It has been my first trip to LA and navigating one of the largest airports. My trip to LA from Nashville wasn't that exciting--it was 4 and a half hours, I sat in the aisle seat, and then I decided I like the window seat a LOT more (I could sleep). The most exciting part was when it started snowing when we parked, and when I boarded the plane we were told it would be an extra few minutes so they could de-ice the plane. The only trouble I had when I got to LA was when I was trying to find Quantas airlines so I recheck my bags and get a new boarding pass. I had trouble because there were 2 Quantas airlines (ugh), and I went to the closest one and was told I was at the wrong one. So I had to continue on to the next terminal (a separate big building) and continued on my journey.
I then crossed the Pacific Ocean for the first time where I read my first official little blue envelope. Unfortunately, I did not meet my future husband, nor did I have any exciting conversations to tell you guys. In fact, the lady on my left curled up with her sleeping mask and blanket (which they gave to us) before we had taken off. Though I had a middle seat in the middle section of rows and told that our flight was completely full, I thought it would be a great flight because the two seats to my right were unoccupied. I figured that they missed their flight or something...but then an older, larger woman was moved up to the aisle seat next to me. I felt really bad when I had to go to the bathroom because there was NO room between our legs and the seat in front of us, so I literally had to climb over one of the ladies to get out. At one point both of them were asleep and I ended up putting one foot on the armrest and jumping over the woman to my left.
So now I was in New Zealand, a whole other continent, for the first time. I took a public bus from the airport to my hotel and checked into the hotel which was almost directly across from the Sky Tower. After cleaning up, I read my second little blue envelope and I couldn't stop smiling as I read it :) the second envelope gave me the courage to explore my surroundings. I gave myself the goal of finding a clothing store so I could buy some shorts (I only brought one pair, but I wanted more because it was warmer and more humid than I thought it was going to be). I walked a lot more than I thought I was going to, I kept seeing shops up ahead and wanted to know what they were selling. I saw that Auckland is full of Asians (I heard Korean and Chinese), Asian restaurants, convenience stores, souvenir shops, and expensive clothing stores. I keep peaking inside of the clothing stores as I passed to see the prices...it wasn't a pretty sight ($79 for jeggings!), but I finally gathered the courage and entered my first shop....a book store.
I'll skip ahead to the next day because this is going to be a long blog....I met the rest of the AustraLearn students and learned that there are a total of 4 people going to Palmerston North--most are going to stay in Auckland. Nothing much happened on the first day--we explored the docks and I met Diamond and Phoebe. (Diamond is from Nashville and is awesome at guitar and singing!) At dinner, one of our AustraLearn guides sat near us and made sure he knew our names. Because he kept repeating the names, I soon learned most of my fellow students' names.
The next day we traveled to Rotaroa where I am writing this. That afternoon we learned a Haka War Dance (they're different kinds with different words, motions, and stories). For dinner we had a BBQ by the blue lake, a very scenic place.
Yesterday (Wednesday), we had our "Day of Adventure." Unfortunately I was the only one to sign up for my package, but I could choose another to go on. I choose the "Wet 'n Wild" package--Ogoing and Rafting! The Ogo is just like Zorbing with another name. When we got there, we were told the best way to roll down the hill was to go in groups of 3 and do the 'wet' ogo (where they put water in with you). It was kind of chilly that morning, and we started to get cold waiting with our swimsuits on...but the water they put in with us was a toasty 104 degrees Fahrenheit...mmmm..it felt nice! We raced the people in the other Ogo next to us and won--twice! Going down the hill was just like a giant water-slide with warm water raining down. Included in our package was the fishtail pipe, another part of the Ogo. We got strapped in a dry Ogo that was attached to a machine that spun us around in place. I liked it because it gave us the sense of going down the 'dry' Ogo. I also went whitewater rafting for the first time. We got wetsuits and got to go down a 7 meter waterfall--the biggest commercial waterfall, which made my first rafting trip a level 5. It started to rain before we got into the river, but it didn't matter because we got soaked anyway. The river was also warmer than I expected, apparently it's the warmest river in the world? I'll put up pictures eventually.
Today, my Thursday, I got to go cave diving, on the something-something Toobing. We got back into wetsuits, mine did not fit as well as yesterday's, and put on helmets with little lamps on them. It's called something-something toobing because we got to go tubing in the underground river and look up at the glowworms on the ceiling. They looked like stars--or imagine the "Secret Tunnel" episode of Avatar the Last Airbender :) It was very romantic....we also sang "I'll Make a Man Out of You" as we floated along.
I could go into a lot more detail, but this is a very long blog anyway...maybe once we video chat I could go into more details. Goodbye for now! Love, Rachael