After around a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles, I arrived safely in Auckland, New Zealand, on Monday morning (today) around 6 am. My flight from Auckland to Christchurch was uneventful, and I spent most of the day exploring Christchurch with my host mum (AFS 1987) Shirley. I recorded a two minute Qik video (with Shirley’s help) this evening over her DSL connection in Geraldine, summarizing the day’s events. The Google Map feature of Qik did NOT work for this video, however, since I’m not turning my “phone” on in New Zealand for fear of high roaming charges.

Flying from Auckland to Christchurch, I was impressed with the views of both the Cook Strait (which separates the North and South Islands of New Zealand) as well as views of the Canterbury Plains as we approached Christchurch.

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Canterbury Plains approaching Christchurch, New Zealand

This photo is of north Canterbury. I was surprised to learn that in south Canterbury, near Geraldine, much of the farmland is now being used to raise diary cows instead of sheep. Large corporate farms are buying out individual farmers, in a scenario which reminds me of farming trends in the U.S. heartland. There are pivots (irrigation sprinklers) all over, reminiscent of the farmland around Lubbock, Texas. In addition to being surprised by the cows (which have replaced sheep in many fields) the weather is also unexpected! It feels more like winter than summer here. Interestingly, the weather back home in Oklahoma looks to be more like late spring than winter. Have our seasons flipped?!

One of the highlights of the day was certainly touring the cathedral in downtown Christchurch. (Those photos are still uploading to Flickr so I can’t link any of them yet.) In all took about 250 photos today on my iPhone and Sony GSC-1 Flash camera, including photos at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch. We saw blue penguins, which are native to New Zealand, as well as learned a great deal about the international scientific work continuing in Antarctica. All flights bound for the international research center in Antarctica leave from this center in Christchurch.

Tomorrow afternoon, weather permitting, we are headed for Mount Potts which was used for some of the sets of Edoras in “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy.

New Zealand IS “Middle Earth.” :-)

Addition: Here’s one of the photos of the Christchurch cathedral:

Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand

Note the image of Christ in the center of this beautiful stained glass window series depicts him as Maori.

Stained glass in the Christchurch cathedral, New Zealand

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