It is strange nearing the end of my time in New Zealand. It has been a full semester and I’ve learned more than I thought possible. I also cannot think of a single negative experience during my entire time here.
This blog post is delayed because I have experienced more computer problems recently (surprise surprise!). My internet adapter, Microsoft Office and computer mouse all quit working within days of each other. I got it sorted but immediately after finishing my last final exam, I left Wellington for two conferences and only now have Wi-Fi again. The day I left Wellington was rather interesting. My final went well, but I also had to be packed and moved out of my house that afternoon. An awesome family from my church came to pick up my luggage which they are holding for me until I leave for the states at the end of the month. I am traveling now around the north island and then for a bit in Australia.
The conferences were absolutely amazing! The first one was with the student ministry Student Life and the second was with International Student Ministries NZ. I met students from throughout New Zealand and others at the second conference from over twenty nations! I had a blast learning about their cultures and lives and studying God’s word alongside them.
In addition to final essays and assignments, much of my time lately has been consumed with medical school applications. I’m nearly finished! Also, my last concert with the New Zealand School of Music Orchestra a few weeks ago went well. I thoroughly enjoyed performing with this group and will miss them. A few weekends ago, I visited Auckland and got to see the All Blacks Rugby team defeat England! My flatmates and I took an overnight bus to get there—a ten hour drive—and it was an experience indeed. The game itself was a blast! The score was nearly tied the whole time and the first ‘try’ of the game didn’t happen until the last play. Rugby is unlike any other sporting game I’ve been to and the All Blacks are incredibly tough! The British fans were fantastic—there were eight people in front of us all dressed as the Queen of England. You can’t make this stuff up.
That weekend I also went canyoning which is definitely one of my top three favorite things I’ve done here. It is a strange feeling jumping off cliffs and repelling through waterfalls. My flatmates and I also visited a hot water beach near Auckland. I was completely skeptical and told my flatmates there was no way they were getting me out in the winter rain during low tide (10 pm) to go dig a hole in the sand and expect it to fill with hot water. Well how was I proven wrong! Simply walking on the sand felt warm despite the cold temperature outside and the water which came out of the ground once we dug a shallow hole was hot enough to turn my back red!
After returning from Auckland, I finalized class assignments and also planned another trip to the south island with a few international friends who had not been there before. We made a great team—Lauren from Texas, Gabrella from China, Carlos from Brazil, and Ryoichi from Japan. We had an amazing trip to Christchurch and Queenstown and I got to see some neat places I missed last time I was down there. I also got to go skiing at Mt. Hutt near Christchurch! The snow wasn’t the best because it is still very early in the season but I had fun nonetheless. And Carlos had fun as well—it was the first time he’d ever seen snow! One of the things I will miss most about New Zealand is how welcoming and kind everyone is. The women who ran the hostel near Mt. Hutt was awesome. She called me frequently before we arrived to give me road condition updates and mountain weather reports. She also made us soup one night which was so kind and generous—truly like a mother to us!
Christchurch itself was an interesting city. The earthquake in 2011 has left the city still in disrepair. However, out of this, great creativity has flourished. The historical Christchurch cathedral still has a gaping hole in its side, but the Cardboard Cathedral (designed by a Japanese architect) has been built nearby. It was absolutely stunning: peaceful and full of light. It looked as if the entire building could be lifted and moved.
We also visited the container mall which is a collection of stores housed in boxcar containers. They are painted bright colors and are stacked in interesting ways—they can be transported easily and were an innovative solution following the destruction from the quake.
On our way to Queenstown, we stopped through Tekapo and visited the lake, chapel and nearby conservatory. It is difficult to describe in words or pictures how truly breath-taking the scenery was. Miles and miles of colors and mountains and nature. It was impossible to take it all in. I couldn’t help but stand in awe of the Creator who imagined such beauty.
We arrived in Queenstown just as the fireworks were going off. Of course we picked the craziest weekend to visit Queenstown. It was Winter Festival and the quaint little ski town was buzzing with people. We didn’t spend much time in the town itself, however, and on Saturday drove to Glenorchy which takes you through some of the most incredible parts of Middle Earth. Again, words and pictures cannot describe this place. It hardly seems real. And we found Paradise. Really, that was the name of the nearby town (Appropriately named!).
When I got back to Wellington for my last week, I had assignments to finish in addition to other important things such as visiting the zoo and the Weta workshop (in the same day!). I finally got to see kiwi birds!! The Weta workshop was incredible. It is the design studio which created the props, costumes and sets for the Lord of the Rings and dozens of other films including Narnia, District 9, and King Kong. I am truly in awe of the creativity of the Weta geniuses. Their resourcefulness and thoroughness never ceases to amaze me.
I now have fifteen days left before I leave for the United States. Leaving this country will probably be one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. The beauty of this country found in its people, landscapes and creativity has captured more than a piece of my heart here. I know I will be back, it is just a matter of when.
So to continue my list of why I love this place:
31. Less hierarchy than in the states—professors, students, bosses, and employees all use first names when addressing each other.
32. Seeing the real Middle Earth and realizing Rivendell is a mash up of two very distinct places (Wellington on the north island and Fiordland on the south)
33. 6 meals a day: breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper (aka chocolate).
34. Fergburger (a famous burger place in Queenstown)
35. Cookietime cookies
36. Being challenged and stretched by new ways of thinking about the world
37. Final exams which are more interesting than stressful and I get to apply what I have learned
38. Outdoor guides who genuinely love what they do
39. Beautiful sunsets over the city, forests, and harbor
40. Hills—I really will miss climbing the hills. They are endearing in a way.