Saturday, December 25, 2010

I Guess It Is Christmas

The first thing we did this morning, was go for our Christmas stockings, dumping the contents out on the floor, and then ripping the paper off of each little gift that Santa brought us. What that amusement was over, we ran to sit under the Christmas tree and took turns passing presents to each other waiting patiently while the other opened it, had time to ooh and aah, say thank you and set it aside waiting for the next turn to come around. 
Okay, fantasy over. There were no stockings, there was no tree, there were no presents large or small, so there was no Christmas paper to worry about whether or not it is recyclable. What a stressful situation that has turned into. Do I toss or recycle? There was nothing to remind us it was Christmas, not that it matters that much to me anymore. I do feel saddened over loss of traditions for the next generations, but I guess they are making their own. 
Christmas Day is a difficult day for travelers in many countries, because so many places close for the day, but to make matters worse, there are a number of them that close the next day too for Boxing Day. This makes choices of things to do severely limited. Ron always finds it entertaining to go to mass. Since he goes to mass weekly at home, it is not an unusual activity; what is unusual is that I accompany him. Christmas only mind you, I don’t want him to think I am going to make a habit of this. Actually, I only go to mass if I think it will be different or really interesting. I went with him in Kenya last year and Melbourne the year before. We have done Christmas mass together in Thailand and Rome our first year today. It turned out he was able to get tickets to the Vatican for midnight mass. Who could pass up that show?  As it turned out, we had ringside seats. Talk about a great score!

This Christmas, we went to the 9am mass at St. Faith’s Episcopal Church. It was quite a distance from the hostel, taking us a good thirty minutes of ins and outs of streets to find it. It sits on the waterfront, so when one finally sees it from a distance, it is quite impressive. St. Faith’s is in the Maori district, starting as a parish to meet the needs of the Maori people. Certainly, the Maori people didn’t have needs that their tribal religions did not fill, but Christians showed them “THE WAY”. Outside the church looks like a little British church with Tudor décor, but inside is the surprise. Every wall is covered with Maori tribal weavings on the walls, completed in reeds and other materials. On a side altar, a stained glass window has Christ wearing a Maori cloak as he is walking on Lake Rotorua. The priest started out really deadpan, but broke out into a humorous sermon, starting with “If I don’t see some cheer in your faces, I am packing it on and going home.” Apparently the congregation enjoys him. For the most part, it looked like the sermon was warmly received. What was interesting was the fact that the service, prayers and songs were in both English and Maori. Everyone, excluding Ron and I, repeated everything in both languages. We both wondered how English never won out as the only language with a congregation mix of 70/30.  Across from the church is the Tama-te-kapua Meeting house, built in 1905 for the Te Arawa Maori as a sacred meeting house. It is not open to the public.

From here we walked a different route back to town while along the way checking to see which restaurants were open. When we found the restaurant street, it was a major disappointment to see only two open from the twenty or more that filled blocks. We did stop at one and had pancakes with “streaky” bacon. Our assumption was that streaky meant it had fat on it. Either way, it was delicious. We had hoped to go to the Pig and Whistle, a historic restaurant, but it was closed.

With not much to do, we walked to the Government Gardens, a tremendously large English style garden area with six crochet courts that each could easily sport 2 or more games at once, a mini-golf range, baseball batting range, the Rotorua Museum and a hot thermal spa. Being a holiday, everything commercial here was closed, but we did manage to spend a few hours walking around the area. Because this area is known for its sulphur deposits, the air is thick smelling like the stink bombs we used to make in high school chemistry for a prank. As you walk around the area, there are numerous geo-thermal areas with the hot water mixed with chemicals is bubbling out of the earth, causing stream. They are easy to find; they are fenced off for security. There is one walkway you can view what it has done to the earth in certain areas. This is called Sulphur Bay. (note that sulphur is the British spelling; American English, it is sulfur).

By the time, we returned from our walk, we hunted down a café for a coffee, but ran out of luck. With the limited choices of restaurants, we decided to change our plans by having a Caesar salad using up our lettuce, cheese, and ham tonight. Tomorrow, we will go to the Pig and Whistle for dinner before our bus out of Rotorua.
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