To start off Christmas Eve in a positive light, we did a Christmas edition of Friday Funday. Afterward, we rode up on the gondola to go luging. The courses are set above Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables (mountains). The views were absolutely gorgeous and it was a beautifully clear day--see views below!
Holiday spirit was in full gear for us. We wore our reindeer antlers while luging and raced down the curves of the course, usually taking the turns at full speed and only on two of the four wheels. We tried to time the photos taken throughout the course to make as many funny faces as we could. Yes, we're in our mid- to late-20s and act like kids. But hey, isn't that what life is about? I think everyone should embrace their inner child and feed its need for adventure and fun :)
We continued our holiday festivities with a gift exchange with our new NY friends we met the day prior. We pulled names and agreed each person could only spend $3 OR regift something from their suitcase. I pulled James' name and regifted a pink martini shaker and gave him a cutout snowflake (like the kind you make as a kid in school) and a wallet-sized photo of me and a koala (ha!). Mike gave me a New Zealand notebook with a pen and light so that I can write down blog ideas any time, day or night. I loved it! Mike is also a blogger, so he understands how adamant people like us are about getting posts out to the public in a timely fashion.
When our gift exchange was done, we all walked over to Pier 19, which is situated on the "Steamer Wharf" of the waterfront and enjoyed coffees while we overlooked the water and setting sun. We sat on a couch and enjoyed the perfectly warm evening air, while having a great life conversation. James and I talked about happiness, travel, love, and the power of positive energy. The best thing about having conversations with different types of people is that it helps me realize what makes me happy and what I'm looking for in the future. Out of this conversation, I realize I need to end up with someone that is adventurous yet responsible. I sometimes find that I get one or the other. It's all about finding a healthy balance in which people bring out the best in each other. I've noticed in more recent times that I seem to be attracting fun, positive, genuine people in my life and I want it to remain this way when I go back to the States. It's so easy to fall back into the same routine with the same people upon return, but then that negates all the personal growth acquired abroad.
After coffee, we went to Below Zero Ice Bar near our hostel. I went to a bar with a similar concept in London five years ago when I studied there and loved it (mostly for the photo opps!). When we arrived, somehow I ended up with the penguin costume instead of a parka. How does this happen every time?! Love it. I couldn't see anything, but enjoyed every second of it. The Asian women in the bar when we got there took heaps of photos with me and kept saying, "Cute! Cute!"
|Ashley, Me as a Penguin, and Diana|
|The Fab Five...USA! USA!|
To finish up Christmas Eve, all of us went to midnight mass after Ice Bar. I haven't been to church in such a long time, but it was nice to go with a solid group of new friends. It makes me realize how appreciative I am for all the people I've met on this trip and how each has had such a positive impact on my experience abroad.
On Christmas Day, I woke up early and Skyped with my family. Then, they took family photos with my face on the iPad. Such a great idea! I miss them, but to be completely honest, because of the hot weather I don't feel like Christmas even happened this year.
|My brother Dave and his girlfriend, Meghan, and my parents!|
For the rest of Christmas Day, the girls and I spent our day at the beach soaking up the New Zealand summer sun. It was the most laid back Christmas I've ever had. This type of Christmas celebration put the following into perspective: I think sometimes people put too much emphasis on the holidays when in reality, this type of celebration can be done any time of year. I'm not sad I didn't get to spend it with my family because I know when I am in Chicago in March that we will have a Christmas-like celebration just as good, if not better, than the real thing. It also makes me appreciate the time I get to be with my family even more. Because I've always lived near them, I took for granted the time I had with them. Now, I can fully appreciate how lucky I am to have the family that I do.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Below a video for you all to enjoy; Ashley, Diana, and I wanted to share our Queenstown experience with you all.