This is Nathan and Rachael, the Hongi group OE’s, saying hello and updating you on what we’ve been up to. 5 days ago we met each other in LAX where we shared snacks and some cute, awkward introductions. We boarded our 13 hour flight, traveled a whole day forward in time and landed in Auckland on Valentine’s day!
Getting in our rental vehicles we made our way down the long winding road to Raglan. The drive consisted of beautiful views and awesome music. Who knew driving on the wrong side of the road could feel so right. We are staying at an eco lodge here called ‘The Institute of Awesome.’ It is tucked into the jungle with hiking trails and a short walk to a beautiful view of the sea. We went out for our first dinner together in New Zealand and went to the beach to watch the sunset afterwards. We walked on the dark volcanic sand, got our feet wet, watched local surfers, and checked out tidepools with crabs, seaweeds, and starfish.
A friend once told me that while traveling every week is a day and every day is a week. That has sure been true this week, it feels both like we just started and like we have been together as a group forever. . It has been full days of games, activities, conversations, cooking and eating together, and sleeping deeply.
The group dove bravely and thoughtfully into some tough conversations and topics. We were really touched by their vulnerability and willingness to be open with the group.
They did a scavenger hunt in Raglan in pairs. They had tasks such as talking to locals to learn some slang and get suggestions for favorite spots to visit and buying an unfamiliar fruit.
Here are a few excerpts from our scavenger hunt;
Xan and Mia said:
“After arriving in Raglan from the airport, we started orientation by getting to know each other with games and activities. We learned about the surrounding area and set up our group norms for the rest of the trip. We also created our own goals for the trip that we can change throughout the next three months. We spent a night at the beach watching the sunset, a day exploring the small beach town of Raglan, and cooked a lot of good food. We are all very excited to start the adventure outside of orientation and have already become close friends. At the Institute of Awesome, we cooked all our meals in groups, stayed in bunk beds, and watched the sunset at Inspiration point looking over the water. Overall, we are loving it!”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the immersion present in the scavenger hunt. Being forced to ask the locals was an intelligent idea on the part of our OEs, and I hope that it has taught us how to consult locals in future locations. Raglan is the definition of laissez faire with surf shops on each corner and hippy baristas in each coffee shop.”
“Raglan has been sweet as so far. for the scavenger hunt, Rollie and I got to explore more of this beautiful town. The locals here are extremely kind and welcoming. Many of the tasks we had to get done involved meeting new people and learning how to live without our cellphones. The scenery is breathtaking here and we’re excited to go on more adventures! ma te wa!”
Shane and Conner said:
“We got a really cool new exotic fruit called a pawpaw. We are excited to enjoy this juicy fruit. The people of Raglan are very friendly and relaxed. There are good vibes all over the town. We are having fun and look forward to the next three months.”
Ryker and Amelia said:
“Hey! This is Ryker & Amelia, and we are killin’ it here in Raglan, New Zealand. Amelia is currently locked out of her email, but she says hi. We just finished orientation last night and it was a bittersweet feeling. It was amazing to barrell past the long (but very fun) group lessons yet those few days really brought us all together. What started out as an awkward body spelling of Carpe Diem at the airport, is now a special camaraderie with very strong connections. Albeit, it’s not all butterflies and rainbows, but it’s great laughs and fascinating games that make us slightly suspicious of Nathan now (that’s right, at least one of us is watching you closely ‘Sherlock’). It is refreshing being in Raglan for the locals are incredibly polite and kind. When Amelia & I would be staring at maps with what must have been highly confused expressions, locals would offer their help and navigate the map with us. It was weird asking random people for their top 5 favorite places or gently forcing a man with a falcon on his shirt to take a photo with us where half our faces are cut off. Ryker may have also mistaken a woman with an American accent as a local which she proceeded to say she isn’t a local. Also asking a man drinking at a bar to use his phone (since we have time traveled out of this decade) was extremely normalized when he was super sweet about it. Ryker would be very nervous if this scavenger hunt took place in Fort Lauderdale. But all in all, this is only the beginning of more wild and amazing adventures with a really great group of our peers and our loved OE’s. “A day feels like a long week, and a week feels like a long day.”
Liz and Claire said:
“Hey! This is Liz and Claire. I’m currently locked out of my email, like a few others here, but were working on the issue. Our first few days here have been absolutely amazing! We have had a great time getting to know one and have shared many laughs and fun moments. My favorite thing that we have done is last night when we went to look at the sunset up at inspiration point, where you can see the mountains and the ocean. I am so happy that I am here, and I’m loving the beautiful Raglan! We loved doing our scavenger hunt together, and most of all the delicious ice cream we got. Bye guys!”
“Greetings from Raglan! The group has just embarked on our second exploration through the city, stopping at local coffee shops and grabbing some delicious grub from the restaurants. Our first time here gave me the opportunity to explore the city through a scavenger hunt, which pushed my peers and I out of our comfort zones and allowed us to learn more about the people living here. At a local surf shop, I met some very helpful employees, one of which has actually surfed the beaches near my house in the States. Can’t wait for what’s to come next!”
“Hanna and Lucas here! We spent the day exploring the lovely town of Raglan. Everyone is so kind and laid back, and the beaches are beautiful. For lunch we stopped for fish and chips and also a coffee. During our scavenger hunt we found a little surf shop where one of the employees was happened to be from California, and he told us about all the best places for surfing along with fun local slang! (jandals, not sandals here). After completing all of our tasks we hung out at the beach for a couple hours with Maggie and Rollie and people watched!”
We left the Institute of Awesome this morning and have spent a couple hours in Raglan using the library computers and exploring. Hopefully some of you reading this have heard directly from your loved one! This afternoon we are meeting Tiaki to start our week of Maori cultural immersion. Until next blog, friends!