Flowers and Pumpkins

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Does anyone know what kind of flowers these are? Here is another view that includes more of the plant. It looks to me almost like a bull nettle--a vicious plant that I remember from my childhood. But the spines are not prickly.

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It is getting towards mid-spring here in Queenstown and the flowers are bursting out all over. These are a few shots of the raised beds in front of our apartment.

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The blue ones are very nice,too. It is a small but significant blessing in times of stress to look out on the beauty that God provides for us. We are now in the middle of our two days of final exams, so there isn’t much time for gazing at flowers. Even a small glimpse is welcome.

We celebrated Halloween yesterday (probably with many wondering thoughts from the Kiwis). The Mills family has three children 10, 7 and 4, so each of the apartments made up some treats and everyone went around trick or treating. The boys next to our apartment set up a haunted house, which consisted of them taking you one at a time into a dark room, giving you a piece of fudge and then yelling at you with their loudest voices until you left. Deafening, but funny.

Meagan and I had caramel apple wedges, toasted pumpkin seeds, and candy canes. The caramel apples were a huge hit. And of, course there had to be jack o’lanterns. The Mills made a traditional face, and I carved a Maori pumpkin. We can’t get orange pumpkins here, so we made due with white roasting pumpkins.

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Well, there is no telling when the next installment will be. We leave on Wednesday to make our way to Christchurch, then to the cruise, then on to SE Asia. I’ll check in when I can. Happy Halloween back in the States!

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final push

At the moment I am watching a BBC documentary on the filming of the movie The Killing Fields. We watched this film in my humanities class yesterday and today. It has been a sobering conclusion to our study of Cambodia. Of all the places we are going to visit in the next month, Cambodia holds my interest most. It has had such an incredibly sad past. Such a fascinating place and history.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the students and faculty alike are growing very weary of such an intense academic semester. Many are also homesick. We are all supporting each other in order to stay strong until finals are completed next Tuesday. Actually tomorrow is the last day of classes. Thursday and Friday are days we will be camping and hiking on the lake. Saturday and Sunday are the last opportunities for “adventure tourism” here in Queenstown. I should be doing the Nevis Bunge jump this weekend. Then I will catch up with Lauren, my lovely younger daughter. She jumped at the Corinthian Canal in Greece. After Sunday we will be even.

It is difficult being around the world from home, especially when our two daughters are back in Arkansas. Somehow all the luster of travel and eye-opening experiences take on a different hue when you see it within the perspective of the cables that connect us to family in the States. As wonderful as the trip is, we are not home. Unfortunately, once we are back in the United States, as Christians it seems much easier to forget that even there, we are not home. At home we are safe, loved, accepted, cared for and we truly belong. On Earth, whether in Arkansas, New Zealand or Cambodia, home exists in a quasi-broken state, yet at its best points to the ultimate home in Heaven.
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Queenstown Hill Trail

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There was a fable once told to me about a man and his wife. Day after day she complained about how small her house was. Finally the man grew tired of her complaining and brought in the chickens to live in the house. She still complained for adding chickens didn’t help. After a few days, the man brought the pig in to live with them along side the chickens. This exasperated the wife and her complaints grew louder still. About a week later, the man brought in the cow to join the pig and chickens. A week later he brought the horse in to live with the others. All the while, the woman’s complaints continued.

One day the man got up and removed all the animals from the house. As the silence drifted down on the interior of the house, his wife exclaimed, “I never noticed how much room we had until now.”

Once my piles of grading moved from the unfinished to finished piles yesterday, I suddenly was at loose ends. The three hours until bedtime seemed unending with nothing to keep me occupied. I realized that even though I still had the same number of hours in the day, what fills them makes all the difference. Today I got to hike up Queenstown Hill Hiking Trail …and draw!

The last blog had a photo of the drawing above. (Yes, there are para-gliders in the sky.) No offense to photographers, but nothing helps me to own a piece of what I see the way tracing their contours onto a paper surface with pen or pencil. Sometimes I strongly agree with the philosopher, R. G. Collingwood, when he said that the apparent work of art is just that--a work. Art proper happens in the mind. The work of art (artwork) is to recall to the mind the meaning intended. As I draw on paper, the shapes, textures, colors, values, smells, sounds--even the feeling of the wind blowing against my skin are all indelibly etched in my mind and on my soul. The paper is a vehicle of memory for me, and a vehicle of transport to help you as a viewer to reconstruct, however imperfectly, the majesty or simple charms of God’s creations in your mind.

The hike was strenuous. My muscles burned and lungs heaved to suck in as much air as I could hold. I wove from sunlit gravel paths into dark pine covered corridors with little light and thick blankets of needles underfoot. Then suddenly the path turned sharply to the left and began another steep climb up hill. Within a hundred yards the path rose up out of the trees to the bare rock and tussock of the “hill” summit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t live in an area where hills have tree lines. At the very top of this trail, there is a sculpture by Caroline Robinson dedicated to the Maori people. It is called Basket of Dreams. It sits on an outcropping of shale-like rock. When you come upon it, you are literally walking up to it. All around you see the peaks of the Remarkables Mountain range, and below Lake Wakatipu in the far distance. I was so far up that all traces of human settlement had vanished from site.

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The best way to remember the site was by sitting on the rock outcropping below the monument of coiled steel bars and look up at it offering its form to the sky. Not that many people get to see it in person. I witnessed it on a warm spring day with the sun shining down on the last of the snowdrifts clinging to the peaks of the neighboring mountains. It was a special time. Still. Just being--with no loose ends.

Fleetingly, I regretted not bringing my camera--but then I thought that I would spend more time trying to capture the magnificence of this place and miss this place. Drawing once again helped fix the experience within me--not 100s of shots that stay “out there.” Just as the murals in the chapel at the Village of Hope, the only way to truly experience this is to travel to this place. I’ve sealed it in my memory--the proper place for such things.

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Okay, so I lied the last time…

Yep, I said the next time I would be bringing drawings to the blog, but I couldn’t resist a small entry today.

New Zealand springtime is quite unpredictable and varied. Earlier this past week, it was up in the low 80s here and beautiful. Yesterday it started to rain and today is cold and rainy. Tomorrow and Thursday are likely to be the same, but it is amazing for someone who hasn’t grown up in the mountains.

Today on the way to class, you could look up at the mountains and watch it snowing on the tops while it rains here at the foot! It is such a beautiful sight! God’s power is amazing. The old phrase of snow looking like frosting or powdered sugar are true. As the day wore on, you could see the lower edge of whiteness move further and further down the slopes. By lunchtime, it had overtaken the treeline and was well on its way to half way down the mountain sides. (You are probably wondering why I didn’t include an image--by the time I reached the apartment to grab my camera, the clouds had descended over the mountains and covered any views of the snow.)

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be sunning on a cruise off the Great Barrier Reef--and sweating.

Drawings, next time…
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Queenstown, NZ-Next to Paradise

100_7319scenic overlook of Queenstown from the trail

Well, it is expensive in Queenstown, NZ. This is the “adventure capital” of New Zealand, and everything is priced to match the reputation. But it is a beautiful place. Queenstown is situated on the southern end of the South Island of New Zealand. It is nestled at the foot of the Remarkables Mountain Range and at a major bend in Lake Wakatipu. Soaring mountains, and a lake that is as deep as the mountains are high. It is quite an amazing place. Oh, yes, the Paradise reference–just outside of town there is a section of one of the national parks called Paradise. Not because it is breathtakingly beautiful (which it is) but it is where the species of paradise ducks live. You can tell a paradise duck because the female head is stark white against a multicolored body, and the male has a black head and it appears to pretty much have a black body until he flies and several brilliant colors come out of hiding on his wings and sides.

We are doing our last half of the academic semester in residence at Queensland Resort College. The director, Hal, mentioned that Queenstown has a lot in common with Aspen, Colorado. They are both beautiful and both expensive. Surveys have shown that even people who backpack into Queenstown expect to spend over $200 per day beyond the cost of food and lodging. What do they spend it on? I’m glad you asked: skiing, snowboarding, jet boating, white water rafting, horseback riding, sky diving, bungi jumping, parasailing, off-roading, zip line, hiking, drinking, visiting Lord of the Rings/Wolverine film locations, panning for gold, more drinking, four wheel drive tours in the surrounding mountains, steamship rides, expensive chocolate, still more drinking, eating really good burgers from Fergburger’s, and last but not least some more drinking.

Seriously, I was taken aback by how much everyone drinks alcohol here. Once you hit 18, you forget what water is. (Don’t even try to ask about iced tea, I did and they laughed.)

I will be bungi jumping from a height of 134 metres on Saturday and doing a 300 metre swing out over a canyon afterwards. I’ll let you know if I survive. Note the British spelling when I refer to measurements in metric?

Here are a few image of the sights we see everyday going to class while others are spending copious amounts on adventure tourism. (My day is coming next weekend!)

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view from our apartment building

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looking at the harbor from the botanical gardens

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it is early spring, everything is in bloom

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trees along the Queenstown Hill hiking trail

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another section of the trail

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overlooking Lake Wakatipu

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a cabbage tree near the trail head

Next week I’ll bring some drawings, finally! I’m going through withdrawals as I have not had the time to draw in over a week. Until then…
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Quick Note…NZ is slow

Just a quick entry for everyone to read. We are in Queenstown (population smaller than Searcy), adventure capital of New Zealand. We will be here for three and a half weeks for classes and risking our lives doing stupid things like bungi jumping, sky diving, white water rafting, horseback riding, and the like.

The problem with New Zealand is, even though they are a developed nation, no one gets unlimited internet access. Everyone pays by the gigabyte. And the speed is nothing to write home about--so I am writing home about it. Pictures from now until we land back in Australia for a day or two will be very scarce indeed. And I may not be able to visit with you very often. Even more than downloading images to Facebook, Skyping is going to take the biggest hit while we are here–most students have used Skype as their lifeline back home and so have we. I guess we will be getting phone cards and using public telephones more in the coming weeks. I’ll let you know more as our adventure unfolds.
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Last Days of Broadbeach

read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…

Okay, my eyes are glazing over. The humanities students are required to turn in their journal three times during the semester: first at the end of our stay in Australia, then at the end of New Zealand and finally in Singapore. The cumulative grade equals half of their total grade for the class. Humanities is about making connections and understanding our common human traits, desires, concerns, etc.

This is day two of grading 39 journals. I have to finish them this afternoon because we leave at 5:30 AM to fly to Christchurch, NZ. It is both rewarding to see individual students get it, but taxing, too, because I am an image guy. I have great respect for English teachers who must read hundreds of papers every semester.

So we leave tomorrow morning. Internet access will go down for us this evening around 10:45 PM (Aussie time). Tomorrow we arrive in New Zealand, which is an additional three hours later than Searcy time, so you add 18 hours for CST.

Couldn’t let a blog through without more pictures. The following are images from our apartment, 13th floor.
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A view of part of our living room

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Looking out the window to the Pacific Ocean


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zoomed in on the same ocean

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Through the kitchen window, across our neighbor’s balcony
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Okay, so on our “free travel” time, Meagan and I went back to Binna Burra, in Lamington National Park. This is where part of the Gondwalla Australian Rainforest is. I sketched while there and wrote a journal entry. Well, I’ll let you read it.
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email me with questions if you can’t read my writing.

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This is the lookout area just behind the lodge dining hall. Usually a great view, today just fog and rain (lots of it.)

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They have the coolest plants (epiphytes) that attach themselves on the sides of trees and grow without touching the ground, and they are non-parasitic. This particular species of epiphyte is called a staghorn epiphyte.
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