Wednesday, December 24, 2008
There were some people stirring,
But no signs of a mouse.
After baking for ages,
the oven finally lost power,
And the cookies and cakes
begged for one to devour.
An exchange student typing
a ridiculous poem
thought, "Say, what would happen,
if I were back home?
I'd be sitting quite close
to a roaring lounge fire,
while here heat travels daily,
with no threat of expire."
As he looked around thinking
of molasses and gifts,
he thought of world culture,
and all of its rifts.
Realizing how people
don't always agree,
he remembered his purpose
for being in NZ.
Mending false generalizations
and bad stereotypes
was a great noble calling,
that outweighed his gripes.
So as I now sit writing,
of the differences here,
I wish you Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year!
-Copyright Fledgeling Inspiration Poetry Division (not really, hehe...)
So, that's my poetry writing for the year. I won't be posting anytime really soon, as I'm heading to the Coromandel Peninsula on a 9-day camping trip. I'll be taking pictures for Picturesque there, and I really hope I can locate my camera connector or an SD card reader or something, because I've got almost half a year's photos to upload.
From Zelandia with love,
Friday, December 12, 2008
Fun Fact: Fiordland, New Zealand, has Mitre Peak, which is the largest sea cliff in the world, at over 1600 meters!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
By now, you're probably wondering what I mean by A M and E. Well with the NZQA's, they have standards-based assessments. Certain questions merit only part of an A (Achievement), while some harder ones merit an M (Achievement with Merit) if done fully, and there are also some still harder ones that merit an E (Achievement with Excellence) if done fully. Now I find there are a few problems with this system. First, it's possible to get all of the Excellence questions fully correct, but still only get Achievement because you didn't answer enough Merit questions fully. That is because of this grading system (The numbers change depending on the exam, I'm taking this from an old Spanish listening exam that we took in class):
A: Any 9 correct answers
M: A + 4 other correct answers, 3 of which must be Merit-granting (meaning you must have answered a question to achieve the Merit standard for that question, whether you fully answered a Merit one or managed to reach the Merit standard on an Excellence question)
E: M + 3 other correct answers, 2 of which must be Excellence-granting
If you add this up, at minimum for E you need: 11 Achievement questions, 3 Merit questions, and 2 Excellence questions. However, if you got say...12 Achievement, 1 Merit, and 4 Excellence, you would only get Achievement, not even Merit let alone Excellence. A tad messed up wouldn't you say? So it's like saying "You got all of the really hard questions fully right and got every one of the easy questions right but missed a part of 2 medium questions, so I'm giving you a C." So you see why I'm worried?
Anyway, yeah I've got summer again. I like winter though, so I'm not as excited. Though I do like playing pool here and I'm going to go swim in the Waikato University pools soon. Apparently one of them has a diving board, so that'll be fun. But that's just about all I have to say for now, except...
Fun Fact: Did you know Hamilton, New Zealand and Cordoba, Spain, are direct antipodes of each other? That pair is one of only 7 pairs of direct antipodal cities in the world! Want to know what an antipode is? Look it up. You're only getting 1 fun fact out of me per post =D.
Thanks for reading!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
First, I've finished normal school. However I've still got exams, though now I've gotten through of them except for Spanish. Physics went moderately well, maths went pretty well, and English went really awesome. I've been also walking up Mt. Karioi, playing tennis, and examining the Hamilton Gardens. Want to know more about them? Look them up. This post is about something completely different.
This post is about the TONGARIRO CROSSING! This is New Zealand's deadliest and most awesome 1-day walk. It was planned for about 2 weeks beforehand, but I only found out the equipment information about 2 days before the event started. But, either way, I still went. It lasted 2 days, Friday and Saturday on the last weekend of November. On Friday we were driven to a lodge where we took our stuff, had dinner, talked about the crossing, and got some early sleep because we had to be at a bus at 8 AM. On Saturday, we had to wait for another bus because the 8 one was full, luckily the second one arrived at about 8:05. The main guide had a whole ton of stuff, since he was a member of New Zealand Search and Rescue. So I mainly got most of my equipment from him. The thing is, you shouldn't wear cotton of any kind on the walk, because it soaks up your sweat and soaks up rain, either way it's bad. Unfortunately, all the clothing I had was...yep, 100% cotton. So I wore it anyway, and borrowed a few things from our leader just in case I needed them. It turns out I didn't.
But, the walk! It took us 7 hours. And this is what it consisted of...*cue explanation music*
The walk starts out at the Mangetepopo parking lot, and starts going up to Mt. Ngaruhoe, following the Mangetepopo stream (by the way, did you know Ngaruhoe is Mount Doom? Didn't didn't you? Didn't think so!...hehehe...yeah, for those that have seen LOTR3, Mount Ngaruhoe plays the role of Mount Doom). We go to Soda Springs, which is up a small incline, then we go up a quite steep one for about an hour until we reach the South Crater, in the valley between Mount Ngaruhoe and Mount Tongariro. We walk across the South Crater, and go up another steep incline to the Red Crater. That is the highest point on the entire crossing, at 1886 meters. You get a good view of the Emerald Lakes, which are 3 really really green lakes that are in the next crater, and there's also Blue Lake, which is a larger lake that is in a different part of the mountains, but you still pass it as you walk. You then walk to Mount Tongariro, down through a podocarp forest, and arrive at the Ketetahi parking lot.
Our walk, was quite easy. It was a sunny, cloudless day. The walking was quite easy to Soda Springs, and we split up to go at our own paces to the South Crater. I ended up arriving there 15 minutes before everyone else. I seem to have a moderately fast uphill pace...hmmm. We joined there, and walked through the South Crater. Even though it was quite warm, there still was a small amount of snow around, and that was nice to have since it kept us a bit cooler. We then had an easy (well, as easy as a walk after a steep incline can be) walk to the Red Crater. That was even steeper, but it was shorter, and we made it up. And there was quite a view! Unfortunately, I had forgotten my camera (I'm still not a photo-y person), and I had to ask one of the other 3 students who came to take pictures for me. Once they're emailed, I will post them. At the top point, there was also an interesting phenomenon occurring. There was volcanic gas going up the hill onto where we were. Now while that may not seem interesting, consider this: When you are standing up, there is wind blowing against you, and it is a bit chilly. But when you sit on a rock that's on the ground, everything becomes completely warm. Although it would be better to sit on a rock than the ground because if you sat on the ground, let's just say your pants would become steam-cleaned, and quite hot. The ground is surprisingly hot.
That area made it the perfect place to have lunch. So we had lunch, then headed down a very steep, and scree (gravel found at volcanoes, made through the process of shattering frost) filled slope (getting much scree in our shoes in the process), and got down to the Emerald Lakes. They looked nice, but we just kept moving anyway, after emptying out our boots/shoes of scree. We walked through another snowy area, threw a few snowballs, and got to Blue Lake. There was like a complete ring of snow around that, surpringly. But, as we wanted to make the 4:00 shuttle, we kept moving. We went through the rest of the walk with not a whole lot happening. Walking down a hill, eating the rest of our lunch, walking down the rest of the hill, sore feet, walking through a forest, even more sore feet and ankles, and finally getting back to the shuttle. Surprisingly we actually made the 3:30 shuttle.
Now, after a 3-hour ride back to Hamilton, I'm back here, writing this blog. Sorry for taking so long...um...yeah, as most of you know, I'm terrible at closings...so...um, ja. Um...er...bye then...?...I guess?
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Now with that taken care of, let’s begin… and man do I have a lot to say…
Let’s start out with the first thing addressed: Fire and Ice, or rather, hot water and snow. That’s right: I managed to experience the parts of both summer and winter while in neither of the respective seasons! It all started on Friday of 2 weeks ago… I finally managed to get myself prepped up as much as I could for the trip. I got out enough money to pay for lodging and mountain passes. However, I didn’t have ski goggles, a headband/hat, or snow pants. Luckily, as we drove there, we were going to rent skis off of the mountain anyway and we stopped at a nearby rental place. I was first thinking of buying some snow pants when I looked at the price tag…275 NZ$...Z0mg! And like that, I ended up renting a ton of stuff: skis, snow pants, goggles, boots, poles, and unfortunately a helmet as well. I did buy a headband anyway so that when I got back I would have something to remind me of mountain skiing, as well as not have to use Mom’s on every Allderdice ski trip. The reason why I found renting a helmet unfortunate was because it defeated the purpose of having a headband. The reason why I like wearing headbands so much is that they leave my hair open to the air, and when I’m skiing down a slope my hair gets to fly behind me. Obviously it wouldn’t fly as much as on my previous ski trips, since my hair was cut since then, but it would still fly. Anyway, we rented our stuff, left, and went to a backpackers’ lodge. Since I was with AFS people, I was allowed to stay there. I started walking to where our room was, when I was pleasantly surprised…by a room full of climbing walls! W00t! I dropped my stuff off in my room, and we then went to the nearby bar/grill restaurant. We had lunch there, and then for the heck of it, drove up to the mountain to take a look around. We got to the top, and even though it wasn’t really snowy, it still looked good. There were also quite a few good views of the land below. We threw some snowballs around, then went back down part of the way, where we stopped at an info center that basically showed a bunch of stuff relating to volcanoes around the area (since where we were was on Mt. Ruapehu, a volcano), where we looked around at a few things I found only moderately interesting, then we went back to the lodge. The other students that were with me on the trip were 2 people from Germany named Matthias and Henry, a girl from Belgium named…well I think her name was spelled Saara or something, but it’s kinda like saying “Sarah” except with more emphasis on the first a (as well as making it really short-sounding), and barely any if any at all on the second a. The last student was one from I think Switzerland (but I’m not fully sure) named Toby.
When we got back, Henry, Matthias and I paid an extremely small $15 each for use of the climbing wall. We learned how to belay each other, and one of our leaders, Grant, belayed me since Matthias and Henry constantly belayed each other, shouting instructions in German. I started up a few walls, and some of them are much harder than they look. But my favorite part of the whole room was a little area that jutted out…The fun part was on the inside. That area was for bridging/chimneying (whatever you might want to call it). For those who don’t know what that is, chimneying is going up a relatively closed in space with no handholds or footholds whatsoever, only using your own body to slowly shimmy up. It is an exhausting task, but it’s surprisingly fun to go straight up by only pressing yourself between 2 walls. Throughout the trip I did the chimneying 5 times. We had a good dinner with an interesting chocolate/orange cake for dessert. We then went over to the bar to watch rugby (union, not league. In NZ most people refer to union as “rugby” and league as “league”. If you want to know the difference, look it up on Wikipedia. This post is long enough as it is). I can’t remember both teams, I only remember that Waikato was playing (the team we were rooting for, basically our area here in Hamilton). We ended up winning, but I also spent some time playing pool. It was quite fun.
The next day, we went up to the mountain with hopes that we would be able to ski a bit, but there were also some thermal pools a bit of a distance away, and we brought swimming clothes as well in case we couldn’t ski. At the mountain, most of the lifts were closed, but we still had hopes so we stayed there for a while. Grant and I walked up a small (quite small relatively) part of the mountain just to look around, and I had some fun rolling and penguin-style sliding down the hill. Everyone else was just sitting inside drinking hot chocolate and eating chocolate fish (A big Kiwi thing, pink marshmallow shaped like a fish dipped in chocolate). After about an hour, we left to head for the thermal pools. It took a while to get there, and we stopped at a Subway along the way there (mmm…Italian herbs and cheese bread with ham, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and red onions…). We finally got to the place we were looking for. There were private mineral pools and a public freshwater pool. We decided to go into a private one, but we had to only stay in it for 20 minutes max, and we couldn’t dip our heads underwater for risk of getting some disease, I can’t remember what it was… Anyway, as some of the readers may know, I don’t go very well with anything hot. Everyone else got into the pool moderately easily, but I had to edge into it pretty slowly. It felt kinda good, but I did feel a little pressure from the heat on my lungs or chest or something (it just felt kinda weird, not totally uncomfortable). I did notice that the mineral water kinda made your body a little more buoyant. I managed to last the 20 minutes. We had cold showers, and then went to the public pool. It wasn’t as hot as the mineral ones, but it was still pretty warm. I couldn’t even dip my head underwater there for a different reason: When I did, it burned. Remember, I don’t do well with hot things nearly as well as cold. Anyway, afterward we went back to the van and went to New World (kinda like Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh, it’s a food store) and bought some ginger beer, ginger ale, orange juice, and 2 boxes of ice cream dipped in chocolate on a stick, 4 bars peppermint, 4 bars vanilla. I had one of each on the way back as well as some Twisties (spiral-shaped puffy corn snacks extremely similar to Cheetos, except Kiwi). We got back, and I did more climbing along with Henry and Matthias. We had dinner (both nights it was lasagna that people brought from home), and went to the bar again to watch rugby again. This time it was Hawke’s Bay vs. Canterbury, but unfortunately Canterbury won. Also I didn’t get a chance to play pool since there were a ton of people there, and a few guys were at the pool table throughout the entire 90 minutes of the match. But that was the second day, yeah…
Third day! We hear that the ski fields are GOOD!!! Well, good enough to ski on, anyway. W00t! We pack up most of our stuff, planning to leave after we get back, and move out! We get there, and are some of the first on the lifts. And let me tell you, Mt. Ruapehu totally OWNS anything around Pittsburgh, and maybe in the Appalachians too. When I get up the first lift, the sight is majestic. There’s also a few lodges as you head up the lift as well. I get off a lift, to go straight onto a second one. That takes me, Toby, and Saara even higher. The view is awesome, and we begin skiing (and in Saara’s case, snowboarding). We find even more lifts, go up them, ski down, for a long, long time. Eventually we go back to one of the upper lodges (I haven’t fallen yet, and am slightly disappointed) for lunch. We meet Roxane and Grant (who are just sightseeing, since Roxane has a bad ankle [they are the leaders of the trip]) as well as Matthias and Henry. We get some lunch (hot chips, hot wedges, and a Powerade, oh and a chocolate muffin. Healthy, eh? At least I had a nut/yogurt bar), and immediately head back out. We all ski (or snowboard in Saara/Henry’s case) together for an hour or so, but then the other 3 guys leave to go somewhere else, and Saara and I just go around aimlessly. It remained that way for the entire rest of the trip, and we are trying to get back to the van, when we kinda have to take a roundabout route thanks to some lack of speed making it impossible to get over a small ridge. We then start going down in an area where it’s really hard to see (then again, the visibility was quite poor throughout most of the trip), and some place where the lack of ski/snowboard tracks means that barely anyone has been there that day. We go round, and we go on a long trail down the mountain in an unfamiliar area. However, once we get to the bottom, we see a familiar sight…The parking lots at the bottom! We had made it! We also get a bit of a last laugh by calling out to the rest of the people who are looking up at the original lift, trying to see us fly down, and we come up from below them, ftw! Van ride back, nice last view of Ruapehu, we return our ski stuff, and head home.
WARNING AGAIN: This is NOT the end of the post, not even half way through! There are many stories to tell! Prepare to continue relentlessly reading the ridiculously reaching recollection (alliteration hehe…)
I get back, and I find out something quite good: I have a 4th family set! This family is known as the Cooks, but I don’t have a chance to meet them until I get there for the first time. After 2 days of school, that day comes. Jenni (the support coordinator for those who may have forgotten) takes me to the Cooks, but I don’t stay there for long. The Cook’s house is quite a ways from Fairfield, so the Kelly family allowed me to use Sean’s (the student in Thailand at the moment) bike. So I drop off my stuff, then Jenni takes me to the Kelly’s house. I let Cameron know I’m there, I get Sean’s bike from the shed, and start the ride. Unfortunately, some mishaps occur. The main mishap is that the bike seat, being somewhat old, must have loosened a bit, and started to strangely angle when I hit a bump. By angle, I mean that the back of the seat dips down, kinda like the bike seat is a seesaw. That makes the ride a bit longer, and it is a half-hour later by the time I get to the Cooks. And since Fairfield College is near the Kelly’s house, that means I have a half-hour ride to school. I get some quick dinner at the Cook’s house, and we head to a political meeting.
Before I continue, I’ll talk about the Cooks a touch. There are 2 parents, Christina (everyone calls her Chrissy) and David, and they have 4 children: Zoe, who is 18, but is on an AFS exchange in Mexico at the moment; Asher, who is 15 and goes to Hamilton Boys High School; Jonty, who is 13 and also goes to Hamilton Boys; and Bella, who is 11 and goes to Knighton Normal School (strange name of a school, but there you go). They have 4 cats, Caramel, Pompy (I think that’s how it’s spelled), Sassy, and Justin. Sassy likes sleeping on my winter coat when it’s lying on the bed next to mine. The Cooks have a dial-up internet connection, a trampoline, and a ping-pong table (or as they say here, table tennis since ping-pong is actually different than table tennis here). Anyway…
Chrissy, David, Bella and I go to this meeting at the Hamilton Celebrating Age Centre, where the current candidates for a few seats in Parliament are there debating. We come in a bit late, but we aren’t noticed too much. The parties that are there are Labour, National, NZ First, Kiwi, Green, and Republican. The Labour and National parties are the main parties, and there are 2 members of the National party there. People are asking questions, and the topic comes to education. I remember how I managed to get close to passing some of my exams that I didn’t know anything about, and actually passed a few of them, and I come up with a question. Now here I kinda pulled a bit of a political thing myself, not telling the whole truth about my assessments, but I’ll explain that after I tell you my question. A paraphrased version of my question is this: “I’m an exchange student and I’ve noticed how you were talking about giving each child equal chances to get an education. Well, I’ve recently had some assessments that were meant to be similar to what we will receive this year in our NCEA exams, and I managed to get through a good amount of them passing, including some with very good marks, on topics that I know next to nothing about. Now if I can pass an exam on a topic I don’t really know, it’s a bit hard to say whether the standards truly test students on the education they receive. I know you’re trying to help give all kids an equal chance for an education, but do you have any plans for making sure that the standards will fit to show that their education was good, and if not, do you have any plans to improve the quality of education that they receive?” Now 2 things were funny about what happened. 1st, they all assumed I was a university student, making various comments that hinted at that, and 2nd, they all basically dodged the question. Now the political not-full-truth-telling that I did was that I did get through a good amount of assessments…for someone who came into the assessments in the middle of the school year and knew nothing about them. Some people call that lying, but I was at a political meeting where people were attacking each other (verbally obviously), making shady statements, and dodging questions. So basically, I’d just call that politics. It was still quite funny though.
The next day, I started heading off to school on Sean’s bike. I still hadn’t had a chance to fix the seat yet, so the half-hour ride was kinda annoying, having to keep moving the seat back into its original position. However I eventually got to school. At school, I finally found out the results of my English mock exam, which it turns out I got an Achievement with Excellence, the highest grades! W00t! With that I’ve finally decided that I think I’ll want to go into journalism, since I like critiquing things, and many people have said I have complex opinions on certain things. I also seem to have done well in all of my English classes, whether here in NZ or back in the US. I’m thinking now to become a video game critic, since I like things involving electronics and video games. So it seems I’m going to have to learn programming and journalism when I get back. But back to the previous topic…I got an Excellence on my English exam. Yeah…On my bike ride home, I stop at the Kellys, and ask Cameron if he has a wrench, which he does, and he helps fix the seat. The ride back is quite uneventful, and my time at home is normal.
Next morning, ride to school. I’m riding on the ridiculously gravelly and just plain rough roads (not very hilly, but still a pain to ride on, especially since people in cars yield even less to cyclists than in Pittsburgh, and that’s saying something), and I’m about half way there. Suddenly, PSHHH! I feel air on my face and a green slime is coming from my bike tire. Oh, for crying out loud, the road punctured my very old front bike tire! I sit on the sidewalk, with my finger over the hole which is slowly filling with the slime which is apparently some temporary solution. I begin riding again once the air loss has stopped, but then, soon after, KA-CHUNK! To add insult to injury, the bike seat angling problem returns from beyond the grave! I’m really annoyed, but I still have to get to school, so I just head to school. Yeah, normal school day, nothing new, head home, rant about bike. David offers to let me use his bike to get to school, since I desperately need a bike to get to school because by walking it would take like an hour and 20 minutes to get there. The next day, I ride David’s bike, and it’s really good! The brakes are really squeaky, but the tires are good and the seat is comfortable! I ride to school uneventfully, head home uneventfully, lather, rinse, repeat until Friday.
Chrissy and David are going to Lake Taupo (A lake on the way to Ruapehu) to relax for a few days, and AFS-approved friends Liza and Richard come to take over the parenting job. On Friday, Asher and I go to his church’s youth group, and it’s quite fun. We do a bit of bible study, a bit of volleyball, and a Pirates of the Caribbean-style Survivor game set. Most of the games are good, but my favorite was what I call the 5-position game. The leader calls out a phrase and we have to go to the position she describes. There’s “Captain’s Coming” (salute), “Lighthouse” (two people raise and touch hands and say “beep, beep, beep…”), “Man Overboard” (One person goes on hands and knees, another places foot on other’s back and acts like they’re looking over a ship), “Periscope” (Lying on back, foot in the air), and “Lifeboat” (Groups of 3 or 4 get in a line and act like they’re rowing). There are 3 teams, green, blue and red. I’m on the blue team. We kinda fail the 5-position game after a while when some people get a bit confused, but it was fun anyway. We have a worship (not at all traditional, rock band style with clapping and contemporaryish singing), have some cookies, and head home.
Next day, we just stay at home, but at night we play Cranium, which is undoubtedly one of the most fun games ever created. Sunday we go to Hamilton Zoo, see a bunch of animals, and at one point, a Kaka (kind of bird with reddish-brown feathers and a long curved beak) lands on my shoulder. I have my hoodie on and my hood is up, and the Kaka (who was led to us by the zookeeper in a free-flight sanctuary) jumps onto my head, and starts eating a walnut that it was given by the zookeeper. It jumps onto my other shoulder (my left), and jumps to Asher. It then jumps back to me, jumps on my head again, and continues eating the walnut. After wiping its beak on my hood, it flies off with a loud squawk. When it was on my head, Liza took a picture with her phone. I’m hoping I can get that picture to post. We come back after a while, David and Chrissy come back, and we go to the 21st birthday party of someone only David and Chrissy have heard of.
It starts out awkward, but then we find the ping-pong table that they have. Asher, Jonty and I spend most of our time eating or playing ping-pong while everyone else talks, and my feelings of awkwardness cease as I meet some of the people. It was a nice house too, and the family who lived there had their own vineyard. Dum dee dum, we have Labor Day on the last Monday of October, so we have no school, W00t!
Tuesday, I go to school, and I find that we have a new Computing teacher who will actually teach! So now in Computing we are working with Visual BASIC, but most of the people are confused, and I’m confused a tad, because even with hour-long classes, learning a new language is long. On Wednesday night, Asher and I went to Ventures, a kinda Kiwi version of Scouts. We learned 9 different knots/lashings, played bingo for chocolate, and made stretchers and raced them. It was quite fun, and some of the activities they have planned I am really excited for (LaserZone Laser Tag and bowling ftw!!!)
I head home and see that something has happened to Asher. On his way to school (he and Jonty bike as well), he was in the cyclists’ lane, and some woman opens her door right in his face! He flipped, and ended up getting a tooth knocked out and hurting his nose. He still hasn’t gotten a cap for the remaining tooth piece back yet, and now the woman has said it was Asher’s fault. With some talking to the senior constable, Chrissy convinces the police to start an investigation. That’s right, Wright fans, we are going legal! We’ve gotten 4 witnesses whose testimonies equal with Asher’s, and the woman doesn’t even know we’ve got the police investigating yet. Thanks to the witnesses, the woman can’t change her story without cross-examination revealing contradictions. So yeah, that is good. On Wednesday, in the FFC notices, I see that there are auditions taking place on Friday for next year’s musical! I find out info, and since the audition is pressure-less and the song doesn’t matter, I actually managed to come up with a good audition piece. But more on that later, because the audition took place after this…
On Thursday, I got to leave school early so Asher and I could head to a match in the Under-17s Women’s FIFA World Cup! We arrived about 15 minutes through the match of France vs. Paraguay, but France was winning 3-0 already. It was actually quite fun to watch, though the players were overly dramatic (rolling 6 times after getting knocked over? Wow…). France ended up winning 6-2. It turns out there was a Japan/USA game before that, where Japan won 3-2. People are going to kill me for saying this, but I actually am rooting for Japan on this one. Japan has 3 more matches soon, and I’ll be going to the Japan/France one on Sunday, but USA/Paraguay will be interesting too, but I’m not sure if I’m going to see that one or not.
Last Friday (a.k.a. yesterday) I had my audition that I was completely ready for. It was quite easy, since I just sung an excerpt from "Domine Adadjuvandume festina", a very fun song to sing. I managed to do the reading part of the audition really easily as well, and it was quite fun. Right after I had done my singing part however, the woman who was listening immediately said "Why aren't you in the choir?" But I am planning to check out the FFC choir next Tuesday, should be interesting... Anyway, after school, I went to youth group again. This time we played soccer instead of volleyball, and we had small groups in which we had extremely unhealthy but tasty cookies known as Mallo Puffs. But we played the same Survivor style games, but there was a 4th team, yellow, and I managed to win the 5-position game for our team! W00t! I was the only one left from blue about halfway through, but I made it all the way to the end and won! It was quite exhilarating for such a plain youth group game, hehehe…
Finally, earlier today I went to watch Jonty and one of Hamilton Boys’ cricket teams play cricket against another Hamilton Boys team. Cricket is a somewhat confusing sport. You have 2 batsmen, and one is bowled to at a time, depending on what side of the bowling crease they’re on. There are 2 wickets, and the object for the fielding team is to hit those wickets while the batsmen aren’t there. The object for the batsmen is to score runs by running between wickets, basically switching places. Only 2 batsmen, no more, no less, are on the pitch at a time, and there are 11 players on each team. These high school games involve 1 inning, which is 1 round of batting per team. There are things like overs and such, but I could spend another page or 2 talking about cricket, so I’ll just gloss over the rest.
The fielding team needs to get 10 outs to begin batting, and each bowler can only bowl a certain number of times. The ball is quite like a baseball, but harder and fielders don’t have any gloves to catch the ball with. They must use their bare hands. Any ground hit that goes out of bounds counts as 4 runs, and any “Home run” style hit that goes out of bounds without bouncing scores 6 runs, but the batsmen don’t leave to switch with another until they are out. The batsmen keep their bats with them and also wear padding, unlike in baseball. Why the game’s called cricket, I don’t know and neither does anyone I spoke to. It’s a mysterious game, and it’s also at most moderately interesting to watch, and games last a long long time (4 hours at least for local games, international test matches are always 5 days).
So, you have managed to reach the end of the post. I applaud you for your patience in reading this really long post, but just to make sure, if you leave a comment, add an asterisk or other unusual symbol to the beginning of the comment to prove to the world that you had the patience to read through this. It’s not like I don’t expect you guys to read the whole thing, it’s just that I’d like to know people are reading all of the adventures that I’ve had while I am here. Once again, I applaud you for your patience, and thank you for reading this post.
A little bit of funny things about this post, I started out typing it in Microsoft Word, and it reached 7 pages, and is over 4,500 words! Take that, usual English exam essay requirements! And some Allderdice students think that a 700-word essay is long, ha!
Friday, October 10, 2008
In essence, I've had to switch families. It's not because of anything that had to do with me, there was just an unrelated incident that happened, and it was better for me to have left for a while (hopefully temporarily) to make things easier. As to what the incident was, that's something that is to be kept private. It had nothing to do with bad relations between me and the Kellys though, so don't worry about that. But as for what has happened since this occurred, it's a small story.
I first started out going to the house of Jenni Taylor, the support coordinator. I wasn't going to stay there for a long time, sicne there were some things that they had to do involving going to the south island, and even though I'm on school holiday, they would've gotten back on the day before school started again, and there's a meeting on Sunday as well. Basically, after a while, I had to switch again. Now I'm writing this post from the house of the Gibson family, which is the third family I've been staying with, though I'll be leaving them soon as well to go back to the Taylors' house. As for when I am going to get back to the Kellys, I don't know. If I return at all, it won't be for a while, at least I won't be returning for very long. If there's a time that the family that I'm with is going somewhere that I can't go as well, and if it's on the weekend, then I might be heading to the Kellys' for the weekend. I know it won't happen next weekend, because of a ski trip that will be going on, but it might happen some time afterward. This situation actually kind of reminds me of my situation at home, with divorced parents and all, just a bit different...heh.
It seems that within this upcoming fourth term of the school year, things will be pretty hectic, and not just because of studying for exams... My family situation is unclear, but I'll have to endure it whatever happens. Personally, I hope things end up good for the Kellys, because I'd quite like to be back with them. They're a really good family, and it'll be hard to keep adjusting to different families after having been with them for over a month. They were the people who helped me get used to life here in New Zealand, and I haven't gotten to do a whole lot of stuff with them because of things going on with work, school and such, and I was hoping to do things with them over the Christmas holiday and such. Of course, if fate has different plans, then so be it. I just hope I can come back to them someday before this exchange is over. And I don't mean for a few days only then leaving again, I mean I'm hoping I can come back and live with them again. Permanently.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
There are a large amount of shops, as well as a full grocery store on the first floor, and a quite good food court on the second floor. The restaurants or other food booths that they have up there are... McDonalds, Subway, Pronto Pasts(never heard of it), some Thai place, Starbucks, this citrus shake or something place, and my 2 favorites: Umi Sushi and the Gelatopia. Why are those my favorites? let's see here... The gelatopia has really good gelato with quite a few different flavors, and a small cup of it which is still a nice size costs the equivalent of around, say...2 american dollars. But the best place is Umi. They always have fresh sushi out every day, and you pick out what you want with tongs, put it in a little plastic container, pay, and enjoy. The various types of sushi cost anything from 1.30-1.90 NZ, which is...say...80-1.20 american or something...I'm probably quite wrong, I'm terrible with exchange rates. Still, it costs a little more per piece than what you'd maybe find at Sakura or any other japanese place in America, but the quality and SIZE of the sushi makes up for it. Take a look...
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
The Takiyama University is a team that isn't part of the WRC and usually doesn't do very well, but they have something that many people like to see. It's called the Ghost Service. I only took around 2 minutes of video since the entire thing would be a half an hour, and we were also called back to our posts soon after.
The link to the video since it won't seem to upload is here.
The next good thing that I saw at the rally site were the remote controlled cars. While it may seem like something that wouldn't be very interesting, these things ran on internal combustion engines using gasoline! This allowed them to get some pretty good jumps, like in the video I took...
Yeah, it was rainy, so it wasn't perfect... but still. The main other thing that was good about the rally was seeing the final stage of the rally at Mystery Creek, where I got to see...
Yeah, I've never seen a car jump before, so, yeah. I thought it was pretty awesome. Anyway, after I finally finish this school week, I'll post about that too.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Anyway, the day after I made that long post I had to get up at 4:45 AM to take care of some annoying business known as flying to Los Angeles at 8:00 in the morning. On the way there I went through about half of a 60-pack of gum in my boredom. After getting in LA I heard from dad that there was another AFSer who was on my flight, but I had no idea she was there. I didn't meet any AFSers before I finally made my way to the Hacienda Hotel. Once there, I had to kill 4 hours since my flight came in at 10 and we had to meet at the hotel at 2. To add insult to injury, AFS didn't allow me to use the hotel pool, and I had to wait for at least 2 other people to arrive to even leave the hotel (in case of injury, one to call for help and one to run back to the hotel). But I eventually got some lunch, had some Starbucks (grande iced mocha 2x vanilla 1x peppermint ftw) and started the lengthy series of orientations. There were 19 people going to Japan for a semester, as well as 3 other New Zealand exchangees, 2 for a semester and 1 other for a year. There was also one person going to Hong Kong for a year, and a guy going to Tasmania for a community service semester. We sat in a room that we were told was on the second floor but ended up being on the first floor. So we sat through a bunch of orientations, had dinner...all that good stuff. The next day, we had a breakfast that gave an entire new meaning to "give us today our daily bread", as it was composed COMPLETELY of pastries and croissants. Afterwards, the Japan students left, leaving 6 people to eat lunch, spend an hour and 15 minutes finding the beach, only to be there for a half-hour and having to come back with all speed.
2 store visits for food later, we are in the airport. We've said goodbye to the AFS helper leading us through the orientations, and we find ourselves waiting for 2 hours to finally get onto the plane for our 14 hour flight to Auckland. While we wait, some snapshots are made just so I can show you guys the 4 of us waiting at LAX.
The left picture is Cory, who doesn't like being put in pictures, so his was a picture I took by
surprise. In the right picture, from left to right, is Adam, Sarah, and me. Cory and I are the ones going for a year, and Sarah and Adam are the semester students.
So we get onto our Qantas plane, and it is awesome! The plane had TV and movies on demand absolutely free, and the meals weren't half bad for an airplane. Throughout the flight, I just couldn't sleep, so I watched Family Guy and The Simpsons a lot. Skip forward about 14 hours...
Fast-forward, everyone's here. After everyone arrives, me, Cameron, Paul, and cameron's friends all go to Hamilton Paintball to...well, play paintball. It's my first time, and I'm quite nervous. It turns out to be quite fun, however, as we go through like 6 different variations. My team wins by a few points, and surprisingly I'm left with no welts whatsoever, even though my left hand seemed to be struck by over half of the shots that hit me. Also I learn that I am way too trigger-happy, as at one point I go through 100 paintballs in about 3 minutes during a game on a speedball (designed for fast games) field. After the game, we all come back and clean ourselves up a bit before dinner. Dinner is roast lamb, potatoes, carrots, and garlic bread. Cameron's friends and I go through the potatoes and bread faster than a California wildfire, and we all talk about various things including the olympics, American politics, and things like that. Next up is the dessert. We have brandy snaps filled with whipped cream (They just taste sweet, not like brandy), neopolitan and strawberry ice cream, and marshmallows. I fill myself up, which turns out to be a bad idea since there was the cake left. It was a chocolate mud cake, and unfortunately I was too full and tired to have any. After that, I finally get the luxury of getting to sleep after having a GIANT day. But it was fun, and that's all that matters. Now, coming up is the new idea of going to school in New Zealand...
Thanks for reading! Oh yeah, and Will?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
While other people have made the path of the exchange program, it is not the most traveled one, and the way I came upon this exchange is quite unique when combined with the kind of person I am and my life here in Pittsburgh before this happened.
As I sit here in my dad's chair typing this since my laptop is packed, I'm thinking about a lot of things. People have asked me as this next day got nearer, "Are you ready?". While the first answer might be "yes", what makes one truly ready? How can you be ready for a completely different country? Does researching every aspect really make one "ready"? The culture could be similar or completely different. I have to get used to a new currency, and I'm still worrying about if my bank card will allow me to get NZ dollars. I have no idea how the people will react to me, whether Maori or Pakeha. I don't know how I'll like my new family (And the 3 month thing has been resolved, it's a standard thing just to make sure you are ready for hosting a student for longer), or how they'll like me. There are so many things that I don't know about, it's hard to say if I'm really "ready". But maybe not being totally ready is quite good, since then I get to experience new things. It's kind of like choosing to play a video game using a strategy guide or not. You can either be prepared for everything that comes at you and know expertly how to deal with it, or perhaps you will take each plot twist as it comes, and enjoy figuring out each new aspect that you learn. Personally, I didn't do a ton of research, as I like finding out the cultural twists and turns as they come, and also if I had looked it up and it happened to be wrong, I would have a harder time adjusting.
Another thing I am thinking about is that people are saying I will change throughout this program. While everyone's saying that the change is good, some things still worry me. Will I not like things that I used to like, or find newfound enemies in old friends? That is the one true thing I am afraid of throughout this journey, with the exception of contracting some deadly disease or being badly or mortally wounded in some way. As I am in New Zealand, will I pick up things that I would not want to pick up? Will I find out that what I think about my own self-control and conscience won't be enough to resist certain things? There are just so many things that I'm worrying about that I probably shouldn't have to. This experience is totally new, and I'm hoping that it will turn out to be a fantastic one, with only a small amount of problems.
One final thing I'm thinking about is school. I'm going to be hopping in in the middle of the second semester, and I have no idea what will happen relating to my grades, or my home GPA. I've heard that I might have to take summer school or redo a year. Personally, that's the one thing at home that I'm scared about the most. I wouldn't mind taking summer school, but most of my friends are in higher grades or in the same grade as me. If I have to redo a year, I won't have nearly as much contact with them during the school days as I did before, and another year of school just wouldn't be too fun for me in general.
Well it's time that I finally went to sleep for the last time in my hometown for a long time. I'd like to thank everyone who is reading this, and ask them to keep following my adventures as I go into this completely different world. I'd also like to thank my family for helping make this possible as well as helping me along to reach this new path, and also I'd like to thank my friends who have supported me on my way to New Zealand. Even though some of them may have not wanted me to go, they still stayed with me anyway with my friends who agreed, and that is why they are all true friends of mine.
Now in the words of journalist Edward R. Murrow:
"Good Night, and Good Luck."
Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Anyway, I'm still hoping I get something of any sort soon, because I'm now starting to contemplate packing, since I have to carefully plan out what I need and other things like that...you know, basic packing, just instead of a week-long vacation, I'm going to a place that I'll be living in for an entire year...yeah, only that small difference... And I really hope they have internet access where I'm going...
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Why "almost" in the title? Well, that'd be because I have this retainer on top, and I have another small bottom retainer that stays permanently. But at least it's better than having some really really annoying brackets poking me.
Monday, June 16, 2008
"I've asked the Travel Department for confirmation of Andy's Travel,and hope to hear back soon. I will let you know about this. Regarding his hostfamily, AFS-New Zealand is currently exploring various options for his placement, and I will let you know when they are able to tell us more."
Ok...let me get this straight...
I was one of the earliest people to get my application in or so they said, thanks to the fact I was first trying to get to Japan. Other people in my New Zealand group have gotten families, departure dates, all that stuff. I was one of the EARLIEST people to apply, and yet I have...NOTHING??? What is going on here!??!?!?! I mean, I understand things can be kind of hard, but if they're hard, then why are other people in my group getting things, while I have NOTHING AT ALL?? I just hope this gets better at some point, and I hope that "some point" is before the end of June. I don't want to make my parents spend another $2000 just because AFS never got my departure info to me.
In short, I'm still in the dark. That was my rant for today, thanks for reading.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Ok, that's my usual AFS rant for the day...
W00t for summer vacation!