The Matuku Link

Days 3-4

The Culver New Zealand team spent our third and fourth days in country on the Matuku Link Nature Preserve, located in the Waitakere Forests of New Zealand’s west coast. Run largely by volunteers, the preserve represents a safe haven for many of New Zealand’s indigenous plant and animal species. We were extremely lucky to get to spend two days working in the beautiful area.

We arrived at Matuku Link on Day 3 eager to begin our project. We quickly found out what we were doing: building a boardwalk to ease transit through the muddy rainforest. We spent the day moving all of the wood and materials necessary for us to begin construction on the boardwalk, taking a break for a delicious picnic lunch.

We returned to Matuku Link on Day 4. With all of the materials moved, we were able to begin work on the boardwalk proper. One group of students helped the carpenters construct the boardwalk itself; driving support posts into the mud and completing the wooden walking surface. The other group did a variety of jobs to help the preserve: clearing brush, feeding wildlife, and clearing out a trail for the next work group.

By the end of the two days, we emerged from Matuku Link muddy and tired but extremely proud. We built a beautiful wooden boardwalk and were able to provide meaningful help to the volunteers of Matuku Link. Furthermore, through the project we became closer as a group, and now share an experience that we will look back on throughout our Culver careers.

New Zealand Aukland

Days 1-2 Early Saturday morning we saw our first glimpses of New Zealand as we made our final descent into Auckland. Stepping out of the airplane the first thing noticeable about New Zealand was the smell. The fresh scent of flowers and clean air gives off a sweet smell that is a extreme contrast to the smell or American cities. After passing through customs and collecting our bags we boarded the bus and drove into Auckland. On our way into Auckland Todd our bus driver told us about some major landmarks, and pointed out mountains, volcanos, and important parts of the bay. We arrived at the hotel with enough time to shower and settle into our rooms before we headed out to lunch. Lunch was at a lovely restaurant overlooking the water and had lots of coffee for the tired travelers. After lunch we boarded the bus and drove to the Auckland War Memorial and had a short tour of the museum. On the tour we learned a little more about the Maori as well as the ecology of New Zealand. After the tour we boarded the bus and drove to an aquarium. At the aquarium we got to see small sharks and pet sea stars. The main event was seeing the penguins. Each penguin was tagged and a chart showed which color represented which penguin as well as when they were born and who their partner was. The penguins were very cute and enjoyed showing off for their adoring fans. Post run there was a two hour free period and a small group chose to go on a run along the waterfront. After we all met up for a team dinner in the hotel and bed right after. Day Two The second day we had the chance to sleep in. One group went to the Tepid Baths, a sauna, pool, steam, and workout center while another group headed out to shop. For lunch both groups met up at the hotel and we walked to an Italian Restaurant. After lunch the students were given time to explore the city in small groups. We headed out, some groups climbing to the top of the Sky Tower, while others preferred to shop. At 3 we boarded two sail boats and took a sailing cruise of the bay. The tour was really fun as the students drove the boat and shortly after casting off it began to rain. We arrived back on shore drenched but in high spirits. After the sail trip we were again turned lose on the city. A couple groups explored the parks and university others explored the shops and side streets. Once again we met in the hotel for a team dinner. At dinner we celebrated McKenna’s 18th birthday. After dinner we journaled and reflected on the day. We are adjusting well to New Zealand, it is very similar to the US, but the pace of life is slower and the air sweeter.

New Zealand Here We Come!

Kia ora tātou! (Hello Everyone)
My name is Kat Hone and I am a sophomore in Court dorm. We have one class period, and a long flight (~18hr 40min) before we touch down in Aotearoa, or “Land of the Long White Cloud.” I have packed, repacked, and packed again and am excited to start this journey. Over the past weeks, the team has met and talked about our upcoming adventure, as well as getting to know each other a little better. We had to change our service project, and now we will be helping at the Matuku Link Reserve. They are currently part of a voting challenge to raise money, so please go to and vote every day to help this organization gain the funds needed to protect wetlands through education and preservation. Although the flight ahead seems daunting and in one word, long, I know that, we will have tons of fun. I cannot wait to tour Hobbiton, meet the girls at Rotorua Girls High School, see a penguin, and learn about the Maori culture. It will be incredible to meet the Maori now because, as of March 17, 2017 the Whanganui River, New Zealand’s third longest, was given legal human status. It will be represented by one member from the Maori tribes, known as iwi, and one from the Crown. This is groundbreaking as the river is sacred to the Maori, and they have been fighting for more than 160 years to gain this recognition. We will soon be off, flying around the world, so Hei konā rā, good-bye for now!
“The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
~Marcel Proust~

Ireland Sligo, Galway, Cliffs of Moher and Bunratty Castle!

Day 8 in Galway, Republic of Ireland

Today we drove from Derry to Galway. On the way we stopped at a stone structure with high walls that from a circle. We took pictures and experienced awesome views on top of the mountain. Then we stopped at a church with Yeats grave and explored. Some of us stopped at the gift shop and had coffee. Then we arrived in Galway and had free time to venture down the streets and see the shops.


Day 9 in Galway, Republic of Ireland

Today several of us attended Easter mass in a beautiful Cathedral. After mass, we loaded the bus and drove to Connemara. We went to a marble shop that sold jewelry made from Connemara marble. We saw the workshop and how the marble is turned into jewelry. Then we drove through the countryside and saw lakes, mountains, and the “Quiet Man” bridge. We stopped at a hotel for lunch and visited a replica of the “Quiet Man” cottage. After returning to Galway, we had time to visit the food festival and shop more. Then we met for dinner at a restaurant that had salmon, lamb, and chicken.

Day 10 in Bunratty, Republic of Ireland

Today we left the hotel enroot to the Cliffs of Moher. We walked along the edge of the cliffs and had spectacular views. The weather was clear and the sun was out so we could see the waves crashing on to the side of the cliffs. Many of us went up in the castle to take pictures and get a better view. The cliffs and the ocean were breath taking. After visiting the cliffs, people visited the visitor center which included a small museum and a gift shop. We also got a group picture with the cliff landscape in the background. When we left the Cliffs of Moher, we ate beef and potatoes in a hotel restaurant for lunch. Then we drove to Bunratty and had time to explore the town and castle. Then we had a medieval banquet dinner in the castle. We had four courses which included soup, ribs, potatoes, chicken, and a dessert. We could only use our hands and a knife to eat. There were singers, a harp player, and a violinist. The dinner and show was quite an experience. After the program concluded, we went to bed due to our early departure in the morning.

Corrymeela Day 3

Corrymeela Day 3


We were fortunate enough to be given a sleep in by Dean Rasch so many of us slept in. After the extra hour of sleep, we were refreshed and ready to go after the extra sleep. The day started off with a team building in which we started holding a rope in a circle. The object was to make a square with the rope but each member in the team was blind folded. We successfully completed the task through team work and individuals emerging as leaders. Then we went to the garden and planted peas, zucchini, and peppers. First we had to pick the remaining lettuce and weeds. Then we dug holes and laid the seeds. Lastly, we watered the plants. We also put dirt and wheel barrows and transported it to nearby beds in order to plant sun flowers in “Culver’s Culling Garden”. After our hard work for about one hour, we enjoyed some free time relaxing and playing soccer.

We enjoyed lunch and some of us helped wash the dishes. After lunch, we had a debate. Our group leader named Ivan made a controversial statement. We had to stand next to a sign that said “agree”, “disagree”, “not sure”, or “don’t know”. We then shared our opinion, thought process, and personal experiences that influenced our choices. Each person had the opportunity to change which sign they were standing next to if they were influenced by their peers. It was amazing hearing other people’s opinions and their stories. I got to experience a side of people that I would never know if I had not gone on this trip. After the debate we had some free time so a group of us went down to the beach. We picked up rocks, walked along the beach, and watch the giant waves crash on the rocks.

After dinner we were given a murder mystery in which each person had a clue. We all sat in a circle and had to share our clues. We could not move around the room or let other people read our cards. We only could communicate by speaking. After several attempts at guessing the murderer, time, weapon, motive, and place, we were incorrect. Many people were getting frustrated because some people would take charge of the activity and not let others speak. It happened that the quietest voice was the correct voice. We learned that it is not always the loudest person that we should listen too. We ended up getting all the pieces to the mystery correct except the motive.


At the conclusion of the team building activity a group of us went on a walk to a haunted grave yard. We walked about a mile to the gravesite in the dark. We met Ivan outside the gravesite and walked in together. After we entered through a gate, we walked 100 yards forward passing bumpy grass with old gravestones. Mr. Behling was the last person in the group and he was standing right next to me when we heard the gate close behind us. We continued forward as the ruins of an old monastery came into view. We walked through a tunnel in the ruined building in the pitch black. Then we came into an enclosed courtyard of the building. Right in front of us was Mary McQuellan’s grave who was murdered in the walls of the monastery so her nickname is the black nun. It is said that the person that touches her grave will have bad luck for their family and their self.  Luckily, no one touched the haunted grave. We heard footsteps in the building and a loud whistle-like sound. After walking around the gravesite twice, we left and walked back to Corrymeela. We enjoyed toast and hot chocolate and discussed our experience in the haunted grave yard. Then we went to bed so we could get rest before the early morning.