On Saturday I went ice skating with a few of my friends. For those of you who know me well, you know that ice skating is not my favorite activity - I’m afraid of falling, I can’t go fast, and it makes my feet hurt. So I took constant breaks and sat on the side watching my friends skate when my feet started hurting too much. Sitting there by myself, watching them go around and around with huge smiles on their faces, I was struck with the realisation of how much I am in love with Australia, and how much I do not want to leave. Of course I miss my family and friends and am so excited to see them, but unlike other semesters, where I’m hurriedly counting down the days to go home for breaks, I’m not excited to leave. The part that’s different this time is that I don’t know when or if I’ll ever come back. Of course I want to, but I don’t know if it will ever be possible. I’ve been here for over four months now, and while it certainly feels like home, it also feels like I’m still getting to know this place. Every time we take a train or bus into the city, I look eagerly out the window to spot the Sydney Opera House. I’ve fallen in love with everything here, but it never ceases to amaze me that I’m actually here.
I am so lucky and so thankful to have been able to have this experience and travel this far to study, meet new people, and experience the world. I have treasured every single day that I have spent here, and the memories I’ve made will last a lifetime. I am so grateful for my amazing parents, without whom this trip never would have been possible. I don’t think that I can ever thank them enough for the amazing semester they’ve allowed me to have.
I can’t imagine leaving the amazing friends I’ve made here. I go home in just 12 days and I can’t believe it’s time already. I wish I could bottle up everyone I love from home and bring them here so that I didn’t have to leave anyone. I know we’ll keep in touch, but I will miss both my Australian friends and the American friends I’ve made here like crazy.
After New Zealand I spent about 18 hours in Sydney before catching a 5:15am train to the airport for my flight to Perth to visit Samara. She and her husband, Matthew, greeted me at the airport with a sign and took me out to lunch at a park that overlooks the city of Perth. We had a delicious meal and then they took me back to their adorable little house. Their house even has a little backyard and patio with a grill and seating area. I got my own room with a big comfy bed and the leisurely part of my break finally began. Since I waited wayyy too long to put up this post, I don’t remember the order we did things in, but it was such a good 5 days. We went to the beach and I got to see the Indian Ocean - I’ve now been to three oceans!! We went to Penguin Island, where we saw little penguins (the smallest penguins in the world) and wild sea lions. We spent an afternoon in Fremantle, an adorable little town right on the water. Samara and Matthew were amazing hosts; we had amazing meals and they made sure that we got to do everything I wanted to. Samara baked an amazing triple chocolate cake, which we enjoyed the whole time I was there. We also spent a day out in the city (it’s a lot smaller than Sydney) and even had a baseball night, where we watched the Rangers versus Yankees game and I tried to explain all the rules of baseball. This trip was such a welcome break from running around trying to fit so much stuff into so little time, and was a great way to end my semester break!!
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Please help if you can! This boy is missing from my town and all his parents want is his safe return. #FindPierce
After a day of rest in Sydney, Lashlee and I headed off to Auckland, New Zealand! We stayed with my au pair, Fiona, who cared for my siblings and me when I was in fourth grade - nearly eleven years ago. Fiona lives with her husband, Steven, and children Xavier (3) and Zara (1), who are incredibly adorable. Both were shy the first night, but opened up as the week went on. Our first full day there, Lashlee and I went horseback riding on Pakiri Beach. It was a little misty and a little cold, but I was excited nonetheless. I was paired with Stu, a tall bay gelding, who wasn’t afraid to try to kick or bite the horses he didn’t like - awesome. Lashlee and I were the last two riders in our line, followed by one of the guides. Stu apparently hated the guide’s horse and tried to kick her at least three times during the course of our ride. At one point he got so frustrated that couldn’t reach her when he kicked out, so he tried to bite the horse in front of me - the horse carrying an extremely chatty (and annoying) eight year old girl. Stu mostly behaved for the rest of the ride, and was very excited when Lashlee and I got to split of from the group to canter - he basically galloped for the twenty-second intervals we were allowed to canter. The beach was breathtaking even in the poor weather, and I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time.
The next day Lashlee and I took a guided bus tour to Waitomo and Rotorua. We stopped at the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo and got to walk around the caves and take a boat ride through the dark to see the glowworms. Next we headed for Rotorua… but stopped to pick up two more passengers on the way, who happened to be none other than our two friends from DLC, Christine and Serena!! It was great to see them for the two hours bus ride, though I did sleep through most of it. They headed into downtown Rotorua when we arrived, while Lashlee and I stayed on the bus tour. Our next stop was the Agrodome - basically a humongous farm, complete with sheep shearing, where they do tours to teach about New Zealand’s agriculture. We got to ride on a trolley through the farm and the guide pointed out all of the different animals, and even let us get out to feed the sheep and alpacas. We ended the tour with a demonstration of sheep shearing, which I don’t think I’ll ever want to see again. I know they don’t hurt the sheep, but the poor thing just looked so helpless. Our final stop in Rotorua was at Te Puia, where we saw a cultural demonstration, geysers, mudpools, and my favourite - kiwi birds!! Kiwis are small, flightless, brown birds, with long, thin beaks. I’ve wanted to see these birds since I was ten years old, when Fiona told me about them. There were two at Te Puia, and we weren’t allowed to take pictures of them, but they were absolutely adorable. After a stop in the gift shop, we boarded the bus again, and headed back to Auckland.
The next day we set out with Fiona, Xavier, and Zara bright and early to climb Rangitoto, a volcano in New Zealand. Lashlee and I went ahead to go up to the summit, which was a grueling forty-five minute hike. There were lots of people climbing the volcano, including a bunch of seventy-somethings who were doing much better than we were. The view was completely worth it though!
On Wednesday Lashlee and I decided to tour Auckland. We spent the entire day walking around the city and exploring. We visited a museum, walked through the University of Auckland campus, and ate lunch a little cafe. By the end of the day we were completely worn out, so we grabbed a little ice cream and headed back to Fiona’s for an early night.
We spent our last day with Fiona, Zara, and Xavier, visiting One Tree Hill and Mount Eden. One Tree Hill no longer has a tree - some crazy activist chopped it down a few years ago and no one ever bothered to plant a new one. This added to our fun though - we all got to take pictures “being” the tree! Mount Eden was beautiful as well, and Lashlee, Xav, and I walked all the way around it. We ended the day with a black sand beach, and went home to celebrate Fiona’s birthday. Such a good way to end such a good trip :)