Trip to Aotearoa-New Zealand


My favorite city in New Zealand, Wellington.

So it’s been a crazy-busy couple of weeks around my house…

Cookies my sister's friend made with pics of my parents' wedding.

Cookies my sister’s friend made with pics of my parents’ wedding.

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Which was great, don’t get me wrong, but I am not much of a party planner, so the preparations were driving me nuts. (My dad was not thrilled about having a fuss made over the event, and my siblings live in distant states, so I was on the front lines of Party Central.) Everything came off just fine, though, and there were lots of family members there to wish them well.

My younger son, who for blog purposes goes by the nickname “Taz,” finished up his month-long summer session of Camp Cougar last week. It’s a really wonderful program that our county school system offers rising 9th and 10th graders, and it replaces a semester’s worth of physical education classes. Participating in Camp Cougar allows a student to take an additional academic class during the school year – and it is reported to be a lot of fun. They do health classes, of course, and the regular physical fitness testing, but the rest of their time is taken up with cool stuff like rock-climbing, canoeing, caving, rafting, swimming at the lake, and the high and low ropes courses at the nearby Boy Scout camps. We’re lucky enough to have two Boy Scout camps located in our county – Camp Ottari and Camp Powhatan – and the area is honeycombed with (well-explored) caves thanks to our karstic geology. The New River Gorge in West Virginia is only about two hours’ drive away, for the rafting. It’s really terrific. The only drawbacks? There’s a lottery for selection for the program (understandable), and if you miss any portion of the month-long program, including Saturdays, even with medical excuse, you will not receive academic credit. No getting sick. But Taz did not get sick, and we got through the month with no trouble other than a minor sunburn.

Jean, Taz, and me at Salem Sox game. Taz has his shirt tucked under his cap so his sunburned neck won't get more sunburned...

Jean, Taz, and me at Salem Sox game. Taz has his shirt tucked under his cap so his sunburned neck won’t get more sunburned…

Spent a lovely day at the Salem Red Sox ballpark with my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law Jean, my two nephews, my two sons, and my husband. Fun! My sister and her son, and my brother, his wife, and his son, came up to the farm for a visit as well – I think everyone had a good time except for the ones of us who ran across a yellow jacket nest (my sister and myself. Ugh. You should SEE how awful my ankle looks where I got stung).

For the next sixteen days, I will be in Aotearoa-New Zealand, or traveling there and home. I’m so excited! I’ve been to NZ once before, for 2 weeks in 2007, but I am excited to go back – not least because I’ve set a novel there and I’m looking forward to taking in some of the settings I’ve used. In real life, I mean, as opposed to Google Earth. (I love Google Earth Street View. It is my bestest location friend.)

Bottle-feeding Lydia, an orphaned calf, in the shop lot with nephew Airin

My husband, Joe, who teaches in the Agricultural Technology program at Virginia Tech as well as farming in the summers (we raise beef cattle), will be teaching a study-abroad course in the upcoming Wintermester time frame, between fall and spring semesters. It will focus on international agricultural trade in New Zealand, which is a wonderful small case study in that NZ exports a large and diverse number of agricultural products. Ag exports make up a significant portion of NZ’s overall economy.

Joe received a grant to go this summer to set up the trip the students will be taking, and I’m going with him, to help navigate/advise on the trip experience. We’ll be visiting a vineyard, NZ Wine, a venison producer, a dairy, a cheesemaker, and various other agricultural producers or marketers, as well as the trade offices in the capital, Wellington. He did his Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics at Massey University in NZ on a Fulbright scholarship, and then in 2007 he made another trip to Australia and NZ as an Eisenhower Fellow, studying the international trade of beef in both countries. I got to join him for part of the 2007 trip, and I’m thrilled to be going back.

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