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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Heart of New Zealand: Anzac Day

Evening falls over Anzac commemorative crosses at
Whangarei's Returned Service Association (RSA).
Seemed every New Zealand museum, regardless of focus or size, ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) commemorations were heavily featured.  Perhaps it’s because it’s the 100-year anniversary of “The Great War.” World War I (WWI)’s devastatingly bloody battle at Gallipoli, a flashpoint of recognition of the great sacrifice made by those who lost their lives in the battle.  Many believe Gallipoli unified and oft-divided Kiwi nation across all classes and races in their grief.


Even the ATM sported Anzac poppies.
Whangarei's ANZ Bank
.
The preponderance of paper poppies caught my attention before I knew what they represented.  Eventually, as paper poppy popped up all over, I put learned about the poppy’s significance as memorial flowers, their inspiration stemming from John McCrae’s touching war poem, “in Flander’s Fields.…”

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Setting up at the site of Whangarei's
dawn Anzac service.

Anzac’s managed hold true to its intent by deliberately resisting “Monday-fication” that dilutes so many holidays.  However, by luck of the draw, we happened to be in New Zealand when Anzac fell on a Monday. 








Anzac service underway, complete with sign language translator
at the lower left, and color guard, upper right.
Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand.

“Meet me at the ablution block at 5 am if you’d like to join me for the dawn service,” Litara said.  Litara’s Western Samoan by birth, though she’s lived in New Zealand many years and in my definition is as Kiwi as any All Black fan.  Sadly, I don’t consider myself that patriotic, yet I wanted to sense this small but important moment that appears deeply core to the New Zealand identity.





Wreaths are laid in memory of the fallen.  Anzac ceremony,
Whangarei, North Island, New Zealand.
Litara, French-Canadian cruiser and fellow walking buddy Louise, and I joined what eventually became a crowd of several thousand who participated by attending the remembrance ceremony.

We were early, watching the speakers, color guard and band set up, well before the parade wended its way from the Returning Service Association (RSA) to the war memorial site where the ceremony was held. 

Anzac ceremony just ending, Whangarei, New Zealand.
“We will remember,” was the message of profound respect conveyed to honor and credit those who gave their lives and thus helped make New Zealand what it is today. 

Whangarei’s Anzac ceremony followed the current, multicultural tradition, 
  • opening with a hymn
  • followed by two brief scriptural readings and prayers
  • a speech from the Whangarei RSA President
  • the naming of the fallen whilst wreaths were laid to the accompaniment of bagpipes
  • concluded with a speaker from the Navy
  • reveille hymn, Sons of Gallipoli
  • drum roll
  • singing of the Australian and New Zealand National anthems, the latter in both English and Maori
  • student marching bands playing as the crowds dispersed


Student marching bands play as the last of the crowd
disperses.  Whangarei, New Zealand, Anzac Day.
It was interesting to note the participants did indeed appear cut across all classes and age groups  – with the young in particularly strong attendance.  Death, after all, like life, is one experience we all share. 





Five days after Anzac, this commemorative Maori wreath with
frangipani still looks fresh.  Parihaki War Memorial,
Whangarei, New Zealand.
The next day, on our usual climb up Mt. Parihaki, we noticed several wreaths laid at the base of the summit’s war memorial.  Several of the cards accompanying the wreaths were in Maori one even laced with frangipani, fitting as Parihaki is considered a holy place, one now dedicated to remembering those lost in the battles held there long ago. 

From the Talmud, we’re taught, “We live on in the lives of those who knew us.”  In New Zealand, those who fought for their country are indeed well remembered.

As we leave New Zealand, it is with a sense of gratitude to experiencing the wonder of this beautiful country, and more so, the generosity and kindness of it people.  We hope someday to return.

We didn't get too far today, but we did make
it out of Whangarei.  Here, we're just about
cross under the bridge lift on our way out.
Location Location
As you read this, we’ve just resumed cruising.  We left our pole mooring in Whangarei's Town Basin Marina (S35.43.414 E174.19.539) at 11 am today and pausing overnight 12 nm downriver at Marsden Cove (S35.50.235 E174.28.156), assessing whether weather's good enough, or not yet.  Our first stop's Fiji, ~1170 nm, our 2nd longest ever passage. Once we clear New Zealand customs and set sail, it will take us about two weeks to get to Fiji.

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles.  This year, from Fiji, we’ll go to Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia.  After we arrive in Australia in around November, completing another 4,500 or so miles this cruising season, we plan to sell our boat.  Then, it's back to work, somewhere.