May 24, 2015


Greetings! Since this weekend is Memorial Day weekend in the States I thought I'd blog about a similar New Zealand holiday that occurred back in April.

Saturday, April 25, New Zealand celebrated ANZAC Day (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps). Originally, ANZAC Day was held to remember the soldiers who fought and died at the battle of Gallipoli in World War I. Since that first observance of ANZAC Day 100 years ago (this year was the centennial), ANZAC Day has transformed into a day to commemorate all soldiers of battles since Gallipoli who have fought and died for Australia/New Zealand. For this day I attended a ceremony at dawn in front of the Auckland Museum, held at that time of day for the symbolism (although death is dark, with the light comes freedom). During the ceremony a pipe band played, an 100 person choir/small band performed, soldiers past and present walked the grounds, and there was a helicopter flyover in commemoration.

Helicopter flyover.
The ceremony overall was very powerful, but my favorite part was when the choir and band performed “I Vow to Thee, My Country”. At first as I was listening I thought “hmm…this sounds vaguely familiar” even though I didn’t recognize the title of the song, but then I realized, I did know it! “I Vow to Thee, My Country” is a hymn taken from part of The Planets suite by Holst, and I played The Planets last semester in orchestra. Crazy.

Have a great week and a lovely Memorial Day, everybody!

May 18, 2015

Weekend Update

Hey hey! It’s starting to get colder, cloudier, and rainier here, the telltale signs of NZ fall. It's funny; except for a little less colour in the trees fall still feels, looks, and smells like fall. Even though I’m on the other side of the world, it's amazing that fall still smells like fall.

Anyway, this Friday I went to my first ever rugby game!

IFSA group from the stands. 
The Auckland Blues played the South African Bulls in a Super Rugby mach. The Super Rugby union is one step down from the All Blacks, New Zealand’s most famous and all victorious international rugby team, and consists only of teams from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. I was surprised there weren’t as many people there as I was expecting, but I guess the hype is not the same if it’s not the All Blacks.

Met one of the players...just kidding, it's a mask. 
Then Sunday I spent the morning planting trees as part of a volunteer activity on Motutapu Island with my IFSA Butler group.

It rained a bit in the morning, as it has pretty much every morning since the start of fall, but the small shower cleared up by the afternoon. After we planted we headed down to the shore for a “Sausage Sizzle” aka the classic kiwi bbq – a sausage on a slice of bread with tomato sauce, the perfect way to end a beautiful day.

Off to the water to dip my feet in.
What a nice day...

May 2, 2015

Mid-Semester Break, Part 2

The morning after I landed in Auckland and completed the first week of mid-semester break my parents landed to visit for the second week!! While they were here we took a tour of the North Island hitting places close to Auckland, then flew to Wellington and drove back up the island to visit places along the way. Over the week we…

            …visited Shakespear Regional Park, the same park in which I had my orientation, for a picnic and a walk to help get over jet-lag. 

            …visited the Waitomo glowworm caves.
Outside the cave.
The tiny strings are the glowworms which, as it turns out, aren't
exaaactly worms....but I won't reveal any spoilers here for anyone
wanting to go on a glowworm tour in the future.
            …visited Port Waikato for the black sand beaches. The west coast of New Zealand is covered with these black sand beaches, while the beaches along the east coast are regular white sand.

Port Waikato beach.
            …flew to Wellington where we rode the cable car, explored the city, and ate at seemingly every café we could find.
At the Wellington airport! Sign reads "Middle of Middle-Earth"
Golem inside the airport!

Om nom nom, mocha.
…drove past Tongariro National Park where we saw the massive Mt. Ngauruhoe (aka Mt. Doom ;) ), Mt. Ruapehu, and Mt. Tongariro.

Tongariro National Park. 
Photographer Dad, in his natural habitat.
            …visited Taupo, where we hiked through a geothermal hot spring area, past Huka Falls, stopped for a coffee next to a helipad, and explored around Lake Taupo.

Lookout over Lake Taupo and Taupo.
Huka Falls.
            …visited Rotorua, where we were bussed to our Hobbiton tour (!) in Matamata, saw bubbling muds, geothermal vents and got a massive burger at the Fat Dog Café.

Frodo/Bilbo's House.

..."the only ale for the brave and true
is that from The Green Dragon!"
            …ended our tour back in Auckland and spent the last couple of days visiting the Auckland Zoo, Skytower, Auckland marinas, and, most importantly, the chocolate café. Om nom nom.
Auckland, from 186 meters up in the Skytower.

I was pretty bummed they had to leave so early, but one week was simply not enough time to see all there is to see here in NZ. I would’ve liked to bring them to the South Island as well, but there just wasn’t enough time. Speaking of time, I can’t believe it’s May already. This semester’s gone by too fast.