Queenstown Hill Trail

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There was a fable once told to me about a man and his wife. Day after day she complained about how small her house was. Finally the man grew tired of her complaining and brought in the chickens to live in the house. She still complained for adding chickens didn’t help. After a few days, the man brought the pig in to live with them along side the chickens. This exasperated the wife and her complaints grew louder still. About a week later, the man brought in the cow to join the pig and chickens. A week later he brought the horse in to live with the others. All the while, the woman’s complaints continued.

One day the man got up and removed all the animals from the house. As the silence drifted down on the interior of the house, his wife exclaimed, “I never noticed how much room we had until now.”

Once my piles of grading moved from the unfinished to finished piles yesterday, I suddenly was at loose ends. The three hours until bedtime seemed unending with nothing to keep me occupied. I realized that even though I still had the same number of hours in the day, what fills them makes all the difference. Today I got to hike up Queenstown Hill Hiking Trail …and draw!

The last blog had a photo of the drawing above. (Yes, there are para-gliders in the sky.) No offense to photographers, but nothing helps me to own a piece of what I see the way tracing their contours onto a paper surface with pen or pencil. Sometimes I strongly agree with the philosopher, R. G. Collingwood, when he said that the apparent work of art is just that--a work. Art proper happens in the mind. The work of art (artwork) is to recall to the mind the meaning intended. As I draw on paper, the shapes, textures, colors, values, smells, sounds--even the feeling of the wind blowing against my skin are all indelibly etched in my mind and on my soul. The paper is a vehicle of memory for me, and a vehicle of transport to help you as a viewer to reconstruct, however imperfectly, the majesty or simple charms of God’s creations in your mind.

The hike was strenuous. My muscles burned and lungs heaved to suck in as much air as I could hold. I wove from sunlit gravel paths into dark pine covered corridors with little light and thick blankets of needles underfoot. Then suddenly the path turned sharply to the left and began another steep climb up hill. Within a hundred yards the path rose up out of the trees to the bare rock and tussock of the “hill” summit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t live in an area where hills have tree lines. At the very top of this trail, there is a sculpture by Caroline Robinson dedicated to the Maori people. It is called Basket of Dreams. It sits on an outcropping of shale-like rock. When you come upon it, you are literally walking up to it. All around you see the peaks of the Remarkables Mountain range, and below Lake Wakatipu in the far distance. I was so far up that all traces of human settlement had vanished from site.

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The best way to remember the site was by sitting on the rock outcropping below the monument of coiled steel bars and look up at it offering its form to the sky. Not that many people get to see it in person. I witnessed it on a warm spring day with the sun shining down on the last of the snowdrifts clinging to the peaks of the neighboring mountains. It was a special time. Still. Just being--with no loose ends.

Fleetingly, I regretted not bringing my camera--but then I thought that I would spend more time trying to capture the magnificence of this place and miss this place. Drawing once again helped fix the experience within me--not 100s of shots that stay “out there.” Just as the murals in the chapel at the Village of Hope, the only way to truly experience this is to travel to this place. I’ve sealed it in my memory--the proper place for such things.

Okay, so I lied the last time…

Yep, I said the next time I would be bringing drawings to the blog, but I couldn’t resist a small entry today.

New Zealand springtime is quite unpredictable and varied. Earlier this past week, it was up in the low 80s here and beautiful. Yesterday it started to rain and today is cold and rainy. Tomorrow and Thursday are likely to be the same, but it is amazing for someone who hasn’t grown up in the mountains.

Today on the way to class, you could look up at the mountains and watch it snowing on the tops while it rains here at the foot! It is such a beautiful sight! God’s power is amazing. The old phrase of snow looking like frosting or powdered sugar are true. As the day wore on, you could see the lower edge of whiteness move further and further down the slopes. By lunchtime, it had overtaken the treeline and was well on its way to half way down the mountain sides. (You are probably wondering why I didn’t include an image--by the time I reached the apartment to grab my camera, the clouds had descended over the mountains and covered any views of the snow.)

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be sunning on a cruise off the Great Barrier Reef--and sweating.

Drawings, next time…

Queenstown, NZ-Next to Paradise

100_7319scenic overlook of Queenstown from the trail

Well, it is expensive in Queenstown, NZ. This is the “adventure capital” of New Zealand, and everything is priced to match the reputation. But it is a beautiful place. Queenstown is situated on the southern end of the South Island of New Zealand. It is nestled at the foot of the Remarkables Mountain Range and at a major bend in Lake Wakatipu. Soaring mountains, and a lake that is as deep as the mountains are high. It is quite an amazing place. Oh, yes, the Paradise reference–just outside of town there is a section of one of the national parks called Paradise. Not because it is breathtakingly beautiful (which it is) but it is where the species of paradise ducks live. You can tell a paradise duck because the female head is stark white against a multicolored body, and the male has a black head and it appears to pretty much have a black body until he flies and several brilliant colors come out of hiding on his wings and sides.

We are doing our last half of the academic semester in residence at Queensland Resort College. The director, Hal, mentioned that Queenstown has a lot in common with Aspen, Colorado. They are both beautiful and both expensive. Surveys have shown that even people who backpack into Queenstown expect to spend over $200 per day beyond the cost of food and lodging. What do they spend it on? I’m glad you asked: skiing, snowboarding, jet boating, white water rafting, horseback riding, sky diving, bungi jumping, parasailing, off-roading, zip line, hiking, drinking, visiting Lord of the Rings/Wolverine film locations, panning for gold, more drinking, four wheel drive tours in the surrounding mountains, steamship rides, expensive chocolate, still more drinking, eating really good burgers from Fergburger’s, and last but not least some more drinking.

Seriously, I was taken aback by how much everyone drinks alcohol here. Once you hit 18, you forget what water is. (Don’t even try to ask about iced tea, I did and they laughed.)

I will be bungi jumping from a height of 134 metres on Saturday and doing a 300 metre swing out over a canyon afterwards. I’ll let you know if I survive. Note the British spelling when I refer to measurements in metric?

Here are a few image of the sights we see everyday going to class while others are spending copious amounts on adventure tourism. (My day is coming next weekend!)

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view from our apartment building

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looking at the harbor from the botanical gardens

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it is early spring, everything is in bloom

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trees along the Queenstown Hill hiking trail

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another section of the trail

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overlooking Lake Wakatipu

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a cabbage tree near the trail head

Next week I’ll bring some drawings, finally! I’m going through withdrawals as I have not had the time to draw in over a week. Until then…

Last Days of Broadbeach

read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…read…

Okay, my eyes are glazing over. The humanities students are required to turn in their journal three times during the semester: first at the end of our stay in Australia, then at the end of New Zealand and finally in Singapore. The cumulative grade equals half of their total grade for the class. Humanities is about making connections and understanding our common human traits, desires, concerns, etc.

This is day two of grading 39 journals. I have to finish them this afternoon because we leave at 5:30 AM to fly to Christchurch, NZ. It is both rewarding to see individual students get it, but taxing, too, because I am an image guy. I have great respect for English teachers who must read hundreds of papers every semester.

So we leave tomorrow morning. Internet access will go down for us this evening around 10:45 PM (Aussie time). Tomorrow we arrive in New Zealand, which is an additional three hours later than Searcy time, so you add 18 hours for CST.

Couldn’t let a blog through without more pictures. The following are images from our apartment, 13th floor.
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A view of part of our living room

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Looking out the window to the Pacific Ocean


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zoomed in on the same ocean

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Through the kitchen window, across our neighbor’s balcony

Okay, so on our “free travel” time, Meagan and I went back to Binna Burra, in Lamington National Park. This is where part of the Gondwalla Australian Rainforest is. I sketched while there and wrote a journal entry. Well, I’ll let you read it.
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email me with questions if you can’t read my writing.

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This is the lookout area just behind the lodge dining hall. Usually a great view, today just fog and rain (lots of it.)

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They have the coolest plants (epiphytes) that attach themselves on the sides of trees and grow without touching the ground, and they are non-parasitic. This particular species of epiphyte is called a staghorn epiphyte.

Shine, Little Glow Worm, Glimmer, Glimmer

This has truly been one amazing day. First, we have been in class for two weeks, so it is time for our four week exams (we have a condensed semester here in Australia.) We’ve spent a lot of time in classes and watching movies (Walkabout, Rabbit Proof Fence and Gallipoli are all very good films related to Australia.)

We’ve been working our way through a video called Everything is Spiritual by Rob Bell in our chapel time. For those unfamiliar with Harding University, we have chapel everyday we are in regular classes. Our group really loves to sing and pray and praise God. The video talks about scientific discoveries and how wonderfully made is the universe. Well, this afternoon we got an up-close look at another amazing example of that fascinating world. We traveled up to Mount Tamborine to see a glow worm cave. We saw it at night, so no cameras allowed. The glow worms are actually the larval stage of an insect life cycle. The larvae spin a silken harness in which they hang from underneath outcroppings of rocks, roots, dirt, etc. They then suspend “fishing lines” of silk webs all around themselves with a sticky mucus on the lines in order to catch other insects to eat. Their tail end lights up and attracts insects (we don’t know why) and they get stuck in the lines.

The walking path to the glow worm cave runs through the rainforest and over a creek. All along the pathway, if you turn off your lights, you can see little green points of light in the forest on the embankments. Some are brighter than others. The brighter lights are emitted by the more mature larvae and the dimmer ones by the younger larvae. This particular insect spends 5-9 months of its life cycle as a larvae. After pupating, it lives as an insect for 2-4 days, just long enough to mate and lay eggs, then both male and female die. Brings new meaning to the phrase “these children will be the death of me!”

Any way, I digress. Once we reached the cave and walked in, we let our eyes adjust to the darkness. The roof and walls of the cave looked almost like a clear night sky with thousands of points of light clustered here and there--some brighter, some dimmer. Quite an amazing sight. We also spotted several kinds of spiders, slugs, a common green tree frog and two eels in the creek. God is good.

I’m off to fix up some biscuit mix. We are having one of the girls apartments over for biscuits and bacon tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM. I discovered that I can make American style biscuits in Australia and they taste great. After that Meagan and I will walk on the beach and head over to a large shopping area to see about purchasing a digeridoo. Until next time…

Surf's Up

So today I went surfing. I’ve never surfed before and probably will not again. But it was fun. 39 of us went to Surfers Paradise Beach for a 2 hour lesson today. First we had to learn how to catch a wave. That was easy and fun. I can scream across the top of water on a board. Mind you this whole process took place in waist deep water. They stress safety.

But then, we had to learn how to “pop-up” into a standing position. That is not so easy. We tried first to jump up from a lying down position on the board deck, but it was to difficult for most of us to just pop up into a standing position from there, so we had additional instruction on a three step process to standing on the board. It involved catching a wave and moving forward on the board with toes on the tail of the board. Then you move your knees up under your hips (like a dog standing), then “just stand up from that position… I can surf like a dog very well. I actually stood up briefly twice before falling into the surf.

With about five minutes left in our two hour time slot, I was trying to stand on the board and wiped out in about one foot of water. I turned over, face up-feet toward the ocean, when a wave blasted me in the face. Sand and water forced up my nose and into my mouth. It was very gritty and unpleasant. The best thing about this afternoon is there are no pictures! We did have a great time, though. Tomorrow I’ll write about our trip to Binna Burra and the rainforest in Lamington National Park--a World Heritage site.

First Morning, Sydney, 2nd Day

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So, just like every time I travel overseas, I woke up early this morning. The flight over to Australia doesn’t count, because we all woke up on the plan around 5 AM to eat breakfast before arriving in Sydney. I digress.

So the hotel where we are staying is called the Hyde Park Inn. It is directly across from Hyde Park. The park is a beautiful place of green in a major metropolitan area. In the center of Hyde Park is the ANZAC Memorial, a large art deco building completed in 1932 that is dedicated to the Australian and New Zealand armed servicemen and their sacrifices during the wars of the last two centuries.

Now I will mention the sketch. Six years ago when I couldn’t sleep in Porto Rafti, Greece, I got up, made some coffee and sat out on our apartment balcony. It happened to face east, and I watched the sun rise over a ridge of hills behind Harding’s permanent campus–The Artemis. The sun rose directly in front of our balcony. I was surprised and pleased to find out that our eighth floor balcony at the Hyde Park Inn points exactly the same direction, albeit on the other side of the world and the opposite hemisphere. So I couldn’t resist getting my sketchbook out and doing my first sketch, once again of the beginning of a new (but familiar) adventure. This time, the sun shown through the construction of a new high rise building just on the other side of the lush green of the park. trees