Hello from New Zealand!! Or, as the locals would say: Kia Ora.
Our class of 26 Furman students somehow successfully survived the 15-hour flight from Houston to Auckland. After a couple of days of jet lag, I can happily say that most everyone has adjusted to the 16 hour time difference. Though this program is a part of the Communications department, students from multiple majors are on the trip — making for a fun and diverse group to travel with.
I am once again joined by my girl Cate! If anyone followed my journey in Denmark, Cate is a sorority sister and phenomenal friend who also studied abroad. We met up over the course of the semester and trekked across three different countries. We are now making our way through the land down under. There is truly something to be said about having one of your close friends with you while you travel. Inevitably something will go wrong — it’s nice to have someone who understands my travel stress and how to keep us all grounded. Cate and I have been dubbed as the “moms” of the trip as we seem to always be the first to suggest an adventure, pack snacks, or, in Cate’s case, transform into our group’s expert navigator.
Day 1 in NZ started off with a hike to Mt. Eden, which set the scene for the majority of our trip since. Surprisingly, Auckland is nothing but hills! As the West Coast students have said: “it’s honestly worse than San Francisco”. We learned very quickly that the only proper foot attire is tennis shoes or hiking boots — unless you want blisters. But, back to Mt. Eden. It was a sight to see as we criss-crossed up the dormant volcano. Unable to check into the hotel, we lugged our travel packs up the mountain with us. Fortunately, we were able to store our checked bags at the hotel.
We have learned a couple of tricks while being here. The first: You can cross a crosswalk on the diagonal. The second: Cafe culture is very prominent. They serve the best meals. The third and most important is advice we got in the airport from a local — he said that every day we should expect to experience all the seasons. We have yet to go through a day that we do not sweat, freeze, and shiver in the rain! It all kinda sneaks up on you!
I previously mentioned I am traveling with Furman on this May Experience. Our trip is overseen by Drs. Inabinet and Armstrong in the Communications department while we study culture and identity. The indigenous population are the Māori people and New Zealand is currently in an interesting political climate. Many are pushing to identify as a bi-cultural nation. Essentially, when New Zealand was colonized there were two treaties — one in English and one in Māori. But there were some translation issues, especially with the word ‘sovereignty’. This led to a handful of wars and land unfairly being sold and distributed. We are studying the main efforts being made to help the Māori people regain equality through social and political means. In our readings, we have studied the language of the tangata whenua, or people of the land, we have learned the slang words that have infiltrated our vocabulary for the duration of the trip. Within minutes, we transformed from being exhausted to tired as, from wanting to go hiking to itching to go tramping, and from exploring New Zealand’s countryside to its wop-wops. As funny as these terms may seem, understanding the locals made us feel more respect for the culture in this country, as well as its people.
Below is a video of the class singing a traditional love song in Te Reo Maori language.
While New Zealand’s population is 4.6 million people, Auckland is home to 1.7 of them. Cate and I led an impromptu trip to Waiheke Island — better known as wine country. Though it averaged about 60 degrees every day here it is currently Winter. Thankfully, the vineyards don’t close for another week or two. 17 of us caught a 35-minute ferry from the docks and walked about 20 minutes to Cable Bay Vineyard. Settled on the top of a hill, the veranda of the vineyard has the most magnificent view! Since this is a school trip, and being the driven students we are, we opted for a wine tasting session to educate our palates. Afterwards, a couple of us decided to head into the main village of the island where we walked around, grabbed dinner, and swam in the Pacific Ocean at sunset. Two days later we spent a half day at Davenport, another island about 15 minutes by ferry from Auckland. It resembles Charleston, oddly enough, with the beautiful houses and low hanging trees. Our big focus for the day was the beach. Although we didn’t get a full day in the sun, we spent the better part of the afternoon finding sand-dollars and starfish as we hung out — this despite the freezing water temperature.
I have so much more to say, but I will cut this post short as I am currently being thrown left and right as our coach bus makes the 5 hour drive through the “rolling hills” of New Zealand to Rotorua.
More updates to come