I have been going to Auckland’s Farmers Market on Saturday mornings recently. I tend to sleep late given the choice, but this is worth waking up for. The market offers fresh food at different stands such as bread, fish, pears, and salad. I have been eating salads often for dinner because I feel more awake during the day after I do so. Finding something that works diet-wise is important, but so is not being too extreme. Personally, I find having a small breakfast, a lunch rich in protein and carbs, and a light dinner works for me. Having minimal amounts of desserts is important for good health, as is physical activity. If you do not have the time or motivation to work out regularly, even walking places rather than bussing or driving is good.
Postponed one weekend, the weather clears for my trip to the Coromandel Peninsula. It serves as a relaxing break from studying for my three upcoming exams, although I still bring along certain study materials. I have to get up early both days to make the most of my time there; I hate getting up early, but I do enjoy that time of day in the early morning. I ferry over to the peninsula on a bright yellow vessel where I am met by my tour guides. Coromandel Town looks like something out of a wild west movie, perhaps because it was designed by architects and planners from San Francisco. I check into Anchor Lodge where I am staying; thanks to offseason, only four out of nine beds are full in the backpackers’ dormitory which would later make for a peaceful rest. The first day of the tour includes taking a narrow gauge train through dense forests to a lookout point. The tracks are surrounded by pottery, including a barrier wall made by old wine bottles! Afterward, we go to an old Kauri forest; many of these trees have been cut down and New Zealand is working to preserve the ones that are left. I end the day by soaking in Anchor Lodge’s spa, watching New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team beat France’s, and forgetting about exams for a short while.
The next morning I am met by the tour van and after picking up other tour-goers we are on our way over the Coromandel Range to the east coast. Our first stop is Hot Water Beach; when there, you dig your own thermal spa with a spade. On a 14º C day, the spas are heavenly; an hour of soaking in the hot saltwater and listening to the surf! There is one downside, and that’s that sand gets everywhere...yes, everywhere. From there, we drive to Cathedral Cove just 15 minutes up the coast. The walk to the main cove is about a half hour each way, but it takes a bit longer on the way down because I stop to explore two smaller inlets. I spend about ten minutes admiring Cathedral Cove’s archway, beaches, and waterfalls before going back. From there, the rest of the day is spent in the van and on the ferry getting back to Auckland. I end my final holiday in New Zealand with a steak from La Porchetta. All that’s left are studying for and taking exams, and spending time with people before going to California in two and a half weeks.
WiFi, or Lack Thereof:
Yet another recurring theme of my time in Auckland has been the constant WiFi troubles at Carlaw Park Student Village. Problems with the connection have led to outcry and accusations that Auckland Uni intentionally lied in the housing contract, driving up rates even though they know they are not fixing the WiFi problem while claiming to in the contract. I helped create a petition to rectify the problem and hold the Uni accountable; while the petition made its way to appropriate higher-ups, the problem still is not fixed. Frustration and anger from residents peaked when IT cut off the entire complex from WiFi for 90 minutes during exam period; people are planning to take legal action against The University of Auckland in New Zealand’s small claims court. I would partake if I were staying longer, but I have already done a lot. I plan to still help fix the problem from afar once I return to the US. If you are reading this and planning living in Carlaw Park soon, beware of these problems. Do not be afraid to speak up, as this has helped. For what it’s worth, the highest of higher-ups at the Uni know about the problem now.
Tipping, or Lack Thereof:
Yet another baffling aspect of US culture is how much tipping is encouraged...and expected. In New Zealand as well as many other countries I have had the privilege of visiting, no one tips. In others, tipping is limited to a low percent. Spending all this time here has drawn my attention to how much tipping between 15 and 20 percent has drained my bank account back in the states. The system in the US seems screwed up to me since actual meals and such cost about the same amount both there and here. In addition, people seem overall happier and less stressed about money in tip-free New Zealand. Upon return, I will have no choice but to eliminate or seriously slash tipping because it is costing me way too much budget-wise; no going above 15%, and that is for good service. Yes, I have worked in food service where I rely on tips and this fact still does not change my mind.