of tourist towns and timetables

It seemed like this day would never come…but I’m finally back in school!  Campus is bustling, the library is packed, and I’m excited to be in class after a sometimes monotonous two-month break.  I’m taking four classes this semester: Horticultural Crop Development & Yield, Managing the Landscape, Professional & E-Business Writing, and Socializing in Maori.  Many things will be similar to Iowa State, I’m sure–but for now I feel like a freshman again, trying to find my way around campus and attempting to write in British English.  Also, I was late every single class the first day…so I guess you could say I’m off to a pretty auspicious start.

But wait: you can’t go back to school without one last summer hurrah, right?   This past weekend, my flatmates and I took a spontaneous trip to Rotorua–affectionately/appropriately nicknamed “Rotovegas” by locals–in an attempt to make the most of our last free time.  Our tickets were bought on Thursday morning and by the afternoon, we were on the bus and on our way.  Despite a complete lack of planning (“Hey Joe, where were you planning on staying?” “Uh…not…sure.”), fun was had by all.  We checked into the Backpackers Downtown hostel on Thursday, and enjoyed the food and music of the farmer’s market that night.

Cam & Joe enjoying their churros

Friday was spent hiking 22 miles in the redwoods of the Whakarewarewa Forest, swimming in Blue Lake, and watching the mountain bike events in the Rotorua Bike Festival.  On Saturday, we took part in the local obligatory tourist attraction: zorbing.  This is the name of the activity where you take a giant, inflatable sphere–think human hamster ball–fill the bottom with water, put a person inside, and push it down a hill.  For those of you that know me, the perennial opposite of a thrill seeker, this sounds like the design of some adrenaline-fueled junkie with a penchant for inducing claustrophobia.  However, I got talked into it and did, admittedly, have a good time.   This does not change the fact that there will be NO bungee jumping for me in Queenstown.

Rotorua is interesting because of its thermal activity; it lies on top of hotsprings and is home to geysers, bubbling pools of mud, and a permanent rotten-egg sulphur smell.  It draws visitors from all over; in our hostel we met Germans, Canadians, Americans, Dutch, Brits, and Kiwis among them.  Everyone in this country has a story: I met two Illinoisans who quit their jobs to fulfill a New Zealand adventure dream, a German business student who regretted his decision to get a degree in business instead of pursuing sports.  I’m also constantly reminded of how small our world truly is–two girls at the hostel were from Burnsville, the suburb that borders mine at home.  We knew some of the same people in high school!

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading and commenting; hopefully you can do a little vicarious living (especially if you’re looking at snow right now).  If you’re tired of checking this page and being disappointed by my lack of activity, hit “subscribe” and receive an email every time I post.  Nifty, huh?

In the meantime, I should do some class reading or practice the pronunciation of impossible Maori words.  Next: what’s it like living in New Zealand, anyway?  Are there any glaring differences between the U.S.?  Who the heck do I even live with?  Most questions will be answered, so check back soon!

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