The group enjoyed a day off after our exciting trip to Bushy Park for the Bio-Blitz. It’s hard to say what everyone did, but Brianna and I took the opportunity to relax and catch up on some homework. Now that we’ve been in homestays for a while, we’re able to explore Whanganui on our own time. Internships coupled with homestays have helped us get a feel of the town and allowed us to find little Whanganui nuances like the mountain to sea bike route.
Tensions flared today in Jay’s seminar “Where the Wild Things Are.” Some were frustrated that proposed solutions didn’t actively promote social and economic equality and equated renewable energy solutions to trickle down economics. Others argued that any progress is good progress. If anything, today’s class illuminated the chasm dividing activists within the environmental movement.
After class, we broke into our advisor groups to talk about how things are going for us in our homestays, at our internships, academically and personally. We had an assortment of snacks representing different “flavors” of feelings and had to pick one of each to elaborate on. At the end of the hour, we were on our lunch break and came back together at 3:00 for our cultures class. We were all very excited to see one of our guides from our river trip in January, Tūrama, who taught us about Māori worldviews.
Tuesday was a fun filled internship day! The group all went to their internship sites and helped out. For some people that looked like weeding in Castlecliff, others educated the youth of Whanganui, and a pair worked on cataloguing at the regional museum. After internships, students were free to enjoy the day. A couple of hang-out spots include Big Orange, a coffee shop and bar, Jabie’s Doner Kebab, and the park by the river.
Our class on environmental issues of New Zealand had a guest lecturer today; Lyneke stopped by from the Quaker Settlement to teach us about weeds! We identified some local weedy plants, from ivy to gorse to old man’s beard, and talked briefly about how these weeds can hurt (or potentially help) native ecosystems. Afterwards, in our seminar “Where the Wild Things Are,” we discussed the cognitive separation of humanity from nature (a much less contentious discussion that that of our last class period). At lunch, Eliza kicked off our brown bag internship presentations and told us about her experience working at Putiki Kindergarten. Finally, we concluded our class day discussing the full values contract we devised at the beginning of the semester. We talked over our strong points, how we can improve our weak points, and came out a little more understanding of one another.
Another day another dollar is what we would say if our internships were paid. As first lady Obama once said, “Just another day in paradise.”
We set out for a group trip to Waitahinga Trails bright and early Friday morning, though not as bright as we would have liked. After a long dry spell, rain hit Whanganui all day Thursday and Friday, with particular gusto the morning we hit the trails. Some of us realized our rain gear wasn’t quite as waterproof as we expected. The hike was fun regardless, as we got to see first hand the impacts of mammal browsing and seed predation on the understory of New Zealand forests. We flexed our knowledge of native flora as we hiked, and marveled at the height of a colossal rimu. As we approached the vans to leave, like a scene out of a movie, the rain stopped and the clouds parted. We hung our rain jackets on the backs of our seats to dry as we ate lunch, then departed to watch the sheepdog trials, a New Zealand tradition where the shepherd and a four-legged companion guide three sheep through a valley to a pasture. The pair is judged based on time and their ability to successfully navigate several obstacles.
Saturday was a great day to catch up on some sleep and TV shows. Several students went into town to get breakfast at the farmers market. But the main event wasn’t until dinner when students and their host families met at the Quaker Settlement for a shared meal, which is another way to say potluck. Pasta was the most common dish, but there were several other delicious dishes and desserts. It was nice to meet some of Kiwis that make this program possible.
Until next time!
Nathan and Brianna