My name is Valeria Whitworth. I am a teacher of English in Lyceum №2 in Volgograd. I have been a reader of School English newspaper for a very long time and I especially enjoy reading articles about other countries and cultures. So I would like to share my holiday experience in an English-speaking country. My husband is from New Zealand. My first visit to his native country was for Christmas 2006, New Year 2006-2007. And I must admit that was the best holiday ever.
That evening we all went to the hot pools, where the water is pumped directly from underground thermal pools. There we soaked our aching muscles for hours in the hot springs while watching the sun go down - ahhhhh it was heaven - and it was very healthy too.
The next day we went to Orakie Korako - another thermal area - mud pools, geysers and then we stopped at the Agrodome. They say that New Zealand has much more sheep than people. So you can see the picture of a sheep on lots of souvenirs (as well as the kiwi bird). And they even do Agro shows with their famous sheep! The show was a real fun. I liked the way they made it interactive, so the audience also participated (especially kids). We got to see a lot of breeds of sheep on the stage, and even the process of shearing. The funniest thing for me was being among the kids on stage milking a cow! The presenter was quite impressed by my technique and I got a certificate of "Udderance". I was so proud!!!
During my trip I realised that people in New Zealand are very creative and inventive. They also love adventurous and dangerous activities. Every one knows that bungee jumping was invented there. We didn't try it. It was just too much. But on the way from Rotorua we did the Zorb, which is going down the hill in a big rubber circle! Very-very exciting!
Then we went back home to Auckland to meet New Year in "Lenin's" bar in the center (ha ha ha - trying to make me feel at home for New Year!) and next the "Ice Bar where everything is made of ice, even the glasses! We had to wear special jackets and gloves inside because it was so cold - and they even tried to sell us a "genuine Russian Hat". Those made me laugh because they were white fur hats and didn't look like traditional Russian hats at all.
The following week we drove to Paihia, which is a city in an area called "The Bay of Islands". It's called the "bay of islands" because it has 144 islands and secluded bays for people to relax, swim, fish, and all sorts of other seaside activity. It's located at the top of the North Island and about 4 hours drive from Auckland. One our first day there we organised a trip to "swim with the dolphins". We soon were sailing very far from the shore to where the dolphins live and play in the ocean - it looked like they were performing - like you see at the shows - but this is not something they are taught to do. They are just naturally playful and love to race with the boat and jump out in front of the bow - often even turning somersaults in the air right before us!
It was a wonderful adventure and made even more special because this group of dolphins (called a "pod") had babies and because they are so protective of their children it was a very rare and exciting opportunity. It was so sweet for me to see the little ones - each being carefully guided by one adult dolphin on each side at all times. When the family jumped they would jump in threes - mother, father, and the little one in the middle, such a unique picture! I discovered later that even many New Zealand people have never seen a baby dolphin in the wild - so that is certainly a memory I will treasure.
The next day we went fishing - again on a large boat that went very far out into the ocean. As I live on the Volga I am very fond of fishing and having an opportunity to experience it on a professional fishing boat far out in the Pacific Ocean was something I could previously only have dreamt about.
If you look at the map you can see that Cape Reinga is at the very top of the North Island and at this point New Zealand is washed by both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. The ancient Maori people believed that this was the point where their spirits departed the land for the after-life and so it is a very sacred place for them. While we were there some Maori people performed a dance and song to welcome us to the place and to describe their beliefs and ancient stories. After the performance we stood there for some time amazed by the sight of the sea and ocean meeting in the middle of the water. Imagine from the beach to far out in the sea there is a line where the waves from the sea and the ocean crash endlessly against each other - truly a unique sight of nature.
After this we returned to the bus to drive down this endless long beach called "ninety-mile beach" - although it isn't truly ninety miles the beach is over 100 kilometres long. The driver drove us right onto the beach sand and the beach became our road! As we drove I could see the sand dunes stretching into the distance and though we drove for over half an hour the beach just never ended. With so much beach I can tell you that there are certainly no crowded beaches in this country! Eventually before reaching the end the bus turned off the beach and headed into the Sand Dunes.
We stopped beside some enormous Sand Dunes and the bus driver gave us all boards and explained that we would now have another "New Zealand" experience - sliding down the Sand Dunes! Oh I thought - these poor New Zealand people! They get so little snow here that they have to invent this entertainment without winter sports. It was very exciting although extremely tiring! Sliding down the sand dunes was a moment of seconds while the climb to the top of the Sand Dune took 15 minutes or more of struggling against the slipping sands. We could only manage to do it three times before we were all completely worn out!
There were many other exciting stories to tell like the penguins we saw, the glow-worm caves where the ceiling looked like the stars in the sky, the crystal clear river waters were you could see every fish and rock, the ancient trees that were thousands of years old, and even the simple things like the sound of birds singing in the morning as we woke. But that would be a whole book of stories and you must go and see it for yourself!
I believe that being involved in learning the English language made the best parts of this holiday possible for me. To understand the language means having a better understanding of everything we did, feeling more involved, and also more relaxed because I cold listen to tour guides and local people and understand what they were describing. They say that "travel broadens the mind" and this is very true - when you travel you enjoy a better understanding of the world, its people, and also how we can make a positive contribution to our own country.