6 Hip Hop & RnB Projects You Need in Rotation

Soooo what better way to kick off the Music, Media and Pop Culture category than with a music post. After-all I know I have to earn your trust. That being said, I want you to know that I have an ear and knack for discovering new music and artist that are going to be big. I’ve been blogging about music and media for about 8 years now. I also consider myself a  twitter music enthusiast who does not shy away from defending a song, album or engaging in the occasional trending pop culture debate.  Feel free to follow me on twitter by the way @snewtyhuxtable and debate me or let me know what you think of any of the projects below!

3 Hip Hop Projects You Should Have in Rotation

Smino- Blkswn

Blkswn is a 18 track project by the St Louis native Smino. Blkswn is driven by women collaborators to prove that where there is a woman, there is indeed light.  Just take a listen to the single Anita and I guarantee you will want to check out the album in full.

J.I.D- The Never Story  

J.I.D. is a Atlanta native and new artist signed to J Cole’s Dreamville label. His debut is a 12 track album where he does not hesitate to show his listener that he has “Bahz”.  His sound is well….think if  Atlien Outkast and Kendrick Lamar had a baby sonically. You can stream the album in full below but my fav tracks are Never, All Bad and Hereditary.

GoldLink- At What Cost

I have been a fan of Goldlink for about three years now, collecting his lose tracks , Ep’s, and  mixtapes. To be fair he was apart of XXL’s freshman class in 2015 so he has been putting in some work in the industry. ” At What Cost” is  his first studio album and a very solid project. The single for this album alone will convince you to listen to it in full. The single is a track called “Meditation” produced by Katraynada and featuring Jazmine Sullivan. Just give it a listen below

 

3 RnB Projects You Should Have in Rotation

THEY. – Nu Religion: Hyena

THEY. is a duo of LA singer/ songwriters signed to the same label as Gallant.  In an interview with XXL, Drew ( half of THEY.)  explained the title of the album and the Hyena Motif.

“Hyenas are outsiders and whatever but when they step up and they show themselves they’re very, very respected and very feared,” Drew continues. “I feel like when we really put our foot in here and get our foothold out here, we’ll be a respected force in this game.”

Check out one of the tracks on the album below.

Ravyn Lenae – Midnight Moonlight EP

Ravyn is a classically trained singer/ song writer from Chicago  who is only 17.  Her inimitable style,  seamlessly melds elements of R&B, Electronic, Soul and Hip-Hop.

SIR- Her Too- EP

 

SIR is the RNB crooner signed to TDE. I need you to check out both of his EPs as they are both emoji flames…”Her” and “Her Too”. You can find them on Spotify and other streaming carriers.

Welcome to the Life and Healing Column!

Greetings Sisters,

I’m Renyea Colvin, women’s health and wellness expert and the new Life and Healing blogger for CiteASista! I’m super excited to be part of a digital space that puts Black women front and center in every way. What a powerful and timely endeavor, highlighting the work of Black women across varying discipline, in a time when the world rather us fade into the background. Girl, I’m here to disrupt all that oppressive madness.

A little about me…

I’m a health educator and wellness expert by training.  From chronic disease prevention to STD/HIV prevention to women’s wellness, for over 10 years, my work has directly or indirectly tended to focus on Black Women. In short, through training, educational programming, and coaching, I work with organizations and individuals to create the conditions for women to live healthier, more vibrant lives. And I love it!

I’m also a black woman. I was raised and educated in the south and currently living outside Oakland, California. History and place have taught me to value healing, at the sites of the Black woman’s body and mind, as means of resistance. I approach my work with a sense of awe at what Black women are doing right and with a curiosity for what we can do next to heal old wounds and prevent future illness and trauma.

My hope for this column…

I firmly believe that black women are magic (Shout out to CaShawn Thompson!). To echo the sentiment of Jesse Williams (as I swoon), black women are also real. So, my goal for this column is to 1) highlight the magic of Black women living joyful lives and 2) provide helpful information, thoughtful resources and effective ways we can go about the business of healing. I truly want us all to win and experience has shown me that Black women win when we support each other. This column, with your help, will serve as a source of that support.

Let’s talk…

I also want to hear from you! Experience has also shown me that Black women have very clear thoughts and opinions on what is beneficial for our own lives and our healing. So, what are your thoughts?  What do you love about your life?  What brings you joy? What wounds are you ready to heal? Reach out and let me know what’s on your mind and your heart. I’m listening.

A Note on Black Sisterhood…

Few things in my life have been as healing as sisterhood…both in the individual sense of being a sister and in the collective sense being in community with other women. We live in a time where women all over the globe are finding comfort and strength in our commonalities as way to confront and heal the wounds of patriarchy. For Black women, this is not new. Born from the need to see ourselves as fully human (even if only among ourselves), commitment to the splendor of sisterhood runs deep in the collective veins of Black women. Indeed, sisterhood has been a healing balm for Black women. As I build out the Life and Healing column, know that I want for you, my sisters, the same beautiful, joyous, and healthy life that I want for myself.

All Things Science and Health

Hey Cite A Sista Fam!

My name is Kishana and I am excited to serve as a writer for Cite A Sista during its beginning stages of greatness! No, really! I think what Brittany and Joan are doing here is wonderful and I cannot wait to see how Cite A Sista continues to grow. My time here will be spent covering a wide swath of science and health related topics. Why? Because I wkishana-image-2ant to demystify and uncomplicate science for those who aren’t in the field. I also want everyone to have to be aware of and have a better understanding of latest disease and health news.

About me:

I am known as the resident virologist and scientist  (and sometimes unlicensed medical personnel. Mostly, only, by Joan) among my friends. I am currently an Interdisciplinary Biomedical Science PhD candidate in the 4th year of my program. I am interested in understanding the biological processes behind disease; specifically viral pathogens spread by insects (vector-borne) and animals (zoonotic).  I also have a masters of public health microbiology and emerging infectious disease where I acquired some environmental health and epidemiological skills.

Basically what this all boils down to is I have spent the majority of life learning about disease, how it works, how to follow disease trends and assess its possible impacts on both the environment and animals (humans included) that exist within the environment. I love science and I want others to as well.

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I hope that you’ll follow along as I write about science and health including issues facing African American women and Black woman more broadly throughout the duration of my column! If there are any topics you would like me to write about please leave it in the comments.

Welcome to the Black Girl Friendship Column!

Greetings #CiteASista family,

I am Raven K. Cokley and I will be your #CiteASista columnist for Black Girl/Woman friendships! I am very excited about sharing this space with you all and I look forward to the connections (i.e., friendships, kinships and sisterships) that we will make over time. Currently, I am a first-year doctoral student in the Counselor Education program at UGA. As a scholar-activist-practitioner, I desire to endarken the ivory tower with #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackGirlBrilliance! As a researcher, my interests include brilliant Black girls, Black womanhood and Black liberation movements.

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As a #BrilliantBlackGirl, I have been educated in historically White, academically gifted spaces. This often meant being one of (if not the only) Black girl/woman in the classroom. Furthermore, as an #IntrovertedBlackGirl, when I was not the only Black face in any space, my social anxiety gravely prevented me from making connections with other Black girls and women. Now, as a Black woman in academia, I am learning that building sisterships with other Black women is essential to my survival in this racially and gender-hostile space. Therefore, I will be using much of my own experience to illustrate how relationship and kinship building may look differently and be uniquely challenging for Black girls and women at the intersections of brilliance and introversion.

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It is my sincerest hope that you all find solace, peace, affirmation and healing in my words and stories as I continue my own journey with Black girl/woman friendships!

In #CiteASista love,

Raven

P.S. Feel free to add me on social media! Twitter: @brilliantblkgrl, IG: brilliantblackgirl, FB: Raven Kymmetria, WordPress: brilliantblackgirl.wordpress.com; ravenkcokley.com.

Everything You Need to Know About #CiteASista Right Now

Happy Almost End of March Cite A Sista Family!!!

We are almost at the one month anniversary of the Cite A Sista site launch and we’re so excited about our progress thus far. There are SO many Cite A Sista things floating out there, so we created this comprehensive post to keep you updated on all things Cite A Sista.

 

ACPA 2017 (March 26-29)

Cite A Sista co-founders Brittany & Joan will be presenting at ACPA 2017 in Columbus, OH. The one-hour session will feature a ton of information about Cite A Sista and a mixer / Meet & Greet will be held after.

  

 

April #CiteASista Chat

Our April #CiteASista chat is that real deal. Join us on April 11 for a chat about the role of education and self-assurance in love and relationships within the Black Community. This is a hot topic you DO NOT want to miss.

 

2017 Cite A Sista Women’s Empowerment Dinner

As announced in a recent blog post and shown on the events page, Cite A Sista is pleased to announce we’re hosting a women’s empowerment event in October. Tickets go on sale soon! For those too far away to attend, donations are welcomed and appreciated!

Cite A Sista blog posts & Columns

We would be remiss if we did not remind you of the multitude of posts on the blog. Be sure to visit the blog page for tips and trips on affordable travel, time management, and more.

 

Please Take My Sick Away

I recently read an article in Sunday’s Washington Post that reminded me so much of the patients and providers where I work.  I work in Administration at a health center located in the Arkansas Delta.  The similarities between the health center in West Virginia and our patients in the Arkansas Delta were significant: at the poverty level or below, diagnosis of chronic illnesses, non-compliant (medication, exercise and diet, and hoping that their condition will disappear with one visit to the health center. This article left me pondering: What will happen if they no longer have health care?  I already have an answer: it will be catastrophic.

I think about women across Arkansas who remind me so much of myself who will be without health insurance.  Those, like me, who are not at the age where they can receive Medicare.  I do not qualify for Medicaid and based on the proposed Republican plan, I would not be able to afford health insurance.  Women without minor children and those who have not reached the age to qualify for Medicare would be without health insurance.  It is a time in our lives where we need health coverage, but cannot afford it.  It is not just the middle age women such as myself who will be affected, but a majority of women period.

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The proposal places women without minor children and those who have not reached the age to qualify for Medicare at risk of being without health insurance.  For many of us, we are at a time in our lives where we need health coverage, but cannot afford it.  It is not just the middle age women such as myself who will be affected, but a majority of women barring a qualifying disability, or those who have children who qualify for assistance.  Women like me will be left to seek medical assistance from a health center that offers a sliding fee scale or no medical care at all.  All too often, and especially within poor and low-income communities the decision is to avoid seeking medical care at all.

Before the Affordable Care Act, many folks had not seen a medical provider in more than 20 to 30 years.  The Affordable Care Act gave them the chance to seek medical treatment for chronic illnesses that they had suffered from for numerous years.  Now chances are we will return to a culture of failure to seek medical treatment due to inaccessibility.

African American women disproportionately suffer from diabetes, hypertension, cervical cancer, breast cancer and obesity. Not only do we experience many of these health issues at an alarming rate, but we face increased risks with aging. I can empathize with the woman who is about to lose her foot because she failed to seek medical treatment for her diabetes because she could not afford it. I can see the same pain and struggle for the young woman in her thirties who has had spotting for months along with pelvic pain, but is afraid to go to the doctor and who will not be able to afford treatment and proper diagnosis. I know these women because I’ve seen them.

The proposed cuts to the Affordable Care Act leave me with questions. I certainly cannot be assured that programs that help with mammograms and other women’s wellness exams would not be affected.  Although many providers depend on private funds, many rely on federal and state funding leaving them especially vulnerable under an administration that lacks concern for the poor or people of color.

In two years, I will be eligible for Medicare. I cannot safely say that I will be able to receive  Medicare.  Why?  I have no idea what this Administration will do to any benefit regardless of its status as need-based or earned. I currently suffer from Osteoarthritis and I’m left with a big question: Will I be able to afford the treatment that I now receive or will I have to suffer through each day in debilitating pain?  Though I am presently covered through my employer, I’m nearing retirement and questioning this decision altogether. More than this, I worry about my sisters who will suffer.  I think often about Black women who will fail to seek treatment for a host of issues but especially for those battling depression which may lead to suicide.  Sisters who choose to drink vinegar to lower their blood pressure because they cannot afford their medication. I worry about the future of medical care for Black women as a whole.  I worry that I will have to say, “Mr. President and Mr. Congressman/woman, I cannot afford insurance so would you please take my sick away?”

Welcome to Religion and Spirituality

Welcome to the Religion and Spirituality column for #CiteASista.

I am Joan Collier, #CiteASista co-founder and contributor for this series. My goal for this religion and spirituality space is to engage readers through sharing my own experiences with religion and spirituality, connect women to each other through shared experiences, and create dialogue that encourages and builds up the most sacred parts of who we are collectively and individually. It is my goal to make this a space for women of any religious belief, religious, spiritual tradition, or ideology.

 

A Little About Me

I am a doctoral candidate in the final stretch of writing my dissertation. My daily prayer is literally, “Grace, and more grace. Ase, Amen.” Spirituality and faith have been a part of my life since birth. I identify as a Christian who is unlearning oppressiurl.jpgve aspects of the theology that has shaped my life and replacing it with womanist theological understandings. I’ve adopted a more critical approach to faith, and although I don’t have all the answers I’m looking for, my faith continues to be a source of strength, comfort, and courage and serves as a catalyst for justice related action in my life. I come from a long line of Black Christian women whose faith got them through and embolden them to be courageous in the face of systemic oppression and personal challenges. I’m aware of the ways that Christianity has been (and continues to be) weaponized against people with varying faith and thought traditions, races, genders, and sexualities. Because of those histories and contexts, I share my faith within the context of it being mine alone and not the way others, even within Christian traditions, experience faith, spirituality, and meaning making. May this space be one that offers connection, not marginalization to those who read it.

What I am Learning Through Observing Lent

I am currently observing Lent, the season within the Christian tradition in which practicing observers prepare for Resurrection Sunday through intentional acts of service and sacrifice. In this season, I’ve added in readings that will further my faith development and intentional faith practices. I’ve adopted grace as praxis, meaning that I am practicing being gracious more intentionally during this season. Grace as praxis for me means being more uplifting with my words, exercising generosity with my time when people need or could use support or my presence, and increasing patience with situations that have reconciliatory possibility. While still early on in this season, I have been affirmed in my commitment to building community with friends of shared faith for the purposes of increasing fellowship beyond structured worship.

Kishana Taylor, Healthcare and STEM contributor, and I are fasting together this Lenten season and I am refreshed and encouraged by that sense of community and solidarity I have found in our shared journey. As someone who does not participate in corporate worship on a consistent basis, but whose faith is still central to who I am, fellowship thrshutterstock_143706757-300x213.jpgough shared devotion has taken shape as a defining aspect of this season. With diligence, this devotion to community will extend beyond this season and translate into other areas of my life. This season ends on the Thursday before Good Friday, but many observers end the season on that Sunday. Wishing all observers and those who are connected to those who observe an intentional, transformative, healing, and clarifying Lenten season.

What’s Next

I hope to connect with readers and to connect readers to one another. We all have our journeys to make and this road is not easy to go alone. Our beliefs can enrich one another’s lives and better equip us for our journeys. With that, I’d like to know what you all might find useful from this column (topics, concepts, etc.). Send us an email at citeasista@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to incorporate your feedback into the monthly posts or monthly #CiteASista chats.

Until next month…

Joan

“Time Management” in Grad School? Whet?

Graduate school is not very demanding.

*Record Scratch*

Said. No. One. Ever.

Every time I check my email or look at my calendars I have a looming deadline, new suggestions for a meeting, or request for my attendance at an event. Prior to grad school, I prided myself on setting time to complete various tasks to make my week easier. As I moved through the graduate schooling process, I’ve realized how ineffectively I managed my time and that it often had nothing to do with me being organized. 

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Although this realization came a semester later than I would have liked, the changes I’ve made since have been life changing. So, how do I manage my time? It’s really simple actually. 

Everyday I compose to-do list with priorities. Depending on the day my list varies in size. After I establish my list, I start with the priorities that  are most convenient for me.  I also establish time goals for my priorities. For instance, if I have a paper due on Friday at 11:59pm, my to-do list will have two or three hours next to it. I’ll admit I get carried away with work sometimes so I use my Clock app on my phone to make sure I stay within the allotted time period. Also, I suggest pausing the timer when you take breaks or have to stop for a while. By the time I complete the priorities on my to-do list, I feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. There’s no greater feeling than scratching something off a list–am I right or nah?

With each completed task, I’m encouraged to do other more on my to-do list. This helps me complete school work and socializing while not procrastinating. Although I don’t always complete my to-do list, I find the list and act of finishing items helpful with time management.

time-management.png Since the goal of graduate school is not to remember every little detail about every little thing, I recommend allotting time to course reading for the week and skimming where you can. Some of my colleagues prefer to read the night before class, I’ve been told it helps retain information. Yeah, whatever. But this doesn’t hold true for me. Since my schedule does not allow me to read the night before class and do the things I need to do to take care of me, I complete my readings and small assignments (like discussion board posts) in order of due date for the week.So I allocate 8 to 10 hours to reading for classes and discussion posts. The range is between 8 to 10 hours because some weeks my reading load is denser than other weeks. I don’t complete all of my work in one sitting or day. Sometimes I break it up over two or three days. I know I can not read everything. Combined, these time management practices give me more free time to complete writing assignments and relax. I recognize that grad school is important. However, it does not have to consume all of your time.

In an effort to maximize my efforts, I allocate 8 to 10 hours to reading for classes and discussion posts. The range is between 8 to 10 hours because some weeks my reading load is denser than other weeks. I also try to avoid completing all of my work in one sitting or on a single day. Oftentimes I break it up over two or three days with an awareness that I can not read everything. By focusing on the things that I deem as most important, I still have time to have a life outside of school and to manage relationships with friends and family that are sometimes equally as important to me. 

Combined, these time management practices also give me more free time to complete writing assignments and relax. I recognize that grad school is important. But if there’s anything my time management practices should make clear it is that I refuse to allow it to consume all of my time. Neither should you, sis. 

  

Welcome to the Mental Health & Relationships Column!

Greetings Cite A Sista Family,

My name is Shaquinta Richardson, and I will be the mental health and relationships columnist for CiteaSista!I am a marriage and family therapist, marriage and family therapy supervisor in training, doctoral candidate, disability studies scholar and activist, and mental health and self-care advocate.

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As a systemic couple and family therapist, I practice from a contextual family therapy model which emphasizes balance, equity, care, and responsibility in relationships.  My approach focuses on the interactions between people in relationships and their perceptions of the love and care they receive, as well as ways they feel their needs have not been met.  I also consider the contextual, social, and historical aspects that impact couple and family relationships.  That’s me as a professional therapist.

As a Black woman, I am focused on the healing, uplifting, and empowerment of my sisters in every area of their lives, be it family, cou47f1641b7cf2a96d8493ac275b55be82.jpgple relationships, friendships, or career.  I believe that we have been taught to take care of everyone but ourselves. Part of our liberation is through caring for ourselves first.  As such, I will be sharing with you ways to improve your personal well-being, ways to rethink self-care and mental health, and simply sharing the journey to healing our wounds as Black women.  I hope this column will challenge you to rethink how you show up as a daughter, a mother, a sister, friend, partner, colleague, and overall individual.  My message is not meant to be all encompassing, but I hope you will be able to find something valuable for your journey.  I look forward to sharing a little piece of me in hopes that it will help you be a happier, healthier version of you!

SR

Winging It in New Zealand

I found myself faced with a dilemma that is all too familiar to many of us that like to pick up and go. Five days in New Zealand were just a plane ride away and I had already paid for the ticket in full, but I couldn’t spend $1000 on the usual comforts of travel. I’d avoided making any plans for the trip in advance as I was sure that my finances  would force me to skip the trip altogether. Three days away from my flight, most things would undoubtedly be more expensive, but I still wanted to make this work. My doctoral program had been particularly stressful and this getaway was exactly what I needed to recharge, but taking naps in public parks in a place that was completely foreign to me wasn’t exactly my idea of a recharge trip. So, what is a graduate student supposed to do? I could give up the ticket (which was a steal at $250) or I could do some frugal planning and keep my total expenses for the trip (sans airfare) at $500.

Obviously, I went the “keep the cost low” route. I can’t resist traveling to a new country! The exchange rate was on my side at about .70 cents to the New Zealand dollar.

I quickly let go of the expectation that I’d stay in a hotel. Lodging can take up the majority of a travel budget, so who needs all the amenities that hotels offer anyway? This trip would be about exploring, not sleeping in my room all day. I knew I’d have to go the hostel route, so I adjusted my expectations, put my germophobia in check, and tried to find an available bed three days prior to my arrival.

Nothing.

Panic quickly began to set in. Where was I going to sleep? How would I eat? From my previous travels, I knew that rooms tend to open the night of, so I decided to hop on the plane with a bag full of fruit snacks and figure it out once I landed. I don’t recommend that you do this. (Lol.) I packed nothing more than a rolling carry on to make movement around the country and hostel changes easier. In exchange for $150, I was able to get NZD 216 for emergencies. The remaining $350 from my budget would be placed on my debit/credit card. I couldn’t risk the possibility of losing all my travel budget to robbery or some other unforeseen circumstance.

Saturday

  • $26 – Round-trip Skybus ticket
  • $10 – Overly expensive burger at Wendy’s for dinner
  • $88 – 14 hour Inter-City bus pass

I arrived in Auckland, New Zealand on a Saturday and quickly began calling hostels to ask for openings. I was in luck! A bed opened at Nomads Auckland for that night and it was only $26 for a mixed 4-bedroom dorm! Victory! Skybus service from the airport serviced the hostel as well as many others in downtown Auckland, so I purchased a round-trip ticket online for $26.

Once I arrived at the less-than-cleanly hostel, I knew I needed to make some immediate decisions. I still needed to find somewhere to sleep for the next few days, but Auckland wasn’t my speed. It was cold, crowded, and I just didn’t feel like it could provide the recharge that I needed. I didn’t have enough time in New Zealand to travel to beautiful South Island, so I decided to stick to the small towns of North Island. Rotorua is well-known for Maori culture, natural salt ponds, and volcanoes, and it happened to be experiencing some beautiful weather. New Zealand has several bus services similar to Megabus and Greyhound that connect travelers between cities, and the trip from Auckland to Rotorua was only 4 hours. I settled on an Inter-City pass as it offered flexible bookings. My time of travel would be reduced from the pass, and I could switch my departure up to an hour prior to my original trip. I was able to purchase and manage a 14-hour pass online. With my next destination set, I grabbed a burger at Wendy’s that was way more than it should have been, but food is expensive in New Zealand.

Sunday

  • Morning run around downtown Auckland
  • $7 – Breakfast at bus station: Ham & Cheese, Pork Bun and drink
  • Bus trip from Auckland to Rotorua using 4 hours from Inter-City pass
  • $45 – Polynesian Spa, free smoothie with entrance
  • $64 – 3 nights at Rock Solid Backpacks in Rotorua
  • $20 – Groceries at Pak-N-Save (Water, sandwiches, cheese, toiletries)
  • $32.94 – Dinner at Japanese restaurant (I splurged)

I woke up early on Sunday to take a run around Auckland and locate the Inter-City bus stop. During my run, I realized that Downtown Auckland reminded me of lower Manhattan, another place that I am not fond of. I knew I made the right decision to head to Rotorua.

After four hours on the Inter-City coach (no bathroom on board, eek!) I arrived in Rotorua. My hostel, Rock Solid Backpackers, was clean, inviting, and had lockable storage, internet, and water.

Perfect.

I decided to spend this day unwinding at the sulfur ponds that make Rotorua famous. Polynesian Spa is home to multiple indoor and outdoor pools with varying levels of sulfur. I went for their deluxe offering of access to multiple pools and began my experience outside.

Oh. My. Word.

This was definitely the sort of experience I needed to recharge! The pools are naturally heated, the scenery resembled a movie set, and the seagulls (while obnoxiously loud at times) were charming. As I stretched out over the beautiful rocks within the pool, I completely forgot where I was and placed my head and hair into the water as well…

Yes, I placed my hair into a pool of sulfur water. After I realized my mistake, I concluded that the experience was worth the potential loss or bleaching of my hair. Goshdarnit I’d do it again!

Monday

  • Morning run at the Redwoods
  • Redeemed my free smoothie at Polynesian Spa
  • $82 – Mitai Maori experience with dinner

Rotorua is home to a beautiful forest filled with California Coast Redwoods. I thought that this would be the perfect place for my morning run, so I filled up a water bottle at the hostel, put on my running shoes, and began to walk the two miles to Whakarewarewa Forest. An hour and a few poor directions from Google later, I finally made it to the entrance of the Redwoods with the help of friendly locals. I went with the moderate hike as it had an estimated two hour complete time and I’m not the outdoorsy type. By the time I completed the trail, I needed several hours of sleep if I wanted to be awake for the Mitai Maori tour.

Visiting the Mitai Maori was the highlight of my trip to New Zealand. Although the Maori are the original inhabitants of the land, they currently make up approximately 14% of the population in New Zealand. This tour was one of the few tours that was owned by the Maori people, so the $82 price seemed worth it. The evening started with a traditionally cooked (and delicious) meal and then progressed into performances, storytelling, and a walk to see the glowworms hiding in the trees. The tour included drop-off back at area hostels and hotels.

Tuesday

  • Bus trip from Rotorua to Taupo using 1 hour from Inter-City pass
  • $41 – All day mountain bike rental
  • $24 – Emergency taxi back to Inter-City bus stop
  • Bus trip back to Rotorua using 1 hour from Inter-City pass

My big plans for Tuesday included visiting Huka Falls and watching the dam open at Aratiatia Rapids. This meant that I needed to take an hour bus trip from Rotorua to Taupo. The problem with this was that I still needed to make it to both sites despite being two hours walking apart. This was doable, sure! But to spice things up, I decided to rent a mountain bike for the trip. First stop, Huka Falls.

This is where I remark that New Zealand is beautiful. The greenery in New Zealand looks unreal and is complete with loads of flowing meadows atop hills. Those beautiful hills are what nearly killed me on this trip. After inching my way down a treacherous trail called “Acid Drop” (!?) and walking the bike up what felt like millions of steep inclines, I no longer felt that renting the mountain bike was such a good idea. Toward the end of the journey, those difficult inclines gave way to beautiful, leisurely descents that placed the water flowing from Huka Falls in full view. Finally, I had made it. The rush of the water underneath the viewing bridge was so breathtaking that I quickly forgot all about pushing a heavy mountain bike the majority of the way.

Next stop, Aratiatia Rapids.

What should have been a quick, 30-minute beginner’s bike ride between the falls and the rapids ending up being an hour of pushing the mountain bike along a (clearly not beginner’s) trail in the wrong direction, amused but mildly panicked snapchats and tweets to loved ones so that they’d know my last location, sunburn, and some temporary moments of just wanting to turn back around and go home even though I was finally headed in the right direction. However, the unexpected meadows, ponds, and Narnia-esque views along the way kept my spirits up and my legs moving. Finally, I made it to the rapids just in time to watch the release!

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Aratiatia Rapids in Taupo, New Zealand

I then made a desperate call for a cab back to the bike rental place. The lesson here is to pay close attention to signage. Also, no more mountain biking ever.

Wednesday

  • $46 – Gondola ride up to Skyline Restaurant. Price includes buffet lunch.
  • Bus trip from Rotorua to Auckland using 4 hours from Inter-City pass
  • $24 – Lodging at Oakland Lodge Backpackers in Auckland
  • $30 – Dinner at El Sizzling Chorizo in Auckland

For my last day in Rotorua, I knew that I no longer had the patience for getting lost somewhere and instead opted for wine tasting and a nice lunch at Skyline to relax. A scenic gondola ride must be taken to the restaurant and the views of Rotorua as you dine are unparalleled.

When I got back to Auckland and settled into Oakland Lodge Backpackers, my final lodging while I was in New Zealand, I wasn’t ready for my trip to end. I had spent right around $500 (YAY!) so I allowed myself a nice dinner at El Sizzling Chorizo to end my trip on a high note. This place is a carnivore’s dream!

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Thursday

  • Return trip to airport using Skybus

As I boarded my plane back to the United States, I felt a bit sad that my trip was so short. Even when I was lost, tired, and dehydrated, I was surrounded by so much beauty that I knew I needed to return to New Zealand. Next time, I’ll skip the mountain bike.