WOW. What an amazing two weeks it’s been since I arrived on July 1st. There’s so much that I did, but I’ll give a synopsis of the first week:
After arriving and meeting the other IES group members, our coordinator Eunice, and her assistant Chris, we talked about New Zealand culture and what to expect during out time here. The next day, we walked into Christchurch’s center and kayaked down a river, which was a lot of fun. As soon as we were done, Eunice sent us on a scavenger hunt around Christchurch where we got to know the city a bit better, and see some of the damage the earthquakes had caused. On one block it had looked like time stood still – in an abandoned restaurant there were still dirty plates on a table and chairs scattered around. It was eerie, to say the least.
During the rest of our orientation week, I listened to people from the University of Canterbury give some talks and signed up for classes. Afterwards I went with my group to see a wildlife preserve where we got to know some species that were native to new Zealand, including (of course) a kiwi! While we were there we got to learn about the Maori culture (the first people to arrive in New Zealand prior to the British). The women in our group performed a typical dance while the other men and I got to perform a Haka, which was originally used by the Maori people to scare their opponents before they battled one another.
The next day the other IES-ers and I traveled to Springfield for a two-day adventure. We visited Castle Hill, which was AMAZING. It was so green and the scenery was gorgeous. But don’t just take my word for it:
Once we left Castle Hill (I would have been fine staying longer) we headed back into Springfield where all of us Americans experienced a culture shock: watching a rugby game with other Kiwis at a local pub. I’m fairly confident that none of us knew what was going on, besides the Kiwis, which just added to the confusion. Since then I’ve watched a few more rugby games and have a slightly better idea of what’s going on, but am nonetheless still confused.
On our last day of orientation, we awoke from the hostel we were staying at, hopped on our bus and went jet boating for a little while. Once we were finished doing that, we drove for about five minutes to a farm where we learned about sheep and alpacas, and I even got “volunteered” to herd some sheep!
When George Bernard Shaw visited New Zealand a reporter asked him his impression of the place and, after a pause, Shaw is said to have replied: “Altogether too many sheep” ……. George Bernard Shaw 1934