Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tramping and Caving but Not Hunting Eggs

Raise your hand if you got almost a week off of school and work because of Easter. In New Zealand, Good Friday is a public holiday so nothing is open. On Saturday things stay open until about noon. The Monday after Easter they decided to make a public holiday as well and then they take an extra day just to rejuvenate, so Tuesday we didn’t have school either. That means Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are all dedicated to the celebration of Easter—as it should be I think.

The pace of life in New Zealand is so much slower and more relaxed that I think they search for reasons to have another public holiday. Although to some that might sound like the equivalent of laziness, the Kiwi’s seem to have a much higher quality of life than most Americans. We need to slow down and take a chill pill every now and then. It’s amazing how much we try to shove into our lives. We are masters at managing our time well which only means that we can find ways to cram more things into one day. It has been interesting not to have a cell phone. We are required to be more reliable because there is no way to get hold of someone if we decide not to come to Rugby night or something like that. I just hope I can find ways to bring this lifestyle back home.

I went tramping for 3 days and 2 nights on a track called Kepler. The weather was beautiful and the 60 kilometer hike quite nice. On day 2 we were hiking up the mountain with 50-60 mph winds to help us along. At times we had to sit down because we were getting blown off the track which was surrounded on either side by drop-offs. I felt something like a soldier as I quickly responded to calls such as “down!” and ‘go go go!”. When the wind got so strong that it was blowing Mark Widmer off the cliff he would tell us to sit down and we waited for a lull in the winds at which point we stood up and ran as fast as we could. My camera was out of batteries so I wasn’t able to take pictures but I did get some from my friends that went. The people we met while staying in the huts became our good mates. We played cards together and talked about Mormon’s and our beliefs. People who travel are so interesting. They’re all in the same boat just trying to make friends and connections to help them along their way. There is a feeling of, “let’s help each other” among these travelers. I love it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Will Rock You

This was an incredible week for me. Monday morning we drove 4 hours with our class instructors to a place called Wanaka. We had a camp site right on a beautiful lake. In the evenings it would get really windy and the lake would form mini waves to make it look like the ocean. At night the sky was so clear we could see millions of stars. The Milky Way Galaxy was vibrant as well as some other galaxy clusters. We could see Orion’s Belt except it’s upside down here. The second night I slept outside beneath the stars and had the most peaceful sleep.

During the day we went out rock climbing. On Day 2 it kept switching back and forth between rain and sunshine literally every ½ an hour or so. Since New Zealand is a long skinny island surrounded by water the weather changes quickly. It would start to rain so I put all my warm rain gear on and about 5 minutes later the sun would be out and I'd take my gear off just to put it on after another 15 mintues. It was funny.
Day 3 we were out climbing as the sun was rising. It was miraculous. I really enjoy rock climbing and the scenery provided made it even better. I climbed this giant cliff called Tombstone. Once I made it to the top I clipped into a safety line and off of my belayer to just sit there until the next climber came up. It was such a peaceful feeling to be on top of a 50 foot cliff that I had just climbed.

I guess Utah has some of the best climbing and I have never taken advantage of it. Luckily I made some friends here who have gear back home so as long as we stay friends I've got the hook ups. It can be a pretty expensive hobby. I will say that the most essential of climbing gear equipment is a good pair of climbing shoes. I guess a rope, harness and a belayer would be good too, but man those climbing shoes make a huge difference.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Here's to Us

Have you ever had those times in your life when you just want to do something really challenging? Something that will press your buttons in every way, that will make you cry and shout for joy at the same time? Try throwing 34 college aged students into a new home, new school and new country. Start your challenge by shoving them in 3 small vans and all their bags in 3 small trailers to drive through the country in 2 weeks. Make it harder by telling them they have to pack all their stuff for the next 2 weeks in one bag and the rest of the stuff goes in another bag that they can’t get into until the 2 weeks are up.

You can imagine that after 2 weeks of being in the same van with the same people, having forgotten your Sunday clothes or your shampoo in your other bag that you can’t get into, life would be slightly irritating. This is how it was for us the first two weeks after arriving to New Zealand. We were definitely ready to get out of the vans and away from our annoying van mates and our mean old fart of a driver (of course I’m talking about the drivers in general not just you Jakapo J ) It is funny though that as much as we were ready to get away from each other, I frequently hear things like, “I wish our school groups weren't split up, I miss the other half of our group!” or, “oh my gosh I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever!” We now find ourselves making up excuses for the whole group to get together.

These 33 people, plus Mark and his fam, have become my family over the past 2 months. Each of us are different and each of us are so important to making this the optimal experience.

Among all of us there are heaps of experiences, hardships, weaknesses, strengths, humor, talents and not to mention volume. There is always something to laugh about when 2 or more of us are together. I have really been amazed as I watch our group interact with the people here in the community, in the branch, and other strangers we meet as we travel. There is so much kindness and fun lovin’. I have seen our ability to touch lives individually and collectively.

I just wanted to give this shout out to my new family and thank you all for your examples. I have a learned something uniquely wonderful from all of you and feel gratitude for the opportunity to be here with you. Life is good here isn’t it?

Arohanui to you all!

I AM PECULIAR (this is a permanent post. If you have already read it, scroll down to see my latest)

Those of you who read my blog could probably make a list of all the reasons that you think I am a bit peculiar. No worries, I would be the first to shout an amen to everything you could think of. I know I’m peculiar; but let me tell you the number one thing on my list that I think makes me a peculiar person.

I know where I come from, why I am here and where I am going. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of you will know me as a “Mormon” although that is just a nickname. The word ‘Saint’ just means ‘member’ in this context. I believe in God the Eternal Father, that I am a daughter of God, and that He loves me and wants me to be happy. I believe in my Savior Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life, atoned for my sins, died and was resurrected all that I might enjoy the blessing of being forgiven of my sins, and having my body and spirit reunited after death. I know that just as God called prophets in the Old and New Testament times that He has in fact called a prophet to lead and guide us today. I believe that families can live together for eternity; death does not have to be the end of our relationships with the ones we love. Some of you may wonder how on earth I can know these things. As I learn more and more from the Bible and other scriptures and actually live what I learn I see the promises the Lord has made being fulfilled in my life, and I feel the Holy Spirit bear witness that these things are true.

I know, I’m peculiar, but thankfully there are over 13 million other peculiar members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and with each year that number grows. I feel so much joy and happiness in my life because of this knowledge. If you want to know more depth about anything I have said that makes me peculiar, visit www.mormon.org. This website explains in detail much of what I have just professed to believe and more.