Sunday, March 29, 2009

NZ Bush Walk

A Kauri tree is one of the most ancient trees in the world, and the largest by volume. They're a protected tree in NZ.
There's a small trail (half-mile?) near Steph's house that takes you in a circle to examine some of the kauri trees, including the 8th largest in NZ. We ventured off that trail for 3 1/2 hours of fun. We were on a different, marked trail (there were small orange arrows letting you know what direction to go), but there was hardly a trail. After 2 hours, we were freaking out wondering where we were and where we were going. We finally ended up at a small creek. We rested for a few minutes on the edge of a waterfall, then walked back.
The hike was not easy. We walked up and up and up steep hills (mountains), got cut up by flax, and Mary got stung by a bee.
The bee left a pouch of venom in Mary's arm. It immediately got red, swollen, and itchy. Mary still has a hole in her arm where she got stung.
After the hike, we went swimming in a "swimming hole." Water comes out of the hills, down a small waterfall, and continues on as a creek. It happens to be deep enough by the waterfall that you can dive in the water. The water was SO COLD!

Here are pics from the hike. They include Kauri trees, dead Kauri trees (they're so big, we're standing inside of them, and pics from our swim.
NZ Bush Hike

New Zealand: On the Farm

In NZ, we stayed with Lance and Steph on the Oliver Dairy Farm. It was a nice, relaxing place to spend a week and their farm is close to a lot of sightseeing.

On the farm, we went everywhere on 4 wheelers.
* They use DeLaval milking equipment just like the Anderson Farm in Wisconsin.
* They rotate the cows from paddock to paddock. The cows eat nothing but grass...
* Except when they're eating turnips. They plant turnips to put nitrogen back into the soil.
* Their cows are Fresians - they need to be able to get up and down these huge hills.
* Sheep are out, cows are in. The # of sheep in NZ is declining as more people do dairy.

Here are some pics from the farm, including Steph feeding her horse, and a pink sheep (the sheep is from the ride to the farm, not from their farm. But here's where I'm including it).
Click on a pic to see it bigger.

NZ Farm shots

Snow? Seriously!?!?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ugh. Marathon. (by Rob)

Volunteers have been coming forward since the marathon was announced, and Mary has been in contact with a bunch of groups asking them to volunteer. But, while we were in New Zealand, the marathon committee got a volunteer deadline from the city - "250 traffic assistants by Apr 1 or no marathon." That news hit the media Tuesday. And the media has been giving out Mary's cell phone number.


The good news is that the marathon has more than enough volunteers.
The bad news is Mary has 20 voicemails and 100 emails each day from people wanting to volunteer with questions. I've been spending nights answering her emails while she's been on the phone calling old people without internet access (I don't mind typing that since they'll never see it).

I've never wanted a marathon to be over so much in my life :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Marathon Is Driving My Wife Crazy (by Rob)

The push for volunteers is on - which means Mary's job as volunteer coordinator is keeping her extra busy. In addition to the emails she's been trying to take care of (they seem to be endless), people have started calling her. After work today, she had 19 voicemails waiting for her (her phone number was published on the front page of the News Gazette)!

Mary wants all of her friends to know she's thinking of them and wishes she could call them. Or email them. Or text. But she's just swamped right now.

Hopefully, things will clear up this weekend.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy St Patty's Day (by Rob)

Out church is St. Patrick's... so St Patty's Day is their third biggest holiday (Christmas and Easter are #1 and #2).

Saturday night, we went to a St. Patty's Day dance. They fed us corned beef and cabbage (and chicken) and we listened to Irish music - until about 7:30 - that's when the DJ took over and Mary became the star of the night.

Our table started talking about all of the cliche songs we knew we were going to hear. One guy asked if anyone could teach him the Electric Slide so he'd be ready for when that song came on. Mary took him to the side of the room and showed him. When they finished, the DJ said "I've been watching a few people practice the Electric Slide. Let's get everyone on the dance floor and Mary on-stage to show everyone how to do it."

Mary led the dance and for the rest of the night, there was always someone on the dance floor. People kept coming up and thanking her. Apparently the last two years were dancing duds. But, thanks to Mary, the party was lively.

Back To Normal

We're back and we've mostly re-adjusted our internal clocks. 10pm Champaign time is 4pm New Zealand time, so we're doing our best to fall asleep on-time.

We've looked through our pics. We've narrowed our pictures down to 200 good ones. Don't worry - we'll narrow them down to "just the best" this week (which means we'll have 180 pics to show you).

Mary's occupied with the IL Marathon. She's almost caught up with all of the emails (volunteers asking questions) she received about it while we were away.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Update from NZ

We're having the time of our lives! Tomorrow we leave for home. It's going to take 36 hours door-to-door.

Pics and stories soon!