Week 4:
Rugby and Festivals

Ringgenberg Fellow in International Student Teaching

Takapuna Normal Intermediate School | Auckland, New Zealand

November 24, 2019

The view of the crater and and the ocean from Rangitoto Summit.

Over the past couple of weeks, I feel like I have really settled into the area of Auckland and the culture of New Zealand. While I am still hesitant to drive on the other side of the road, I have noticed that I’ve picked up on some language patterns of the people around me, such as adding an “eh?” to the end of a question, or audibly throwing in a “mmm…” when I’m in agreement with something someone has said. “Cool bananas” has also become a staple of my lingo. I don’t think I’ll ever adjust to the beauty of New Zealand though.

Last weekend, I got my cash together, scoured Google Maps for the best possible bus routes, and took the ferry over to Rangitoto, which is about twenty minutes off the shore of Auckland. It’s a volcanic island, and one of the most prominent landmarks of the area. There could not have been a better day for a hike, and in the couple of hours I was there I saw the crater of the volcano–now overgrown with trees and vegetation–surveyed the view from the summit, explored the lava cavas, and power-walked along the coast line to Yankee Bay and back before the ferry left. Besides the American at the lookout who was talking obnoxiously loud about the superiority of football and baseball compared to rugby and cricket, I would say it was a perfect adventure. 

The trail towards Yankee Bay on Rangitoto Island.

The school week absolutely flew by. I cannot even describe how quickly the time passes. At one moment, it’s Monday morning, and we are putting the last touches on the lessons for the week, and the next it’s Friday afternoon, and the staff is getting together for a casual dinner and drinks. I don’t know if it is the pacing of the day or because the novelty effect hasn’t worn off, but it is incredible how fast each week goes by. One of the highlights of this week was coaching the Rimu touch rugby team to the finals. While I know very little about the rules and etiquette of seven-on-seven touch rugby, I know how to efficiently manage playing time and to provide lots of energy on the sidelines (what Coach Meeker of the Cornell volleyball team would call “bench-ergy”). I take no credit that the Rimu team made it all the way to the finals, despite all odds and endless doubt from other teams. I’m not saying Hollywood should make a movie of our journey, but if they did, it would go down with all the other great sports movies in cinematic history. 

We got destroyed in our final game, fair and square, but, such is rugby. 

The Rimu team and I are on the left, and our opposing team in the finals are on the right, coached by Jayden James.

On Friday, I got that chance to help chaperone a group of students to the Onepoto Festival, which is held once a year at Onepoto Primary School. This festival showcases performances of Maori (native) music and dance from primary and intermediate schools all across Auckland. The performances weren’t only for Maori students; many of the groups were comprised of white students who simply wanted to gain a deeper connection of the native culture of New Zealand. At first I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that, especially since cultural appropriation is such a hot topic in current events, but I felt that at this stage, at this festival, all of the kids were very respectful and knowledgeable about what they were representing. The group from Takapuna Normal Intermediate School performed wonderfully on the indoor stage. After they finished, we spent the rest of the morning wandering throughout the school grounds, watching other performances, eating food from the stands, and sitting in the grass under the warm sun.

The TNIS group performing during the Onepoto Festival.

Another Cornell Fellow who is out teaching abroad right now is Brady Tobin. Over the past four years, Brady and I have led very similar lives. We have been involved in many of the same classes, sports, and work study positions, as well as been roommates for the past two and a half years. We do almost everything together, matching each other along the way on our path to graduation. In his first week of international student teaching, he went to the hospital for severe dehydration. Because I didn’t want to feel left out on such a fun experience, I recently went to the emergency room for dehydration, most likely caused by some food poisoning. While I did not get a painful IV drip like he did, it was still a good opportunity to share another common experience and check out the local urgent care scene, which was very helpful and supportive. I am doing much better now and am thankful for my host family for taking good care of me while I spent the day lying on their bathroom floor worshiping the porcelain throne. 

A thumbs up from urgent care, just like Brady.

Here is to another great week ahead!


Caleb Wilson '19

Caleb is from Madison, Wisconsin with a major in education and English and a minor in civic engagement.