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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Opera House

In Sydney, Austrailia my family and I went to the Opera House and saw the Opera Aida! The Opera was really nice but late so I fell asleep for about 15 minutes! A day before we went to the Opera we walked the Harbor Bridge in Sydney (somtimes called the "coat hanger") and got a very good veiw of the Opera House!
When we got in the Opera House it was HUGE!!!! It was very busy inside and full of people with food and drinks. When we got into the room were the Opera would be going on it was noisy and starting to fill up with people. We had kind of high seats but they were still good because I could still see everything fine! The Opera was about 3 hours long and had 3 breaks. On stage it was very nice because there was real water up there, only shalow but it was still there!
The auditorium we were in had only cement walls. It was all quite plane around us. The people on stage didn't have to sing very loudly and still their voices would ecco around the room loud and clearl!
Going to the Opera was a lot of fun and was a once in a life time experience so I'm glad we went even though I fell asleep in the end!

-No Worries Elena!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scuba at the Great Barrier Reef

On our trip to Australia we went to the Great Barrier Reef. We stayed on a live on board boat for three days. Previously in New Zealand I had gotten my diving license, but diving in new Zealand and diving in Australia are two different things (meaning Australia is better). Here are a few things I thought were amazing about scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef.

1. You can be under 20 feet and think its only 5-10 feet to the surface.
2. Fish are swimming everywhere!
3. Fish will get really close to you!
4. The Reef is so big, I don't think anyone could ever explore the whole thing.
5. You're always finding new things you didn't see before. (so you will never get bored)
6. There are thousands of different fish, coral, sharks, squid, turtles........ etc.

I only did one dive a day, but my dad did about 13 throughout the whole trip. I saw two sharks. It was really exciting to be swimming with sharks in open water instead of in a pool at Disney where the sharks don't actually have any teeth "for your own safety". Over all I thought scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef was a lot of fun and a great experience.

- Damon

The Zoos we went to in Australia

In Australia we went to two zoos. Both zoos had only animals native to Australia. The first one was in Sydney, the second in Cairns.
We got to see kangaroos eat and pet a kangaroo. They are really soft, they seemed kind of lazy. The kangaroos didn't hop a lot. They used their tale by standing on their back legs and then lifting themselves up with their tales.
We also got to see some koalas and some had joeys on their backs. We pet a koala and it had really thick fur, they were also soft. They were cute and looked cuddly!
We got to feed a cassowary. A cassowary is a bird in the ostrich family. They had blue and green necks and black long fur on their body. They had a horn thing on their head. They had large eggs that were a light green color. The cassowary is an endangered species.
We also saw quoles and they were like a cat and a tasmanian devil together. We got to see them be fed and they were brown and had long tails. They are also endangered.
We got to pet a 1 1/2 year old crocodile, it was smooth with bumps. We also got to go on a boat on a river and watch big crocodiles get fed. They jumped out of the water to get the raw chicken. When they snapped their jaws shut it made a loud biting noise. It was lots of fun.

- Maddie

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Wairoa has been a wonderful little town to spend the last 14 months of our lives in. As we look back we see that what we have experienced here is intricately intertwined with the people we have met. There is a tradition here in New Zealand, a public “Thank you” for someone for what they have shared with you. In sharing our experiences we would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who have made our year exceptional.

Ruth, Russell & Suzelle you have introduced us to the wilds of New Zealand, taking us tramping at Lake Waikeremoana being sure there was a shorter way back to the car if we went past these trees, through this field and into this river! You introduced us to Moko whom we visited over and over never tiring of the thrill of swimming with and touching a live, wild dolphin. You took us up in the helicopter experiencing the spectacular scenery from above. A New Year’s morning will never pass in which I will not remember sitting on the beach sharing a beautiful sunrise with you. You shared your family with us and have become ours. You mean the world to us.

Ian & Theresa, sharing communion with you met needs beyond imagination. Sitting and talking while drinking your fabulous mocacinos provided rest and intimate conversation.

Thank you Jill & Adrian for the opportunity to discover in the Yacht Club that sailing a boat is not as easy as it looks, and that being out there in a P Class boat faced with the challenge but also the freedom to move forward is rewarding.

Our fist bottle of wine was shared by Raffi after struggling to find a way to get the cork out of the bottle without a corkscrew! The year of working with you has been a blessing to Chad. He has enjoyed the camaraderie in and outside of work. Thank you for inspiring a group to take a tour of Hawke’s Bay cellars as well!

We discovered the art of raising two little lambs as Paul and Jossie walked us through each step of the way from bottles to recipes! Every time I sew I will have fond memories of the machine you gave us to borrow. Little did you know that it was something I had specifically prayed about before coming, as I wasn’t able to bring my own.

And speaking of sheep, thank you to Wendy and the spinning club who gave us the opportunity to sit in the evenings by the fire spinning our own yarn, then learning how to knit it into a hat.

The peacefulness of taking a jog around town, and getting motivated to do a “full body workout” at the Community Centre was much more enjoyable when joined by a friend. Thank you Stephanine. I am so glad we had the time to take our friendship beyond a jog to hanging out, going to Napier and lunch dates.

Brian and Christine, little do you know how a dream was fulfilled for me when you invited us to dance class. You happily shared your dance moves with us and every time we Cha, Cha Cha, we will remember you!

Gail, your love for rugby and the All Blacks spilled over into our experience of New Zealand. We so enjoyed getting to know you. Traveling to Wellington to see a live All Blacks game was the topping on the cake to finish the year.

Ron, Sue & Megan, thank you for sharing your batch in Mahia with us. Our first walk on the reef with you as you explained a wealth of knowledge on all the little critters left us exploring each time we returned. Chad loved the new adventure of diving for crayfish (lobster) and we all enjoyed eating it.

I could not believe after traveling so far from home that I was being invited to a Tupperware party, yet Val that bit of home was a reassurance I needed. I missed you when you passed on even though I only knew you for such a short time. Stew, despite Val’s illness and passing, you were a friend in addition to a neighbor. Thank you for sharing your pool with us. You taught me so much beyond gardening, but in serving as well.

Garafield and Rachel, our first exposure to you was hearing you preach in your little church. Your love for God was evident. I enjoyed tea with you Rachel and sharing promises of God. Garfield, I will never forget you and my Dad going back and forth between our houses as you shared yard tips with him! In such a short visit, a very meaningful bond was made. I was sorry to see you pass away shortly before we left. Rachel, you are in our prayers.

Lawrence and Marie I so enjoyed walking Joe to school. I watched Elena grow in compassion as she helped him each day. Your love for your Grandson is very beautiful.

We are better people because you have shared your lives with us and for that we thank you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Field Hockey

Once again we all needed to try out a sport during the winter. My friends Anneke and Olivia both play field hockey so Maddie and I decided to try it out! In field hockey you need Shin Guards so Anneke's mom Jill Mayhead gave Maddie and I each a pair to use! You also need long back socks and a mouth guard so that if you get hit the mouth your teeth won’t fall out! Damon had an extra pair of socks that he did not need so he gave those to Maddie and Mom went out and bought me some new socks.

If you want an idea of field hockey it's a mix between ice hockey and soccer! In field hockey you use a little round ball and of course you use sticks. The difference between Field Hockey sticks and Ice Hockey sticks is that in Field Hockey you can't use both sides of your stick so it takes a bit to get use to that fact. The main thing in Field Hockey is to get the ball away from the other team and score.

I like field hockey a lot more than Net Ball because you’re a bit more active in hockey. If you’re a forward, like I normally play, there is a whole strip of the field going through the middle that you’re aloud to go on. When you play defense (that’s what Maddie normally plays) in hockey you don’t have as much of the field to cover but you have a big job of making sure the other team doesn’t score a goal and if they do they get the blame!

Every 3 weeks the Wairoa team goes to Gisborne and plays a game facing another team from somewhere around Hawke's Bay. The last 3 times we have been there we have won 1-0 and I hope it carries on like that at least until we leave!

- Elena

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Art Deco Days

Art Deco Days in Napier was one of the most favorite things I have experienced here in New Zealand. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and although I know my words will be plentiful here, I hope the many photos and videos will help bring the day to life. It happened in the summer, in February, yet I have not written about it because I know there is no way I can do it justice.
We began the day with the sun shining during our 1 1/2 hr. drive to Napier. As I have said before, Napier was destroyed in an earthquake in the 1930's and rebuilt in the Art Deco style. Our first stop was the old Tobacco Co. building where we had a tour of the interior of the building. From there we headed downtown where we would spend the rest of the day.
We spent a bit of time walking around, soaking in the atmosphere. So many people had thrown themselves into the spirit of things by dressing to the style of the era. There was a women's choral group singing old war songs, a jazz street group, an organ grinder complete with a monkey. People strolling along, standing and listening and finding seats to enjoy the show.
We wandered along and found a good corner to enjoy the upcoming auto parade. Over 200 antique cars, shined to perfection rolled past. I was told 12 containers from America arrive each year with cars for the parade. The NZ Navy marched past as they do each year in commemoration of the Navy's response and aid during the 1930's disaster. Of course no auto show would be complete without the rebel bike group to stir things up!

After the auto parade it was time to lay back and relax a bit. A glass of freshly squeezed lemonade hit the spot. Chad and the kids found a shady spot under a tree to read a book. There was a tent set up with women getting their hair done for evening dancing and dinners.
I found my way over to the band shelter where a band was playing on stage while a time era fashion show was going on. People were swing dancing to the music while women were strutting their stuff on stage. I leaned back with one eye on the ocean, one eye on the stage, the music playing, and wind in my face. Out of nowhere a WWII plane came swooping down. What a show zig zagging across the sky! I was sad to see this day come to an end, but like all good things, it must. I am glad I was able to take a bit of time to step back into time and experience the days gone by.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thoughts on our Enviornment

New Zealand is a beautiful country of rolling hills and mountains, fields and forests, rivers and waterfalls, lakes and oceans. It is an invaluable gem in a world that is loosing its precious wilderness to meet the needs of a growing population.

Some may wonder why we should be concerned with the environment. Past generations acted on a lack of knowledge thus disturbing the world we now live in. As we look to the future we need to decide what type of a world we wish to leave those generations after us.

It is easy to look to others to take responsibility for us. New Zealand has the Green Party in government, a political party focused on environmentalism, working towards a healthy environment to sustain healthy humanity. Yet government can’t fix all the problems in society. So it is up to the individual to claim responsibility and make changes.

In the past few years I have taken a closer look at how I live my daily life and how my actions are in turn affecting the world around me. In moving to New Zealand I have taken an even greater step in that direction. The first step in change is to realize the need for change. There is so much about our daily lives that we don’t think about. What will happen to this article after I am done using it? What is left in the air after a drive to town? How is heating my house affecting the air I breathe? A trip to the local dump was an experience that left me thinking. Where does my daily rubbish go? How many years until this dump is full and then where does the rubbish go? Is there a way I can reduce the amount that I am contributing to this each week?

New Zealand is miles ahead of America in the average person’s care of the environment. Here in Wairoa, prior to the recycling push several years ago, 6 tons of rubbish were collected per week. Now around ½ ton is collected each week with a large increase in the recycling. At home on rubbish collection day, each house would have a 96-gallon cart in front of their home overflowing with rubbish. Two additional large black bags of rubbish were allowed as well. Recycling is only collected every two weeks, and I only knew of only one other house on our street that went the extra mile to separate recycling. Here I have reduced my waste to one small bag a week with my recycling container overflowing. I have found that most packaging contains the recycling symbol. Yet there is still room for improvement. New Zealanders currently recycle 70% of their aluminium, 50% of their paper, 45% of their glass, 30% of their steel and only18 % of their plastics.

We have made it a practice to compost our vegetation scraps. Again, I knew of only one other family that composted back in America. Residents of Wairoa have shown me many ways to compost including worm farms and compost bins. The city dump now even has a compost system available that also produces a liquid fertilizer for your garden as well.

Conscious living can be fun and rewarding as well. I was recently at a party here in town and the host had 100% compostable plates and wooden silverware. Everyone had fun standing in line tasting their plates! The kids at school are often doing projects as well with the concept of reusing something old to create something new. I even know someone here who makes their own petrol for their car by recycling vegetable oil.On a business scale I have discovered that businesses displaying the black square with the white fern have achieved the “Qualmark”. This is New Zealand’s official mark of quality for tourism. Businesses are assessed on their environmental performance in areas of energy efficiency, conservation initiatives, waste management, community activities, and water conservation. I have seen these principles in practice as we have traveled: garbage separation and composting in hotels; light switches that are activated with room entrance keys; energy efficient light bulbs; and recycling containers at campgrounds.

To care about the future of the earth, one does not need to carry a picket sign in a demonstration march or wear a t-shirt proclaiming “save the whales”. Each person has the power to make a difference. I urge you to stop, think about, consider and evaluate. It is the small choices each of us makes on a daily basis. Through all of us making those conscious decisions, we will leave a gift to the future generations.

No Worries - Kris

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Sheepskin Factory

Mom and I went to Napier. While we were there we went to Classic Sheepskins and went on a tour. We got to see how they got the sheepskins ready to sell and everything. First the sheepskins were washed and tanned. They were put in big tubs with wheels that spun around to mix up the sheepskins. After washing for three days and tanning came drying. The skins were clipped to a board, two on each side. They were put in a line with dryers and heaters. It took them around six hours to dry. Ironing and polishing were next. The sheepskins were put through a big roller to fluff them up. They were really soft after that. Up next was cutting. They cut the sheepskins so they looked nicer. If they wanted a bigger sheepskin, two were sewed together. The skins were graded by size. To grade them they were put on a flat machine and a computer screen said how big they were. They had a sticker put on the back saying how big they were. Finally the skins were put up for sale in the shop or sent away somewhere. The whole process takes six to eight weeks.


Shortly after arriving in New Zealand we were watching t.v. as a family. A commercial came on and we began to watch a story unfold. The room got quiet as we were watching a man in a family room playing with his kids. He then went out to the back yard where a party was going on and began having a few drinks. The day passed and he continued drinking. In the evening he went back into the house to play with the kids. He picked a kid up by one arm and one leg and began swinging her around like an airplane. He lost control and swung her head first into the entertainment center. Glass shattered and the little girl lay crumpled on the floor. The women in the room ran to her and screamed at the man to get out. He stumbled out into an alley where he passed out. We sat there stunned with our jaws hanging open. We have seen other such commercials but that is the most shocking.
In the short time we have seen the effects that binge drinking is having on society. Just before arriving a couple of men got drunk and decided to take their small plane up. It was a storm. Now one of Maddie's friends is living without her dad. Another day I heard sirens in the afternoon. A drunk man had come speeding around a corner in front of the grocery store and hit an elderly couple. A couple of weeks ago there was a fight in the streets here with 40 people involved. A police car was smash up with the drunk people throwing bricks at it. Chad is consistently sewing up people who have knife wounds from fighting while drunk. The stories are endless.
New Zealanders consume 15 % more alcohol than Americans do.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Kentucky Derby?

All summer people consistently mentioned the horse races, claiming that they were THE social event in town at the end of summer. Not knowing a thing about horse races we decided to just go and see what all the hype was about.
I was a bit surprise when we got there at the number of cars. Yes, indeed, everyone in town had come out for the day. Many arrived quiet early to claim a front row seat and spot to set up their tents complete with a lace covered table, wicker picnic basket, wine and hors d'oeuvres. It was a bit of a fashion show as well. Some of us were in shorts and t-shirts while others were dressed to the hilt with a summer lawn dress, spiffy hair-do and arm linked with their spiffy partner.The announcer rattled off names and statistics, encouraging everyone to get in line and place their bets. Wairo did quiet well that day raking in a pleasing $1,000,000 plus in profits.
The races themselves were quite fun to watch. The jockeys warmed up in a ring and then filed out when it was their turn to race. They lined up at the gate and the gun went off. They thundered past while the announcer yelled the leaders. The cows grazing in the center didn't seem to be bothered by all the commotion.It was a great day of walking around and socializing while watching the races. We had fun guessing who would win. Looking at the grooming and uniforms of the jockeys. True to Wairoa tradition kids had their cardboard in tow and spent the afternoon sliding down the hill while their parents watched the races!