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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Gallier

NZ Adventure Chapter 4: Happy Feet

There’s one thing traveling solo in New Zealand lacks- consistent dance classes. After my time at the Flower Barn, I was headed back to Auckland for a week to finally finish setting up my bank account and to get my IRD/Tax number (You know, so if I get a job they can actually pay me). Sure, I had a lot of boring stuff to do, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to try to sneak in a little fun and even some dancing.

After finally getting my money situation sorted (for now at least), I looked into what dance classes I could take in Auckland while I was there. I had been casually stalking The New Zealand Dance Company via social media during my NZ planning stage and so I popped over to their Facebook page to see if they were offering any dance classes- 9am Contemporary it was.

So, the day of the class came and I went through my usual ‘is this a bad idea?’ mental routine before telling myself to shut up and do it anyway (which is how the routine usually ends). So up the hill and through the rain I trudged toward Wellesley Studios.

I arrived looking like…well like I had just walked up a hill on a muggy, rainy day and went to the front office to pay for the class. I then asked the lady at the front “These classes are open to everyone, right?” like the paranoid person I am and she reassured me that they were before leading me back to the studio the class would be held in.

I was one of the first to arrive and, as it turned out, the only non-company member to show up. Michael Parmenter, choreographer of the upcoming “OrphEus- a dance opera” by the New Zealand Dance Company, was the teacher and informed me that this was also the dance company’s warm up. I was only mildly panicked about the fact that there I was, a dance minor from the other side of the world who hadn’t actually danced in a couple months trying to take a class with one of the best companies in New Zealand…

Anyway, he was very gracious about the fact that I was the only one who looked like a lost puppy during the class (but to be fair, one of the dancers told me that they had already learned most of the combos in a previous class). The movement was all very connected and flowy and it felt amazing to dance again, even if I was not exactly sure what I was doing.

And hey, now I can say I danced with the New Zealand Dance Company, even if it was only on one muggy morning in February and I looked like a dancing potato compared to the amazing dancers in the company. The point is- I got my ass out of bed and did it!

The next day I took a class at a different dance studio, Victory Performance Center, which I had randomly sat across from while eating my Kiwi burger and taking advantage of McDonald’s WiFi. The class was ‘Strength and Flexibility’ and it kicked my butt in the best way. The students ranged in age from teenagers to older women. The atmosphere was very laid back and the teacher, Teresa Victory, was super friendly. I hope to catch another class when I’m back in Auckland.

The week also included lots of aimless walking around (a truly underrated activity), hanging out with new hostel friends, and taking advantage of my hostel’s Panini maker and unusually great Wifi. Highlights included a trip to Best Ugly Bagels (oh my god SO GOOD), shopping at Unity Books, and going to a comedy club and later a Pride Parade with some of my friends from the IEP welcome week.

The Auckland Pride Parade was supported by many local businesses and even governmental organizations. The prime minister of New Zealand actually walked by at one point with zero security- something completely unforeseeable in America. Being surrounded by acceptance and happiness actually managed to raise my hope for humanity from its rock-bottom resting place, which was something I desperately needed after hearing again about another horrific school shooting in my home country.

I also made a trip to the Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium and visited the penguins and my self-proclaimed spirit animal, the sea turtle.

The attraction also has a part where you can stand on a conveyor-belt type thing and move slowly through the tunnels filled with sea creatures. It was so beautiful and surreal and one of those times where I was glad to be traveling alone. It meant I could spend as much time as I wanted looking at the penguins waddling around or the fish swimming in circles. I realized that sometimes it’s important to do things that you know you’ll love, even if other people may not find it worthwhile. In fact, the theme of the week was truly ‘Treat Yo Self’ in the sense that I was doing whatever I wanted to do, regardless of what my guide book told me was a ‘must do’.

The last big thing was a visit to Lorde’s own hometown- Devonport. One of my new hostel buddies and I took the ferry from Auckland and hiked up Mount Victoria. It was a short hike with a big payoff. From the top you could see the tops of all the colorful houses and the Sky Tower in the distance. The surrounding town has a beautiful library and cute book shops. I’m not sure what Lorde was at with the whole “We live in cities you’ll never see onscreen” lyric. Like, Devonport is a lot more scenic than Katy, Texas, I can tell you that Ella O’Connor.

from the top of Mount Victoria in Devonport

The week went by fast but was filled with so many interesting and fun layers, as well as new friends. However, I am about to have a lot of time to unravel my thoughts about the past week , as I am currently (well I was as I wrote this) on the west coast of Auckland as part of a WorkAway setup on a secluded retreat that emphasizes “the oneness of all people and all religions”. As always, more on that later…

#NewZealand #Chapter4

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