Friday, December 30, 2011

Time Keeps on Slippin' Slippin' Into the Future.......

Well, here we are at the end of another year!  It might be just me, but it sure seems like the older I get, the faster the years go by!!  I echo the line of the Steve Miller Band classic that says, "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin', into the future"..... or is it into the past?  Either way, it is gone forever.

When life is good, time seems to fly by, when we are down, time seems to drag, and on those rare moments of critical life events, time seems to stand still.  But in reality, time is a great equalizer of men (and women).  We may have less money than our neighbor, more prestige,  a smaller house, more friends, but we have exactly the same amount of time each year as every one else has. 

So now is the time to decide if we will use the 365 days of 2012 wisely and purposefully, or will we allow those days to quickly and quietly slip away unnoticed.     

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Day at Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga - A Sacred Place

Kupe left Hawaiki to follow the stars, the cloud and weather patterns, and the migration of birds, and he discovered a beautiful land of the long white cloud.  He named the very northern most tip Te Rerenga Kairua.  This became a most sacred place for the Maori people because they believed that when they die, their spirits would leave their bodies from this very place to join their ancestors. 

It is a unique and magical place in that the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean come together here.  One can see different shades of blue and turquoise, and waves and currents traveling from opposite directions toward each other, defining the two bodies of water.  The line or 'meeting place' is fluid and ever moving.  Even though it was a dark and gray day when we were there, you can see the 'meeting place' on the left side of the lighthouse. 

Since the office was closed on Monday and Tuesday, we had a four day weekend.  Even though we average traveling once a month, we feel we need to take every opportunity we can to see this beautiful country.  We traveled up the west coast (Tasman Sea side), out to the tip of Cape Reinga (Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean), then down the east coast (Pacific Ocean).  Although overcast most of the time (not great photo weather), it was beautiful, as is everywhere in NZ we have been thus far.  Although we missed being with our family, this will certainly be a Christmas to remember, as we opened our few Christmas gifts, (thank you family), at Cape Reinga.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas to my photog friends!

Merry Christmas
Elder and Sister Larsen
New Zealand 2011

“Jesus, who is called Christ, is the firstborn of the Father in the spirit and the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh.  He is Jehovah, and was foreordained to his great calling in the Grand Councils before the world was.  He was born of Mary at Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, and wrought out a perfect atonement for all mankind by the shedding of his blood and his death on the cross.  He rose from the grave and brought to pass the bodily resurrection of every living thing and the salvation and exaltation of the faithful.  He is the greatest Being to be born on this earth – the perfect example – and all religious things should be done in his name.  He is Lord of lords, King of kings, the Creator, the Savior, the God of the whole earth, the Captain of our salvation, the Bright and Morning Star.  He is in all things, above all things, through all things, and round about all things; he is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; his name is above every name, and is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.  He will come again in power and glory to dwell on the earth, and will stand as Judge of all mankind at the last day.”  (Bible Dictionary, Christ, pg. 633)

May we all focus on our Savior this Christmas and on our blessings of eternal families and friends.  Let our gifts be service to others, and a light to those in need.  We love and pray for you daily.

Elder & Sister Larsen
(Jeff & Karen)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hamilton New Zealand Temple at Christmas

Christmas 2011

The Hamilton Temple sits atop a hill and overlooks beautiful green pastures and country scenes.  At Christmas time the grounds are adorned with 150,000 lights.  A trip to the temple grounds is a Christmas tradition for members of all faiths.  An Indian man not of our faith, brings his family to see the lights and feel the spirit of the season each year.  When asked why he does this he said, "Because this is the most sacred place in New Zealand."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Hangi - Traditional Maori Cooking

 Hangi is a traditional process of steam cooking with hot stones in an earthen oven.  This is how a hangi might look in a village
 This is a modern hangi cooked meal on a large scale
The food was flavorful and the meat was tender and moist

Friday, December 16, 2011

Huka Falls
The water is a beautiful turquoise and these falls are the most visited natural attraction in NZ. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Maori Body Art - Tattooing

Tattooing is an important tradition in the Maori culture.  In the past, women would usually tattoo their chin and sometimes their lips.  This has some reference to being wise and passing along important information and traditions within the tribe.  Even now, we occasionally see older women in the streets with tattoos on their chins.

The men would have the genealogy of their mother tattooed on one side of their face, and that of their father on the other side, so obviously the sides were not symmetrical. When meeting a stranger, one would know instantly his tribe and ancestry. (In more recent times, men opt for a symmetrical pattern of their own choosing.) Tattooing was a matter of great pride, honor, bravery, etc. and women would not marry a man who was not tattooed.  It was a very long and painful process, sometimes going deep enough to etch bones and many times rendered the recipient unconscious during the process.

(Side note on the above picture:  I think I've mentioned before, that men perform the haka in which they portray confronting an enemy. Part of the dance is to appear fierce in order to intimidate and they do this with swift movements of their weapon, bulging eyes and tongues stuck out. They dance or move with all parts of their body.)

The tradition of tattooing continues today and we see many, many, many people with tattoos, but usually not on the face.  We see many people, mostly men, with tattoos that cover their entire arms, or legs with very intricate and distinctive designs rather that a specific object.  

The above photos were taken at a Maori tourist attraction, so I'm not sure if their tattoos are real or painted on, but I've included the following photo taken at a local farmer's market that I think I've posted before, to show real facial tattoos:

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Zealand Birds




The pukeko is a common and colorful bird in New Zealand.  The kiwi, however, is nocturnal, and it is rare to catch a glimpse of one, except in wildlife parks.  We saw several in a controlled environment, but unfortunately were not allowed to take photos.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

ROTORUA - Thermal Valley

 Pohutu Geyser

Rotorua sits in a natural thermal valley complete with geysers, mudpots etc.  Although nothing compared to Yellowstone, the area is very interesting and certainly has a fair share of photo ops.  Polutu Geyser is the largest active geyser in the valley.  It erupts once or twice every hour and reaches up to ninety feet.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

ROTORUA - Wood Carving

We took the weekend off and drove to Rotorua, a village about a four hour drive south.  It is a center for Maori history and also centrally located for many tourist attractions and activities. Our first stop was Te Puia, a Maori arts and crafts institute in a natural thermal valley.

Following are some examples of Maori woodcarving, and finally, a woodcarver continuing the tradition: