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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!

another question

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

Another dinner out.
Another question: how have you changed as a family as a result of the trip?

Now *that’s* a hard one!

The first thought springing to one of the younger minds was that ERgirl3 loves Dadda so much more now. True.
An honest older child appraisal is that living together so closely for such an extended period with no means of escape from each other taught us more clearly what pushes each other’s buttons. True again.

But that was all they could come up with. No-one had any further ideas.
So the questioner probed differently: are we rich here?, do you think we need to have so much?
Everyone agreed that, without a doubt, New Zealand is richer than most of the places we travelled to. But Jgirl15 observed, “We have seen we can get by with less stuff, but whether we WANT to is a different matter.” Honest.
Kboy12 added, “We’re definitely more thankful now for what we do have.”

Mother whispered a prompt: what about Big Brother Mouse?
Ah yes, we’re going to work to sponsor another book for kids in Laos. We have come up with some more ways to do this…..Mboy6 suggested that we give money that is gifted to us to the fund, and every time we have a haircut at home instead of at the hairdresser’s we can put the money we would have spent towards the sponsorship, and whenever we find money on the ground we’ll put it in the elephant (we were given an elephant before we went away for saving money in, and we’re trying to fill it up again for BBM).
Additionally, we have been in contact with the BBM founder and discovered that one of the things he would really like to see coming in to the country is “educational type toys” – the sort that are sold in museum shops, that people keep for a while and then lose interest in – toys/activities that illustrate a scientific principle or perhaps construction technique (things like a Roman arch or solar system model, globe or microscope, anatomical model or pyramid construction set). I am convinced there must be a lot of this type of thing lying around developed nations and we’re going to try to work out how to get some of them to Laos!
(By the way, some of you readers have said you will contribute if we put up a paypal account – thanks for the idea and the support – we need to work out how to do it!)

But back to how our family has changed. Rob had a few more ideas than the children:
* we’ve learnt how to deal with new and challenging situations; everyone has grown 
   up more, become more independent, yet at the same time become more
   interdependent, being content with each others’ company. The children have gone 
   from being quite self-conscious about speaking a different language to being
   comfortable even doing the shopping in a foreign tongue.

* we’ve learnt (again – it’s not that we didn’t know it already!) how selfish we can be,
   but also how much fun we can have together

* we’ve learnt how privileged we are, and now the challenge is to see how that is
   going to affect our lives in the future

one of the nice things…

Friday, January 15th, 2010

…about being home is that Grandpa asks the big girls over to help him put together a top secret that cannot be discussed with anyone else until after dinner.
The little kids agonise through BBQ-ed sausages, onions ... [Continue reading this entry]


Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

ERgirl3 has resigned herself to the fact that Dadda will go off to work every morning.
Now she is asking, “Please may I go wif you?”

PS Rob has not ... [Continue reading this entry]


Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand Of course individual replies are much more personal, but responding to readers’ comments and question in a blogpost is much easier. Even though we do not usually shy away from difficult, *easy* is good right now. Oh you ... [Continue reading this entry]

old learning ways

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand

Little Routine We Wrote In Romania is now up on our wall: [Continue reading this entry]

back to work

Monday, January 11th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand We wake, legs entwined, his breath gentle on my neck. We stir, but say nothing, savouring the last moments, not wanting to let go. “It’s over,” I finally whisper. “Until next time,” he replies. “We’ll do it again.” For a few ... [Continue reading this entry]

Road Trip

Sunday, January 10th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand (via Whananaki) New Zealand is smaller than we remember. We can get to the Far North, spend the day with two different groups of friends and family, and be back home again – all in one day!

[Continue reading this entry]

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 ... [Continue reading this entry]

we’ve been eating OK

Thursday, January 7th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand There’s an international feel down here at the bottom of the world.

Mamaliga with kiwi sausages and the essential garlic sauce, plus some mushroom and egg too. Our Romanian friends would be ... [Continue reading this entry]