Thursday, June 16, 2016

Holidaying with Hobbits

What happens when three friends from Papua New Guinea actually manage to align their schedules so that when one person is flying back from the US and the other two are flying to the US and Canada, they cross paths?

Why, they stop in New Zealand for 10 days together, of course!

You may remember discussion about the challenges of going on holidays in Papua New Guinea back in 2015 (Choose Your Own Adventure Part 1 and Part 2). So when Jessica, Rebekah and I realized we could actually have a real holiday together, we jumped at the chance!

It was an amazing 10 days--it felt like my first true holiday in years, and I was blessed that not only did my energy hold up better than I anticipated, but that I could share life with two such amazing friends. (And I got to see is always better when you get to see penguins!)

Enjoy some photos of the adventures we shared during our whirlwind visit to this gorgeous country.

What's a trip to New Zealand without visiting Hobbiton?

It really is an idyllic place.

Look, I'm a wizard!
photo by Rebekah Drew

Look, I'm a hobbit! (The hobbit holes were built to different scales for various filming needs. Most were only the facades--this was one of the few that you could enter (and it was only a few feet deep!).)

I've always wanted to see the glowworms of New Zealand ever since I watched some geographic show for kids when I was little. It looked like the caves were covered in stars! Alas, we couldn't take photos inside the caves, but here is the cave exit and the boat that we took through the system.

Being linguists, we were thrilled to learn more about Maori culture and language. So, in Rotorua, we visited Te Puia where we watched an amazing cultural show, learned about various Maori traditions, and saw a really cool geyser and bubbling mud pools. (There is so much thermal activity in Rotorua, that we even saw steam coming out of sewer grates on city roads!)

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
We also went ziplining in Rotorua and learned about the subtropical rainforests of New Zealand. "Hey Catherine, just fall back," they said. "We'll take a picture!" they said.
photo courtesy of Rotorua Canopy Tours
"Hey Catherine! Try flipping upside down," they said. "We'll take a picture!" they said.
Okay. (Apparently I'm very trusting of zipline ropes.)
Photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
Yay for sheep! New Zealand is famous for it's sheep-farming (and it's merino wool--amazing stuff), so our trip wouldn't have been complete without learning the many different kinds of sheep, the art of shearing, and the many dogs used on sheep stations (including the one that is bred to Never. Stop. Barking. Ever.)

In the middle of the sheep show, I was called up to milk a cow. Not sure where that came from.
photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
After sheep, we were blessed to meet up with a Papua New Guinean colleague now living in the Auckland area. Then we flew down to the South Island where it is, in a word, gorgeous.

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
 And, for some strange reason, we decided to go white water rafting in frigid glacial water. 

Wave at the camera everyone! (Except me. Because I was too petrified to let go after the long safety briefing about what would happen if I fell out. But Rebekah waved, brave woman.)

But, the highlight of my trip was definitely the two-day horse trek through the Queenstown area of the South Island (Lord of the Rings fans...this means we saw or rode through the forest where Boromir was killed, the Misty mountains, the mountains of Morder, and Isengard. It's pretty much all as spectacular as you think it would be.)

I rode Spike, a hardy Appaloosa who had definite opinions about everything.

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
See the rainbow! It was actually deathly windy up there and poor Spike was none too pleased about being asked to pose for a photo.

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
The holiday was exactly what I needed--a chance to leave Papua New Guinea well, take some time to enter the first world (and all its strangeness) with fellow global workers who understood my shock when cars stopped for pedestrians, and have some fun before all the work of home assignment descended upon me. (Sometimes, it's a a great relief to be an average person or a tourist, instead of being the Main Speaker and the Primary Attraction, which is often a missionary's experience as they travel around their home country.) Yay for holidays!

And now, on to the next adventure! After all, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to!"

photo by Rebekah Drew

Thursday, June 2, 2016

20 MORE Super Cool and Odd Things about Life in the First World

Last week I shared 20 things that have stood out to me as I’ve been transitioning back to life in the US for my home assignment after living in Papua New Guinea the last couple of years. But, when I got going, I found I couldn’t stop at 20! So here’s another 20 awesome and bizarre things I’ve noticed about life in the US.
  1. Cross-walks really work! Cars actually stop! (It took us a while to figure this out in New Zealand…we kept waiting for the car to go and it was sitting there at the crosswalk, waiting for us…)
  2. Birds sing continuously here, and they hop around on the ground (and there are squirrels! And chipmunks!)
  3. I have not yet seen a pack of stray dogs or a mama pig and piglets wandering down a road.
  4. Stores are open on the weekends!
  5. Smartphones are glued to 90% of the left hands that I meet.
  6. Because most of the people you’re trying to contact are in your time zone (or within a couple hours), you don’t have to continuously convert to whatever day it might be elsewhere and have strange notations in your planner telling you what narrow window you have to contact them (including staying up super late).
    It's raining, and you can still see all the trees!
  7. Towels are fuzzy and soft after being dried in a DRYER!
  8. Some hotels had us swipe our room cards to make the elevators work then again to make the room lights work. I felt like I was on a spaceship.
  9. Wall outlets don’t need to be turned on.
  10. Mosquitoes are small, speedy and chew through your clothes compared to the slow, dumb Paleolithic-sized mosquito-birds of PNG. BUT no one cares, because they don’t carry malaria or dengue or other crazy things.
  11. Windshield wipers, headlights, and brakes usually work! Cars are clean, not rusted, have all their mirrors, (usually) were made in the last 25 years, and are rarely covered in duct tape!
  12. Cars follow the rules of the road. I mean, it’s pretty cool there are even rules in the first place. But they follow them! And there are no potholes! But there are these things called stoplights. And police cars. And stop signs. And sidewalks.
  13. 70 mph is really really fast.
  14. I can watch Youtube videos, go on Pinterest, stay connected to the internet for lengths of time, and load pictures on all websites!! WaHOO!
  15. 911 exists here. And emergency rooms.
  16. I walked at night and watched lots of other people walk at night, and we all lived! Everyone else seemed to think this was totally legit. (Similarly, we drove at night…!)
  17. There are no bars on windows, people have decorations on their front porches, windows and doors are left open, items are scattered around backyards, and people even leave stuff in the backseat of an unattended car!
  18. Everyone is dressed so…nice.
  19. Vegetables in the supermarket are strange sizes, strange colors, and sometimes, very sadly individually wrapped in plastic. The avocados, in particular, are some of the most pathetic hard little golf balls I’ve seen…
    I love nectarines and peaches, but how odd is it that they have little stickers on them!?!!
  20. Grapes, blueberries, watermelon, nectarines, bacon, steak, corn on the cob, and ice cream are all as good as I had imagined them to be…