Saturday, March 23, 2013

Can you spot the difference?

Next week brings the last week of my Practicum here in New Zealand. (Practicum is basically when you student teach for a couple of weeks FYI.) I have been working at Ranui Primary School with fourth and fifth grade students. I love my students.

One of their favorite questions to ask me is, "Is New Zealand different than America?"

To which I always reply, "Oh heavens, yes."

Their follow up question is always, "Why do you say heavens so much and why do you call us ma'am when we're younger than you and why can't you pronounce Tohu's name right?" *My students ask a lot of questions. Gotta love 'em.

So to answer their question here are some differences in my life personally between New Zealand and America.

#1. In America, I have a car. A lovely little Malibu that I named Barbie (get it? Malibu Barbie? hahaha) and Barbie gets me everywhere I need to go.

In New Zealand, I have no car.

At first, Brooke and I walked everywhere. The walk to the church where we met for school was an hour both ways. And we did it rain or shine.

This is us extremely wet from a long walk in pouring rain
 Then we upgraded to bikes. Now those of you who know me well may remember that I actually didn't even learn to ride a bike until I was fifteen years old (That's normal, right?). By the time I got to New Zealand and was given a bike, I had actually only ridden a bike like three times in my entire life. Now I ride to school everyday through the busy streets of Auckland on a bike that is much too small for me. I haven't died... yet. I am getting a lot better though, I know how to use my breaks now and I can ride off curbs sometimes!

And then there are those trips that are simply too far to walk or ride our bikes, in which case I take the bus. Every time that I do I think of the words of my dear friend Brianne, "Ewww. I hate public transportation" I used to think just like her. But now?  Now I love buses. They take me from my house to the mall for only $1.90! And when I ride the bus instead of riding my bike, I am infinitely less sweaty and gross upon arrival. And the best part? Waiting at the bus stops.

This is me on a cold day waiting for the bus. I didn't bring a jacket, but I did have a towel in my backpack so I used that. Then I decided to wear my backpack kangaroo style for extra protection from the wind. Plus, I was better able to guard it from crazies that might try to steal my stuff this way. I sat like this and sang songs to myself for an hour while we waited for the bus to show. Best part was, I wasn't even the craziest person there! I would have taken pictures with my new bus stop friends, but I worried they might eat me or something.

Oh! Here's another fun bus stop story. We had another long bus stop wait ahead of us one day when we noticed some birds fighting over a piece of bread someone had dropped. These adorable little birds were pecking away at their lucky find, when a huge flock of bully pigeons came and edged them away!

Brooke and I watched enraged by the injustice of it all! We screamed at the pigeons and lectured them for being so inconsiderate just because they were bigger. They didn't listen. Brooke stamped her foot really hard on the cement, and the cowardly pigeons all darted to safety. The little birds ran back to the bread and began pecking furiously, but their victory didn't last long.

One particularly large pigeon came and stole the bread back for him and his friends.

Brooke and I mourned as we watched the little birdies give up and leave to continue their search for food elsewhere. Life can be so unfair.

Thankfully, karma had a present for that dumb pigeon bully...

It got hit by a bus Regina George style. Only worse, because it was most definitely dead. 
And then Brooke and I realized we were sitting at a bus stop watching pigeon fights and we felt a little bit dead inside too as we realized, this is our life now.

 Moving on.

#2. Here, the men love to wear brightly colored short shorts. I can't get over how funny it is to see a grown man in hot pink shorts.

Yes, this is from a store for MEN. Taste the rainbow.
#3. All significant others are called "partners". So your husband or boyfriend or fiance is your "partner". It is really odd to get used to. I still get really defensive when someone asks me if I have a "partner" back home. Though really I can't blame them because...

#4. In America, I use a lot of heating products on my hair and it looks like this:

In New Zealand I have sworn off heating products and so my hair looks like this:

It's kinda like watching Princess Diaries in reverse, right? That's why I'm only slightly offended by all the "partner" questions because really if I was in their position I would make the same assumption.

#5. Milkshakes in America are thick ice creamy drinks that are delicious. Milkshakes in New Zealand are simply milk mixed with some flavoring. Not even close to the same thing.

You sit on a throne of lies!
And then we come to the differences between American and New Zealand schools.

#6. Attention getters: To get my children's attention in my classroom in Utah I said, "Tootsie roll, lollipop. We've been working..." to which my students would reply, "Now let's stop!". Here in New Zealand the teacher's say, "OY! DID I ASK YOU TO TALK?!? Naw, didn't think so bra."

#7. This is the carpet in my classroom

In case it is hard for you to tell, it is very uneven and I am constantly tripping over the lumps. That didn't happen at my last school.

#8. In America I teach kids Math, English, Science and Social Studies. In New Zealand I mostly teach swimming. And a little bit of T Ball. And basketball, and cricket, and rugby. We take a lot of time out for sports.

#9. In America, I was expected to wear a dress or nice dress pants every day and always look professional.

This is my teacher outfit, button up shirt, cardigan, pearls... very classy
In New Zealand, teachers often look like they're headed to the beach as soon as class gets out. There's a lot of sunglasses on head/ tank tops/ sun dresses/ lava lava/ jandal action going on all the time. This was what I looked like at the end of the school day on Thursday and I fit in just fine.

#10. In New Zealand we have morning tea everyday. At 10:30 the kids all eat a snack and then head out to recess while we teachers head to the staff room to drink Milo and talk crap about them behind their backs. It is the best half hour of the day, and I really think the American system needs to adapt this practice. Heaven, I am going to miss my morning tea when I go back...

Only 19 more days! Yikes!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"I am a great man." -Barry

My next adventure in the land of New Zea took place in a magical forest called Abel Tasman.

We were told that the best way to experience Abel Tasman was by way of sea kayak. In fact, we were told that several times, by several extremely reliable sources. So we decided it must be true. I took a kayak out on Roylance's Pond once and I flipped it over and then it almost sank and I had to drag it back to shore and it took FOREVER. I refrained from sharing that story with Erika when she announced our sea kayaking adventure was booked. Didn't seem relevant.

Now lest you think this adventure was merely getting in a kayak and paddling around in the ocean for a while, here was the basic gameplan:
  • Kayak into one of the nice beaches in the park
  • Stay the night there in a DOC hut
  • Next day, back pack further into the park to check things out
  • Take a water taxi back to where we started
So as we are packing for our kayaking adventure we had to bring enough food for two days, a change of clothes, a towel, a sleeping bag, and any other necessary items, whilst keeping in mind that everything we brought would have to be carried on our back as we hiked through the forest.

Back to the beginning. We started our morning bright and early with sea kayaking safety training because there is always the possibility that you could flip over, get stuck in your kayak, and drown to death.This cat Hio (Ohio without the 'O') is the one that delivered the instruction. With those luscious locks he should be famous. I think that he is possibly Barry's (aka Steve Martin's) son on Baby Mama. The resemblance is striking.

First he taught us about how to sit in a kayak and steer and paddle and stuff and I was like:

But then he started talking about emergency procedures and where you can find the flare and I was like:

They gave us these awesome skirts to wear that seal you into your little kayak hole to keep the water out. They kept me so warm! But they were also the reason that I could have potentially drowned so we had a somewhat tumultuous relationship. Boy, did they look good on us!

During our training we were given the following scenario: Your kayak has tipped over, you pull the safety band and make it out of the kayak and up for air. What do you do next? The answers were flying: find your paddle! flip the canoe! light the flare! all met with a negative response. Until one blessed voice rose above the rest and said, "You have to make sure that your partner is ok!" Which was, of course, the right answer. And that blessed voice just happened to come from my partner. And suddenly, I was a lot less worried about the whole thing. Though mostly I was just grateful that I rated above a paddle in Andrea's book.

In fact, we were suddenly so gung ho about the whole experience that we were the first to push off into the ocean when it was finally time. And off we were!

For educational purposes, I will include a map of our journey.

And I'm not gonna lie, Andrea and I proved to be the power couple of the group throughout the first half of the trip. It was mostly Andrea that was fast and really strong, but I was attached to her so ha!

After a while we pulled in to one of the beaches to have a bite to eat and enjoy the scenery. The best part was, I didn't even feel a little bit tired!

Then we got back out into the deep blue and paddled some more!

Eventually we pulled into another little stop off for a break. Now remember that map from before? Well that red shaky area is called the 'Mad Mile' because the water there is so open and exposed that you don't have any protection from the currents. We had a choice to make: We could leave our kayaks to be picked up on the beach and walk the rest of the way to our campsite for the night, or we could brave the mad mile and kayak to that same point. The group split in two and I ended up in the kayaking group with a false sense of security due to my seemingly new found kayaking skills.

Well, let me tell you folks. that Mad Mile was ROUGH. The waves were huge and the only advice we had was to paddle into them perpendicularly so that they wouldn't tip us over on our side. I was rowing so hard and watching myself go nowhere. It was pretty awesome. Thankfully, there was another pullout point in the middle of the Mad Mile, so we were able to get out and walk from there. Had I tried to continue to the end of that Mad Mile, I would not be here and writing this blog today I am fairly positive, so be grateful.

We stayed the night there at our fancy little DOC hut which was basically a room with a giant bunkbed that slept six on top and six on bottom. By the time we got to the DOC hut there was one other German couple that had already claimed a spot. Well that put thirteen people in a hut that's supposed to sleep twelve, which seems like it would be no big thang. Well, it was a big thang. That left me in the little space between two mats that were just thick enough to force me to sleep on my side ALL NIGHT LONG. My body was exhausted from a day of kayaking and muscles that I never even knew existed were throbbing (seriously, my wrists were on fire. No worries though, they're super buff now. I could be a bracelet model.) There were bugs everywhere. Throw in the fact that several of my dear dear friends have a tendency to snore and you have the perfect recipe for the longest night of my life. But at least I was not sleeping outside. There was still gratitude in my heart for my precious little DOC hut.

We woke up the next morning, ate some gruel for breakfast, and got to work on loading up our backpacks. It took me a while to work out how to hook my blasted sleeping bag to my backpack tight enough so that it wouldn't swing around when I walked, but loose enough that my backpack wasn't strangling my arms. I threw on my still wet clothes from the day before and we were off! Again.

We hiked and hiked and hiked and we got to see a lot of the park. The path was pretty easy and mostly shaded, thank heavens. Only thing is the lady said we could easily do the hike in jandals (aka flip flops) and so I did. And my feet were killing me. And I had to pull out a bunch of sticks and rocks and things that had got lodged into my skin by the time we were done. But back to how pretty Abel Tasman is:

Eventually we came to our first destination. It is a natural waterslide called Cleopatra's Pool. The water has run down these rocks long enough that they're nice and smooth and they're also covered in moss so you just slide right through. The water was freezing, but it was so beautiful and so much fun. We took pictures and video, but I'm not sure where they ended up and so I found this on google. This chick looks like she had a good time too.

We hiked and hiked and hiked some more until we found a perfect little spot to eat our lunches.

Our own private beach, complete with our own private sandbar!

Andrea died of happiness

Our final destination was the beach we would take the water taxi from. We had a long way to go and no more reasons to stop which was a bummer.

Tricky little Erika found a sweet little shortcut for us. All we had to do was scale down the side of the trail to the beach below. The tide was way out so we just had to walk across the sand until we met up with the trail on the other side. It worked out pretty well, despite the fact that the way down was full of prickly bushes and most of us had ditched our clothes at this point and were hiking in out swimsuits. Not a great combo.

And I would like to award one million points to Brooke for doing it all in this Island Princess Rambo get up.

Yes, that is a peach floral lava lava tied into a shirt, aviators, and bandana. No pants. So awesome.
Oh, and in other good news I finally got to use some of the skills I learned at Girl's Camp! We got to this big puddle and Rachel was wearing tennis shoes. Tennis shoes plus puddle equals soggy tennis shoes (and you all know how I feel about those. kitty punching.) Those ropes courses really do have real life applications!

At one point we got to go on this cool as bridge. Indiana Jones anybody?

Finally we made it to the last beach, just in time to take a quick dip before our water taxi came.

So, in summary: Sea Kayaking is awesome. Backpacking through Abel Tasman is awesome. Sliding down Cleopatra's Pool is awesome. Doing all those things without showering is awesome. I mean, gross! Yeah, definitely gross. I hated it. Yuck.

Oh, and once again, I'm hardcore. Eat it.