Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Zealand

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
It was a great Air New Zealand flight to Auckland with breakfast served.  Janet enjoyed a series of NZ television programs about sheep farming, cheese making, Auckland shopping; so she felt a little acquainted with the country.  We arrived mid-afternoon and were picked up by Kris Van Bibber (graduate of SNU, former FL youth pastor), who’s been in NZ for almost 5 months, serving as District Youth Pastor and District Secretary.
Kris took us to the home of District Superintendent Neville Bartle and wife Joyce, where we’d be based for the next few days. They live in a beautiful neighborhood on a high hill, overlooking Auckland to the west. After getting some advice about what North Island NZ attractions we should catch, we rented a car for 3 days (to be returned after the District NYI Convention on Saturday).  In this cooler, mountainous climate, spring had absolutely exploded!  The Bartles’ yard was full of pansies and roses, lemon and orange trees, and strawberries were the first of many produce crops.  Even with the 1.4 million in population, there was still room for green hillsides speckled with grazing cows or sheep.

Joyce prepared a large meal for dinner, with corned beef, potatoes, carrots and broccoli, and included some wonderful brownies and tea for dessert.  Dr. Fred and Dina Huff are also staying here (but are away for a few days visiting friends; they pastured in NZ 25-30 years ago!) and we’ll share the bathroom with them. This home is perfect for hospitality and the Bartles are experts!  We even got to do a large load of laundry that first evening, in anticipation of being sightseers for the next couple of days.

Thursday, October 29, 2009
After a lovely breakfast (porridge, meuslix, toast, juice, and coffee) followed by a short devotion and prayer, we gathered our GPS, emergency phone numbers, and some maps and directions printed by Neville from his computer and started out -- on the left side of the road!  The steering wheel of this rental car is on the right, but Dan did very well, as we headed south of Auckland on the South Motorway (not “highway“).  We took photos along the way of the meadows and hills and mountains.  Our first stop was a tourist information office in Tirau, created from corrugated metal and looking like a sheepherding dog!  Then, we continued to Matamata, where we’d catch the Hobbiton Tour.  We bought sandwiches and juice from the Robert Harris Coffee Shop across the street, then boarded the bus to the Hobbit movie set site.

It looked like it might rain and it did (including hail!) before we got to the beginning of the walking part of the tour. The guides (Carolyn drove the bus and Eric would be the tour guide) were both so knowledgeable and personable, and assured us that there were umbrellas waiting for us to use on the tour.  The property is owned by the Alexander family.  All in the group took lots of photos of the party field, pre-decorated hobbit holes, lake, trees.  And we learned so much about the film‘s shooting and re-sizing things in the movies… At the end of the tour, we also got a sheep-shearing demonstration and got to feed some lambs with bottles.
Several of the tourists were from Spain, Australia, Georgia/US.  After more than 2 hours (a really comprehensive tour!), we were driven back to town. Our rental car was dead; we’d left the car’s lights on and drained the battery.  Back at the information service, a mechanic was called for us; we got a coffee from across the street, waited at the car and the whole problem was fixed within 20 minutes!

Dan drove to Rotorua, admiring the lake and mountains. Neville had made arrangements for us to stay at the Gibson Court Motel after finding the “I” (tourist information) office to pre-purchase our sightseeing tickets for this day and the next.  It didn’t take us long to find the Sky ___ tram to the top for view, but not dinner (quite expensive).  We shared green-lipped mussels and bruschetta at Ciccio’s Italian restaurant; it was a very nice place, even though we had to compete with the noise of a large group of other patrons there.
After that, we went to the Polynesian Spa for 2 hours: There were 5 different pools, acidic or alkaline, all labeled with their temperatures, so you could decide how you wanted to spend your time. The smell was distinctive, but not awful. Many Asians were enjoying the pools of varying temperatures. Locker rooms included showers and room to change clothes.

After picking up some pastries and instant decaf at a nearby supermarket for a snack, returned to the motel. Slept well in the oversized room with its own mineral hot spa tub (which we didn’t have time to use).

Friday, October 30, 2009
Joyce had supplied most of our breakfast (meusli and butter and jam), but we’d added croissants as well from the grocery store. We were glad to shower and catch up on the Internet, then checked out and drove a short way to Te Puia, a Maori site with geysers, hot mud pools, and Maori entertainment, including a 45-minute music/dance presentation and an hour guided tour (female Maori-British guide named Kiri) of the geysers and Maori history and customs. Absolutely fascinating!  The tour ended with wood carving school and flax weaving school, demonstrating the fine art of creating traditional Maori items.

Staying at Te Puia, we’d reserved a typical Hangi dinner, a complete meal of (stacked from the bottom) cornbread stuffing, kumara (local sweet potato), potato, carrot, corn on the cob, chicken and greens -- all cooked in the natural hot spring waters. We took a different way back, enjoying a little different scenery, but drove through similarly charming small towns back to Auckland.
We got back to the Bartles’ home just as they did.  Joyce fixed another lovely dinner, then Dan made sure he was ready for Saturday’s NYI convention, while Neville planned for his flight to Bangkok for District Superintendents and regional board meetings.

Saturday, October 31, 2009
As this was the first NYI Convention in several years, it was an important event and Kris had it well-planned. We transported the computer, handouts, banner, etc., to the Church and got set up. Youth and youth leaders arrived and Kris led the group in greetings and in some worship songs, then detailed the youth events he had planned and led in the last few months. Neville spoke, as did Fred Huff, and several youth leaders made reports. A couple of youth groups gave cute skits.

Lunch was already fixed for us when we took a break - hot dogs and chips, cookies and soda.  The lunch time also included some outdoor time for volleyball and “touch” (a tamer version of rugby, rather like touch football compares to real US football).  After lunch, all attended Dan’s workshop on Bible quizzing.  Those around me asked some great questions, showing me that they were paying attention, understanding, and getting excited about using this ministry tool!

Neville had left during our meetings, so we enjoyed our last meal in NZ with Joyce and Kris (who actually had lived with the Bartles for a while when he first arrived in Auckland).

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