Lord of the Smiles

Dr. Yan Razdolsky and his amazing wife, Anna, recently went on a long-awaited trip to one of their most anticipated destinations, the land of the Kiwi. Kiwi, so you know, are the curious little, flightless birds endemic to the beautiful island country in the southwestern Pacific, New Zealand. You see, in Dr. Razdolsky’s early days studying orthodontics, the then dean of the orthodontic department of University of Illinois Dental School, Dr. John Cleal was from New Zealand. Not only did Dr. Cleal teach his students of his professional and orthodontic expertise, he shared with them his love of the Kiwis’ beautiful land and nature, adventurous trail trips, and his sailing journey from New Zealand to Vancouver.

It was during this awe-inspiring trip that Dr. Yan and Anna could finally see in person the reality of all the wonderful things Dr. Cleal told his students. Not only is this island nation home to 4.5 million people (just shy of half of the greater metro area of Chicago), it is famous for its beautiful landscapes, amazing wines and is known to those who appreciate the greatest fantasy fiction ever written as “Middle Earth.” Yes, New Zealand with its diverse and spectacular scenery is the backdrop for The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Dr. Yan and Anna immersed themselves in all the beauty that New Zealand offered. From breathtaking mountaintop views to exhilarating footbridges for viewing waterfalls and rushing waters, there was indeed much to take in. But this picture of Dr. Yan at Hobbiton in Matamata was truly a highlight, as it represents the only movie set that is still intact.

Just a short two-hour drive from Hobbiton is Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city and one of its most popular. Home to the largest Polynesian population in the world, Auckland boasts more than 50 volcanoes scattered within 1,000 square kilometers. While most are considered dormant, they still have underlying magma which scientists estimate have a .1% chance of erupting in any given year. Auckland is also earned the moniker “City of Sails” due to its two major harbors and the world’s highest boat ownership per capita, with more than 135,000 vessels registered in the city. Amazingly, only in Auckland can you walk between a major ocean and sea in less than four hours and see one of the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest man-made towers soaring a massive 328 meters (1,075 ft) high and nearly rivalling our own Aon Center and 875 North here in Chicago.

In all, it was an amazing trip and one that Dr. Yan and Anna will always treasure. Not only for how beautiful and adventurous it was, but how it brought Dr. Yan “full circle” in a magical quest that started so many years ago.