The last two weeks have been filled with a whirlwind of emotion. From leaving our cottages in the quiet town of Woods Hole, with the weird feeling of separation from some of my now closest friends, to getting on a Hawaiian Airlines direct flight from Boston to Honolulu, spending 21 hours in Hawaii, and then magically ending up the next day in Auckland, New Zealand.
Traveling around the globe, and into a somewhat upside down world is confusing. A large temperature change, and high UV levels have left many of us all burnt and sweaty, but together again. Moving onto the boat was an odd adjustment, and we are in such close corners that things would seem to be of high intensity, but so far, I have felt relaxed and happy knowing that I share this space with such welcoming people.
We spent our 2nd day aboard, Saturday the 16th at the Auckland Museum, and then later at Muriwai Beach. The Auckland Museum had so many interesting exhibits, my favorite being the one on Māori and Pākehā (of European descent) interactions throughout New Zealand's history. One thing that stuck with me most was written on a description of an article, "Kia upato, take care while you are here, for you walk across the fields of our past - a past which is still very much present." It is so important to recognize the work that still has to be done and undone to deal with the problems facing the Māori and Pākehā relationships today, much like the work that has to be done in the United States, that many times goes unaddressed.
Our Muriwai beach trip focused on the conservation of the landscape along the west coast. We saw a fairly newly-established gannet colony along the rocky shoreline, that has only been there for about 70 years. The gannets continually nest in the same place for their entire lives. We were lucky to be allowed to refresh in the ocean, and have some free time there.
On Sunday we visited the marae of the Ngāti Whātuā Ōrākei iwi just outside of Auckland City. Dane, our 'Edutainor', as he said, gave us an insight to the Māori spiritual history, and the Māori issues that have been faced through the years, and are still being faced now: incarceration rates, health issues, poverty and homelessness rates, and many other social injustices, which relates to the Auckland Museum exhibit, and is all the more powerful coming from someone who has seen this firsthand.
We are now underway, and headed up to Kororareka Russell. I am so excited for my first active watch, and for the amazing things that we will see. Our first few days aboard the ship have been exciting and busy. The first day was overwhelming in the best way, figuring out where everything was, and learning the names of the crew. I have always been skeptical of the idea of change, and large ones like this would normally cause feelings of anxiety, but this change is exciting, and I wouldn't want to be diving headfirst into this experience with anyone else. I feel like I have found my place here with S-290, and I am so happy to share this with them.
I am so lucky to be here with these 24 other students who I undoubtedly call some of my closest friends. I have so much to learn and to (hopefully) love about the journey we are about to go on. Last February a year ago, I would have never guessed that I would be on ship, in New Zealand, with people who--although I have only known them for 6 weeks--I love a lot.
- Lilli Dwyer, University of Rhode Island