Monday, 19 January 2015

Kia Ora, today is Tuesday, January 20, 2015.  We have been in New Zealand over two months.  Sometimes it seems like we have been here a lot longer than that!

I am going to blog about New Years and some things that have been going on during January.

Well the week between Christmas and New Years here at the Area Office is very quiet.  Almost everyone takes that whole week off so we had the office pretty much to ourselves.  We actually got quite a bit done.  The weather has been beautiful, cool in the evenings and nice around 75 during the day.

On Wednesday,, December 31st, New Years Eve, we worked most of the day but in the evening we went to Elder and Sister Brown's apartment for games, food and to watch the fireworks.  They live in Devonport on the 10th floor of an apartment building.  They have a beautiful view of the harbor and downtown Auckland.  At midnight they do the fireworks from the Sky Tower.

Looking from Brown's apartment window across the bay to Downtown Auckland.
We didn't arrive until dusk and it was fun to watch all the lights come on across the water.  It really is a very beautiful skyline.
Elder Beckkstead playing a Minute to Win It game.
Nada with pantyhose on her head trying to knock down all the plastic cups in less than a minute.  She did it in 45 seconds. 

Below they had a clock on the Sky Tower that we could barely see counting down the time.  Right at midnight the fireworks started off the deck on the 54th floor of the Sky Tower.  They were nice but only lasted about 10 minutes.  The 20 minute drive home took about 45!


On New Years Day, we drove down to Takapuna Beach.  Reed snorkeled and Nada walked along the beach for an hour.  It was so nice.

Later that day we went to an open house at Elder and Sister Winters for some snacks and to wish everyone a Happy New Year.  After that we took Elder and Sister Aland with us and we went to The Auckland Botanical Gardens.  Most of the gardens, parks, museums and beaches here in New Zealand are free and they are always busy.  They are very well taken care of it.

 Nada walking through the gardens.  We will have to make sure we go during Spring next time.  A lot of the trees and flowers were already finished flowering.
 We wished they had the types of plants labeled a little better with the common names.

 Very interesting tree.
 The rose garden was flowering.  There was this nice arbor and then they had quite a few different types,

Beautiful.  If it looks like this now after the main Spring blossoms have finished imagine how beautiful it must be during Spring Time!

On Friday, January 2, 2015 we packed a lunch and took Elder and Sister Winters with us to the Gannet Colony at Muriwai Beach.  It was very interesting.  These birds come to these rocks and lay their eggs about October.  After the eggs hatch and the birds get strong enough they head to Australia about February - March.  It was very interesting to watch them.

 We could see these cliffs from the path by the parking area.  All those white sports are birds.
 Reed and Nada on the trail to the Gannet Colony.  The black sand beach was very nice and the water was beautiful.
 There were so many birds.  Each had their own spot.
 Close up of the Gannet Bird.
 You can see the little fluffy babies.
 These two Gannet birds just kept playing with each others beaks.  It was interesting.  We don't know if they were mating or what.
 There were little caves all along the cliffs.
 Reed in his new wet suit that he got for Christmas.  The water here is not very warm.  He only went in for a few minutes.  He said the undercurrent was very strong.

 The water kept flowing in and out of these caves.  There were three of them there together. 
 The water was mostly out here in this cave Nada is standing in.  When the tide comes in you cannot get into these caves.

You can see the tide was starting to come in here.

 Sister Winters made this drawing in the sand.  It was a beautiful black sand beach.

On Saturday, January 3, 2015 we made a trip to the Hamilton Temple.  It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get there.  The people come early so you usually need to be dressed and ready for the session about 45 minutes to an hour before it starts.  We had a nice session and decided to check out the town of Raglan for lunch.  We drove for about an hour and arrived in this little resort town on the West side of the North Island.  It was definitely a touristy place.  We ate lunch, walked around and then headed to Bridal Veil Falls. 

This is a picture of a hotel and restaurant in downtown Raglan.
 This is Bridal Veil Falls.  There is a place to take pictures from a lookout right at the top of the falls, then midway and then from the very bottom.  This is from the midway view
This is from the platform at the bottom of the falls.  The river running along into the falls is not very big or fast but it does create for a nice waterfall.  Reed climbing over the rail to get that perfect picture!

We went back to work and it was on full throttle.  Everyone was back by January 5th and we are starting to feel like we are moving forward.  We have written a handbook for our Education Specialist Missionaries to use and help give them direction.  It is kind of hard to develop a strategic plan and programs when we already have missionaries out there on the Islands serving and wanting to know what they need to do! 
Our mission is like going to work everyday 8 - 5 sometimes longer.  Then we have the weekend off which is when we shop, clean, go to The Temple and try to discover new places.

On Saturday, January 10th we cleaned and did some shopping then decided to go on a hike.  We hiked up to One Tree Hill.  It is where there is a monument erected by a British Officer  to honor a Maori Chief.  It was a volcano (there are 48 volcanic cones in the Auckland area) and where a main Pa, a fortified camp, of a Maori Tribe who lived and defended this area.  It is one of the best 360 degree views of the entire Auckland area. 

 This is the Pohutukawa Tree or more commonly called the New Zealand Christmas Tree.  It is mostly done flowering but the color and blossoms have been fantastic to watch bloom.

 One of the great views from the top of the hill.  One Tree Hill is the highest hill around the Auckland area.  There are numerous bays and harbors you can view from here. Everywhere you look there is water! 
 Reed and Nada from the monument area at the tope of One Tree Hill.  We packed a lunch and ate it while we were enjoying the view.
This is the monument erected in honor of the Maori Tribe at the top of the hill.  It was a beautiful day for a hike and a little Maori history! 
On Monday, January 12, 2015 it was our turn to host FHE for all the senior missionaries serving in the Auckland Mission.  Reed did a lesson about the history of the saints in Samoa and what we did on our last mission and what our new mission is all about.  It went very well.  When you are in charge of FHE you also prepare a light supper for everyone since we have it at the Area Office conference room and it begins at 5:15.  Nada fixed a chicken pasta salad, rolls, fruit and oatmeal no bake cookies.  It was a success!  We served 35 people and had a great time. 

The picture to the left is the break room at the Area Office and where we have the light supper after the FHE lesson.  Nada and Sister Aland setting the tables.  When you host you do the meal and supply all the paper goods as well. 
On Saturday the 17th of January it was Stake Temple Day and since we work with our Stake President we thought we better go.  We arrived at the Temple at 7:45 and the chapel was already full for the 8:30 session.  People stood around until they took us to the session.  There were 180 people in that session.  Reed said he figured the room with the balcony could have held about 10 more people.  It is great to see these faithful saints in the Temple.  We visited a museum in Hamilton, had lunch with a couple we met on the street who were members, Julia and Eric Wilcox. It is amazing how many people recognize that missionary badge and stop you on the streets to talk and shake hands.  We then visited the Hamilton Gardens.  They were very different and we did not have our camera, if you can believe it.  We will have to go again and we will share pictures then.

We are happy and busy.  The Gospel is True.  We are grateful to be able to serve a mission here in New Zealand and help the Lord's Work continue to move forward.  Until next time.  Elder and Sister Spencer aka Reed and Nada

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Today is January 7, 2015.  Happy New Year everyone.  Where does the time go? 

I am going to blog today about Ralph and Sheila's visit and Christmas here in New Zealand.  We did so much in December it will be hard to share it all.

We arrived on November 12th and today, December 12th, we went to the airport to pick up Nada's brother Ralph and his wife Sheila.  They decided to come and visit as soon as they found out we were coming to New Zealand on our mission and to fulfil two of Ralph's bucket list items.

When we arrived at the airport Sheila was just coming out the door and Ralph was getting information because two of their bags did not arrive on the flight.  A little stressful but what can you do.  We loaded the car and headed south to Hobbiton!  We had a great time and Ralph and Sheila really enjoyed it.  It was cloudy but never rained on us, Yay!
Ralph and Sheila on the bus into Hobbiton.  They look pretty good for not being to bed for two days!
 Ralph and Sheila in front of one of the Hobbit Holes.
 Elder and Sister Spencer in front of one of the Hobbit Holes.  They are all different sizes depending on who they are using in the shot.  They use the smaller door to make Gandalf look bigger and the bigger doors to make the Hobbits look smaller.
 Who are those two Hobbits?
 Our guides name was Hadley.  Ralph and Sheila had a hard time understanding her with her accent.  You can see the pond and then all up the hill are different Hobbit Homes.  The tree in the very top of the picture is the Oak Tree that cost one million dollars to build because there are no oak trees in New Zealand.  It is right above Bag End which is Bilbo Baggins home.
 Ralph, Sheila and Nada in front of a hobbit home who was a baker.  They have tried to place different items in front of each home so you can tell what that Hobbits occupation was.

Below is a picture of the Green Dragon.  It is the pub and restaurant.  They give everyone a free drink, some alcoholic but one, Ginger Beer, is alcohol free for young children and Missionaries!

Ralph ran out of steam and we put him to bed in Hamilton while the rest of us went to the Green Stone Museum.  Green Stone is only found in one place here in New Zealand on the South Island.  It is very pretty.  I had Sheila's name for Christmas so I let her pick out the necklace she wanted and that was her Christmas Gift.

Saturday, December 13, 2014 we got up early and headed to the New Zealand Temple.  It sits on a hill and is very beautiful and peaceful.  We went to the 8:30 a.m. session and it was packed. 

 Nada had to lend Sheila her skirt so she felt comfortable about getting into the Temple.  When Ralph came out he shared something wonderful to us.  He said, when he went on his mission, we think it was 1963, there were only 12 LDS Temples.  He made it a goal to attend all twelve of those in his life.  Now there are so many temples that would be almost impossible. However,  New Zealand was the last of the original twelve and now he had been in all twelve of those temples.  What a special event to share with him.
 The Norfolk Pine to the right of the temple is such a beautiful tree.

Ralph, Sheila and Nada in front of the New Zealand Temple.  There was a wedding this morning and the couple bride was related to two of the people Reed and Nada work with in the Area Office.

 The fern trees here in New Zealand are so beautiful.  We love seeing them mixed in with pine trees and all the other foliage. 

We headed down to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves.  This is the entrance.  They do not allow any photography inside the cave.
You walk through the cave and then at the end you get into a boat and they take you through the area where there are thousands of glow worms.  It is quite magnificent.  This is where the boat takes you out.

 We stopped and bought ice cream cones here.  Interesting name for a shop!
 We headed back to the Temple Grounds for a young single adult Christmas activity.  Some of them were dressed up.  They came on a bus and had mothers and some of the young children with them.  We played games, had dinner and watched the turning on of the Temple Christmas lights.  It was a nice evening.

One of the activities was decorating one of the people in your group as a Christmas tree and then we had to sing Carols when they called our groups number.

 We also played a game called A What?  A fork or a spoon.  It took them a few minutes to catch on but then they had a lot of fun with it.
They started the singing at 8:30 p.m. and turned on the lights at dusk.  It got quite cold.  We left around 9:00 p.m.  As you can see there were a lot of people there.  Great Day!

Sunday we took Ralph and Sheila with us to church and after church we headed to the Bay of Islands to spend the night and explore on Monday.  It rained all the way there and we arrived about 7:30 p.m.

On Monday, December 15th we walked down to the pier and got on our sight seeing excursion.  It was stormy and the water was pretty rough.  We were not able to do the whole tour because he could not leave the bay because of the wind and rough water.  It was cold and wet but we still had a great time.

We sat out in the open for most of the time so Ralph and Nada did not get too motion sick but it was very cold.
 We saw lots of dolphins.  They were amazing.  They would swim right up to and under the boat.  We watched them for about half an hour.

We counted at least fifteen of them at one time but there could have been more.
 We stopped at  Island and took a hike.  This is looking down from the scenic view point to the harbour where our boat is docked.
 It was so windy it about blew us over.  You can see Reed barely able to stand and the rain hitting the camera lense.

This is a Pohutukawa or New Zealand Christmas Tree.  The blossoms are a vibrant red.  They begin blossoming  the middle to end of November but are really getting into full bloom now.

We got off on Russell Island and had lunch at this oldest licensed hotel in New Zealand called The Duke of Marlborough.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere was historic and Victorian!

Reed and Nada went back to work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  We had a lot of planning meetings for the new year since most of the people who work at the Area Office take from Christmas Eve until the first week of January off! We did have a very fun Area Devotional on Tuesday, December 16th where Reed and Nada both sang in the choir and Reed and Alan Nanoa sang a duet which Nada accompanied.  After we had a nice luncheon and each department had to perform something original as a thank you.  There were some very clever poems, songs and performances.  If you can believe it we forgot our camera.

On Friday December, 19th we took the day off and went to The Coromandel Peninsula.  The weather was beautiful today and we walked along beaches, hiked and just enjoyed the beautiful country of New Zealand.

 Reed and Nada at Hot Water Beach.  This time we were here during low tide and people were digging holes in the sand to reach the hot water and sitting in them like hot tubs.

 Reed, Nada and Sheila hiked down to Cathedral Cove. It is so beautiful  There were a lot of people swimming.  The water was a little rough so the boats could not put people on the shore.  Ralph did not feel like he could hike so he missed this beautiful scene.
This is looking at the arch from the other side.  The tide was in and Nada and Sheila did not want to get wet but Reed swam and went through to the other side.  Below is a picture of the LDS Church House in town of Coromandel.

Reed, Nada, Sheila and Ralph standing at a beautiful overlook outside the town of Coromandel. 

Saturday we took the ferry over to Auckland.  It rained off and on and the clouds were so low that when we at lunch at the Sky City Tower you could not see the city.  A bit disappointing but the food was great and when we could see it was beautiful.  It was kind of fun to be in the middle of the clouds.  New experiences!

 Nada, Ralph and Sheila on the ferry crossing from Devonport to Downtown Auckland.  It is easier to take the ferry over than try to fight the traffic and find parking.
 Ralph and Sheila bough gag, candy gifts to take home to all our brothers and sisters from this candy shop.  It was quite fun.
 You can see the top of the Sky Tower is all closed in with clouds.  People bungie off the level where the ring is.  It is a long way down!

We had a delicious lunch up in the Orbit Restaurant on the 52nd floor of the Sky Tower.  It is a 360 degree restaurant.  It was a lot of fun even though we could not see very far.  The people bungie jumping were on the platform right above us at one point as we slowly rotated while eating.
This department store had this big Santa and two reindeers with gifts as decorations.  It reminded us of Macy's in New York City.  Most of the other stores had no decorations.

Sunday, December 21st.  Ralph's second goal on his bucket list was fulfilled.  He wanted to see the Summer Solstice begin in the Southern Hemisphere and then be in the Northern Hemisphere when the Winter Solstice began.  He was here in New Zealand on Decmeber 21st for the Summer Solstice and they flew home and arrived in Utah on December 21st so he was in the Northern Hemisphere for the Winter Solstice.  Pretty neat!  .We were sad to put Ralph and Sheila and the plane on Sunday.  We will miss them.

We headed back to the Panmure Stake Center and took a wrong turn and ended up at One Tree Park.  We will have to go there again because we did not have our camera with us.  It was quite beautiful.

At the Stake Center they showed the First Presidencies Christmas Devotional and then a ward that has Paea and Lola Ahokave (Tracy White's parents who lives with Reed's Mom) do a Christmas Cantata.  It was very well done and helped bring the Christmas Spirit into our hearts.  Her three sisters also performed.  We have visited with them a couple of times.  They are strong, faithful members and so kind.  It was a great evening.
The two little girls in white are twin and their big Sister Ofa, played the piana while they sang Picture A Christmas.  Their Mother is standing right behind them.  This is Tracy's family.

Here in New Zealand they don't do a lot of decorating and advertising for the Christmas Season.  People mostly go on Holiday and take time to be with their families.  Since it is summer here they go camping and spend a lot of time at the beach. We saw very few lights and only some of the store fronts had any decorations in them.  It was quiet.

We went with Elder and Sister Aland and Elder and Sister Wilkins to the Bay of Islands and stayed at the Out Rigger Motel.  We spent Tuesday, December 23rd driving and stopped whenever we wanted to look at new places.

 First stop was the Kauri Tree Forest in Warkworth.  They are huge.  They are a native tree in New Zealand. They logged so many of them that they are now protected.  They take a long time to grow and are strong and straight.
 The fern trees here are gorgeous.  They grow right in the middle of all other kinds of trees and they just stand out.
 We stopped at the Kauri Museum.  They had so many pieces of furniture made out of the Kauri tree and some huge planks of wood.  This is the gum from the Kauri Trees.  They dig it and polish it and create beautiful jewelry and statues and things.  The other name for this is Amber!

Whangarei Falls just outside of the city of Whangarei.  Here in New Zealand the wh is pronounced f.  Interesting.  We had a nice picnic lunch here and then hiked to the bottom of the fall.

On Wednesday Christmas Eve we took a bus tour to Cape Reinga, the very most Northern tip of New Zealand.  We learned a lot about Kauri Trees and Amber or Kauri Tree Gum.  Very interesting.  We snowboarded down the sand dunes.  The bus drove through a stream to the ocean and then we drove for an hour on 90 mile beach.  This is one place where the sand stays firm enough that they can do it.  It used to be the only highway to the North and people still use it rather than the regular roads.  It was a new experience.

We stopped at a place called Kauri Kingdom.  Nada is standing inside a Kauri Tree. They brought this piece of a Kauri Tree they found cut down in a swamp and carved a staircase out of it.  Very interesting.

 Nada with Sister and Elder Wilkins behind and Elder and Sister Aland sitting next to her.  This day started at 7:15 a.m. and finished at 6:00 p.m.  Long day but so much fun.
 This is Gold Diggers stop.  This is where they dug up a lot of Kauri trees that were buried in the swamp and found a lot of amber.  He has had some one come in and put some preservation stuff on this tree so people can see how they were just lying, buried,  Somehow they were preserved and these are the pieces of wood they are using to carve furniture and items with now.
 This is the lighthouse at Cape Reinga.  We are at the farthest north tip of New Zealand.
This was so cool.  You can see where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet.  The lighter color is the Tasman and the darker the Pacific.  It was awesome!

This is the sand dune Reed went all the way down on a boogie board.  Nada only climbed up about 2/3 of the way and came down twice.  It was a little scary but a lot of fun.

 Our bus drive stopped on 90 Mile Beach and let everyone get in the water for a few minutes.  Then he proceeded to drive for an hour on the beach until we got off in one of the little towns.  It was a new, fun experience.
Christmas Day, 2014.  Merry Christmas.  It was a little hard not being with the family.  We took a Bay Cruise for seven  hours.  The water was better than the week before with Ralph and Sheila but there were still swells.  The sun was out for most of the day.  We saw a lot of Dolphins and some people actually swam with them.  Reed was going to but the other two pods we found had babies with them and you can't swim with them if they have babies.  Maybe next time.

 Merry Christmas!  We started out Great Sight Cruise at 9:15 a.m.  The weather was pretty nice.
 We saw a lot of dolphins and this group of people were able to swim.  No other groups got to.  They let them swim about 25 minutes with them.  The people said the water was not that cold.
 This groups of dolphins were really performing but the had babies with them.
Bicentenary of Samuel Marsden's first Sermon at Oihi Bay on December 25, 1814.  It was here that Samuel Marsden and his missionaries established the first permanent European settlement in Aotearoa New Zealand. Today, December 25, 2014 the sermon was conducted by one of his descendants at exactly the same hour on Christmas day 200 years before. 
 Reed snorkelling at in Otehei  Bay on the Island of Urupukapuka.  We had lunch here and Nada and Sister Aland hiked to the top of the scenic lookout.

 We finally made it to Hole in the Rock.  However, he made a run to go through but the wells were to dangerous.  Hopefully another time we will be able to finish this whole adventure!

Reed did snorkel and Nada did some hiking when we stopped at for lunch.  It was a beautiful day and we were good friends.  We went to a nice dinner, walked along the beach and celebrated Christmas Day in a way we never have before.  We are experiencing lots of new things together.  We were able to Skype with the whole family on our December 26th and their December 25th.  It is always strange to be thinking in two totally different days all the time.  We love them all so much and were so grateful to be able to see and speak to all of them.  They are so great to keep the traditions even though we are so far away. 

We finally opened our few gifts Friday night.  We are so blessed.  We bought just a small tree but it was fun to turn the lights on at night and feel a little Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas 2014, Takapuna New Zealand

We are so grateful to be serving our Father-In-Heaven here in New Zealand.  We are especially grateful for the wonderful gift of his Son whose birth we were able to celebrate with family and friends this Christmas Season.  We love all of you.  We hope your Christmas was all you wanted it to be.  Thanks for sharing these special memories with us.

We will blog again and tell you about the New Year and our activities later.  Have a great day!  Love Elder and Sister Spencer, aka Reed and Nada