Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nelson & Thanksgiving

JP and I live in Nelson. Here’s a picture of where we are on the map.

…and the weather forecast we had yesterday… 
Now we mentioned before that we’d come through Nelson already – and had to leave because we didn’t like our host. That brought us to Takaka – which is further West than Motueka (on the map). Then we spent some time backpacking in the Abel Tasman National Park, which is on the West side of the NW tip on the map. But after that we returned to Nelson again. We hoped to stay with and work for one of the places that had accepted us before – when we chose to go to Rainbow Valley – but absolutely every last one of them had WWOOFERs staying with them already.

But Nelson was where we wanted to be. We knew that from the first time we read about it in our travel book. We knew that with more certainty the first time we stepped foot in Nelson and had a look around.
And now that we’d returned again, we knew it even more.
There were farms on the North Island and further down South that needed WWOOFERs – just no one in Nelson – but we decided we were gonna wait this time until we found a place.
Nelson just seemed like our ideal place. It has a great little city feel. It’s not too big – you see the same faces again and again each day – and it’s not too small either. It’s nestled between the mountains and a beautiful bay, with the Able Tasman stretched out on one end, and the Marlboro Sounds on the other.  The town is adorable. There are a lot of Christians living here. And there are a lot of nearby outdoor activities.
Also… Nelson gets the most sun out of all the cities in New Zealand – fact.
We just had a good feeling about this place. :)

Haha… so this is a video that our friend Laura showed us. One of the kids in her theatre class made this. Now don’t you get a good feeling about Nelson too? :)

Now when we arrived we could have paid to stay in a backpacker’s hostel again, but the weather was incredible and ….we had begun to feel the urgency of our dwindling funds – so we decided to rough it. Now our mothers may not have been all too crazy about the idea.. but we had a car and each other and had spent our previous nights in a small tent - and we figured that if neither of us minded, then why not just stay in the car for a while?
We’d found an adorable park to stay by - with restrooms we could use - and we'd wake up to the sounds of children playing in the park with their parents. We'd dress in the restroom, come back out looking just as good as we would otherwise, and we'd walk into town for the day - TO THE LIBRARY - free internet - WHOO! then we'd walk back to the park when the library closed, pull out our portable stove, hook up our 2 person hammock between some trees, and relax. :) it was fun!

So we spent the whole of 3 days that way - emailing tons of WWOOFing hosts and applying for jobs - and it wasn't too bad. And walking through Nelson everyday, we were in love with the place. Finally we got a positive response back from Noa and Karl Parker on Thursday morning. They could take us for 1 week starting Saturday. awesome.  

Well, that Thursday also happened to be Thanksgiving. Sleeping in your car in a town where you don't know anybody isn't so bad, but on Thanksgiving, it can make a person pretty sad and homesick. And sadness and homesickness can be a pretty good motivator to change one's circumstances. So that morning I set out. JP went to the library to discover the good news from the Parkers, and I went to Nelson's iSite. What would we do without iSites?

I felt very silly when I got to the front of the line and asked the nice man if he knew of anywhere in town that would be holding an American Thanksgiving. He didn't seem too surprised by my question though - he must get all sorts of questions - and he earnestly tried to help. But after searching and asking around for a while, he'd found nothing - which is really what I'd expected. But in a last attempt of being helpful, he suggested that I try out walking a couple of blocks to the Nelson English Centre. He said that there are a couple of Americans working there and they might possibly know of something.

I think that's where I would normally have stopped and given up, but I though, "Meh.. why not?" I found the English Centre and met Marlene at the front desk. Marlene is an American woman from Minnesota - but I never would have guessed it because she grew up in a Polish community and does NOT sound American at all. But she was sooooooooo nice. Her and I talked for a while and she went back to her desk to see if the "Nelson American Society" was holding an event. Much to her dismay, they were not. And then she said, "Oh... well... you seem very nice, and normal, and can't guarantee anything, but I'll talk to my co-worker, Laura, who is also American to see if you might be able to have dinner with us." So she took my number and said she'd call at 12:30. 

Well.. it all worked out and that evening we showed up and Laura, and her partner, Luke's, house, where we met a wonderful combination of British and Kiwi folks. Laura's from Illinois and Luke's from Manchester, England. They met teaching English in South Korea and now have a sweet little 2 year old boy, Elijah - more often known as "Batman" or the velociraptor. 
We had the funnest time at their house that night. Laura and Luke are in a theatre group in town and we spent a lot of time talking with their friends Doug and Charlie - also from the group. It was actually a pretty traditional Thanksgiving dinner (besides the fact that we had chicken, not turkey) and JP and I got to introduce it to everyone. Except for Marlene and Laura, this was every one else's very first Thanksgiving dinner. So we had to share with them the original story of Thanksgiving and the meaning that it holds to us today. And everyone went around and shared what they were thankful for :)
And we had cranberry sauce
and candied yams
and green bean casserole
and we just had the best time getting to know everyone.
Laura and Luke, when they found out that we'd been sleeping in our car, insisted that we stay in their spare bedroom and forbade us from ever doing such a thing again.
And we set a date for the 4 of us to get together the next week to explore Cable Bay.

JP and I slept hard in that bed. 

The following Tuesday there was an interesting article in the newspaper.
Turns out that Charlie is one of the editor's for the local paper.... :)

...If you can't actually read this, I don't blame you... it's a blurry picture.
It reads:

"We were glad to see the holiday sharing spirit in full swing last week when two homesick American newlyweds felt the need to celebrate Thanksgiving.
       Jonathan and Ashley Post went to the most logical place to find out if Nelson was holding any celebrations - Nelson's i-SITE. Staff there directed the couple to the English Language Centre, where, to their delight, they met Laura Irish, and American who teaches at the school. Laura thought a last minute Thanksgiving was exactly what was needed, so she organized two large chickens (turkeys aren't in season) and a pile of Nelson friends to sit around the dining room table and share the American tradition. Let's see more of this, we say.
      The Posts are also looking for work so they can extend their stay in our fair city. If you have anything going, let us know."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Belated Post. 11/19-11/22

Tramping the Tasman.

After our lovely experience at Simon and Carol’s house in Rainbow Valley, Ashley and I we’re still trying to scrounge up some places for our next wwoofing house. But since we we’re already in Golden Bay and since Golden Bay is home to the glorious Abel Tasman National Park, we thought it would be perfectly appropriate for us to embark on a multi-day tramp! (Our first as a married couple and Ashley’s longest ever!)

So we went to the I-site in Takaka (pronounced like ‘tAc-uh-kuh’, not ‘te-kaka’.  I hope that makes sense… we still have to think twice before saying it J) and booked our 4 day/3 night hike along the Coastal Track.  There were a few different options for hikes, but the Coastal Track sounded the most appealing.  As it happens, tramping in Abel Tasman isn’t cheap.  To book a site for a tent was $12.5 per person per night, which is better than the $30 or $35 per person per night that the Huts cost* (we passed by the 5 or 6 huts as we were hiking, and they were surprisingly nice, but not worth $35 a night). And since we were booking a one-way trip, we had to purchase bus fare to get us to the trailhead as well.

*Sometimes I forget to keep in mind the exchange rate from NZD to USD (which is currently bout .77NZD to one USD) but it’s actually nice, because we save more money that way J

After booking the trip and grocery shopping (purchasing some much needed items like: a pot, eating utensils, and Tupperware bowls), we spent our last night in sand fly heaven: Rainbow Valley.  With an early departure the next morning, we were on the bus driving to the trailhead. We met a nice girl named Claire on the bus, and we ended up hiking with her for the first 4 miles.  I can’t remember where she was from, but I’ll let you know later once Ashley gets back from her Yoga class.  (She’s from Ireland)

The hike was b-e-a-utiful. It was unlike any multi-day hike I had ever done, traversing amazing beaches and surprisingly high views of the surrounding country.  We would do about 8 miles a day (usually a little more because we would take all the scenic routes) and about a mile of that was walking on beaches or tide-sensitive estuaries.  The beaches we’re almost always picture-perfect and bathed in golden sun.  We went swimming twice (except Ashley didn’t go the first time, despite my articulate beseeching) and the water was quite pleasant.  I would say it was probably about slightly-uncomfortable-swimming-pool temperature.

We stayed the first night in Totaranui, which was a huge campground with road access and a huge beach.  The part of the campground reserved for Coastal Track hikers had room for a whopping 80 tents, and yet we were the only campers that night! Unfortunately, the sand flies knew we were the only ones staying the night, so they threw a big party right next to our campsite.   Right after we had set up camp, we went swimming in the cool water (or more accurately, I went swimming) to wash all the sweat and smell off after a long day’s hike.

I was worried when we first signed up to do the hike, that since it’s one of New Zealand’s most traveled trails it would seem too public and not enough like we were actually backpacking.  In some senses, this was true.  Water taps and bathrooms were in every campsite, and trails were ridiculously well groomed.  But to our fortune, there really weren’t that many people on the track.  We mostly ran into people either during a low tide crossing or in big campsites.  But other than that, we had a pretty people-free hike J. We did meet some sweet Christian girls though  (one from British Columbia and one from Idaho).  Apparently about 150,000 people do the hike every year...

The next night we camped in a much smaller site, room only for 20 tents, and it rained on us all night.  Fortunately I remembered to put our packs under the rain-fly before going to bed, but UNfortunately the water pooled under the tent and soaked my pack J.  Later the next day we were able to dry out a bunch of our gear while we lounged on a subtropical sandbar waiting to cross the beach at low tide.  Behind the sandbar we floated out to the ocean down this sweet little channel that was about 3-4 feet deep and had a remarkably fast current.

Other highlights: we missed the bus going back to our car, so we had to do a 2-part hitch hike (first time for both of us) and we met a nice kid and a nice but kinda weird hippie couple.

 just leaving!

 first cool view

sweet coastline... not many looked like this, most were filled with golden sand

hikin' on the beach! 

 holes in rocks

 our lonely tent :/

 long tidal crossing

 It's a trap!

 elizabethan sheep

 bustin' out the old Whisper-liteTM
 child's pose

 rainy tidal crossing, waiting for the low tide.

 sweet bridge


Saturday, November 13, 2010

"What if the Hippies are right?" ~ bumper sticker from our Host's car :)

So right now JP and I are in a commune that started in 1974.

It’s wedged within a mountain range and can only be accessed by 1 small windy road that goes on for ages.
It’s gorgeous. We’re in the Golden Bay region near Able Tasman National Park and have begun to see some of the most incredible sights yet. And I’m just giddy with joy when I look around me because only 3 days ago, we had a 2½ month plan that involved us remaining stationary in Nelson. But that changed.

When JP and I arrived at our next intended Work Away destination in Nelson, we were there for 2 hours – and within those 2 hours we felt very uncomfortable with our new home. We both felt extremely belittled and disrespected by our rude and eccentric host that the first chance we got alone together we confirmed that we wanted to leave, and with me at his side, JP took a deep breath, went into big, brave man mode, and went and told Mr. Amber that we had changed our minds and didn’t feel his home was a good fit for us. We took our bags back out to the car ---- and we were safe.
What a relief! Oh man, we didn’t have a place to go, didn’t know what we were going to do, but relief is a good feeling. That man was bad news.

So we then spent the next 24 hours looking for a plan B. We officially joined WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), because it has a lot more host options than Work Away. We went through host after host and that night emailed around 30, and much to our excitement, immediately started receiving responses: “No, no, no, sorry we have someone, no, no, no, no….” We went to bed hopeful and woke up to a yes! –accompanied with many more nos. Wonderful! A yes!
3 hours later when we finally got a hold of the woman, we were informed that she’d backed out and just become another No. awesome.
 JP and I headed into town to look for an internet spot to start emailing more options, trying our hardest not to get too discouraged though we felt the weight of not belonging anywhere quite greatly.
We were about to walk into a coffee shop when Aha! We had an amazing idea. Maybe we could actually ask God for some help…
Wow, we felt so foolish as we thought back and realized that we hadn’t prayed at all for our new place in Nelson, and that when our plans fell through, we still didn’t pray.
Right away we found a bench, sat down together, and submitted to God.
And then guess what happened. The second we started emailing hosts, we once again got instant responses: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes…….
It was like the disciples when Jesus told them to put their nets on the other side of the boat after spending a day catching no fish. They caught so many that their boat started to sink. That was us. We suddenly became overwhelmed with too many options – but were very grateful. About 3½ hours later we’d crossed over into Golden Bay and slowly drove our way down a long road composed of two tire tracks in the grass making our way into Rainbow Valley. :)
It’s really very beautiful here.
My mom’s no hippie but I’m convinced that if she had it her way, she’d be living very similarly to these people. I’m overwhelmed with how to even begin describing this place.
JP and I are staying with Simon and Carol Jones. They live on the hillside in the commune in a house made up of 3 very small rooms: the living room/dining room, the kitchen/laundry room, and their bedroom/shower and sink. The “bathroom” is outside with two pieces of corrugated iron leaning together in an “A” shape and has a bucket – with a toilet seat on it. This is just for solids though. You go in, pull the cloth curtain that covers pretty much none of you, uh – use the bucket, cover the solids with sawdust, and put your used toilet paper in a burn pile.

JP and I are staying in a little cabin just a bit over the hill. :) We have no electricity, but we have candles and our headlamps. It’s SO cool. – at least I think it is. You go to sleep surrounded by awesome artwork and a window of the star-filled night sky, and you wake up to Taylor – the horse – spying in on you, hoping JP will wake up and give him another apple. “Now when you need to use the restroom (liquid form), just go on back behind your cabin.” Although they gave us a bucket yesterday and asked that if we wouldn’t mind, they’d like us to collect our urine because it’s quite good for the lemon trees. Ha.

Carol is 59 – but you’d never know it. She’s gorgeous and thin and feels perfectly comfortable walking around the neighborhood in nothing but a little blanket… Simon is 53 and is also in excellent health. They have 5 kids, the youngest being 21, and I believe 10 grandchildren. There were many children raised in the commune who are all now spread out throughout the world, travelling, studying, and working.

I have found myself very fortunate to be with them because like myself, Simon is gluten-intolerant, and we’re finally at a place that offers a diet I can really appreciate – and the food is SO good. Everything is organic. Most of what they provide is from their own garden or from someone else’s in the community.

For our first two days, we worked 6 hours each day instead of the required 4 so that we could have today off.
Friday JP built a fenced-in in area for the chickens they had just purchased and made his own stakes. I think he really enjoyed designing the whole thing and putting it together and introducing the chickens to their new home.
I started off by making a raised garden bed, creating a pathway that would go between this new vegetable garden, and planting corn. Then I went on to weed around their green house.
After lunch JP and I went down the hill to create a vegetable patch and plant potatoes. While JP weeded the area, I dug furrows, filled them with fresh horse manure, covered them with dirt, making the ground level again, and then JP and I set the sprouting spuds atop the rows I created and covered them with pieces of sod that JP had overturned.  Lastly we piled hay between the rows.

And we were done. And we were HOT. From pretty early in the day it hit 29 degrees Celsius (about 85 degrees Fahrenheit) with constant sun beating down on us. We were covered in dirt, sweat, and sand flies (despite our efforts to repel them with the Jones’ homemade ointment). And so we headed towards the sounds of rushing water and found an awesome water hole in a river going past the commune. It was exactly what we needed. At one part of the river, the water was several inches above JP’s head. And the water was so perfectly clear and wonderful. It was such a great reward for a hard days work.
On our trek back we almost fully dried off in the sun, and made friends with a family of goats and a kitten that followed us everywhere we went.
After dinner, we had the evening to ourselves, while Carol went to an art exhibition opening in town and Simon went deer hunting with a friend.
Yesterday was another very hot and sunny day. JP spent it painting stain onto their house.
I started out by planting beans and tomatoes. Next Carol brought me down to meet their goats Linda and Mollie and their three kids. We led Mollie across the field to finish milking her (because the kids don’t manage to get all her milk) and I GOT TO MILK A GOAT!  Woo. And it was hard. I couldn’t get much out at a time, but Mollie was very patient with me. After that Carol led me to THE coolest little structure that was built for milking goats. It’s been built with cement, the windows from an old truck, and colorful bottles (which allow light through and are like double paned windows). The built in bench was covered in tar, goat droppings, dirt, and hay and needed to be cleaned so that the kids could be weaned off their moms and the locals could again have a place to milk them. That was a fun job J but I got it spotless.

After that we ate lunch with Simon and Carol quite quickly before they left for a peace seminar being held at a nearby lighthouse. Apparently they themselves set up the local peace group back in the early 80’s and were excited to be hosting a well known pacifist from WWII. They advised JP and I to take a couple hours off, as it was the hottest part of the day – so JP took a nap with his head in my lap while I read to him from the biography of C.G. Jung.
Oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned yet, both Simon and Carol are therapists! They’re drama psychotherapists and have their own rehabilitation center in town. So cool. Their shelves are stocked with psychology books and they have a giant painting of C.G. Jung on the focal point of their living room wall. J Therapy was pretty much all we talked about the first night.

After some time JP couldn’t nap any longer because of the heat, so we tramped back down and found a different watering hole that Simon and Carol had suggested to us and went swimming in the cold river until we couldn’t bear the sand flies any longer – then got back to work.
That evening Simon went out to a “mens only” barbeque in the valley and Carol went to join some of her friends for dinner, and to their suggestion, JP and I cuddled up in the living room and watched: Lord of the Rings. :) yup. Pretty great.

We generally sleep really well in our cabin, but last night was really hot – and my sand fly bites kept me up a lot.  I gotta say while NZ is awesome, I think the sand flies are unbearable. I’ve probably complained about this already, but they’re EVERYWHERE and their bites itch like crazy for a good 9-14 days, and if you scratch them, they leave red scars. :( The kiwis are immune to them. I am not.

This morning JP and I drove into town and found ourselves a sweet little community church. God has really blessed us thus far with the churches we found ourselves in. Every town has at least 1 Anglican church and at least 1 Catholic church, but not all have anything more. But we’ve found some great non-denominational churches where we have found people who know the word of God and are passionate about encouraging each other and raising their children in the way.
I’m really thankful for God’s leading in that way because most people in NZ are not at all religious. And when I say most, that’s 97%. And what we do find quite a lot of are enlightened – guru-seeking-spiritual people. And while I enjoy the peace they try to encourage, their yoga, the way they dress :), their organic/self-sustainable/non-consumerism/caring for the Earth (as we all should do) – ways, the widely accepted Hindu-influenced spiritualism I see here saddens me. And yes, I’m surprised to so easily find true followers of Christ. Because really! The fact that JP and I are married surprises EVERYONE. They say, “wow, we didn’t know that your generation was still interested in marriage.” Everyone asks us if we knew each other before we began travelling in NZ. Hmmm. No, I don’t think I’m blind to this world, but I didn’t expect such shock and demands for explanation for our life choices that I still considered traditional at least.

But enough of my ranting.
I’m going to ask JP if there’s anything he wants me to include…

Haha – nope!

(He’s reading Jurassic Park)

Well, once we leave this (freaking) sweet vegan café that’s been converted from an old theatre :), we’re gonna make a few calls and head over to Whaririki (sp?!) Beach, which is supposed to be the ultimate. And we’ll try our best to include some of those pictures on this here blog.

Big love to all of you out there. We miss and frequently reflect on our family and friends. Please pray for our travels, for open doors, and for our young marriage. You guys are sweet to read this. Much thanks! J

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Good morning everyone, this is JP speaking.

So first I want to apologize to all of you lovely people who've been waiting, fruitlessly, over a month for our next blog entry to appear.  As most of you know, we have very limited internet here in New Zealand and during this past month at Hopewell Lodge in Kenepuru Sound we've been using up most of our 100MB download limit per week of internet to look up fun things like: butter volume conversion (cups to grams), horrible-for-you-filled-with-butter-and-sugar baked goods, facebook (of course), ipod apps, and whether Keira Knightly really is Natalie Portman's (or Queen Amidala's) double in Star Wars.

The good news is, we're finally in Nelson.

We arrived yesterday (11/9) around 5pm  at "The Bug" Backpackers lodge and checked into our dorm room. Ashley had mentioned a few times that she wanted to experience the New Zealand dorm life, so instead of paying an extra $15 for our own room, we booked a bunk bed in a conglomerate of 6 international travelers.  Ashley and I shared a bunk bed (she was on the top bunk) and we went to sleep after watching an episode of Arrested Development on her laptop. Anyoung (안녕). I just woke up after a night of hot restless sleep that reminded me of my freshman year in an all-boys dorm  at SPU.  Now I'm sitting outside enjoying a nice luke-warm cup of instant coffee (for those of you who don't know what instant coffee is, you make it by filling your cup about 50% with sugar, 3 or 4% instant coffee powder, and 25%  hot or luke-warm water)  Side note: Harry Potter 7 episode 1 comes out on the 17th here, and we're pretty excited about that. When does it come out in the states?

Today, we start our first day "wwoofing"at the Amber House in Nelson.  More on that once it happens.  I don't want to frighten anyone, but apparently the guy that runs the place has been legally banned from the Nelson i-site (visitor center) for verbally abusing one of the receptionists whom we talked to :/ But I talked to him on the phone, and I didn't feel abused.  Go figure.

So regarding the past month at Hopewell, it was a complete blast.  It's crazy to think that we haven't mentioned ANY of it on our blog, so ill spend a few lines summarizing it and add some funny stories.

People we met at Hopwell that are worth mentioning (in order of appearance):

Mike - owner & manager of all farming & manly things at Hopewell, including but not limited to: tractors, 4WD trucks, chainsaws, butchering sheep, driving boats, smoking fish, playing guitar, cooking, and lighting fires.
Lynnley - Mike's Fiancee and owner & manager of everything else at Hopewell, including but not limited to: cleaning, cooking, hospitality, being in charge, weeding, being really nice and awesome.
Blacky (cat) - sheds a lot, very friendly and likes to sleep by the fireplace.  We became good friends.
Honey (cat) - Not as sociable, tries to steal food from your plate with paw, lots of long fur.
Weka (flightless bird) - relative to the kiwi, easily explains why kiwis/wekas are endangered. Not afraid of humans, diet of mainly bread and food scraps, female only has one foot (Stumpy), make's weird and annoying sounds and its droppings are very pungent.
Jill - previous wwoofer at Hopewell, intended to stay 3 weeks and actually stayed 5 months.  Close friend of Mike & Lynnley, back-up manager of Hopewell.  Very clever, witty, and sarcastic.  Intelligent and fun to be around (when not working).

Funny stories and interesting people, to be continued. Here are some pictures!

on the 2.5 hour drive to Hopewell... ridiculously curvy roads.

 JP, Ashley, Anne

 Fishing @ 6am 

Ashley's first fish!!

 Weka - cousin to the kiwi

 getting ready for dinner.

 Ashley makes some new friends.

View from the top of Mt. Stokes, 1200ft, it's supposed to be beautiful and you can see about 50% of NZ... we saw lots of fog.

 But it was still cool :)

 Love on Mt. Stokes

 Yeah, purple mushrooms... trippy

 Inside our last-night fort, playing liars dice.

Outside our fort :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sunday 10-3

Sunday began with Ashley and I writing in the Jury’s guestbook.  We happily reviewed all the awesome experiences we had at the farm, and reluctantly expressed our parting feelings.  We decided to leave my set of Buckyballs with the family.  While I was definitely attached to them, Ashley and I both felt that the little magnetic balls would be enjoyed significantly more by the Jury family (as we had seen the previous few weeks)

The family, and us, spent about 45 min hanging out with the farm animals: CJ, Milly, and the $15,000 pregnant Alpacas.  Lambchops (the smaller lamb) wasn’t as cool as CJ, so we didn’t really hang out with him.  Jesse rode on the goat, Milly, but not for very long because she was a speedy goat.

For brunch, Sharyn made pancakes (we would more accurately call them crepes), with whipped cream/jam/syrup/ and other very delicious and healthy materials J. They were supreme.

Ashley and I packed and cleaned, and then Sharyn Tony and I recorded 5 or 6 of their songs.  It was a pretty awesome run through, we only had to redo 3 or 4 songs, and they burnt the songs on a CD for Ashley and I to listen to on the car ride to Wellington. Sweet!

It was an emotional goodbye. We really didn’t want to go. The experience at the Jury farm was a great one and we will be hard-pressed to meet a more welcoming, fun, loving, and hospitable bunch of folks.  Thanks so much to Tony, Sharyn, Jesse, and Corban for everything! We love you guys J 

And thus our drive to Wellington began.  We hadn’t gone 10 miles before realizing we had left a pair of sunglasses in Tony’s ute :/ so we spun around and Sharyn graciously met us at the main road and handed them off.  The drive from the Jury’s house to our couch in Wellington took us about 5 hours, not bad for a bunch of tourists.

We were welcomed into Jon and Rebecca’s home by Eric, the other couch surfer, at about 8pm.  It just so happened that Eric was from Puyallup, WA and Jon was from Connecticut and had lived in Seattle and Alaska for 4 or 5 years…  Weird coincidence?  Since we got there pretty late, we just spent a few hours getting to know each other before we headed off to sleep.  Jon showed us some of his flying lessons that he had videotaped, and also a recording of him hang gliding (so cool!!!). 

We welcomed sleep gladly after a very draining day; unfortunately the hard floor only had a very thin layer carpet to cushion our bodies…

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Saturday 10/2

Today JP got to herd cattle with Tony, separating one Tony’s cows from another man’s cows. Tony would allow the cows from one group to exit through a gate while JP tried to herd the wrong ones a way by scaring them with clicking sounds and swatting them on the behind with a stick. He had a blast doing it and said he felt like a real life farmer. J
Meanwhile I was washing dishes – feeling a little jealous. But that’s ok because JP had to go back out to the field with a hoe in the hot sunshine to wack away at thistles, while I got to learn how to transplant flowers with Sharyn from Grandma Celia’s garden.
That afternoon for lunch, we ate delicious corn fritters. I’m for sure gonna learn how to cook those! Corban and Jesse gobbled most of them down. J
After lunch we hopped in the truck, which they call a ute, and went to the walkway (or waterfront) in New Plymouth, where we met Shay, Nicki, and their 2 little girls, Summer and Keely. The boys got to bring their bicycles. It was kinda cold because of all the wind down there… but it was gorgeous and we loved it. We’d thought about going to a rugby game, the whole family that is, but we decided to stay in that night and enjoy our last night all together. After the boys went to bed, JP and I played a couple of games with Tony and Sharyn and had so much fun. We played Carcassonne again. And Tony won again. J lame.

Friday 10/1

Today we learned that alpacas are crazy expensive… like $15,000 each!

Because the sun came out early… whoo hoo! We got to go out and do yardwork – weeding the garden and hoeing thistles. We got to actually see Mt. Taranaki for the first time… and it is B-E-A-Utiful.
We also bought our car and drove it home, which was SOOO exciting.
The band came over that evening for practice – fun as usual J
And JP and I bought our ferry tickets (which amounted to about $300!). 

Thursday 9/30

As of tonight we've been here for a 2-week stretch. And we've had 2 weeks of downpour, with a couple of brief sun-breaks.
We leave for Wellington on Sunday morning. And according to the weather forecast, Sunday afternoon and thereafter is expected to be fine.
We're rather convinced we're cursed.  
While we've been here, the rain catcher broke and the house ran out of water, there have been a lot of internet problems, many sheep and lambs have died, as well as a few calves and cows, oh and it feels like there's been much much more, but I seem to be going blank.
No matter, they seem to like us anyway. :)

Today as the rain poured down, Sharyn and Tony decided to give us the day off – again – because they were out of indoor tasks to do. We felt pretty useless… but used the time to make preparations for our departure… such as a finding a bus ride to Wellington, finding a place to stay the night in Wellington, purchasing ferry tickets to the South Island, arranging a water taxi to take us to the lodge.
JP found a bus we could take and bought our tickets. We had been looking for a car for a while but hadn’t been able to find anything cheap enough.
That afternoon, Sharyn asked to play another round of Carcassonne! J and then Tony got in from town with awesome news.
He’d found a car, a navy blue Mitsubishi Galant being sold right in our price range from a mechanic friend of his. Tony took us out to the car lot so we could inspect the car and take it for a drive. And it was awesome. We made arrangements to purchase it the following day after the owner updated the car’s warrant, proving it to be in fit condition.
It turned out the bus tickets were non-refundable…. But whatever, we got an awesome deal on a car.
Thank you, Tony!
And thank you, Lord!!

Wednesday 9/29 –

Wednesday was my (Ashley’s) 23rd birthday. And it was awesome. J Tony and Sharyn wouldn’t let us work that day but insisted it would be a day of fun. When JP and I came upstairs for breakfast, after we’d played a celebratory game of Carcassonne before even brushing our teeth, the Jury’s gave me a birthday present they’d prepared for me. J It was so cute. They’d caught on to my adoration of baby lambs and had made me a birthday card with two very cute little lambs on the front, gave me a very soft little lamb puppet (haha – puppet…. After the muppet party…. J), a lamb juice glass, and lots and lots of chocolates. J perfect.
That day we all (all except Tony) went to the Aquatic Center in New Plymouth where we went swimming, zoomed down waterslides, maneuvered through floaty obstacle courses, and relaxed in the hot tubs. J I hadn’t been to a place like that in years. It was awesome. The place was a lot more daring and less monitored than a typical American aquatic center, which had a lot more potential for danger, but definitely allowed the kids there to have more fun. J
After that we went to a roller-skating rink (another activity I hadn’t done in forever… and discovered that Sharyn was actually quite gifted at skating…. I think she should join a roller derby team. And after that, we went to a museum in New Plymouth. It was quite the busy day. :)
That night, after the boys went to bed, JP and I finally taught Tony and Sharyn Carcassonne – and they loved it! And Tony won. J Him and I battled over the fields THE entire game… and he managed to beat me.
As we went to bed…. our day of 9/29/10 ended, but on the other side of the world, the day of 9/29/10 began. J and I felt like I got 2 birthdays.

Tuesday 9/28

Tuesday the rain took a break and Tony had us out on the deck – water blasting (power-washing) the glass of the railings, and bleaching the actual deck and the sides of the house. JP completely destroyed his jeans, t-shirt, and zip-up hoodie with that crazy powerful bleach – but we had a blast.
That same day Tony moved the alpacas from one field (on top of the hill) to another (the one right by the house!). This was exciting news for me. JP and I had gone for a walk through the farm lands a couple days before and had encountered the alpacas who came racing up to inspect us, and we’d found ourselves positively enthralled with them. J
Now upon the arrival of 4pm, Ian Finer pulled into the driveway to steal us away once more. We’d made arrangements to spend time with the Finers one last time to see their dairy farm and eat dinner at their house.
So Ian took us straight out to one of the milking houses where the cows were all lined up from the fields to enter in on a bit of a merry-go-round upon which they’re mechanically milked on for a couple of minutes before being released once more onto their grazing fields.
And I got to milk cows. J It was awesome. Yes it was mechanical – but I still got poop on my arms, got peed on, and got kicked in the shoulder and swatted in the face with a tail – and it was all very invigorating. :) Now, sure it’s mechanical, but it still takes so skill to quickly apply the sucky-tubes to each nipple on the udders. At least, I felt like it took some skill….
Next we went in to the calf house – where the calves of all the local school children were being raised. Good lordy were they cute. The grandchildren of the two farm workers filled up the milk sacks for the calves, and we got to feed the calves muesli out of our hands and feel them suck on our fingers. J
Next we got to meet the big, old pigs ( who STUNK like none other!) and tried to the stop the little boy from throwing rocks at them… poor, stinky pigs. Ian Finer, who now has made quite a name for himself, told us about 30 years before when he’d first built the milking house with just about no money. :) Pretty incredible.
He took us back to his house where Janet was cooking away and refused any form of assistance. They encouraged us to enjoy the sunshine in their yard while waiting for dinner to start. So JP and I took some time examining their beautiful garden before planting ourselves on their porch swing.

Ian and Janet have 4 daughters and 1 son… so 5 kids, who have each married and bore 3 kids. That evening their daughter from Wellington, her police officer husband, and their 3 teenage daughters joined all of us for dinner. And we had the best time getting to know them. We all sat around the dinner table for hours, enjoying a wonderful meal of sheep, yams unlike we’ve ever seen, cooked pumpkin, and apple-blueberry crumble with hokey pokey ice cream for dessert (hokey pokey ice cream is vanilla with chunks of honeycomb mixed in). We enjoyed conversation about American stereotypes, political associations, media, the police force, alcohol, and yada-yada-yada. We thought they were delightful and that their daughters were charming.
We thanked them all profusely and then Ian brought us home. J We got back at 10pm.

Monday 9/27

We woke up Monday morning a bit earlier than usual because Sharyn had come downstairs and was calling our names. She wanted to know if one of us wanted to step in and help out at Tony’s sister’s café. One of Deb’s employees had called in sick that morning and she was already short. Tony ended up bringing both of us over. So we spent the day working at a café called BB’s in New Plymouth.
First thing we were given work shirts. JP had accidentally been given a woman’s shirt, which was too tight, too showed, his midriff, and made him look like he had breasts. After everyone had a good laugh over it, they found him a more appropriate BB’s shirt, and we got working. The two of us picked up pretty fast: preparing orders, serving tables, and cleaning tables. It was a lot of fun, but we were both reminded how exhausting food jobs are. When we took our lunch, Deb said we could eat anything we wanted. JP got a hot enchilada (and burned the skin in the top of his mouth off L) and I got a corn fritter topped off with a roasted tomato, bacon, brie, and hollandaise sauce. Yes we were tired. Yes we were extremely hungry. But still, I’m pretty sure those were the two best dishes of food we’ve ever had. BB’s rocks.
We also got to learn how to make milkshakes – and drink them. J
Around 3:30 or 4, Grandma Celia came to pick us up. And much to our surprise, Deb paid us $100. We had thought that we were working just as workaway people at the café instead of the farm, but apparently not. Deb also thanked us profusely for saving her butt (it had been a really busy day). And with our new $100, we went straight to the electronic store and bought ourselves a cell phone. It felt real good.
Celia drove us home and we sat in the car talking with her for a while (she’s fully of all kinds of crazy stories) then went inside. That night we stayed up late talking and laughing with Tony and Sharyn. We’re beginning to feel a lot closer to them and really like the relationship we’re developing. It’s an interesting combination between, employer’s, parents, and buddies. We’re really thankful that we ended up with a couple like them. They’re great parents, and are so good to each other and the people around them. They’re also very wise – yet very fun-loving. I think we’re learning a lot from them in regards to the kind of household we’d like to run and the kind of people we’d like to be.

Sunday 9/26

Morning came way too fast.
Springtime daylight savings was the reason (not to mention the late night Muppet party). We had no idea it was coming. Luckily our itouch, which JP had set to New Zealand settings, automatically prepared for the time change. Wrong night to lose an hour tho. JP had stayed up super late trying to scrub the blue off from his hands. It didn’t work. And he received inquiries about them for the rest of the day.
Ian and Janet Finer picked us up for church and that day there was a baptism and communion service at Knox followed by a afternoon church potluck where a couple named Graham and Judy invited us to join them and their family for Christmas if we’d like to – awesome – and I met one of Sharyn’s friend’s, Di (short for Dianne) who I spent most of the time talking with about her experience with Christian therapy – which was SOOOO cool and I really wish I could have spent more time with her. Before the Finers took us home, we stopped at the grocery store where we encountered the selling of oxen livers and sheep brains.
That afternoon JP and made brownies for the fam and relaxed, playing games with Jesse and Corban.

Saturday 9/25

All day Saturday was spent in preparations for the muppet party. The night before, Tony had constructed a mask for JP out of paper maché. JP just needed to paint and detail Gonzo’s face. That day, the Jury’s had masses of guests dropping in and out. We got to meet Tony’s mother, Celia, who is absolutely adorable. She lives in a house on a lower piece of the farm property. She shared loads of old stories with us as JP made hair out of pipe cleaners and I assembled giant eyelashes to look like the muppet Janice.
Closer to 7pm, I mixed orange face paint with nasty $2 store foundation and began brushing it on as JP painted his hands blue. Now I’m convinced that more than anything, I looked like a clown or an old woman who was no longer able to apply her makeup, but everyone around me insisted that my costume was perfect. I don’t think they would have actually had any idea who I was if I hadn’t made an electric bass guitar out of cardboard. J
Tony and Sharyn were for sure the best though. J Sharyn was Dr. Teeth and Tony was Bert. Oh man they looked so funny. Tony already shaves his head, so they just had to add black fuzzy stuff to give him Bert’s goofy hairdo. Sharyn painted herself green and gave herself a red beard. They looked awesome.
Now this nighttime, early spring during a storm party – was outdoors. It was cold. I stood next to the bonfire most of the time, which was where most of the people were standing (go figure) so I got to meet a lot of people.
One person in particular was really interesting. I talked with a man, a dairy farmer, who spent about half an hour trying to convince me that America is the best country on the planet – not an opinion one would expect off shore (nor onshore for the most part). He told me that while New Zealand might be one of the best possible places to live, as a country, they’re extremely lacking. And went on to tell me how economically and morally (yes morally) no other country can compare to the US. He also told me all the things he wants to do in the US when he gets the chance to go, including motorcycling from coast to coast and spending a couple of months trekking through Montana. As he went on and on (JP was drumming with the band for a lot of the night) I began to feel that he knew more about my country than I did, and began to long to return actually. He kept talking about all these amazing places that, well yeah, I’d love to go to as well. It’s funny. The US really is a pretty incredible place, with so much diversity and so much to see, but when I dream of travelling, it tends to be internationally. Funny. I still think it’s good to get out though – for perspective.
Well, we talked, danced, sang, drummed, and generally had an awesome time with all the other muppets – until around midnight ---- and then JP and I left as the party raged on through the rest of the night. The Jury’s let us take one of the cars to get back to the house to get cleaned up before church in the morning. 

Friday 9/24

Last Sunday the church in Waitara that Sharyn brought us to was called Knox. There we met a couple called Ian and Janet Finer. They walked straight up to us and pretty much asked why we were at their church. J They were dairy farmers who knew the name Jury well – though they’d never met Tony and Sharyn. They’d known Tony’s father, who’d passed away about 3 years prior.

They asked us what our plans were and when we told them we only had 2 more weeks in the Taranaki area, Ian protested that we were foolish to want to leave the “gem” of New Zealand. He continued to tell us that him and his wife would like to have us over to their farm and would call up to the Jury farm to set a date. J
So they called up to the house that same day and arranged with Sharyn to take us – all day – the following Friday. We sort of felt like little kids who’s parents arrange their play-dates for them. J Haha – but we were Tony and Sharyn’s property and if they were willing to part with us for a day, that was their decision. :) We were real surprised they let us off the hook from working that day.
So – come Friday, Sharyn dropped JP and I off on her way to taking the boys to school. Ian and Janet were so nice. They brought us in for coffee and first thing gave us their telephone and told us we should call home and talk to our parents – which we hadn’t had a chance to do yet in the couple of weeks we’d been in the country.
So I called my momma J who I assumed would be at work. But she wasn’t at work. She was at home! So we chatted away for a while – probably for too long… :) and I got to hear a bit about how my brothers were doing, and that my parents were busy tearing apart our kitchen some more. :)
Then JP called home and got a hold of his mom (/my mom!) and talked with her for a while.
We talked with the Finers for the while. Ian is HILARIOUS and tells a lot of the kind of jokes that make a person unsure of whether he’s kidding or not – until he breaks out with a giant smile. And Janet reminds me of my grandma Marguerite because she looks a lot like her. And Janet is just darling.
Well the two of them had a whole itinerary planned out for the day. So we all hopped into their Holden (side note – it’s a big running joke of some sort between the Kiwis here of competing Holdens vs. Fords… we don’t quite get it…. Haha).
That day we would fully encircle Mt. Taranaki and make many stops along the way.
As we drove they showed us the dairy farms and explained to us all about running a dairy farm in New Zealand – and a bit of the history.
They took us to a crude oil storage place, where we got to learn about Taranaki’s first off shore oil drill which was shipped over all the way from Japan. It took 3 months just to float it here.
Next they drove us to THE dairy plant, which all the dairy farmers sell their milk to. They explained the process of creating condensed milk, told us about all the countries they sell their dairy products to, and showed us the huge milk tankers that drive around daily to the dairy farms to transport their milk – the same milk tankers that Tony used to drive when he was younger.
Next they brought us to the Tawhiti Museum in Hawera where a rather famous man named Nigel ______(?) has constructed many life sized models and extremely detailed miniature models of life in the Taranaki area throughout history. And we learned a lot – all about the Maori’s, and the British traders, settlers, and military, and conflict, etc. We were ashamed of how little we knew. The school system has let us down. But yeah, this museum was incredible. We spent about 3 hours going through it with the Finers. They also bought us lunch in the cute little museum café. And much to Janet’s amusement, she tricked me into going into a fake bathroom. Haha, when I asked to go to the bathroom, she led me to an outhouse. I knocked on the door and she encouraged me to go in. When I opened the door I jumped back and apologized to an embarrassed looking man sitting on the toilet who lowered his newspaper and looked at me in horror.
And he was made out of wax. Awesome. Janet sure got a kick out of it.
And I developed an anxiety disorder.
J I’ve had a few too many bad bathroom experiences. I am from here on out paranoid.
After the museum, the Finer’s drove us through the most beautiful, mountainous land, covered in sheep and their lambs. We even got to see part of the form of Mt. Taranki as the sun set and shone through the clouds (it was the most clarity we’d experienced thus far due to the storm).
Lastly the Finers took us out for dinner! These people! And they took us to a buffet dinner. It wasn’t anything like an American buffet either. It was fine, good eatin. They had a cheese buffet and a seafood buffet and all sorts of incredible dishes. I tried an oyster for the first time. It hadn’t been cooked. I could barely stomach it. And that involved drinking it down with my coffee and stuffing other foods in my mouth to minimize the flavor and texture. Oh man.
But besides the slimy, watery, salty, chunky oyster, we had a lovely time eating and talking with the Finers.
We were blown away by them. They invested in us so much, and didn’t even know us. Truly beautiful people. They offered to pick us up Sunday morning for church and we accepted.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday 9/23

We’re rather embarrassed to say we STILL haven’t done any farm work – the storm rages on, and Tony and Sharyn would rather we work indoors. We think we could handle working outside. We’re pretty tough!
And Tony does farm work outside each day.
But they’re really nice – and I dunno, maybe they don’t want sick workers. :) So we stick to the house work and baking.

Today we stripped the wallpaper from Tony and Sharyn’s bedroom walls – and next week we’ll probably be re-pasting some wallpaper back onto the walls.

This evening the band members came back over for one more practice. Sharyn pulled out some pictures albums of her and Tony for us to look through. The two of them met here in Waitara when they were 14 years old at a New Years Party on the beach (it’s Summer here for Christmas and New Years!) and started dating right there and then, even though Sharyn lived on the East coast in Napier. They got to see each other about 3 times a year after that and could talk on the phone for 10min/week, so they mostly wrote letters. They waited to get married until they were 21. We’ve loved learning their story, so it was really fun getting to look through at the pictures of them growing up from when they were really pretty young. Sharyn still has a scrapbook she started when they first met, which is so cute to look at. Hearing their story reminds me a lot of my little brother Jonathan and his girlfriend Rosie. :)

Wednesday 9/22

Today we vacuumed, polished the floors, and cleaned out the indoor swimming pool, which was filled with icky dead worms and spiders.

One of the calves died today and another is very sick. Calves and lambs all over the country have been dying from the storm because of flooding and then just the bitter cold. It’s been pretty devastating for many of the farmers on the south island – they’ve been having all kinds of snow as well. I think it’s just really sad, especially for the people in Christchurch. With the 7.4 earthquake that occurred shortly before JP and I arrived in NZ, many of the people of Christchurch have lost their homes. There have been aftershock earthquakes almost daily since the 7.4 one, most of which are quite large. It must be very difficult for the people there because they can’t quite start rebuilding and the storm just makes things worse.

Tuesday 9/21

I (JP) woke up this morning at 630am to join Tony and watch one of their cows get slaughtered. We had a bit of coffee and drove down just past the pasture in front of their house, and we met the two men who Tony hired to slaughter the cow.  Tony first had to convince the cow to walk toward us, confirming once again the cow’s aloofness (as we were all standing behind the closest fence, one of the men holding a scoped .22), and then the man shot the animal perfectly between the eyes.  I was surprised how suddenly it dropped, its legs contracted and the dead weight fell quickly to the ground.  Immediately after it fell, the two men ran over and started to cut it apart.  First they cut off the head, with buckets and buckets of blood flowing onto the muddy grass.  They were considerably accurate with their knives.  

I didn’t expect it when the butcher stuck his knife sharpener down the cow’s now fully exposed throat and thrusted it back and forth for about a minute.  I wasn’t sure whether he was causing the heart to beat more rapidly or whether he was rubbing the rod along the spinal nerves, but whatever he did was causing the cow’s body and legs to spasm violently. They proceeded to cut off the feet (which was to avoid getting kicked in the face) and then to completely skin the cow.  They used the lift on the back of their truck to raise the hindquarters of the cow into the air for easier access.  After about 20 minutes the cow was cut into two halves, the feet, head, tail, and entrails were piled on the ground, and they drove the two hanging halves back to their trailer for storage.

I feel like I handled the whole event pretty well, the only parts that I had a difficult time with were the slimy intestines (which were expanding and contracting all by themselves), the tons of blood, and how the body continued to quiver and spasm even after is was fully dismembered.  Oh, and one of the kidneys was really bloated looking so I asked the guy if it was a tumor, but he said it was just filled with fluid and he popped it with his knife!  Luckily I jumped back in time to keep the fluids from getting in my gum boots J

For work today we drove with Tony and Sharyn out to their rental house – about 45 minutes South – to clean it up, while Sharyn met with potential tenants to show them around. The house was freezing and the wind was crazy strong – so we worked fast. We basically just gave everything a good scrub over, along with Sharyn, while Tony was Mr. Fix-it, replacing broken appliances.

In the afternoon when the boys got home, Tony took JP, Jesse, and I out on the motocross track with one of his big rickety trucks. Umm, it was terrifying. :) Before we went on the track he drove right up to this ledge, overlooking the track – and I thought we were gonna die… or at least I thought the truck would somersault over the edge. Oh good lord. Both JP and I were terrified. Umm, but somehow that didn’t happen, and we spun around and went down to the track. A lot of that area was inaccessible because of flooding from the storm, but Tony took us over a couple of jumps – and yeah, like I said, it was terrifying. I don’t know why I was such a wimp. I love going on crazy rides and roller-coasters.  Maybe it’s because rides are so well controlled… whereas it felt that it wouldn’t take much at all for us to spin out of control and nosedive straight into the ground. I don’t think I’m cut out for four-wheeling. :) I’d at least never take the wheel.

We got stuck in the mud once on our journey back, but Tony safely returned us back to the house. JP, Jesse, and I then joined Corban in feeding little CJ and we enjoyed frolicking around the farm with him. He’s so cute… he’ll just follow you anywhere – so close to your feet, you have to be careful not to trip over him. And if you kneel down and call to him, he’ll come running right into your arms, and start butting you with his mouth, in search of your udder. He’s convinced I have an udder under my knee.

Later on, enjoyed a fun couple 2 or 3 games of Carcassonne with the boys. First game, Corban, the youngest, beat us. And he aaaaaaaaaalmost did the 2nd time.
We haven’t taught Sharyn and Tony yet, but we will. :)

Monday 9/20

This morning JP and I woke up to what we thought was one of the boys yelling, “MOM! MOM! MOM!” And when it didn’t cease, we finally ran upstairs to find out what was happening. But the sound was coming from out the door in the mudroom and was actually just little CJ bleating desperately – so we ran out to comfort him. He was trembling – and had peed in all of JP’s shoes. :) He’s warmed up to people really fast and spent the whole day trying to come inside. We’ve had so much fun playing with him and feeding him. He’s just so darn, freaking cute. Little lamb.

Today we washed the windows  - from the inside as the storm beat down on them from the outside – and then we baked cookies and chocolate crunch bars… all of which disappeared quite quickly. Yum! Haha  I love it. I’ve noticed that instead of saying, “it’s really good,” they’ll say, “it’s quite nice,” and instead of saying, “it’s delicious,” they say, “this is really yum!”
Yeah its not a big deal. I just like the way they talk.