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Less than 3 weeks left until I return back to Finland :O. I can´t imagine that 5 months have passed this fast. My wallet is in pain, but with very good reason... I have seen much more of New Zealand than I have even seen of my own country Finland. I have only one more place I want to go to before I feel ready to go home, Cape Reinga. I want to visit the famous light house at the top of NZ and look to the horizon where the two oceans meet.

This weekend we drove down to Wellington, the capital of NZ, with my organisation. The weather left a lot to be desired, with rain pouring down and wind almost blowing us away. Wellington is actually nicknamed "Windy Welly", due to its constant wind. Even though the weather wasn´t the best, I really enjoyed it all. The bus trip down there was about 8 hours, which was more than enough to see the countryside XD.

In Wellington we got a guided tour around the "beehive" (the parliament building), rode up the hill in a cable car, and went to the "Weta Caves" studios. Luk and I also got to meet our Norweigan friends that we met down the South Island :D. It was very nice to see them again after a couple of months. We are planning to do a reunion in Switzerland in a couple of years, so I can´t do much more than hope that that will actually happen :/

The highlight of the trip was certainly the Weta studio tour :O. For you guys that don't know what the place is, it is the studios where they made all the costumes for eg. The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, District 9 and Avatar. With an experienced guide, we got to see all the original costumes and props that they used for all the movies. With me being a LOTR fan and all, it was really extraordinary to see all the original swords and pieces of armor that they actually used in the movies. With all the props belonging to the different movie companies, we didn´t own the rights to take photos of them, which was a shame :/.

Another place we visited in Wellington was the Te Papa national museum. One exhibition was very interesting in particular... Weta studios had cooperated with the museum to make these huge statues of soldiers from the first world war (pictures below). So all in all it was a very nice trip and I got to see much more of the North Island. If you want to see what way we drove down, you can click on the link below and follow my journey :D Thank you again for reading!

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1Ttt-pNpGuupwxlaFrxKfXw&ll=-40.386268202111374%2C175.0226036125&z=6

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Hobbiton, Hobbiton, Hobbiton... Finally I´ve visited this truly beautiful site of Middle Earth. Today we all woke up early in the morning to enter Middle Earth and visit the Matamata farmland that has been transformed into the most famous movie set of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Both movies are entirely shot in New Zealand, with Hobbiton being the only movie set that is still intact. While I was down the South Island I got to visit some of the most famous movie sites, but Hobbiton was something truly special and eye-opening. Nothing like anything I´ve seen before!

So after waking up early in the morning, we then headed straight to the i-center in Matamata. From there we caught a bus that took us to the souvenir shop in "The Shire´s rest", and then straight up to the village. We had a fully guided two-hour-long tour around the village, with the highlights being Bag End and the Green Dragon Inn, where we got to enjoy different kinds of refreshing Hobbit beverages. I am glad we had a good guide, because her stories about the site were truly interesting and she really seemed to know what she was talking about. I really appreciated all the fun facts she gave us about the site.

To walk into this paradise, entirely surrounded in grass, hobbit holes and plants, is something quite fantastic. I never thought I would actually stand next to these small ponds, look at all the astounding hobbit holes, and walk up the hill to Bilbo´s and Frodo's house "Bag End". I am absolutely speachless of all the beauty I got to experience today.

Hobbiton is a must for every LOTR fan visiting New Zealand. You can´t really do anything else but appreciate the immense work they have put into constructing this site with all its details. I am so glad that they have preserved this site for us tourists to visit, because it truly is inspiring and eye-opening. But now I am just going to let the pictures speak for themselves. You can´t really describe the beauty of this place by just explaining!

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Hey guys, it´s been a while :D. School has ended and I am finally on holiday. Even though the last 3 days have been quite boring, exciting things are ahead. Tomorrow I am going to Hamilton to watch Fantastic Beasts (HYPE x500000!!!!), and on Monday Riku will come over from Papakura :). On Tuesday we are all going to Hobbiton, which I have been looking forward to for months... Next Friday my journey takes me down to Wellington for a three day trip. where I get to meet all the other exchange students again :D. That´s going to be really nice :D! But enough of what I am going to do, and more of what I have done :P.

So last week my entire hostfamily went to Rotorua to do the Mitai Maori Village experience. We got a guided tour around the village, spectated different kinds of maori performances and enjoyed a delicious hangi buffet meal in the evening. It was really great! I paid quite a lot of money for it, but considering the fact that we got a meal into the bargain made it really worth its money. The highlight was definitely watching the maori warriors paddle up the river in their national maori "costume".

Surfing is another thing I´ve finally done, and oh my god it is addicting. I surfed for 3 hours and wanted to go back straight away after the lesson ended. I can´t believe I started doing surfing this late. Catching a wave perfectly is the most satisfying thing you can imagine. It is so much fun and I can´t wait to do it again. Me and Luk bought a 2 hour lesson to get the hang of the basics, and then we just played around for another hour. The waves were perfect and it actually went really well (atleast to start with). It was much more fun than windsurfing, that we did a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully I get the opportunity to do it again a couple of times before my exchange ends :D.

Looking forward to writing about and showing pictures on Hobbiton and the Wellington trip :D Hopefully we get to experience as much as possible down in Wellington, because I don´t know how much got destroyed in the earthquake earlier this week :/ Well, see ya next weekend :D!

Thermal activity in Rotorua

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Hey guys! I haven´t done anything too exciting this week, so I thought I would give you my thoughts on the high school education in New Zealand. I am right now in year 13 at Paeroa college (corresponds to year 3 in Finland´s "gymnasium"), the last year before you graduate and go to university. There are many differences in the education system if you compare NZ to Finland, so In this post I thought I would cover the major ones.

As I wrote in an earlier post, the variety of subjects is much larger here in New Zealand and you certainly have a higher range of atleast practical subjects to choose from. Where we in Finland have seperate secondary schools for practical and theoretical subjects, New Zealand has the same kind of school for both. In Finland we have academic subjects like philosophy, psychology, history, social studies, religion, while NZ has got more practical subjects like maori, woodwork, food technology, gateway and vocational pathways.

So in Finland we have 5 terms in one school year. In every term we have a certain amount of courses in different subjects, with some being compulsory and some being voluntary. You choose which voluntary courses you want to take depending on which subjects you are going to write in your matriculation examinations in year 3 (year 13 in NZ). The matriculation examinations in Finland are 6 hour long tests that cover everything you have learned that far. These tests are crucial for your future education and for the schools you want to apply for. After every term you have exams for every course that you have taken that term. So in Finland you can have about 25 three hour long exams a year, while you may have about 3-4 NCEA exams a year in New Zealand :P.

In New Zealand all your achievements count. Throughout your 3 years, you collect "credits" by achieving in both external exams and internal standards. Everything you do is important, while only your matriculation examinations count in Finland. You study for three years in order to achieve in your last year.

While you in Finland get assessed on a scale from 4 to 10, New Zealand has got only three kind of "grades" you can get. They are achieved, merit and excellence. The credits you get from an assessment achieved with excellence are much more worth than for instance assessments achieved with merit. Same if you apply for further education in eg. a university, excellence and merit credits are far better than achieved ones.

That is a summary of the major differences :). I have just finished school and I am right now on "study leave", even though I am not going to do any exams XD. So in actual fact, I am on holiday until I go home :D. On Tuesday we had prize-giving, where I got to experience a very powerful "haka" by the students, and got a certificate of diligence in both Calculus and English :). Richard Mikael Wennberg has graduated college XD. Not many people can say that they have done that XD. Well, see you in a week or so :D. Going to Rotorua to a Maori village this weekend, looking forward to writing about that :D.

Here are some desserts that I have had at Bruce´s place :O

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Hello everybody! Sunday again and it´s time to give you an update! I´ve finally done the windsurfing, which had been planned for quite a while before we did it. It was much harder than I thought it would be... I can´t really compare it to wavesurfing because I haven´t tried it out yet, but I can´t imagine that it is any easier :D! You need a very good sense of balance in order to keep your feet on the board and not to fall off. It was very windy yesterday, so the conditions weren´t very good for beginners.

At the end of my lesson I was able to steer the board and change directions, which I am quite impressed with. I really want to try out normal wavesurfing though, so I can decide which one I like better and want to do again. The thing with windsurfing is that you can do it in all conditions, whilst in wavesurfing you need a good breeze and good waves. That is why I am quite sure I am going to like windsurfing more.

In the evening there was a fireworks display, organised by Lions, in my town. This display is organised anually in remembrance of Guy Fawkes, a guy who tried to blow up the British Parlament a couple of hundred years ago XD. Don´t ask me why they celebrate this in New Zealand :D!? A fun night with amazing fireworks though.


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Hello again guys! Another week has passed and I thought I would give you an update of what I´ve been doing. Last week I wrote about our trip up the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula and Cathedral Cove. Well this weekend we went all around the peninsula, up the west coast to Coromandel Town and down the east coast back to Paeroa :). In Coromandel Town we went on the "Driving Creek Railway" train trip, that took us through the native forest of NZ and up the hill to the "Eyefull Tower". From there we had an astounding view over the entire peninsula :D. A really nice day with priceless scenary over one of New Zealand´s most popular tourist destinations.

This weekend is a public annual holiday in New Zealand. Labour day is on the 4th Monday of October, which means that we get a day of school :D. We have had nice weather over the weekend so today we decided to go to Tauranga and Mt. Maunganui. You may recall that I wrote about Mt. Maunganui and how we climbed it in one of my first posts, well today we decided to walk all around it. The beach was really crowded and it was hard to find a parking spot, even though it is just October. New Zealand summer is actually from about December to February. It is a shame that I am leaving the country when the summer starts :/. Hopefully I get to experience a little bit of the summer before I leave :D.

Tomorrow we are going to visit a greenstone factory somewhere close to to Paeroa :P. Maybe I'll buy something either for me or as a gift for someone else, depending on the prices :D. According to Maori legend, you should actually give greenstone as a present and not get it for yourself. It has got some kind of a spiritual meaning for the Maori, and they consider the mineral to be "holy" :D. Even though I already went to a factory on the South Island trip, I am sure it will be interesting! I don´t really have anything more to tell you this week! More next weekend :D See ya!

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Hey guys! Life is moving on here in Paeroa, and it is most certainly not boring. I am now one school week closer to my holidays and my journey back home. Every week is different here in Paeroa, and today I got to experience a little bit of the true beauty of the North Island. More about that later, because first off I´m going to tell you about what I did earlier in the week :D.

Earlier this week, Bruce took us to this Taiwanese festival at the Taiwanese Academy in Waihi. There was a vegeterian market where you could taste all sorts of food and drinks, and a stage where they sang and had other kinds of performances.

On Tuesday I had a presentation about Finland for the local Rotary organisation. It´s really fun to speak in front of people who are actually interested about what you have to say. In exchange for my speach, they shouted both me and Luk dinner. I spoke for instance about why I went on exchange, why I chose New Zealand, and the differences between Finland and New Zealand.

Yesterday I went to one of my friend's house for dinner. We played some pool, went kayaking in their pond, relaxed in their hot spa pool, and got to see a bit of the farmland. A successful and fun day with both laughs and good conversations.

And today I got to cross another place off my bucket list. One of the places I wanted to go to while I´m here in NZ was Cathedral Cove, one of the most famous filming spots of The Chronicles of Narnia (Prince Caspian). I have some pictures for you to compare from the movie below. Cathedral Cove is named after the cave located there, linking Mare's Leg Cove to Cathedral Cove. There are many boat rides and kayaking trips going through there, but we decided to take the walking trail there :). There is not much to say about that place, you just have to go there by yourself to understand its true beauty.

After Cathedral Cove we went to a famous beach close by named Hot Water Beach. Its name comes from the underground hot springs which filter up through the sand between the high and low water tides. During low tide you can go to the beach and dig yourself down until you reach the water surface. Because of the hot springs, the water is really hot and you can just sit or lie there in the water and relax.

Another very nice week. Only 2 months left in New Zealand until I am going back home again :O. Time is passing sooo fast!!! Oh well, I still have fun things ahead of me before I leave NZ :). However, I am actually starting to feel a little bit homesickness :(. I really miss my girlfriend, and would do anything to see her in real life right now :/. Oh well, two months left and then I´m back home again :). I´m going to try and enjoy every second I have left :D.

My photo of Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove in Narnia

Me and Bruce

Hot Water Beach

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And so my adventure continues... Loads of incredibly fun activities, mixed with beautiful scenery. I am sure I will come back to New Zealand in the future. It´s really the land of dreams. It felt like I was in wonderland, except I didn´t want to find my way out of the rabbit hole. Here is some of the things that I did on my last five days :D.

DAY 6

Today we got good use of our cameras as we drove through three National Parks with awesome scenery. Our first stop was at Fox Glacier, which was about 20 mins from Franz Josef. Fox Glacier is the first glacier I´ve ever seen up close. Quite cool, but nothing too special. I´m glad I did the walk, but I wasn´t really blown away. I took a couple of good photos though :D. After Fox Glacier we started our long drive to the town of Wanaka, a place of breathtaking lakes and mountains. The drive along the west coast is just too beautiful! We stopped at Puzzling World, the world’s first modern-style maze and a deceptive, frustrating, confusing and definitely out of the ordinary experience! In the evening we went for a refreshing swim in the lake. Even though the lake was ice-cold and filled with eels, it was still fun :D.

DAY 7

Day 7 was absolutely the most fantastic day of them all. We started with a drive into the mystical wilderness of Fiordland National Park and passed through the famous ‘Homer Tunnel’. From here we traded our coach for the Milford Mariner and cruised out into the Milford Sound, where we were going to spend the night. Milford Sound is New Zealand´s most famous fiord, and probably the most famous tourist spot in New Zealand. It was absolutely breathtaking! As we cruised out, we got to view spectacular waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife. We even got the opportunity to go out for a kayaking trip in this amazing landscape. After a beautiful day with swimming and kayaking in the fiord, we got to enjoy a delicious buffet dinner with appetizer, main course and dessert :D.

Me, Nora (Norway), Caroline (Denmark) and Lisa (Germany)

DAY 8-9

And now for the great finale... Queenstown, the greatest tourist city of New Zealand :D. The home of bungy-jumping and other extreme sports. It is also the most beautiful city I´ve ever been to, due to its beautiful view of ''The Remarkables'' mountain range and lake Wakatipu. Many of the Lord of the Rings filming locations are situated in or outside this town :D. I actually went on a tour where we went to several of the filming spots :D AWESOOOME! I got to see for instance; Isengard, Aragorn's fall from the cliff, and Laketown. We also went to the most scary horror house I´ve ever been to. We went on this 20 min tour in a completely dark building, only red lights in the ceiling to guide us. Then, real people actually joined us in the building, dressed up as for instance clowns and little girls to scare the hell out of us. Absolutely awesome :DDDD. My favourite town in the world. I will absolutely go back there someday :). Another awesome thing happened to me on this day :D. I was just about to take a beautiful picture when I realized something. I had seen that place before!!! That exact spot had been my background picture on my phone a couple of years ago!!! What are the odds of that happening!!! I got both pictures below for you to compare :D

The picture I took...

...my background picture :O

DAY 10

Our last day on the beautiful South Island :(. Our morning started off with a spectacular Jet boat ride on the mighty Kawarau River. That was awesome! It was fun to finish off this awesome trip with a very adventurous activity :D.

We then had a stunning scenic drive as we traveled through the Mackenzie Country to beautiful Lake Tekapo. We visited the famous ‘Church of the Good Shepherd' followed by the Collie Dog Memorial, before we drove to our final accommodation at Lake Tekapo. A night filled with tears before we the next day made our way to Christchurch airport :(.

Where ''Laketown'' in ''The Hobbit'' was filmed

THANK YOU EVERYBODY FOR THIS AMAZING EXPERIENCE! We have made memories that we will never forget and friendships that will last forever. I still have one more post to publish about his trip, which I will publish later. But thank you guys for reading! I´ll write more next week :D

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I could sum up these last 10 days with one word: WOOOOW!!!! OMG, the 10 best days of my life have just passed and I can´t wait to tell you guys all about it. I have done so much, so I will split this adventure into three different posts. The first post will include the first five days, then the five last days, and in the last post I will tell you about the two most thrilling higlights. The last post will be published in a later occasion! You will see that I´ll post quite alot of pictures, cause I probably took over a 1000 of them XD.

The South Island seperates from the North Island quite distinctly. The South Island has got more big beautiful blue lakes and high mountains with snow and glaciers. The environment is in my oppinion much more beautiful :D. If you google New Zealand, you will probably find more pictures from the South Island than the North Island. The North Island is beautiful in its own way with its long beautiful beaches and amazing coast, but it is nothing compared to the South! I´ve made loads of new friends and experienced so much :D. Even though it was expensive, it was absolutely worth it! Here is a link for you if you want to follow my adventure on a map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1Ttt-dY5bNpNpGuupwxlaFrxKfXw

DAY 1-2

This is where the adventure started. Barry drove me and Luk to Auckland airport, where we were going to catch a flight to Christchurch, the biggest city of the South Island. Christchurch had a devastating earthquake in 2011 that obliterated most buildings in the city. Even though a couple of years have already passed, you clearly notice the destruction when you walk around in Christchurch. It is frankly quite depressing to walk around there :(. In the evening we had our first home cooked meal, played a couple of games, and discussed the exciting days ahead :D! On the second day we drove to the coastal town of Kaikoura :D This is where our adventure began!

Earthquake memorial

WTF!

DAY 3

The adventure started with driving from Christchurch to the coastal town of Kaikoura. Today we had the option to either go swimming with dolphins, whalewatching, or to visit a seal colony. Because of several reasons, I chose to do the whalewatching. I had never seen a whale before, so I´m glad I chose to do it. It was really something special... And in addition to the two whales we saw, we also got to see dolphins and seals :D. The methods they used to locate these whales were really quite impressive. This afternoon we made our way to Motueka, home for our next two nights and situated beside the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park.

DAY 4

Today we went kayaking and hiking in the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park, and explored the beautiful golden beaches, peaceful coves and lagoons, offshore islands, wildlife and the native forest. We had a picninc lunch by the beach before we went back to our accomodation.

Me and my new Danish friend Caroline

DAY 5

The day started with driving down the spectacular West Coast. We visited the famous Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks), which was at the time the most beautiful place I had ever been to :D. From there we travelled to Franz Josef, where we were going to spend the next night. Some people took a Scenic Helicopter up to the Franz Josef glacier, and experienced a snow walk on the ice :). Unfortunately, I didn´t. We had a free afternoon to eat dinner, and then we headed to the famous Glacier hot pools, the perfect place for pure relaxation.

So this was a sum up of my first five days in the South Island. It was really fun, but nothing compared to what we did, and where we went on the last five days :D. I will probably publish the next post tomorrow or the day after tomorrow :D. Thanks for reading :) I really appreciate it.

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Today was my last day of this term, and on Sunday I will be flying down to the South Island for my school holidays :D. Can't wait for this much anticipated trip. What an adventure it is going to be :). Me, Luk and other exchange students are going to travel all around the South Island for 10 days to do all sorts of adventurous activities, which I´m not going to cover in detail at this point. You will just have to wait for that until I get back ^^.

We are going to fly down from Auckland to Christchurch, the biggest city of the South Island. The NZET organisation crew is going to pick us up at the airport at about 17.30, and from there it begins... An adventure which I hope is going to be the most extraordinary thing I´ve ever done. The first part of the adventure will certainly be the packing XD. I have no idea of how I am going to get 10 days of clothes to fit in one small bag. Oh well, that is a problem for later today XD. The thing that I´m most looking forward to is the Lord of the Rings tour :D. I am going to do a 4h trip to most of the filming locations of the LOTR-movies :P. More about that when I get back ^^.

Here is a short update on what I´ve been doing this week: I have for instance been to a goat farm in Te Aroha :D. I did not really expect much, but they are actually quite marvellous creatures. They are extremely cute ^^. I got to watch them getting milked, and I got to spend time with them in their sheds :). Not much to say, but below are some pictures.

Today I went to a ''hāngi'' at Goldfields school, which was quite nice (hāngi is a traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven). Unfortunately they didn´t use this old method this time :/. Still very nice food and good company though! Oh well, I´d better start organizing myself for the trip :D. I´ll give you an update when I get back.

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