Hi mom! I have now been in New Zealand for a little over a week and my iCloud is already telling me that its full from taking so many pictures. Here are a few of my best wanderings so far. In this blog, I'm aiming for mostly pictures, with just enough context to get you through, so hopefully I'll get the balance right. So excited to be here and share it with you all! Anyways, here goes..
This is a shot from my plane ride from CLE to LAX -- I'd like to think I took this pic as I was going over Evanston/Illinois, but it could be Kansas? (I wouldn't know the difference.) Either way, definitely a tearful goodbye to middle America!
In contrast, this is the view from my plane as we approached Wellington. I still can't believe I'm going to school here!
During our orientation for the program, we did a lot of site seeing, bus riding, and picture taking, starting with a farm show in the New Zealand countryside. Here are some of my new furry friends!
Fun fact: Sheep/wool are one of New Zealand's largest exports.
And they had baby lambs too!
Which reminded me of this little one :)
We then went to Lady Knox Geyser, where I met my two best friends (tall guy and not-as-tall guy).
After watching the geyser (and geezers), we hopped back on the bus and headed to Waiotapu, one of New Zealand's geothermic national parks. The excess geothermal energy creates some pretty bizarre land formations, such as this one below. From afar, it's pretty, right? Looks normal.
But this is actually a pit of boiling mud! Up close, it looks more like this. (just goes to show - things aren't always what they seem.)
Then there's the Devil's Bath, a famous hot spring in Waiotapu known for it's bright yellow color. Apparently the water is extremely rich with sulfur and the geothermic heat coming up from underneath the pool keeps the sulfur from settling, giving the Devil's Bath it's color. Also, with a ph level of 2, this natural wonder is extremely toxic. Each morning, park rangers have to fish out the dead birds that fly too close to the water's surface!
Less than 100 feet away, we saw this geological wonder. It's a heart-shaped pit of natural crude oil. (oh the irony!) We were told that the oil is too unrefined to use, so it has remained untouched by human hands.
When Lord of the Rings was being filmed, one of the sound editors visited Waiotapu and heard the gurgling of the pit pictured below. He was so inspired by this brooding natural wonder that he came back the next day to record the sound. It's now the background sound in the movie every time the city of Mordor appears on screen. Even though I am not much of a Lord of the Rings fan - I still thought this was a cool fun fact.
On a very unrelated note, we also went Zorbing during our orientation. For those of you who don't know, zorbing is an extreme "sport" New Zealand invented where you climb inside a giant plastic ball and roll down a hill. Although I was pretty nervous at first, it was actually a lot of fun! I have a new found respect for my hamster, Hammy now. (RIP)
Another zorbing picture.
After zorbing, we took quick showers at the hostel and got ready for our dinner at the Maori village. The Maori people make up the indigenous population here in New Zealand, and are a major part of kiwi heritage. They are known for their war dance, the "haka". Below is a picture of one of the Maori villagers performing the haka for us, which was traditionally performed to intimidate strangers and determine whether they would be friend or foe.
We also saw live kiwis -- New Zealand's national bird. Unfortunately they are nocturnal and very sensitive to light, so we weren't allowed to take pictures. However, I did snap a pic of this sign on my way out.
Not to be confused with this.
Finally, we made it to Wellington after orientation and I moved into my dorm room. I have 4 "flatmates", who are all kiwi and very nice!
The city is awesome! In the past few days, my friends (Kristy + Sydney) and I have had ample free time to explore the city, check out the beaches, and soak in the New Zealand summer sun. Yesterday, we hiked Mount Victoria, which overlooks the entire city, and took these pics.
This is proof that I've made friends!
We even made a friend at the harbor!
Shortly after, we headed over to the museum to check out the new DreamWorks exhibit. This consisted of a make-your-own-animation station, original character sketches from all of my favorite DreamWorks movies, clips from live story pitching meetings, and so much more! I could have spent all day in there (and taken hundreds more pics), but here are just a few of the gems.
First, this is the sculpture that Shrek's set design team created to map out the layout of Shrek's beloved swamp home.
Similarly, the character development team on Shrek used clay to figure out Shrek's physical dimensions.
The How to Train Your Dragon team created a map of the fantastical world that Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless, explore throughout the film. Made out of wood and paper, they used this map to ground the story in a geographic logic of sorts.
Zoom in - this is Berk, the city where the story primarily takes place. Gahhh I wish I could draw!
So that pretty much sums up week one of New Zealand! Sorry to swamp you all with photos - I'm hoping to post a bit more regularly moving forward. Overall, orientation and settling in has been extremely fun and relatively easy and not as stressful as I thought it would be!
To end this obnoxiously long blog post, here's a fun fact about my new kiwi home: Wellington has more coffee shops per capita than New York City. (And it's delicious too!) Anyways, I hope this post finds you well :) until next time!