March 19, 2013, 9:15am
Dear families and friends,
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEVON!! We are on the bus, heading toward Rotorua, and have already sung to Devon three times – English, Spanish, and pig latin. We attempted Samoan, as we heard for Ben’s birthday, but failed miserably!
We have a 3-4 hour drive today, interrupted by our visit to Hobbiton. Everyone is very excited, with many elaborate plans being made to capture a hobbit and sneak it on the bus. I’ll let you know how that works out. As we travel, Robert and Denis are filling us in on some New Zealand history. Discovered by Kupe, a legendary Polynesian explorer, Maori migrations from Polynesian islands began before AD 900. In 1769, Britains’s James Cook was the first of the European settlers. Then in 1840, the Maori and British signed the Treaty of Waitangi, allowing governance by the British monarchy., with legal protection and rights to perpetual ownership of lands and resources for the Maori. Today, both the Maori and British customs and language are honored.
EARTHQUAKE UPDATE: Nothing to report. The closest we have come is the simulated volcano experience at the Auckland museum, and visiting the volcanic crater of Mt. Eden. Jumping on beds does not count…not that the boys would ever do that… We have been blamed several times for bringing the earthquake with us. We do tend to make an impact wherever we go!
We have learned that New Zealand is roughly the same size as Colorado, though the shape is much more interesting and being surrounded by water is quite exciting to our young land-lubbers. As we drive south down the North Island, the landscape is very much like Colorado – a bit greener perhaps, but not much, as they have been experiencing severe drought conditions, the worst in 70 years. The primary export is milk and cheese products, so the hills are dotted with dairy farms. We have been quite enjoying the ice cream!!
The bus is quiet this morning as the kids try to catch up in their journals and enjoy the views. We had an eventful day yesterday, starting with our usual bountiful breakie. Cereal, toast, fruit, and yogurt, followed by a hot entrée (pancakes or eggs and potato cakes) and fresh-baked, warm croissants. When we discovered yesterday morning that many of the boys had SIX croissants, we set a one croissant limit today!
Yesterday morning was spent at Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World. We saw exhibits about Antarctic exploration and the challenges of living and working in the extreme cold. The aquarium was one of the best we’ve seen, with a walk under the sea through the shark tank and a penguin colony. There were jelly fish, star fish, sea horses and coral reefs. Did you know that a sea horse eats constantly? We quite like that idea and are attempting to replicate it on this tour!
Back into the downtown area, we had lunch at the mall food court, with a few moments to explore the mall. No shopping yet. We are sussing out the options for future purchases. Our original schedule included “afternoon at leisure.” We are not a fan of afternoons at leisure. The kids don’t know what to do with themselves if they are just sitting in their rooms and you can only wander around a downtown area for so long. So, we opted for a quick rehearsal in the hall for the show last night, then back to the hotel for a nap. I know what youre thinking, but trust me, we operate much better with something to keep us busy!
We are trying a new formalwear plan on this tour. The boys are wearing black pants, shirt and ties; and the girls have their black skirts and a new lightweight velvet blouse. These outfits are packed in thin garment bags, folded carefully and placed in the top of each suitcase, thus enabling the Chorale to avoid packing 10-12 trunks of formalwear, as well as the thousands of dollars in charges to take them on the plane with us. Last night was the first test of the system and it worked brilliantly! We were back at the hotel for dinner, dressed in our Act I formalwear in our hotel rooms and carried garment bags with Act II polos, pants and white shoes. Following the performance, we didn’t need to change, just carried the garment bags back to the hotel with us and re-packed for the next day. And the best part? The kids looked stunning in Act I.
We just took a little break, stopping for the bathroom and TIP TOP HOKEY POKEY ICE CREAM! Tip Top produces over 80% of New Zealand’s ice cream, and is reputed to be the best. We concur. Hokey Pokey is vanilla ice cream with caramel bits and, of course, prompted an informal hokey pokey dance in the parking lot.
Back to yesterday. Our concert last night was at the Raye Freedman Arts Centre. The concert hall was beautiful. Nice big stage and beautifully raked house, with wavy wood panels adorning the side walls and the ceiling. No need for risers; plenty of room for all staging and choreography; nice grand piano; steps from the stage to the house. Perfect. The concert was introduced by Mr. Michael Goudie, the American Consulate General. We were indeed honored. The afternoon rehearsal set our minds at ease for the evening performance, so we were able to enjoy the Auckland Boys and Girls Choirs’ opening numbers. The boys were very sweet and sang with a pure, lovely sound. The girls, including many high school age, were quite accomplished, and their final song was “Blue Skies,” complete with choreography.
Tour Choir rehearsing a song with the Auckland Boys and Girls Choirs for the first time:
We then took the stage, and…well…it was brilliant! They sang with precision, beauty, love, excitement and charm, all perfectly executed. There were sighs during the Chilcott “Little Jazz Mass”; laughter during “I Bought Me a Cat”; smiles of joy for “Plena”; cheers following “E Pari Ra”; and mad applause after “Get Up On the Train.” The kids were feeling quite triumphant. I was breathing a sigh of relief. It’s always good to get the first half of the first performance under our belts. With that confidence, we just go out and have a good time in Act II. The 90 Auckland Boys and Girls joined us on stage for three finale songs – “The Gift To be Simple,” “E Pokarekare Ana,” and a rollicking “Do Re Mi.” And three-plus hours later, the concert was over!
We were greeted backstage by Mr. Goudie, who was full of compliments on the performance and much pride that we so wonderfully represented the United States. We then spent a few minutes with our new friends, exchanging gifts and emails. Many hugs and tears later, we headed back to the hotel for a well-deserved and very satisfied sleep.
HEALTH UPDATE: Excellent. This is a hearty bunch!
WEATHER UPDATE: Beautiful, sunny skies, with highs in the 70’s.
HUMIDITY UPDATE: High. Lots of sweat, or a healthy “glow,” if you prefer, and frizzy, curly hair for all!
HOBBITON, HERE WE COME!!!!!!!!!