Beach..Beach Otago and O-Week!
After making my way back from a hectic week of settling into my new home and traveling around New Zealand, I was ready for some time off in my new town of Dunedin. I decided to start off this period of relaxation with a nice, friendly run through the beautiful Botanical Gardens. Weaving our way through the trees and exploring the maze of foliage, Cathy and I came to a beautiful fountain, a pristine rugby field, and a winding road with a view of both Dunedin and the Forsyth Barr Stadium, which starred in Orientation Week (otherwise known as “O-Week”) at Otago.
Exploring our way out of the forests of the Botanical Gardens, Cathy and I found ourselves at a small rugby practice grounds. Little did I know that this run, full of unexpected twists and turns, would set the tone for the week. A surprise rugby game with my new friend Stewy and the sizzling New Zealand sun informed me that heaps of sunscreen is a good idea. The next day at the deserted and gorgeous sands of Aramoana Beach, sunscreen proved to be just that. Running down a sand dune was absolutely thrilling. However, when comparing it to maneuvering the loose sands and small footholds surrounding a heart-shaped rock structure, it was fairly calm. With that scare, I was ready for some solid downtime.
Fast-forward to St. Kilda. Heaps of bros. In contrast to Aramoana the day before, I did some serious relaxing in St. Kilda before body-surfing for the first time, having a sand fight, and snapping some sweet pics while running along the beach. Afterwards, on another whim, I decide to walk the 5.6 kilometers back to my flat with Charlotte, a recent acquaintance. This spontaneous walk became a friendly chat about life, love, and the future.
Just two days later, it was my 21st birthday! Though I thought that this would not be a big deal in a country where the legal drinking age is 18, that wasn’t the case. I decided to kick off the night with a lively, close gathering that starred BBQ and drinks. Earlier that day, I went to a club sign-up that offered lots of free food and merchandise. The night was…well, I’m going to leave that up to your imagination. However, I will say that it was filled with heaps of adventure and good times.
Continuing to travel and explore, I took a gorgeous train ride on the Taieri Gorge the next day. The scenic ride south of Dunedin was beautiful, not to mention that each car of the exquisite train had unique designs and styles. Moreover, the train ride, reminiscent of the Polar Express, allowed me to poke my head outside and let some fresh air blow through my hair as we passed through the tunnels.
After returning from the train ride and attending my second rugby practice, there was the Macklemore concert—sold out with over 5,000 students filling the Forsyth Barr Stadium. I had not been to a concert of this sort, and he rocked the house! Wow, that was only Thursday.
At the end of the week was the event that I was really looking forward to: the Super XV rugby match! The Otago Highlanders faced off against the defending champs, the Hamilton Chiefs. That day also marked the beginning of my brewing career. My friend and I decided to save some money and try something new—brew our own hard cider. Sweet As Brew©, as we would later name our mixture, began that day when we bought our supplies. However, in the middle of making our celebratory gourmet meal, my partner and I lost track of time and realized that we needed to head to the game. Skulling some wine and brews for the road, we hustled to the stadium and the zoo in which we would be sitting. The game was a good one, boasting plenty of back-and-forth play and national-level rugby players. Unfortunately, the Highlanders—the home team—lost in a close match, but that didn’t stop Dunedin from partying, nor us from enjoying our gourmet pasta bake.
The rafting trip the next day reminded me of the wonderful food that goes hand-in-hand with every IFSA Butler event. Also, it reminded me of how much I enjoy everyone within the program and having that sweet, sweet food. Sian, the Butler coordinator for Dunedin, was nice enough to bring me a cake in celebration of my birthday earlier that week! The rest of the weekend was pretty low key, full of some much-needed Skype conversations with some of my best friends from both home and Vassar. The twists and turns of travel and the adventures that come with it are quite exciting, as I am only at the beginning of my New Zealand story.