Category Archives: New Zealand

hugo.

The beautiful blonde boys piled on the couch with their sweet parents on this Friday evening after a quite nice green curry dish made by their blonde visitor. I sat on the neighboring couch and admired the sweet family moment. We watched Hugo. What a heartbreaking, yet equally inspiring movie. I’d highly recommend it.

Hugo: Monsieur Labisse gave me a book the other night.
Isabelle: He’s always doing that. Sending books to a good home, that’s what he calls it.
Hugo: He’s got real…purpose.
Isabelle: What do you mean?
Hugo: Everything has a purpose, even machines. Clocks tell the time, trains take you places. They do what they’re meant to do, like Monsieur Labisse. Maybe that’s why broken machines make me so sad, they can’t do what they’re meant to do. Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose, it’s like you’re broken.

Hugo: Right after my father died, I would come up here a lot. I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason too.

What a powerful message. This trip has been an awful lot about finding my specific purpose (I think my overarching purpose is to love God and to love all others) and what it should look like. I like that it could be as simple as getting the right book to the right home. It could be to write a fantastical story for little ones all over the world. Ever since travelling to Liberia, I have felt a pull to spend time with orphans, simply loving on them and making sure they have food and shelter and comfortable beds. Perhaps I should be a foster parent and I will write books for the kids surrounding me daily. Or I’ll open a writer’s retreat center in the mountains somewhere with Mrs. Erica Young. I will serve pancakes and bacon and our favorite authors (like Mo Willems) will come speak. He will prefer to just be paid in pancakes, which will work out well.

Whew, good thing the trip isn’t over, I guess. Because I don’t know yet.

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blondies.

The boys, ages 9 and 11, are impossibly cute. They look like mini surfer dudes. They love driving their dad’s tractor while pulling the other by a rope tied to his bike. I find the youngest one studying me often, over breakfast (“breakie” here) or while I’m weeding or while I’m grating some cheese. I just wink and he smiles. Pictures to come.

I fried some eggs from their chicken this morning. The chicken got loose and the youngest went out to grab him. Tucked under his arm, he carried the chicken to the dining room table where I sat. I patted him on the head and said, “Thank you for the eggs.” Maybe as local as local can be.

Today was a beautiful day. It started with bright sunshine through the gumnut baby curtains. Then we had my favorite coffee in NZ, Oopmh! by Hummingbird right here in Christchurch. It truly lives up to its name. I pulled weeds like a champ. The sun was perfectly combined with a slight breeze and the songs that came on Pandora were just right for my pensive mood. I am hooked on a new book and I followed the sunshine around their property reading and basking. Each time the mom or dad walked by, I was in a new spot. Like a wandering Waldo, but without the unflattering horizontal stripes.

Four hours of work earns me a comfortable bed in a hut about 50 yards from their house and three delicious vegetarian meals. I’m in charge of dinner tomorrow. I’ve definitely learned to be more creative in my culinary attempts while here. Kasey, Brittany, and I are going to serve our families some of our favorite dishes after they watch our PowerPoint presentation and hear our hakas and accept their souvenirs. Let’s go ahead and get this on the calendars, families: Feb. 15th. 5pm-10:05pm.

You just read my 100th blog post about NZ! That’s hard to believe. It’s been an exciting adventure full of new experiences, some that I anticipated and others that I couldn’t have ever imagined. I’m so glad I had Kasey and Britt with me for over four months (and I miss them dearly). I’m anxious to see what the next six months will be like. I know it’ll be very different, as I won’t be travelling around as much as before, and I’ll have to work and not just for housing and food but for cash money! Green Man Brewery will have more hours for me when I return in March. But I’ve also written several publishing companies here and hope to hear back soon. 

christchurch.

I think I knew this about myself, but it’s been solidly confirmed lately: I really like to have a plan. I enjoy spontaneity for sure, but I like going to bed knowing a skeleton of a plan for the next day. Actually, I always don’t need that, what I need is to know where I’m going to sleep the next couple of weeks. And I think that’s normal, eh? Well, I figured some of it out tonight, thankfully. I am heading to Christchurch tomorrow. Tessa is driving me to the bus stop (so I don’t have to lug my luggage around to the bus stop I need to be at) and I head out at 2:20pm, arriving in Christchurch at 7:50pm to meet my new host family. The traveling part is no big deal, it’s getting to the correct bus stop without a car that I dislike more than the smell of shrimp. Now all I need to figure out is how to get from their house to the airport at 5am on Tuesday. Then I get to see my sweet family. Hallelujah! I’m beyond ready. I can’t wait to sit at the table, Kendall at our feet, and sip on endless coffee while we tell stories and enjoy the treats I bring them if I haven’t exceeded the luggage weight limit. 

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There are some seriously loud critters outside my hut right now. I imagine they’re possums. I’m cold enough to be sitting under the lamp in the corner to feel the heat from it. Other than the cold and the noise, this place is lovely so far. While sipping our ginger tea over our first introductions, we had those “Oh, me too!” moments over and over. I love when that happens. It took a good 45 seconds for us to be laughing like we were old pals from GJE singing “Pioneers for the Future.” They have two blonde boys that I’ll meet in the morning on Waitangi Day, a public holiday here signifying when NZ’s founding document was signed in 1840. So there’s no work and no school, but a lot of gardening will take place, no doubt.

penguins!

I’ve been really tired as of late, so much so that I almost passed up the chance to go see the blue penguins on the tip of the peninsula. They don’t come out of the water until dark and it doesn’t get dark until 10pm. My host opened the cabinet that led down to my room and said, “Are you keen to go, Beth?” I was under the covers reading. “I am if you are?” 

Wow was it worth it! The blue penguins are the smallest in the world, and no doubt the cutest. (Yellow-eyed penguins are on the other side of the peninsula and look quite mean in pictures!) They come in rafts, their little heads stick out of the water and they look like a raft coming in. Very, very cool. Then all of a sudden, you see them waddling up the beach to their nests. They waddled their way up (when they’re in a group in the water they’re called a ‘raft’ but when they’re on land they’re called a ‘waddle’) right past us, only about four feet away. We weren’t allowed to use a flash on our cameras, so this is the best I could do:

And check out the waddling video: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=627591854787&set=vb.105600013&type=2&theater

almost got a dog.

I’ve been without Nana the Toyota for a week now. Luckily, I’ve been “stuck” in really beautiful places. I enjoyed playing with these sweet kiddos and taking many walks along this road that hugs the peninsula:

I’m back at Glenda’s (owner of Knight the handsome dog) and am about a 25 minute walk from the city centre. I headed into town this morning and on my walk back, I saw a beautifully fluffy dog prancing toward me. It said hi, I said hi back. Then it didn’t leave my side. I looked around and saw no one looking for her. I checked her tags and began calling her by Athena. I rubbed her belly and we were both pretty instantly smitten. I called the phone numbers on her tag and reached no one. She stood in the shade of my shadow. I walked around with her for about 45 minutes, waiting for a phone call. Other people walked by and she would say hello, then come right back to me like I was her new master.

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I got a call back. “Hi, I found your dog Athena…”

“Oooh, um, that’s my ex wife’s dog. Hm.”

“Oooh, I’m sorry.”

“Let’s see. I will, hm…I’ll try to get a hold of her owner. Then I’ll give her your number if that suits you?”

“Sure thing, I appreciate it.”

I laughed and wondered how long it’d been since he talked to his ex. Look at me and Athena, bringing people back together. We were near a big field by a school and recess let out. Athena made me instantly popular. Many girls were squealing and shouting “It’s so fluffy I could die!” Athena was matching the girls’ (probably 3rd graders) excitement and ran off suddenly and ran right into the school office. Eeek. I ran in after her and said, “I’m trying to find her owner!” I grabbed her by the collar and said, “I reckon I’ll take her to my friend’s house and wait to hear back from them.” The teacher nodded like, “Uh yes, please take her away so these kids will calm down.”

She’s such a cute little ball of chaos. I made the walk from the school to Glenda’s slouched over so I wasn’t choking Athena by holding her collar. Knight was left outside and wasn’t too happy about this strange dog in his territory, drinking his water. Athena stayed by my side and fell asleep by my feet under the table.

About an hour and a half later, I got a call from the owner. She was over-the-top thankful. After I said about two sentences she said, “Are you American?!” I admitted it, and she said she came from California but is originally from New York. She had patients coming in and couldn’t get away. I got her address and returned the darling (and a large piece of my heart) to the gate she somehow escaped from. Her brother was ecstatic to see her:

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I waited around to see if she would try to get out again, but she seemed exhausted and content. When I let the owner know they were together again and everyone was happy, and that I missed Athena already, she said, “Lol! She is a sweetie. If you ever get a dog, Samoyeds are really wonderful.”

Soon.

family.

I love the way this family seems to enjoy time with each other. This morning, I crawled up through the cabinet like I do, to see a small dance party going on in the lounge. The six-year-old girl had her multi-colored tutu skirt on, holding hands with her big strong dad, jumping around while the ten-month-old smiled at me like he knew he was lucky to be in a family like this and he was glad I saw it.

I had my NZ version of Cheerios and listened as the girl asked if her dad would sing Katy Perry with her. Even though he knew I was taking in the show, he belted out “Firework” and the little girl was as content as one could be, sitting on her dad’s lap, reading from the CD pamphlet and thrilled that she knew the words. There’s something so special about father daughter time. There’s something really special about a dad who genuinely enjoys time with his kids. My dad is one of those and John, Greg, and I are so blessed. (And Billy Dean/Lee McKinney comes to mind right away. I love Erica’s stories about her fun-filled childhood.)

I’m so thankful for my grandparents who raised four amazing kids to be four extraordinary adults. They made the long drive from NC to be with Grandpa (who recently had two strokes). Grandma said he’s full of one-liners and he’s being awfully sweet. My grandma is a strong, compassionate, lovely woman. I’m feeling very blessed this morning when I think about my family. 

idyllic.

Do you know what I love? A good quality peanut butter. And sunsets. Sweet dogs. Polite children. The ocean.

All of these lovely things have collided in Dunedin, on the Otago Peninsula, with my current host family. I’m staying right on the water with a family of five. Two girls, ages thirteen and six and a ten-month-old boy with eyes as luminous as a paua shell. The six-year-old sings Taylor Swift songs, is reading Narnia, and loves making bracelets out of soap. The older girl is an athletic bombshell who can hold a conversation like she’s at least twenty-five. The parents were engaged nine days after they met each other. Nine days. They’re extremely likable. My view is of the ocean and the city lights. My comforter is down. My en suite is new and clean. My way up to the house is via ladder through an opening that looks like a cupboard on the other end. It was open when I went up the first time, and I couldn’t find where I was supposed to go down when I came back in the room. It’s bizarre. The dad is a builder and he is creative.

This is their view for the swing: