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Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

We’ve finally done all the firsts….first time visiting the supermarket and vege shop, first checking the mailbox, first play with neighbours, first chat over the fence, first BBQ, first time to the organic shop, first summer swim, first walk, first day back at work, first contact with medical personnel (thankfully this does not tend to be a regular occurrence for us, but we are going to have booster shots done so we can take off again any time in the next ten years without having to go through the rigmarole of weekly jabs for Far Too Long At Far Too Great An Expense), first rain, first vege planting, first bread baking (we’ve even got a sourdough bug on the go now)…we had completed all the firsts except going back to church.
Now that’s done too.
One lovely (obviously-blog-reading) lady spoke to us afterwards, saying she had looked over and seen us and thought that if she’d been us she’d have been sitting there missing the close-knit Romanian church group we were a part of for a month; she’d have been feeling today was impersonal and non-interactive and very big. Strangely enough, these were not the things that stood out to me. I noticed the niceness. As a matter of fact, in a number of different settings, this keeps happening over and over. Everything seems so pristine, so well-cared-for, so unbroken, so matching, so nice. We don’t attend a church that meets in a big fancy cathedral or even in a modern church building – we set up shop each Sunday in a local school hall. But, even still, it looked nice. And when the lights were dimmed, it seemed like a performance!
Secondly, everything felt slow. Instead of needing to race to try and keep up with the words of the songs, we were able to sing along comfortably. Even the song that had been learnt while we were away. It was not completely unfamiliar to us though – we encountered it first in Romania, and now we know what it meant;-)
Thirdly, there was real English. The sermon included turns of phrase that you just don’t hear coming from language learners. This added a depth and made me aware again of the importance for people to have the Scriptures in their own tongue. Having not given it a moment’s thought for many years, I remembered that once upon a time I had thought I would be a Bible translator some day….clearly that never happened.
Fourthly, we were able to connect with people we know. What a comfortable blessing, and one we shall try to not take for granted.
The last thing we noticed was how our trip continues to affect this new life.
Cloths draped over a big wooden cross made us think of similar ones draped over statues in Cambodia.

A sermon reference to the multiplicity of gods in ancient days brought forth images of statues lined up outside temples, both in Asia and Europe.

A prayer for those suffering as a result of the Haiti earthquake led my thoughts to the suffering elsewhere as well.

Our experience of the past fifteen months will no doubt continue to mould us into the future. But the time has come for us to stop the recording.
Our adventure of life for the next year will involve Rob continuing to serve the local community at his place of employment….giving to the wider world community by raising money for Big Brother Mouse…becoming a biking family….possibly becoming a farming family….we’ve already started new learning experiences through books and activities….we’ll hopefully take road trips round our own country….we’ll dream dreams.

And one day, we hope to reopen Pilgrims’ Progress, for another chapter.

insert picture of the ten of us lined up like our front page picture….but we need to take the picture first 😉 (and we’d quite like to take it on the new land we are going to call home signifying our new adventure into a different lifestyle….we have been to look at properties, but haven’t found The One yet….so maybe any picture will do)

PS In a few days – or perhaps when we’ve taken that last photo – we’re planning on rearranging the blog. We are not going to close it completely as some travelling families have done when they finish their travels (maybe because we do not feel we have finished), but we are going to reverse the order of the posts so that we can read from beginning to end!

PPS When we had a look at an old post the other day we discovered it had somehow got truncated…..Grandpa Gene, we’ll be sending you the full version of the story you were in the middle of reading!

of books and spare parts

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

The wealth of Europe was a stark contrast to the poverty we experienced in Asia. But it did not challenge us – we were removed from it, living relatively simply with just our seven backpacks.
The wealth of New Zealand, however, confronts us. It is personal. It is ours.
Most specifically – for today anyway – I’ve been unpacking our books. It’s no secret, we have a lot of books.


We believe a good education can be gleaned through books and we have made every effort to ensure our children (and wider community) have access to good books. I do not regret this in the slightest, but as I opened box after box after box after box after box all full of books, I could not help but think of the children we met in Laos – the one who were receiving their first ever books, the ones who would have a library of fifty books to choose from and then there would be no more for them to read. Fifty. Fifty books for your whole childhood. Fifty more than when Big Brother Mouse began publishing, but it’s still a pitiful number, is it not?
When we visited BBM, we were impressed. Very impressed. And I don’t just say that – we also visited an orphanage in Cambodia where we were NOT impressed. That one was a money-swindling operation with very little credibility. Big Brother Mouse was different. Do you remember us going to the book party we sponsored and then writing about it on the blog? That’s THE ONE post that people keep talking to us about even now.
And we keep thinking about it too.
We want to sponsor another book.
Having no personal income makes this difficult for the children, so we are thinking creatively. As we have unpacked the book boxes, we have not automatically returned them to their homes on wooden shelves, but have set aside a fair number to sell. We’ve just got to work out the best way to do this. TradeMe? A book fair?
We could do another sponsored walk too: the Coast to Coast walk we did last time would not be such a challenge now, so we may need to set our sights on something more demanding. Any ideas?
Another silent auction perhaps. The only problem is we no longer have a houseful of gear we do not need. We’ve given it away! Maybe we could approach businesses to donate decent prizes instead of on-selling just our junk.
We could ask all our readers to donate a dollar each, and according to our stat counter, we’d be well on the way to sponsoring a book. Any takers?

Then there are the other things needed at BBM. Of course their biggest need is for money so that they can get on with their work of making books and getting them into the hands of the Lao population. But they can also use educational games, used laptops and digital cameras, and old computer parts, as well as the odd book that they don’t publish themselves (they do not, however, want all the throwaway books that no-one else in the west wants either!)
One thing we noticed during our month in Laos is that there were precious few toys. Kids kicked around rattan balls, and the little girl in whose house we stayed had a Barbie doll, but that was all we saw. Knowing what enjoyment our own children have had with a wooden train set, I wondered if such a toy would be appropriate in Laos. I thought maybe not, because quite simply there are no trains in Laos. But look! Here on the Big Brother Mouse website is a picture of kids playing with a new toy – a wooden train set!
As for games, I suspect there are plenty of kiwi households with an old magnetic Chinese Checkers board or wooden quoits set or construction equipment sitting in the back cupboard. There might even be microscopes or inflatable globes no longer in use. I’m sure there are Monopoly games with Park Lane missing, or 1000 piece puzzles of which only 998 pieces remain. Lao learners don’t need these offerings! Neither could they use games requiring a good command of English. But surely there are *universal* games sitting in dusty corners that could enhance the life experiences of children, who ordinarily have access to next-to-nothing. Is there anything at your house? If you live in New Zealand, we’re happy to collect goods, and somehow get them to Sasha in Laos. We’re willing to personally deliver them if need be <wink>

the resources table at the school we visited



Friday, March 13th, 2009

By Rach (who left her knitting at home this day) Hong Kong “It was worth lots of ice creams,” Lboy8 commented as we strolled away from the most breathtaking fireworks display. Boom after boom of colour had sprinkled and spiralled ... [Continue reading this entry]

Just As We Expected

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
By Rachael Luang Prabang, Laos We rounded a corner and a scene that could have come from any of the South East Asia novels we had read was spread before us. A fast-flowing murky brown river curved through the foreground. A ... [Continue reading this entry]

money grows on trees

Sunday, September 28th, 2008
yes it does, it really does.....see......

A dear friend delivered a moneytree to contribute to our Big Brother Mouse fundraising efforts. It was amazing!!!! And this morning Grandpa offered another donation in exchange for weeding ... [Continue reading this entry]


Monday, June 2nd, 2008
"SSSHHHH," he whispered somewhat unnecessarilly as I was only just emerging from slumberland and had little intention of making my wakeful state yet known! "Is it raining?" he continued. We sssssshhhh-ed, ears alert to the drops falling outside. Were they falling from ... [Continue reading this entry]

thirty seconds……ten…..five, four……

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008
...three, two, one fingers showing. And then the camera was rolling. We'd already been in the TVNZ studio for an hour, wandered around the bowels of the building, had make-up done in front of very bright lights and enormous mirrors, leaving the ... [Continue reading this entry]

***NOT A FLOP***

Friday, May 23rd, 2008
Thank you very much to everyone who came along to support our fundraising effort. We didn't get to talk to each person individually, so please accept this thank you. We appreciate your enthusiasm. $365 from the ... [Continue reading this entry]

What if it’s a flop?

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
So asked Rob. Of the Silent Auction. Hmmmm. If it's a flop, it's a flop. But we'll value the work the kids put in to it, choosing cherished items to part with, making cards and sherbet, carting gear, hoping for success. And we'll especially remember ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, May 20th, 2008
An article in the local rag.........then Rob's real employer (not the one touted in the newspaper article ;-) ) is sending an email round work encouraging colleagues to get behind "their man"........simultaneously at my workplace (that would be home!) the phone ... [Continue reading this entry]