Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from New Zealand!

We are missing our families of course, but very thankful to have enjoyed a wonderful Christmas meal with a Kiwi family tonight. We experienced a few firsts (and sadly maybe lasts as this may be our last summer Christmas here!): the Christmas Cracker/bon-bon tradition, orange glazed Kumara and steamed Christmas cake with custard. Delicious!

Today was a beautiful warm day and we took a walk/jog on the St Kilda beach. These are the memories I hope stay with us regardless of where we end up next. 

Here's a wee Christmas prayer I've enjoyed these past few weeks (thanks to Julie Ryan for sending to us)

Hold fast to hope.
Hold fast to the elusive, the intangible, the never-to-be-had,
For stars fall from heaven sometimes,
And Kings are born in barns and miracles rise out of little things.

May the quiet trust of Mary,
the graciousness of Joseph
the humility of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men
the joy of the angels
and the peace of the Christ child
be God's gifts to you this Christmastide


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Naming our Daughter

I've known for about seven or eight years that were I to have a daughter one day, I'd name her Natalie. When we found out last year we were having a girl we kept it from our friends and families for a surprise. A few people probably knew all along, my grandma for one. When I announced Natalie's name to her I could practically hear her smile over the phone as she lovingly said, "Oh Anna, I knew you were naming her Natalie".

When I was about 7 months pregnant I skyped with three special people, Jill and her two children, Natalie and Sam Clavero. It was then that I asked them a question I'd been waiting to ask for years: "Can Josh and I have the privilege of naming our daughter after you, Natalie?" It was a memorable moment and we all shared laughter and some tears.

So who is this Natalie? Natalie is a young girl with one of the brightest smiles in the world. She has contagious joy and deep strength. She loves and receives love in a beautiful way and has the patience of someone who's lived decades longer than her age tells. Natalie is someone I deeply admire. And this Natalie has quite literally changed the course of my life.

This Natalie also has cerebral palsy. But to her, it 'ain't no thing'. I can practically see her laughing and thinking, "ain't nobody got time to worry about that!" Natalie gets around in a stylish wheelchair and now communicates with her eyes using some really cool technology. She receives the challenges of her life with joy and strength. Natalie  has battled so many things - sickness, surgeries, physical pain and probably much more than I even understand. Is it easy for her? No, I'm sure it's not. She goes through more physical challenges each day that most of us could ever imagine. The way I see it, the most admirable thing about Natalie is that her strength comes from God and her character and joy give witness to the beautiful story of Jesus and His love for her and her love for Him.

When I was finishing my undergraduate degree I worked with Natalie in her home to help support her mom. At the time I had needed a part time job as I decided what to do next with my life. I had no idea I'd form a special bond with this family, fall in love with two of the cutest kids in the world, and form a lasting friendship with their mom, Jill. I also had no idea that through the course of my years of outdoor wheelchair and bike adventures, long rainy afternoons playing shape searchers, and helping to care for Natalie through the day and even through some nights, that my life would be changed. To make a long story short, I went on to get my Masters in Special Education and hope to continue a life-long career in education and/or the disability field much because of Natalie. I am so grateful that God placed us all together for those years!

So there you have it. How could I not name my sweet baby girl after Natalie Clavero? Seriously, how could I not!? :) I love you, big Natalie and little Natalie. And I hope and pray with all my heart that my sweet baby grows into the kind of woman you are becoming.

 Natalie as my flower girl in March 2007
 Playing outside with Natalie and Sam
 Cute little Sam!
Thanksgiving Weekend 2009

I can't wait to get a picture of the two Natalies together! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Celebrating Six

Today we celebrate 6 years of marriage in New Zealand. When I married Josh 6 years ago I had literally no idea where life would take us. If you would have told me I'd move to New Zealand in five years I probably would have started crying and worrying myself sick right then. Yes believe it or not, but big overseas adventures don't come quite as naturally to me as my world travelling little sister! But I am so grateful that our journey has brought us here... through joy and sorrow, decisions and degrees, moves, lack of money and just enough money, jobs and no jobs, way too much sleep and often not enough, laughter to the point of peeing my pants, stupid fights over about the absolute dumbest things ever, and conversation and prayer that challenges and changes me.

So anyway, today we celebrated Kiwi style: Lamb burgers with salad (that means salad in the burger), Flat Whites (a deliciously velvety espresso and milk coffee drink) and chips and sweet chili sauce (that means potato wedges and sweet chili sauce. OK, stop right there. Americans, you really need to consider this combination of potato wedge things with sweet chili sauce. Just "have a go" as the kiwis say. Just try it). We also went to the Otago Museum and visited the Maori history section and the Canterbury Quakes exhibit. I didn't quite realize the scope of the damage done from those quakes and enjoyed learning more about it and seeing the devastation that many New Zealanders have endured as a result of living in Christchurch during that time.

Josh and I talked over coffee today about how we love living here. That doesn't mean we don't miss things about the states. I would actually give three or four fingers to visit Costco and get heaps of cheap healthy food and then get me some good ol' Mexican food. On the more serious side I feel a pang of sadness when I think about my grandparents, parents, and even my younger siblings living their lives and growing older and that I'm not there to experience this part of life with them. For now, I'm very grateful that everyone's healthy and when I see them next it will be all the more richer. Oh how having coffee with my mom once a week when we lived in Washington takes on a massively new perspective when I would give 5 fingers (yep 5, so a whole hand) to have coffee with her just once this year.

Back to the present in New Zealand. We love having the ocean next door and our little deck with a view of the harbour. We love Kiwi accents that now sound more familiar than American ones. We love our church and the Christian culture here. We love our new friends from all over the world and hearing the perspectives of non-Americans. We love learning here - for me it's New Zealand Sign Language and for Josh, well let's just call it the process of writing a book! In short, we are so happy to be here for the time we are. It probably took me about 5 months of adjusting and settling in to be able to say this, but when the time comes for us to leave I know I will leave part of my heart here on the Otago coast.

Well, to top of the day, Josh is on the couch loudly singing some '80s Living Colour song while listening to a video lecture of a theology professor somewhere in the states. Never a dull moment in the Hurd house!

Cheers, friends.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Exploring Southland

We have just returned from our first getaway in New Zealand. Being without a car for the last 6 months has made it difficult to do a lot of exploring (minus the help of some great friends who have taken us around a bit) so we were really excited for the opportunity to rent a car and hit the road.

Dunedin, where we live, is on the east coast of the south island and we drove towards the west coast to Te Anau, a small but busy touristy town. Here, you can find the start of many of New Zealand's Great Walks (hiking trails/tracks) and the famous Milford Highway.

Josh and I spent two night/3days on the Kepler Track. While the whole loop is normally a three to four day walk, for this trip we decided to stay at a campsite about 4 miles in on Lake Te Anau and then day hike to the first of three huts on the track. 

At the trailhead.

Josh on the track to the Lake Te Anau campsite.    
                                                                Fiordland sign at camp.       

They like to label distances in hours, not km or miles. But we did in half the time!

Gigantic ferns on the trail.

Huts are very common on New Zealand tracks, much more than tent camping actually. After seeing the 'luxury' of the huts, we've decided that this is probably the way to go next time! Here are some pictures to get an idea of what they're like. I have no idea if this represents the majority of NZ huts though...

The Luxmore Hut. 


The bunks - about 10 per room.

                                        The common room - gas burners, tables and chairs, and sinks

Here's a few pictures from up around the hut. Once we got above the tree line the view was pretty amazing in all directions.

And back to the campsite... the highlight was beautiful lake Te Anau and the lowlight were the sandflys! :)

After hiking we headed into the town of Te Anau to Loch Sloy Bed and Breakfast. We will highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Te Anau. It was a beautiful place with lovely hosts. Not to mention an amazing Kiwi breakfast!

View from the deck off our room and the B&B.

Then it was time for the drive of a lifetime! We were originally planning to wait until visitors came to do a boat trip or something on Milford or Doubtful Sound. But we were told by numerous friends, "No, don't wait, at least drive it!". And we are so glad we did. It was really an amazing drive (and at times dangerous - sometimes one lane and often no side rail). Here are some pictures from stops along the road and then at the actual Milford Sound entrance.

If I had a nicer camera I may have been able to capture this better - basically every where you turned had cascading waterfalls. It was really amazing.

Milford Sound. To the right is where the boat tours take off and behind is a lodge.

A boat heading out. That looks like a fishing boat, but I'm not sure.


    Lupine along the road.  

There are streams everywhere up there. They get lots of rain so there is basically water all over (much like Washington).

And we got to see some wildlife! This is a Kea, otherwise known as New Zealand's Alpine Parrot. New Zealand doesn't have a lot of wild animals, mostly small critters and bird species. The birds here are really amazing and this is one of many that we'd hoped to see while here. Now this one unfortunately has obviously been fed by some stupid tourists, but it is a wild Kea.

Kea, Mountain Parrot

And finally, our drive home. We decided to take the long route; 6 hours in stead of 3.5. As you see in the map above, we drove down to the southern coast looking towards Antarctica and through the Catlins Rainforest. It was wet and windy, but we still had some good views. We also stopped in Invercargill, the largest city in the Southland and apparently one of the southernmost cities in the world.  

This point is the farthest south-western point you can drive in New Zealand. Looking towards the Southern Ocean.

This is a stop along the ocean in the Catlins Forest. There are about three surfers in the water. 

And we are now back home in beautiful Dunedin. It was great to get out and see some of the country and we are excited to plan our next trip!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Life in the Southern Hemisphere

Very, very first impressions upon our arrival in New Zealand: 

It is beautiful. 

It is cold. 

The people are wonderful.

When we were flying from Auckland to Dunedin and I was lucky enough to have a window seat, I was in tears at the absolute beauty of the land. It really was an emotional moment with jumbled thoughts of "... I can't believe we're here; this place is breathtakingly gorgeous; and we are truly blessed to be able to experience this adventure". 

Just today, at a church we were visiting, someone asked us what we thought of Dunedin so far. Josh replied, "The houses are cold, but the people are warm". That is so true! Most houses here are not insulated nor have central heating, so keeping your place warm is an adventure in itself. And in general, the people have been so kind, helpful, hospitable, laid back, friendly, and giving. We were so amazed when we first arrived at how many people invited us into their homes, stopped to give us directions without being in a hurry, and seemed to desire to help us settle in. 

We've been trying to brainstorm the things that struck us as different when we first arrived. Since all the newness is quickly becoming "normal", here are a few differences we noticed right away:

Lollies are candies, Kumara is sweet potato, Edam is cheddar-ish, silverbeet is kale, swede is rutabaga, agria is potato... and there is a lot of chutney, tea, and lamb (both alive and in the market!). We've heard a lot of "cheers", "uplift", "the lot", "rubbish", "dodgy", "fortnight", "docket", "mate", "a bit", "wee", and "mainland"... We've seen a lot of signs for BYO, Rugby, cuppa (cup of tea), cafes (seriously everywhere!) jandals (flip-flops), Op-Shop (second hand store), pavlova, and Plunkett (nurse?). Oh, and pie is not your usual American apple or cherry pie. No, no - it's a mince meat or steak pastry.

One major thing that's been different are the prices of food in general....

Things are a bit spendy here! Of course you must consider the exchange rate and 
that there are 2.2 lbs in each kg, but STILL! These pics are not all essential items 
obviously or even ones we regularly buy, but just some we noticed at 
the store this weekend that when compared to US prices are pretty high. 

One thing about the food that IS great though is that almost everything is grown or made in New Zealand. Everything seems very fresh and there isn't a lot of organic available, because it is normal for animals to be cage free and not pumped with hormones. I also have not seen a single product that says "no high fructose corn syrup" or "rbst free" - because those things just aren't happening here. 

As we enter our second month of living here, we are feeling overall really settled. Josh is putting in his 40 hours of research and reading at the University of Otago theology department. I am currently looking for work and so far finding that there is not a lot available as far as teaching goes. But in the meantime I'm trying to enjoy my time 'off' by doing lots of cooking and baking, learning to crochet, exploring, and spending time with new friends.

And last but not least, if you haven't experienced the sea lion video yet, take a peek! It's quite a hilarious first experience with the amazing wildlife in Dunedin.

Anna & Josh

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Man, some "blubbery-ness" is going down right now.

Having to say goodbye to my students is rough. And not just any students - but one-of-a-kind, truly original, very special, incredibly smart students. Most of whom have overcome and are in the midst of overcoming some serious tough stuff. These kids are and will be readers and writing, thinkers and doers, creators and inventors. I am pretty humbled that I've gotten to be a part of their lives.

Can my cheap little bookmarks and pencil gifts show them my love and pride? Probably not, but I can hope. I can hope that when I've been tired and had a long day I've still given them by best. I can hope that when they were struggling with so much more than figuring out a tough word on a page, I was a good listener and comforter. And I can hope that they have learned as much from me as I have learned from them.

    How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
    Psalm 36:7

Thank you, Jesus, for this season of life and the incredible children that have been a part of it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Blessing

A Four-Fold Benedictine Blessing

by Sr. Ruth Fox, OSB (1985)

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide,
be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.