Just in case you’re a new reader, I need to explain this column. It all happened about four years ago. When I opened a large brochure, out fell a small blue envelope. It was addressed from one town in New York to another, and never posted. I was astonished.
At first I thought of simply putting it in the mail. But what if this letter had been sitting around for weeks, or even years, as I have had happen to me? Instead I sat down and wrote a note explaining everything and mailed it off. Then, a couple of weeks later, back came a thank you from a young girl named Ana who was then all of eight years old.
This note was a sincere thank you and wasn’t years old. This mystery started an unusual friendship between that little eight year old and me — at that time an 88 year-old. We correspond a few times a year, and I find this little girl just charming. Ana is fortunate in that she has been able to travel a good deal around the world. Not too long ago I wrote about her trip to Europe.
Now I’ve received a letter explaining her last trip during Christmas in Australia and New Zealand. Here’s part of Ana’s wonderful communiqué: “We stayed at my godfather’s house which is in the very north of NZ, the warmest part because New Zealand is in the Southern hemisphere. They took us to the beach, which was a lot warmer than snowy Rochester NY 48 hours earlier. We all got burnt pink immediately from the strong sun.
“I was only two years old the last time we had been there and I enjoyed visiting my godmother’s whole family. They are really musical, so we borrowed their piano and violin and all played and sang together. “Then we went to Roturua, which is a geothermal area so there are lots of geysers and not mud pools. We sat in the naturally heated water and we also saw a Maori cultural group perform.
“The Maori are Polynesians who settled in New Zealand long before Europeans. The Maori cultural group performed dances with poi, which are like balls at the end of long strings, and a haka, which is a group dance that can be pretty scary. All the males stamped their feet and slapped their chests.
“In Roturua we also went to a place called ‘Agroventures’, which is a test-your-limit amusement place. New Zealand is very beautiful with lots of outdoor adventures. My sister and I looked at a bungee jumping that was 140 foot tall and looked very scary. My sister did it off a platform but I didn’t try it. There was also something called Swoop that was like a gargantuan swing, except you’re in this potato sack-like thing.
“I did that one with my dad and sister. The swing just seemed to keep going up and up into the sky. Another ride was called the Freefall Xtreme that’s like a huge fan underneath you, but it’s so big it will actually propel you into the air. It was all great fun! I got to see both sets of my grandparents while I was there. They don’t live close together in New Zealand.
“We visited with my uncle and I got to see cousins from both sides of the family.
While it is summer there, we did get to eat a big meal together just like in the US, and the decorations of Santa and reindeer and snow are used the same in New Zealand, even though it isn’t cold at all. At Granny’s house, which is like a small farm.
“My granddad has a couple of cows and they were cute. I milked one with my sister. They also had some sheep but they were scared of us and wouldn’t come near. Granny’s neighbors had donkeys and alpacas that were fun to see. New Zealand has about four million people but 40 million sheep. We also went on a boat through a glow-worm cave.
“You have to be silent and all the bugs glow on the roof like a million stars.
My stay in New Zealand was really fun. I got to meet some new family members, however, I’m glad to be back home, too.” There was a lot more to Ana’s letter. I tried to put down the best highlights. She certainly had a different kind of Christmas than you and I!
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org