Thus far my experience with communitas has been excellent. I have truly indulged in the New Zealand culture. My program provided multiple opportunities to experience traditional Maori society. We spent almost two full days at a traditional Maori marae. During our time we stayed in a long house, learned traditional songs, and took part in many other cultural activities. Personally my openness to other cultures and my genuine interest in traditions and customs made the communitas very worthwhile. However interacting with the communitas was not a simple walk through the park. In all of my excitement I tended to forget some of the smaller customs of the culture. For example food was not permitted in the longhouse and I was so eager to go inside that I forgot to take a granola bar out of my bag. Other students on the trip seemed to share my enthusiasm, we all seemed to want to learn more about the culture and respected the customs of the Maori people.
The challenged we faced as a group were numerous. During our Fiji excursion about half of our group became very ill. About fifty students were throwing up all day and the sicknesss spread for the next couple of days. In addition to the sickness there was also incidents with extreme cases of bed bugs. Students were covered head to toe massive bug bites. Although the challenges seemed disastrous our group looked at the bright side and laughed it off. We were all happy to survive the first week and finally make it our schools. The Kiwis who were with us happily adapted to our situation. They changed plans to accommodate for the illness and helped us in every way possible and demonstrated what the Kiwi culture is like.
As Slimbach states, “While it’s true that the initial decision to uproot is ours, soon afterward, much of our life abroad happens under our feet and without our permission. Cultural quakes happen,” (Slimbach, Kindle Location 2910). This was precisely what happened during our excursion in Fiji. There was no internet or service during our time in Fiji and they operated on what was referred to as Fiji time, which was very loose and laid back. Although the relaxed culture is one reason I picked to study in New Zealand it was overwhelming at times. At certain points it frustrating to not know when things were going to happen. For example everyone was hungry and we would have liked to know how much longer we had until dinner.
The strategies I have used to and plan on using involve talking to everyone I can. The people in New Zealand are very friendly and offer assistance immediately. The people I have met so far are easy going, friendly and are willing to talk to anyone. So far my tactics have been pretty successful, so I plan on continuing to talk to the locals and hopefully foster some more friendships.
I choose this picture to include in my blog because it was a personal experience of mine and also represents how I am currently feeling about study abroad. I took this picture while canyoning in Auckland. In the picture I am inbetween the top and the bottom of the canyon, which is similar to how I am feeling at this point in my study abroad journey. I am not quite settled in Dunedin, but I am also somewhere completely new.
Slimbach, Richard (2012-03-12). Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Kindle Locations 2913-2914). Stylus Publishing. Kindle Edition.