Monday, July 07, 2008

Greetings from Kiwi Paka **** Youth Hostel in Rotorua, New Zealand - Days 3-4

Greetings to All,

Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday, but it was quite a day. Saturday we celebrated a weekday Mass at the Armitage Hotel in Tauranga and we left there Sunday morning after such a hearty breakfast I have the impression it was really a Hobbit breakfast: sausages, eggs, fried mushrooms, beans, various fruit from preserves, fresh fruit wedges, cheeses, toast, coffee or tea, juice, and on and on.... poor pilgrims we were not in that wonderful moment!

On the road we went to visit Kiwi 360 which is a display farm like an eco museum combination arboretum displaying all the kinds of fruit and nut trees grown in New Zealand. It was an amazing tour on a little motorized train with a great guide. We stopped a few places to see close and touch the trees and kiwi vines that grow about 6 feet off the ground. Kiwi was the first local product of New Zealand fuelling their independence around 50 years ago and continues to drive the national economy. We got to sample green and golden kiwi fruit in the gift shop and also some local kiwi and other wines and liqueurs. (We were careful of our minors, don't worry.) It was very pleasant and most bought souvenirs, plastic bottles of kiwi juice, fresh kiwi fruit which are harvested over a 6 week period every year in April/May.

Our itinerary was tweaked by Michael and our team of leaders who then had our guide Margot and bus driver Dave bring us to a supermarket where we had time to stock up on items for lunch and perhaps another meal and snacks. We enjoyed the shopping too much and took more time than we had been allowed, so we only had 30 minutes to get back to Kiwi Paka 5 minutes away, prepare and eat our lunches and get back on the bus, but we made it! Margot was impressed that such a large group could actually make and eat lunch in 20 minutes flat! The reason was we had an appointment for a tour of the Maori Cultural Center, which is so busy with tours that we would have missed out had we been late.

Very fascinating culture, the Maori, who are a Polynesian people who came here some seven centuries ago. Like most indigenous peoples, they identify God as represented in the elements of the environment with which they relate and from which they derive their sustenance; so that the various tribes relate to the ocean, or the forest, or the mists, as do the locals here, who have settled in the area at the center of volcanic geysers and mists. The guide left a deep impression on us of a people with strong family and ancestral ties, a strong sense of honor and identification to one's tribe and family. We lingered a bit there and in the gift shop and by the time we made our way to Kiwi Paka and settled into our chalets, it was past six o'clock.

Until now, we shared rooms in twos - one adult with a minor - but now we were grouped in fours with two sleeping in beds on the ground floor and two on the upper level. Because we had not had the opportunity to have an exact time at which we would have wanted to celebrate Sunday Mass - we had planned to celebrate before supper but hadn't been able to communicate that in advance to the desk - it took a while for us to negotiate permission to use the only conference room from the group that had exclusively reserved it. In the end, we celebrated Sunday Mass at 9:30 until 10:15, and it turned out to be a very personally meaningful celebration. At the Offertory each pilgrim came to place a host for Communion in the paten and mentioned out loud an intention for which he or she particularly felt drawn to pray: a person, a place or people in the world, or a situation. I got to hear them all, and it was profoundly moving to see how deeply each pilgrim felt about the intentions, needs, hopes, and caring for others they carry within.....

Everyone seemed to get a good night's sleep, but we are all still learning to adapt ourselves to this winter climate. It was cold in our chalets despite the heater in each of them. You see, there are only single pane windows, this being a moderate and almost semi-tropical climate. When it's 10-11 degrees in the morning, it's 4-5 degrees during the night. So we find ways, sleeping with tuques, caps, scarves, whatever works.... We had breakfast - a very simple, even frugal buffet served up by the hostel - and were off to the Kaituna River 20 minutes from Rotorua with River Rats White Water Rafting for, you've got it, WHITE WATER RAFTING!!!! We hope at some point to post photos, if I can find a PC that's up to date enough to allow it. You'll definitely get to see them on our return. We hired two professional photographers who took lots of shots and gave us 5 CD's with infinite copy rights!

Three of us bumped or bruised out hose or head.... Isabelle Correa, who had been with us along with Laura Ieraci of the Catholic Times and also representing the Archdiocese, and Louis McAnany, and Stephanie Chehab, but all are well and glad for their experience..... It was quite the exhilarating experience, even for Laura and I and our Guide Margot who simply watched. Had it not been for my throat irritation and dry little cough, I would have been in there like a flash...

However, it was a delight to have lunch at a central food place in a mall where there were half a dozen food counters; so all 47 of us (40 St Luke + 4 Chinese Mission + Isabelle & Laura + our Guide Margot) could choose what we wanted without having to wait hardly at all. Matthew Rettino and I (we were grouped in our pairs for rooming) had fish and chips and they were so good we had a second helping, which we shared both times. Then we drove a relatively short distance to the Thermal Baths and had an exquisite time going from one thermal pool to another ranging from 38 to 45 degrees C..... Awwww... poor, poor pilgrims!!!!!!!!!

Well, let me tell you, considering all the cold we've endured, it was really divine providence that arranged us to be warmed, comforted, and consoled in these baths. Truly therapeutic in every way.... It's been some time since any of us have felt so relaxed, mellow, alive, great.... We came back, and with military precision, in minutes gathered in the conference room and prepared for the Holy Eucharist, and once again put our intentions along with a host into the paten.... and so prepared ourselves. The Lord spoke gentle words to us about how He is the One who as our loving Father and Creator provides all these powerful forces for our good and life, as Francis of Assisi was the first to so clearly proclaim it: Blessed are You O Lord our Creator for Sister Water, so fair and pure, for her power to cleanse and refresh us....

The gods identified by the Maori in the elements of nature are actually the servants of the God we have come to know and adore in Jesus, who alone reveals to us the Father. As in the Gospel Jesus touched and revived the little dead girl and the woman with the hemorrhage, so too does He call us to touch others in their need and bring them the same comfort and consolation with which He fills us with life and goodness.... Now it's time for me to let this go and join the gang in enjoying a pasta supper Franca just cooked up for 47!!!!!

We will now being to include pilgrims in this blog, as they come over to the PC and add their comments, observations, messages to you all..... Enjoy them.

Sandra Ouellet
Up to now, my journey is as colourful as a rainbow:
Red for all the warmth we can feel,
Orange for the glow of our light unto the world,
Yellow for having good weather or hoping to see the sun,
Green for being respectful and nice with others in ANY situation,
Blue for having a place where we can rest,
Indigo for having such faith to cross all boundaries,
Violet for hoping to have a better world.

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