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Journal of the San Francisco Ambassadors
on the New Zealand Exchange

May 12 - June 2, 2011

Exchange with New Zealand


These are the Journals from our Friendship Force trip to the north island of New Zealand led by ED Barry Rader with 19 ambassadors.

12 from FFSFBA the San Francisco Bay Area
     Dee and Dave Gustavson
     Wendy and Kent Dewell
     Karen and Dave Rice
     Karen McCready and Barry Rader
     Natalie Heling
     Katharine Kleinke
     Jan Gordon
     Patricia Snowden
3 from Los Angeles
     Peter Landecker and Lenore Snodey
     Anne Doublier
2 from Utah
     Polly and Ron Toth
     2 from Ottawa, Canada
     Karen and Al Torren

We traveled for 3 weeks from February 15-March 6, 2012
     Touring Auckland and the Rotorua area, learning of the Maori culture
     Homestay in Wellington
     Homestay in New Plymouth

Here are the personal stories of our adventures, big and small, that made the trip so wonderful.





Wednesday, February 15 to Friday, February 17, 2012
by Dave Gustavson

This one long day, was mainly a travel day, flying to New Zealand, losing one day due to the International Dateline crossing. Natalie Heling and Katharine Kleinke came to our house so we could share a shuttle to SFO. We left at 3pm, for an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland at 7pm, just to be comfortable in case of rush hour traffic accidents etc. The free WiFi service at SFO was horribly congested and barely usable. Our flight was about 12 hours, nonstop, and was smooth and uneventful. Reasonable food, good personal entertainment system. But the seat gets very uncomfortable for the second half of the flight!

Dee and I were picked up at the airport at about 5:30am (the flight arrived early) by a longtime friend, a retired professor from Wisconsin who now teaches in Auckland. He took us to his lovely home in Devonport, introduced us to his wife, fed us breakfast and tea. They took us for local sight-seeing and hiking, then lunch in a local restaurant, finally delivering us via ferry to our hotel about the time the room became available, around 2:30pm.

We had time for a 20 minute nap, then we were picked up by another friend, Morrin Cooper. Morrin was mayor of Howick, which is now part of Auckland, and was the ED for a FF exchange for which Dee was the incoming ED, in the 1990's. He took us to Howick by ferry, where we met his friend Kay, who drove us sight-seeing in her brand-new Mercedes! Then they took us out to dinner at a lovely country club, which Morrin was a founder of (plaque on the wall etc.) Finally, we ferried back to our hotel and tried for a good night's sleep!

The time change was only 3 hours (New Zealand Daylight time was 21 hours later than California Standard time, so the difference was one day, less 3 hours, in mid February. Things get more complicated later, when California switches from Standard to Daylight time on the second Sunday in March (4 hours difference), then New Zealand switches from Daylight to Standard time on the first Sunday in April (5 hours difference), on different dates from year to year!)

It was a great first day for our trip! And a full one.






Saturday, February 18, 2012
by Dave Rice

Saturday was everyone's first morning together in Auckland. We were all checked in at the Copthorne Hotel, which was across the street from the harbor waterfront. Karen and I had arrived a day early along with our friends Wendy and Kent Dewell and Ron and Polly Toth from Utah. Friday we had seen bit of the city. We had had Karen's first-birthday dinner in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Sky tower watching elevator jumpers fly past our window. We had a preliminary look at the Auckland Museum and went by ourselves to Kelly Tarleton's Museum, a private underground aquarium, with an exhibition about Antarctica and penguins.

On Saturday morning we watched a cruise ship from our hotel window as it came in and then watched it disappear in fog. We then met the bus and our driver, Brian for the first time. The bus was spacious with plenty of room to spread out. We started with a quick tour of the city and we soon realized we would learn from Brian practically every fact known about New Zealand. I learned what streaky bacon is, it's regular bacon. We learned that New Zealand was one of the largest exporters of dairy to Asia, that sheep were on the decline in favor of cattle and that New Zealanders imported large numbers of three-year old used cars from Japan and drank their own version of Corona beer.

The tour took us past the Sky Tower again and past the Fonterra Dairy Center. Auckland is the business center of New Zealand it sits between the Pacific to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west on a number of low hills, similar to San Francisco. Our first stop was Mount Eden – we didn't go to the top but we stopped to listen to crickets – we passed a cricket game in progress and learned that cricket games went on for days! Then it was on to the Auckland Museum, which was our first major stop. The Museum is a war memorial - we skipped that as a group – but it has the world's largest collection of Polynesian artifacts as well as cultural items of the Maori People – the native Polynesian inhabitants of New Zealand.

Combining here the visits of two days, we saw the first of several Maori shows and learned about the Haka, a war dance to intimidate enemies and its modern version, which is held before "All Black" rugby games. We learned that Maori and colonial history – only since the 1840's - are still relevant to modern New Zealand culture, to the pleasure of some and the chagrin of others.

After the museum we had lunch in Parnel, an area of beautiful homes and quaint shops. We then returned to the waterfront for our Harbor cruise – on the “Pride of Auckland” – a small catamaran. We learned that much Auckland waterfront development had been spawned first by the America's Cup and more recently by the rugby World Cup in 2011. The waterfront is growing condos everywhere. We went under the Harbor Bridge watching more jumpers. Only tourists bungee jump in New Zealand.

Back from the tour Karen and I were tired and just had a Subway sandwich, though the night before we had had a nice dinner at the Kermadec– a good fish restaurant on the viaduct and also a French Island chain northeast of New Zealand, known for its fishing. We did what little internet we could, 20 minutes allowed, and went to bed early for our next day south on the bus to Rotorua.






Sunday, February 19, 2012
by Karen Rice

Today was a travel day between Auckland and Rotorua on Highway 1, which traverses the North Island from top to bottom. We meandered through the rolling farmland hills of the Waikato Region. The Waikato River is New Zealand's longest river (425 km). There are 8 hydro power stations on the river. Hydroelectric power accounts for 57% of the total electricity generated in New Zealand. Historically, the Waikato River was always important as a means of transport from the interior to the coast. The Waikato Region is famous for lush farming, thoroughbred horses, and sheep. Forestry is big industry here, and we saw many logging trucks. Trees grow quickly from seedlings to full grown in 25 years, because of good soil, temperate climate, lots of rain.

We stoped in Waitomo for a tour of the famous Glow-Worm Caves. We began the guided tour through long galleries and lofty chambers to view stalactites formed over thousands of years. We continued with a boat ride through the glow-worm grotto that is illuminated by thousands of tiny lights emitted by glow-worms suspended from the cave ceiling. The glow-worm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is unique to New Zealand. Thousands of these tiny creatures radiated their luminescent light as our Maori guide provided informative commentary on the Caves' historical and geological significance. More than 30 million years ago, the legend of Waitomo began with the creation of limestone at the bottom of the ocean. No pictures were allowed in the caves. Waitomo is a Maori word composed of Wai=water and tomo=cave. The Glow Worms have a one year cycle. 9 months as larva, 2 months as pupa. The fly emerges, mates and dies.

On the road to Rotorua, we passed:

    • Several small Kiwi towns (Pirongia, Otorohanga, Putaruru).
    • A monument to the Battle of 1865 between the Brits and the Maori.
    • A Morai, which is a meeting house for Maori celebrations and funerals.
    • A sanctuary for endangered NZ species with a 2 meter fence to keep out dogs and other predators like rats and possums.
    • Arapuni Dam across the Waikato River, one of 8 hydroelectric doms.
    • Fitzgerald Glade, a natural canopy over the road with native ferns

When we arrived in Rotorua, I could smell the scent of sulfur in the air. Rotorua is built on a volcano and there are many earthquakes, most too small to feel. There is a lot of geothermal activity with hot areas marked off. New mud pools sprout up overnight. The population of Rotorua is about 70,000, but it’s a tourist destination and the number of people can triple at vacation time.

Our hotel was right near Lake Rotorua, which is the crater of a huge volcano. There are 10 lakes around Rotorua, the largest is Lake Taupo, south of the city. Many brown and rainbow trout are released from hatcheries for flyfishing. After shopping for souvenirs and dinner at a pub with Polly and Ron Toth, Dave and I enjoyed an evening relaxing in the hotel spa where there was a pool, regular hottub and a sulfur hottub. I forgot to remove my silver ring, which turned completely black in the sulfur water.

Brian, our bus driver who had us a captive audience for about 6 hours today, provided a wealth of information (all unverified and uncensored). A few highlights:

    • Population of NZ is 4.4 million, one third of whom live in Auckland.
    • Average median salary in $700 /week. Minimum wage is $13.50/hour.
    • Health Care is free for everyone at the public hospitals, which are great for emergencies/accidents. Many people who can afford it, purchase private insurance. Dental insurance is all private.
    • There are no farm subsidies. All free market prices. Many people have private gardens for fresh fruit and vegetables. Maize (corn) is mostly grown for stock. The crops are all natural, no genetically modified crops partly because of the expense of chemicals.
    • The main dairy cows are Friesian and Jersey. Friesian are also known as Holstein cattle un the US. 300 head is a normal herd. Bails of hay are wrapped in green plastic to protect from rain.
    • Dry stock is term for beef cattle and sheep for wool as opposed to production of milk, cheese, butter, etc. known as wet stock.
    • Honey, produced from the Manuka tree, has medicinal properties, good for health being a natural antibiotic. It’s also the best tasting (Brian’s opinion).
    • The school year begins February 1 and consists of four 10 week terms with 2 weeks between terms and a 4 week break at Christmas.
    • Moari are the largest ethnic population. They are trying to keep the culture and language alive with special schools run by and taught by the Maori. In earlier times Maori language was outlawed and not allowed to be spoken.
    • 85-90% of the population has Maori blood, but there are no pure Maories left. They are at the lower end of the economic scale. 30% leave school by 16 years of age. Maori account for most of the crime in New Zealand. The genetic make-up of Maori means they are predisposed to drugs and alcohol. Because of their warrior mentality, if they want something, they just fight and take it.






Monday, February 20, 2012,
by Dee Gustavson

We woke up to rain at the Novotel Lakeside Motel in Rotorua, then enjoyed a smorgasbord breakfast, offering a huge variety for many nationalities, including miso soup and baked beans.

Setting off at 8:30 a.m. for a full-day’s tour, our first stop was at Rainbow Springs Nature Park. Our guide showed us silver fern, a New Zealand symbol, and also mamaku, a fern tree, and redwood pine tree.

We observed the parson bird, their national song bird, sometimes called the bell bird, red-crowned parakeet, the kea, a sub-alpine parrot (one of the most intelligent birds, which is an endangered species, with only about 5,000 left), and the tui, which has two voice boxes and is able to produce many calls out of our hearing range. While touring the rearing facility for the kiwi bird, New Zealand’s national symbol, we learned many fascinating facts about the kiwi. It’s an unusual bird, actually more like a mammal than a bird. They can’t swim or fly. They dig burrows in the ground for their nests, and one kiwi may make up to 6 burrows. They escape there in daytime when it gets too bright outside.

The kiwi lays a large egg, weighing 1/5 of her adult weight. It takes 12 hours to 7 days for the baby to break out of the shell. From the moment they hatch, they’re fully feathered and independent. They weigh less than a kilo at birth, but can weigh up to 3 kilograms as adults. There were 17 kiwi chicks in the brooding room. They have 87% survival rate. People hunt for eggs in the wild, then they bring them to the facility to keep them warm, hatch and raise them for 9 months, before releasing them in a place near where the eggs were found. This facility has raised and released 1,050 birds in the last 15 years, at a cost of about $4,000/bird. When they’re released, their natural instincts return. 200 years ago there were 12 million, but now only 40,000. An animal called the stoat kills 95 of 100 chicks in the wild now.

Kiwis have a strong odor that is very attractive to dogs. In the daytime, they can only see 1 meter ahead, and they have poor night vision as well. Their unusual, flexible beak is made of cartilage, about 15-20 cm long, and is actually an extension of their skull. Their nostrils are at the end of their beak. If dirt gets in its nose while grubbing for insects, it sneezes to remove the dirt. A kiwi has a very loud call, which can be heard a mile away.

Our next stop was to visit the Agrodome, a 160-hectare working sheep and cattle farm (1,200 sheep and 120 beef cattle.) We were introduced to 19 different breeds of sheep, and learned that the Merino breed produces pure white wool that is soft like silk. The Southdown has the sweetest, tastiest meat, the Dorset Horn can produce two sets of lambs/year. The sheep dogs did tricks and jumped across the backs of the sheep on display. Later on, outside in the corral, we watched the farmer demonstrate the sheep dogs’ skills at rounding up the sheep. 

Watching a sheep shearer at work was interesting. He gets $1.80 NZ per animal, and can shear between 280-350 in an 8-hour day. 14.6 seconds is the shortest time in which a shearer has shorn a sheep in a New Zealand competition, and one shearer totaled 866 in 9 hours. A fleece weighs up to 9 lbs. 

Several of our members volunteered to participate: Karen McCready and Peter volunteered to drink milk and feed the lambs. Lenore volunteered to milk a cow. Barry ‘bought’ a sheep from the ‘auctioneer,’ but when he said he had no money, the trainer jokingly tried to take his watch, shoes, and jacket. 

After watching a wool carding demonstration, we ate lunch on the grounds, then drove on to Te Puia, a landscape of erupting geysers, hot thermal springs, and bubbling mud pools. Seven geysers are still active, including the most famous, Pohutu, which means big splash or explosion. Pohutu can erupt up to 30 meters high. Our Maori guide explained that the Maori culture is being revived. There are 600,000 Maoris living in New Zealand (about 14% of the 2-1/2 million NZ population). There are very few full Maoris left, and none are under age 50 (97% are mixed). The Maoris were very healthy on a vegetable and fish diet until the Europeans came and introduced sugar and alcohol. 

At the Maori cultural performance, Barry Rader, our ED, was chosen Chief and was privileged to meet their Maori leaders and give a welcome. Because we were Barry’s ‘tribe,’ we were allowed to follow him into the hall and sit in the front row seats. The performers sang and danced in traditional dress, and demonstrated scary techniques they use in battle, including the use of their eyes and tongues. 

The emphasis that evening was again on Maori culture, this time at Mitai. Dave Gustavson volunteered to be the Chief, so he was ushered to the head of the line. After watching the traditional Hangi meal being cooked in the earth, (pork, roast lamb, whole chickens, several kinds of potatoes, and dressing), we were taken to a large room, where the audience was seated on seats under a roof. We looked toward the stage, open to the outdoor natural bush setting, including trees, rocks, and knolls. Chief Dave greeted their warriors with a message of Peace and Friendship from our Friendship Force tribe. 

The Maoris introduced us to their tattoo art, weaponry and combat, singing and dancing. Following the cultural performance, they served us the delicious food which we’d observed cooking in the ground, with a variety of salads, vegetables, bread, and gravy, as well as pavlova (NZ’s national dessert), chocolate jelly roll, and truffles. 

Following the meal, some of our group took the guided bush walk (they supplied flashlights) through the sacred Fairy Springs. The night sounds were intriguing and a bit haunting: owls, waterfalls, creeks, etc. The best part was viewing glowworms in their natural habitat, under small cliffs along the walk way, and along the edges of small ponds. By turning off our flashlights, and bending down low, we were able to get within a few inches of the green glowing worms.






Tuesday, February 21, 2012
by Natalie Heling

Today was a travel day by bus from Rotorua to Wellington. We covered approximately 285 miles in about 6.5 hours. The day was mostly cloudy, but the temperature was pleasant. Our first stop en route was the village at Lake Taupo, the north island’s largest lake. It is fed by streams coming from the surrounding mountains; including the usually snowcapped volcanic cone of Mt. Ruapehu. It is known as New Zealand’s winter resort area, because skiing is only an hour away. In this same area we also visited Huka Falls, which is on the river carrying water from Lake Taupo to Auckland.

Continuing, we traveled south on Route 1 across the Rangipo Desert, the plains of the Manawatu, and finally along the Kapiti Coast into Wellington. Along the way we saw forests of radiata pine, the export of which is New Zealand’s 3rd largest industry. Tourism and farming are the top 2 industries. Other sights along the way included military property and the edge of one on New Zealand’s pest free nature reserves.

While traveling, our bus driver, Brian, provided commentary on New Zealand’s government ant taxation system. A few tidbits from this discourse on taxation and benefits include: government retirement pensions begin at age 65, and are calculated at 90% of the average New Zealand wage; maximum taxes are set at 33% for those earning over $70,000 and 10% for those earning up to $14,000; all citizens pay into an accident insurance program which covers medical costs and wages in case of injury; there is a Goods and Services Tax of 13.5%; all citizens receive free medical care, though private insurance is also available to ensure faster service.

Some tidbits about the New Zealand government include: there is a single house of Parliament made up of 120 members; the major political parties are the Labor and National parties, with smaller parties as well, which often join a coalition to form a majority party; elections are held every 3 years, and are limited to 2 months in duration; all citizens must be enrolled to vote, but are not required to vote.

Today turned out to be a lucky day for our driver, Brian. He was stopped by the police for going a bit (?) too fast through a construction zone. A “slap on the wrist” was all he got. And very much relieved he was.

Our journey ended with a drive along the coast of the Tasman Sea as we made our way into Wellington. We were welcomed with warm smiles and greetings by our hosts at the home of Lynnda and Tony Bouzaid, enjoyed a lovely welcome party, and then joined our new friends for the first night of our homestay in Wellington.






Wednesday, February 22, 2012
by Katharine Kleinke

This was a rainy summer day in Wellington, our first full day with our hosts. After a good night’s sleep and becoming accustomed to new night sounds I enjoyed breakfast with my host David Hector, while his wife, Kate would walk next door every morning to see her baby granddaughter, Michaela.

A short ride in the car brought us to Hutt City where both clubs met in the morning for tree planting at Belmont Rhododendron Dell. Graham Wiggley of the Wellington club gave the introductory talk. The tree being planted is a rhododendron named “Mi Amor” (my love). Lynnda, the Wellington ED and Barry from FFSFBA shoveled in some dirt. Then all the ambassadors took turns shoveling dirt and having our pictures taken.

We got back in the cars and drove to the “campsite”, a covered picnic area in Kaitoki Regional Park for morning tea. Morning tea is a lovely custom, which both clubs practiced.

The next activity, after tea, was a walk through the woods, which was a bit longer than advertised, depending on one’s habits of walking. The walk began with a balancing act across a swinging bridge. The group continued through the woods and over another bridge. Lynnda gave an explanation of the trees along the way. One of the scenic places we passed was a site for filming of “Lord of the Rings”. We returned to the campsite at the confluence of two rivers, where lunch was served. The menu was grilled lamb sausages on buttered white bread with various sauces, so tasty and much anticipated by hungry walkers.

EFIL DOOG = GOOD LIFE, located in the Akatarawa Valley is a totally unique place in any corner of the world. It is a large acreage privately owned by Ernest and Shirley Cosgrove since 1976. The Cosgroves planted the gardens and collected art. The first place we were shown was the art gallery where the different paintings and works of art by New Zealand artists were explained or described, by some of the people familiar with the gallery. Apparently the Cosgroves had amassed more artworks than could be displayed at one time. Therefore, the art was rotated through the building used as the gallery. Mrs. Cosgrove invited us to their home for tea and cookies. The house is a wooden structure that fits so well in the landscape. After tea the charming and somewhat enigmatic host Mr. Cosgrove led a group through the grounds showing off the varied terrain which he had imagined and created piece by piece. There was much outdoor sculpture, some pieces so well hidden he had to to point them out.

In the evening my hosts and I enjoyed a potluck dinner at the home of Lynnda and Tony Bouzaid.







Thursday, February 23, 2012
by Peter Landecker

It was stormy, windy and rainy all night. I briefly spoke to my 98 year old mother and her caregiver, and was relieved that my mother was making progress with the healing of her broken femur. We then had a delicious breakfast (homemade bread, homemade marmalade, homemade yogurt, home-grown tomatoes), prepared by our hosts Brian and Judith Clarke.

We were driven by our hosts to Oriental Bay to start the group mystery tour. It was a breezy day as we began our treasure hunt for local places and history. We were told that some of the land was "reclaimed" from the sea. We went to the Oriental Bay overlook with a view of Wellington city. There were 12 Maori villages in the area prior to the arrival of the first English settlers in the 1840's. The land in the area is now very expensive with home values starting at a million dollars. We proceeded around the base of Mt. Victoria on our mystery tour. We stopped at a Scuba dive shop called Splash Gordon to finalize arrangement for my Saturday morning boat dives. As our scenic drive continued, we looked for answers to the 12 quiz questions.

We then drove to Te Papa museum for lunch and learned the correct quiz answers. At the museum, we then went on a tour of the many interesting exhibits describing the plants, animals, history and geology of the region. The most interesting exhibits I saw were the only displayed Colossal Squid in the world (caught in 2007), a giant Ammonite fossil (140 million years old), the Maori culture exhibits (they came to New Zealand about 800 years ago from Polynesia), the original cloak and helmet given to Captain Cook in 1779, at which time he quickly went from deity to devil), and the earthquake demonstration in a shaking house.

We met our hosts in front of the Museum at the agreed upon time, went to their home, where I briefly checked my emails. We then went to the home of Ginny and Graham where we and six other FFNZ members enjoyed a delicious fish dinner and wonderful fellowship. Ginny and Graham were originally scheduled to be our hosts until Ginny's mother broke her wrist. A short five-minute drive brought us a short distance back to the home of our hosts. It was a full and wonderful day.

Organizing mystery car tour and quiz, Easter Island link statue on tour, Captain Cook original cape at Te Papa, Kiwi with huge egg at Te Papa, Delicious dinner at home of Jenny and Graham (photos by Peter).




Friday, February 24, 2012
by Lenore Snodey

The day was alternately cloudy, sunny, windy, or calm as we boarded the train from the lower Hutt Valley to Wellington to join John and Ngaire Dunford, our tour guides, on a walking tour of downtown. We began at the waterfront where in the past great container ships docked but now redevelopment is bringing in many small shops and businesses. We continued on past the aromatic Mojo coffee roaster, just missing joining a tour. Further on, Ngaire told us the story of Paddy, a much beloved dog who once wandered the waterfront, and is now honored by a plaque on a wall.

Bypassing the Museum of Wellington City and Sea, which featured a Death and Diversity Exhibit, we stopped at a teashop where tea, double espresso coffee and pastries were enjoyed. At a nearby tiny dockside gift shop, several of us found lovely paua shell jewelry. We proceeded to cross the bridge connecting the sea and the city. Ngaire led us to a shop where the remains of an ancient boat, nicknamed Plimmer's Ark, had been discovered and preserved. An interesting cable car ride uphill to the Cable Car Museum and Botanical Gardens was our next adventure. Reluctantly, we left this site to saunter downhill through the Botanical Gardens to have lunch at the Begonia House and Cafe. The banks of gorgeous 5-inch brilliant colored begonias in their hothouse were a delight to behold. Continuing our citywalk after lunch, we viewed the Beehive Parliament Building, visited Old St. Paul's Cathedral, and finally relaxed in the Thistle Inn, the second oldest licensed pub in New Zealand, and the oldest one still trading on its original site.

Our exciting day concluded with boarding the train for our return ride home to our hosts and treating them to a harbor-side dinner at The Fish Market restaurant. What a wonderful day!




Saturday, February 25, 2012
by Patricia Snowden

When I saw that my day to write the journal was on a free day with my host, Jenny Hart, I thought that there was not going to be very much to write about. Well, I was quite mistaken. Jenny and I woke up to a lovely calm day. There had been a storm the night before and I was sure we were in for another “windy” day in Wellington.

We met Jenny’s friends, Norma, Joy and Piroska for coffee at the Dowse Museum. This is a small art museum in Lower Hutt and the day we visited it was featuring Bedazzled: Showcasing costumes and drawings designed for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. I particularly liked Cinderella’s gorgeous ball dress.

We next made a quick stop at Knit World. I had admired Jenny’s unusual multi-colored spiral scarf and I wanted to buy the yarn to knit a similar scarf. Then we went to the $2 store and Jenny bought me a lanyard so that I could display my FFI pins.

Jenny’s daughter and husband, Kate and Kevin Morgan were attending a wedding that evening and Jenny was babysitting their son Leo (age 2 and a half years) overnight for the first time. Leo had visited his grandma many times, but never to sleep over. Jenny didn’t know what to expect, but Leo behaved beautifully and didn’t give any trouble. I was very impressed!

In the afternoon we were joining Jenny’s other daughter and her husband, Anne and Matt Dallas at a park in Porirua for the Relay for Life Cancer Society Walk. Matt is the Editor for the Kapi-Mana Newspaper that was sponsoring the event. As both Jenny and I are cancer survivors, we donned our red sashes and walked a couple of laps around the field. Anne and Matt had their two children, Luke and Laura with them. Luke who is the same age as Leo was very happy to see his cousin and little Laura (age 8 months) was quite content to sit on the lawn.

It was a very colorful affair with many groups from the Cook Islands, Samoa, etc. walking to support the Cancer Society. I was sitting on a lawn chair watching the various groups walk by, and started talking to the nice young man near me. Then Jenny introduced me to him and said he was the Major of Porirua, Nick Leggett.

Of course I had to have my photo taken with him.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay with my host Jenny Hart. Jenny works for the Correspondence School in Wellington. The school was changing to a new computer system, and although she was very busy, she was a gracious host and made me very welcome. She also made sure that I went with other day hosts to the planned activities.

This was my fourth trip to New Zealand and once again it didn’t disappoint me. I love its beauty and hospitable people.






Sunday, February 26, 2012
by Anne Doublier

Located in the Wellington Harbor, Somes Island is a tranquil retreat for wildlife and visitors. Maori occupied this island for generations. More recently, it has served as a human and animal quarantine station, an interment camp, and military defense position. the island was opened to the public in 1995. In 2008, it was included in the Treaty of Wartangi cultural redress and has been returned to the Iwi ownership. the island was named after Joseph Somes in 1866 and is 25 hectors in size.

The ride to Days Bay to meet the ferry at 10:30 AM was a long one. Many pleasure seekers were out to enjoy the beautiful weather today along with our fellow FF participants. Everyone is required to process at the island to insure that the pure ecological balance is safeguarded. I brushed my shoes off and checked my coat pockets for any unwanted items. We enjoyed our brief visit here before returning to the restaurant pavilion on shore for lunch, a glorious Tip Top ice cream cone, and tea accompanied by FF members from the Wellington Club. Indeed, this was a lovely venue on this picture-perfect day!

Afterwards, the four of us headed to the small town of Eastbourne to visit the shops and art galleries. Margaret, in the Wellington group is a talented artist and was able to take us to some interesting and special art galleries. I discovered the awesome original artwork of Richard and Michael Ponder today and would have loved to purchase a piece...next time. These works were each selling for up to $6000. NZD. Stopped at the Palliser Lighthouse before heading home. Fish and Chips for dinner tonight, my treat, by the water before settling in for the night.






Monday, February 27, 2012
by Jan Gordon

As my late husband would often say, whether at home in California or when traveling, "Another day in Paradise". New Zealand is very much like California in many ways--the coast, the vegetation, the rolling green hills, they even have some redwood trees. The weather was varied --misty rain, wind and sunshine.

We started the day with a walk through the Pauatahanui wetlands. The path wandered through lush greenery. It was quiet except for the occasional sounds of cicadas or the song of a bird. The New Zealanders are working hard to retain their natural beauty and resources.

While part of the group went to a car museum, some of us chose to go to Nga Manu Bird Sanctuary where they are protecting native birds in the large reserve. After checking out the Kakas, woodpigeons and Kiwis (hiding as usual), we enjoyed the lovely Swan Lake. New Zealand has beautiful white and black swans. There were mute white swans and ducks enjoying the sunshine and water.

After a picnic lunch and leisure time, we drove back along the coast, stopping at Paraparaumu beach where we viewed Kapiti Island. This island was a stronghold of feared Maori warrior, Te Rauparaha in early times. Throughout our trip the Maori culture was a big part of our experience. It was especially evident to me in Wellington. My host had Maori blood. She took me to a nearby town to meet her Maori daughter and her 4 grandchildren. Her grandchildren attend a Maori emersion school. This type of school is typical in this area, in order to retain the Maori culture and language, which seems to be important to many New Zealanders. In its early history after the conflict with the arrival of the English and other Europeans, the Treaty of Waitani was signed with the Maori's giving them back certain lands and privileges.

Jeanette's daughter and grandchildren, Kahe, daughter 9 years old, and three sons, Manawatoa, Tairua and Potiki, ages from 7 years down to 3 years, were delightful, polite, friendly and bright. They helped their Mom with dinner and cleanup, and then entertained me with the Haka, the traditional warrior chant and dance, designed to scare approaching enemies.

Jeanette's daughter, Dale and her 4 children took me to the small town horse races where families gathered casually to bet on the horses and relax with friends and family. I bet on 3 races. I chose Number 7 (my grandson's baseball number). On the next race, I chose a horse named California, and third race my bet went for Randy Andy. They all placed and I came out $8.00 ahead!

This was our final day in Wellington. I left with a feeling of joy and thanks for a wonderful visit.






Tuesday, February 28, 2012
by Wendy Dewell

Today was the day to transfer to Wanganui from Wellington. Up early, we packed up, and loaded cars to get to the private bus that was transferring 18 of us. (Dave Rice had to leave us to go back home to work.)

First stop was a rest stop that we had visited before. We recognized it because of the "toy lending library" that we had discussed on the way down as a 'good, new idea' !! After coffee and some play, we drove through the countryside with lots and lots of cows.

We got to Wanganui just in time to take a boat ride up the river. It was a typical boat of the time when the Europeans were settling the area in the 1800's. Coal fired, it belched smoke, but it was still a nice ride even if the weather was cold, gray, & rainy.

The bus took us to our hotel, and we had a little R&R before dinnertime. Dee had spoken to the FF club in Horowhenua, and on the spur of the moment about 8 of them came to our hotel for drinks, and a nice dinner, and some really good conversation until late at night. The Horowhenua FF club is scheduled to visit our club in 2013, so perhaps we will see some of them again next year.




Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We got a bonus day this leap year, but unfortunately there is no report by Kent Dewell.






Thursday, March 1, 2012
by Karen L. McCready

Barry and I awoke about 7 A. M. to our first full day of the second NZ home stay in New Plymouth. After spending the previous evening with our hosts, Janet and Barry Goble, and five guests from their club, we felt right at home. The gusty winds through the night had given way to a quiet, sunny day. Janet, Barry Rader, and I set out for town at 9:15. Barry Goble, still on two crutches from his hip surgery, stayed behind to rest.

The main scheduled group event for the day was a reception with New Plymouth’s mayor at the New Plymouth District Council Hall. The sleek, ultramodern, stainless steel and glass building would make any city proud. A mix of steel “Lego” style supports, glass blocks, and wood combined aesthetically in an open yet functional design. Mayor Harry Duynhoven, bedecked with an elaborate “chain of office, launched into a traditional Maori greeting promptly at 10:00 A. M. In his half hour address, he covered many details about the district economy and government. As for much of New Zealand, development began about 1840. The Taranaki District population is near 73,000, with 50,000 in New Plymouth. Their number one industry is dairy and number two is energy, with petroleum a major element. Even the early Maori were aware of the oil. Considering it a nuisance, they found ways of filtering it out of the water supply. The mayor claimed that British oil actually began here. Such high quality coal is found here that they literally have “sold coals to Newcastle”—Australia, that is. The townspeople’s perspective on the sea gradually changed from turning their backs to the industrialized shoreline to situating their most luxurious homes overlooking it.

The mayor acknowledged many small niche industries, including an electronics supplier to NASA, sliced cheese for McDonald’s, frozen dough for Subway, and classic car restoration. While tourism is important, it consists mainly of organized events, such as the annual WOMAD—World of Music, Arts, and Dance.

In true mayoral style, the mayor rationalized the “rates” (property taxes) as relatively moderate and detailed the redevelopment projects in the works. I didn’t note too many smiles on our hosts’ faces while he was doing his political thing. Most notably, New Plymouth was recently declared the best community between 20,000 and 70,000 population in the world.

Our ED, Barry Rader, greeted the mayor on our behalf, comparing this reception with the greeting he received from a fierce tribal chieftain in Roturua. Barry then read the proclamation from Fremont’s acting mayor.

During the Q and A session, the mayor volunteered that the land wars with the Maori began in this area. In simple terms, he said that the settlers wanted more land than the Maori were willing to sell. The Treaty of Waitingi may have been written in 1840, but 1,200 leaseholds remain to be settled.

After the tea and muffin reception, which some of the hosts considered a meager offering, many of us moved on to Pukekura Park, just one example of this area’s many significant parks. Janet led Barry and me on a gentle stroll to explore the highlights. All those majestic species that constitute the New Zealand “bush” are there, complemented by such manmade spectacles as a geyser-spurting fountain and gushing waterfall that visitors can switch on for brief displays. I had never seen such inventive energy-saving devices in a park! We traversed many acres of duck and lily ponds, across bright, red painted bridges. We walked through dark, mysterious, green shrouded tunnels to find the Fern and Begonia Houses. The glorious tuberous begonias were at their peak—intense shades of pink, yellow, and orange, some white fringed with color. The multi-colored coleus, orchids, and bromeliads managed to compete for attention. We stopped for midday “tea” in the park tea house along with several other ambassadors and hosts.

For evening tea, the four of us drove out to Ashley and Lorraine’s house in the Waitingi area. Called “Castleford” in a wink to Ashley’s collection of Fords, the house’s ground level consists of display rooms for Ashley’s custom-assembled classic cars and Lorraine’s quilt work. Ashley specializes in customizing ‘30’s vintage Fords, including a sporty model, a “traveler” caravan on a truck chassis, and a Model T Raceabout. Lorraine’s quilts ranged from a Dick and Jane primer theme to the Underground Railroad to Kiwiana flora and fauna. Upstairs we dined on “peas, pies, and spuds” dinner, topped off with an ice cream and fruit mealange dessert. Lorraine sated all the lady ambassadors coveting her handiwork by giving each of us a quilted potholder in a Kiwiana design. I chose a working dog standing on top of a herd of sheep. Another attraction for me was the plush gray and white British cat lording over the parlor and the shy one hiding in the master bedroom.

From the pomp and circumstance of the mayor’s reception to a major garden attraction to a down home dinner in the home of a creative Kiwi couple, our first very full day of New Plymouth hospitality was just a sample of what this region and its people have to offer.






Friday, March 2, 21012
by Barry Rader

We are closing in on the end of a great home stay in New Plymouth, but before it is over, I have to tell you all about Karen and my hosts. Both of them are in their late 70's and very vital. He has had three hip surgeries to fix the ones that went wrong (it seems both the docs and Barry, my host, are equally to blame). Janet, the host, gets up at seven am to move the heifers from one part of the pasture to the other on an ATV. We all share a bathroom, but it is not a problem, even though I thought it would be one. They raised three boys and set each one up with their own dairy farm. Barry, my host, is very talkative and engages me in debates on all sorts of subjects, I always win, because I use facts and he uses opinion, at least that's what I think. Janet, host, is quieter and runs the whole family. She also is President of the FF club.

We ate a breakfast of whole grains and yogurt, which Karen and I requested. Every morning there is a huge, fresh avocado ripened to perfection for use to share on our toast. Oh yes, TEA, there is TEA, I counted six to eight times a day that we drink tea. I bet the Kiwis' kidneys never fail.

Now to March 2. We went with our hosts to the "Garden for all Seasons", not the first garden on this exchange, but maybe the largest. It is supposed to be great for a Rhododendron collection, and yes, many were in bloom, but their time had passed. Lots of interesting plants to see and paths to walk on. I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Then, it was on to "Foxy Lady", a gift gallery nearby. I bought a tee shirt and Karen bought earrings. Others purchased different symbols of New Zealand, a nice find. From there, we went to our house, for, guess what? That's right, TEA. Then we went on to our hosts son's milking shed to see cows milked. WOW, 600 cows an hour milked by one man, that is what I call mechanized farming. Two circular tables putting the cows on and off, with one man attaching the milking cups to their tits. I am not sure I am ever going to drink milk again. Finally, it was our night to take the hosts out to dinner. They all chose the same venue, a buffet at the best hotel in town, and it was great-something for everybody, and high quality food. I ate mostly green lipped mussels and desserts. Both my choices were excellent. Everybody had a great time, I know, because they all told me. Then, home for a cup of TEA and sleep.




Saturday, March 3, 2012
by Polly Toth

Today is Dee Gustavson’s birthday, and I’m happy we celebrated last night at “Marbles” the lovely restaurant where we took our hosts out for a delicious buffet dinner. We were able to serenade her with a rousing group rendition of “Happy Birthday” complete with a “Birthday Crown”.

Today is a free day because of weather concerns. We were scheduled to have an outdoor day at Mt. Taranaki and a tour of the Hocken sheep and beef farm, but that will occur tomorrow.

We wound up having an opportunity for some shopping—the final opportunity before pack-up day.

Spent an hour or two on Devon Street, and another couple of hours at the Center City Mall with a coffeeshop with a wonderful view of the Tasman Sea! What a great tea stop! Ran into fellow shoppers Peter, Lenore, and Kathryn on Devon Street and Al and Karen at the Mall.

Tonight we celebrated our hosts’ Don and Joy Hine’s 22nd Wedding Anniversary! They hosted a dinner party at their home that included Marge Rutherford and her ambassadors Kent and Wendy Dewell, Joy’s sister Ann, sister-in-law Mara, and grandson Lochlin. What a special treat to share special events like this with our New Zealand friends. It was another Friendship Force bonus!



Sunday, March 4, 2012
by Ron Toth

Polly and I awoke to a beautiful clear-sky morning in New Plymouth. We could clearly see Mt. Taranaki and its snow-capped peak from our hosts’ (Don & Joy Hine) dining room picture window…WOW!! After another great breakfast, we were off to the TBS Stadium to meet up with our fellow ambassadors/hosts and board the chartered bus to Egmont National Park. By the time we reached the Park’s Visitor Center @ 10:15, the mountain had disappeared into the clouds….but no worries mates, it was time for morning tea! Later in the day, it reappeared! For many centuries, this dominant, quiescent but active volcanic 8,260 ft. mountain was known as Taranaki by the Maori natives. However, Capt. Cook named it Mt. Egmont after John Perceval, Earl of Egmont and First Lord of the Admiralty, who promoted and secured funding for Cook’s voyage! It appeared on maps as Mt. Egmont until May 1986 when the New Zealand government ruled there would be two official names, Mt. Egmont and Mt. Taranaki However, the Egmont name still applies to the huge 83,000 acre National Park preserve which surrounds the peak! The Park, created in 1900 as the second National Park in New Zealand, is a protected 6 mile radius area around the mountain, where old growth forest can still be found.

After a short hike, an informative 15-minute film about the Park and a visit to the gift shop, it was back on the bus at 11:30 to head for a noon-ish rendevous and barbeque lunch with New Plymouth F.F. members Brian & Helen Hocken on their huge 1,000 acre sheep (2,000 head) & beef (600 head) farm! On the way down the mountain, we learned this was the route where fellow New Plymouth FF member, Ashley Smith, had earlier started his marathon run. We later learned, he had won his age bracket with a time of 4:02 hours for the 26.2 mile course. This from a man who only started running at age 50. WOW!!

As we meandered onto the Hocken ranch and along the Waitara River, it was evident this was a very large ranching operation. We de-bused into the shearing shed, a huge 2,000+ sq. ft. area containing shearing stalls, wool packing & weighing equipment, kitchen, BBQ grill, loo, picnic tables, and lots of flags/posters/bric-a-brac on the walls and hanging from the rafters. Brian, the “unofficial Mayor of Tarata” followed the lunch with a 15-30 minute Q & A briefing about wool, wool prices, and his sheep dogs. He explained that these animals were “strong-eyed heading dogs from Border Collie stock”. Then we went outside and saw these dogs “work” the sheep into areas Brian directed by using only their bodies and “strong-eyed” stares on the sheep. Amazing!! Not one barking dog in the lot, except the 4-5 that he did not use in his demonstration.

Brian also did a brief sheep shearing demo (of sheep “buns”) and asked for a volunteer. Peter did a good job for a “city-slicker”!! On the way off the ranch, Brian and his two grandchildren rode with us on the bus before departing & bidding us good-bye at the gate. What a unique and exciting experience!

That evening, our host families purchased fish and chip dinners, which we took to Shirley’s lovely home to eat. While there, we had the pleasure of joining a group of ambassadors when Shirley was showing and explaining her exquisite silk on silk Japanese-style stitchery and beadwork. This is her hobby and she certainly is a Grand Master of the craft….absolutely magnificent pieces of workmanship. She has been refining her craftsmanship for many years and besides her home, her works hang in the New Zealand Parliament and the Royal London Theatre. What a talented and gracious artist and another FF treasure!!






Monday, March 5, 2012
by Karen Toren

It was a beautiful sunny morning, 17 °C at 8:30, when we left to board the bus at New Plymouth’s TSB Stadium. The clear sky gave us spectacular views of the often cloud covered Mount Taranaki, which dominates the landscape. It looks so much like Mount Fuji that filming for the movie “The Last Samurai” took place around Mount Taranaki.

Our first stop was Stratford. We arrived in time to hear and see the Glockenspiel Clock Tower mark the hour with pop out figurines of Romeo and Juliette reciting well-known lines from Shakespeare’s play. A lovely morning tea was set up in a small park near the clock tower.

Next, we went to Lake Rotokara, a natural spring-fed lake, surrounded by a wild-life preserve. We were given an informative talk by a volunteer about the efforts undertaken to preserve native flora and fauna. In 2004 a trust formed, involving government and local farmers, for a trapping program to rid the area of introduced pests (possum, rats, mice, hedgehogs, stoats, weasels, cats, and ferrets). A $4 million predator-proof fence built around the preserve was completed in 2008. The fence is 1.8 metres high, made of fine stainless steel mesh topped with a unique sloping stainless steel hood and electric wire and is dug into the ground. The pest-free sanctuary is the largest in mainland New Zealand. There are 2 kiwis there at present with a kiwi introduction program underway. There is ongoing monitoring to check for pests and it was interesting to see the inked cards that they put in baited tunnels so they can check footprints. Lake Rotokara was a lovely setting for our boxed lunch picnic. We took a bush walk along the lakeside and saw three native birds, the fantail, tui and wood pigeon.

We continued on through beautiful rolling farmland, mainly dairy farms. Fields were often separated by tidy hedges and majestic Mount Taranaki crowned the horizon. We stopped again at the Tawhiti Museum, a former cheese factory which has been converted into an impressive visual history of South Taranaki. The super-realistic displays have all been made on site using moulds cast from real people by the owner, Nigel Ogle, who also worked in the gift shop and came out to take a group photo of us. There was an interesting Maori village replica showing the series of trenches and fences used for defence. A display about the book “The Adventures of Kimble Bent” by James Cowan, which tells the story of an Englishman who came to be accepted into Maori society, reminded me of Canada’s own “Grey Owl” story. As we headed home the great weather continued: 22°C and sunny. We had time to change, and then headed off to the farewell pot luck dinner held in a church hall. Audi, our host, and others had stayed behind for the day to help with preparations. The room looked lovely. Audi’s floral centrepieces came from lilies out of Shirley’s garden. The buffet table was filled with delicious home-made dishes brought by the local members. It was a wonderful meal, topped off by an amazing spread of desserts. Not the time to count calories! The ambassadors sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” and presented ball caps to the hosts. New Plymouth FF presented the SFBA FF with a pennant and ambassadors were given photos of themselves with their hosts and a Rangiora leaf message. Both clubs recognized members present who were also there 25 years ago when SFBA FF last came to New Plymouth. (Dee and Dave Gustavson from SFBA FF) We ended the evening with the singing of Ault Lang Syne.






Tuesday March 6, 2012
by Al Toren

We had a leisurely breakfast with our hosts, Audi and Horrie Hayman and finished last minute packing. We arrived at the New Plymouth airport with time to spare. We thought the rest of our group was flying to Auckland in the afternoon, so we were pleasantly surprised to meet Peter and Lenore and their hosts at the airport waiting for an earlier flight to Auckland. With no security to go through, it didn’t take long to board our plane, a Canadian built Bombardier Q300. As the plane climbed we had a fleeting view of Ashley’s and Lorraine’s farm. We had spectacular views of snow covered Mount Taranaki* and surroundings from the air.

When we arrived in Christchurch the temperature was 21°C. We took the shuttle bus to our hostel, the Jailhouse, a real historic, refurbished jail. The room was small, the bars on the window and the heavy metal door intimidating, but otherwise everything was good. Accommodation is hard to find in Christchurch as so many hotel and hostel rooms are no longer available because of the earthquake.

We started to feel very much on our own and missed having afternoon tea appearing out of nowhere and someone pointing out the points of interest to us. We walked along the pretty Avon River to the central district, cordoned off with chain link fencing. It was truly sad to see the devastation. Large cranes, buildings being torn down and piles of rubble for blocks and blocks. We walked through the Re-Start shopping area – stores housed in shipping containers, brightly painted and getting back to business.

By the time we walked back to the hostel, we were exhausted. We went to bed early, looking forward to the next day’s train ride over the Southern Alps to Greymouth on the west coast.

* On our return flight to Auckland, a week later, there was no snow at all on Mount Taranaki.