Sunday, August 30, 2009
It has been a while since I have updated. Two weeks ago a booked a ticket to come and visit my sister in Thailand over my midsemester break, so since then I have been trying to save money in New Zealand by staying in the city on the weekends. Therefore, there is not a whole lot to update on. I did spend a day wandering Auckland alone and found some really cool places. I went to the Auckland Domain for the first time, which is a large scenic park in the middle of the city, almost comparable to Central Park in NYC.
It is now my midsemester break and I am in Bangkok, Thailand! I can't believe I am about halfway through my semester abroad. I am having an amazing experience in Thailand so far, though. I have been here for about 3 days and Caitlin and I spent the weekend on this amazing island off the coast of Thailand, called Koh Chang. It was amazing, we stayed in this bungalow on the beach that I could never fully explain, it was great. We swam, hiked to a waterfall, and ate amazing thai food right on the beach. I couldn't have asked for a better beginning to my stay here in Thailand. It also amazes me how cheap everything is here! The currency in Thai Baht, and if we were to convert our expenses back to USD, its incredible. For example, each night in the beach bungalow we stayed in was 200 Baht. That is approximately $6 USD. So when we split a 2 bed bungalow, we each spent $3 USD a night for our accomodation. Caitlin keeps telling me I have to stop converting it back... but its crazy to see what the conversion rates are. Now we are back in Bangkok, which seems a world away from island life, but I'm excited to see what this city has to offer over the next two weeks!
Monday, August 10, 2009
This past Saturday marked my first official month in New Zealand! I can't believe how fast it has gone by. I went on my second trip this weekend, to Rotorua. It was about a 3 hour drive from Auckland. I rented the car so I got to drive - which was exciting because it was my first driving experience in NZ... and quite an adjustment from driving in the US. In New Zealand, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, and everyone drives on the left side of the road. It was easier than I thought it would be to get used to, except for the fact that every time I went to turn on my turning blinker I instead turned on the windshield wipers... those are on opposite sides as well.
We had a busy and adventurous weekend. On Saturday, we got up and went Zorbing. Its this New Zealand originated activity where you are put into a huge plastic inflatable ball, either strapped in or with water, and pushed down a hill. My friends and I opted to do the Zorb with water, which was so much fun. We could also choose between a zig zag course and a straight shot, and the zig zag one was great. After that, we went back to the hostel for a few hours until being picked up to go white water rafting. This was my first time white water rafting and it was amazing. The guides were so funny and the river was beautiful, we picked the perfect day to go. The trip took us down the Kaituna river, which is apparently world renowned for rafting. The best part was the 7 meter waterfall, I later heard its the biggest waterfall that is commercially rafted in the world. The waterfall took the whole raft completely underwater. Surprisingly everyone but one of us was able to stay on the raft, one friend got thrown but she's fine and the pictures of it happening make it all worth it. After rafting, we came back and showered and got ready to go to the Tamaki Maori Village. Rotorua is known as the cultural capital of New Zealand, so it was a great opportunity to check out Maori culture. At Tamaki, we were shown Maori performances, such as the Haka. After this, we had a buffet style dinner of traditional Maori food, complete with steamed pudding for dessert. After an active day, the dinner was a perfecting ending. Finally, on Sunday, we went to Mai o Tapu Thermal Park, where we saw a geyser go off, and we got to explore the rest of the park and check out all of the thermal activity. It was really cool to see, but after a few hours the smell of sulfur had gotten to me and I was ready to head back to Auckland!
I've realized that I need to start buckling down with my studies, with so much going on, its extremely difficult to concentrate on school!
Monday, August 3, 2009
So it seems that I am finally settling into life in Auckland. Over the past few weeks, this city has gone from strange and foreign to familiar and friendly. I don't know who decided to make people go to school while they're abroad... I am finding it very hard to concentrate on school work while making new friends and planning weekend trips. I'm sure once I start having papers due and tests that I will force myself into some sort of school mode. I like my classes, for the most part. My Philosophy of Buddhism class is extremely interesting and thought provoking, I think it will quickly become my favorite. This past weekend I stayed in the city. On Saturday morning, I went to a farmers market. It was great! Vendors were there selling all sorts of local produce, nuts, honey, baked goods... everything was so fresh and everyone was so friendly. I'm looking forward to doing more of my food shopping there. In the middle of the tent area there were two musicians playing music while everyone went about their shopping. I only wish it wasn't on weekends when I will be away for most of the time! This weekend we are planning a trip to Rotorua... where we will go white water rafting, "zorbing", and maybe even get to a thermal spa!