Saturday, June 25, 2011

Through the Heart of the City

I don’t really know where to begin with this blog entry. I’m not sure what to say, how to say it, and the words needed to describe what I saw yesterday. I don’t think I have ever been so somber and speechless for such a long period of time. Sorry, I have to get off topic right now because as I finished typing that last sentence, the ground shook. My heart is still racing, adrenaline is still flowing through my body. I was sitting in a chair in my room with Lindsey and all of the sudden I felt my chair rocking back and forth. We connected eyes and didn’t say a word, and as quickly as the ground began quaking, it stopped, and all became still again. I just felt an earthquake that was only a small magnitude compared to previous ones in Christchurch, yet I am scared out of my wits. Oh, and if you didn’t catch on yet, we are in Christchurch right now. We were supposed to leave today for Fiji but the volcanic ash cloud is keeping us in New Zealand for a few more days. Anyways, yesterday we walked around the heart of Christchurch, and saw the destruction from the three recent major earthquakes. Right away, the entire group became silent and walked around individually like zombies. None of us muttered a single word in the span of three hours. At first when I saw the destruction, I couldn’t turn my camera on and bring myself to photograph the piles of rubble. I felt like an intruder taking snapshots of stranger’s fallen homes; where they lived and grew up, where they played in their front yard, and where they laughed on the tire swing hanging off of their tree branches, all gone. I thought that I was an intruder, until I realized that people around the world haven’t seen the damage from the recent earthquakes, and that, in a way, it was my job to document everything and share the city’s story with people who haven’t seen the damage. What I saw was devastating, desolate, corrupt, isolated, abandoned, ghostly, and depressing, but at the same time, beautiful. Beautiful in the weirdest of ways, beautiful in the sense that God was behind everything. This town is still united. This town still has faith and hope. This town, even though all of their churches are torn in half, still come together and worship. I saw weird beauty everywhere I looked. One church, which I can imagine was the most gorgeous church in the entire city, was the most destructed. An entire wall was ripped off the side of the building, leaving exposed rooms with light bulbs hanging from the ceiling and furniture still somewhat in place. This church had a Virgin Mary statue on it’s highest point, turned away from the street and looking down on the chapel inside the building with two angel statues leaning against it. After the first earthquake in September, the Virgin Mary statue turned 180 degrees and ended up facing the street instead of the chapel. The strangest, but most amazing thing about this occurrence is that right below the statue, engraved across the entire front of the church is the phrase “Ecce tabernaculum dei gum hominius” which translates from Latin into “Behold, the house of God is with man”. Incredible isn’t it? The statue, which originally had it’s back facing the streets of man, turned around completely during the first quake, didn’t fall down, and proceeded to face the streets of man, which completes the engraving in stone, “Behold, the house of God is with man.” Unfortunately, the statue was taken down for safety reasons in preparation for other earthquakes, but the two angels that leaned against Mary are still standing. Fences lined the streets, in order to keep people far enough away from the piles of brick and rocks. On one of the fences, there was a piece of paper with a prayer titled “Prayer for Peace” written in English, and at the bottom of the paper, an anonymous person asked any one willing to translate the prayer into different languages so anyone who comes across the fence can pray and understand the prayer. Below the original prayer there were, what it seemed like, 15 different translations. The prayer read: 
“God of many names, lover of all peoples; we pray for peace in our nations and in our world. We pray for all who have the awesome responsibility of power and decision-making, we pray for the innocent victims of violence and war. Lead us and all the peoples of the world from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace with justice fill our hearts, our world, our universe. Amen.”

Another weird thing that happened was that as we walked around the deserted town, there were some shops that still haven’t been touched since the earthquake in February. I walked past one coffee shop that had a dust covered newspaper falling half way off of a chair, with the date February 22, 2011 (the date of the second major earthquake) at the top. There was also other newspapers spread out on different coffee tables and some wrinkled on the floor, along with spoons and plates covering the ground and napkins still resting on tables. As I photographed this store through the street window, I imagined what it was like the day of the 22nd. I imagined people going about their normal days, and all of a sudden having to run for their lives, with no general direction in mind, just running, newspapers around them flying to the floor and metal silverware crashing to the ground. Walking around Christchurch was unlike anything I have ever witnessed, and at times I convinced myself that a bomb had dropped on the city, leaving nothing. Even though the heart of the city is ruined, the people still continue on. Even though this time might seem dark, I believe it is an opportunity for God to show the world what a light He is, and how He can do anything, and how we can do anything through Him. Through God, the earth trembles and the ground shakes. Through God, the city still shines and is beautiful.

“Let love explode and bring the dead to life,
Love so bold to see a revolution somehow.
Let love explode and make the darkness shine,
A love so bold to bring a revolution somehow.
Now I’m lost in your freedom,
O this world I’ve overcome.
My God’s not dead, 
He’s surely alive 
and He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion.
Let heaven roar, and fire fall
Come shake the ground
With the sound of revival.”
        -David Crowder Band

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

For Narnia?

I guess I found Narnia. I mean, kind of. I know what you’re thinking- “Isn’t this what she has been anticipating the entire trip? Why isn’t she more excited?” Well, let me tell you why my excitement is hindered, and not full of joyous exclamation marks and sentences containing all capitalized letters. During our travels today, we came across a vast area called Castle Hill, where hills are covered in boulders and beautiful rocks. At first, I was only informed that these boulders were in Lord Of the Rings during the scene where Legolas and Aragorn are running around, which is broad but any Lord Of the Rings devotee like myself knows exactly what I’m talking about. Naturally, I  went into stealth mode to search for my love- Orlando Bloom- behind shadows and rocks, but despite my slyness I sadly didn’t succeed. But when I was at Castle Hill, I knew there was something more to it,  I just wasn’t quite sure. I knew something rang a bell about the scenery, but then again I was wiping my eyes from sleeping and stretching my legs for a majority of our stop there. After wandering around for a while, we all crammed back on to the bus and finished our last leg of the day trip. I climbed back to my seat and thought “that was that; I came, I saw, I conquered.” Little did I know, that upon arriving at our destination, Hamner, our motel supervisor would inform us that Chronicles of Narnia was also filmed at Castle Hill. Like, really? Okay, if I would have known that information when I was there, I would have pitched a tent and never left. But now I’m here, in Hamner, which doesn’t even sound like Narnia in any way whatsoever. It’s okay though, I guess. I got some pictures of myself looking for Legolas (Orlando Bloom), but I can pretend that I’m actually not an idiot and knew the whole time that the final battle scene of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” was filmed at Castle Rock, and in those pictures I can claim that I was, indeed, searching for Aslan. 

"I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia."
      - The Silver Chair

*pictures to follow

Friday, June 17, 2011

To the Rocks With Love

If you were given the opportunity to leave a mark on the world, give advice to the lost, share unfathomable love, or plant a seed of positive thought into a complete stranger’s mind, wouldn’t you? At Bruce Bay, that chance is given to millions everyday; the chance to share your knowledge and advice, or merely to say “I was here”. At this bay, there are numerous small, white, wave eroded rocks on the beach that people retrieve, bring back to the rock wall that guards the road, write on them in sharpie, and proceed to leave them in a ten mile line (okay, piles) across the wall. As I wandered down the line of rocks, I mainly saw scribbles on them saying “Kate, I will always love you”, “New Zealand, March 2009”, “This beach is awesome”, “If you’re ever sad, think of Barney”, etc. My patience was about to run out, because even though these rocks were extremely interesting, none of them said anything with impact, passion, or even a real thought for that matter. I almost turned around, but I didn’t. I almost made my way down to the sand where everyone else was playing, but I didn’t. I almost made up my mind that these people had no heart, but I didn’t. I almost gave up, but I didn’t. I looked down at that last moment of internal calmness, and saw a rock. A rock that looked misplaced, with brown on the bottom and a chip off of it’s side, and it said “O Lord, you have searched me and You know me...if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me…” In that instant, I took back my notions about the people that had been there before me. Instead of judging the lack of passion in all of the other rocks’ words, I should have been focusing on changing the feel of the rocks by leaving my own  words with humility, yet power. After moving the meaningful rock into an interesting frame and photographing it (I put it back in the right place, I think), I walked on to the sandy beach and carefully picked out an almost perfect rock, snagged a sharpie, and carefully scrawled the phrase “water from a broken well will make you thirst again”. Although not every passerby will understand the phrase, I know that one day, someone will see my rock and think “I almost gave up, but I didn’t. I almost turned around, but I didn’t.”

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine." 
          -Isaiah 55:8

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

All Who Wander Are Not Lost

I discovered something about myself today. Something I never even imagined I would say- I’m in love with cemeteries. Weird, huh? Well, it’s true, and I am beginning to embrace it. I love the way something so somber can also look so glorious in its’ cold, dark, and mysterious own way. Call me crazy, but for some reason I enjoy reading the headstones, staring at the crosses marred with moss, noticing the shadows the statues create against the beaming sun, kneeling down and taking a snapshot in time of the decaying flowers laid by loved ones, and gazing at the simplest of tombstones, yet realizing that they are the most gorgeous of them all. Cemeteries, although filled with death, have something lively about them which I can’t explain. While I was wandering around the cemetery, reading the snippets of the people’s lives that were buried there, I realized that everyone has some kind of story. I know that is obvious, but I don’t think we all realize how many people love us, or how many people love the people that surround us. I’m not preaching a lesson in morals, it’s just a realization on my part, that everyone is loved to the extent that no one can comprehend, in one way or another.  The people buried in that cemetery were loved; loved enough to have a statue above them of a woman clinging to a cross with the phrase “Pray for us” etched in marble stone below, loved enough to have a plain tombstone with beautiful moss embracing it like a hug, loved enough to have a dead flowers laying parallel next to ones that are still thriving, loved enough to have an angel statue above them overlooking all of Queenstown like a guardian, and loved enough to capture someone’s memory. Call me crazy, but everyone is loved. 

“I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, that ye may not sorrow, as also the rest who have not hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also God to those asleep through Jesus he will bring with him”
-1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Eyes of the Sheep

Being submerged in a different culture is something that I thrive for, something that I long for, and live for. Today we got the chance to go to a sheep and cattle farm and practice our “shearing skills”. Okay, no one told me how heavy a sheep is. So when it was my turn to hold the squirming, restless, agitated animal, I went in with the impression that it was going to be as carefree as carrying my pooch Ginger (who resembles a sheep when not properly groomed, which is always). I was wrong. Sheep should seriously consider eating less. As I struggled to hold the hairless kicker, I looked at its’ eyes. Bad decision. The eyes of the sheep were filled with fear. I know that the sheep wasn’t being harmed in any way, but it still looked like it thought it was the end of its’ life, which brings back memories of having to watch a goat being suffocated in Africa. Good times. 

“There is a way into my country from all the worlds,” said the Lamb; but as he spoke his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane.”
     -The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Falling Ducks and Raining Ash

Apparently a volcano erupted in Chile two days ago, causing it to rain ash in New Zealand. At first I was confused, because I was picturing a flat map of the world and didn’t quite understand how ash could travel all the way over numerous continents and only rain down on New Zealand. Then, my blonde moment ceased and I realized that indeed the world was spherical. Who knew? Besides me being a complete idiot, the ash was spectacular. I know that a volcano erupting isn’t the best thing in the world, but just to have it effect a whole different continent is purely amazing. 

Today, as we were walking around Lake Te Anau, I spotted some ducks, so naturally I migrated towards them. As I began to take pictures of the ducks, I realized that they were complete idiots, considering the fact that they kept getting bolted with the waves and almost drowning, yet kept staying near the shore where the waves broke. It provided some serious entertainment, along with hilarious pictures of ducks being annihilated.

"Creatures, I give you yourselves," said the strong, happy voice of Aslan. "I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars and I give you myself"
        -The Last Battle

Milford Sound: dolphins, ghosts, majesty

After winding roads on the mountain’s edge, making it feel like we were about to take a plunge down the rocks, we arrived at Milford Sound; one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my entire life. It’s kind of hard to describe everything that I saw, considering I convinced myself that I was in a fairytale the whole time, due to the the jaw-dropping, “wow” exclaiming, heart pounding, landscape. 

We took a cruise around Milford Sound; a place filled with majestic waterfalls, baby seals, and of course...dolphins. My second favorite thing about life, besides Narnia, are dolphins. Ever since a young age they have captivated me with their personalities. Aside from humans, they are the smartest mammal and one of the most nurturing towards one another. We were nearing the end of our cruise, all ready to get off of the rocking boat, when I saw fins. I screamed, almost fainted, and nearly peed my pants, but there they were, a whole pod of dolphins. The chances, our captain said, of seeing dolphins in Milford Sound is one in seven, and the chances of it not raining at Milford Sound is one in three. Well, the sky was crystal clear, and dolphins surrounded our boat. Most of my pictures of them are blurry, considering I didn’t know what to do with myself, and also the fact that I was jumping up and down. But out of nearly five-hundred pictures of these dolphins, some came out decent. 

I had to add the picture of the sleeping seal...I want one. Mom, Dad, my birthday is coming up. 

After the cruise, I found Lord of the Rings again. Like, really? Okay I understand Lord of the Rings is fantastic and “The Return of the Kings” is my favorite movie, but where is Narnia? We came across the mountain range where they filmed the different people lighting the beacons to signal a war being started. Yes, I was ecstatic when I saw the mountain range, but I’m seriously ready to see Narnia.

I took a picture of a waterfall, and looking back on it, I do I put this...creeped out. I think I found Lord of the Rings (again), or maybe it’s just a snapshot from middle earth. I honestly think this picture is filled with ghosts, or merely images of ghosts for that matter. The longer you look at it, the most faces of ghosts, or something, appears in the rocks, and in the water. To start, look in the middle bottom of the water fall, there is a full body “ghost” coming out. I don’t know if I believe in ghosts, but this is just eerie. 

Even though I haven’t found Narnia, I am completely speechless of the beauty that New Zealand exudes. If I could, I would type a well-formed paragraph with colons in the right place and commas separating meaningful adjectives, but I just cannot think of a word to describe everything here. The first word that comes to mind is indescribable, but that doesn’t really say anything. Maybe there isn’t a word for a reason, because maybe a single word would not give the landscape the praise that it righteously deserves. 
“There is a God,
and this is the proof,
all around the evidence is speaking the truth.
From the center of my soul, 
to the edge of the universe,
all around the evidence is screaming the truth,
that there is a God.”
        -Casting Crowns