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  • Kat

New Zealand, New Experiences

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

What a hectic, yet incredibly fun first 2 weeks it has been! The moments from getting off the plane up until this very day have been jam-packed with heaps of events and activities - from spontaneous music performances to exploring various nature spots, novel cuisines, and new friends, New Zealand has been nothing short of a blast.

Even before getting off the plane, I turned 21 on June 14. Because New Zealand is a day ahead of the United States, I time traveled past my actual birthday. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t get to celebrate!

Photo of Kat smiling on the Air New Zealand plane with drink her hand
Cheers to 21!

As a part of the Bridging Cultures Orientation included in my internship program (thanks to ISA by Worldstrides and my university), we took a trip down to Rotorua to visit a plethora of places.

For the first time ever in my life, I had the opportunity to visit the Hobbiton set, complete a Skyline bundle set (consisting of a gondola ride, ziplining, and luge ride!), relax in the hot geothermal pools of a Polynesian Spa, go on a geothermal geyser night tour, and eat some delicious street food at the town’s night market! Here are some photos to capture the moments:

Kat smiling in front of herd of sheep and green hills in background
I've never seen so many sheep in my life!

Kat with a Hobbit Home in the background
Everyone needs to visit the Hobbit set if they are here in NZ!

View up high from gondola seat ride, depicting NZ forest below
Gondola seat ride right before ziplining and luge rides (AKA real life Mario Kart!!)

Geothermal Night Tour Pics: the left photo is what a hot spring looked like in the dark, while the right photo is how our Maori tour guides cooked traditional pudding they gave us, made out of butterscotch, wheatmeal, and sweet potato! (I had mine vegan though)

Three dosas being freshly made on grill, with logo sign "Delicious Dosa" on the black both of where the cooking is held
One of the most delicious Indian dosas I have ever had, from Rotorua's night market (which oddly reminded me of Davis's farmer's market because it was super family friendly)

During this orientation, one of my most favorite moments was performing a song I love on top of a geyser, with a bunch of steam around the entire group. Though the hot springs saturated the air with a pungently sulphuric smell (like rotten eggs), I am super grateful in retrospect to have been able to express myself and sing my heart out!


Onwards to my stay at the host city: AUCKLAND!

Overview of Auckland street, buildings, and famous Sky Tower at the center
Auckland CBD - I see the Sky Tower everyday here :)

Fortunately, commuting to different places has not been a hassle for me to tackle; the bus has been (for the most part) efficient and consistent. Perhaps it's because I am staying right in the middle of the city, so it's more condensed and populous with people all over. With my further social observations and surrounding sights, I never realized how much of a melting pot it is until I arrived here. As a tourist who is living at the heart of the Central Business District, I have seen how the city holds people from various places of the world. There’s the group of skateboarders who do cool tricks near the cinemas. The young students who wear mandatory synchronous uniforms for their choir, sports teams, or schooling. The business owners who either care for what they are selling, or just waiting for the time to clock out. The local musicians and artists who perform their pieces and compositions on the streets. And despite the differences of individuals' internal worlds, perceptional realities, and fundamental originalities, my general consensus out of everyone I have met seems to be that New Zealanders are indeed friendly and laid-back.

Because Kiwis are hospitable and warm, it makes sense that New Zealand has a reputation for being an overall, relatively peaceful island country. For example, as I was playfully shuffling with my dance moves at one bar, I reached towards my pocket to realize that my phone was missing. After a short period of panic, a lady tapped me behind my back with my phone in her hand. The smile on her face beamed with a message like “I got it, and you got it!” which consequently gave me a breath of joyous relief.

Another experience that happened even more recently was that I had misplaced my wallet as I hopped on the bus, coming from the Museum of Transport and Technology back to home. It was a day off from my internship work, so I had decided to spend it solo as a means to recharge and reflect with simultaneous fun and leisure. I had only discovered that my tiny wallet was absent from my hands as soon as I sat down on my bus seat. After quickly pressing the red button next to me for the forthcoming stop, I anxiously dashed towards the front of the bus to tag off. Before stepping foot on the sidewalk, however, I looked behind me one last time for a thorough yet brief search on the bus floor to ensure nothing was there. The bus driver sensed my frantic alarm, yelled to the people at the back on the bus to “help this young woman out,” and advised me on ways to get back to my bus stop. I thanked him dearly for his support and care, and then I was off!

The run back to the bus stop felt like forever, even though in actuality it was brief. With immense gratitude, I found my wallet directly on the ground where I was standing at the bus stop. This particular moment not only had me realize how lucky I was to have found it, but also how safe New Zealand really can be. With its additional respect of the Maori indigenous culture, general acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community (based on my visit to the Auckland Art Gallery), Jacinda Ardern becoming the youngest female prime minister, and widespread use of eco-friendly tools and minimal plastic, the nation’s social justice and environmental sustainability efforts have really shined light to me here and have been a refreshing eye-opener.

Sun glowing from the sky with view on a passing bridge
Took this photo on my bus ride to work! When it is not too cloudy, the skies here are absolutely gorgeous.

Onto the topic of food: sadly, there’s not a lot of New Zealand native cuisine I have been able to find other than meat pies, fish n’ chips, and lollies. It seems that local cuisine is lacking; however, tasting other international cuisines has been plentiful. Surprisingly, the Asian food in particular has been a wonderful delight. A compilation of some of the many foods I have tried so far can be found in my latest Instagram post, here!

Onto my internship, which is the primary reason why I am here: working with Recreate has been an absolute lovely and meaningful experience for me so far! Supporting young people who experience intellectual/physical disability and being a buddy for them was something I never thought I would have been able to do internationally. Ever since I have become a strong ally for the community, my support has only grown stronger and can only go up from here. With a felt expansion of my visions, perspectives, and forms of communication beyond my current awareness, I feel that I am evolving and recreating myself. For there is always room for curiosity in this vast world.

By immersing myself into the new culture of work, new people, and new dynamics, this organization has truly offered meaningful work to me so far. And the bonus is that I get to explore the beautiful nature and pristine scenery of New Zealand while I am at it during the programmes of gardening, product making, and orchard work! I pet a sheep for the first time, rode a lawn mower car for the first time, saw guinea fowls and cows in NZ for the first time, and helped make beetroot chutney for the first time. And all with super fun company. I have enjoyed every weekly programme so far and look forward to the upcoming getaway camps that are in store for me!

Taken from Recreate NZ's instagram:

Group photo of Recreate's young people and Kat together during the high tea and pampering program
26 June 2022 - High Tea & Pampering Programme!

New Zealand has been great. With rewarding work and a fun social nightlife, I’m happy to be here. I’m excited for what’s next, and I can’t wait to share with you all what other celebrations life has to offer. Because there’s always something to celebrate, even on the most mundane days of our existence.

As always, sending much love and light to all! Stay tuned for some super awesome travel updates and announcements, whenever I find the time to write :)

- Kat <3

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