Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Thrill of Recognition

When it happened, I could not say.  Some time ago, quite possibly while living in Australia, a friend of mine recommended a novel to me.  My "To Be Read" list is quite long, and many of the books are not always available on or at my local library, so some just stay on the list for quite some time.  Two weeks ago I was going through my list, searching the South Taranaki library catalogue, and not having much luck. It seemed most of the titles were not in their circulation.  But, as providence would have it, "The Thorn Birds" by Colleen McCullough was available at the Stratford library.  The back of the cover describes it as "the dramatic and colourful family saga of outback Australia", so I was a bit surprised when I started the first chapter and it was set in New Zealand.
Shearing sheep in Taranaki - Tawhiti Museum

On page six, while describing the area where they lived, it mentioned a Mount Egmont, which gave me pause.  I thought to myself, "Mt. Taranaki is in Egmont National Park.  I wonder if the European name for it is actually Mt. Egmont?"  Not much else was given, in terms of describing where they lived, until page fourty-one when my suspicions were confirmed while describing young Frank: "A small structure of pure power, at seventeen he had never been defeated in a fight and was already famous throughout the Taranaki peninsula."  You can be sure I was grinning when I read that sentence. A sergeant from Wanganui, the next biggest town south of Hawera, is mentioned as well!  I can't help but chuckle when I think that had I read the book while in Australia I'd have never remembered these town names when I moved here in May.
Tawhiti Museum, Taranaki
The story is split into several sections and the next section is set in outback NSW, in towns I have never heard of, nor visited.  I did visit an outback station on my trip to the Flinder's Ranges, and had been to Alice Springs, so there was a bit of recognition in that sense, but not quite the same thrill as those first parts about Taranaki.  I suppose the biggest difference for me and someone who's never been Down Under is that I didn't have to use as much of my imagination while reading the descriptive landscape sections.  The vast distances, types of birds or gumtrees, even the "kangas" made sense to me.  Reading about the devastating bush fire they experience, with all the current wildfires in the news lately (whether in Greece, Portugal, Australia, Canada, or the U.S.), certainly struck a note.

When Meg & Luke move to Queensland in the next section of the book I again had that little grin when reading about places dear to my heart.  Their vacation to the Atherton Tablelands reminded me of my own lovely memories from a visit to Lake Eacham.  The scent of the molasses from the sugar cane fields and the constant humidity of FNQ that Meg disliked so much required no imagination on my part.  Memory served me far better than imagination ever could.

Overall, I enjoyed the book because it was unpredictable.  Not in an obnoxious way, but in the way that life itself is unpredictable.  Things happen, people make choices and have to live with the far-reaching and sometimes unimaginable consequences, you just never know how things will turn out.  I'm near the end of the book now and this sentence absolutely resonated with me:  "And whether they came home again or not, they would belong neither here nor there, for they would have lived on two continents and sampled two different ways of life."
Fossil Coast B&B

Friday, August 10, 2018

Rainbow Trout

On Thursday, while volunteering at the hospice shop, Lauren asked if I had been out to Yarrow's Bakeries.  I told her that I had, but she still asked if I wanted to go along, as she was picking up items for our morning tea.  She's about 21 I think, and she seemed keen for me to ride along.  When we got back, Allan asked me if I'd like to visit the trout hatchery with him.  He apologized that he'd not thought of it before, as he'd only just come back from feeding them a few minutes earlier.  He's such a sweet man, and although trout aren't exactly my favorite animal I figured I might as well take the opportunity afforded me, as you never know what else you might stumble upon in the process.  I told him I'd meet him 9am Friday morning to go check it out.

It was a beautiful sunny day morning as we drove about 8 minutes across town and pulled into the Lowe Corporation parking lot.  While not exactly revolting, what they do there is a bit unpleasant, and not related to the trout, so I'll spare you the details.  Anyway, we signed in at the security desk and then drove around the back to a small barn that housed the trout.  I was surprised by how small it was, even more so once I found out how many fish they have currently.
The black-board diagram showing the layout and number of fish

There are nine guys who take turns, one week each, taking care of the fish. During his week, each morning Allan feeds the fish in the three outside tanks (which house the larger ones), and then every other day he cleans out the pools. 

The water and the tanks are rather dirty, so I really couldn't see any of the fish, even after he threw in some food for them.  Ever obliging, he got out the net to catch one so I could get a close-up:

Inside the barn he changes out the filters for the water they use (it is gravity-fed into the shed from the lake behind it) since it originates up near Mt. Taranaki and the creek-bed isn't rock, but silt.  He also checks the inside troughs where they have the baby trout. Until they lose their little yolk sacs attached under their bellies, which they live off, they can't swim.   Once they start to swim around the guys transfer them into bigger troughs inside until they grow their top fin.  If I remember correctly they nick part of that top fin before putting them into the outside troughs, that way once they're released into the rivers or lakes you can tell they've been raised in captivity.

Allan was born and raised in Hawera, and although he lived in Australia for awhile in his 20's he's been here in Hawera ever since.  He volunteers on Wednesday mornings with the local Riding for the Disabled Club at the A&P Showgrounds, so he took me over to show me that as well.  A&P stands for Agricultural & Pastoral, so it's basically their Farmshow Grounds.  If it's nice next week I might take Sam for a walk over there on Wednesday morning to see everyone in action.  We went back to his house and his wife Ruth was home from her morning walk so we sat in their sun room enjoying a cup of coffee and chatting.  When asked if I come from a big family I mentioned that my Dad is one of nine kids and oddly enough, he and Ruth are both 1 of 9 as well (and they're both the 5th child in the family).  Ruth's daughter's partner is an American guy from Ohio, but she couldn't remember where in Ohio... Anyway, it was a nice way to spend a morning. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Small Town Tourist

My class is over, the month is now August, I'll soon be departing...better get busy "tourist-ing"!  I've been here 2 months now and still not actually done all that much in terms of the "Hawera Must-Do" list.  But today it was sunny and I had books to pick up at the library and I decided that I might as well climb the water tower.  The water tower is the opposite corner from the library and I'd already found a parking spot on main street to boot.
Originally called 'Te Hawera' by the Maori people many years ago, which means "the burnt place", after a rivalry in which one tribe surprised the other in the dead of night and burned the village to the ground ensuring there were no survivors.  When the European settlers arrived the fires didn't stop.  "In 1884 a hotel was razed, in 1888 a large fire destroyed five businesses, and in 1912 a particularly disastrous fire destroyed a large proportion of the main street area. This last event resulted in insurance companies demanding better fire fighting capacity for the town." The 168 foot water tower was finished in 1914 and a month later an earthquake caused it to lean considerably.  Fortunately, they were able to almost entirely correct it, now it only leans by about 3 inches.  I might have to go up again some other day when Mt. Taranaki isn't covered by clouds...

Milan Restaurant, the building in the right-hand corner,
has excellent Indian food!
Where I get my groceries :)
Other expeditions I've made since arriving include an unplanned visit to the Hollard Gardens in Kaponga.  I'd been attempting to visit Dawson Falls, but as I was getting ready to drive the last 6km, with Sam in the back of the car, I was deterred by this ill-fated sign:
Note that under "No Dogs" it says "not even in your car"
I gave a big sigh.  I stared at the sign.  I took a picture of the sign.  I turned to look at Sam, and said, "Thanks a lot!", and promptly did a U-Turn. I had taken a detour, to fill the gas tank in the town of Eltham on our way there, so I was acutely aware of the expense of this wasted trip (I paid $7.68 per gallon).  As the GPS directed me back to Hawera, I saw the sign for the gardens and decided I was already here, I should pop in for a visit.  It was small, but nice despite the winter season, and it was free.  

Passing through the tiny town of Manaia, the old post office just begged for its photo to be taken, so I had to stop.  Since I'd already gone to the effort to get out of the car to get a picture I decided to check out a couple of the shops in town as well.  I'd noticed the large factory, but the name didn't mean anything to me so I ignored it.  While chatting with the proprietor of one of the shops she asked if I'd visited the bakery.  I'd told her I had not, and that I wasn't even aware there was one.  She then informed me that Yarrows is quite well known in New Zealand and their baked goods are delicious.  Maybe my ill-fated trip wasn't so ill-fated after all?  According to their website they produce "a wide range of world-class frozen bakery products supplying major wholesale and foodservice customers in New Zealand, Australia and throughout much of Asia."  Since it was near closing time all the items in the shop were on sale, buy 2 get 1 free.  The croissant and danish were the best I have tasted in a very long time.  When I mentioned to the ladies at craft that I had been to the bakery they all had stories of stocking their freezers with bread and sweets from Yarrows...

As for Eltham, I'm not sure it has a claim to fame, but I did find this lovely mural...

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Peaches & Peace

I'm at the point now where I'm back with feet in two worlds.  As when I was preparing to depart, I'm now thinking about preparing to go to one place and what I want to do before I leave another.  Not all big decisions, just something that's in the back of your mind all the time.  I bought my plane ticket home.  I've mostly planned my "summer vacation" to the South Pacific.  I'm making plans to return to work, etc.  People at church this morning (my first Sunday singing with the music team) were asking how much longer I'll be here in Hawera.  When Eileen, Val, and I were at the movies yesterday they were making plans for a Girls Night once Gill gets back and before I leave.  Eileen joked about tying elastic to my ankle so I come back.  All these lovely people who have let me into their lives and included me, they make it hard to leave.

Am I ready to go home?  That is often the question, either asked by others or asked by me.  For once I can almost say yes.  Note the use of the world 'almost'.  Perhaps it's those persistent commitment issues, and perhaps it's just knowing the plan was to return in September all along.  I'm once again doing my best to be content.  There are times when I'm quite ready to return, I do miss my family and the stability/normalcy of life in PA.  There are other times when I think of the remaining 6 months on my visa, that I'll never get back, and I think I should stay.  Although I have seen the majority of the country there are still other places I would still enjoy visiting.  My return to work also created some anxiety, so that wasn't helping the contentment about returning.

When I was trying to decide if I should come to New Zealand at all, one of the big things holding me back was that I actually really enjoyed my job.  Having worked at the same company, in a few different positions over the years, it was nice to have a position I liked.  Then, when they decided to let me take a sabbatical, there was the tantalizing thought that perhaps I could have both.  I could move to NZ and still have my position when I returned.  It was unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility.  Alas, after many emails, some miscommunication between the big boss and my boss...I can't have my position back.  As much as my boss and I would both like for me to have it back, the various people who took different tasks from me when I left are doing just fine with them.  On the bright side, I'm still trying to convince myself to view it that way, there is a position open that they would like me to take.  I'm grateful to have a position, and perhaps I'll enjoy it just as much, or more than, the one I had in shipping before I left.
"Trusting as the moments fly, trusting as the days go by, trusting Him, whate’er befall, trusting Jesus, that is all...  Singing if my way be clear, praying if the path be drear... While He leads I cannot fall... Trusting Jesus, that is all"

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


You might recall my mentioning of Inge in one of my previous posts (we met at church).  Anyway, her and her husband host a discussion group at their house every other Monday night.  They discuss various topics of interest to the group; made up of young and old, believers (new and old) and non-believers, and various nationalities, it's a neat collection of people.  The first week they were discussing animals.  Animal abuse, grass-fed cows, what does the Bible say about animals, do they go to heaven?  The ultimate question ended up being, "how far does our responsibility of care extend?"  Although we didn't end up with a concrete answer to the question, it was an interesting topic.  At the end of the evening they consulted their list of topics and decided on "war" for the next discussion.  Yes, we should most likely have narrowed it down a bit beforehand, but we didn't.

With no specific question we planned to try to answer, I had my own preconceptions on what we'd discuss.  In between my classwork I did some research into conscientious objectors, Biblical stances on war, Baptist theology on war, etc.  In high school I had done a research paper on Alvin York and could still remember bits and pieces of his story.  Although most people today would be more familiar with Desmond T. Doss thanks to the recent release "Hacksaw Ridge", the story of Alvin York is just as fascinating, at least to me.  You can watch his story on youtube if you'd like (I just finished it myself).  Because of some recent events at my home church I've also become quite interested in what it meant, historically, to be Baptist.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm in a British Commonwealth country, but when I was googling the baptist stance on war I got a lot of results from UK Baptists.  An article titled, "Responding to war and the refugee crisis" by the Baptist Union of Great Britain was excellent, and convicting as well.

The discussion that night didn't exactly meet my expectations, but it was interesting to hear from everyone.  I will admit that I'm curious how differently it would have turned out if I, the only American, had not been there.  Comments were definitely made about how we seem to always be getting involved in, or starting, wars.  Despite feeling as if I was holding back the discussion a bit with my presence, I enjoyed hearing from Matthew and Inge about what life was like in Zimbabwe before they left (due to the unrest and political climate) and how they had sometimes wished someone would have stepped in to help their country. My understanding from the Kiwis present is that NZ doesn't have any sort of conscription registration; if a war were to break out that required more people to fight than are already serving they would pass a law requiring those eligible to register.

To add more fuel to the fire in my brain, a few of the books I've read recently all seemed to have an aspect of war to them as well.  Shortly after I arrived in Hawera I read a novel that "shows us Angolan independence through the eyes of a woman who has barricaded herself into her apartment".  Although fiction, it gave me a look into a recent war of which I had no knowledge.  So much of what happens on the African continent seems ignored in much of the history of the day, but then there's a whole lot of history to be learned.

Last week I finished a memoir about a Canadian women who travels to Iran to learn how to cook Persian food.  It made me want to go to Iran, despite her depictions of her experiences as a female in that society; the few tastes I've had of Persian food, made by my Iranian friend Hossein, were delicious.  Yesterday I finished "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet", recommended to me a few months ago by a friend.  It's the story of a young Chinese boy and a young Japanese girl who become friends despite the prejudices of the Chinese and Japanese against each other, and in turn, the nation's prejudice against the Japanese (China was on the side of the Allies during WWII).  I'm no stranger to the topic of the Japanese interments, but it was still a tough book to read, at least for me.  A dark day in our nation's history when Executive Order 9201 was signed allowing our government to "relocate" its own citizens based on their ancestry.  But this book really hit a nerve with its depictions of the reactions of not only the "white" Americans to the events, but even the Chinese people who felt it was "better them than us".  It's a strange dichotomy created by war.  With all the unrest in the Middle East and the refugee crisis, the distrust of Muslims, it all just makes me sad.  Sad that I don't do more about it...especially when you read an article like this one, about Christian immigrants.

Taranaki Antiques and Collectables

I wish I could blame my current inability to remember the topics on which I've already blogged on my current socialization with the over-65 crowd, but those who know me well know my memory problems were around long before my current friendship circle.  Part of the problem is the levels of communication.  I write occasional emails to my coworkers back home, I call home to my family once a week, post things on Facebook, and message people back home as well.  By the time all those things have happened I can't remember to whom, or when, I told certain things!

The auction on Sunday for the Hospice Shop was very enjoyable.  I arrived around 9:30am, as requested, but they didn't really have anything for me to do until the auction started.  Eileen had texted Saturday night that she wasn't sure if she was going to make it, she was feeling a bit under the weather.  But shortly after I arrived Val and Rita showed up!  I've met Rita at Val's various parties (she had an afternoon tea for her neighbor's birthday the other week and oh my goodness, she never does anything half-way; the foods were delicious), a few times now so it was fun to walk around the tables and check out the items up for auction with them.

There were some very cool things for sale and I could certainly have bought some things myself, but I don't have a lot of room in my suitcase so I didn't even get a number.  Some things went for just $10 and would have been cool mementos of my time here, but who needs more stuff? In the end I was busy the whole time anyway.
The lot of Maori Portraits by Lindauer (prints of his works, not originals)
were the highest bid items of the day, going for over $500.  I had thought
before the auction start that one of them might be a nice souvenir.
My Mom always said I have expensive tastes....

During the auction they had me on the "Vanna White" team, at least that's what I nicknamed us.  All the items were numbered and as each item went up for bid we were to hold it up so everyone could see the item currently on auction.  There were actually quite a few of us on the team, and although it didn't work out the way they explained beforehand that it should work out, we finally managed to get a system going.  Standing in front of a bunch of strangers holding up random items isn't exactly my environment to thrive, but the ladies kept me laughing through it all.    We would each get assigned lot numbers, and we just kept rotating through the line.  The ladies behind me got a kick of commenting that they were younger than me when we started getting assigned to the 70's and 80's numbers.  The event started at 11:30 and we got through the last item around 1:30.  We had such a large team because they didn't want anyone's arms to get tired, but most items weren't that large and were auctioned rather quickly.  Granted, that's the 29-year-old talking, not the opinion of the 78-year-old ladies with which I was working.  It was just nice to be part of a little community event, to be able to meet people that you can one day run into at the grocery store.  Yes, that may sound odd, but that's one of the ways I start to feel at home.  I still remember the first person I ran into at the grocery store while living in Cairns and feeling like I belonged, simply because I could have a quick chat with someone while shopping for eggs.

In other news, I got the car back today - looking good as new!  I'm quite thankful it was done in just 6 working days as the "courtesy car" they gave me didn't quite have enough room for Sam.  I had to be careful to make sure his tail was tucked in and he had his head over the seat before I closed the trunk.  Since he couldn't really move around in the back I had to leave him home when I would go out to craft, Monday discussion group, or volunteering at the shop - he was NOT appreciative.  Plus, I didn't have to pay the excess - just a $35 fee for the use of the courtesy car.  God is good.

P.S.  I did pass my Psychology class and did manage to keep my grade-point average.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Psyched for Psychology (to be over)

I just finished my last chapter in Experiencing Psychology!!  I'll study over the weekend and hopefully be able to take the final exam on Monday.  It feels like such a relief to not feel as if I must constantly have my nose in my textbook for fear of getting behind.  Anyway, as you might guess, the sections in which the roles of culture play a part in people's reactions, behaviours, and attitudes are my favourite.  Ever wonder why certain cultures value conformity, while others value individuality?  Apparently scientist have found that pathogens might help answer that question.  Granted, there are more factors involved than just germs:
 "Unique cooking traditions are often used to distinguish among cultures. In particular, some cultures are known for their fiery cuisine, while others feature blander foods...Thus, Damian Murray and Mark Schaller (2010) proposed that cultures favoring spicier foods would also be those that emerged in places with relatively more pathogens, a prediction they supported in a large-scale cross-cultural examination. Consider, too, that surviving in a world in which infectious agents are an ever-present threat might also mean curtailing those social behaviors through which diseases are more likely to spread. Interestingly, extraversion—a trait associated with outgoing sociable behavior—is lower in nations in which pathogen prevalence is high."  Experiencing Psychology, 3rd edition
Pretty neat, huh? 

I've also been thinking, after my last post with the Milo canister, about other ways I know I'm not still in the U.S.  Beside the accents, a lot of names are different here.  Nigel, Bryn, Declan, Bronwyn, Valda and some others I will not even attempt to spell.  Also, they say "tea" instead of dinner/supper.  I'm quite sure they got this from the Brits.  It can be a bit confusing when someone invites you over for "tea", but they actually mean an entire evening meal, not just a drink.  If they were inviting you over for just a drink they'd say "Would like to come over for a cuppa?"  Also, even the way people use cutlery here is different from Americans.  The Aussies and the Kiwis, unsurprisingly, take after the Brits in this regard as well.  While we are taught as children that you eat with your fork, and when necessary pick up your knife to cut your food and then replace the knife on your plate; here they eat with both utensils simultaneously.  While not as hard as learning to use chopsticks, I still find it difficult to emulate. 
Although it's now technically the middle of winter, it's been in the 50's for the last couple of weeks and the flowers are starting to come out.  I've been watching the daffodils grow in the park, where Sam gets his exercise; well, technically, we both get our exercise because he's not very good at returning the ball to me.  I'd still prefer a proper summer, but I certainly shouldn't complain about the winter I'm experiencing.
King Edward Park, Hawera

This past Sunday was "Bible Sunday" here in New Zealand, and Pastor Paul gave a neat little message on the importance of reading the Bible for all it's worth.  He compared our reading of the Bible to two of the 20th century's cooking inventions of which we're all quite familiar: microwaves and crock-pots.  We often want to microwave the scriptures.  Turn to a verse, read it and we're good for the day.  Or perhaps we just cherry-pick to find one quick verse which backs us up in our position on a topic.  In reality we should be treating our reading as a crock-pot, we should simmer in the Word and meditate on it (Ps. 1:2 and 119:97).