Adventure Journal Main Menu: Esper E-letter #3, Dec. 2005

Since my last update in the first half of November, I have continued
to travel in New Zealand, and flew to Indonesia for 10 days to observe
and serve there. However, I have not done as much climbing as I would
like to have! I took the 5 days before I needed to fly out of NZ on
the 19th to go on a road trip through the lands north of Auckland,
called Northland. I marvelled at the green country-side and the
grassy, rolling hills, always criss-crossed by the infinite number of
sheep paths. In fact, while the hills appear so soft and smooth from a
distance, I discovered they are actually more like terraced hills from
all the sheep! I travelled from Auckland up the west side of
Northland, and stopped at all the lookouts. Being the climber that I
am, I eyed a large rock outcropping above the rolling hills, and
decided to scramble up it. It rewarded me with great views of New
Zealand's largest harbour, Kaipara Harbour, and I got to observe one
of New Zealand's geodedic markers that have much the same function as
the States' benchmarks. Continueing north, I hiked on a couple trails
in the Waipoua Forest, home to New Zealand's largest trees, Kauri.
The roads here as well as everywhere on the island are extremely curvy
(in the old days, road construction workers were paid by the curve),
so of course it takes many hours to explore this rewarding area. But
to get a break from the curves, I decided to drive on Ninety Mile
Beach, a very straight and long beach open to the public to drive on,
during low tide only. Driving on the beach was a new experience for
me, and I loved it. I hit 125 kph, and I also had a blast doing
donuts and racing the waves in my car. Of course, keep in mind that I
am driving a 2-wheel-drive Mitsubishi that I bought online my first
week here, and the beach is recommended for 4 wheel drive vehicles
only. The thought did cross my mind what if I got stuck in the sand
and the tide came in, so I tried to go as fast as possible at all

From there, I drove to the extreme northern tip of New Zealand, Cape
Reinga. This area is beautiful, but uncharacteristic in that there
are large expanses of sand dunes, and dense shrubs. I took one
afternoon to hike to the beautiful but secluded beach of Te Werahi,
and explored the dunes. The pink-colored chalky rocks on nearby Cape
Maria Van Diemen captivated me and my camera for some time. I also
drove the rough dirt road to nearby Spirits Bay, and was amazed at the
perfect surfing waves, the clear waters and imaculate beach, and the
fact that only two other people were on the entire beach. This part
of Northland is the place to go if you want beautiful secluded
beaches. On the way back south, I picked up a Maori hitchhiker whose
family has owned land for generations in this area, and she expressed
to me a lot of anger and despair over the loss of their lands to white
people and to the government, which she said doesnt compensate them
for seized land. I can feel a lot of tension still existing over
native peoples' rights here in New Zealand, more than in the USA. It
is something I'll pray for while I'm here. The eastern shoreline of
Northland was also very beautiful as I drove through it, and the clear
blue-green waters of the Bay of Islands are pristine, although it
seems a lot of other people discovered the same beautiful waters and
decided to build expensive homes all along the coastline.

The day after getting back to Auckland, I flew to Indonesia with Jeff
Fussner, the Pacific Area Wesleyan Church director, to spend 9 days at
a Bible College in Magelang, on the island of Java. This trip was
rather spontaneous for me, as I only met Jeff a few weeks earlier
while with my friends, the Naces. God opened all the necessary doors
for me to go, like having Jeff invite me to accompany him, and working
out my visa details. I also felt that it was a great opportunity for
me to see for the first time a predominantly Muslim country, and I
wanted to help out at the Bible College.

In general, when people ask me what I thought of the country, I say
the prices were cheap, the people were friendly, the food was hot and
spicy and delicious, and the weather was way too hot. But more than
that, my time there gave me opportunities to consider the farmers' way
of life, and most peoples' struggle to get by on so little money. The
people seem to work very hard, doing all kinds of manual labor,
especially farming, but for so little pay, often less than $2/day.
The government has recently reduced subsidies on gasoline, and plans
even further cutbacks, so the price of fuel and everything else has
increased dramatically, often 50% or more. Jeff says he can see a
noticable increase in the amount of despair on the faces of people he
sees, since the last time he was there. He says he also sees much
fewer tourists around- for example, we didnt see any other Westerners
the whole day we went to the city of Yogjakarta to go shopping.

At the Bible college, I was supposed to help out at the library, but
that didnt work out, so instead, I spent my time with the students at
the small college, who are always eager to practice their English with
someone from America. The highlight of my time there, though, was me
formally teaching English for three 1 1/2 hour sessions. The students
didnt know much English at all, but I started from the basics such as
greetings and numbers, and progessed through a series of topics, where
I would introduce vocabulary words and help the students put together
sentences with their new words. The idea of teaching English as a
second language scared me at first, but I conscienciously gave my
fears to God, and he bountifully pulled me though. I was able to get
good advice from a friend from Messiah who is currently teaching
English in Hungary, and one of the students in my class spoke good
English, so she helped me out when I couldnt convey the meaning of a
word in English (because I knew no Indonesian!). I discovered that I
really enjoy teaching, while my biggest frustration related to
Indonesian "rubber time". Often the students would show up 20-30
mintues later, in no hurry, and once they didnt show up at all for
class. Indonesian culture is relational, and people avoid offending
others. So instead of offending me by saying they can't make the
class, they told me ok, but then didnt show up. Through these
experiences, with the language and culture, I discovered that I really
have a strong desire to continue learning Spanish language and
culture, and that if at some point I am called to start a business in
another country, I would prefer it to be Spanish or Latin-American.

While in Magelang, Jeff and I were driven around by Roni, an employee
of the college, and on some of the afternoons, Roni and I went places,
including to the famous Buddhist Temple of Borobudur, one of the
wonders of the ancient world. We also climbed a nearby volcanic peak
for a day, along with one other friend. There are several large,
impressive volcanoes in the area, and the one we climbed (Merbabu)
involved an elevation gain of about 5000-6000 feet. There was a trail
up the forested mountain, but it was mostly used by the local
villagers from below, who climbed up the trail an hour or more in
order to cut wood or grass for their livestock, and carry it back
down. Up higher, I suppose the trail was mostly used by hikers. It
was discouraging to see all the litter along the trail left by others,
such as empty water bottles and powdered drink packets, and there
seems to be very little environmental ethic, on the mountain or in the
cities. I was priviledged to hike with Roni, on his first mountain he
has ever climbed, but I could tell he did get very tired. He claims
that he will never climb another mountain
again. (photos of this climb are on ).

I spent my 23rd birthday, on the 23rd, there at the Bible college,
where that day I was able to give my testimony during chapel service,
and speak of how the Lord is working in my life currently. That day I
also was able to visit a group a women who recieve micro-credit from
World Hope. I rode out to the mountain village on the back of a
motorbike, and while I couldn't understand a word what went on at the
meeting I attended with the women, I was able to ask questions later.
After returning from this outing, my motorbike driver and I stopped at
a restaurant to eat lunch. As my first bite, I picked up a small
(1-inch long and narrow) bright red pepper, popped it in my mouth, and
swallowed the whole thing quickly. (I have allergies so my tolerance
for hot and spicy foods is quite high. In fact, I had done remarkably
well eating all hot stuff in sight so far up until now, and was proud
of myself). But this little pepper was too much. I got lightheaded,
had trouble breathing, and then passed out. They say I fell off my
chair, and was out 5 minutes, right there in the middle of the
restaurant. When I woke up, all the restaurant workers were around
me, and I had my arm around a guy I didn't know. After I got up, I
felt great, so I finished my lunch (without the chili sauce).
However, this episode reminds me of another eventful birthday I had
back when I was 15. That story can be found at . So I better
be careful whenever my birthday rolls around!

In summary, I am glad I went to Indonesia, because I learned firsthand
about the culture there and the struggles to survive, and was able to
develop relationships with the students and teach them a little
English. But the culture and the heat exhausted me, so I am glad to be
back in New Zealand!

My plans are now to head south, and attempt climbs of Ruapehu, the
North Island's highest mountain, and Taranaki, where I was turned
around last attempt.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas season, and I hope you get
rested, have fun, see family and friends, and get out and do something
outdoors too, whether its snowshoeing or sunbathing! I do really
miss the snow and winter season already, as down here it's summer.
Take care, mates!