Kayaking with Dolphins!

Well everyone came to Kaikoura with this amazing dream of seeing all the sea life. Each of us had the wonderful opportunity to go kayaking. When we went out we went with the hopes of seeing dolphins. We went out over the course of a few days. The first group was Karoline, Matthew, Courtnay and myself. It was amazing. We went out at about 9:30am to Gooches Beach. When we got there it was a little overcast but it was beautiful. I was in a bright blue rain jacket and Karoline was in bright red. We got the yellow kayak which turned out for some pretty fun pictures.

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Honestly all we wanted was to be out on the water and taking in all the views of Kaikoura. The first sight we saw was some amazing jelly-fish! They were a spectacular orange and some were blue. We went right through a kelp forest which was so picturesque!

 

As we continued to paddle out we saw our first dorsal fin! It was a pod of Dusky Dolphins. They were so close it was amazing. When they finally swam away we had squealed and laughed at each one. We started to paddle back in to shore Karoline and I had a little bit of a hard time. We started to paddle and we went well…nowhere. We were not moving. Courtnay and Matthew were having the opposite problem they were motoring to shore. Karoline and I went in a bunch of circles. When we finally got going again we weren’t moving very fast but then we saw another fin! Well the squeals came and we started paddling harder. Fun fact about Karoline, when she gets excited her shoulders go up and her paddle just skims the water and the person in the back, me, takes a little shower! It was amazing! As we raced over the water we saw more and more dolphins! As we got closer we realized the dolphins were all around Court and Matthew. When Karoline and I finally caught up we were surrounded by happy playful dusky’s! I stretched my hand into the water and could feel the waves and the water move as the dolphins swam by. It was by far one of the coolest experiences ever.

 

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During our week of environmental literature with Amy she said to us, “knowing at this moment we are in a memory.” That stuck in the moment with the all of the dolphins jumping around us and the laughs of Karoline and smiles on Courtnay and Matthews faces. This was one of the many blessings from the Lord this semester. Now, the semester is over and we have returned to the states. Being back in Colorado is amazing but I will never forget the memories that were created in the moment with those dolphins and amazing friends.

 

 

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sacred spaces

Almost three months ago now, I moved to Kaikoura, New Zealand. It was my second time moving here, but this time instead of planning to be here for four months, it was going to be almost a year. Almost a year of having my phone on airplane mode and always seeking easy wifi access. Almost a year of being away from my family and my first Christmas not at home decorating the tree the day after Thanksgiving and drinking hot chocolate by the fire. Almost a year of keeping in touch via Skype, FaceTime, Whatapp video calls or basically whatever app works at the time.

Yet, while I said goodbye to many things that I’ve always known (living in the States, being surrounded by people I know, being in a familiar landscape), I also was saying hello to a new year. I was entering into a year living below Kaikoura’s beautiful Mount Fyffe, a year of living in intentional community (that can be equally frustrating and beautiful and growing), a year of learning in a place that I love and have been longing to return to since I left it in May of 2016.

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About two weeks after I arrived, so did eight wonderful new friends who quickly came to be like family. Kelsey, Karoline, Kelly, Robyn, Matthew, Dan, Lilly and Adriannea quickly became Kels, Karl/Karol, Kel, Kobyn/Kob/Rob-Kob, Machu, Dan-O the Man-O, Lil, and Aid (even if sometimes I’m the only one who calls them that). Living in Dolphin Lodge with these new people became my norm, and a place where I felt safe and known. Days were filled with class sessions, reading, making up silly songs on the guitars/uke, playing card games, going on walks downtown, baking after tea, and riding bikes to church.

These few months have been very different than when I was a student here. For starters, I’m on staff now and instead of being a carefree goofball, I actually have responsibilities. I have to set an example, and the closer I become to those around me, the more I realise I am a flawed, broken person. I have had to grow in patience, because living with fifteen people in a cozy little hostel right next to town is not always the easiest, especially compared to a spacious Old Convent in the farmland where I previously lived. I’ve had to learn not to have expectations or compare, but to cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving and joy during this time of my life.

And while it’s been challenging and hard and frustrating at times, it’s been a wonderfully sweet season. I’ve been able to make new friends, both within CCSP and in the local community. I’ve discovered more of who I am as an individual. I’ve learned to cook! I have learned ins and outs of gardening in a country whose seasons are opposite to those at home. I’ve worked on finding joy in chores, volunteering, and serving others. I have found delight in weeding even the most overgrown gardens.

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About two years ago when I was a student here at CCSP, my friends Lisa, Johanna and I created a garden. Maybe we didn’t so much create it, as shaped it. It was already there, but you couldn’t tell from looking at it. It was overgrown with branches, weeds, and layers of dead leaves. For two or three weeks, we pulled weeds, raked up leaves, trimmed branches, and cut the edges of the bushes. We laid down weed mat, poured mulch and wood chips on top, created a gravel path, and put a couple of chairs and a bench in the middle. We got an old wheelbarrow to be the centrepiece of the garden, planted with purple and red flowers, and used old ceramic pots for some succulents. To finish it all off, we got mdeium-sized white stones, wrote on them a verse for every person at the Convent that semester, and placed them in the shape of a koru at the entrance of the garden. It wasn’t perfect or a magazine-worthy garden, but it was a sacred space. It had become a place I longed to be, to sit and enjoy the birds singing and appreciate life in all sorts of forms.

In some ways, I feel like this is the process that our lives follow. The Creator of all things, who also created us, sees us as the overgrown gardens we are. And yet he doesn’t leave us like that. Over the course of years, he cuts off edges of impatience, judgment and disapproval. He pulls weeds of arrogance, pride, and selfishness; he trims off past hurts and plants flowers of love and grace. He replaces branches of envy with the weed mat of joy and gratitude. And though we never reach perfection, we are allowed to become sacred spaces, places where joy and peace and shalom are present. One of the most beautiful things about it is not the end result, but the process: the process of living and growing and learning and being willing to be shaped by a sovereign Creator is a sacrament in itself.

I feel like living here at CCSP is like that – it’s hard and it hurts at times, and we can become blatantly honest or rude with each other. But we also are being shaped into beautiful people that, fortunately enough, are able to grow together. We are able to learn to see beauty in what used to upset us and love in gentle ways. Like ivy, we intertwine together, but also live and thrive individually. And it doesn’t matter if we are student, staff, friend of the program, local of the Kaikoura community, or family member – we are all the same, we are all growing, and we all have the chance to become sacred and safe spaces for each other, for the Creator, for creation, and for ourselves. What a lovely process to be able to be a part of, and to share.

– Alexis (Lex) Draut

Till Next Time

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Snow catching the first rays of sunrise

The month of May has flown by and winter has claimed New Zealand. A few weeks ago we said a tearful goodbye to the students and sent them off with loads of awesome memories. Though it’s sad to let them go it’s exciting to know they’re equipped to change their corners of the world and continue God’s work of shalom.

The Dolphin Lodge is now eerily quiet (though I’m sure the neighbors are enjoying it). The town of Kaikoura is settling in for a busy winter; it is hosting 300 workers who will repair the roads and open up access to the north again. They are housed in a temporary village and while it might mean less rest for locals it will also mean more business for those in food service who will be providing meals for the workers. On the workers’ end, Kaikoura is not too shabby of a place to be stuck for a few months!

Four of us staff have also finished our time with CCSP. Those staying will be joined by a new Program Administrator and two SLCs in August. Soon enough they’ll be welcoming a new crew of students to make more fun memories at Dolphin Lodge!  

As for me, well, I’ll be passing the administration of this blog on to the next staff member. I have no plans to return to New Zealand… yet. Somehow I think I’ll always find a way back. So rather than say goodbye, I’ll say “till we meet again.” It’s been a fantastic semester and I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse into it.

This is Essie signing off.

Peace.

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The Kaikoura ranges from the air

Journals from Kiwiland

Hey everyone!  I’m Annika Hindbjorgen, a junior from Sioux Falls, South Dakota studying biology and secondary education at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa.   My semester with CCSP has been so amazing and fun filled that I am writing this blog post an entire month late (oops!).   I have been truly blessed to be here.  Originally when thinking about what I would write, I thought that I would write about the culture of New Zealand, or about the things that I’ve learned, or about the community here.  But, upon reflecting upon all the wonderful things happenings that are constantly happening here, I thought I would share thoughts from my journal.  No, no; I will not share all of my deepest and most riveting thoughts that are written in my orange fox-printed diary, but I will share with you a line here and there that will give you an idea about what living here in Kaikoura with CCSP is like: 

January 25:  “Today I stepped my feet into the cold ocean water (kind of symbolic of the ‘cold feet’ I have for this trip).”

January 26:  “The air doesn’t feel like this in South Dakota.  Somehow the salty waves make a different kind of humid.” 

January 27:  “MAN, I AM OUT OF SHAPE!”

January 29:  “Today I got up and went to the beach and watched the sunrise—it was, once again, phenomenal.”

January 31:  “I hope to love.  People. Creatures.  Places.  All of it.”

February 1:  “We say dusky dolphins off the dolphin lodge porch! Now I fully understand its namesake.” 

February 3:  “We went to a playground that had a three story high slide, waterpark, trampolines, zip lines, and so much more.  We were very happy to play—but these would never exist in America—NZ kids must be tougher.”

February 12:  “Our professor Mick Duncan blew my mind and challenged me in a spiritual and moral way.” “I got to ring the bell outside the Anglican Church—made my day!”

February 13:  “I never thought that scooping seaweed filled with maggots from the beach for the garden would be so much fun!”

February 20:  “I feel loved.  It’s a good feeling.  It’s not like the love that I feel at home, but it is love none the less.”

February 21:  “The North Island forests are a lot like Jurassic Park, just instead of dinosaurs, there are tuataras [endemic lizards].” 

February 22:  “At the Ngatiawa River Monastery—this place is kind of magical.  I feel like forest fairies must come here to live.  Yes, this place definitely has a Tinker Bell vibe.”

February 24:  “I feel like I walked across the Bridge to Terabithia.  Looking at the stars—a different night sky than the one at home.  Amazing.”

February 26:  “4 cups of coffee (so far).”

March 2:  “My tan lines and freckles are getting serious.” “I have trained the bottom of my feet to walk on gravel barefoot.” “Ketchup in New Zealand tastes funny.  So does salsa.  Really sweet.”  “I’m feeling fitter—I’m no longer dead when I walk up the steep hill from town to the Dolphin Lodge.”

March 7:  “Our homestay was fantastic with a wonderful couple right across the street—we helped with a conservation project and saw baby water buffalo!  Not to mention chocolate cake from scratch.” 

March 11:  “I SAW A WHALE.  I smelled whale breath, and then the juvenile humpback, that we named Moana, BREAHED.  It was definitely the highlight of my life.  I was so sea sick, but I didn’t care—I would get sea sick every day of my life to see things like this.” 

March 12:  “Pastor Kevin sheared a sheep during church the old fashioned way.  I went to go pet it afterwards, and found it casually chilling in the trunk of the pastor’s tiny SUV.”

March 23: “Biking Alps2Ocean—The 80 km from Mt. Cook to Twizel was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Ever.” “Gasp! I’m actually reading a book for fun! (The Magician’s Nephew).” “Biking the 900 meter altitude gain was literally the hardest physical thing that I have ever done but when we went down we FLEW and I felt FREE and it was FUN.” “We saw 3 dead wallabies. What the heck.  Do these even exist in NZ?!”  (apparently they are invasive in only one little town) 

April 13:  “Oh my goodness.  I didn’t even finish my sentence from 3 weeks ago.  So much can distract you from journaling:  so much fun and beauty and conversation and frustrations and homework and new experiences and people that need you and times that you need people… and now we have less than a month left and I am so sad to leave and so happy to go home all at once.”  “Extreme levels of trust in Marae bathrooms late at night with friends and first aid scissors lead to short, short haircuts. “

April 16:  “It slept last night from 11:30 to 3:30 to wake up and participate in 24 hours of prayer at the Presbyterian church.  It was amazing to pray so intentionally.” “God painted the sunrise with Easter in mind:  pastels of pink and purple, blue and yellow, danced across the sky, over the ocean, and bounced off the ocean.”

April 18:  “Only 24 days left.  So many feelings of sad and happy.  Happy.  Yup—that’s me. Happy.”

 

All Things New

“Miraculous” is not too strong a word for describing the start of this semester. Several months ago an earthquake rendered our beloved home unlivable thus throwing the future of CCSP NZ into uncertainty. Our campus, The Old Convent, had become synonymous with CCSP and it was hard to imagine the program being located anywhere else. With the next group of students committed to coming, many things had to fall into place before they arrived. In the midst of a plethora of decisions emerged a new home and two new staff members to continue the story of CCSP. We welcomed students to the Dolphin Lodge located a short walk from the beach and complete with stunning views of the mountains.

I enjoy living in this new location close to the ocean and learning its different moods and colors. Sometimes whitecaps whip the ocean surface from shore to horizon. Sometimes nothing more than gentle ripples dance across the sea like blown glass. In the afternoon, the color turns brilliant aquamarine as the sunlight reflects off the trillions of microscopic particles in the nutrient-rich water.  

My role as the cook is now shared with a community member which gives me more time to spend with the amazing new students. You will be hearing more about the new life of CCSP from one of those students very soon. Stay tuned!

“Kekeno”

It’s a golden early September. The cool grey clouds still glaze over our heads, but the sun has been pressing closer day by day. Sunlight flickers off of the sea, just for pinpoints in time. Sara is already snug in her cockpit, her neoprene skirt stretched tight around the kayak seat’s protruding upper lip. I lean forward, knees bent, and push the hefty tandem boat from the stern into the softly crashing waves. My neoprene booties seem impenetrable only for a second. The chilled seawater finds its way through the opening at my ankles and seep around my toes. I jump into my cockpit. Stretch the skirt over the lip. Flatten the lever and lower my rudder. Finally, I pick the paddle up by its shaft and push the blade against sand and frothing surf.

We are like an unobtrusive intruder in this polyethylene, tiny red ship, both shooting through the water and bobbing like a top in this sheltered bay. The sea rolls underneath. I can imagine I’m riding atop a massive blue-backed leviathan. Its diaphragm rising and falling.

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Gull cries pierce the soft symphony of wind and waves. They peel off towards the Abel Tasman coast, hills cloaked in green and the dissolving morning haze. I watch them glide in circles, beat their wings, and swing back around. Gwen sits in his single-seat kayak, perks of being a guide. He detracts me from my gaze and tells us that Adele Island is our next stop. Straight ahead, it sits indifferently to our tiny presence, as small as it is itself.

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As we paddle closer, my shoulder burns. Gwen tells me to swing more, but I reckon to myself it’s because I have to contend to the waves pushing back. My suspicions are confirmed when we near the sheltered Adele coast. The water calms, but still shatters and foams against the coarse, beaten granite boulders. I navigate the shoreline with forced confidence, emulating Gwen who slips unflinchingly between sharp protruding pillars. Suddenly I realize that the rocks, which once appeared empty, were dotted with New Zealand fur seals. Properly, as Gwen explained, sea lions. Many slumber on, either unaware or indifferent to our minute, quiet presence. However, as we press on, a small dark shape flounces ungainly, enthusiastically off a granite shear into the water. Suddenly transformed into a graceful smooth-spinner, it flows and cuts through the water at the same time towards Gwen’s kayak.

Like a little black Labrador pup, the young seal follows closely at Gwen’s heals. He flicks his tail, nose dives, twists, as though dancing with the kayak’s rudder. Eventually Gwen slides away, and I find myself gingerly pressing my foot against the left pedal towards the shore. Sara is quiet, but I sense her excitement vibrating into the air as much as mine. The seal pup is relatively still now, treading, with its head peering above the shallow, bright turquoise water. I can only identify its feeling as curiosity. Then, it decides. Our kayak teeters lightly above small ripples, waiting. Breath. Held. In.

Kekeno. It is the name the Maori people give the New Zealand fur seal. Gwen told us the name means “large eyes”. Rightly so. Between his jovial swim-dance, he would stop to watch us. Watching us watch him. Gwen watches us watch each other. He has the biggest brown black eyes, the white yellow sun glinting off his wide, curious orbs. His fur is slick, brown black too. A pup’s fur is usually darker. The sunlight defines the smoothed, thick hairs which groove together, linear crevasses and ridgelines, basin and range topography.

The pup dives into the water from its outpost. He twists, spins, flows like a swift river’s current. Straight to us he glides. I think I let out a small squeak – the balloon in my chest was so filled with excitement, I couldn’t help let a small bit escape. I twist my torso, limited to the skirt hugging my waist, to see the pup prance at our stern. He could best an Olympic synchronized swimmer. My fibers wish to transform into this furry, joyful body. Slide ungainly from polyethylene into salty, living, seawater. And be free.

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The Gardener

It has become a bit of a tradition to have a “celebration night” to conclude a week of God and Nature classes with Dr. Andrew Shepherd. We clear out the tables and chairs from the dining room, and take time to view or listen to or watch student’s creative responses to questions on humanity’s role in creation and the role of the cross and resurrection. All of the videos and songs and art pieces shared blew everyone away with their level of maturity and thoughtful reflections, so we thought we would include at least one of those pieces to give you a taste of the night. Here is Anne Nusbaum’s poem “The Gardner” accompanied by her art piece “The Garden”:

 

Every story worth hearing begins with

Misadventure,

So let it be known that

Ours

Began with a slip and a

Fall,

With the best of

Intentions

And the worst of

Consequences,

And the shattering of the

Harmony

Of the

World.

Misadventure

Thus setting the scene,

The world spins on.

 

The morning stars continue in their

Chorus

Whilst birds soar and

Rest

And wander near and far.

The sun rises and sets, and

The sparrow finds a

Home

And the swallow a nest for her young.

Flowers blossom and whither as

Forests melt into

Gold

And valleys deck themselves in swaths of grain.

The moon keeps faithful watch as

The rivers harmonize and the hills sing for

Joy.

They gird themselves in

Laughter

As the waterfall roars

And the trees clap their hands

And the mountains skip

And the heavens weep while

Tthe sea crashes—

All in a heavenly

Chorus

For their King.

 

Even the stones of the earth will cry out His

Glory,

And deep will call out to deep

As thunder shakes bones

And wind screams in peals of laughter.

Heaven and earth praise Him—

Seas and lands and all that moves within.

All Creation echoes His

Glory,

In whisper

And bellow

And movement

And rest.

Every moment therein is

Saturated with

Song

For Him.

This, I tell you, is

Good.

 

Now add to this

Chorus

The faltering and broken voice of

Man.

At its best, his voice is

Small;

When he tries to sing louder, the

Harmony

Is fractured.

For his voice is the scrape of

Trowel into earth.

It is the near silent drop of

Seed into earth.

It is the gargle and spit of water carried from

Home to home in the earth,

And the quiet ‘pit-pat’ of a

Slow step on the earth.

It is the gentle touch of cool soil on

Hands

And the humble attention of

“Watch as it grows.”

It is companionship and faithfulness and

Hands

Of grace and strength.

Just as garden is not

Garden

Without its roots and bees,

The chorus

Is not whole without the voice of

Man.

Gardener tending the

Garden—

It is very Good.

 

-Anne Nusbaum

Class ’17 Eastern University