As August came to a close, the University of Canterbury officially hit the halfway mark for Semester 2 and the midterm break began! For two weeks I willed myself to forget about school work and try to focus on the moment and thoroughly enjoy the “now”. I really pushed myself to not get preoccupied with thoughts of assignments and tests that I have for the remainder of the semester or the random moments of homesickness that I would feel throughout the break. It is hard to not get preoccupied sometimes, but overall I think my experience was more enjoyable because my mind wasn’t wandering in the unknown of the future, but was present in the now.
The first week of my break was spent in Rarotonga, which is one of fifteen of the Cook Islands that are located in the Pacific. This was a IES Abroad field trip that the majority of the students participated in. We had a week that was filled with heaps of adventure, learning, and new experiences. Throughout my time on the island, I went snorkeling and saw breaching whales for the first time (!!!! this in itself was the most amazing thing I experienced on the island), biked around the circumference of the island, attempted to teach kids to hula hoop (this was a slight failure), ate fruit straight off the tree (bananas, oranges, papaya, guava, the whole load!), saw plants I've only ever seen in greenhouses/as houseplants (staghorn ferns, monsteras, hibiscus, bougainvilleas, the list goes on and on <3), and learned about the Cook Island culture and daily living via church and school visits, progressive dinners, and conversations/lectures on conservation, environmental management, etc.
Overall the trip was enjoyable and a different experience than I have ever had, but after a week of being in the little paradise surrounded by people constantly, this introvert was was incredibly excited to get back to New Zealand and explore the North Island and have some moments of solitude.
I had incredibly high expectations for what my week of adventure in the North Island would hold, and as life oftentimes proves, expectations are not always met. But just because expectations are not met, does not mean that the gratitude and happiness one gets from the unintended events is any less enjoyable. I have come to become one with the unexpected. While not always expecting it, I often am finding myself greeted again and again by the unplanned, unexpected, and sometimes unwanted punches that life throws. During my second week of break, I found myself back in that familiar unfamiliarity of things not going as one plans.
I went into the week thinking I was going to be doing the Tongariro Northern Circuit, which is one of the most popular Great Walks in New Zealand. This 3-4 day backpacking trip takes you around three huge volcanoes (one of which being Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings) in the Northern Islands Alpine region. It is an underestimate to say I was stoked. But lo and behold, it is winter in New Zealand, and with winter and high elevations comes snow, and with snow comes avalanches, and with that, comes the moment when I decide to value my life and safety and not venture into avalanche terrain for three days. With this realization that our four day plan to backpack was not going to work out, came the beginning of the North Islands series of unfortunate (although still quite fortunate) events.
During the week, a lot of things continued to unfold in a way that we didn’t quite expect… rain every day, hikes in high winds that slap your face with snow, river crossings that get you soaked up to your hips, spendig hours and hours staring out the passanger side window on gravel roads just to get to a mountain that is hidden in the clouds and white out conditions, sleeping in my friend's car because it was raining too hard to set up a tent, campsites being closed only to find out after a three mile trek into the site, more plans not working out, and more hours in the car…..did I say a lot of hours in the car? Cause I mean a lot…
Listing that all out, you might be thinking, “dang, what did you get yourself into?”, or “that sounds horrible”, and reading what happened from an outsiders perspective, I might agree. But, in reality even though things didn't go as planned, which is quite obvious, so many other great and spontaneous things happened, so much Type 2 Fun occured, and so much laughing to not go crazy from the unexpected filled my time.
With rain, comes rainbows, and boy did we get to see some. We still got to hike in Tongariro National Park despite not being able to do the Great Walk or Alpine Crossing, we got to explore a beautiful beach near Auckland, see Hobbiton, and explore Wellington. We were given beautiful sunsets that turned the whole gorge pink, listened to oldies in the car for hours, find a town with a population size of eight as well as a DOC hut with beds, hangout with sea lions, drive through beautiful scenery, embrace the unknown and spontaneity of it all, and laugh at the irony of our whole trip along the way (notice how the list of good times is longer than the list of the unfortunate events, this is because there is so much that goes right even when some things go wrong!)
As I sit here now, I can’t help but look at my time with a smile on my face, because it was just another reminder of how frequently life does not go as planned, but somehow you still end up exactly where you are supposed to be.
Hopeing you all find a way to make the unexpected wonderful as well,