Couple weeks in and I have to say there are a few things that stand out as my experiences of “culture shock” here so far. They are:
1. Driving on the opposite side of the road
-Now I have to explain, I already knew people drove on the other side of the road here but I did not anticipate how hard it would be getting used to it. I find myself consistently looking in the wrong direction of traffic when crossing the road. The scariest part about that is I just got a bicycle so I have to remind myself constantly in attempts to not die while I’m here.
2. There are actually still dirty areas of New Zealand, and how hard it is to find eco-friendly products near me.
– I’m going to admit this. Being a conservation biology major, I had somewhat of an unrealistic image of New Zealand being a utopia where no one littered, everyone recycled, and a lot of people cared about reducing waste and their impact on the environment. Thinking about it now, Its really a silly thing to assume. Especially after dorm parties and Saturday nights I see streets littered with plastic and beer bottles/cans. In the beginning, it was a bit hard for me to find products that are eco-friendly. Things like reef safe sunscreen, straw cleaners, and produce bags were so hard to find and when I did they were terribly expensive. I spent the money anyways.
With that being said, I am really impressed with the incentive to not use plastic bags for grocery shopping, as well as the recycling programs in place here. There is the option to recycle so many things that I would not be able to recycle at home because of the lack of facilities to process such materials. There’s a recycling bin for soft plastics in the library at school! I definitely think there are great movements happening here for a more sustainable future and that just makes me so happy.
Disclaimer: In absolutely no way am I the eco-guru. Still flawed in many ways but working on it every day!
3. How open a lot of people are with talking about sexuality, drug use, and just straight up swearing.
-I pick up the school paper every week and I am always finding articles about college students going on benders, tips on having a one night stand, recipes for great margaritas, reviews on various condom brands, how to clean someones vomit off your carpet, and even a list of drinking games to play with your flatmates. lecturers have even brought up these topics while teaching, and I’ve had more than one professor swear during the lecture! Like full on F bombs! Personally, I think this is good to be open about subjects like this because they are not taboo and it leaves the opportunity for discussion and growth. I can totally see how someone might be uncomfortable with it at the same time. For me though, it makes class and student life here a bit more interesting.
Last weekend we went on a trip to Waitomo glow worm caves and I just need to say that was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had in my life. TIME TO GET SCIENCY! The glow worms scientific name is Arachnocampa luminosa. When you see the worms glowing they are in their larval stage of becoming a fungus gnat fly. Glowworm light is made from a biochemical reaction known as bioluminescence. Energy to make the light is sourced from an energy-rich protein, ATP which is made in the larval glowworm. Glowworms produce ‘cold’ light, a pure light with almost no associated heat. The glowworm larva uses the light at its tail end as a lure to attract small flying insects lost in the cave. Sadly there are no pictures allowed in the cave so if youre reading this I highly recommend you see them for yourself. We also went on a nature walk where I saw quite a few New Zealand fantails (Rhipidura fuliginosa), also known by their māori name Pīwakawaka. I was really excited to see these guys because they remind me of my favorite bird back home, the Hawai’i ‘elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis). They are quite curious creatures and one got within a meter from a friend of mine. We also got to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen and thats really saying something because there are tons of waterfalls back home.
I tried to think of a word that would describe my time here so far. I knew that this was a huge transition but that word “transition” didn’t seem to fit quite right so I looked up some similar words in an online thesaurus. These are some of the results I got:
Looking at these words I realized a lot of them were associated with some sort of growth. There are a lot that have a really positive spin on them such as “growth” and “development” or “metamorphosis”. It made me smile because that is really what I wanted this whole trip to be about. I’ve been starting to make effort to focus on my mental health, and wellbeing. Trying to work on myself, develop healthy habits, and learn from all the people I meet and everything I do. Its a task I feel really good about taking on.
Anyways I’m tired and its another late night with an early morning ahead of me tomorrow. Guess I still have to work on the healthy habit of getting enough sleep haha. Anyways I hope you enjoyed reading, and I’m excited to share next weeks adventure with you!