Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm feeling humbled

Three years ago we arrived here in Alice Springs and i remember our first Sunday at church and the culture shock involved. There were so many aboriginal saints in church that day and many visitors as well. For those of you who have never been to the outback, let me tell you a little about my first impressions of aboriginal people. They are not known for being sanitary or clean in any way. To put it bluntly, they stink. I don't mean just a little bit, but they really smell, and when you get a good number of them in an enclosed chapel, it can tend to get a little bit overwhelming to say the least. As you walk around town you see them everywhere. They live in the dry river bed, in the alleys and many of them do actually live in houses as well. They walk all around town, so it's hard to miss them. Whenever you see a group walking together there is almost always one or two in the group carrying a very large case of beer and when you see them elsewhere they are very commonly drunk and beligerent. Ok, so that was my first impression.

Now we've been here for 3 years and have got to know so many of them. I've seen so many change their lives, clean themselves up and start to attend church regularly. These people are a great people with strong spirits and many are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Though it's hard to see this as you get around town and live here, they really are out there.

Tonight we had our branch Christmas party at church and we had a huge turnout. It was truly humbling to see so many people from all over the world there. We have Aussies, New Zealanders, better known as Kiwi's, Americans, many Asians from China, Korea, Philipeans and more and then we had a very large turn out of aboriginal people as well. The smell no longer bothers me ( I actually don't remember even smelling it tonight) and the people bring in such a strong spirit to go with them. As I returned home and got on Facebook (my addiction) I was introduced to a video that was made earlier this year and I felt so strongly that I just want to share it with everybody. It was made by one of the senior missionaries serving here in our branch and so many of the people in it are very dear to us as a family and to our branch as well. To me, this is what living and being in Alice Springs is all about.

Can you see the true joy and light radiating from each and every one of those faces?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

National Vacation-part five (Adelaide)

While in Adelaide we were thrown more rain, lots and lots of it. So, once again, all of our outdoor activities had to be postponed or canceled. We stayed with our friends the Watts. We met them the last time we were in Adelaide for our branch temple trip. They had a busy week planned but were gracious enough to allow us to stay anyway. We went to church on Sunday and our friend Lyndy got a flat tire on the way. So they got it changed and we all got back to their house afterwards. We had a nice dinner together that night and that was probably the only night we actually got to see much of each other. During the rainy evenings the kids had to find things to entertain themselves. One of the things they found was Lyndy's basket of laundry pegs. They all had a blast with them as you can see.

We also got to take a trip to Melba's chocolate factory. There they have everything open so that you can see how chocolate is made and, if you go at the right times, you can see the workers making your chocolates for you. There are free samples throughout and then you can buy the candies and chocolates by the bag full as well. We spent way too much money in there but the kids each got something they really wanted and have enjoyed eating it.

Josh and I got to spend an evening at the temple and do a session. I have a special place in my heart for the Adelaide temple as that's actually our home temple and it's the place that I got to do the work for my grandparents and feel the special spirit that was there as we did so. We didn't get any pictures of the temple this time (I don't know why, maybe we forgot the camera?) but that doesn't make it any less special.

We also spent the day as a family at the beach too. We got there at a decent time of the day but it rained the whole drive there. We told the kids to pray for sun so that we could actually enjoy some time at the beach that day (though not swimming-it was winter after all). We parked the car and all of a sudden the sun came out and broke through the clouds. The kids were so excited. We said a prayer of thanks before we got out the stroller and went for a walk up the beach. We walked up to the pier and decided to walk out to the end for some pictures and a good view and as we approached it we saw these clouds-another very large storm moving in. We thought it was a ways off but then it started moving fast. We went quickly to the end of the pier, took some pictures and walked back. As we approached the beach again (and the shops) the storm hit hard and pored down rain.

We quickly ducked into a toy store for a look around and spent about 20 or 30 minutes in there until the rain stopped again. Once it stopped this time it was pretty much done for the say, thank goodness. We got out some Ziploc bags and let each of the kids collect a bag full of shells of their choice, walked along the beach, had dinner at McDonald's and looked through some of the shops for a bit. As our time was expiring for parking we decided to walk back and head home. We arrived back there just as the sun was going down. That night was Lyndy's birthday and we wanted to do something special for her. Nigel and Lyndy had to work most of our trip as well as having their anniversary and her birthday and we wanted to have something special anyway. We grabbed her some flowers, a nice pair of fuzzy, warm socks and I baked her a cake. The decorations aren't the best but I did the best I could with what I had. She loved it!

Finally, our stay in Adelaide was done. We packed up the car, once again, and headed out a little bit later than we had planned to. We decided to try and make it as far as we could that night but to stop someplace and sleep during the night. We ended up driving a little bit longer than we had planned to since the town we wanted to stay in had no room at the inn. We made it into Coober Pede right about 10pm (it's dangerous to drive after dark with all the kangaroos on the road) and found ourselves a room at a decent price. In the morning we went to the Old Timers Mine. Last time we took the inside tour and decided that the kids really only wanted to see and dig in the noodle pits so this time we walked through the outside and then let the kids each fill a small Ziploc with opals from the pit.

We had sandwiches to eat and then headed out on our way home again. We got home at a decent time and, after 30 days of going and going, we let ourselves relax in our own beds once again.

National Vacation-part four (Great Ocean Road)

I decided that this portion of our trip needed it's own post. We really had so much fun on the great ocean road and our trip to Adelaide. We stopped at Apollo Bay as it started to get dark and as found a hotel to check into. It was a Best Western and had 2 rooms as well as a living room and kitchenette. It was roomy and we really felt comfy there. Once we were checked in we decided to take the kids to the huge park along the highway so they could get some energy out after a long day in the car (and we never tell the hotels how many kids we really have so the less energy they have the better). They had a blast on that playground and there was so much to do but it was hard to get very many pictures as it was getting pretty dark and my camera didn't want to focus very well.

After a good nights' rest we headed out once again with the 12 apostles in our sights and Adelaide afterwards. It didn't take us very long to get to the 12 apostles. We found ourselves a parking spot and too a walk across the walkway, under the highway and to the ocean viewing area. It's a breathtaking view to see. The rocks, years ago, used to be connected to the land. Through the years it washed away the land around them leaving them out in the middle of the ocean the way they are. There used to be 12 of them and they were called something else which didn't get any interest or people coming to see them. Then they changed the name to the 12 apostles and made viewing them easier and now they are something that people come to see all the time. There are also only 10 or 11 of them left, as the ocean has since washed a couple more down to the point where you can no longer see them above the water. It's something that everybody should see and take it one day. God's natural beauty!

Our family with some of the 12 apostles behind us

Some of the 2 apostles in all their beauty

The view from the other side (aka the rest of the apostles)

Once we saw and took in the apostles we jumped back on the breath taking Great Ocean Road for awhile before we cut up and across our scenic route to Adelaide. We made pretty good time throughout the day and arrived somewhere around 9pm that night at the familiar home of our friends the Watts.

National Vacation-part three (Melbourne)

Melbourne added for us some challenges. We arrived at the Westin, which took us a bit to find, later in the evening only to find that we had to park in a lot that wasn't very close to the hotel. So we unloaded right out front where the whole world could see how many kids we were shuffling in. We also had to initially walk all the kids past the front desk to the elevator, hoping they wouldn't see them and try to charge us an arm and a leg for having so many. Our room had only 1 king size bed which meant that all the kids had to sleep on the floor. As it was, they wanted to charge us $60 per night for a roll away bed to put in the room. Talk about a rip off-Sydney gave it to us for free. We got settled in and even though they complained, we got the kids sorted out on the floor ( I think the Sydney Westin spoiled them) and we went to sleep for the night.

The next morning we woke to rain. Sometimes it was heavy and other times it was just a mist but it pretty much kept on in some form or another the whole time we were there. Almost all of the activities we had planned in Melbourne were outdoor so we had to get creative and look for something to do indoors. The first thing we found was the Melbourne Museum. The kids enjoyed themselves so much at the one in Sydney that we figured we couldn't go wrong. It wasn't too far from our hotel and it was only $8 per adult and kids were free-how can you go wrong? Well, let me tell you. It happened to be the first days of school holidays in Melbourne and I think that everybody and their siblings decided to go to the Melbourne Museum that day-it was crowded to say the least. We were constantly counting kids and checking to see if we had them all, losing some of their crafts and even lost a kid at one point (only for a minute-then we found her again). Even with all the craziness we still got to spend quite a bit of time at the museum and the kids had a blast.

Dinosaurs at the museum

The kids all dressed up in their Pompeii themed helmets

Had to get a picture with Yoda before we left the museum. Isn't he cool?

We did a lot of sight seeing and shopping in Melbourne and our stay there seemed so short. We tried to get to this supposedly really cool park called St Kilda's while we were there but the streets were so confusing and not labeled correctly (and we forgot our map at the hotel) so after about an hour of driving what should have taken 10-15 minutes, we gave up and went back to the hotel. We spent another whole day finding a laundromat and doing our laundry and it was really cold the entire stay there. As you can see in the pictures, we had to pull out the big jackets in order to stay warm.
While in Malbourne we recieved information from Josh's command that something might be wrong with our house. They said that somebody made an anonymous report that our house was trashed and that our cats were shut in the bedroom with nothing to eat or drink. We freaked out. We called our neighbor, who has a key, to ask her to go look but she was too busy (I won't go there) to walk next door at that moment. So we called the friends watching our house who promptly drove across town to check it out for us. They called back within the hour to tell us that everything looked fine and that our other neighbor said the only people he had seen in and out were the other neighbor, our housesitters and the AC maintenance guys. Bingo! The maintenance guys had entered our house without permission, saw Mimi, who has been quarantined in our bathroom and made up a nice story about the house to report it to housing. So then the army guys had to walk through, housing had to walk through and our neighbors came over to straighten up a bit for us. Talk about a nightmare! We've had words with housing since.
We got to go to church on Sunday and the members volunteered to set up childcare for us to go to the temple on our last day. We loaded up the car, checked out of the hotel, dropped off the kids with the ward's young women (I think they counted it as one of their service projects) and went to the temple. We got to do a session and really enjoyed our time there. We got some really good pictures of the temple too.

After leaving the temple we pretty much headed straight out on our trip-car loaded and all. We decided to take the scenic route to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road. It's a beautiful drive and there's so much to see. We took our time and stopped at beaches and lighthouses along the way. We didn't get very far the first day. We could have made the trip in one day if we had left early but we decided to take 2 days instead and just take our time. As it started to get dark we looked at where we were and decided to stop in Apollo Bay for the night so that we could see the 12 apostles the next morning in the light.

One of the lighthouses we stopped to see along the way

To be continued....

You know it's been too long when...

I decided last night, after reading somebody else's blog, that I should come and look at my own. I started typing it into my browser and usually it pops up options of recently viewed sites, there was nothing. That's when I knew that it had been too long since I wrote in or even looked at my blog. so here I am. I'm going to try and make a better effort to update something on here at least once a week. It seems to me so often that nothing important is happening anymore because a lot of what I do it just the mundane day to day stuff with the kids. However, some of that mundane stuff might be interesting to others and there is some other stuff that isn't so mundane as well, it's just not as prevalent.

So, recently (or semi-recently anyway), we had the month of November. After Halloween we took down our decorations, kind of slowly, I think it took about 2 weeks to get them all put away, and then got out Christmas stuff. Last year Josh made me wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the Christmas decorations and somehow we didn't even get the tree put up until the week before Christmas. The lights went up on the outside of the house at the same time and we didn't get much else even put up. The year before, I had a 2 month old baby and somehow managed to put it all up with heaps of time to spare. The difference? It went up right before Thanksgiving the year before. Granted it was only a couple of days before but still, it was before. So this year, knowing that we are now leaving here in January and that everything has to come down the week after Christmas to get ready for packing, I told Josh that it all had to go up ASAP so that I could enjoy it. The house looks great, both inside and out, and we are really starting to enjoy the Christmas season more this year and getting anxious for all the festivities.

For Thanksgiving we decided to have a big group of people over. We were kind of slow at inviting people to come over because somehow Thanksgiving came upon us really fast this year. We tried to invite our friends the Kaeslers but it was too late and they already had plans. We did however, have over our fried Marilyn and her brother Calvin, the 4 elders serving in town, Krystal Taumalolo, Tyne Martin and her 3 kids Jesse, Jono and Aotea, and our friends the Maritz, Chantal, Kevin and their kids Nathan, Ethan, Kristin and Nicholas. It was a full house but isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about? I'll miss being able to have such big and multicultural get togethers once we get back to the states for good. For example, Krystal and Tyne are both from New Zealand, Marilyn and her brother are part aboriginal and full Australians, the missionaries had 3 Americans and 1 Aussie and the Maritz are from South Africa. I love having so many people from so many places over and then we all get to try some of the dishes from each of their countries. Everybody loved the Aussie salad and I loved the South African desert and they all really enjoyed the pumpkin deserts, even though they were all leery at first to even try them. It's great to share.

So now we're well into the month of December and the holiday season is in full bloom. The kids all finished school last week, Josiah graduated the 3rd grade, Noah from 1st grade and Raven finished Transition (the equivalent of American kindergarten) . It's a little bit weird to have the school year over and done already, but only because we're now going back stateside and they'll have to repeat the grade they just finished for a few months.

Josh has finally started getting job offers and interviews, which is such a relief. He has already interviewed for 2 companies in Ohio, one said they have no positions right now but want to hang onto his resume and the other is sending him an offer this week. He's also interviewed out here at base for a position that he'll find out if he get the offer this week too. There's a company in the Virginia/DC area that wants an interview and another in Colorado for the same. The job we really want in Tucson, AZ might not find out if they can hire him until as late as March, which is a big bummer. Perhaps we'll start hearing from some of the other Arizona companies he applied to before too long-I can hope can't I?

We should be getting orders any day now and we are to fly out of here on or about January 19 to start out processing and be done with the military. There are parts that I'll miss, like the health care being covered 100% as well as housing and all out utilities, but there is so much more that I won't miss. I'm ready to have my own house and not have to worry about the kids spilling things on the carpet or breaking things that don't belong to us (then I can worry about them breaking things that we have to fix ourselves, right?). Ok, that's about the extent of my thoughts for now. I'm sure there will be something else that comes to me later, but that'll just give me something more to write about. Maybe I'll finish blogging about our trip one of these days-so much has happened since then.