He Is (at 32:45)

Old notes taken mostly from my personal time with God. We're moving house again, so, I guess we're back to being, literally, pilgrims on the Rough Roads of Planet Earth. (Photo taken on a road to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, North Auckland, NZ, Dec 2009.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Graduation Weekend at Dartmouth

Last weekend (10-13 June 2011) we went to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire to attend our older son's graduation. It’s been four years since I accompanied him there as a Freshman, to help him get set up in his school dorm. I remember it as a very beautiful and green place, near the top of a mountain. My son was very excited with his new school. 

I also remember thinking that would be my "trip of a life-time" in the US. I never thought I would be able to come back here, more so with my family and in time for his graduation at that. Truly, God has done for us far more than our wildest dreams, just like what the Bible says.

We had hoped that I could get my New York driver’s license before his graduation so we can drive to Hanover but it didn’t materialize. I have been swamped with caring for our special needs child and getting her settled in her new school. She had been having urinary incontinence problems since we moved here and so far, we have seen four doctors for that alone. We have been busy breaking into the health care system here, namely getting enrolled in a health insurance plan. There is so much paper work involved every step of the way and the whole American  health care and education system is like a maze, it’s not easy to find where to begin. The first step is of course getting a Social Security Number. Oh, well, anyway, I might write about that topic too later, but for now, I’ll get on about our trip to Dartmouth. :)

Technically, Dartmouth is a university but due to tradition, it has opted to keep its name as Dartmouth College. Rain or shine the graduation was to be held at the Dartmouth Green.  Since we couldn’t drive without a driver’s license, we traveled by bus. We were able to book places in the Dartmouth Coach for the trip going there but stalled in making the booking for the trip back because our son didn’t get back in time with us about his own travel plans. So, we had to take the public buses coming back. The Dartmouth Coach has its New York terminal right in front of the Yale Club located opposite the Grand Central Plaza along Park Ave. (I observe that Dartmouth has a special relationship with this other Ivy Leave university – Yale.) We took the bus and subway to get there.

The coach is like an airplane sans the flight attendants.:)It has a loo at the back, a galley where we can help ourselves to snacks and drinks (all inclusive in the fare), a choice of sitting around a working table if one wishes to work during the trip and it has free wifi. It also has lots of leg room and every seat has a  retractable tray in front for eating, reading / writing, etc.
The coach left at 1pm and arrived in Dartmouth at a few minutes past 7pm. We had only one stop along the way so, roughly, it takes 6 hours from New York to Dartmouth. It is probably the most convenient way to go as it goes straight to Dartmouth and it’s very comfortable. On our trip back we took the coach  to Boston, stopping by to pick up passengers in Lebanon, a small city 10 min. from Dartmouth. Then from Boston we took the Bolt bus to Manhattan, New York and from Manhattan we took taxis as we were carrying some of our son’s belongings from the university. Otherwise, we could still take the subway and bus too, as they continue to run even late at night.

When we got to Dartmouth the school president’s reception for graduates and their families was in full swing. We knew we would arrive too late for it so we passed on that one. There was enough sunlight for a few shots so I took advantage of it, knowing that the weather forecast for that weekend was for rain. (And I really didn’t have the chance to take much photos of the campus after that evening, except indoors.)

This is the dorm where we stayed. Dartmouth opened the student dorms to accommodate the families of graduating students attending the graduation. There’s only one hotel in the campus, the historic Hanover Inn. It’s expensive and was reserved only for the alumni coming for the occasion and for the VIPs.

The name of the dorm is Richardson Hall.

We had dinner at a western restaurant named Molly’s inside the campus. A plaque on the wall said, “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” – haha! That is so true of cramming college students, and still typical of people like me though I have left school like a life-time ago. LOL! I was too embarrassed to photograph it though, because the resto was full of people and I would have to disturb some diners to take a photo of it.

Photo taken along the main street of Dartmouth where Molly's is located, while we were waiting to be seated at the restaurant.

This one is the decor-style inside Molly's - authentic and historic. Another plaque read, "If you came with a reservation, you are in the wrong place."

It was supposed to be a hot summer weekend and we were advised to be ready with fans and hats, as well as flat shoes for the uneven ground in the Dartmouth Green where the graduation was to be held. But it turned out to be a rainy weekend and many people were unprepared. The umbrellas and plastic ponchos sold like hotcakes in the Dartmouth Co-op the next day, Saturday.

It was really rainy and we got lost in the campus looking for the venue for our son’s Class Day function. Our younger daughter got tired of walking and we were getting wet, so, we went back to our dorm. Then  my husband went out on his own, too, found the place, albeit late, and was able to attend it with our graduating son. I read the speaker’s speech for that occasion later in Dartmouth’s website and I think it has a lot of practical wisdom not only for our son and young people in general, but for me and my generation as well! You can read it here.
Of course, that weekend, the advice for the graduation ceremonies attire changed to raincoats, hats and umbrellas.

That's how bad the weather was that weekend.

In the evening the rain let off at least for a while and we had dinner in an Indian restaurant that night, our son’s favourite on campus. He said the food they serve is very much like the food at the Mamak coffee shops he goes to in Malaysia. Meaning, it’s the closest to Malaysian food he can find on campus. We didn’t have reservations, so the only place they had available for us was at the veranda. If we could risk getting rained on, they didn’t mind serving us dinner there. So, that’s what we did but they had to wipe all the tables and chairs dry and open up the parasols so we wouldn’t get drenched in case it rained again.

We forgot to order shots for our son to be taken by the official photographers at the graduation ceremony, so, we had hoped that we could get seats close enough to the stage. The graduation was starting at 9:30 am on that Sunday morning (12th June) and we were there at 8:50. There were still many empty seats but people have “reserved” them by placing pieces of plastic, paper, bags, etc. They had informed us earlier that “reserving” seats would be prohibited during the graduation ceremonies, that people would be seated on a first-come-first-served basis, but surprise, surprise! Dartmouth is no different from the rest of the world – people still “reserved” seats for their family / friends. It was good we could still grab some chairs on a stack on a side of the Green because the people who came later than us had no chairs even to sit on. :) So, gone was our chance to take a photo of our son on stage. We would probably be able to get a glimpse of him on the big screen, that’s all.

There were 9 conferees of honorary degrees in that commencement exercises and former president George W. Bush Sr. was one of them. He came in a wheelchair. Another one was Conan O’Brien, host of a late-night cable tv show.  He also gave the commencement address and it was very humorous. You may read it here.

All I could get of George W. Bush Sr. was a shot from the giant screen.The building at the back is the Webster Hall named after the prominent Dartmouth alumnus, Daniel Webster, a statesman and also of the Dictionary fame.

This is the only photo I got of my son in the few seconds that he was on stage. He’s the guy coming down the middle of the stairs.

The following are some family photos.

There was a reception after the graduation in one of the school cafeterias (free food) and so we had lunch there. Our son and my husband finished packing up his things after lunch and we left Dartmouth at 5pm. We arrived home half-past midnight.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Beach in Wellington

I was looking at my old photos and I found some taken on our trip to Wellington in January 2010. I needed to get a new passport and our embassy in NZ is located in Wellington. There is a Philippines consulate in Auckland but they weren’t doing the “machine-readable” upgraded passport version, so, we had to make the trip all the way to Wellington. As well, we also went to the Malaysian Embassy there to update our children’s ICs.

I remember it was a long trip, like 8 hours by car and we broke our trip in Wanganui - can’t recall exactly where, as we didn’t take photos at that place - to rest for the night. It was a backpackers’ lodge and it looks like it was Tamara Lodge overlooking Whanganui River. We arrived late at night and picked up food at a petrol station in a small town on the way there. It's funny because we always thought we could find McDonald's or KFC in every town we passed by but we were wrong. I think we ate sandwiches and meat pies and the latter was a bit salty. But we survived the night. We didn't really get to see much of the place as we arrived so late and tired. We also had to leave early the next day as it was still roughly another 2-3 hours  of drive from there to Wellington. We had stayed at the Bamber’s House backpackers’ lodge in Auckland when we first moved to NZ, while we waited for our container to be delivered to the house we were to rent in Westgate. So, we kind of got the hang of staying in backpackers’ lodges, though in Asia, we usually stayed in hotels. One of the things we found out on our short stay in NZ is that staying in a hotel there is just too expensive.

A most memorable part of that trip to Wellington was the way we got to the Malaysian Embassy on time the following day. When we got to Wellington, we had the map to the embassy but somehow we kept missing the turn to the road getting there. The place was hilly and there were so many small roads intertwined, after a while of driving around, we knew we were just lost. And time was running out on us as the business hours were short. They closed something like at mid-day, probably because it was a Friday (?) and they were observing the traditional closing hours for the employees to go to the mosque. We were frantically praying and finally, we saw somebody who just got out of her house go into her car. We stopped and talked with her and she said we're very near the embassy but it's really tricky getting there. But she was also on her way out so she said she could lead us going there. So, that's what we did. So, God gave us an "angel" to bring us to the embassy on time! Woot! That was another memorable answered prayer for me. God is so good! After that we still had time to go to the Philippines Embassy as well to have my own business done. They wouldn't accept my passport-sized photo but insisted we should have a photo of me taken at their "official" photographer which is the instant photo machine at a pharmacy in their neighborhood. So, we went out there and had my photo taken and then we were able to finish that passport renewal application. To think we put in a lot of effort to make that blue-background passport photo done at home in Auckland. The children's photos were accepted by the Malaysian Embassy but not the Philippines Embassy.

After we got our business done in Wellington, we drove to a backpackers’ lodge in a place called Paekakariki, which is about 45 minutes from Wellington. We stayed there for two nights.  (We went back to Wellington the next day to see the Te Papa Museum and also the Mount Victoria Lookout.) It was quite a chore climbing up the steps, something like 45 steps (?) up to the location, but when you get up there, wow, the view!! The place was called Paekakariki Backpackers but now it seems they have renamed it to Hilltop Hideaway.

A beach is always beautiful, I guess. But because you view it from a hilltop it becomes really awesome, both the view and the feel of it. Our family (then 5 of us) occupied one whole room which was really for 6, so, we didn’t have to share with other people. But we had to share the house with other traveling folks, some of them tourists from other countries, some with babies and young kids, a couple were retirees just moving from place to place in NZ. We could actually pick up mussels from the beach, as it was mussel season, but we didn’t know. We found out about it only when we saw the elderly couple there cooking some mussels in wine, in the common kitchen, and then having them for dinner on the deck. They told us they collected those from the beach! We thought that was really cool. :)

The view at dusk.

The view at breakfast.

The sundeck where you can enjoy the view while enjoying your own home-cooked meal.

View of the greenery around.

The hill towards the back of the house.

A view of the house from the outside.

More of the water.

The dining cum lounging room.

View of the dining room from the kitchen.

Still part of the living room.

That's my younger daughter.

We played cards after dinner on that dining table. :)

I guess part of the memories is that I can see my children evolving. Our younger son used to play cards a lot around that time, now it's all just computer!! :(

We had great food that we cooked in the kitchen, too. bwahaaa!! - fried eggs! I don't know why but my older daughter loves to take photos such as this. These are mostly her photos, actually.

They have a computer too, to which we can take turns going online. We, of course, used it mainly for checking emails only.

So we got fantastic views of the skies, something I really miss about NZ.

And more views of the water.

But I guess the main attraction for the kids was the dog.

Because we were missing our own dog left in Malaysia.

This is the real beach below where you can pick / dig up for mussels. It wasn't that spectacular but it was natural.

And there are places where you can also sit close to the beach and just enjoy the feel of it.

So there, Paekakariki! :)


Smile! God loves you and me. ^____^

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The Many Versions of Love Stories 1. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. They live happily ever after. 2. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. The marriage sours, they part, and live happily ever after. 3. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. Then boy finds out it's more fun to be girl... or girl finds out it's more fun to be boy, they part, change sexes and live happily ever after. 4.Finally, boy or girl meets God. It's love at first sight... The roads went rough, the tides rose high, the strong winds blew and the quake shook the ground... but they truly live happily ever after, forever and ever. 5. Try God's love... it's always happy forever after, and the story never ends. :-D