Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wild West

The West Coast of the South Island is rugged. A constant pummeling ocean, rolling and smashing into the jagged rocks. When you get to the West Coast, you can hear the thunder of the ocean long before you reach it. In pockets where the cliffs give way to sandy beaches, surfers can be found on a "calm" day. Unlike surfers around the rest of the world, on the West Coast, they wait for the calmest days they can find to have a great surf. Normally the water pulls too hard and the rips are too dangerous for swimming or surfing. Even the landscape here is shaped by the wind. The trees grow in a thick blanket sloping away from the ocean, every one of them leaning inland.

This weekend Jeremiah and I made the trip down to Greymouth to pick up a sea kayak and we made the most of our West Coast trip. On our way down to Greymouth we stopped off in Tauranga Bay. We didn't have much time in the waning light, but we were able to walk out to the seal colony and watch the Fur Seals snuggling down for the night on their rocky beds. In Greymouth we enjoyed staying at the Global Village backpackers and we watched the rugby match at a local pub. Of course the All Blacks vanquished yet another unworthy opponent.

After picking up the kayak the next day, we made our way north to Punakaiki. We stopped up the Pororari River Track for a hike up the river gorge. Out in the bush we spotted glow worms and Wekas browsing for grubs. Giant cliffs on either side of us were our constant companions as we walked upstream. Impressive limestone cliffs and formations greeted us at every bend. I liked to imagine what it would be like to climb up one of those cliff faces. We also enjoyed ducking under trees whose roots created archways over the path.

After a snack break we made our final stop at my favorite spot of the trip, up the Truman Track. This short track leads you out to an ocean cliffside and to a beach that is only accessible at low tide. Jeremiah and I had fun running around the rocks, dipping in and out of the coves between the wave breaks. I was a bit slower because I've injured my knee, but I still managed to get around to the dry cove without getting my socks too wet. The beach here is one of my favorite spots in New Zealand for many reasons... but mostly because it is so wild! The waves are enormous! Standing on the beach you watch the ocean barreling towards you. I loved watching the water foam as it smashed into the pebbled beach.

Part of the magic of this beach is that underfoot it is completely covered with pebbles smoothed and rounded by the ocean. This is not a golden sandy beach like you would find in Abel Tasman. This is a rocky, worn, pebbled beach of the west coast. Lining the beach are seaside caves and waterfalls spilling onto the rocks. Jeremiah and I were the first to venture out onto this beach, newly exposed by the ebbing tide. Following our footprints, you could see where we had to run across the lower portions of the beach, trying to beat the next wave as it raced back in. A pattern of footprints, ocean smoothed pebbles, and reappearing footprints told our story.

I am so thankful that we had the chance to get away and revel in the ruggedness of the West Coast. Nelson is beautiful, but certainly not as wild as the tracks of Punakaiki. It's a good reminder of the places we have yet to explore in this beautiful country.


Fantail posing for just an instant

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Palm is Tree

Sparkling seas and blazing blue,
The waves lap at the sand.
One palm is waving happily
Into the sun it stretches its hand.

Paradise is painted with flowers,
Rich smells of coconut and salt.
A perfect circle with scattered white seashells,
The sea tosses with foam and cobalt.

Life here seems rainbows and sunshine,
Posters made with “wish you were here”.
But at whom is that palm tree waving?
It’s alone, that much is clear.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Guiding Hand

Sunset at Tahunanui at low tide.

Recently, Jeremiah and I learned to dive. It was one of the scariest, most amazing experiences I have had in a long time. Standing on the bottom of the ocean and looking up was completely surreal. Where my sight ends, the sky begins. I loved the feeling of being weightless and the ability to see this underwater world. Glimmers of light flashed everywhere as the light scattered over fish and coral and sand. My panic of being deep under the surface shifted to wonder.

Snorkeling photo - our camera doesn't do deep water.
Before this dive we went through training. We had to show that we were capable swimmers and that we could navigate all of our equipment above and below the surface. Part of the test included taking off our masks underwater and replacing them. For me, this was the most daunting task going into the training. I wear contacts and I was terrified of having my mask taken off and essentially having to sit there, sightless, while I fumbled around in the water trying to put the darned thing back on. I made sure to tell my instructor this, and he did an amazing job teaching me in steps. First try it in the shallow end, then the deep end. Finally, remove the mask completely and swim a few laps around the bottom of the pool with him guiding me with his arm.

Not being able to see has always been a fear of mine. My eyes are not great and the fact that I had eye surgery very young has also added to the fear of loosing my sight. It's right up there with my fear of my teeth falling out (I know some of you are laughing because you've got this same silly fear). When I took off the mask and allowed myself to be guided around the pool, I was astonished at how relaxing the experience was. I had to give up control completely. With my eyes closed the instructor took me in laps around the pool while I simply enjoyed the sensation of the water flowing through my hair and over my skin.

Jeremiah Ready to Dive
I bring you this story because our move to Nelson has been just this. I was so stressed and afraid moving back over here, more than I like to admit. I had done this move before, but I was so comfortable in Wilmington. Thoughts of, it would just be so much easier to stay put, and why are we doing this again? were constantly floating just below the surface. The stress leading up to the move built up and up until we made the leap. Just like removing those goggles at the bottom of the pool. I am walking by faith, not by sight. And the amazing thing is that the seas seem to have parted as each piece of our new life here falls neatly into place. Worries that overwhelmed me are being vanquished one by one.

How are we ever going to get a job when it's so competitive?  - Contract Signed
What if our friends have forgotten us? - At least 5 offers to pick us up from the airport.
How are we going to get around? - Borrowed bikes, then bought bikes, then car.
Immigration is impossible! How can we navigate this? - in process but nearly sorted.
Where the heck are we going to live? - Fingers crossed that this one is nearly sorted too.

As we revisit places we love and work to find a place to live, I feel that I am moving forward without really seeing the next step. Following my guide is so necessary - where the heck can I take us without my sight anyways?

Sunrise at Wakatahuri in Forsyth Bay

"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." Psalm 139:9-10

Now this looks familiar!

Ru and Jeremiah hiking the Hackett

Boing is hoping to grab some of Jeremiah's breakfast.

Tim, Jeremiah, and Ruby enjoy the view.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

3 Inches of Karma

"Hey look at this inchworm! It's on a garbage can. What are you doing little buddy?"

Jeremiah proceeds to pull a tiny lime green inchworm off of the side of a garbage can in the shopping center of North Hills.

He places it on the tree nearby, "There you go!"

Having a quick scan around we find 2 more inchworms in odd places where they will likely get stepped on by shoppers or actually get thrown away. These are the small acts of kindness that I love in Jeremiah. Literally no one else I know would have pulled a tiny bug off of a trash can to save its little life.

Smiling at him I laugh, "Well, there you go universe, we've just gained 3 inches of karma!"

Now I'm sure you're wondering how on earth this silly story relates to a huge move overseas... and I'm getting there I promise.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Change of Heart

I, along with many have been struggling with this political season. There is nothing more to do now, America has chosen it's mouthpiece. I felt extreme despair at first, there has been so much anger and so many words that have cut deeply. But after talking with many family and friends, I feel something new...

I feel change coming.
America, we need a change of heart.
If the president is the mouthpiece, let us be the body.
America I am calling you,
Challenging you!

Be the heart that loves.
Love that is patient and kind,
Love that serves others so much more than yourself.
Be the heart that is brave,
And does not fear the unknown.

Be the hands that heal.
Be the shoulder to cry on.
Be the feet that bravely walk
Where no other has gone before.
Be the back that carries the burdens of others
Who cannot walk in this world alone.
Be the mind of the student,
Ever humbled by all that is left to learn.
Be the ears that hear and the eyes that see
The soul looking back through the windows of another.

Be the body we need.
Be the heart we need.

And perhaps if we can change the heart of this country,
the mouth will reflect the heart.

Luke 6:45 "....for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Albatross On The Wind

Writing comes so freely to me once the sun has set and the crickets begin to sing. It is only in these quite moments when I can truly listen to my thoughts and allow them to land on the page. These quite moments have been fleeting for me lately but I have finally grabbed a moment to complete my story of our latest adventure to New Zealand.

At the Moeraki Boulders

After visiting Akaroa, Jeremiah, Julia, and I continued our travels down south. Our next stop: Dunedin. I believe this was my favorite place that we visited on our road trip south. Dunedin seems to have a young feel, with a bustling city life, a chocolate factory right in the middle of town, and the university making up a good majority of the population. We stopped to visit Julia's sister Claire who lives in Dunedin. Claire showed us some of the greatest spots in the city, including the steepest residential street in the world, Baldwin Street. It was hilarious walking up the steep hill and watching the cars climb up the road at a crazy angle. Apparently every year there is a festival held there where people race Jaffas (a small round orange chocolate candy) down the road to see who's Jaffa will get to the bottom the fastest. Claire also lead us to some amazing views at Tunnel Beach with cliffs rising out of the ocean. Tunnel beach has a fantastic staircase that takes you down through a stone cliff right out onto a secluded beach. The four of us had a lovely time playing in the waves and clambering up and down the rock faces.

After visiting tunnel beach we moved on to my favorite place of the whole trip, the Taiaroa Head Peninsula. It is a very pretty drive following the curves of the bay as it heads out to the end of the peninsula. Rounding the last curve we could immediately see what we came for. A giant bird dwarfed all the other seagulls as it soared and glided around the lighthouse and out of sight behind the cliffs. The Taiaroa Head Peninsula is world's only mainland location where you can see the Royal Albatross. The Royal Albatross spend nearly their whole lives out at sea, only landing to nest. Even during nesting season it is rare to see them taking flight around the peninsula. For us the weather conditions were just right. I loved every minute of watching these enormous birds soar around us, sometimes flying within a few meters of where we were standing. With wingspans up to 3 meters, it was a surreal once in a lifetime experience.

After Dunedin we moved on to Queenstown, a lively tourist town full of outdoor adventure. It was very crowded with international travelers in a way that I haven't experienced anywhere else on the South Island. For the adventure seeker, Queenstown will not disappoint. The three of us enjoyed exploring Queenstown and riding the gondola up to overlook the lake. However our favorite part of Queenstown was definitely the bungee jump! Jeremiah and I booked with the Nevis Bungee and Julia booked the Nevis Swing. We were taken up over a canyon where we proceeded to jump and swing our way into some adrenaline rushes. Jumping head first 134 meters towards a rocky bottom was something I will not soon forget. You might ask why on earth someone would ever willingly jump off of a solid platform out into nothing. All I can say is that it was exhilarating! Bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand so it felt appropriate that we should try it here.

Our final leg of the journey brought us up the West Coast of New Zealand to the Franz Josef glacier. The hike in is beautiful. It follows the cold glacial river up a valley where waterfalls pour out of the cliff sides into the river. The glacier itself is quite beautiful but it melts a lot each year. Because of this people are not allowed close to the glacier to protect you from any falling ice. It is possible to take a helicopter ride over the glacier to see it more fully, but we enjoyed our walk and the distant view. On the ride home we stopped in Hokitika, the Pounamu capital of New Zealand. Here Julia was able to pick out a special jade necklace for her partner Tyler. The Pounamu was blessed by a Maori priest and Julia cleansed it in the creek. It was a special gift from her to him and I was excited to be there when she gave it to him.

Franz Josef Glacier
I love New Zealand and could write about it forever. It is my home away from home. Until next time, I am Sending my LOVE to YOU!

Sister Pic with Claire and Julia

Royal Albatross

Seals playing in the water at Otago Peninsula

Riding the Gondola Up

Franz Josef
Road Trip Buddies!