Thankfulness

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I could not be more thankful for all of the absolutely amazing experiences, people, and knowledge I have soaked up the last couple of months. I am greatly going to miss the country of New Zealand, the amazing vistas, the accents, the weekly tramping outings and all of my great friends who are now spread across the world like marbles in the middle of a Chinese checkers game. (If any of you ever want to go tramping anywhere in the U.S. let me know and I will find a way to join you!)

However, I am also thankful for traveling back to my home. There is nothing else in the world that can quite fill that space in my heart.

I have only been home for a couple of hours, but I already have a growing list of all the things I am grateful for after being away for so long.

Studying abroad did not only open my eyes to new cultures, experiences, and thoughts of the world, but it reopened my eyes to enjoy the little things I would normally take for granted without even thinking about it.

Returning home, I’m grateful for:

  • Family dinners. Getting to hug my family and talk to them in person.
  • My dog. Getting to see the smile on his face, pet his fur, and take him on walks

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  • Lightening bugs. Just sitting outside my backyard and watching hundreds of them put on a little firework show. It is a magnificent sight that I would normally take for granted and hardly even realize they are there
  • The smells of summer. Yes, summer does have a smell, but most people don’t get to smell the sweetness of it. This is because there is a slow change from spring to summer, so most people’s noses don’t pick up on the new smells because they come slowly and allow one’s nose to become use the smells. However, since I came straight from winter, the smells hit me like a train.
  • Humidity and Heat. Yea, normally I would probably think the humidity is annoying, but it feels absolutely wonderful after coming from months and months and even more months of winter
  • Birds singing in the morning. I heard birds every now and then in New Zealand, but they were mostly seagulls which do not sing, they squawk. The singing was music to my ears.
  • Chicago style pizza. Lots of cheese and lots of sauce. The way pizza should be made
  • The rainbow of colors from the flowers my mom planted in the yard

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  • The smell of a pool
  • Warm weather. Oh how wonderful it is not have to wear four layers of clothing, plus a winter coat, and hat to stay warm in my house
  • Summer rainstorms. They come and go quickly and the rain is warm unlike the rainstorms in New Zealand which literally last for days without stopping and the rain is ice cold because it comes from the South Pole
  • Bullfrogs singing at night and the crickets gently chirping outside of my bedroom window
  • The hominess of my house and the bright green grass filling my back and front yards
  • Pedestrians having the right of way when crossing streets. Instead of cars flying down the street to try and hit me, they actually stopped and waved me on to cross. Oh, how polite!
  • All of the extra sunlight! The sun rises about two hours earlier in the morning and it is past 9pm at night and it still has not set! My amount of daylight I get per day just about doubled

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Power of a Postcard

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The post is something that is used more infrequently each day as there are more technological advancements. Most times the only thing one receives in the mail are advertisements for you to go and spend money or bills for you to go and pay money. It is quicker, cheaper, and more convenient to send information through email or some other social network. However, the note just does not feel the same or as meaningful when you are reading it through the screen of a computer.

I remember running to the mailbox on my birthday in the past, anxiously awaiting birthday cards from my family (because that was basically the only time I got mail). So now, when the surprise postcard or letter arrives, not even on my birthday, it is a huge gift. It is like receiving little Christmas gifts throughout the year. I know the person who sent it actually spent the time to think about what they are writing and I get to see their unique handwriting. The letter means that much more to me. It is an instant way to put a smile on my face because it is a true surprise.

The frequent postcards I have been getting from my grandparents and the special letter I find in my mail box every now and then from my sister have been a joy to read and have made my study abroad experience even better. It is a wonderful reminder that I have people who love me and gives me a reason to want to go back home.

I am Addicted

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I’m addicted to sleeping out in the cold, laying on the soft grass inside of tent, and figuring out the best way to bundle up to stay warm

I’m addicted to seeing great mountain peaks off in the distance and then climbing them

I’m addicted to smelling the fresh air blowing off the ocean

I’m addicted to Tim-Tams

I’m addicted to heaving a pack onto my back and carrying everything I need inside to survive

I’m addicted to waking up early just to see the sunrise

I’m addicted to taking walks with friends along the harbor

I’m addicted to eating crackers, venison salami, edam cheese, and apple slice sandwiches on top of a ridge

I’m addicted to star-tripping

I’m addicted to traveling

I’m addicted to being forced away from the Internet, Facebook, and phones – allowing myself to truly enjoy the company of those around me

I’m addicted to New Zealand

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Two Rounds of Roy’s Peak in one day? Sure, why not

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Was I crazy? I asked a lady at the backpacker what the weather forecast was supposed to be for the day and the answer I got was “cloudy and rainy…for the next week…” That was the unfortunate news I was expecting because I had been checking the weather daily for the past couple of days. I was hoping it had magically changed to sun and cloudless skies. No such luck.

 My original plan for the day was to hike Roy’s Peak. I had traveled to Wanaka for the second time, wanting to do the same hike that I had planned to do once before. The last time I was here I had to forego the hike because of terrible weather conditions. This was my last chance, probably ever, to do it. Should I just take this as a sign that it was not meant to be, give up, and move on? If I was going to be hiking in a giant cloud all day it would not be worth it anyway.

I decided to go for it. Why not.  It was what I went there to do.

I started off by walking straight into a cloud. If you haven’t had that experience, it is not all that exciting. Basically, all you can see is white all around you. I could maybe see the landscape 20 feet in front of me, and from that point onward everything looked white. If you would have told me there were mountains beyond the white wall, I would not have believed you. Even with the dismal weather, I decided to stick with a positive attitude. At least I would get to see the native bush up close as I walked. That could be cool too. I even ended up getting to see some really neat birds.

However, after about an hour of climbing I began to walk above the clouds. Oh, what a sight! Even the small amount of blue sky I saw at first lifted my spirits. Since I was now above a layer of clouds I felt like I was walking at the same altitude that planes fly at (even though my mind was playing tricks because actually the clouds were just hanging quite low).

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Having the clouds surrounding me and blocking out the views at first was a blessing in disguise because it really made me take in and not take for granted what I was seeing once they cleared.

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After three hours of walking up a non-stop, uphill-slanted track, breathing in the fresh mountain air, enjoying the fabulous mountains surrounding me on all sides, walking along the trail with some cows right by my side, but not another human in sight, and making a snowman, I made it to the very tip top. Just in time for lunch. It was a surreal lunchtime experience.

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(My view during lunch)

I had told my Grandma that I would meet up with her four hours after I began. Most people do the hike in 6-7 hours, but for some reason I thought it would not be too hard to get done in four. I was about halfway back down when I decided to stop to have a snack. I whipped my backpack off of my back and to my horror I found my backpack had come unzipped. I am still befuddled has to how it happened because I had not opened that pocket all day. Yet, there it was, totally open. And my wallet and phone were no longer there. Shoot. “Aw man, this is not good!” is all I could keep thinking. I only had one choice but to hike back up the steep slope. But my Grandma would be waiting. I had to make it back down in four hours because I did not want her to worry. After quickly scouring the ground, I had no luck in finding either my wallet or phone. Dense tussock was on either side of the track and if either my wallet or phone bounced out of my backpack into the tall grass, there was no way I would find it. My last hope was that I misremembered putting it in my backpack, when actually it was sitting peacefully waiting for me in the car. Oh, please let that be the case!

It turns out that I actually made it back before my Grandma did, so instead of her worrying about me, I got to worry about her accidently driving on the right side (which here is the wrong side) of the road and getting into a car crash. When she finally arrived the first thought I had was, “Thank goodness, she is ok!” but then I instantly thought of my lost wallet. I jumped up and swiftly searched the car. No sign of either my wallet or phone. This was not good.

I decided to go to the police office in town to let them know I had lost my wallet and to give them contact information for if any kind hiker turned it in later that afternoon. Turns out Wanaka must not have crime or problems on the weekend because the office is closed. Wanaka must be a wonderful place to live!

So back to Rob Roy I went. Round two. Looks like I would get to hike this mountain twice after all. It’s a wonderful hike, and I would recommend it, but not twice in one day. My legs were definitely feeling it.

Looking on the bright side, the fog had now cleared off of the lake, so now I had beautiful views of the lake which I had not been able to see earlier.

There were only a few people doing the trail today, but as I passed each one, now coming back down the mountain, I asked if they had seen either a wallet or phone. None of them had. Since the sun sets around 5:30pm now I was running out of day light. I was also tired and sore. But, I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich to eat. At least that was delicious.

I met another couple making their way back down. I had basically started the hike in the morning with them and I knew they were planning on hiking to the summit. They were my last hope. Oh please let them have found it! The man reached into his coat and he pulled out my wallet! Hallelujah! I ran up and hugged him I was so happy. I guess this makes up for me finding a girl’s lost Iphone on a trail that she had lost two weeks prior to me finding it. Karma is not always bad.

My little blue new Zealand phone decided to have an adventure of its own. It must have gone careening off into the tussock. Maybe it wanted to spend more time playing in the snow or maybe the views of the mountains were what it wanted to spend the rest of its little life looking at instead of the inside of my pocket or backpack. Totally understandable.

What a day! You could say I was relieved, exhausted, and thankful by the end of it.

 

 

 

 

 

You Know it is “Summer” in Dunedin when:

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  • You can see your breath inside of your house
  • The sun never seems to rise because it is dark and cloudy all day
  • When you walk outside of your flat it is actually no colder than inside – they are both frigid
  • You have to wear underarmor, a sweatshirt, sweatpants, winter coat, hat, gloves, and wool socks to stay warm inside of your flat
  • Your tea stays warm for about 5 minutes and then it is cold
  • Everyone around you is sneezing and coughing
  • You try and think of things you can cook that use the oven in order to heat up one small room of the flat
  • You sleep in your sleeping bag under all of your normal covers of the bed to stay warm at night
  • you open the refrigerator and you’re not sure if the refrigerator is broken because the inside of it feels the same as the temperature of the room
  • You fill a water bottle with warm water and stick it inside of your clothes to help generate some body heat

“Left Side, Strong Side”

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There have been many lifetime experiences I have gotten to check off my New Zealand bucket list while I have been here. I definitely came with a go-get-em’ attitude in order to try as many new things as I possibly could.

 

When I arrived to New Zealand at 5am in the morning and jumped on a bus to get my very first day started in Auckland, I thought it was the strangest feeling to ride in a bus on the left side of the road. Yea, I was just riding along and it was still a mind-boggling experience. Although I would test out just about any other experience, I decided there was no way I was going to drive. It was too strange. I was sure it would not be safe for me or, more importantly, other drivers and pedestrians.

 

However, after months of living here and going on countless road trips, I began to get used to the driver driving on the left side. It actually seemed really normal. Did I actually used to drive on the right? Now that seems weird. I was ready to take the wheel!

 

I finally had my chance. I took a trip through the rainforests of New Zealand on the west coast. I drove in the city. I drove in the pouring down rain through the pitch black night. I drove during the pouring down rain during the day (which caused the windows in the car to fog up so bad that I really could not see out of any of them). I drove over countless one lane bridges, making sure to give way when I was supposed to (because why build two lane bridges?). I drove through the mountains. I drove on the extremely windy roads throughout New Zealand and it felt a bit like I was living a video game. And I did it all without hitting anyone or anything.

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Who has the best Grandma ever? Easy answer. Me.

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When I found out my Grandma was going to travel all the way from Illinois to visit me in New Zealand, you could say I was ecstatic. Not many Grandmas would make that journey. I don’t know of any others. But mine? She isn’t like other Grandmas.

 

Not only did she travel all the way here, but she agreed to go on multiple hikes with me. I decided to take her to the west coast to see the rainforests, glaciers, mountains, lakes, and all around beautiful landscapes. Unfortunately, the weather decided it wanted to rain – for two entire days without stopping. Hiking is what you do in New Zealand, so even if it rains, you just have to kind of ignore that fact and hike anyway. My Grandma stuck with this attitude and hiked through the pouring down rain with me. Her “waterproof” jacket and pants turned out to not be waterproof after being drenched in that amount of water, so she was soaked. But did she complain? Nope. Because she is one amazing Grandma. However, she did want to make sure to let everyone know she about drowned in the rain. “I’ve never seen that much rain before!” To hopefully make everything better I had her try a Tim-Tam. Yep, that seemed to do the trick. Plus, it is sure to be an experience she does not forget!Image