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


  1. sigh. ashley. I love you! jp, your awesome. I love reading your words ash because I can hear you talking and where you emphasize ;-) Sometimes it's crazy how sometimes we can become so consumed in life that we forget that Jesus is here to come a long side us and guide us through. I'm so glad to hear everything has worked out for the best and you two are working hard. I'm really proud of you two. So blessed to get to read about your journey. And i love that you watched lord of the rings! I remember the feeling of watching Gladiator in Rome when i went with Chris and Eric. Such an awesome feeling.

    I pray that you will be encouraged to know that you are two extremely blessed people and ASHLEY, you have an extremely amazing influence and I pray boldness over you and JP to share the gospel in a real relevant way that God will give you the words to say in each situation but that you pray God to use you, and he will and as you let him, amazing things will happen, miracles will be done and Jesus will be glorified.

    I love you and am expectant for what God is going to do in you and through you two while your on this wonderful journey. Wish we could be there with ya'll.

    Also, Ashley I had an amazing dinner tonight with your uncle Rodger and aunt Jana tonight. Talked very highly of you as always, and we all just had a moment together thinking of you. Missing you. You are such a gem and I pray for many women to come to know Jesus because of you and your joy and love for people.

    Freaking miss you!!! Goodnight my dear, God bless you two on this amazing adventure!!!!!!!!!!! May you make many good memories together!

    Love, Derek and Tessa

    P.S. Derek says HELLO!!!!!!!

  2. Glad you found your way to our little part of the world.
    Ask Simon and Carol who Gordon and Bess Hampson are, hopefully they remember us!
    God's blessings on your adventures!!

  3. Your marriage is precious in God's sight - keep it like a precious stone so everyone that sees it can value its beauty! Dad and Mom Post

  4. Much love and hugs your way from me, Erik and of course our darling (walking, burbling, and joyous son) David.
    Looking forward to a moment you might have to skype with us. :)

  5. Love and miss you!! sounds like you are having such an amazing time. :)

  6. you are living my dream at that commune. congratulations.

  7. shows how much i actually care about you guys....i thought you were doing WWOOF the whole time... enjoy the flip of seasons - it's in the 30's and snowing now in T-town!

    JP - excellent reading choice, you're probably in one of the best world locations for that type of story.

  8. I know of WWOOF, but also something new to me called
    I have not looked at it personally....yet. but as profiles and shows places you can stay. Each profile has info listed. i.e. How many people they can take. How far from town, etc. You don't work to stay, but it might be helpful in between longer stays if in a pinch. People I met in Italy (from Copenhagen) used it a lot. It runs here in the states too. Just a thought, and something to look into if needed.
    Your loving Aunt.....Deb.

  9. Hello,

    I am a fellow traveler who will be coming to Nelson in the near future. I was thinking of WWOOFing at the Amber house and just wanted to confirm that that was the place that you had such a bad experience at. Also if it is, could you give me more details of what happened.

    Also I will be trying to find work while there and a place to stay so any advice or information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,