Hello all. I am writing you from a wonderful café a short walk from my flat. I am eating a pecan pie served with plain yogurt and feeling content. Wanting to catch people who are interested up on my travels thus far. A lot has happened since I left America just over two weeks ago. I will share a few highlights of my trip so far.
First after an 11-hour flight from LAX we landed in Fiji at about 6 in the morning. We were quickly whisked off via shuttle to a Ferry. We took a 3-hour ride to one of Fijis small islands where we were to stay for the next 3 days. We stayed at a small “resort” with small bunk beds and slept about 25 to a room. I was in Fiji with the other 77 study abroad students from Tean. The Fijian people are deeply kind and caring and always eager to joke and have fun. They showed us man things like how to weave a basket with palm fronds, spear throwing, how to open coconuts with only a stick and a rock and much more. The air was thick with humidity and it was in the mid 90s during most days.
Each day we woke up with the sun and relaxed on our own private bay protected by a coral reef. This was our time to transition and meet other students on our trip. Most of the students were pretty stereotypical bro American college students who were at times very disrespectful to the Fijians. But I found a great group of about 8 or so people that I connected with very quickly. Everywhere we went we were greeted with the customary Fijian greeting, BULA! We were gifted the opportunity to hike the hour and a half into the village on the island. Here everyone lived in dirt floor houses with just enough room for a few ground pads. The vibe in the village was stunningly beautiful to me. Everyone seemed thrilled to be alive. Smiles from ear to ear on every face we met and BULA’s heard from all around. The town held about 150 people and consisted of two main families and a chief. As a young person in this village it was customary to marry into the other family though some outside women had married into the village. Everything was equal, if a family was hungry the village would make food for them if someone moved in with nothing they would take a day off and the men would build them a home. The schools were full of smiling children in sarongs excitedly saying hello and nice to meet you in thick accents. It was a truly beautiful experience.
We were also welcomed into a traditional kava ceremony where I was asked to play the role of bodyguard to the chief (played by another student), which meant I was heavily evolved.
I snorkled in the reef, which was mind bogglingly beautiful. It was a different world full of fish and coral of every imaginable color dancing just below my face. Then to finish our time the Fijians did an entire show of traditional Fijian dances.
Then it was off to a hotel for the final night to clean up and get ready for our flight to Auckland.
In Auckland we stayed in a hostel and were given lots of free time to cruise around town during this free time I took a ferry with a few friends to a volcano and explored lava caves and got to see an incredible view of Auckland. Back in Auckland I got to do the sky screamer, which is a reverse bungee. You sit in an open metal egg frame as bungees are stretched high above. And then you are launched into the air like a huge slingshot. I had an ear-to-ear smile plastered onto my face for hours after!
We then got to go to an island called Waiheke. On the ferry over I was on the top deck with a couple friends when an incredibly kind American man walked up and introduced himself and began asking us about our. After about 15 minutes we asked his story and he responded I am your ambassador. He then said he was in Auckland for business but he was based in Wellington and he had enjoyed talking to us so much that he would like to have us over to his house to talk about our experience once we were all settled in wellington. So in the next few weeks I may go to have dinner or tea with the ambassador!
Once we got to Waiheke we stayed at a Marae, which is a traditional Maori meetinghouse. We were welcomed on to the land with a ceremony that included one of my favorite greetings called the Hongi This is when you put one hand on a shoulder and the other hand on the back of the others head and press noses together while breathing in together. This breath is to honor all the ancestors that came before and allowed this human being in front of you to be alive. It was beautiful, powerful and intimate.
From here we broke into groups and did various activities like poi making, kayaking, a town walk and a wine tasting. We spent the night and then headed back the next day. After a few more days in Auckland exploring and a big fancy goodbye dinner we were all off to our respective colleges. And lucky for me 5 of the people I connected most with were going to wellington!
I landed in wellington on Monday the 16th and moved into my flat right in the center of wellington. I live in the cube with a lovely 24-year-old German exchange student named Anika and an interesting 29-year-old Sri Lankan woman named Kris. My flat is very nice and it has an incredible view of the city as we are on the 7th floor. The only strange thing is I live mostly with 17 and 18 year olds and feel kind of imprisoned at times and treated like a child. No visitors after 530 without a guest pass for instance. This makes it hard to have friends over for dinner and really limits social interactions in general. But aside from that feeling it is a great flat.
So far in wellington I have been exploring as much as I can I have walked to all throughout the city feel I know this fairly large city very well now. I can find my way anywhere pretty easily at this point. I am a 15 minute walk from the waterfront where there are frequent free shows (I have already been to 4 amazing shows) art installations and diving platforms into the bay. The city is full of murals and street performers. It is a very alive place and one of my favorite cities I have been in. With that said it does feel more city like than I had hoped.
Two of my good friends from Tean live in the cube with me and two others live about a 25 minute walk away and go to a nearby university, which is nice because they have a house that I can go to.
The weather has been amazing! Most days are in the upper 60s or low 70s. The weather is fascinating the clouds move faster than I have ever seen and the weather can change from sunny to rainy in minutes then back to sunny.
On one particular day I was walking to the grocery store and I saw one of the most beautiful things I have seen. It was a definite American beauty moment. It was overcast with a light rain falling. The air was cool and there was a slight breeze blowing up the long hill we had just summated and were now heading down. As I looked down the street I saw a single pink balloon about 30 meters down the road. This balloon appeared brighter than the dim light of the day could allow. Almost as though it had a small light within. It began to steadily roll and hop up hill seeming to defy gravity. The world around melted away. Each hop was rhythmically identical, timed perfectly. This balloon happily bounced up the entire hill right by us and as it neared the top a car drove directly over it pinning it and compressing it between the road and the cars undercarriage. After a moment the car took off and the balloon shot out from under the car spinning up into the air before delicately landing and continuing its journey hopping up the hill. Just as it reached to peak of the hill another car drove by. The balloon shot off to the left spinning in the vortex of air almost as though it was waving goodbye just before it vanished behind a parked truck. I stood in stunned in amazement at this dancing gift I had just received! The world is full of such beauty!
How am I doing you ask? That is complicated. Overall I am amazing. But the transition is, well just that, a transition. There are mornings I wake up with tears feeling vulnerable with all manner of emotion flowing through me. But I know that this is just a phase and I can feel the tides shifting slowly. There is simply so much calibrating and shifting occurring internally. I have a good group of friends but we are still feeling each other out I don’t feel comfortable leaning on them yet. But they are good people without question. So I am great I am feeling deeply and trusting that this is a period of settling in and trusting once I know my schedule and can drop in a bit more things will shift and I will reground into my goofy outgoing self.
At this point my class schedule is Tuesday Thursday Friday but I may drop my Tuesday class to I just have classes Thursday Friday so I can do some smaller trips. I am currently in a drawing the body class, a printmaking class and a Maori art class. I also might pick up a collaborative art class. But we shall see.
I definitely need to try and figure out a way to get some small trips into the wilderness for long weekends.
I think that might be all for me for now. For those who wanted my address it is:
242 Taranaki St, Te Aro,
Wellington NZ 6011
And for all those who have read this thank you for you interest in my journey. Love to all. I hope your lives are full and inspiring. And now that this is complete and my pecan pie and coffee are done I am off to a sitting wall that overlooks the harbor to draw unsuspecting people for my drawing the body class. Talk to you soon!
With love and Gratitude,