Notes From: New Zealand

When people ask about our family adventure, it’s never easy to list through all the destinations. It doesn’t really matter though because most people stop us after the first country. 

“New Zealand? I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand.”

It’s funny that it’s such a popular bucket list location and yet there are sites dedicated to maps that totally omit New Zealand

It’s just so far South. 

Summer in January

Summer, and it’s accompanying school break, were in full effect while we were here. The weather was incredible with warm days and cool winds. We had to be mindful of the super high UV because it didn’t “feel” like “burn your skin” summer we have in Las Vegas. 

The Airbnb was comfortable and clean. The location provided for nice morning walks, perfect study views, and a nice place to recharge. 

The big windows made for hot afternoons when the sun came pouring in. But we had to change our way of thinking. 

Everyone knows that opening a window in Las Vegas Summer is a cardinal sin. You’re guaranteed to make a dad holler. 

Yet here, the air conditioning and fans aren’t built to cool a house alone. While the sun is blaring and warm, the outdoor ambient temperature is actually quite nice. To cool a house in the Summer, you open all the doors and windows. That took some adjustment for us desert folk. 

New Zealand Highlights

I’ll get it out of the way that we didn’t go to the hobbit country. It was originally on the list but when we sat down and thought about it, we realized “we just don’t care that much.” Apologies to all the LOTR fans. 

We went to the temple in Hamilton so Samm could experience temple service for the first time. Her excitement before the temple paled in comparison only to her excitement afterward. She loved everything and I’m very proud of her. 

(Side note:Auckland has a temple opening next year. This may call for a return trip. TBD) 


Candace and I have always enjoyed bringing the kids to experience new sports. I think it’s a wonderful way to appreciate cultures and enthusiasm of a country. It’s also fun to learn about the rules and the athletes. 

Well, we went to a cricket match in Auckland when they played Pakistan. The fans were fun and the stadium was impressive. 

But I know as much about cricket now as I did before visiting this kiwi country. There was so much to take in. We just cheered every time our neighbor fans cheered and focused on our turn for the wave going around the stadium. We were good fans. Ignorant but dedicated. 

Piha Beach is a black sand beauty. After driving through the incredible mountains we were very impressed with it all. 

We tried a lot of snacks. A lot. But these two were our favorites.

A Joyful Meeting

I opened my mission call 25 years ago next month. With all of my friends going to international places, I was surprised to read “California San Francisco” as my assigned location. Little did I know that instead of me going to the world, the whole world would be at my doorstep. I still benefit from that melting pot of a mission. 

It wasn’t just the people who lived there but the missionaries I served with as well. 

I was happy to reunite with one of my favorite missionary friends while in New Zealand. Not just happy though because it’s a special kind of joy when you reunite with mission friends. I felt that kind of happy. 

After dinner on Saturday evening, we met the Fifita family for church in the Tongan Ward. I appreciated the fellowship in hugs and words from the pulpit. (“We welcome visitors, especially the American family here with us. We’re happy to have you.”)

I was told that 80% of the congregation were converts to the church including all three serving in the Bishopric. You could feel it in the room. Nothing matches the worship of Tongan hymn singing.

Good beginnings

Even though it lands at the beginning of our family adventure, New Zealand will surely be remembered as a highlight of the trip. What a beautiful place. 


Notes From” is a series where I share observations from recent adventures. You can read more of these in the “Notes From” category.