I regret to say that I think the honeymoon stage of the culture shock/adjustment process has sadly worn off. All the things that were new and exciting experiences when I got here are now normal occurrences. This isn't really a bad thing though, it's just that I see things here more as a matter of fact now instead of having a sense of awe or thrill for everything I see and do. After seeing so much of NZ since I've been here, especially over the two-week break, I feel like I’m really accustomed to life in this country and now daily life here at Uni.
Speaking of Uni, these past three and a half weeks have really reminded me that I am still going to school while being here in New Zealand and school requires a bit of work. It’s been hard for me to get in the school mindset in order to prepare for tests and work on assignments. It kind of feels like a constant internal battle of me just wanting to “go experience NZ” versus actually putting effort into my schoolwork. I hate that, because I want to do both! Of course I want to do fun stuff around New Zealand all the time but I also want to do well in my classes! So currently I’m working on finding that balance of when to say no to friends and take the time to study and when to enjoy my time here with them.
However, the first two weekends that I was back from the South Island I was still able to enjoy myself aside from Uni demands. I attended an All Blacks (vs. Argentina) rugby game with some other Americans. The crowd had a really fun atmosphere and of course the All Blacks won! In some ways it wasn’t too much different from an American football game but at the same time it was different, but I can’t really explain why other than the obvious fact that it was rugby and not football. Beforehand, I expected it to be really rowdy, kind of like the Seahawks game I attended last year with my family back home, but there actually weren’t as many crazy drunk people, so that was a plus! Overall, it was a fantastic experience!
The weekend after that, I took a trip to Rotorua — a town about 1.5 hrs away from Hamilton that is known for its thermal hot pools (and therefore a very lovely sulfury smell). One of my Kiwi friends, who was taking me, has an uncle who lives there so we were able to stay at his place on Friday and Saturday. It was a low key and relaxing weekend with friends but still included seeing a full range of what Rotorua had to offer. The highlights of the visit include: Hamurana Springs, Hot and Cold, and making pumpkin pie.
Hamurana Springs is basically just a really big spring that gushes out water from deep within the ground. The spring produces enough water to fill two Olympic size swimming pools in one hour. That is a lot of water! This water was crystal clear, too! It poured out of the ground into a beautifully blue stream that we enjoyed walking along that Saturday morning. Hot and Cold is a naturally made pool that is fed by two streams coming together--one hot and one cold. The hot stream comes out from underground where the thermal activity heats it. This water is hot enough to burn you so it is pretty necessary to let it mix with the cold water in order to get the perfect temperature to sit and soak in. We stayed there for at least an hour or so just enjoying the natural healing qualities of the thermal waters. My last highlight of the weekend was making pumpkin pie for my non-American friends. Pumpkin here is always a savory flavor, so they think it is really strange and rather gross to eat pumpkin as a sweet. So I gathered together the necessary ingredients for the pie and the group of us worked together cooking the pumpkin down (because they don’t have canned pumpkin), mixing the ingredients and baking the pie. It turned out quite well and they totally enjoyed it! It was great fun sharing a little bit of home with my friends here, especially as everyone at home is getting into the season of pumpkin everything.
However, like I said, the fun adventures have to be put on hold at some point in order for me to buckle down and get some schoolwork done. So the past week or two now I’ve hit the books. In studying for my test this week, for my Mori art class, I realized some pretty cool things. Even though this is school and sometimes it’s not going to be the funnest thing in the world, I have actually learned quite a lot in my classes here about Mori culture and art and that is a really good feeling! As I studied for my test, I realized that I actually know the terms I needed to be remembering instead of just forcing myself to remember arbitrary Mori words like I had for my first test in this class. I was telling my parents about this achievement over Skype and just thought that it was so cool to be able to share this knowledge that I’ve gained about New Zealand that I otherwise would never had learned if not for studying abroad here. It’s really exciting to be able to see how far I’ve come in just a few months as far as learning bits of a new language and applying those terms to make sense of the world around me. I feel so blessed for my experience here in NZ — the traveling and adventures with friends and everything I’ve learned in my classes here as well!