BootsnAll Travel Network

Kia Ora!

I’ve been in New Zealand for five days now, and we’ve been going non-stop. But I’m having a great time. The flight over was amazing and one of the best flights I’ve ever been on. The flight attendants were all great (and beautiful too), the meals were wonderful, and each seat had it’s own little mini entertainment center with tons of movies, TV shows, and music to choose from. I saw some great movies, and also a documentary about this great Maori singer named Anika Moa who cut an album in the U.S. a couple of years ago. The flight was right on time and we landed in Auckland about 5:20 AM on Sunday. It took me about 30 minutes to get through customs, and the only thing I had to have checked were my hiking boots to make sure they were free of dirt and mud. New Zealand is very careful about what they let into the country, especially anything biological that could introduce any foreign species into the country. After getting through customs, I relaxed in the terminal and waited for the rest of my Habitat team to arrive. By 8:00 all but two of us had arrived in New Zealand, and the others were to arrive later that day. 

Everyone in the group seemed to be in great spirits, even after the long flights. I was the only member of the team from the west coast; the rest of the group was from the east coast or Midwest and had much longer flights than I did. The Executive Director and the Board Chairman of the local Habitat affiliate met all of us at the airport. Ken, the Board Chair loaded up all of our luggage and took it back to his house while the rest of us left with Warren, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Manukau, for a quick tour of Auckland. Our first stop was Mt. Eden, an inactive volcano in the middle of town. We drove up to the top of the crater for a great view of the city. After walking around for about 10 minutes and seeing the sights, we went back to the van only to find that someone had broken into the van through the side window and stolen the bags belonging to three of the girls. Among the items stolen were two passports, plane tickets, and close to $2000 in cash and travelers checks. This obviously put a dark cloud over the rest of the day. I was very fortunate not to have lost anything, but I felt horrible for those that did. It was a really bad way to start a trip in a foreign country, and the sad thing is that this is a group of people who came to New Zealand to do volunteer work and help others less fortunate than we are. But instead of being made to feel welcome we were taken advantage of and robbed. Our hosts were obviously saddened and embarrassed, and they did everything they could to help us. After a few days of phone calls, trips to the U.S. Consulate, etc, we finally got everything we could taken care of, and the group has been able to move on and enjoy our experience here so far.

Our Global Village team consists of 10 people, plus one spouse along for the ride. The group is quite diverse and includes both a high school senior from Ohio and a retired couple from Germany, however the average age is probably about 30. It’s a fun group, and everyone seems to be getting on ok considering we’re together 24 hours a day. Being the lone single male is quite fun too, since half of the team is made up of young attractive women. 😉

Sunday afternoon, we met the rest of our Habitat hosts and also got to attend a dedication for a Habitat house that was just recently completed. That evening we checked into our motel, a friendly little dorm-style villa with shared baths and a common dining area and kitchen that all guests share. Once again, being the lone single male has paid dividends in that I was given a room to myself.

Our team has been working everyday in an area of Manakau called Clendon. Habitat has built 18 houses in this community so far, and they are working hard to help turn around a neighborhood that has the highest crime rate in the city. One house is built and ready for finish work, paint, appliances, etc, and the other is in the early stages and we are working on the foundation. On Monday, another team member, Wes, and I hung 16 doors, and we spent most of Tuesday setting the locks and latches, etc. Yesterday we only worked a half-day, and I went over to the second house to help lay out bricks and cut rebar for the foundation. Today was more finish work at the first house, filling holes, smoothing out the walls and trim and getting everything ready for paint. We’ll work two more days this week, and then take Sunday off for R&R.

Because we only worked a half day yesterday, we were able to take the ferry to Waiheke Island yesterday afternoon and take a “mystery tour,” which was basically a scavenger hunt around the island. When we got to the island, we split up into three groups and rented three little Suzuki Sidekicks to get around the island. We were given a map and a list of directions/clues to help us answer a total of 50 questions. The clues were set up so that we had to navigate around the island in a particular direction, and allowed us to see almost the entire island in two hours time. For some reason, I was selected as a driver for one of the vehicles. (Those of you that know my driving skills are probably laughing in dis-belief right now.) In New Zealand they drive on the opposite side of the road than in the U.S., and to make matters worse, the roads on the island were very narrow and winding. Needless to say, I had a couple of close calls. The other frustrating thing is that the turn signal and wiper switches are on the opposite sides of the steering wheel here. Everyone could always tell when I was about to turn left because the wipers would come on. 🙂

Anyway, we’ve been going non-stop ever since Sunday morning, and finding free time to write has been tough. We’ll be doing home stays this weekend with some of the Habitat Board members and will have Sunday off, and then back to work on Monday. I’ll try to make another post this weekend, and also get some more pictures posted. In the meantime, here are a couple of shots taken this week.

Me at the San Francisco Airport Recently completed Habitat House View of Waiheke Island from the ferry

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2 Responses to “Kia Ora!”

  1. Brandi Says:

    What an amazing thing you are doing over there! I just got home from NZ last Fri. If you get a chance- do the Tongariro Crossing-just south of Taupo. It is amazing. Hope you have as nice of weather as I did. Have a blast!

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. Moe Says:

    Sounds like a wonderful and amazing time. I can’t wait to see more posts & pics. I went to your blog after reading about that volcano that erupted in the Raoul (?) Islands… wondering if you saw anything. It seemed to be near NZ. But my geography is a bit lacking. Anyway, enjoy, be safe, and enjoy those perks of being the lone single guy!


  4. Posted from United States United States
  5. admin Says:

    Brandi, NZ is great. How long were you here? I’ve was planning on doing Tongariro earlier this week, but our plans got changed. I may do it in a couple of weeks before I head to the south island.

    Moe, thanks following me around. I wish I could say I miss the Foundation, but I don’t. 🙂 Say hi to everyone for me. I didn’t hear anything about the eruption in Raoul, but then I haven’t watched TV or read the paper in almost three weeks. I kind of like it…

  6. Posted from New Zealand New Zealand