And by GPA I mean "Going Places Abroad." Oh man it has been an eventful ~3 weeks. I don’t think I could accurately communicate everything I have experienced, nor would you want to sit and read through the book that it would take! This will be a much longer post than normal, so I promise I will put in lots of pictures. Since my last post I have traveled to some awesome places, met some awesome people, and learned some not so awesome lessons.
I have yet to find out if I will be able to keep up this break-neck pace of adventure & school but I am remaining optimistic. Very early on I set a goal for myself to get out and do something every weekend that I am here…My Dad fondly remembers me telling him “If I am deciding between taking a trip and getting an A, I am getting a B.” Now I don’t champion the drop out lifestyle, but I expect when I look back on my college years I wont fantasize about quizzes on hashing & asymmetric encryption.
During my first week here I was lucky enough to have a friend from The States, Tyler, hunting & fishing on the South Island. We decided to meet up in Taupō (pronounced Toe Paw as my roommate insists) before he flew home out of Auckland. Now before I get too far I would like to go back to my comment about “not so awesome” lessons learned. Prior to meeting Tyler I attended an orientation where the staff informed me that New Zealand is close to the antarctic ozone hole. This has one super important implication: you need to wear a lot more sunscreen than normal.
Unfortunately this warning came about three days too late. Anna, another TU student, and I had decided to visit the local beach on Saturday. Thinking the moderate cloud cover would exempt me from my usual lathering… I swam, I bathed, I burned. Waking up Sunday morning to attend church I soon realized that I couldn’t actually put on a shirt, let alone go about my days activities. I ended up spending a really lovely day cooped up inside watching Netflix and draining two bottles of aloe. Never again will forgo my trusty SPF 100. Until the next time it happens.
I woke up Tuesday morning and walked to the city bus station for my ride south. I spent the next four hours enjoying the rolling hills and vibrant greens of the New Zealand countryside. Waiting for me on the other end was Tyler in his trusty Toyota rental -- Fortunately Tyler had already been in New Zealand for two weeks and so he was well-adjusted to the mirrored driving! I will be trying for the first time on Friday...your prayers are appreciated. We spent the afternoon hiking around in the rain along lake Taupo before retiring to an AirBnB for some freshly caught salmon and much-needed sleep. The following day we made a drive up to Coromandel, where we visited the famous Cathedral Cove. I did my best Peter Pevensie impression, and got some relaxing drone flying in. It was refreshing to hike and explore with a familiar face, it felt a lot like any other adventure I had taken back home.
Walking in the Crowd
I don't think it has been until recently that I have started to realize that I am actually in New Zealand. The last three weeks have been jam-packed with faces & places. Any time that I would usually have to reflect on my surroundings has been occupied with the next big event. As I have begun getting in the rhythm of school I have found myself with a lot more time to slow down and think. I have started to notice little things here and there that remind me I may not have everything together as much as I would like to imagine. I have never been one to get homesick or nervous about being alone, and I still think that holds true, but there is something very different about being in an environment where you feel like you are an outlier.
Walking back from my Infosys lab I was weaving in and out of the masses, people who I had never met nor likely ever would. It was among the crowd that I realized how different 40,000 students feels than 3,500. I have always thought I was relatively good at meeting new people and being social, but it turns out I actually haven't had to do it in about three years. As I passed groups of laughing friends I suddenly felt very out-of-place. It's almost like the feeling you get when everyone in your class starts standing up and turning in their test, and you are only half way done.
I recently connected with a guy named John. I actually met John about three months ago at an RUF Ski Conference, where we both figured out we were heading to the same country. Tonight we spent some time commiserating our desires for community over some chicken pad thai comfort food. In our talks John said something that really resonated with me:
"Back home everyone in my friend group is known for something, you know? Like one guy is known as the guy who can help with homework. Another is the person who likes to this or that thing. I think part of the reason I feel so alone is that no one here really knows me for anything -- I am just a little fish in a really big sea." - John
I am fortunate enough to have brought a bit of Tulsa with me in the shape of Anna and Josh, two other TU students. But nonetheless I can relate to the feelings of unknown. I am thankful that even in a place as far away as New Zealand that I can find and connect with other people. I have no doubt this will be an area of growth for me, as I continue to better understand how we are created to interact with each other and build relationships.
Last But Not Least: Rangitoto
The weekend following my trip to Coromandel the TU crew headed to the volcanic island of Rangitoto. It was a rather impromptu decision born out of not wanting to waste a precious Saturday by sitting around our apartments. After cleaning our hiking boots and boarding the ferry we were off to explore the lava caves. We met a french Au Pair named Alexi who joined us on our adventure, and spent the afternoon hiking & swimming. Alexi got the short straw when he joined us -- I don't think he realized how many pictures I was going to make him take!
It is safe to say I am loving it here in New Zealand. The opportunities for growth and exploration are immense, and I haven't even touched on what I am doing in school yet! Hopefully my next post wont come a full three weeks from now because I have a bit to share. I just concluded a wonderful trip to Wellington, and will be heading north on Friday for some island hopping and camping. There will be no shortage of photos and stories to come, so stay tuned!