Monday, March 28, 2011


Hi! I hope everyone is enjoying the posts! This weekend I had a trip planned to go to The Bay of Islands but it got canceled last minute due to rain in the forecast. Instead, I spend Friday at Devonport, Saturday at the Auckland museum, and Sunday canyoning. Devonport was kind of boring. We were planning on going to Rangatoto but we missed the ferry by two minutes. Instead of waiting two more hours for the next ferry we decided to go to Devonport a small island right outside of Auckland. When we first got to the town we climbed Mount Victoria, a small mountain where the city skyline is clearly visible. As soon as we got down the mountain it started pouring rain. We spent the next hour of so sitting in a pub with our guide book for the east coast of Australia (Where the girls and I will be going in only 12 days!!!!!!). When the rain finally let up we headed back to town. That night we had a quiet movie night and made “family dinner”. On Saturday I spent most of the day writing a paper and catching up on some studying. Around four o’clock I headed down to the Auckland museum which is free and only about a 10 minute walk from Huia. My favorite part of the museum was the volcano exhibit. Sunday I went canyoning. By far this was my favorite part of the weekend. Canyoning is climbing, sliding, and jumping down waterfalls. I feel like the best way to describe canyoning is by looking at the pictures! Next weekend I don’t think I’ll be going on any trips so I can work on studying and assignments before the mid-semester break begins. For the first week of the mid-semester break Haley, Keri, Rafiella, and I are spending the first week driving down the east coast of Australia from Brisbane to Sydney. From Sydney we are flying into Christchurch where the boys will pick us up to tour the south island of New Zealand for the second week. Hopefully the next time I post ill have some great stories and pictures!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hi everyone! To catch you all up on my weekend a bunch of my friends and I went on a trip to Rotarua and Lake Taupo. Rotarua is a town about five hours south of Auckland best known for their volcanic lakes, geysers, hot water springs, mud pools, and multicolored lakes. Near Rotarua is Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s biggest lake. There are a lot of fun activities to do near Rotarua so we decided to spend the weekend there.

We left Friday afternoon and arrived in Rotarua at about 6:30 at night, just in time for the Hangi we had scheduled prior to leaving. A Hangi is a Maori tradition of singing and dancing along with cooking an entire meal in a six foot hole in the ground. In my residence, all of my kiwi friends have been telling me I have to go to a hangi while in here. I’m glad they suggested it because it was a lot of fun AND delicious. When we first got to the Hangi we watched the Maori people do an intimidating dance. Then we took a tour of their village and got to learn about their culture and how they live their lives in the community. When the educational part was over we went and watched the Maori people sing, dance and play instruments a little more until it was time to eat. We watched the food being taken out of the six foot hole in the ground and they explained how cooking the food in the ground conserves energy and is the healthiest way to cook. That night when we all decided that we haven’t been that full since we arrived in New Zealand.

When we left the Hangi we went to check into our hostile. This was my first time staying in a hostile and it turned out to be a lot of fun! My friends from Huia rented a car and left earlier Friday morning so seeing them at the hostile was the first time we had met up on the trip. The first thing we did when we opened the door to our room was claim our beds by running up to one dropping our bags and jumping on them. Soon after claiming our beds we decided to push all the beds together and have a sleepover party.

The next morning our plan was to wake up early and go see a geyser erupt followed by going to lay in mud pools, see hot springs, multicolored lakes and hot water springs. However our plan didn’t go accordingly. The shock protector fell off our van and a part was scraping against the ground. We had to bring the van to a mechanic and wait around for over two hours for it to be fixed. When the van was finally fixed we had just enough time to go see the hot water springs at the thermal village. We saw how a community uses the natural hot springs to their advantage in their everyday lives. We also learned a lot about how natural hot springs are formed. When we left the thermal village we stopped by Huka Falls a huge water fall near Lake Taupo. On our way to the campsite where we were planning on camping that night we stopped at Lake Taupo for a swim in New Zealand’s largest Lake. It was a little cold but it was a really hot day and we had a lot of fun.

After leaving Lake Taupo the trip exponentially picked up in excitement. WE WERE NOW ON OUR WAY TO MOUNT DOOM!!!! We drove about two hours from Lake Taupo to Tangariro National Park. As we drove into the park the sun was setting and we were driving though gigantic mountains listening the Lord of the Rings soundtrack (obviously). We arrived at our campsite and we were all anxiously waiting for morning to come so we could start the Tangariro Crossing. The Tangariro Crossing also known as “The Lord of the Rings Walk” (which is not a “walk” at all) is considered the best one day hike in all of New Zealand. The Crossing is 19 kilometers or about 13 miles long, with constant changing of landscape; in many areas of the crossing it looks very similar to the path Frodo takes, as it’s the exact location where the film took place. As a huge Lord of the Rings fan I was EXTREMLY excited about the walk although it was very strenuous. Most of the time we were climbing up hill and shuffling down rough terrain, at one point we walked up stars for an hour straight. Although the hike was intense it was worth every second of it and we all felt accomplished when it was over.

Hands down the Tangariro crossing was the best part of the weekend. That night driving home we all fell asleep in the car until we arrived back in Auckland. Every week I say the same thing, “Nothing can top this”. But every single weekend my expectations are exceeded. When I start to think things can’t get any better, they always do, and that for certain is my favorite part about New Zealand.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hey guys! This week I went on a snorkeling trip with six of my friends to Goat Island. At first I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought we would take a tiny boat out to the island where we would rent our snorkeling gear and be confined to swimming in a roped off piece of the ocean. How far from the truth I actually was! When we got to the shore, we all went to rent our wetsuits; little did we know they would be bright blue! We looked like the crew from Monsters Inc. After we got our gear we drove down to the beach where we were free to snorkel all around Goat Island (which is a nature reserve so we weren’t allowed on the actual island). The scenery was amazing; every which way I looked was breathtaking. Looking up the sky was bright blue, to the left was the island, to the right the beach with the green hills behind it, straight ahead were mountains, and below was the ocean. In the ocean, which was crystal clear, we saw things like a huge stingray, a lobster, and a bunch of bright colored fish. This experience was one that will be hard to top. After snorkeling we went to a beach about a half hour away that was also very beautiful. While everyone went off for a hike Haley and I decided to go for a longer walk on the beach and look out at the sunset over the water. It was so pretty to watch. What I find Ironic though is that when we came back that night we found out that at that same time we were admiring the ocean, there was a tsunami taking place in the same body of water miles and miles away.

The next day I had a trip planned to go to the Coromandel Peninsula but because of the Tsunami warning we canceled our trip. Instead we would up hiking Mount Eden and going to the Pacifica Festival. Mount Eden is a small mountain right outside of the city center in Auckland. From the top of the mountain we could see the skyline perfectly. There was also a huge crater right before the top of the mountain where there was once a volcanic explosion. Hiking to Mount Eden was something I wanted to do while living in Auckland so I’m glad we went.

After Mount Eden we took the van and went to the Pacifica Festival on the other Side of town. Once again we had no idea what to expect. We planned on only staying for about an hour or so, but yet again we were pleasantly surprised. The festival, we found out is one of the largest and most significant festivals in the south pacific. There were acres and acres filled with stages and posts set up. The Music was great, Pacific Island dancers and musicians were performing on stages about every 100 yards or so and on the perimeter around the stages booths and tents were set up. Bre, Kiri and I were walking past one tent looking very curious as Pacific Islanders were sitting Indian style around a large pot drinking this drink that looked a lot like coffee out of halved coconut shaped cups. Before we knew it we were being invited in to share the drink with them. As we sat down the natives clapped three times (to represent yesterday, today, and tomorrow). They explained to us that we were drinking cava, and what the bowl it was made in represented. They told us that since we were drinking the cava with them we are now considered family. After we left Kiri, who has Pacific Island relatives explained that cava usually isn’t shared with people other than family members so that experience was very special. After we left that booth we went to the next booth were we saw someone manually getting a tattoo with an ink filled chisel. Normally I would be hesitant to watch but it was very interesting. Before we left we each got a big plate of Samoan food which consisted of lamb, corn, noodles, and rice. This was a treat considering I’m on the meal plan at Huia and the food is not that good to say the last. As we ate our food we sat by a stage and watched Pacific Islanders sing and perform music. Although the trip to Coromandel got called off because of the tides, we still had a great weekend.

This morning I recieved an e-mail that my favorite professor had a heart attack and won’t be back in class until the end of the semester, so that’s really sad. Other than that I really enjoy all of my classes. I find my marketing class the most interesting. My first test is on Wednesday and I’m actually looking forward to it.

The cool thing about being here is not only do I go to school and go on trips, but I also find myself learning life lessons every single day. That’s part of what comes from traveling, you get to meet people of all different ethnicities, cultures, and religions and you pick up certain things and learn about aspects of people you might never experience staying in the same town or state your whole life. One of the most important things I’ve learned so far while being here is that you should never think you know someone’s background at a first glance. I know that’s something we’ve been taught since we were young but it never truly sunk in until I was put in the situation of meeting people from all over the globe. Some people who look like they are from China will start talking in a kiwi accent, and as you get to know them, they were raised here their whole lives. And others who you think look like kiwis, will start talking in an Australian accent, or even and American accent for that matter. I wouldn’t consider myself judgmental before I came here, but I would often make assumptions as to what ethnicity someone was by their looks, accent, or fashion. From being here I’ve learned that it’s worth the time to get to know someone because you might be surprised by what interesting story they have to share.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

First two weeks in Auckland

Hey Guys I’m Ashley and I’m currently studying at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. I have been here in the city for two weeks now and I’m already having the time of my life. Getting here was beyond stressful; my flight from JFK was delayed three hours which made me miss my plane from LAX to Auckland. I had to wait 24 hours in LA to catch another flight. The entire time I was streaming with emotions, sadness leaving my family, nervousness arriving in a place where I wasn’t familiar with the culture, and excitement to start a new beginning in a new environment. The plane ride was rough but as soon as I saw the breathtaking mountains, I took a deep breath and relaxed, all my worries were gone. I knew at that moment that all the time and effort I put into planning the trip was worthwhile and good things were to come.

When I arrived at the airport I met up with other international students who were also attending The University of Auckland. Meeting and conversing with the other students made me realize how much I have in common with people of diverse backgrounds. When I arrived at the residence on campus where I’m staying, I instantly made a lot of new friends which made the transition really easy.

Last week was international orientation and orientation for the residence I live in. It would have been the smart decision to attend the international events to help adjust to the new lifestyle, but the events the residence held seams much more fun, so that’s what I did. A few days after I got here I came down with strep throat, tonsillitis, and a high fever which put a damper on some of the fun activities the school had to offer but all is well now. Some of the things we did included a sponge war, a scavenger hunt in the city, quiz night, a trip to the Auckland zoo, a bar night (and yes the University promotes drinking, there’s even a bar on campus!) and a day trip to the beach. The scavenger hunt was a ton of fun; we had to do things like smash an ice cream cone on our head, sing and dance on a park bench, run up a downward escalator, and do the haka in front of the sky tower. The bar party was a lot of fun too. The theme was forever young so a bunch of my friends and I dressed up like the spice girls.

The beach was beautiful but the city of Auckland isn’t where New Zealand gets its reputation from. Auckland is the biggest city in the country also known as “The City of Sails”. Although it’s considered a big city to kiwis, Auckland is still a great deal smaller than New York City. The streets are a lot less congested, the air is a lot less polluted, and there are no homeless people to be found. Down the block from my residence is a park called The Domain, it reminds me a lot of central park. It’s a beautiful place to go for a run, gather friends to play a game of cricket, layout at during the day, or even to drink at with friends when it gets dark.

What I’m really excited for is traveling the North and South islands. A few other Stony Brook students and I got together some of our friends we made here and we all chipped in to buy a used van, a 1996 Estima. This weekend we took our first road trip to Waiheke Island. It’s about a 45 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. Before I left I was getting nervous to go camping in a place where I wasn’t familiar with my surroundings. The girls (Keri and Haley, who are also on an exchange through Stony Brook, and Rafaela, who is on an exchange from Germany) all took a late Ferry and met the boys at the ferry terminal (Sean, from Stony Brook and Max from Germany). When we got there I was still feeling on edge, I’m a very nervous person. But the scenery was beautiful. On our way back to the campsite all the girls stuck our heads out of the sun roof and we screamed at the top of our lungs. It felt so good! That night we had a lot of fun cooking and hanging out on the camp ground. The next morning we woke up and went for a long hike on the trails. I feel as though nothing I can say or show in pictures really justifies the natural beauty of the land here. As we were hiking we came across a waterfall into a pond where we went swimming. After our hike we went to a few beaches in the area then headed back to the campsite to cook dinner. As soon as we got back to the campsite it started raining. From that point on the rain didn’t stop until we left. That night all six of us wound up sitting in a 3 person tent to get out of the rain. The next day, which was Saturday we decided to drive around the island and look at the scenery since the weather was stopping us from hiking and taking part in outdoor activities. Despite the weather, I had a great time. I feel like this trip really put me out of my comfort zone in the way I was leaving Huia (my residence) and venturing to a place I didn’t know much about to camp in the woods. I learned that although I might feel scared and intimidated I have the courage to get past that and follow my dreams. Coming back to Huia was nice after being stuck out in the rain, it made me consider Auckland my home, which is refreshing.

As for classes, it’s a lot like school at home. I’m taking a bunch of DEC requirements while I’m here which the kiwis don’t understand as they finish their degree in 3 years and aren’t required to take general education classes. All in all despite the flight delay and illness I couldn’t have asked for a better first two weeks here in Auckland!!