Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Endorphins make you happy

We live and learn.  Monday was not exactly the highlight of my time in Australia, but thankfully it was able to end on a good note.  In the midst of my drama on Monday I had also moved hostels because on Friday I'm to start my "Work for Accommodation" at my new hostel.  Emma, a girl from my previous hostel in Cairns, had told me earlier last week that if she didn't have to work she wanted to go to the volleyball clinic they have on Monday nights.  It had rained off and on all day but was just starting to look decent so I texted her to see if she still wanted to go.  I'd already been feeling so bummed all day that I was going to chance a bit of rain and go, just to get "out of the house" as they say.  Luckily for me she still wanted to go.  It was a really small group this week so we got lots of playing time and I really enjoyed myself.  Nothing like a little exercise and time with other people to get your mind off your troubles.

So for now I'm spending my days at the library using the internet to aid my job search and the lagoon trying to get a tan (which as many of you know is a near impossibility, but at least I'm getting my Vitamin D).  I'm actually looking forward to starting "work" on Friday, so hopefully I enjoy it.  Tonight is AquaZumba at the lagoon, maybe I can convince Noelle (a new Canadian friend at this hostel) to try it with me....

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Cost of Obedience

I can't recall that many times in my life when I felt like God was asking me to do something, but I really didn't want to do it.  I don't know what that says about my relationship with Him, but I'm a people-pleaser and like to follow the rules, so obedience is often less difficult for me due to my personality.  I guess it's a teaching moment in my life, but I've recently been in a relationship with a guy and shortly into it I got the feeling that maybe I should tell him it wasn't going to work, and that I needed to stop seeing him.  But of course, when you're traveling alone for so long and in a country by yourself it's nice to have someone to hang out with and it's always nice to be appreciated, so I rationalized.  He wasn't going to be in town much longer, etc., etc., and I just kept putting it off.  I know in my head that God only wants what is best for me, He's not going to lead me astray, but as the sinful child that I am, I'd rather do what I want to do.  So all this has been going on in my head and Sunday rolled around and I went to church.  It was one of those times where I don't know if anyone else got something out of the service because I felt like God had it tailor-made just for me.  There was a musician and her husband doing the service, Bel & Phil Thomson, and so many of the songs she sang, the stories she told, even the brief  10 minute sermon her husband gave were incredibly convicting.  I was holding back tears at several points during the service.  Her song "Worth the Fight" and this song, "In Time With You" were especially personal to me:

You would think, that after all the conviction and feeling like God was confirming to me that this really, truly was what He was asking me to do, I would have done it.  But of course not, sometimes I can be so stubborn, and it's rarely for my own good.  The end all to the story is that I finally broke it off this morning, and without going into more detail, had I done it the first few times I felt God calling me to it, I'm certain it wouldn't have been near as painful.  While the short-term pain is certainly not fun, I know that the cost of obedience in the long run is totally worth it.  Following God's plan for your life is always worth the fight.

The whole ordeal is especially humbling because after I wrote the post about prayer and the book I was reading on prayer, I got the nicest email back from a friend, just encouraging me that over the years she had seen me grow spiritually.  It's hard to chart your own spiritual growth and sometimes it feels like you're not growing at all, especially when you can't even obey Him in such a small thing.  I guess it's a small comfort to know that I did obey, and a chance to build on this obedience for next time.

I just pray that some day I can look back on this situation and know that I've grown since then, that I really can trust God with all the bits and pieces of my life.  I have to keep reminding myself of the verses my parents had me learn years ago, James 1:2-4 (KJV) "My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything."

So once again, and I write this with tears in my eyes, thank you to all of you who have been praying for me.  Not just now while I'm here in Australia, but over the years as well.  I know it's only by God's grace that I have so many amazing, Godly examples in my life who care enough about me to ask our heavenly Father for things on my behalf.

Far North Queensland from the Air

Yesterday Crista and I ended up going on the Skyrail for the day.  *Christa (from Holland) was my roommate when I first came to this hostel.  Anyway, I hadn’t really planned on going but, she said she was going and I was welcome to go along.  She and I get along pretty well and I figured if she was going to go with or without me I might as well go.  It was a very neat experience.  The cableway is about 4.7 miles long and only took a year to construct.  Because it goes overtop the rainforest they had the towers all lifted into place by helicopter to avoid disturbing the rainforest.  There are 2 stations you can stop at along the way and the final station (well, depending on where you start) is in the town of Kuranda.  We started on the Cairns end and rode the cableway the whole way to the end and made our stops on the way back.  While in Kuranda we decided to try some Crocodile Curry for lunch – I still have no idea what crocodile tastes like though because all you can taste is the curry.  We walked through the markets at Kuranda, but due to being poor travellers we decided to skip the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld, and the Kuranda Koala Gardens.  Can’t say I was that disappointed at not visiting… 

Our next stop was Barron Falls Station which is near (or possibly in) Barron Gorge National Park.  It has a beautiful waterfall and had we been wearing shoes could have done a hike around the falls.  Somehow we missed the fact that there were Djabugay Aboriginal Guided Tours, or maybe there was a fee and that’s why we forgot about them.  Anyway, after stopping at the lookout points and a quick trip to the interactive Rainforest Interpretation Centre we hopped back onto a cablecar and headed for Red Peak Station (the highest point on the cableway – 1,788 feet).

While at Red Peak Station we got our own private Park Ranger Tour.  No one else was there when our tour started and no one else ended up joining halfway through either.  It was actually quite fascinating.  Paul, the park ranger, told us all about the different plants in their rainforest.  We’d assumed, while looking at the tops of all the trees on our trip over, that many of the plants were parasitic, but most of them actually aren’t.  It’s really quite amazing how God designed all these different plants to be able to survive in the conditions of a rainforest.  There had been a python in a tree earlier in the day and Paul had hope it was still there so he could show us, but it was gone.  I’m not disappointed at that, at all.  He did show us some huge spider though, and it was rather unnerving.  I prefer to forget that there are so many huge, and dangerous, spiders here, but that certainly reminded me.

It’s a bit expensive to do the Skyrail (well, it seems expensive because I'm such a cheapskate), but it really is a very neat experience and on a clear day the views of the Coral Sea and the coastline from your cablecar are absolutely spectacular. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Glimpse of Light

As some of you may have seen on Facebook, I did have a bit of a breakthrough yesterday.  I was able to apply for quite a few jobs (Crista found this travel shop with free unlimited wifi, which was great) and I even found an ad for “work for accommodation”.  While I wouldn't call it ideal, it will at least allow me to stick around Cairns for a bit longer.  Plus, since it’s working in reception at the hostel, I can put that on my resume and get a reference, so that should up my chances on the job market.  To be honest, I’d love to get a paid job in the next few days and be able to forgo the work for accommodation, just because I really like the hostel I’m currently at and don’t really want to leave.  But, I do have to admit that in the new hostel I will get a room to myself and there’s free breakfast and wifi included in the deal, so I can’t complain just yet.  So, for now that's answered my "should I stay or should I go" question, and I do apologize in advance if you now have that song stuck in your head.

I saw this quote and thought it was pretty cute and appropriate:  "God is such a gentleman, he's always opening doors for me."

Day 136

I didn’t have anything to do last evening and found out that Monday’s are Beach Volleyball Night on the city’s Active Living schedule.   I wasn’t able to find anyone to go with me, so I decided I’d have to go on my own.  If I didn’t like it I could always leave…  Of course it was lots of fun and a great way to meet people.  The gentleman who does the clinic is actually a California native and starts every class off with the basics so everyone will know how to play.  It was very informal and non-competitive and people of all ages and ethnicities joined in the game.

 While using the internet at the library the other day (an issue in and of itself) I thought I’d check and see if I could get a temporary library card like I’d done while in Adelaide.  I didn’t have anything to read and with plenty of time for sunbathing by the pool or just reading in the evenings I thought it would be perfect.  Unfortunately, I’m not able to get a temporary library card without paying a $37 fee.  Fortunately, there is a bookshelf in the hostel and, while there weren’t that many English titles, I did find one book that did at least seem interesting.  It’s called “Breakthrough Prayer” by Jim Cymbala.  I spent most of my afternoon reading the book and it’s very convicting, as well as informative.  It occurred to me, while reading chapter four, that although I’d been searching for a job and even had many of people back home praying for me to find a job, I had definitely not been investing enough of my own time praying for a job.  The below excerpt from the end of that chapter was especially encouraging:
“Even though it can at times be difficult to discern God’s will, He will teach us how to pray as we humbly wait for guidance.  No matter how confusing the situation may be, we can count on two clear and powerful promises that leave no question about God’s will.  These two promises can give our prayer life a fresh start so that we can begin praying regularly with confidence: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).’  ‘My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).’”

I’m looking forward to finishing the book and can’t help but constantly think of my friends from prayer meeting at my home church.  Thanks to my parents always making prayer meeting a priority I’ve been to countless prayer meetings; years of sitting and listening to great prayer warriors, leading by example and praying with conviction and from the heart.  In chapter eight he talked about praying from your heart and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mrs. deRosset.  I don’t think we shared that many prayer meeting groups while she was at my church, but I can remember her prayers none-the-less.  She always seemed to be in tears by the time her turn to pray was over – you knew she was praying from her heart, you could feel her earnestness.  Jim Cymbala states that, “a complete lack of emotion in prayer is a sign of a spiritual ailment” and it made me stop and think about how often my prayers are dry and bland, just saying what’s expected or praying the bare minimum.  Anyway, that’s what’s been on my mind today and although I’m not finished yet, the book is definitely worth a read.

We sang the below song on my last Sunday in Adelaide and absolutely loved it.  I just finally remembered to look up the lyrics and I’m sure most of you can appreciate why I enjoyed it so much:
One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.
Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me: Refrain
As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you'll be telling me the way, I know: Refrain
Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain
You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me;
ever old and ever new,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain
Words: Sydney Carter

Monday, July 21, 2014

North Queensland

The job search isn’t going so well, and since Edwina was in town we decided to do a tour with Northern Experience Eco Tours on Sunday since she was moving on Monday morning.  The only real reason we went was because I wanted to visit Paronella Park and this was one of the only tours that visits there and also the cheapest one. Edwina and I met during my tour of Uluru and since her time in Cairns would overlap with mine we decided we’d try to get together.  The tour was actually really nice, it felt very relaxed and Brett, our tour guide, was great.  We started out at 7:30am and headed south into the Atherton Tablelands.  It’s such a beautiful area of the country with lots of mountains.
 Our first stop was at Lake Barrine, which is a volcanic crater lake.  Since we’d picked the cheap option of the tour and weren’t going on the Wildlife Spotting Cruise, Edwina and I decided to do a rainforest walk around half of the lake.  Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to do the whole loop, but it was a really neat walk and we didn’t see any snakes, so we were both happy.  After that we drove through some more beautiful countryside and stopped at this Giant Curtain Fig Tree.
  It’s basically a plant parasite, and I’m not entirely sure why there’s really only one in the area or why it hasn’t spread.  After the fig tree we headed to Millaa Millaa Falls.  In the summer lots of people go swimming there, but it was a bit cold for most of us to attempt.  Although, while there we did see two other people get in the water.

We stopped for lunch and then headed off to Paronella Park.  This place was amazing and I’m so glad Ming told me to visit, because I’d never heard of it and might have missed out!  It’s hard to describe and even my photos don’t really do the place justice.  It’s an old castle, built in the 1930’s by a Spaniard named Jose Paronella.
  He made his fortune buying and selling sugar cane plantations in Queensland and once married decided he’d fulfill his dream of building his very own castle.  Since Jose’s castle was powered by the water fall, they were the first home in the area to have electricity and indoor plumbing.  After they completed the castle and grounds they opened it to the public (for a fee of course) and it was apparently quite popular with the Australian & American servicemen in the area during the war.  They had tennis courts, a swimming hole, ice cream parlour, roller skating rink, and plenty of manicured walking paths.
  Sadly it ended up sitting empty for about 14 years during the 80’s and the harsh, damp weather didn’t do it any favors.  Thankfully someone eventually bought the place and turned it into the park it is today.  Admission was a bit steep, but when you think about how expensive it is to keep up and repair such a place, it makes sense.  It’s still a beautiful place to visit and you can just image what it was like when he first built it, in its entire, grand splendor.

On our way back to Cairns we did a quick stop at the Babinda Boulders, which are just, well, boulders in a river.  They look neat, but they’re not all that impressive, at least not to me.  As we drove back the sun was setting behind the mountains and coloring all the beautiful sugarcane fields in the valleys in a beautiful, gold-tinted light.  It really was a sight to see.  Brett dropped us back off in Cairns and I said so long to Edwina.  She’s off down the coast and then home to Germany in the next couple of weeks.  It was a nice tour and I enjoyed having someone with which to do the tour.  I’ve decided to stay in Cairns for at least another week in hopes that one of the many jobs I’ve applied for will pan out and I won’t have to move somewhere else and start searching over again.  Only time will tell I guess…..

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reef Experience

It never crossed my mind.  I had thought that there was a chance I wouldn’t enjoy scuba diving, but that didn’t seem likely.  Not being able to scuba dive wasn’t even on my radar.

I got up and caught my bus to the marina, we boarded the boat – couldn’t even find a place to sit or put my stuff.  I filled out my paperwork, telling them I wanted to try the Introductory Dive, and turned it in to the crew.   As we were leaving the marina they had everyone head downstairs for the safety briefing, crew introduction, etc..  Once we were nearer the reef they had those of us doing the Introductory Dive gather for some, well, introduction to diving.  They first sorted everyone into groups, with about 4 people per group and 20 groups total.  Then the instructor started explaining all the equipment, how it would work and the 3 rules of scuba diving (breathe, stay near your instructor, and, well, I can’t remember the third one).  From his explanation I got the feeling that the breathing part would be the hardest – it’s not very natural to only breath through your mouth.  Other than breathing through your mouth you had to be able to equalize your ears – get them to “pop” like when you’re flying and the pressure builds up during takeoff or landing.  Got through all the instructions, didn’t seem like it should be a big deal.  I was group number 8, so I put on my wetsuit and snorkel gear and headed into the water to snorkel while waiting for my group to be called.  I don’t remember snorkeling being so difficult, but I definitely had to really work at breathing because I kept getting water in my snorkel – still not sure why that was.  The reef was beautiful though and I was able to see tons of fish and plenty of beautiful coral too.

I got back to the boat for my turn and headed to the platform.  They strapped me into my BC (scuba vest) with the tank and regulator and all that jazz and sat waiting for the instructor to resurface.  They had us plop into the water (plop is truly the right verb, getting into the water in scuba gear is not graceful) and try breathing.  After the struggle with my snorkel and having to work so hard at breathing, using the regulator was a breeze (I’m not sure if that counts as a pun or not…).  We crawled down the ladder until we were totally submersed and then had to demonstrate the 2 necessary skills to continue.  We had to be able to clear water from our mask and water from our regulator (in case it fell out and we had to put it back in).  Those two skills were also quite easy.  Then he had us try to equalize our ears.  I don’t usually have too much trouble with this while flying, but when flying I’m not also concentrating on keeping water out of my mask and also trying to remember to breathe.  He didn’t really give much advice during his talk on how to make this happen, tricks of the trade or something.  I thought I’d got it done, but as soon as we started descending further down they started hurting.  I couldn’t get them to “pop” right away and didn’t feel like I was allowed to hang around trying to get it to happen.  So I went back up and they pulled me out.  Just like that it was over.  I should have probably been more assertive and asked if I could keep trying to get them to pop, but there were so many other groups still to go, that I didn’t feel like I really had that option.  So, although it pains me to say, scuba diving was a big, fat, failure.  I might try again at some point, and maybe even while I’m here in Cairns, but this time I’d probably pick a boat with less people so I could have a bit more time.
We had some lunch and headed to another spot on the reef.  This was supposed to be a good spot to see turtles, but I never saw any and I don’t think anyone else on the boat did either.  I saw a Maori wrasse (at least I think that’s what it was called) – it was a huge fish and they’re supposed to be rather friendly.  The fish are so brightly colored, as is the coral, but although my camera works underwater, the photos mostly turned out in shades of blue.  I’ll have to see if I can edit them with a red filter and try to get more color to come out.  Anyway, when I got back last night I emailed Peter and told him that maybe being a Dive Master Intern just wasn’t in the cards for me.  I really would like to work on a boat though, I love being on the water, so maybe I’ll just keep emailing dive companies to see if they need kitchen crew or something.  I guess the scuba diving was just such a letdown because I’d felt like the Dive Master was my back-up plan; waiting in the background, so if I didn’t find a job I could always do that.  Now I’m back to the drawing board and hoping something comes through soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

First Day in Cairns

Yesterday was rather uneventful.  The hostel I’m in is…unique, but I like it anyway.  It’s a girls only hostel, and a lot of the girls are living here more long term, although there are also plenty of people just passing through.  It’s an old “Queenslander” home that they’ve made into a hostel, so the set up is a bit strange.  You have to walk through the bathroom to get to the kitchen and the rooms are in odd locations, that sort of thing.  Well after a shower and some breakfast I headed out to find a grocery store to stock up on some food for the week.  I stopped into a few places to ask about job openings, but didn’t have any luck.  Several places said that all the applications have to be put in online, so I ended up coming back to the hostel and researching scuba diving and snorkeling trips as well as applying for more jobs.  Before I could decide it was time to head out for my information session at Reef Teach
 “ Learn what to look for, where to find it and how to discover as much as possible! Reef Teach is staffed by qualified marine biologists and conservationists, who aim to educate, inspire and enthuse visitors to the Great Barrier Reef about this unique and incredible place.”  
I was a bit late because my directionally challenged side got the best of me, but I think I really only missed the introduction.  The gentleman was very charismatic and made the information very fun to learn.  There were photos and videos and plenty of specimens and samples that got passed around so we knew exactly what he was talking about since we could hold it in our hands.

It’s humpback whale migrating season right now so he said we should be able to see whales and dolphins on our trip out to the reef, which is pretty awesome.  Here are some of the fun facts I learned last night.
There are 7 species of sea turtles worldwide and 6 of them are in the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is 2,500 km long – it’s larger than Germany (but has never won a World Cup).
The GBR is actually made up of 2,900 smaller reefs that act as a unit.
Coral by itself is actually colorless, the algae that lives inside it is what gives it color
There are about 1,500 fish species found on the GBR
133 species of sharks can be found on the reef

The presenter (sorry, since I missed the beginning of the talk I have no idea what his name was, but he’s South African) even gave us tons of tips on where to look for certain fish and how to make sure we didn’t get hurt by the many poisonous and dangerous things in the water.  As their tagline says: with learning comes appreciation; the reef is a very fragile place and must be treated as such.  I’d definitely recommend everyone go to the presentation before a visit to the reef, it’s nice to know what you’re going to see and why it’s so cool (hint: it’s not just because it’s pretty).  

So, I’m off tomorrow morning to visit the reef, do some snorkeling and give scuba diving a try.  On that note, I’d better go make sure my camera battery is charged!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Day at the Races

I stumbled upon this intriguing event while searching things to do in Alice Springs.  It seemed like something worth-while to visit, so I decided I'd stay a bit longer so I could see some camel racing in person.  After riding a camel for a few minutes the day before I certainly had a lot of appreciation for the "discomfort" that is riding a running camel.  The races started at noon and they had a free shuttle from the city centre to the track (and back), so that was really nice.  In between the actual races they had plenty of action, including rickshaw races (people-powered teams of 4, with two sitting and two pulling, that had to switch halfway), a fashion competition, and kids races on stick camels.  Oddly enough, the woman that won Miss Camel Cup 2014 was from the USA.

One of the more comical races was the Honeymoon Handicap.  The camels start as in a normal race (sitting down) – however half way around the track, the camel (and new husband aboard) must stop and pick up their new brides and then proceed to the finish. One poor fellow couldn't get his camel to stop, and since he didn't pick up his bride ended up disqualified.

The money from the event all goes to charity and it all started back in the 70's as a way to solve a friendly dispute.  It was such a hit that they've been racing ever since.

A quote from a camel jockey: "Life was grand. I was in front. I was screaming. I was happy.  And then the camel stopped like a shopping cart and turned  left...but at 35 miles an hour I just kept going."

Feel free to learn more about this fun event by visiting their website: www.camelcup.com.au

Saturday, July 12, 2014

An Outback Adventure

I arrived in Alice Springs on Tuesday and at 5:30am Wednesday morning got picked up by my tour bus. I was doing the three day, two night trip with The Rock Tour so I do apologize, this post is going to be extra long.  Our Irish tour guide's swearing could put a sailor to shame, but he was nice enough and did a good job.  I'd been praying before this trip that I'd be able to make a buddy, just someone to hang out with on the trip, and God gave me a great Finnish girl named Milla.  She was very funny and we ended up doing all the hikes together and being "swag buddies" every night.  Did I mention this was a true camping experience?  We slept on the ground every night in swags (the Australian term for a bedroll - it's a canvas cocoon with a matress inside and you put your sleeping bag in, zip it all up and you're good to go), and the first night was just out in the bush, no running water or electricity.  We did thankfully have a "bush toilet" so we didn't have to wander off and dig a hole.  Sleeping in a swag probably wouldn't have been too bad except the sleeping bags you rent off them didn't seem to be made for winter weather.  I was totally shocked at how thin they were!  We all froze every night since it was below freezing.  So, although I got no sleep for two nights in the row, it was still a cool experience and didn't ruin the trip.

After a four hour bus ride the first day we went to Watarrka National Park to do the Kings Canyon Rim Walk for our first hike of the trip.
 It was so beautiful, there's even one section named The Garden of Eden because of all the trees and bushes near a water hole.  Such varied landscape, it was very impressive.  We stopped along the road on our way to our campsite to collect firewood for the night.  We all pitched in to prepare and cook dinner over the fire before finally getting a demonstration of how to use a swag and going to bed.  We got up a 4:30am the next morning (although none of us minded because we were so cold and couldn't sleep anyway), had some breakfast, packed up and headed to Kata Tjuta for the Valley of the Winds hike.  This hike was possibly more beautiful than the first hike. Milla and I had a good time on the hike and we even got to see some kangaroos.
 After the hike we headed to the Uluru Aboriginal Cultural Center to learn more about the 'Tjukurpa' Dreamtime of the Pitjantjatjara tribe.  It was such a fascinating cultural center and was definitely what I needed.  Up until this point Australia just didn't seem that foreign because their culture was too similar to our own, so I especially enjoyed learning about Pitjantjatjara culture, history, and their code of conduct and such.  Sadly, you can't take any photos inside the cultural center and there was so much to learn and we just didn't have that much time there.  Uluru is in a National Park so to give the land back to its rightful owners the Australian government leased it to the Pitjantjatjara with their people having the majority position on the board and after the lease is up they can do what they want with the land.  As of now they work hand in hand with the non-Aboriginal rangers helping protect the land.  Because Uluru is sacred to their people they don't want people to climb Uluru, but have yet to be able to make it illegal to do so.  Their park rangers even have it in their contract that if someone gets hurt climbing Uluru they don't have to take part in the rescue.  Sadly, so many people still climb, even though there's a huge sign at the bottom, in several languages, asking people not to climb.

We headed to the sunset viewing area to have dinner and snap some photos of the color changes.  It was pretty neat, although it happens so subtly that you almost don't notice.  It was awesome though because the full moon was just off to the left, and I love a full moon.

Our second night we were at a campground so we were able to get some nice hot showers and use real toilets - it really is the little things in life you have to appreciate.  We sat around the fire for quite awhile, none of us wanted to go to bed because we knew we'd just be freezing cold.  Between Milla and Inga (a very funny, and adorable German girl) we had plenty to chat about.  It was fun to hear more about everyone's travels and adventures in Australia so far.  Plus Killian had tons of stories from all the past tour groups he's had.  I just wonder if he'll have any stories about our group to tell the next group.  I don't remember anything all that memorable happening, but who knows. This time when he told us we had to get up at 5:30am none of us moaned about it because we knew we'd all be more than ready to get up and moving.

Day three had us watching the sun rise next to Uluru while eating our breakfast.  It was terribly cold and windy, but well worth the effort.  Plus, when it's that cold out there's never any trouble finding someone to wash the dishes because it's a sure-fire way to keep your hands warm.
Our final hike was actually quite easy - we simply walked around the base of Uluru.  It's the second largest monolith in the world and took Milla and I just under 2 hours to walk around.  There are so many facets to the rock, and it was a beautiful sunny morning for such a walk.  Once we finished it was back to the bus to start making our way to Alice Springs.  Our final stop on the way "home" was at a camel farm.  Milla convinced me to ride a camel with her and it was actually quite fun - mostly because she couldn't stop laughing and carrying on during the ride.  Once the camel started running I wasn't sure she was going to make it.  As we made our way back the sun was starting to set and the view out the window as the outback landscape went rushing by was spectacular.  So that was my adventure, thankfully I didn't see any snakes or spiders!  I did have a scare the first night though, I swear I felt something crawling across the top of my swag, but I was too scared to lift the flap and find out what it was....

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Trip to the Zoo

I'm a bit late in posting this, but figured I should catch you all up.  I ended up finishing my house sit in Gawler and going back to Adelaide to stay with Doug & Rosalie for the weekend.  Since my plans had changed I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to those at Gawler Baptist, but I did send Brian & Liz and email thanking them for their hospitality and asking them to pass along my goodbyes.  They were even so kind as to invite me back to their house if I'm in the area during Christmas, which I thought was super sweet.  Doug & Rosalie picked me up from the train station Sunday morning and I was able to go back to Flinders Street Baptist and say goodbye to the folks there.  Torrey even had me go up on stage during the service and told everyone I was leaving.  Thankfully it wasn't too embarrassing.  Later that afternoon Rosalie and I headed to Glenelg (since it was sunny), they have a nice, new boardwalk so we took a walk along the beach.  After that we stopped in at Bracegirdle's House of Chocolate.  I never thought I'd say it but, their hot chocolate was literally too sweet, neither of us finished ours.  Granted, we'd had an ice cream cone on our walk and tried some of their chocolate mousse first, so that could have had something to do with it...

On Monday we ended up going to the Adelaide Zoo.  I honestly can't remember the last time I was at a zoo, so it was fun.
Hippos, Meerkat, Tiger, Wombat, Panda, and Cassowary

It was a chilly day (understandably, it is winter) so we got a pandaccino to warm us up.
It was a nice way to spend my last day in Adelaide and I felt very blessed to have met such a wonderful couple.  They took me to the airport and now I'm in Alice Springs!  Heading into the outback...

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day in a British Commonwealth

While yesterday was not my first 4th of July celebrated outside the U.S. it was my first celebrated in part of the British Commonwealth and my first to not actually be celebrated (I'm the only American).  Plus, it's freezing cold here.  Well, not literally, but I'm cold.  The don't have the same type of heating we do and their houses aren't insulated or sealed the same way those of us in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere insulate and seal our homes.  Granted, the heat wasn't on in the house for most of the day yesterday so that certainly didn't help.

We ended up with a flat battery in the Jeep yesterday, which I thought was a bit strange. It hadn't been driven for about 5 weeks or so and I didn't have any trouble (thank God) getting it to start on Thursday when I went to pick them up at the airport.  In fact we drove it to the airport and back and then out to dinner with no trouble, but the next day as we were about to head out to lunch it wouldn't start.  It didn't take long for the RAA (their version of AAA) to send someone out with a new battery and we were on our way.  We had some fantastic pizza at Tenafeate Creek Wines.  The owner is Italian and the pizza's were definitely Italian quality.

Plans have changed a bit for their family, so I might end up leaving and going to stay with Doug & Rosalie in Adelaide until I fly up to Alice Springs on Tuesday morning, but it's still all rather up in the air.  Their son arrived early this morning to pick up his kids to take them on a vacation, well anyway, the kids might be staying here the weekend as well, so they really could use the extra bedroom I'm taking up.  Plans have a way of changing rather rapidly though, so who knows...  Trying to go with the flow, but as a general rule I do like to know where I'm staying from one night to the next.  I hope you've all enjoyed your Independence Day celebrations!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Deemed a Success

I was awake, but hadn't bothered to get out of bed yet, when my phone rang yesterday morning.  It was Dick calling to let me know they'd managed to get an earlier flight.  With that news the pace of my morning sped up a bit so that I could get ready and get to the airport in time.  I arrived early and their flight was delayed be about half an hour, but I had a book to read so it wasn't too bad.  At this point I'm quite used to sitting in airports.  What I wasn't used to was being able to meet them at the gate.  Apparently for domestic flights you don't need to have a ticket to go through security and meet someone at the gate.  Also of minor interest, was the parking garage.  As you entered there was a tally board that told you how many open spaces were on each level.  I don't think it was entirely accurate, but it certainly gave you a good gauge of your chance at finding a parking spot.  It was a pretty lazy afternoon yesterday (well for me it was, Les was busy unpacking and washing bedding -it was a mess from the dogs).  Her and I watched some Golden Girls (that show always makes me laugh) and then Rachel (their daughter) and their 2 grandsons Jacob & Caleb arrived.  Jacob and I talked about movies and TV shows until it was time to head to Fasta Pasta for dinner (it was Thursday after all, and they're Thursday night regulars).

So this morning was spent reading the newspaper and applying for a few jobs.  I have no idea what they have planned for the rest of the weekend, but hopefully I can manage to get to Flinders Street Baptist for church on Sunday.  Pastor Torrey had sent me an email inviting me to come down since they're having a special CoCG service.  I have no idea what that stands for (the 3 people I asked couldn't remember), but it's the "college & career" group I believe.  Anyway, it would be nice to see everyone there again, so we'll see what happens.  Dick & Les both seemed happy with the way the animals and the house were cared for, so my first housesitting assignment was a success.

Happy Independence Day USA