We are currently in Sydney, after a fairly laid back week in Lyttelton. We did a few days of work for the department of conservation, clearing off a stone wall, which was completely hidden by trees and other plants.

We also visited Kokoratata, where there was a group of boys and men aged eight to fifty. These men were at this establishment in order to become more connected with their native Maori Culture. They learned how to perform “hakas” (a very intimidating war dance). We had to each stand and tell them our mountain, river, town, state, and if we knew, our ancestry. In turn they told us their personal reasons for being there and what they had gained. We also took out one of their traditional canoes and learned the different strokes… it was a beautiful day, and we all had a lot of fun splashing and racing towards the pier. All in all it was a really pleasant experience; we all felt really comfortable and welcomed there.

We also went to a reservation called Raupaki, where they were going through communal mourning for their town hall, which they were tearing down in order to rebuild. The town hall, in Maori culture, is considered sacred, and is viewed as a living component in their community. We attended a church service, and at the end the elders stood and each went through all of their ancestors and their memories of these people. After that we at a meal that was cooked in the ground in the traditional fashion.

The rest of the week we had a lot of down time to hang out in Lyttelton. Halloween was a blast. The Halloween Commitee consisting of Lindsay and Tracy provided us with a plethora of treats as well as an interesting competition. The competition pitted teams of two against each other to see who could dress their partner as the opposite sex most effectively. This had some absolutely hilarious results. Zach, aka “Candy” and Annie, or Travis, stole the show. We walked around the town in these outfits, much to the confusion of the locals. We concluded the night by watching a few horror movies.

While in Sydney we split up into pairs to complete a scavenger hunt that led us to all of the important landmarks around the city. It took us all day and when it came to a draw, Drew and Karen treated us to some Thai food.

Yesterday we had the day to roam. We went to the aquarium, which had some awesome glass tunnels going through a shark tank. We also saw a platypus, and had a preview of the great barrier reef. Last night we all met up at the Opera House to see a contemperary adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, Titus Andronicus. It was a little gory but really well done, and we all really enjoyed it.

Tonight we head for Brisbane on an overnight train. We’ll update again soon!