Dear Family & Friends: We are having so many new and exciting adventures to tell you about. We get up around 5:45am and go as fast as we can until bedtime, learning our new responsibilities and having a peek at this BEAUTIFUL country. We hope in this blog we can express how blessed we are to testify of Jesus Christ and serve Him in this amazing corner of the world! HAERE MAI* to our blog, we're glad you are visiting us!.....(*This means 'WELCOME' in the Maori language)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

FORMER 'FIRST SERVANT' HONORED FOR FAMILY VALUES

Wednesday, June 29, 2011




SUVA, Fiji — He wanted to be known as Suva's 'first servant' and not as its 'first citizen' when he took up the reins of Lord Mayor of Fiji's capital city in 2003.
Ratu Peni Volavola is a soft spoken man whose humility is well known by those who come in contact with him as well as the local community.
He became the recipient of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 2011 Family Values Award during a special meeting in Suva on Sunday, 26 June.
Humility comes easily to Brother Volavola because of his upbringing. This valuable trait has always been part and parcel of his professional and personal life.
In receiving the award, Brother Volavola was humbled by the recognition.
"I stand before you in absolute wonder and amazement. When I was informed of it I said surely there must be more deserving cases," Brother Volavola said.
"I thank God for the recognition."
He said we needed to have the characteristics of Christ in order to be humble.
Brother Volavola's most memorable statement was uttered when he was first elected as Lord Mayor of Suva in 2003.
He told his fellow councilors that he would rather be the 'first servant of the city' than being known as the 'first citizen.'
He remained Suva's 'first servant' for the next six years.
Brother Volavola also retired as a manager from the Fiji Electricity Authority last year.
He also received from the Church a framed copy of "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." Elder Wakolo spoke to those gathered at the meeting about the significance of this declaration and how the principles taught in it can bless the lives of families and individuals.
Elder Taniela Wakolo, a senior leader for the Church, reminded members that the award was one that was only given to those outside the Church who lived and upheld family values.
Elder Wakolo also paid tribute to the statement made by Brother Volavola and said it was 'an amazing statement' to be rather known as the 'first servant of the city.'
"We honour you for living and teaching family values," Elder Wakolo said.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Death by Car!!

It has been over 2 months since I have driven a car, and I'm trying to muster up enough courage to try driving here.  I can't begin to tell you how frightening it was those first few weeks being in the car while Jeff was learning how to drive on the wrong side of the road.  I'm amazed he didn't kill us or someone else!  They have lots of round-abouts here and they are very confusing.  You can't remember which way to look before you enter, and the signals and rules are also different.  Inside the car the turn signal is switched with the windshield wipers, so one can tell when a visitor is behind the wheel because the windshield wipers go on with every turn!  He has finally gotten the hang of it, for the most part, but he still has to concentrate on what he's doing, and I'm still ever vigilant thinking we will turn into oncoming traffic! 
What's wrong with this picture????  Even now I am startled when I'm walking and I look up to see a scene like this.  Oh my gosh, that car is going down the road with no driver!!!  It takes me a second to realize I can't see the driver because he is on the other side!
Here is Jeff in our car, and no, it's not a Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, Jeep, etc. etc. etc.  But it does get great gas mileage.  When we go to get into the car, I still can't remember which side the passenger sits on so I walk to the wrong side and Jeff always says, "Are you driving today?"  Anyway, this is the big week.  I'm going to get behind the wheel for the first time, so if you don't hear from us for awhile, who knows what I've done!!  Below is a great article written by former humor columnist Erma Bombeck and describes our experiences perfectly!

I suppose a lot of you think your ancestors came to
American to escape religious and political persecutions,
or did emigrants migrate to the new world so they could drive
on the right side of the road?
My husband and I have just returned from a vacation to
a British owned island where drivers drive on the left
(wrong) side of the road, and frankly, we are lucky to
be alive!
From the moment we climbed into the rental car, we
sensed something was wrong.  My husband said, "Where's
my steering wheel?"  I said, "I have it."  "I thought
you didn't want to drive!"  Crawl over the gear shift
and it's yours."
He eased the car out of the parking lot and into the
traffic.  I'm here to tell you, we have lived life in
the slow lane, and life in the fast lane, but until you
have spent a few weeks in the left lane, you have
nothing to talk about.  Every time a car approached, my
husband came to a dead stop and shut his eyes until it
passed.  Everything about the car defied familiarity.
When he tried to turn on the lights, he succeeded in
releasing the hood.  When the windshield wipers began
racing back and forth, I asked, "What are you doing?"
"Signaling for a left turn," he said.
In the entire two weeks we were there, we never passed
another car, put our car in reverse, parallel parked,
or made a right hand turn.  About the 50th time I told
him he was drifting to the wrong side of the road, he
reminded me that he was doing the best he could while I
just sat there and sucked in my breath.  That's when I
exploded.  "Being a passenger in this car is no day at
the beach," I said.  "I have been flogged to death by
tree branches, drenched by gutter water and have seen
fear in the eyes of pedestrians that will haunt me for
the rest of my life."
I don't know why Europeans make it so hard on
themselves to drive.  They've got enough problems
without driving on the wrong side of the road.  I'm
just glad my ancestors dreamed of a new land....a place
where passengers didn't have to impale themselves on
the brake to get to their seats....where you didn't have
to be left-handed to shift gears, and where the
tranquility of the countryside was not interrupted by
a hysterical wife shouting at her husband, "Idiot!
We're turning left!  Put on your windshield wipers!"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Smells like Home on Sunday Afternoon!

Sunday before last we have our friends Elder & Sister Pferdner, and our flat neighbors, Elder & Sister Rowe, over for Sunday dinner.  Jeff made his famous pot roast and for the first time, it felt a bit more like Sunday in American Fork.  We had a lovely evening and feel it a privilege to serve which such amazing missionaries!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shells, Shells & More Shells

It has been fun for us to collect seashells as we visit all the beautiful beaches in New Zealand.  We've only been here a short time, and already have learned to be selective in what we keep because there are so many.

We usually find a sack full of lovely shells when we walk on our Takapuna beach where we live, but this day we couldn't believe what we saw.  It looked like the ocean just threw up!  There must have been some weather related incident off shore that caused this.

Here is our booty.  This is after we got home, sorted and discarded a bunch.  Our keepers also include several unusual shells and a starfish out on the balcony drying.

Soon those shells will join these shells sitting on our coffee table.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sad Story

One Saturday we were visiting a museum and I noticed this scruffy looking man wandering around by himself.  He didn't seem to be in a hurry, and spent a lot of time talking with the museum employees.  At one time we were looking at the same exhibit and having a nice conversation with an employee who asked where we were from.  When we said Utah, this man overheard us and said, "My daughter and grandchildren live in Utah, in West Valley City."  When I asked how she ended up in Utah he told us she had met a Mormon missionary years ago, joined the church, married him and then moved to Utah.  Not knowing whether or not he was negative about all this, I tried to think of something understanding to say, which came out, "I bet it's hard to have your grandchildren living so far away."  I was half expecting an angry response but was surprised at his ambivalence when he said,  "No, not really.  They come to visit once in a while but I'm not much into kids anyway."  Isn't that sad?  Not only does he not have a relationship with his grandchildren, but he doesn't care to have one.  When we told him we were Mormon missionaries he didn't respond, but was agreeable when I asked if I could take his picture.  I wanted his photo as a reminder of how blessed we are to know and cherish what is truly important in our lives, because there are people who think they are poor, yet fail to realize they have the greatest treasure on earth! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Where Have All the Flowers Gone!

This is a big, beautiful magnolia tree, and this pod is what is left after all the petals have fallen off.  In its own way, I think it is as interesting and pretty as the flower.

Beautiful Piha Beach



Our first waterfall near Karikari Beach.

Mr. & Mrs. Woodcarver




With our friends the Pferdners as companions, we took a short ride to the home, showroom and workshop of this delightful couple.  They welcomed us with big smiles and glasses of fruit juice.  After we spent some time admiring his work in the showroom, he took us to his workshop and demonstrated his craft by taking two blocks of wood, and within minutes, made these kiwis.   He gave them to us as gifts.  Part of the fun of being in this beautiful place is to meet and get to know the people who live and work here.  These lovely people were so friendly and gracious! 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lovely Loo

Matakana 'Outhouse'
These were the public toilets in the village we visited near where I took the photos in the last post.  Probably the most interesting public toilets I've ever seen!  In New Zealand, they don't use the terms 'bathroom' or 'restroom'.  All signs just say 'toilet' and when asking, you would say "Where is the toilet"?  This is hard for me to say, because in the U.S., (at least where I live), that would not be a refined way to speak.   We also learned that here in New Zealand an outhouse is called a 'long drop'.  We thought that was pretty funny!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Day with the Pferdners

One Saturday a few weeks ago we had a delightful day seeing some beautiful sights with our friends Elder and Sister Pferdner:
 After a beautiful drive along the Pacific Ocean coast, our first stop was a little village called Matakana.  We are told that most towns and villages have a farmer's market either on Saturday or Sunday.  This one was small and quaint with music, food and lots of interesting items for sale.  Some of the little produce stands were just individuals who pulled what they had from their garden that morning to sell.  This vendor had the most interesting items to sell.  Anyone interested in fresh buffalo milk, cheese or ice cream???  We were curious about how one milks a buffalo!  (Excuse the poor quality of the photos in this post.  I only had my point & shoot with me.......I'll never make that mistake 
again!)

A ways up the coast we made our next stop.  I don't know what these birds are, but the trees were filled with their nests.  Can you see the babies?

We enjoyed the views of this beautiful bay and Goat Island.  They say the snorkeling here is fabulous.

Our next stop was at Mahurangi Park.  There were beautiful views in all directions.

Another one of those beautiful views.

A Pohutukawa Tree, sometimes called the New Zealand Christmas tree, because at Christmas time it is covered with big beautiful red flowers.

Another beautiful beach.  That day I lost track of how many beautiful beaches we saw!


I've saved the best for last.   This was the last place we visited and the most memorable experience of the day.  We were walking along this most pristine beach, picking up seashells and talking about how beautiful and peaceful it was, when we glanced up to see a pod of between 15 to 20 dolphins jumping, playing and generally frolicking just a few yards from shore.  They entertained us for quite a while before deciding the show was over and making their way on down the coast.  This was such an awesome sight!!  I was really upset that I didn't have my big camera and telephoto lens with me.  This was the best I could do with the point & shoot.  Thanks Jack & Joanie for a wonderful day!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sunrise at Takapuna Beach


Early one Saturday morning I drug Jeff out of bed and said I needed some sunrise photos. This beautiful beach is about a 5 minute walk from our office and a 10 minute walk from our flat!
(For a sunset photo, click HERE)

MORMON HELPING HANDS - WINDY RIDGE SCHOOL

Our second Mormon Helping Hands activity.  This time church members came together to paint this primary school and do yard work.

Government officials attended this event and thanked the volunteers for their service to the community.

Parents teaching their children to serve others.

This photo was in the local paper.

And.......my very favorite photo of the day!



We had a videographer make this short clip for YouTube. It's great except for one dorky looking old couple!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hamilton, New Zealand Temple

On a beautiful fall day, we left bright and early with Elder and Sister Pferdner to go to the temple.  It was about an hour and 40 minute drive and we enjoyed seeing more of this beautiful green country in the golden rays of early morning light.  The temple sits atop a hill in a lovely setting.  The inside was also lovely, as are all temples, but Karen was captivated with the Celestial Room.  The walls were magnificently painted in landscapes of the country, with ferns and trees, including the Pohutukawa, cliffs and waterfalls and sun rays.  But what made this landscape so interesting was that it was all painted in soft pastels like in a dream or looking through a mist.  It truly looked heavenly, and, well, celestial.  But more important than the beauty of this building is its meaning and purpose.   For inside these walls, marriages take place that are for eternity, not 'until death do us part', and families are linked together with their ancestors.  Families are forever...what a wonderful thought!!  For those of you who may not know, photos cannot be taken on the inside, but here are some of the outside:


  For Karen's favorite photo of the temple click HERE.

FAITH & COURAGE

Let me tell you about this wonderfully inspiring family.  The husband is a bishop, and with his wife and children, live in a devastated neighborhood in Christchurch.  We visited with them while on our assignment in that area.   They told us an inspiring story of courage and faith.  They said they lost their home in the first earthquake that happened in late 2010.  They felt very blessed, however, because all family members were safe and together as the quake happened in the middle of the night.  They worried about an aging mother and it was some time before they found out she, too, was unharmed.  Then they told of trying to pick up the pieces and about the trials in trying to find a new place to live during the following months, and then about the miracle and circumstances that allowed them to move into a very small apartment next door to their mother.  For awhile they all slept on the floor in the same room and had meager possessions, but were grateful they were safe and close to grandma.  Then the second earthquake hit.  This time it came in the middle of the day when all were scattered in various locations.  It took over 7 hours before they all made it home and found out they were all safe.  How terrifying that must have been knowing the extent of the damage and that many were killed or unaccounted for.  The kids each told us their frightening experiences of where they were and what they saw during the quake.  Now here's the inspiring part.  Instead of looking at what they have lost, this family was happy and smiling and chose to concentrate on what they have.  And what they have are the most important of all possessions.  They have each other and the gospel!  And what these children have, are parents who are strong and steadfast and move forward with faith and courage.  This good bishop told us these experiences have strengthened their family bond.  They have all learned not to take each other for granted and to be happy with what they have.  He has counseled his children saying, "You are strong.  You have survived this hardship and are better for it.  Now you know you can survive the next challenge that comes into your life."  He pointed to all the houses near his and told us they were all abandoned, that all his neighbors had left for safer places.  He was encouraged to leave as well.  But he said, "I am a bishop and responsible for the people in my ward who are still here.  How can I help and serve them if I leave?  I'm not going anywhere!"  What a privilege for us to meet this wonderful family!

Sightseeing Outside of Christchurch

Before heading back to Takapuna (Auckland), we spent some time driving through the countryside to the coast.  Everywhere we drove it was beautiful. 

There are shells on most every beach.  It is fun to see what we find.


 






Crisis in Christchurch

The day after the Mormon Helping Hands event we toured the city and were humbled and shocked by the destruction we saw.  As you remember, Christchurch was the epicenter of 2 major earthquakes that have taken place in the past few months.  We couldn't see the city center where the most damage was sustained because it was blocked and protected from looters by military and police.   But everywhere we were able to drive we saw devastation.  Most damaged or destroyed buildings are just like they were after the quake, some are in various stages of rebuilding, and every so often there is a cleared lot where a building used to be.  Many areas with houses still standing still do not have utilities and can not flush their toilets.  And the people continue to be traumatized by continual aftershocks, some quite large.  There was a fairly large one while we were there which was unnerving to say the least.  Here is a glimpse of what we saw:












Do these photos make you want to check your emergency supplies and reassess how prepared you are for an emergency???  We sure did, and have plans to do better when we get home!

Mormon Helping Hands

Before we were even settled in our flat, we were sent to Christchurch to met our Director of Public Affairs on the south island.  While there we were able to participate in a "Mormon Helping Hands" activity which was amazing.  About 80 volunteers showed up to clean, repair and landscape a community play center.  About a year ago a little boy who attended the play center was killed by a teenage driver.  On this one year anniversary the staff and mothers at the play center had created a memorial garden in honor of this little boy. After the work was done, there was a little ceremony to remember him.  A large memorial board was attached to a building with notes and letters of support and sympathy written by those who loved him.  We met and visited with two members of parliament and the press who were in attendance.  Here are a few photos of that day:


Here is the Stake President, a member of parliament, mother of the little boy, our director of public affairs, and another member of parliament.


 The director of the play center expressing her appreciation.


Here's the message:  members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are good neighbors and are committed to helping improve their communities.