This Just Got Real (kinda): Orientation
The first mandatory abroad session was in a giant lecture hall in one of the business halls. Almost all of Huia walked over together but they would let us in. I had no idea what was going on but didn’t mind standing in the sun at all. Eventually we noticed a group of what looked like Maori students gathering on the quad between a few of the buildings dressed in traditional garb. We were herded around the area when one of the girls standing in the front of the group let out a terrible yell and then began to sing/chant. After a few phrases the whole group began to join in, swaying and stamping their feet. I was witnessing my first haka. You may be familiar with it in correlation with the All Blacks rugby team. It is often classified as a “dance” but after seeing one so close that would be the last thing I would call it. In traditional Maori culture a group of men would gather outside of their meeting house when approached by new arrivals. They would perform their haka in order to instill fear, intimidation, and respect into the new visitors. After the dance is finished a feather would be placed at the feet of one of the newcomers and if it was picked up they were there in peace, if not it meant war right there and then. Since all of the international students were there and obviously were coming in peace there was no feather, but the series of performances certainly did intimidate me in a BIG way. After they finished and a few speeches of welcome were given it was time for morning tea and we had a chance to mingle with our peers. I noticed that the majority of the performers were walking around so we went up to talk to them. I had assumed that they were in college based on their performance and physicality but I was shocked to find that they were all in high school and averaged only 16 or 17 years old! I was floored. New Zealand has certainly kept me on my toes. The next day was the University wide Powhiri and welcome by the Vice- Chancellor and Chancellor outside the ancestral University Marae (meeting house) called Tane Nui A Rangi. The majority of the ceremony was said in Maori which made it difficult to follow but the Vice-Chancellor ended in a prayer, which I found strangely familiar to something Father Jack would say at Loyola praying to the various spirits of knowledge and health for us. A lot of the Loyola kids found the whole thing pointless but I have to admit I was pretty moved by the whole thing. After learning about how sacred the space was and so much about the Maori themselves I could help but feel again that an honor had been given to me just for being there and listening.
There were other social events to attend like a quiz show at the--get this!-- on-campus bar, Shadows where you could win prizes like trips around the islands and such. A local travel agency also held an info session in one of the lecture halls and if you answered their questions correctly you could win anything from a kiwi to a free bungy jump! One of the kids in my group won a free sky-dive. I was dying laughing when he won it (you don't know the prize when you answer the question or do the challenge) because he had just told me how he was freaking out just looking at the pictures on the powerpoint. But he's excited to go now! I'm so jealous. Anyway, Huia (my dorm building) has been having programming all week. Little stuff like cotton candy (aka candied glass) and trips to the beach. We went as a group to Mission Bay, a beach-y area a short bus ride from Huia, early one morning to spend the day. We all had been checking the forecast and it seemed like we couldn’t have picked a more perfect day. Until we got there. It was pretty chilly because there was a thick layer of clouds building up and of course, it rained. We ended up doing an awkward dance of running back and forth from the beach to a shop across the street. Lunch was had at a local little hole-in-the-wall with some delicious fish n’ chips—one of my new favorite treats. New Zealand never ceases to amaze me though. On the counter of this little shop was a little word-processed sign that said “Fork-- $.20” not only did you have to pay for ketchup or any condiments, but it you were taking away you had to pay for a plastic fork too. Some felt compelled to pay for the utensil but, standing on moral ground, I went the O-Natural route. And I didn’t look back. Still plagued by bad weather and chilly winds, we almost gave up but luckily no one wanted to scrap the day just yet so we stuck around and once the noon-time sun came out the clouds burned up and it turned into a beautiful afternoon. So beautiful, in fact, we all got sunburned. My nose was the only casualty but I was lucky (and diligent with my sunscreen). On the trip home we were naively complaining about how little “color” we had gotten even under the midday sun. Fast-forward about 2 hours and posts were going up on our facebook page begging for aloe. I discovered my lovely sunglasses tan was worse than I thought when an RA literally did a double-take at my face in the elevator. Oh well. Lying out in the sun and enjoying my book was more than worth it. We found so interesting and fun “social institutions” to hang out at but some take their evening activities a bit more… seriously? than I do. It’s still fun to tag along though. We also spent a considerable amount of time planning our big spring break extravaganza. And enter the drama. It is NOT easy to get 18ish people to agree on anything. But we did it. It was at times like pulling teeth but we did it. We will be spending 10 days driving around the south island for our spring break in camper-vans. It is going to be an experience for sure and we have already named the endeavor “grunge-fest”. But I couldn’t be more excited.
I spent a lot of time during the week walking around trying to get my bearings (something that many of you know I am TERRIBLE at) for my classes, especially on Sunday even though all of the building were locked so I couldn’t see the actual room I will be in on Monday. I’m getting excited for my classes to start (weird) so I can finally settle into some sort of routine. I packed a lunch (hehe), have my bag and outfit ready to go in the morning, and can feel the inevitable “first day of school” butterflies. Right on schedule. I feel like I’m back in middle school! But it is a good kind of nervous of course. I just met my new neighbor (cute!) and now it’s time for bed! See ya on the other side of lectures!
Fun Fact: I have two new favorite NZ sayings:
1) Sweet Az: meaning awesome or no problem. Usually an exclamation similar to the New England “wicked!”
2) Choice: used less frequently and emphatically, it means excellent. I relate it to when someone say “that was so clutch” back home.