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Snowflakes and Core Memories - By Kevin Patel

Snowflakes are kisses from heaven

It all began with a playful challenge tossed at our incredible program leader, AJ. A daring proposal: a grand task in exchange for a class escapade to the snowy wonders. Little did we expect that he would embrace the challenge with open arms. AJ, the epitome of understanding and inspiration, consistently urged us to be the best versions of ourselves.

What ensued was a journey of purpose. Our mission: orchestrate the "powhiri - welcoming program" for new comrades embarking on their fresh journey, alongside preparing for the Matariki hautapu ceremonies to grace various affiliated aged care facilities. The unity and fervor displayed by my peers, pouring their all into the task, fills me with immense pride. Needless to say, our mission was not just accomplished, but exceeded beyond measure. Kei te pai!

The ball now lies in AJ's court as we successfully fulfilled our end of the bargain. There was never a doubt that his magic touch would turn the event into something monumental. Behind the curtains, he confided that obtaining the green light had been a challenging climb, we are very thankful for the management for their unwavering support. After maneuvering through documentation, health and safety planning, and a seemingly endless checklist, it was finally time…ready, get set, SNOW!

Before the break of dawn at Maccas Drury, each team assembled, ready to embark on the adventure. A final reminder of rules and decorum, accompanied by a heartfelt karakia, set the tone for the day.

Our first destination was Hamilton Gardens – a haven of New Zealand's beauty. The diversity within our group deeply relates in the various themes and cultural displays. After countless Instagram shots and TikTok routines, a group jump shot bid farewell to this enchanting space.

A mall food court lunch out became very special not just for exploring Hamilton's shopping hub, but for sharing the experience with friends turned family. With provisions secured for dinner and breakfast the following day, the next stop was at Lake Taupo – an expanse rivaling the size of Singapore. En route, car karaoke sessions transformed us into Whitneys, Mariahs, Frank Sinatras, and Michael Jacksons. The famous Lake Taupo Maccas, resembling an airplane, provided a perfect photo op. From there, we headed to our night's dwelling, the National Park Backpackers, where camaraderie blossomed in the midst of heart-to-heart conversations and quirky sleep habits.

The long-awaited moment arrived at 6 AM, as muffled shrieks and laughter roused us. The outside world was adorned in snow! Like children on Christmas morning, some rushed out without coats, captivated by the enchanting sight. Breakfast preceded the eagerly awaited announcement from our guides about the ski resort's status. Disappointment struck when we learned it was closed due to heavy snowfall.

AJ's composure was weird – he calmly declared our journey to the village. We did not know what to expect. As we entered the Whakapapa village, jubilation erupted across all five cars. A winter wonderland greeted us, as the ski resort's closure led us to a snow-covered Whakapapa village.

Alex, our graduating senior, orchestrated a captivating culminating activity. With her background in snowy landscapes, she led us through an extraordinary experience. Our first playful encounter with snow unlocked countless core memories, etching unforgettable moments in our hearts.

Our homeward journey made a pit stop at Kiwiana Town Otorohanga for a breather and one last chance for snapshots with the giant pukeko and kiwi bird. In a huddle, we said our heartfelt thanks for an adventure forever in our souls – from frost, to snowflakes, to the creation of enduring core memories.

Ngā mihi

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