Sunday, March 27, 2016

March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

Heather and Bryan came to visit us and we were so thrilled to show them the beauties of New Zealand's Northland! They could only stay a week, so we made the most of every day. Thank goodness for Heather's Selfie Stick! 

We told the people we visit weekly that we would be gone and they were happy our kids had come and said would survive a week without us. Haha, we didn't know if we could survive a week without them! 

Heather and Bryan  got off the plane rested from lots of sleep on their 25 hour trip, so after dinner, while there was still some daylight, we took them to One Tree Hill for a 360 view of the city. It is always a beautiful view!

We also wowed them at our favorite fig tree, which is impossible to keep from climbing on (if you're under 30).

We had an early start the next morning to be on time for our 6 hour sailing trip at the Bay of Islands about 4 hours from Auckland. The weather was perfect, with just enough cloud cover to keep it cool. Heather and Bryan got a little sunburned because of their "winter white" skin, and I left the sunscreen in the car. My bad!

There were only 8 total passengers on the ship and plenty of room to get comfortable on the many bean bags on deck.  It was smoothe sailing to an island where we docked for two hours.

Along the way we saw lots of dolphins frolicking and jumping out of the water. What a fun sight to see, and as they swam under the ship, Heather got a great picture of one.

We enjoyed two hours relaxing, kayaking, and hiking on this little island. Craig was happy for a little nap, being tired from the early morning driving. After lunch, prepared for us by the one man, one woman crew, we sailed back to Russell and caught the car ferry to our hotel in Paihia. We had a restful night at the Aloha Motel, which surprised us at how nice it was! 

Up the next day, we traveled a short distance to this glow-worm cave. There were lots of interesting formations in the cave, but the glow worms are the main attraction and something unique to NZ. With it totally dark in the cave, we could see many colonies of these worms attached to the ceiling. They give off a glow at the end of their bodies to attract bugs that get caught in their "threads". Loved it!

No photos allowed in the cave but we got a group shot before entering. The cave is owned, maintained and tours are given by the Maori tribe owners. 

One thing never lacking in NZ in any public place is bathroom, or as they say, "toilet". This toilet is a popular tourist stop in Kawakawa, called the Hundertwasser Toilets. Just an unusual creation by a man with that name. We love that they are most always very clean, well maintained, and well stocked with toilet paper. There is usually never a need to find facilities at a random McDonald's.
We enjoyed showing Heather and Bryan four different waterfalls. We love looking for and hiking to many waterfalls in our area. Most of them are right by the road.  This is Whangarei Falls within Whangarei's city limits. 

This is Haruru Falls outside of Paihia.

This is one of our new favorites, Rainbow Falls, close to Kerikeri.

We love Kitekite Falls, but it is an up and downhill strenuous hike, not loved by many. I love the many tiers of the falls. 

Heather found the Parrot Place online and we thought it would be fun to see it. A man had a bird collection that went out of control so he opened it to the public. We spent an hour feeding, scratching, and talking to lots of different parrots. They are not native to NZ, but come from many other countries. 

They loved nibbling my earrings, necklace, and even my missionary name tag. We aren't sure how much tourist traffic they get at this place, but it was really a fun experience to do once!

Our next stop for the night was the KariKari Peninsula, one of our favorite, out of the way places. This is Matai Bay, and there was only one other couple there on the beach.

Even though it was late in the day, Heather and Bryan got in their bathing suits and attempted body surfing. The water was warm enough and no fear of riptides in this beautiful bay. 

We spent the night at the Peppers Carrington golf resort. It is a beautiful place, but also the ONLY place closeby, unless we rented a beach house, or "bach" as they are called. Craig and I stayed here last July for our 40th Anniversay, so that is how we came to know this peninsula. 

It is popular to come to the top of NZ, and worth the drive once, but we were happy to come again to bring Heather and Bryan. Lots of buses make the trip with tourists and it is a magnificent site. The Pacific and Tasman seas come together, and there are great views of beaches, cliffs, and ocean. 

The lighthouse is a nice reminder of times passed when it was needed, but is mostly decoration now. 
It was crazy windy that day, but somehow Heather never lost her cute hat! We had a lot of laughs and a good time driving, taking pictures and eating ice cream!

 Loved being here with these two cuties!

Heather always makes us laugh!

4-wheel drive is recommended for driving on the 90 Mile Beach, and since we don't have a car like that, we only drove a tiny bit on the beach. It would've been terrible to be stuck in the sand. 

It was low tide and the waves broke clear out. We had more to see, so we didn't spend much time at this beach.

Heading home towards Auckland, we drove many winding roads through forests to show Heather and Bryan "Tane Mahuta", the giant Kauri tree in the Waipoua Kauri Forest. Though not as big as some of the redwoods in the U.S., it is still a 2000 year old tree and pretty amazing! I think Heather and Bryan have a greater appreciation for the straight roads and highways in America. Even in the city here, roads rarely run straight. 

Sunday was a nice break going to church, having a great meal at a member's home, and taking a Sunday nap! It was so nice introducing Heather and Bryan to the great members of the Waterlea Park Ward. Heather said she wasn't prepared for how nice everyone was! I told her that is the norm! 
We love our ward and all the members! 

About 4:00 Sunday we drove over to Devonport for a great view of the cityskyline. 

We drove in downrown Auckland and wound up at Mission Bay and this little park/garden/memorial. 

With the President's permission, Monday we took the kids out of our mission down to Rotorua. This is a city on a huge lake with so much to do here. We had been before and did an evening Maori show, but bad weather kept us from doing much more. This day, the weather was cloudy, but warm and not much rain. We were excited to do this Luge ride.

This is a cement track and we rode the carts down the road speeding, breaking, and trying not to roll. We did it 5 times, and it was very fun. Craig took the lead every time with Bryan close behind. I was the conservative, pokey one at the back most of the way. We were happy Heather took pictures and even got a little video of us. 

After each luge ride down the hill we rode the chairlift back up. It was so lush and pretty seeing the ferns and redwood trees below us, with the Rotorua Lake in the background. 

In 1901, groves of redwoods were planted in this area. Most of them have been used for lumber, but this one forest is still here. These trees stand so straight and tall with no undergrowth, and we got some great photos.

Redwoods on the west coast of the U.S. Are much bigger, but this forest was a highlight of our trip to Rotorua. Thank you Heather for suggesting it!

Not wanting to miss anything, and with 1/2 hour to spare before closing time, Heather and Bryan went "zorbing"! They had a blast with this, even though it only lasted about 2 min. to zigzag down the hill. 
The ball had warm water in it and they sloshed around at the bottom of the ball going down the track. A hot tub waited for them at the bottom. I was the photographer and Craig waited in the car. 

We made a quick stop in Hamilton to see the Temple, which was lovely, and then found some dinner before driving home. More ideal would have been to stay the night in Rotorua, but Bryan had an early flight home the next day.  Zoom here, zoom there, and then the days are over!

One more beach to show Heather at Piha, and then a hike to Kitekite Falls. This is a must see beach and Heather wasn't disappointed. It got a little too windy, but the warm weather helped. With the low tide, we were able to wander through a cave and along part of the shore I had never been to before. 

This blog post isn't meant to make everyone feel bad if they can't come here, but hopefully, shows you the beauty of this place. Spending this short time with Heather and Bryan was such a treat, and we loved every minute. Craig was an amazing driver, winding over hill and dale on these narrow roads, never complaining! He is a gem! 

No sooner had Heather and Bryan come, and they were gone again. Sometimes I think that will be the same for Craig and I. The time is slipping by so fast and we will miss all these places and the wonderful people! After the kids left, we had a few days to get back into our "missionary groove" before Good Friday and Easter weekend came along. Many members are with family or out of town. Next week will be more productive for sure.  

We hope you all have a wonderful Easter with family and attending church. We are so thankful for the blessings of the Atonement and the amazing sacrifice for us from Jesus Christ! We love Him, are happy serving Him and can't talk enough about His love for all of us! Thank you you also, for your love and prayers. Pray for all the missionaries, especially the ones in harms way! We know they are receiving the Lords special care! 

Love always,
Elder and Sister Martin

Saturday, March 12, 2016

March 13, 2016

Our normal week consists of weekly lessons to different members in their homes, drop-in visits to less active members, service projects, helping the full-time Sister missionaries with whatever they need, various meetings (District, Zone, and Ward), and sometimes just sharing a meal with members we've become close to.  

Last week hummed along and we did most of what I mentioned above. We went to lunch with a couple that has fed us many times, and we wanted to reciprocate and take them out. They took us to a yummy Chinese place and it was great sharing stories of our families and realizing that we have so much in common as life-long members of the church. 

Wednesday night was our Rescue Night, but sadly, only the Ward Mission Leader, the Sisters and us showed up. No matter, we split up, men together and women together and separated. We each had fantastic visits with some "forgotten" members. I had a taste of what it is like to be a missionary without a car, walking the streets with the Sisters and talking with everyone.  It was fun, but tiring! 

We met a group of four "flat mates", all are members, one woman and 3 men. They live in the same house, and work for the same company, and none are not related. We are having a FHE with them Monday night and we will get to know them better. We know that one man has a family in Wellington, 8 hours away that he sees every other weekend, and the woman is divorced and has 7 children, but they live nearby with her ex-husband. Sharing homes is very common here where the rent prices are so high. 

All the photos below are from our Saturday activity at Pasifika. Pasifika is a yearly festival in Auckland for all the different island countries nearby. People travel from all over New Zealand and the islands to perform and sell crafts and food. Pasifika is located at a huge park with a lake in the middle. The different countries are all around the lake, each area with a stage for performing and booths. 

These are the couples we met at Pasifika, the Bath's, the Jackson's and the Byrne's. We arrived at 8am, two hours early to get parking, because we had heard the parking lots filled up quickly. It was still a little chilly, but soon the sun warmed us up and the festivities were underway. 

This Samoan man caught our attention first and was happy to pose with Sister Bath and Jackson. 

Elder Bath was brave enough to jump in this picture with some Cook Island ladies waiting to perform.

This man is part of a Samoan group performing a lively number. Not sure what the female mannequin behind him is for, except maybe promoting island wear. We all wished we had worn island clothes or accessories to blend in better, and not look so much like tourists. We were welcomed by many people seeing our badges and happy to volunteer that they were members. 

In the New Zealand area, we loved these young boys performing the Haka . 

These young Maori girls performed a traditional dance. Their costumes were great and their makeup resembled tattoo markings on their chins, so common once among Maori women. 

A Tongan band is behind these woman who are playing their horns. The band was so lively, and had such a familiar sound I thought i was in Provo at a park on the 4th of July. 

We watched this Tongan lady weaving a mat. She was sitting on the part she had woven, and I'm sure she was there at her task all day. Such a meticulous and intricate art. No wonder the mats are so expensive and valuable to families. Behind her, hanging up, is a painted Tapas cloth made from tree bark. It is also very prized among family possessions. 

This is a Hawaiian group. I was surprised that Hawaii was represented here because it is so far away, but it is part of the pan pacific. 

The costumes from Tuvalu were the most colorful. There was also a lot of participation in this group by men and women. 

The women performed and then the men stepped in front to perform. Sitting on the stage behind was a large group singing and playing music for the dancers. 

Signs like this were all over helping us know where to go. As we walked around we watched whatever was being performed at the country we were at. We missed a lot of performances at countries we had left and ones we hadn't come to yet. It was impossible to see everything.

This is a Cook Island group of men. We came at the tale end of their numbers and there was a huge crowd watching. By 2:00 the number of people at the park was so great, and we had walked almost 5 miles, so we were happy to leave, 

This woman in a "peacock" costume was from an Indonesian group and everyone wanted a photo with her. 

It is hard to see this woman's face under her headdress. 

This is the back of her costume. Such a beautiful work of art, but I can't imagine wearing it without tipping over! 

We had a fun time seeing what each country had to share. We bought something from almost each country, and that was fun - baskets, a lei, carved necklaces, earrings, shells, and food. I had heard about Pasifika when we first arrived in NZ and had been anticipating attending. So glad we did. 
I love this quote from Elder Holland. God can't help us if we don't pray. When we pray, He often uses us, His servants, His deciples, to help answer those prayers. We need to ask always for blessings, and also be ready and worthy to be of service helping God to answer the prayers of others! We need to look for ways to be angels on an errand for God, through home teaching, visiting teaching, or any time. 
That is our desire after we return home from our mission and get back into civilian life.

We hope you will be strengthened in your prayers and seek ways to serve others. We love and appreciate your prayers for us. We are so blessed because you pray for us! We pray for you daily! 

Elder and Sister Martin