I am now entering my fifth day of living in Auckland and a few things have changed from when I first arrived. I now know my way around the central business district of the city pretty well, well enough to walk around without a map. I know which restaurants are close to my apartment and stay open past 6 pm (it’s a regular thing for many restaurants to close at 5 or 6 in the afternoon). Most importantly, I know that while Auckland has been incredible so far, I am only beginning to scratch the surface.
On my second day in Auckland, while exploring the city, one of my most important goals was locating the Auckland Central Public Library. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that a library was on the top of my list for things to see, and it will probably be even less of a surprise that I signed up for an Auckland Public Libraries card. I’ll need to use the library to check out books for background information for my research – and the library has pretty good WiFi.
Speaking of WiFi, I will never again take for granted the free WiFi offered in coffee shops, restaurants, and public places in the United States. New Zealand is a little more picky about WiFi. Coffee shops hand out codes that allow you to access their Wifi for 30 minutes or an hour. Starbucks, the most generous WiFi provider, allows customers to access their WiFi network for up to two hours. City buildings offer some WiFi, but have restrictions on the number of megabytes that can be used before being kicked off of the network. Luckily, my AirBnB apartment has great WiFi, allowing me to stay in touch with you all and conduct research online for more than an hour at a time.
As part of my transition to becoming a part-time Aucklander, I purchased a bus pass called an “AT HOP” card that makes bus rides cheaper and easier to purchase. Unfortunately, becoming familiar with how to purchase bus rides doesn’t necessarily mean locating the bus stop will easy. Fortunately, there is always an Aucklander nearby willing to help out a confused tourist with a smile, a “Hey Matey”, and quick directions to where I needed to go. Many times, instead of explaining directions, locals have simply walked me to my destination. Figuring out how to get around and how to use the bus system would be much more of a challenge if not for the wonderfully helpful people of Auckland.
Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit Point England School (http://www.ptengland.school.nz/) in the Point England suburb of Auckland. There, I was the guest of Principal Russell Burt and his amazing staff. The school is extremely ethnically diverse and a large portion of the student population is ethnically Maori (the native people of New Zealand). As I spent the day in classrooms, with students, teachers, and Principal Burt, I learned just how seriously the staff takes the heritage of the Maori students and works to incorporate it into their everyday learning. The classrooms seem much less formal than in the United States – the relationship between student and teacher is incredible. The average class size in Point England School is 27 to 30 students. The thing that most impacted me, however, was when the Principal took the time to explain how they use the word “school”. While many Americans might use the word “school” synonymously with the word “building” to indicate the physical location where learning takes place, the people at Point England School use it quite differently. To them, the word “school” doesn’t describe the location, it describes the people within it. The “school” is the staff, the students, and the shared learning that occurs, no matter the physical location.
That’s quite enough rambling for one blog post – I haven’t even gotten to describing the food, the coffee, or the wonderful interviews I’ve lined up for research. I’ll be sure to talk about all that soon! For those of you wanting pictures: I have yet to visit the top of the Auckland SkyTower or climb Mount Eden to overlook the city, but I have done a little exploring on foot. Here are some pictures from my adventures in Auckland over the past couple of days: