Prior to departing on our one-year adventure to New Zealand, many people asked Luke and I why we chose this as our destination. At the time it was all very vague; "The scenery looks beautiful", "Similar culture to Canada", "The people are apparently really friendly". But what we didn't know at the time was how true our words were!

The scenery IS beautiful, and we haven't even been to the South Island yet, which, according to locals and those who have traveled both islands, the South is at least ten times more naturally beautiful than the North... yay for our future travels!

The culture here is VERY similar to Canada. Many times I have found myself zoning out while walking down the road and genuinely forgetting that I am in a different country. There are minor differences of course, such as the words and slang they use, the accents, and the clothing and such, but in general the average persons' attitude is similar to what you would find in Canada. 

The people, especially those who's family goes back generations and generations in the South Pacific, are incredibly friendly, kind and inviting! They are so very proud of their culture that they cannot possibly pass up an opportunity to share it with a few friendly travelers just here to experience New Zealand! They must really trust their instincts as to whether to trust a complete stranger or not and invite them into their home. 

In the past four days I have experienced two different locals who have gone above and beyond the call of the "friendly stranger" and have taken time to get to know Luke and I. In the end, they have invited us for a cultural feast with their families! This is one characteristic of New Zealanders that I will definitely miss one day when I am back in Canada!

Thursday night we found ourselves at the local Irish Pub enjoying a few drinks and playing pool. The hotel I work at had a mid-year work party where we all enjoyed massive amounts of food at the Chinese Buffet and then wandered down the road to the Pub in order to let the food digest and continue the get-together. Two women were playing pool beside us and went out of their way to include us in their game. They were clearly having a good time, laughing and joking and they ended up playing a few games against Luke and one of my co-workers. Laughter erupted with every single shot.. it was a lot of fun to watch! One of the women, a very out-going and friendly woman, hit it off so well with us that she invited us for Christmas to "put down a hangi"! She didn't like that our travels so far consisted of traveling about and seeing sights, but no real focus on "culture". She wanted us to come and experience a true Maori Hangi with her family for Christmas. A Hangi is a "traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using  heated rocks buried in a pit oven still used for special occasions." 
This morning while I was down in my usually deserted and quite peaceful workout room, I encountered another very friendly and kind local. While I was sweating away, obnoxious gym music blarring, a very buff looking man walked in and began to use the room as well. (this really never happens, I was taken by surprise!) The first clue that he was friendly, he didn't mind my obnoxious LMFAO and Katy Perry workout tunes! After some time we had a brief conversation. I forgot I had been wearing my "Flight of the Concords" T-shirt with a massive Canadian Flag drawn on the back and was very impressed when he guessed that I was from Canada. We talked for awhile and I found out that he was only here for the weekend with his wife and kids and lives up north, near Auckland. With no hesitation, and with a kind remark of "if it's not too forward" he invited both Luke and I to his home to experience a traditional Samoan feast with his family! He said his wife is a fantastic cook and that they truly love the opportunity to share their culture with others. 

It is small moments like these, and kind guestures of this nature that make this trip one of a kind. I will always boost that Canadians are a generally friendly folk, but I cannot say that the average Canadian would invite a complete stranger to their home for a delicious feast! 
Thank you New Zealanders for continuing to impress us little Canadians with your kindness and culture! 
 
 
When the usually sunny and warm Mount Maunganui gets hit with a blustery, windy, cold and very rainy day, what do the two kids from Victoria, Canada do to entertain themselves? Go for a rainy, windy trek to the point closest to the massive rolling waves of course! 

Moturiki Island has been a point of interest for Luke and I since we moved here two months ago, and yet, we had yet to adventure out to it. It is the beautiful"island" just down from Mount Maunganui main beach, a very popular spot for travelers and tourists to explore. I guess we figured since we're now locals, we'd wait for the perfect opportunity to trek out and see what Moturiki has to offer. Clearly we waited until the rainiest and windiest of all days to explore it! 
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Moturiki Island from the Mount Maunganui Summit (on a sunny day)
The trek out was lovely, a very easy stroll along a well-kept path with beautiful natural scenery. We were lucky that parts of it were sheltered from the wind, as once we got out to the tip, closest to the big waves, we had to stay low and step very carefully to avoid being blown into the ocean! 
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The fantastic scenery on our trek on Moturiki Island
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Having a spot of coffee at the tip of the island, a safe distance from the crashing waves
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Luke demonstrating the strength of the wind
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Mount Maunganui from the tip of Moturiki Island
The best part of the entire trek was, it made us appreciate the weather instead of complain about it! Sometimes the only thing you need when the wind is blowing and the rain is pelting down is to step outside, geared up in appropriate attire, and just experience the weather. You'd be surprised by how much you can laugh while being blown around, laugh while trying to see through a torrential downpour and become awestruck by the colossal power of the waves!
 
 
As the four month mark passes by on the day that we first stepped foot in New Zealand, I thought it was time that Luke and I reflect on our trip a bit, share some of our favourite memories, and update everyone on what our lives are like now, living in Mount Maunganui. I'd say overall the homesickness has not been an issue for us, if anything, we simply wish we could bring everyone here to experience it with us!! There have been many dreams of "If I had the money, I would fly you here tomorrow". New Zealand is such a beautiful, friendly and exquisite place.. I almost feel guilty enjoying it all to myself instead of sharing it... almost!

  From the Unknown ........... To the Everyday

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March 2012 | Vancouver Airport
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July 2012 | Mount Maunganui Beach
What is your favourite city that you visited? Why?
Luke: Wellington. It just had such a nice welcoming feel to it, I felt like I was home. Probably had to do with the hippyish type people and that it is very similar to Victoria. 
Deanna:  Wellington. The streets were filled with funky, yet very friendly people. There were heaps of unique cafes and restaurants, a lot of "hole in the wall" type places. It was the kind of place I could see myself living and loving.
What is your favourite photo, where was it taken, and what makes it awesome?
This photo was taken up in the Coromandel Peninsula near New Chums beach. It's my favourite because this beach was amazing, me and Dea had such a great time here, and then this picture was taken and Dea looks like a monkey....and we almost cried laughing so hard.
This photo was taken at 7am on top of Mount Pukawhakataratara at Mana Retreat Centre on the Coromandel Peninsula. It was a challenge to get Luke out of bed to hike up a mountain for 45 minutes in the black of morning - but the beauty of the moment was worth it in the end! I was so worried about the amount of clouds that were present, but it turned into a beautiful, eerie, misty morning.  This photo reminds me of what my time at Mana represents to me - freedom and inspiration.
What is your favourite New Zealand experience story to tell?
Luke: I like sharing our wwoofing experiences at Mana Retreat Centre and Terri's because I think it is just a fantastic way to travel and meet people. 
Deanna: I really like sharing our stranded on 90 Mile Beach story. Its good for a laugh at our stupidity... and is a fun memory!!
Is there anything that you desperately wish you had brought with you and forgot?
My bro and sis
Bandit...
What would be your advice to anyone traveling to New Zealand?
Buy a car, it's just way easier to see everything, plus once getting here you realize you don't really have a home and having a car is just your own little home if you need it.
Keep your plans wide open so you can jump in with someone else's travels when the opportunity presents itself... and ask everyone everything.. the people are friendly!!
What individual, activity or place has impacted you the most in New Zealand?
Individual is tough because Mana retreat is just this amazing place away from the world, once there you forget about everything around you. You become more relaxed and just have more room in your head to think. Then there is Terri who really took care of us when we needed it the most, trying to find a home wasn't the easiest process for us, and to have someone to just let us come back not just once but on plenty of occasions is amazing. So I guess you could say wwoofing again.
Terri - she has such a warm, inviting and real way of living her life. Terri has fed us, taught us, laughed with us, laughed at us, fed us again, taught us about life in New Zealand, embraced us into her family, and even recently helped us find work! She loves her family above everything else in her life, which I respect so much and enjoy being able to be a part of. To allow so many random international travelers into your home on a constant rotating basis... you need to be a unique, open and wonderful type of person. Terri is all of these things!! <3
Would you say that you have changed at all in the past four months?
Yes definitely, I think being here has opened my eyes more on what's out there, I really want to see more of the world now, and meet more people.
I've become happier, more relaxed and laugh more freely. My life has much less drama! :)
Can you describe what its like living in Mount Maunganui?
So far like a dream - living on the beach, surfing, long boarding, and its only the winter, I can't imagine what summer is gonna be like.
Paradise! 4 blocks from the beach, sunshine almost every single day... perfection!
What are you doing now? For work, for fun? 
Well I was doing electrical work which was very interesting to see how different it is from our country, but now I'm just helping in construction which is still interesting meeting different people. As for fun like I said surfing, long boarding, just walking on the beach with dea, and going on little adventures.
Since moving to the Mount I have been working with my roommate at a hotel in downtown Mount Maunganui, cleaning toilets, making beds, scrubbing floors.. all the fun stuff. Also, thanks to Terri, I have had a few shifts with a catering company that I am really enjoying, and I had my first "trial" shift at a coffee shop... which I was ecstatic about!! For fun I've been really enjoying the gym in our apartment building - mainly because its free and always empty! I've been having a GREAT time with my blog (thank you to everyone who reads and comments! you keep me going!) and just writing in general. And of course, my fun day trips to the library or beach!! 
What is the biggest change from living in Victoria?
Not having those familiar faces and friends that we hung out with all the time. 
Agreed! Not being surrounded by a group of friends that are ready and willing to partake in fun adventures on a regular, almost daily basis.. its a big change. And there's no Auntie Sue here.
What is exactly the same?
Hahaha this is the toughest question for me, not very much is exactly the same....I mean even the coffee is different, playing guitar is different because I have more time and feel like I am actually getting better. Driving feels the same now but it's different seeing how I'm on the other side of the road. I would have to say although work is somewhat different, I guess the people are somewhat the same, they interact the same, make the same kind of sick jokes, and overall Kiwis are friendly like Canadians, while you still get the odd jackass, just like in Canada.
I find living in the Mount feels as though I could be living in a part of Canada. There are obvious differences - like tropical trees in every yard - but because there are many pieces that are similar, I often forget that there is a body of water separating me from my home. Many days I find I feel so comfortable here that I forget I'm in a different country. I think being here with Luke really helps.. makes it feel like home.
What is your favourite part about your new living situation?
Well instead of my roomies pretending to have a British accent they actually do, and it's hard not to mock them. Also our apartment is awesome with a pool and hot tub, and the best part: it's cheaper than what I was paying back home.
We live in a b-e-a-uuuutiful apartment!! I love it. I am able to walk to and from work - which I have always wanted! And I don't have any money... I enjoy seeing what I can do without. It feels a bit refreshing and grounding, although at times frustrating. 
Is there anything that you desperately miss from home?
Friends and family.....oh and timmys of course.
Bandit... and all of the above!
Is there anything that you thought you would miss desperately but you've been surprised that you don't?
Not really. I guess just Canada in general, I mean, I miss it but I guess I just know it will be there when I get back and being here makes me appreciate my country more.
Work. 
There you have it! A reflection of the past four months through the eyes of Dukey and Dea! Anything else you're curious about? Anything you'd like to share?
I hope you've enjoyed reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy sharing them!
Sincerely,
Sweet Dea & Dukey
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Papamoa Hills Summit - that mountain is the background is "the mount" - Mount Maunganui - our new town
 
 
The first time I drove our car was on 90 Mile Beach, driving along the sand, watching the ocean tide slowly creeping in towards the shore, no speed limits, just sweet sweet freedom...for a specific amount of time. I lasted all of four minutes behind the wheel. I realized that life as the passenger was much more fun for me... plus it meant I got to take awesome photos!

The second time I drove our car was on the Coromandel Peninsula. It was all of a 2-3km drive, down the big, long, windy Mana driveway, across the main street and parked by the ocean, where I proceeded to have a very enjoyable hour or so long walk with Shanti. The walk was wonderful. The return, not so much. Even though it was the middle of the day, the big, long, windy Mana driveway was covered by trees, making it a bit dark, so of course, I put on my lights....

There are some benefits and some drawbacks to having the same car in New Zealand that I have at home... the drawbacks: Things aren't are automatic with NZ Camry as they are with Canada Camry.

Long story short, Shanti and I ended up having to flag done some very burly men to jump start my car when the battery was dead due to the lights being left on. 

Luke laughed at me when I finally told him what happened.

The third time I drove our car was to a job interview. Even though the shop was about a ten minute walk down the road, it was a stormy, windy, cold, rainy day and well.. I had done my hair. So, off I go, driving myself, down the road. The interview went really well and I was quite happy and excited to tell Luke and my roomies when I got home. So I parked the car outside our flat, made sure to lock the door and skipped my way into the building. 

A little while later I had an urge. An urge for PIZZA! I don't know about you, but when I get the urge for pizza... it's going to happen! I LOVE pizza!! One of my favourite foods by far! Sooo, even though the world seemed against us getting pizza (the website was down, the phone number didn't work right away and our favourite show was about to start) we managed to order, for pickup. The night was still very stormy, windy, cold and rainy, so we automatically went to the car to grab our pickup pizza. We hopped in, mouths watering, anticipation building (mainly because we didn't quite understand the pizza lady on the phone and weren't entirely sure what kind of pizza we should be anticipating...) and...Fail. The car wouldn't start. 

Luke looked at me and we both realized what had happened at the exact same time... the lights. 

"Oooooopssssiiiieeee..."

So, out of the car we got, into the stormy, windy, cold and rainy night we went, walking, against the wind of course, hair flailing every which way, rain pouring down our faces, Luke yelling at me, me yelling at Luke (all with a hint of laughter as it really was rather entertaining)

"IT WAS AN HONEST MISTAKE"

"WHY DID YOU EVEN TURN THE LIGHTS ON?"

"I WANT MY PIZZA"

etc, etc, etc

Eventually we got our pizza, ate a piece, walked back home in the stormy, windy, cold and rainy night, managed to catch the last few minutes of our show and went back outside to flag someone down to hopefully jump our poor drained Camry. 

"What did we learn..."  


That Deanna is not destined to be a Kiwi Driver.
 
 
I'd say the very beginning of our actual trip planning began on a Saturday morning, sipping coffee and silently giggling to ourselves about the prospect of actually embarking on a move across the globe. Luke set out to call his boss and break the news, I browsed every and any New Zealand website I could find and we continuously passed glances of excitement between each other. Life couldn't be more exciting.

Than it dawned on me... to leave the country, one must have a valid...
PASSPORT!
So, we both enjoyed one more calm sip of delicious weekend morning coffee and *poof* we turned on Extreme Dea and Dukey  mode. I grabbed every piece of identification I could find, we piled into the car, grabbed Luke's information, and then searched and searched and searched for parking downtown Victoria on a Saturday. After finally finding a spot, we literally ran to the mall, searched out the passport office at the top of the building, got told very rudely that we are 'no exception and everyone must wait in line', took a number and *poof* sat down to wait. dum de dum de, tick tick tick... we really began to feel the morning caffeine going to waste at this point. 

So after hours of waiting, filling out the paper work, waiting, re-filling out the paper work, and waiting some more, we finally were able to complete our passport renewal applications. Lucky for us I trusted my intuition that it was worth it to wait all day and hand the application to a person, rather than fill it out, likely wrong, mail it off, and then have it returned a few weeks later learning that you now must do it all over again. This played a crucial time-saving role when it came time to apply for our New Zealand Working Holiday Visas