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Oriental Bay on New Year’s Day

by Lydia Fielder

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Our free day in the capital city went just swimmingly a local beach as we plunged into 2019 with a chilly dip in the Pacific.

Right after we ate a healthy lunch with our looming beach physiques in mind (noodles & dumplings), we walked about 10 minutes from our hostel to Oriental Bay.

The sand was pretty rough and pebbly, but that didn’t stop us from lounging around and enjoying the sun.

We stood at the shore just people-watching in awe – the whole setting looked straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was a perfect sunny 75. There were locals playing beach games and tourists sunbathing. There were sail boats skirting the horizon.

We heard it was 18 degrees in Fayetteville, so we’re hoping the pictures below send you warmest wishes for a happy new year!

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Mā te wā

Now that I’m back state-side, it’s hard to believe that New Zealand is real and not some dreamland in the clouds (I’m convinced that’s how it go the name “Land of the Long White Cloud”).

If you were wondering just how much of a whirlwind this program really was, we were in a different city on average every two nights. And we were lucky for it.

The itinerary rewarded us with majestic landscapes, breathtaking coastlines, geothermal treasures, remarkable glowworm caves, and even movie sets (I’m looking at you, Hobbiton). The indigenous culture of the Maori people shaped us as global and mindful citizens. And the countless interactions we had with endangered wildlife (i.e. exotic birds, prehistoric reptiles, rare dolphins and many other marine creatures) were humbling.

My favorite part, though, was ending our time in-country observing the night sky over Dunedin. Looking up at the awe-inducing canvas, I felt like I was outside of time and space.

I will forever look back at my time here and remember it as breath taking in every direction.

Mā te wā, see you soon, New Zealand.

See Ya Later!

It is tough to sum this trip up in less than a few pages but I am going to have to try. I enjoyed every second of this trip and do not think I would change a thing about it. I feel like, as a group, we were really lucky. First, we got to have Dr. Jogan and Mrs. Watkins as our leaders. Second, we got to go to New Zealand. Third, and one of the best in my opinion, we all really got along as a group. That last part really made this trip what it was. We even had guides tell us that we were a more cohesive group than they are used to and that really filled me with some pride for our group.

Beyond that, if I were to have to choose my favorite part of this trip, I would have to choose the Agridome. We did this on Dec. 30 just after Hobbiton. What made it my favorite was that it was the first time I ever had any sort of direct contact with sheep and alpaca. I even manages to snag some of the wool that was tossed into the crowd after the shearing demonstration, which I just thought was so cool. It took him just over three minutes to shear that sheep and yet people can do it in almost 20 seconds?! That just blew my mind. On that note, it was also the first time I had seen a sheep sheared. I had not even watched a video of that before. Afterwards we even got to feed them. I love animals, all sorts, so being able to interact with a new species was really cool to me. What is crazy is that we have sheep right here in northwest Arkansas, so it isn’t like I did something that I couldn’t do here, and yet I think I have settled on it as my favorite… if I had to choose that is.

 

Goodbye Long White Cloud

I’ve finally returned from my trip to New Zealand. Lordy it was an amazing place and the time spent there will remain dear to my heart forever. The thing that I enjoyed the most while there was the overwhelming awareness its citizens have about the preservation of their ecological systems and natural environments. While they do their fair share of evil, capitalist resource extraction from the land, one would still be hard pressed to find anyone their who wasn’t conscious of how human actions can harm ecosystems. It is easy for them to feel that. They all live in close proximity to absolutely astounding natural wonders and, while not all are Maori decedent, most seem to feel the same lifegiving attachment to the land.

I felt it too. I wanted to absolutely smite every single invasive mammal I encountered once I saw my first Kiwi. The heartbreaking moment that I looked a yellow-eyed penguin in the eyes and knew that its entire species would be gone in less than 10 years due to human initiated ecosystem disruption was rough. I am a human. I am part and parcel to their destruction. And nothing I can do can save them from the trajectory that they are on. I can only think of two ways to approach that feeling. The first is ignorance – “the American way.” The second is to embrace it and use it as fuel for work I will do in the years to come to mitigate mankind’s destruction of earth – what I feel is more akin to “the Kiwi way.”

There is no eucatastrophe that is going to save us like seen in Tolkien’s work. This effort requires long-term, arduous work. As an idealist I believe that this is possible. As a cynic I do not know how. All that I know after those unforgettable two weeks in the Land of the Long White Cloud is that I have to try my absolute damndest to help.

Also going to the shire was pretty cool. And doubtful sound. And the fur seal swim. Okay. That’s all.

Ka kite ano

-Zack

Last Days in Dunedin

As our voyage began to draw to an end, the crew decided to spend their downtime in Dunedin going around, taking in the sights of the city. After spending some time alone, wandering the city, not taking too many photos, the time came for us to take the Otago Wildlife Tour, complete with Yellow-Eyed Penguins, New Zealand Fur Seals and Sea Lions, Royal Albatross, and Little Blue Penguins to wrap it up for the night. The next day a certain group of us went to the Otago Museum to watch a movie at the planetarium over the history of human flight and aviation. After a group dinner, another group of us went on a Horizon cultural/stargazing tour, where we drove all over the Otago Peninsula and learned of the Maori history in that area. After a gorgeous sunset, we went to a private farm in a zone with very little light pollution from the surrounding city, and waited as the clouds rolled overhead to reveal a field of celestial entities. It was the first time I had seem the Milky Way Galaxy! The next morning, Amrit and I saw our beautiful group off to the airport, and the rest of the day we took to ourselves. I went and took the walk to Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world, and found myself in conversation with a resident of one of the slanted houses, listening to his plentiful stories of all the crazy events that happened on his doorstep over the years. Afterwards, I walked back to the city center for some last minute gift shopping for my family. After some crafty packing, and a long night’s sleep, Amrit and I were headed off back to the States the following morning.

I have no words to describe how incredible, spectacular, magical this excursion was for me. The country, the culture, and especially the group of people I was lucky enough to befriend this trip. Everything about this trip brought me up and up, and I found most of the time I was looking out over a landscape thinking “This isn’t real,” joking and laughing with this incredible group of friends, or not being able to keep a big dumb grin off my face. I am truly fortunate to have been able to partake in this program, and can’t wait to be back!

Much love, gratitude, and appreciation,

– Tony Tone

Goodbye New Zealand!

These last two weeks will be ones that I will never forget! It was incredible to visit a country that so deeply respects their environment, and one that values the culture of their native people. Overall, my favorite activity from the trip was the Maori cultural show and tour we did with the Mitai Village.

Final Thoughts

New Zealand is the most incredible country I have ever been to. During the last three days of my time there, I said to myself, “This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” Every day was more mesmerizing than the last. Every expectation I had before leaving was surpassed by what I found. From swimming with seals to traveling through Doubtful Sound, everything I did in New Zealand brought the deepest sense of happiness and fulfillment. I only hope that someday I can return to the beautiful hills, remarkable mountains, and awe-inspiring fjords that characterize the New Zealand landscape.

Beyond the scenery, the memories I made in New Zealand will stay with me forever. The friends I made and the opportunities I experienced fill my heart with joy. New Zealand is a magical place, full of amazing people and incredible animals. I can only hope that some of the good in those things has followed me home.

Farewell New Zealand!

The study abroad experience in New Zealand was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was able to learn an immense amount of material about exotic wildlife, innovative conservation efforts, and an interesting culture in such a short period of time. My favorite part of the study abroad was being able to see the fjords at Doubtful Sound. This experience was a highlight because I had never seen fjords before, and they are such a beautiful part of nature.