Alpaca my…. oh….

So I guess I was probably asking for trouble when I called this trip ‘Operation Alpaca’…

Having already made a comment in the previous post about the frequency of my required repacks, I (of course) would be the one whose backpack decided to go on a merry jaunt across New Zealand without her. Lucky chook. I arrived on the Gold Coast after my week in NZ, only to wait at the baggage carousel watching the same forgotten suitcases rotate around and around, until I finally made peace with the fact that I was destined to head to a Japanese late winter with only the Queensland weather suited clothes off my back, a bag full of electronics that required chargers I didn’t put in my carry on and a toothbrush and jumper that my friend would graciously lend me that night.  I spoke with the Virgin people who were very helpful but had no idea where the bag was so it was therefore quite obvious that I wouldn’t be getting my belongings in time for my 0900 flight to Tokyo the next morning. ‘We will find it though’, they kept saying optimistically. At this point I had visions that somewhere a suspicious international customs agent would be pulling apart my big purple rucksack to find a vast array of sweaters, chargers and 7kg of books about risk management, accidents and terrorism. Needless to say I was not as optimistic as the Virgin girls were.

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* Yes Virgin, I am very sorry too… 

Thankfully, with the promise of a cold beer awaiting for me at my friend’s place, I was quite able to remain philosophical about the whole thing, surmising that it was the probably the universe’s way of giving my spine a break from carrying 23kg around bustling Tokyo. And, as my Uncle would later point out to me, it would never have fit in my capsule hotel anyway.

But I am getting a little ahead of myself. It wasn’t all bad news at this stage as I had just got back from what can only be described as a week of epic educational awesomeness. NZ Massey Summer Institute Emergency Management Course, oh you were a blast! I was so fortunate to be exposed to a variety of amazing speakers to learn from, a large group of knowledgable peers from a multitude of emergency management industries and I also had the great pleasure to become acquainted with what will from now on be my ‘Disaster Family’.

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*  The Disaster Fam do Taco & Tequila Tuesday… 

As a distance student, it is difficult sometimes to feel part of an educational community due to the lack of face to face interaction with social groups and class peers. However, put a bunch of distance students together on a study tour and add a few dinners, a ‘name that cow’ pub quiz, and a late night Jenga tournament or two and you have yourself a community.  The great conversations, study advice, job stories, laughs, jokes and support that we shared as a group during that week was definitely a highlight for me and one I will not forget.

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*Taking risk assessment to a whole new level… 

I could go on and on about how much of a good time I had but since blog brevity is not my strength and this would no doubt run to a length that would make Tolstoy blush, I will instead offer up five of the many highlights from the week;

  • Two minutes into the course commencement and a siren starts ringing. Since we hadn’t even got to the building safety brief at this stage, we all shuffle in a confused fashion outside in time to see the fire trucks turn up. Thankfully, it was just that someone had burned toast somewhere. Still, it was a good introduction to New Zealand Emergency procedures and an impromptu way of getting to know our fellow classmates as we huddled together in a penguin like fashion against the.. uh.. tropical New Zealand elements.

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Firemen first thing on a Monday is never a bad thing… 

  • On Tuesday, we headed out to the NZ National Crisis Management Centre and got to play in their operations room, planning emergency evacuations for a hypothetical storm threatening Auckland. It was a real ‘future career goals’ moment and also very educational in the variety of ideas proposed from different industries. It’s amazing what other people think of that you would never have even considered. I like to think that thanks to us, Auckland has lived to rival Wellington another day! Saying that, Justin Bieber was due to play a concert there later that week. If we had known, perhaps things may have turned out very different…

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* The team outside NCMC having just saved Auckland #theavengersgotnothingonus

  • Massey’s Joint Research Centre for Disasters (our hosts for the week) turned ten before we arrived so our awesome coordinator David arranged a birthday BBQ in order for for us to join the celebrations and network. It was a great afternoon of chatting and laughing over some good tucker. That night, the team carried on the party in downtown Wellington. Needless to say, there were a few heavy heads for the Friday morning lectures.

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* The team head out to continue the birthday celebrations #squadgoals 

  • On Thursday, we got taken on a field trip with the legendary Russ from GNS. He has actually discovered a fault line? How cool is that?! He seemed to think it was pretty funny that we were so impressed, but bearing in mind the last thing I discovered was that you shouldn’t wash pink beach towels with white t-shirts, I definitely think it was worth our awe. David and he showed us the tsunami lines suggested by the community to alert and remind people of the height level of a required evacuation. We also got to visit the GNS HQ and have a picnic on the Wellington fault itself. It was a pretty fab way to spend the day.

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When everyone else is there for the view but all your team want to see are fault lines…

  • On Friday, we went to visit a Marae, a Maori meeting place, specifically built to provide assistance to the community in the event of a disaster. It was a really interesting insight into their cultures and traditions, and we also got to learn how to do the Hongi (the traditional Maori greeting) properly. Cue much embarrassed giggling but we eventually got the hang of it and it was a really nice introduction to some authentic Maori customs. Plus we got fed and it was deliciiiicccioouusss!!! Unfortunately unable to take pictures of the Marae so here is one from a few hours later!

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* The squad take on St Patrick’s Day in Wellington…

So that’s five of the best – hard to pick as there were so many good times during that short week. My final remark on it would be that I have not laughed as hard as I have over the last five days in a long time, and I have come away with a clearer sense of my journey moving forward, a lot more subject knowledge and some really great new friends. For that, I will always be grateful to this trip.

I have probably over-rambled again so I will leave it here. Next stop on this quest is Tokyo! Will I survive 12 hours on the Gold Coast? Will my backpack arrive in time for my next flight? Will my textbooks make it through border security?

Find out next week in another blog update from “I won’t name this trip anything as I have learned my lesson and I do not wish to jinx myself further!”

Xo

 

 

 

 

 

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