Skydiving Over Lake Taupo

By: Valeri Lohrman
From fifteen thousand feet I saw bucket lists floating.
I saw North Island volcano, I saw the largest lake
in New Zealand. I breathed masked oxygen and watched
a girl and her tandem person fall out of the plane,
sitting next to me, then suddenly plunging toward earth.
Soon I was as well. The air rushed through the cavities
of my face like a pressure washer through rotted wood,
and I swore that the freefall force would cause tree fall,
a deceased maple attached to a parachute. My tandem
instructor taps on me to let go of the ropes and let my
arms fly free, but I didn’t realize and so I plunged as
Icarus, if Icarus had been a chicken. When I did let go,
we were at the parachute release altitude, and suddenly
all became slow. I talked to my tandem person, a normal
conversation while thousands of feet in the air. It felt more
like I was at home on my computer, looking at aerial views
on Google Maps than it felt like I was skydiving. Nothing
was between me and the roofs of Taupo houses, the tops
of scalps, low-flying birds. I bent my legs up to prepare for
landing, and just like that, I was sitting on the grass.
Unclasped, walking on the ground I’d just seen from far above,
I caught a bucket list with my teeth and I took a bite. A world
around me, what a place to dive in.

***
valeri lohrman is a senior Creative Writing major and songwriter
from southern New Jersey. Traveling and writing about places are what
make up the left centricle of her heart. She travelled to New Zealand for her
GO trip, and it changed her life.

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Interview with Amanda Schader

Where and when did you GO?
I went to New Zealand over winter break, so winter 2015/2016 in the North Island.

Why did you choose New Zealand?
Well, part of it was when I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go, I had this huge list of places, and after my father saw it, he crossed out like all of them, except for Greece, Germany, Austria, and New Zealand. I thought New Zealand was probably the quirkiest one out of all of those. Plus, I figured I could go to Europe any time in my life, and when would I ever be able to go to New Zealand again? Also, I’m a big fan of the Lord of the Rings, so I was like, gotta go to New Zealand, right?

What is an aspect of your trip that you don’t get to talk about often?
Probably that while we were there we were learning about not just the larger population of New Zealand, but also the Maori people, who are native to New Zealand. So we did a lot of activities and trips and such that were gonna teach us about the Maori. For example, we went to the Waitangi treaty grounds, which is the treaty between the British and the Maori. We also went to Whakawerawera, which is a living Maori village and they’ve been open for people to tour their village since the 1800s. While we were there, it was really cool to see everything, but it was all kind of uncomfortable because it was hard to tell whether they were doing it because they were really proud of their culture and wanted to share that or if it was because it was the only option they had to make money, to kind of exploit their culture. At one point during the tour, we all sat in this little arena and watched them give a show with traditional Maori dancing, but then they also did the Hokey Pokey at one point and it felt like a tourist trap. We were all very uncomfortable and wondered, “Okay, is this the only way they’re allowed to share their culture now? Or are they actually very proud of their heritage?” So, it was a cool experience, but a lot of us felt really uncomfortable, and we’re still not really sure how to feel about it.

Any interesting food experiences?
One thing that the Maori people do, especially in the village we went to, which is a geothermal hotspot area, is cook their food in two separate ways. One way is in a bag and then just dump it in a hot spring, and it cooks the food for them. They also have these little wooden boxes with hot rocks in them, and they’ll put the food in that to cook it. They call it their “Maori microwave.” That was called the hangi. For the most part, they have similar food to the U.S., but there’s certain things that are more popular. For example, we were trying to save some money, so we tried to buy some food for the hostel and we thought, “Oh, peanut butter and jelly!” But when we went to buy jelly, there was no grape jelly and strawberry jelly was basically a rarity. It was all apricot and cranberry, raspberry. At one point we went to the Shakespeare Pub in Auckland and I was really excited to get a burger, so I got what was called “The Complete Works of Shakespeare.” It had this red jelly slab on it. It was made out of beets, which I just thought was the weirdest, kind of odd thing to put on a burger.

How did your experience change your perspective?
I guess partly how my perspective changed over there is that people in New Zealand are incredibly happy. At first we thought it was just Auckland. Everyone there was super smiley, which we thought was weird for a city. Random people were just waving to us and saying hi, how are you, cheers, everywhere we went, and we were all wondering what was going on. Part of the thing we had to do there were research projects about different aspects of culture and one group actually did it on happiness. One of my friends was in that group, and she actually asked someone, “Why are people here so happy?” And his response was that they don’t have anything to not be happy about. There was no reason to not be happy. And their work ethic is completely different. Over here, it’s more that your life is work, whereas over there, it’s not at all. We were there over the holidays, and there were businesses closed for weeks, just so people could spend time with their families and celebrate their holidays. It was insane. Our professors were explaining how they get four weeks of vacation every year and kids there take a gap year between high school and college just to travel the world. Their entire outlook on life is just so different. And we all started wondering, okay, why is America so stressful? We’re so focused on success and reputation and work. Why can’t we just relax and spend our lives hanging out with our families like the people in New Zealand do?

What advice do you have for students who have yet to study abroad?
I guess there’s a couple things. One is that I would say to go somewhere you think you’ll never have the opportunity to go to again or some place that you would be scared to go to by yourself, or it wouldn’t be easy to go there by yourself. You go in with professors who have been there before and who know a lot about the country, and it’s just so much easier to do it with them than to go alone. Also, I guess just make the most of it. We had a number of free days on our trip and don’t take those days just to relax. I would suggest going out and actually doing things and seeing the country and just take the time to explore. It’s worth it.

Toi o Tāmaki: The Gallery

by Amanda Schader

This poem was inspired by a Chinese film exhibit at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki –particularly Yang Fudong’s The Colored Sky: New Women II as well as the geothermal park, Wai-O-Tapu.

In the land of the long white cloud
Aotearoa
there are
…………girls trapped on five screens
…………among the ancient kauri trees
…………standing at attention beneath the gallery ceiling
…………scarlet….aquamarine….lemon
…………old-fashioned bathing suits….flowered hair caps
she stares……..i stare……..they stare……..we stare
in a dark room of color
as girls walk behind tinted glass
white skin turning pink, blue, yellow.

And they laugh when they see each other
splash through water to pet the horse,
but the film is silent and so are we
sitting on black cushion in black room.

Then they stop………..eyes wide
they all stop.
Pupils stretch to an abyss
– -capture their light, the only light
reflecting off our skin.

Girls on the cusp of
– -The Change.
But why is the deer fake and the horse real?
And you in the red, white and blue, you
…………look older than me, why?
…………as CGI snails push themselves over tight, wet
…………grapes
…………– -bright green like the Devil’s Bath, cold like it too.

Don’t go swimming in the Champagne Pool
or you will boil under the noon sun
skin turning pink without glass
as the Chinese girls step
…………out of the screen
…………across mini boardwalk to
…………snap-click-click
…………pictures of the American girl
…………floating in pink water
…………watching

…………white clouds rise.

 

Read an interview with Amanda here.

Cape Reinga

by Amanda Schader

In the beginning God created the heaven and the
earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and
darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the
Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was
light
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God
divided the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:1-4).

Here,

there is a light for all the world watching as tiki men
– with their tongues out, wagging in the direction of
challenge or fertility—walk the line merging
between the male and the female water.

Is this where Tāne became the tree that grew his
parents—Ranginui, Sky father, and Papatūānuku,
Earth mother—apart from their embrace? Is this
where the darkness became light and nothing
became the world? Where the children scattered to
claim rule, watch, over their portions? This place
where the Tasman hugs the Pacific, pulling the
world in a new embrace?

Lips stained permanent green like the jade near the
shore. Ink runs like water over sand at 90-mile
Beach, but the only green on this shore are pines
planted on kilometers, kilometers, kilometers of
sand.

Settlers walked the beach in three days, but we
drive over it in one on a coach bus with Bite and
Scratch, the bus drivers. British men, women,
children say they can walk thirty miles a day, walk
the beach in three, but the Kiwis tell us the damp
earth stretches for fifty-five miles.

The green lips, chin, are a Maori woman, but
Whakapapa—genealogy—is pricked across a man’s
whole face, rolls of baby silver ferns—koru—tell
the world who he is as nose touches nose touches
treaty giving sovereignty to one language and
chiefly authority to the one that was oral until the
reverend came with scriptures of translation.

Tikis with paua shell eyes walk the beach, cross
mountain dunes and fuzzy shadow of conifers and
hollowed-out whale carcass—stomach lining
bartered to cologne company for a year’s wages,
maybe more—to the tip of the big sting ray where
the New Zealand Christmas tree grows without
scarlet bursts of petals as it grips the rock tail of
Maui’s great fish.

The tikis walk—clawed hands on chest, stomach
and paua eyes wide—
to the edge where tourists’ cameras watch from the
lighthouse, the beam, that slices the darkness of
pre-creation as they climb down the tail for spirits

and they go back to where they began

as she wonders if Tāne is synonym for God.

 

Read an interview with Amanda here.