Tuesday, May 8, 2018


I am booked in at the YHA for this week, since my house sitting job ended on Saturday and my next tour starts this coming Saturday.  It's right next to the Botanical Gardens and down the street from the Art Gallery so it has a good location.   Also was blessed with a lovely Korean woman as a roommate; Oksu was so stressed out by her job and life in South Korea that she quite her job about a month ago and then after a few weeks just decided to hop on a plane and spend 6 weeks in New Zealand!  We get along so well and have spent many hours sitting in the dining area, after we've finished eating, just talking.  Anyway, we decided that at half-off the usual price we'd be willing to pay to take a shuttle to the nearby Banks Peninsula to visit Akaroa.  The town markets itself as a "French inspired coastal village" but history was not on the side of the French.  It would have been more aptly named a European settlement, as in the end it was a joint British and French settlement.  The name Akaroa (pronounced "ah-kah-row-ah") is Maori for "Long Harbour" The town (and a few others) are inside a volcanic crater and you can see the crater edges nearly 360 degrees around, they look like beautiful mountains.  One section fell away to create a harbour into the Pacific Ocean.
Hilltop lookout - Akaroa is on the left

 In the summer I believe it would be a lovely place to visit, a little sea-side retreat. The area is  known for its white flippered penguins (a.k.a. blue penguins - the smallest in the world) and occasionally the yellow-eyed penguins, plus Akaroa Harbour is the only place in the word that you can swim with Hector's dolphins (the world's smallest and rarest oceanic dolphins).  Many of the operators were closed as it's off season, and many of the attractions in town had limited hours as well. 

Not to be deterred by the off-season Oksu and I made good use of our time to wander around town.  We started with the Akaroa Museum for a quick look around.  A glimpse into the history and people of the area, as well as a look inside the authentic interiors of the court house and customs house which date back to the 1840's.  We then headed in the direction of the Orion Powerhouse Gallery, only to find it closed.  Nearby, the map told us, was the Old French Cemetery.  Expecting something like what I'd seen in Paris we hiked up the hill (despite Oksu finding it odd that people would consider graves a tourist attraction).  Another bust!  There were no graves at all, just a fence with a large monument listing names of those passed away.  We took a different trail back down the hill and ended up near St. Patrick's Anglican Church; built in 1864 it was in wonderful condition (it appears to still be in use today) and was very picturesque. 

Another site to see is the town's lighthouse so we walked along the waterfront to the other side of town to get a look.  Oh the expectations!  The lighthouse was very tiny, and once again, you could not go up in it as it's off-season.  Despite the let-down we were able to get some lovely photos of the town from the lighthouse vantage point, so all was not lost. 

We were a bit hungry by now and despite this being a "French" town, when I mentioned some of the restaurants listed in the tour book Oksu, bless her heart, wanted to eat Fish 'n Chips.  I was thinking maybe I would attempt to find a nice croissant or baguette sandwich, but I was not about to pass up the opportunity for Fish 'n Chips so we headed to Murphy's on the Corner.  The portions are huge so it was nice to be able to split it with someone.  We wandered through some of the shops and browsed the souvenirs, none of which were purchased, but they have some adorable little trinkets.  We ended at the War Memorial and since we had some time to kill before the shuttle picked us up again we decided to sit down by Dalys Warf and enjoy the view.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Terrace Talk

Oxford Terrace Baptist Church is hosting a mid-week series in May, called "Terrace Talks".  The first one last night focused mostly on racism, while the over-arching theme of the series is Maori believers in the New Zealand church.  Paul Askin, the presenter recommended a book called "Community 101" by Gilbert Bilezikian and shared this wonderful quote from the book:
"...the maintenance of community requires intentionality, perseverance, and sacrifice" 
What actually drew me to the series was the idea of learning more about the impact of Maori believers on the religious history of the country.  Paul told a great story that I wanted to share with you all, but with all the Maori names and my poor memory it was unlikely you would be able to hear the story of some native missionaries.  As God so designed, Paul handed us all a copy at the end of the night.  I have typed it here for you to enjoy, and for you to be encouraged --

"Tarore and the Spread of the Gospel" by David Moxon

In the fields to the north of Waharoa, near the Waikato country town of Matamata, there is a small grave.  A white cross adorns the resting place of a 12 year old girl who died in the year 1836.  Around this grave from time to time this site has seen the ordination of Maori deacons, special pilgrimages, and a steady trickle of people of all sorts who make their way to this ordinary field.  Why?  The name of the girl buried in the grave is Tarore and the story of her life and death demonstrate how the gospel of Christ is able to bring peace and reconciliation.
Tarore was the daughter of the Maori chief Ngakuku.  She studied at the mission school in Matamata where she was given a copy of the Gospel of Luke in te reo Maori by her teacher Charlotte Brown.  It was a treasured possession and she kept it safe by wearing it in a kete (a woven bag made from flax) around her neck.
One night while camping in the Kaimai Ranges at the foot of the Wairere Falls, a raiding party from the Arawa tribe came across Taroroe's group and attacked their camp, pillaging what they could find.  In the action and skirmish, Tarore remained sleep when she received a fatal blow to the head.  Her attacker removed the Gospel of Luke she was carrying, thinking it might be trade-able.
Her death immediately created a desire for 'utu' (revenge) but back in Waharoa during her funeral Ngakuku, her father, preached against reprisal saying there had been too much bloodshed between the tries already.  Instead he called his people to trust in the justice of God.  No blood revenge was sought.  This revolutionary act set in motion a sequence of events that paved the way for restoration and reconciliation between tribes.
No one in the Arawa camp was able to read the book.  It was not until a literate visiting slave named Ripahau read the text aloud that the people understood its true value.  Tarore's murderer, Uita, was convicted by the message of peace displayed in the Gospel of Luke and humbled himself to go and seek forgiveness from Tarore's father.  
Visiting Ngakuku was an extremely dangerous move and could easily have resulted in death.  A local re-telling of this story claims that as the men approached one another tears were shed and they embraced.  After Uita humbled himself and repented peace prevailed between the two men and a church was built to honour the message which brought about this reconciliation.
 Later Ripahau left Utia's pa and returned to Otaki.  There he came into contact with Katu Te Pauparaha (later known as Tamihana Te Rauparaha) from Kapiti Island, the son of the great Ngati Tao chief.  Ripahau was again invited to read from the scripture to Katu and his nephew Te Whiwhi.  In this way the gospel began to warm the hearts of the people in that place.  Some years later Katu (who was now called Tamihana) took Tarore's book with him when he travelled to the South Island to revisit his father's traditional enemies, bringing the gospel of peace there for the first time.  The dramatic reconciliation of enemies that had followed Tarore's martyrdom was repeated.  Tarore's story and the gospel she bore has long been amongst the taonga (treasures) of the Church in Aotearoa.
On the white cross above Tarore's grave there is written in Maori a reference to the death that brought peace to the tribes.  The blood of this child became the seed of the Church.  At her tangi Tarore's father prayed that vengeance would belong to God; he never gave up hope in divine justice.  The vengeance of God was the repentance and transformation of his daughter's murderer, and her story became a parable of hope forever.

As Paul told the story he pointed out that the spread of the gospel to this area (Christchurch) was because of Ripahau.  The story is from the New Zealand Church Missionary Society.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Time for Reading

One of the perks of house sitting is the "free time" it affords.  Don't get me wrong, you make time for what is important, but when you have very few constraints on your time you are free to sit down and read for 2-3 hours without feeling guilty, or lazy.  Peter was kind enough to loan me his library card so I could have a large selection of materials.  Although the Shirley Community Library isn't all that large, for the 5 weeks I've been here, it has afforded me several fascinating books.
My favorite reading spot on a sunny fall afternoon

In the fiction category I've stumbled upon "The Scavenger's Daughters" and "The Serendipity Foundation".  The first book in a series by Kay Bratt, "The Scavenger's Daughters" is inspired by a true story and is set in modern day China, where the effects of Mao's Cultural Revolution are still acutely felt.  An elderly Chinese couple take in abandoned girls and raise them as their own despite the poverty they face.  A touching read that reminds me that we are not limited by the amount of money we have to share: kindness and love aren't bound by the size of our bank account. 

Not only was "The Serendipity Foundation" an excellent read (disclaimer, there is a fair bit of language) with an interesting twist at the end, it was published by Unbound.  I'd never heard of them before, but they are a publisher based on crowdfunding.  So, readers can browse projects (book ideas) on their website and donate money to fund a book that piques the reader's interest.  At the end of the book there was a long list of the names of those who had donated to make the book a reality.  I think that's a marvelous idea, and if you donate you get one of the first copies of the book!  I loved the below quote that was on one of the first pages of the book:
For all the large-scale political solutions which have been proposed to salve ethnic conflict, there are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.       --Alain de Botton

The most fascinating non-fiction book I've read so far has been James W. Pennebaker's "The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us".  I think this book rates right up there with "What The Dog Saw" by Malcolm Gladwell in new ways to look and think about the world around us.  One of the neat things about the pronoun book was that there is a website where you can take some of the tests they used in their research studies!  Here's their description of the book, "Partly a research journey, the book traces the discovery of the links between function words and social and psychological states. Written for a general audience, the book takes the reader on a remarkable and often unexpected journey into the minds of authors, poets, lyricists, politicians, and everyday people through their use of words."  With plenty of interesting analyses of speeches, books, and letters by people such as Shakespeare, George W. Bush, Andrew Jefferson, and Osama Bin Laden you get a different perspective into psychology of human beings, based on their patterns of speech and use of simple words.  Even a few tweets give insight into the author's personality.

"The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society"

Although I have not read the book in several years, I remember how much I enjoyed it and was delighted to see that it was made it into a movie.  I have no idea if it is coming out in theatres in the US, but I would recommend both reading the book and seeing the movie.  I need to re-read the book as I have forgotten so many of the details, but it's about WWII and the German occupation of the British island of Guernsey.  The story follows the lives of some of the residents and the aftermath of the war as they try to return to a "normal" life. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

When The Saints Go Marching In

I'd be lying if I said it was easy.  When I left home this time I knew the chances were good, despite a shorter stay, that a small handful of people in my life might not still be on this earth when I returned.  Age, and the health issues that often accompany aging, reminded me that I should try to be prepared.  As if one can ever really be truly prepared for these sorts of things.  A dear friend went home to be with the Lord last Thursday, and I knew he was ready to go so that helped in some way.  I'm still not even sure he knew I was there the last two times I had visited before I left, but we had talked many times before of his desire to be in heaven.  Then this Thursday I got the rather unexpected news that another beloved friend had been rushed to the hospital. I had certainly not mentally prepared myself for two people in my life to leave so quickly.  I just had a sense last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, that I wasn't going to have good news about her in the morning.  The song "When the Saints Go Marching In" popped into my head as I thought about them both.  I couldn't tell you the last time I heard or thought of that song, but it was certainly fitting.  He was a very tall man, served in the Army - he certainly knew how to march and I'm sure he made an imposing figure as he did so; and her husband had also been in the military (as most of their generation had been) and they were known to always be walking in step, wherever they went.  I know there isn't marriage in heaven, but I like to think her and Butch are once again marching in step, this time down streets of gold. 

I was doing well this morning dealing with the news I had expected last night, or so I thought, until I read an unexpected post on my Facebook wall.  A virtual hug and a sweet reminder that "we serve a God of comfort who is with us no matter where we are".  Being away when these things happen is certainly hard, but it's such a blessing to have friends back home who make the effort to let you know what is going on, as it happens, and that they're aware you are far away and hurting as well.  Like most others, I have my gripes with technology, but at times like these I'm incredibly thankful for the contact. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

ANZAC Day in Aotearoa

Commemorating ANZAC Day 2018

As you might remember from my recent post about Te Papa,  the ANZAC acronym (which stands for Australia & New Zealand Army Corps) first came about from the battle of Gallipoli, where the two nation's armed forces joined together.  As I thought back to the last time I celebrated ANZAC Day, in Australia 2014, it almost seemed fitting that four years later I would celebrate ANZAC Day in New Zealand.  World War One began in 1914 and ended in 1918, one hundred years ago this year.

There were services all over the area, with a dawn service and parade in downtown Christchurch.  Unfortunately, the buses were not running early enough for me to attend that, but there was also a Citizens' Service at the Transitional Cathedral at 10am, which I was able to attend.  The service began with the official party and flag bearers entering to the march, "Fernleaf Headstones" (fun fact: was commissioned for the funeral procession for the Return of the Unknown Warrior in 2004). As a British Commonwealth country they subsequently sang the National Anthem ("God Save the Queen") before we were welcomed, in both Maori and English, by the Very Rev. Lawrence Kimberley and Her Worship the Mayor of Christchurch.  We sang two hymns, "O God, Our Help In Ages Past" and "Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer".  The words of both were mostly the same to the ones we sing back in America, but not exactly the same.  Scripture readings of Jeremiah 31:15-17 and Romans 12:14-21 accompanied the hymns before an address was given by Air Commodore Andrew Clark of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).  He mentioned the battle of Gallipoli and then the horrible losses sustained during the year of 1918.  Not only did New Zealand lose nearly 17% of its military personnel throughout the war (most of them during 1918), there was an influenza pandemic at the end of 1918 that killed an additional 9,000 New Zealanders.  The desire for peace by New Zealand as a nation, and remembrance of those who fought in subsequent wars, such as WWII, Malay, Vietnam, Korea, East Timor, and Afghanistan were also brought to our attention. 

After a beautiful rendition of "In Flanders Fields" by the Christchurch Boys' Choir, Lieutenant Commander Paul Smith, Commanding Officer of HMNZS Pegasus, read a portion of "The Remembrance" by Pericles.
For the whole earth is the sepulchre of heroes: monuments may rise and tablets may be set up to them in their own land; but on far off shores there is an abiding memorial that no pen or chisel has traced; it is graven not in stone or brass, but on the living heart of humanity.  Take these men then for your example, like them, remember that prosperity can only be for the free, that freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have courage to defend it.
Responsive prayers led by the St John Cadets and a congregational hymn, which I had never heard before, were next in the service before The Last Post, (a bugle call common in Commonwealth nations), which commemorates those who have been killed in war, was played.  A Scottish bagpiper played the "Reveille" and then the New Zealand National Anthem ("God Defend New Zealand") was sang (you can listen to it here).  It was a very nice service with a good mix of representatives from service organizations, government offices, and military personnel, and it was quite well attended too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Price Is Right NZ

When I returned from Australia I remember being asked about the cost of things.  While things seem expensive when you're a tourist, in reality they were quite comparable to what things cost in the U.S. once you consider the standard wages.

This post is really just about the costs of things here in New Zealand - mostly food as that's an easier item to compare  :)  If you have no interest in this, feel free to wait for the next post, which will be more of the usual.

There are 3 major grocery chains here in NZ, Pak'nSave, Countdown, and New World.  Pak'nSave is the cheapest and has an Aldi-Sam's Club type of feel - you pack your own groceries (they don't bag them for you, hence the name) and most of the items are in a larger size or quantity than at the other two stores.  Countdown and New World are next in their comparative pricing, but when you have to walk to get groceries, as I do now, you weigh your options (sometimes literally) since you have to carry everything back home with you once you're finished.  The New World is closer to me, but the Countdown is near the library, so I shop at both (there is no Pak'nSave within walking distance).
Flyer from New World
Ground Beef - $12.99/kg (a kg is a little over 2 lbs)
Chicken Breasts - $10.99/kg
Angus Beef Burger Patties - $8.99 for 600g

Chocolate Ice Cream (2L) - $5.99
Ambrosia Apples - $2.99/kg
Grapes - $4.99/kg
Iceburg Lettuce Head - $1.99
Cucumber - $2.99
Corn (canned) - $.99
Black Beans (canned, organic) - $2.19
Milk (1L) - $2.85
Eggs (doz) - $3.25
White Sugar (1.5kg) - $2.90
Corn Flakes (supermarket brand 500g) - $2.70
Coke (2.25L) - $3.99
Peanut Butter (supermarket brand 375g) - $2.50

Pricey, but it's name brand --

 A lot of the food is imported and a lot of it also seems to come from Australia, which has its perks; such as a large variety of Tim Tam flavors (on sale for $2.50 too):

Fancy some Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Saturday, March 24, 2018


As mentioned in a previous post, Te Papa is the National Museum of New Zealand, located in the capital city of Wellington.  Since I had several extra days in town I visited 3 times total, spreading out my visits so as not to overdo it.

The majority of my time was spent in the Gallipoli exhibit, as it was largest, but it had many other fascinating exhibits.  I don't know what it is about war exhibits, but I find them so interesting.  I enjoy history, and the exhibits make it far easier to stay engaged, they're also usually full of stories from the people living through the war.

There was a small exhibit on the New Zealand Wars (Rā Maumahara), fought between the Māori and European settlers in the 1860's and early 70's - it was quite sad to see the map of the Māori land lost:

There was also a fun section with New Zealand "trivia" which I found helpful.  I knew that Kiwi's called flip flops "jandals" but could never figure out why, or from where the name came.  Here were the ones I found most interesting:

  • Vegemite: Invented by Australian Fred Walker, to compete with the British "Marmite".  You probably hear the product name and don't think "New Zealand", but it turns out that Kiwis eat more Vegemite per person than Aussies.
  • New Zealand: So where did the name come from exactly?  "In 1642, Dutchman Abel Tasman charted our west coast.  Dutch officials named this country Nieuw Zeeland, in honour of a province in Holland.  Soon English, French, and Latin translations of the name appeared on maps in other European countries.  By the early 1800s, our British settlers had adopted the English translation... Today we often call this country by its Maori name 'Aotearoa'."
  • Jandals: "At the 1956 Olympic games in Melbourne, a Kiwi importer was inspired by the Japanese team's footwear.  The first jandals were made in an Auckland garage... Japanese + Sandals.  Today more people buy blue jandals than any other colour"

As an American, one of the strangest things about the celebration, or perhaps glorification, of the conflict in Gallipoli is that Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC) were defeated at Gallipoli.  Defeat is not something usually memorialized, but it has been said that "the Gallipoli Campaign is said to be the reason for New Zealand's birth as an independent nation."  You can read more about why it is so culturally important here.  The exhibit progressed chronologically from the start of the offense in April 1915, to their eventual evacuation on December 15th.  "For eight long months, New Zealand troops, alongside those from Australia, Great Britain and Ireland, France, India, and Newfoundland battled harsh conditions and Ottoman forces desperately fighting to protect their homeland." There were a total of 2,779 New Zealanders that lost their lives in this particular campaign.  Compared to the 86,692 Ottomans who died (there were 130,842 deaths between all the countries fighting in the battle), one would assume the Turks had lost.
26 year old Private Jack Dunn (Wellington Infantry Battalion Machine Gunner)
"He was a Wairarapa lad and keen athlete, who'd rushed to enlist with his brother.  Despite being fitter than most, he came down with pneumonia after the first brutal month of fighting.  When he returned from hospital - still pretty crook - the poor bugger fell asleep at his post and was sentenced to death for endangering his unit.  It could've been any of us.  Jack was game to the core, unflinching in the face of fire.  The General eventually took his reputation and illness into account.  On August 4th, Jack was sent back to the front line."
Te Taua Maori, 1914
"This prayer book saved the life of Private Hone Tahitahi- literally.  It stopped a Turkish bullet in its tracks.  Tahitahi (Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri) was struck above the chest and knocked unconscious.  The bullet rested under this verse: 'Kia manawanui; ko ahau tenei; aua e whi' - 'Take courage! It is I.  Don't be afraid.'"

As demonstrated by the photos above, the exhibit also highlighted the war efforts of the native Maori people in the campaign.  They had a beautiful end to the exhibit as well.  There were rocks from the beach at Gallipoli below a 1934 quote from Kemal Ataturk, the commander of the Turkish 19th Division at Gallipoli (he was also founder of the Turkish republic): "Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives...are now lying in the soil of a friendly country...and are in peace...they have become our sons as well."  The last larger-than-life statue was standing in red, paper poppies on which visitors had written prayers and left behind in remembrance.

Additional Gallipoli sources quoted:  The Gallipoli Campaign