Category Archives: Culture

Letters Home

Dear Family:

Having at last an occasion to write a letter nothing, not threats of slow delivery or postage, shall deter me from writing one.

letter 1

We arrived in Wellington early on January 28th, what would have been the 27th for you, and checked into our room early. It is small—only a bunk bed and a bathroom, but I daresay I have made do with less. There is a common kitchen on the first floor, and we have made use of it as well as we might.

We did little on our first day save for getting from the airport to our hostel, and from there walking about to various locales, trying to determine where on earth the people of Wellington get their groceries. In this regard, the receptionist was very helpful, pointing the way to the train station grocery. We have gotten most of our food there.

I love Wellington. It is probably one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. We’ve been up and down the water-front several times now—think of it as something like River Landing, with docks and sailboats and azure ocean on one side, and warehouses turned restaurants on the other. Beyond that, glass offices with shops at their feet stretch for several blocks before giving way to hills and houses. Across from us is the Rail Station, the very picture of any pillar-and-brick British train station that you care to imagine. A few blocks toward the hills brings us to the timber Parliamentary building, and then the “Beehive”: a curiously-designed domed building.

File 2015-02-20, 12 04 13 PM

The morning after our first night saw us at Te Papa Museum, where we enjoyed New Zealand history, natural science, an Air New Zealand exhibit, a giant squid, and a little bit of Hobbit statuary and Elf armour. The armour, in particular, probably excited us more than it ought. After the museum we took the cable car up the side of one of Welly’s many tall hills, to the Botanic Gardens.

The gardens were stunning. From the very top one can look our over much of the city and Lambton Bay. From that point the gardens descend into lush forests, a mix of tropical trees, firs, and English species; and the woods are interspersed with flower beds, rock gardens, playgrounds, and visitor centres. At the foot of the hill we found the duck pond and, near the gates, the Lady Norland Rose Garden. I have never seen so many roses at once, nor do I expect to again. That visit was certainly enough to secure my love of the park—I only wish we had something like it at home! I have been taking lots of pictures. I will be sure to show you.

On Saturday we took the bus to Weta Cave, and I must say, I am impressed. The “Cave” is the gift shop and tour-accessible front to the real Weta workshops. We were shown through by Matt, a drily witty tour-guide, and he explained the design process used to make props and special effects. There were scores of movie weapons, both metal and plastic, armor, miniatures, models… We were quite carried away. As it turns out, Weta is responsible for not only LOTR and the Hobbit, but also Elysium, Robin Hood, Narnia, Avatar, Planet of the Apes, Tin Tin, and World War Z. I do believe Mason now has his heart set on becoming a “master sword-smith”. We both bought t-shirts.

Sunday saw us to the Wellington Museum of City and Sea, an intriguing little museum relating the growth of the city through two world wars, as well as showcasing the few shipwrecks of Wellington’s marine history.

After that, during a wander, we chanced upon the Old St. Paul Cathedral, a spectacular church done in traditional style. It is made entirely of wood, in order to withstand earthquakes, and boasts superb woodwork and stained glass. Being a heritage site, it was open to the public—I am glad I got to see it.

On Monday, we got the most fantastic fish and chips imaginable—deep fried, salty, lemony goodness. Mason got a burger that tasted like it had been marinated and coated in sauce—also delicious! I love it when good things take you by surprise. After that we toured the Parliament building—an oddly shaped thing called the “Beehive”. The tour was a little dull, but the architecture was interesting.

Our next stop is Lower Hutt, where we will be house-sitting for a week.  We’ll take the train to get there—Mason and I are needlessly excited about the train, as we have never had the opportunity of taking one. I hope they leave us coffee!

We will be catching our train in the morning, and it will deliver us to within a few blocks of our destination. From there, if we cannot secure another WWOOF, we’ll be moving on, perhaps travelling through the towns of the western coast, or else making our way directly to Hobbiton.

Rest assured we are well-rested and well-fed (if mostly only on sandwiches) and if we are a little homesick, that is to be expected. We are looking forward to the next leg of our journey.

Please continue to pray for us. We miss you very much, and send all our love. Keep the coffee warm for us!

With Love,

Sarina and Mason

File 2015-02-20, 12 05 44 PM



It was a cold evening and I sat in the rear seat of my son’s car hugging my coat closer in a vain attempt to keep in some warmth. I was grateful we wouldn’t have to contend with parking or walking in the cold (finally some payback for all of the hours we had spent driving kids around!).green swirl1

We joined the crowd and funnelled into the front doors of the concert hall, everyone squeezing in together and out of the cold. Once inside, the frigid air slowly melted off my coat as we made our way to the box—a new experience: boxed seats. I watched the people milling around. Most were dressed just a little better than workday clothes. Most were smiling and chatting—excited about the show I assumed. And everyone was with someone else—couples, big groups, small groups. I didn’t see a single person who was alone.

We went up a flight of stairs and followed the instructions we had been given to find our seats. Several members of our group were already there and the others showed up almost immediately. We chatted and ate hors d’oeuveres, talking about the performer and sharing what we knew about his music and his career. Everyone knew something—some knew more than others—and everyone shared thoughts and opinions.

The lights went down and we obediently took our seats. The stage lights came up and the performer walked out onto the stage to the bold applause of the audience, shouts and whistles rising up over the clapping.

A couple of songs into the concert the performer stopped the proceedings, calling for the lights to come up over the audience. Some anonymous lights worker turned up the house lights and the performer glanced around, waving at the audience (more shouts and whistles). “Just trying to get a feel for the space,” he said, “I can’t actually see any of you with the lights on me.” He called for the lights to go down (they did) and went on with the concert.

wild flowers 2

That bothered me—the sort of one-way-mirror feeling introduced by the performer. The people in our group—and, I’m certain, in the rest of the audience—knew a lot about the performer’s life and work and he knew nothing about any person in the audience. One glance around the room (I could see the audience just fine) told me that there were hundreds of stories present, but the performer’s story was the only one being told that evening.

I’ve been thinking about that idea since the concert—irritated by the thought, actually. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that one-way communication isn’t the sole domain of concerts and performances. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was inherent to every form of communication be it music, art, work, or reading this blog.

Every person reading this blog (or sharing a conversation or watching the same movie) will take away a different interpretation of the experience. They’ll remember different portions and they’ll form different ideas based on the same experience. There’s no possible way to have everyone leave a situation with exactly the same interpretations, ideas, or perspectives—certainly none of our group at the concert did—we compared notes afterward. I’m guessing that all of those other groups of people had the same thing happen in their groups.

pink marble

That sort of thinking is something that will drive people like me crazy—I need to know people “get” what I’m saying.

Or maybe not.

Maybe the point of all those interactions isn’t to make someone think a certain thing. Maybe the point is to let them think something.

I’m thinking that maybe the world is a little more interesting—a little more meaningful—if everyone gets to make up their own stories.

Thanks for letting me contribute to yours.



My daughter emailed me a poem she wrote. It made me think so I asked if I could share it. With her permission, here it is:


If I went to the land of poems, would this be poetry?
If everyone talked in rhythm,
and never missed a beat.
If everything rhymed, and that was normal,
would this be poetry?


If I went to the land of black and white, would the rainbow be dull?
If the brightest colours were gray,
and the sky was dull,
and the grass was dark, and that was normal,
would the rainbow be dull?

If I went to the land of songs, would words be music?
If everyone sang,violin
and the streets pulsed with music,
and a conversation was a melody, and that was normal,
Would words be music?

Mask in MexicoIf I went to another land, would I be different?
In China, Africa,
Brazil, Australia,
or anywhere else, and they were normal,
would I be different?


Sarina Fehr, May 4, 2010