Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Yes, beware reverse culture shock.

I am in LA right now getting ready to board my plane back to Tampa Florida and I already feel culture shock. My NZ family is so far away from me now and so is my real family. LA is so crazy with buildings everywhere and SO many people. No fields, no sheep, no rolling green hills, and no more Kiwis. I walk around this airport hearing my native accent and seeing the American people. Americans seem so much more distinctive to me now as a group. Even though there are so many differences throughout the whole country, it feels like I have been gone long enough to see the American people as a whole now. The people in the states are way easier to start up a conversation with and are openly very friendly upon first meeting. This is good and bad for me. Its GREAT now. I feel like anyone would come over and talk to me and try and make me feel better if I acted upset. Its bad for me in a way because I also do not feel like I have to really try  hard to talk to someone or get them to be my friend. Ill try to explain this the best way I can. I think Kiwis are much harder to develop close relationships with and just all around not as easy to talk to as Americans. But in this way when I was able to feel completely comfortable talking to anyone in NZ is gave me heaps of confidence and made me feel like I could actually relate to the person. And furthermore, when I started to have closer relationships to these people it became even more meaningful to me and was my favorite achievement of my whole experience.

My culture shock is pretty bad right now but I think once I back to Tampa and my family itll subside. I also better start getting mentally prepared for university. I know that through this whole experience University will not be as hard for me, but it will be a brand new chapter in my life and I am very excited.

I love New Zealand and I love the United States. I definitely have to homes on this planet now and its an awesome feeling. Studying abroad is probably the best decision of my life and I regret nothing about it. Thank you for reading my blog and following me on this insane journey. I have left the states not knowing what I was going to find in the middle of the pacific, became a part of a family, made friends, immersed myself in a culture, fell in love with a country, came home, and now I am saying goodbye. And once more, thanks again for reading. Cheers

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My favo(u)rite photos to date

The Takatimu Mountain Range right outside of Invercargill
My eyes are closed and liam is not even looking at the camera but I still loves this family picture. Too bad Emma and Libby could not be there to make it in this one. This was taken on top of Bald hill in the Longwoods.
Kayla and I in our "flash" Chevy before the Ball.
All Blacks Test Match Versus Wales at Carisbrook's last game.
Cape Reinga, the very northern tip of New Zealand. This is one of the most sacred places for the Maori people.
Crazy sand formation in Naseby, Central Otago.
Milford Sound with Kayla.
Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park with my Mates Nika and Ingrid.
Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. Too bad you cant quite see it behind the cloud, should have taken the picture the day before. Gutted

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BIG update

Wow I have left myself to a massive update but I will do the best I can to get it all in.

-Joined underwater hockey team
-came in second at southland cross country champs in Te Anau
-got lost during Southland championships orienteering course and came in last by over an hour
-Went night swimming at Oreti beach in 30 F degree weather, -1 degree Celsius 
-Did our three nights of the production Kiss Me Kate
-Went to the ball
-Went to the even better After-Ball
-My american mate came to visit and we 
-explored the takatimu mountain range with some other friends
-took a bus tour to Milford Sound (Iconic NZ destination)
- saw seals
-Nearly Shat ourselves bungee jumping in Queenstown off highest bungee in NZ, The Nevis.  it was 400ft high right into a valley.
-Took a jet boat ride through shot over river
- Drove to Mount Cook with host family (Highest mountain in NZ seeming to be in the middle of nowhere when in reality only 1 hour away from a town) 
- Drove down the east coast of NZ from Mount Cook to see the Moeraki Boulders
-Arrived in Dunedin
-Ran up the Steepest street in the world (Baldwin Street)
-took pictures at a church that is famous to me because it appeared in one of my favorite TV shows called Drive Thru
- All Blacks test match against Wales at the historical last game at the famous Carisbrook stadium
- went into Gardies (pub) with my host dad for its historical last night in business. It was a huge institution in Dunedin
-Saw people playing nude rugby on the news with nothing blurred out. shows what you can put on NZ news and US news.
-And finally, I gave a speech to my whole school today on what its like to be an exchange student. I also thank the school for being so welcoming and told them I would be coming back to visit very soon.

What I can say right at this moment is that I have been in NZ for 5 months now and it is my life. It is not just a place that I feel at home but it is a place where I lived for a portion on my life, had a family, friends, school, sports teams, clubs, productions, Shakespeare?, great times, a few bad times,  and AMAZING memories. I have dreams about NZ and my kiwi friends and family in them. It is definitely a part of me and it will be very hard to leave. That is not to say, though, that I dont want to go back to the US, because I am very excited to go back and see everyone, I miss them so much. Anyways it will be hard to leave and I think will almost feel like a divorce I guess. I mean I can always come back to NZ but itll never be the same as it was when I was here. I wont be able to be the son of my host family, I wont be going to high school and hanging out with my friends everyday, my friends will all be at different universities, I wont be on the sports teams, and well, its just wont be the same. But I know I will always be welcomed back here and I do love this place a lot, so I am sure New Zealand has not seen the last of Trenor Wilkins.


This article came out two days after the ball article came out. Here is something also worthy of note. Everyone in Southland, maybe in all of NZ for that matter, reads the newspaper. NO JOKE> I had literally everyone at school comment on the newspaper articles: My friends, other year 13 students, teachers, other staff, my rugby coaches, whole classes of year 7 and 8 students (I had to look after class as the teacher was gone, who also commented on it), and people I dont even know. 


US student praises variety of sports in NZ

By BRENDON EGAN - The Southland Times
Last updated 05:00 15/06/2010
NICOLE GOURLEY/The Southland Times
WORTHWHILE EXCHANGE: American exchange student Trenor Wilkins has had a blast trying out a variety of sports during his time at Southland Boys' High School.

United States exchange student Trenor Wilkins reckons high schools back home should take a leaf out of New Zealand's book when it comes to sport.

In the US, students were encouraged to stick to their preferred sport and concentrated solely on it, Wilkins said. The Tampa, Florida native – who has been on exchange at Southland Boys' High School since January – admitted New Zealand had been a breath of fresh air with the way it allowed students to try their hand at a multitude of sports.

"In the States, you specialise and become really good at it. You practise every single day. Here, they don't practise every day. Everyone is really naturally good at a lot of sports. It's so cool that everyone does a lot of sport."

Wilkins' chosen sport is cross- country running and the 17-year-old has made his mark in it since arriving in New Zealand. He won the over-16 cross-country title at Southland Boys', then backed that up with a second-place finish at the recent Southland cross-country championships in Te Anau.

Wilkins led after 2km of the 6km distance, but was overtaken by precocious Gore High School talent Aaron Barclay, who won the race by 13sec from the American in a time of 21min 4sec.

While in Southland, Wilkins has tried his hand at a variety of sports. He took up mountainbiking in New Zealand and has competed in the Motatapu, Moonshine and WindFarm Classic events.

The youngster has also dabbled in water polo, underwater hockey, represented the Southland Boys' High first XI football team, and even lined up on the wing for the school's under-18 blue rugby side.

Coming from the gridiron-mad United States, Wilkins confessed it had been an interesting experience playing rugby.

"I didn't even know the rules," he laughed.

"I played a game and almost got a try against James Hargest.

"It was an easy open try and I just missed it."

Wilkins heads back home next month where he will begin his first year at college at the University of Florida.

He hoped to break into the university's cross-country team and said that would involve beating people who were already on the team in a race to gain their spot.

"They have a walk-on race.

"It's pretty hard to walk on (to the team). If I work hard all summer, I can do it."

The 60kg whippet admitted he would love to do the London Marathon and also had a few other running goals he wanted to tick off his list.

I got this article off the Southland Times website and there was even a picture of me and Kayla in the actual newspaper to go along with it.


US pair praise Southland schools' ball

By JARED MORGAN - The Southland Times
Last updated 05:00 12/06/2010
Southland Boys' and Southland Girls' high schools seniors
LET'S DANCE: Southland Boys' and Southland Girls' high schools seniors in their finery at last night's combined ball. About 400 students from both schools donned gowns and tuxedos for the secret garden-themed event.

Southland does it better.

That's the verdict from two United States high school students transplanted at last night's combined Southland Boys' and Southland Girls' high schools ball.

The praise came from Trenor Wilkins and Kayla Kennedy, a pair weaned on the traditional high school prom, an institution as American as mom and apple pie.

The Tampa, Florida, natives who are seniors at HB Plant High School, joined about 400 other southern beaus and belles at the secret garden-themed ball held at Stadium Southland in Invercargill.

Trenor, who has been in Invercargill since January on a student exchange, said the Kiwi-version had impressed him. "I would say this is way better," he said.

His and "good mate" Kayla's ball experience included being driven to the big event in a Chevrolet, the paparazzi treatment from a crowd of envious younger girls at the stadium's entrance, walking a red carpet and being paraded in front of pride-swelled parents, he said.

"Back home we show up, have a dance and go home." Kayla, who arrived in New Zealand on holiday on Thursday, agreed.

"It's definitely a lot more formal – it's nice." For Trenor, last night's ball stood in for his own senior prom, which he missed while on his exchange, which finishes next month.

"I'm here until July 5, which I'm also pretty bummed about – I miss Fourth of July (American Independence Day) celebrations." For both, last night's ball comes close to the end of their schooling.

A series of photos of ball couples will loaded on our website, www.southlandtimes.co.nz, in the coming days.

We want to see your snaps, too.

Send your ball pictures to news@stl.co.nz and we'll put them in our online gallery.

Make sure you include the names of everyone in the photo caption details.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I am constantly surprised by Kiwis. Its hard to describe the situations I am meaning when they surprise me because the are not always clear cut. But here is one kind of example: my first week of school everyone just stared at me and no one said a single word to even prove that I existed. When I thought that everyone at school were really cold people that were extremely hard to talk to, I showed up next week to find that people I had never even seen before were saying hello to me in the hallways. You definitely can't go by first impressions in this country. Some people that I thought I would never be friends with are people I like most at school now. There are heaps more examples that I have seen but are just hard to describe in typing, but I can honestly say that I am surprised almost everyday by people here, in a good way that is.

One thing that surprised me was how much more legit their Ball is compared to our Prom. This cant account for every Prom across the US but it definitely counts for mine. Prom at my school is considered really lame and no one really goes to it and everyone just looks forward to the after party. The Ball here is completely different. It is seen as one of the biggest nights of their whole time at school. Some people even get there dates up to 6 or 7 months in advance. Ball dancing practice started a couple weeks ago and goes all the way up to when the ball starts 5 weeks from now in June. We have to learn 14 dances! Its ridiculous! It is a very formal affair and all the guys have to wear white gloves and everything. Everyone meets at a friends house before for drinks and then has a rented or borrowed nice car come to pick them up to take them to dinner and then later to the ball. Then comes the ball, which has a lot of hand shaking and rehearsed dances. Then there is an hour between the Ball and After Ball. The After Ball is also very different. Its not like an after party like prom where you go to someone's house for a party but not everyone goes to the same place. Here there is an actual hall booked where everyone from the Ball goes to for a more relaxed atmosphere and dancing. Everyone stays there very late into the night and then taken home by a ride or picked up by parents that volunteer. Everyone is already really excited about it and discussing their plans for the evening.

There are practices for the Ball every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half. We have to learn 14 dances for it! Insane I think. Our first practice was a little bit of an awkward fest I have to say. It is a joint Ball with Southland Boys High School and Southland Girls High school, but I have found that Boys High guys and Girls High girls dont often hang out. The guys at my school usually hang out with the girls at the public coed school Hargest. Anyways, when we were all in the hall getting ready to start it was clear that the guys sit with the guys and same goes with the girls. The lady teaching us to dance did the ever so popular "how bout lets make it really awkward so it won't be so awkward" bit. So she made every guy offer a right hand to a random girl and ask to dance. Not so bad except for the fact that everyone is really bad at dancing. The girls would catch on quicker however and then you would hear shrieks from girls whose feet who got stepped on, guys tripping all over the place, and even the occasional girl stepping inn a small whole at the bottom of someones jeens and getting it caught and then falling all over the place with her foot caught in the guys pants (I was this guy by the way). Really fun ae? Well actually it really was fun and by the time everyone got the dances down everyone got really comfortable with each other and was having a ton of fun.

Another thing that surprised me about Kiwis is how intense they take duck shooting. Everyone talks about it and everyone does it. Well mostly just the guys in the family, but just about every family has a guy doing it. Opening weekend for duck hunting is known to usually just be a piss up for mates so me and Liam were not going to be out there our the first day with my host dad. Duck season had an opeing weekend last weekend and this is what I came to find when me and Liam came out on Sunday:^^^^ pictures above

How to be Skux Delux

The title really has nothing to do with this post but skux is the word of the year at Boys High and I thought I may as well put it into a title.

This will just be a catch up the my goings on since the holidays.

I know I have said it feels like home here in earlier posts but I have to say that life has hit a normality here, and not in a bad boring way, but in a I-have-a-handle-on-New-Zealand-and-school-and-home-and-social-life-and-athletic-life sort of way. Over holidays I traveled to the north island and Stewart Island and was a tourist, but when I got to my HOME, I was not a tourist any more. Invercargill is not a tourist destination and there are very few foreigners and when you speak the language you tend to fit right in with sometimes the occasional person asking where you are from. I do not notice the accents anymore, not at all... literally, they are just not there. Accents in general with me are all kind of a blur now. What with American TV shows all the time, American commercials with kiwi voice overs, kiwi tv shows, kiwi commercials, tons of UK influence on TV, and the region I live in is also very Scottish. I hear different accents all the time and I am not even aware most of the time. Like when I was on the Stewart Island in the hut, one of my mates said I should go over and talk with the American girl in the corner because we had our mother nations in common. I gave a bewildered look and asked how he had known, to his reply that her accent was so strong. I had been talking to her about the island less than 5 minutes earlier and never even noticed that she was not a kiwi.

Man, I am so ADD I was not even meaning to write about this. Anyways, what I am trying to say is that I do not notice my accent anymore and I often forget I even have one. So in this way when I feel like I no longer have an accent, when I dont feel like a tourist in Invercargill, when I am involved with school, playing sports, and hanging out with people on the weekend, I just feel like I belong. Like I have hit my stride to be actually LIVING here and no longer on a "foreign exchange."

So my normal life goes like this right now:

Mondays: soccer practice
Tuesdays: Rugby practice, Ball Practice (I will get to this later but its like prom and we have to learn 14 dances.), Production Practice (will also get to this later)
Wednesday: soccer game
Thursday: rugby practice, Ball practice, Production practice
Saturday: Rugby game
Sunday: Production practice, and this is also the day we do a massive house clean up

Things happening since I last wrote... I won the school Round the Park race. It was a complete debacle though. It was around the very large park right beside the school and had like 2 people directing people along the 2.4k course for juniors and 4k course for seniors. I was leading the senior race and just following the juniors who started before us. Well, these juniors turn in early at a spot that is unmarked for seniors but that I promptly turn into. turns out...WRONG! I was told this by a fat little junior who was so puffed that all he could get out was just that, "wrong!" And I  had to back track to second place and catch up and pass before I made my turn behind the school to the finish line. Right before i crossed the line a mate from my class said "Oi Trenor! you went the wrong way you were supposed to go in front of the school not BEHIND!" I looked behind me terrified that I would not see second place who probably had gone the right way and that my chances of going the southland cross country champs would disappear ( but even more worrisome, my free day off school would be gone as well). However, the second place guy did follow me the wrong way, and the third place, and fourth, and everyone else. I lead the whole freakin race the wrong way. The people putting on the race were all pissy but I was like "its not my fault no one was there to direct me which way to go!" and they were all "your a senior you should know this" and I was all "well yea thats true and shizz except for the fact that I am a foreign exchange student and have never seen this course and did not anticipate the follies that would befall me whilst running this poorly run race event."  except thats not really how it happened. It was more like they were really pissy and grumbling behind my back that I messed up the whole senior race and I stood in the background looking all around thinking "where the flip was the place I made the second wrong turn???" But it still really wasnt my fault, seriously, how was I supposed to know? Anyways I was still counted as the winner and am going to Southland Cross Country Champs in Te Anau in a week.

The next day I did a 9k race around the same park with all the Invercargill club teams and came in 2nd which I was very delighted with

I have been cast as Hortensio in Kiss Me Kate, my high school's production. I have to sing Tom Dick or Harry with two other chaps to one of the female main characters. I think we have to do a dance but I have also heard rumors that our dance was cut out. I will not be a happy camper if this is so because it will make the song look stupid if we are all just standing there trying to sing the song seriously. I just want to joke around and do lame dance moves on stage to make it more fun. AND it also turns out that in my solo for the song I have to hit this one really long and really high note at the end of my line saying "marry me". I can see it now: Marry Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee(((CRACK!!!!)))) ---- in front of the whole audience on the night of the show which will also include half the school. Do you know what my school does to a guy when his voice cracks?? Everyone stands up (if in the sitting position. If already standing, the position is maintained, but maybe just a step forward is taken for emphasis) and points to the horrified boy and yells "SQUEAKER! SQUEAKERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!" -- I would go back to America right then and there...

I will get to the Ball on my next post along with duck shooting and orienteering, this one is long enough for now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Aotearoa part 4

Our first hut
Near the peak at a waterfall fed lake
on the way to the first hut
Treacherous part on the way to the peak
Group shot of us ready to take on the track

Finally, the last part of my holiday travels across NZ end at the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park.

My host parents, host brother, and I drove up to Te Anau (T-OW-NOW) to stay for the day before the big hike and my host dad also had business to attend to there. Te Anau is a town that has been working on increasing tourism to compete with the likes of Queenstown, but its doubtful that it will ever happen. It is a BEAUTIFUL place right on incredible fiords, but there is only one road to get in AND out of the town. However, it is also a very popular place for people to have vacation houses in and is still considered a big destination on the South Island. We ate the cheese rolls that I had rolled at school a couple of weeks before and it was a long enough time for them to not seem appalling to me anymore. When we woke up the next morning we got our heavy packs together and went to meet the rest of the people we were going with. Me, Pip (host dad), Liam (host brother), Eric (family friend), Nika (Eric's daughter and my friend), Julia (Nika's sister), and then 2 of Julia's friends in all.

We drove up to the start of the track all very excited for the tramp and our last few days of holiday. We assessed our haul of lollies for the next three days and decided it would be enough and then we were off. It took us about 5 minutes before we started to sing sing-a-long-songs and then about another 10 minutes before we stopped singing because of what we saw infront of us: spectacular snow capped mountains. Just like out of Lord of the Rings ae?- I thought to myself. Its really hard to describe though. Just imagine yourself walking up to the top of a mountain with all you need on your back surrounded by untouched national park filled with mountains, fiords, endless amounts of waterfalls and streams , and basically just pure mother nature. Pictures can help with it, but it really does not compare at all to the feeling you get while you are there.

The huts that we stayed at, housed 50 people and were extremely nice. The Routeburn Track along with all the other tracks surrounding that area in Fiordland National Park are world class and in turn attracts people from all over the world. So in the huts I got to meet people from Aussie, USA, parts of Asia, Germany, and more. Everyone is there for the same reason and can all sit down, relax, and enjoy the other peoples company for the night before their long day of hiking the next early morning. Our group spent most of our time playing charades, cards, scrabble, and other funny little games. 

The second day of our hike took us to the very top of the mountain where we were supposed to get some pretty spectacular views, however the weather was not on our side and we were stuck in a cloud the whole time. This was no matter because the day before was amazing enough for me and it was quite an eerily cool feeling to be up so high yet not quite knowing where you are. It was definitely a climb that day to make it to the top but we made and and had a very deserving marmite and cheese sandwhich. O yes! BREAKING NEWS: i like marmite and vegemite now. O and i guess while I am at it with breaking news I might as well say that I have also learned my schools haka for rugby and I also know the NZ national anthem in English and Maori. I am very happy with all of this.... anyways we later made it to our next hut and resumed our fun games and all that shizz. We made a delicious curry dinner and had lots of hot chocolate (we packed a whole lot of stuff).

There is not much to write about here because it was mostly the same thing for the 3 days but what I can say is that these 3 days held some of the most breath taking views that anyone could ever see in their life and that I am a very very lucky person to have been able to go there. This was the best tramp of all and will be one of the major things that sticks out to me in my memories on NZ

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Aotearoa part 3

Beach we went swimming at and spent the whole day on
Fun in the hut with everyone
Stewart Island Chain Link, linking it to the rest of New Zealand (The whole Blue Light group)
On the vomit voyage back to the main land

Now my journey over my holiday goes to Stewart Island, the third and smallest of the main islands of NZ. Through school I got signed up to do a three day tramp across the island with a group called Blue Light. Its a group of police volunteers that try to set up better relations with youth by taking them on little trips. The trip started with a departure from Bluff (a place world renowned for oysters and also the most southern point on the South Island) by ferry to the island. The ferry crosses one of the roughest strips of water over the Foveaux Straight. It is where the Pacific Ocean meets another body of water (its either the Tasman Sea or Indian Ocean) and it gets very very shallow and makes the waves big and powerful. Luckily going there it was a very flat day and no one got sea sick. Upon arriving it was sussed out that there were 2 kids from each school around Invercargill and there were 12 of us in all with 3 leaders. 2 of the leaders were really cool while the other definitely had something against me. Whether it be I am from the US or my school got me into the group late or something else, he just did not like me.

We walked from the town of Oban off into the bush to reach our first hut. It was a very cold and rainy day but our spirits were not dampened because the island was so amazing to be on. Even though it is so close to Invercargill, they are nothing alike. It reminded me of a cold and rainier Bay of Islands. Very tropical with crystal clear water. Stewart Island is known for having Kiwis, the flightless bird to which NZ people are named after, Sea Lions, and penguins. Those are all very cool things but unfortunately we did not see any of those except for penguins on far off rocks. This is probably because we were so loud as we walked and anything that would have been alive around us would have been running as fast as it could in the other direction. The first hut was pretty cool and me and some of the mates I made went hunting for possums. A NZ pest that people kill all the time but it is quite different than the possums in the US. These are black and furry and look more like lemurs to me, but everyone HATES them. We saw a lot but never quite got one. We also had one of my Maori mates telling stories of the "waka days" basically taking the mickey of his own heritage, and it was so funny everyone was left in tears (more than half the people we were with were Maori). Waka in Maori means boat and that is what the Maori people came in to NZ with, and I swear with the made up stories he was telling he could do stand up comedy at all the major cities in NZ. It would not really work in any other country because no one would get the Maori humor but I have to say that it was pure genious.

The next day we made our way to Port William that was a little bay with glassy clear water. We were so hot and tired from all our walking, and even though it was raining and cold enough to see your breath we decided that we were going to go swimming. I also must say that there is nothing between NZ and Antarctica. So we went to the warf and stripped down to our poly props (like under armor) and dove in. FREEEEEEEEZZZZINNNGGGG! but at the same time SO awesome. We had our own bay to ourselves with a big beach and we stayed out there from 3 pm till about 10pm, not swimming anymore of course but just chilling on the beach with warm clothes. Great great day with lots of laughs and stories and hot chocolate.

The last day was not our best day... I had the worst blisters on the back of my heel, my shoes were completely soaked, we were all completely buggered, and it was rainy and windy as hell. I am not complaining at all thought because it was still freakin awesome but it was not as good as the first 2 days. But when we got back everyone bought the biggest meals of fish and chips that we have ever had and just demolished them... leading to what also made the day not so good. We arrive to catch the ferry only to hear to that the water is very very rough but that they are still going to take the chances of going across ensuring our safety was of the utmost concern. They did say however that if you could stay another night on the island and take the boat out the next day that would be the better option. I was not excited for this...

WARING: this is kinda gross and not completely necessary to read. If you dont want to, go to the next SAFE ZONE reading spot.

As the boat started to hit the big waves everyone was squealing with joy and even this one American guy came to the very front of the boat to ride the waves as this was the place that got the most air. The waves were taller than the boat at times and the fun lasted for about ummm, 5 minutes. Next thing I know a chick next to me is puking in a barf bag. I run away in the other direction to an old woman who has just puked on the ground. I look for another place to take safe refuge on the boat to realize that over half the people on it have their faces in a bag. Even the giddy american was embarrassingly handing used barf bag after used barf bag to the ship's crew. Fish and chips was not looking like the best choice at this moment, especially when I was looking at it all over the floor now. Not from me though, I do not get sea sick but I have to tell you I was on the verge from everyone else all around me. When we finally made it back I was very thankful and just glad to be able to stand solid (and not have puke bombs going off everywhere around me). I went home and got ready for the Routeburn Track which I would be leaving for the following morning for another 3 day tramp. I dont know if you are keeping count but it was 2 days tramping on north island, 3 days on Stewart island, and now 3 days on the Routeburn with less than a day between each. I was starting to feel pretty bloody knackered, but still having the best time of my life!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Aotearoa part 2

Manuela and Iida on the train to Welly
Beach in Paraparaumu
Bungy ball sling shot thing in the middle of the city

Current location: Assistant Principal's Office at Southland Boys High School (but just using the computer)

Now my journey through "The Land of the Long White Cloud" moves to the the southern part of the North Island by plane to Palmerston North. I am picked up by my AFS Bolivian friend, Manuela, and her host family and taken to their house in Levin. It is a town about half the size of Invercargill and sits on flat land surrounded by hills to one side, mountains to another, and then the big Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Tongariro (this is Mt. Doom in Lord of the Rings and is very spectacular) sitting off in the distance. Manuela's family consists of just a host mother and father, and kids that live in other parts of NZ. They live in a pretty big 2 story house that the father built himself. I was very surprised when I heard this because the house had many intricacies and things that you would think one man could not do himself.

My first day there we went to Paraparaumu for a car museum, which surprsingly was very fun and interesting. Some of the very first cars ever made were there and it was massive. Just rows and rows of old cars like Fords and... well other cars. I am not interested in cars at all but it was still very cool to go to and it had a lot of history there.

Back at the house we had delicious fish and chips and Manuela made everyone Cappacinos (thats gotta be spelled wrong) because she is origionally from Italy and is very good at making those things. The next day we went to the Country's capitol, Wellington. We woke up at 6 and caught the 6:30 train to Windy Welly with Manuela's friends Iida (Finland) and Christian (Germany). It was a 1 and 1/2 hour comfortable ride with all the business people on their way to work. We were very loud kids taking pictures the whole time and I am quite sure that all the people around were not to pleased. It was the first time that we exchange kids had been without any adults on our way to a big city to explore it alone and do whatever we wanted and we were, needless to say, giddy. It wasnt like being with NZ kids that you sometimes feel uncomfortable around because you want to fit in all the time, because international kids always immediately share a common bond and almost automatically become great friends. We would not see anyone in the city or the train ever again and we are not trying to impress any kids at school so it was complete relaxed freedom and we were taking it all in.

We pull up to the city and it was a MASSIVE difference to Levin or Invercargill with people EVERYWHERE! People driving their cars, riding their bikes, and walking all with a purpose to get to their jobs. It was just so busy and I loved it. We walked by the Bee Hive, the capitol building, and then decided we wanted to got to Te Papa, the national museum. A big plus being that it was FREE! This museum was amazing with all kinds of NZ history and cool things to do. We then road the Wellington Cable Car up the hill to the Carter Observatory. Also amazing because I love learning about space and the rest of the universe. It blew our minds a lot, and I did not understand half of the stuff but it was really brilliant.

We ate, went around the shops, and then finally decided we needed to do something exciting! Me and Iida chose to do this Bungy-Ball-Slingshot in the middle of the city. SO exhilerating! But the funny thing was that we had to wear one of those doctors masks, with a freakin fighter jet pilot mask over that. We told the guy working there that it must be a joke but he responded that it muffles our screams so the business people in the surrounding buildings would not sue the bungy company. We had quite a laugh about that... only you could not hear it because we were already wearing the masks. After that it was getting late and we had to get back to the train so we said our last goodbyes to the awesome city and were off.

The very next morning we woke up and got ready for my first ever "real" tramp into the hills around Levin and hoping that we might actually be able to shoot some deer. It was pretty cool to get my first shooting permit I have to say. So Mr. Day, Manuela, Iida, and myself were off for our two day treck. I was in charge of carring the rifle the whole way which sounded cool at the time, but ended up being a huge pain in the arse (NZ speak for ass), but I got over it. It was 2 hours on a track through the bush and went into a 3 hour walk up and through and across and in and across again and up a river all the way to the hut we would be staying at. It was quite literally roughing it and we got to cook all of our food and hang around outside roaring at deer to get them to come over to kill. I learned that deer roar as a territorial thing, so if you roar and they roar back they will usually come closer to defend their area. My roar was somewhere between a raspy bark and dry heaving, but I did get a lot of responses surprisingly. It was a very cold night but we had a warm fire inside and it was a great time just to be in the wild.

Little highlights: Manuela's host family had a three legged dog, really good fish and chips, did some dancing in the shops in Wellington, and much more stupid little things.

All in all I had a blast on the North Island but it was time for me to come home for my three day tramp on Stewart Island.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Aotearoa part 1

Place where treaty of Waitangi was signed.
Host Family
Bay of Islands
Cape Reinga
Hole in the Rock

Aotearoa means New Zealand in the Maori language, and that is what I saw over the Easter Holidays. Literally, I almost saw all of New Zeleand.

I may or may not be able to fit this in to one post but lets see shall we.

The Easter holidays started off to an amazing start with getting out of school early on Thursday to travel to one of New Zealand's must see places, The Bay of Islands. But before we could get there, we were picked up in Auckland by my host sister in this wicked as silver Hyundai van (she works for them and was able to use it as a family bus) and driven to her flat to stay there for the night. Just a nice relaxing evening and I also had the pleasure of eating Hell's pizza for the first time, one of NZ's favorite eateries. Auckland is NZ's biggest cities and it actually reminds me a lot of my hometown of Tampa. A tight city center right on the water with nice houses and apartments that line the water all up the bay. Its a lot like Bayshore for people that live in Tampa. Auckland has about 1 and 1/2 million living there and is the most "busy" place in NZ. The farther south in the country you get from Auckland, the more you hate Auckland. And if I would tell someone from Auckland that I am living in Invercargill (a major city on the south island) they would either not know where it is or just say "O... Invercargill..." Auckland is like a different country to the people on the south island, as the south island is to people in Auckland. People that live in the big city are just considered busy townies. It is a very weird relationship to have in such a small country with an equally small population. Not sure if I have said this before, but NZ is known for having 40million sheep (i think its a little less now) and 4 million people.

We then left Auckland the next day for the Bay of Islands which also might as well be in a different country... well at least from Invercargill at any rate. Invercargill is the cloudiest place in NZ and is cold and rainy and windy almost all year. Bay of Islands looked like it could have been our of some amazing Caribbean island... but better. Sandy shores combined with other rocky shores and often cliffs cover the coastline of this Kiwi getaway. Quite literally a bay of islands, the place was definitely not bad on the eyes. Our vacation house that we rented sat right at the end of a peninsula on a hill that led right down to the clear blue water. The peninsula is part of a town called Russell, one of New Zealand's first white people inhabited towns. There is a lot of NZ history on this part of the country because this is where the European people came NZ, came up with the Maori written language, and collaborated and signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori people. This is STILL a very very big issue in NZ and has helped shine light on the differences I find between the white and Maori people. (Its all very complicated and there is more to this whole thing but this is the gist of what I have learned) When the treaty was signed the white people were highly more educated than the Maori people and had the treaty written in both Maori and English and through the misinterpretations of the Maori people with the treaty they were seen as taken advantage of by the white people by modern day Maori people. They essentially signed over the right to vast majorities of their land guns, some European commodities, etc. At the time the Maori people thought the treaty was good but now as time has gone by they see it as wrongful. To this day the Maori people still are fighting the Treaty of Waitangi and trying to attain lands lost in this treaty. OK, so now it gets weird with the whole thing that it was many many years ago and people saying that Maori people today are not affected by it and cant claim land that was peacefully signed away that long ago by their ancestors. Also it should be noted that there are no longer any pure blooded Maori people in NZ anymore. This makes Maori people mad at white people and vice versa. For example: my host father sells farms and was going to sell one to this guy when a Maori man stopped it because the land used the be his ancestors and was wrongfully taken away so the government gave it back to him. Its hard to say who is right in this argument, but its definitely taught me something very interesting about NZ.

wow I just got really off track... anyways the Russell is a really cool place to stay in with a very limited touristy feel and great restaurants right on the beach. While we were there we took a day trip up to Cape Reinga, the most northern tip of NZ where a lighthouse sits right at the end. This is where the Pacific ocean meets the Tasman Sea in a fantastic way. You can see the line where they meet on a windy day that starts right at the shore and goes far out into the sea. It truly is brilliant. On the drive there you could definitely tell you were approaching the end of some land even though it was still very hill. After that we all swan at the most northern beach in NZ and then we did one of the coolest things ever. Sand boarding! you get a boogey board at the top of these MASSIVE and STEEP sand dunes and just run and dive with it down them. You fly down them so fast and hit the bottom and skid for about 40 meters.

The next day we did a speed boat ride to the famous Hole in the Rock, and actually went through the whole in the rock! I was not expecting that one! On the way there we saw a school of about 40 dolphins jumping and playing around in the water. Never seen anything like that before. And the rock was also fantastic, when I come back to NZ I am definitely doing that boat ride again.

The rest of the trip was spent relaxing and playing gin rummy (sp?). A perfect start to a perfect vacation.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich

Now I know why they say this in the song, Down Under, because vegemite is disgusting. Well actually in New Zealand they have Marmite which is almost the exact thing, but whatever they taste like the saltiest smoothe spread you have ever had. They in no way compare to our peanut butter that I was told to believe in the States. I made the mistake of thinking vegemite was a chocolate spread at my host sister's flat, smearing tons of the stuff on a piece of toast, which in turn made me gag and spit the vile thing into the sink. I guess you are supposed to eat it on toast with a lot of butter and the thinnest spread of the stuff.

Ok I have not written in here in awhile (with good reason) but a TON of stuff has happened so I am going to try and get through 2 today.

A few weeks ago I had been awarded with a part in a short play because I was sitting closest to my drama teacher at the time when the other guy managed to not show up. So anyway, BAM I am in a competition called Sheila Win. Our play was taken out of Hamlet and we did a modern interpretation of it, wearing actual gear worn in WW2. I played the messanger and had a couple of lines to memorize and we had about zero practices before the actual competion. I should also mention that the winners of the competion win a free trip to Christchurch for five days for a bigger Shakespeare competition. Shakespeare is really not my thing at all but I really wanted to win this trip because my school won last year and they had a blast there. So with our gear all set and our lines memorized we went to the show at Center Stage in Invercargill. It was actually very nerve wracking because our play was meant to be serious and I am not the most serious guy, and it wasn't until we got right on stage that I realized how many fighting scenes we had...

The play started off good, and then my part came on. How stupid I must have looked up there! I completely forget sometimes that I have a different accent then other people and that not everyone knows I am from America. First line: "Gracious my Lord, I should report that which I say I saw." Confused faces in the crowd I'm sure thinking to themselves "what the hell kinda accent is this guy trying to put on???" Well anyways I am then strangled by the main character and shoved to the ground on stage. Then another guy comes out and the main charater strangles him to death. then another guy comes out and they fight again, pause, then again, pause, and then that guy kills the main character. The play is only 11 minutes long and as you can see the last five minutes were a constant barely-rehearsed fighting scene. Bound to look stupid on stage with high school kids trying to be serious and constantly fighting. I also forgot to mention that at the end I was a scavenger and had to take all the gear off the dead main character including his shirt (that happened to be a tight long sleeve one that took at least 20 awkward seconds to rip off) I believe that our very serious take on the play somehow came out looking somewhere between funny, awkward, and bleak. Well thats over with and needless to say we did not win. However, another team from our school did, so thats good. They were 3 guys that were also in our play but did another funny one on there own that was very impressive. I do have to say though, that all in all it was a very good time and I am SO glad I did it. I mean come on, how random to do this in New Zealand. Who knows maybe I will still be able to go to Wellington anyways with those guys as, I dont know, stage manager?

I am trying to remember other stuff I did before the play, but it was mostly sports practices and getting more acquainted with New Zealand and the people here. I can honestly say I feel more like I live here now than a tourist. Especially in Invercargill, it just feels like home, and since I have been doing sports, getting involved in school, doing lame shakespeare things, doing school production, and other stuff, people here see me more than just a random exchange student. This makes me very happy as this is the exact thing I would like to achieve.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

AFS Camp

Before I start with afs camp I can talk about what I have done since the Motatapu.

I made the first 11 soccer team which was pretty cool and I did another thing that was definitely less exciting. Over the weekend I needed a ride home after a water polo game and my ride asked me if I wanted to help him and a few other people make cheese rolls for a fundraiser. Cheese rolls are a south NZ treat that is similar to a grilled to cheese but you make them before hand, sell them, and then the owner cooks them. Pretty much just bread with a soupy cheese mixture on top then rolled into a little log. So anyways, I assume I am going to someone's house to make about 60 to 100 rolls and then all of a sudden we pull up in my school's parking lot. I ask what are we doing here to a response that we are making cheese rolls. We walk into the catering room and.... I see crate upon crate upon crate of bread stacked high and wide along all the walls. Turns out we had to make 48,000 CHEESE ROLLS! No joke! It was to help raise money for their history class to go to Vietnam. I am not even going to Vietnam! We arrived at nine and the first few hours were kinda fun because it was so random and we were just listening to music but when the clock hit one o'clock I hit the cheese roll making wall. I became a zombie making roll after cheese roll. We ended up making them until 3 in the morning! what a great friday night! I cant even look at another cheese roll.

Week of school went well and then on Thursday after school I got picked up by my afs support coordinator to stay the night in Edendale before our very long drive up to Christchurch on Friday morning. T-vo (Paraguay) lives in my city and came up with us and Mia (Norway) lives at my support coordinator's house. So USA, Paraguay, Norway, and NZ all got in a truck Friday morning and set out on a freakin long journey to afs gateway camp. We left at around ten and got to Chtch (Christchurch) at eight. We took around turn close to camp and ended up taking the craziest road to get there with many cliffs, sharp turns, and bikers all the way up. Upon arriving I found a lot of my friends that I had made in Auckland when I first got here. The majority was South American kids which is fine with me because I love to practice my Spanish and they are the most out going people of all the international kids.m The camp was at Living Springs, a camp site on a bay outside of the city. It was very beautiful. First night all the kids just got re-acquainted with each other and talked unitl late at night when every one was just so tired they had to go to bed. The next day we did a lot of pointless classes that we had already done in our home country, when we first arrived in Auckland, and now were doing yet again. So that was pretty lame but after the classes were over we had our free time. We jumped on trampolines, took pictures, swam in the indoor pool, and talked about our lives in NZ. Everyone is loving this country and no one seemed to have any major problems and if not then no problems at all. Already the semester students are complaining that they do not want to go home and the six months is not long enough. I felt a little inferior to all the other kids because they all had improved their english to much and were becoming fluent AND also had their first language. So I tried as best I could to mix with the hispanic students so that I may improve my spanish. I think I did pretty well and had major crack ups along the whole way with my mispronunciations. We also had a "party" that lasted until 3 in the morning with pretty much every one just sitting down on the floor and talking to each other. I find it very interesting how easy it is to make friends with people that you barely even know just because we all share the commonality of being in a different country. Hopefully with these new friends I made I can make use of it in the future and go and stay with them so I can see the rest of NZ. I might be able to go to the north island and stay with my Bolivian friend Manuela over the holidays and just go around and explore the island I do not live on.

The camp was definitely a great experience for me minus the 18 hours worth of driving I had in 3 days. This holiday coming up is also going to be such an experience. I am going to the Bay of Islands to go scuba diving, Stewart Island for a 3 day hike( nz's third island), Routeburn track for another 3 day hike, and possibly many other little trips on the north island. We have holidays in school after every quater or term and they are all pretty long. Should be a nice break from the routine of school and my best chance to experience everything NZ has to offer.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

embarrassing and not so embarrassing

These are just half the bike racers by the way.
View from our vacation home.
The start of the Motatapu right outside of Shania Twain's land. Some people flew helicopters to the start, it was pretty insane

While I still have any dignity left I will shead some light on some past events.

Lets start with the history behind the first story: When I first arrived in NZ I was greeted by my smiling host family at the ariport who then took me to their amazing house in Otatara. Upon arriving, they generously gave me a letter, a NZ flag towel, NZ flag pencil case for school (both were a hit with my NZ friends), and a ten day pass for a gym that they attend. A week ago I decided that I would like to go to the gym and work out as I have not done it in a while and I felt like doing something active. My host mom said it would be ok, but it is not a regular gym, but a gym for classes. Host mom- "There are spin classes, boxing classes, etc. You are signed up for the body attack class, so I assume that is the boxing one." Me- "ok thats cool, I am down for some boxing." When we pull up to the gym it hits me for a very scary second that this could be some aerobics class with all women doing step up. I voice this in hopes that my host mom knows this is not what I am getting myself into and she says "o, no look behind us there is a guy." It was a sixty year old man in short shorts and tank top but non the less he was a dude. I am feeling a little bit better. We walk inside and my worst fears are imagined. About fifteen high school girls, three older women, the old creepy man, my 13 year old host brother, me, and an instructer in the craziest clothes and hair that I could not possibly describe through typing. She motions for us to gather around the stage and I am saying to myself "F this! F this! F this! what I have got myself into?!" The next thing I know the music is on and she is leading us through a dance/run in place combo that not only takes coordination (something I dont have) but also the desire to run/dance in place in front of girls your own age and an old creepy man (something I also dont have). An hour of pure hell. Well it wasnt all so bad. I was laughing my head off from the entertainment the instucter was giving me with classic lines such as "I hurt so much, but Ive never been so alive!!!" "Now your a famous football player! Go and win the Heisman!" "We are strong women in here!!!" I was laughing the whole time. They were all syncronized dances that you immediatly had to go into and just pick up as you went along. I could not for the life of me get one of the moves perfect. I was always a step behind everyone, or bent over laughing. Classic.

Something less embarrassing: I had rugby trials last Thursday. I was DREADING the trials as I have never played or even watched a game of rugby. People told me I should try out but then would laugh and then some people would sincerely say that I should not try out. I really did not want to but I thought to myself that I would regret it for a long time if I didnt. Im in NZ anyways, I got to try out! I just went out there not knowing what to expect with my gym shoes and running shorts. I got stares for that. "The americans out here and he doesnt even have boots or rugby shorts." I was told to play on wing because of my size and speed and it was definitely a good choice for me. Trials is just a big rugby game by the way. I had no practice, no viewing experience, no nothing for my first time playing real rugby (i have played a little touch and hold rugby but never tackle or anything serious). I am not going to describe how to play rugby for those of you who dont know but the general idea is that you got the ball and you try to get it to the other side while the other team tries to tackle you (there are no pads involved and everyone here calls football a puffter (gay) sport). You can only pass the ball backwards and your team runs in a long line across the width of the field. I played on the outside where you get way less action, but when you do get the action you are usually trying to get a try (score). For my first time playing I was pretty happy. I got a few runs and one long run, made 2 tackles, and caught the ball after a punt.

Side note: I am in the school library right now and a few kids have realized that I have a blog and have begun to read it. I really dont like this because even though I am not writing anything bad about anyone its just uncomfortable that they are looking at it. I dont reread my blog and I dont want to think that they might be judging what I have past put down or anything like that.

And for not emabarrassing at all:

Over the weekend I competed in the Motatapu Mountain Bike race! AMAZING! Not as hard as the Moonshine race I competed in a few weeks ago but it was still very very challenging. It is one of NZ premier racing events and had over 2000 riders in the biking race alone (also a marathon run that I originionally thought I was going to do). 2000 may not seem like a lot but when every one is on a mountain bike, it is MASSIVE! I started around in the middle for my category (junior recreation) and passed over 500 people in the first hour on a small track. O the track goes through Motatapu Station, Shania Twains land that she only opens up once a year for the race, and ends at Arrowtown. It goes through a valley through the mountains with fantastic views the whole way. There were multiple creek crossing along the way and 5 river crossings at the end that were so wide and deep I had to get off my bike, carry it over my head, and run through the rushing waters. I finished in a time of 2:42, 18 minutes ahead of my goal time.

The race was in Wanaka by the city of Queenstown, the capital of adventure in the southern hemisphere.  You can sky dive, bungy jump, jet boat ride, ski, ride the gondola, luge, go to bars, eat fine dining, swim in the massive lake, or basically do anything amazing in this place.  My family has a vacation home in this city right on Lake Wakatipu (main lake and it is massive. queenstown sits right on it). It is small but three stories high, cozy, and an just a great place to go on vacation to. I would actually love to just live there. There is a plum, apple, and some other kind of fruit tree in the backyard. In fact, my host brother picked about 100 plums off the tree and sold them at the race. On our way up to Queenstown I heard all of the stories of what it was like to grow up in NZ and how this city was a second home to my host parents. The town has changed a lot since then to be more touristy but it still has a quality about it that keeps the locals coming back and has the kids at my school saying its their favorite place in NZ. Next time I go up I am bungy jumping and jet boating, should be an interesting experience...

Host dad cheering me on along with the Bullings who are family friends. you also get a shot of my host brother at the end asking if the cameras on. I did 2:42, Mrs. Bulling was a little off...