Elisabeth Easther meets Donnelle Tamaiparea, the Operations Manager at Tai Tokerau Resort College.
I moved to the Bay of Islands from Auckland when I was about 12. I didn't want to come but my parents dragged me, and I kept saying "as soon as I'm old enough I'm leaving"; but I didn't leave until I was 23.
I've always worked in tourism and hospitality. After school I worked in hotels, then in 1997 I moved to Auckland and became a dealer at SkyCity. I met my fiance there — he was a bartender, not a punter — and for our first proper overseas holiday, we decided to go backpacking for a year. We sold all our possessions and, with our Kathmandu backpacks, went to Bali, which we loved.
Six years later I came home with a husband. After Bali, we went to London, travelling all around the UK and Europe. On one of our longer trips, we were somewhere in Italy and I watched my husband unpack his backpack and pull out nine pairs of shoes and a trumpet, all out of a regular Kathmandu backpack. I remember waiting for a train in the Czech Republic and he gets his trumpet out at the train station and people thought he was busking. He was only learning, so it was pretty horrific. The world's worst busker. We joked they were chucking money to make him stop.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The only time things got a bit scary was when we'd hopped off a boat in Tangier, Morocco, which was like a different planet. It was obvious we were naive Kiwi backpackers, and this man was chasing us saying "you in Africa now, you in Africa now".
Another day, we were really hungry and we found a cafe where this guy was cooking a pot full of bubbly white stuff. He gave his kids some money and they came back with bread and he put the white liquidy stuff into the bread, fried some egg and put that in too. I was starting to freak out. I started sweating. He poured us two cups of mint tea. The kids were sitting next to us, dribbling they were so hungry, and I felt so uncomfortable. But, being two polite Kiwis, we tried to eat it. I nibbled on a corner, then later tried to give it to a homeless guy but he refused to take it.
With just working holiday visas, I was quite limited in what I could do. One of the jobs I took was at the Fire Service College in Moreton-in-Marsh; it's where all the firemen and policemen are trained. I'd get up in the morning and I'd walk past trainees setting fire to helicopters and buildings, then putting them out, while others were running around arresting each other.
Returning to Auckland after six years away, I knew I needed to return to Northland.
As a kid, my holidays were spent on the beach, swimming and sunbathing — and as a family, we now do the same and we're on the beach every day. Northland has the best beaches for picnics and family days so we finish work and head straight to the beach with our dinner to catch up with friends.
Today I look after operations at Queenstown Resort College's Northland site where we offer a diploma in hospitality. On the Level 5 Hospitality Management course they learn about wine, event planning, accounting, marketing, then they go away for nine months and do 1000 hours of paid internship. Currently we've got five students on Kangaroo Island, six in Queenstown and four in Australia. A student who recently graduated secured a job at Eagles Nest after doing her internship at Helena Bay, another high-end place.
I'm happy with my life. I love Northland, I love my job. I know it sounds cheesy but it's so fulfilling to see students gain qualifications and then follow their journeys as they head off on their working adventures.
Further information: see taitokerauresortcollege.com