January 2005

Don’t know whose network I’m plugged into, but if they’re silly enough to have an unsecured network lying around …

This is New Year’s Day here and we have made it to Pismo Beach. Really great to able to walk on a real beach with real (light coloured) sand.

We’ve made it to Los Angeles. Just as well it was Sunday when we arrived, as the traffic was bad enough, although we did arrive early enough to do some cruising through Hollywood. The room at the motel here, in comparison with the “quaint” one in San Francisco, is a palace – room to move and a king size bed. We almost have to send each other messages. Likely plan for the week is: Monday, Disneyland Downtown; Tuesday, Mexico; Wednesday, Universal Studios; Thursday, rest and prepare for the fight. Ooh, Freudian slip – flight.

Monday, as planned to Disneyland Downtown for general browsing and Julie’s favourite pastime, shopping.

Then as we were heading back towards Hermosa Beach, I suggested having a look at the Queen Mary, which we did. It was Bob’s troop ship in WW2, so it was rather special for both Julie and Bob – we even spoke to him from there.

Mexico was a fascinating experience. We drove to the border and parked the car, as US-based insurance doesn’t count over the border, and then simply walked in. Taxis are well organised, with a reasonably fixed price for the ride into downtown Tijuana. Walking down the tourist strip, you get badgered at every shopfront. At one point, there were 3 of them coming at Julie and she just threw up her hands and walked away. We bought some jewellery, as everything else has to be packed! Returning back to the US was quite easy, by comparison with others that I have made. The immigration officer just wanted to tell me where he’d been in Australia. He didn’t even put a stamp in my passport!

At Universal Studios, I took about 150 photos!

Looking down over the Lower Lot.

On the backlot tour, a demonstration of instant fog.

And a flood.

Anyone recognise any of these buildings?

Ah! Jaws.

A fake view of the famous sign. We’re nowhere near there.

On to another “live” exhibit and the sound studio.

The Backdraft attraction.

But wait, there’s more.

It was a nice easy day, deciding together what we wanted to see, do or eat. Then we got stuck in the traffic on the way home (of course).

Final day, Thursday, we spent the morning resting and repacking.  The 2 big suitcases had another layer added to each one and the 2 medium ones were loaded up as far as they would expand. Julie was amazed at how much we got in. Then we drove down to the old mission at San Juan Capistrano and spent a relaxing couple of hours wandering around it.

Then it was back to the freeways, which are relatively easy if you’re a “car pool”, which contains 2 or more people – you have a special lane which generally hikes along a whole lot quicker than the others. Imaging doing 75 mph (that’s 120 kph) with a large concrete barrier right next to you on the left and a line of almost stationary traffic on the other, hoping like hell that one of them doesn’t decide to pull out in front of you.

Doesn’t look like it, but we were flying long.

We got to the airport at 7 for a 10:30 flight, which means no waiting in lines, but it’s just a long wait instead.

Whoa! Just checked back and a week has flashed past already. We have spent time settling in to being together in the house and Stewart has disappeared to the coast for a few days. Julie has had lots of fun learning new words and customs. Needs to learn that cigarette ashes don’t go in the recycles box, though.

Managed to get Julie off to New Zealand to stay with Karen and Les and their family for 10 days. The word from Les was that “she hasn’t stopped talking since she got here”. She spent a few days at the beach with them and fell into the trap of not putting enough sunscreen on her feet, which of course never see direct sunlight, so they got rather badly burnt. She also had a few swims in the ocean and got dumped a couple of times. All in all, it’s been a very relaxing time for her.

I’ve gone back to work and don’t get to talk her as much as I’m used to. At least I am coming home and doing up to an hour’s worth of gardening each night, so it’s getting done (slowly) and I’m getting some exercise. Also received an ultrasound picture of the new grandchild, otherwise known as April’s Peanut (because that’s about how big it is). Datsun has grown – I figure he has added at least another inch in length in the last month. I have also started a “Julie’s News” page on this site, so that you don’t have to put up with just my point of view.

Update on this: You’ll find “Julie’s News” for the month at the bottom of the post.

On the weekend, I attended the 21st birthday party for Jane, who along with her cousin and best mate Bridget, had been Doris’s favourite Venturers when they were going for their Queens Scout Awards. Both Bridget and Jane’s father John spoke of the impact that Doris had had on the girls, encouraging them to really step out of their comfort zone and try new challenges, and of the tragedy that she couldn’t be there. I hadn’t realised that Doris had indeed had such an impact, on these two young ladies and on on so many other people with whom she had contact over the years. I felt really proud to have been there with her and to have played a small part in all the good work that she did.

Gee it’s good to have my wife back in one piece. She arrived on time tonight, after an exhausting holiday in New Zealand. Photos have been posted, but she hasn’t got around yet to writing up her many exploits.

And she has convinced me that we need a little friend for Datsun.  Oi vay!

We enjoyed a really nice day on Australia Day (that’s 26th January for those of you who don’t know), hosting a small BBQ here at the house….

For those who don’t know what they are, those are Lamingtons and Iced Vo-Vos to the left of the cake.

Julie’s News:

Happy New Year my friends and family  :>)

For the news that some of you haven’t heard yet – my daughter April and her husband Michael informed us on Christmas Day that we will be grandparents in late Aug or early Sept.  She decided not to tell us until I was unemployed, unhoused and on my way as she was afraid I’d tell Rodney that he’d have to wait another 9 months!!!!!  Silly goil.  I’m really happy for her but sad that I won’t be here as she grows bigger.  I will be back here for the birth though.  Also regarding the military – my recruiter has possibly found a slot for me in Korea or Hawaii so I can continue working for my retirement.  I hopefully will know more before I get on the plane for Oz land.

Well I’ve decided to write and let you all know some of what has been happening since Rodney and I left Whidbey Island on 26 Dec 04.  The first day we were able to drive to Eugene, OR.  We decided to drive as far as we could that night.  The weather was a combination of rainy and sunny.  The second night we stayed in Eureka, CA.  We didn’t really stop until we got to California and saw the Redwoods.  Unfortunately my sciatic nerve started acting up and I was in extreme pain for two days until we were able to get to San Francisco and I could get in to see a Dr.  Poor Rodney was very patient with me as we had to stop almost every 45 minutes so I could get out and walk.  It got so bad that there were a few times that I literally wanted to throw up – the pain was shooting down to my left knee and only hurt when I was sitting.  I was afraid this might happen so had talked to my Dr in Kent and he had given me some mild pain killers.  My family will know what I’m referring to here and Rodney got to see first hand – I hurt so much that I took two of the pills within 1/2 hour of each other and got the giggles so bad that my knee didn’t hurt anymore, but my sides did from laughing and giggling.  Yes Mom – I know better and no I wasn’t doing the driving at that time.

Rodney loved the Redwoods and I had forgotten how beautiful, tall and magnificent they are.  The last time I saw them was as a child with my parents on a trip either to or from Seattle to Whittier, CA.  There also was a tree so wide that we could drive thru it. There was a cute little town called Hobbit Town that we tried to see amongst the redwoods, but it was closed for the winter.  I was kinda disappointed cuz all the “creatures” and Hobbit Holes were carved out of wood.  We did get to stop finally at a “tourist trap” in the Redwoods and bought a few things.  We got there just as he was closing being that it was 1700 hours, but he was GLAD to stay open for us to make a sale.

We finally got to San Francisco and Rodney had gotten us a Bed and Breakfast called Edward II.  It was a darling place and we were on the 2nd floor.  Unfortunately the room we were in was very small and besides walking on each other, we were stepping over suitcases.  The bed also was a double – and as we have discovered that we both like to stretch out a little – it was definitely two small for the two of us.  We stayed 3 nights.  We were suppose to stay 4, but the first night we came back late and found that the key wouldn’t work in the door.  We tried calling the landlord, but he must have been sleeping really heavy so we walked several blocks until we found another motel.  The landlord was very sorry and didn’t charge us for the first night.  We turned the car in the first night there as we had decided to use the local transportation.

The first day we took the bus to downtown – first to see a Dr for me (he was very nice and has given me some stronger pain pills and I will get this nerve taken care of in Oz Land), then we just started roaming.  The weather was on and off rain mixed with sunshine.  The first store we went to was the biggest Disney store I’ve ever been in.  I was able to get my last Christmas Eeyore.  There are no Disney stores in Oz land and I’m not going to order over the net.  I have Xmas Eeyores from the last 3 years!!!!  We then went into Tiffany’s Jewellery store.  What beautiful stuff and of course no prices mentioned.  I finally saw a small simple (or so I thought) ring and asked the price.  ONLY $6,000!!!!  There was a really pretty necklace the I wasn’t EVEN going to ask the price on!!!!  It was amazing to me to see all the buildings so smushed together and many of the smaller stores are so narrow inside.

Rodney bought me a belated Christmas present.  My mom has in her possession a beautiful blue tiger eye ring that I have admired for a while.  It belongs to my sister Nancy though.  Good blue tiger eyes are hard to find.  I’ve seen them on EBay but was never sure of the quality and never saw any that I really liked the color of.  Anyhoo – Rodney has been interested in gems for years and we went by a Jewellery Gem shop.  We went inside and out of curiosity I asked if they had any blue tiger eyes?  Rodney and two of the sales clerks had never heard of them, but the third lady understood what I was talking about so ran into the back of the shop.  In a shipment sometime ago, a necklace of blue tiger eye beads had arrived unstrung.  The beads are absolutely beautiful and turn different colors in the light.  They offered to restring them and also use two of the beads to make drop earrings for me.  According to Rodney they gave us a wonderful price (almost half) so I’m really happy.

We then decided to take the Tram to Fisherman’s Wharf.  What a neat place though it is very similar to Pike Street Market in Seattle.  I was able to pick up several Italian charms including one that we had engraved with our names and wedding date.  The first day was pretty much just wondering around, shopping and people watching.

The second day was a lot colder and rainier.  We hadn’t slept very well the night before (again bed too small) so were pretty “stuffed” as Rodney says.  We decided just to take it easy.  We got up at about 9, went down and ate some breakfast then were going to do some more wandering around and see some of the sites.  I got upstairs first and the bed looked so inviting that I laid down again.  Rodney joined me when he came upstairs and before we knew it – it was noon.  The extra sleep did us good though.  We took the bus again downtown to pick up the necklace, rode on a trolley which is over-rated unless you are hanging from it outside and no you can’t just “hop” on like in the movies – it does cost.  Trying to hold on when you are going up and down the hills is quite a challenge.  We then went back down to the wharf.  The bus/trolley trips took about 30 minutes or more so by the time we hit the Wharf it was dinner time.  We decided to eat there so we could say we had had REAL seafood.  We ate at the Grotto and the food was excellent.  We slept better that night as we each took a “sleeping” pill.

Yesterday, New Year’s Eve we went and got our rental car and did the 49 mile scenic drive.  It really was interesting and pretty, especially down by the water.  We got to drive thru snob – oops, I mean Nob Hill and the houses, though still smushed together, are much bigger and very beautiful/old.  When we got back to the Bed and Breakfast – it was starting to fill up fast.  Since it was just pouring down rain, the fireworks probably wouldn’t be worth fighting the wet and cold so we decided to stay in and people watch.  We just sat in the dining room, watched out the window, ordered take out Chinese food, talked, read and just enjoyed each other’s company.  This first week has been interesting and a learning experience for both of us.  We have had a few rough times adjusting to his and her good/bad habits but our communication is great and have been able to eventually talk it out.  We shared a bottle of champagne that Steve and Jaunt had given us when we were visiting them in Spokane, with the landlord and his wife.  Bedtime was early.  About 1230, we heard a crashing outside our door which was next to the stairs to the 3rd floor.  Several people, especially one young lad, had definitely over-indulged and was having one heck of a time manuevering up the windy, steep, wooden steps to the third floor.  Was afraid the banister would break.  The taxi driver and the lad’s roomy were finally able to get him to bed!!!!  Didn’t see him this morning – hmmmmmm.

We left this morning at about 1100 and decided to take the 101 instead of the beach view for today.  We both were pretty tired, and we didn’t even party last night, due to the noises outside and inside and I really wanted to stop early today and maybe do some laundry.  We are now at the Dolphin Cove which is a motel right on the beach in Pismo Beach.  We were able to stop at about 1600 but didn’t do any laundry.  Maybe tomorrow in Los Angeles.  The beach is beautiful and has a long wharf, so we took a nice long walk and watched young idiots trying to surf.  They did have wet suits on but I bet there were still cold.  Tomorrow we will arrive in Los Angeles and hopefully I can get this sent off to all of you.

I love you and miss you all already.   XXXOOO

G’day :>)

It is 0630 and Rodney has gotten on his sweats with barefeet and gone down to the beach.  Silly man cuz the water will be very, very chilly.  I have turned up the heat so he’ll get warm when he returns.  Thankfully it isn’t raining.  He still is working “stuff” out and has admitted that the first few days he felt like he was with the wrong wife!!!!  I hope that his past will get easier for him as time goes on though he is happy, content and relaxed in his body – his mind just keeps working too much sometimes.  I try to be patient though it is hard for me to understand and I’ll be honest – my feelings get hurt sometimes.  We’ll survive.  We’ll be leaving for LA soon. Will continue later.

We made it too LA before the traffic hit.  Motel is wonderfully big with a king size bed.  We are going to do the regular LA stuff but are also thinking of going to Mexico for a day.  Maybe Tuesday.  Will continue our saga in a few days.  XXXOOO

Hello family and friends:  I am using Rodney’s e-mail as both my camera and PC decided to take a vacation.  The camera went into the shop and I’m hoping that my PC will be at least up and running when I get back from NZ – even if I don’t have the internet yet!!  Also fighting a cold – GREAT!!!!!

Well it’s been a busy 3 days so far.  We arrived in Sydney right on time, but with customs, etc. missed the flight to Canberra by an hour.  I was really thankful that our luggage (6 suitcases) weren’t chosen for inspection!!!!!  Rodney’s good friend Philippa and her family picked us up.  Weather is in the 80’s and is suppose to get warmer by the end of the week.  This going from air conditioning to outside isn’t helping me much either.  “Tis pretty cold in here – but I’ll adapt.

I really like this house now that I’ve seen it.  Lots of floor space though there could be more storage!!!!  I’m treading lightly and not putting too much of my stuff up yet though all my clothes, etc. are put away.

Met Datsun and he is a kick in the pants.  Tiny!!!!!  As I was hanging clothes in the closet, my furry slippers went out the door and down the hall gleefully trailing a tail!!!!!  He will be a lot of fun and company too.  Just don’t leave ANYTHING on the floor!!!!

Friday, we went to the mall and got me a cell phone.  My number is:  001 (for USA) then 61-407-111-892 and the home phone is 001-612-6251-1265.  (People – if the the previous numbers don’t look right or not work – let me know and I’ll get R to send them. We also got me a GPS – just now need to figure out how the darn thing works.  I’m hoping Rodney will by the time I return from NZ.  We got me a Quad phone – meaning I can use it anywhere in the world cuz between the military, friends and the USA – he wanted to be able to get ahold of me anywhere.   Later that afternoon, we went to the Scout Camp (can’t remember the name right now) to pick up a trailer.  This is a huge area in the “desert” that volunteers are cleaning up for a huge Scout Jamboree next weekend.  There will be about 400 adults and 1,000, 8-12 year olds (boys and girls).  They camp out, do crafts, etc.  Similar to the church camp that we used to go to as kids.  Oh – I have never seen so many flies in my life.  As your waving your hands in your face – it is called the Aussie Wave.  After we hooked up the trailer – we went to Don and Debbie’s, other friends of Rodney’s.  They have been storing some stuff for the family.  Their place is magnificent – 40 acres of wonderful land.  I can’t really call it a farm as the American definition is, but they have chickens, horses, cows and an infestation of grass hoppers.  About 6 months ago they inherited a pure bred Australian Shepherd which they think someone abandoned.  He is a little over a year old and his coloring is beautiful.  Dark face, moving to a lighter body and then his tail is white and black striped.  He loves to play catch.  These people are so nice and are really the first “Aussies” I’ve met here that I can let my hair down a little and bring my “real” personality out.  As you know – I can be somewhat shy when meeting new people and/or situations until I get the “feel” of it.  It was good to just be me and laugh!!!!

That evening we went to do some grocery shopping and I have learned some new words:
Trolley – shopping cart
Nappies – diapers
Escalators – slides (really are slides and not steps)
Woolworths is a grocery store, not department
Prams – strollers

It was very interesting and yes I did recognize some foods though they are called differently here.  I recognized them by the pictures on the cartons.  I was so excited when I found a bottle that said Ketchup – so bought it!!!  They really don’t have many instant meals here.  When I get back from NZ, I’ve asked Rodney to go with me and I want to do real grocery shopping.  Where we shop by the week/month, they shop by the day/week.  They don’t have 2% or 1% milk here.  You either have to use the whole milk (which does have some cream in it) or skim milk.  I will be using the skim for my cereals, etc.  Not sure how baking will turn out from American recipes with whole milk, but will give it a shot.

Yesterday, Monday (some of you were on Sunday) Rodney went back to work and I attempted to use the bus system to get to town.  A little confusing and not really explicit unless you know where you are going.  Can’t get a schedule except at the Big bus station.  Will try to get there after I return from NZ.  I made it too R’s work and then we went to the bank to add my name to his accounts.  It feels funny to be unemployed and having to depend/share money.  We have discussed that and I will definitely feel better about it when I have a job which I will start looking for in Feb.  I’ve had too many years of being the “bread winner”.  :>)  He dropped me off after lunch to do some shopping then I met him after work.  It was fun to people watch.  Since it is summer here, the sweet young things and not so sweet young things (male and female) are dressing very ummmmm – well lets just say this short, round body won’t be wearing them.  The clothes here are more modern then in the Seattle area – ummmmm specially for young ladies.  I expect that give it a year and some of the styles will appear there though.  I have already put myself on a small diet – food is extremely rich here and the desserts – oh my!!!!!  When I get back from NZ – I will start exercising (Yes Dad I mean it!!!!!) to get my waist ummmmm slimmer!!!!  I like some of the tops here but would be embarrassed to wear them right now as I have a small rubber tire.  So that will be my reward for myself after a 5lb loss.  I want to get Rodney to do some exercising with me – mainly sit-ups.  Also when I get back from NZ, we are going to look for a small, inexpensive, automatic car for me and R will help me learn the wrong side of the road.

Last night I attempted dinner (lasagne which was pre-packaged and didn’t turn out so well though R ate it – I didn’t – guess to finicky).  The salad turned out though.  Yeah me!!!!!  The stove here is very different from anything I have used before.  It has blow-fan heat.  There are three handles – yes handles, not knobs.  Instead of stating what they are for – it uses symbols, so R had to tell me what each one meant and no I don’t remember this morning!!!!!.  Interesting!!!!!

I will be leaving for NZ on Thursday, Jan 13 and return Sunday, Jan 23rd.  I will take lots of notes and will have a great letter to write to you.

Well that is what has been happening recently.  I have bought myself a journal so I can write things down to remember to tell you all about them.  Take care and keep me posted on what is happening with all of you.  I do miss you all.  XXXOOO

Well a lot has happened since I wrote last. I arrived okay in Australia. Stayed for 4 days and then left for New Zealand. if you go and look on Rodney’s website, fiddaman.info, you will see some of the 300 pictures I took. The trip started out interesting as my flight from Sydney to Auckland was delayed for 3 hours due to mechanical problems – better that though then actually flying. After I got to Auckland, I, of course, got lost trying to find the domestic flights so ended up walking for about 15 minutes and just had time to board the “prop job” – it really was and only seated 10 people to Whakatane (so small an airport that there are only 3 flights a day). At least the airport is colorful enough that it is easy for the pilot to find!!!! My friend Les, Karen and their younger son Nick met me there. I have known Karen for 30 years as she was an exchange student in my HS in Spokane during my senior year. They have been to the States several times, so this “gift” from Rodney was a dream come true for me. We then drove to Opotiki (about an hour away) where they were camping the “old fashioned way with tent, cook stove, etc. I got the lucky draw of sleeping with Nick – okay sharing a tent with him!!!! The area is so beautiful. I wish I could add pictures so you could see what I’m talking about – though some are on the website.

We were there for 3 to 4 days. Many things happened so will number them:

1. Met a man named John who is from Walla Walla. He married a NZ woman and has been there for 7 years. It was great talking to someone with a “normal” voice. Les called us the “aliens”. John also gave me some helpful information that as long as I am still a US citizen, I need to do US taxes, even if I haven’t made any American money. I also would need an International drivers license to drive in NZ where in OZ I don’t. Still pestered Less to let me try – but silly man didn’t trust me for some reason :>). He would say he was being smart considering how directionally challenged I am.

2. We picked up the older son Geoffrey (my family calls him Goofy) who is 20. Both boys haven’t changed in looks since I saw them last in 2000. They are just taller – much taller and normal teen boys with all the “growing”attitudes that go with young men!!!! I’m soooooo glad I only had a daughter to raise, though that wasn’t always easy.

3. Karen and I went for a looooong walk on the beach and ran into a family that was Kontiki fishing. The best way to explain it is: There is a long motorized fishing pole with several different sizes of lines/hooks. The line is left out for several hours with the hope that something will be caught. Several small sharks were.

4. I burned the tops of my feet extremely badly – almost 3rd degree so was in quite a bit of pain for about week. I ended up wearing socks for the rest of the trip.

5. I was given a lot of grief about my smoking. They even went so far as to buy me candy cigarettes. These tasted the same as I remember as a kid – but didn’t “smoke” when puffed.

6. We walked another time on the beach during the evening and instead of people cooking hotdogs and smores – they were cooking Dampers which are “scones on a stick”. Very, very good with butter and jam. Also saw some beautiful fireworks.

7. New words: Treacle = molasses; Jandles = sandals/thongs; cigarettes = fags; prop jobs (small plane) = flying pencils; togs = swimsuit

8. I also learned where in the USA we always rinse our dishes after washing them – they don’t, just soap and wipe!!!

9. The sunsets were out of this world – see website.

10. Saw the cutest puppy, but when I found out how much is cost ($1500 NZ) I handed it back quickly. It was a Japanese Spitz and pure white with long hair. Darling but the up-keep would be horrible as an adult.

11. Learned where the Southern Cross is in the stars and also saw Orion, whom I consider good luck when seen. :>)

12. Did lots of swimming in the ocean and playing in the waves. Was so sore from all the exercises. Found muscles that I forgot I had. Got a tan though – Karen was really good about nagging me to put on sun screen.

13. On our last day there, which was a Saturday, I was introduced to Hokey Pokey ice cream (vanilla with almond crunch chips) and orange chocolate chip – both of which you can only get in NZ. I’ve looked here in OZ, but can’t find it. Goodest stuff. They took me to Opape where I saw where some Maoris live. They are the “natives” in NZ. NZ is having the same “problems” that the US is with our “natives” regarding ownership of land, etc.

On Sunday we packed up which was an all morning job (started some the night before) and took off for Opotiki to rewards ourselves with meat pies. Very, very good. On the way, we stopped at Kaimais Hill which has a fantastic view of the area.

Got an e-mail from April during this time and her babe is now called “peanut”. They have decided on some names. For a girl it will be Caterina Anne Laughlin; for a boy there are 3 choices: Justin Michael, Duncan Thomas or Duncan Michael and I can’t remember the 3rd. Sorry April.

We also stopped in Tauranga where I met Les’s Mom, Joan Wills. She is in her 80’s and a lovely woman. We hit it off really good. During this trip made a 2nd trip to see her and she gave me about 5 tea towels that she had collected during her travels to Australia. She and her husband did quite a bit of traveling while he was alive. I loved looking at her photos. I can see where Les gets his “tallness” and semi-good looks. :>)

When we arrived in Hamilton, where they live, I met the 5th member of the family – their cat named Speed. Neatest laid back cat. Almost could call him a dog!!!!

The next day was clean up day and yes Les got me out there, earning my food, by scrubbing down tents – not like I’ve EVER done that before in my military career. Karen and I went to the store and I ended up buying slippers to wear on my feet – they still hurt quite a bit. Went grocery shopping and yes things are very different. One thing I noticed was the amount of dog/cat food that is rolled and packaged like we do bulk ground beef (mincemeat). They had a laugh when I tried to help and returned with that item!!!! Karen and I went by the first house that they had built when they were first married about 25 years ago. Also went along the Waikato River which is beautiful – but no one can swim in it. During this time in the evenings we went over old slides that Karen had taken of us in HS in 1973 and our trip to Nevada/California with my folks. Boy have things changed.

Much prefer myself today. Will send a few pictures of that!!!! I also got to meet one of Karen’s twin sisters and Les’s sister. Lots of pranks were being played on me by both Les and Nick – especially regarding my cigarettes, i.e., taping pack and lighter shut, swapping smaller cigs for my longer ones to make me think they had been cut, etc. Was a job to keep up with both of them – thank God I have a sense of humor!!!! So much was done that again I will put it in numbers below:

1. Drove around Hamilton and saw good/bad living areas.

2. Drove to Taupo where Karen was raised. So beautiful and right on the water. Saw the home she was raised in. I envy the area as it is right by Lake Taupo and she played there quite a bit. Beautiful view of their mountains too.

3. Saw Huka Falls which was beautiful and so clear. We also went to Crater’s of the Moon which is a volcanic area where the ground is still steaming and bubbling. During the same day – saw real live Bungy jumping. Tried to talk Nick into trying it with me – but no go!!!! (I was actually relieved).

Drove thru Tirau and saw a corrugated sheep and dog. Amazing.

4. We also went to a Splash shop which is a potters place that makes items only in NZ and not one is the same. I would have loved to bought something – but too expensive for me.

5. Went to Raglan which is a place I’d like to see more of.

6. We returned to Hamilton via Tauranga (Saw Les’s mom again), Waihi and Waihi Beach. While we were in Waihi, there was a car accident right outside the shop that we were in – so Karen called 911 which is 111 in NZ and Les directed traffic. Doesn’t seem anyone was seriously hurt. The police, both state and city, are very colorful. Not drab like ours.

7. Went to Martha Hill Goldmine – huge like the mine at Butte MT. Had lunch at Mt Mainganui near Pilot Bay. Again my directionally challenged brain got lost getting back to the car after leaving the Loo (restroom).

Fingered it out though!!!! We walked around the mount and I wish we had something like this in Washington. Can walk around the mount – right next to the water and beach which is extremely rocky and beautiful. We watched the surfing school practice.

8. One of the last places I went was to Frankton Street Market – similar to our Pike Street Market. Had fun just wandering around for several hours.

Les and Nick had been using me during this trip to talk Karen into buying them an updated computer – so finally was able to and she did get a great buy. They now want me to come back so I can talk her into some other things <smiles>.

9. I finally tried Vegemite and it is as awful as I thought it would be!!!

10. On the last night I took Les and Karen to dinner at the casino. Of course none of us won anything.

11. Last day – Les woke me by clanging two pan lids together – GREAT!!!!!

Trip home from Auckland was great though very tired.

Okay so that is the NZ trip. Am now learning how to grocery shop here.

Rodney surprised me with a car on my return – a Pulsar plus, 4-door, automatic, CD/tape deck, AC, etc. which I really like. Have only driven on the wrong-side a few times and thankfully not a lot of traffic was coming at me. I am now in the process of looking for work. It will take a while as I’m sure the competition is very tough for OA’s. I am good, not homesick yet. Rodney and I are getting along and learning to adapt to each other nicely.

Well I’ve filled your eyes with lots of news. Will keep you posted and miss you. XXXOOO