This week, we’re savoring this season of Christmas, the sunshine, the celebrations, and the slow-paced days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. All around us (and on our social media feeds), there are reminders that we’re deep into the season of Christmas. These are 10 signs it’s Christmastime in New Zealand. And, while some of these are slightly belated because the days leading up to Christmas are full-on in every first world country, we’re not finished with our Christmas celebrations just yet. My parents are coming next week, and we can hardly wait!
So, in the spirit of the season…
You know it’s Christmas in the Southern hemisphere when…
Santa-types are wearing fake beards, black boots, a red, red coat and matching pants rugby shorts, and a cut off t-shirt.
Also, if rugby shorts and cut off sleeves are not your thing, rest assured. They sell Santa costumes like this one with shorts and short sleeves.
Families are watching ‘The Grinch’ and ‘Frosty’ in Christmas jammies short-sleeved pjs.
Every event has mugs of hot cocoa with marshmallows water with ice.
There’s an explosion of red baubles, stockings, wreaths and heavily decorated Christmas trees strawberries, cherries, and heavily flowered Pohutakawa trees.
This picture was taken on a trip over to the Coromandel Peninsula last month when the Pohutakawa trees were just turning. Now the coastlines are filled with the vibrant red blooms of the “kiwi Christmas tree.” This one has a stunning view of the marine reserve.
The oven BBQ grill has been working non-stop in preparation for Christmas dinner. (We had a fresh caught snapper served grill-side for our Christmas dinner.)
Dining tables Picnic tables are laden with festive foods of every kind.
We celebrated Christmas with our dear friends. Precious people, great fun (and nerf wars), delectable foods, and the most stunning setting makes for a wonderful celebration. (P.S. There really is brown on those hills. Can you believe it? After an exceptionally wet start to the year, we have been unusually warm and dry for over a month.)
Worshipers gather for Christmas Eve candlelight services Christmas morning daylight services. (There’s just something odd about a candlelight service when you’ve just had the longest day of the year. That said, we still had a Christmas Eve candlelight service. We joined our friends at an Anglican/Methodist/Presbyterian Cooperating Church for Christmas morning.)
Cities Beaches are bustling.
Flipping the calendar to January means going back to work summer holiday, church camps, and 3 consecutive weeks off work for many. (We don’t have a three-week holiday coming up anytime soon, but we are making the most of summer vacation and looking forward to a few days at youth camp in a couple of weeks!
We’ve spent the rest of our holiday week hosting friends, picking strawberries, playing tennis, and catching up on a few work-related projects. Shhh… don’t tell the kiwis. They’re all in full vacation mode.
Life gets back to normal January February 2. (Actually, Q will be back to school and our mums’ groups will resume February 7. There’s a new year to ring in and plenty of fun to be had between now and then!)
Merry Christmas from the Southern Hemisphere. We hope you are warm (by the sun or the fireplace), well fed (with fresh fruit or comfort foods), and enjoying family and friends who are like family!
At a crisp 48 degrees Fahrenheit when we took these pictures, it was the coldest first day of school I’ve ever experienced. Thankfully, the sun was shining and it warmed up beautifully.
School Days, School Days
Dear old golden rule days
Our school boy and his dog, who waits for Q to return with her nose pressed to the porch railing every afternoon.
It’s official! Two weeks ago, Q started school. Real school. No longer in kindergarten (the kiwi word for preschool), we have a real school boy. That means a 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday kind of routine with morning tea (snack) and lunch to pack and reading homework in the afternoon. It’s all new for us.
In so many ways, it’s the most nostalgic school experience imaginable. Our neighborhood school is on the next block over—just a short walk or scooter through an ally pathway. Kids attend this school from year 1 (kindergarten) through year 8 (7th grade).
Not a cafeteria in sight, students chatter as they eat the morning tea and lunch they’ve brought with them on simple benches under awnings outside their classrooms, which open directly to the outdoors, or put on their sun hats and sit in the grass before hurrying off to play. 30 minutes for morning tea. 45 minutes for lunch.
Jaron and I both confessed to each other just yesterday morning after school drop off that we may have been known to test our own speed on Q’s scooter on the way home. Empty scooter to return home? Wouldn’t you?
The morning scooter ride is fun, but pick up times are simply the best.
As 3:00 pm nears, parents gather on those same benches outside the classrooms. Some push strollers while others share tips on strawberry picking and commiserate on yet another rainy weekend. The kids bound out of the classroom barefoot, dragging backpacks and jerseys behind them. I absolutely cannot wait to see our boy’s great big smile and hear the words, “Hi Mommy!” It’s the best part of every single day.
Then, everyone from our neighborhood walks home in a big stream of independent big kids with muddy legs from playing in the field and little kids with mums and dads in tow, all chattering about the adventures of the day.
For convenience sake, some of our friends from church who live further than walking distance park on our street for school pick up as well. It’s one big community building revelry every afternoon.
All of these things evoke a Leave It to Beaver sense that all is right in our world, but there are some unusual idiosyncrasies about our education situation as well.
Kiwi kids typically start school when they turn 5, no matter when that is in the school year. Then, everyone moves up when the new year starts in February. As it works out, some kids have more time–up to a year and a half of new entrance/year 1 (the American equivalent of kindergarten), while other kids have only 2 1/2 terms or quarters of their first year of school. It’s one of those things that can make your head spin if you didn’t grow up with this system.
Q turned 5 in May. Had he started school then, he would be starting year 2 (1st grade) in February at the ripe old age of 5 years 9 months, having had 3 quarters of year 1 (kindergarten). That’s a wee bit young and there’s no need to rush things if you ask me. This educational philosophy of mine jived perfectly with delaying his school start until we returned from the US. As it stands, he’ll have 5 quarters of year 1 (kindergarten) and start year 2 (1st grade) when he’s almost 7. Sounds like the makings of a great educational foundation if you ask me.
I’m in full on cultural translation mode when it comes to about everything else at school as well. Take these examples:
Stationary can be purchased through the school. It is generally the same price as the stationary at the store.
I think: That’s nice. They must be encouraging the practice of formal letter writing by selling fun stationary. Or maybe it’s a fundraiser? Great idea, either way. Maybe Q can use it to write a letter to some friends in America.
What it means: Stationary = school supplies. You can purchase your school supplies, which consist primarily of various notebooks (see picture), through the school so you don’t have to hunt for them at the store. Supplies like scissors, pencils, crayons, etc. are all purchased through the additional school fees and shared. This is a socialist education system, after all.
The notice in the school newsletter said, “Please make sure your child has suitable shoes and clothing for wearing on the field and/or courts for PE, as well as every other day.”
I think: Make sure your child is wearing tennis shoes (not the kind that will mark up the gym floor) and play clothes on PE days.
What it means: No shoes are necessary. Don’t bother sending your child to school with shoes. They just take them off anyway. Kids must wear shorts (not pants) on the field. The rule is “shorts for sports” (Comfort? Mobility? Holes in skin repair more easily than holes in pants?) and they must wear a hat for sun protection. Sunglasses are o.k. too as they protect the eyes.
Another notice in the newsletter said, “Whanau Hui Agenda as Follows: Karakia, Mihi, Whakawhiriwhiri, Karakia, Kai.”
I think: I would definitely benefit from Maori language school.
What it means: The Maori Curriculum Team held a meeting for families at the school. Family meeting Agenda as Follows: Opening prayer, Introductions, Discussions, Closing Prayer, Food.
The outtakes. Always so much silliness with this kid.
All in all, we’re adjusting. There have been relatively minimal tears. And, in case you’re wondering, I didn’t even cry on the first day. In fact, I was feeling quite proud of myself until an older lady in the line behind me at the post office said, “Look at this perfect card I found for my son. It says, ‘I was proud of you the day you were born and I’ve been proud of you every day since. You are a treasure.’ My son is turning 50, and this card says it all!” I smiled and nodded and tried to swallow the sudden lump in my throat and hurried to the counter for my turn. Sheesh. But truly, we are so proud and so grateful that our little guy is becoming a strong, healthy big guy and navigating this new “school days” phase of his third culture kid life so seamlessly.
When we were at the New Mexico District Family Camp in August, the kids made Koru necklaces out of clay. Q loves wearing his. These Koru (the brown swirly things), which symbolize new life, will eventually unfurl into more fern fronds.
We’re back! Finally. It has taken us a long time to get here. A month to be precise. Well, actually, it only took us one extra day to get home, thanks to this fuel crisis, but it has taken us a month to work our way back into some sort of normal. However, the world of our little family is changing drastically again this week as Q starts school at our neighborhood school. He’s going to love spending so much time with his neighborhood friends and some friends from church too.
Since pictures say it best, every now and then we sum up our day-to-day life during this season in five pictures and five pictures only. Right now, it looks something like this. You can see our previous picture summaries here, here, and here.
I was home in New Zealand for 7 days, and then jumped on a plane for Singapore, where our regional offices are located. We spent our days visioning for the future of theological education, so I didn’t get to see much except through taxi or bus windows or walking back to the hotel at night. Even so, it was fascinating to engage in this English-speaking Asian culture!
These three held down the fort at home, and even hosted out-of-town guests while I was away in Singapore. Aren’t they the cutest?!
It’s VISA time again! A massive amount of Jaron’s time has been spent collecting, filling out, and organizing all of the necessary elements for our VISA renewal, which, once approved, will allow us to live and work in New Zealand for two more years.
We’re savoring Q’s time with us during the days. We’ve squeezed in some time for art, lots of reading (We’re on book #14 of The Boxcar Children!), hosted a Play Cafe, and took a trip to the zoo. On Thursday, this kid will officially become a school kid!
It’s springtime in New Zealand, and I am 100% sure we have the most stunning tree on the block. This beauty greets us as we round the corner of our street to pull into our driveway, but don’t be fooled by that snippit of blue sky you see. Saturday was just a teaser. We’re back to chilly, windy days!
Yesterday, we bid Kia Ora (be well) to the six Southern Nazarene University students and two adult sponsors who had spent every waking hour of the past three weeks with us. What adventures we had! Over the past three weeks (technically 19 days on the ground, though 20 makes for a better blog post title 😉 ), our volunteers built intentional relationships with people who represent approximately 20 different cultures. I am not even exaggerating! It was truly an amazing (and sometimes exhausting) feat for them.
Our “uni team,” as we fondly call them, spent their weekdays volunteering at three drastically different primary schools, helping out with our playgroups, and tutoring and playing with refugee children at a couple of area after school programs. They also got to experience the many flavors of the Nazarene church in New Zealand through a culture night complete with a haka and the traditional dances of the Samoan and Cook Islands, as well a young adult retreat (think touch rugby in the church at 2 am and a full-fledged Samoan lunch). They wrapped up their time in New Zealand by hosting an amazing mid-winter Christmas party for our Kids’ Club. It included all of the traditional American festivities and all of the traditional kiwi foods. There was so much merry making!! In each of these places, the uni team encountered an array of different cultures.
However, it wouldn’t be a truly kiwi experience if their time with us had been all work and no play. They surfed with our favorite instructor, Surfer Steve (click on the hyper link to see their awesome surfing photos), hiked the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, wandered through the Redwoods, visited Hamilton Gardens, and made space to reflect at the Blue Spring Walkway. Along the way, a couple of them got special nick names like “Pillows” and “Squash Bug” from Q, dubbed “Wiggle Worm,” and all of them were loved by the small one who proudly claimed his role as a member of the team and his new nick name.
The entire experience was one that is much better told with pictures and videos than words, and we certainly have lots of them. Enjoy!
While most of the world is heating up… we’re definitely not. We’ve enjoyed a spectacular autumn!
We’re getting ready to host another group of American university students and sponsors in just over a week. The eight of them will be with us for three weeks, volunteering in local schools, playing with little people at our mums groups, and spending time at an after school program for refugee children. They’ll also get a feel of some of New Zealand’s diverse culture as they hang out with a group of teenagers from all over Auckland and then a group of young adults later in their trip.
With their arrival just around the corner, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to compile a list of a few of the things that make New Zealand unlike anywhere else in the world. Don’t get me wrong… some countries have one or two of these things, but when you put them all together, you get a country and a culture all its own.
Let’s start with the obvious. With 8,700 miles (14,000 km) of coastline (10th in the world), New Zealand is guaranteed to have a significant amount of beaches. I’ve heard people joke that if you feel a little too crowded at a beach (as in there are more than 20 people), just drive down to the next one. They’re a dime a dozen. However, it’s not just the quantity that makes New Zealand’s beaches so amazing. It’s the vast variety as well. Black sand. White sand. Large rocks. Small rocks. Driftwood. Calm, protected waters. Big surfing waves. Whatever you want in a beach, you can find in New Zealand… unless it’s warm water. That’s one request New Zealand simply can’t fulfill.
#2 Just a Few (Million) Folks
With a boom pushing the population up to 4.7 million people, New Zealand still ranks as the 127th country in the world in terms of population. It’s not the smallest in the world by any means, but it’s definitely towards the bottom in comparison to other first world Western countries. That translates to daily life in some interesting ways. Often, seemingly common things are a lot harder to come by. Those craft supplies you saw in a Pinterest project? There’s a good chance they’re not available. Things cost more. There’s not as much variety to choose from. It’s a much, much smaller market than the US or the UK or Canada or Australia. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
#3 East Meets West in Polynesia
Those 4.7 million people are really what make New Zealand unlike anywhere else in the world. I could write an entire book about it. It’s a case of Eastern culture meets Western culture on a Pacific Island. The Maori people first settled in New Zealand hundreds of years ago. The Europeans came next. However, most immigrants to New Zealand today come from India, China, and the Philippines. Toss in a large number of immigrants from other Pacific Islands like Samoa and the Cook Islands and you have a people group that is unparalleled anywhere in the world. It’s Western, but with an Eastern flair, and strong Pacific Island roots.
New Zealand has two national languages—not all that unusual. English is the obvious one to outsiders, but Maori, or Te Reo, is also a national language. It’s a Polynesian language not spoken anywhere else in the world. In New Zealand, it’s used on a daily basis for common items like kumara (sweet potato), names of places, greetings, karakia (prayers), and more. A beautiful language, it is known for its extensive use of vowels. Just take for example Aotearoa, the name for New Zealand, meaning land of the long white cloud.
#5 Treaty of Waitangi
When the Europeans were busy colonizing the rest of the world, they were notorious for taking over indigenous people groups by force, running them out, or killing them off, and most certainly subjecting them to the prowess of the white man. It’s a gruesome reality in the history of the Western word. Things went a little differently in New Zealand. Instead of being run off or killed off, the Maori demanded a treaty. I think they were just intimidating enough to get it. The treaty was written in Maori and in English and hundreds of Maori chiefs signed the treaty, known as the Treaty of Waitangi declaring British sovereignty in 1840. However, since the Maori chiefs couldn’t read English, they didn’t know that there was a disparity between the two versions. It wasn’t until more than 100 years later that the Maori people began holding the New Zealand government accountable to the version that their people had signed. As a result, the Maori culture has a much more significant impact on the lives of kiwis from every heritage than the culture of indigenous people does in many other places, such as the United States.
Did you catch that in number 5? The British were just colonizing NZ in 1840. While there had been a handful of explorers and settlers in New Zealand for quite a while, New Zealand as we know it is a very young country—practically making the US look matronly.
Have you looked at New Zealand on a globe? It’s really one of my favorite things to do. New Zealand is practically on the bottom of the earth—the last stop before Antarctica. Auckland, the most populous city in NZ, is located at a latitude of 37 degrees south. There are only three other countries in the world that can claim that location! Australia, Argentina, and Chile all have narrow bits of land on the 37th parallel south, but if you account for New Zealand’s South Island, you will find it is only rivaled by Chile and Argentina in proximity to the South Pole.
#8 Holiday Destinations
New Zealand’s location in the South Pacific makes for some interesting and exotic holiday/vacation destinations. Life is pretty grand when your nearest neighbor is Australia and a trip over is roughly the equivalent of a US domestic flight. Other nearby destinations include Fiji, French Polynesia (including Bora Bora and Tahiti), and Rarotonga (a favorite wedding destination among kiwis). Such exotic neighbors, I tell ya! That said, many kiwis make an annual pilgrimage to the UK. By pilgrimage, I mean more than 30 hours of actual flight time, not including layovers. Yikes! Others opt for a 6-week tour of US hot spots like California and New York.
#9 No Native Land Predators
You can’t mention New Zealand without mentioning it’s flora and fauna. It’s truly stunning and one of a kind. The climate lends itself to rampant and varied plant growth and animal life. Home to a wide variety of unusual birds, New Zealand has (or had) many flightless species that thrived with no natural land predators. That’s right, not a lion, a tiger, or a bear to be found. Not even a fox or a snake. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for domesticated cats and dogs to take advantage of the wee birds roosting on the ground. Many flightless birds are endangered or extinct due in part to our pets!
#10 Direct Bank Transfers
I’ll confess. I don’t really know if other countries have this or not, but it was so foreign to me when we moved to New Zealand, I’d like to say only New Zealand could make it work. New Zealand banking is such that when you want to pay an individual (for, say, a used table they are selling), you acquire their bank details (as in, they give you their actual bank account number). You then enter their account number and the amount of the transaction into your phone app and click confirm. Nearly instantaneously, your money shows up in their account, and apparently, nothing is ever stolen this way. 4.7 million people participate in transactions like this all the time, and I haven’t read one news story about it going awry. It’s strange. It seems so risky, but it’s also awfully convenient.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so they say. I am certainly not above it. After all, why reinvent the wheel when someone else has a good thing going? Case in point: Play Café. A few months ago, missionaries Ted and Sarah Voigt described their school holiday Play Café in their weekly “Newsyletter,” a fun way they keep people informed of their goings-on. (You can find out more about Ted and Sarah’s ministry at wicklownazarene.com ). I immediately replied with an e-mail that said, “Tell me more.”
New Zealand and Ireland are in some ways similar ministry contexts. We have a strong café culture. I don’t mean a sit-alone-and-work-on-your-laptop-while-drinking-coffee type of café culture. I mean, a strong, “Let’s meet up at a café for a tea or coffee or lunch or any old reason and chat” café culture. Our cafés are more likely to have a play area (indoor or out) for children than wifi or extensive outlets.
New Zealand also has a strong mums group culture. As in, if you are a mum (or a caregiver) responsible for little people during the day, you will most certainly go to at least one play group or music group or mum meet-up every week. You’ll let the kiddos play while you chat with other adults and eat your caramel slice. If you can, you’ll participate in said groups 2 or 3 mornings a week. Through various formats, we have little people with mums or caregivers in our church building four mornings a week.
The exception is school holidays. Right now, our kiddos are on a two week break from school following the end of the first term of the year. The mums’ groups are on break too, but mums and caregivers everywhere are looking for things to keep their school kids and little ones occupied.
That’s where the Play Café comes in. Just like Ted and Sarah suggested, we’re using the school holiday time to switch things up a bit. We set up play areas for kids of all ages and recruited people to make and serve yummy morning tea items. (Note: Morning tea is the snack time that transpires sometime between 9:30 and 10:30 every morning. It typically involves a hot drink such as tea, coffee, or drinking chocolate, along with some type if delectable slice, scone, or snack to get you through to lunch time. Nearly every casual and professional establishment respects the need for morning tea. School kids drink milk and nibble something from their lunch boxes for morning tea.)
Today, more than 50 people played and sipped and nibbled and colored at our first ever Play Café. For us, it was a great time to connect with people we see every week and meet some new ones. For the mums and caregivers, it was a great, free excuse to leave the house and interact with other adults while letting the kids burn off some energy. We’ll do it all again tomorrow, and we can’t wait.
Thanks for sharing your great idea, Ted and Sarah.
It was an overcast day in Hamilton… the kind that starts with rain and clears just enough to tempt you to go outside without rain gear, but then catches you off guard with sudden and short-lived downpours.
But in my mind, I was here. Matapouri, a beach 4 hours north of us. In reality , we were here a few weeks ago, as a family with friends and our puppy on an adventure to see the Mermaid Pools. But today, it was quieter. Just me and the sand and the waves and the sun… and Jesus.
I have a new year’s resolution. It may be my only serious resolution ever. My resolution is to create space for uninterrupted quiet. I marked it off on my calendar is a recurring event. Tuesday mornings at 9 a.m. Quentin is at kindy. Jaron is at the office. I am hanging out with my journal, Bible, and cup of tea at some undisclosed location.
And on this particular Tuesday, my mind, with all of its rushing thoughts and deep prayers, went here.
To a spot on the beach where the sand begins to rise from the shore, creating a berm before it gives way to pampas grass and the parking lot beyond. A place where the view is a stunning combination of land and sea. Where small, lush, green islands rise steeply out of the ocean. Where the water forms a distinct line between turquoise green and cobalt blue. Here, I sat on the berm with Jesus.
The sun warmed my arms and legs and a gentle breeze blew as I dug my toes into the fine white sand.
My breathing took on the rhythm of the tide. In and out. Slowly. Rhythmically.
And then these words mingled with the in and out rhythm of breath and flow of water.
In… I am… Out… With you
Inhale…I am… Exhale…with you…
See those islands? I called them into being from under the sea.
I am… with you…
See that line in the water? It is I who paint the cobalt and the turquoise and draw a line between the two.
I am… with you…
See those waves lapping up on the shore and slipping out again? It’s is I who beckon them in and nudge them back out again.
I am… with you…
Feel that breeze rustling your hair, whispering against your cheek? It is I who give breath to the breeze.
I am… with you…
Feel the sun’s warm rays on your arms and legs? It is I who infuse them with light and heat.
I am… with you…
I see you.
I hear you.
I am with you.
So wherever you are… whether it’s a soggy northern California or a refugee camp in Lebanon or a beach in New Zealand or just your living room couch… whether your days are feeling hard or hurried or hopeful… breath in and breath out. He is with you.
This is the face of my friend. She’s a Christian, a wife, and a mom. She’s also a make-up artist who loves to sing as a part of church worship teams.
This is the face of her husband. He’s a husband and a dad who delights in his daughter. He’s a hair stylist who can cut, color, and style with the best of them.
They met at a salon where they both worked.
This is the face of their energetic two-year-old, who thinks Q is hilarious, especially when he pretends to fall. She’s learning a new word nearly every minute and is an actress in the making, practicing her most dramatic expressions on her parents. She calls Jaron khal–uncle.
These are the faces of a dad who is struggling to learn English so he can get a job to support his family; a mom so homesick she feels that God has surely forsaken her in this foreign land; and a little girl who may never see a blood relative again.
This is the face of my friend who said, “I was afraid to meet you because they always told me Americans want to control everything. They said Americans are causing war. But I love you. You are not what I expected.”
These are the faces of George, Katia, and Christelle.
They escaped Damascus 3 ½ years ago, a young newlywed couple, seeking safety in Lebanon with her family when the violence became too much. Their government was favorable to Christians, but everyone was caught in the crossfire when the conflict between Muslim groups escalated. They begged UNHCR to let them travel to a new home. But they said no. They begged again and again. Finally, the response came, “You can go, George and Katia, with your young daughter, but your mother, brothers and sister-in-law cannot go with you. You cannot return here until you have your New Zealand passport in five years. Maybe then you can visit.”
“I don’t know why the passed us over so many times, why they wouldn’t let us travel,” Katia still wonders with anguish.
But there are 65 million people in George and Katia and Christelle’s shoes. 65 million displaced people longing for a safe country to call home. The US accepted just over 72,000 this year. New Zealand accepted about 700.
And so, George and Katia are thankful. They’re thankful to live in a peaceful country where bombs are not being dropped daily. They are thankful they are not surrounded by the rubble of destroyed buildings that only serve as constant reminders of crushed dreams. They’re thankful that one day they will be able to get jobs in New Zealand and support themselves. They’re thankful to live in a city with an Arabic-speaking church. They know there is much to be thankful for.
Katia’s mom and brother
Just recently, Katia found out that her brothers would be able to start their new lives in Canada. But not her mom. No, she is a 52-year-old widowed breast cancer survivor. They say she cannot travel to a new homeland. Governments need people who can work, who can contribute to the economy. She will have no one to care for her once her two sons are relocated to Canada.
Katia with her family
And so, Katia cries. She cries for the homeland she misses, for the mom she left behind, for the loss of all that is familiar, for the language of her heart that few can understand, for a war that has torn everything apart, for the loneliness she feels on a daily basis, for media that paints misleading pictures of people on both sides of the camera and fosters fear of the other side.
And I cry with her because she is my friend. Because the media in my homeland says I should be afraid of this family, that our children should never play together, that these people belong in refugee camps or back in their war-torn countries. Because these people with gentle eyes and kind spirits are victims of one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Holocaust.
These faces are the faces of my friends. Their faces might just shock you. They might not fit the image painted by your evening news. These are the faces of Syrian refugees.
We’ve spent a year with you now, and we must confess, we are infatuated with your beauty, captivated by your diversity, and thrilled by the adventure.
Here are 10+ things we love about you:
Blue Springs Walkway. Please visit with reverence and be respectful of others who want to do the same.
10 Greener Living
We are composting and recycling kinds of people so it’s a real treat to live in a city with curbside recycling. Somehow living in a place where nature is in many ways more pristine than we’ve experienced before has only served to make us even more conscious about our environmental footprint. When one of our favorite natural getaways became a tourist hot spot before our very eyes earlier this year, we were delighted that New Zealand quickly responded by banning swimming and educating tourists in order to protect the fragile ecosystem. Quentin is in on the game as well, he picks up every little piece of rubbish (trash) he sees when we are out for a walk, a hike, or just walking across a parking lot.
The average American and kiwi incomes are essentially the same. However, with petrol, food, utilities and housing (not to mention everything else) costing three to four times more in New Zealand than it does in the States, the living naturally becomes… simpler. Living with less is refreshing. However, there’s also a simplicity of schedule that we are appreciating. Kiwi kids go to bed between 6:30 and 8:00 pm. Plus, people start jobs with four weeks of paid holiday, and they actually take all of it.
All the Indian food!
We are not going to lie, we miss vast selections of salsa big time. However, Pavlova, sweet mince pies, curries of every kind, morning tea, Turkish kebabs, egg yolks in the deepest orange color, feijoas in the fall, lemons on our tree, golden kiwis, and the most scrumptious grass fed dairy products leave our palates satisfied and our tummies full.
Our city of Hamilton has the best parks—vast green spaces and really creative play structures. They are fun for our whole family and no two are the same!
Our Southern Nazarene University Students spent two weeks with us in June and Caleb Hoskins spent 8 weeks with us.
6 Hosting Visitors
This year we’ve been blessed with the visits of our parents. They are the best! We’ve also had the pleasure of hosting university students for varying lengths of time. We love this piece of our new role where we get to share the beauty and culture of our new home and shape the worldview of young adults. Plus, they’re just fun to have around!
Last night, we joined the Nazarene pastors from across New Zealand for our annual Christmas dinner. It was a great time. Of the 29 churches and church plants on our district, the pastors alone represent 19 different countries of origin. The people represented in our congregations make us an even more diverse group of people. On a given Sunday, we worship with 30-40 different people in our location congregation in Hamilton. Often those people represent 9 different nationalities. We love and appreciate the diverse food, worldviews, cultures, and languages we get to experience in New Zealand.
September in Tonga
4 Traveling the South Pacific
It was a short hop, skip, and a jump to other exotic South Pacific locations this year… Philippines (Jaron), Tonga (Elizabeth), Australia (Jaron). We can’t wait for more! New Zealand, you’re so exotic, and so are your neighbor islands!
New Zealand has so much to explore. And, since it’s the size of California from tip top to the very bottom, a day trip gets you to any number of beaches, hiking trails, waterfalls, native forests, hilly sheep farms, or glowworm caves. Our proximity in the middle of the North Island is especially great for this. That said, we’ve barely made a drop in the bucket.
Our D.S.’s wife, Joyce Bartle loves to quote Matthew 19:29. “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” As someone who left her home in Scotland to serve as a nurse in Papua New Guinea, she would know! We’re finding this to be true as well. In the past year, we have been blessed with deep and significant relationships, for which we are very thankful! Sure, they make fun of our weird words, accents, foods, and endless questions, but that’s what friends are for. Our hearts are full because of them!
1 Being a part of the work God is doing
Only 47.8% of the population of New Zealand even affiliates with Christianity. This makes it the most “secular society” in the Western world. While those statistics are heart-breaking, we are delighted to be a part of the work that God is doing, both in our local context, and across the country. We are delighted for the opportunity to be a source of hope and light in New Zealand.
It’s spring and the roses are in bloom at Hamilton Gardens.
+ Hello, Beautiful!
I mean, with something blooming in vibrant color 12 months out of the year, a green winter, and lemons on our tree year-round, what’s not to love?! Easy enough for me to say now that the sun has emerged after hiding for 6 long months. Seriously, though, New Zealand really is as beautiful as the pictures might lead you to believe.
Jaron was in Australia the night the creaking and banging woke me. The intruder, it turns out, was seismic activity that began 445 km (275 mi) away as the crow flies. Many others in our mid-sized city of Hamilton, NZ said that it was the rolling sensation and resulting sea sick feeling—as if they were on a boat—that disturbed their sleep. However, in our community on New Zealand’s North Island, sleep was about all that was disturbed by the November 14 magnitude 7.8 earthquake.
It was a different story for the South Island. The community of Kaikoura (population 2,000) and the rural areas to the north experienced complete upheaval. The seabed near Kaikoura was raised about 7 ft (2m). The earthquake changed the landscape above and below the water, crumbled houses, broke sewage systems, fractured water pipes, destroyed road beds, and shifted railroad tracks. Essentially, the infrastructure was destroyed along fault lines stretching past the rural community of Seddon, nearly 1oo miles north of Kaikoura, where the most energy was released in the multi-fault quake. Prime Minister John Key estimates rebuilding costs may exceed $2 billion.
As a result, more than 1,000 people had to be evacuated by helicopter. Over 900 chemical portaloos were brought in by ship. And dairy farmers with no way of exporting milk were forced to dump fresh milk down the drain. However, human inhabitants weren’t the only ones affected. Landslides caused by the initial quake and the continued aftershocks destroyed the popular seal pup habitat where seal pups are often spotted playing under a waterfall. In addition, many adult seals were killed. Bird colonies, such as the threatened population of Hutton’s Shearwater, were drastically affected when half of a colony was buried in landslides. Scientists suspect that the dolphins and whales that frequent the waters around Kaikoura were also affected. However, when researchers were able to get back in the boat on November 24, they spotted more than 300 dolphins off the coast, an encouraging sign that wildlife is indeed resilient.
On the Southern tip of the North island, the capital city of Wellington also experienced a shakeup. While no buildings collapsed immediately, the earthquake has compromised the stability of more than two dozen buildings, some of which are among Wellington’s largest office buildings. Buildings like a 10-story building on Molesworth street require demolition, which began this week, while others will require structural reinforcement before they can be used again. Wellington’s port also suffered significant damage.
Two weeks after the earthquake, residents of the northern Canturbury region of New Zealand remain largely isolated and are still experiencing significant aftershocks. The primary road and railway between Christchurch and Kaikoura may take a year or more to repair. Convoys of military grade vehicles are delivering food for those who cannot evacuate. Certainly, the 2011 Christchurch earthquake (magnitude 7.1) caused significantly more damage to buildings and livelihood due to its proximity to a more densely populated area. However, it will take months or even years for life to return to normal for the latest earthquake victims, most of whom rely on the dairy industry and tourism for their livelihood. Sociologists predict that as much as 18% of the population could leave the area permanently in search of housing and other employment opportunities.
It’s spring and the roses are in bloom. Photo taken at Hamilton Gardens.
We are the Graham family–Jaron, Elizabeth, the little guy Q. The three of us are on an adventure in faithfulness, currently serving in Hamilton, New Zealand. Being faithful requires much sacrifice and brings great joy. Adventure Graham is the place we chronicle our journey.