I have to admit...Auckland and I didn't get off on the right foot. In fact, Diana, Ashley, and I weren't huge fans of the city at all. Between having to leave one of the most beautiful places in the world (Queenstown) and the bed bug incident, Auckland didn't have a fighting chance...or so we thought. Then, we we were fortunate enough to stay with a family Diana met at church in Queenstown that lives in the Avondale area of Auckland. This family is of Indian descent, but has spent a majority of their lives in Kuwait and Dubai. When they heard about our bed bug issue, they opened their home to the three of us.
The family consists of the parents as well as their two 19-year-old twin boys (Eddie and Verrell) who go to university on the south island in New Zealand. From the instant we met the family, we knew they were extraordinary and would teach us heaps during our time with them. Eddie picked us up at our hotel on Sunday night, then drove us to the lookout at Mt. Eden to view the Auckland skyline at sunset. Afterward, Eddie drove us to his home and we stayed up for hours talking to the boys. Topics included dating advice (THEM giving US advice...ha!), living/growing up in different countries, and happiness. To say that these boys were "old souls" is an understatement. I've never met such intelligent, level-headed, generous, well-rounded, responsible kids in my life, especially at that age.
On Monday (New Years Eve), the boys took us to Mission Bay to get KiwiYo, which is self-serve frozen yogurt shop like in the States. They knew that Diana and I were giving up sugar in 2013, so they wanted to make sure we got in a last day of sweets before hiatus hit at midnight. We loaded our cups full of cake batter frozen yogurt and piled New Zealand candies (lollies) on top. It was the perfect "last supper" of sugar. After froyo, we walked by the beach. Here's a photo of all of us on Mission Bay Beach:
For the rest of the day, we drove around Auckland and saw the city from a local's point-of-view. The boys took us to their favorite places and we all rocked out to our Friday Funday CD in the car. (I mean, who doesn't love "Turn Up the Love" and "Scream and Shout" and "Africa" and "Wannabe" at full blast?!) And since Eddie and Verrell LOVE everything American, Diana, Ashley, and I taught the boys key American phrases to practice. Our favorite phrase taught included, "Sh*t just got reeeeeeal weird." We ensured they did it in their best American accent as well. We just made sure to tell them NOT to tell their parents we taught them that...:)
Additionally, a portion of Monday was dedicated toward finding New Years hats to wear that night. In America, these hats are in abundance at every bar and store. However, NYE hats and noise makers are not common here in New Zealand. We couldn't find anything saying "2013" or "Happy New Year" or anything remotely close to that, so we bought sparkly top hats instead. People LOVED them when we went out. In fact, multiple people stole our hats throughout the night and we had to chase after them to retrieve them. See festive hats below:
After our day of sightseeing in the city, we went back to the boys' house and got ready for NYE. We decided to make our way to the Viaduct area of the city to celebrate, which is where a strip of bars and clubs are situated on the waterfront and there is a clear view of the fireworks at the Sky Tower. (Side note: what are cities' obsessions with building a space needle-like structure in their skylines?? I've seen quite a few these past couple months..)
We all danced at a bar until just before midnight, then snuck outside to see the fireworks as 2013 made an appearance in Auckland. Cool enough, New Zealand is the second in the world to celebrate the New Year! However, the countdown was uneventful (and uncoordinated), but as I do every year, I remembered that all that matters is that I'm surrounded by good friends...and indeed I was.
The Viaduct area of the city was extremely crowded, so we walked out of the main area to a bar off the beaten path that was playing fun music. Initially, we thought we were going to call it a night, but we were beckoned inside the bar by the intriguing ambiance and crowd. We ended up dancing for two hours. Here's a taste of our sick dance moves:
On NewYears Day, we had a BBQ with our host family. Everyone wore a hodgepodge of fun costumes, including our glitter hats, Hawaiian leis, and our fascinators from the Melbourne Cup. The day consisted of copious amounts of meat (pork, lamb, and chicken...oh my!), a talent show (see below), champagne (the dad rang a bell, Pavlov dogs style, when everyone needed to refill their cups), a "Sunday drive" on a Tuesday (to One Tree Hill), and deep conversations (life is better when you look at everything in a positive light). Basically, it was a compilation of all my favorite things. At one point during the day, I sat there soaking up the environment around me and felt a rush of thankfulness and joy for all the amazing people that surrounded me. The craziest thing is that I hadn't known anyone in that room more than 4 months at this point.
Reoccurring themes of this New Years 2012-2013 included:
-The importance of being open minded: there are fantastic people all over the world that come from different backgrounds that are genuine and look out for others...and one day, you can do the same for them.
-The power of a positive attitude: life can never be bad if you can find the silver lining in every situation and know that everything ends up as it should.
Without these two things, I would have never been able to spend New Years with such wonderful, inspiring people who push me to be a better person and pay it forward to others.
Here's to a beautiful 2013!