I just returned from a three day trip to Auckland. I stayed with my friend Jess who's family lives up there in a suburb called Ponsonby. I flew up Monday evening with her and left this afternoon (Thursday) to come back to Wellington. It was really nice to stay with her family and have a few (good) home cooked meals. She even had a fireplace at her house, a luxury that my house in Wellington does not have, in fact it's lacking in heat all together.
Tuesday she took me to Newmarket to begin with, where we enjoyed some excellent New Zealand coffee as well as did some shopping. Then we went to One Tree Hill which is a little mountain within the city that you can see most of the city from. In fact there is no tree on top of the hill, but an obelisk, pretty much a smaller version of the Washington Monument. That evening we enjoyed watching the New Zealand All Whites play Slovakia in a 1-1 tie. For those who didn't watch the game, the All Whites haven't been to a World Cup in 28 years and have never made it past the first round. The team was definitely the underdogs, but watching the game with Kiwis made me really root for the team. The All Whites tied up the game with less than 5 minutes remaining, in a surprising tie that even the commentators couldn't grasp. Of course all of New Zealand was celebrating that night.
From the top of One Tree Hill
Wednesday we started the day by driving up Mount Eden where you can get another killer view of the city. We then drove down to the Viaduct, or waterfront. The Viaduct is where most of the 2007 America's Cup was watched from and where all the boats are kept. We saw both of Team New Zealand's boats, much to my father and older brother's jealousy I'm sure. Growing up with an avid sailing father has made me appreciate a nice looking sailboat, so seeing these two boats was incredible. They're HUGE! But the waterfront doesn't just house the two New Zealand boats, but tons of other massive yachts from all around the world.
America's Cup sailboats - Team New Zealand
After enjoying the sunshine and warmth of the waterfront we drove out to Mission Bay which is another suburb of Auckland and where several beaches are located. After being in such crummy winter weather here in Wellington it was nice to see some sunshine and walk in the sand. After Mission Bay, Jess who is also a rower, took me to her former rowing club, West End. New Zealand's olympic single sculler, Mahe Drysdale also rows out of this club as well as a few other olympic rowers.
Mission Bay beach
That evening I tagged along with Jess to her friend's 21st birthday party at a local bar. It was really nice to meet some of her other friends and all of them were quite friendly. They all loved hearing about Washington, DC and how much I've loved being in New Zealand. I had my second celebrity sighting that night when I met Kesha Castle-Hughes, the star of the movie Whale Rider. Remember that movie? It came out in 2002 and told the story of a small Maori village in New Zealand. It even had a few Oscar nominations. We talked about it in both of my media classes all semester, so it was kind of funny and ironic that I met her in my last week in New Zealand. She was very friendly and was happy to take a picture with me. As you can see she's pretty short.
I am now back in Wellington and only have five more days left in New Zealand! I can't believe that after being here for four months that it is all coming to an end. I've had an absolutely amazing adventure here and have done pretty much everything I wanted to do. I've made a ton of friends, a few who I will probably remain friends with for my lifetime. I know that I always have a place to stay if I ever want to come back. It was really nice to spend a semester somewhere completely new and different and has only furthered my interest to travel more. I am very excited to come home and see my family and friends, but I know that I'm going to have a bit of reverse culture shock and will be a bit homesick for the life I've made for myself here in New Zealand. The next few days I plan to spend as much time as possible with my Kiwi friends, see a bit more of the surrounding Wellington area, and somehow pack up all my stuff into two suitcases. I leave Wellington next Wednesday morning at 6:45 am and after flying from Sydney to LA to Chicago to Burlington, I'll arrive home Wednesday evening at 11:30 pm EST.
I hope I've kept you all entertained with my blogs from New Zealand. I look forward to seeing ya'll when I return to the states.