Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Slowly but Surely

Off the Wall 15.1.15

This week my family completed an epic (by our family standards) road-trip of New Zealand. Driving almost 4,000km we covered most of the South Island of New Zealand before heading from Bluff, the southernmost point of the South Island, to Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of the North Island.

To some the plan was overambitious, given the amount of driving that needed to be done; while others felt that were missing out on the places they thought we should see. In the end though while we were not able to see visit every “tourist spot”, we had an amazing experience –in the natural wonders we had the privilege of visiting or passing by, in the people we met and had fellowship with along the way and in our bonding as a family during our journey.

A day’s drive was between 150km and 500km, depending on the destination and the stops and detours along the way. Driving in a new location, every few hours we were stopping to admire the view – at a lake, on the top of a mountain, along a desert road.

The South Island has always eluded me on my previous visits to Aotearoa and so the journey of discovery was for all in the car. As someone who has seen a fair bit of the world, the lower part of South Island is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world and it is easy to see why Peter Jackson used it for much of the locations of the Lord of Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Being an island-based family with a love and more-so, a familiarity with the ocean, the sight of Lakes Tekapo with its iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Pukaki, the Southern Alps, the Remarkables and the drives through gorges, alpine passes such as Lindis Pass, among others, often left us speechless.

Likewise, the North Island, with very different but similarly breath-taking scenery, had us stopping to take photographs or simple soak up the view in regular intervals, all the way from Wellington to Northland and the Far North. Along the way, there were opportunities to renew and strengthen friendships and relationships, as well as making new friends.

These past few weeks were also the longest amount of time that my wife and children and I had spent in each other’s company for the whole of 2014. Brother and sister had to get used to sitting next to each other for the whole day – as did husband and wife. There were moments of frustration, anger and temper tantrums along the way. The children also had those moments as well! Yet as we shared in this journey, in the experience and the lessons learned along the way, we grew closer.

The journey was not without its difficulties. Within the first 3 days I had already taken a tumble, in spectacular fashion while loading the car, ending up with a cracked and severely sprained ankle. My wife had to take on the driving responsibilities, an opportunity she relished for about 800km. When I was able to drive again, she continued to offer to drive, but I could often see relief in her eyes as I said I was alright to drive.

Being forced to use crutches really slowed me down. Initially a frustrating experience, I gradually accepted my situation and that there would be things I would not be able to do and places I would not be able go during our family adventure in my current state. As I gradually improved from being a “hop-a-long” on two crutches, to a “hobble-a-long” (or to “hobbit-a-long” as my wife quipped one day, referring to our proximity to a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit film location, and perhaps the size of my feet) using only  one crutch , I also learned a valuable lesson about slowing down.

Some of you may recall, 2014 was, in the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Horse. Given my pace of work, I was not surprised to hear someone in the Church office suggest that the Secretary of Communication’s horse was running too fast. However, as we ended 2014 and began 2015, I found myself having to slow right down, so slow that my children would often be forced to wait patiently for me to catch up with them whenever we walked somewhere.

At the same time, I also learned that just because one has to move slowly, it does not necessarily mean that one cannot reach one’s destination. On Monday we drove the final 213km to Cape Reinga, the point where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. From the carpark to the famous lighthouse was a long slow walk. As I hobbled along the pathway to the point and, a little later, as I made my way up the little hill to meditate and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for our now mission accomplished, there were moments when I wanted to stop and turn back, especially as people kept walking past me, or when the climb up the hill became steep. Yet, as much as there was a force driving me forward, there was also a voice in my mind saying, slowly but surely.

In our lives, in our world of 4G internet, 24-hour news cycles and 7-day a week shopping, and instant noodles – an age of instant self-gratification – moving slowly sometimes feels like standing still. Sometimes there are mountains which seem insurmountable and distances which seem unreachable Yet if we are patient and if we persevere we will reach our goal, and we are often reminded along the way, that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”

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