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Sunday, April 26, 2009

ANZAC Day

Anzac Day is a national holiday celebrated in Australia and New Zealand. It commemorates the first major action fought by Australia and New Zealand during the First World War. It stands for "Australian and New Zealand Army Corp" and the soldiers were known as "Anzacs". On April 25, the battle of Gallipoli in Turkey was meant to open the Black Sea passage for the Allies but was a major disaster. They were met with high resistance causing the battle to last 8 months. In that time 8,000 Australians and 2,700 New Zealanders were killed.
We have often commented on how little patriotism we see here in New Zealand so we were startled with the sudden patriotism around us. War songs being sung; documentaries on TV; announcements in the paper and assemblies at the schools.
We attended the local ANZAC Day memorial service at the local War Memorial Hall. As we were walking in 2 WWI era planes few over, then the retired soldiers walked in. It felt a little awkward as I didn't know what the protocol was. When do you stand and when do you sit? Do join in singing or remain quiet. How do you dress and where did everyone get the paper poppies they were wearing? (The poppies are a symbol of Flader's field where the soldiers are buried under crosses - row on row.)
The service began with singing "God Save the Queen". The local priest led the service with prayer, scripture reading and singing of the 23rd Psalm. The mayor, wearing a traditional Maori feather cape, gave an address. The local Lions club sang war time songs with the older generation joining right in! A military representative from Australia gave a speech on the brotherhood of the two countries. A New Zealand Air Force commander gave a speech as well. When all the address and speeches were over we went outside to a memorial.
The cadets stood in respect, the priest and mayor were at the flag pole and the retired military personnel stood in front of the fire guard. The flag was lowered and then raised again during a bugle call. Wreaths were laid on the memorial and a 21 gun salute was fired. Following the service people placed white crosses around the memorial.
I appreciated the opportunity to look into the heart of a nation and see what it holds dear. The pride of fighting in a world war and the sorrow for the lost citizens.

No worries - Kris

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Train




On Monday, Mom and I went on a train to Greymouth. We took a taxi to the train station and we had breakfast on the train. We went through 16 tunnels on the way and 16 tunnels on the way back. It was very dark inside the tunnels and the longest one we went through was 8km long. It took about 10 minutes to get through. On the way there, when we went through the tunnel it was raining, but not hard. At Greymouth, it was still raining and we had fish and chips for lunch. On the way back we went on the observation deck and when we went through the tunnels, it looked like it was going to hit us. It was fun going over bridges because you could look down and see everything. We stayed on the observation deck most of the time going back to Christchurch.

-Maddie

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mt. Cook



On our first day in Christchurch my Mom and I got up early to go on a bus tour to Mt. Cook. The landscape of the South Island was very different to that of the North Island. It reminded me somewhat of home, the trees were changing beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow, and there was snow frosting the tips of the mountains. We stopped at an old church that over looked a magnificent glacier feed lake with mountains in the distance. As it was Easter Sunday there was a service going on inside, but on the way back we got to look inside. It was made from stone and wood, and its name was “Church of the Good Shepherd”. After that we went to the Mt. Cook visitor's center, where we ate lunch in front of Mt. Cook. Mt. Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand and also where Sir Edmund Hillary trained for an attempt at being the first man to climb Mt. Everest. He was successful. Then we made our way back to Christchurch on the bus.

- Damon

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Black Water Rafting


We've all heard of and may have even done "white water rafting" before. The "white water" comes from the bubbling water in a river. What great fun flying down a river in a raft, paddling like crazy! "Black water rafting" is nothing like this. Rather than being in a raft, each person had his own personal tube. The water is black because one is floating down a river, deep in a cave.
Our friends, Tom & Cheryl, were visiting from MI so we decided to give this a go. We put on the clammy, smelly wet suits and helmets and tramped off into the woods following our guide to a hole in the ground. We crawled into the cave, walked a bit then came to a 3' drop off with the river below. The only lights were the ones on our helmets. We put the tube on our butts, turned around and jumped (butt first) into the river.
I have been on many cave tours. Lighted paths guide the way through a much traveled cave. The guide points out the many geological features such as stalagmites, stalactites, and cave coral. They are beautiful treasures hidden deep within. The lights may be turned out for a few moments so the group can experience the darkness, but you know 20 other people are right there - you are not alone. In a cave I am aware of the cool, damp air. I can smell that I am deep under the surface of the earth. It is quiet except for the sound of water dripping and echoing in the cave.
This experience was radically different. The first sensation was one of complete and utter darkness. For me it was a time to mentally focus on the fact that there was a way out. This wasn't about seeing all the cool formations, it was about the gripping reality of leaving the lighted world and spending some time in darkness. The other sensation was a feeling of being one with the cave. I was not merely observing this cave in my neat, tidy clothes. I was stumbling over rocks, feeling the wall to guide me, wadding through the river, jumping in and then paddling my tube down the river. Every fiber of my being could feel the cold of the water and the solitude of the cave. I relied on my headlamp and hearing a voice, feeling a touch to remind me that I was not alone.
When I was able to relax a bit I looked up and was in awe of the host of glow worms speckling the ceiling. I was a bit relieved when we came to a mossy hole and climbed out of the cave. I'm not really feeling any need to go back. I'm happy with my comfortable world!

No Worries - Kris