||[Oct. 4th, 2005|09:00 pm]
So as most of you know I recently went to Australia and New Zealand with a student ambassador group called People to People and since I got back people have been asking me what I did and I never really gave a detailed day to day description to those who were interested enough to ask. And for those who didn't really want to know I completely understand that you were just extremely jealous and didn't want to boil over in jealously when I would tell you. So without further or do, here it is straight from my journal that I had to keep my 20 days exploration of Australia and New Zealand.|
--- NEW ZEALAND ---
Saturday June 11, 2005
We landed in Auckland, New Zealand today at 5:00 in the morning, which was really weird because we left from Los Angeles on Thursday at about 8:00 at night. We met our bus driver named Keith and started out the day by going somewhere familiar for breakfast, McDonalds. Only this was different in the it had deli sandwiches and a cafe called McCafe, which was much like a small coffee shop with pastries and all that. After that we spent a small portion of the morning taking a tour around Auckland. It was very foggy and cold and made it had to take good pictures or see anything remarkable. After that we headed to a town called Rotorua. This is where we had to take a gondola to the top of a HUGE mountain and when we got to the top we ate lunch did some shopping and then we were able to take a luge type ride to a lower part of the mountain and then take a sky lift back to the top. It was a very interesting but fun way to start off the day. After that we headed to our hotel for the night, which I was very grateful for because it REALLY was the longest day of my life and I needed a shower.
Sunday June 12, 2005
Today we were are still in Rotorua and it is by far the worst smelling town I have ever visited because of all the thermal activity that they are apparently famous for but the smell is unbearable, it reminds me of the smell of rotting eggs basically. We visited and took a tour of Wai-O-Tapu, a thermal "wonderland" that was not so wonderful smelling. It was really really cold and pretty boring and I really didn't care that much about the thermal activity after about the ten millionth steaming geyser that we saw. The next place we went to was something called the Agrodome, which was home to the 19 different sheep of New Zealand and a show that ran daily. It was neat because they had trained the sheep dogs to actually stand on top of the sheep while the sheep just sat there and let the dogs sit on them. I have no idea why they need the dogs to sit on the sheep but it was fun nonetheless. Our last stop for the night was visiting a Maori tribe in a traditional village and experiencing all the traditional ways of the Maori tribe. We stayed in what was called a Marae, or their meetinghouse. They welcomed the whole group with the traditional ceremony much like what they did in Whale Rider. It was an amazing experience and one of my favorite things just because of all the dancing and singing that they did. We spent the night in the Marae and they told us stories of their history, which to my unfortunate luck I fell asleep to.
Monday June 13, 2005
Today we finally left Rotorua and headed to our next destination called Lake Taupo. Here we all got on the very large but extremely fast jet boats and did all sorts of fast turns and whatever jet boats do, I'm not to sure on all the lingo. We got really wet and everyone had chapped faces but it was worth it and the water was amazingly blue and beautiful. For lunch we stopped at a shopping district to do souvenir shopping and to eat lunch, when we were done there we prepared for our homestay in a town called Palmerston North. This was probably the worst experience for me because of the fact that even though my family was nice they were very shy and unfriendly, just not very welcoming as I felt a host family should be. For the rest of the night they served us dinner and we just watched TV the rest of the night. The house was freezing and we soon discovered that they homes there don't have installed heating throughout the entire house just floor heaters and my room didn't have one so therefore when I went to my room to go to bed I could see my breath it was so cold.
Tuesday June 14, 2005
I got up early the next morning, to my own alarm that I had set, to find myself soaked in sweat because I had turned the heat blanket on my bed as high as possible. I went downstairs to take a shower and found to my complete horror that the shower had no shower curtain. It was by far the most awkward shower that I had ever taken and I just felt so violated as I stood there naked in this huge tub taking a shower. That day there was definitely a difference between cultures as I was able to go to school and see how public schools differed from ours. The first major difference was that they got to school until year 13 instead of year 12. Also at the school that I went to they had something around grade 6 all the way to this grade 13 at one school. Once you reached a certain age you no longer had to wear the uniforms even though there were younger grades in uniform, which did not make much sense to me. There are only 5 classes in a day and after their first to classes they have a teatime and then two more classes then lunch and then their last class. The teachers and students have a different relationship in that they are very disrespectful and swear a lot at each other. That night we went downtown and all the kids from the school got together and we all went to see the Amityville Horror, which I hated, but it was still very fun to have everyone get together. It was funny to see all the guys’ reaction to all the girls from my group because they just automatically just surrounded all of us and starting asking these ridiculous questions but all in all it was quite amusing. After the movie we just went back to my home stay family’s house and I had a really hard time falling asleep because of that damn movie, but the night was good.
Wednesday June 15, 2005
Today we joined the rest of our group and we headed out of Palmerston North to go to Wellington. On our way there they passed around the microphone and made everyone tell what they did during their home stay’s and it sounded like everyone had a much better experience than I did which kind of pissed me off. Everyone was supposed to say something but I was so disappointed that I just passed it on without speaking. After a long bus journey we stopped in a small tourist trap place called Lindale know for its good cheese shop, which I must agree was very good. We ate lunch there and there were a few shops to buy stuff in. Once we arrived in Wellington they let us go off by ourselves into the downtown area and go shopping or whatever we wanted. There was going to be a big rugby game there that night so we saw a lot of really cute guys walking around carrying the flags that they represented. That was all that we had planned for the day so after shopping we headed back to the coach and went to our hotel for the evening.
Thursday June 16, 2005
Today was probably one of the most interesting days in that we got to visit the Parliament building in Wellington. After an amazing tour of the building we actually got the chance to sit in on a bill being passed and hear each side of the argument and we found out afterwards that we were not allowed to be there, and not even locals can do what we did. We also learned that New Zealand was the first country to have a female prime minister and she works in a building they call “the beehive” which is exactly what it is shaped like. After that we visited a museum called Te Papa, which is Maori for “our place.” It was a really interesting museum and it combined the Maori culture with the modern culture of New Zealand. Then the last thing that we did that day was go to a place called Studio E or something like that, where we got to make a news broadcast and everyone had different roles either behind the camera or on camera. I was in control of sound mixing and got to be in the control room, it was actually really interesting. We had dinner at a restaurant called Quarter, which for the strangest reason was a New Orleans themed place.
Friday June 17, 2005
Today was our last day on the North Island of New Zealand, and we had to leave this really great tour guide that we had named Keith. We took a ferry to the South Island and it was quite amazing just the mountains and the ocean and we even saw a few sea animals! I started getting a little seasick I will admit, cause I normally don’t, but took so motion sickness pills and just got a little drowsy but felt much better. We met this really cool group of guys that were on a father/son fishing trip and had already started drinking at 9:00 in the morning and were pretty much drunk by the time that we started talking to them. They were really funny and made the trip go by that much faster and kept trying to get us to drink and whatnot. Eventually some stupid girl from our group told one of the leaders that we were talking to them and they made us all come and sit with them which was really dumb and its not like we were even doing anything but whatever, it was still a good time. When we got to the South Island some of the guys actually followed some of the girls from our group to our bus and wouldn’t leave them alone, one of the leaders FREAKED out and went all crazy and started yelling, it was really funny. We met our new bus driver who pretty much sucked compared to our old one and kept making negative comments about America, definitely not the way to get a young group of kids to like you so everyone pretty much hated him from then on. After leaving the docking point we headed to Christchurch, which was about a 5 ½ hour drive, but on the way we stopped at a rocky area by the ocean that was just filled with seals and we got to get pretty close and take pictures and whatnot but they smelled really badly of fish and it got old pretty soon. We had dinner at the wildlife reserve and afterwards got to take a tour and see the protected Kiwi, finally. We weren’t supposed to use our flashes because it would have blinded the bird and it was nighttime so it was really inconvenient. I tried to be all cool with my nighttime taking camera and thought the flash was off but forgot that I had turned it off the save the battery so when I turned it back on the flash was on automatically so I might have blinded an extinct animal.
Saturday June 18, 2005
For me today was a pretty scary day considering we had the choice to repel down a 200ft. mountain and if I chose not to do it I knew that I would not have heard the end of it from my friends. We headed towards the Southern Alps of New Zealand just one valley over from where the Lord of the Rings was shot and it was so obvious that that was where it had taken place. The group that organized all this was called Full-On, and they were some of the most happy, energetic and hyper people that I have ever met and we all very nice to us. So the repelling thing was probably one of the scariest moments of my life because I'm really not a fan of heights and it was just really high and they kept telling us not to let our bodies slam into the side of the mountain. However, I made it to the bottom and my hands were covered with sweat and had little blisters forming already cause I was holding on so tight, I think I was the 5th one down out of 38 people. It took a really long time to get the rest of the people down, especially those who kept going on and then backing up cause they were too scared, we waited about 3 ½ hours. By that time everyone who had gone early were FREEZING and miserable and really grumpy and ready to leave. When we got back to the cabin we were staying in, the same one that the cast of the Lord of the Rings stayed in, they had hot chocolate and scones waiting for us and we spent the rest of the night just talking and playing silly games but it was really warm and enjoyable.
Sunday June 19, 2005
Today was our last day in New Zealand but before heading to the airport to fly to Australia we stopped at an Antarctic Center. It sounded completely boring but was actually really interesting because we got to learn about what the people who lived and studied there did on a daily basis. We learned that different countries had different sections of the continent and the Americans was most favored because we had the biggest area to study in and a bowling alley and all this other stuff that wasted free time. Then we got to talk to a guy who was in Antarctica at that time and asked him questions and he gave us lots of information as well. Then they sent us to this room that was a simulation of what is was like there, when a storm occurred and what temperature it was. It was pretty damn cold and not too enjoyable and I wanted to leave as soon as possible. After that they gave us tickets to go on this ride called the Haggland, which is the kind of transportation that they use. That was really fun and was a lot like a really rough roller coaster ride. After that we went to the airport, which was like right next to the Antarctic center and as we were driving by we saw the New Zealand rugby team called the All Blacks but since our bus driver sucked he didn’t stop and we didn’t get to talk to them or anything.