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The Tide Comes In

Time June 2nd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

After mountaineering, I returned to Dunedin with a pile of homework waiting for me.  I destroyed it, while at the same time trying to plan for the next week.  Three days after I returned, my family flew in to Dunedin to share New Zealand with me.  It was a surreal feeling to walk down Dunedin’s main street to find my dad and little sister waiting there for me.  It was the collision of two worlds.  But it was just as if I’d left them the day before.  We talked and walked through the pouring rain as I showed them Dunedin.  It was a gorgeous sight to see my family in my flat, or my lecture, or Velvet Burger (high-class NZ burger joint).  We wasted no time at all, first driving up to a mountain overlook of the city then driving up the coast to the climb all over the bizarrely spherical beach rocks known as the Moeraki Boulders.
The next day we left the rainy city, continually encouraging the drivers to resist the temptation to drift back into familiarity, which in our case was the right side of the road.  We headed to Curio Bay, a petrified forest where we watched yellow-eyed penguins waddle up the beach to feed their young.  That night we made the mistake of ending up short-handed with provisions in (extremely) rural New Zealand, and ended up eating at a hokey country pub.  Awkward as it began, it gave us the opportunity to connect with a local farmer who had us over to his house and showed us around his farm the next day.  Some day I hope to return to hang out with the Callahans.
After the Catlins we made for Te Anau, where we simultaneously enjoyed the wonders of fine food and Fiordland.  A necessary part of any trip to study in New Zealand is visiting Milford Sound, and we certainly fulfilled this duty.  My dad treated us to an overnight cruise of the fiord, an experience complete with gorgeous sights of looming cliffs and waterfalls and lush green bush, kayaking, card games, and more food than was possible even to sample.  In the morning the skies broke from rain and showed us the other half of Fiordland’s split personality – tall, sharp peaks of deep green and bluish white.  Next was Queenstown, where we settled into cozy bed and breakfast after some time in the sparkling city.  One incident was so positively hilarious that I can’t refrain from mentioning it.  The best views of the city and surrounding area are seen from an elevated spot called Deer Park Hill, so we went there in the evening.  After watching the sun cast its final rays upon the Remarkables range (aptly named), we drove out, noting that the Hill was also well-named.  Coming from Nebraska, I have certainly seen deer before, but these around us were not the least bit flighty.  One stood just by the side of the road as we approached it in the car with windows down.  My little sister was riding in the front seat, staring it down.  It returned her gaze, but with the goofiest and dumbest looking expression I have ever seen an animal make.  We rolled forward until my sister could have punched it, and by that time we were in uproarious laughter.  The deer just grinned back at us, which further elevated the hilarity.  At last the comedian ran off, no doubt satisfied with its scrutiny of my little sister’s face.
Unlike most people, we took our most relaxing days in Queenstown.  The next day we sampled an unconquerable breakfast before riding up the touristy gondola.  At the top are a couple of racing tracks called the Luge.  It was fun enough to evoke our wholehearted agreement with its motto that, ‘Once is never enough.’  Later that day, my father bungy jumped the AJ-Hackett bridge, the site of the first bungy jumping experiments.  I heard a lot of comments about my father’s awesomeness for jumping even with over 50 years of wisdom stacked up.  After, my mother flew back, and my little sister, my father, and I drove through the remarkable, dry, sharp mountains.  The golden colo(u)r of the surrounding tussock grass made it seem like a vast autumn paradise covered in newly-fallen leaves.  We drove straight through Wanaka, regretfully, for Wanaka rivals Queenstown for mountain glory.  But our goal far surpassed both.
We drove up the west coast, passing from shrub to bush to rainforest.  The West side of the Southern Alps come impossibly close to the Tasman sea at this spot, which causes a great amount of water to fall at these spots.  This is also the high country of Mt. Cook and miles of glaciers.  Two of the glaciers actually descend down into the rainforest, shooting down the tall valley remarkably close to the sea.  Our heli-hike got cancelled, but we got to take a helicoptor tour of the two glaciers and the place they call Godland.  I spotted Pioneer Hut and Lendenfeld Peak, and said a final goodbye to Mt. Tasman.  From there we skirted up the rest of the West Coast, seeing only the pancake-stack-shaped rocks at Punekaiki along the way.  At length we reached Abel Tasman, a place widely reputed as a destination.  Our first of two day there was dominated by an eight hour tramp, for which I owe many thanks and perhaps an apology to my dad and little sister.  The wonder of Abel Tasman is aquatic.  The bush comes right down to the edge of the water, occasionally cut just short by a wide, pristine beach.  Such wonder is present at a place like that, and it’s clear that a thousand incredible nooks, viewpoints, and sand islands escape you in such a short time.
We certainly did have our fair share of adventure, however.  The route of the track is dependent on tide, and at one point we just skirted the limit time for crossing an estuary.  I carried my little sister on my shoulder as I waded through the thigh-deep water, beating the tide by the slimmest margin of time.  We watched as the whole bay began quickly filling with water.  My dad watched a small arm of water grow, widen, join another arm, and cover his feet in water in just a few minutes.  When we finished the damp tramp that night near sundown, we were picked up the perfectly arced stretch of sand called Anchorage onto a floating backpacker’s to spend the night.  Once aboard, I heard voices from inside say, “Is that Ryan?”, and I looked in to find several of my flatmates playing cards.  It was a wonderful coincidence, as my father and sister got to meet them, and I got a ride home.
The next day we went straight to Nelson, where we had one last lunch and walk together.  But nothing gold can stay.  When we went to the airport, and I saw them off, I knew that the tide had come in.  I haven’t experienced deep and regretful homesickness since I’ve come to study abroad in New Zealand, but there certainly was an unspoken beckoning to follow them back to the States that day.  Our time together was a beautiful thing, and I savored every moment, every laugh, every conversation. Just today I got an encouraging card from my mom, assuring me that those same feelings were reciprocated.
I’ll have to wait another month for the tide to come in.  But it will.  My brother is due to arrive in five weeks, and I anticipate my time with him every bit as much as with the other members of my family.  Don’t worry, you’ll hear about it.

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Boulevards of Paradise

Time June 2nd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written of my travels, or more precisely, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve had time to sit down.  For a short time, my life studying in New Zealand began to approach a routine, and I started to get pretty comfortable with balancing the demands upon me, which are far from burdensome.  Only three classes are required of me, since Otago classes count as 4.5 US hours apiece.  With this rather light workload, I was loving life with plenty of time for my first loves, God and people.  I talked in ‘Faces in the Fire’ about some of my good friends – and people are being added to that list constantly.

But if you’ve been reading this blog you know that I crave adventure.  An irresistible thought came to mind: what if I try to break into the alpine?  I considered just going with some people, but the mountain heights are far more dangerous than I knew; and I knew at least that.  So I investigated the available mountaineering courses and came up with one.  Setting aside a few days of school, I decided to go for it, which was truly a last minute decision.  Three classes suddenly became too much, as I rushed to finish assignments early in order to leave.

On a Sunday, after a great service and a good time of fellowship with friends, I took a bus to Wanaka, where I stayed at a backpackers.  The next day, I met Paul, my guide, and we discussed what range would best foster my learning.  We settled on the West Coast, where the Southern Alps come so close to the sea that the terminal moraine of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers rests out in the water (both glaciers also descend down into the rainforest – quite a spectacle!).  We drove out, but the weather was bad that night, so we had to sleep in town.  The next morning, just as my guide predicted, the sky cleared to crystal, and we flew up.  That first day was filled with instruction on all kinds of stuff, but one thing in particular stood out.  Mountaineering often involves glacier travel, and in our case we were surrounded completely by endless rolling hills of white – a Great Plain of Ice.  The glaciers flow downhill just like their liquid cousins, so areas of expansion cause massive cracks to open in the ice, called crevasses.  These go very deep into the ice, and falling in one is an extreme hazard – I can’t even tell of how many stories I heard from Paul of harrowing falls, all, of course, due to bad decisions or inadequate protection.  But an important part of protecting yourself is to be able to pull yourself out of the crevasse when hanging on a rope.  Although the occasion is exceedingly rare given proper risk management, it’s a necessary skill.  So Paul picked a crevasse right next to the hut and lowered me down into it.  Before going down, I had no idea how big it was, so when I saw the fifty meter drop into nothingness, I gave a shout like I had just been poked with a hot poker.  The sheer beauty of this marvel was equal only to its terror; gravity suddenly became a taunt.  The snowy designs of the lip descended down precipitous icy slopes until the fissure was narrower than I could have descended into.  It was at least a minute before the smile returned to my face, but I eventually relaxed, trusted the rope, and siked myself out.

The next day was early – up at 5:30, out at 7.  We descended down a steep slope then walked along Explorer Glacier – carefully – for an hour until we reached the base of Glacier Peak.  As we walked we watched the sun glimpse over the Main Divide of the Southern Alps.  We headed up the slope, doing some pitch climbing and some soloing (short-roped, for the time).  The slope looked utterly impassable, but we snaked a path around huge crevasses, even crossing one on the debris from a large icefall.  At one point, we ran into a huge ice overhang which threatened to send us back from where we came.  But at last we climbed just over 3000 meters to the peak.  Glacier Peak is along the Main Divide, so as we walked out onto the massive corniced peak the whole of the Central South Island came into view.  Mountains reached as far as I could see – further, in fact.  To the West was the Tasman Sea, seperated from us by perfect white and lush green.  We descended, ate lunch, and lost a glove to a crevasse along the way.  But that was a small loss compared to the knowledge and experience I had gained.  We walked along the seemingly endless white, and I wondered that I really was in such a fantastic place.

The day after that was earlier yet – up at 4, out at 5:30.  This time when we left, the stars were still clear in a black night sky.  Walking along the glaciers that morning was quite surreal, with the formless shadows of mountains surrounding me and a directionless trudge toward Marcel Col.  On the way, we were forced to cross a significant rockfall.  Even as we watched, rocks came hurtling down the hill with frightening speed.  One was as big as a basketball.  The pace quickened for a minute – but hurrying is never advisable.  In time we were in position to begin the climb.  The route was straightforward but still intimidating.  A steep slope twisted steeper and steeper until flattening out at the top.  At first I was completely overwhelmed, but with time and height covered we reached the summit.  Lendenfeld Peak is around 3150 meters high, so we could see ever further.  Paul got out a satellite phone, and to my astonishment, called the office from the most remote place I have ever been at.  Another great summit, which would be my last of the trip.  We went back past the rockfall and across the hot glaciers in the afternoon sun in as little as we could, which was still a lot, to prevent sunburn.  I found it interesting that the most warm clothing I ever needed was chilling in the hut at night and in the morning.

Of all the places I have gotten to see and be a part of during my New Zealand study abroad adventure, this place is surely the best.  A poster in our hut called it ‘Godland’ and I must totally agree. The majesty of the high mountains, which is present in many places around the world, and the chaotic perfection of it makes its slopes the Boulevards of Paradise.  Even more striking is their silent solemnity.  As I listened to Paul’s tales of climbs gone good and awry, I looked at the rocky stallions and realized that these have been here, and will be here, and that I and the very few people here are just passerbys.

The rest of the course mainly consisted of instruction and rock climbing, although one key thing was a much smaller peak which I soloed entirely, keeping with the theme of building independence on the mountain.  I returned back somewhat a different person – having seen things beyond what I had ever known, being filled with humility rather than pride.  I can only hope to continue returning to the Boulevards.

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Faces in the Fire

Time March 25th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

The cozy, welcoming hills of Dunedin seem never to get old.  They wrap around the city and close us off in our own world – one which I’ve found relaxing, inviting, and full of opportunity.  What a wealth of possibilities is merely a bus-ride away!  Just this past weekend I had the chance to climb Mt. Xenicus on the Routeburn track.  The 1912m peak afforded glorious views of the mountains of Fiordland and Mt. Aspiring National Park and even the Tasman Sea 80km away.  But even more so, just a block away, is a more beautiful marvel – the people that I’ve met.  I’d love to tell you about just a few of the relationships that I’ve been lucky enough to have.

My second week in town I met a guy named Mikey from Auckland who’s a third year at the University of Otago.  Of all the people I’ve met here so far, I don’t think that anyone has loved me more or given more for me.  Just last night as I left his place after hanging out with he and his flatmates my arms were full with a textbook I had been looking for, another book, and a full duvet, all of which he glady gave me to use.  We’ve spent a lot of time ranging from movies to street ministry on St. Patty’s Day, and I know that he’s one friend that I’ll be Skyping from America when the day comes – we are now fellow travelers on the narrow path in life.  I met Mikey through a Christian group called Student Life, and I’ve met a great deal of other awesome people through that group.  In particular, two of Mikey’s flatmates, Ashwin and Jeremy, have become my good friends.
Another guy, Sam, I met through Elim church and friendship cemented over a long and excited talk over the wonders of mathematics.  Last night, our group talked about fellowship – a bond between people that is life-changing.

My flatmates are also very cool, and although of American heritage, living with them is a new experience.  Our flat is constantly full of hilarity.  As I type this I’m listening to Michael and Eric tease a third guy about his awkward encounters with a interested girl who won’t take his (clear) hints.  This place has often been filled with balloons, bottles, people, fine cheeses, tramping gear and any number of other things.  Though I may not agree with everything that goes down, I’m grateful to have the chance to live with them.

Thirdly are friends I’ve met through the IFSA Butler study abroad New Zealand program.  I really gelled well with a lot of the people who came through this same program provider – as I mentioned before, we all share an element of outgoingness.  The people I tramped with (Kepler track) are permanently set in my heart as lifelong friends – we’ve already made mention of traveling to Texas/Maine to reunite.  I got to see others tonight as well at a Butler-sponsored event.  We had an orienteering competition, followed by an amazing Indian dinner at a local restaurant.

This is just a small mention of the depth of the relationships that have formed I began studying abroad in New Zealand.  Even in such a fantastic place as New Zealand I’ve found that the greatest wonders are the people around me.  The Southern Alps are incredible, yes, and the superb peaks of Fiordland – and I wish to explore them – but to me, the beautiful hills of Dunedin, which remind me of the community I have here, are the best of them all.

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Mountains in the Mist, part 2

Time March 25th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 3 Comments by

I know for those of you back in the states, school is already half done, but for me, it starts tomorrow. The last two months have been quite a vacation from school, although I’ve found plenty with which to keep busy, interested, and useful. In particular, I have a few stories I owe you from the past two weeks.

One of my great hopes in coming to study in New Zealand was to tramp around and explore the place. Famed for natural beauty, the less settled regions of New Zealand are filled with plenty of tracks covering innumerable miles and kinds of terrain. If you’re hungry for wilderness, or beauty, or fresh air, it’s here. So I and some of my friends that I got to know through the IFSA Butler New Zealand study abroad spent a good bit of the first week in Dunedin planning a trip out to the Westward part of New Zealand – Fiordland. This legendary place is called Ata Whenua in Maori, or ‘Shadow-land’. It absolutely deserves a name that implies such mystery, and evokes such interest. We picked one of the more popular trails, the Kepler track, to start out on. It was here that I encountered the Mountains of the Mist, the namesake of two of my posts and F. W. Boreham’s book.

Planning took awhile, mostly due to our inexperience with it all, but after a good deal of buying and renting we were fully equipped to go bush. New Zealand is so compact and accessible that we were able to take a four hour bus to our destination, Te Anau.

Apart from some logistical issues (closed DOC office!) it started off well. It grieves me to omit a thousand small stories and details along the way, but I must for the sake of my patience and your interest. We hiked along the edge of Lake Te Anau in a fern-filled forest until the trail headed uphill. For three hours we gained altitude, the scenery changing all the time. At one point, the forest was covered in lush plants; at another, in ethereal moss; at another, giant granite bluffs dominated the landscape and our attention. Finally we broke through the treeline to the alpine, and were met with a fantastic view. But we could see mainly eastward – the mountain concealed the sights of Fiordland. But as we continued, each corner passed would reveal another slice of the coming scene, until we could view the Murchison Mountains, covered in foliage and in mist, across from the South Fiord. After an hour of walking through the tussock grass we reached the hut we were staying in for the night.

But the day wasn’t done. A series of caves was just underneath our feet, so after some rest we walked 15 minutes to a nearby cave entrance. A group of six of us entered the cave, and one by one people turned back at the threshold of their comfort zone. When only three of us remained we felt that we were far underground, and when my friend Liz wanted to go back, I decided that I should not make her do so alone. All three of us wandered back until we ran into a dead end. It was obvious that we had not come this way – we were lost. The realization of our helplessness weighted on us as heavily as the thousand of tons of rocks above us. Managing to keep our cool, however, we retraced our steps until we found our mistake at one branch of the cave. Never have I been so glad to see a faint sliver of light as when we finally reached the cave entrance. But some part of the male psyche kept the German guy (the third person) and I from admitting defeat at that point; we went back into the cave to explore for another two hours, without difficulty. Back at the hut that night we met some other interesting trampers, including three other German guys who have since become our good friends.

We finished the remainder of the alpine section of the track the next day. It was stunning to see such immense and grand peaks in such immense and grand numbers. Each corner we turned set our minds afloat in the wonder of Ata Whenua. Chief among the views was the sight from the summit of Mt. Luxmore, affording a 360 degree view of the plain surrounding Te Anau and tens of fantastic peaks. To think that this same rugged landscape, replete with deep fiords and towering summits, stretches for 60 miles both north and south was astounding. Another high point of the day was a section of track that followed along a ridge. When the day was done we had descended back down into the forest, camping next to a sandfly infested river, the Iris Burn.

On the third day we trekked through a low area, following the Iris Burn as it grew from a small stream into a river. I took more than one dip in the frigid water. On our right was the Kepler Mountains, on our left, the Jackson peaks. Immediately around us were countless species of trees and birds. We finished the day on a lonely stretch of the Lake Manapouri shore. The sun set gorgeously. A kaleidoscope of bright golden rays shot across the lake, formed by Rona Island, the Beehive, and the Turret Range. At last, as the campfire burned down, I nestled up into my warm sleeping bag to spend a night under the stars.

It took us no time to get back to the city, and we made sure to indulge every craving we had felt in the last four days. Included were pizza, coffee, smoothies, souvenirs, and a whole tub of ice cream. We met up with all of the German guys we had played spoons with so many times – it was a wonderful day.

Back in Dunedin, life has been quite different. Whereas before I was alone in a flat of six, suddenly I had four other flatmates. The sixth came very soon. They’re all great guys and I’m sure you will hear more about them.

The academic side of my stay here has begun as well. Yesterday (March 2nd), classes started at the University of Otago, and I’m still not sure what courses I’m taking! Fortunately, the problem is an excess, not a lack, of options. As is often the case academically, I’m torn between the useful and the interesting. Currently I’m in Computational Modelling of Biosystems, Introductory Psychology, and a third class yet to be decided.

Since I came with a group of Americans and live with a group of Americans, I have gotten to know many of them very well. But this is hardly the point of studying abroad. I came to know the land and culture of the Kiwis. I got plugged in with a group called Student Life that exists for the sole purpose of telling each student at uni about Christ. I connected very quickly with a group of guys in this group, and have been getting to know them very well. Although I’ve only known them for a couple of weeks, I love them very much and I know that this friendship will be very fruitful. Aside from hanging out and serving Student Life, we’ve had a few antics so far. I’ll tell you about the most ridiculous one, which also happens to be a university tradition. On the second night of orientation week there is a huge toga party. Prior to this the freshman march in grand style along the main street of Dunedin dressed in their fine white cloths. But this parade is really more of a battle. The upper classmen line the sides of the street with ammunition of eggs, flour, and tomatoes. When the freshers walk by, eggs fly in all directions, and only the lucky escape unscathed. Our group put up a particularly good fight, with 20 dozen eggs and several kilos of tomatoes.

Life has settled out quite a bit, and I suppose something of a ‘routine’ will form for me. It still has taken awhile for me to settle into reality, that I am in New Zealand, with tons of Kiwis to meet and miles and miles of coastline, mountain terrain, and flatland to explore. Soon to come, I hope, are the Routeburn Track and Mt. Aspiring National Park.

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The Other Side of the Hill

Time February 11th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Today is for the most important of activities – relaxation.  The past week and a half has been filled with wonderful friends, great explorations, and plenty of lessons.  Any attempt to explain in full detail what I’m experiencing would be futile, so I’ll try and give you just a tasty sampling.
Transitioning to New Zealand has been a growing experience.  I’ve lived life on the road, away from any semblance of home, but this has been completely new.  After enjoying (no sarcasm) a twelve-hour plane ride and going through a very lax customs procedure, I stepped out into the warm Auckland air on the 31st of January.  I arrived a few days early so that I could get a feel for this unique city, so I came with only a phone number, a hope, and a prayer.  The kiwis are very friendly people, though, and I had little trouble finding my way.  For the next two days I roamed Auckland, the City of Sails.
The city is very beautiful, situated amidst mountains and islands.  The first day I ferried out to Rangitoto, a volcanic island absolutely covered in trees and volcanic rock. The summit afforded a spectacular view of Auckland, the surrounding coastline, and the bay.   Even more stunning was the utter silence and darkness of the nearby lava caves.  On day two I biked around (and managed to get a flat tire three miles away) and sailed the harbor with a group on an America’s Cup yacht.  Afterwards, I found out that the wind was about twice as strong as the boat’s capacity, but a confident crew can make even the worst of situations look completely in control.  The ozone isn’t particularly thick here, so even with sunscreen my winter-toned skin was getting a little rosy.
Next came IFSA-Butler study abroad New Zealand orientation.  These three days on the Whangaparoa peninsula nurtured the formation of friendships with other Butler participants that will no doubt grow into meaningful relationships.  And it was the perfect introduction to the place they call nature’s playground.  Our lodge was surrounded by hills, beaches, cliffs, and all varieties of natural phenomena.  I got to know some awesome people while enjoying great activities.  We enjoyed kayaking, orienteering, swimming, coasteering, and rugby, among other things.  Some of us even got to stand on the steam pipe of a shipwreck in the bay!  While doing this I think we realized that all of us had a certain piece of our personalities that we held in common.  While I can’t pin it to one word, the characteristics of being venturesome, active, and eager all seem to capture a little bit of that quality.  As I said, these are awesome people, and I enjoyed every minute with them.
The final night of orientation occurred at a marae south of Auckland.  The marae is the traditional meeting/sleeping/living grounds of the Maori people.  Perhaps the most entertaining part of the night happened when a group performed for us a mix of song and dance dating far back in Maori history.  No one would disagree (especially not the ladies) that the best part was the co-performance by the Maori performers and the IFSA-Butler guy students of the haka, the (shirtless) war dance.  I lost my voice after three minutes of the haka, so I marveled at those manly Maori men who used to scream it out for half an hour at a time.  Of course, the Maori are not without their fine culture as well.  We heard history from the Maori perspective from a woman who was instrumental in reviving Maori culture in the 1970’s.  It was a rare privilege to hear.
Our arrival into Dunedin was greeted with cheers and celebration. For months in preparation to begin studying abroad in New Zealand, I’ve been reading about Dunedin, talking about Dunedin, dreaming about Dunedin.  Now my destination was spread before me – and just like my arrival into Auckland, I felt a little lost.   But the city is closed in by hills on every side, which makes it cozy and close, provided you have enough warm clothes.  So literally and metaphorically, I’m living on the other side of the hill – a completely different place.
We wasted no time exploring – getting to know the city, our neighbors, and trying to find internet service.  Although I still under-appreciate many facets of the American lifestyle, the abundant availability of wireless internet is something I will henceforth call a blessing.  The same goes for cell phones, food, cars, and anything else you might need in life.  We’ve got each other and support from all of you back in the States (which, along with our Butler rep is a sufficient safety net), but we’re kind of on our own for most things.  I came here to have my eyes opened wider and my heart grown, and in this short time it has already begun.
Aside from stocking my flat (housing spot), I’ve been enjoying ‘old’ friends, making new ones, and having a look around to see what has been so great in my anticipation.  Just yesterday several of us traveled out onto the Otago peninsula, hiking up to see Larnach castle, a unique historical landmark of Dunedin. This morning I ran up Signal Hill, which gave me a great sense of where the city lies on the coast.  But we’ve got plenty of things to do and plenty of time to go.  School doesn’t start until March 2nd!

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Mountains in the Mist

Time February 5th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Hello to all reading this, whether you’re someone considering going abroad, a returnee from travels, or none of the above.  Right now we’re strangers, but if you read my ramblings, you can get to know who I am and what I’m doing.  And if I hear from you, maybe I can get to know you back.

I write this entry four days before my departure to study abroad in New Zealand.  What an adventure it has been just preparing for this time.  Between finishing up involvements in the US, figuring out logistics, and saying the final farewells, I’ve had little time to dream of the coming months.  I’m enjoying the extra three weeks of Christmas break afforded by the University’s late starting date (March 2!).  My time being with friends and brothers here in the U.S. has been rich.  I’ve been well sent off, with plenty of advice, prayer, and affirmations that my relationships here will be missed.  One of the notable sendoffs from one of my brothers was that we never go anywhere without a great purpose.  This purpose of studying in New Zealand will be fellowship – through both the quiet conversations and the wild adventures.

Of all the illustrations I could use to describe to you my current condition, I think the best would be the minute just before watching a celebrated movie or meeting an hyped-up person for the first time or unveiling a long-awaited spectacle.  Although I’ve heard the accounts of many others’ experiences, I have yet to know for myself.  And although my anticipation is piqued, it really is colorless, for I have no idea what I’m really in for.  The people, places, and pursuits that lie ahead of me are still like mountains in the mist.  But I am beyond excitement to see and understand more as I get closer.  Only four days until I begin to actualize the content of those three metaphors (LOTR, anyone?).

I’ll write again from my final destination in Dunedin, New Zealand.  Between now and then: a thirteen-hour flight, orientation on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, and a multitude of other explorations.

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