Journal from Down Under
Not many fifth-graders can say that they’ve snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef or danced with a Maori warrior.
One Truckee Elementary student can, though.
In June, Tyler DeSchryver spent 15 days traveling around Australia and New Zealand as part of the People to People Student Ambassador Program
While he was there, he had the opportunity not only to learn about other cultures and communities, but share his own as well.
The People to People Program, a non-profit organization founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower has been sending student ambassadors overseas since 1963.
What follows are excerpts from DeSchryver’s journal:
* Day 1: The 14-Hour Plane Trip to New Zealand
I woke up at 6 a.m. sharp so I could be ready by 6:30 because with traffic it takes about two and a half hours to get to the shuttle from Truckee. The shuttle took us to San Francisco where we took a plane to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, we took a plane to New Zealand, which lasted almost 14 hours! We skipped a day on the plane and it was winter instead of summer because we were on the other side of the equator. We exchanged our currency after the plane ride. For every U.S. dollar, you get 1.77 N.Z. dollars.
* Day 3: The Maori Tribe
We got to spend the night with the Maori tribe. First we had a ceremony in which we sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.” After dinner they had entertainment for us. They swung poi around. Poi is a ball of paper attached to yarn. They also had dances. Some of us got to dance with them. They are very talented! Afterwards we went to bed with blankets and a mattress on the ground in a big hut.
* Day 4: Street Luge
We got to street luge!! We started on the beginner’s track and eventually worked out way up to intermediate. It was raining cats and dogs!! We got soaked, and had to sit on the wet chairlifts all the way up the hill. Of course, it would stop raining whenever we finished the rides and start raining whenever we began, but it was worth it!!
Later in the day we went to the Rotorua City Council Chambers to receive a civic welcome by a member of the council whom informed us about their government.
* Day 5: The Thermal Wonderland
We went to Taupo, New Zealand where we were going to go boating but since it was raining so hard it was too dangerous, so instead we took an early trip to Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. It smelled disgusting!
Although the stench was bad it was still worth it. There were geysers that shot very high into the air once a day and geysers that shot not so high up to eight times a day. One thermal pool called “Devil’s Bath” could melt the skin off your hand if you dared to touch it. They call it “Devil’s Bath” because the Devil himself is the only one brave enough to bath in it.
* Day 8: The Wildlife Center
We went to a wildlife center in Cairns to see kangaroos up close and personal. The mothers were so tame that they would let us pet their “Joeys” while inside their pouch! We even got to hold Koala’s while they took pictures of us. They were soooo cute and cuddly.
* Day 10: The Rocks (The Fourth of July)
We took another flight to Sydney, Australia. Sydney is a unique city set on the national harbor of Port Jackson, and the largest city in Australia, where we then went to Stadium Australia and a historical jail called the “Rocks.” It is called the Rocks because the jail walls were made of rock. We all dressed and acted like convicts. Convicts were treated very severely for even the most minor infractions.
Because Australians do not celebrate the Fourth of July, we missed the fireworks this year, but it was worth it being in Australia.
* Day 11: The School
In the morning we visited an Australian school, called the “New South Whales Primary School.” Certain students were already assigned to us before we arrived. They showed us around first, and then we introduced ourselves to the classes, answered questions, and asked questions ourselves. Students are required to wear hats everyday while outside to keep from getting sunburned.
Before lunch we had a choice of doing six different activities. I chose cooking, and we cooked Ferry bread, and Bikies. Ferry bread is bread with butter and sprinkles on top. The sprinkles still to the bread because of the butter. Bikies are cookies.
* Day 12: The Sydney Opera House
Today we visited the Sydney Opera House. The tour guide took us through all of the theatres and opera rooms. One of the theatres was so big that if you clapped it would echo on and on.
You can’t miss the Sydney Opera House because of its unique shape. It is shaped like four sails on a big sailboat, and to make it look even more like a sailboat, it is located on the water so when you look at it from far away it looks like it is a big floating boat.
Later in the day we learned about opals during a visit to an opal establishment. They were so beautiful and shinny! The guide showed us some opals and almost every opal had a story behind it. He then gave us each an opal to take home.
* Day 13: The Farm
Finally we got to the farm and the first thing we did was pet the animals in the petting zoo. The Emu tried to eat my glasses, and one of the girl’s hair. There were duck, pigs, an emu, sheep and horses. After the petting zoo we got to ride the horses. All my horse wanted to do was eat. Every time it moved it would stop again and eat. Eventually, I got the hang of riding him and keeping him from stopping to eat the grass.
* Day 15: Last Day
As much as I loved New Zealand and Australia, I missed my family and friends way too much to stay there any longer.
I would like to thank all of my sponsors for helping me raise the necessary funds. I would also like to thank my family, especially my mom and my brother for all the work they did in helping me raise the money. Also, I would like to thank Jazzercise, and all the people who attend for their support in buying so many raffle tickets.
I would also like to thank Safeway for letting us set up our raffle booth, where my brother and I spent many weekends selling raffle tickets.
A special thanks to the following sponsors: Truckee-Tahoe Lumber, McDonalds, Taco Bell, Panziera Construction, Jazzercise, Lisa Panziera, Vacation Advantage, DeSchryver Concrete Construction, Bradbury’s Office Supply, Tony and Theresa Panziera, Dr. Gamboa, Blue Sky Construction, Sierra Sun, Safeway, Assumption Catholic Church, My Grandma Alice DeSchryver, and everyone who bought raffle tickets,
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If Israel and the United Kingdom are any indication, widespread vaccination will knock the pandemic down to … normal life. Something near.