Journals from University of Otago
My friends Jenele (Whitman), Sarah (Germany), and I at Milford Sound
Time here is flying! I cant believe I have already been here a month and a half, what is even stranger to me is that our spring break is in about a week and a half. I am going to Australia and I am so excited! It is finally starting to warm up--it has been so cold here, but it will be nice to be in Brisbane on the beach with 80 degree weather instead of in the 50 degree weather we have had lately in Dunedin. Coming from Portland where it was 80 degrees to Dunedin where we were lucky to be in the upper 30s was really tough for me to adjust!
At home, by this time in the semester school is stressing me out so much that I am ready for spring break and I am counting down the days until it arrives. Here it has really snuck up on me! I think it is because the school system here is so different and I havent really had much to do in terms of assignments and midterms - or, it could be because I have been so busy.
I cannot believe how much I have done and seen since I have been here!! In my first journal entry, I wrote about how I was homesick and didnt know what I got myself into. I recovered from that within a few days and have yet to feel sad again.
One weekend, there was a carnival at my accommodation. I was woken up by a guy in a bear costume yelling, wake up! into a blow horn while pressing the siren. He was followed by a bagpipe player and two dancing kids. It was the most unique and persistent alarm clock I have ever experienced! At the carnival, they had lots of little games for us to play and competitions to compete in. After the carnival I walked to St. Clair and St. Kilda beaches with some fellow residents. It was cool to see the other side of the Pacific Ocean--it is very similar to the Oregon Coast Pacific: rainy, windy and cold.
My first trip outside of Dunedin was to Queenstown, NZ. It was about a 5-hour bus ride west. During this action-packed weekend I went bungy jumping at Kawarau Bridge, the original site of bungy jumping. That is why it is spelled bungy at Kawarau instead of bungee. The next day we went skiing/snowboarding at Coronet Peak. I had never been downhill skiing and I didnt take lessons so I spent a lot of time getting up after falling but I had a lot of fun! While in Queenstown, we also went on a jet boat ride and rode a luge down the side of a mountain. The jet boat ride was a lot of fun; it is amazing how close we got to the rocks on some of the turns. It was a definite thriller!
A few weekends ago, I went on a ski trip at Cardrona ski resort in Wanaka that was organized by the University recreation center. This time, I tried snowboarding and bought lessons because after all the time I spent with my face in the snow a few weekends prior, I decided that I should give myself a chance to stand up more than face plant. I had so much fun! I dont think there was any way I could have snowboarded without a lesson; there is so much technique that I would not have picked up without having some guidance. By the end of the weekend I was able to go up the chair lift and come down the slopes with a minimal number of falls.
My most recent trip was to Te Anau and Milford Sound in the western part of the South Island. I went with four girl friends. One goes to the University of Oregon and another goes to Whitman. In both cases, we know people in common from home. It is so strange to have traveled half way around the world and to meet people who know people I went to middle school with! The drive to Te Anau is about 4 hours, so we rented a car to get there. I ended up driving most of the way there; it was so strange to drive on the left side of the road!! I have not been that alert while driving since I had my permit! It was nice, though, because everyone else in the car was constantly reminding me of what to do as we came to intersections.
In Te Anau we cruised across Lake Te Anau to go to the glow worm caves. We hiked through these caves in the side of a mountain, and it was beautiful. At the end of the caves, we got on a little boat (similar to the boats at the Small World ride in Disneyland) and they took us along a path. The further in we went, the darker it got and the more glow worms we saw. The worms were tiny and all we could see were tiny, sparkling dots on the top and side of the caves. It was beautiful. It was like we were surrounded by stars that we could reach out and touch if we wanted. It was one of the most amazing things I have seen so far. The next day, we took a bus ride to the Milford Sound. On the way there, we stopped and enjoyed the scenery. My favorite was Mirror Lakes; these amazing lakes reflected the mountains perfectly. Once at Milford Sound we boarded a cruise trip and spent the afternoon on the boat. I have never been surrounded by so much beauty, waterfalls everywhere and huge, majestic mountains covered in snow and greenery. While on the cruise, I saw a Yellow Eyed Penguin! It reminded me of how close we are to the South Pole. It is such a juxtaposition to be on a cruise and see snow covered mountains, palm trees and tropical plants and penguins in the same scenery.
I have not had to travel to have great experiences, because there is so much to do here in Dunedin through the school and around campus. The first week I was here, I sang karaoke in a club for the first time. This was something I never thought I would do. I dont like to have the attention on me and I am by no means the next American Idol! It was an event organized by my accommodation and so I went planning to just watch everyone else. Everyone else was singing and so I decided to go along with a fellow resident and sing a song. I was so proud of myself, because this was something I would not typically do.
Another night, I went with a group of friends and watched live Jazz. I have never really listened to Jazz and the only instrumental music I have ever really listened to is from soundtracks or classical music that I listen to while studying (it supposedly helps memory retention). I was pleasantly surprised by the Jazz; it was different than most of the other music that I listen to and there were more lyrics than I anticipated. It was impressive to see men who were in their 80s expressing themselves musically; they were passionate about Jazz!
One evening, a group of flats organized an ice skating trip where everyone dressed up 80s style before hitting the rink. I had not been ice skating in ages and when I went before, I never quite got the hang of it so I was a little apprehensive about going. I had so much fun when I got there and everyone was willing to help me learn.
Tonight I finished a five-week massage course. We met every Tuesday night for two hours and learned a new part of the body each week. The first week we learned how to massage the back and after that we moved onto the legs, arms, neck, and head. It was a very relaxing class.
Just this week I enjoyed Kiwi Sweet Baking Night. I have made friends with a few people from New Zealand and they invited a bunch of international students over to make traditional New Zealand sweets including fudge, hokey pokey, ANZAC cookies, and Pavlov. It was pretty cool, but by the end of the night I didnt want to see sugar for a few days!
I have had so many new experiences after only a month and a half and I have already been awed over and over again by the beauty of New Zealand. I cant wait for the new experiences the second half of the semester will bring I cant believe it is almost the second half of the semester!!!