in the 70s and still standing in the center of Cuba Mall. It’s uncertain whether the design of the fountain which splashes unaware people as they stroll by the lovely commons was intentional or not… Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan (Better known to many as the Hobbits, Frodo and Merry) Peed in this fountain, which has only increased the fame of this bizarre contraption.

Splash!

…Also has entertainment everywhere! (This includes various musicians, singers, fire eaters, unicyclists, beatboxers… performers of all ages, talents… you name it!) Live entertainment can be found at any time of day or night on Cuba Street.

crazy Cuba...

…has a national museum! Along with the permanent exhibits that take you through the history and progression of New Zealand, the is currently a temporary Lord of the Rings installation.

It's

Unfortuantely, photos are not allowed in this particular exhibition, but I can at least give you a taste of what was inside:

...

This is a 1:12 scale miniature model, and the only one needed for the entire film. “They filmed it dressed up in four different ways, then put the shots together digitally… Corsair Ship: Made by Weta Workshops. Made from timber, urethane, fabric, and paint.”

…The Exhibition is up through August, so, you know… if anybody happens to be in the area :o)
http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/Tepapa/

Wellington!…

…has Civic Square, a big, beautiful open commons right near the harbour.

Civic Square

It’s lined and decorated by various pieces of art as well as a gallery, the Visitor Information center (“i site”) and the city Library. If you get a membership at the city library, there are 3 dollar video rentals for a week!

cheap video rentals

… Is gorges?

Ithaca is...

???

Stafford House

I can remember sitting at my kitchen table back home in Groton, NY staring at what felt like an infinite number of options of where to live here in Wellington, New Zealand. I could flat with other uni students throughout the city, I could live with a family in the Wellington area, which would provide me with food and a place to sleep, but on the other hand I would have to find transportation daily into the city, and I’d be farther from other students. I could take advantage of the flatting provided through Victoria, which upon deciding to do, was presented with even more decisions! Did I want to live right in the city? What campus did I want to live near? What halls seemed to provide the most (electricity, furniture, internet, heat, etc…) and what combination of these was the most appealing? Did I want a meal plan? or to cook for myself? what were the best prices? Yikes! Decisions decisions (not exactly my favorite thing to make!)

I eventually came to the decision to live in the flats provided by Victoria, and Stafford House sounded pretty good to me, so I put it down as my first choice, and got in!

Stafford House......is tall!

Stafford house is on the beginning of The Terrace and not a 4 minute walk from the Parliment buildings. There is a delicious coffee shop right next door, as well as a dairy. The Terrace is parallel to Lambton Quay, one of the busiest streets in Wellington, and it provides about a 20 minute uphill walk to Uni… (You’re lucky if you’re not dripping in sweat by the time you get there- even on cooler days!)

40 The TerraceVic Uni flats

Stafford at eyelevel looks just like the base of any apartment building. There’s a glass awning over the entrance, so many people tend miss the overwhelming feeling of dizzy verticle stripes at the simple tilt of their head, but the modernized zebra-look is what helps Stafford to stand out in Wellington (though, there is one other building in the city painted up like a big zebra).

My view every morning...

This is my view as I leave stafford every day to wander the city of Wellington.

International students from all over!

In the lobby of Stafford House, there is a World Map with pins for everybody to share where they’re from. There are students from everywhere here- Aside from Americans and Kiwis, there are a number of Aussies, Europeans (from Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France, Norway, Finland…) Asians, and Pacific Islanders, Indonesians- All in Stafford House! Everybody wants to come to New Zealand! (And I honestly can’t blame them ;o) )

Moving on to my flat!

...dining room?

our kitchenmeercat manor

Stafford house provides each fully furnished flat with a kitchen, a table and chairs, a bathroom, washer/dryer, and a couch. (And three bedrooms…) It is so nice to cook for myself, and be able to decide just what I want to eat. The pictures on the wall just so happen to be from the gorges town of Ithaca, and with one of our chairs that has fallen apart, my flatmates and I were able to rig up a decent television stand!

There are three bedrooms in each flat, all differently shaped and sized. I have only one window, but because our flat is quite high up, I get a decent amount of sunlight through my window.

The rooms each came with a desk, bed, drawers, lamp and a wardrobe. On the wall to the left of my desk I hung a huge poster up backwards so that friends (and I) can draw on my wall! It’s been one way to make my room a bit more cozy and feel lived in (seeing as I didn’t bring anything to hang up with me).
…You’ll notice the Ginger Beer bottles on my desk. Gingerbeer here is sooo good- sweetened with honey! (Genius!) It’s one thing I think I will genuinely miss when I leave in 4 weeks.

Stafford House takes a lot of pride, I think, in housing so many international students, and to express their appreciation for living with them, Marie and Stewart (The wonderful owners of Stafford), took everybody leaving the building out to dinner just last night. It was such a brilliant way for everybody to interact, and for us to hang out with Marie and Stewart beyond the walls of our building a little.

The food, too, was wonderful! And the proportions HUGE.

Emma, me, Erin

Stafford has been an excellent place to live. I feel so situated in this area of the city. The grocery store is close, the Botanical Gardens a 10 minute walk up behind my building, and I know my walk to Uni by heart: the businesses, coffee shops, crosswalks, the tall buildings that reflect the rest of the cityline, and the shortcut through the woods that I take every chance that I get. Marie and Stewart are great, I have had so much fun cooking for myself, and both my flatmates and building…mates have turned out to be wonderful! Stafford has become my home and my family for my stay here- so far away from my home and family in the States…

…And though I can’t wait to return to them, I’ve got to say- it’s going to be difficult to say goodbye here. :o)