The magical flying beast and Matrimony teaser

After 2 magical weeks in the USA, we are back in New Zealand. The process always feels so magical to me. Chris commented this time that it messes with his sense of distance. When he drives somewhere you have to physically see each tree, stone or house that passes you by. Perhaps it effects me slightly less as a passenger in the car, but his comment really struck home with me. I can tell how far I went in a car, and I know I can retrace that journey. In the air plane I am dependent on others.

We spent most the first week with wedding prep, and the second with a sort of detox that only those who have done DIY weddings can understand. In the end the wedding was absolutely perfect. And by perfect I mean it had little hiccups that make it unique along with tears of love and sparkles. The main pictures won’t be out for a while, but I wanted to just post one action shot taken by my uncle.

Laura and Dawson Van Pelt

Its been about a month since my last post which can only mean one thing…I’ll tell you next time.


Obligatory Thanks Giving Post

I know its a day early here in New Zealand, and it is two days early for the USA, but things will be a bit busy on the day, and I was told if you can’t be on-time, be early.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year–you wouldn’t think it from a vast majority of my complaining–but things are actually quite good. But before I dive into some long laundry list I’d like to take a moment to consider Thanksgiving outside the USA.

Growing up, my family wasn’t big on celebrating random USA holidays, and I remember the infamous story of either my sister or I asking my mother on what day we were supposed to celebrate the 4th of July–I’m sure she laughed, but the answer really was that we didn’t. But we did always have Thanksgiving. We’d order incredibly expensive and hard to find turkey (when we could find it, since turkey is not popular at all in Japan–one for now, and then one for Christmas later) and invite everyone we knew. We almost always hosted, and we would gather students, missionaries and randoms–most of whom were not american. My sister and I always helped (and I hope it was help and not getting in the way). It wasn’t about a family gathering. It was gathering people and eating.

I can’t remember the last thanksgiving I had with my family. I celebrated approximately 4 in the USA, one for each year of university. It has always been important to me though. The first time I decided to host Thanksgiving, completely on my own, was actually here in New Zealand, and it was also the first time I celebrated it with Chris. Despite being British, he has completely and utterly embraced the holiday albeit a strange morphed version which I grew up with. No where else in the world has the week off, so often I’d have to take a day off to cook along–and last year I was so stressed all I could manage was to walk across the street to the local pub and order a disappointing turkey meal with new friends.

One thanksgiving action I regret, is that someone I didn’t know once got left out. I still kick myself to this day for it. I didn’t know her, and I was told later I made things awkward since everyone else in the office was invited bar her. I keep replaying it thinking how to fix it. But drama will always happen, and all I can do is swear that next time a few unknowns feel free enough to pop in dragged by their friends who I do know. Because that is the point.

So what is thanksgiving to me? Its an excuse for a party. Its when you get to invite people to your house and cook. I miss the family element. The delegation of duties between the three of us girls. I’ve never done the ‘thankful’ bit aloud. It always seemed a bit too much like bragging. So I’ll make my list in my head.

Now I must start the prep work. Not just the cooking but buying enough plates so that people don’t have to eat with their hands.

Summer leads to more Summer

When our two weeks were up, we piled the car high with our ever growing belongings (we took antique blankets from my Grandfather’s stash) and headed across the boarder into Vancouver. We had managed to score amazingly cheap tickets, and it meant a fun day out before we left.

My lil cousin had apparently never ridden a see-saw before.

We went from nice heat that is the end of summer to the still slightly chilly spring weather of Auckland. But to be honest with you, New Zealand is always cold. Forget everything you know about the Northern Hemisphere that the further south you go, the warmer it is. FALSE. Too far south is Antarctica. New Zealand is also NOT Australia. At all. December is summer and hot, and August is freezing cold. The school year starts in Feb and ends in Dec. Although that actually is more logical than the Sept/June thing.

It was good to be back.

Chris’ friend picked us up and gave us a place to stay for a week.

We flew randomly to the South island on a whim interview and ate yummy food.

The ocean is still there, and beautiful

It was cherry blossom season

And butterflies are always magical

Then we needed to make decisions. We set out for Wellington, and again, the kindness of friends is how we survived. Two weeks at their flat, then two more weeks at their parent’s house. And just in the nick of time Chris landed a job, we grabbed a flat.

That is the end of our current bit of travels. It was fast and crazy and I would not do it again, but it seems to have worked out. I have the leisure to write now, so I guess we’ll see what happens next.

Rings and Lakes

So, the reason for the rush was the not-so-secret surprise engagement celebration for my sister and her fiance. And I’m glad that we made it.

Engagements are a funny thing. For most people it isn’t a movie moment where the girl is utterly surprised by the question and the man is nervous she will say ‘no’. There needs to be some type of conversation before that happens, lest you enter youtube hall of fame as ‘proposal fail’–which is totally a thing. I’ve often lamented the fact that boys (traditionally, and hopefully this will change in the next 100 years) get to choose the girl, and decide to ask. That is quite an open, albeit scary situation. A girl has to wait, and only has the option of yes or no. Why are the men the askers and the girls the answerers? Only being able to answer is stifling and also implies that they must wait for the guy alone to be ready. He controls the time, place, method, speech and women get an almost inaudible yes or no?

Anyway, D had an amazing event planned and I’m glad it worked out–he knew it would because they’d talked about it. Which is, as I said, key. The party was excellent, and it was great to meet his family in that way.

But there was an awkward moment. There came a time when it was necessary to exchange engagement stories. Now, I grew up knowing my parent’s story. It wasn’t fireworks–it was a solid love and commitment and mutual decision. The best thing is to decide together to live your lives rather than one person think its a good idea and the other agree. I never missed the glitz from it. The hard part is talking about my own which is somewhere in between flash, mutual decision and plain old practicality. Of course there was and is love. Its just not the world’s best story. Depending on who I’m reciting it to I’ve began, not exactly lying but, stretching the truth. What do people want to hear? I’ll tell them that!For me, in reality, it happened Christmas 2010. In the best way that it could have. A way that is uniquely weird and us:

Jane: indeed.. well yuo nevr said yes or n0
2:05 PM me: did you ask?
 Jane: kinda
2:06 PM me: in person or just now over gtalk?
2:07 PM Jane: hehe gtalk
Jane: as i said. will you marry me
 me: 😉
1:00 PM sure
 Jane: sweet.. tht was easy
 me: nervous for a sec there?
1:01 PM Jane: not really/.. legs elope 🙂
1:03 PM me: hmm do you know if we can? your goverment is kinda strict
1:04 PM Jane: it’ll be fine i amsure
1:05 PM well ok the diffrence is wheathe we gegt amrried and or you apply for citezenship
 me: hahaha

That was over the course of two days 27th and 28th while I was in Japan and he was in the UK. And yes, for some reason my nickname for Chris on Gchat is Jane. Its a long story. The problem for me after this Christmas was the waiting. And that is something my sister also is experiencing. Why do we wait? What are we planning for? Why must there be a ring? Who actually cares about this stuff? Obviously the important thing to ask after the big question is…how can this legally be done–and it was actually a bit of a pain.

The story I tell most people involves the ring, and being at home and happy. But that isn’t how it happened. Not really.

Enough about me. My sister’s was that magical dream night. The went to dinner. He took her to the lake out behind his house and rowed to the middle. There he got down on one knee and asked (with an elegant speech I wish he had saved) and then he signaled for fireworks.

He rowed ashore to where we all were waiting with champagne and cake.

You can’t really top that.


Why are engagements a big deal? Why do we crave stories that prove the man’s prowess and romanticism to woo a woman?

I have no answers. I just know that they are and I’m ecstatic for my sister.


Surprise and Home

We had 10 hours in front of us now, and so we turned up the audio book–David Eddings if you must know–and tried to stay sane for that amount of time. Once we hit Washington State it was annoying highways, but we were unwilling to sacrifice time for the visual pleasure of trees. The best part of all was in the morning before we set off, pressing that ‘home’ button on the navi.

Home has always been a very loaded term for me. People ask about home in terms of where you grew up, where your family is based, or even your ethnic makeup. I was going ‘home’ now, for the first time, to a home I’d never been to. It was exciting. Even now, when people ask me where home is (or for small talk, where are you from) I say Seattle, Renton. It seems most people think that ‘home’ is something stationary. Its not. It moves, can be two or three places at once and really has no limits. Or that could just be the traveler in me.

Anyway we arrive at something which looks like a picture I saw online. I catch sight of my family name, and I boldly approach the door and knock with authority.

I hear a small scurrying sound, and the door hesitantly slides open and I catch a glimpse of my sister’s face. She screams twice and slams the door in my face. I laugh and laugh and am so pleased by the level of surprise. Its been about 6 months since I’ve seen her.

Eventually she opens the door again still screaming, and I know that all is well. Later that night I pull a similar trick on my mom who we are picking up from the airport. I hide, and after the rest of the expected family greets her, I pounce! More screaming.

It was worth the rush.

Running through YellowStone

Everyone told us that we needed to spend at the bare minimum, 3 days in Yellow Stone. There is just so much to see! When I was still in University it was our family plan to do just this, spend a few days seeing it all and enjoying. Then we got a phone call from my sister’s work saying she needed to be back in Missouri for training in two days. Now, in hindsight we should have said, “well, tough luck, she can’t make it”. I think most families would have done that. But not mine. We rushed and sped through Yellow stone, pausing only to watch Old Faithful erupt and then taking turns driving all through the night. She made it to her job, but the training was just your box standard type that she could have skipped. Oh well.

So I wanted to do it RIGHT this time. But, we were under a deadline again. We needed to get to Seattle, and being the height of summer there were also no rooms or campsites available. So we sped through it all again.

We arrived first at Yellow stone Lake, and washed our tired tootsies in the water.

Then we paused for a picnic lunch (since we’d driven 3 hours to get to Yellow stone that morning). I felt very in tune with nature as Chris rinsed out our pita bowels in the fresh river water.

Then it was back in the car. It was at this point that Chris commented on just how crowded and traffic filled this national park was. On the one hand, I felt that was a win for nature. Everyone wants to see it, be one with it, respect it! On the other hand, it totally spoiled the entire point. Far too many tourists. Far too many cameras…

Oh well. Chris’ favourite mud volcanoes. He has promised to take me to some in New Zealand soon.

And of course many waterfalls…

It got to that time of day however, when we realized just how much we were going to miss out on. The biggest regret was that we arrived at Old Faithful just after it had gone off. Chris decided not to wait, and so still hasn’t seen it. He kept promising and telling me how much he wanted to come back (with kids cough, cough), and I reckon we probably will.

We drove another 3 hours after we left, and arrived at our hotel in darkness. We splurged and bought a take out pizza (in which of course Chris met a man married to a Brit and hilarity and conversation ensued). We were a 10 hour drive away from Seattle–and our plan was to do it in one day.

I loved that I didn’t have a license…

Black hills and Devils Dash to Wyoming

After Wall Drug, we continued our tourist escapades by driving through the black hills and trying unsuccessfully to dodge the waves of bikers.

There were so many it was impossible to stop and look at Mount Rushmore.

But I leaned out of the car window and snapped one quickly. It was a lot smaller than I thought.

The scenery was great, but we were caught in a torrential down pour. We were thankful then that we were inside a car and not sitting in wet leather.

We then took about a 2 hour detour to look at the Devil’s Tower.

We were up against the clock, so we didn’t get as close as we wanted before turning around and continuing west. The all consuming ‘where shall we sleep tonight’ and ‘how far can we drive’ is such a buzz kill for tourism.

We arrived in a town on the outskirts of yellow stone, Buffalo, got an amazing hotel, and went to an all American stake house–which I’m almost positive I’d eaten at when I was last there. Winchester’s. I ❤ super natural and even though it had nothing to do with the show I sat there like a wierdo fan-girl regardless.