Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Visiting the Coromandel Branch

This Sunday was our first time to go to the regular Coromandel Branch meeting. We went there a couple of weeks ago but it was Branch Conference so there were lots of stake visitors and the group from Whitianga was there too so there were lots more people there than normal. This time we had a few visitors as well but nothing like two weeks ago. I counted 17 people and I think only about 6 of them were regular members. We were supposed to have a high council speaker but he never came so Elder O'Neal and I got to speak and the Branch President called on a couple of other visitors as well. I know better than to ever go to such a meeting without being prepared to speak so I had a couple of talk ideas in my church bag- good thing! Then for the next hour, they alternate between Scripture lessons and President Hinckley lessons. The S.S.teacher got up, announced that the lesson was about the Priesthood and asked Elder O'Neal to give it! Yikes! Glad she didn't ask me! He had studied the lessons but this was lesson 8 and he'd only studied up through 7 since he knew they alternate and figured there was no way they could be up to that lesson yet. Ha! Still, he did a great job, skimming through a few concepts and winging it. Such is the life in a branch (or twig as some call it). Here is a picture of our little meeting room after all had left and Buddy and the Branch President were in his office discussing business:

Notice the kitchen is off to the right since this used to be a house- perfect for when they have luncheons and such. Next is a picture of the coast just south of Coromandel:

This is looking west across the Bay towards Auckland so it is the west side of The Coromandel Peninsula.
  On Mondays we volunteer to help with the Anglican Church's soup kitchen. They only have this free meal once a week and its also supported by many of the businesses in town. We arrive about 4 in the afternoon, to begin deliveries of meals to shut-ins, then return by 5 to begin washing dishes. The lady who spearheads the process, Val Ranson, is the sweetest person and just loves everyone who comes in. We are also helped by a really funny lady who loves to dress up in crazy bright colors (including glasses) and whose name I can never remember:

Right after our dishwashing shift ends, we rush over to the Mercury Bay Community Choir for our Monday evening practice. Though we love these sweet people we have realized that we're getting too old to sing like this. By the end of the night, our voices are thrashed, or rather by about 10 minutes into the practice, our voices are thrashed. And the practice is for 2 hours. I'm not sure we'll continue this after the performance the end of April. However, I snapped a picture as Elder O'Neal was walking into the building. The practice is held in the school building music room.

And the next ones are to show what instruments are major interests in this little town:

Also all of this was what we did for our 46th anniversary since it was today too, the 27th day of February. Happy anniversary to us!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Over to Cook's Beach

We went to Cook's Beach once right after we moved by driving over and I got ridiculously motion sick so this time we decided to take the ferry and get picked up by a member. We were invited to eat at the Higgin's family's flat so here's some pics:
Elder O'Neal on the ferry:

Then the ferry as it pulls away after dropping us off:

 Then we made the Higgins family pose for a picture:

Then we made the Higgins family pose for a picture

They have a beautiful home. Most of his extended family have homes on Cook's Beach as well but he is the only one who lives there full time. The rest have holiday homes (which doesn't mean they're small by any means!). He and his brothers had a car importing business but they're mostly retired now. As we came home, this is how Mercury Bay was looking at sunset

It still seems unbelievable that we live in such a beautiful place. Kia Ora!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Temporal Needs

In my normal temporal desires, as I gave my farewell talk in church,I might have mentioned a few strange things that I was worried about leaving behind (along with family and friends). I worried a bit about living for 18 months with no sewing machine and no Kitchen-Aid mixer (as well as Lehi Roller Mills flour!). I also knew there would be no way to walk all the time with torrents of rain predicted. Imagine my surprise when here's the reality:
     Upon arriving in our flat, I found in a drawer this little mixer. Not only does it mix batter but amazingly it does very well on bread dough and they have great flour in the store called "high grade" flour. I'm still amazed at how well those tiny dough hooks do.

But still no way to sew or even mend things until today. The Whitianga Social Services bldg. where we have church also has an "Op shop" like a D.I. I asked if they might have a sewing machine that I could borrow for 18 mos. and the manager said they'd just had one turned in and were wondering what to do with it. They'd thought about using it to make "boomerang bags" an Aussie idea to use scrap fabric and make it into grocery bags to save on the use of plastic. I told her I'd be glad to help with the project and they called me today to come pick up this 1970ish machine.

I love it! It even has funny little cams that can make fancy stitches (not that I need to do that). I was already able to mend one of the Elder's pants pockets while they were here over night. and it worked great.
     What a blessing. The two silly needs I mentioned that were really just to get a laugh and I have them along with a free gym membership so I can still walk no matter what the weather. The Lord is certainly in the details.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Different Signs

Here's some signs that are a little different: This one is in place of a yield sign-

 And is used at a round-about. And this is used for restaurants that have take-outs. 

Logical, right?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A 🚴

Our son, Burke, decided to spoil Elder O'Neal and buy him a bike so he could more fully investigate the area. Here's a usual missionary picture, just a little older subject:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Street Contact

A few days ago, Elder O'Neal and I stopped by the local gym to check out prices. It's one of those kinds where you can go in anytime once you sign up because they give you the combination to the door. We'll, he was quoted $750 for the year, way out of our budget! Today as we were out walking, we happened to pass the gym again and were discussing how expensive memberships were. At about that time, a man behind us called out "Elder!"a couple of times so we turned around. The owner of the gym then walked up to us and told us that in a round about way, his wife was connected to the church and they had discussed us after we'd stopped by and decided if they saw us again, they would offer us a free membership. He said they knew that we volunteered our time here and they wanted to do that for us. Is that awesome or what?! So, we'll stop by tomorrow and sign up. They have treadmills that I like and everything else Buddy likes. What a blessing!
Sister O'Neal

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Branch Conference

Today, we attended Branch Conference in Coromandel Town. It's about 23 miles away but takes about 45 minutes to get there because of the crazy road. It was a great experience. We had visitors from the stake including the Stake President and one of his counselors, their wives and the Stake primary president. Then, there were members from both our group in Whitianga and the branch in Coromandel. We actually had over 50 attending! The Branch President, Eric Hammond, commented on how wonderful it was to have two deacons to pass the Sacrament. In branches, little advances are great blessings. Buddy and I were called on to speak, which we expected, and then the stake visitors and Pres. Hammond. The meeting lasted a little over an hour and that was it. Immediately afterwards, the food came out! These people love to have an excuse for a big "feed". There was mussels, oysters and kima (a sea urchin stuff) which I didn't touch and lots of other yummy things. Buddy and I had a visit with the Stake president where we got a feel for what he would like us to do and then Buddy was called to be the Branch Clerk so the financial things in the branch could be entered into the computer since the branch president doesn't do computers. We'll also split our attendance between each group so we can help out in both places. Things are starting to get busy, which is good.Here's some pictures:

The adorable branch building with the 4 Ribet (pronounced Ribay) boys and an extra.

 The coastline on our drive home. Yes, its almost too beautiful to believe!

Love, Elder & Sister O'Neal

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Second Saturday

It's hard to believe that we've been here over 10 days now. We visit someone new everyday. Yesterday we were hailed by our first heckler, a man just getting on his motorcycle not far from our home. We tried to just be kind and refute his claims. And then we left him to roar off on his cycle. Oh well, not everyone is going to be nice to us. Today we had a meeting with the young Elders that live about 45 minutes away. After today, we will have district meetings with them every Tuesday but today we wanted to just talk about Branch Conference that is in Coromandel town tomorrow That's where our Branch president lives whom we have not yet met (though we have talked to him on the phone). This is where I get to experience not only a dirt road but a windey dirt road- should be fun! I did stop at the chemist (pharmacy) to get something for motion sickness that's called " sea-legs" so here's hoping. Now to some pictures: I love these evergreens here that are called Norfolk pines (I think I've seen them as house plants in the states)

  They are really tall and the needles on them are huge and shaped like pipe cleaners. Then yesterday, we finally found a good place for meat pies. They have a philo type crust and different fillings. We tried the mince and cheese (like hamburger) and the steak and cheese which is chopped steak. They have a filling like thickened beef bullion and then a little cheese melted inside. So yummy!

 Tonight we went grocery shopping for the week but they don't have grocery carts here. Instead they have:

Isn't that cute?!
Kia ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Block Away

And this is how the ocean looks if we walk to the end of our street:

Love, Elder & Sister O'Neal

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Sabbath Day

Today we had our first experience with the tiny branch but since this is a three day weekend, it wasn't very tiny. I think there was about 50 people in our rented hall. The Ribet's have 4 adorable sons and one small daughter. Their oldest son Alvin, is 12 and is the only Aaronic priesthood holder. He is also beginning to learn piano but only does a small intro for the hymns and then he leads the music. He also bore his testimony, set up and took down chairs and helps with his siblings. Obviously, I was very impressed. Here's a picture of the hall that is rented for us to have Church:

It's in the back of a city community center but very nice with plenty of chairs. Tonight, the Ribet's invited us and all of the other branch members to their house for a barbecue to introduce us. We had two less active members with two small children and a nonmember there. Pretty good for a group of only about 20 people. It's very easy to love these sweet people and I already fear our stay will be too short. Tomorrow we're going out visiting which may not be too productive since it's the last day of a three day holiday. Then Tuesday we get to seriously work on getting an internet service. I hear even after you're signed up, it takes a couple of weeks to get installation. Right now we're using a hot spot that's a couple of blocks away so it only works well when the sun is down. I'm realizing how spoiled I am by the ability to have information at my fingertips. I feel like I'm back in pioneer days or something!
 Kia ora
-Elder O'Neal

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The First Few Days

We'll, it seems the biggest challenge so far is having to go days without internet. Yikes! It feels like I'm disconnected from the rest of the world. Oh wait. I am! So today we get to see if we can find an Internet cafe so we can at least send things like this. We have contacted an internet provider but we're supposed to email them a copy of our passport and visa however, how do we do that with no service?? Once we do find a way to email the information, it'll still be a week or so before we get hooked up. Obviously our little coastal fishing/resort village is pretty relaxed. But let's get to some pictures: since it is towards the end of summer here we had to have this for breakfast-

We also added this-

Our apartment is huge! We just walked around it in a daze for a few minutes. Here's the great room-

 And the views of the ocean down the street-

The weather has been just perfect with temps in the 60's to 70's with a breeze all the time. We open up all the windows, which have no screens, and have yet to see a bug.
Yesterday two sets of missionaries came by to tell us about the area and we ended up having them help us move in a new couch set that the landlords brought by. Since we have a staircase with a turn halfway up to get into the living room, Elder O'Neal devised this way of getting it up-

Right up over the front deck and in through the folding glass doors! It's been an amazing week and tomorrow is Church. We hear that since this is the last weekend before school starts and this is a resort town, our usual church group attendance goes from about 10 to 50. That should be fun. Kia ora from Whitianga, New Zealand!