Friday, August 20, 2010

Ooooosh! - South Island here we come!

As I've mentioned MANY times, time is FLYING here! We leave tomorrow afternoon for Auckland airport to fly down to Christchurch on the South Island. We will stay a total of 12 days, driving south from Christchurch to Dunedin, then west to Queenstown, where we will make a day trip to the spectacular Milford Sound, up the west coast to see the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers and finally cut east across the mountains via Arthur's Pass to complete the loop back to Christchurch airport. I am so excited, and looking forward to some fun road-tripping and city explorations with Erika, Sam and Gabe! As you've probably noticed, the four of us hang out quite a bit here (and by quite a bit, I mean everyday haha), so I think we'll be able to handle a few 5-6 hour car trips full of quality bonding time. Sadly, only three of the fearsome foursome will be taking over the South at a time (Sam with Erika and I for the first half, Gabe for the second), but I'm still expecting an amazing trip, beautiful sights, and lots of laughs!

I spent most of this week finishing some school assignments, writing and researching, in order to finish as much as I can before we leave, and studying for an exam. I'm happy that it's all behind me and looking forward to tomorrow. It's pretty dreary outside today, with constant gray rain, but I've been busy budgeting and doing my washing to get everything squared away. Tonight after "Fatty Friday" (fish 'n chips night) in the cafeteria, I'll be going to celebrate two American friends' 21st birthdays at their nearby flat, then up early tomorrow to pack, and leaving for Auckland after lunch!

I probably won't be corresponding while I'm gone, so check back after the 1st of September to hear about our crazy adventures down South... there's bound to be quite a few! :)

Love to all
xo Boo

PS: Happy belated birthday to Tim Deisler and Jeff Black - miss you both!! And to the amazing Nicole Bjorklund = I'm glad to hear you survived Vegas!
Happy early birthday to the lovely Alyssa Chaffee - have a good one!!! :)
Shout out to Jenn Tse - someone I haven't seen in a while :( but am anticipating an epic reunion at Xmas!
And much love and hugs to Emily Schauer who is now officially serving the Peace Corps in Senegal - I'm so proud of you and love hearing about your adventures through your blog. Good luck, keep it up, and change the world with your amazing energy! :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gangsters, Rugby, and a Bag of Spifes

Next, a social life update... or at least what I've been up to the last week or so. Last Wednesday we had an "American themed dinner" (meaning the Americas - North, Central and South) in the dining hall, complete with red, white and blue balloons for decorations, chicken wings, french fries, apple pie (with rains in it... eww) and tacos (or at least wanna be tacos). Costumes were encouraged, but only about a third of the residents actually dressed up. Outfit highlights include a group of girls who made Hooters shirts (actually so well drawn that I thought they had bought them off the internet), Gabe with his sheet for a poncho, Mexican stache and large sombrero, Jeremy dressing as a cheerleader (yes he is a boy), and a make-shift statue of liberty outfit from a sheet (toga style) and a crown made of paper.

Erika and I had some down time during the day, so when she mentioned she has some skills at cornrowing hair, I took her up on the offer and decided to be a gangster ("G") at the dinner. I had full cornrows, from my forehead down the back of my neck, a gold chain with a dollar sign and dice on it, hoop earrings, a wife beater tank, large hooded hoodie, sagging sweat pants and boots. Sam dressed up as a G too, with sweet as matching bling. Erika was a cute cowgirl :).

Unfortunately, Erika could only do my hair in the early afternoon because we both had a class right before dinner, so she did an excellent cornrow job on my curls BUT, then I had to go to class looking a little too ghetto for my own good. Luckily, my PR Cases class has students and a laid-back, funny teacher so I kept my hood on for a while and then filled them in on why I was self conscious about my head. Over all, it was fun, gave us something to do, I was named one of the best-dressed so I got to have a go at the piñata (thanks to Erika), but I've decided I would make a very ugly bald person and I should stick with my natural hair-do. Although, it was pretty funny how huge my frizz fro got after taking it all out later that night.

Yeah... we're that cool... errr

Hm, other updates... AMAZING NEWS: Gabe brought us back an entire bag full of Spifes after he went home a few weekends ago, so I will come through on my promise of giving them out as awesome gifts haha. It is now sitting on my desk. It definitely comes in handy knowing the son of someone who works for Zespri (New Zealand's largest kiwifruit company).

Another discovery - I have studied at opposite ends of the earth! If you take a world map, take another and flip it backwards and upside down (to reverse the hemispheres)and superimpose it over the first, you will see that the southwest of Spain is the exact opposite side of the world from the North Island of New Zealand! They are antipodes, or New Zealand is Spain's diametrically opposite point and vice versa.

So you can visualize:

Go to to figure out any pair of antipodal cities. Unfortunately, as you can see above, you'll find that the entirety of the United States, and most of North and Central America, are diametrically opposite of a large expanse of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Australia.

Last but not least, tonight I went to my first rugby game at the nearby Waikato Stadium - the Waikato Warriors (one level down from the region's Waikato Chiefs) vs. Taranaki. Sadly, we lost, 23 - 33, but it was still a fun late afternoon/evening! The stadium was relatively empty, I think because it has been a rainy weekend, but tonight was clear. I actually really enjoy watching rugby, it's much more fast-paced than football because play continues even when the player is tackled, as he must let go of the ball and his fellow players try to gain possession and continue their advance, or his opponents struggle to steal the ball and begin a counter attack.

The Waikato colors are bright red, yellow, and black and I saw quite a few fans with painted faces. A majority sported a Waikato jersey, which I will have to get before I leave. The mascot is Mooloo (a cow) so someone in a Mooloo mascot suit runs around the sidelines and I saw (and heard) a ton of fans with massive, painted cowbells. My favorite part was seeing a group of kids, dressed in jerseys and Mooloo cow masks do a half-time dance performance to the Beach Boy's "Surfin' USA."
The dancin' Mooloo kids:
Also, there is one avid fan, Waikato's most dedicated, who owns a cherry-picker (those huge ladder/bucket things used to fix power lines or do tree trimming) and parks it on one end of the stadium. From his high view point he yells loudly, shakes his cowbell like there's no tomorrow, and, believe it or not, has a chainsaw (without the belt I hope) which he revs between plays, during trys (like a touchdown), or pretty much whenever he feels like it. Apparently after the game he throws out lollies (candy) from atop his perch.

Some game snapshots:
Well, I'm clearly having a good time, Sam is being silly and looks like he hates rugby or maybe the crazy girl sitting next to him...
Aw, now that's much better...
We finished off the night with kebabs and ice cream and now I'm back, writing this to avoid studying, in disbelieve that the break is next weekend and that I've already been here almost seven weeks!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Oh Right, I'm Really Here to Study

I haven't mentioned classes in quite some time, so here's an update, just so you believe me when I say I went to New Zealand for study abroad...

Somehow it is Sunday night and next weekend marks the beginning of our two week break or "teaching recess" - which must be named as such because the teachers get a "recess," while we still have work to do. I have two assignments due during the break, and needless to say I will
not be doing any work while I am traveling down to the South Island, so I am trying to get it all done before we leave.

Speaking of the break... we have finalized our plans! Erika and I will be flying into Christchurch, followed soon after by Sam, who will join us there, and down to Dunedin (after picking up our rental car of course). From Dunedin, Sam will fly back to Auckland, and we will drive west to Queenstown, where we will grab Gabe from the airport, who will complete the loop with us, back up the west coast and then cutting east across the mountain pass, back to Christchurch to fly home again. We are SO excited that Sam and Gabe will be coming! Ironically, we made friends with the two people who are not allowed to leave campus at the same time, seeing as they are the two Senior R.A.s and one of them must be on duty during break at all times... BUT, after several hours of debating various scenarios and coordinating elaborate car swaps (since each flying from the North Island also involves making the two-hour drive from Hamilton to Auckland ), we have found a way to make it work! Epic adventure here we come!!! :) Don't worry boys, we'll only make you listen to country music every other song or so.

Back to academic talk...
I've been enjoying all of my classes. In my Public Relations Cases paper we have learned several theoretical frameworks for analysing PR cases, ranging from a functionalist approach, which examines PR in terms of how it works as part of an organisation to help achieve corporate goals, to interpretive or cultural perspectives, involving the use of rhetoric to influence public opinion or analysing how culture affects an organisation and vice versa, and critical perspectives, which take into account power roles and the socio-political impacts of PR. I have given one presentation (with a partner), on the New Zealand Football (soccer) association's PR tactics, and have two more before the end of the semester. Also, we have a reflective journal on all of the course readings and cases we've discussed due this upcoming week.

We are progressing slowly in my Public Relations Campaigns class, moving from the abstract brainstorming phase to actual, hands-on research/interviews about the organisation and its target publics, in order to pick a direction and strategy to guide our campaign. I had wanted to do some volunteer work while in NZ, so, after learning more about the organisation, I'm actually going in tomorrow morning to volunteer for Parent to Parent, assisting with some PR materials for their upcoming event, a debate and dinner
fundraiser. Also, when I return from the break, I will be volunteering as a marshal for a local fun run, from which all proceeds will go to Parent to Parent.

The first test in my International Relations class is also approaching next Thursday, so I have some studying to do. Seeing as I only have two tests in that class and one essay, I need to make them count.

I will leave you with a fun video I discovered while reading for my PR cases class. One article consisted of a case analysis of the unique New Zealand vodka brand 42 Below, examining how it uses humor, a cool, laid-back, Kiwi tone, especially on its web site, and also implies high quality, capitalizing on New Zealand's image of pristine beauty. This short viral ad is very silly and presents a fictitious story of how 42 Below was created. It incorporates a lot of Kiwi cultural jokes... watch it and see if you catch any from what I've mentioned on this blog.

If you're keen, watch it once more to catch the references below...
  • The red and yellow bee that flies across the upper right-hand corner of the screen at about 16 seconds in, is the Buzzy Bee - the most famous New Zealand children's toy, created in 1948.
  • New Zealand is known for its yachts and prowess in sailing competitions. The Americas Cup yacht that sails down the river in the beginning looks like ones you'll see displayed by the waterfront in Auckland - the City of Sails.
  • The copper distilleries carved from ancient kauri trees is a joke, referencing the NZ kauri tree, considered sacred to the Maori, the largest of which, protected in the Waipoua Forest Reserve of the Northland is 43 ft in girth, estimated to contain 90,000 ft. of sawn timber, and named "Tane Mahuta," meaning "the god of the forest." Kauri are the largest native tree, growing over 200 ft, and also the oldest, maturing at about 2000+ years. Swamp kauri is still carved today. It has a natural sheen because it is found buried amongst mineral deposits underground.
  • Exchanging the vodka for muskets refers to the brutal, Maori inter-tribal Musket Wars, between 1818 and 1833, during which tens of thousands of Maori massacred one-another with the muskets introduced by European settlers. Northern tribes, being the first to obtain the weapon from traders in the Bay of Islands, immediately sought "utu" (revenge) with enemy tribes who had not yet seen the musket.
  • "Stat-ue bro?!" - sounds like "Is that you bro" in the accent... haha just in case you're slow on the uptake :)
  • And finally, all the references to New Zealand being part of Australia, play on Kiwi resentment that many foreigners know nothing about this beautiful country, only that it's near (or maybe part of?) Australia.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Auckland, Kebabs, Mean Biscuits & Tap Dancing Penguins

I have a problem.

There is a "hub" server here, a media-sharing system, which links all of the three residence halls and allows you to download movies, TV episodes, and music from other residents, as long as they have "shared" the files on the main system. I recently discovered this and lets just say I didn't get much reading done this weekend. I have officially downloaded all five seasons of my favorite show, How I Met Your Mother (Woo hoo, be jealous Saul!), and just discovered Supernatural...bad plan.

Note to self: make sure daily TV watching is proportionate to academic literary intake.

But don't worry, this doesn't mean that I stayed in my room all weekend. You can't develop real friendships with electronic equipment, as much as some socially awkward, Halo-frenzied teens may wish to believe. I actually had a pretty eventful weekend. After staying in Thursday night, I got up early Friday and ventured to Auckland with my friend Sam. He had an interview for an internship at one of the larger law firms so I tagged along, acting as co-pilot, keeping him company on the little-less-than-two-hour drive. I hope I fulfilled my shot-gun duties - only one wrong turn (silly metropolitan one-way streets).

We walked around downtown for a bit, taking a wander by the waterfront, before his interview and grabbed lunch. Driving out of Hamilton, everything was blanketed by a thick fog (they don't call this "The Land of the Long White Cloud" for nothing), but after arriving in the city, the mist lifted and it turned into quite a lovely day. I have to hand it to Sam, tramping around the city in a full suit, especially when he is definitely a jandals and stubbies (sandals & shorts) guy to the core :).

Having only stayed one night in Auckland on our way into New Zealand, which included a fit-full nap and a very jet-lagged dinner, it was nice to explore the city during the day, free from any agenda. I came across a small coffee shop named Seattle Espresso, complete with a Space Needle mural covering the wall behind the baristas, so naturally I had to stop and pay my respects with a quick caffeine fix. I went for the "tall black" (Americano), although my favorite thing I've discovered here is the "flat white" - aka a cross between a latte and cafe au lait (an espresso shot and steamed milk) and unique to New Zealand.

Some pretty flat whites we ordered when we first got to New Zealand:

After the interview, we made it back to Hamilton by 4:30 p.m., in time for Sam to ditch the suit and for us to assemble the troops (Erika and Gabe) for a tasty kebab dinner. We ended up going to the mall food court instead of a pricier town option. I must pause to make sure everyone understands the amazing-deliciousness that is a kebab... we're talking pita bread packed with your choice of shaved chicken, lamb or falafel and topped with any, or all, of the array of sauces and salads available (onions, peppers, chilies, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, hummus, garlic yogurt sauce, and more). This is one thing I fell in love with in Spain/Europe in general, that has only marginally made it to the Sates, and I have been craving ever since (Ms. Ann Bolling - if you ever read this, I must say this place had nothing on the Schwarma Queen... although I don't expect to find anything that even comes close to our 3 a.m. runs. Lauren - so far, Prague's kebabs kick New Zealand's butt as well). I swear the first person to start a decent kebab joint in the U.S. will make a fortune.

After dinner, we came back to the hall and continued the food fest in Sam's flat (as an Sen. R.A. he gets an oven, fridge etc... though seeing as there is only one bag of frozen corn in his freezer and he eats with us at every meal, I don't think it sees much cooking love). Mom - I hope you are proud - I made our cookie recipe from scratch, by heart, without any measuring cups/spoons. We pooled Sam and Gabe's random ingredients and picked up a few things at the store, then used a mug that was the equivalent of a cup and an actual teaspoon... AND they actually turned out perfectly! We overheard someone walking by the flat comment on the tantilising cookie smell wafting into the hallway (now wouldn't that be a fun air freshener!). Then, with stuffed stomachs we watched Happy Feet (now you should get the tap dancing penguins reference from the blog title) - I forgot how funny that movie is... Oh Robin Williams doing a gangster Mexican penguin accent, it never stops being funny.

On Saturday, I must admit I hardly did anything productive (stupid hub full of addicting TV shows), although Erika and I braved the rain to make a short expedition to the gym. We've had sun off and on, but mostly stormy skies and constant rain over the past few days. My knees have been giving me trouble lately, but I'm slowly working back up to it and there is officially light at the end of the frustrating injured knee, tendon, hamstring tunnel.

Later that night, Erika and I went to a housewarming potluck get-together at a friends' flat. Amy and Sydney, two American girls (Idaho natives) that we met through the AustraLearn program are living off-campus and finally found a permanent place. Sam (who did I mention is my favorite person EVER), gave us a quick ride to the house, even though it was during the All Blacks vs. Australia rugby game, so we didn't get soaked trekking int he rain. THANK YOU SAM!

We enjoyed corn fritters (aka pancakes made of corn), sausages, meatloaf, pizza, curry, a yummy organic lentil-rice combo, cake, and, of course, our cookies :). As the party drew to a close, some of us decided to go into town for a little bit. One of the girls' flatmates took me to a club called Flowbar where they had lots of dancing and dubstep (that same techno, deep base beat music - though much better than Soundscape). It ended up being a late night, so I have had another lazy day and now, to top it off, X-Men movie night with Erika!

Your ponder for the day: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
- I would totally pick flight or teleportation... just saying.

PS: Another blog post including my most recently learned Kiwi slang... coming soon!


Oh and shout out to my gorgeous, funny friend Nicole Bjorklund - hope you're enjoying being back in the WA :) (yes Katy, I call it "the WA" and you should too!)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hall Ball, MJ, & Kungfu

I cannot believe I've been here for 37 days! I know it has only been a month, but I am paranoid about making sure I get to see and experience everything I want to while I am here.Time is already flying and I know it will be November before I know it. I love and miss you all at home, but I already know I'll miss the good friends I've made here so far and all the little things (don't worry, I'm bringing Marmite home with me so you can all try it and I won't go through withdrawals).

Speaking of the little things one misses while in a distant land... what I wouldn't give for a authentic Mexican burrito, decent ice cream, a Red Robin hamburger, and of course, Mom's home cookin' ;) (haha obviously food is very important to me).

To all those on "the plat"/"quah" in the "WA" (you know this is for you if you understood that last bit) - I am envious of your chance at a real Washington summer, including blackberry season and lounging by the lake with your best buds from elementary school - I realized I have not been home for that in two years. Mom - I owe you many days of sun tanning and reading on the deck and Dad - this is a promise for some bike lessons in the near future.

To all those basking in the sunshine of the golden state - I wish I could pop back for a weekend to enjoy some Cherry on Top and a Corona session with my favorite people :).

But, since teleportation sadly has not been invented yet (oh please let that happen in my life time.. and lets throw in time machines as well).. here's an update from lovely New Zealand!

This past weekend we had the Hall Ball. All the Waikato residents from the three halls on campus got gussied up and, after a lengthy pre-party in our respective halls, danced over to the venue (performance/theatre building) for two dance floors full of shakin' it and a buffet of "nibbles." It was a fun night, but it was the excellent company that did the trick, not just the dancing (although I must say, I was excited to re-live my middle school years for a moment when the Macarena came on). With the right group of people, a good night becomes a great night!

Highlights of the evening include: Sam and Erika's choreographed dance and Gabe trying to describe some small monkeys he had seen at the zoo - "They live in a glass house and had such manly faces; they looked like little tiny men!"

Everyone on my floor (Y2):
The guy in the front with the sick as dreads, mask on his head, and bow tie is Weka, my R.A.

From left to right - Te Rangi (a fellow Y2-er), Amy (my next door neighbor), Me, Sacha (lives downstairs on Y1), and Erika (fellow American, neighbor, NZ other half):

Oh don't we look classy and classic in black and white (boredom induced snazzy picture editing by Erika)...

Erika and I posing with Gabe (far right), Sam (second from the right), and Nina (Gabe's girlfriend):

After an eventful night, we decided not to continue into town after the Ball ended (curse high heels for being so pretty, yet so painful!). This week has been the same ol' same ol' - classes, off and on drizzle, and random laughs at meal times with the Bryant Hall crowd. Sam showed Erika and I a classic New Zealand movie called Boy on Sunday night. You don't even know how many times someone has asked us here if we've seen Boy or Once Were Warriors (the two NZ films, that chances are every person you ask here will have seen) - now that's one down, one to go! It was excellent - a coming of age story in which a young Maori boy deals with his dead-end father coming in and out of his life. It was very funny and set in the '80s, complete with outfits mirroring Michael Jackson, as the main boy (nicknamed "Boy," thus the title) is an MJ fanatic. A word of caution: apparently Once Were Warriors has some fairly violent/upsetting scenes.. so if you're looking for a feel-good movie, go for Boy instead. I'll let you know my take on the film, once I see it.

The other night we also watched an episode of the TV show Summer Heights High, a mock-u-mentary type show, set in an Australian public high school. It is slightly crude and has some hilarious characters, with the three main roles - a silly/pretentious girl, a troublemaker/punk boy, and flamboyantly gay theatre teacher - all played by the same male actor.

In other news, I finished the book I've been reading. A fabulous recommendation (thank you Grandma Rosemary!), it chronicles the life of a 21-year-old Kansas native and Princeton student, as he takes time off school to travel half-way around the world, eventually arriving in the secluded, rustic town of Shaolin in central China to study kungfu and Zen Buddhism at the monastery where both legends originated. How could this book not sound fascinating - its title is American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of the Iron Crotch. The author is hysterical, it gives remarkable insight into Chinese tradition and the country's culture of the 1990s, and there is a shocking section that explains the latter part of the title - lets just say there is iron fist kungfu (that whole breaking plywood or river stones with your hand thing) and iron head kungfu (breaking bricks over your head), so you can image what part of the body gains inhuman strength for that type of iron kungfu (ouch!). I hope you will check out this fantastic read!

Well now it is almost biscuit time and the stomach is growling... I will save the academic updates for another day. Kia ora!