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Saturday, September 07, 2013

NEW ZEALAND First Impressions

New Zealand First Impressions:

Mt Taranaki shrouded in clouds @ Sunset from outside Stratford, NZ
We finally did it.  We up and moved our family across the globe to beautiful New Zealand!!!  It was three years in the making, and now after one month with our feet on the ground in the Taranaki region of this country, I would like to share some first impressions.  I am certain my feelings and ideas will change as we come to know our new home and become more familiar with the customs and culture that surround us.   Still, first impressions are powerful things, which can only exist at the beginning of an adventure, so here we go....

Beautiful Beaches
A Storm blowing in at low tide from East End Beach, New Plymouth
The coast just outside New Plymouth Harbour from the top of Paratutu Rock
Overlooking Back Beach in New Plymouth
We have not braved the cool waters of the Tasmin Sea that lap at the shores here in New Plymouth.  These waters are world famous for multiple surfing breaks and beautiful black sand beaches.  This time of year, wetsuits are mandatory.  We are excited about the prospect of learning to surf and paddle board.  Many of our new friends have offered to teach us and to share their equipment until we can purchase our own.  The New Plymouth Boys High School surf team took second place in the New Zealand High School championships last week.
The Volcano
Mount Taranaki, a live Volcano that towers above this area of New Zealand, View from Taranaki Base Hospital Parking Lot

View of Mt Taranaki from Lake Mangamohe, just outside New Plymouth
Mt Taranaki and our boys from the top of Paratutu Rock near New Plymouth Harbor

We do miss the majestic mountains of the Wasatch Front that overlooked our home in Utah.  We were worried we were moving to a FLAT land on the sea with a big volcano off in the distance.  We instead have found a city built on beautiful green hills separated by rivers and streams which flow from the majestic Mt. Taranaki.  On clear days, I often feel my breath taken away as the snow-covered volcano comes into view from the city streets.  Mt Taranaki is 8200 ft tall.  It last erupted in 1860.  It was first climbed in 1839, a feat which we hope to duplicate this coming summer.  One of our new friends from church, Harry Gaastra, is an expert on the mountain.  He has volunteered on the search and rescue squad for many years.  I guess more people die on this mountain than on most any other in the country because they go up unprepared for the rapid changes in weather and terrain.

Last Sunday was Father's Day in New Zealand.  A good friend from work, Brad Ellington, took his family skiing on Mt Taranaki in the morning and then they surfed at Oakura Beach in the afternoon.  Taranaki is one of the few places on earth where it is relatively easy to do both activities on the same day.  You can follow Brad's adventures at his blog, Ellington's in New Zealand.


Mercy and Alayna (her special helper) on Mercy's first day at Frankleigh School

Barb and Billy Viner (of House-Hunters International Fame) who invited us over for an AMAZING dinner on Father's Day.
Briley Viner taking Mercy for a ride around one of their pastures

View from the Viner's home toward the ocean with some of their sheep in the foreground

Barb Viner giving Noni Viner and Sage Jones  a ride on one of their horses

Holly and our kids with Jenny Ellington and her kids on top of Paratutu Rock.
Jenny Ellington hosted Holly and the kids for a FUDGE-making party last Friday while Brad and I were at work

We have never been LOVED and WELCOMED more warmly anywhere we have ever moved.  That is really saying something since we have moved SIX times in the past 17 years.  On our first day here, we had two families from my work and the human resources team from the hospital meet us at our temporary home with food, information, and an invitation to a party that weekend.

Our first weekend we were invited to dinner each night and had a wonderful party with all of my new work colleagues.  This was hosted by Grace and Donald McKee at their beautiful home overlooking Oakura Beach.  It was so nice to meet all of my co-workers and their families in such a relaxing and beautiful setting.

We have been so inspired by the warmth of the people here in Taranaki!!  Every time we have approached a stranger they make us feel like we MADE THEIR DAY by walking in and interrupting them.  This has been the case at all of the kids schools, in the hospital administration offices, at the telephone company, at several real estate agencies, at the community pool, at our moving company, and at church.  People are just genuinely happy to interact with other people here.  No one has made us feel like they don't have time for us or that we are causing them extra work.  No one seems to be in a rush to get to the next appointment or to make the next buck (except maybe the folks at the various fish-n-chips shops we have eaten at around the region).

In addition to being so nice and accommodating, these Taranakians are TOUGH.  At work people don't want or seem to need narcotic pain meds.  The other day a lady came in with an 8mm kidney stone completely blocking her left ureter.  She had dealt with the pain from this for over two weeks at home.  After examining her, I prepared to go write for loads of intravenous narcotic meds to help her with the pain, but she said, "I don't think I'll need all that, but I would like a bit of panadol if that is ok."  Four hours later she walked out of the department with nothing more than a prescription of Panadol (tylenol) and Ondansetron (Zofran).  She was going to follow up with the Urologists in two weeks.  ALL I CAN SAY IS THESE KIWIS ARE TOUGH.  I MEAN RAM TOUGH!!

The above experience is not unique.  People here consider tylenol a fairly potent pain killer.  Ibuprofen is the STRONG STUFF.  Narcotics are rarely used and almost never prescribed.  It has been incredibly refreshing to no longer feel like a legal drug dealer while at work.

Maybe they are tough because they are forced to try things, hard things, from a very young age.  Case in point is the cross-country program at the primary schools.  Everyone age 5 and up is REQUIRED to train as part of the school day.  Everyone is also REQUIRED to race.

Mercy and her classmates line up for the 1.5 KM Cross-country race which was required participation for all kids at her school

Mercy heads for the finish line.  2nd Place, which was not bad considering she only trained for one week before the race.


Panorama of New Plymouth with Mt Taranaki in the background from Paratutu Rock
Our home sweet home!!
Harry and Sandra Gaastra with Holly, Noah, and Danny after helping us move in all day.  The Gaastras are members of our church and were incredibly Christ-like servants that day.

You may have noticed in this blog that our pictures are all taken in the Sunshine.  I wish it was as sunny all the time as these pictures make it seem.  The truth is that it rains.  A LOT.  We just haven't taken any footage of the down-pours, though I plan to do so in the near future.

Here are a few fun weather facts regarding our new home:

In New Plymouth during July and August 2013 it rained almost 300 mm or nearly 12 inches.  The entire annual precipitation in Salt Lake City for last year (2012) was just 12.3 inches.  So when it rains here, it really DUMPS!!  Despite the heavy rainfall, the sun does not hide all winter.  Many days are clear and sunny.  THERE IS NO SMOG, no dust, and so the air feels CRISP and CLEAN!  I thought this place was going to be like my experiences in the Northwestern US, with constant drizzle, but it really doesn't drizzle too much.   It seems to pour rain, sometimes for 2-3 days straight, and then it is clear again.  The clouds are always moving-- fast.  We love the breeze that comes off the ocean.  During some of the big storms the winds are FIERCE, causing windows to rattle and knocking over large trees on a fairly regular basis.

On that note, I will end this post.  TOO LONG for certain.  In the future I will try to be more brief.  If you are still reading, you either love us lots, or have too little to do.  We hope it is the former.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Jones Family 2012 Best and Worst

Top Row: Oak (11), Holly (40), Mike (40), Noah (15), Danny (13)
Bottom Row: Mercy (7), Joycie (20m), Sage (4)

Joyce (20 months)
Best- Even without joining us for our two months of INSANITY workouts, Joycie can still hold a squat longer than any other Jones.
Worst-We haven't discovered any yet.
Quote- "She looks like the guy on top of the temple." Mercy discribes Joycie throwing her head back to gulp down her bottle.

Sage (4 years)
Best- Tidiness. She wants a clean rag set next to her plate while eating to maintain perfect cleanliness of hands, face, and table.
Worst- She is SLOWLY (too slowly) learning that a pleasant tone and the magic word PLEASE usually works best to get what she wants.
Quotes: "Aren't "puff-ups" BOOOOOTIFUL" lovingly sighs as she admires the BRAS in the lingerie aisle at Target. (Puff Ups?!!)
"Mommy, when I die, is I going to be a bone?" asked with sincerity while cuddled with Holly watching Disney's Snow white.

Mercy (7 years)
Best- Winning a young artist concerto competition and playing a Haydn Piano Concerto with the Utah Valley Symphony in October.
Worst- Taking almost three times as long as anyone else in the family to eat - a clever ploy to avoid doing dishes or is she simply TALKING?
Quote: After characteristic no-stop chatter from Mercy, she pauses long enough to say, "Will you please give me some silence? I need to think about something."

Oak (11 years)

Best- Laughing fits interrupted with screeches of pain while Danny and Noah tickle and wrestle their younger Bro.
Worst- Almost hourly updates for the whole family on the local weather and snow pack @ ALTA.
Quote: What bother you in social situations? "When no one is paying attention to me, or... when everyone is paying attention to me."

Danny (13 years)

Best – As a student of Irene Peery-Fox, Danny has found new love for the piano. His entrepreneurial spirit has turned this new love into a business venture as he opens his own studio and accepts his first students.
Worst – Not excited about being assigned to the ALTO section of his afters-school youth chorus, He considers himself the manliest ALTO ever.

Quote – “I totally know my part already!” Danny’s confident but delusional exclamation after just 5 rehearsals for a community production of Handel’s Messiah in which he, Holly, Noah and Oak participated this month.

Noah (15 years)

Best – Currently leads his dad 6-2 in their on-going basketball competition playing the game “21”.
Worst – Proud of every inch of black dust and grime covering his ENTIRE body each day after 10 hrs of cleaning the back rooms @ Biomerics plastic factory – his first summer job.
Quote – “Oh no, now I have to go FAST.” Noah laments that he must speed up to 25mph after turning out of a parking lot on his first drive with his learner’s permit.

Holly (40 years)

Best – The lucky lottery lady!  Holly wins THREE successful bids in last-minute lottery for permits to hike Zion’s SUBWAY.  , after going once with friends, we got rained out on our second attempt, but finally succeeded in taking our kids on the last trip.
Worst – Her German grammar, as she switched back and forth from English to German while entertaining several German friends this year.
Quote:  When asked, what one word best describes your life, Mercy replies:   “I can’t decide between two words, ADVENTURE and MOM.”

 Mike (40 years)

Best – Leading a Boy Scout 50-mile backpack in the Wind River mountains of Wyoming. . . great fishing, no injuries and grand mountain vistas.
Worst - Tearing his left medial collateral ligament on the best POWDER day of the year while skiing with Oak @ ALTA.
Quote  “Just one more picture, so we can prove we were here” a phrase dreaded by the family as Mike shoots hundreds of photos on trips to Zion, Yosemite, Bryce, and Arches, etc.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mercy Plays with the Utah Valley Symphony

Mercy Jones Plays Haydn
Utah Valley Symphony

Mercy has loved playing the piano ever since her first lesson with her mom at the age of five.  She especially loves practicing with her mom and trying to accomplish MORE than Dr. Peery-Fox has assingned her each week.  After auditioning to play with the Utah Valley Symphony, Mercy was walking out of the concert hall with Holly.  She could barely contain the excitement she was feeling about how she had played.  She turned to Holly with a wide grin and exclaimed, "THAT WAS FUN!!".

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Riding Bikes around Yosemite Valley

The best thing we did was to bring our bikes on this Road Trip.  We especially appreciated them while in Yosemite.  This video leaves a lot to be desired, but it gives a basic idea of how much fun we had riding around the Valley as a family.  Joycie road with Holly and Sage road with me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Yosemite, Central California Coast, and San Fransico
The Jones Family RV Express

We drove from SLC to Reno where we parked in the SCHEEL's parking lot to spend our first night.  At 1AM the security guard awakened us and told us that we were not allowed to park RV's in that parking lot.  So much for internet knowledge.  We moved the RV to a street just outside the SCHEEL's parking lot and slept through the remainder of the night.

The next day we made it to a campsite about an hour outside of Yosemite National Park.  We didn't dare drive into the park and find all the last-minute RV sites full.  Every mile in the RV is about $.50 in gas so we don't like to back-track if it can be avoided.  We spend a very quite night near a nice lake.  Noah ended up with Poison Oak rash due to an early morning hike through the woods, but thankfully it cleared up without much problem.
Leaving the Snow in our Cruise America RV

The next day we drove into Yosemite and reserved a last minute RV site for the next two nights.  We felt fortunate to be travelling in the shoulder season when such reservations were available through a lottery system.  In the summer we would have been OUT OF LUCK.  The next two days were spent enjoying the splendor of Yosemite.  Granite cliffs, bike rides along the Valley floor.  Hikes up the valley walls, along pristine rivers, and through the giant Sequoia groves.  A few of our photos are included below:


Running among the Ancient Giants

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