Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Greymouth, NZ

After a long week of registration, dorm food, and adjusting to life at Uni, we decided to take a weekend trip to Greymouth, NZ, which is on the west coast.  Thursday night we booked tickets for the TransAlpine train and reserved rooms for 2 nights at a hostel in Greymouth.  Friday morning 11 of us headed to the bus stop on campus in the rain at 6:30am in order to get to the train station in Christchurch by 8:15am.  We were right next to the food cart, so 5 of us ordered a good ol' New Zealand Meat Pie.  It rained for most of the ride, but it was beautiful as we traveled through Arthur's Pass.  We got to get off of the train for about 5 minutes while we were in Arthur's Pass.
There was an outlook car that you could go to to get some fresh air and have a better view than through the rain-streaked windows.
When we got to Greymouth, we walked to our hostel, which was on the edge of town, dropped our packs, and went on a search for some fish and chips!  We met 3 other people from Lincoln Uni who had arrived the day before, so they led us to a local pizzeria for fish and chips! 
We went into a store to buy our bust tickets for the way back (the bus is much cheaper than the train) and came across this sign!  Lake Brunner is probably 20 km out of Greymouth, so we didn't manage to go, but there was a lot of publicity for it!
Since we were already soaked from head to toe from walking around town, we decided to go on an afternoon hike.
We stopped by our hostel, dropped off some of our wet clothes, and headed to go on another hike before dark.  We got to walk through a nice residential area where everyone's yards are perfectly manicured and the houses are small and cute.  
After the hike, we found ourselves at the beach!  It was all pebbles and the waves and wind were really strong.  This was the Tasman Sea.
Once we got back to the hostel, we took showers, changed into some warm, dry clothes, and had a feast of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
On Saturday, we took a short morning hike and then Sarah, Hannah, and I walked around Greymouth, bought jade necklaces (Greymouth is the jade capital of New Zealand!) and stopped into a little coffee shop for some delicious hot chocolate!  We walked along this street on our way back to the hostel!  It's "Brunner Street!"
Around 1pm, we all met back at the hostel and biked 7km to our next trailhead. (Our hostel provided free bikes and kayaks, but the river was too high since it was's always raining.)  As we biked in the rain, we saw the pebble beach and crashing waves to our left and the lush mountains spotted with sheep, cows, and horses on our right. 
We hiked through the mountainous rainforest...
and a field of huge yucca-looking plants and 2 hours later found ourselves on the other side of the mountain in a little beach town!  We got some refreshments at a local pub and watched the beach for a while before we decided to make our way back over the mountain and to our bikes. 
That evening, we made a large dinner of rice, steamed broccoli, stir-fried vegetables, and different flavors of tuna from a box.  While half of our group cleaned up the dishes, Jen, Sarah, and I ran to the grocery to get some ice cream and we all watched Ocean's 11 in the little movie room at the hostel with cups of chocolate ice cream, popcorn, and kiwi-filled chocolate bars.
We woke up sunday and hopped on the West Coast Shuttle at 7:30am.  The scenery was just as beautiful as it was on the train, however, since the rain was letting up, we got to see rainbows and double rainbows embracing the mountain side!  

We also saw the spot where the last battle in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe takes place.

When we got back into Lincoln, the sun had finally broken through the clouds (this was the first time since we had arrived in New Zealand that it was a little bit sunny!) so we grabbed our swimsuits and got back on the bus to spend a calm afternoon at Sumner Beach (on the edge of Christchurch) before classes started the next morning.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Last Day of Sydney

On our last day in Sydney, we woke up and went to The Anglican Parish of Christ Church St. Laurence, which was the church right next door to our hostel.  This church was beautiful, and the guest preacher was Fr Graeme Lawrence.  After the service, there was a little reception, so we walked over a little courtyard path squeezed between the two buildings and we entered a room with a book sale, tea, and little cakes!  Everyone was extremely friendly, asking us where we were from, what we were doing, and where we were going.  Of course, some cringed playfully when we told them we were spending the semester in New Zealand (there's a bit of a rivalry there), but they told us wonderful things about it nevertheless.  One man we met had actually grown up in a small town in Missouri and moved to Australia later in life!  What a small world.  We spoke to a nice lady for a while who told us how this church is the only church in Sydney that still values such traditional services and that it has the best choir in the city, and maybe in all of Australia!  She rushed us outside so we could catch the choir processing around the block (in the rain) to enter the church and sing for High Mass.  It was a beautiful tradition and we stepped into the service to listen for a bit as their voices echoed in the sanctuary.  This was definitely one of the highlights of the Sydney trip, particularly getting to meet such wonderful people!
On our way to the bus station, we stepped into a huge market that has a huge variety of goods from australian memorabilia, to underwear, to watches, to purses, to mixed nuts, to produce!  We bought fresh pears, grapes, a mango, and strawberries for a picnic and then hopped on the bus to go to Bondi Beach.  It stopped raining when we arrived, so we got to walk along the shore and avoid stepping on the many many baby jellyfish scattered around.  Mandi and I looked for seashells but there weren't ANY!  There was a South American Festival going on and a surfer rescue relay.  When we got back to Circular Quay, we walked toward the Harbor Bridge and found ourselves in The Rocks, wandering through an arts and crafts fair where we bought delicious buttery salted corn on a stick.  We walked up some stairs and finally found the beginning of the Harbor Bridge so we could walk over it.  We ran into some other Americans from California who were climbing the bridge, but it takes about 3 hours and I think they had to pay for it.
Back at the subway station, we bought some gelato, I got carmel creme, and we bought some wine for the evening, and hopped onto the subway.  The night before, we found out that many restaurants are BYOB so there wasn't a beverage list to order from at the Thai place.  Since this was the case, we figured we'd buy our own wine and it'd be easy to find another restaurant with the same policy.  Turns out, the Thai place was rare because we walked all over with our wine trying to find another BYOB restaurant.  Finally we stopped at a Japanese place who let us in with our own wine.  I had the white, which still tasted bad, but oh well. We ordered edamame and teriyaki chicken to share.
Yet another long, but great, day in Sydney!  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Valentine's Day in Sydney

Saturday morning we woke up and had breakfast together in the kitchen, and man was that Berry Basket yogurt delicious!  The 7 of us headed down Pitt Street and bought tickets for the subway so we could get to Circular Quay (the part of the city with the harbor, opera house, and ferries).  
We bought tickets for the ferry and floated along to the Taronga Zoo!  On the ferry, we had an incredible view of the Opera House, Harbor Bridge, city skyline, and the sailboats all around us.
We got to the zoo and paid to get a lift to the top of the mountain so we could work our way down as we saw all of the animals.  The lift was like a ski lift but had pods for you to sit in so you could see all around you: the animals and lush greenery below and the ocean and cityscape the opposite direction.
Right off of the lift were koala's! You could pay $20 to get a picture of them, but we decided to view them from afar.
We also got to go into an area full of kangaroo's and an emu!  The kangaroo's would hop across the path and I got to pet one before it hopped away!
 We saw the elephants, birds, tigers, lions, hippos, flying squirrels, giraffes, and more! 

At 2pm we went to the seal show.
After the zoo, we walked over to the Opera House to see if there were any cheap student tickets for that weekend, but they were sold out, so we walked around the inside a bit.  The whole structure is made of concrete and the outside looks like white tile.
We took the subway back to our hostel, got cleaned up, and went out for our Valentine's dinner in the rain.  We found a thai restaurant and got to sit in the back corner so we could see all that was going on in the hip hopping restaurant.  I ordered Yellow Curry which was delicious, Hannah and Sarah ordered octopus dishes, and we all ate with chopsticks!

After dinner, we stopped by a convenience store for some Valentine's Day chocolate and more breakfast food and then headed back to the hostel in the rain.  Once at the hostel, we hung out at the Side Bar, which was the bar in the basement of our hostel.  Erin and I split a white russian, which was better than the sparkling wine the night before, but still nasty.
I hope all is well!  Until next time, cheers!

Sydney Day 1

While in Sydney, we stayed in the Wake Up! Hostel.  It rained the whole time, but at least it was a warm rain and wasn't too cold.
During the 3 nights we were there, we had roommates and met people from Wales, Canada, Germany, England, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.  Hostels are incredible!  Most of the people there were just traveling around for a year to where ever they wanted!  I think that the USA needs to make this a more normal thing to do after high school.
Day One in Sydney: 

-Lunch at a French Boulangerie where I had a ham, cheese, and pineapple crepe. 

-We stopped at a grocery store and bought food for breakfast in the morning. I bought some yogurt, but I did see rows of strawberries that were deep red, small, and smelled delicious!
 These were the way strawberries are supposed to look like, not white and flavorless.  When I checked out, unlike in the states, the lady didn't give me an unnecessary bag for my yogurt!  What a wonderful continent Australia is!
-We walked around the city some more and came across a beautiful church.  Sydney's layout is very interesting in that it has tons of little shops with old architecture on the outside and such and then right on top of them are huge modern skyscrapers!  It's a very compact city.
-We headed back to our hostel, checked our e-mail, played cards in the lobby, and then headed to the bar in the basement of the hostel.  Although I didn't buy a drink, I tried a bit of Hannah's sparkling white house wine and almost gaged.  It's amusing to hear how many songs from the states are played overseas!  
I've tried to put some photos in this blog, but it's not working for some reason.  Keep your eye out for future visuals!

Air Planes

My journey to Oz was much longer and much more complicated than expected:

We arrived at the STL airport on Wednesday, February 11th and found out our flight to LA had been canceled due to mechanical difficulties. Because of this, we were booked on a flight 2 hours later, received our boarding passes, and were told that we could get our boarding passes in LA for our flight to Sydney.  
Here's a photo of all of us who were headed to New Zealand for the semester.
On the flight, I sat by one of the pilots who was supposed to fly the plane that had mechanical difficulties and he had never done a word find before! I was doing one in my little book of puzzles Dad got for me and he looked over and asked what it was! Crazy crazy. On my other side was a woman from California who was very friendly and told us about when she was on a plane a few weeks ago that caught on fire. I don't remember the end of the story...
When we got to LA, they told us we had not been booked for the flight to Sydney, so they gave us tickets for a flight from LA to Brisbane and then we would take a connecting flight to Sydney.
The 13 hour flight to Brisbane really wasn't too terrible! The five of us, all girls from Mizzou, got to sit next to eachother.  The nice flight attendants with Australian accents served us dinner (tuna steak), peppermint tea, a snack pack, breakfast (frittata), and a little bag with a tooth brush, socks, and an eye mask.  I watched a few movies and slept a bit.
We landed in Brisbane around 8:30 and were supposed to catch our flight to Sydney at 9:15, which wasn't going to happen because our luggage had been temporarily misplaced due to our multiple flight changes.
We got our flight switched once again to 40 minutes later and headed to the terminal. We got to stand outside in warm and sticky Australia for about 10 minutes while we waited for the shuttle to take us to the domestic terminal. 
Several hours later, we finally landed down in Sydney and took a taxi to our hostel in the city!
Sorry for such a boring post, we'll see if the next one can be more interesting :)
I hope all is well with everyone!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

NZ Definitions

Kiwi's call New Zealand "Godzone," from "God's own country," which attributed to Dick Seddon, New Zealand's prime minister in the 1890's.
-The essential guide to customs & culture: New Zealand, Culture Smart

Tiki Tour:
1. A sight-seeing journey with no particular destination in mind.
2. Taking the scenic route to a destination.
3. To wander aimlessly.

Box of Birds:
1. Feeling very good
2. A possible response to "How are you?"
3. Cheerful
4. Happy