Saturday, June 25, 2011

He taonga no te whenua me hoki ano ki te whenua

It’s hard to describe how I feel right now. I spent five months in a country I’d never visited before, and I fell madly in love with it. There were good times and bad times, but I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing about my time here. I held nothing back, I said yes, and the experience was one of the most rewarding in my life so far.

My last couple of weeks did not lack in excitement; on June 13th Christchurch was affected by a 5.7 followed by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. For the first quake, I was in residence, which was evacuated. I made my way down the street to a coffee shop to meet up with my friends, who were all a little shaken. It was a beautiful day so we sat outside to drink, and after about 10 minutes the second quake hit. The cars in the parking lot were rocking back and forth, the windows were warping, and people were sprinting out of buildings. We were all ok, but a bit worried, and headed to a friend’s place to relax.
Post-quake drinks on the trampoline
The university was closed for three days afterward, which meant the exam period had to be completely re-arranged (it was supposed to begin on Saturday). One of my exams was cancelled; the others bumped back a day. Of course, the earth didn’t feel like settling and we were hit by a 5.5 on Tuesday night. This was the most rattling quake I’d been through yet, since I was walking outside when it happened. The buildings started to shudder like dogs shaking off water and street lamps were waving back and forth. I felt lightheaded and freaked out; after a large aftershock, residences were evacuated and we weren’t allowed to return until 2:00am … not a great way to prep for my first exam, which was the next morning at 9:00am.

Somehow I made it through my exams with my sanity, packed up my things and said goodbye to the wonderful people I’ve spent time with for the past five months. I got up at 4:00am on June 24th to make my flight (which was luckily not cancelled due to ash clouds or earthquakes) and am now halfway through my most intense bout of travel yet: I've flown from Christchurch to Sydney to LA to Vancouver, which took 29 hours, and yet it is still June 24th. Currently I'm on the ferry to Victoria for the night; tomorrow I'll head back to Vancouver, fly to Kingston overnight via Toronto and then drive up to camp Sunday morning after a brief welcome brunch at home.
Friends who will be missed :(
Sadly, my time in New Zealand has drawn to a close. I don’t think that's the last I’ll see of the country, and definitely not the last of the friends I made while there. When I look back on my exchange, it is only with smiles and love. Until the next travel blog, this is your barefoot narrator signing off!

Mt Thomas

The second weekend in June I went to stay with my friends Abby and Lara for the weekend. It was so nice to have a home cooked meal and hang out on a big couch eating popcorn and watching movies … living in a flat never quite measures up to that feeling.

On Sunday we hiked up Mt Thomas and were lucky enough to have a beautiful (and a bit crisp) day. It was a steep hike and we all realized how unfit we’d become since TWALK … none of us had really been up for tramping since then! Just to stay true to our history, we managed to lose Abby and Lara’s dog Jess for about two hours but luckily were reunited with her at the top of the hike. 
That afternoon, I helped Lara feed their seven alpacas. One of them was fond of the food I was giving him, but also fond of sneezing all over me. Needless to say, my puffy vest is a little bit more green and smelly than it was before.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Back up North

At the beginning of June I decided it was time for another adventure (my lack of blogs being indicative of my sedentary school-ridden state) and I chose to head back north to the fair city of Wellington. If you recall, my last visit was immediately after the 6.3 earthquake in February and I was flown there on a Hercules military plane. It was definitely nice to go back under less stressful circumstances!

I spent the first couple of days enjoying the city again; Wellington is a wonderful place. It's right on the harbour, it doesn't feel too big, everyone seems to be dressed fashionably and the shops are really interesting. I went back to Te Papa, the national museum, and explored it for a lot longer this time since I wasn't beckoned to the beach by warm weather. I saw a giant squid, explored a re-creation of what New Zealand would have been like pre-contact and saw loads of physical examples of Maori culture that I've been studying all semester. 

I did a short walk up Mt Kaukau (pronounced cow-cow) and was lucky to have a clear enough day to see over to the South Island (hopefully it shows up in the picture). The weather has been unseasonably warm here lately, which has been bad news for the ski hills but enjoyable everywhere else!
South Island is across the water on the right
But what I was really pumped about that weekend was seeing my first live pro rugby game! I saw the Hurricanes (Wellington's team) play the Lions (a South African team). It was a great game and the Hurricanes won 38-27, so despite the rain fans were pumped!
Hosea Gear gets his second try of the game
The next day I visited Martinborough to enjoy the quaint wine country again before it was time to head back to Christchurch and focus on my studies once more.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Taylor's Mistake

The morning after my birthday party (about three weeks ago) I attended CUBA's Learn to Surf day ... impressed that I was even able to get out of bed? Yeah. I was too. Looks like turning 21 doesn't mean I get awful hangovers! Now that I've said that, 22 will probably kick my ass.
Learning the basics: pop-ups!
Anyway, back to surfing. It was a beautiful day, and the water is finally safe to swim in (it was pretty sketchy for a while after the quake) but the swell was the weakest I've ever tried to surf - it was pretty close to dead calm. Which was great for all the newbies who were learning to surf for the first time, but not for anyone riding anything shorter than 8ft. I'd been invited by my friend Blake who knew I was into surfing and wasn't really there to learn since I was taught to surf by an amazing instructor back north in Canada. Blake and his brother Canning and I shared a long board since they'd both brought boards too short for the swell, and we had a great time goofing around on the little waves and watching the learners slam into each other accidentally.

After a few hours out on the water, everyone headed in to shore to have some snacks before starting the beach cleanup. CUBA (Canterbury University Boardriders Association) teamed up with Sustainable Coastlines to do a bit of good for the coast! I was pumped to be helping clean up the oceans even just a little bit (beach cleanups reduce the amount of garbage in the ocean - check out the Great Pacific Garbage Patch although there's more than just one!).

Finally at the end of the day, there was a BBQ and CUBA gave out a ton of sweet prizes. Somehow I won "Female Charger of the Day" and a sick pair of Arnette sunglasses ... I feel kinda guilty since I already knew how to surf, but I love the shades!
Great views during the cleanup