Friday, September 3, 2010

Near Miss

Our original plans for New Zealand were based on a year long study abroad experience. Circumstances made us change our plans to a shorter stay but if our original intentions had played out we would have still been there today for the 7.0 earthquake that hit this morning. Thankfully everyone is safe and injuries are overall minor.

Christchurch New Zealand Earthquake

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Adventure Continues...

So we have left New Zealand behind for the wild jungle adventures of Costa Rica....Stay tuned!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wedding Gifts

Though I'm not crazy about being home, one nice thing is to see friends and family before we bop off on another adventure. Last Friday Greg's mother surprised us with a beautiful dinner at Elizabeth's Chophouse to celebrate our wedding. It was really very nice, she and Greg's grandma decorated the table with all sorts of cute wedding stuff including candles and little scrapbook graphic things that were adorable. It was really unexpected and so nice. The picture above showcases two of the  gifts we got, a wonderful engraved silver cup for sabbath and a groovy new camera. Greg is totally in love with this camera and is using it all over. While  I haven't had the chance to use it much myself yet, I have to say it takes pretty nice pics. So much love and thanks to my mom-in-law and grandma-in-law for a really great evening! :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Back in Michigan...

Well we made it back to Michigan. I'd say back home but it's just not how I feel about it. Honestly its completely depressing to be here, so in the spirit of living in the moment and enjoying life as much as we possibly can we are planning to continue our travels and turn this year into a little mini world tour with a trip down to Costa Rica shortly. Pay rent here, pay rent there, you pay it somewhere and we'd rather pay it somewhere new and exciting. So I will be linking this blog up to the one to document Costa Rica when I have it ready. In the meantime, enjoy some videos.....   :)

New Brighton Beach


Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Franz Josef Glacier

Sunday, May 2, 2010

And the dream fragments...

Friday April 30th

Well we are pretty much at the end. In a few days we will be at the Christchurch airport to board the long flight home. I don’t really look forward to that, the journey between here and Michigan is really uncomfortably long, but not much can be done about that. One thing I can say though is that this has not been a vacation. A vacation by definition is an escape from responsibilities and everyday living. That is not what this experience has been. We have actually lived here in New Zealand. I have worked. Greg has looked for work and endured the roller coaster of hopes and rejections that entails. We have paid bills, budgeted, grocery shopped, dealt with the government, public services and doctor’s appointments. This has been living in its true and normal sense in a lot of ways.
These last days are a full of curious contradictory emotions. On one hand, we are all pretty much ready to return to the states. I’d say go home but as Greg pointed out we don’t really have a home at the moment.  In considering that though I’m struck with the contradictory feeling that since we have lived here as normal people for the past 3 months that in a way this has taken on a sense of home.  Many people say home isn’t a place but a feeling, often comprised of being with the people we associate with that feeling of home. I think it’s that and also the creation of patterns and habits. Three months is enough time to develop that patterned sense of normalcy that feels like home. What we miss about the states, which is of course what we look forward to, is in many ways just the creature comforts  like familiar food,  good beds, the convenience of unlimited internet.  Those things are all really nice, but after you get use to them again they are pretty empty. We go back to Michigan because it’s where we must go due to practical reasons, but it isn’t really home for us. In truth Greg and I have yet to find an actual physical place that feels like home to us.  When we first arrived here, those first four to six weeks, we thought that this perhaps could be home. Of course with time we realize that as lovely as the first impressions were we didn’t really fit well here as much of the values here in Kiwi land just don’t work with what we’re looking for in life. So we travel on, back to Michigan and from there who knows. 


Sunday May 2nd

I started this blog entry a few days ago and then put it aside as I knew I had more to say just not the words to say it. Last night Greg and I went out for a nightly visit to the beach. This has been a routine we have done pretty much every night here, a ritual of appreciation for the blessings of being able to be here and having a beach as practically our front yard. The night before last, Saturday, we went out a discovered a group of teenagers had a bonfire going, a rare occurrence as the city doesn’t allow beach fires for reasons I don’t know.  They had also found a small sofa left on the side of the road and had brought it down. Last night it was still there so Greg and I sat on the sofa under the vast starry sky and watched the silvery moon light edged waves roll in. It was wonderful and surreal and a fitting reminder to just how special being able to do what we’ve done has been. This morning I woke not wanting to return to the states at all. Not because of a sofa on the beach but because I understand now that the things we are returning to are pretty much available everywhere. I enjoyed being here, far away from what was my life and people I know. The things I miss such as good beds, good food and good internet, are actually available most places if you look hard enough. And the things that can’t be found can often be replaced with other things. Celia has adapted to being here as much as we all have.  If we had been able to stay a better house would have been found along with all those creature comforts we missed. It simply would have taken some time for after all things are just things and you acquire them in the process of building a life.  We would have liked a better opportunity to build a life here but unfortunately we came at a time when the doors to immigrants are rather closed.  Though ironically a guy we know actually offered to sign paperwork for a work visa application for Greg a few days ago. Unfortunately it’s simply too late.
I’ve enjoyed my time here. Most morning I get up, make some rather horrible coffee, and drink it on the patio in the warmth of the morning sun while listening to the waves in the quiet moments between traffic. We complained about the traffic sounds, but those will be there when we get back to Michigan and the sound of the ocean will not.  I will have good coffee again, but no sunny ocean filled airy patio to enjoy it on.  I will miss being here. Greg has often complained that despite having all these amazing experiences traveling they all have one bad aspect in common, they always end. I understood mentally what he meant at the time to an extent as all endings are sad, but now as I enter into the ending of my first long experience abroad and understand that most of the experiences like this will end with feelings similar to this I understand it much better.  While I don’t look forward to more endings I know there will be more exciting beginnings and maybe, eventually, one of these experiences will not end but become real in that we will finally find a place we truly can call home.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Wedding,,.Part 2

I was suppose to post this quite a while ago, but didn't get to it. I also did not get around to ordering our official certificate, which Greg reminded me of a thousand times, which I didn't do because I thought the certificate we had on that day was the right one, turns out he was right and we need the official stamped one for the states. So I owe Greg a huge apology for being a jerk about it and am off to the offices downtown to correct my stupidity. 

Wedding ceremony for Kelly and Greg
Saturday 20 March 2010
Celebrant: Ruth Gardner

Ceremony will take place on Brighton Beach, just south of the Surf Club at the end of Bridge Street.
The couple will mark out a space with three concentric circles beforehand.
Couple and celebrant will stand in inmost circle.
Witnesses will stand in middle circle.

Purification:  Ruth to light white sage smudgestick and walk around outside of outer circle, saying:  I banish all negativity from this sacred circle.

Then move to the inner circle and say:

I welcome the energy of Earth to this circle.
Earth which we can feel solidly beneath our feet, and which holds us as this circle holds us.

I welcome the energy of Air to this circle.
Air which inspires us as this circle inspires us.  Air which reaches up to the sky and forms our wedding canopy today.

I welcome the energy of Fire to this circle.
The fire we can feel in the warmth of the sun.  Fire which warms us as this circle warms us.

I welcome the energy of Water to this circle.
Water which flows with us as this circle flows with us.  Water which reaches to every part of the planet and unites us with those who are far away.

I acknowledge the tangata whenua of this land, and all the ancestors who have walked the path of life before us.

Today we stand at the equinox, the time when dark and light are equal, and the world is in balance, both here and in the northern hemisphere that is your home.

When an man and a woman unite in marriage, their personal union draws its power from the cosmic marriage that underlies the whole of existence – the bonding of the divine masculine and feminine energies emerging from the Creator’s infinite light to generate existence, a world, and life.  On each level, masculine and feminine energies unite to give birth to the next link in the chain of spiritual worlds that channel the flow of divine vitality into our world.   This means that we can use our own marriages as a metaphor through which to better understand the divine reality.  And, because we know that human marriage derives from the cosmic marriage of God and creation, studying the mystical texts which scrutinize these divine processes allows us to better understand the foundations of our gender differences, how to become better husbands and wives to our spouses, and to better actualize the tremendous potential of marriage.

Love is the language of the soul, and the more in tune a person is with the soul, the greater the capacity for pure love, unsullied by ulterior motives and ego. 

As you prepare now to enter into marriage let us consider four aspects of God.

Let us now consider those Aspects of God which have special significance on this day.

The first of these is Happiness, Vav Hey Vav.
To experience happiness we must first drop our ego.  This enables us to move forward towards actual and lasting fulfilment.  We restrain our selfish longing as we ask for what our soul needs, not what our ego wants.
Looking ahead, we seek elevation doe the soul and real transformation.
We restrict our dark impulses and tendencies towards negativity and complaining.
We appreciate everything around us and reach into our soul at the deepest level to connect with real happiness and true joy.

The second Aspect is Sharing the Flame, Mem Lamed Hey.
With this aspect we tap into the infinite, the hidden dimension, the ultimate source of strength and light, and imagine sharing that joy with all those around us.
Darkness recedes as we see candles burning across the universe, signifying the spread of joy and light.
We ask for the strength and certainty to go out into the world to share goodness and create greater opportunities for Light, love, and compassion.

The third Aspect is Angelic influences, Hey Zayin Yud.
With this we will transform our character.
As we close our eyes and reach out into the network of angels in the universe, we see particles all around us, and we commit to connecting with good forces.
We will be more tolerant, sharing, and compassionate.
We see an abundance of po0sitive angels and welcome them into our realm, shutting out the negative influences.
We will drop our ego and allow room for the universe and its good angels to bring Light into our life.

Finally we consider the Power of Prosperity, Damech Aleph Lamed.
We transcend our financial burdens and allow the Light to provide for us.
As prosperity grows, we continue to share, to give back more to others.
We will not obsess about money.
We distance ourselves from our money issues, acknowledging that in our desire for it, perhaps we have lost out on other parts of our life.
And as we open up the channel for actual prosperity, we feel even greater abundance, and endless supply of Light.
Infinite fulfilment awaits us.

With our hearts and minds focussed on these four aspects, we move towards the purpose of today’s ceremony.

Kelly, do you come here freely and without reservation, to give yourself in marriage to Greg?  I do

Greg, do you come here freely and without reservation to give yourself in marriage to Kelly?  I do

It is now time to make your sacred vows to each other.

Greg, please take Kelly’s hands, look into her eyes, and repeat after me:

I Greg Lenier Miller, take you Kelly Marie Carter, to be my lawful wedded wife, to love, to honour, and to cherish.

Kelly, please repeat after me:

I Kelly Marie Carter, take you Greg Lenier Miller, to be my lawful wedded husband, to love, to honour, and to cherish.

Do you have the rings?

For thousands of years, people have exchanged rings as a symbol of their commitment to each other.  Rings are a visible sign of the love which binds two lives together.  The ring is a circle and it is endless as we are all part of the circle of life and the eternity of love.  May these rings be blessed by the love which unites your both, together with the love that surrounds us all today.  As often as you see these rings may you be reminded of this moment, and of the endless love you’ve promised to each other.

Greg,  please put this ring upon the finger of your bride and repeat after me:
“Be thou consecrated to me, as my wife, by this ring, according to the Law of Moses and of Israel.”

Kelly, please repeat after me: May this ring, I receive from thee, be a token of my having become thy wife, according to the Law of Moses and of Israel.

Kelly, please place this ring on Greg’s finger and repeat after me:
This ring is a symbol, that thou art my husband, in accordance with the
Law of Moses and of Israel.

Kelly and Greg, because you have chosen one another, honoured each other with the gift of rings, and pledged to love each other it gives me great pleasure to announce that you are now husband and wife.

Traditionally this announcement is sealed with a kiss.

As is customary within the Jewish tradition, I now invite you each to recite the seven blessings:

First Blessing:
Greg:  Baruch Ata Adonoy
            Eloheinu Melech ha’olam
            Sheh’hakol bara lich’vodo.

Kelly   Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has created everything for His glory.

Second Blessing:
Greg:  Baruch Ata Adonoy
            Eloheinu Melech ha’olam
            Yo’tzayr ha’adam.

Kelly:  Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who fashioned the Man.

Third Blessing:
Greg:  Baruch Ata Adonoy
            Eloheinu Melech ha’olam
            Asher yatzar et ha’adam b’tzalmo

Kelly:  Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who fashioned the Man in His image, in the image of his likeness and prepared for him – for himself – a building for eternity.  Blessed are You, Lord, Who fashioned the Man.

Fourth Blessing:
Greg:  Sos tasis v’tagail ha’akara
            B’kibutz ba’neh’ha l’tocha b’simcha
            Baruch Ata Adonoy
            M’samay’ach Tzion b’vaneha

Kelly:  Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one through the ingathering of her children amidst her in gladness.  Blessed are You, Lord, Who gladdens Zion through her children.

Fifth blessing:
Greg:  Samay’ach t’samach ray’im ha’ahuvim
            K’samay’chacha y’tziri’cha b’Gan Eiden mikedem
            Baruch Ata Adonoy
            M’samay’ach chatan v’chala

Kelly:  Gladden the beloved conpanions as You gladdened
            Your creature in the Garden of Eden from aforetime,
            Blessed are You, Lord, Who gladdens groom and bride.

Sixth Blessing:
Greg:  Baruch Ata Adonoy
            Eloheinu Melech ha’olam
            Asher bara sasson v’simcha
Chasan v’chala
            Geela, reena, deetza v’chedva,
            Ahava v’achava, v’shalom v’ray’ut.
            M’hayra Adonoy Eloheinu
            Yishama b’aray Yihuda uv’chutzot Yerushalayim
            Kol sasson v’kol simcha
Kol chatan v’kol kalla,
Kol mitz’halot chasanim may’chupa’sam,
Un’arim mi’mishtay n’ginatam.
Baruch Ata Adonoy
M’samay’ach chatan im hakalla.

Kelly:  Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace, and companionship.  Lord our God, let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the grooms’ jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts.  Blessed are You, Lord, Who gladdens the groom with the bride.

Seventh Blessing:
Greg:  Baruch Ata Adonoy
            Eloheinu Melech ha’olam
            Boray p’ri ha’gaffen

Kelly:  Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

Kelly and Greg:
Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth for the other.
Now you will feel no loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons,
But there are three lives before you:
His life, her life, and your life together.

Shalom aleichem

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The West Coast...or How I finally got over my fear of driving in a foriegn country!

Well I finally did it, I drove here. I have been terrified of driving here since the minute we got in the first taxi to at the airport. Why? Well, one, they drive on the left side, two, all the road signage is totally different, and three, kiwi's drive like total nuts! So all of this combined left me stubbornly refusing to drive here, much to Greg's frustration. Can't blame him, especially with how ridiculous it seems now . Well one of the things we really wanted to do was see the West Coast. The scenery out there was suppose to be amazing with rain forest, glaciers and unique coastal rock formations. Now you can take a tour out there, but they are ridiculously over priced and limiting on what you can see and do. So finally after much prodding Greg got me to agree to rent a car. Of course agreeing doesn't mean I wasn't still terrified, I actually puked before we left the beach house to pick up the car because I was so nervous. One of my absolute requests though was GPS and it totally made the experience an easy one. So we got the car, got the GPS programed and off we went. I was pretty tense until we made it out of Christchurch, which in hindsight really wasn't that bad. I have never used GPS before, honestly I think it makes people back home a bit lazy on natural navigational skills, but in a foreign country, its an absolute must. It made everything soooo much easier. I could just focus on staying on the left instead of worrying about missing roads!


So off we went for a two day exploration of the West Coast. To get to the West Coast from Christchurch there are two ways, Authur's pass, the directest route, and Lewis Pass, the long one everyone takes in winter due to black ice on Aurthur's. Now the locals had been giving a definite impression that Authur's was scary and looking at pictures of the viaduct online, that certainly seemed correct. After you get out of the Canterbury plains its right into the mountains all the way to the West Coast. The plains were nice because the nice flat stretches let me adjust to the car before hitting the reputed hard parts. But the mountains proved to be no problem at all though! The roads are very very winding and very narrow with 180 degree curves back and forth all up and down. The speed limit on all hi-ways here is 100 km, unless marked for the taking curves, which while in reality about 60mph, seemed a lot faster given the width and nature of the roads. Luckily traffic is pretty light in this country, so I could putz at speeds I was comfortable with. So our first amazing sights were Authur's pass itself. 

Now if we had stopped each time there was something beautiful and picture worthy on this drive we would have never made it to Greymouth, our hotel destination! There were amazing rivers, waterfalls, and lush rain forest covered hills all around. Before we got to the point pictured above, there were also hills that reminded Greg of Scotland with these awesome rock formations called Castle Rock. Unfortunately the camera was acting up at the point so can't share that view.

We continued on through the mountains, enjoying the great views while I navigated the crazy roller coaster roads and were in high spirits. The drive took about 4 hours so we arrived at our Greymouth accommodations around 2pm and promptly checked in, dropped off unneeded gear and headed out again to grab some Domino's Pizza before heading out to Pancake Rocks, these really kewl rock formations on the coast north of Greymouth. Celia talked me into trying Chicken Feta pizza and I have to say I'm totally hooked and craving one even as I write this. :)

Pancake Rocks on Dolomite Point are one of those little natural mysteries here in New Zealand. They are limestone, which isn't really anywhere else on the coast and formed into strange layers like stacks of pancakes. No one knows how they formed, but they are just amazing to look at. The whole place had an enchanted ancient castle/temple feeling though none of it is man made. We really enjoyed exploring this area. Greg got a lot of really awesome shots, these are just some.

After exploring this amazing natural wonder we drove about five minutes north of here to do a little cave exploration. Punakaki Cavern was definitely on Greg's to do list and I actually had never been in a cave at all so it was lots of interesting fun. The cave itself wasn't terribly large but had several different areas to explore and also the added fun of glowworms! When we turned off the torches, that's flashlights to us back home, the glow worms lit up the ceiling of the cave like stars. It was very groovy!

After all this exploring we were pretty tired and rather filthy so it was back to the hotel which had great comfy beds and nice hot jacuzzi to make a perfect end to a great day!

DAY 2 

We got up pretty early the next day to head out toward our next West Coast destination. Three hours down the coast from Greymouth is the Franz Josef Glacier, an amazing place with glaciers and rain forest. This seemed pretty strange to me because when you think of rain forest you think of humid warmth and glaciers you think arctic cold, but they are weirdly right next to each other. I have decided in my granted limited experience that so far rain forest is my favorite terrain on the planet. I just love the feel of it for some reason. Maybe its all that super oxygenated air, not sure, just know it make me happy. The road down to Franz Josef was even more narrow and winding then Authur's Pass but went through ever more amazing terrain of road clinging rain forest. Some of the weirder things about NZ country side hi-ways are they pretty much have no road shoulder and one lane bridges. These things are everywhere! I think we crossed about a dozen of them on the way to Franz Joseph. They are narrow, a bit unnerving and frankly strike me as foolishly dangerous for public hi-ways where people drive like nuts. Its not just my opinion on that one, there are signs and commercials on tv constantly about how speed kills in this country.

We arrived at Franz Josef around 1pm and stopped into the visitor center to check out the various tramp, that's hiking paths to us, that lead to the glacier. After getting directions to the glaciers main car park we headed out. Now the road to the car park was rather weird because it had at least a half a dozen one lane speed bump things, and not single concrete raised things, but rough stone in cement double risers. These were really irritating to drive on. But once past that we parked and headed out to see a glacier. 

We opted on the Glacier Valley walk which promised to give a nice walk through the rain forest and then out to the glacier itself with a round trip time of an hour and a half. Unfortunately this is the moment when the camera died. Completely, totally. We bought new batteries in Greymouth, but by time we got to Franz Josef it was obviously a lost cause. That camera gave us trouble this whole trip, but I was hoping it would hold out until we got home. But being the resourceful people we are, we did not accept defeat but instead emptied the backpack, put in the laptop with its handy-dandy webcam camera, grabbed the battery from the other laptop and headed out on our hike. The webcam wasn't great so these pictures don't do the experience justice at all, but at least we tried. Celia also got some video on her Ipod which I hope to upload with some other ones she's taken sometime in the next few days.

The glacier was really an amazing and unique thing. On the way there we went through some really beautiful forest, then out onto the dry rocky river bed part of the trail. On either side were rain forest covered hills with many waterfalls cascading down. One point there was a section where you could sit on a big rock in front of a multiple water fall and see the hills, glacier and listen to the falling water. This was the perfect spot! The ice is actually blue in color and at the bottom there was a river rushing out from underneath it. Really, an amazing day! :)

After the hike, which actually took us more like 3-4 hours, we were all pretty tired, so we headed back into Franz Josef village and grabbed some dinner which we ended up eating picnic style on the road side then headed out on the long drive back to Christchurch. It took about 6 hours to get back but wasn't too bad of a drive. The only real issue was possums! These suicidal little cute buggers were all over the roads and I almost hit a half a dozen of them! Luckily I didn't though and we made it back to the beach house safe and sound around 11pm. Overall it was a really great two days and I wish I had gotten over my fear of driving here a long time ago! Cheers! :)