In Auckland, New Zealand, as it turns out:
My parents are on the trip of their lives, traveling west around the globe until July (assuming that they have not killed each other by then, of course... heh heh). And the cool thing is, they're reporting in here periodically, so that we can have an awesome virtual field trip! Here's my Mom, writing about New Zealand:
So far the countryside is absolutely fabulous! We drove down the east coast from Whitianga to Turangi this morning - the highways - not the backroads! - through the mountains are like ski runs - I had to make Dad stop twice so I could get my stomach settled. But I'm going to get over it - there's no way I'm not getting around this country! The mountains look like the farm in Babe! Was that filmed in NZ? Sheep and cattle on these steep grassy hills - I was laughing this morning remembering what Dad told you guys when you were little - when we saw cows on the sides of steep hills he told you those cows had shorter legs on one side!! These animals must!
When they left here, from the East coast, a few Sundays ago, we had trouble figuring out what time it would be in New Zealand when they landed - they flew across the international dateline causing us to wonder, if they flew for twenty-some hours, would they land on Monday, or Tuesday their local time? I must be honest, I still haven't figured this out. But Ben came across a great web site, World Time Server.com, so now at least we have a visual - see in the sidebar over there?
My Dad gave me the best time-tip yet: "To change from Eastern Standard Time to New Zealand time, subtract six hours from current East coast time - and then, add 24 hours because it's really tomorrow here." Easy, right?
My folks have seen some amazing sights this week. They attended a Maori meal, in which they became members of The Tribe of All Nations, about 150 visitors to New Zealand who went and met with the Maori Nation for dinner. Here are a few pics of the Maori, sent by my Mom:
She says, "[Here are] two tattooed Maori warriors. Their faces are done with paint these days, but back only 50 years ago these face decorations were carved right into the men's (warriors) skin." This next picture represents fifty-five hours of tattooing:
I can tell you that the 3X4 inch tattoo I have on my lower leg took an excruciating one hour and twenty minutes. But fifty-five hours, my goodness!
In all seriousness, my parents' trip has sparked an interest in learning more about the Maori, a tough, proud people with a rich culture and history. Here is a Wikipedia entry about them, and if anyone knows of any good books for children on Maori culture, or history, or both, please let me know!
Here's a pic of the New Zealand national bird, the Kiwi:
You just can't talk about New Zealand in our house without bringing up Peter Jackson's amazing film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. (No, the boys haven't seen it yet, but they've heard the story - in a long telling that took several days - and played the Trivial Pursuit game, and seen a few choice scenes on YouTube.) If you have not seen the trilogy yet, then go and do so - because this video of Owen battling the Balrog won't make any sense:
And I must leave off on this, a not-entirely-child-friendly merging of two of the best acts ever to come out of New Zealand. Yes, it's Flight of the Conchords' "Frodo, Don't Wear the Ring:"