Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Whoa--the bullets in my last post, turned into weird Y's with dots on the top. Trippy... Well, they're supposed to be bullets. :)

Turns out--I'm going home!

So I’ve been in New Zealand for a few months. If you didn’t know that, you probably should have been reading my blog a little closer. In church the other day (I was still listening, I promise) I started making this list and was surprised to see how long it had become. Enjoy!

In New Zealand, I've learned:

Ÿ I love my family-- I missed them like crazy every day. Everything I saw and learned here reminded me of them and how amazing they are. The members of my family are my best friends and I would be nothing without their support and examples.
Ÿ I am blessed beyond explanation-- Well….it’s beyond explanation.
Ÿ I hate kayaking--Who knew? I always thought I’d love it. Why not? Turns out, I have never hated anything more. So what did I learn in NZ? What never to do again.
Ÿ I love nature but…-- I always thought that I loved nature so much that I could just live out in the woods. Not so much. I do love nature but I love the comforts of home too; too much to abandon them for more than three days at a time.
Ÿ I hate cold water-- Kayaking? Surfing? In this weather?!
Ÿ I hate rain and nothing will ever change my opinion-- I realize that rain is necessary for replenishing the earth, but I only enjoy the experience of rain if I am safely and warmly indoors.
Ÿ I have to know what I’m talking about before I share the gospel-- I have had plenty of missionary opportunities here and I’ve ruined most of them because I don’t know enough about what I believe--about how to explain it simply to someone on the outside. I have a lot to learn about that.
Ÿ I love curry, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mayo, 1000 island dressing…-- And a bazillion other things that I never would have eaten at home. Ok, maybe love is too strong of a word for most of those but, you get the idea.
Ÿ I despise writing papers-- I felt like I had to write a paper a week here even though I only wrote a total of about five. But, I didn‘t enjoy any of them. Man, no fun.
Ÿ I LOVE to read--I’ve always known this but through high school and college where time to read somehow disappears, I forgot that. New Zealand gave me time to read again and reminded me that I LOVE it.
Ÿ E-mails are great but there’s just nothing like a phone call-- I e-mail my parents almost daily and yet, I yearn for the days, about once a week, that I get to call them. It rejuvenates me like nothing else.
Ÿ I’m going to miss my bike-- I never had any strong feelings either way about bikes, but my bike here has represented my freedom and I’m going to miss having it--even if I have a car!
Ÿ I take my healthy body for granted-- I can do SO much because of my body. I realized after I hurt my feet and couldn’t run for so long that I take that simple ability to run for granted. I can run! I can jump! I can bike! I can do so many things that so many people can’t do. How incredible.
Ÿ This country is beautiful-- I’ve never seen anything like it. There is so much diversity in the landscape here.
Ÿ There is great power in simple testimonies-- As I sat in church last week, I marveled at the power that is found in the bearing of simple, humble testimony.
Ÿ I love BYU-- I already knew I loved that university but I have a new appreciation for it now after being at SIT for a few months. No one can smoke on campus, the campus isn’t tiny, it’s organized and… just great.
Ÿ I miss my straightener-- I really do. Turns out, I’m high maintenance.
Ÿ I’m spoiled rotten-- My time here has truly taught me this. We as Americans have an incredible amount of wealth. My parents spoil me (not that I’m unappreciative) and I am spoiled to live in such a great, free country. Just spoiled. Period.
Ÿ Never underestimate the power of your influence--Wow. In this small branch, I was just astounded to see how the members marvel at us, and are just so happy to have us in their midst. Weird.
Ÿ The prospect of being a missionary is scary-- I’ve always thought that I’d like to serve a mission--not that I will necessarily, but that I’d like it and be pretty good at it. Well, in my brief experiences sharing the gospel here, I am now afraid of being a missionary, preaching the gospel to people who will most likely reject me, and being so far away from my home and family for so long.
Ÿ Share your talents!-- I just rediscovered a quote from John Bytheway today that says, “Silent pianos don’t attract crowds.” That quote obviously has a little bit of a double meaning for me. :) I have played the piano in every sacrament meeting and choir practice since I’ve been in New Zealand. It is incredible how grateful the branch is for what is for me, a very simple and painless task. The lesson--don’t hesitate--share your talents!! Offer what you can; it will be appreciated.
Ÿ I’m not as tough as I thought-- I’ve always considered myself a tough girl, able to handle and do things that most other girls at least, might not be able to do. Well, turns out, I’M A PANSY! Really! I’m terrified of kayaking, I don’t like being dirty or wet, and there are some things (rocks, I mean…) that I just can’t climb. I might be tough, but there are plenty of people tougher than me, and plenty of things I’m not tough enough to do.
Ÿ I get homesick-- This really surprised me. I’ve never really been homesick--ok, maybe at camp in 5th grade, but never at college or anything. But I was homesick here to the point of just feeling empty inside when I thought of my far-away family. Luckily, that passed pretty quickly but it made me realize that I may love traveling but I miss home too much to make a habit of doing it too often--or at least without them. :)
Ÿ I’m proud to be an American-- Not surprisingly, we sometimes have a bad reputation as tourists, but I still love being American! There’s no doubt that even with all the problems our country might have, it is a great country. We are free and have so much. The land of opportunity--how true that is!
Ÿ Cadbury chocolate is good-- It just is. It’s dang good.
Ÿ I think I’m addicted to Solitaire-- I love playing solitaire on my computer. When I have a spare moment, or I’m trying to put off doing an assignment, I will sit and play solitaire on my laptop for…a long time. I’ll tell myself, “just one more game” a ton of times and end up losing multiple games before I finally make myself shut my computer. Good thing it doesn’t cost money. Or I’d be gambling. It’s still no good though, I get it.

This list is by no means all-inclusive. Some were just too personal to list on my blog. Others, I’ve simply forgotten. There are also definitely a lot of obvious things, like how to surf, tying knots and reading weather patterns that I purposely didn’t include. This list is more to remind me of the things that I really learned here. Things that I learned that might change my life. Things that I will always remember. As our wise instructors told us just last week, out in the elements, out in the rugged beauty of New Zealand’s nature, we are exposed for who we really are. I am grateful for that exposure, for it has helped me discover many things about myself and how I want to live my life that I might not otherwise have ever known. Thank you for sticking with me and sharing my experiences with me through this blog and through your e-mails. My time here has been unforgettable. As this chapter of my life closes however, I am filled with excitement for all that I have yet to encounter and accomplish. See you all soon!

The End of the 12-Passenger Vans: Can Life Go On???

These last couple of days, we have been on our final trip. Monday--in Te Anau, and Tuesday in Milford Sound. When we arrived in Te Anau on Monday morning, we all kind of split into different groups for the day. I chose to stay with a group that was going to drive about an hour away and hike part of the Routeburn track. About half of our group hiked Routeburn in the pouring rain about a month ago, and I thought it would be fun to experience at least part of such a famous track. The road to Routeburn was extremely windy and I think about half the van was carsick by the time we got there. The whole thing was worth it though for the three hour hike that we did. It was beautiful. I found it very refreshing to be on such a nice, organized, manicured track after our most recent experiences tramping through the bush. There were definitely some fantastic views. I took this picture becuase I thought it would give my viewers back home an idea of what tramping trails are often like in New Zealand. Most of them are usually just dirt trails through forests but when you get up on towards the top like this, or have to traverse through bog land, they put these wood tracks up. It's very NZ-esque. That's an incredible view isn't it? It's sort of sad that I'm starting to take that for granted as just being what New Zealand looks like. I still love it though!

This was the whole group that went to Routeburn on Monday. We had fun!

When we got back into town that night, we ate at one of the many pizza places in town. It was SO good. I have been craving pizza for a while now and I was very satisfied. :) After dinner, we just wandered around town and looked in souvenir shops. Te Anau is a really small town, and we are a really big group, so before long, we had all found each other and were just hanging out in town. Stefanie also found her parents! That was exciting. We met up with them and the whole group had a fun time getting to know the Tanners

The next morning, we left pretty early for Milford Sound. It was about a two hour drive from Te Anau but turned into three since we stopped at every single lookout on the way there. It was okay though--the views were amazing. Fiordland is gorgeous. We got to Milford just in time to board our cruise! We ate lunch on the boat and they just drove us through Milford Sound. We stopped at an underwater observatory and had a look around for a while, and then they drove us back to the port. The whole thing was absolutely breathtaking. A fjord is one of those things that really makes you feel insignificant--everything is so massive and beautiful. After unloading from the boat, we started the four hour drive home. All in all, it was a good trip!

This was taken from our cruise. Enjoy the beautiful views, but know that Stefanie took this picture--not me. I really like this one though. Thanks Stef! :)

Just one of the many random lookouts we stopped at. I must admit, at the end of this multi-month trip, I have started to lose my motivation to pull out my camera at every turn. So this last trip, I started letting other people take the pictures. Don't worry, I'll get them all eventually, but I just don't have them now. There was a point to this...oh yeah! We took a really great picture here that I don't have SO, just picture about ten people frolicking around in this giant field in front of those amazing mountains. It's great.

Most of our time here can be traced back to a trip in a 12-passenger van. It's kind of weird to think that our time in them is over. If you count up the amount of hours we've all spent together, traversing New Zealand in large, bumpy vans, I'm sure it'd be close to 100. So can life go on without these vans? A resounding--YES. :)

My Last Sunday

Remember how I have to bike to church? Hopefully you all got a chance to see the picture of Stefanie and I in our Sunday biking outfits; church shoes, gym shorts and a backpack. Every Sunday, we sit in our room and pack our backpacks full of the things we need for church; a pen, notebook, scriptures, Joseph Smith manual and the all-important skirt. Every week, I almost forget my skirt. As I run through my mental checklist, I realize that I don’t have it and hurry and put it in my bag. Just last week, Stefanie and I mused on the way to church what would happen if one of us actually forgot our skirt one week. We both decided that it would just be too bad, and we would just sit through church in gym shorts and church shoes. Little did I know, that just one week later, I would have the opportunity to put my resolution to the test. That’s right--I forgot my skirt. And I realized this within feet of the church building. I didn’t have time to go back and get it anyway. Stefanie and I had a good laugh about it, but then I just resolved to go through the awkward experience of being inappropriately dressed for sacrament meeting. However I forgot in my flustered state, that I AM THE PIANIST!! Not only did I have to sit through sacrament meeting in gym shorts, but I had to sit in front of the entire congregation and play the piano. It was quite the experience. At least I sort of matched. Most people told me they didn’t even notice until I said something. So, all in all, it wasn’t that terrible of an experience but it was inevitable I suppose--the last Sunday in Invercargill, I do what I’d threatened to do every Sunday since arriving here--I forget my skirt.

Also on Sunday, I said goodbye to my favorite pair of jeans. They have been so good to me but the crotch is ripping, and there is a hole in the pocket that is beyond repair and slowly spreading down the whole leg. I decided I didn't want to tow my delapidated jeans back home so...I ripped them up! There's a video too but here's a picture of the aftermath. Sad, right?



Mountain Biking

Last Saturday, I had my first mountain biking experience. It was so fun. I also found it difficult and terrifying (in fact, the scariest thing I've done in New Zealand--minus kayaking of course), but I’m excited to do it again. The best part of the whole experience was by far the crash I had. I went over a log, and the next thing I knew, I was stuck head first in a pile of sticks. I didn’t feel any pain, so I had my comrades take a picture before prying me out. The picture is a little blurry, but hopefully it gives you some idea of my predicament. :) Really, I just wanted to share with all of you my new and very inexperienced love for mountain biking. The end.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The tramp to end all tramps

If I talked you before leaving on our last tramping trip, then you know that I was anything but excited to go. For about two weeks prior to our trip, our instructors had been leading us around the deep bushland of New Zealand with maps and compasses with seemingly little purpose but to get us frustrated and lost in pokey bushes and trees. After some humbling experiences and discussions, I have realized that of course, there was a purpose to all of this. I just took me a long time to see it.

Monday morning we set off from SIT. The drive took a couple of hours and the whole way, I was relishing the time in the van. When we got to where we would begin our "journey" as they liked to call it, I did NOT want to get out of the car. I waited until the last possible moment, then jumped out and donned my pack. Our instructors gave us a little information about how the next three days would go and that it was a time for us to reflect on our lives and particularly our time in New Zealand. All of it sort of went in one ear and out the other for me as I was in a very terrible mood.

They gave us the coordinates of our destination, told us to work as a team and then sent us out into the bush. There was a trail, but we were banned from taking it. Luckily, the weather was really nice and we stayed dry and warm. Unfortunately, none of that helped my mood--even though it should have. After a lot of group discussions and wrong turns, we made it to our campsite. I was surprised at how quickly and effectively we made our bivvy that night. I was toasty warm and though I didn't sleep that great, I slept much better than I thought I would.

Because of my bad awful mood, I didn't really take any pictures the first day, or the whole trip really (these pictures are mostly supplied by Stefanie's ever-present camera), but this one is worth posting:

The man you see who looks naked other than his very large coat and red beanie is Tony, one of our instructors. If you look closely, you can Jason, another instrutor, in the background, effectively sporting what they insist is typical New Zealand tramping garb. The outfit is as follows: no cotton, just polyprop shirts and other fleece insulating layers as necessary, "stubbies" (aka--very short shorts), gaters and boots. They look ridiculous but insist that its the only way to tramp.

Call me a sherpa

Turns out the off and on rain from the night before was mostly on for all of Tuesday. It was pouring when we finally made ourselves get out from under our shelter and embark on our tramping for the day. It was more of the same, with our instructors telling us where we needed to end up and then letting us loose. It was easier today because we could see our destination pretty clearly--the top of a mountain. We struggled through the bush all day, soaking wet and walking uphill the whole time until finally we popped out of the trees, into sunlight, and stared at the large mountain looming in front of us.

Unfortuately, we had to sit, exposed in the wind for two hours and wait for group B (the other half of our class) to catch up with us. That got very cold. Eventually, we were on the move again and made the slow trek up and over the mountain. By the time I'd reached the peak and was headed back down the other side, the wind had picked up and the rain turned to hail. As it pelted my face, I stopped, looked down at myself and thought, I have got to get a picture of myself. Hopefully you can see in this picture why...

I looked like a sherpa. I was wearing big wooly gloves, using a stick to hike with, carrying a ginormous pack, and charging up the side of a mountain peak. I thought it was pretty funny. Hopefully some of you can find the humor as well.

I call this one: Huddling behind a giant rock.

Shock of all shockers, we had to wait, huddled behind a giant rock AGAIN for group B to catch up to us. This time was even colder than before. From there, our instructors had us all stick really close together so we wouldn't lose anyone considering the pretty intense weather. We completed the remainder of our hike to the campsite by about 7:30 that night. We set up our "bivvy" (or shelter) as quickly as possible, had some hot dinner, and then all climbed into our sleeping bags as close together as we could muster.

This is me unloading for the night. Unfortunately, that outfit is actually what I wore for three days straight--except replace the chacos with hiking boots. It's not about style, just comfort and warmth.

For some reason, we were all slightly hysterical that night and the bedtime conversation was hilarious. That probably explains why Stefanie and I took more crazy pictures of ourselves. I woke up about 1am absolutely famished!! I had no idea how I was going to make it 'til morning, especially considering how I also had to go to the bathroom and I couldn't feel my toes. At about 4am, I realized that half of our group was awake and we all started talking about how cold, hungry or thirsty we were. It was hilarious. That was probably one of the highlights of the trip for me. Thankfully, I had my iPod and a good book to read in my sleeping bag as I didn't do much sleeping that night.
Here is a shot of the inside of our bivvy. The piece of wood that you can see on the left side of the picture is the middle of our shelter--that stick was holding the whole thing up. That's where I slept. I found out the hard way that if I bumped it, it fell over and the roof sort of caved in. Oops... The guy you can see at the bottom of the picture is none other than John Kappa, our instructor. I know you can't tell, but he was basically laying right on top of me and my stuff. Whatever it takes to be warm I guess. Don't worry--he didn't sleep there. He was just there visiting.