Everywhere we went / looked, people were out having picnics, sunbathing, playing sport, out strolling, biking, or rollerblading, enjoying ice creams in the sun. The blue sky above, sun, warmth, a light breeze....so nice. Everyone filled with much bonhomie! At the supermarket picking up the traditional loaf of fresh bread for Sunday lunch, L was chuffed to receive some nice compliments from some little old ladies who appreciated his good manners and delightful personality! And I was pleasantly surprised after another shopper came racing after us because she had noticed me looking for some sultanas and noticed that I'd gone away empty handed - she (despite being somewhat 'vertically challenged' in stature!) had managed to scale the supermarket shelves and located some juicy sultanas on the top shelf, which she then recommended to us, after hunting us down! And on the roads, people drove past slowly and passed friendly comments as E photographed a cool, yellow VW dune buggy that took his fancy. Kiwis are such a friendly bunch...especially on a day like this one!
K and I chatted about the great Kiwi culture of knowing how to enjoy a beautiful day. I think everyone loves a gorgeous day, the world over. But Kiwis have a truly laidback attitude that seems to extend itself so well to enjoyment of the great outdoors....especially on weekends, public holidays, before and after work hours (& between work hours too....in fact, at any time really!), and particularly on glorious days. It's difficult to pin down in words, but having lived in a few places now, this wholehearted embracing of leisure time with friends and family, on sunny days (of which we do have a fair few!) is quite distinctly Kiwi. But perhaps, we've been back too long....
On a different note, we have often chewed the cud on the issue of belonging to a large central city church, as opposed to a smaller, community church. Today, I found myself being very appreciative of the fact that a large church can command an essential critical mass of help that can really impact the community. Yesterday, over 400 volunteers (they actually had more volunteers than were needed, and many were turned away! How's that for an unusual problem?!) came together after months of planning and organisation, to totally makeover a Decile 1 school in the community. (In NZ, schools are ranked from Decile 1 - 10. Decile 10 schools tend to be able to engender funds from the school parents etc because they tend to have a more affluent, literate community. Decile 1 schools have a myriad of problems such as illiteracy, low socio-economic pressures, are dependent on state funding etc.).
Anyway, this school was in a horribly shabby state, with not even a basketball hoop for the kids. The buildings and grounds desperately needed fixing and painting - all the stuff which needs money....of which there was none to spare! The only play equipment there was an old playground which did not meet State Safety requirements eg. rusty, broken slide. For many of the kids that attend this school, this was their only play equipment.
Statistics showed that 1/3 of the children at this school don't even have a bed at home, often having to share communal quarters with several families living together under the same roof. For most of the children at this school, the makeover was a miracle dream come true. The school is the one place of security for many of these students.
Our volunteers went in yesterday and erected a brand new plastic playground, totally razed the dilapidated and dangerous old swimming pool and laid fresh grass, painted, mended, built, cleaned, and renovated, put up new signs, fences, etc etc....the NZ Breakers came and played basketball with the kids (who were all invited along with their parents for a "Fun Day") and donated a new basketball hoop....a NZ band came and provided the musical entertainment....and so on!
The principal was obviously someone who has seen a lot in her time, and her testimony was incredibly moving. She was so overwhelmed by the transformation of her school that she specially taped a video to say thank you to the church. She said that over the months, as she heard what the church was prepared to do to help the school, she was frequently overcome with a range of emotions, to the point that she decided to document these emotions. As she looked back, she said that the recurring emotion was one of total disbelief! Disbelief that people would 'care' enough to do this - people who didn't know her or the school at all....people who would willingly lend time, talents, and materials at no cost to the school, with no strings attached, just for them.
Today, I was proud to belong.
Wisteria Tunnel...the heavy scent of spring blossom was amazing when we walked through this tunnel today! Thanks for the heads up re Wisteria, Ange of the North. I'm now enlightened re this plant and can spot it a mile away!