Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Thinking of all our friends in Fiji...

Hello Everyone,

One of the devastating things that has touched our whole family is hurricane Winston that hit Fiji... I just can't tell you how hard and sad it is for us to see the devastation to this beautiful slice of heaven.  I think the hardest part for me is remembering all the amazing instant friendships, the welcoming people with the huge smiles, extra large super sized hugs and their generous hospitality to all of us.  Most of the villages that we visited in the last part of our cruise have been completely demolished, some not even a tree left standing.  The most thankful thing through and through is that there weren't more people hurt in this huge natural disaster!

A few of the places that we were mesmerized with were Makogai, Numea, Vuya Village, Viani Bay, Paradise Resort, Suva Suva, Lautoka, Taveuni Island, just to name a few... Most of them completely gone.  All those little faces of Fiji that I posted are now working their way back to some resemblance  of a home life and stability.  I am just so thankful that we were there and able to meet and participate in all of the villages that we were welcomed into.  Vinaka!

One of the most amazing things that happened to me today was I received an email from Brooke, Vuya Village.  I couldn't believe it.  Brooke was a girl that came and stayed with the Vuya village to help them become a sustainable community and ended up staying for a few years.  When we arrived they realized we were from the states and asked if we new Brooke, they continued to show us where she lived in the village and were so proud of her and loved her so much.  As we were leaving the village Chris and I new we had to try and find her... but how.  As miracles in social media play out, I received an email from Brooke today.  She was looking for information about Vuya Village and found our blog online and sent a note.  I love how small this world really is and how interconnected we are all around the globe.

Patrick from Shine was still there on his boat, while Anna has taken the kids (Xesca and Archie) and moved to Australia for a short time so the kids could return to school.  The kids are loving it there but it is very difficult for Anna to be away from the boat/Patrick and wanting to help out with the relief efforts.  Patrick was able to tie his boat up in the mangroves outside of Denerau along with a bunch of other boats.  This is always the safest place during a hurricane because of the root system amongst the mangroves.  They are always the last thing to do.  All of the boat faired well and Patrick actually ended up sleeping through it.  We were so relieved to hear that he and others were okay, only to find out that others didn't fair so well.

I am so proud to be a part of this small community and hear all the humanitarian efforts jumping into play.  At a time when much of what you hear in the world is bad news and political game playing it is really nice to hear how people can still come together for the better good and do the right thing and help people.  I have always said how amazing the sailing community is in general.  We all come from any different walks of life, many different countries, speak many different languages but it doesn't matter who is in need... any cruiser will step up and offer assistance to help.

Many of the cruisers have that have been undamaged in the hurricane are participating in delivering supplies, food, water, medical, what not to the remote villages that are desperate.  With the hurricane many of the ferry systems that used to deliver goods and supplies have been reduced so they just don't have the means to get items distributed.  Thank you Patrick and everyone out there that is able to help.  I can't imagine the relief those villagers are going to feel when you are able to help them.

I know there are many funds that people are setting up to help the Fijians... I am so thankful that we can all do our small part to help out.

Back at the Dock...

Well there hasn't been much to talk about since we have been sitting dock side hanging out at the marina and doing boat projects... blah blah blah... but oh well, such is boat life... it isn't all fun and adventure... we actually do have to do maintenance, up keep, school, laundry, grocery shopping, hair cuts, you know the regular stuff everyone does on a daily basis....  We finally have some of our South Island trip set up... We have organized the first 2 weeks of it.  What was going to be a two week trip has now turned into four and a half weeks... it is so nice to have the flexibility to plan and make sure we really enjoy all this wonderful country has to offer.  Even with that said it is 4 weeks in the south island and we STILL aren't able to do everything we wanted to do... Dang blast it!

Tristan finally wrote a short story about his experience with bungy jumping.  It was a school assignment to write a short story...  so the story is a little changed but still super cool to read about it from his perspective....

The Time I Almost Died
“Bock bock bock” is the sound of my sister that is standing behind me not even waiting for her turn to jump. “Shut up” I say, “It’s not as easy as it looks.” The truth is that I was scared. Imagine jumping 150 feet down and getting dunked in a lake, yeah sounds fun doesn’t it. Well actually it is terrifying, as I am barely scooting along the overhang with the bungie attached to my feet, making me look like a prisoner, all at the same time, the butterflies in my stomach feel like I stepped on a hornets nest. “Well if you’re to chicken to jump, then don’t go.” the comebacks little kids come up with these days are so childish. The circulation is cut off from my feet by the bungie that has a grip on my feet like a vise.
Although I feel like I am moving in slow motion onto the platform where I jump, I can see my hands shaking a thousand miles an hour. “Ok, but don’t push.” I tell the man working the bungie. Earlier that day I saw him push a terrified teenager face first over the platform, and right then I knew I wanted to jump. Now that reality is staring at me in the face, and I am about to jump, looking over the edge looks like death for sure. I am constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure he doesn’t push me. “I am not going to push you” A faded voice says in the background. Okay, I tell myself. I squat down and with my adrenaline building up pressure like a geyser, I leap off the platform.
I feel just as I imagined I would once I started the descent. I feel amazing and indestructible, like a super hero, as I am free falling through the air. “Wahoooo wahooo!” I scream as I am free falling. But as I am rapidly descending I realize that the water is coming up fast and that I am not slowing down enough. So the little drill sergeant in my head is yelling “Brace for impact!” I am now feeling like this is the end, and that I am about to die.
“Sploosh” is the sound I hear when the upper half of my body is dunked in the water. “Ahhhhh!” I scream as I am flying back up through the air and feeling like there is no gravity around me. “This is amazing!” I yell excitedly, as I am on an up bounce I feel a drift of wind and feel like I am flying with eagles. The scenery of the beautiful lake and sky matches with what I always thought it would be like to fly. As my final bounces of ups and downs are finished, I look back down and see a raft with two people in it ready to take me back. As I get closer, I start to hear distant voices in the back of my head, but all I am actually hearing is all the yelling and the experience of what I just did.
“Grab the pole” they say as they hold it high above their heads. It took about three times but then I finally got a good hold on the pole and they pulled me down into the raft. Once I got onto the boat, they started asking me how it was and telling

me that they are going to take the bungie off. It felt so good to have that vise like bungie off my feet that when they got it off I reluctantly let out an “Ahhhhhh” of satisfaction. Once they got me to the dock they told me I had to follow a trail to get back to the top and to watch out for thorns. I thanked them and start going to the top when a dog comes sprinting out of the bushes like a wolf and scares me, but luckily it was one of the friendliest dogs I have ever known. While I am walking up to the top I am replaying the whole scene in my head, and I keep thinking about how I thought I was going to die.
Once I get back to the top, only stopping once or twice to get some thorns out of my feet, my family is waiting excitedly for all the details. As I am talking to them one of the employees comes up to me and hands me a CD disc saying that they filmed my jump. I was very happy that I could always have this memory of the time I almost died. 

Alexia is still writing her short story that is now 11 pages long and growing... hmmm... I do have to say that it is really fun to read and if she lets me I would love to put it on her page.  In the mean time, when she is done from school I keep asking her for the next chapter of her story.  Hee Hee... I really do look forward to reading it.  I see some similarities in the characters she is developing.  I think I am the mad queen... go figure...!

Thanks,  Hugs and extra love to everyone at home....


Thursday, February 18, 2016

The eagle is flying... the eagle is flying.... Oma has left the nest.

Hello Everyone,

Well it is official we are back down to only 6 in our family.  We already miss Oma so much.  It seems weird not having her chipper, "Good Morning, and how did you sleep last night?" first thing when you wake up...

Now reality sets in for the kids and we are in full steam school mode.  Okay they still get up at 9 and start their day by 10 but it is a solid 6 hours of consistent school work.. reading, writing and creative juices for that time period.  I try to relate it to school but as Tristan says it seems more intense because we don't get recess, lunch is over books and besides my reading out loud and discussions of what he is reading and our thoughts and ideas exchanges there are zero breaks... he is a little behind from Christmas still but is catching up rapidly and I am really proud of his determination to get 6 weeks of high school caught up... He has the same workbooks as everyone else and there is a lot of content and writing assignments to cover... it is a little grueling and we definitely have our moments of silliness and need for a break but he is tackling it day by day.  Learning time management, organization, and setting reasonable goals and checking his to do's off the past due list are bonus skills he is learning for the future.  Alexia is doing great and has been writing her short story that is now 10 pages... we are working with her.  She loves to write and it is a skill to be able to get a short story out.... I love her writing style and always encourage her but learning different styles is really important...

We have had a great few last days with her roaming around Hamilton and Raglan.  We caught up with our cruising friends from Bob the Cat, Dave, Malene, Matias and Lukie and had a great night of home made pizza in their outdoor pizza oven.  They surprised us with having their friends that crewed along with them join us.  It is really great seeing everyone on land and getting to spend time and reminisce about the good ole days.

 We didn't really get a chance to see Raglan for all its glory.  It is known as a surf town and for their fresh fish and chips.  So we headed back the next day for valentines day to meet them at the beach for some surf and boogie boarding.  It was a perfect day, sun, waves and then the famous fish and chips at the wharf for dinner.

Motley Crew
Amaia and Matias... loving the surf

Matias and Amaia .... two little birds with the same big personalities... spells AWESOME!

We were able to take her through the Hamilton Gardens before it started pouring cats and dogs on Monday.  It is a beautiful tour of a bunch of different styles of gardens.  A lovely walk a bout.....

Then on Tuesday the day she was flying out at midnight we drug her around the Auckland Zoo for the whole afternoon making sure she was good and tired for her flight. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the zoo habitats and layouts, and the animals were really active, I think because it wasn't hot and it was a drizzly day... so we really enjoyed it.  As I have said before the kids are really enjoying taking pictures of our trip.  It is really fun to get a different perspective and eye from the shots they capture.

Tristan's Shot....

Then off to a good dinner in Auckland.  We were able to find a place near George (our friend from Shine) and so he was able to join us.  It was so good to see him and the kids just mobbed him.... I could tell they really missed him.

Hugs and love to everyone at home.... Oh and by the way... Tristan wrote on his Blog!  I almost had a heart attack... it was a very nice surprise for the morning...



Friday, February 12, 2016

Hobbiton, Lugeing, and a Maori Performance at the Mitai Village in Rotorua, NZ

Hello Everyone,

We are still here in Rotorua and are trying to get as much of our fill of the tourism that we can handle.  Yesterday was a long day of car rides and tours but it was all worth it.

We started off with some school in the morning and then packed our lunches and hit the road again.  We started off with a Hobbiton tour.  This in jokingly I told the kids was their math field trip.  One of the really neat things about the Hobbiton tour is they tell you all about how they filmed the Hobbit and the behind the scenes secrets..  It is all a game of ratio's and scales.  "No Amaia, all the people really aren't that tiny and that ginormous."  They are all just people and they staged them during the shoots at different levels and different size doors to make them seem bigger or smaller.  If you were playing a hobbit you had to be 5'4" or smaller, that was the only main criteria.  They told us for the one scene where Gandolf is coming in to Hobbiton on his wagon with the fireworks and Frodo is riding along side him.  Frodo is actually sitting 3 rows back in the wagon to make him seem so small.  They attached a camera on the front of the wagon to get that shot and it had to line up perfectly.  Anyway it was a perfect day to go along with everyone else in New Zealand and tour the sites.  It really is a very busy place and Chris and I are realizing how we really like the remote locations that don't have to bus people in and do the cattle call thing, but once in a while you just have to move with the herd.

Bilbo's House

Kids learning Math lesson for the day.. Ratios and scales

Sam and Rosie's hobbit house

I need to get better at the selfies... sorry Amaia we can just see the top of your head... :@(

It is obviously a set and you can't actually go into any of the Hobbit homes because it is only the front and the hobbit village scenery that you walk through but the gardening and the decorations out side to show that it was a cheese makers house, or the potter, or the fish monger, and such were really cute.

There were two funny tid bits I got out of it.  The director wanted the set to seem as real life as possible during filming so they had hired a lady to come around and put laundry up in the morning and take it down in the afternoon so it seemed like people really lived there.

This is so the actors could get into believing the set.  Unfortunately one issue was with the pond... they did such a nice job making it that frogs moved in and they were so loud they couldn't film the talking scenes.  So he hired someone to come in and relocate the frogs until the shooting was done.  It only took 12 days so it wasn't too hard on them.

After the tour you go to Green Dragon Inn and have a bit of ale or apple cider and then you are on your way again back to the car park.  I did really enjoy it and the attention to detail was really amazing.

Okay so now back on the road again, just another hour to Rotorua and then we had about 2 1/2 hours to kill until the Mitai Maori performance and dinner.  We stopped by the OGO balls (the ones you get inside and roll down the hills... Too much money for what that is.  Just down the road though is the Gondola and Luge.  With a family deal you get 20 rides for the family to use anyway.. This we had to do.  It is safe for all ages and a fun way to ride down the hill and then you take the ski lift back up to the top to do it again.  We each got 3 rides (paid for just a few extra) to zip down on.  Okay not really zip more of going down the hill at a leisurely pace but a lot of fun to watch Amaia and Alina finally be able to participate in something.

We definitely couldn't complain about the beautiful day we had and the amazing view of Lake Rotorua behind us.

Here is a sample video of the baby scenic Luge 

Then it was time to scoot 300m up the road to the Mitai Performance.  They put on a good show demonstrating the Haka dance, talking about what the tattoos symbolize, weaponry, and how they use to cook the food if you can imagine, they aren't allowed to actually put it in the ground and cover with dirt any more.. but the dinner was surprisingly good.  Usually you think of the buffet dinners with that many people and they don't seem so appetizing so we were pleasantly surprised that kids cleaned their plates and went back for seconds.  Always a good sign.  They still aren't getting used to the lamb though... they just can't acquire that taste.

Chris with a cup of coffee in him and Oma in the front seat to tell a story to keep him awake we made our way for the 90 minute drive home.  A star filled night and an orange crescent moon that was setting in front of us playing peek-a-boo with the hills helped to fill the time...

Now we are off to Raglan to visit our cruising friends Bob The Cat!  Super excited to see the Dave, Malene, Lucas and Mattias.

Hugs and love,