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Monday, February 28, 2011

City of Sails

Auckland.  The City of Sails.  The largest city in New Zealand with over 1.4 million occupants.  Auckland lies on an isthmus.  An isthmus, for those of you who do not know, is a strip of land connecting two larger pieces of land, usually with water on either side.  Auckland is set quite north on the North Island and it borders Waitemata Harbour, which opens to the Hauraki Gulf to the east, and Manukau Harbour, which opens to the Tasman Sea to the west.  A very interesting city to say the least. 


We touched down in Auckland right around twelve pm on February 9.  From the airport we were bused to the Quadrant Hotel, where we would be staying for the next five days.  The Quadrant was a very lovely four star hotel right in the city.  It was also right across the road from the University of Auckland and Albert Park. 


Upon arrival we were greeted with a nice lunch and a general overview of the schedule, as well as a refresher on who was who and an introduction to our new student addition, Will, and our new TEAN guide additions Lauren and Tommy.  From there we were given our keys and headed back outside to collect our luggage and find our rooms.  Our luggage was becoming seriously annoying by this point let me just say.  Anyways, I was placed in room 1310 with the lovely Patience.  The first things we did?  Claim a bed, toss our luggage in  a corner and jump onto the free wi-fi.  Oh the grip of technology.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Freak Flags Fly High

February 8, 2011
Our fourth day in Fiji, and our last.  The day began as any other but developed into a night I will never forget.  The day began as the previous two, with wake-up occurring via drum.  After breakfast we went our separate ways.  I hooked in the help of Travis and together we took out a kayak to a portion of the island that was visible from the resort, but unreachable from the beach.

Once we reached the area, we wandered for a while.  I picked up a nice collection of seashells, though the best ones were occupied by hermit crabs.  And trust me, there were a LOT of hermit crabs.  It was almost disappointing.  Anyways, from there we headed straight out to the ocean. Yeah danger!  We decided to attempt to take a look at the rest of the island.

After seeing that there was nowhere else for us to explore safely we headed back to the island.  It was a little rough there for a while, but we found our rhythm and made it into shore safely.  As we pulled up to shore, we were called to lunch.  After lunch it became picture time.  We took pictures of everything and everyone.  Though we had only been on the island for three days, it felt like much longer.  Granted, we weren’t saying goodbye to each other, but we were saying goodbye to paradise and those who reside there on a daily basis. 

The Fijian Summer Games

Our third night in Fiji was an extremely long one.  And I mean that in a good way.  The night began in the afternoon, as most nights are wont to do.  And it began with some competition.  The first competition was spear throwing.  Holy injuries, Batman!  Or at least that was what I was thinking.  A bunch of college students, on break in Fiji, throwing spears for distance?  How is that not dangerous?  Not only were they spears, but they were all natural spears.  A.K.A. they were sticks with conical cork like tips shoved onto the end.  We were shown two different ways to throw, one with the whole hand, the second with the forefinger and thumb.  The girls went first.  We had two test opportunities, one for each throwing type.  My first spear, where I used the whole hand technique, went just about nowhere.  My second, where I used the other technique, went just a little farther.  After our practice throws we were each given the chance to throw individually, trying to make our spear fly the furthest.  I made a last minute decision to change spears, which apparently worked for me because that third toss went way farther than the first two combined.  I even made it into the finals, YAY!   I believe it was the top five throws that moved on. 

However, before we could compete in the finals, the men had their turn to test throw and then place into the finals themselves.  For just a few minutes us women were a little worried we would be competing against them.  I wonder who was going to win.  Oh, and did I mention that the winner won a free cocktail during happy hour?  We figured out fairly quickly that we would not compete against the men in the finals, a good thing too.  Seeing as how men have more upper body strength than women?  Yeah, they threw a hell of a lot farther than any of us.  I really wish I had a picture of the field to show you all.  Let’s just say it was pretty far.  Not quite a football field, but it was close.  The farthest throw from the men came in the form of Ryan Friesan.  He threw his spear the entire length of the field and into the bushes beyond.  If those bushes weren’t there it would have kept going.  Let’s just say everyone knew who had won before finals even happened.
The women finals were a tossup because I think every throw was a fluke.  My throw was, distance wise, in the middle of my first three tosses, not even close to winning.  And of course, Ryan won the men’s toss.  After spear throwing, it was on to tug of war.  The guys were split evenly, and so were the girls.  As we lined up to start, one of the natives was telling us to pull before go.  So we pulled, hard.  That really threw off the other side, though it wasn’t close enough to the actual start for us to gain anything by it.  We had to reset and start again.  When we started for real it didn’t take very long for our side to win.  And then we were informed it was two out of three.  Great. 
Both teams switched sides and set up to pull again.  And again, our side won.  It was pure domination.  Sadly, the winners of this activity did not receive a free cocktail.  Oh well.  The final activity was, of course a water balloon toss.  I mean, why not?  Again it was girls vs. girls and guys vs. guys.  And the girls were up first.  Now, these balloons weren’t specifically water balloons.  They were normal balloons filled to bursting with water.  This was going to be interesting.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fiji Claims Revenge

Fiji is absolutely gorgeous, rain or shine.  Now you might be thinking, “Well duh, it’s Fiji.”  But let me just tell you, Fiji can also be mean… or the ocean can anyways.  For Christmas last year, I bought (via my mom) a video camera that had the capability to go underwater.  On our third day in Fiji, we decided to go snorkeling after a walk to the village.  I guess I should tell you about that first… hang on to that first topic for a minute; we’ll come back to it...

On the morning of February 7, 2011, a large group of us gathered after breakfast and trekked up into the forest to visit the local village.  The way it was described to me was that the village was on the other side of the island, and you just had to follow the path up and over the mountain to reach it.  What was left out was the couple mile walk along the beach on the other side of the island.  Not that that walk wasn’t gorgeous, but it was just a little longer than expected.  Happily, I found another slow walker, Carissa Crittenden, and we trailed behind the main group, along with our... I really don’t know what to call him… along with our Ryan Friesan.  Once we reached the village, the ladies had to cover their shoulders and their legs down to their knees, for which I used a t-shirt and a sari type piece of cloth I bought at the resort.  As a group we meandered through the village.  We visited the school…
We visited the church…

Insert Quirky Name for Card Games Here

While on Fiji, and since then as a matter of fact, I have played more card games than I have in years-  Scat, Spoons, Spit, Asshole, Solitaire, Bullshit, Egyptian Ratscrew (Ratslap? However you pronounce/ spell it), F the Dealer, Uno, etc.  While on Fiji we didn’t have a demanding schedule, so hey, let’s play a card game.  I taught everyone how to play Scat, which, except for Solitaire, was the most laid back game out of everything else.  Asshole wasn’t bad until it got to Auckland, Spoons was vicious, as was Egyptian Ratscrew.  We actually met the ‘inventor’ of Spoons in Fiji.  His name was Ron and he was pretty awesome.  He won basically every game he played in.  Card games, especially drinking ones (and yes, I am legal here), are decidedly fun when you have nothing better to do. 
Now, if you have never played some of these games, especially spoons, you are seriously missing out.  So find someone who knows how to play, rope in some other friends and get a game going.  Don’t be afraid to get vicious, that’s where the fun is. 
video

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Luxury of Simplicity

February 6, 2011

Our second day here in gorgeous Fiji.  Still as awesome as it was yesterday.  This island is absolutely amazing.  Sun all day, beautiful clear water, and beaches to die for.  The people here are ridiculously friendly, which is an awesome alternative to elsewhere.  The plane ride was long, the customs lines were long, but once we got through that it was paradise on earth. 

We stored our luggage, hopped on a bus, and headed to the port.  At said port we caught a large yellow catamaran ferry which took us and others to multiple islands.
(not our island)
It took around two hours to reach our island, just enough time to completely fry my recently unprotected feet.  When we reached our destination...

(our island)
we were greeted by two boats, onto which we climbed.

As we approached the beach, we were serenaded by some of the local Fijians, while others lei-ed us.

The Real Nemo

February 5, 2011

Courtesy of Russ, our advisor in Fiji....

If the story of Nemo were not Disney-fied, it would be completely different.  Say the female in a mated pair of clown fish died, but the male and son survived.  The male would actually change sex to be the female and the son would become the new male.  So, as you can see, Disney got it wrong...again.  Though, to give them credit, hermaphrodite fish are just a little strange for a children's movie.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me?

As many of you know, I only had about a four hour birthday this year since I literally flew right through it.  Well here is that story...

February 3-4-5, 2011

The Boston and Dallas flights both ran very smoothly.  Once we reached LAX there were about eight of us with the program who found each other in transit.  We meandered from one terminal to the next, only to discover that the line at the next check-in desk was crazy.  We also discovered that the new airline only allowed for one free checked bag, where we were all told two.  So after a good two hours of waiting in multiple lines, and $115 later, I was heading through security (TEAN was awesome in helping us get a reimbursement for this).  Security only took about 20 minutes to get through.  It was probably the fastest part of the whole trip.



Once on the plane I sat in my seat, 64E if I remember properly.  It was in the middle row, a row which was totally empty.  So I sat waiting for the rest of the group of eight to show up, wondering who would sit beside me.  I didn't have to wait too long.  The rest of our group of eight showed up, and Travis, a fellow Palmy student, sat next to me.  Soon after that a girl sat on my other side.  Come to find out her name is Kristen and she's going to Palmy too.  So now all of us wanted to know who was sitting on the other side of Travis since there are only four students going to Palmerston North this semester with this program. 

Not too much time later and Kaleb, our fourth, showed up.  So yes, all four Palmy students were seated next to each other for the international flight to Fiji.  It was crazy.  It was also the beginning of the end for us.  It was a great friendship from the start (that's what I think anyways).  To steal a quote from Kaleb's blog: "California to Fiji was a quite lengthy flight, but I was able to meet the 3 amigos joining me from the States in Massey University at Palmerston North.  They are: [Kaleb from Minnesota], Kristen from Kentucky, and Travis from Texas (Too bad [Kaleb] wasn't [Melvin] or something for yet another alliteration)."

So in introducing ourselves to each other, I 'let slip' that my birthday was in two hours and asked if they minded staying up.  They agreed to stay up and sing before falling asleep.  It wasn't  hard either since we were served dinner about 30 minutes or so after takeoff.


Appetizing, I know. So we were slowly approaching my twentieth birthday.  At 11:56pm, four minutes to the big day, the time changed.  10:56pm.  WTF.  But we were all tired and wanted to go to bed so they sang to me at 11:00, which just four minutes earlier would have been midnight.  And then we passed out.

I slept for most of the plane ride, though I did keep waking up due to some pretty extreme turbulence.   But we made it to Fiji without any major issues.  And what a place.  It was around five in the morning when we landed yet there was no need for a jacket or even pants.  The place is amazing.  More on that to come...

American

Alright.  So this blog is very briefly going to become my travel journal.  Very briefly.  I am basically going to copy word for word what I wrote so far on my travels.  Wrote?  Have written?  Both sound wrong.  Anyways.  I will also be posting one picture per blog, just as an accent.  So we will start on the first day of travel....

February 3, 2011

So I'm sitting here waiting for my first flight from Boston to Dallas and I have discovered a flaw in the system.  Any carry-on baggage that the flight staff (of American anyways) deems too big to be a carry on is checked for free.  So theoretically, if you can manage to get a bag through security without them saying it's too big, you can have it checked free of charge at the gate.  Though, if you can carry it on, I don't know why you wouldn't.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Travel

Hi everyone!!  Or should I say Kia Ora!!!

So I'm in New Zealand right now.  We landed yesterday morning around 11:35.  We are staying in Auckland, which is in the north of the north island.  There was no internet or phone service in Fiji, and the next few days are very tightly packed time wise so I am not sure when I will be able to get on and tell you all about it, but it will happen.  For right now, here's a teaser!!