Friday, May 20, 2005


we already have our shuttle tickets to take us to the airport in the morning. it is picking us up at 4:15 am!!!! we have our bags that we had mailed to auckland earlier too. we pray that we can get through all of our connections smoothly, safely, and with no hassles with our luggage. please join us in that prayer. thank you so much for every kind word of encouragement you have said or prayer you have lifted up. We have felt them and God has worked out all of our adventures here. this was by far better than the amazing race!
i sure hope to come back here one day again and i really hope you can come see this too!

tonight, i held my glass up to Julie and said, "TO A NEW ZEAL FOR LIFE."

THAT'S WHAT THIS TRIP IS ALL ABOUT AND I'M SO EXCITED TO HAVE THAT ZEAL! in case some of you were wondering why i called this "A New Zeal for Rice." i have an answer that it took me a while to completely realize myself. i knew that was supposed to be the name and i waited for God to help me with the analogy. obviously, it is a combined pun on New Zealand and Thailand (all the rice there). however, the spiritual analogy is so much more. I have a new zeal for rice (not the food), but the harvest. i saw how the harvest is ripe, but the workers are few. God gave me a zeal to be a worker in that harvest of all of those unreached people that need the Lord in Thailand and other countries. it's my passion and i pray i can continue to incorporate it in my everyday life. i'll always have the imagery of those rice fields i was surrounded by in Chiang Klang and how it represents that spiritual harvest of all of those precious people who need the Lord yet who don't know how to quite yet. God can use any of us.

The second part of my trip in New Zealand, should have been called "a new zeal for sheep." did you know there are more sheep in this country than people? what an amazing image that reminds us of how we are God's sheep and He is our Shepherd! so many of us are wandering aimlessly around and with the wool pulled over our eyes in life just in need of guidance. the future is unknown, and i've been in a place of making a lot of decisions regarding the future lately. i've been that sheep in need of the Shepherd. my zeal is also renewed for the other "sheep" out there in need of that same Shepherd.
praise God, He's there.

~not to worry, i'll keep blogging...

Waitaupo Thermal Wonderland

last night, the Lord sent an angel to us! Mikah is her name and she is a 20 year old German girl. She was staying in our room and asked me what i was planning on doing Friday. i told her we still had to go see the geysers and thermal pools near Rotorua. she had a car and wanted to go with us. she volunteered to take us all! that totally saved us money and it was so much more fun having her with us. just as we were about to finish breakfast, Gerard, the owner of the hostel, asked us what we were doing today. i told him and he all of the sudden looked panicked. he said we had to literally leave NOW! he wanted us to get there in time to see the geyser go off, which it does only once a day at 10:15 am. well, that sent us running out the door, literally. we all jumped in the car and off we went down the road to find this geyser. after we parked and made it to the site, it just started bubbling out. PERFECT TIMING! we saw the thing go off and it looked like "Old Faithful" at Yellowstone. maybe it wasn't as high as old faithful, i'm not sure. this is definitely the same type of scenery as Yellowstone, but on a much smaller scale. even most of the pools here were just bubbling mud pools, unlike the tons of hot water pools you see at Yellowstone. nevertheless, this was in NZ and i thoroughly enjoyed it. we hurriedly went around the park and saw everything on all of the walkways, because we had to make it back in time to catch our 2pm bus to Auckland. we had a great visit with Mikah and i'm truly glad we got to know her. she is from Stuttgart, Germany. maybe one day when i go to visit my uncle in Munich, i can swing by and visit her. everything worked out. the Lord provided so faithfully for the time schedule of events. we made it to the hostel, got our bags, and said our goodbyes, then made the bus. the drive to Auckland was beautiful again. we got here to auckland after 6pm and passed through Mata Mata, the town where they filmed Hobbit town. as we drove, i just kept thinking "okay, this is it, my last minutes of daylight in NZ." i have never been in a country where every second of driving is so beautiful. you could just take pictures the entire drive. i soaked it all in and gave so much praise to the Lord for His mercies on us and blessings for bringing us here and to Thailand. we have experienced the extraordinary these past two months.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


After driving in the most surreal landscape of hills and gorgeous colors, it was an absolute wonder that hundreds of caves were just below us. we were on a fault line in NZ. julie and i decided early this am to not do the inner tubing down the freezing cold waters of the caves full of eels. i had second thoughts about that and so did she. we found out about a much more enjoyable way of seeing the caves by staying dry in a water raft and by walking through the caves. we went through two caves with a break for tea and bickeys in between. i learned that bickeys are cookies. the first cave was absolutely surreal- the GLOW WORM CAVE!

GLOW WORM CAVE- it was so amazing. we were walking around in what seemed like "perfectville" (aside from College Station, TX... WHOOP!) because it was truly like we were in hobbit land or something. you couldn't paint a more perfect place with the landscape and colors. all of the sudden you would see an entrance to a cave at the bottom of a hill and plants would be lining it or hanging down from the outside. in we went inside the cave! we got inside and got on a raft to take us down the underground river. once our eyes adjusted to the complete darkness, i looked up and was stunned at the sight of a vast galaxy! literally, i thought of how perfectly patterned the Lord is with everything. the middle earth looks like it was land with rivers in it and a sky with stars in it. the stars are the glow worms. hundreds are lined up and it looks like a galaxy. i tried to find the little dipper, but couldn't. :) julie and i were totally amazed that we saw glow worms in a cave in NZ. how cool was this?

we inched along the water in the raft just soaking it in. occassionally a cold drop of water would fall on us. because of all the rains, the waters have been flooding the caves, so we were lucky to see what we did today. the glow worms are fascinating. it is actually their waste product that produces a chemical reaction to make them glow. they either glow to attract mates or to signal hunger.

then we all left the cave for a break for tea. we went around our small group and everyone introduced themselves more. it was so picturesque sitting above the ground surrounded by these green hills and meadows.

THE SECOND CAVE- we walked in this cave and went through tiny channels and then the paths opened up into this huge vaulted room they called the "Cathedral." i thought to myself how amazing it would sound if a choir sang in there in the darkness with the acoustics. before i could finish my thought, the guide asked if anyone could sing or would sing a song because of the great acoustics. well, julie tapped me and decided to volunteer yours truly to sing a song solo in front of the entire group!!!!!! all i could think of quickly was a latin song i learned in high school back in the all region choir days. i had already been singing that to myself in the cave just thinking of how pretty it would sound. once i got past any embarrassment of the idea, i just went for it. you know, i'm in NZ, so why not sing in a cave for the whole group? right? so i just did it! it was pitch black and i start singing, "Cantate Dominum, Sing to the Lord." once i realized what i was singing, i was so excited that the words were giving praise to the Lord, considering what happened when we entered the cave. when we entered, our guide asked us all to bow our heads to pray for permission from the "gods or spirits" to enter the cave. maybe i was supposed to sing that song, so the Creator of the cave could be honored!

it was for sure an experience i will never forget. i had to blog about this one. it is not everyday that you go to caves in NZ and put on a concert!

we took a funny picture with a lady in the group who had a wedding ring. we posed as if it was the "ring" in Lord of the Rings. julie was embarrassed and said, "make it stop." oh, but she loved it, because she joined right in that picture for the pose! let's put it this way, our group knew who we were by the end of the day! :)

after caving, we hung out for a while in Waitomo, just a little village with only one or two stores. i just sat on a bench soaking in the sun staring off into the beautiful, surreal landscape. you couldn't help but praise God for what He has done. now i know why He said in Genesis after He made the world, "and it was good."

Absolutely Surreal day!

Alright, today we got on a bus at 7:40am and headed for the Waitomo Caves just two hours outside of Rotorua. The drive was one of the most spectacular drives I've seen here. It is as close to heaven as one can get. it looked surreal. there were bright green hills and the hills here literally look like they have been scooped by ice cream scoopers. they are perfectly round and the sky was a brilliant blue with just the perfect amount of white fluffy clouds in it. down below on the ground with the greener than green grass was better than a painting with the colors of the trees scattered on it. there were orange, red, and yellow trees in addition to green trees all scattered out in the most beautiful painting you have ever seen, yet it wasn't a painting. Well, it was God's painting. you can't drive past this and soak it all in. it's just too much. well, i am totally partial to this, because i came to NZ specifically for the green hills and the beaches with cliffs overhanging them. we weren't around water today, though. i just couldn't stop praising the Lord for being the amazing Creator He is. how can one drive by this and not see Him in it? in fact that's what i told Al, the busdriver we had who was agnostic. i remember telling him he lives in one of the most beautiful places on earth and how could he not just look out at a mountain or green hill and not see God in it. uhh, it's so much. you absolutely have to see it! i can't get it all in pictures. okay, this was only the above the ground journey we had today, we still had middle earth to see! :) talk about a whole different experience with God's glory. our bus driver had played rugby in Plano, TX, so he kept talking to Julie and me the whole way. he was mainly so excited about our stop for coffee. by the way, they have a better pace of life here. the buses always stop for snacks, tea or coffee breaks. this is the life! i needed that coffee today. i think the trip is catching up with me, but not for long, we are about to be coming home.

okay, read my next blog about my middle earth experience!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


ZORBING! it's a new concept to me, but first introduced to me on the Amazing Race. they actually came to this exact town, Rotorua, in NZ to film that segment. Rotorua is the home of the original zorb. i know some of you are asking what is it? hey it starts with the letter "z" and i like it, so i of course had to buy a t-shirt saying i did it. basically you get inside a huge plastic ball and roll down a huge green NZ hill here in Rotorua. there are three different kinds. you can be strapped in, so you spin. that means crazy motion sickness for me, so i opted not to do that one. another option is you can hydroplane down the hill inside the ball filled partially with water. you can do these either down a straight steep path, or a zig-zagged path down the hill. well, my adventure started this afternoon in the rain! even though it was raining here in Rotorua, i decided i still needed some adventure like zorbing. i checked it out to see if they still did it in the rain, and they did! julie wanted to stay in the hostel to take a nap. so it was all me out on my own in Rotorua! they roll the "r" when they pronounce rrrotorrua. :) seriously.

i had to walk to a mall and catch a city bus which then took me to another stop where i transferred city buses. this is a small city, trust me. from there i asked to go to the agrodome where the zorbing was. on my two different buses, i got tapped on the shoulder by nice older ladies who politely asked me where i was from because they heard me talk to the bus driver and noticed the accent was different. one lady was so kind and she apologized profusely for their bad weather they were having and hoped that i was still enjoying NZ. of course, i was! she asked me all about my life and what i'm going to do with it. we had a lovely chat. she highly reccommended the zorbing too. when i got dropped off at the site, even the city busdriver blew me away with kindness when he said he'd make sure i got a ride back at a certain time and that he'd look after me. that would not happen in houston. how sweet. i was traveling solo for a short journey and experiencing that life. it was awesome talking to even more people around me. when i got to the place, it was just as i had seen it on the Amazing Race. yeah! i was there! i saw the giant human "gerbil balls" that i was going to get in. i met the nice staff in the office and told them to sign me up and get this thing rolling. they tried to guess what state i was from. one girl nailed it and said Texas! another guy said Florida. i had to go in a swim suit, yes it is still really cold here. it is winter! they gave me some wet gear to put on over that. one guy took my camera and had heaps of fun with it while i was in the back of a truck going up the steep hill. they guy made me dive like superwoman into a zippered hole in the ball and there i was inside the giant ball filled with some warm water for me to sit in. he made me stand up and told me to walk in the ball once he gave the signal of "tap tap tap" on the ball and after i started walkinig i would immediately start going down hill. at that point i was supposed to just plop down and sit in it and basically swish from side to side. he made me choose the zig-zag path for more thrill. it was opaque, so i couldn't see where i was going at all. it was a feeling of complete helplessness but fun. there was lots of laughter inside of that gerbil ball. just me, myself, and i laughing my way through my fear of the unknown. i literally was swishing side to side inside it and had no control of how i was positioned in it. it was so much fun. i kept having to tell myself, "EMBRACE IT, ZSILA, EMBRACE IT." i was embracing my fear. finally, i came to a hault at the bottom of the hill and thankfully, two members of the staff came to rescue me and unzip me and get me out. then the fun began. i became good friends with Alisa who is the supervisor there and she wanted me to take lots of pictures with them and email them so they can post them for advertising. then, she wanted me to come up with a slogan for a t-shirt or a design and if my design or slogan was chosen, they would send me the t-shirt for free. after all of that, Alisa offered to drive me back into town so i wouldn't have to take the bus back. how sweet? i love these people. she is australian. we had a great talk about cultures and she said more americans should ask questions about other cultures, since the rest of the world asks about our country and knows about it. they really do. for one thing, they see our tv shows and news programs and listen to our radio songs. they know our culture. do we know there's? not so much. i have gained wisdom from this trip. i enjoy asking about their lives and cultures. they see value in their homes too and would like for other's to respect it. okay, i'm off my soap box that she brought to my attention.

i changed clothes and went back to the hostel to find julie awake from her two hour nap while i was gone. everyone was hanging out together in the living area of our cozy backpacker's lodge. this was is truly great and feels like home. since it was raining and all the businesses were closed by then, i got julie to go with me to see a movie. we saw Sahara with Matthes Maconouhay and Penelope Cruz. it was action based and funny too. it was nice for us to relax. i told everyone at the hostel about my zorbing experience and how they should go. in fact, i invited everyone to go see the movie with us. everyone is going out tonight to see the premiere of Star Wars III at midnight. julie and i aren't b/c we have to get up so early tomorrow to go to the Waitomo Caves. we are going to go "BLACK WATER RAFTING IN CAVES AND SEE GLOW WORMS." how fun! i'll let you know! i heard eels are the water. ahh, please pray that they stay away from me. we will wear wet suits and sit in innertubes in the freezing cold water in the caves. i don't know exactly what to expect, but i know we will be doing it for three hours. hmm, interesting. it's something you are supposed to do here, though. so i'm doing it. tomorrow is our last night in rotorua then friday we go to the park to see the geothermal geisers before we head up to Auckland for the night. our flight on saturday is early early early. we have to be at the airport around 5am ish. then we have an 11 hour layover in LA, so my Tri-Delta lil sis, Sarah and her husband Todd are coming to pick us up and we are going to celebrate Sarah's birthday on the beach! it's supposed to be cold they say, which is what we are used to here. i cannot imagine what Texas weather is like. do you know what's funny, as i type this i hear my voice saying it in a New Zealand accent. scary! i better come home soon!

i'll update again before i leave. take care!

If you pray for rain...

It's Wednesday. well, last night i was in Taupo getting myself mentally prepared for the possible sky dive this morning at 7am. i was with a room full of girls from england who were also signed up for that early dive. after the lady at the bungy jumping place telling me i could not bungy jump, i did question how much different sky diving would be and if i could do it. it's all about the shear forces that your head goes through with the jerking and your not allowed to do it if you have brain injury, epilepsy, or neurological disorders. does brain surgery 10 years ago count and being on seizure medicine currently? i think so. i called the sky diving place yesterday and they said i needed to talk to the safety instructor. they said if he okay'd it then i would actually jump with him. that seemed safer. well, the real issue was the weather. i prayed a very specific prayer. my prayer was "Lord if you want me to go skydiving then please let it be obvious, but if you do not want me to go, please let it rain." guess what? first thing this AM i heard tons and tons of rain falling down on the roof. i got up with the english girls and we called just in case, but i knew the answer, duh, you can't go in the rain! i was actually relieved. i think i was starting to be a wee bit scared at the notion after seeing that i couldn't do bungy jumping. they say the force is different, it's more that your entire body jerks when the parachute pops out. whatever the case, i had a peace because i prayed so specifically and the Lord answered. so, i just asked Him if I could at least sky dive in heaven one day. :) or you never know, miracles can continue to happen.

today we drove only an hour and a half to Rotorua, the town known for it's geothermal geisers (like Yellowstone National Park), it's Maori culture and zorbing. we had a short drive with Jason the driver and said our goodbyes to the group. we will have two nights here and then head to Auckland on Friday. i have to tell you about what i did today in my next blog...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Hey there. i am totally relaxed! do you wanna know why? it's because we took advantage of Taupo's famous hot springs. we went in those warm waters for around two hours. julie and i were with an english girl who was super nice. we had a great time. we met an older man in the pool from england also who has transplanted to NZ. come to find out his daugher died two years ago. i asked why and he said from a brain tumor. wow. i knew there was purpose to talking to him. well, we had a great time in the pools just all four of us talking. then, we needed a ride back into town to our hostels. well, we hitch hiked. :) trust me, it was totally safe. we just stood in the parking lot and looked for cars exiting. the problem was that it was so cold and there weren't any cars leaving. finally, i saw a minivan with a motherly looking woman in the front seat and two small children in the back. i asked her if she would mind taking the three of us girls down into town. it was so close. she was so sweet and told us to hop in. i absolutely loved talking to her six year old daughter in the back. she had the sweetest new zealand accent. everything about this child was precious! i'm so glad i'm going to be working with kids. oh, the girl from england we were with is actually a pediatric nurse there. she is 28 years old. so, after the ride back, we walked to the grocery store and cooked a meal. it's been a relaxed evening.

let me back up to earlier today. the busdriver for kiwi experience named jason took julie and me to the hostel where we chose to stay. first, he stopped by a hill overlooking the lake and asked me if i wanted to go bungy jumping. i know, mom, you asked me not to go. for some silly reason, it seemed so safe when he asked. so i said sure, why not. i'll try it. well, don't panic yet, b/c i didn't go. i actually found out good stuff. i went inside and julie pointed out the sign of who cannot bungy jump for medical reasons. would you believe that i qualified for three things on the list! so, i feel better now. at least i know i am willing to try to live life to its fullest. i will stop short of medical risks, though. pooh! i was sad. i know there's good reason, though. mom, you totally researched that one well! i know you googled that one. you are right, as usual.

the question i'm researching thoroughly now is can i go sky diving??? seriously, i put my name on a list and called the company today. they said if the weather is okay, i should be able to go. i'm going to talk to the safety instructor tomorrow a.m. first. i would have to go at 7a.m.! what a rude awakening. that would be a morning i would never forget! how fun! we'll see. at least you know that it is in me to totally try for it.
i'll talk to you later! i'm so pumped to see you guys soon! it was awesome at dinner tonight. a friend of ours from NZ got really excited when julie told him we're going to be doctors in 13 days! his excitement just made it that much more real to me. it's unbelievable!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Horseback riding in New Zealand!

So, we took the opportunity to go riding on horseback here in Kaikoura at sunset. actually our ride started around 3:30pm at the footfills of the mountains. we rode with two guides, Julia and Kate. it was just the four of us. since julie and i have ridden, they let us do whatever we wanted. wow! i haven't ridden in so long! it was so much fun to bring that back. we walked, trotted, and cantered. it was all english style, of course. i loved it. we went over streams and in streams. we went over rocky land and hills. we went through bushes and forests. it was fantastic!

i'll talk to you later! i have to go, the internet place is closing!

we're going to wellington tomorrow which means we get on a ferry to go to the North Island!
we are leaving in 5 days! i can't believe it!
i'm so excited to see sarah in L.A.!

The flight for Whales!

okay, we joined up with another bus (Kiwi) this morning and headed for Kaikoura. can i just tell you this is my favorite place for sure so far!!!!!!!!!!! too bad we just have one night here. we are on the east coast of the northern part of the south island. it has the mountains and the green hills and the turquoise ocean all together in one scene! i absolutely love it! this is why i came to new zealand! i found the green hills and the cliffs falling into the ocean without the rain! okay, so the things to do here are to swim with dolphins or to see whales. we figured it is just too cold to swim with the dolphins, although i was willing to sacrifice warmth to do it. julie just could not. she really wanted to see whales. i have seen whales before, but wanted us to do something together. well, usually the whale watching is by boat. i had just gotten really carsick from the bus, and didn't know how i could do a boat. to my surprise, i saw a sign on the road for "Wings over Whales." basically, it was an advertisement for a company that takes small crop duster planes over the ocean to see whales. i checked into it and the price was the same for the boat. we totally agreed that it would be so scenic to see whales by plane! so we did it!!!!!!!!!!!!

i cannot believe that we were just in a little 6 seater plane today looking for whales. the sad part is that most of the whales have migrated to warmer waters. we were hoping to see one of the sperm whales that is always here, but we didn't. i was so enthralled with the flight, that i was okay with missing the whales. julie truly enjoyed the flight too, so we aren't upset at the loss. actually, we are blessed, b/c they gave us a voucher for the "next time we are here to go for free." okay, so can i come back? soon? :)

after the "whale" watching or water watching, we headed back to Adelphi Lodge. we love this place. it has a lot of character for a place for lodging. okay, so i also saw a sign for "Horseback rides at Sunset." julie has been begging me to go horseback riding ever since Thailand. it was perfect. we only have today and tonight here and since the horseback ride was at sunset we could do it right after we finished flying.

The trip with Al

Hi again. Yesterday, we left Franz Glacier and took a bus to Greymouth to meet Al. First, we met an englishman named Carl who was our age and who became great friends with us. He was also staying at the glow worm and was headed to Greymouth. so, we chatted the whole bus ride and he told us how he too is a "doctor", or PhD, shall i say. he has his phD in microelectronics. he showed me all of his video on his camera and it looks like he's hit the adventure scene here by swinging down in canyons, etc. the coincidental thing about carl is that he is possibly going to move to Austin, TX from England. considering that both julie and i are from Austin, he was in the right company for getting information.

at greymouth, we switched over to Al's bus. it was truly nice of him to take us back. it was just the three of us heading to Christchurch. i knew where the conversation was headed and julie and i were just waiting. al had already brought up our faith and how we seemed different from other backpackers and i had a feeling the conversation was headed back that way. it did. i was glad. he asked us a lot of questions about being a Christian and why we "believe." he wanted to know if it was about "fear" or "reward." no, to both. i tried explaining basically from the beginning and he was really open and a considerate listener. he was raised in a Christian home but became agnostic later. he is actually 25 y.o. now. at some points, i would stop talking and he would ask for me to go on. the mission trip was definitely not over! i was thankful for the opportunity to share about who I am and what I believe, considering miracles have happened for a major reason like this. i truly see Al one day as a youth minister. he has the passion for younger people in him, he just needs to get back on track. after we finished talking, i asked what he was thinking and he said he was stunned. why, i asked. he said b/c he was stunned at how passionate we were about believing in the Lord and how we wouldn't waver. he was also shocked b/c this was not the typical scene he'd expect christians to be doing. i asked what he meant and he referred to the scene of tourism and how tourism can lead to debauchery. hmm. i agree i have seen it for sure, but i don't view the way i travel like that. we were showing him that it is possible to defy stereotypes. he said i have defied every stereotype he can think of. good, maybe that should be my life motto! :) anyway, we had the option of doing what Carl was doing which was taking the Alpine train through the scenic ride through the mountains. we chose not to, because we knew we were supposed to ride with Al. i'm so thankful for that ride and we told him we are going to pray that God reveals Himself to Him. julie is going to pray that it's through a dream. will you join us in praying for Al? it's short for Allen. he is an awesome guy and i know he will turn around with a bit more time and prayer. the interesting thing is that he must have found credit to what we were saying b/c he wants us to talk to other Kiwi Experience drivers. i asked him why and he said b/c one guy was a strong Christian but slipped into the corruption of tourism, as he puts it. wow! sure we'll talk to him. i can see how someone can slip in tourism, but we know that it's totally possible not to as well.

Friday, May 13, 2005

We hiked the glacier today!

Well, today was the big hike. we set out this morning aorund 8:45am to meet up with the glacier guided group for the half day hike up Franz Glacier. it was a nice sunny, but cold morning. we literally were hiking through a rainforest before we got to the glacier area. it's just so amazing to see the rainforest next to a glacier! i still can't get over that here. we walked up to an area where the receded glacier once was and saw the glacier in front of us about 3 kilometers away. so we had a walk before we could get to the glacier to climb it. the guides provided us gear to wear and for hiking on the ice. we were with a group of people who were new. these weren't the kiwi experience people, who left today. we're just staying on our own an extra day before we meet up with another group in christchurch. the hike up the glacier was the steepest in the world, they say. they say Franz Glacier has the steepest incline of any other in the world! we didn't go to the very top, but we went high enough. the full day hike would have been even more amazing b/c they take you inside the glacier caves. however, i'm glad we just did half day b/c the weather changed as we were coming down and it started to rain. it rains off and on here a lot since we are in a rainforest. anyway, it was steep and a little dangerous, but they actually had ropes we could hang on to for most of it. i really enjoyed the scenery and the journey with the folks. i met some more neat people from england and ireland.

after the hike, all we wanted to do was crash. we were so tired. we had a good lunch and then headed to our new lodging for tonight. we are trying a quieter place. we love it! it's nice and clean too. actually, they have a living room area where you can watch videos. we watched the third Lord of the Rings this evening. we had a room full of people join us to watch it. i realized how universal this movie is. everyone knows it from every country. we were joking as we looked at the scenery and i was trying to figure out where everything was. i know i need to give it a rest. can you believe what i found out about the hobbit land area that still exists on some man's farm? apparently, he allows people to view it for around $50 and it's only the holes left in the hills with white boards left for where the hobbit's homes were. how sad! i guess he found his means of making a living. i heard there was even a minister in the NZ government for Lord of the Rings. that is crazy. here's the scoop on the rest of the movies filmed here... King Kong is being filmed by the same director as Lord of the Rings here in NZ right now just outside of Wellington. He also already has contracted to film the Hobbit here in NZ, too. (i'm glad about that!) i heard Last Samarai with Tom Cruise was actually filmed here in NZ too. as they say here, "oh there's just heaps of films here." every now and then, julie and i keep having to ask "what does that mean?" we just don't understand some of their words or expressions. the satellite tv here shows american tv shows. tonight we watched some of that as we tried to relax our muscles from the hike today. i still can't believe we did the grand canyon. the hike today was a bit like that except much shorter. it was the same rugged rocky trail that you hope your foot doesn't slip off of. we had talons on the bottom of our shoes for traction on the ice.

tomorrow, we get the bus to greymouth to meet Al and he's driving us back to Christchurch. i downloaded some pictures to a cd last night and after taking a break from seeing some of them, it was so awesome seeing the sites we have been blessed to see here. these places are truly breathtaking! the scenery is fantastic. today, i had to pinch myself when i saw a sign saying new zealand. it's still not real. neither does it seem real that we will be graduating in 15 days! julie pointed that out to me today!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

On to Franz Glacier

Well, there are two major glaciers on the west coast of NZ that people see. one is called Fox glacier and the other is Franz Joseph glacier. they say Franz is more spectacular so our bus goes there. we are here right now and that's where i'm typing from. we are staying in a place called the Rain Forest Lodge. It really is the rainforest here. however, it's the most amazing thing to see a rainforest juxtaposed with a glacier running into it. who would think the two could go together with temperature and climate? it's cool here. it actually rained yesterday and they predicted rain for today, so julie and i postponed our half-day hike on the glacier until tomorrow (Friday). well, the weather was absolutely gorgeous today so we could have gone today. instead we took a day of rest around the town. we needed it. it was nice to sleep in. i'll have more news on it tomorrow after our hike. it should be great b/c we will hike up onto the glacier here. we are praying for great weather. it's really beautiful here! we will be in Franz for a total of three nights. tomorrow we are staying at the Glow Worm lodge just for a change. Then sat. we have bus tickets to get back to greymouth and meet Al for a ride back to Christchurch. the following day (Sun) we are heading up north i think to Kaikura. after seeing more places on the south island we take the ferry across to the north island including wellington, taupo,rotorua and back to auckland. we won't make the bay of isles, sadly. i just have to come back! i'm thankful we can do side trips from some of these cities to nearby places we should see, too, like we may go to Waikapo from Taupo. I also heard from Rotorua we should go to Mata Mata to see the "hobbit houses" from Lord of the Rings!! That would really be cool. they tore down all of the sets, except for this one b/c the local farmer asked for it to stay.

okay, i'll talk to you later! Thank you for your comments and emails! i love reading them!

The Kiwi Experience

Well, Julie and I left Christchurch aboard the Kiwi Experience bus which is a tour bus for younger backpacker types. Younger may be the key word. :) our bus started out with 15 people and we met up with the rest of the group in Greymouth on the west coast to make a total of 42 people.

The smaller bus ride was great. Al was our bus driver and Julie and I sat up front and talked to him most of the ride. I actually had to move up to the very front passenger seat just to his left since his driving seat is on the right. the mountain passes that we were going through made me get a little car sick, not too bad, though. Al is from the North Island around the Bay of Isles. He told me how NZ typically views Americans. He said that "americans are competitive and everything that goes along with that." i asked like how and he said, "read between the lines." interesting. actually, we are basically the only americans traveling here that we've seen. come on ya'll, come to NZ!!!! they watch our TV shows and even watched the whole election process live. can you believe it? they may know more about it than i do, given my previous med student schedule. Al then started talking about religion some, so i joined in the conversation and explained to him what all i believe. he claims to be agnostic and said he really has no need for it. he said he was really burned by hypocrisy in the church. i explained unfortunately everyone is human and he should really make the decision for himself and how it helps his life. i told him it was absolutely necessary for me to believe b/c i'm so in need of it. it has changed my life miraculously! we had a great time talking and then he offered to take julie and me back on saturday again on his way back from greymouth to christchurch and we can join up with another kiwi bus. he helped me change the schedule we were on so we could get more in on our trip with the limited time we have. i'm excited he helped me skip going back to queenstown. we spent a lot of time there and don't need to go back on the kiwi route, so he said we should just stay an extra night at franz glacier instead.

so, in greymouth we got dropped off and got on ginny's bus with everyone and had a good time getting to know each other that day and night. we went to some waterfalls (Punch Bowl) and did a hike up there. I walked next to a girl named Vivian from Manchester, England. Sure enough, she is 23 and wants to go to medical school, too. she asked me all about it and that was a great way of passing our time up the brutal mountain climb! it actually was raining lightly. the falls were awesome. we spent some time in greymouth before heading to Lake Mahanapua on the west coast. the west coast has gorgeous cliffs dropping off into the brilliant blue ocean. it is the rainforest area so there is often more rainfall.

ginny told all of us that we needed to shop a little for a mixer they were having that night for everyone to get to know each other. we had a theme party. it was "things that start with the letter P" party. so, people dressed up from everything to Pocahantus, Pinnochio, two peas in a pod, piper (an english homeless person), the two popes (one english and one swiss), pirates, pussy cats (julie and john), poet, and a pink angel (me).

we had a great time shopping hurriedly to find the supplies. i went into a toy store and with the advice of the toy store owner found the angel wings. i found a stethoscope and said i could be a pediatrician. she said i needed to let my hair down and be something else, especially if i was truly going to be a pediatrician this summer. so i let my hair down and became a pink angel. i saw a pink wig and tried to incorporate that, but decided not to.

we went to a place near lake mahanapua owned by a real new zealand older man. he does this everyday for groups and loves hosting the party. a lot of people on our trip are from england. this is where they travel, for sure. there are some from other places, too, like Denmark, Slovakia, Austria, Canada, Ireland, and Scotland. it's fabulous learning different things from these people. i'm learning a lot of expressions and phrases i have never heard in english from the brits. they speak really differently. julie has gotten to the point of writing them down b/c it's so funny.

before the party that night, we went to the beach and took pictures just at sunset. the coast was surrounded by truly green pastures with sheep on them and the sand was black. it was gorgeous!!!

so, Julie, Vivian and I decided to spice pictures up by making funny poses. we thought a picture with the sheep or running after them would be great. well, let's say i was the first one that started towards the sheep and i got a surprise! basically, as i started runnning towards the sheep i came to a quick halt and to my surprise i felt several shocks run down my leg. Yes, I ran into a fence made of three tiny red strings that send electrical shocks out to keep the sheep fenced in. thankfully, it didn't hurt, it just alarmed me. all i could do was yell, "i'm getting electricuted, i'm getting electricuted!" julie immediately burst into hysterical laughter. after realizing what was happening i jumped away, but i stayed there long enough to feel two good shocks.

note to self: don't ever chase sheep!!!!!