A Travellerspoint blog

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday- start of the transition

Sorry for the delay in posts but, as you can imagine, this week has been hectic and confusing. I spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in Christchurch in my flat, K149 aka the Loony Bin. The mood was very dim and it was upsetting waking up on Tuesday and being the only person there. (It was also a little creepy because , due to the earthquake, my door doesn't close/lock.) At around 3:30, Shalley came back to the flat to pack up her things for Wellington! We caught up for for a while and then ehard people coming into our flat. We had been joined by three Salvation Army ladies for the week. We talked to them for a while about the earthquake and then separated into our own rooms. Dan came over for a while and we listened to music before I forced him to watch Greek. Eventually, Dan went back to his flat and Shelley came upstairs to drag me with her to a flat downstairs. About everyone left in Ilam (which was only maybe 30 people), had moved their couches outside and were having a party before they left the next day. It was fun but also depressing that we will probably never see each other again.

Wednesday I was still waiting for answers and informationa bout transferring. I had decided that if we were forced to go to Auckland, I was coming home. Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and it would not have been anything close to my dreamtrip. At 4:00 we had a meeting with Anna Foster, head of study abroad/exchange in NZ, and she said we could either got to Uni of Auckland or Uni of Otago in Dunedin. To be honest, at that point, I was convinced I was already gonig home. I called my parents, told them it was over, then started hysterically crying knowing that it wasn't even close to over. I couldn't leave. The thought of going home was much more upsetting tahnt he thought of staying but I was still apprehensive about the next couple of days. I talked to my former flatmate and good friend liz who had already transferred to Otago and, with the help of her and my paernts, I knew I was transferring to Otago. I immediately sent in the form and started preparing for the week that lay ahead of me. This adventure was nowhere near over.

Thursday, I woke up with a plan. I needed to htakl to Anna Foster about transferring, do laundry, buy a bus ticket, get a haircut, go for a run to clear my head, and then obviously start packing. In about two hours, bu tickets were bokoed and everything was a go with the study abroad office. I walked to Riccarton mall (which was still surrounded by earthquake recovery volunteers and cops) for a haircut and then walked back to Ilam to go for a run. After a QUICK (because we are still conserving water) shower, I did my laundry and could finally start packing. By this time, it was about 7:30pm and Dan was on his way over. We listened to music, mostly Taylor Swift, and joked around until just after midnight. We were both putting off saying the unavoidable goodbye. When we had said goodbye last year, it was hard but made easier by the fact that we would be seeing eachother again in six months and we would have five full months to hang out. Now, after only three weeks, it felt so unfair. We were best friends in Geneseo and it was comforting knowing he was only a 10 minute walk down the street here in Christchurch. The five hour drive between Christchurch and Dunedin seemed to make those random visits a problem. I made him promise to come visit me before we hugged and said goodbye. For the rest of the night, I listened to music and finished packing.

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Saturday, Sophie and I went to Dunedin to visit Liz, our former flatmate, who was resettling at the University of Otago. When we arrived at her house, a guy was walking inside and looked at us awkwardly while we asked if Liz was home. He stood confused and then all of a sudden we heard "AHHHHHHHH" coming from down the hall as Liz jumped outside and into our arms. It was great to have at least three of the loony bin flatmates back together. She showed us into her room which is now fashioned with a double bed, a sink, and even a fireplace. We talked and had some good laughs before hitting the town and the mall to dress the place up a bit. Liz was in heaven when she saw there was a Starbucks in Dunedin and then we all had dinner together before going back to her room and getting ready to go out. Marybeth came over and we all hugged and took millions of pictures before heading to Peter and Hillary's flat located in the hills of Dunedin (only a ten minute walk but some steep hills along the way). At their flat, we all talked some more about the earthquake and all of the problems it has caused and then we put on music and joked around for a bit. That night, we went to The Bog and all had a pretty good time. Peter met his wannabe "girlfriend" and then Sophie and I helped him ditch her throughout the rest of the night. Marybeth, Liz, Sophie and I took a taxi back to their flats simply because we didn't know our way around at all. The taxi driver was pretty friendly so we had a good laugh along the way. When we arrived back at Liz's flat, the three of us got ready to bed and then all crammed onto Liz's mattress. It was great to have them again.

Sunday, Liz had to wake up extremely early and go on a rafting trip with her group so Sophie and I were on our own. We set out around noon and had lunch before heading to the Cadbury factory. We took a forty five minute tour through the chocolate factory and it was pretty interesting seeing where they keep everything and how they make their products. After this, we walked back to town and hung out in the Octagon before going to the mall. We were just shopping around and being goofy. We went into Lush and Diva. Eventually, we walked back to Liz's room and she was also on her way home. We were planning on going to the brewery for a tour but by this time it was almost 615 and unfortunately the last tour was at six. Instead, we went back to Peter's and Hillary's and all hung out. Back at Liz's, she figured out her class schedule for the day and we talked about how Sophie was going to Auckland and I was still undecided. We all knew what Monday was going to bring.

On Monday, we woke up when Liz returned from her 9 am class and just got ready and started packing our things. We went to the Link and, for once, it wasn't stone cold silent which was very refreshing. After the link, we retrieved our bus tickets and our baggage from Liz's room before heading to the bus stop. Liz, Sophie and I sat on the bench and I can't even imagine what other people must have thought when they looked at the three of us. It seemed like the saddest bench anyone has ever seen. My bus pulled up and we all hugged goodbye while trying to hold back tears. We have a plan that in three years, when Sophie turns 21, she is going to come to NYC for the first time and Liz is going to travel up to visit also. I will never back down on this plan. The bus ride was boring and long. We had about a six hour trip and we made one stop at a small, off the beaten path diner for a half hour. When looking for a place to sit inside, I saw a girl that looked about 26 sitting by herself and I asked if I could join. Her name was Caterina and she has been traveling New Zealand for the past year. Originally, she is from France and she was going to be leaving for home the next day. We talked about the earthquake and all of the drama it has caused but then we also talked about all of our previous travels. She was really nice and has led such an interesting life so far. Back on the bus, I listened to my Ipod until we stopped in a place called Hornby. This is only about a fifteen minute drive away from the university but it would've been about a forty five minute to an hour walk especially carrying all of my things. At the bus stop, there was a metro stop and about five people were waiting for the metro to take us into the town. We didn't know that the metros had completely stopped running after the earthquake. Caterina drove by telling me this out the window of the car she was in and then, after asking the driver, she told me to get in and that they would drop me off at the university. I asked if they were going that way because I didn't want to intrude and although they weren't, they were both persuasive enough that I felt comfortable to get in. The driver's name was Gail and she has a son that went to the University of Canterbury so she knew where it was. Along the way, she pointed out her son's house and said that since I am so far away from home, if I ever need a place to go, his house is open to me. I could tell these people were genuinely nice and just trying to do all they could after the earthquake to help out. As they dropped me off, we exchanged cell phone numbers and I thanked them for the ride. Finally, I was back at Ilam Apartments. I texted Dan and he came over while I emailed my mom, started to unpack, showered etc. After, we went to his friend's apartment for a while to hang out and then I met up with Allie and Lauren, the two girls I had met at the airport while en route to Christchurch. They were leaving for Auckland the next day and we were sad that it was our last night together. We talked while they packed and then eventually we all said goodnight and goodbye.

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Sophie and I slept in this morning and had a relaxing day. We walked into town and saw Invercargill. It isn't very big - more like a cute little town with many cozy shops. We walked around for a bit just seeing the parks and the shops. We stopped into Pak N' Save and then went to see her mom at the Polytechnic Institute where she works. It was pretty cool to be inside of another school in New Zealand. Her mom drove us back to their home and after a while we had dinner. It felt weird to sit down and have a dinner that is not "college." We had a good time talking about the differences between the US, the UK and New Zealand. After a while, her parents went grocery shopping and we both changed into pajamas to watch TV for a bit. While watching, we were both checking our emails when I found yet another fateful email from the university. Unfortunately, the uni is closed until AT LEAST March 14. This is a lot later than the expected date of February 28. It's very unsettling; they say they are doing this in part to give students and professors a time to de-stress but they do not understand the amount of stress that they are causing for international students. Many of my friends in other programs are considering transferring to Auckland or other universities. My flatmate Liz was forced to transfer with her program and she told us today that she is so upset and wishes she could come back.

Also, we received another email from the university saying that they are forced to give up the Ilam apartments to house the individuals that are coming from Australia to help out with this mess. We talked about it at dinner and although we agree it is a really nice thing, it is awkward to have someone else living in our rooms with all of the personal belongings we left behind (clothes and such). The university says they may change around flats and such when we return if they still need the accommodation for the Australian volunteers. If our flat gets split up, we will all be very upset. It was bad enough losing Liz. I hope that they will just place someone else who didn't have a full flat in her room. This whole situation has caused so much unneeded drama and chaos.

Sophie and I got in touch with Mike who is heading to Queenstown within the next couple of days. It is about a two hour bus ride from here so Sophie and I are thinking of catching up with him and Kevin to then explore for a while before we return to Christchurch. We have some time so we might as well make the best of it since they will probably take this time away from our breaks.

Posted by topspin98 01:47 Comments (0)

New Zealand's "Darkest Days"

according to every news channel....

I will try my best to tell you all exactly what happened over these past two days but I'm afraid that I cannot correctly convey the emotions and hectic actions that took place. Tuesday morning started out like every other day: wake up, have breakfast, shower and get ready, leave for class. I only had class from 12-12:50 and it was Game Theory so I was excited again. Class was interesting and we played a couple of games as examples to the lessons we were learning and finally it was 12:50 and class was over. We all stood up to put our books away when suddenly everything started shaking. At first it seemed small but then as the intensity grew and we saw the projector image shaking against the wall, everyone jumped under their desks and the power went out. After about thirty seconds of panicking, the lights came back on and everyone started to walk outside. The kiwis I had met said "Welcome to Christchurch. Your first earthquake!" I smiled and laughed a little and then said that I had to run off to the library to get something taken care of. They all gave me a weird look but I kept going on my way and had no idea why. As I was walking through campus, I realized everyone was outside of the buildings and realized the buildings all had to be checked before we were allowed back inside. I didn't realize the severity of this incident at all so I decided to walk home and call my parents to tell them about what had just happened! We got off the phone after about two minutes and I ran up to catch one of my friends. He thought the earthquake was pretty cool also and then, as we were walking home, we had the second earthquake. We simply lost our balance and again, didn't really think much of it. A group of students were standing in the quad area all talking about what had just happened. We all found it pretty interesting and I started to look for my flatmates. They were walking down the stairs because the RAs had started to evacuate all of the flats. We found out that the first earthquake was a 6.3 and the second was a 5.7. We were also informed that the cathedral in the center of the city had partially collapsed and people were in trouble. Luckily, at this moment, I saw Dan and ran over to him. He had just been walking home and decided to stop by and see what I had thought about the recent events. The RAs made us go into the new common room to stay away from the buildings in case they were also going to collapse. Dan came inside and stayed with Sophie and I while others checked on their friends.

Eventually, we were allowed back inside of our flat. Only the J Block building had a crack on top and the area was sectioned off and those students still had to remain in the new common room. Inside, Sophie, Liz, Hillary and I all freaked out for a bit while Dan was trying to be reassuring. We had no electricity or internet and we decided to pack some of our important belongings in a backpack just in case. We hung out inside for about 40 mins until the 5.6 aftershock kicked in. Liz, Hillary, Sophie and I ran under the table while Dan stood there. He voiced the unanimous decision that we would be safer outside so we all grabbed our things and walked back down to the quad. Dan's sister Laura had started texting him about the tragedies that were occurring in the city and all of the people that were either trapped or killed. We were all very nervous because our flatmates Aleesha attended a design school in the city and was there when the earthquake took place. Phone lines were mostly down and she had not answered any of our texts or calls. After about an hour and a half of pacing and being stranded outside, we all walked to Dan's flat because somehow they had electricity and internet. There were about 20 people crammed in his living room and his flatmates all passed around water and food and such. They were really so nice considering they didn't even know everyone who was over. We all huddled around the television watching the news while passing around three laptops to inform home that we were all safe. After an hour and a half, we walked back to our flat. Thankfully, Aleesha was back and she told us about how she had to run out of her buildilng and had left everything she had there. She had plans to go home the next day since her school would be shut down for at least two weeks. We talked for a while about what we would do that night and then while some headed off to a BBQ that the school was hosting, I walked back to Dan's. I didn't get to send all of the emails I had needed to and I needed to take care of my phone so I would be able to call home and get in touch with people here. After a while, Sophie and I had been texting and they were watching a movie in a flat on campus so I went and caught up with everyone there. We had electricity again but still no internet. We were also told not to drink the water unless we boiled it first and to avoid flushing the toilets and taking showers. When the movie was over, Sophie and I headed back to the room and Aleesha and Shelley met us a short while later. We all slept on the floor in our common room for the night while watching the news. We put on Love Actually to try and fall asleep but after that, the news returned. The aftershocks felt throughout the night were much stronger. From eight at night until 6 in the morning, we had experienced 17 aftershocks with ten of them being over a 4.0 and two over a 5.0. It is safe to say that none of us got a great night's sleep.

We were all "awake" around 6:30 am and tensions were still high. We sat watching the news until about 10:00 when Liz came in the room. She had slept in a friend's flat with her group and was still shaken up about the whole incident (like the rest of us). She went into her room and tried her internet again when she got a text message from her program coordinator saying that the program was relocating and she had to leave Christchurch. This was very upsetting news and we all started to get upset together. Our flat was very close in the past two weeks and we didn't want someone to leave for good - especially in a time like this. At this point, Liz had to leave, Aleesha was flying home for a while, and Sophie's parents were coming to pick her up later in the day. Shelley and I would be the only two staying in our flat in Christchurch. We walked to Dan's house to use the internet some more and I found out that Dan was also leaving until the uni reopened. At this point, I realized I didn't want to be here anymore. At that moment, nothing seemed worse than staying in Christchurch and I probably would've given anything to have been home. Shelley and I walked back to the campus and ran into some members of her program group. They had decided to wait a day before making any decisions to leave but most were already planning plane tickets to auckland for the weekend. Now, I realized I would most likely be completely alone. I skyped with my parents for a while and tried to decide what I wanted to do. I had spoken to the Geneseo Study Abroad Program and I was given three options: come home and finish the semester off at Geneseo, try and transfer to a different university in New Zealand, or stay in Christchurch. I had strongly been considering coming home and then changing to a different university seemed appropriate. Sophie then walked in and invited me to her house until the university reopened. I thanked her and immediately started packing my bags because her parents would be at the uni in about ten minutes. She lives in Invercargill and we had an eight hour car ride here. During the ride, I could feel the tension lifting off of me. I still felt terrible for all of those families and people that were hurt by the earthquake but it felt so nice just to be getting so far away from it all. Both her mom and her dad are extremely, extremely nice and comforting and we arrived at their house around 11:30 at night. I could not be more grateful that Sophie is an awesome person as well as her parents for taking me in. I was all set up in the guest bedroom and, after updating my family and friends, I fell asleep. It was a much needed sleep.

Throughout the car ride and since leaving Christchurch I have thought much more about what I want to do for the remainder of the semester. I have decided to stay put in Christchurch and continue on as planned. I had my hopes set on many clubs/interesting activities, I really love the campus and all of my classes, and I don't think I could bear the thought of leaving all of the friends I have just met. Also, as most of you know, I really enjoy community service and volunteering and I think it would be an awesome opportunity to take part in the cleaning up/rebuilding of Christchurch. The city was so beautiful before and it's upsetting how it could be destroyed in a minute. Hopefully the university will open soon enough - as of now it is closed until Monday but all of the buildings need to be checked and I have a feeling that some buildings such as the library will be closed a lot longer.

As I said when I started writing this, I can't properly convey the fear and anxiety that lasted over these two days. Every time we felt an aftershock, we were all scared. Every time we heard something new on the news, it was frightening - being told not to use the water, go outside, and to keep a jacket and a pair of shoes near the door. We were with people we had only met less than two weeks ago and had to lean on each other for help and support. Never did I think that I would have an experience like this.

I apologize to all of those that I have made worry again! Bomb threat on my way home from Greece and now an earthquake when I'm in New Zealand? I bet you are all happy this is my last study abroad experience!

Posted by topspin98 15:05 Comments (1)

First Day of Classes 21/2/11

Finally the first day of classes arrived! I woke up pretty early and headed to the gym since I didn't have to be in class until noon and I knew I would have a long day ahead of me. I left the flat around 11:30 because I didn't know exactly where the building that I needed to go to was located. It was the Law building located on the far right side of campus. I didn't recognize anyone in my class so I sat next to a kid who also seemed to be alone. His name is Tom and he's from Wellington. We chatted for a little while until the professor decided to start class. This was my Economic Game Theory class and the lecture hall contained about 60 students. This number may change throughout the next two weeks because Canterbury students have until March 2 to add/drop classes. Anyway, my professor is from Canada which means I can easily understand him and he spent most of the first fifty minutes just introducing himself and the class. Then, we have a twenty minute break before returning for the next half of the class. Most people seemed to go outside and sit on the lawn for those twenty minutes so I did the same. First, I sat by myself and just listened to music but after a couple of mins, I saw a group of three students that I had recognized from the class. I went over and introduced myself to them and explained that I didn't know anyone. They asked me to sit down and we started talking about the US and New Zealand. Two of them had been born in the US and moved to NZ around the age of ten and the third was originally from and obviously still in New Zealand. We talked for the twenty minutes and then I sat with them when we walked back inside. They all seemed really nice so it was a great first class! (Oh and even better, my final is during class on May 30 so depending on my other two finals I may have more time to travel than I originally thought since I am in New Zealand until June 28th!)

Next, I moved to Industrial Organization Economics for two hours. My professor seems really nice here also but she DID shout me out in front of the whole class as being the only exchange student - which was embarrassing. I saw Dan later on and he just explained that she is part of the study abroad/exchange program at the school so she really encourages it. He said she did the same thing to him when he took the class and was planning his trip to Geneseo. This class will definitely be more work than the Game Theory class but that was expected since it is a 300 level. We have readings, problem sets, and tutorial sessions to attend for help with the problem sets which is pretty cool. After class, I went to the library to try and figure out my canterbury email situation and luckily it is now working! At the library, I also worked on finding a way to bind the book I need to create for my Industrial Organization class and they have a copy center that can take care of the whole thing! I saw Dan at the library (so random) and we talked for a while before I walked back to my room. We were all doing homework for most of the night and then Aleesha, Sophie and I went out for a walk (we were really trying to find playgrounds but it turned out to be unsuccessful).

Today, I have another Game Theory class at noon. Unfortunately, today was also supposed to be the clubs fair but since it is raining, they postponed it until tomorrow. This is the first day of rain since we've been here though so I can't really complain too much!

Posted by topspin98 12:27 Comments (2)

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