The South Pt.1

So my wonderful host family has gone on holiday this week, which meant I got one too! I took advantage of this chunk of time off to go spend nine days traveling the South Island. Now while it sounds like a long time, it really isn’t. The South is so vast and there’s so much to see you need at least two and a half weeks to see it all. I decided to do the Deep South now and then the northwestern part before I leave in August. So I packed up my bags and drove the two hours to Auckland Airport very early on Saturday morning to arrive in Queenstown by lunch.

Queenstown

I spent Saturday night in Queenstown before heading south on a Stray Backpackers Bus. Then on Tuesday night through Friday morning I was back in Queenstown. For simplicity sake, I’ll just put my whole report of Queenstown here. Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. It’s where the bunny jump was invented and most people come here to do that or the plethora of other activities. It’s got the best ski mountains in the country as well as skydiving, drinking scene, speed boating, and more. I opted to do an epic zip line trip that involved the “World’s Steepest Zipline.” It was pretty awesome and the best part was hanging by my feet like a monkey while hurting down a mountain at 50mph. Queenstown is pretty expensive though so I spent a lot of time wandering around exploring, and trying to conserve money. That did not go so well and most of my money went to delicious food and drinks. It’s proper winter weather down here in the south and Queenstown is a lot like Lake Placid. Quite a ski town vibe. Because I missed winter in NY it was really nice to get a taste of it down here.


Milford Sound/The Fiordlands

On Sunday morning at 6am I hopped on a Stray bus down south. We drove down through some stunning scenery to the Fiordlands national park, the biggest park in New Zealand. Now, Milford Sound is actually not a Sound but a fjord. To compensate for mistaking it, New Zealand named the national park around the “Sound” the Fiordlands. Except they spelled fjord wrong. That’s New Zealand for you in a nutshell. Naming and spelling things wrong though not really caring. Milford Sound is absolutely beautiful though and we got to do a boat trip through it. It was bloody freezing but the views of the Sound and the park around it were worth it. We stayed the night at a place called Gunn’s Camp in the national park. This camp was originally built to hold the families of the workers building the road through the park and has been preserved historically since then. That means no wifi, mobile phone signal, or power except from 5-10pm. Instead there’s a roaring fire, free hot water bottles, and plenty of board games. It was fun to hang out with the other Backpackers on the bus and refreshing to be unplugged for a while.

 

Stewart Island

The next place we went to was Stewart Island, sometimes known as New Zealand’s Third Island. It’s an expensive hour boat ride away from the mainland. Stewart Island is suppose to be the best place to see wild kiwis and blue penguins in all of New Zealand. It’s also southern lights season and Stewart Island is about as close to them as you can get. Unfortunately after running around the island until 1am in sub-freezing temperatures and waking up at dawn to go down to the beach, we saw no lights, kiwis, or penguins. It was frustrating, but it was still fun to be on the island with the other Backpackers. I made friends with a young Swedish couple, some British girls, a guy from Romania, someone from the Netherlands, and a Norwegian girl just to name a few! We stayed on the island Monday night and did a coastal hike on Tuesday before catching the ferry back home. Then up to Queenstown again for a bit.

 

Mt. Cook

After the second stop in Queenstown we all nursed some fairly major hangovers and caught the bus up to Mt. Cook in the Southern Alps. It’s apparently the tallest peak in Australasia though it didn’t look that large. Our hostel was near the foot of the mountain and had *gasp* en suite bathrooms. Unheard of luxury. My friend Isuzu and I set out to do the famous three hour walk right to the base of the mountain but had to turn back before we could finish. She was coming down with the flu and the intense cold and wind was doing nothing good for my hangover. Though we didn’t do the whole walk we got great views and we’re back in time to watch some rugby and other tv in bed. A glamorous backpacker life!

 

Christchurch

We drove from The mountain to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo. At the lake most people on the bus elected to go snow tubing or ice skating but because I can do that in Rochester, and this trip has really done a number on my bank account, I just hung out in a cafe. We arrived late in Christchurch and because everyone was leaving the next day spent the night hanging out together and watching the Lions tackle the Crusaders (Christchurch’s team) in rugby. We even got treated to a Christchurch specialty when a 4.2 earthquake hit for about three seconds. Guess I could cross that off my bucket list. The next day I spent the morning exploring Christchurch before flying out that evening. Christchurch is a sad city to walk through because you can tell how amazing it used to be and the earthquake devastation is right in front of you.

Life Updates

Not too much to tell you on this front because everything is going great. I’m still so happy in New Zealand, get on great with my host family, have lots of adventures and friends, and the boys are great. So here are some cute photos to tide you over until the next post!

 

 

A Week in Japan

Hello all! I’ve just gotten back to New Zealand after an amazing holiday in Japan. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought I’d be living on a dairy farm, visiting places like Tokyo, I’d have laughed in your face, but agreed it sounded pretty cool. Well now that’s my life and I love it! My cousin Colin lives in Tokyo with his wife and two girls and I took advantage of New Zealand being close (relative to New York) and visited them. I stayed in an Airbnb near their flat in Shibuya which is sort of the young, hip area of Tokyo at the moment. It was absolutely amazing.

Wednesday/Thursday

  • Hoped on a bus from my town in New Zealand and went up to Auckland to stay the night in an Airbnb
  • Woke up at 4:00am to catch my 6:20am flight to Brisbane. Today I officially stepped foot on three continents! Apparently New Zealand has recently been declared an eighth continent…
  • I flew with Quantas and the flights were easy, empty, and had remarkably good food for an airplane!
  • The international airport is an hour and a half from central Tokyo so after a long commute with Colin to my flat, I promptly fell asleep after traveling all day.

Friday

  • Woke up rather early thanks to jet lag and went to walk with Colin and the oldest daughter to school. I’ve always loved being in primary schools, not because I’m a child stalker, but because I love seeing all the art and school work on the walls.
  • Then Colin and I went up Mori Tower to see a great view of all of Tokyo. It’s amazing just how massive and sprawling the city is with lots of chunks of green spaces from various palaces and shrines.
  • We walked around for a bit then headed to Ueno which is kind of like the National Mall in DC. Big park with a shrine and lots of museums. Both of which we visited and after lunch Colin went back to collect from school and I stayed on to walk around more.
  • Felt pretty accomplished as I navigated the subway and got back to Colin’s flat for dinner and then sleep

Saturday

  • The day started with all of us bringing the oldest and her mum to a music lesson in Central Shibuya. Then Colin, the youngest, and I walked around and explored. It was a very wet day though.
  • We went to a big popular music store which had a really cool vibe inside, and we visited several famous department stores. They’re absolutely massive here in Tokyo and I could easily spend hours on one floor alone. Usually there are about 9 floors!
  • Met up with the others for a big Japanese lunch, which was delicious. It was Tonkatsu (fried pork) with rice and cabbage and miso soup as sides.
  • Then I split with the rest of the group and wandered around shopping in Shibuya for a while before heading back for dinner with everyone.
  • After dinner I went out into Shinjuku which is a big night life capital of Tokyo. Bright lights and people everywhere it was outstanding for people watching. Everything was mostly restaurants and bars so I didn’t go inside, just observed.

Sunday 

  • Sunday had a lazy start as everyone was fairly tired. After breakfast Colin and the two girls hoped on one bike (the bikes here are really cool with two child seats attached) and I went on another one. After a short ride we were at the Meiji Shrine which was somewhere I really wanted to visit.
  • The shrine was lovely and peaceful even though it was teaming with tourists from Japan and the rest of the world alike. The girls enjoyed running around too.
  • Then we biked on to Yoyogi Park which was really good and the oldest got to show me her bike skills on a child bike track which she had been waiting to do all weekend.
  • We biked home via Harajuku and I split to grab lunch and head into central Tokyo to catch a tourist bus tour
  • The tour was cool and we went up an observation tower,  visited the imperial park grounds, went to Asakusa and explored the market, and did a river cruise.

Monday

  • Today was the day I was most excited for, visiting Mt. Fuji! A little known fact about me is that I love the Charlie and Lola books. Ever since I read a line about mashed potatoes being cloud fluff from Mt. Fuji I’ve wanted to visit. That was twelve years ago, so it’s been a long time coming!
  • I left right when I woke up for the bus terminal and hoped on my Fuji tour. The guide spoke English and I learned a lot about not only the mountain but Japan and its culture as a whole.
  • It took two hours to get to the base of Fuji, which is only visible 30% of the time because of cloud cover. We got lucky and could see it from the bottom! We then drove up as high as vehicles can go to the fifth station. This is where climbers start their trip from but unfortunately it wasn’t climbing season.
  • We headed back down the mountain and stopped for lunch which was more Japanese style food. It was also nice except a bit too much seafood for my liking.
  • Then we crossed to the other side of the mountain and of course, the weather turned for the worse. This meant that our lake boat tour and cable car ride were shrouded in fog the whole time.
  • On the way home we got to watch sumo wrestling. There’s a big competition going on in Tokyo right now and our guide is an avid fan and explained it all to us.
  • The bus left us in Ginza which I explored for a while before heading home. Ginza is Tokyo’s version of fifth ave so it was full of stores I couldn’t even afford to go into.

Tuesday

  • Today was Disney day! I’d never been to any Disney Park before and if a girl can’t take herself when she’s on a gap year, when can she?
  • Now I’ve got nothing to compare it to, but I thought Disney Tokyo was pretty cool. I went on pretty much every ride and surprisingly my favourites were a Star Wars one and the Monsters Inc one.
  • I’m a pretty big Disney fan but my favourites tend to be the lesser known films so some parts of the park was wasted on me. It was a good day but I definitely think Disney is meant to be enjoyed with other people so I was left feeling a little lonely
  • I didn’t really take too many pictures because I was too busy watching everything. That’s how most of this Japan trip has gone actually
  • It was also tough because all the dialogue on rides or video clips was in Japanese, but it was really cool to hear popular songs like Part of Your World or I Just Cant Wait to be King in Japanese. It’s also cool that it’s a tradition to come in matching themed outfits with your friends so the people watching was excellent.
  • It was a very long and emotional,y draining day but I’m really glad I went!Wednesday
  • Today was my last day and it wasn’t even a full one! I did the school run again before heading out to explore Shibuya and Harajuku more. I absolutely loved this area of Tokyo and would recommend it to anyone.
  • I walked and wandered around for ages just taking in the whole scene.
  • Then back to my flat to pack up and visit the girls and say goodbye to everyone before catching the train to the airport.
  • Easy flights back to Auckland, except in Japan they tried to tell me my visa wasn’t valid to enter New Zealand. It was a terrifying few minutes, but got sorted in the end.

Overall it was such an amazing trip and I really want to thank Colin and his family for making it so! I loved being in such a different environment to anywhere I’ve been before and I found the new culture fascinating. Until the next adventure!

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Bonus picture of D “helping me unpack” but really just sitting in bed

Hobbits and Happiness

I’ve been spoiling you guys with a new post almost every week. You’re welcome! Today’s post comes in two parts beginning with Hobbits.

The day finally came when I go to go and visit Hobbiton. Not many people know this but I am a massive Lord of the Rings fan. I’ve read the books and everything. I’m lame, I know. Honestly the main reason I even looked at coming to New Zealand in the first place was to go and visit Hobbiton. The have this big flash “Evening Diner Party” tour package that I really wanted to do. Unfortunately you had to book about four months ahead of time to do it, which is was it took me until the end of April to get to go. I went with my friend Anna who was in my au pair orientation group back in January. We were the only LotR fans in the group and made a pact to visit the set together. I hadn’t seen her since February because she lives far away so it was lovely to catch up.

The trip began at about 4:30 with a normal day time tour of the set. Oh my goodness it’s amazing. The attention to detail was incredible and everywhere I looked there was something new and interesting. The tour guides were awesome and even someone like me who has watched all the behind the scenes footage learned new things about the movies. There are 44 Hobbit doors in total and they are all at varying size scales. Some made me look like a giant and some were normal size for adults. I can’t waffle on forever about the place, but it was not a disappointment!


Then the normal tour ends in The Green Dragon Inn where you get a free pint brewed exclusively for Hobbiton. I had a cider that was actually really good. You get to hang out around the pub and fire while the evening banquet meal is set up and that did not disappoint either! There was so much food and it was all amazing. I ate way too much, and then they brought out the deserts.

After we ate we all got lanterns to hold and went out into the set again. Everything was light up and the outstanding stars that are typical to New Zealand were on display. You can see the Milky Way every time there’s a cloudless night the sky is so clear. I’ve got no photos of the night tour but it was truly magical. I’m surprised I didn’t cry frankly because I did when i saw Hogwarts at the Warner Brother’s tour in London. We wandered around and night and it was perfect. Everything I hoped Hobbiton would be.


Sadly, it was a fairly rainy day for our tour so the photos aren’t great, but the experience still was. I only live about an hour from the set so I think I’m going to go back another day when I know it’s sunny and take better photos. Plus it was so overwhelmingly cool the first time I’d like to go again for another closer look.

Part two of this post is about happiness. I’m just over half way through my au pair posting and almost halfway through my time away from home. If you’re wondering I fly to Australia on August 3rd and home on the 19th. When I think back to how miserable and depressed I was in January it’s hard to believe I’m the same person. It may have taken four months but I’m totally settled. I have two great groups of friends (au pairs and farm guys) and I’m having heaps of fun. I’ve done tons of hiking, coffee meetups, learned to play darts, drink bourbon now, and have greatly improved my cooking skills. I’m really happy most of the time socially and at work. Don’t get me wrong I have bad days, but far less than when I came.

The boys are awesome and I thought we had settled in together fine a month ago but it’s only gotten better since then. We had a great school holidays together full of fun activities and crafts. I get cuddles from them all the time and they’re always excited to see me when I get home. It hit me last night as C, his mum, and I were having a disco ball dance party after dinner that I’m having such a great year. When I think back to my eighteenth birthday and everything that has happened and still is to happen I can just tell this will be one of my best years. I’ve grown and learned so much about myself and I’m happy with the person I’ve become. And I’m going to stop all of this sappy blabbering now.


I head off to Japan in two days and I can’t wait for my next adventure.

The Tongariro Crossing

So, as of this weekend I have officially done the Tongiraro Crossing. It’s supposedly one of the best day hikes in the world, and a definite item on the New Zealand bucket list. The hike is 19.4km long and takes most people 6-8 hours to do.

I did the hike with my friends Line and Carl and we drove up to the National Park on Friday night. At 6:45am the shuttle bus took us from our hostel to the beginning of the walk and, let me tell you, it was freezing. I was so cold not even my bobble hat provided warmth. We started the hike at 7:32 according to the photo I took at the first sign post.

Part of the beginning track sucked because lots of different shuttle buses let off at the same time and it was super crowded. There was no room to pass anyone and it was a wee bit cluster-phobic. The first chunk of the hike is pretty flat and desolate. They use it was the Dead Marshes in front of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings movie, and it did seem pretty dead. It was mostly flat though with small inclines but not too bad at all. I was feeling pretty confident about how the hike would go.

 

I was too confident too soon though because next up was the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ and it truly was from hell. I absolutely hate stairs and always would rather just walk up a slope. This staircase, and the subsequent steep walk up after it, were the closest I have ever felt to dying. And I was a swimmer, so often felt like dying. My lungs and legs were so tired and in so much pain. Unfortunately I was the slowest in our group at stairs. I can finish any size set of stairs, it may just take me a while because I like to take lots of pauses. I didn’t get to stop as much as I may have liked to, which is maybe why I felt so much like death.


You get to see a lot of really cool bits of scenery on the hike. One of which is Mt. Doom, which is pretty cool. There’s actually a track up Mt. Doom (it’s actually a real volcano) but it’s essentially vertical climbing on very loose stones so we took a pass on that. You also get to see the Emerald Lakes which are stunning and very sulfuric. Plus there’s a big beautiful crater lake that was really quite pleasant to sit and look at!

After the hellish climbing part of the hike it’s pretty flat for a while and then you begin the decent. The last 9km are all mostly downhill and very frustrating. For a big part of it you can see the car park right below you but the path just winds around and it takes forever to get down. The last 3km are through a forest which is lovely, but by that point your feet hurt and you’re ready to be done!

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We ended up doing the hike in 5:45 even with my very slow stair climbing. We didn’t take super long breaks anywhere just little rests here and there, but we felt we had a good pace. I’m not going to lie, it really wasn’t as hard as I was expecting/told and I would totally do it again. The steep inclines were pretty awful but other than that it was pleasant.

If you’re wondering I hiked in leggings, sneakers, a tee shirt, baseball cap, and a hoodie (the Live the Adventure one I wear all the time) I took off about halfway through. I had a backpack with water, bandaids, some apples, some granola bars, a few bread rolls, and my phone. I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked because usually my phone was stored in my bag. Overall I’m really glad I did it and can check it off my bucket list! Plus the day I did the hike was officially my 100th day in New Zealand and it was also Earth Day and I can’t think of a better thing to do for it!

East(er) Cape

Hello all, I am back with another exciting tale of travels and adventures. I had a bunch of days off around Easter and went on a bus trip to New Zealand’s East Cape, one of the most remote parts of the country. This trip involved hungry fish, lots of superlatives, and 800 stairs. So buckle up and get ready for my recap!

Friday

Good Friday started the weekend off better than good, it was great! There’s another new au pair in my town who just arrived and went with me on this trip. Her name is Ulrikke and, like the other two au pairs in the area, is Danish! I’ve learned a lot about Denmark and can safely say it sounds like the coolest country ever. Ulrikke and I drove down to Rotorua, where the bus would depart on Saturday morning. Rotorua is the “Geothermal Capital of New Zealand” and the entire town smells like rotten eggs. Not my favourite thing in the world. Rotorua is also the adventure hotspot of the North Island with tons of adrenaline seeking activities. Unfortunately these were all booked up by the time we arrived, but we had a better plan. An afternoon, sans children, at the Polynesian Spa. It was absolutely lovely. A natural mineral spa overlooking the lake with a yummy smoothie bar. I can’t remember the last time I felt so zen. After the spa we went into the city for dinner with one of Ulrikke’s friends from au pair orientation who lives in the area. Then off to bed before our trip departed.

Saturday

We did our East Cape bus tour through Stray, one of the big backpacker bus tours in the country. Stray is a hop on, hop off backpacker bus that runs through all of New Zealand. I’ll actually be using them to see the South Island in a few months. Most people use Stray to see the whole country in one go, but we booked just the three day East Cape Trip. We had an enthusiastic driver/guide and lots of cool travelers to chat to on board.

First stop out of Rotorua was a town called Whakatane (pronounced fuk-a-tani. Yes I giggled every time. Yes I am immature). We mostly stopped here to do a grocery run for the next few days. Pasta and rice are the staples in a poor traveler’s diet. This area of New Zealand is very remote and has a high Maori population. It was one of the first places people arrived in New Zealand. We got to see a statue of a Maori lady on a rock who rescued a bunch of canoes full of the tribes women and children. Pretty badass. We also had a great picnic lunch with stunning views. Then we were off to Te Kaha, where we were staying for the night. Stayed in backpacker accommodations right on the beach and got to watch a beautiful sunset.


Sunday

Easter Sunday started early because we had a lot to do. Our bus driver gave us all plenty of Easter chocolates though! We drove along the stunning rugged coastline and drove on what I believe to be the narrowest, most dangerous road on the North Island to get to New Zealand’s most Easternly lighthouse. We climbed 800 grueling steps to get to it, and the views at the top were pretty special. Then we went to one of the coolest churches I’ve ever seen. It was a Maori church full of ornate carvings and weaving. Next we went to the “Worlds Longest Concrete Wharf” which is 660m in length. Not to be confused with the world’s largest wharf, largest pier, or longest dock. Those are all in other places. After that we headed to Tatapouri where we would stay for the next night. In Tatapouri I got to take part in the wild stingray feeding they have there. I was all for petting the stingrays until I encountered the king fish. These fish come and eat during the stingray feeding too and will bite your fingers if you stick them in. The guides showed us the correct way to put your fist in the water, then flatten it so that you could pet the rays without getting bitten. Well the guy next to me went to do that and the king fish took his entire fist in his mouth and drew blood. Even the guides were shocked and had never seen that before. I decided not to put my hands near the water anymore. We spent Sunday night chilled by the beach again, chatting with everyone on the bus.


Monday

Monday began very, very early to see the sunrise. The East Cape of New Zealand is the first place to see the sunrise in the entire world, so obviously you have to get up and see that! Especially when we got to go back to bed for a while after. When we left Tatapouri we went onto Gisborne, probably the biggest town on the East Cape. Mostly people stay here when they visit the east, but Stray buses have an emphasis on “getting off the beaten track” so we only came here for the morning. It was pretty rainy, and it was a normal town. Not much to report. After that we began the drive back home through a spectacular national park. The scenery out in the east is essentially untouched since before the Jurassic Period. New Zealand broke away from Pangaea before any complex life forms evolved, which is why you won’t find any dinosaur bones, and why NZ’s only native mammal is a bat. The East Cape is so remote that the plant life has been perfectly preserved. I didn’t get too many photos because we were on a bus, but the park was stunning. I keep using that word, but there’s no other way to describe it! We made our way back to Rotorua where I had an excellent burger for dinner and Ulrikke and I fell right asleep, exhausted.

Tuesday

Bonus day off! It’s school holidays here and my host mum took Tuesday off work to do stuff with the kids, so I got an extra day in Rotorua. Today was the adventure day and Ulrikke and I went to Skyline Rotorua. It’s a big adventure park at the top of a mountain with beautiful views of Rotorua and the lake. We go to go luging (go-karting down a mountain) and zip lining, with many scenic chairlifts back up the mountain. After that we drove back home and I slept for the rest of Tuesday. Except for when I had to wake up at midnight to make a call to the US because of tax day. Adulting isn’t always fun.


Overall it was a brilliant trip, and a great way to spend some time off. I’m really glad I did the bus tour because I really don’t like driving here in New Zealand. Well I don’t like driving narrow, steep, twisty roads, which is all the East Cape consists of. It was great to be able to look out the window and take it all in. I don’t have too many photos of the coastline or forrests because it was hard to get good shots out of a moving bus, but trust me, it was stunning! Next up is two weeks of school holdidays, which means long days with both boys. Wish me luck! 

I Cannot Think of a Good Title

I’m going to start this post out the way I always do, by mentioning and apologizing for my lack of posting. Why break from tradition after three months? Side note: can’t believe I’ve been in New Zealand for three months! Anyways, let’s get cracking with what I’ve been up to.

Blue Springs

Line and I took a day trip to the Blue Springs. It’s a beautiful part of a river about an hour from us, where lots of New Zealand’s bottled water is sourced from. It was such a lovely day with lots of pretty views, and I felt pretty smug the whole time because it was bucketing down with snow in Rochester that day!

Raglan

The next weekend Line and I took a trip to Raglan where I fell in love with surfing. I’d had a lesson back in January at Piha Beach where the waves were massive and I wasn’t very good. At Raglan I had a lesson on Saturday, stood up on the board heaps, and loved it so much I went and rented a board again on Sunday! I think I’m going back this weekend with another au pair to surf again. Raglan itself is a really cool hipster town. Lots of quirky shops and cafes and I loved the laid back vibe.

Balloons Over Waikato

The next week was the famed balloon festival. My county, Waikato, puts on this big hot air balloon festival every year and balloons and pilots come from all over the world to take part. My host family and I got up at 5:30am to go watch the balloons inflate and lift off and it was pretty magical. There lots of events all week and it ends in a big night glow festival, which Line and I went to. We were suppose to go on an au pair Outing to swim with dolphins that weekend as well, but it got canceled due to rain. I think we’re trying to reschedule it though.

The Great New Zealand Muster

This weekend’s activities were pretty smelly. The national sheep shearing finals take place thirty minutes from where I live every year and it turns into a big whole day festival. There’s the actually sheep shearing competition (very cool, but confusing), lots of music and market stalls, and then +1000 sheep run down the Main Street. Myself, Line, our friend Hannah from Auckland, and Singe (new au pair in our area) all went and had a blast.

 

Social Outings

I’ve done a lot of different social things in the last week or two as well. Au Pair Link organised a “cultural evening” for the au pairs in the area where we all went after work to learn about New Zealand culture and we had to bring a dish from our home country as well. There was also a big au pair movie night later that week which had lots of junk food and great company. I’ve also gone out a few times with non au pairs I’ve met through the farm and that’s been tons of fun too. I’m still trying to find my niche but I’m getting closer to feeling more settled with friends and finding more people to do things with. Plus I learned how to milk a cow!

The Boys

I won’t lie to you, it’s been a very hard two weeks with the children. I think it’s mostly the age they are but everyone, including their parents, is feeling very worn out and tired. Patience is thin and everyone is exhausted. This is life though and you have to push on. I’m not ready to go home yet, so there’s nothing I can do except hope it passes.


Today is daylight savings here in NZ so we’re officially going into autum. I’m told that it’s beautiful here. Sunny but not hot. Then onto winter, which of you know anything about me, you know I hate. I go through happy times, I go through sad times, I keep on keeping on. I guess that’s adulting. Until next time.

A Week in the Life

Hello all. I haven’t really been up to many exciting adventures the past two weeks, mainly just staying at home and not spending money! I thought it would be interesting to start this post on a Monday and add to it all week long so you can see what I get up to. I’ll put it all in great detail for today, Monday, and less after that. This morning was weird because I woke up and really just wanted to be at home. I wasn’t sad or anything, I just wanted my mum and Wegmans I guess. The feeling passed through the morning but I’m sure I’ll feel that way again. I know my point of view and tense changes and a lot in this, it’s hard to keep it constant for a whole week!

Monday

  • 7:30am- alarm goes off and I’m up to start the day. The children and their mum have already been up for a while but my workday starts at 8 so I use the time before to get dressed and have breakfast and do all that before beginning work.
  • 8:00- workday technically begins. What I do is different each morning. This morning C and D were already dressed and fed so I just played with them until my host mum took D off to daycare when she leaves for work at 8:15.
  • 9:00- C has to be at school. Usually we play until then and this morning we did lots of colouring. Often playing with tractors is the predominate activity.9:30- now begins my “me time” without the boys. Most mornings I do a workout right after I get home from dropping C off and today was leg day. I was a sweaty mess as seen below.

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    The joys of sweat. 
  • 10:00- now I usually just potter around and do anything that I need to. So far I’ve made a questionable tasting smoothie and had a much needed (see photo above) shower.
  • 1:00- off into town now to run some errands (boring things like the post office and groceries) before picking up D from daycare. I’ve had a nice relaxed morning reading and eating lunch.

    This book is a murder mystery intertwined with¬†Macbeth. It was $1 at a book sale and I probably won’t finish it.
  • 2:30- now I pick D up from daycare and then go straight to C’s school to get him. Usually C wants to play on the playground after school for a bit. After school it’s snack time and then usually rest time as both boys are pooped. I try to find things other than the tv for them to relax in front of and today it was more colouring. After rest we do lots of playing.

    D has told me that he likes my car the best. I think it’s because he has a front facing seat in it, while a rear seat in his mum’s, Or he loves my wonderful radio singalongs.¬†
  • 5:00- this is about when I get dinner for the boys after a full day of playing. If it’s something adults can eat too, great! Tonight it was cucumber, potato, and sausage for the boys. Yum. C has to go off to his BMX biking practice on Monday evenings so I get a little bit more time with Darcy alone.
  • 7:00- now is when I am officially off work. I live with my family so obviously I still interact and play with the boys after this time but I means I am not the primary caregiver. It’s also usually when grown ups eat! Ravioli for us tonight. After eating the parents put the boys to bed and I relax. Then sometimes my host mum and I watch trashy reality to together (our current obsession is some show called Married at First Sight).
  • 11:00- often when I go to sleep. Then onto the next day!

Tuesday

  • Woke up this morning feeling very tired and not in the mood for loud children. I know, crazy, but it happens. This whole experience has been a lot of learning for me and today I had to learn how to be happy and peppy even when I was asleep inside. I think I managed it pretty well.
  • Usually on a Tuesday I’d bring C to school and D to daycare but today I had D with me all day because we went on an Au Pair Link Outing to the kiwi sanctuary! D was very tired and stroppy today so it could have gone better but it was cool to see a kiwi! No photos were allowed inside the kiwi habitat because they’re nocturnal but I did get some other cute photos!
  • Then D went home for a nap until we picked C up from school. I won’t lie to you, today was a difficult day. I’m not going to go into what we did after school because of that, it was a struggle for everyone. I woke up upset and didn’t really feel better through the day. The kids were difficult and I just felt a little lost inside.
  • Tonight I went out and met some other au pairs from the area for the first time. They were really nice but definitely have an established group that do things together. I didn’t realise that I missed being able to call up a friend and have them come over and bake something together. I miss having someone I can cry to that lives nearby. I guess I’m feeling a little lonely but I didn’t recognise that those were my feelings until now. New Zealand is all about learning new things and pushing myself out of my comfort zone I guess.
  • Side note: we have super heavy rain from tonight until Thursday and I love it! It makes the cosiest atmosphere for going to sleep and I love waking up to rain. Weird, I know.

Wednesday

  • Today is kind of a day off. My host mum takes the day off work on Wednesdays¬†to spend time with the kids so I’m not usually working and I like to give her space with them. That being said, if she needs me to watch them while she runs errands, I’m usually around for that.
  • I woke up to rain and feeling better and recharged. I think it was identifying my feelings as loneliness that helped. Now I have to figure out how to combat it.
  • Did a morning workout and showered before checking if my host mum needed me for anything.
  • Spent the day in Hamilton with my friend Line visiting the Waikato (our county) museum and trying to buy a pair of hiking boots. I couldn’t find any that fit and the museum was mediocre so not the day we expected. On the bright side, the cafe we sheltered from the cold and rain from was delicious!

    Cutest cafe! I had a cappuccino and boysenberry cake.

Thursday

  • Today began with the harsh realities of living where you work. When the boys loudly wake up at 6am, you do too. Even though I didn’t have to get up yet, I was still awake. But that’s life.
  • Today has mostly been a day of domestic tasks. My hosts dad’s entire family is visiting ¬†(4 brothers, wives, and kids!) and tonight there’s a big dinner party with family and friends. Thursday is the day of the week that I always set aside for the household tasks that I’m responsible for (the adults share all the chores between ourselves) and I spent the day vacuuming, tidying, and lots of laundry (mine and the boys).

    Perks of living in the windy countryside.
  • Today was also the big grocery day. My host mum does a big online grocery shop every two weeks and I went into town and picked it up today. It’s a massive order that requires about seven trips from the car to the house!
  • I also went for a run today because the rain has stopped. I didn’t use to workout this much since I stopped swimming but I’ve gotten much squishier than I was before and New Zealand chocolate is too good (which is why I’ve given it up for lent).
  • Today I got a package of some goodies, including Girl Scout cookies (!!) from home, which was lovely.
  • Plus I went into town and got some pictures printed at put them up. The heart shaped ones I put up a while ago but the doors, my travel doors as I like to call them, are new!
  • Mostly the boys and I did resting activities after school like colouring, reading, and helping to take in the washing!

    D loves being read to, but I think he mostly likes the pictures.
  • Dinner party went well and I ate way too much!

Friday

  • Yay it’s almost the weekend! Update on the boys this morning, very tired and cranky from last night. We’ll see how this afternoon goes.
  • My host dad was able to take the boys to school and daycare his morning and I did some tidying up from last night and another workout. Then I had a long chat with my mum and later a chat with my family in Japan about my visit to them in May. I’m going to Japan!!
  • C went to a friends house after school so I spent the afternoon playing with D. Once my host parent got home we all had leftover from the dinner party and pretty much passed out on the couch from a long week. We know how to party on a Friday!

Saturday

  • The intense rain is back and it’s kind of ruined the weekend. There’s so much to do nearby where I live but it’s pretty much all outdoors. I usually do a lot on the weekend, but not this one. Line and I were thinking about going to see the rodeo but that’s canceled. Who knows who the weekend will entail?
  • Side note, D just learned the word “die” and is running around the house joyfully shouting and giggling about death.
  • Super relaxed day. Watched some tv and baked some scones. It’s was such an exhausting week so I was happy for the break. Ended the day with yoga, a phone call with Grace (<3), and ice cream.

Sunday

  • Today began with no rain! I woke up and it was cloudy but no ominous clouds so I jumped out of bed and hurried to get ready for the day. I was going a little stir crazy after being inside for so long. Of course as I got ready and left, the heavens opened up and it ended up being some of the worst rain I’ve ever driven or walked through.
  • About 45min from me there’s a road that contains a natural bridge, caves, and a waterfall and that’s where I went. The road was narrow and bendy, my least favourite, and there was so much rain. I did have to break for cows crossing though

    Literally. Like 100 cows were being paraded down the road.
  • The Mangapohue Natural bridge was very cool and the wet weather enhanced the location. Made me feel like I was adventuring through a rain forest.
  • Then onto the Piripiri Caves. Not so impressive. Really wet hike to get there and then because it was so overcast I couldn’t actually see the cave. I got these crappy pictures and then it occurred to me that this cave looked like a great place for a TV (or real-life) murder and I quickly left.
    Too dark to see anything

    Tried to take a flash photo to see the inside, the rain had other ideas.
  • Last was Marokopa Falls. Pretty good, even in the rain
    You can tell how wet I was, and how wet my camera was from this blurry shot!

    It’s no Niagara, but pretty cool
  • Then I went home and had a hot bath and lunch! Later Line said she had a coupon for a pub and asked if I wanted to go out to dinner and of course I said yes!
    We went for a nice walk around a pond before dinner.

    The pub had cool barrel tables and i had a really tasty burger.
  • The week ended with a Lush face mask and some tv in bed. It wasn’t the most exciting week but I think it was an accurate representation of the life I have here in New Zealand. I left out some of the more raw emotions I feel because I don’t want that part of my life and story on the internet. But I’m mentioning it now because I don’t want this just to be a blithe retelling of the week. The reality of living abroad is fun, but can be so hard. It’s my own personal things do feel and deal with, but trust me the emotions are there. Until my next post, peace out!

    This face mask looks, and smells, like having mint chocolate chip ice cream on your face.

Water, Wickets, Weta, and More!

Wow what wonderful Ws. It’s me again back from another three weeks of silence on this site. I never want to annoy you guys by posting too much! It’s been a while since I wrote and I have done a lot. I’ll jump right in with the au pair trip to Cathedral Cove.

You’ve probably seen it before, it’s been in a few movies. Most notable the Narnia Prince Caspian movie, which is where I saw it first. My friend Line and I met a bunch of other au pairs and program coordinators from the area in a town called Morinsville, and traveled up the Coromandel Peninsula in convoy. Probably a good thing we did it like that because I get lost easily! We arrived in the town of Hahei and began the long hike to the cove. No one told me it was going to be quite so hot or be all uphill to get there! Good thing we were able to jump right into the ocean because I was sweaty! ¬†We stopped off for some snorkeling along the way, which was less than exciting. Apparently it’s a great snorkel spot, but because there were some storms the day before, the water was too cloudy to see anything.

After the snorkel fail we hiked to the actual Cove. It was such a beautiful beach, and wasn’t too crowded. There was a great big rock out a ways from the beach in the ocean that you could climb onto and jump off of. All in all it was a great day at the beach where I got to meet lots of new people! After our beach day we headed back into the town of Hahei for a fish and chips dinner (tastiest fish I’ve ever had) and then the au pair crew departed. Myself and Line stayed the night in Hahei, as did our friends Anna and Sarah. We had a great evening of wine on the beach at sunset and drinks in the pub! Line and I stayed in a random hostel we found online, which turned out to be the loveliest accommodations I’ve stayed in here in New Zealand. It wasn’t a hostel so much as a fancy holiday lodge with a backpacker room attached. It was hostel price and BnB facilities!

The next day Line and I drove around the Coromandel Peninusla to Whitianga and Coromandel town. Both lovely holiday towns, and we fully plan on going back!

The next weekend was a bit more chilled out. Saturday, Line and I went on a hike and were suppose to go to an outdoor food festival in our town, but it got canceled due to rain. Instead we had a lovely meal out in the local pub. Sunday was an exciting day! We went into Hamilton, the big city near where we live, to watch New Zealand vs South Africa in cricket! I taught myself the rules of cricket the night before on YouTube and hoped that would suffice. Sunday was a miserable and rainy day and while we planned to spend the morning before the match exploring Hamilton, we had to take cover in “the largest shopping mall in the north island.” We both agreed that if it was really the largest, all the others must be microscopic! The cricket was suppose to start at 2pm but due to rain delays we ended up sitting on a grass slope in raincoats felling pretty unhappy until 5pm. Then the rain magically lifted and the match got underway. It turned into such a lovely, blue sky, evening and we could enjoy the cricket without any afternoon sun beating right down on us. I was able to figure out the game pretty easily and absolutely loved it! Unfortunately because of the rain delays we only got to see the Black Caps bat. It was a 34-over game so waiting to see South Africa would have meant arriving home late. I won’t tell you the final score because it was not what we had hoped for.

 

Next up was this weekends trip to Wellington, the most Southernly capital city in the world! I hoped on a flight on Friday evening after work. Let me just say that domestic travel in New Zealand is the best thing ever. No security or passport checks and some people showed up fifteen minutes before departure! I arrived late in the evening and after checking into my hostel went out to Cuba Street, the quirky shopping and eating area. It was a great evening atmosphere and I felt pretty safe the whole time. Wellington is known for its food and coffee and it did not disappoint! Even though it’s embarrassing how much I ate, I’m going to tell you to make you jealous. I had doughnuts, waffles, crepes, muffins, coffee, milkshakes, cakes, wraps, pizza, and sausage to name a few. My stomach and wallet are hurting after this weekend.

Wellington is also a quirky hipster place and was super cool just to walk around in. I’ve been to plenty of cities and so far Toronto and Austin were the only ones I loved. Except for Wellington! Wow, I love it here. I’m not going to lie, I could see myself living here easily. Sorry mum I know that’s your worst nightmare! I don’t know why I love it here so much but I do. I may be the food, but I think that because it’s a smallish city it’s walk-able and doesn’t feel overwhelming, but because it’s a capital city there’s lots to do.

I’m going to jump to telling you about my Sunday for continuity purposes. Sunday was my day to explore most of Wellington. It started with a trip up the famous cable car which had been running for more than one hundred years I believe. At the top is the Wellington botanical gardens which were nice to walk around. After that I toured¬†the Beehive, otherwise known as Parliament. You can look at the photo and find out how it got that nickname! New Zealand’s government is weird because it’s a Westminster parliamentary system, yet it is unicameral and runs on an MMP voting system. Essentially they took bits and pieces from other governments and made their own! After Parliament it was onto the free Wellington museum and the also free Te Papa museum. Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum and one of the best museums I’ve ever seen! Then I went to an outdoor market and finished the day by walking around downtown shops and cafes. I went to the Embassy Theatre where all the Lord of the Rings movies movies premiered, and it was one of the coolest theatres I’ve ever seen! Even the bathrooms were beautiful! Exhausted, I headed back to the airport early to collapse and rest before the flight to Hamilton.

Jump back a day to my Saturday, which started bright and early with a full day tour of the Lord of the Rings filming locations around Wellington. It was an awesome tour and my brain is full of behind the scenes facts! Did you know Sean Bean hates planes so much he took a boat to New Zealand, or that Peter Jackson is frequently spotted in Wellington supermarkets buying frozen pies? Along with seeing tons of film locations we got a behind the scenes tour of Weta Workshops, the company that did all the props and special effects for the series. A weta is a gross looking New Zealand bug that grows to be massive. Peter Jackson actually helped start the company before LOTR. The tour was fascinating from a Rings super fan standpoint, and a movie making stance as a whole. Ask me anything from props design to makeup and prosthetics and I can tell you! The tour guide was really good because his parents actually worked for Weta on LOTR and he works for them now too! I’ll include lots of photos (although not from Weta because there was no photography allowed) of the scenes from the movies, and their real life locations. My Saturday ended with an awesome night market on Cuba Street and excellent live music and too much food!

The boys and life as an au pair are also going well. I think that the two have gotten used to and comfortable around me and I get hugs and cuddles now too! We spend a lot of time playing with tractors and running around outside. I have no complaints about either of those things!

Talk to you all again in another three weeks I suppose! Maybe next time we talk I’ll have bought a flat in Wellington?

The Nanny Diaries

Hello all, I’ve officially been working as an au pair for a week and a half and have had quite a few worried friends and families asking if I was still alive. So here’s the next post to say that yes, I am still doing well and haven’t decided to go home early yet!

To start off I’ll tell you all a bit about where I live now. Spoiler alert, it’s a dairy farm which has 600 cows (!!!) It is quite rural. Sometimes the cows are 10m from my bedroom window. There are a lot of flies and the occasional smell of silage. But I love it! I get to wake up and look out onto gorgeous farm land every single morning. The kitchen is full of big windows and natural light. The backyard is amazing and there’s green and cows as far as the eye can see. The sunsets and rises are so beautiful, and this is definitely the most peaceful place I have ever lived. To add to all of that, I’m only fifteen minutes from a sizable town with everything I need. I’m thirty minutes from a slightly larger and more upscale town, and forty five minutes from a very large city. One that I have yet to visit, but it’s on my list! Though I am technically living rurally, I have a car I can use to get anywhere I need and I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on much. Maybe the hustle and bustle and pollution of a city, but I can totally live without.

Next I’ll talk about the little boys I’m looking after, which I’m sure you’re all curious about. I’ve got a little two year old, who I’ll be referring to as D, and a five year old that I’ll be calling C. They’re both very energetic and tractor obsessed. I’m not surprised given the amount that drive by the farm everyday. So far C has been educating me on everyone to do with tractors and farm life, because I know very little! Last week was C’s first full week of “big boy school” so it’s been an adjustment period for everyone. He seems to like it but it takes us a while to get any information out of him. D goes to daycare most days a week and once I’m used to picking up and dropping off C from school, I’ll start doing it for D as well. In terms of my hours/best time to contact me, I work the morning school run from about 8-9 and then the afternoon pickup and dinner from 2-7ish. I have all day on Friday with the boys, and weekends off. If you want to chat, the best time to reach me is when I’m not working. Keep in mind the crazy time difference though! I also am loving my host parents here who have been so welcoming and nice. I’m learning a lot about dairy farming too!

 

I guess the last thing to talk about would be socially how I’m doing. In late January I had my au pair orientation and got to meet a lot of lovely girls who were starting at the same time as me. Line, from Denmark, is working fifteen minutes from me and we’ve already spent some time together on our weekend off. We did a great hike at Mt. Maungatautari which is a 45km nature preserve fenced off to keep out pests. Inside the fence it is native New Zealand as the original Mauri would have found it. Then we explored the town nearby and had a delicious lunch. On Saturday we are going on an au pair outing organized by Au Pair Link to Cathedral Cove and will be able to meet all the other, more established, au pairs in the area. I’ve also made friends with a German girl called Anna who is going to Hobbiton with me in the end of April! We’re both pretty big fans and are beyond excited.
It’ll probably be a while until I next write. I’m still getting settled in here and most of my days are filled with loud plastic cars and messy eating. After I’ve had some interesting weekend trips, I’ll be back!

An Eight Day Holiday 

Hello all, I am back! I know I left you guys on a little bit of a cliffhanger before. I was pretty sad and miserable. For the last eight days I have had myself a little bit of a holiday up in the very north of the country, the Bay of Islands. I’ve been staying in Paihia and traveling around the north from there. I’ve been up to so much cool stuff and I wanted to make one big post with lots of photos to tell you all about it. I’m very much coming to terms with solo traveling. I still don’t love it, and get pretty homesick occasionally, but I’m doing so much better than before. I’ve even stayed in *gasp* a hostel this whole time! Paihia is a pretty small beach town so it’s not too overwhelming, which is good for me. I’ve chatted with the various roommates I’ve had on this trip and done a lot of being on my own. I think I’ve gotten quite good at it! I’m going to break down what I’ve done into categories and hopefully make you all jealous of everything I’m doing!

Hikes:

I’ve done a ton of hiking here. I walk somewhere around 6-8miles each day and I’m loving it. I’ve avoided the sun pretty well during this time so luckily I’m not too pink. Looking back now, it seems that most of the hikes I’ve done have been to see waterfalls, but they’ve each been really good. I always find that I’m in a better mood after hiking for a while, so I think that’s a contributing factor to my increased happiness and calmness. You can’t really hike much in a big city. This country is truly amazing in the amount of outdoor things to do. There are so many parks and wilderness areas that everywhere you turn there’s green forests waiting to be explored!


Beaches/Water:

So given the name I’m sure you can all figure out that the Bay of Islands has a lot of beaches and islands. I got to do a really cool boat tour that toured around the islands, sailed through a massive hole in a rock, saw dolphins, and stopped off at an island where, surprise surprise, I hiked. It was really nice to be out on the water although we did only see one dolphin right at the end, which means we didn’t get a refund and it wasn’t even a great sighting of that one dolphin. I really wanted to see whales or killer whales¬†as that is a life goal of mine, but oh well. I did spend a lot of time around beaches but because of the intense sun here, I avoided laying out in the sand or relaxing in the sun. Self preservation I guess.


Cape Regina/90 Mile Beach:

If you look at a map, Cape Regina is the very farthest North you can go in the country. It’s a great little park with a cool lighthouse and stunning views. I did a day trip up there that included wandering through a forest with massive old trees, sand boarding down dunes, visiting the lighthouse, and driving on 90 Mile Beach. 90 Mile Beach isn’t actually 90 miles and while being a beach, it is also a state highway. Driving down in on a massive tour bus was a pretty cool experience! As for the sand boarding, I’m not an adrenaline junkie so after doing the enormously steep climb up the sand dune, and sliding back down, I decided it maybe wasn’t for me. This was a really cool day trip and way to see the far North though!

Historic Bay of Islands:

I didn’t know this before coming, but it turns out this area of the north is the birthplace of westernized/colonized New Zealand. It’s where the original Europeans landed and contains the site of the first capital of the country. I won’t bore everyone with a history lesson, but I found it fascinating! Right near Paihia is the Waitangi Treaty grounds, where the British and the Maori chiefs signed a treaty linking New Zealand and the crown. It’s an excellent sight full of cool information that I would suggest checking out. If only a certain C. Columbus took a page out of Captain Cook’s book for how to arrive and treat the locals.

 

Driving Around:

For two days up here I did rent a car. Because of the time I’ve spent in England and Bermuda, driving on the left wasn’t all that foreign an idea to me and I found it pretty easy, you just have to concentrate a lot! I covered 230miles around my first day and 170 the second. The roads here are the twistiest¬†and steepest I think I’ll ever drive, but also the most beautiful. It really feels like I’m driving through Hobbiton one day, the Virgin Islands the next, and rainy England after that. You do definitely experience the windward and leeward side of mountains here. It would be raining really hard for two minutes and then be absolutely dry for an hour and rain again ¬†after. There’s not much public transport up here, so renting a car was really the only way to see everything. Yes I did pull over safely to take all the pictures.

 

 

I think that just about covers everything I’ve done. It’s been really nice to settle and relax in one location after moving around a lot in the first five days here. I still miss my family at home but I am having fun and getting better at being alone. I’ve got an au pair orientation on Thursday and Friday and then I’m off to ¬†my host family and I start work. You can expect another post after I’ve settled in there. For the mean time, don’t let the giant orange cheeto running the US get you down! No one really cares about it over here, and it’s been quite refreshing to be out of the American news cycle loop. As always, check my VSCO, http://vsco.co/cstravels/images/1, and Facebook for more pictures!¬†