There and Back Again

Like Bilbo, I’ve been away on an adventure and am only now writing about it after having been there and back again.

Lizi and I traveled to Middle Earth (New Zealand) from September 14 through October 11, our first trip to back since Covid. Although fully vaccinated and boostered (including the latest flu vaccine) we ended up being sick for most of our trip, sickness shared with Anne and the kids. Not Covid but strep, foot-hand-mouth disease and even hayfever. That, along with kind of miserable early “spring” weather made it an unusual trip.

Still, we got to meet Theo and spend lots of time with James, Anne, Charlee and Simee. We got to share their lives, even though it wasn’t perhaps the best of their lives.

Since we last visited James and Anne have moved twice. James resigned from Capernwray last year and took on a role as youth pastor for the Tirau Community Church. They had purchased a home up on a hill in Tirau but the job offer came with a manse so they moved into that and have someone else making mortgage payments on their house. The manse is a good fit for this time of their lives with a fenced yard and flat landscaping. It is less than two blocks from the church and an easy walk to the shops etc. It is very different from the country lifestyle that Anne so enjoyed for several years, but still surrounded by green hills and pastoral views that are so refreshing.

It was school break so James’ activities were mostly on hold. He attended a Youth Workers’ conference in Queenstown, which we turned into a trip to the South Island, visiting James’ family in Gore, as well as quick trips to the Caitlins and a daylong ski trip near Queenstown. It was a busy family time more than an occasion for sightseeing, but we enjoyed catching up with James’ family and experiencing their rural life. (They, too, have moved since we last visited, selling the sheep farm and moving to a smaller property that still includes paddocks, beautiful views and a gracious home. They had five ewes and twelve lambs that were born right around the time of our stay. Lizi enjoyed feeding the lambs. Mostly, though, they have a crop of twelve grandchildren that keep them busy!)

We were all “smashed” after our trip to the South Island, sick with strep, scarlet fever, and so on. Poor Theo got the worst of it.

On one really nice day, we visited Hobbiton. Since our family is currently doing a Lord of the Rings Conqueror Challenge, we wanted to visit a real location. Matamata is only about 20 minutes from their home. The girls were old enough to appreciate the scenes and all of us had a good time hiking through the Shire.

After being Immersed in their life for four weeks, it’s weird to be back home again. The overnight flight–with odd periods of sleep and wakefulness–is a strange transition from one world to another. We left at 8:15 as the skies were growing dark and arrived in LA at bright noonday, transported to a very different world. A long layover and four hour fight dropped us into Chicago just as the day was ending. Our luggage didn’t make that last flight so it will be delivered on our doorstop early tomorrow morning.

I miss my Kiwi family but it’s kind of nice to be home to sunshine and fall colors. Our first fire of the season and a return to my hot tub, as well as apple crisp at the Birkey’s made it a warm welcome.

I am also happy to return to e-biking, at least for a while. I returned the e-bike to Zoomo before my trip and four days later received notification that they were closing down the Chicago location and selling the bikes at a greatly reduced rate. I didn’t get to buy the exact bike that I rented all summer, but was able to get a refurbished bike in great shape. I rode it today and I am very happy with it. All around it turned out to be a great deal, allowing me to ride all summer for $25/week and then purchasing it in time for my birthday.

*Tirau, their small town, is the Corrugated Capital of the World. From signs to actual buildings, the town in decorated in corrugated metal art. Here are some of the unique buildings and the Good Shepherd that is by the Community Church where James serves as a youth pastor.

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