Rise Up And Be An Outlier

Keeping this at the forefront for 2014.

The Better Man Project ™

uspech

Our natural tendency is to be mediocre. The world doesn’t want us to be anything but in the curve because that’s the safe zone. The zone where a majority of everyone else is as well. The zone that will keep you doing, being, and acting average. Normal is death.

There comes a point in everyone’s life where they just want to be normal. To fit in. To be accepted by the group. I tried that. I tried that a few times. But you want to know what I learned from trying to be like everyone else? 1. It’s impossible. 2. It’s just boring.

Why would you want to be anything but yourself. You were born and given the most unique gifts in the world that no one else has in the same combination as you. I say leverage what you are good at, work on what you are bad at…

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Wellington & My Weekend of Rainbows

This past weekend was glorious. Now, I didn’t travel to yet another gorgeous natural wonder of New Zealand (though I have so many left to see!) but I did get to experience the capitol city of this incredible country – Wellington!

Now before I traveled to New Zealand, I read somewhere that Wellington was like a cross between Austin, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. HELLO! TWO OF MY FAVORITE CITIES!! And what an interesting, sexy, entertaining cross that would be, right? But when I read that I also kind of thought to myself, Hmmmmm. My skepticism got the better of me. Curse my skepticism. Curse it to hell! Wellington is indeed interesting, sexy, entertaining, and many more things that I can’t think of right now. Beautiful. Dreamy. Small town. Big city. How is that possible? I don’t know, man. That’s just how it felt to me. I was only there from Saturday at noon until Sunday at 3, but the city is so open, outgoing, quirky, etc. that even in that short amount of time I felt like I got a real glimpse into the heart and soul of the city. And let me tell you, it captivated me. It pulled me in. I fell hard and fast in love with it. While it seems to do an injustice to the city to call it a cross between Austin and New Orleans, it definitely has some of the best qualities of each city. It has the hills and views of Austin, with the waterfront beauty that New Orleans boasts (though Wellington’s waterfront beauty is much more spectacular). It has the closeness to nature that Austin offers, except even more natural beauties, and more diverse. It has the fun, exciting, wacky, diverse nightlife that both Austin and New Orleans possess in their own ways. It is both urban and rural, like Austin. It is quirky, unique, and surprising like New Orleans. It is the kind of city that makes you really proud to be there, experiencing the culture, like New Orleans (though more so in Nola). It has a bounty of diverse ethnic cuisine to experience.

High points of wellington:

– Botanical gardens! Obviously botanical gardens are beautiful everywhere. But the cool thing about the gardens in Wellington is that you have to take a cable car up to the top of a hill. And then you can walk down through the different regions of the gardens (its enormous) and end up back in town after like, two hours or more of exploring! And from the top of the gardens you get this gorgeous view of the city and the harbor and it is breathtaking. Although the great thing about Wellington is it is so hilly you can get these spectacular views from a ton of places around the city!

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View from Botanical Gardens

View from Botanical Gardens

Succulents in Botanical Gardens

Succulents in Botanical Gardens

********I am picking this back up two weeks after my trip – I know, I’m the worst blogger ever. I can’t sit still here long enough to write a blog post, much less do any of the school work I am supposed to be doing….whoops. But anyway, I am committed to finishing the post now (of course, while I should be writing an essay for my Planning/Environment class :D)

– Cuba Street! It’s this adorable street-but-only-for-pedestrians with lots of sweetas artwork in the middle and lined with coffee shops, bars, restaurants, shops, etc. I just love streets that are only for pedestrians. Makes me feel like I’m in a small town!

– Restaurants – like I mentioned earlier, no shortage of amazing places to eat. And I was only there 24 hours. I cannot imagine how much money I would spend exploring the city one restaurant at a time

– Wellington Harbor/Port? Ohmygosh it is beautiful. As you walk toward the water you walk along this raised pier, overlooking the water, the city, some mountains in the distance and Te Papa museum. It is so beautiful. Now the thought has crossed my mind that many people who live in say, Maine or Connecticut would not be as impressed with these views, because they see quaint little harbors and stuff all the time. But I bet they don’t have mountains in the distance! (Not actually sure). Needless to say, coming from Houston and going to school in New Orleans, I have a very clean palette, ready for all sorts of scenery and landscapes to amaze me.

wellyharbor

– Petone Winter Festival! They should rename this to ‘Petone food festival in the winter on a beach’. Just a ten minute bus ride from wellington (around to the other side of the harbor to a little teeny town) is Petone, where they hold a yearly winter festival. This festival is chock full of food tents with everything you can imagine. Mediterranean, dumplings, chimney cakes (nommmmm), barbecue, pizza, ice cream, more stuff, more stuff, and more stuff. SO MUCH FOOD. SO DELICIOUS. And these tents are full of legitimate food that you wouldn’t normally expect at a festival. This is obviously what caught and held my attention during my time at the festival. Though if you get there earlier in the day, there is a polar plunge. Where anyone crazy enough can dress up and jump into the ocean! Woohoo! (I can’t exactly call these people crazy because I went into the ocean during winter as well, in Tauranga). There is also a stage set up where music is being played. If you stay long enough into the evening, there are giant wooden sculptures (of drum sets, etc) that will be set on fire! Bonfire out of sculptures! Yay! And fireworks! Double yay! Unfortunately, I was too excited about Wellington to stay much longer than it took me to eat my delicious food and gaze longingly into the harbor. It was still a lot of fun.

CHIMNEY CAKE

CHIMNEY CAKE

– Night life! A combination of Sixth street and Bourbon street, except subtract the weirdos and hobos and nudity and trash and all the negative things you think of when I mention those two night lives. Courtenay (pronounced courtney) street is lined with all kinds of really cool bars and clubs. One called “The Library” that literally looks like you’ve come into this really intimate used book store/coffee shop with books everywhere – except its a bar! And another place (don’t remember the name) that plays music from the ’90s! And another place with an Alice in Wonderland room! Bars that are not places to get shitfaced and grind on people – but genuinely enjoy yourself and have a great time! WOOOO. (Yes, I know these types of places exist elsewhere…….though not in Palmerston North. But in the states. They have cool places, I get it. Wellington isn’t the only place in the world. But, it is New Zealand, which makes everything like, a million times cooler)

And the most beautiful thing of all, that made me sure, without a doubt, Wellington is the place for me – the view the next morning. I stayed at my friend Scott’s house, a dude from the states who I met on my orientation trip. First, let me explain, all the students in Wellington live in houses. On hills. Can you tell I LOVE hills? They don’t stay in dorms. Anyway, so Scott lives in this house that, I could tell when we took a taxi up there at night would have a beautiful view. But I didn’t know until the next morning, when I woke up from an uncomfortable slumber on the couch, how breathtaking this view was.

viewwelly……..PARADISE.

And although this post has been full of hastily thought out sentences and I’m sure some incomplete thoughts, I must go. Because I have an essay to write. But I cannot go one more day without you catching a glimpse of this beautiful city.

More soon. And by soon I mean, as soon as possible. For mid-winter break is just around the corner (2 DAYS) and I will be traveling a bit. Since I’m here, I may as well outline my plans.

– Saturday heading back to this glorious city (Welly) for an All Blacks game against Australia. This will be awesome for two major reasons. 1. The All Blacks are probably the world’s best rugby team 🙂 and I will get to see them do a haka!!!!! and 2. Australia and New Zealand have a hilarious rivalry (New Zealanders think Australia sucks) and what better game to go to for my first rugby game than between two of the biggest rivals in rugby history!?

– Sunday I will take a ferry across Cook Strait – the space between the north and south islands – to Picton, where I will spend an afternoon exploring the teeny waterfront town and stay the night in a hostel. Monday I will take a bus to Blenheim, where I will spend a week WWOOFing – working on a sustainable organic farm in return for food and accommodation! Then I will head back to Picton and WWOOF there as well! On a farm situated on an island that I can only get to on tuesdays or fridays when the mail boat makes its trip to the island 🙂

SO PUMPED.

Kia ora!

Hannah

Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapiki-maungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu

That’s not a result of random banging on my keyboard, that is the Maori name for Taumata Hill in Hawke’s Bay, and it means ‘The hilltop where Tamatea with big knees, conqueror of mountains, eater of land, traveller over land and sea, played his koauau to his beloved.’  It is the second longest place name in the world! Though it is specifically the name of a hill, it is now accepted to be the Maori name for Hawke’s Bay (from my understanding). Hawke’s Bay is on the north island’s eastern coast, about a two hour drive from my lovely temporary hometown of Palmerston North.

This past weekend I took a bus with my globalinks orientation friends and our lovely Swedish friend Magda to Napier, a beautiful town on the coast in Hawke’s Bay.

hawke's bay

We stayed in a lovely backpacker’s lodge (hostel) that overlooked the old port of Napier, and we were a scenic, 30 minute walk – past the new Napier port and houses nestled into a hillside – away from the CBD (central business district – city centre – downtown).

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My favorite things about Napier:

  • It is dubbed the Art Deco capital of the world! Upon learning this I thought, What an odd place to find the Art Deco capital of the world! Here’s how it came to be: in 1931, there was an 7.8 magnitude earthquake that virtually flattened Napier and Hastings, the two cities in Hawke’s Bay. So, at the time they rebuilt the city, Art Deco was a popular architectural style, and it definitely shows!
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  • It boasts one of only two art deco McDonalds (McDeco – clever right?!?) in the world!!! And the only reason this is worth mentioning is because McDonalds here offers a Hokey Pokey McFlurry which is INSANE.
  • SHINE FALLS! Okay, so technically not Napier because it is about an hour’s drive away, but basically Napier, because it is considered to be in Hawke’s Bay. It is a stunning, inspiring, breathtaking sight to see, and only about an hour’s hike (really easy, too). The best thing about this hike though, is that the waterfall isn’t the only breathtaking sight. At the “trailhead” (an open field), there was a teeny little area to park, and a few covered picnic tables. Across a small gorge, you might be lucky enough to come across a harem of Turkeys! And, they might talk to you!
    • Once you begin the hike, you are greeted by a beautiful expanse of rolling hills, bush (forest-y stuff), and jagged cliffs – quite a combination of terrain! (forgive the pictures, the easiest way to get them is to take screen captures of the real ones – it also uses less data, which I must hoard like its food! Because I don’t have unlimited data here!)
    • Screen shot 2013-07-31 at 12.11.00 PM Screen shot 2013-07-31 at 12.11.18 PM
    • Then at some point the trail narrowed so we began to hike through the lush, damp, cool bush. It was lovely, especially because the sun is super hot here (something about no ozone layer? as a result of a certain few industrialized countries? wonder who they could be….) And then…. ta da!!! You happen upon the falls.
    • Screen shot 2013-07-31 at 12.11.46 PM Aaaaaaand then stare in awe for a few minutes. Marvel at the beauty. Shed a tear of appreciation, maybe? Slip on the rocks trying to cross the little stream to get closer. Climb through some bush, get a little muddy, and stand so close you get misted. It was incredible.
    • Next thing to do is figure out how to get to the top of the waterfall. We wouldn’t have known it was possible, except our friends who went there the weekend before had pictures! So we hiked back a ways to a metal bridge over the stream and saw a sign that said “for experienced trampers only” (if anyone is unsure, tramping = hiking/backpacking – at least that is what I’ve come to understand). From here, we hiked about 30 minutes up this steep-as*, skinny-as, leaf covered trail – almost comical to call it a trail, besides the fact that you could see where you were going, even if you could barely get there. Once we reached a point where we all determined we SHOULD be at the top of the waterfall but where the heck is it?we decided to just descend into the bush and follow the sound of water. Long story short, after many spider webs, itchy plant-covered moments, crouching under trees and falling through patches of leaves, we found the creek, and then the opening in the bush that was the waterfall. There are truly no words to describe the feeling of being that high up, in that precariously majestic of a situation. It was spectacular.
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  • PEBBLE BEACHES! I had heard news that the “black sand” beaches were on the west coast, but surprise! Napier is settled right on a beautiful teeny black pebble beach. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before – though thats not difficult. Besides my glorious trip to the Bahamas a few summers ago, the only beach I go to is brown and smelly. With more brown and smelly-ness. Gross.
    • Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 10.25.24 PM……Pebbles! 🙂
  • Beauty. Obviously Napier is gorgeous. In so many ways. Food? Yes. One morning we went to Ujazi cafe where I had poached eggs atop a lovely toasted baguette, with roasted tomato halves, hash browns, spinach and mushrooms. My mouth is watering as I think about it. Then the next morning before we set out on our trek to shine falls we just randomly chose a cafe, thinking it would be normal the way most randomly chosen cafes are. But it was fantastic as well. Offering a smorgasbord of pastries – including savory scones, croissants, and banana cake with chocolate frosting. I opted for the toasted muesli with yoghurt (when in Rome, spell like the Romans…err Kiwis) and a fruit salad with pear and papaya and kiwi and BAHHH SO MUCH DELICIOUSNESS. We had Indian food one night and for some reason I was compelled to get something other than the vegetarian dish I usually get, and it was a very pleasant new experience (which I often fear will not be pleasant). Also at this restaurant as we were paying, the restaurant broke out in song. Granted, it wasn’t one of those fun and exciting flash mobs! I believe we had been the only people in there that didn’t belong to this choir group. So as we were leaving, they all stood up and started singing this lovely song that I can only assume was a more awesome way of saying grace – oh, and it was in Latin. I recorded some of it (to the dismay of my friends who seemed to be embarassed that I whipped out my camera phone) and then felt compelled to clap at the end 🙂

And then there was the beauty it inspired in me. Such a place and experience elicits such a strong sense of appreciation that you forget there is anything wrong in the world. Or if you don’t forget, you allow yourself to put that awareness aside for a while so that you can give all of yourself to the current atmosphere, to truly understand, marvel and appreciate it.

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 10.24.25 PM and of course…… take a million pictures.

Sorry if this post is a little hard to follow. It took me a week and a half and 3 separate sit-downs to finish it. Too much to appreciate! But I will try and be more efficient with my blogging.

* (here in NZ, putting -as at the end of a adjective is a popular slang thing. Like, ‘Oh that movie was sweet-as!’ (sweet-as is the most popular) or ‘Man I haven’t eaten all day, I’m hungry-as’ or…. ‘Wow that mountain is big-as!’ (I like this one because with a Kiwi accent it just sounds like “bigass”, because the adjective doesn’t have to be at the end of a sentence….see: “That was a big-as mountain!” “What a scary-as bungee jump!”)

Kia Ora,

Hannah

My Values Towards the Environment

Just finished a rough draft of my very first assignment as a Massey student in New Zealand! Baha! The assignment is to write about my values, especially as they pertain to the environment, focusing on how they came to be. I wrote mainly about my mom and dad and how they instilled in me an appreciation of nature, and now I feel compelled to share it with you!

Growing up in an enormous, urban city exposed me to values that are quite different from those I have come to understand and enjoy in my three weeks in New Zealand. Because of this, I attribute all the basics of what I have learned to respect and appreciate about the environment to my parents. After that, traveling, working, and interacting with loads of passionate people has given me a glimpse at how many different ways there are to live in regards to the environment and our duty to respect, protect, and live harmoniously within it.  

It is hard to pinpoint anything specific that my parents ever said to me regarding our environment and being a respectful guest in this world. That being said, I can think of many values that I grew to learn and appreciate over the years just by the way they raised me and taught me to live.  It began with food. Although we were a modest, middle class family, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household where organic food and organic living was one of the highest priorities. Food has always been an experience, something to appreciate and bond over, as opposed to just sustenance. My mom and dad and I cooked together often, almost every night, as they reinforced the importance of knowing what goes into your meal, filling it with tons of fresh produce that was in season, and always using organic and, if possible, local animal products. They stressed the importance of avoiding processed foods and enjoying products that were closest to their original state, with as few additives as possible. While this concept was difficult for me to appreciate when I was much younger, especially as other children would show up to school lunches with Lunchables and Hostess Ding Dongs, I am now so grateful that my tastes and preferences are centered around natural and holistic foods.

This approach extended into the way my parents taught me about health and well-being. I never received immunizations as a child, and my parents fought hard not to use fever reducers or antibiotics when I was sick, while teaching me the importance of letting my body develop and strengthen its own immune system, and teaching it to cope with sickness on its own. I have always been encouraged to live an active outdoor life, a great way to get exercise and connect with my surroundings. I began horseback riding when I was ten years old, mucking out stalls and working around the barn in exchange for being able to ride their horses. At sixteen I went on a hiking, rock-climbing and backpacking trip with an organization called Outward Bound. For two weeks, we lived under tarps, without showers or toilet paper (or toilets for that matter), as our guides taught us the importance of leaving no traces of human presence behind in the wilderness, to preserve what is natural and beautiful, and appreciate it without disturbing it.

These experiences taught me the importance of living a life as close to nature as possible, to do what I can to close the gap between myself and the earth and all that it has to offer. From within those lessons I have come to value the importance of preserving the natural environment and all its glory and majesty, because the biological and ecological systems that take place around us are the driving forces behind everything we, as humans, are able to do. The closer we remain to nature, the better we can value these processes, and the easier it will be to protect and preserve them for the future. 

Though this is just an assignment, it feels very pertinent to my time here so far. New Zealand is a glorious country of natural majesty, and while they struggle from environmental damage as we all do, they are also very committed to preserving the gorgeousness that attracts so many travelers. The commitment is inspiring, and I wish everyone could experience this passion for protecting the earth. It should be like, a class in high school, with a field trip to the Kuaka place in the Bay of Plenty where our globalinks group planted 1,000 trees on a hillside and learned about New Zealand’s ecosystems and the importance of protecting them.

Hey! You should read about it! Here, I’ll make it easy for you….follow the link below, and do you’re own investigation!

http://kuaka.co.nz/Kuaka-New-Zealand-Ltd/About-Kuaka-New-Zealand_IDL%3d3_IDT%3d868_ID%3d4865_.html

Today I am taking a bus to Napier, a beautiful town on the east coast of the north island where we will go wine tasting, beach walking (maybe a nice freezing swim here, too), mountain biking, and aquarium gazing!

More soon!

Kia Ora,

Hannah

Mt Maunganui adventure

To pick up where my previous post left off (sorry its been so long), Mount Maunganui is absolutely breathtaking. It sits on a peninsula in Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty region (I’ll have to look up what that refers to eh?). The actual “mountain” is an extinct volcano that has a gorgeous combination of rolling hillsides dotted with sheep and steep rocky cliff and lush tropical flora. Not to mention the insanely pristine beaches and tree-covered islands that are in the view from the mountain.

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After a scenic and challenging 30 -40 minute hike to the (almost) top complete with sweating, panting, oohing and aahing, touristy picture stops and the like, Carly and Mack and I decided to join some of our group on the beach. It was a beautiful day, probably around 65-70 degrees and very sunny, though not exactly bathing suit weather, a swim sounded really nice after the hike. THE WATER WAS FREEZING. I know it’s like, DUH HANNAH, ITS WINTER WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING?!? Cold water, sure. But still, SO. COLD. Like, aching in your bones cold. Like, its okay if my legs are numb, right? cold. Like, after a while it feels okay, but then you wonder if it actually does feel okay because you realize you can’t actually FEEL anything cold. So yeah! Mack beasted that freezing water and dove in head on – she’s from Connecticut, she knows what cold water feels like. My experience was different. I walked toward the waves creeping onto shore and as soon as I was ankle deep I hit a brick wall. My body said no way. Are you fucking crazy? Is this the Titanic? You think Jack would have volunteered to go in that water? Call me a drama queen, but I’m from Texas. The gulf of Mexico doesn’t get that cold. Probably ever. Who knows. And if it did, that would be one more reason not to go in (besides the brown water, crawling with seaweed, what was that on my leg? feeling, dead fish smell, etc). But here I am in New Zealand, at this stunningly beautiful beach overlooked by a stunningly beautiful inactive volcano, and there is nothing I can say to myself that will justify not going in. So I went in. And it was painful. And exhilarating. After that, Mack, Carly and I walked along the beach and explored rocky islands for about an hour. Barefoot. And climbed rocky islands, barefoot. And marveled at the insane beauty that we were experiencing. Brings ya back to the true meaning of the word “awesome”. 

*Shivers*

Kia Ora

Adventures galore

The next day after my enlightening Maori adventure, we got to pick an excursion to go on in the Rotorua area.

I went ziplining through the virgin New Zealand forest near the city we were staying in. I’ve never been ziplining before and I’m so glad I did. The worst part was standing on the ledge getting ready to jump – really discourages bungee jumping (bet my parents are happy about this). The actual paths were beautiful, breathtaking, awe inspiring, etc. The longest zipline was 220 meters – about 700 feet – and it was incredible!!

forestzipline  jump

One of my favorite things about the ziplining tour was that we got to learn about the different species of birds that were still surviving in the forest. The tour guides told us about the pests that have been introduced into New Zealand in the past 150 ish years (as stowaways) and how they are decimating the birdlife. Apparently when Captain Cooke discovered New Zealand, the men on his ship asked it to be moved further out to sea away from the island because the noise of the birds on the island was so deafening that they couldn’t sleep, and that was from 200 meters out! When we were in the forest it was fairly quiet!! We did hear a bit of bird conversation, though.

The next day, everyone loaded the bus and drove to Waitomo, an area world famous for its caves – St. Benedicts, Honking Haggas. We could either choose to go in the wet caves, which had slightly more excitement, or the dry caves, which had better scenery. I chose to do the dry caves, because being wet and cold didn’t sound too appealing. I was not let down. We abseiled (repelled) 80 meters down into the cave, one by one. I went first – which was fine until I was the only one down in the cave waiting 10 minutes for the next person to join me. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the movie The Descent. Not a great thing to have on your mind when you are alone in a cave. But I survived! We were in the cave for about an hour and a half to two hours, and most of the trek was similar to hiking – except in the dark. On wet rocks. The scenery was incredible. Stalactites and stalagmites galore!

St Bens (59)abseilhannahIMG_6316

We also got to a point where there was an enormous cavernous space where we ziplined in the dark! Twas frightening and enthralling. The guides also taught us a bit about the landscape and the caves in the Waitomo area. There is some exorbitant amount of caves in a 50 km radius – and a large number of them are owned by this Haggas lady who inherited the land. And in New Zealand, if you own the land, you own the caves underneath! Woohoo! That was definitely the most badass thing I’ve ever been a part of. It was pretty sweet.

The next day it was community day! We took a trip to Tauranga to plant trees on a hillside and restore the native rainforest and canopy. New Zealand has the most incredible species diversity – 90 percent of which isn’t found anywhere else. They used to clear rainforest to make land for sheep grazing (which they still do some of), but now since synthetic fabrics are so much cheaper, there is a lot of cleared land that isn’t being put to good use. We should all be familiar with the consequences of something like this – erosion. But another aspect to this company and all tree planting efforts around New Zealand is that they are doing this also to actively combat carbon emissions, which is pretty incredible. So our group of 36 students and 5 others (our guides and their crew) planted 1000 young trees on a hillside. There were 6 different species, and we were told to stagger their concentration because each tree had a varying height and growth rate and canopy thickness, etc – this would allow other things to grow in between without blocking too much light or growing too densely. I would really love to return to this small town in 5-10 years and see the very same hillside growth fully thriving.

After tree planting we went to Mt. Maunganui beach – also in Tauranga. A breathtakingly beautiful combination of landscapes – a mountain with beautiful lush hillsides covered in sheep as well as rocky cliffs and tropical plant life. On one side of the island were rough waves catering to surfers. On the other side was smooth water catering to swimmers. It was absolutely one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been.

……to be continued…………

Rotorua, the Maori, and the Haka

This post is about my second day in New Zealand, which was the start to our five-day stay in Rotorua, as well as the beginning of my love affair with the Maori culture.

We arrived here with our bridging cultures guides, Tyme and Paul (both from New Zealand; I believe Tyme is part Maori and Paul is mostly Samoan) who are wonderfully sarcastic and funny – obviously my kind of people. We checked into the hostel where we will be staying the rest of our time in Rotorua. One of the first cool things to note about this area of New Zealand is that it is very volcanic. Tyme and Paul told us the Northern Island is volcanic in origin and the southern island is glacial in origin. Rotorua happens to be a hotspot of volcanic activity, so you can look around and see plumes of steam rising from the gutters, and the pools at the hostel are geothermally heated, as well as the water in the showers and pipes. It also smells a lot like eggs. Yum.

After we arrived, had lunch, and had our second information session with Paul and Tyme (this is all part of the globalinks bridging cultures program), we were introduced to this beautiful woman who told us to call her “T” – because there was no way we would be able to pronounce her name. ** She explained to us that we were going to a local, family run school and we would be greeted in a traditional Maori ceremony. First, our group would be greeted with the blowing of a conch shell. We would have to nominate a chief among us who would accept the peace offering from one of the boys of the tribe who would present it after a really cool chant/dance/routine thing that has all sorts of ancestral meaning. I don’t remember all of the specifics, but I do remember that in Maori tradition, they send a warrior out to scope out the foreigners, to kind of size them up. He goes back to the tribe and then they send out a second warrior to present the chief of these foreigners with a peace offering, which the other chief would then accept or deny. If the chief denied the peace offering, the warrior would retreat to the tribe and the third warrior (or maybe it was the chief?) would come out and the two warriors would fight – always to the death.

** (This woman reminds me so much of my half-sister Emma, who is half Thai and half English, that I had to approach her after she met with us and tell her about my sister.)

Obviously, our chief was advised to accept the peace offering, and we were greeted into the belly of the ancestor (little school/prayer/multipurpose building). There we were greeted by the chief-like figure of the tribe, “Rai” (the brother of the woman who greeted us back at the hostel), who gave us a beautiful speech in Maori that was not translated into English, then the children and few other adults present sang a song, also in Maori. After this, T told our elected chief that he could present his acceptance speech. Ha…slightly awkward. But it was lovely! Then we all lined up (traditionally men first, so the women would be protected from foreigners) and one by one went to each of the 15 or so members of the tribe there and participated in the Maori version of a handshake. This included grabbing each others forearms and touching our noses and foreheads together, twice. A little weird, but also surprisingly comfortable. These people were the kind where you could tell they genuinely were happy to have you, happy to share their culture, and happy to see us, even though they didn’t know any of us. The rest of the afternoon we would be split up into four groups and go through four workshops where we would have a quick dip into some traditional Maori practices.

We got to learn a Maori game including tossing baton-sized sticks back and forth to a partner to a chant. This was a lot more fun than it sounds…. and quite difficult! T and I bonded because it came really easily to me and she used me for all the demonstrations. Another station was learning to Haka. This was probably my favorite. The Haka is a traditional Maori intimidation tactic that includes chanting and stomping and slapping and that awesome thing they do with their faces where they make their eyes huge and stick out their tongues. Rai had informed us earlier that all the carvings we would see of the ancestors depicted this kind of facial expression. Eyes were widened to appear larger and scarier, as well as protruding tongues. Basically the Haka says to the enemy: “Don’t fuck with us. We’ll annihilate you and eat your face.” And they did practice cannibalism many years ago! It was a lot of fun to learn the chants and some of the moves that went along with them, but more fun was being able to see our two Haka coaches (a 19 year old who looked more like he was 25, and the 14 year old who offered our chief the peace token upon our arrival) perform it properly. Definitely intimidating! But I couldn’t help but smile and laugh in awe at how beautiful and passionate it was. Another station was learning the basics of weaponry and fighting with the chief, Rai. This was straight up intimidating. What I remember is that the Maori find anything besides man-to-man contact fighting disgraceful. Their weapons would be spear-looking things made out of wood with a “tongue” thing at the end that would be used to shove between the ribs and twist. Or under the mandible and twist. Or another important area with some gruesome twisting. Or these paddle-looking things made out of stone that took generations to complete, or made out of a ridiculously strong wood. These would also be used to impale and twist. Horrific and bloody awesome at the same time. These people were the real deal warriors.

The last station is where we learned to make “Poi”, which were essentially these 6 inch rope pieces with a baseball sized cotton ball at the end. From a young age children were taught to use these to flick back and forth with their wrists to hit the top and bottom of their forearms. All of the Maori warrior fighting and weaponry required incredible forearm strength to be effective, so children would do these things for hours a day for years to build up their forearm strength.

At the end of the four stations, we were all starving. We were treated to a home-cooked traditional meal. And when I say home-cooked I mean by the sisters and brothers or nieces and nephews, moms and dads, of the chief and his sister who had been teaching us about their culture all day. These people were so hospitable and generous and incredible. They served us bread, butter and some pickle-y stuff that was almost exactly like Branston Pickle (a reference that only a select few will understand). I thought this stuff was delicious, most people were creeped out by it. What can ya do? I like marmite too. Blame it on my British upbringing. But don’t actually, because it was awesome. :). For our main meal they made chicken (which I politely refused), roasted potatoes, pumpkin mash, cabbage, and stuffing. It was like having thanksgiving, Maori style. SO GOOD. Then it got even better, when my friend T, two other women, and four men came out to show us some of their traditional song and dance (and some haka too). Again I was in awe at the beauty and richness of culture… and I cried tears of happiness. T kept making eye contact with me and smiling and it made me feel totally at home. Actually the degree to which I felt at home there was slightly eery.

At the end of our dinner, our group of 40 ish college-aged Americans had a Haka-off with the Maori children, and it was so close there was really no way to tell who won. HA. Not. Obviously they won. But then they asked us to sing “Don’t Stop Believing” for them, and it was nice to feel like we had a little something to offer. 🙂

All in all, I have decided to move to Rotorua, marry a Maori warrior, learn the language, have some kids and never go back to America.

Just kidding. I can’t leave my pup. He needs me to return.

Here’s a video of the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, performing their Haka before a game.

Kia ora

Hannah

A Day with the Maori People (except I ran out of time) – the start to my NZ adventure

So I thought the next time I was able to get on here and write I would describe all my fun journeys from the airport to Auckland, where we only staying for about 18 hours. But I had such an amazing time yesterday in Rotorua, I feel like all I can do is a small recap of Auckland so I can dedicate the short wifi time I have here to this amazing little volcanic town where the rich culture and tradition of the ancestral Maori people is still very much alive.

Briefly, Auckland was beautiful… of course. I haven’t lived in any cities in the United States that are anything but flat, so I’m not sure what city I could compare Auckland to. But it wasn’t flat, that’s for sure! It was beautifully hilly, and unless you were smack on the waterfront, you don’t walk any direction on anything but a pretty substantial slope. It was pretty freaking cool. And clean! We arrived there in the morning, had an information session where we had Subway for lunch (disappointingly familiar) and then we had a few hours to explore on our own. I went with a fellow Tulane student (we weren’t friends before this trip, though we knew who each other were because we had environmental ethics together!) and a girl she had been contacting before the trip because they were the only two going to the same university together, and we went down to the waterfront to explore and find a nice pub to have a drink in. Carly and I were missing New Orleans big time. I guess you can take the girls out of Nola but you can’t take Nola out of the girls.

It was absolutely beautiful. Not only are you at the waterfront, but a few hundred yards out into the ocean (bay? not sure) there is another rocky island. The landscape here is just breathtaking. Anyway, we had a beer (a few) at a cute little waterfront bar, and Carly and Mack went to explore with some guys in our group from San Diego (surfers, brah). I planned on going too, but I was craving a cigarette so I asked a nice looking man sitting a table away if I could bum one of his. He gladly offered one, but proposed that I sit and have it with him. In the US I would have been creeped out (depending especially on where I was) but here I figured, why the hell not? So I sat and chatted with this nice Kiwi and had a cigarette and then set off to find my friends. Couldn’t find them, I promise I tried really hard to, but then I gave up and went back and talked more with my Kiwi friend. He bought me a beer and we shared another cigarette and it was the perfect way to spend my very first day in New Zealand. To be honest, everything is worth writing about, but I’m so excited to get to the next day in Rotorua that I will share nothing else about my day in Auckland. Besides the fact that I went to bed at 730 local time and it was wonderful. Jet lag here is confusing as hell because we are 17 hours ahead. It hurts to try and wrap my brain around it. So I don’t. I just keep my watch set to Houston time so when I’m feeling curious I can easily find out the time difference without doing any serious math.

Oh shit! I’ve run out of time. I will tell the story of how I fell head over heels in love with the Maori people later – as for now I must go zipline through the canopies of Rotorua!

Kia ora!!!!

Here Goes Nothing

Just a small collection of travel quotes that I feel add a little insight to my day of anxiety, trepidation and excitement.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” -Samuel Johnson

and my all-time favorite motivator  “…because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”

Today I embark on the greatest adventure of my life so far. I am terrified, excited, sad and happy – a concoction of emotions that is quite overwhelming especially for my body that is trying to recover from a perfectly (more like horribly) timed case of mono!

This is my first ever post so I’ll keep it short and bittersweet.

Here goes nothing. Or maybe, here goes everything.

Hannah

Johnny Sansone – Leavin’