24 October 2008

Ask Sarah Contd.

Question 3
Hi Sarah, I am in the World View Course on Globalization. I have hundreds of questions, but one on a personal level. What are some of the major religions in New Zealand and how have they influenced the customs you are learning about? Thank you Sarah.

Bridget L. Grady
Assistant Principal, Sand Ridge Elementary

Amazingly Insightful Answer 3
Hi Bridget,

As I'm sure you are aware, the role religion plays can vary wildly from nation to nation. Whether it is a central, driving factor influencing all aspects of life or more of individualized choice of lifestyle, the religion of a country helps define and shape a nation's culture. As far as New Zealand goes, religion seems to fall in the latter category. While Christianity is, technically, the predominant religion (see demographic breakdown below, courtey of the World Factbook), it doesn't seem to hold a major place in public life (obviously it may for particular individuals, however). The attitude here is very much one of "live and let live." New Zealand is very good about making sure everyone has the chance to live the life they want, unfettered and without discrimination. However, the "let live" part is also fiercely protected. Yes, you can live how you want, but your life choices are not allowed to be impressed upon others or affect their life in any way. It's very much a keep it in your own backyard type of thing. Really, it's not much different from the US in that way. They just don't have a Constitution spelling it out; it's something that's intrinsically understood.

CIA World Factbook NZ Religion breakdown: Anglican 14.9%, Roman Catholic 12.4%, Presbyterian 10.9%, Methodist 2.9%, Pentecostal 1.7%, Baptist 1.3%, other Christian 9.4%, other 3.3%, unspecified 17.2%, none 26% (2001 census)

21 October 2008

Ask Sarah Contd.

Question 2
I hear in New Zealand sheep out number people 3 to 1. Is this true? Have you had any encounters with sheep? Are they roaming through the neighborhoods like stray dogs or only seen on farms in certain areas of the country? :)
Thanks, Tara

Amazingly Insightful Answer 2:

Actually Tara, there are approximately TEN sheep for every one Kiwi here in Aotearoa. (I personally believe all those wooly creatures are secretly plotting to overthrow the nation. They are just waiting for when the time is right...)

Funny story, when I arrived in the country back in February, I remember excitedly asking my Rotary host counselor if and when would I get to pet a sheep. He gave me a slightly confused look and said....um, sure....haven't you ever been up close to a sheep before? To which I responded, well I saw one in a zoo one time...About five minutes later, after he had finished laughing hysterically at the thought of someone paying to see a sheep in a zoo (those crazy Americans), he took me to see a farmer friend of his, who (after also laughing at the whole sheep/zoo thing) not only let me pet his sheep, but gave me a fully detailed lesson on the twenty four different species of NZ sheep, carefully explaining which type was good for meat, which for wool, which were hardier, which were really, really dumb, and so on. I have yet to try my hand at shearing a sheep, but it's definitely on my must-do list!

As far as roving bands of stray sheep, it's not like you wake up in the morning to find several outside your door munching on your garbage (at least not in metropolitan areas...). But in the more rural areas of the country, it's not uncommon to see houses with two or three sheep in their yards, sort of like pets; and naturally there are the large farms with mass numbers of them.

Driving through the country side, it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll see PLENTY of sheep in pastures more or less the entire journey. And there's a good chance that at some point you'll encounter a herd being shifted, which looks like this:

I'd have to say this sort of traffic jam is infinitely more interesting than sitting stuck on I-95--watching those sheep dogs in action is truly fascinating, and you don't have to worry about road-raged psychos rear-ending you.

20 October 2008

Ask Sarah

Kia Ora once again everyone! To change things up a bit, rather than rambling on about my general state of existence I'm going to be answering questions posed by teachers from across the great state of North Carolina. As I tend to be long-winded and want to answer the questions as fully as possible, I'll be tackling one or two a day for the next week--and hopefully the gut-wrenching anticipation of what pearls of wisdom will be offered next will keep you coming back for more. So here we go!

Question 1

I've enjoyed reading your posts and used your experiences to expand and deepen my knowledge of New Zealand.

My high school hosts several exchange students each year. Our students also participate in semester and year-long study abroad programs. A common problem for both groups is culture shock, when they arrive in the host country and also when they re-enter their own culture. How did you prepare for culture shock? Can you post some tips that will make transition to a new culture easier for students planning to study abroad?


Ron Thomas,
International Baccalaureate Coordinator
Myers Park High School
Charlotte, North Carolina

Amazingly Insightful Answer 1:

Thanks Ron, hopefully my posts have provided you with both amusement and information. As far as preparing for culture shock, really the only thing you can do is accept the fact that it's going to happen, and that you can't really prepare for it. It certainly helps to know as much about your host country as possible before arriving; but ultimately no encyclopedia or travel book can really convey the feel for a culture.

Culture shock can come in any crazy combination of confusion, excitement, disbelief, amazement, fear, depression...you name it, you'll get hit with it. But when you experience these emotions--and EVERYONE does--I've found the best way to deal is to simply recognize them for what they are, and just tell yourself over and over again they are only temporary and all part of the process.

Something I found to be incredibly helpful in dealing with crazy culture-shock moments is to find a place in your host city--like a beautiful courtyard, comfy cafe, a shady spot in a park, etc.--that for whatever reason really resonates with you and makes you feel truly comfortable and secure. Make this spot "your place" of retreat and solace. Personalizing a small piece of your new city helps you to feel more connected and "at home,"and little less like a clueless visitor in a strange new land.

Talking to a friend or family member back home on a regular basis is also a great way to ground yourself and help assuage any feelings of being "lost at sea." Sharing your new observations and experiences with loved ones is an excellent way to better understand and appreciate the complexities of the culture in which you are participating.

Lastly, I personally believe the culture shock period is one of the most invaluable parts of a study abroad journey. It's the time when you really come to terms with the fact that your way of life is NOT the only one out there, and it's when you start to realize all the little things in your life and even your thought processes that you didn't even know could be different or culturally influenced--something I've found to be one of the most rewarding parts of living in a different country.
So while it may be a really difficult period in your time abroad, just try and remember that you're going to come out of it a better, wiser, more appreciative person.

Hopefully all or at least parts of this will be helpful to anyone lucky enough to embark on a study abroad adventure. Stay tuned, as there are more questions and answers to come! Cheers!