My First Week In New Zealand.

Kia Ora!

Hello New Zealand!

I made it – about 30 hours of travelling later. My flights were pretty pleasant, as far as long haul flights go. I was sat next to the toilet for the first flight which led to some interesting niffs, however I didn’t have anyone annoying sat behind me kicking my chair (woop woop!). Also, the food was surprisingly good; shout out to my mum for ordering the vegan food, I always got my food first and it actually contained some fruit and vegetables. My layover in LAX went super quickly as I had to go through U.S. security. By the time that was over I just had time to grab a bottle of water (rooky error not taking one on the first flight) and some snacks. Please can we take a minute to appreciate how wonderfully jolly service staff are in America, I was called a “guest” in Starbucks, welcomed and asked how my trip was going. In the U.K. I would be grunted at then have my name spelt incorrectly for the millionth time.


The second flight was slightly longer (12hrs20) but I got moved to a different seat at the back of the aircraft where it’s a bit less wide so it was just me and a lovely American lady in our row who was on her way back to her home in Rotorua. I got a window seat on this one so I could have a (rather dingy) view of landing in Aukland at 5am. All in all, Air New Zealand was fab! I was collected by Bev, one of the Heads of Boarding at Southwell School, which I was unbelievably grateful for as I was in no state to negotiate public transport. We took the 1hr30 car journey to Hamilton, my new home. The rose on the journey through the fog, which was just beautiful. When I arrived at the school I was shown my room for the next few days (I will change after that) and ended up sleeping all afternoon! After the mega-nap I met one of the other overseas gappies from South Africa who had been at the school since Christmas called Luke. We went to check out the big super market up the road from the school.

The next day I was asked, on the spot, to leave my room at 8am because they needed to fumigate the building. Originally it was just meant to be upstairs only so I wasn’t going to have to move but it turned out they wanted to do the whole building! I ended up going to stay at one of the Bev’s house for the morning then went and had lunch with all of the staff. I met the head of drama (v exciting!) who was telling me all about their big production coming up of Beauty and the Beast. Hopefully I’ll be able to be involved in that! I then went and had a drive-by tour of the town from the other Head of Boarding, Keith. It was nice to see where everything was. It’s so much smaller than towns/cities in the UK!

After my tour I was invited to have tea with the headmaster’s wife at their house which was super lovely. She had Pukka tea, which, if you know me, is my absolute vice!! Next came homemade pizza at one of the head of boarding’s house – YUM! I then managed to get an early night before waking up at 6am to catch the bus to Aukland for my orientation.

I just about managed to navigate my way to the youth hostel via a rather oddly chosen route by Google Maps, including squeezing down the side of  a car park. I soon met the rest of the group who’d come from the airport to head off to the museum for a cultural Maori performance. It included chanting, dance, music and weapon demonstrations, finishing with an impressive Haka. We then drove to Mount Eden and walked up to the edge of the crater. At which point the heavens opened! This was rather irritating as most of us had left our waterproofs in the van. We got thoroughly soaked, but laughed our heads off. When we made our way back to the hostel I managed to find a tumble dryer and put all of my clothes in it before heading into town in my pyjamas to find lunch and set up my new SIM card. We were then allowed to (finally) check into our rooms before catching the ferry over to Half Moon Bay for dinner. There were two veggie options, one of which was a salad. I chose the pasta with Brussel sprouts, broccoli and cheese. This unfortunately tasted what I can only imagine a fart tasting like and was rather nausea-inducing. By this point most of the group were falling asleep at the table by the time the last two members of our group joined us, whose flights had been delayed. We were all very glad to be getting on the ferry back to our hostel where we subsequently passed out.

Then next day we had a Duty of Care course for about 4hrs. I had done a lot of the stuff before for my previous job but it was a good refresher and there were some really interesting insights into boarding school life. Our little gang then went out to find lunch. I then went, with some of the other girls, to buy things like shampoo and conditioner… not very interesting and quite expensive! There was enough time for some people to squeeze in a nap before pizza time. Early bed again for most of us before an early start the next morning for most people to go and catch flights to their schools around New Zealand.

Remarkably, I managed to find my way back to the terminal in the morning to catch the bus back to Hamilton. When I arrived I met the other South African gappie (Marion) who helped me take all of my stuff upstairs into my new room. My new room is what used to be part of the girls dorm room but has now been made into a room. It’s quite big! When I first saw how small the wardrobe was I was slightly apprehensive but when I actually unpacked I realised how little stuff I’d actually brought with me and managed to fit it all in with heaps of room to spare. It’s so satisfying to actually have everything unpacked in a room. This is when it all actually began to feel a little more real.

So guess who was on duty the first evening back?! (It was me – if that wasn’t clear enough). We helped the girls to settle back in after the holidays, got to meet them all and their parents. Some of the girls decorate their little spaces so beautifully. I got two hours off which I spent watching telly and eating. Which is a very good thing as my blood sugar crashed big time at the end of duty leading to a near-vomit situation. Fun fact: I have eaten pizza 3 out of 5 nights I’ve been in New Zealand. Be prepared for a slightly larger Clare to return to the UK in 2018! I have also just realised that I will be turning the big 20 whilst in New Zealand… SCARY. Anyway, back to work talk: I then went back on duty overnight to shadow Marion (another gap tutor) ready for  the 6:30am wake up duty. I was already struggling to keep my eyes open!

Wake up wasn’t bad at all, pretty chilled start to the day with no big dramas. Breakfast was porridge for me with peaches but loads of other options so I was happy. I got to meet my table which is the table of children I sit with for every meal time until the end of term. Nobody threw food, shouted, cried or died so I’m considering it a success (update: this has continued – YAY). I managed to make it through solo over night duty as well! I went on to survive my first day without Marion to help me all of the time. She was super lovely by answering my plethora of questions though – she is honestly so so helpful. I got given all of my school sports kit which is great! Can’t quite believe that it’s Canterbury and it’s mine (gasp). I spent a few hours attempting (and failing) to set up a bank account. The computer system was down so it was super tedious but I did manage to apply for an 18+ card. Basically, in New Zealand, to buy alcohol or even be in a bar (without drinking) you need to have a passport, NZ driving license or an 18+ card. It’s just not worth me dragging round and losing my passport, which more importantly contains my visa!

I have now been in New Zealand for a full week… where on earth has the time gone?! Already feeling a lot more settled and happy. I’ve got great people around me and the children are great. The school sadly doesn’t cope well with catering for vegetarians but as far as downfalls go, it’s not a bad one.

I’m looking forward to many more weeks to come!

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