Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The story so far

Now we are officially back in New Zealand, it is time for the "On Tour" part of this blog to be removed.

We had a couple of days rest in Auckland before flying down to our new, if temporary, home in Wellington.

We had a couple busy first few weeks during which we bought a car (and a new bed) and had the chance for Jen to get to see more of Wellington.

The following week we went on a road trip up the North Island to Rotorua (roughly translates as place of two lakes), we had the chance to stop along the way and invest in some warmer clothes for Jen and do some sight-seeing.

We stayed in a house on lake Rotoiti (translates as 'little lake,' which is the smaller of the two bodies of water that Rotorua is named after) where we had a week being led through an intensive debriefing program that helped us begin the process of reflecting on the events that had led to us moving to New Zealand, and some of the challenges and opportunities we might face. As part of our time there we even did some impromptu team building when we rowed out on the lake in a boat; Jen also went kayaking later in the week (she is the little dot in the second picture), which I think was a little easier as there wasn't the same complications of balancing out our combined weight.

On the trip back we got to do yet more sightseeing, including the magnificent Huka falls (check how small the people are in the top left corner of the first picture!).

The day after we got back from Rotorua, it was time to move into our temporary (for the next few months) home! It was a fairly manic day of running around Wellington collecting all my old belongings from the various places they had been stored and getting them to our new home in Island Bay. After several months of waiting we got to open our wedding gifts! We had so much fun opening it all! In the weeks that followed we also spent time on Trademe (the NZ equivalent of ebay) spending the money that we had been given as wedding gifts on furniture for our soon-to-be-longer-term home. We are very blessed by the generosity of those who gave, thank you!

A re-occuring theme of our first few weeks has been seals; we went for a walk round the coast near our new home and there were still seals in for the winter. We then went to visit the creation care study program in Kaikoura and there were a great number of seals there (some of whom were not pleased to see us, giving us the occasional bark, snarl or baring of teeth)

One thing that I've particularly enjoyed is returning to New Zealand's cafe culture; good coffee, good price = happy me!

We also got to observe the Wellington fireworks display on Guy Fawkes night (I have no idea why New Zealand marks this day as no one else apart from England does, but it is strangely comforting that they do). We also observed Thanksgiving with a dinner that included many of the traditional North American foods associated with the holiday; above is a picture of Jen's pumpkin pie, which was awesome, which also has a little bit of New Zealand in it with the koru that she drew in the middle.

A koru is probably a good image with which to close this blog post, in that for the Maori one of the things it signifies is a new life. Our new life here together has begun; there have already been many challenges but there has also been much that is encouraging. We are grateful to God for his leading and guiding us here, and for the support and encouragement of His people.

Monday, November 01, 2010

One of the things I like about New Zealand...

... is that things are not taken too seriously. On a recent trip up the North Island Jen and I stopped for dinner in the town of Bulls. As you can see from the picture above, Bulls is a place that has embraced the perhaps more amusing possibilities that come with the name. Like many other character traits the tendency not to take things too seriously can be frustrating sometimes, but considering how I often tend to take things too seriously, places like Bulls give me a helpful and fun reminder to relax a little.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Upon Reflection - Part 4

And so we come to the final installment. This one will be the shortest in that the main topics are summing up and returning to New Zealand, and the reason it will be short is that there is only so much that is known at present. So part of this will be reflection, part will be looking ahead.

Looking back as I have been doing, there is so much to be thankful for but though the things to be thankful for far outweigh the things that have been hard, they cannot remove sadness and regret of the things that have been hard. But at the same time the things that are hard teach us new things, and often these new things make us stronger. So with some distance even the hard things begin to become causes for thanksgiving.

It was a sobering thought when last week we realized that we had spent more of our married life on the road than we had in one place. Both Jen and I are feeling weary of traveling; we have both traveled extensively before but traveling without a definite and specific home in mind (knowing we are going to New Zealand is one thing, but not having an address and home is different) has been difficult for us both. But it has also been great to spend time with so many people around the U.K. and U.S., renew friendships, and get to know each other's families better.

The priority for the next few months is discerning where in particular God is calling us to in New Zealand; there are a couple of different options for me with TSCF, so we will visit a few places, look at work options for Jen as well as wider church and community type stuff. We are both very much looking forward to setting up our new home together and getting settled into a new community. We had some good news this week in that there is a potential home for us for the next few months where we can unpack and settle while we figure a few more things out; this news has been a real encouragement to us both.

One of the lines from a song at church this morning was "Your grace is enough." We are both mindful and thankful of how God has sustained us and been preparing the way for us as we wound our way towards New Zealand: there was no charge for Jen's work visa and her application for residency has been accepted but is on hold until we meet their requirement of being married for a year; border crossings that could have been complicated (driving across the US border in a borrowed car full of our Canadian possessions and me with just a tourist visa for the U.S.) were smooth; we have both been healthy the majority of the time; we have both felt generally blessed as we have traveled.

So with heavy but hopeful hearts it is time to take the longest flight of our travels so far. Our thanks to those who have celebrated with us, hosted us, fed us, cared for us and generally loved us. To those in the Northern hemisphere, bye for now, we will miss you. Those in the Southern, here we come. Next stop New Zealand.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Upon Reflection - Part 3

On to part three, and this time it's going to take a more visual approach.

One of our favourite things has been taking people on tours of the Vancouver region and introducing the local wildlife. It's amazing the difference between how we approach familiar and foreign animals; from my perspective I thought raccoons were really cute, but most North Americans are afraid of catching rabies from them, but they are far too cute to carry rabies!

I had the chance to have a brief prayer retreat on Galiano Island as well as a class on Living in Creation that was taught on the island. Prayer retreats were a new thing for me, but I have come to see the value of a change of context and a more contemplative setting in helping me focus and have a more attentive prayer life. The class on living in creation was one of the most difficult but also most helpful classes that I took (and if you'd asked me 18 months ago I would not have listed it as class that I would have considered taking, another example of how God has re-directed what I thought should be priorities). Perhaps one of the most helpful aspects of the class was that it was taught from the experience and in the home of a couple who really practiced what they taught.

Over Christmas and new year we had the chance to visit the capitols of both our home countries.

In February we got to visit Jen's family and friends in California (courtesy of an extended study break due to the winter Olympics being hosted in Vancouver).

In May we graduated with our Graduate Diplomas in Christian Studies.

For our honeymoon we drove up to the corner of British Columbia to Golden, where we stayed in a beautiful cottage by a river, with great views if the surrounding mountains. Golden is in the midst of three national parks, so while there we managed to visit both Yoho and Banff.

We had fun with both of our families, and I celebrated my birthday for the first time on American Independence day in the USA; I was all set to enjoy the firework display only we got there to find out that Sacramento, for some bizarre reason, had their display a day early.

We got to see some beautiful and scary sites in both of our home countries.

We visited some ancient sites and saw some signs that we did not understand.

Jen found us a new home, but I was less convinced.

We went punting in Cambridge and visited the Eagle and Child, which is the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien used to frequent.

We visited the Universities where we both studied (we couldn't visit all of Jen's as she did one term in New Hampshire, which was a tad too far to drive).

We visited San Fransisco so we wore flowers in our hair (scalp in my case), which I've wanted to do since I heard the song told me I should be sure to do so.

And we went on our first overnight camping trip in Lassen National park; it started off well but went down hill when we were woken by deer who persisted in eating the grass around our tent (though there was much much grass in other places) and when it hailed (which is virtually unheard of in September in California) and rained when we woke up.

There are many more photos that I could show, but these at least give a taste of where we have been and what we have seen.