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Monday, August 25, 2008


Upon waking this morning Chad declared that I had experienced my first earthquake.
"Huh?"  I said.
"Don't you remember waking me up and asking me to stop shaking the bed?"
"Huh?"  I said.
"I said I wasn't shaking the bed, but you insisted that I was."
"Huh?"  I said.
"Then I heard Damon's bed hitting the wall.  You don't remember this?"
"Huh?"  I said.
I looked around the room trying to make sense of what Chad was saying.  Everything was in place.   Make-up bottles were still standing, maybe things had shifted but I couldn't tell.  I declared there was no way there was an earthquake because everything was fine!  Chad began doubting himself and commented  "Maybe I was having a dream".  We walked out into the kitchen, my Sigg bottle was upside down draining.  Triumphantly I said "There is no way we had an earthquake because this bottle would have tipped over very easily."  I gave the bottle a little flick just to make my  point.  We turned on the news just to see if Chad was dreaming.  Indeed at 11:25 p.m. a 5.9 quake had struck 10km southwest of Hastings at a depth of 30km.  The shake lasted about 20 seconds.  An aftershock of 3.0 was felt a bit later.  So what did that mean to us here in Wairoa?  From what I am hearing around town, "it was a good one."   A shake that woke people up and made them wonder if there were more to come.   The depth and distance softened the shake.  I feel a bit cheated that I didn't actually wake up and remember the shake as everyone else in town seems to have.  
No worries - Kris

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Dance

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to learn how to dance.  I have memories of Saturday evenings with my sister prancing around the family room floor in our long flannel nightgowns and pink curlers while Lawrence Welk, with conductor's baton in hand, took Norma Zimmer,  in her floor length chiffon dress, and floated across the dance floor.  My dreams have matured to Dancing with the Stars as my neighbor and I "knowledgeably" critique the stars from the couch.  My dreams came true when we moved here and Chad surprised me by taking me to dance lessons.  Dance lessons here are the social thing to do.   All levels gather in the College gym to practice and learn new steps.  Dancing is not as easy as it looks.  The first few weeks were very frustrating for both Chad and me as we struggled with how to handle two left feet, what direction to go, who was really leading the dance, trying not to step on the other person toes or just completely knock them over, and many other marital issues.  We have begun to feel more comfortable with how to move our feet to different types of music.  I am relaxing enough to realize when Chad is trying to move me in a certain direction.  I am beginning to feel the music.  
This past weekend we had our first dance.  The theme was the Wild West.  The day of the dance I was walking downtown with a friend and we ran into another girl from our class.  We excitedly exchanged notes on what we were going to wear and what we were bringing to eat.  You would have thought we were a couple of school girls getting ready for prom!  
That evening Chad & I arrived at the dance hall.  We put our food down and found some seats.  We began visiting.  Getting out there and dancing was something neither of us were feeling overly courageous to attempt.  We were saved by other people who had been at it for several years asking us to dance.  They were quite comfortable with just pushing us around!  The evening was quite social as we began to chat with the people in our class.  Norm (with whom I am dancing in the photo) shared stories with me of dancing with his late wife.  Dancing was their favorite thing to do.  It was quiet the rage in Wairoa during the war with 7 different dance halls to go to on a Friday night.
The night was over soon enough.  I am looking forward to this weeks class and learning more although I will never be a Norma Zimmer and all I wish to do is dance under the stars with my husband.
No Worries - Kris

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


We did say that we would not have any animals here but... we do, we have a cat and we named him Mooch.  Mooch really just came to our door and adopted us!  His favorite place to sleep is right up by the fire where it is burning hot, but I guess he does not really care.  We do not know if Mooch is a boy or girl so we just call him a him!   Mooch sometimes sleeps with us but never, ever for the whole night.  By 5:00 in the morning he is most likely kicked out!  We will not let him stay in our bedrooms because by 4:00 a.m. he is one loud purring machine.  He will  snuggle up to us and just keep on purring so then we just make him leave!  Sometimes he is not doing that he is doing the opposite, playing, meowing or chasing something!  In the day time he is mostly just lying around, but if we are lucky (NOT) he will catch something for us, and when he does my mom is never pleased!
- Elena

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sometimes I kiss my patients...

I've had a few people ask what a day at the clinic is like for me, so here goes.

After doing rounds on the ward at the hospital, I go downstairs to the clinic that I work in. There are four practices in Wairoa, Three of which have one doctor each, and ours, which has two doctors. Our clinic is the "go-to" clinic for anyone who has no doctor, is down on their luck or has been kicked out of another practice.

One of the things I enjoy about the workday here is that the pace is somewhat slower.  My day is just as long, but there is no push to see as many patients as I can.  Less patients means more time with each patient--for the most part.  I do get called to the ward for emergencies, but these are not so frequent as to really cramp my style.

I won't bore you with the endless forms and bureaucratic compost I have to deal with as part of my routine (some of you do the same), but I will tell you that socialized medicine is not all fun-and-games.  I've met more than a couple people that have had to wait for months (a year or more at times) for surgery or for a simple appointment with a specialist.

One feature of the medical structure is called ACC.  ACC is a program under which all of your medical bills and up to 80% of your missed paychecks are paid by the government.  This also applies to non-Kiwis.  No wonder New Zealand's city of Queenstown had become so popular for extreme sports--go ahead, break your neck--it's paid for!!

The drawback is that there are people who take advantage of this program.  I've been here only 10 weeks and can't tell you the number of people who are not working, but "on a benefit" as they call it.  Unfortunately, human nature is such that some are tempted to complain of pain or disability that keeps them on benefit, but can not be proven or disproven with modern medical science.  New Zealand does employ some "ACC Police" who catch the occasional bloke on benefit for back pain carrying a 150# boar out of the bush or digging fence post holes on the farm.

All in all though, the system is not a complete failure, and there are many people who get care that otherwise would have no access whatsoever.  The very young, old and disabled often have special needs, and it helps me immensely that New Zealand has a program that lets me treat them all.

I've enjoyed getting to know my patients and learn from day to day the things I need to know to do good medicine in a culture that's new to me.  One of my first lessons was from Rafi (my partner), who told me "Don't lean on the exam table when talking to patients."  This was difficult and I still forget sometimes, but it's important because in Maori culture you never put your butt where your head or where food would go.  Sounds simple, but think about it--how often do you lean against the counter while talking with a neighbor in your kitchen?

I see people of all ages of course, but one thing I look forward to is seeing a couple of the older Maori ladies.  They are so kind and grandmotherly it makes my day.  They usually put their face next to mine, cheek-to-cheek and we kiss.  For a white boy from the cold North it was uncomfortable at first, but a nice custom once I got used to it.

Overall the day is quite pleasant, and with a steaming cup of joe on my desk and a raging infection sitting across from me I feel quite content for the moment.
- Chad

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Rainforest at Morere Hot Springs

When we went to Morere Hot Springs, we went on a walk.  The walk was through one of the last tracts of native rain forest on the east coast of New Zealand.  Rain forests get 68-78 inches of rain per year. The rain forest we were in was a temperate rain forest because of the mild New Zealand climate.  It is part of the community and welcomes more and more visitors every year.  The path that we took was uphill a lot.  We were very tired, but when it started going downhill, the view was very pretty.  We saw a lot of vines hanging down off the palm trees on the path and Dad said we could swing on some if it was flat and the vines were strong enough.  Eventually we did get to swing on some vines.  It was fun, but we swung into the bushes.  Sometimes there was mud and it was really slippery.  I slipped and got mud on me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The hole

It's easy to only tell the good, fun and exciting things we are experiencing here in New Zealand.  But the reality of life is that there are tough days, days I would happily buy a one way ticket home.  I thought I would share one of those days with you.  Heating the house with a wood burning stove has been a huge challenge to me.  Several elements are needed.  Dry hard wood - something that we did not have.  A clean chimney - ours was not.  And finally time to keep a fire going - I kept forgetting about it.  One morning I cleaned out the fireplace putting the ashes in a plastic bucket as there was no metal bucket with the house.  I set  it on the floor, got a fire going and forgot about it.  Yes, you can see where this story is going.  I went to Elena's school for a few hours and came home to work some more on tending the fire.  I noticed an odd smell, looked around and saw the bucket.  In panic I picked up the bucket and the bottom, which had melted away, fell to the floor.  There was now a pile of red coals on the carpet.  I ran and grabbed another bucket - plastic again.  I frantically shoveled the coals into this bucket and ran out to the driveway as I felt the bottom of this bucket melting away as well.  Common sense told me that I needed to pour water on the carpet to make sure the fire was not still smoldering.  But wait, that will leave a stinky, ashy mess on the floor.  In a moment of brilliance I decided to vacuum the coals up.  I ran and got the vacuum cleaner and quickly vacuumed up what I was not able to shovel up.   Reality dawned on me as I looked at the vacuum cleaner with a bag full of dust now smoldering with hot coals.  Another trip running out to the driveway to deposit hot coals and melting plastic.  I threw water on the floor and called Chad in complete hysterics.  He came home quickly afraid the house was indeed "burning down".  Thankfully God saved us from my stupidity.  Chad cut the area of carpet out to be sure the underfloor was not on fire.  We are now living with a hole in the middle of our family room floor.  It seems silly that this would be hard to live with, but for the past month I have had to look at a hole in the floor that reminds me that all days are not easy.
In Him there are No Worries - Kris

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Olympics

Every two years one county gets the privilege of hosting the Olympics.  This year China had that privilege and they are hosting the Olympic games in Beijing.  I have been watching the Olympics a lot no matter what sport is on.  New Zealand's five best bets at getting gold are as follows:  Mahe Drysdale in rowing - single sculls; Valerie Vili in shot put; Rob Waddell and Nathen Cohen in rowing - double sculls; Sarah Walker in BMX and Tom Ashley in board sailing.  After just recently checking USA has 20 medals, China has 17 and New Zealand has 0.  One of the things the world looks forward to seeing from New Zealand is the Haka.  Many male athletes do this before they compete.   New Zealand has one channel dedicated to the Olympics with no commercials.  Another channel mainly plays Olympic coverage.  American coverage focuses on sports Americans excel at.  Here in New Zealand we are seeing a wider variety of sports.   Have you ever seen badminton, field hockey, or hand ball in the Olympics?   Well, we get to see those sports and many more.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Morere Hot Springs

New Zealand's Morere hot springs are special because they are one of the world's most refreshing hot springs due to to their unique mineral waters.  The springs give 250,000 liters a day of ancient sea water.  The water comes from a break in the earth's crust running across the valley.  The water is piped into the pools that we sat in!  There was a little smell to the water because of the minerals from the earth.  The water looked hot, it was steaming and it had little flakes of earth in it and it did not look nice and way different than normal water!  When we got in it was petty hot but not too hot.  There were two pools so we got into the other pool and it was a lot hotter than the other pool. We switched back and forth between the two pools!  When we were done we could see the steam on each other!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


This past week  70 pre-teen kids and 20 adults loaded onto 2 buses and a couple of cars and headed off over the rivers and through the mountains to Lake Taupo for a week of school camp.  I was one of the "lucky few" adults elected to ride on the bus with the kids.  The music was loud and the yelling even louder.  My ipod failed to block the noise.  We arrived at "Lake Taupo Christian Camp", unloaded and found our rooms.  My room was a typical camp room with bunks for 10 people.  I let the 9 girls claim their beds and took the remaining bed.  I should have taken a moment to note what the floor looked like as I wouldn't see it again for a week.  How much stuff can 9 girls pack into their suitcases?  We headed to the activity room to watch a video on safety.  Yep, I know where the fire exits are, ok, I can handle getting away from windows and under a doorway or table in the case of an earthquake, but get inside a vehicle or building in case of a volcano???  Where am I?  Oh, that's right, I'm on a fault line with 3 active volcanoes nearby.  
Because we were at a Christian camp the director led us in prayer before our meals.  We did the "we will rock you" prayer - "Thank you for this day and thank you for this food..., we will, we will THANK YOU".  The first time the kids sang this one they screamed "rock you" to which the leader stopped and explained the concept of prayer.  The "superman" prayer, and then there was the "army prayer" done to the army cadence.  "Thank you Jesus for the food.  (repeat)  Cereal, toast and apples too.  (repeat)  We'll have lots of fun today. (repeat) Keep us safe along our way. (repeat)"  By the end of the week the kids were screaming their prayers with all their hearts.  I even heard one girl softly singing it on the way home.
After each night of little sleep I was in no mood at 6:30a.m. for running and exercise to start the day.  Then breakfast duty and make lunches.  A myriad of activities were planned for the week.  The kids learned about volcanoes and the military.  We visited hot pools, geothermal hot spots and waterfalls.  My favorite activity was a day of skiing on Mt. Ruapehu, an active volcano.    The excitement of the kids was contagious.  I missed the powdery snow and lush forests of Michigan to ski through but the kids didn't seem to mind the slush and rainy mist as many of them had never seen snow and this would possibly be their only chance to have a go at skiing.  Moments like this with the kids remind me of how fortunate I am to have experienced all I have in life.
Food had an interesting twist to it.  Each morning spaghetti on toast was most peoples choice.  Then there was a morning tea break around 10:00 with cookies.  Lunch and then afternoon tea at 2:00 with more cookies.  Evening tea (dinner) then supper at 8:00 which is another excuse for more tea and cookies.  The girls in my room also wanted to have a "midnight lollie feast" each night which simply meant breaking open the bags and bags of candy they had brought.
Friday morning we cleaned the room and loaded everything back onto the buses.  Earphones back in as I try to lean my head back and get a little sleep on the ride home.  No use looking our the window, it's still too rainy.  Everyone's tired but the music is still loud.  We pull into the school, unload our stuff.  The kids and I grab our bags and pull them home.  After a week of continual rain, no heat, no sleep and camp food I am happy to return back to the simple routine of Wairoa.
No worries - Kris

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

HUT! 2, 3, 4, HUT! 2, 3, 4........

Year 7 and 8 at my school (Wairoa College) were invited to go to camp, so Maddie and I went. During camp they took us to Waiouru military training camp.  A man there showed us the "Evolution of Weapons".  He started with the the first weapon all the way to the gun they equip the modern army with.  Almost every single weapon he talked about was right there in his hands and he would pick one of us to come hold it to see how heavy or how light it is, or how it feels when the gun is fired and the kick hits you.  I had the chance to hold one of the guns when he picked me, but the gun I got to hold was a really old gun that was really heavy.  After that they gave us a tour of the base.  We got to see where they were trained, where they ate, where they stored the tanks, and probably some other places that I have forgotten.  Over all the military training camp was pretty cool.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Craters of the Moon

On the way to camp, we stopped at Craters of the Moon.  There we went on a long walk and saw craters with steam coming out of them.  It smelled like rotten eggs because of the sulfur in the ground.  The craters are called steam vents.  I could feel the warm steam and it was kind of in my way.  The steam vents are constantly shifting, collapsing and reforming.  The steam vents at Craters of the Moon are a result of a geothermal power station being built.  The plant reduced the pressure in the ground so the hot water turned into steam.  There are some bubbling thermal mud pools.  Plants not normally native to the area are there because they thrive in the hot and harmful environment.  It was fun to see it because you could see from above the steam vents closer to the path and see that the steam made a hole in the ground.