Winding Down the Semester





What a busy week! Everything’s starting to come to an end and it’s a final sprint towards the finish line. On Monday, my IFSA study abroad program had a final celebratory dinner at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice the opportunity to see a kiwi (the bird, not the human) because I was busy studying for a Biodiversity lab test on Tuesday. No matter—I caught up with the group later and made it in time for the marae tour, the traditional Maori cultural performance, and the amazing feast prepared in a hangi.

I missed the earlier kiwis but was still able to see some wildlife during dinnertime

Then my last Biodiversity lab was on Tuesday with the dissection of a sheep heart and the last lab test. The sheep heart wasn’t my first rodeo (it was probably my fourth heart, actually), but it was still fun nonetheless. The lab test was a bit harder than expected, but I at least tried my best. I just realized that Tuesday’s lab was my last official class ever as an undergraduate university student—how weird!

But not much time to dwell on academic milestones, unfortunately. From Wednesday onwards, I have been organizing CVOC’s last official round of donated care package deliveries. I am determined to clear out the borrowed container by the end of this month as promised. Last Saturday, Lizzie and I managed to clear out a lot of the donations in the container by preparing more boxes for families. This week, I have organized the volunteer drivers, their routes, and the paperwork for the deliveries to go as smoothly as possible. As it was the last official round of deliveries, I tagged along to most of them. From Wednesday to Friday, I delivered either solo or with another volunteer to nearly thirty families. Again, it’s been pretty fulfilling to actually see and talk with the people that our organization has been helping for nearly three months now. And I know that the other volunteers feel the same way. On Thursday, Ms. Ellen was able to bond with one of the families by explaining how to tend to the plants in their garden; on Friday, Ms. Anne met a family with a mutual connection to her children. And on Friday, one family even invited me and Zhiyan in to break the fast with them!

Muslims are currently celebrating Ramadan and fast from sunrise to sunset. They then break the fast with some light snacks before eating a heartier dinner.

Over the past few months, I have sorted, counted, and delivered nearly thousands of donations, met hundreds of volunteers, worked hundreds of hours. It’s been such an intense experience, full of ups and downs, sacrifices and learning curves. And it’s all coming to an end soon. The finality of it is slowly starting to hit me, but before I can breathe a sigh of relief, I still have a few more boxes to make and a few more families to deliver to! Shoutout to the amazing volunteers over the past few months, but especially those who are still here at the end of my chapter.

What I’ve learned:

  1. A traditional hangi is made of wood and leaves but for modernity and hygiene’s sake, some Maori prepare food using hangis made of steel and wire now.
  2. Pea straw is a lifesaver for garden plants.

What I need to learn:

  1. How to cook traditional Indian food–the prepared food was simple but delicious!
  2. How to garden and cultivate plants
The organization of new donations never ends
The horticulturist in her element, explaining how to prepare the plants for the upcoming NZ winter
Off to do deliveries (notice how clear the table is!)
Lizzie being the best roommate ever and helping me clear out the container on the coldest, wettest Saturday of the year (notice how empty the container is!)