Location:  Wellington NZ

In Rotorua, I remember biting down on a a piece of potato and heard a crunch.  I now know what it was.  My tooth.  I was in-between root canal treatments - not worries there anymore.  The tooth cracked right down the middle.  So, had to have it extracted.  Turns out it was also infected.  So, now I have one less tooth (and less pain and no further root canal treatments). 

I was told by several people that this now means I am a local.  Visiting five times and having a dental appointment apparently is all it takes.  Of course that just means that the student's label of papa kiwi fits even more.  

I was amazed at the medical treatment.  We so much time talking about how advanced US medicine is and yet that was not necessarily my experience.  In the States there is a local numbing cream, then the local.  You still feel the needles.  Here he just did the needle and it was nothing more than a pinch.  It may be that it was different locations for different procedures but it was much less painful. 

Extraction went well.  

The cost?  That is the most amazing part.  An extraction in the States is about US$375 will the extraction in New Zealand was NZ$265.  More than US$120 savings.  The antibiotics were NZ$26.75.  That is less than the co-pay I normally pay.  Who says that universal health care doesn't work.  No waiting.  I had a dental appointment 50 minutes after I called.  Was in the office at 10:50 am and out by 11:30 am. 

I will give everyone an update when the local wears off.  

Location:  Rotorua, NZ

I can finally enjoy this trip.  I finally finished uploading my class that starts on June 10th.  I finished working out how the grading system would work and checked all the dates and did one final proof of all the videos and web sites this morning.  So, now I can relax and enjoy myself.  

This year we added a second day at Rotorua to give students a chance to do more things.  Boy, did they take advantage of it.  We had groups that went to:

  • Agrodome (http://www.agrodome.co.nz/) - animal show (sheep and dogs), organic farm, animal nursery, etc  
  • White Water Rafting (http://www.raftabout.co.nz/) - The group is certainly full of stories about the 6 meter falls and getting dumped out of the boat. ·
  • Hobbiton (http://www.hobbitontours.com/) - Visit the Shire from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  This is the one that I went on.  It was worth the expense.  When they built the original set for "The Lord of the Rings" the sets were only temporary.  When the filming was over, almost everything was removed (rain delayed some of its removal which allowed farmer Anderson to get permission to keep the sets).   
  • Zorbing (http://www.zorb.com/zorb/) - rolling down a hill in a inflated ball.  Not my cup of tea but those that went seem to have enjoyed it.   

The Green Dragon

It has been raining since we got here.  Today it stopped.  It was cloudy most of the day but toward evening the sun finally came out to give us a beautiful sunset.

Hobbiton was amazing.  We all agreed it was worth the trip.  It was nice to get out into the country in the 45 minute drive from Rotorua to the site.  We passed many fields with sheep and cows. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You just missed Frodo

 

Location:  Somewhere over the Pacific

I need to start with a mini-rant.

I have been in the air for three of the last four days:  Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  I will leave off the carriers. But, let me say, ouch!!!.  I know that airlines have reduced the number of flights and routes that has increased their occupancy rates, but why is it that the seats also seem to be getting smaller, the services less, and the fees greater.  At one point I thought i was going to eat the headrest of the seat in front of me it was that close.

At last count there was a fee for baggage, fee to board early, fee for a particular seat, charge for alcohol (okay this one is not a problem), charge for food, next thing you know it is going to be a fee for air and water.  Probably should not have said that as it will get someone to thinking. 

The last flight was from San Fransisco to Auckland, New Zealand.  I have to admit that this was the best of the bunch which followed the second worst flight, Chicago to San Francisco.  

My only rant here is that I would prefer to pay one price to get on the plane, have space for my carry-on items (rather than all the people who carry one an entire wardrobe to save $25 in baggage fees), have a decent meal, and space for my butt.  Wait, that is first class which is often 3 to 4 times as expensive as economy.  I don't get the rate structure.  

Back to the purpose of the blog

We left Chicago at 5:00 pm yesterday and arrived today at 4:00 am.  Since we crossed the international date line we lost most of June 2nd.  So, we start our journey exploring Middle Earth two days after we started.  The flight over was relatively easy.  Get up to altitude, have dinner, watch a movie (or two).  Fall asleep for the evening.  Wake up at 2:30 am, have breakfast, land at about 4:00 am.  Get through immigration and customs by 6:30 am and we are on the way.  Shuttle from the Airport to the hostel and we are in the room (at least I am by 7:45 am). 

Unfortunately, for most of the students, their rooms were not ready so they are getting cleaned up and then it is off to the races.  

More from today later.

Location: Rotorua, NZ

Today was the trip from Auckland to Rotorua via Waitomo Caves. ·Waitomo caves is famous for glow worms. ·They look like little points fo light on the ceiling of the cave. ·Everyone that I know that has experienced the cave finds it really "cool". ·The stop is a nice pause in the 5.5-hour trip between the two locations. ·

Other than the caves, the two things that stand out are the countryside we drive through and the driver. ·The driver provided a four plus hour running commentary on the geography, history of New Zealand, the landmarks we passed, industry in New Zealand, provided language lessons, and even drove the bus. ·I am always amazed at the bus drivers in this country. ·They really "make" the experience value added. ·

The countryside is also amazing. ·It does not matter what the weather is in this country it is always beautiful. ·Sunny days give you great vistas of mountains and valleys, rainy days five you fog shrouded hillsides. ·Those days in-between give you endless rainbows. ·

As I was told today, the most recent counts:

  • 4.5 million people (1.377 million in Auckland alone)
  • 30 million sheep
  • 1.7 million deer
  • 8 million cows·

The name for Rotorua that won the T-shirt contest is Rotogas. ·I actually prefer the runner up "Pull my finger." ·As you can guess Rotorua smells. I love to watch the faces of students as the experience the hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg) smell ·for the first time. ·They really dislike it. ·After a few hours they don't even notice it. ·I suppose talking about the health benefits of H2S would be too much to ask (reduces inflammation and decreases Asthma symptoms). ·

Mitai is the name of a local Maori family or Iwi.  The family have put together a village environment and created a dinner and cultural performance to entertain visitors and provide an introduction to traditional Maori culture.  

Some Maori words

  • Kia ora – hello 
  • Ka pai – very good, well done
  • Wahi tapu – a sacred place
  • Aroha – love, caring for others
  • Kai – food, to eat
  • Hangi – food cooked in an earth oven
  • Tikanga Maori – the Maori way of doing things
  • Haere ra – farewell 

As they describe their experience:

Cultural Performance

Our cultural performance is real, raw and earthy. It is a fascinating performance full of emotion and power.

In the tranquil natural bush setting, our performers take you back in time when the ancient Maori customs and traditions were part of everyday life. Through songs and dances plus tales and legends told, you will learn a great deal about our fascinating past.

You will hear tales about the way we interacted with the European settlers many generations ago, our music, carving, the usefulness of plants and ta moko (tattooing). Tattoos are just one of the ways that demonstrate the strong ties that Maori people have with their cultural heritage and we will explain why.

The displays of weaponry and combat that are shown during the performance will fascinate you. Coupled with the grace and beauty of the poi dance and the spine tingling haka finale, this is an interactive, and unforgettable experience for absolutely everyone to enjoy.

An evening with the Mitai

Hangi

Mitai are proud to offer you an authentic hangi meal that is cooked in the earth oven known as 'the hangi pit'.

Your menu includes a hot selection of succulent New Zealand Lamb & Chicken, Potatoes (Rewai), Sweet Potato (Kumara) and stuffing (a combination of Bread, Mixed Herbs, Corn, Carrots & Peas).  Side dishes include scalloped potatoes baked with a cheese topping and 

freshly baked Garlic Bread.  A range of salads is on offer including Corn salad, Cauliflower with Sesame Seeds, Rice, Ranchslaw and Freshly Tossed Garden Salad.  Your hangi meal is complemented with rich brown gravy and thick mint sauce. Desserts include tropical Fruit Salad, chocolate Log, and Trifle with Cream. Full bar facilities are available and Chilled Spring Water straight from Fairy Spring is served to your table

War Canoe/Waka

Hand carved by the Mitai family, the waka (ancient war canoe) paddles by, leaving you spellbound. See warriors by night in traditional dress traveling down the Wai-O-Whiro Stream as was done many years ago


I just know that I like it

 

 Location:  Mapleton, UT

I know that this has nothing to do with New Zealand and Australia, but it is an explanation of why I am in Utah.  Besides, it is my blog.  

 

Anna's brandsI am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today.

Although, for purposes of full disclosure, I need to mention to the DR staff that only one strategic error was made in asking me to speak.

Let me put it this way. A podium is to a college professor what a new battery is to the energizer bunny.  We keep going and going and going.

Like all college professors I am genetically programmed to speak in blocks of 50, but more likely 75-minutes.  So, sit back and let’s begin.

Anna was born in a small . . . –wait, wrong speech.  That is for tomorrow.

Today, we celebrate Anna’s accomplishments.  Which is just a formal way for all of us to say how proud we are of Anna.

Anna, I want you to know that I am very proud of you for many reasons but for two in particular that I will focus on.

First, I am proud of you for your accomplishments here at Discovery Ranch.  To name a few of the many:  your academic successes, social successes, personal and intellectual growth, developing confidence, and the new interests you have cultivated.

All of these accomplishments reflect a commitment and dedication to a very important goal, becoming happy and healthy.  I said becoming because I think that you have also realized that what you have embarked upon is a lifelong effort.  There will be times of sadness, anger, and despair.  But through your hard work, and the support of Discovery Ranch, I feel that you have developed the vision and skills while learning the tools to move through those times and accomplish much.

Although I am still not sure how we are going to get a horse in the garage.

More importantly, I am proud of you.  Don’t every let anyone tell you that you have not come far and accomplished much.  You have grown into a young woman who has the potential to live a successful life however you may define that experience.

You have become the person I always hoped that you would become, freed from the past but recognizing that it is a part of you and focused on what is to come.

I know that it has taken a lot of hard dedicated work.  I know that it is not done.  I know that there will be times of regression.  But what I know most of all is that you have made a commitment to make it work.  Our being here today is all the evidence I need to demonstrate this point.

My happiness to day is that I am able to stand here and see the outcome of all your hard work.

My sadness is that I could only see it from afar, to only see the ongoing changes during the past 16 months through small windows each week as we met via Skype and the occasional visit.

So, as a father to a daughter, great job, keep up the good work.  Know that I will be there to help you and prompt you.

Most important of all, always remember that I love you.

Now, as to that horse, will see.