Tag Archive: Massy University


Living ‘Kiwi’ Style

I always tell my mom going to school here is exactly like going to school at home, just farther away. However, now that the end in nearing, I have realized that it hasn’t been exactly the same living here, just much closer to home than Ghana was. Gosh, I miss Ghana. Anyway, I thought, since my year abroad is coming to an end rather faster than I ever thought it would, I will write about how different New Zealand is.

1. On the first day of arrival, they told us shoes are optional. Not just on beaches and parks and pools, but inside cafeterias, grocery stores, and anywhere else you can think of. This isn’t just a summer thing either- It can be close to freezing here and pouring down rain, and I still see people running across the street with no shoes on. To think- I used to get in trouble for wearing sandals in the rain all the time. I think Zade would do well here.

2. Sometimes I think that kiwis are more California than Californians are. I mean, in the middle of winter, when I am bundled up and freezing with multiple layers, the guy next to me is shorts and a tank top…and bare feet- and that’s common. It’s not just one person- it’s loads of people. I have yet to see something like that in California.

3. The seasons are switched, so right now, June 19, 2012, it is the beginning of winter. To say the least, I am in full blown Christmas spirit. I want to drink hot chocolate, sit in front of the fire, and decorate Christmas cookies while watching Elf. It’s horrible to think that when I get home, I am going to be placing a chair over the air vent and then sitting in it, in hopes of staying  cool. My heart is in a totally different season. Liz told me that when Christmas does come around- there are hardly any houses with lights up, and it is not nearly as big of a holiday as in the states.

4. Men do not buy you drinks when you go out. I’m not still sure how I feel about that… I mean, I’m cute- buy me stuff. Just kidding. Sort of. How cute do I have to be to get someone to buy me Disneyland passes? Also- high heal shoes with a really really thin heal, are not necessarily catching on here- in fact many of the high heal shoes I have seen would be considered a bit “clunky” at home. However- I think they are brilliant- have you ever tried walking in shoes that have a tiny heal? That’s not to say thin heals are non existent- but you don’t have to wear them to be fashionable.

5. Textbooks here are not too expensive. I don’t mean they are cheap- but the only physically painful part about buying them is the walk home when you have to carry them all. And- they are all “International versions”. We aren’t usually allowed to use those at home….what’s the big difference anyway?

6.The concept of time is different here as well as it was in Ghana. Here, it’s more of a matter of “everything will get worked out in a matter of time.” I kind of like that- it’s much less stressful than having to solve something very quickly in the states. I think the concept of time is mirrored by the fact that automatic doors open very slowly here. Sometimes I have to stop and wait for it to open….I never even knew that was an option in the states.

7. Friday is not a “party” day. The real party days are Thursday and Saturday, on Fridays everyone stays home and watches movies, or else hangs out in the hall. Whoda thunk? Kind of smart I suppose- a day to recover, and then a day to do it all over again.

8. Then, even if the people in my hall are out to 4am, which I know they are because they always wake me up they walk in, they are up no later than 8:30am, which I know because they always wake me up when they walk out. I think on a day when I go to bed early, I’m not even up by then. Sometimes, when they wake up before 8, I want to remind them that they are not at their mother’s house, and that they can go back to sleep for as long as they want, and no one would know/care.

9. There are giant windmills here to generate electricity…and it’s an attraction. We have them in the states as well, but no one would drive up the hill just to see one. I have though. They really are bigger than they look.

10.People do not wear their PJs to class, or even in the hallway of the dorm. Can you imagine having to get dressed before you put toast in the toaster? I find it bizarre that not one college student I have seen here has worn Pajama pants and a sweatshirt to an 8am class. I guess that’s an American thing?

11. Movies here either come out before they do in the states, or months after. And, when you go and see a movie, the theater is not booming with noise like they do in the states- in fact the first time I went, I thought there was something wrong- but I guess kiwis just don’t like feeling their bodies shake because of the speakers during car chases and such.

12. We are living in the future. The time difference in 19 hours, or in the summer, 21 hours. Get this- my flight leaves at 6:55pm on Monday June 25th, and I arrive at 6:43pm on Monday June 25th. Seriously cool if you ask me. I am also still working on getting the winning lottery numbers, but no luck so far.

13. Hot dogs here are what we call corn dogs. If you want a traditional hot dog, it’s called an “American Hotdog”. And while on the subject of food, I have yet to see mayonnaise anywhere (thank goodness). Also- hamburgers traditionally come with a fried egg, and sandwiches almost always have hard boiled eggs in them. Turkey is also really expensive…it was in Ghana too- why is that?

14. Cake also takes on a new personality here. If you went to look for a tub of frosting in the grocery store, you would come out empty handed. Cakes are more often then not, smothered in a custard or topped with homemade whipped cream. If there is frosting- it’s icing, and tastes a lot like the royal icing that we decorate our gingerbread houses with.

15. Everyone drives on the other side of the road. It’s been 4 months and I still look the wrong way before I cross the street.

16. They don’t celebrate Christopher Columbus day- which is obvious, but there is a very similar holiday called “Anzac day”. From what I understand it celebrates the day that people first landed in New Zealand….and killed the native people, destroyed the environment, and made the country virtually unrecognizable. That was according to my physics professor at least- and he is pretty bitter in general- but to me it sounds a lot like the reasons why celebrate good ol’ Christopher Columbus.

17. Converse and Vans are considered brand names, which means they are outrageously expensive. I feel like all things are expensive here. I mean, a subway sandwich can cost $14.00. Plane tickets for getting around the country aren’t too bad though. I hope no one is expecting super ultra cool gifts when I get home….I am pretty broke from buying things like food.

18. There are a couple different vocabulary words that are used quite often:

  1. “Sweet as”= awesome often used in the context of “That’s sweet as bro”
  2. “Choice”= perfect, often used as “Man, that’s choice bro”
  3. “Papers”= classes. When I got here people asked me what papers I was taking, who my lecturer is and when my exams are. That translates to: What classes are you taking, who’s your professor, and when are you finals?

19 During “exams” they walk around the room with cell phone detectors, or at least I heard they do, to make sure that you don’t have a cell phone with you. I never actually saw one because I was preoccupied with explaining things like how your body combats a virus, but I kind of picture them like the metal detectors that people use on beaches and stuff- and I definitely never saw one of those.

20. The cop-resident culture is somewhat different here. For one- they don’t carry guns…but that’s pretty common I suppose. For another, the dogs that we use to sniff out drugs at home, are used to sniff out fruit here, or other invasive creatures. New Zealand is very protective of their natural habitat, and therefore, very strict on bringing foreign things into the country. My friend Liz told me that even the cop shows show dogs sniffing out “forbidden fruits”. When we went to Wellington to Zelandia (the sanctuary of a restoration project to turn the habitat back to its original state), they actually asked us to pat our bags to make sure there were no cats or rats that jumped out.

Overall, I did generally feel like I was going to school at home, just a bit farther away. There were no cold showers, obruni traps, and men still have hairy armpits. However, looking back, it’s been a fabulous year of differences, and I have truly enjoyed being a part of them. This won’t be my last post, but thanks everyone for sticking with me.

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The Worst Meals of My Life

If I ever consciously thought that the food in New Zealand would be better than the food in Ghana, I was wrong. It’s true- the food in Ghana was a lot of the same- a lot of rice, a lot of beans, a lot of fried chicken. On the other hand, the food  tasted good- in fact, the first time I tried those signature dishes of Ghana- they tasted great, and different than any other rice and beans I have ever had. I craved them for days to come- even if eventually they did get a little old. Remember the book about the girl that would eat nothing but jam and bread? Then, one night she finally decided that she had too much jam and bread, and spaghetti sounded better? Ghana was kind of like that. I still liked the food- I just wanted something new. I guess that’s what growing up with a fabulous cook for a Mom does to you.

Please understand before you read further, that I am a spoiled rotten brat when it comes to food (especially). I grew up in a house of terrific breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, served daily, and before Africa- I didn’t really know what being hungry meant aside from the dictionary definition.

Nowadays, I am also totally willing to cook for myself, and of course I don’t depend on others to feed my unusually high maintenance needs when it comes to food (how could I- I’d be seen nothing as a pain in the ass). To get an idea of how high maintenance I am, here’s an example;  my go to quick meal is brie and fancy bakery bread and blue cheese stuffed olives (not things like hot pockets and frozen pizzas). I know… I have some real problems in the high maintenance expensive food area, but food should not be joked about.

Well, New Zealand is another case. The food that I was obligated to buy (through the meal plan) that I now force myself to eat every night is horrible. H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E.  Part of it may be that I never thought I would be going back to eating dorm food- but here I am standing in line for ever (sometimes up to 45 minutes) to get a horrendous meal that I then have to choke down while the freshmen around me throw bread rolls at each other (I don’t know why they waste the bread rolls- it’s the only consistently edible thing in that cafeteria).

When you finally get to the front of the line- you have to hand the lady your card and grab a plate. The first section you get to choose a drink: water or juice. The juice isn’t even real juice- it’s a powdered juice that varies in strength from day to day depending on who makes it. One of the head ladies once told me to make sure I get the juice that day because she made it, therefore it was actually good. I declined to comment on that one.

Next, you get a choice of salads. Often there is one lettuce salad and either two potato salads OR two pasta salads to choose from. I say lettuce salad because it quite literally is just lettuce…and carrot shavings (on lucky days there is a tomato cube in there). There is no salad dressing- that would be found in the foreign food isle of the expensive grocery store in town- good luck. And, if there is a choice of potato salads, the potatoes are never completely cooked. Never. They are hard- borderline crunchy on most days. Finally, if you have a choice of pasta salads, they are usually covered with so much pepper, it’s hard to eat (I’m thinking they must have gotten a complaint for lack of spice in their food and this is how they responded).  So, what would you choose- lettuce, crunchy potatoes, or a scoop of pepper with some pasta on it? Next to the salads there are bread rolls- make sure you pick one of those up- it might save you an empty stomach when you go home (unless of course they run out of bread rolls and just put out slices of cheap bread…).

Next is your choice of veggies. I always get all the veggies, and often, I am sorry to say, I don’t eat them. First up is mushy green beans, under cooked cauliflower, or roasted potatoes- (are you keeping track of the potatoes?), none of these items have any salt on them (including the roasted veggies). Then, starches. If the potatoes aren’t with the veggies, they are with the starches (sometimes you can get potato salad as your salad, roasted potatoes for as your veggie, and mashed potatoes as your starch- I don’t make this stuff up). If you decide against another form of cooked potato- white rice is also available.

Liz and I have an ongoing joke about dinners now. We always say, “what do you think they have for dinner?” We always respond “Rice and sauce.” On days when we are feeling optimistic, we may respond “sauce and rice.” The truth is that you have a choice between two main dishes, and one of them is almost always a brothy sauce (often referred to as a “curry”) with some form of very over cooked meat and mushy vegetables in it. Whether it’s chicken, lamb, or beef, the sauce always tastes about the same. The other choice is often a chicken wing, another form of sauce, or a slice of pork or ham that is more fat than meat. Is your tummy grumbling yet? Even worse is- you don’t get to serve yourself- it is downright good luck if you end up with a good piece of meat…or a good anything in this dinner line- it has nothing to do with those awesome buffet skills acquired while growing up in America- in New Zealand at Massy University it’s all about your place in line and the kindness of the server.

Dessert is usually good, although nothing like what we whip up in the states. Most of the time there is a base cake and it is covered in a creamy custard. Funny enough- it is rare to find cake here with frosting, and the ones I did find were called “Texas Muffins”. I’m still not sure what to make of that. Twice I have seen them serve American pancakes (tiny bite sized ones) with berries and cream. I have been asked if Maple syrup is a real thing. No joke. Sometimes you also get the choice of melted ice cream to go with your meal! But, if you are not there in the first hour of the dinner service- dessert is already gone (the dinner service is only 2 hours).

I read an article the other day that was called “Top 10 foods Americans Miss Most When They Go Abroad”. I found the list to be extremely accurate. Number one was Mexican food. What I would not do for a good burrito right now…  A can of refried beans here costs $5.09. I know; I bought two. I dream about having gourmet nachos for lunch, but even regular corn chips are hard to find, and tortillas are in the foreign food section (since when?). One day in the cafeteria, the server asked me if I wanted nachos or chicken- not chicken nachos- nachos or chicken. I got nachos, which I guess is the code for chili beans (not refried) on chips. No cheese, no meat, no sour cream, no avocado, tomatoes, no salsa; nothing but chili beans and chips. Yum. At least they had something other than rice and sauce.

Pizza was another thing that people miss. In New Zealand, I can see why. The last time I got pizza, I opened the lid and it smelled very funny…I am still not sure what the source of that distinct funny smell was…and, the pizza was not what I would call pizza. It was covered in a sweet chili sauce that kiwis seem to use in the same way that Americans use ranch dressing. When I bit into it, I discovered not only did it smell funny, but it was soggy, and honestly, just tasted vile. I was tempted to order a Round Table pizza from California to show them what pizza is  supposed to look like, smell like, and taste like…but I think by the time it got here they magic of the pizza would have worn off. Oh well, when I get home, I am expecting someone to take me out for good pizza. It’s funny though, I don’t even like pizza that much!

On that list there was also free ketchup- but I think that is not accurate- just ketchup in general is hard to come by, and Americans will moan and groan about it all day long. Oh, and cereal. A regular box of cereal here (like corn flakes) will cost you 6 dollars…on sale. Ice was another top runner- and it’s true- I have not had a drink with ice in a long time, but I don’t really miss that one. However, I do miss soda. Here, drinking soda can be an expensive habit- a 20 oz. bottle of Diet Coke is $4.00. Now I only get it as a treat…usually for long study nights (better than Redbull, right?). But I guess soda is supposed to be only a treat anyway- so I can let that one go.  Another thing that not on the list was cherries- today when I was in the grocery store one kilogram of cherries was $29.00- product of the USA. I skipped that purchase, but I do enjoy my occasional bowl of cherries.

Anyway- onto more interesting things.

Ready to hear about my worst meal? It was so bad I can actually remember it. Think about it- can you remember the worst meal you ever had? It’s hard. I know that I hate split pea soup, but I don’t remember at what meal I decided that… There was always something good in my mom’s meals that event of finding a food I truly do not like did not leave a lasting impression in my mind- because the other elements of the meal I loved. Well- now I know- if anyone ever asked me what my worst meal is I can say “Calamari Stir-fry with Assorted Salads.” It smelled and tasted like bad seafood. I knew the moment I got it that I had made a very bad decision. When I opened my to-go box, I took one small bite and threw it all in the trash, and just ate dessert for dinner that night. Not even the salads could be saved because the flavor got into them as well- and the bread roll that saved me on so many nights from an empty stomach,  had soaked up some of the nauseating juice the stir fry was cooked in. Never again.*cringe*.

A close second was the “Lamb Stroganoff.” That was a joke. The night before they had served Cream of Mushroom soup  and apparently they had tons of leftovers (ya think?). The next day, they cooked some lamb and put it in the soup and called it Stroganoff. I love my dad’s stroganoff, and even though this meal looked rather grey in color, I had to try it. I was even excited for it. I haven’t had Stroganoff in ages. But, if I thought that taste of my Dad’s Stroganoff was going to come back to me, I was sadly mistaken. That meal was a disaster. It didn’t even come on noodles,  it came on rice (rice with sauce), and under the natural light- it was a color of grey that I have never seen in food before, and a color I don’t think food is mean to be….like the color of cement…or dirty grey sweatpants. Yuck. Kind of tasted like it too. I think I took 4-5 bites of that one before I decided it wasn’t edible.  Needless to say, I still haven’t had Stroganoff in ages.

Despite 90% of the food being something less than what I have grown up with and what I have been accustomed to, some of it is good. Every day at lunch, they sell “Wedges” (what we call home fries) with sour cream and sweet chili sauce. It may sound weird, but it’s great. I now limit myself to one order a week- always on Friday afternoons before my last physics class of the week- it’s the only way I can get myself to sit in a physics lecture on a Friday afternoon.

The yogurt is also to die for. I don’t think Americans understand how good a natural, full fat, yogurt can be. It’s fantastic.  I have to buy the small containers, otherwise I will eat the large one with 8 servings in 2 sittings. I have also found a candy bar that is incredible- Moro bars. They are like a twix bar, but with more caramel and covered in better chocolate.

Needless to day- these few things have made up most of my diet, and I sometimes I feel like I am hungry for weeks at a time- occasionally getting a good meal in for my lunch. It would be fine if I was getting skinny- but….I don’t think that’s the case- too much studying can do that to you. I told my mom once that the problem with studying is that it makes you fat- she told me I better not be using that as an excuse to stop.

Anyway, sorry about the length of the post. One should not to get me started on food haha. Hmmm, maybe it’s not the studying….See you all in five weeks! I am already planning a grand feast!

If you want to read that top 10 food article here you go! http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/eat/best-usa-travel/10-foods-and-beverages-americans-miss-most-while-abroad-164890