Rotary Club of Tauranga Sunrise.

The Rotary Club of Tauranga Sunrise meets 6:45am Friday mornings at the Tauranga Club. Yet again another incredible view, looking over the harbour on a brilliant summers morning at sunrise.

Tauranga Sunrise is one of the larger clubs I have spoken to lately and is full of energy and vitality from their youthful membership. I have never stepped into something quite like it at all my time in Rotary so far! Thanks for the brilliant morning Tauranga Sunrise.

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Papamoa Rotary Club.

I reckon that Papamoa, just like the Maketu Rotary Club, has one of the best views in the world for a Rotary club. Check out where they meet at 5:45pm every Thursday…

That blue yonder? The Pacific ocean. Absolutely stunning. Thanks for the wonderful evening Papamoa, I really enjoyed meeting you all and sharing with you my journey.

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Waikato Sunrise Rotary Club.

This morning I spoke to Waikato Sunrise Rotary Club who meets 6:45am on Friday mornings in Hamilton Central. Was a beautiful morning, filled with good people and conversations as always.

It was one of the clubs I really wished to get to on my speaking circuit, as one of the District Governors that selected me to go away (two District Governors pulled their funds together across two years to allow me to go) is a member of this particular club. Raewyn, you rock!

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Tauranga Te Papa Rotary Club.

Today was my sponsor club visit… amazing time catching up with all the familiar faces!

Can’t believe how long since I have been there and all that has happened in between. Wow. Just… WOW. Always such a pleasure to visit, always feels like home :)

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Maketu Rotary Club.

Tonight was my first presentation upon returning home. Yes I may have been nuts to schedule it only three days after I flew in… but I had stories to tell. I had people to see! The club meets Wednesday night at the Maketu Surf Club and I reckon they have the best view of any club in the world. The overlook the surf beach that stretches right down to Mount Maunganui. Unfortunately you can’t see all this deliciousness as the blinds are pulled due to the deliciously intense evening sunshine (yeah, we totally get sunshine in our evenings here… loving it!!!)

Wonderful evening, all my stories were well received. Perfect timing too as it is Foundation month within Rotary and it is a portion of the funds raised by the district for the Foundation which allowed me to live out my dream of studying my Masters abroad. Thanks Rotary for all the amazingness so far… and for all that is yet to come!

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Home.

Its been 48 hours since I arrived back in New Zealand. Still doesn’t quite feel like I thought it should. It should feel like home, but its not quite. Everything I see with my eyes doesn’t feel real, its like I am walking around dreaming. I’ve walked along the beaches, hugged my grandparents, heard the birds that are so familiar and felt the peace. I don’t know if I just need a few more days, if I need to see my friends, or if it is because I have moved into an apartment with my family that I have never seen before. I don’t know if it is still trying to process all the experiences I have had in the last fourteen months, the incredibleness of it all.

Right now, it just feels like I am passing through. To what, I’m not quite sure yet.

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Shanghai – Mount Maunganui.

Last leg of the journey today, flying Shanghai to Auckland and then driving back to the Mount. Actually caught a glimpse of this beauty yesterday when we flew into Shanghai and made my heart leap… such a slice of home, all that familiarity…

Dad and I boarded the plane almost last as usual… but upon locating our seats… someone was in mine?! I asked him to move as he had the wrong seat, yet when he pulled out his boarding pass he had exactly the same seat number! I had never seen that before on a plane. Bit of a kerfuffle getting it sorted with my fingers crossed too as I could not see a spare seat in sight, completely full plane. Luckily they sorted it and Dad and I were together for the 11.5 hour direct flight back to Auckland.

My favorite part of long haul flying? Snacks down the back at sleep time. I love the randomness of what which airlines provide… and the fact that not everyone knows this little secret. Dad went down the back, and came back with… A COOKIE TIME COOKIE. Got a little too excited, but there was that familiarity again! Boy was it delicious.

Landing in Auckland just couldn’t stop smiling. Actually started on the plane hearing the accents of the flight attendants… Amazing. I forgot how awesome we sound and just all the words we use!

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An afternoon in Shanghai.

Got up early and flew two hours to Shanghai this morning from Xi’an. Almost didn’t make it to the airport, as usual the driving here is horrendous. Never quite sure if you are going to make it! We were excited to jump on the Maglev into the city when we arrived, as it cranks speeds of around the 450km mark into the city using magnetic levitation. Sadly, we sat around the 300 mark and made it into the city in seven minutes from the airport.

Dropped out bags and set off in search of Nan Xiang Dumping House in the old town.

Found it! After a little bit of searching. Dad had been here before and they have been reviewed the best many times over from multiple sources. You can either get them from the little window at the bottom next to where they make them, the queue usually stretches a good 60 deep any time of day. Alternatively you can go upstairs to the multiple different levels and eat in for a premium.

Took a stroll down Nanjing Road, the main shopping street in Shanghai. Such a contrast between the main street, and all the little streets that run off it.

Continued our walking path today onto the Bund (waterfront area). Dad can’t believe what amazing days we have had in regards to smog… Beijing was perfect the day we went to the wall, and Shanghai is the best he has ever seen it in all the times he has been here. Go my super powers!

Before jumping in the weird Bund Sightseeing Tunnel to cross under the river…

Walking around the Oriental Pearl Tower area…

Walking, walking, walking and eating, eating, eating was the theme of the afternoon. Found a little corner to park up for awhile and watch the world go by… deliciously accompanied by a cocktail consisting of lemon sorbet, mandarin vodka, fresh mint and proscecco. AMAZING! Used the restaurants wifi too to find whats nearby for dinner and had the most incredible toilet experience the whole entire time we have been in China (think super clean – cleaned with cleaning products, scented oils burning, amazing hand soap, towels). Almost didn’t want to leave, but dinner was calling. We went to ‘Sweet Memory’ (yes, restaurant names are still weird here in China!) which had an incredible view of the Bund all lit up…

Had beer, huge plate of some of the best prawns we had eaten, chilli beef with morning glory and Chinese broccoli, watermelon, rice… all for the mere sum of $30. I could get used to eating like this. Easily. Such amazing people watching in this restaurant too. Insane how many times they would turn over the tables in a night and insane too just how much the Chinese order and actually eat too. Far out.

Strolled back down to the water front…

Before calling it a day. Thanks for the amazingness Shanghai, had such a good afternoon!

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Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors.

The terracotta warriors were only discovered in 1974 by a local farmer looking to dig a well. What a find! Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC), Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, begun to work on his mausoleum which took 11 years to finish. He chose this particular province due to its Feng Shui properties.

Each warrior is said to be unique, yet only one was found intact out of all the thousands they have discovered when they started to excavate in the seventies. He is now known as a good luck symbol. Was so fascinating to see, that for so many years it lay just below the surface… local people dug graves just a mere meter above it all for centuries!

Went back into Xi’an city afterwards and took a good stroll for a couple of hours through the streets. Quite different to Beijing here. Walked down what was the paper street… large reams being brought in by bicycle and chopped down with guillotines and also walked down the beauty supplies street. Stopped off at the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower too…

Off to Shanghai in the morning, then home. Can’t believe a month has gone just like that!

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Beijing – Xi’an.

Limited time slot this morning before our afternoon train to Xi’an, but still managed to fit in a few things. First up was Jingshan park so that we could walk up Feng Shui hill for the view across the Forbidden City…

Dad acquired a friend up the top and we later set off for some Chinese Tea in the Emperoress tea room. Delicious. Especially as we had three different brews (lychee, jasmine, national tea) all on the go at the same time with super small little cups. It was a beautiful tranquil experience, becomes more about conversation and the sharing of knowledge and ideas, than just a large mug of tea. I want to drink tea everyday this way!

Outside the Forbidden City…

Time was running out so we jumped into a little motorbike cab to leg it to Tiananmen Square…

Mao’s portrait at the Northern end of Tiananmen…

Walking South through the area…

Made our way back to the hotel to pick up our bags and jump in a cab to the Beijing West Railway station. Seriously, the amount of train stations these places have! St Petersburg and Moscow was the same. We were on the 2pm bullet train to Xi’an in Business Class…

Twelve hundred kilometers done in four and a half hours. Before the line opened at the end of 2012, the trip took eleven hours. Sheesh. Loving your rail China! Completely different experience to the week on the number four train… the bullet train was so incredibly smooth and quiet.

Arrived at our hotel. Wow. Room is HUUUUUGGGGEEEE. Not only do we have two beds, but a full on desk and chair, plush lounge chairs, slippers, robes and everything you could ever need laid out… with the most hilarious sign on the shower and a note pad next to the toilet. You know, for all those ideas you always get. A-mazing.

Set off in search of some dinner. Walked many a blocks before finding something. Most of what is around here is convenience type stalls and hole in the wall places with everything already cooked. Uhhhh dishes all shrink wrapped on the table? Ok then.

Delicious dinner, love the amount of vegetables and freshness China consumes. Had interesting spicy meat, LOVE broccoli and dumplings. The other dish, though it was squid when we looked in the menu (all the menus here are pictures! Amazing!) but turns out it might have been multiple types of mushroom? Still not quite sure. Sometimes its better just not to know here!

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