. I also live on the top floor of the flats and we don't have an elevator, so that was rough for them also... Once we finally made it, they showered and got themselves settled a little bit before I took them to grab a little bit of food. I took them to this little pancake takeaway that's just down the street - definitely one of my favorite places here. It's run by some Koreans and serves both sweet and savory pancakes for pretty cheap, and they are absolutely delicious! Tess tried the vegetable and cheese pancake and Kelly had the chicken and cheese one (SO good), and they both enjoyed them a lot. I always encourage the addition of sweet chili sauce too, so if you're ever in Auckland and stop at No. 1 Pancake on Wellesley St., make sure you do that. That night, I introduced them to all my New Zealand friends and we all spent the night on the town. I definitely think that will be one of my favorite memories of Auckland, absolutely. I had such a great time with Tess, I can't help but smile every time I think about it. It was just full of lots of memories and laughs, and I'm so happy to have spent it with one of my oldest and best friends in a country I would have never thought we'd be in together.
I had a breakfast on Friday morning where I would meet some of the girls involved in the lacrosse in the area, so I woke up for that and let Tess and Kelly sleep in. I went to the university student cafe called Slurp and met 4 girls who all played and did a lot of different activities revolving around the small lacrosse community
. I had already met one of them, Marina, earlier in the week when I attended a University of Auckland lacrosse meeting where she filled me in on basically everything lacrosse-related in all of New Zealand. It was really nice and all of them were great. I loved meeting some actual Kiwis and they quickly taught me a lot within the short hour I met with them. I returned back to my flat and spent most of the day just relaxing and hanging out with Tess. Kelly was feeling more ambitious and went exploring and walked around for a few hours while we vegged out. In the evening, I went to a "social lacrosse" event that was invented by Marina and girls I met at breakfast. It was an interesting combination of an indoor court, co-ed teams, women's rules, 5 v 5, and make-shift nets. It was created mainly to promote the sport of lacrosse and to allow new players to have fun and get a small taste of lacrosse. Though it was kind of a complete mess to watch, it was cool to see so many new people trying it out and having a good time. While I was gone, Tess and Kelly headed to Mt. Eden to get a nighttime view of the city. When I returned, we relaxed and I helped them plan out their Saturday since I would be gone for a majority of the day and they wanted to see what Auckland had to offer. I recommended the bike of the bays that I had done one of the first weeks I arrived in Auckland and helped them plan that along with a trip to the museum.
Saturday was an exciting one for me because I had been in contact with the NZ National team's head coach, Kari Jones. We had been emailing back and forth a bit, and she invited me to come help out this weekend at the team's training session in Mount Roskill - another little suburb about 15 minutes by car from where I live. I got a ride with 2 of the players, Katie and Sian, and arrived to the field at around 8:50am. I met all of the players and did a quick introduction of myself before spending most of the day observing their typical practice routine
. During the lunch break, I discovered that Katie is an American who went to Gordon - which is a school very close to my own home school in Boston - for undergrad and also lived pretty close to where I am living upon my return to Boston. So many times so far this trip, I've realized what a small world it really is and it's pretty astounding. I also met another American named Sarah who is originally for Maryland but moved to New Zealand with her boyfriend a couple years ago. It was definitely very nice to be able to talk to some other Americans who had been here a while and learned the same things that I am in the process of learning now. Also so far, I've realized that a lot of Kiwis seem to be in serious, long-term relationships at relatively young ages. I don't know if it has just been a coincidence with a significant amount of Kiwis that I have personally met or if it is actually a cultural thing, but it just seems like pretty much everyone! After lunch, they spent a lot more time actually scrimmaging through rather than focusing more on drills. As they played some 7 v 7, Kari started to ask my input and if I saw anything that needed to be fixed/changed. I think for her, it was nice to have a fresh pair of eyes look at what was going on and for me, it was really cool to be able to share my own knowledge with everyone. She called everyone in and kind of let me take over giving some feedback - it was very surprising to me for her to give me that much...power kind of?...but so great. I think after that, the players definitely respected me more and welcomed my input very openly which I also appreciate a lot. From there on, she told me to feel free to pull players aside and give feedback and help out wherever I saw fit. Some girls kept asking my opinion and advice on certain things too which was really cool for me. It's interesting coming to a place where athletes don't start learning the same strategies and general athletic concepts that we learn at very young ages until much later
. Things that would seem like pretty common sense to many American athletes are generally new to many of them, so I guess that's kind of where I'm coming in. Anyways, I went back on Sunday for day 2 of the training weekend and had a very similar day as I continued to get to know the team. Kari even handed me the whistle for a bit on day 2 and that definitely took me by surprise, but it was awesome - I am having a lot of fun helping coach. The team also taught me some of their team rituals like what they do in their huddle and the chant they yell. I hope to learn as much from them, if not more, as they will from me. I am so blessed and so thankful to be a part of all that I am doing here.
After I had returned on Saturday evening, Tess, Kelly, and I made some pizza for dinner. We ate while watching the Olympics with some of my friends. We were all pretty tired so we all decided to put on a movie around midnight and then they would head out to the airport afterwards. Tess grew up under a rock (love you...) and had never seen the Devil Wears Prada, so we got cozy and enjoyed that. Around 2am, they both packed up all their things and I walked them out to say bye. I was sad to see Tess leave so quickly and a bit bummed that I wasn't able to spend as much time with her as I would have liked, but very happy to have seen her at all. It was really a great weekend - hopefully for all of us!
For the rest of the Arcadia Abroad program that I came to Auckland with, this weekend was dedicated to surfing and caving in Raglan. For me though, I had excitement in a totally different way - one of my closest friends since the first grade was coming to stay with me! Tess had been in Australia since the end of May doing research from a grant she received through her home university of William&Mary in Virginia. Since we go to school in different states and neither of us return home to Potsdam extensively, it was really exciting for me to see her since we have limited time together usually. Her trip was really quick, she arrived on Thursday evening and left on Saturday night/Sunday morning (around 2am to catch a 6am flight), but it was surreal to be with her here on the complete opposite side of the world. Anyways, her friend Kelly from the research program came along with her and I picked them both up from the harbor bus stop on Thursday evening. The trek back to my flat was definitely a major workout since Auckland is full of so many steep hills and they had all their luggage with them that they were returning back to America with