NZ Trip Part 1

Last spring I received an email of the type that I normally delete:

“Congratulations! You have been selected to attend the 2015 International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP). As a member of Phi Theta Kappa, you have been chosen for this honor based on your exemplary academic performance and your declared major upon joining Phi Theta Kappa.

blah blah blah…

During ISLP, you will join the world’s best and brightest college students on a journey of discovery to one of the most exciting destinations in the world. You will engage in career-focused study detailing the history and global impact of careers — all while broadening your horizons in a foreign culture. Throughout your time at ISLP, you will also have ample opportunity to uncover your destination’s cultural treasures, explore its modern-day wonders and soak up everything your host country has to offer.

More blah blah blah….”

And then, on the side of the page, I see the words “Engineering and Technology: New Zealand”

Once I saw those words, I knew I was going. It was going to be expensive, basically consuming what little I’d still had saved from my time at the firm. The choice however, was obvious. I’d been thinking for the last 15 years about moving there. I had friends (Shaun, Vanda, and Rob) I used to play EverQuest with years ago who lived in Auckland. Not to mention I’d hopefully enjoy the experience of whatever the heck this ISLP was going to be.

So I paid the tuition, and messaged my friends who then graciously offered put me up in Auckland for 4 days before joining the delegation!

My flight plans were to leave Minneapolis, have an hour or so layover in San Francisco, and off to Auckland on an overnight flight. Unfortunately, the flight out of Minneapolis was delayed about 90 minutes. This meant I may or may not make my connection. Despite being seated in the second to last row of the plane and then having to sprint through SFO’s international terminal (hearing “Final call for passenger Marcus Baker” on the overhead) I made the flight… My bags did not. I would have been more upset about it, had I not landed in a place that looked like this:

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Yeah. On the way back to their home, Vanda asked if I’d like to climb up a dormant volcano. I hope she’ll correct me if this is wrong, but I believe we ended up on top of Mount Wellington Domain. Quite a way to “start” the day in a new country: Jet lagged, on 3 hours “sleep”, on top of a volcano.

The next few days were wonderful. My clock was pretty far off and I woke up before dawn the first full morning there. I figured; “Why not take in the sunrise?” and found the closest park that looked good. A couple kilometers away, and I found myself here:

Taurarua, or Judge's Bay

Taurarua, or Judge’s Bay

Later in the afternoon, we took a trip to Muriwai Beach so I could see the Tasman Sea in action.

Yar... these seas be rough, matey...

Yar… these seas be rough, matey…

Spent some time at the New Zealand Maritime Museum where I got to see heaps of nautical goodness.

Oh.

Oh.

My.

My.

God.

God.

So.

So.

Many.

Many.

Boats!

Boats!

Rob and Shaun took me on a ferry ride to Devonport, where we had a fantastic brunch and explored North Head. North Head was Auckland’s line of defense from the late 1800’s through the 1950’s. It’s riddled with tunnels and bunkers to explore so of course I had a blast there.

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Practicing out bird whispering skills

Practicing our bird whispering skills

From the top of North Head

From the top of North Head [Click for fullsize awesomeness]

Rob and I visited the very cool Auckland War Memorial Museum where Shaun is a curator of things photographic.

I’m sure there’s things I’m forgetting, as those days went by in such a flash. Needless to say I had a fantastic time there, and I’m forever grateful to my hosts for their hospitality and kindness during my stay. Thank you again, Rob, Vanda, Shaun.

It was now time to head to Christchurch to begin my adventures with International Scholar Laureate Program.

Part 2 ISLP in the next post!