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12 December 2009

New Zealand January 2009

In January of 2009 I had the chance to take one of the nicest trips I have ever taken. The 12th Congress of The Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) was held at Kings College, Otahuhu, New Zealand from 16th-20th of January. This congress, hosted this year by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists, is held every three years at sites in New Zealand and Australia.
My travel companion to New Zealand was Dan Poffenberger, one of my coworkers and also a good friend. The excitement of travel to New Zealand, made up for the fact that it seemed to me, that we spent half our trip in airports. We left from Salt Lake City about 10PM on a saturday evening. We flew to Los Angeles, had a few hours layover and then boarded a Korean Air flight to Seoul, South Korea. About 12 hours later we arrived in Seoul. It was nice to be on the ground again, but a little frustrating to realize we were only half way to New Zealand. We took advantage of a long layover to visit Seoul (see post for Seoul). We finally left Seoul and made our way to Auckland, New Zealand. With all of the hours in flight as well as the hours spent in airports and the time change, we arrived in Auckland on Tuesday morning, two and a half days after our journey began.
Upon our arrival in Auckland, we were met at the airport by Jan Gow. Jan is not only one of the organizing committee for the conference, but someone who has made genealogy a great experiences for many people over the years. Her annual trips to Salt Lake City with her tour groups, have become something we all look forward to. After being pickup by Jan we went to her home in Auckland where we had a chance to have a great dinner of fish that her husband had caught himself. It was a nice evening to visit and rest after the long flight. In the afternoon we were able to drive around Auckland and see a little of the beauty that is everywhere. The thing that becomes most evident is how green everything is. As we drove around we saw the most incredible trees, they are very large and as they get larger the branches grow to the point where they go back to the ground and form new trees. The sight of these trees forming new ones is amazing. It reminded me of family history work, nothing really ends, as families grow larger the work to find ancestors just keeps going on.
Upon arrival in Auckland, we found ourselves with a couple of free days before the congress was scheduled to begin. We decided to take a tour of the northern part of the north island, to an area known as the Bay Of Islands. We went because various people had told us how beautiful the area was and of all the history of New Zealand that was there. When we arrived at the location where our tour was to begin, I was amazed to find the only people going were Dan and I. I assume our guide was amazed as well as he brought a mini bus that would have held a dozen or so people very confortably.

Our tour guide Andy, was an incredible man. He was born with white skin to a dark skinned Samoan famiy, who had been descendants of some of the Germans who immigrated to Samoa. His mother realized that he would have had a hard upbringing under those conditions, so she put him up for adoption. He was adopted by a white family who lived in Australia. Eventually he married and moved to New Zealand. His adoptive mother felt it was important that he know of his culture, so she took him back on yearly visits. He was an incredible tour guide and was wonderful to put up with us "yanks".
As we headed out from Auckland, toward the Bay of Islands, we passed a place that kind of shows a lot of what happened on our tour. We soon came to a small community, Warkworth. As we drove in we passed a small cemetery which caught my attention. We continued on and stopped at a historical area to see some of the large trees that grow there. They are very similiar to the Redwoods of Northern California. While there I noticed a sign, that showed the distance to every other location around the world with the same name. It didn't strike me as anything other than just interesting, but it soon began to mean so much more.
As we were leaving this area we drove back toward the cemetery we had passed on the way in. I asked Andy if it would be okay to stop for a minute. As soon as I said it his head flipped around and he said "you 2 bloakes come all the way from the states and you want to stop at a graveyard?" and of course we said yes. He mumbled a bit but we got a few minutes to walk around. Over the course of the rest of the day we had long discuusion about families and family history. He shared his stories and we told our stories. As we travelled toward the Bay of Islands, he started talking less and less about the sights and more and more about families, and he even started driving to cemeteries that weren't on the main roads. We were having a great time.
At this point Andy asked if it would be okay if he invited a friend along, and of course we said yes. So at that point we met Walt, a man of Swiss German descent who was an immigrant to New Zealand from Switzerland and France.
Andy couldnt wait to tell him all about these weird foreigners, who wanted to look at graves, but he kept taking us to them. In talking to the two of them the sign post began to affect me more and more. I soon realized that in many ways it stood for Andy and Walt. No matter where they were from and what their background was, they always rememberred where they were from.

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