Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving in Auckland

Auckland, Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dear Family & Friends,

We took a shuttle to the airport at 4 PM Thursday, turkey day.  Since we’ve traveled on Easter and Christmas in the past this was not entirely unusual.  Normally we get someone to take us to the airport, but since we figured they’d all be eating pumpkin pie, we made other arrangements.

We took a 13-hour flight on New Zealand Air from LA directly to Auckland.  It is a great airline with comfortable seats, good food, great service, and all the amenities that you never get while flying in the U.S.  We even got a ‘real’ pillow—large, soft and fluffy, and a real blanket--and of course the now famous Men in Black rap video explaining the safety features of the plane.  You can look those videos up on U-Tube.  They have others, but the rap is my favorite.
I slept some on a flight that left at night and arrived (flying over Friday) Saturday early morning, E/S Winters picking us up.  When Gary stopped for gas he said it costs $100 to fill up his tank since fuel is about $8 a gallon!  I just stopped complaining about the cost of gas in CA.  They dropped us off at the hotel, but we only had time to unpack a few things and take a short nap; we had a breakfast meeting across the street from the church offices at a café.  The food was healthy and looked like it came from a ‘cooking show’.  We met with Gary Winters and Hans Sorensen to discuss what they wanted us to accomplish while in Vanuatu.  We leave tomorrow morning at 7 AM.  Jim said that we are supposed to get done in 3 weeks what would normally take 3 months, but then they’d hoped for a longer trip from us and we can see why.  We’ll be teaching locals how to build shelters; this will give them skills so that they can possibly get a job with a contractor, while at the same time getting the shelters built.  We will also be looking at water projects on the two main islands of Otea and Tanna.  The shelters are basic--a roof and wood structure, just framing, which the people are supposed to complete themselves.  They will need to put in floors and siding.  The church donated two portable saw mills, and will be using the wood from the fallen trees (from the cyclone last March) to build the structures.

It was nice to be recognized as soon as we walked into the Spencer Hotel; all we had to do was sign and go up to our room, this time on the 17th floor—they have 20 floors—with the same arrangement of two TV’s, full kitchen, washer and dryer, and a living room separate from the bedroom.  Nice.  There won’t be TV’s on Otea in the Vanuatu Islands group.  They don’t have Internet if we get to Tanna, the other island we will be visiting.  We were instructed to bring a water filter for Tanna.  Interesting.  We are expecting heat and humidity, just like West Africa—it will be hot and humid and sometimes more hot and humid—and they are approaching their summertime.  E/S Leben have been frantically busy since they first arrived a few days before the cyclone.

I zoomed in to see people swimming in the hotel pool.  The next picture is taken without a zoom from our window on the 17th floor. 

Susan Winters is always so thoughtful.  She often buys things for people, and today she gave me a bag of things to take to Sister Leben and added two huge candy bars for us.  E/S Winters will finish their mission here at the end of February, after which our daughter-in-law’s parents will take their place—Dave & Anne Maughan.  We are good friends so it will be fun working with them when we lose Gary & Susan Winters.  Gary asked them to take their place since they had met while Maughan’s were serving a humanitarian mission in Serbia.  They are hard-working, knowledgeable, and really fun.
The weather, while still overcast and sometimes dripping rain, was not nearly as cold as it was last month, which was a pleasant surprise.  Still, I seemed to be the only person in a sweater—everyone we saw were wearing flip flops and shorts.  We saw people actually using the hotel pool, which we can see from our 17th floor.  Last month the water was rather frigid.
We had time to rest up a bit after the breakfast, in time to shower and freshen up for the Thanksgiving dinner at 2 PM.  We always feel pampered when we are here.  They had a huge variety of foods and desserts.  They had a few fun activities afterwards all about Thanksgiving trivia and music.  We are still amazed at how many couples serve here.  We were back at the hotel by 4:30, in time to relax and get to bed early before we depart for yet another new adventure.

Elder Whidden, who helped organize the activities including the order of getting food; Sister Winters organized the whole dinner.  About 50 people attended, all so very friendly and welcoming. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, E/S Greding, Jim & Karen, Mom & Dad

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