Two down, one to go

It’s crazy. Last week marked two years since we got off the plane at Dunedin International airport and began our adventure in New Zealand. Even crazier is that we’re less than a year from our move back to the US.

This blog has turned into a bit more of a biannual endeavor, but that’s ok: time flies when you’re having fun. Just a quick update at this point.

Gretchen has already become quite the little traveler, trekking along brilliantly with mom and dad to Auckland, Hobbiton, Nebraska, Colorado, San Francisco, and back to Dunedin. In the US, Gretchen had a great time meeting her grandparents; two great grandmas; many aunts, uncles, cousins; and some of our great friends.

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Back in NZ we’re in a good routine, enjoying the simple graces of everyday life. This summer has been good to us, with a lot of long, warm sunny days and fresh sweetcorn to enjoy. Although most of our North American friends have finished their studies and returned home, we’re keeping busy with various endeavors. Steph works in the early mornings from 6-11 while Luke watches Gretch, and then we switch and Steph watches Gretch from 11-7 while Luke works. Towards the end of last year, God opened a door for us to serve at a small country church south of Dunedin, so at least every other weekend we make the trek down from Osborne to worship with the wonderful people at Owaka Grace Fellowship.

Gretchen is a daily reminder of Grace and a source of great joy and laughter to her parents. She is sweet, amiable, and quick to smile at just about anyone. At a little over six months old, she has two little teeth coming in and is enjoying trying her hand at new solids (literally, as she insists on feeding herself). She also already keeps us on our toes as she is active crawling and exploring. Here are a few of our favorite pictures of her over the past few months.

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Stephanie is as beautiful as ever and keeping herself quite active. In addition to work and caring for Gretchen, she remains an avid reader, enjoys weekly going for coffee with friends in town and has continued writing and submitting essays, stories, and devotionals to various publications. Luke remains busy as ever with the thesis, watching Gretchen, and preparations for sermons, tutoring and lecturing at the university. But still we make time for family walks on new trails and occasionally visiting a new cafe for coffee or lunch. These are good, full days.

We are two down and one to go. There is much that will keep time moving quickly in the months to come as we look forward to visits from grandparents from Nebraska and cousins from Colorado (with more visits in the works). We covet your prayers for this final year as we juggle our duties, continue to serve in Owaka, explore a bit more of New Zealand’s beauty with Papa and Grammy Hoselton in April, and particularly as Luke works to finish the thesis.

From New Zealand with Love,

Luke, Steph, and Gretch

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A new little Kiwi.

Gretchen Elizabeth Hoselton was born July 25 at 8:12am. She and mom are healthy and doing well, but still bonding and recovering at the hospital. Hopefully I can bring my girls home tomorrow!

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Two weeks until we’re half way and all the way.

Well, it’s been a little while (a year!) since we’ve updated the blog. Time, as we’ve learned, flies by in the hustle and bustle of daily life no matter which side of the world you’re on! To bring you up to speed, here’s an overview (from about 30,000 feet) of some of the big events of the year.

Last year we had the ‘mildest winter in New Zealand since record-keeping began,’ or so we heard on the news. Still, we did have one or two snow falls early on, which were beautiful.

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We got out and about, exploring a bit around the south island, and saw:

the famous Moeraki boulders

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the southernmost Starbucks in the world

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this lighthouse (at the albatross colony on the Otago Peninsula)

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this

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these (yellow-eyed penguins)

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all those (sea lions and seals)

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and whatever this is (it was someone’s pet).

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We took an unexpected trip home for Steph’s work, which allowed us to briefly visit some friends and family in CO & NE (and eat lots of Chipotle!):

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We arrived back to NZ in late October, just in time to experience the ‘coldest summer in recent memory,’ but enjoyed the many long days of sunlight until 10:30pm.

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We celebrated our first summer time Christmas (which, by the way, was nothing like it is represented on the postcards we’ve seen, in which everyone is celebrating Christmas on the beach in the sun wearing shorts; in reality it was raining sideways and maybe 50) with our great friends Dave and Lynne.

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Beyond that, we had our first overnight visitors from the States

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Steph got a short story published in an anthology on the topic of hope (here’s a pic from the book release)

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We took another weekend trip to Cromwell/Queenstown (it’s as beautiful as we remembered)

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Steph had a friend from the States visit for a week

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I, for my part, have worked, worked, worked on the thesis, but have also broken up the “brain work” time with frequent trips out to the work shop and my daily activities of chopping wood and starting the fire.

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We’re only two weeks away from the official halfway point of our time in NZ and this is beyond hard to believe. Many of our friends have finished their studies already or are wrapping them up in the next few weeks and months to come, so change is in the air; but some exciting developments are underway for the rest of our time here.

On a positive note, we recently heard back that I’ve gotten a paper accepted to read at a conference in California in November. (Chipotle here we come.)

Bigger than all that, however, a more exciting development has also been taking place (here are a few pics over the months):

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To be honest the pregnancy has been a bit of a roller coaster ride at times, but by God’s grace we’re at 38 weeks and doing well. We’ve felt very well taken care of and cared for both medically and by our great network of friends here in NZ. Still, all prayers for the continued health and safe arrival of Little Girl (due July 31) are more than welcome.

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Gone Fishin’

While those of us down here in the Southern Hemisphere are entering into winter, we are still experiencing some glorious sunny days. The Saturday before last was a particularly perfect day with the sun catching me at noon out on the deck with a book. Luke was likewise taking advantage of the warmer weather with sleeves rolled up and a wheelbarrow, as he began unloading our ten metres (that’s how they spell it here) of wood (as pictured below) for our wood burning stove. Two pages in, I heard him declining our neighbor’s invitation to go fishing. Realizing I didn’t have any wood to unload and my book could wait, I jumped up, grabbed some warmer clothes and headed out on the boat and into the open New Zealand Sea.

It was fantastic! John and Bridgette (our neighbors) were great guides and energizing conversationalists. John teaches during the week in a small mining town about an hour away and they come to Osborne on the weekends. Bridgette is a bit of a book worm, confessing that her best days are spent in bed with a hot water bottle and a book, jumping up only when John returns from school so she can make his dinner. They have four children, a baby granddaughter, Lily, whom they adore, and have traveled the world. I think we’ve found some friends for the months and years to come!

Bridgette is also a competitor. John kept teasing us as to who was reeling in the bigger and better fish and who was doing it faster. I know it isn’t polite to brag—it was really just a matter of being in the right place at the right time (thanks to John’s boat’s GPS) and some beginner’s luck—but I’ll go ahead and say a few good words on my behalf. I caught loads of fish. Big ones. Given my previous fishing experiences involved early morning wakeup calls, not talking for fear of scaring the fish, and maybe catching a little one after an hour or two, no wonder I was thrilled with how this went down—dropping your sinker to the bottom (about 20 metres), waiting a second, feeling the bite and then start reeling in a red cod or blue cod two times bigger than anything ever caught before.

My luck was not seamless though, as I also reeled in three sharks. They were tiny, called “dog fish”, and John promptly threw them back. John also caught a barracuda, which was not that tiny, that he had to jimmy rig off the line and throw back. I found it all rather exciting.

I didn’t have the camera with me, as Luke is the one who usually takes all the shots (he doesn’t call all the shots, mind you. And he is taking them because he likes it and I don’t). I did take all the pictures as posted here though, as he can’t really take ones like these. I am amiable and help out when necessary. Anyway, the camera wasn’t out with the fisherwomen and the skipper, so you will have to take my word for it that it was pretty much what I imagine we’ll experience in heaven. (Or as Luke tries to remind, the new earth.)

This side of earth and we are missing our loved ones (along with Chipotle and Back Alley Bakery, dryer sheets and affordable mascara). My sisters send pictures of the kids regularly and they are growing up so fast! The stories we hear of their observations and reactions tend to work their way into our daily conversations, adding humor and relief when we start missing everyone a little too much. My eldest niece, Avery, called last Monday afternoon and it was great fun. She filled me in on the ins and outs of 1st grade winding down and summer approaching and read “Three Billy Goats Fluff”. It was a funny, sweet rendition of the classic story and she didn’t miss a beat with the reading.

Work wise, Luke is locked in and writing. He has produced nearly 14,000 words and is looking to turn in his first submission later this week. His reward has been watching the NBA playoffs via the internet with an NBA league pass nightly come 8 o’clock. When writer’s block sets in during the day, he unloads his frustration with his axe through the wood or walks over to his workshop.

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Another of our neighbors, Don, taught Luke how to change our brake pads earlier this month. While my husband has many a great qualities, mechanical maneuverings was not one of the gifts bestowed at birth. Needless to say, the process was a rite of passage and the completed project a true accomplishment. Hence the grin:

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I am smiling too because this means our brakes work!  I did begin my stick shift driving lessons this past month, as our car is a manual and I haven’t driven one in over ten years. I have been reticent to drive considering the wheel is on the other side of the road, you drive on the other side of the road, the roads are very small and windy, and the hills are very steep. I think it’s fair to say that Luke has been a better teacher than I have a student, but we are still smiling at each other and I did successfully drive us into church on Sunday.

Regarding the workshop, let’s just say it has proved to be Luke’s best discovery since first spotting me in the Back Alley Bakery. It has provided an avenue for working with his hands when working with the text grows tiresome. Luke plans to build some book cases and other things using only hand tools…mostly because any other kind is so expensive in NZ! That guitar you see in the corner was sitting up in the rafters. It needs some new strings, but will do the trick. Luke had been figuring out when and how he could get a guitar since he had to leave his at home, so this was certainly an added bonus to the shop. We are thankful. This place keeps on giving. I am looking forward to the day I find the bag of money…

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In the meantime, I have been working part-time and filling up the other part-time with baking, reading, writing, walking and socializing (imagine that!). Over the last month, we have experienced a sense of balance that we have longed for and prayed for. Experiencing it is like a dream come true. I started a 3 month full-time project on Monday, but Luke and I are aligned in our goal of maintaining healthy boundaries and outlets even as the work load increases. We must at least keep space for accepting the next invitation, as I kind of like the way that last one played out.

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Cromwell and Co.

I mentioned in the last post that we were making our first trek out of Dunedin to explore the south Island a bit. We decided to turn it into an early anniversary celebration and stayed a couple nights at a beautiful little cottage in central Otago.

In my opinion there are few things better than driving a new road and witnessing a landscape you’ve wanted to see and tried to picture take shape before your eyes. Driving west from the coast took us across hills and beautiful open farmland; the further we drove the more the colors deepened. Our car continues to be a bit temperamental, but thankfully we had no major issues.

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It took us a little over 3 hours to get to Cromwell, which is the farthest point away from the sea to be found anywhere in New Zealand. However, we were in no hurry and made stops in random little towns for coffee and pulled over for spur of the moment scenic photos.  Below on the left you see Cromwell which is given part of its boundary by two rivers. I mention this only to note that 20 years ago a dam was put in (creating a large man made lake) and the town of Cromwell, then a gold mining town, was flooded. Below to the right you see part of the old city center which was relocated and preserved. The rest of the town was rebuilt on higher ground.

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Cromwell is in a part of Otago known for its orchards and vineyards which are plentiful because of the amount of heat and sunshine the region gets (think Napa Valley). The roadsides are lined with wineries offering tastings and fruit vendors selling fresh products. As you can see in the pictures below, the autumn colors are simply spectacular. Also, there was a giant shaggy-haired cow scratching its head on a tree, which was great fun, with a tiny calf standing underneath it. A picture was required. (Note: Stephanie is not convinced this is in fact a small calf, so weigh in on the debate if you want. Majority rules.)

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These views are of the Clutha river just next to historic Old Town. There were also beautiful running paths around the edge of the lake/town. It’s quite serene.

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We stayed at a cottage just outside of town. The owners of the business previously were deer farmers (yes, I said deer farmers) somewhere on the west coast of NZ, but moved to Cromwell in 1999 for sunnier weather. They bought a piece of property, built a house, and then spent a few years building cottages and landscaping.

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While the cottages were fantastic, the grounds were simply magical. They purposefully designed the grounds so that guests could mosey around and take in the serenity of the colors and sound of the stream. Also, they grow a large garden that guests can pick food from as they please. I freely admit I wondered a time or two if we were in Eden. Thankfully, there are no snakes in NZ. Below are a few pictures of the grounds, but they hardly do the place justice.

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On Saturday we took a day trip to Arrowtown and Queenstown. It was only about an hour drive through a valley filled with vines. Along the way, the mountains got bigger and reminded us of the Rockies.

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First stop: Arrowtown. We’d been told that Arrowtown was great and that the colors would be very good this time of year, but still we weren’t prepared for it. Arrowtown was amazing. Surrounded by beauty and full of little cafes and shops in a quaint downtown, it was one of the most picturesque little towns either of us has seen. Just look at the colors that wrap around the town on the hillsides. Amazing.

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After gawking at the colors and poking around the shops for a while, we drove another 20 minutes to Queenstown. Queenstown is the sister town to Aspen Colorado, and the beauty is comparable. It’s a very fast-growing town, with a lot of development taking place and foreigners buying property; it has many restaurants and shops and, thus, tons of tourists (like us!). Here are a few pics to enjoy.

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IMG_1228 A picture after a picnic by the edge of the lake.

IMG_1237 Gorgeous views. That rainbow is not photo-shopped in, this place is just that beautiful.

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Sunday we took a short trip up to a little alpine town called Wanaka. Wanaka was nice, and on the edge of a beautiful lake, but after Arrowtown and Queenstown it somewhat failed to impress. So, after poking around the shops a bit and getting a cup of coffee, we started making our way back home. I don’t know the particular locations, but the Queenstown area (and parts of Otago in general) is a favorite filming location of Peter Jackson. I thought the two pictures below looked quite a bit like some scenes from LOTR/Hobbit, and the Two Towers in particular.

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We’re so thankful we were able to take this little getaway. It may indeed prove to be our favorite, since it was our first and the scenery was so beautiful. Anytime we have a break from our normal routine and get away Steph likes to ask what we’ve experienced that we’d like to instill in our day to day life, big or small. From this trip she found a new magazine called North and South she likes and wants to start reading regularly. I’ve made major plans to landscape our little yard and plant grapevines, fruit trees, get a shaggy-haired cow and add a stream.

In the meantime it’s back to the everyday, with 6am work starts for Steph followed by afternoons of reading, writing short stories, and keeping house. I still am doing lots of reading, thinking, and language work – the thesis continues to shift its shape – but will  soon (next week!) convert it into some writing.

We’re continually thankful we have this chance to study, live in, and explore this beautiful land, but after weekends like this one in Cromwell, we’re extra grateful. In fact, we’re already talking about when we can plot a return trip!

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Arrival of Autumn

A quick update with another to come soon!

We’re watching the leaves change for the second time in about seven months. It’s another benefit of moving (or ‘shifting’ as they say here) to the southern hemisphere for we two fall-lovers. The change of weather has definitely brought cooler temperatures and some much needed rain for the region.

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We’ve been out and around a bit the last couple weeks, slowly exploring the area. Here are a few pics to enjoy.

IMG_0866 IMG_0854  This beach is about a 20 minute walk from our house (notice the roots of the tree).

About a 20 minute drive from our house will bring you to a place called Aramoana. It’s a natural preserve area that boasts camping (or, ‘tramping’ as they call it), beautiful beaches, vistas, and wildlife sightings. At the right time of day you can see penguins here, but we haven’t seen them…yet!

IMG_0935 The peninsula.

IMG_0952 Cruise ships and freighters wrap around the peninsula to dock at Port Chalmers, which is the closest town to where we live (see below).

IMG_0983 We made a new friend on our walk.  Actually, we were walking back minding our own business and he yawned/roared and scared us. We wouldn’t have known he was there or seen him otherwise.

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As I mentioned above, the closest nearby town is called Port Chalmers. It’s a quaint little town that controls the major port of the region. We’re told that not all that long ago Port Chalmers had a bad reputation as a town catering to the, well, various “needs” of sailors. Today, however, it’s a great little town with a library, post office, cafes, grocery store, and the like. We run into PC a couple times a week.

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Here are a couple more pics from the area.

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IMG_1028 As you can see, there’s beauty everywhere.

We’ve spent the last few months settling into routines, exploring things nearby, and most of all just enjoying feeling at home, but we’ve recently felt the itch to explore a little further. So we’re going away this weekend for our first trip outside of Dunedin. We’re going to explore a bit of central Otago, where a fair bit of filming was done for Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. If you want a visual, we’ll be heading out from Dunedin west and staying in a small town called Cromwell (which is in Pinot Noir country) and taking day trips to visit Queenstown, Arrowtown, and Wanaka. We’ll give an update with pictures upon our return!

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Back at it.

My mentor, Wes, told us it would take one month before the newness of our surroundings would give way to the extent that the problems of everyday life would make their normal appearances again. He was right. What this means for us, I think, is that even though we’re in our little corner of sheep-covered paradise on a small island way down in the south Pacific, busyness has found us. The lack of new pictures in the last month on our camera is proof!

WHAT HAVE WE BEEN DOING since our last post (way back on Feb 18)?? Tons of stuff! Just not the kinds of things you see people doing in New Zealand in travel magazines. Normal life has resumed, and then some. Still, it’s New Zealand, and sometimes we wake up to views like this:

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One of the major themes of the past month has been that of Steph going full-time for a 5 week work project. We’ve been so thankful that she has been able to bring her job with her to New Zealand. A few other PhD students’ spouses had a pretty difficult time finding a job when they first arrived since, as a university town, Dunedin is so saturated with people looking for jobs, so it’s been wonderful she didn’t have to go through that process. Also, knowing we had Steph’s job for a certain number of hours took a lot of the guess work out of what we could and could not afford while settling into life here. Most of all, though, I think the job has made the transition much much easier than it otherwise would have been for her, simply because there was fluency and familiarity in how she spent her time each week and didn’t have to learn a new work system. It’s been such a gift!

For my part, it’s been very good to get into a regular schedule of researching full-time. Soon this will translate into writing, but for now it’s hours and hours of reading and thinking. It can be pretty abstract. Below are some pictures taken on one of the walks we took after the workday. The trail took us very high on the hill to the south of our house and provided some pretty beautiful views.

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One of the absolutely astounding things that you just have to experience to understand is how much difference a sunny day makes here. I would say the average temperature during our time here has been somewhere in the ballpark of 62 or so degrees. What’s crazy is how warm or cold it is indoors, depending on whether the sun is out. If you have two days that are both 60 degrees and on the first day it is sunny, we’ll probably get close to 70 inside. But, if it’s 60 outdoors and cloudy, we’ll easily be down to 60 degrees or less indoors (in summer!!).

There have certainly been some days that it is warmer outdoors than indoors, and we’ve learned to bundle up with multiple layers (and sometimes scarfs and gloves) while working. (Again, in summer!!) Occasionally, when we see that our neighbors have started a fire, we’ll fire up the wood stove.

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The past 3 weeks in particular have been very social for us. We’ve had a number of good friends over for dinner. We’ve even had our first visitors from the states! Back in August (or Sept…) we met a really neat couple in the Denver area who said they were going on a tour of NZ in March. It was so good that we were able to connect with them while they had an overnight in Dunedin. Here’s a picture of Hap and Judy:

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One funny story that came out of the time involved Leonard. Leonard is an elderly gentleman from England  who was traveling around NZ on Hap and Judy’s tour with his daughter before visiting his grandson. Hap and Judy said Leonard had become somewhat of a popular fellow on the tour; people were always hopping up to help him up and down steps and such. To make a long story short, it turns out Leonard had traveled all the way from Britain, and was touring with our friends from Denver, to visit his grandson in NZ, who happened to be our neighbor, Tony. At the very moment we put all this together, I looked up and saw Tony smiling and waving at us from the bar area of the random, downtown hotel we were at. Dunedin is a small place. Here’s the really cool part: Leonard is 93. 93 and traveling to (almost literally in his case) the complete opposite side of the globe to visit his grandson. That’s cool.

It’s been back to real life, with colds, coughs and car troubles. But it’s still been a blast. Here’s a couple pictures of the train station and a train ride I was able to go on as part of my ‘new student orientation’.

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And this week we had the chance to go see the NZ national soccer team (the All Whites) play against New Caledonia. It was the first time the All Whites played a game in Dunedin for 25 years, and it was fun that it was a world cup qualifier. I can’t imagine a scenario in which we’d get to see a game of this magnitude in the States and only pay $15 for the tickets! The game climaxed with a winning goal in extra time that sent NZ through to the next round.  A good time was had by all.

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