Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Heck of a first day...

Well, I've made it! I'm finally here in New Zealand! But before I actually get into the interesting things like my family, you have to read about how I went through a giant sequence of orientations while in LA! But don't worry, it won't be too long, hehehe...

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...

I arrive in Auckland. I make my way through customs with the other 3 suprisingly fast. There we find an AFS volunteer waiting for us. I get myself an iced chocolate at a coffee shop, and after my 3 friends leave, I get a ride hired by the volunteer to my house in Hamilton. Now, it's 5:00 in the morning in Hamilton, and I have an entire day ahead of me. I meet the members of the Kelly family: Paul, the father; Rosemary, the mother; Deb, the 23-year-old daughter heading to America in 4 weeks; Cameron, the just-turned-21-year-old son; and Annalise, the 14-year-old daughter. Since it's Cameron's birthday, I help out a bit with cleaning up a few things, as well as slicing up a pumpkin with some difficulty. Cameron and I play Soul Calibur 4 on his Xbox 360 while we wait for his friends to arrive...

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

The Night Before...

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." -Harold R. McAlindon
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

I've gotten a family, but something seems strange...

That's right! I've got a family! It's a family of 5 named the Kellys! I've got 2 parents named Paul and Rosemary, as well as 3 siblings, a younger sister named Annalise, an older brother Cameron, and an older sister Deborah! This means that I'M HEADING TO NEW ZEALAND!!! Although, something doesn't seem quite right... on the form that they sent me about the family, they said the Kellys would host me for 3 months... so after those 3, what happens to the other 9 that my parents paid for? Both parents are wondering about this, and I'm hoping we get an answer soon...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Extremely long flights....hmmm

NEWS!!! I've finally managed to find out about my flight from Los Angeles to New Zealand!....and it's a freaking 6800 MILES ACROSS THE PACIFIC OCEAN!!! Wow, that's close to 3 times as long as my flight from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles! Looks like I've got some thinking about what time-killers to bring on the flight....hmmmm, this should be quite interesting. I doubt 5 books will last the entire 9000 miles...but also, this new info must mean I'll be getting a family soon, I hope... But hey, I've gotta find out sometime, right?