As always I'm apologizing for not being more up-to-date on my blog posts. It's been almost three weeks since I returned from my vacation to Sydney and Tokyo and my last post.
I've been leading a pretty regular life the past few weeks. Class work has taken up most of my time. I have several papers due in the next few weeks, so I'm just trying to stay on top of all that. As my father reminds me, I did come here to be a student, so occasionally I'll have to write a paper and possibly read a book. I have also been taking part in winter training with a few other rowers at the Wellington Rowing Club. My two closest Kiwi friends, Jess and Lap (nickname for Lisa) are both pretty serious rowers. They have a club season that begins at the end of June, so they are training for that. I figure it is good for me to stay in shape and I get to spend more time with them this way as well! We erg two days a week, do weights/calistetics three other days, and then occasionally get out on the water on the weekends. The weather here is the biggest thing that keeps us off the water. I kid you not when I say that when it is a bad weather day in Wellington, it is a VERY bad weather day. The wind here comes from Antarctica, and I guess the way that New Zealand is shaped the wind just blows right over the South Island and into Wellington. So the first time it was a really windy day in Wellington, I seriously thought I was walking through a hurricane. In Florida, even when the hurricane is on the otherside of the state the weatherman recommends you stay in side. When its windy like that here people go about their business and occasionally have to hold onto a light post when an exceptionally strong gust blows through.
Next week I'm getting my first visitors since I've been here. My lovely little sister Keri is coming over and bringing her friend Zoe (from Naples and UF) for two whole weeks! They arrive on Tuesday the 11th and depart the 25th. Keri will be here for her 19th birthday on May 17th! The day after they arrive we are traveling to the South Island for a few days of travel. Wednesday the 12th we are departing at 9 am to fly to Queenstown. We plan to stay there two nights and see a bunch around the area. Milford Sound is a 3.5 hour drive from the city, so we plan to drive out there and take a boat trip around the Sound. We're also hoping to walk up a glacier and see Lake Wanaka. Queenstown is known to be the adventure capital of New Zealand, famous for bungy jumping, paragliding, and sky diving. Bungy jumping and sky diving are two things I am not particularly drawn to do. I know everyone says its a must to go bungy jumping in Queenstown, but I don't think I would be especially excited to do it in any part of the world. I guess I'll see about that one. Paragliding on the other hand could be a little more appealing. Queenstown and the Fiordland is where a lot of Lord of the Rings was filmed, so there are a few spots that we'll see where some of the filming was done. The scenes from that movie are part of the reason I decided to come to this beautiful country, so I figure I better see them. We depart on Sunday at 2 pm from Christchurch, so we plan to end up there on Saturday evening to spend the night. I hope to see as much of the region as possible in the four days we'll be down there and have a fully charged camera for the entire adventure. I'm still working on other plans for while Keri and Zoe are here. One thing I did promise Keri is that we would go horse-back riding on her birthday (the 17th) so that will definitely happen!
The weekend after the girls leave I have another trip planned to go to Lake Taupo and Rotorua. My friend Jess's family has a time share in Rotorua so we are taking advantage of it and going up with a big group of people. I think it'll be pretty exciting to road trip and see all these places with Kiwis. All my friends of course are excited to travel with an American tourist. I am sure we will both provide plenty of entertainment for one another.
My last final is on June 7th. I could have had finals up until the end of June, so that is why my dad booked my return for June 23rd and of course I have to be back for my cousin Lizzy's wedding on the 26th. So I now have less than 7 weeks left here. Saying that out loud blows my mind. It's hard to believe I've been here for 2 and 1/2 months, the time has of course flown by! Before I know it I'll be arriving back in Burlington, enjoying my short summer, and then starting my senior year of college. Now that really blows my mind!
I have definitely come to appreciate my time here. When I first got here my impression was that everyone loved Americans. We were the coolest people to be from the greatest country in the world. But I've come to learn that it's really only Americans who think this about ourselves. The general opinion of Americans is that we all think we're big hotshots and we do whatever we want. Well thanks George Dubya for that one. Obviously no Kiwi is a fan of him. Since Obama has come into office the feeling towards Americans has lightened a bit. But I don't think Kiwis regard him as our president, but more as a celebrity. They all love him, but it is definitely in more of a worship kind of way as opposed to a respected way. I have never felt disrespected in anyway though because Kiwis are too nice to say to my face that they think Americans are hotheaded. It is also a humbling experience to realize that Kiwis are just as westernized and developed as anywhere in the US. I don't know if I expected every Kiwi to be an outdoorsy, farmer type, or what. But in fact most Kiwi college students are like your average American college student. They all listen to the same kind of music we do, watch the same tv shows (Gossip Girl, Grey's Anatomy, Glee, Desperate Housewives), have the same sort of fashion sense, and spend their weekends partying and socializing. As much as I thought it would be great to be American in New Zealand, I often feel like I have to prove myself to people. Prove to them that I did not vote for George Bush, personally pass the Patriot Act, live on the Jersey Shore, or am geographically-inept. Kiwis hate it when you compare them to Australia or assume that they are somehow geographically connected to Australia. So if someone ever tells you they are from New Zealand make sure you know that is in the Southern Hemisphere in the Pacific and NOT part of Australia. My Kiwi friends that know me definitely respect me and realize that I do not live up to the stereotype they had. I only hope that I'm helping pave the way for future Americans who come here. And as much as I love the fact that I am American, it would probably be much easier to travel the world as a New Zealander. Just a bit of insight there.
Well I hope all my lovely friends and family are doing well and know that I'm thinking of you. Before you know it we will be reunited!!