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Photos and Thought from my semester abroad in New Zealand

The West Coast! November 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — caitlincorinne @ 4:28 am

This past week we arrived home (The Old Convent) after spending a week and a half on the road, traveling all around the West Coast of New Zealand. The West Coast is known for it extremely rainy climate, basically spending most of the year under cover of rain clouds. However, this past week, we totally lucked out. Before I left, I chatted with my cousin Amanda and we jokingly said that there was going to be a drought when we got there, and all the money I spent on hard-core rain gear would be for nothing. Well guess what Amanda…our jokes jinxed the trip. Not only was there no rain, there were really no clouds to speak of. Everyday was super bright and sunny with warm temperatures. All in all it was perfect weather, and I wish I could have completely enjoyed, but the fact that I spent somewhere around $150 on rain gear put a slight damper on the sunshine. Other than that, our adventure on the West Coast was amazing!!
We packed out of The Old Convent on Sunday, November 14th. We drove and drove and drove (Thank goodness J.R.R. Tolkein is long winded and into detail…The Two Towers passed the hours pretty quickly). Finally we reached our motor camp for the first two nights. Not to complain about the accommodations, but it almost felt like being back in Samoa when we got out of the car and saw the little building with bunks in them. One window had a big crack in it, and there were some shady folk hanging about. It was just a little janky to say the least…totally bearable though. We ate dinner and had community night (reading aloud from The Hobbit…how cliché), and then passed out. All I can say is thank goodness for earplugs and eye-masks. Yes, you may look utterly ridiculous, but BOY do you get a good night’s sleep. We woke up bright and early the next morning and had a little class lecture on Terresital Ecology and then hit the field. Our first day we visited this park that had these awesome rock formations that they called “Pancake Rocks.” Super cool. Following lunch at Pancake Rocks, we went into the bush and had a 3 hour hike in the back woods, collecting plant specimens for our vegetation guides and looking at all different microhabitats that existed along the trail. I was dressed for rain, as were many of my comrades, and so when we started climbing up and up and up, I began to sweat like a man. It was so very attractive. Dripping….that’s all I am going to say. Despite the sweat and the subsequent infestation of sand flies, we got to see an amazing variety of both native and non-native plant species as well as a could of funny flightless birds. The most common one we saw was the Weka, which is a super curious bird that loves to get up close and personal with you. Furthermore, they make this delightful throat call that just makes you laugh.

That night, we again loaded back up into the vans and headed for this cave where glowworms could be seen on the ceiling! I have to admit, that caves tend to make me a little apprehensive. It’s not claustrophobia, but rather a highly active imagination that gravitates towards the worst possible outcome of being in a cave. Thankfully my over active imagination was corralled by the sight of these blue light emanative from crevices on the ceiling of the cave. Apparently the glowworms, which are actually fly larvae, give off bioluminescence to attract prey to these little tunnels of mucus. Once the prey is stuck, they eventually suffocate and the larvae can then move through the little tunnels and get a little snack.

“Errrr…I might need a snack”
–Men in Black

Home Sick moment: As we exited the cave system, we passed this group of tourists, of which one of them was wearing a Twins baseball cap. Oh Minnestoa…

The next morning, we loaded back up into the vans and headed towards Bruce Bay where we would be staying at the marae. Upon our arrival, we had to do all of the appropriate actions to gain permission from the Maori of that marae to enter, which included a song, a speech, a gift and participation in the hagi (touch noses and share a breath). While I might have gone on and on about the first marae that we visited in Kaikoura,, this one was really amazing. Not only did they have all of their ancestors represented in the carvings upon the wall, but also they used greenstone for a lot of their decorations. Behind some of the masks that hung upon the wall, they had placed thin slabs of greenstone behind the mask and the best part was, was that it lit up! So basically, you had this mask that gave off this intense green glow out of its eyes and mouth. It sounds scary, but it was literally the coolest night-light I have ever seen!!! We stayed at the mare for five nights during the day we took long field trips to various terrestrial sites in the area.

Top Five Things at the Marae
1. Kiwi birding until 1:30 AM
2. Standing a couple of meters away from Franz Joesf glacier, one of only four advancing glaciers IN THE WORLD!!
3. The Sunset at the beach across the street
4. Getting to play with the Kea (alpine parrots)
5. All of the different walks we went on…and getting to identify all the crazy NZ plant species

Worst Thing at the Marae: HAVING TO GET UP FOR 5:30 AM BIRDING….blech
…furthermore, we only saw MAYBE three different bird species each day

After spending three nights at the marae, we packed up again and headed back East, towards Arthur’s Pass and Cass Field Station.

“ALL WE DO IS PACK!!” -Luiza

Located in this perfectly wonderful spot, Cass Field Station is an awesome place to be. Nestled in a glacial valley surrounded by mountains, grasslands and a lake, it is just a biologist’s heaven! We got to get out in nature and WALK! We wandered around the bush for five days doing various hikes, research projects, and class lectures.

Top Ten Moments at Cass:
1. Taking a 20 minute nap on the top of Knobby Hill amongst the sheep and sunshine
2. Caving in water that was waist deep and FRIGID
3. Skinny dipping with the girls in the cave
4. Visiting Castle Hill where they filmed the Narnia battle scene!
5. Sitting in a mountain field of Scotch Broom that gave off the very familiar smell of peach rings….ahhhhhh
6. Looking for hare feces in the various habitats….yeah for research projects!
7. Kiwi birding in people’s backyards….eh…awkward
8. Finding a NZ penny…out of print since the 1960s
9. The nearby pigs that we would feed with our compost…they love kissy noises
10. Trying NOT to get eaten alive by sand flies…can you say chemical warfare??

I really cannot say how truly amazing New Zealand is. Not only is the wildlife awesome, but the scenery is just breathtaking. I may just never come home. Don’t tell my mom. ☺

P.S. Before I move here though, I would somehow need to secure a lifetime supply of Sour Patch Kids….

 

Hair Stories November 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — caitlincorinne @ 1:54 am

 

This past summer when there was an outbreak of lice at camp, I thought to myself that it would be a good idea to cut off all of my hair for preventions sake.  However, I convinced myself that I would never look good with a buzzed hair cut.  Furthermore, I was concerned that I would look like a man since I am 6’1” with no curves to speak of and even less boobs.  Overall, not a good combo for a boyish hair cut.  However, I put those fears aside when I buzzed my head this fall.  I considered it an emotional experiment to see which what my true beauty was based on.  A strange thing has been happening to me since the time of my hair cut.  I am constantly getting second glances.  I at first attributed it to the fact that it was rare to see a girl with this short of hair.  Now I realize that I was being naive.  Those second glances were taken so that they could determine my gender.  Yep…I am constantly confused for a boy.  So please enjoy these stories of me being mistaken for a male.

  1. On my trip with Dad, I went to the bathroom one evening to brush my teeth.  I get to the women’s bathroom and I notice that someone has followed me in.  It’s a man.  Without even looking at me, he asks where the urinals are.  I, in utter shock, stay completely silent.  The man finally looked up at me, and seeing that I was actually girl, wearing earrings nonetheless, turned bright red and mumbled something as he raced to the door.   AKWARD!
  1. We went spear fishing the other week and Dave Lyons of Kaikoura Surf showed up to lend up some wetsuits to wear.  We asked how many girls there were, so we all raised our hands.  He began handing out wetsuits and got through all of the girls until I was just left.  He yelled for any more girls, and I raised my hand.  He looked at me and then yelled again if there were any more girls that needed wetsuits.  I again raised my hand and again, he looked at me.  Finally I announced, “I am a girl!!!”  He looked again and then came and rubbed my head and then said, “Oh yeah!  That’s some short hair.”  Wah wah….
  1. On the West Coast trip we stayed at the motor camp.  One morning I was coming out of the bathroom and this lady saw me.  She stopped, looked at me, looked at the “Ladies Restroom” sign, back to me, and then glanced once more at the sign before I finally said (in my most girly voice) “Hi!”  She then looked relieved and wandered quickly by me into the bathroom.

Check out these funny hair pictures and decide for yourself whether or not I really do look like a boy.

 

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Adventures with Dad

Filed under: Uncategorized — caitlincorinne @ 1:42 am

 

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Road Warriors

Filed under: Uncategorized — caitlincorinne @ 1:31 am

WOW!  Has it really been since Samoa since I updated this thing?  Oof.  What would cousin Nathan think?  Bad blogger…wah wah.  So what has been going on halfway around the world?  Well get your reading glasses out and I will tell you the highlights.

A couple weeks ago, I got the immense pleasure of having Dad visit.  The entire week before his arrival I was literally giddy.  It’s weird what a treat it is to see you family after being gone.  On Friday, October 29th, Dad pulled into The Old Convents driveway in this MASSIVE camper van and I literally ran out of the class session we were having, thus in turn ending class.  I was a little more that loud.  Anyways, I got to introduce Dad to all the CCSP staff and students and we had a big community dinner and afterwards we sat down and made our plan of attack.  South Island, here we come.  We set out for adventure the next morning but got distracted in town.  We saw this sign for a tent sale.  Now in America, a tent sale is something to get pumped about.  A whole bunch of really discounted intems under a tent!  AH!  Bliss.  Well in New Zealand, they have a slightly different take on the term “Tent Sale.”  The tent sale that they were having was literally a tent sale…yeah.  Tents were ON SALE.  GAH!  Dad and I both had a good laugh about that one though before finally hitting the road for real.  However, two hours later we pulled into the gas station and there was a little bit of mix-up at the gas pump that once again led to a lesson in cross-cultural studies.  In America the handles for diesel are green.  Unfortunately for our trip, the handles for diesel in New Zealand are black.  So Dad accidentally partially filled the tank of our camper van with regular gas instead of diesel to which there was uttered a sting of profanities.  Definitely warranted in my book though.  So there we sat, with no cell phone, and this lady at the gas station counter that insisted on charging exorbitant rates for use of the phone.   We pushed that camper van out of the gas station stall and waited until this man wearing and epic pair of stubbies showed up to drain our tanks for 3 hours.  Why such the long wait?  The All Blacks were playing Australia.  So waited, and waited and waited and then showed up and we pumped and pumped and pumped the tanks clean.  5 hours after the little mix-up we had a clean tank and set off down the road praying that there would be no more bumps in the road.

We drove all the way to Akaroa on Banks Peninsula and pulled in to the campground around 11:00 at night and literally passed out.  The next morning, we looked out at the view we had missed coming in and ate breakfast in awe.  Our campground was situation upon this hill that looked out on Akaroa’s beautiful bay of turquoise water, surrounded by green slopes and this quaint little town.  We piled into the camper van and then drove down the hill to the town where we ate pastries at the local bakery and made our booking for swimming with Hector’s Dolphin.  For those of you that don’t know, I am in love with Hector’s Dolphin.  They are the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins and are endemic to New Zealand.  Last year, I did a research proposal centered around this specie of dolphins, so getting to swim with them, was a dream come true.  We squeezed into our wetsuits and boarded Black Cat cruises and set off down the harbor in search of the more murky water they prefer.  Not to brag of anything, but I spotted them first, off the left side of the boat.  They came and bow surfed and I was literally squealing with delight.  Finally, we got to wet in the water…which was freezing by the way…and try our luck at getting to swim with Hectors.  At first they were not so interested and we all just kind of sat around bobbing like corks in the freezing cold water, but by the time people started getting out, they were pretty friendly little guys.  To lure a dolphin in, you need to make yourself as entertaining as possible…so put on a show!  Sing!  Dive!  Try out your dolphin squeak!  Near the end of the tour, this old man Howard and I were the only ones left in the water.  He was crowing like a rooster, and I was singing “God Bless America.”  For some reason that combination of sounds enticed the dolphins and I got to swim with two dolphins for a couple of minutes.  We. Made. Eye contact.  GAH!  Needless to say, by the time I got out of the water, I felt like a dolphin whisperer and was beside myself with joy.  It was literally perfect.  J  For the rest of the day, Dad and I visited a cheese factory and ate gourmet cheese and crackers for lunch, took a very scenic drive up in the mountains (Mom and Grandpa would have been a wreck) and got some quiet time to read and watch the sunset.  I cannot imagine a better way to spend the day.

The next day we headed out for Omaru, which is a couple of hours south of Akaroa.  Dad and I ate Sour Patch Kids, a true delicacy that NZ is missing and Peach rings, and talked about how I want to be a framer when I grow up.  We reached Omaru around dusk and went to see the yellow-eyed penguins at the beach lookout.  What funny creatures they are.  These penguins come in from the sea and then climb this steep cliff to their nesting sites.  Yep!  I said climb!  Can you imagine climbing a cliff with your pants around your knees?  I just don’t know how they do it.  Later that night we paid to go and see the little blue penguin at the nearby Penguin Center.  While the Center itself was pretty cool (they had a camera in the nest of a blue penguin and you could see the chicks waiting in the nest) the guide we had was this shrill older lady that would yell at people if they stood up in the stands.  Needless to say, that got a little old after a while.  At the Penguin Center, we did get to see the little blue penguin come in and waddle up the ramp to their nest sites, but the real treat was when we went out to the parking lot and saw so many more little blue penguins just chilling out.  There’s $40 down the drain…

P.S.  Omaru has the best blue cheese in the world!  Mmmm So creamy!

The next day we drove South along the Catlins (I know!) Coast to get to our next destination literally across the South Island.

Highlights Along the Catlin’s Coast:

  • Standing on the most Southern Point of the South Island…the closest to Antarctica I’ll probably ever be.
  • Eating chocolate…yeah for Cadbury!!
  • Getting to explore a petrified forest
  • WATERFALLS!
  • Eating fish and chips from this shady Asian restaurant… “Everything’s fresh”

After a long days drive we ended up in Timaru which is a lovely little town who’s campground has the nicest bathrooms EVER, where I finally showered for the first time on the trip.  I am a dirty kid.

The next day we drove through the mountains to Milford Sound.  The views were just stunning and I got to see my first Kea (alpine parrot)!  What a funny creature.  Word of advice: The Kea loves shiny things and eating rubber.  Do not leave anything out or it may just disappear.  After driving about 1.5 hours up the canyon we finally arrived and promptly boarded Mitre Peak cruises for our tour of Milford.  This tour company was awesome.  Not only do they give a guided nature talk, but also they get you right up to the side of the Sound where you get drenched by waterfalls.  They even take you out of the Tasman Sea, which is probably a highlight of the whole trip.  I liken it to riding a bull that is constantly being soaked by water.  SO AWESOME!!  If you ever go, be sure to go with Mitre Peak Cruises and be sure to hit up the Milford Sound Underwater research observatory.  It’s on my bucket list.

After Milford we traveled up to Glenorchy where we hoped to do a horse back riding tour of LOTR sites.  Sadly we were rained out, but that gave us the opportunity to visit Queenstown!  I would liken Queenstown to a ski town in the United States.  Lots of overpriced equipment, bars and people.  Somehow though, it’s totally awesome.  At Queenstown, we did a little shopping and then went on jet boat ride down in the Shotover Valley.  On said jet boat ride, you literally are swerving around a canyon, doing 360s and screaming/laughing.  Half the time it looks like you are going to run into the walls of the canyon, but somehow you never do.  Fun Fact: Shotover Jet boats only need 10cm of water to operate!!  After a jet boat ride, we hooked up with a couple of CCSP students that were in the area and had coffee and ice cream with them.  They were going bungee jumping though so we peaced out pretty quick.  Dad and I then ate burgers as big as our faces at Fergburger and consumed even more Cadbury Chocolate for dessert.  Can you say yum?

The next day we drove a LONG way up to Aoraki/Mt. Cook.  We arrived and it was raining and sleeting so we put off our hike and visited the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre and the DOC office.  Both were so cool and had awesome displays about the history of mountain climbing at Mt. Cook.  Can I just say that I have so much respect for those old mountain climbers who instead of crampons had nails driven through their boots?  So ingenious!  Maybe the best part was getting to watch this really neat documentary (yes…I am a nerd) about Sir Edmund Hillary.  What a story! That night, the rain let up a bit and Dad and I were able to do a little hiking around our campsite.  We hiked up a little ways to look out over this glacial lake observe the terminal and lateral moraines of the glacial valley.  It was definitely a good refresher course before Terrestrial Ecology.  We woke up the next day and it was still cloudy, but we decided to chance our luck on a hike nonetheless.  I literally prayed the entire hike that the sky would clear and we would be able to see Mt. Cook in all its glory.  Check out the scenery we got to see!

GORGEOUS!!

The remaining days were just spent driving back up to Kaikoura.  We spent the night in Christchurch on Guy Fox Day and there were fireworks everywhere.  Why?  GREAT question.  I don’t know why there would be a national Kiwi holiday for the man that tired to blow up Parliament.  Hmmmmm   J  What a great end to a wonderful week traveling the South Island!  Thanks Dad!!!

 

Pictures from Samoa October 14, 2010

Filed under: A Kiwi Adventure — caitlincorinne @ 1:57 am

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Check out some pictures from my time in Samoa!!!

 

Talofa Samoa!! October 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — caitlincorinne @ 2:47 am

Greeting from New Zealand!  I honestly cannot tell you how great it is to be back in New Zealand after spending the last two weeks traveling all over Samoa (s-AH-moa).  Like I said in my last update, we left Kaikoura the 17th of September and we finally arrived home, back here on Saturday.  Goodbye heat and humidity and hello sweatshirts!!

So when I first thought about going to Samoa, my first thought was, “Oh cool!  I get to go and hang out at the beach for two solid weeks.  I’ll get a really great tan, eat some great seafood, and just bask in the heat of the South Pacific.”  While I did live on the beach, and I did get a really great farmer’s tan, and melt in the heat of the South Pacific, Samoa turned out to be a completely different experience than what I anticipated.  One of the main reasons I was thrown for a loop was the culture in general.  I have been out of the United States before, but I had really only visited different aspects of “Western culture.”  I have gone shopping at Harrods in London, I have eaten cotton candy while watching the Eiffel tower glitter, and I have sipped Sangria at 1:00 AM on Las Ramblas.  All of the countries I have visited have been relatively easy to assimilate into, and for the most part, I really have not stuck out like a sore thumb.  That was SO not the case in Samoa.  After traveling for the better part of 24 hrs, we arrived in Apia, located on the south island of Upolu, one of the islands of Western Samoa.  We flew in just as the sun was rising, but surprisingly, despite the darkness it was STILL hot.  When the flight attendants opened the door to the tarmack, WHOOSH.  Hello humidity.  I think my hair grew instantaneously.  We disembarked and walked over to the tiniest airport I have ever been to.  It was literally three large rooms with a couple of stands and desks.  We got through customs with no problems and then made our way to the next room to pick up our bags.  Even at 5:30 AM there was a little band playing for the small crowd at the airport, and I just stood there at baggage claim completely enchanted by the tropical sunrise, the Samoan music echoing through the building, and the prospect of an island adventure.  That spell was quickly broken though.  As soon as we stepped outside, the full heat of the sun came blasting through the open air airport, and I looked around and people were smoking everywhere.  For those of you who know, I really have zero tolerance for smoking.  I was at the mall with my roommate Holly when I smelled cigarette smoke and I was literally SO rude about it…right in front of the guy smoking.  I just really think its an idiotic thing to do.  ANYWAYS…there was cigarette smoke wafting through the air, and there was very little breeze to speak of, so it was a blessing when we boarded our little bus and made our way to Tatiana Hotel.  While on the bus ride, a wave of exhaustion hit me, and I told Josh that all I wanted was a bed to sleep in.  Well, ask and you shall receive.  When we arrived at Tatiana, that was literally ALL that was in the room.  You opened the door and there was a bed…with lime green sheets…and a ceiling fan that was so low it threatened to decapitate me multiple times.  Thankfully, I was so tired that I did not notice the stains of the walls, the cockroaches scuttling about or the fact that the linoleum was coming up off the floor when Danielle and I just fell into bed.  We both just passed out for a good four hours until we were woken up by the crowing of a VERY confused rooster.  Upon our awakening, we boarded a bus driven by a very large Samoan man named Tau.  Now Tau was an interesting guy.  He had a large grey moustache, wore a very loud tropical print and sounded like he had been taught English by an Italian.  When I get home, I’ll do the impression for you.  Too funny.  Tau drove us around the city of Apia and gave us a little intro to the history of Samoa and Apia before we finally stopped off at Samoa’s National Museum.  I know that you are envisioning the Smithsonian right now, but this museum was a little different.  *cough…way different.  The museum was basically a two story, faded-blue building that housed a couple of displays on Samoan tattooing, cultural artifacts, fine mats, vintage pictures, and the various wildlife that inhabit the islands.  I normally love museums, but I was just in such a daze that all I wanted to do was go back to bed.  You know how bad it was, when I only got semi-excited about the marine life display.  Uffda.

After spending a good hour at the museum, we drove around Apia some more and Tau pointed out all the church options for us to attend for the Sunday service.  If you were unaware, Samoa prides itself on its deeply religious roots.  Everyone is a Christian in Samoa…you are either just a good Christian or a bad Christian.  The word atheist has no meaning there.  We finally finished the tour and returned back to Tatiana where I again found myself passed out in my stuffy little room.  I woke up for dinner in a pile of sweat.  Mmmmm For dinner we went to a local place that Tau recommended for some local “cuisine.”  Due to the obvious language barrier, I somehow ended up with a gigantic plate full of beef stir-fry with literally half a chicken sitting on top.  HALF.  A.  CHICKEN.  This thing was massive, and there was really no good point of entry, so I tried the beef stir-fry first, only to discover that there were little bone chips all throughout the sauce and noodles.  I unfortunately have a really bad gag reflex whenever I bite into a bone, so it was a sure-fire struggle to disguise my want to barf all over the table in front of me.  Needless to say, I gave up on dinner as a whole pretty quickly.  I went to bed that night with a pretty negative attitude about my whole situation.  Oh Apia.  How I hated thee.  Hahaha  The next morning, I thankfully awoke with a slightly sunnier outlook on life.  We had breakfast and then headed to the nearby markets to observe and engage the Samoan culture there.  The market was basically set up into three parts.  On one side of the complex there was the “farmer’s market” at which you could buy taro, Samoan bananas, breadfruit, fresh coconut, beautiful flower arrangements and so much more.  The middle of the complex was a dark maze of booths selling earrings, lavalavas, and other various souvenirs.  This was my first time in a market outside of the U.S., so it was a little intimidating at first to feel all the eyes of vendors, hoping that I would hesitate at their booth so that they could engage me in business.  Thankfully there was no bartering in the market, which greatly eased my concerns, for I am positive that I would utterly fail at bartering.  While I love a bargain, I like to stumble upon them…not force it out of a person.  Finally, the last part of the complex was a bunch of food vendors selling hot lunches and all manner of fried and greasy Western imports.  We Americans NEED to start eating better (I’m one to talk since I am currently sitting here eating a considerably large bar of chocolate).  One of my favorite parts of the market was in the back, where all the old men hung out, drinking kava, playing dominoes, and laughing their butts off.  It was just funny to sit and watch these guys interact in a group.  One things for sure though…Grandma Boat could show those men a thing or two when I comes to playing Mexican train.

After the market, we took off for Paolo Deep Marine Reserve, located on the outskirts of Apia.  It was about an hour walk from Tatiana, but a really nice one, since you just walk along the cement retaining wall, built by the Japanese after the most recent hurricane in hopes of keeping back the Pacific.  At Paolo Deep, Lauren and I snorkeled for almost 2 hours, and it was magical.  I had never been snorkeling before then, and it was just a delight to see all the little fish clothed in flashy color.  I just had an absolute blast swimming in the Pacific, tasting the salt water, trying not to drown when I would dive too deep, and attempting to swim at the same speed as all the little fish around me.  I just wanted to touch one!!  GAH!  Lauren and I finally got out of the water and rinsed ourselves off in the little shower and then attempted to air dry in the humid breeze of the tropics.  I will say that I did not enjoy the sticky film that covered my skin after swimming in the ocean…I could barley put my hair into a pony tail my hands were so sticky.  Thankfully, I did wrangle my hair into a ponytail and got dressed so that we could go and eat dinner.  Thankfully, this dinner was exponentially better.  No bones to speak of…AND…we got ice cream afterwards.  Yum!  We headed home after ice cream and encountered a lovely drunk man that tried to grab Lauren, Courtney and my booty but was so inebriated that he completely missed.  I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.  Thank goodness.  That next morning, we woke up bright and early and went to an Ecumenical service that was taking place just down the road from our hotel.  We got dressed up in our white shirts and lavalavas and sweated all the way there, but thankfully the church was air-conditioned.  At the church we met a couple of really great girls that took us under their wings and let us sit by them during the service.  They were even nice enough to periodically tell us what was going on during the service since it was entirely in Samoan.  A couple of notes on Samoan churches:

1.  EVERYONE goes
2.  The congregation in basically a choir, and they sound beautiful
3.  Kids just run up and down the aisles during the service
4.  Prayers take up about 20 minutes of the service
5.  You will be welcomed to the church by basically anyone of importance

Overall, we had a really good experience with our new Samoan sisters, and even went with them to a dance performance later in the evening.  But the during the day, a bunch of us piled into a taxi and tried to get to a place called “Sliding Rocks.”  We stopped a cabbie and asked if he knew the place, and he said yes, but then went to a 20 min little drive (he got lost and had to ask where we were going again…awesome) before we finally arrived at Sliding Rocks.  Sliding Rocks was basically a waterfall that you could slide down into a really lovely little pool.  Locals were jumping off it or surfing down the waterfall, but I only had the nerve to sit of my booty and slide off into the pool.  Rebecca got some pretty sweet pictures of me sliding down the rock face and overall,  it was just so wonderfully refreshing.  Just had a great time.

The next morning, we packed up all of our stuff and headed to the National University of Samoa, where we took in two lectures and got to eat lunch with Samoan students that were our age.  The lectures dealt with the economic status of Samoa, and a bunch of common questions about Fa’a Samoa (Samoan culture).  We loaded back on the bus after lunch and got dropped off at the ferry that we would take across the 13 mile expanse of water separating the islands of Upolu and Savi’i.  It took about 50 minutes to cross, most of which I spent looking at the incredible color of the water.  The deeper water is this intense shade of cobalt blue that when stirred up in the wake of the ferry turns a pure turquoise color.  The more shallow water is this beautiful shade of aquamarine that allows you to see the bottom even at a considerable depth.  It was just so different than anything I had ever seen in America.  Upon our arrival on Savai’i, we were greeted with leis of plumeria flowers that just smelled heavenly and thankfully guarded our noses from smelling the musty smell of the bus we clamored aboard.  We drove throughout various villages until we finally reached the village of Safua and our home for the next couple of days, Safua Hotel.

TOP TEN THINGS ABOUT SAFUA HOTEL (in no certain order)

  1. You get to live in fales, but you still get the luxury of an indoor bathroom
  2. There is this great tree in the backyard with a rope swing
  3. Coconut cookies that you get periodically throughout the day
  4. The lemon drink you get in the afternoon
  5. The band that plays songs while you eat and dance
  6. Etae’s granddaughter, Hazel
  7. The geckos that click and eat the mosquitoes
  8. The ice cream parlor is just a 10 minute walk from your room
  9. The roosters crow and it sound like their saying “Happy Birthday”

10.   Warren, and 80 year old man who has more spunk and sass than most teenagers

While Safua was pretty great, I think I had more fun on the various field trips we went on during our stay there.  We got to visit a lot of amazing places, and I couldn’t help but want my family to be right there seeing and experiencing all of these incredible adventures.  Our guide, Warren, took us on adventures to the island’s lava fields, a lava tube, and arguably the coolest place, the blowholes which shoot water a good 140 ft. into the air.  We also visited the only waterfall on Savi’i that runs into the ocean, the most western inhabited place on the globe, and the most beautiful palce I have ever been to.  Ever.  This waterfall was set a good 15 minute walk away from the road.  The water pours down into this amazing pool of deep, cool water that is a beautiful emerald green/blue color.  Etae, Josh, Allie, Kayla, Tyler, and myself played Frisbee in the water for a good hour…which the entire time I tred in the middle of the pool.  I almost had to be dragged out of the water when it was time to go.  I just did not want to leave; it was that beautiful.  I imagine heaven looks like that, but with a pod of dolphins swimming around in the pool and I can walk on water.  Yep…heaven.

We stayed at Safua for a good five days or so before re-packing and heading for the nearby village of Faga (pron.  Fa-ng-ga).  Upon our arrival, we were ushered in to an ava ceremony where we drank the kava juice and greeted all of the high chiefs and other matai from the village.  After the ceremony, we were split up into pairs and then led away by various families from the village.  Karleigh and I got to stay right on the beach in a wonderful fale with great views of the ocean and surrounding village.  As time progressed, we actually got to have two fales, one for sleeping, and one for relaxing.  How spoiled does that sound.  The only bad part was that we were split up for meal times, which tends to be a VERY akward time in Samoa.  Since we were honored guests, the family does not eat with you; rather, they sit in a nearby fale and watch you eat while various members take turns fanning you and your food while you eat.  And did I mention the portion size?  AH!  They wanted you to eat, and eat, and eat, and EAT!  You really had to learn “maona fa’a fetai” which means, “I’m full, thank you.”  There were multiple times I thought I would burst.  The rest of the time in Faga we were followed around by two 20-something year olds named Rosa and Linda, and a whole pack of children screaming “palagi!” and pulling on your arms, legs, hair, face….you name it.  Needless to say there was little down time to speak of.  While we did go snorkeling daily and got to eat to our hearts content (or discontent), it was just a crazy couple of days in Faga.  Culture shock really set in there, and out entire group really had to do a lot of serious processing.  The fact that I was so uncomfortable really made me question my future.  All I really want to do is host a Travel Channel show, however, if I am not comfortable in this culture, how would it be if I were to go to other countries, try other food, and meet other people.  How adaptable am I?  Paired with the treatment of kids, the abuse of animals, the lack of loving relationships, and the overall culture/language barrier, made the entire Faga experience a growing one.  Honestly, it was probably one of the hardest experiences of my life, but definitely a beneficial one.

In conclusion I really found it interesting how my attitudes towards the culture and the experience changed over the duration of the trip.  I came into Apia with a pretty negative attitude that I wasn’t expecting.  Weird feelings of superiority came over me, and I just couldn’t help but think that America was better, a very intolerant attitude that I was deeply uncomfortable with.  However, in seeing the beauty around me, noticing the smiles of the people, and really seeking God to change and heal my attitudes I really began to appreciate Samoa for it was and is.  It is part of God’s beautiful creation.  These people are a people loved by God, and we really aren’t so different, it’s only when we look for the differences will we find them.  I found that through humbling myself to the culture that I was able to see the gifts and the insights God provided everyday.  It just took a lot of work on my part to see the gifts and take joy in those blessings throughout the trip.

TOP TEN THINGS TO TAKE JOY IN FROM FAGA (in no certain order)

  1. Fresh cocoa Samoa
  2. Hermit crabs that scuttle around the beach…Sheldon!!!
  3. Sunrise that paints the sky orange and pink
  4. Wearing a large white hat to church
  5. The cool sea breeze that flows freely through the fale
  6. Singing “Tatale tale”  with Keka and Avu
  7. The roar of the surf hitting the out-lying coral reef
  8. Fia Fia
  9. Bingo with all the town ladies
  10. Star gazing
 

Darling Little Lambs September 15, 2010

Filed under: A Kiwi Adventure — caitlincorinne @ 3:26 am

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What is it with the time here?  I seem to find myself continually busy, with practically zero time to go into town and update people.  Everyday is a new adventure, with new responsibilities, and new tasks to conquer.  So what’s been going on?  Let me tell you.

This past week was the start of our official schooling here in Kaikoura.  At the Convent, we only take one class a week, which may seem totally awesome, but fitting a whole class into one week tends to be extremely stressful.  The class we took was entitled “Intro to Sustainable Community Development,” taught by a man by the name of Mick Duncan, a pastor turned speaker from Auckland.  While the idea of “Sustainable Community Development” might conjure up some images of learning how to compost and garden properly, or how to reduce your carbon footprint, the class focused an a lot of issues surrounding the concept of war, and how war is a major deterrent to sustainable progress.  We discussed causes behind economic failure, debt cancellation, the causes of war, various statistics regarding war and development, as well as the concepts of holism and shalom.  Throughout the week we had a debate on Pacifism vs. the Just War theory, we preformed skits regarding pathways of development, and worked on a large (20pg!!) critical review of various articles presented in class.  WHEW!  What I came expecting from the class was completely blown out of the water, and I was challenged personally on a variety of levels.  All of the topics we discussed, while not altogether unfamiliar, were topics that I had failed to wrestle with on my own.  I found that before this class I really did not have an opinion, or rather lacked the knowledge to create an opinion, but in talking with Mick and listening in class, I was urged to confront the issues head-on, and decide for myself what my views really were regarding war, development, and social action.  It really was a tough and stretching week, and as whole group, we all struggled to reconcile our beliefs with this new information and reconcile opposing views within the group.  While it was a hard week, it was nonetheless a week that I am grateful for.

Following class of Friday, we met up with our home stay families for the weekend.  The program selected various families out of the community for students to stay with for the weekend so that we may get a chance to interact with real Kiwis and make connections within the community.  I was assigned to stay with Ted and Alisa Howard.  Alisa picked me up in her little station wagon with her dog Sandy in the back seat.  Alisa is a tiny little woman…barley reaching my bra-line and we were a funny-lookin’ pair to say the least.  She almost had to run to keep up with my long strides, despite the fact that I tried SO hard to walk slowly.  Alisa too me back to her and Ted’s place up at the lookout near Kaikoura.  High on the cliffs they have a million dollar view.  From the comfort of the deck chairs you can easily see the mountains across the bay, hear the roar of the sea, and watch some horses idly grazing on a plain below, basking in the sunshine.  As Anne of Green Gables would say, “So much scope for the imagination.”  Their house is full of eclectic things from the flax baskets that Ailsa weaves to the many botany books that both Ted and Ailsa use in their line of work for the Fish and Reserve committee.  Both were just so very interesting, full of sage advice and great stories.  While at their home, I met their daughter Jewelia (14) and William (24), and we all had a family dinner sitting around their very small and cluttered dining room table.  After dinner, Jewelia, Ailsa and I watch New Zealand’s Next Top Model.  Yep.  It was just too funny, and for some reason, everyone one the show was literally 16 years old!  What is up with that?  I guess that I am too old for New Zealand’s Next Top Model…and too tall for Ford Modeling Company.  True story.

Anyways, after watching a bit of TV, they brought out a mattress to put on the floor, and their wonderful dogs, Sandy and Huia, and me all piled on the bed and spent the night in a cuddly little ball.  I just love dogs so much!!  Ah!  BRIDGER!!!!  The following morning, Ailsa and I got up really early and headed to Mt. Patutu with her friend Jerv.  The drive to the trail is right along the coast, and I just sat in utter awe with the scenery around me.  It just never gets old, ya know?  We arrived at the trail and found out that Ailsa had forgotten her water, Jerv had forgotten the stove to make coffee at the top, and I had failed to pack the all-important chocolate.  We all got an F – – on our tramping card for that.  So minus water, coffee and chocolate we headed for the top, a moderate 4 hour hike.  We took breaks every-so-often so that we could take pictures and catch our breath, and right before the last stretch we sat and had a little lunch to gather our strength for the last bit.  The last bit of Patutu consists of basically bouldering up a mountain.  The terrain is super steep filled with slippery grass and loose rock that likes to give out.  We scrambled up the mountain for the better part of 45 minutes, until we FINALLY reached the top.  7 months after transplant, I have successfully climbed two mountains…climbed, not conquered.  Nonetheless…I CLIMBED TWO MOUNTAINS 7 MONTHS AFTER A KIDNEY TRANSPLANT!!!!  Who is proud?  Bahahaha

After spending the better part of an hour soaking in the beauty from atop Mt. Patutu, we slowly made our way down the rock face and down the trail to home.  My legs were literally like Jell-O for the better part of the hike down, and it still amazes me that I didn’t just eat it on the way down.  I can’t say the same for Ailsa, who fell four times…at least.  Poor woman!  In order to remedy our Jell-O legs, we did some yoga when we got home and just lazed around and visited with Will and Ted.  That night, I passed out and didn’t move from that spot until morning.  I was just SO tired.

The next morning, we all took it slow and easy.  Ted left to go and play a round of golf, Jewelia and Will slept until noon and Ailsa taught me how to weave using the flax plant.  It is a Maori tradition to weave with the flax plant, since they arrived in New Zealand with no modern tools, thus rocks and the flax plant became a major source of gathering and serving food.  In order to gather flax for weaving, one must abide by the traditions of the Maori women.  First, you must find a frond that does not have a split top, for the best results, you want a frond that is complete, no holes, gaps or tears.  When you identify a frond you want to cut, you must peer down to the base of the plant and make sure that the frond you want to cut is not part of the family unit of the plant (in other words that it is not the mother, father or baby….for it you cut any of those, you might kill the entire plant).  Once you have made sure that you can cut the frond, you must offer up a prayer for the plant, thanking God for allowing the plant to thrive and grow and for giving you the knowledge and the ability to weave. Throughout the day, Ailsa taught me how to make little flowers from the flax plant, and I even completed a woven basket (with constant supervision of course)!   While it might seem a lame way to spend a Sunday afternoon, I had a great time!  It was truly a fun skill to learn and hopefully pass on.  Finally, in the spirit of passing it on, you must give away the first thing that you make, so to honor that tradition I gave my first flower as a gift to the Maori during our trip to the mare.

Following home stay weekend, we visited a traditional Maori mare (pronounced mAr-eye) or sacred meetinghouse.  For a couple of days we practiced a song to perform and talked about proper etiquette for the experience.  When time came to visit the mare, we walked slowly and quietly to the gate of the mare where a Maori woman sang to us from across the lawn.  After she finished, we were allowed to enter the property and made our way down a rough pebble path towards the meetinghouse, girls in front and boys in back.  We walked down the pathway until we got to a set of benches where we filed in and sat down, this time boys in front and girls in back.  From across the lawn on another set of benched, our guide, Brett rose and began making a speech in the Maori language.  While we could not understand what he was saying, you could definitely tell that this was a special ceremony, and one that deserves silence and respect.  After Brett finished speaking, our male representative, Tyler, arose and delivered a speech thanking the Maori for this opportunity, and presented them with a gift of money and the flax flower that I made (Yeah!).  After Brett accepted our gift we proceeded to shake hands and embrace each other in traditional Maori fashion.  After grabbing hands and saying, “Kia Ora!” you press your noses together and share a breath…not necessarily sanitary, but really cool.  After everyone was greeted, we then shared food together and went inside the mare (where no photos are allowed L) where Brett shared with us a lot of traditional Maori stories explained through the many carvings upon the walls of the mare.  It was a really great experience, not only because it opened our eyes to a new culture, it allowed us to extend the bonds of friendship across cultural and racial lines.  Brett was a great guide, and I think that all of us really enjoyed the experience!

So that brings us up to yesterday where we visited friends at their sheep ranch high up in the mountains of Kaikoura.  As we drove in to the Topp’s ranch, Mr. Topp walked out of their sheep shearing shed, looking just like a sheep rancher.  He was picturesque in his rancher-ness.  He, and his home were perfect.  The Topp’s home is nestled between two gorgeous hills that are surrounded by mountains and FILLED with sheep.  They own about 3,000 acres and have about 3,500 sheep.  And the lambs?  AH!  I almost stole one.  While at the farm, our group watched a couple of sheep being shorn, got to feed their pet sheep Stewie, Quick, and Phui Phui some bread and got to hold little baby lambs before they got tagged with the Topp’s signature ear mark, and W or M, depending on how you look at it.  But let’s get back to those lambs!  AH!  They are just the littlest little guys and are so fluffy and cute.  When they bleat, they stick their little tongues out and AH!  It’s almost too much to handle.  So after reveling in baby lambs, we played with some chickens and some of the dogs at the ranch.  The Topp’s have a total of six work dogs, a Jack Russell Terrier, two chocolate labs, and a mother and father dog used for breeding.  I definitely got my dog therapy in yesterday!  I am completely convinced that I will need a dog the moment I graduate.  I just can’t live without them!  Ehhhhhhhh…problem.

So in closing, these past couple of weeks have just been a whirlwind of trips, activites, reading, writing and learning.  We just seem to never slow down….it’s been three weeks and I STILL haven’t had time to do all my laundry.  ECK!  (Wish me luck on that front)  Furthermore, the business shows no signs of slowing down, for on Friday (in two days) we leave for Samoa for two weeks.  Can you believe it? I sure can’t wrap my head around it!  So, I am so very sorry if you have emailed me, or written of Facebook, it’s just been a crazy time here!  Great….SO great…but crazy.  So know that I am NOT ignoring your or leaving you out, it’s just I need to learn a bit more about biking to town faster and a lot more about time management.  I love you all!!!

XOXOXOXOX