I have the incredible opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand Winter 2011. It is a program through the education program at BYU. I am THRILLED for all the adventures to come :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We looked, but we didn't find nemo...

Day 1, Friday

I officially left New Zealand today! Nice and early—the taxi man came and got us at 4:10. Woof. It was sad saying goodbye to the Lords, but I was ready for another adventure. The flight was nice, not too long and plenty to do with our individual TVs. It was fun landing, knowing that I was in a completely different country! Five other girls stayed in a hotel in the city, but since my friend McKenna and her family lived in Sydney for three years, they set up our (Jess, Anna, Me) Sydney living arrangements with their friends, the Campbells. They so kindly opened their home to us, and our stay with them really made our Sydney trip SO much better. We really loved getting to know Neil, Cheryl, Tamara (21), Laura (18), and Lachlan (14).

The big challenge today was finding out way from the international airport to the Campbell’s house. We had it all mapped out, but it required us to take two trains and one bus…with two suitcases and two carry-ons each! What a sight we were. I truly wish we could have had someone video recording us as we tried to get on the train (the gap in between the platform and the actual train was tricky!), OR as we tried situating ourselves so that we could sit, not lose our luggage, and still have room for people to walk by, OR walking up a big hill when we accidentally got off the bus one stop too early, and so forth. Such an adventure, but surprisingly, it went much smoother than we could have ever dreamed. We were expecting Auckland public transportation, and were delighted when we soon learned that Sydney transportation is wayyy better, much more consistent and reliable. So, yes we surely looked ridiculous getting on and off the trains and bus, but we saved a ton of money that way, and we shared a whole lot more laughs.

Since we accidently got off the bus one stop early, we had to climb this hill...whoops!

Our Sydney adventures started off right away with Featherdale Wildlife Park. One of our goals here was to see the Australian animals, and boy did we see Australian animals!

Lots of pictures with the koalas! We really wanted to hold him, but apparently it's illegal. They were sooo cute and cuddly though!

Hello Mr. Emu. They were just roaming around with the kangaroos, and were not afraid of us at all...one even pecked my toes!!
These were beautiful birds--red and gold! This one only had one leg, but I guess Anna only has one leg, too! ;)

One of my favorite parts was the kangaroos! We were just surrounded by them!

Just chillin'

Funniest looking fluffy chickens!
Tons of flying foxes! They are such a strange creature-pretty much like a furry bat with a fox face.
Wallabies! Most were just wandering around the paths, but these were blending into the rocks.
Wombat! I don't think I've ever seen a wombat before and we really got a kick of this funny looking, hairy-nosed little guy!

It was such a delight to be there and experience so many new and exciting Australian animalic encounters. One thing I learned: a dingo looks just like a normal dog, but the difference is that dingoes don’t’ bark like domestic dogs do. The most eye-opening thing I saw was a real life kangaroo pouch…let me just say that it is NOTHING like a cartoon kangaroo pouch that looks like a cute, little pocket. Instead of a nice little pocket, it is actually a gaping, quite disgusting hole—not at all what I was expecting and honestly a bit disturbing. Good thing I know the truth now.

We were so lucky to get all the way to the Campbells house with no transportation issues, but we were not as lucky taking the busses home. 2 out of 3 were successfully flawless, but the last bus didn’t show up for almost 1 hour! And then it went down Tuckwell Road the opposite way we were familiar with and we had to completely guess which stop to get off at. So, we guessed, got off, crossed the street, and asked a man if he knew where Applecross Avenue was (good thing I knew the address!). He said he didn’t, but as he started walking away he said, “Oh, did you mean to say Applecross Avenue?” (except you have to imagine him saying it in an accent, which apparently sounds completely different than the unrecognizable American way to say “applecross.”) He gave us simple directions and after a big hill, we made it safe and sound! Phew!

We also had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Sydney temple. It was such a neat experience, and I’m so glad we were able to make it happen. (big thanks goes to Cheryl Campbell who called ahead and drove us there!!) It was a wonderful first day in Sydney and I can’t wait to see how tomorrow turns out :)

Day 2, Saturday

It was a great day. :) A long day, but a great day.

  • Tamara and Luke took us to a flower market. You can buy beautiful flowers and bouquets at cheap, wholesale prices. It was beautiful, and I want to see where the nearest one in Utah is.
  • We took a few busses into the city, downtown Sydney. (our MyMulti pass was the best decision!) Tamara, Luke, and Locklan showed us around China Town, Darling Harbour, and just around downtown. It was just fun to be in a new, big city and take it all in.
It was so fun to see a variety of didgeridoo players. So Aborigine Australian.
  • We decided this was going to be our Finding Nemo trip because we are in Sydney, Australia! And there are tons of seagulls (Mine! Mine! Mine!), the opera house, and a one point in Darling Harbour, part of the water was filled with hundred of white/clear jellyfish. It was quite a sight. Our goal now is to find a clownfish in the harbour and name him Nemo.
  • There was a plane in the sky “writing” messages. We have no clue what they were supposed to mean…maybe that was the point? To make everyone on the ground look up and try to figure out what the plane was writing in the sky? Well, it’s been a few hours, and I still have no idea what “LEATHERMAN LED LENSER” means haha.
  • We took 2 ferrys today. Not because we needed them to actually go somewhere, but because we just wanted to ride them and see some of the sites. One ended up at Watsons Bay, and one ended up at manly Beach. I loved it!
  • We walked through the botanic gardens. Funny thing is that the most memorable part of the gardens were not the flowers or plants, but the spiders! There were tons of HUGE spiderwebs everywhere with gigantic spiders. Seriously gave me the heebie jeebies!!
  • We saw tons of flying foxes in the wild in the gardens today too. There were literally probably hundreds just in one tree. Oh, and they were SO loud!
  • We saw a guy in the middle of all these white cockatoos, feeding and holding them. As Anna said, “He is one with them.” It was quite a sight to see. They were just perch on this hands and arms and shoulders! I wonder how often he does that.
  • We randomly ran into Nancy, Neeley, and Hannah at Circular Quay today. Out of the whole big city, we ran into them! It was so great though, and we made plans to eat dinner with them. So fun that we were able to meet up and spend a bit more time with them. Then after dinner we all randomly ran into Emily and Nicole. So crazy!!
Still can't believe we ran into each other in such a large city!
  • Sara Strong said we must go to the restaurant Pancake on the Rocks, so we went for dinner! Anna and I split a Mexicana crepe (we have been missing good Mexican food, and this was actually pretty good) and a banana/homemade chocolate sauce/walnut/chocolate ice cream pancake—amazing. Best pancake I have ever eaten, hands underground.
  • Hot n' Troppo. YUM.
  • We walked across the Harbour Bridge. It was neat to walk all the way across, and it was a great place to view the Sydney Opera House and the city.
  • The Opera House is amazing. It is something that when I look at it, I have to remind myself that that’s the real thing! This is not a picture of it that I see often in textbooks, or on Finding Nemo, this is the real deal. It is magnificent.
  • Laura turned 18 today, and she had a big birthday party. Tons of people came, and there were tons of amazing desserts. Fun night!

Day 3, Sunday

Sunday Sunday. Slept in a little bit, had a delicious breakfast with the Campbells (pancakes, strawberries, caramelized pears, etc.), watched some of General Conference. The Campbells are such a wonderful family. We played Uno Spin with them and just had the chance to get to know them a little more and it was so great! Cheryl, Neil, and Lachlan left for Neil’s business trip this afternoon, and then Tamara and Laura went to a baptism so we had an open afternoon to just relax. Tamara left her computer for us to use and check emails, and then we watched Cinderella Man. When Tamara and Laura got back, I had the opportunity to just sit and talk with them, and it was so great to have a big girl chat with them. It is so fun to be here getting to know McKenna’s friends! I have to remind myself often, “I’m in Sydney, Australia!” Yes, life is good :)

Day 4, Monday

Tamara and Laura woke up early with us to take us to Tamara’s favorite little café, Cafe5. It was a tiny little café right off the beach and I loved it! I had this bacon scrambled eggs on sourdough break with hollandaise sauce and it was so yum. It’s fun that we get the insider’s view of Sydney and get to try these fun little things that we would never even come across otherwise. After breakfast we walked across the street to the beach and saw our first official Australian surfers. We took some great pictures on the beach (and by great I mean ridiculous but so much fun) and then they dropped us off at Manly Beach.

All of us at Cafe 5. Anna, Laura, Jessica, Me, Tamara.
Beginning of our beach photo shoot. Love these girls!
Hand stands!
Australian Animals: Laura=Cockatoo, Me=Koala (wrapped in a tree), Anna=Crocodile, Tamara=Kangaroo
Boy Band Cover!

We discovered the Manly Scenic Walkway and made our way 9km along the coast, actually starting at Spit Bridge (where we of course had to spit off the bridge) and ending up at Manly Beach. It was a beautiful hike and we loved being active. When we got back to Manly, we tried a Lemon Lime Bitters Slurpee (Tamara has been raving about them and they definitely lived up to her hype…I loved it!) and took a nap on the beach. We were hoping it would be warm enough to get some sun and enjoy the warmth, but we more shivered under our jackets Bummer it wasn’t hotter, but it was still a great day.

The hike started here at Spit Bridge. We wondered why it was called Spit Bridge, and decided it must be because you have to spit off of it as you cross...

This coastal hike was BE-A-UTIFUL!

When we got home we used Tamara and Laura’s straightener…the first time we have done anything to our hair in over three months!! It was quite a monumental moment for us—we LOVED our straight, non-frizzy hair night. :)

First straightened hair obviously deserved a mirror photo shoot :)

After a delicious dinner of pasta, we went to Max Brenner, a chocolate café. It was AMAZING. They have so many delicious chocolate-y treats, but I think my favourite was the Chocolate Lick—a small shot of pure, delicious, melted chocolate. We also got hot chocolate and an incredible chocolate soufflé. Good thing we don’t have this back in Utah because I’m pretty sure I would go there way too often!

I definitely agree :)

Day 5, Tuesday

It was bittersweet day—sad that it was our last day in Sydney, but excited to see my family so soon! We wanted to have one last beach day before we made our way back to the states, so we made our way to the famous Bondi Beach. It was not as sunny as we had hoped, but we still soaked up as much sun as we could and definitely enjoyed it!

We also made our way over for Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s! We got huge scoops of free, amazing ice cream, and they gave out tie-dyed bracelets that say, “Peace, Love, & Ice Cream.” Love it!

We were really just able to enjoy Sydney today. I absolutely loved New Zealand, but when looking at specific big cities, I definitely liked Sydney over Auckland...so glad I was able to experience both!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ka Kite Ano Aotearoa! Goodbye New Zealand!

I don't know if it's really hit me yet, but today is my last day in New Zealand. My last day! I have no idea where the time has gone, but 3 months is up. We were going to celebrate by going to Mission Bay and enjoying a New Zealand beach one last time, but it was cloudy and rainy when we woke up...bummer. Instead we had a lovely lunch at The Brigham with Sheryl, Raewyn and Kodie. It's one of their favourites, and it was fun to spend the afternoon with them. We truly will miss them!
Apparently, Alexis has always been photogenic, but it is oh so difficult to get a good picture of Kodie. We have tried multiple times, and rarely succeed. We had three cameras out during lunch trying to snap one, and it was quite a challenge. Here's some of the photo shoot :)
We have several like this...
...and several of these "almosts."
One strategy: Kodie LOVES spiders, aka "bi-duhs." So to get him to look at the camera, we would ask him if he could see the spider on Sheryl's head. The problem with this is that then he really wanted to look on her head for a spider!
After lots and lots of attempts, this is the best we got...sure is a cutie!!
We've been talking a lot about what our last meal in New Zealand would be, and we realized that the majority of things we needed to have "one last time" were all desserts. So, instead of having dinner tonight, we had dessert! Literally. (well, I guess Kerry did roast a sausage for everyone as an appetizer haha) Here was the menu:
  1. Pavlova: How could we leave without making one more pavlova?! We didn't have any kiwis, but we used their feijoas from the backyard. We have become true NZ kiwis :)
  2. Steamed Pudding: One of Raewyn's specialties. We failed when we tried to make it last time, but she made a beautiful one tonight.
  3. Banoffee Cake: This is another one of Raewyn's specialties. It has a cookie crust, covered with layers of caramel, bananas, and whipped cream. SO delicious.
  4. Fanta Floats: Raewyn made these for us one day after school, and it had been just what we needed. They were just as good tonight!
  5. Marshmallows: We had so much fun roasting marshmallows with chocolate in the middle of them before, we just had to do it one more time. We only made one s'more this time because we were so full of sweets already, but it was still yum!
Raewyn getting our Fanta floats ready.
Making the steamed pudding!
Here is part of "The Last Supper" as we called it: pavlova on the left, banoffee on the right.
We made it through the pavlova, banaoffee, and floats, and were ready for the steamed pudding!
It was raining a bit, but we still made it work :)
So, I'm done with New Zealand. We fly to Australia tomorrow, and then I'll be back in the states on Wednesday, April 13! Looking back, it is amazing to me how much I have done during these past 3 months. It really was the opportunity of a lifetime, something I will never forget. Cheers!

One more thing: My dad asked me the very first week I was here if the water really did drain the opposite direction. You can't tell in the toilets, but here's the sink draining...enjoy! :)

Cruising in the Convertible

New Zealand schools are labeled according to the SES of its area. The higher the decile, the more money; the lower the decile, the less money. Colwill Primary was a decile 3 school, so definitely one of the lowest. They send us to these lower decile schools on purpose because JJ said that if we can successfully teach the lower decile students (who are notably difficult) we can easily transition to teach the higher decile, but it doesn't work vice versa. One of the teachers at Colwill, however, suggested that we should at least go observe a higher decile school. So, our principal set it up for us to visit Hobsonville Primary School today, which is a decile 9 school. It ended up being such a wonderful day! The principal and deputy principal were SO nice and welcoming; they had scheduled out a whole day of events for us. We were able to observe all of the different levels in either maths or literacy, and I loved it. It was so refreshing to actually see well-behaved students, teachers who didn't yell at the students, and well-planned and well executed lessons. We had heard so much about New Zealand's wonderful literacy program, and while we saw some of it at Colwill, these classes were thriving off of its implementation. We also had heard great things about their maths groups, but we didn't ever see them at Colwill. It was great to actually see these maths groupings being successfully carried out. The staff was all so friendly, coming up to us and asking questions (something that only happened occasionally from a few of the teachers at Colwill). We learned so much, and we weren't even there for the whole day! I'm so grateful we were able to go, probably most importantly because it gave me lots of hope for the success of my own classroom this fall :)

Today was a big day: I cleaned out my drawers and the closet. I haven't fully packed everything (we still need to do laundry tomorrow), but by this time tomorrow I will be! I still can't believe it's all coming to an end. We started talking about all the "lasts" we have to do tomorrow, but Kerry surprised us with a "first" today instead of a last...a drive through New Zealand in his rental convertible Volkswagen!
Jess was going to come over for our last bowl of Hokey-pokey ice cream, and instead of letting her walk over like usual, Kerry suggested we go pick her in the convertible! His car is getting fixed, and he LOVES any excuse to drive this one around with the roof down. It wasn't the warmest of nights (we are definitely starting to feel the chill of autumn!), but with the heat blasting and the seat heaters on, it was wonderful. We even took the scenic route home to make our convertible adventure last a bit longer. SO much fun!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bay of Islands

Well, after spending only one day in Auckland, we made our way up to the top of New Zealand--the Bay of Islands. I was so excited for this because Auckland has started cooling off, but Bay of Islands is summer all year round :)

Day 1, Thursday:
We didn't start too early today (thank goodness! 9am is much better than 6am!), which helped us enjoy several stops along the way, instead of sleeping through them. Our first stop was at a famous Kauri tree. The Kauri tree is special to New Zealand, known for it's MASSIVE size, but unfortunately being killed off by kauri disease. They are protected in this area, and James always stops to show the BYU girls this tree. As we got out of the vans, he presented each one of us with our very own, matching lava lavas. They match our outfits perfectly, don't they? ;)
Our next stop was in a little town that supposedly serves the best meat pies. New Zealand is big on the meat pies, but I think I prefer to just stick with America's fruit pies. Stop #3 was in a little town famous for their mosaic toilets. This was also the location that Nicole, Neeley, and Christine were offered internships in the Jordan School District! Today was the day we were all supposed to find out about our internships. Since we were all antsy to know, this was the first stop of MANY internet cafe stops.
We finally made it to Pahia and our little yellow motel. This motel was definitely not as nice as the one we stayed at in Christchurch, but it was right next to the beach, meaning we LOVED it! We first explored the Waitangi Treaty grounds, where the Waitangi Treaty was signed, bonding the Maori and the Pakeha (Englishmen) together. We made a group trip to the store, made dinner, watched a BEAUTIFUL sunset, and began our new nightly ritual: watching Gillmore Girls. Whitney brought the last season with her, and it ended up being a great way to spend our nice, relaxing nights at the Motel.

Day 2, Friday:
I have seen countless picturesque views and sights while here in New Zealand, but today was definitely one of my favourites: Cape Raigna, the northernmost tip of New Zealand. This is the spot where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, and it is absolutely beautiful. Words and pictures cannot adequately describe the beauty we beheld.
This was the breaking point between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It was so cool because you could even tell a difference in color between the two bodies of water.
That rock out there is the absolute northernmost point in New Zealand, but this was as close as we could get.
There was one lookout where all you could was miles and miles and miles of the ocean and sky, never ending. Jess and I had this vision of a picture of only the us, the ocean, and the sky. The lighting is a little strange, but this picture caught our vision :)
Before leaving Cape Rainga, we all sent off a few postcards from the northernmost New Zealand mailbox, and JJ bought five NZ plants from some local Maoris to plant on top of Cape Rainga to help preserve it and keep it looking beautiful for years to come. We even got certificates for doing it.

Our next exciting adventure was boarding down the sand dunes! James was real excited for this, and led the vans through a shallow river and around these huge sand dunes to find the secret, hidden, best stop for boarding. We just used his boogie boards, and we all only had time for one run, but it was fun! The video doesn't look too exciting, but you can see my big plop at the end.

We couldn't spend too much time boarding because we had to get to 90-Mile Beach before the tide started coming in again. 90-Mile Beach was INCREDIBLE. The best part of it was that we drove on it. All the way down. Well, not quite all 90 miles, but for more than an hour. For the most part it was deserted, which made it even more pristine and beautiful.
It was so cool because we literally just drove all the way down the beach. This picture of Anna almost captures our excitement of it all :)
At one point James realized he missed the turn off to get us off the beach before the tide came back in, which could have been disastrous because apparently many cars have just been swept away because they didn't drive off the beach in time. Fortunately, we came found some people to ask for direction, but unfortunately the van started to sink into some soft sand when he stopped to ask! The ten girls in his van quickly got and had to push him out. I was safe in the other van, but it was quite entertaining to watch!
Before we left for Cape Rainga this morning, JJ drove us to another internet cafe. Nancy, Janet, Whitney, and Ali had all received internship offers, but the rest of us still had nada. A few hours into the trip, we made a pit stop in another little town, and quickly found yet another internet cafe. This time, I was elated to find an email in my inbox offering me an internship at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in the Provo School District starting this fall! I will most likely be teaching 2nd grade and I am THRILLED!! This is the school that I did my first practicum at last semester, and I absolutely love the facilitator, CFA, and liason--the three people who I'll be most closely working with during the internship. It's kind of crazy that this is all happening, and that I'm old enough to already have my own class, but there's no turning back now! Jessica, Diana, and Anna also were offered internships for the fall. Such an exciting day!!

Day 3, Saturday:
Our science professor from the beginning of this semester, Ian Milne, owns a beach house up in the Bay of Islands in a little town called Russell. When he found out we were going to be traveling up there, he insisted we stop by and have lunch at his beach house with him and his wife. The house was beautiful...
...especially because those big windows looked out to this:
We loved our lunch with Professor Milne, looking out at this amazing beach, and then enjoying the afternoon laying out and swimming on this practically private beach.
We also had the chance to explore Russell a bit today. It used to be known for all the drunkards and gamblers and thieves that lived there, but it has been transformed into a well kept, cute little town. It was fun to explore all their little shops, and find this beautiful lookout over the city: (I was enjoying the view, when Anna told me to turn around so she could take this picture. Unfortunately I slipped a little before I made it all the way around. Whoops!)
One of the funniest things we found in the stores was this weather rock. If only we all one of these... :)

Day 4, Sunday:
Today was a wonderful day of relaxation. We all went to church with James' son and daughter, who both live up in Bay of Islands. It was fun to be able to meet them, and see James with some of his cute grandkids. James is one of a kind, and we all feel so blessed to have him be part of our trip. He is always so kind and patient with us, making sure we have the best time possible. We have spent a lot of time with him in the car, and when he isn't telling us stories, he loves it when we "sing." He even joins in sometimes:
If you couldn't really understand James, he said, "My name is James. I fly with the cranes. I feel so tame. Such a pain." He came up with this all on his own. At least this one almost rhymes; another time he did it without even attempting to rhyme: My name is James. I drive the BYU girls...and so forth. Even if he didn't grasp the rhyming concept, we will always look back fondly on our time with James. And his laugh! He has the funniest little laugh that we'll never forget. "He hee."

We loved having the day to all be together, take a walk, nap, eat good food, watch the sunset and enjoy our last few days together in New Zealand.
Pictures don't ever do these sunsets justice, but we really have seen some beautiful sunsets while we've been here. I love that I was able to see this only a hop, skip, and a jump away from our motel!!
We had lots of fun waiting for the sun to set...
That fun included seeing what we look like with each other's hair. Example, Anna with Whitney's curly brown hair. It was hilarious.

Day 5, Monday:
We had the day open to do whatever we wanted today. Most of us went on a beautiful 10KM hike to Haruru Falls. When we got close, the waterfalls weren't exactly the mountain cascading falls we've been used to seeing, but it was still as we saw it through the trees. Plus there was so much other beautiful scenery and it was so much fun!
This was from one of the lookouts along the way.

It was smaller and kind of dirty when we got close...
but this was one of the first times you could see the falls from the path through the trees. Beautiful!
After the falls, we were able to spend the rest of day on the beach. We don't have too many more beach days, so we were grateful for the sunny day to enjoy the beach! We were also able to have a big family night together tonight. It will most likely be one of the last times all of us will be together. We're planning reunions when we get back, but trying to find a time that works for all 16 is going to be tricky. It was a great time to reminisce, laugh, and cry. We've had a great group. The Jacobs and James often remind us that they've never had a group that is so united, wanting to do big group activities all the time like we have. We are all different, but we have all made the effort to be friends. There has been no big drama, which is a pretty big deal for 16 girls who have spent three months together! We've been to learn a lot from each other, and build some great friendships. Here's to the 2011 New Zealand BYU girls!

Day 6, Tuesday:
Before we took off this morning, we all gathered together and presented James with a little thank you since this was the last time we would see him. Since he loves to hear us sing, we sang our Maori song, "Te Aroha," and then also "Lean On Me," while Emily played James' ukulele. We were all crying by the end, knowing this was the last time we'd all be together as a big group in New Zealand. It was the perfect way to end our New Zealand adventure all together.
Front row: Emily, Nancy, Nicole, Hannah
Middle row: Diana, Jessica, Linda Jacobs, Christine, Ali, Kara, Neeley
Back row: Me, Katie, Whiteny, Janet, Jim Jacobs, James Amu, Rebecca, Anna
Linda tried recording "Te Aroha" for us, but somehow she only 2 seconds. At least she was still able to get our tearful version of "Lean On Me."
I am back in Auckland for 2 more days, then 5 days in Australia, and 2 days of traveling! I will be back in America next week!!!!