10 April 2008

Living the Life

Greetings everyone! (Or Kia Ora as they say here in the "land of the long white cloud.") Before I share some of the amazing adventures I’ve had so far in my time as a Rotary Ambassadorial scholar, I want to say thank you to World View for allowing me this opportunity, and to you readers for taking the time listen to (or read, technically) my ramblings. So let’s get started!

For the past two months, I’ve been living waaaay down on the opposite side of the planet in Dunedin, New Zealand. And when I say way down, I mean way, WAY down. Dunedin (pronounced duh-NEE-din) is almost at the very bottom of the NZ’s south island, right on the eastern coast. It’s far enough south that there are penguins along the beach, year round. But surprisingly, it isn’t very cold. (Except for the water; if you want to get in, you’d better have a wetsuit!)

The city has about 110,000 people—over one third of which are students—and one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever had the privilege to call home. With its rolling green hills, brightly colored houses, and the beautiful coastline, Dunedin has the environment to suite any taste, all rolled into one vibrant city.

As far as daily life goes, NZ culture is a fascinating mixture of contrasts and similarities to that of the U.S. For example, I still have the option of eating at Subway or McDonalds; shopping at K-mart or Office Max; and catching the latest episode of American Idol. However, I had to figure out that "jandals" = flip flops and "togs" = bathing suit; learn to drive on the left side of the road; and get used to seeing people walk anywhere and everywhere barefoot (I suppose that comes from the strong surfing culture…).

And of course I had to grow accustomed to seeing sheep. Tons of them. Everywhere. My host counselors had quite a laugh when I told them that the only sheep I’d ever seen were in a zoo. But I suppose I’d find that funny too, had I grown up in a place that has more of the wooly animals than people.

While I’ve only been an honorary Kiwi for short time, I’ve had more new experiences than I can count! Surfing at a beach surrounded by rocky cliffs, tramping (the Kiwi word for hiking) through lush forests serenaded by the many native birds, paragliding off a mountainside, careening down a canyon river in high speed jet boat—the list goes on and on. And I’ve barely brushed the surface of all New Zealand has to offer. From glaciers to volcanoes to sprawling vineyards, the variety of adventure in this incredible country is endless.

So I don’t bog you down right out of the gate with a super-long blog, I’ll save the details of my favorite experiences thus far for my next post (which will hopefully give you a reason to come back!). Please, please feel free to respond with any comments or questions you may have about my life here or about the blog in general; I would love to get a good dialogue going! Thanks so much for reading, and check back soon! Cheers!


Caroline said...

Paragliding and Penguins? Is this heaven?

Sarah said...

Oh it is, it is. There are sea lions and seals too, that turn up on the beaches randomly. Can't beat that.