Tuesday, December 23, 2008

From Our Home to Yours...

I've had nearly 6 weeks of friends, family, and food to enjoy here in the states and there's more to come this week for Christmas! So much fun. I can't believe we head back to Australia on Sunday night. (I refuse to think of our 18 hour straight through flight to Singapore, couple of hours layover, and then an eight hour flight to Sydney. I want a smile on my face for the holidays and that just makes me feel bah, humbug.) So what has made my spirits bright this Christmas season? Here's my 12 Days of Christmas for you...

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

12 Parents and siblings (mom, dad, Karl & Becky, Eric & Karen, mom, dad, Darin & Chris, Matt & Dianne

11 Presents I'm getting from Phil for Christmas...yippee!

10 frequent guests of the Lankford home and the best friends ever (Jared & Kristi with Josh & Ethan; Rob & Faith with Grace & Jacob, Gregg & Ashley)

9 Nieces and nephews (Kyle, Jack, Jake, Sammy, Jordan, Hannah, Josh, Zach, & Alexandra)

8 Hundred hours of being with Sox (not really sure of the hours but I needed something for 8)

7 slices of pizza from Brother's (again, not sure of the number of slices but needed something)

6 Sundays at Langhorne Terrace Ministries (our church)

5 Friends called the DAGS (Diana, Robin, Joan, Kelly, and Mary)

4 Trips to Chick-Fil-A

3 Lunches At Panera

2 Christmas parties (our annual Sunday School party, and a CGCA Class of '91 mini-reunion)

and 1 Thanksgiving spent in Tipp City, Ohio.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. New Year's Eve will find us back in Sydney on our balcony taking in the firework show over the Harbour Bridge. Now that is something to look forward to...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

Made it back on Monday night. Man...that is one long flight. On the bright side, I have to do it all over again at the end of December. Oh wait...after the 18 hour flight to Singapore, I get to have a couple of hour layover and then hop on a 8 hour flight to Sydney. Just smilin' big, folks.
Our computer at home has finally been put to it's eternal rest, so I'm at a computer at the local library with yikes, 9 minutes left. I'll have to type fast.
Indonesia was...yep, not a big fan of Indonesia. I don't like it when people stare at me and I was stared at all day long. I was seriously creeped out. We watched some dragon boat races, walked through the town, I tried to not smell the local smells, and then spent a long time at the ferry boat dock waiting for the boat to take us back to Singapore. At some point, I'll post some pictures.
Yikes... 6 minutes left. I'll make this quick. So nice to be back home! There are just no words. I'm off for a lunch with the DAGS, then dinner tonight with the Eppinger's, and then off with Faith to see Ashley's show tonight. Just can't wait! I love it here. Just love it. As I wrote on my facebook status, Dorothy was right. There's no place...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

You Are Not Going to Believe What I Did In Singapore...

We've been here in Singapore since Wednesday night. Not much time on the computer since I can only get on when Phil comes back to the hotel after work, but I needed to blog about what the trip's been like so far. So what did I do?

Am I talking about looking at the um, unique Christmas decorations that are going up all around town. Nope...but they are unique. Very colorful and apparently the theme this year on the big shopping road- Orchard Road, is candy. Picture street lights with purple and white candy canes on them, red hearts hanging everywhere (with a bit of Hitachi advertising on them), big baby blue ribbons tied on the street lights, wrapped "candy" hanging from trees, giant cupcakes on the side of the street, and just in tonight...huge Precious Moments figures that have appeared around the Fountain of Wealth which we can see from our hotel window. An eclectic collection indeed.

Am I talking about our dinner one night at a Scottish restaurant? Nope...but I will say that it was the first time I ever had an Asian waiter serve me wearing a kilt.

Am I talking about our fun day today in Sentosa? Nope...but it was fun. We took the monorail over to the island of Sentosa and toured an old English military fort that is now a museum, went to the aqarium, toured the exhibit-Images of Singapore, walked up to the top of the Merlion, and had another fun ride on the street luge. For those keeping score (okay...me) I beat Phil on the luge even after a close photo-finish. Not really, but I did feel like I got a bit close to the boards when he tried to squeeze me out at the very end. Wasn't going to happen...I raced ahead and beat him.

I am talking about my experience yesterday afternoon at Kenko, the fish spa. Yes...the fish spa. After meeting Phil and a U.S. co-worker and his wife who now live here for lunch, the co-worker's wife informed me that we were going to have an adventure. Hence...the fish spa. Yes...I was a bit apprehensive. What in the world is a fish spa? In a nutshell, you roll your pants up, sit on a bench, put your feet and legs in what looks like an aqarium and let all of these little fish come up and start biting your feet and legs. Yeah...really. Apparently these fish feed off of any dead skin they can get from you. I know...eeww. I guess my feet and legs were dry because as soon as I put my legs in the water, it looked like I had knee-high boots on that were made of little fish.

How did it feel? Um...very odd at first. I mean these fish were eating my skin! I was getting seriously skeeved out. But if I had to fork over 30 dollars for 30 minutes, my legs were staying in the water. After awhile, it felt like pins and needles. You know if you sit on your foot and then it falls asleep and you get pins and needles while you wait to get the feeling back? That's what it felt like. Did the treatment work? I'm surprised to say...yes. My feet are as smooth as a baby's behind! Who knew? Would I do it again? Not sure, but how many people can say that they've had skin-eating fish nibble on their feet and legs in Singapore? (Wow...that's a really weird sentence to write.)

Tomorrow we head over to Bintan, Indonesia. Never been there so I'm sure I'll post again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In the Air Again...

Just can't wait to get in the air again...everyone, sing along. You can thank the Lankfords (more realistically, Phil's company) for single-handedly keeping the airlines afloat in these bad economic times. Phil and I leave tomorrow afternoon for Singapore. Yes...I'm heading back to the country that smells like one giant Chinese restaurant. Not sure what I'm going to do with myself while Phil is working, but if I come across anything interesting...you'll be the first to know.

We may also fly over to Malaysia on Friday night or Saturday. Kuala Lumpur (no idea if that's spelled right) to be exact. And did you know that only the US prounces Lumpur like lum-pour with emphasis on pour? Everyone else says Lumpur like lump-er, emphasis on lump. No, I'm not making this stuff up. We may also throw in a quick trip to Indonesia. I'll keep you posted by well...posting.

After my mini-Southeastern Asian tour, I head for home on Monday. After a straight-through, non-stop, 18 hour plane ride from Singapore to New York. Good times. But it's all good...I'm heading home for the holidays! Phil unfortunately has another week in Singapore, then a week in India (poor guy...he's going to have to eat turkey curry for Thanksgiving...how depressing), a week back here in Sydney and then will join me back in Philly in early December. Then we can celebrate Christmas together in the cold weather...as it's supposed to be when it's December!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


And you thought this post was going to be about our new President...nope. But I will say here, was it disappointing that the man I voted for did not win? Yes. Am I a bit nervous about the next four years? You bet. Do I wish Barack Obama would change his worldview when it comes to abortion and same-sex marriage? Absolutely. Would I rather choose to spread my wealth when and to whom I wish, rather than big government choosing for me? Oh yeah. But...all that does not change the fact that nothing happened on November 4th that wasn't supposed to happen. Why? Not sure, but I'm a firm believer that nothing surprises God. All I do know is that whoever is President, deserves my respect (at least for the office itself), my ability to keep my mouth shut when I want to say negative things about him, and most of all, my prayers. (Hmm...and surely our current President deserves all of these as well instead of what he and his family have had to endure for the longest time!) But I was talking about diversity...
I meant diversity on the streets of Sydney. It hit me as I was walking to Subway for lunch today. Because I. Just. Can't. Eat. McDonald's. Anymore. This. Week. I love my cheeseburger but I must take a break. You see it all on the streets of Sydney, such as...

1. People wearing pointy bamboo hats. You know...like the ones you see in a picture of people from Vietnam. But what's puzzling, is they're not of Asian descent. So why...

2. School children wearing big floppy hats with wide brims. I was struck with how many children you see wearing hats down here. Because the only time you see kids, especially babies and toddlers wearing hats in the U.S. is when their parent wants to take a picture of them in a cute hat and has to take the picture real fast before the kid reaches up to pull it off. Found out in my research (only for you, my faithful readers...no stone unturned) that several years ago there was a major health campaign around Australia that insisted that parents put hats on their children when they went outside. In fact, it's almost considered a form of child abuse if you don't. Most schools won't let children outside for recess unless they wear their big, floppy hats. Why? Australia has the world's most cases of skin cancer...three times more than the U.S. Makes sense.

3. Tee shirts with writing on them. Most I could not re-print here for my family-friendly blog, but did pass one today on a guy that said, "You Look Like My Next Girlfriend." Uh...no.

4. Flip-flops. Everyone wears them. You'll see business women in conservative tailored jackets and skirts, shuffling along in flip flops on their way to work. (I assume they change shoes when they get to their office.)

5. And on the other end of the spectrum...high-heeled shoes like you wouldn't believe. It's also not unusual to see women shuffling along in 4 inch heels. Come on...how is that remotely comfortable? (says the American who is mostly seen in her faithful Nike's.)

6. Ridiculously skinny jeans. Can I just say that no one, even if you have the body of a supermodel- male or female, looks attractive in those really tight skinny jeans. And men...you just look like you have skinny chicken legs when you wear them. Eewww.

7. Uggs. There's a reason why these boots sound like you're saying the word, ugly. And who wears furry boots when you have shorts on? Shorts with furry boots? That doesn't make any sense.

8. Man Bags. Um...what? Women carry purses. Men...you just carry a wallet. If you have more to carry than that, sure...carry a briefcase. Sling a backpack on your shoulder...fine. But carry a man bag? You just look silly. And finally...

9. Leggings as Pants. If you want to wear leggings...go ahead. But put something on that covers your backside. A skirt. A long shirt. Whatever. And the same goes for all those men that jog in the Botanical Gardens while wearing spandex. (Except for the skirt part.) Really don't want to see any of that.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It Snowed!!

In Hanmer Springs that is. And only stuck to the top of the mountains. (Side note...It's the end of October. It should be cold. This 70's and 80's weather in Sydney at the end of October is nuts. I shouldn't be seeing Christmas decorations in stores while wearing tee shirts and shorts. And I shouldn't see this sign either- "Beat The Heat This Christmas at Baskin Robbins." But I digress.) We woke up Sunday morning to the pictures below. We got breakfast at our breakfast place, Robbie's Pub, walked around some and then got in the car to drive back down to Christchurch. But first...some pictures.

Once we got to Christchurch, we decided to walk around the city. Yes...it is one of the biggest cities in New Zealand, and yes, there are some tallish buildings (our hotel room was on the 11th floor ) but at times you'd be walking in "center city", turn the corner and then were faced with a city block of 1 and 2 story buildings that looked like Main Street USA. Very strange. Our hotel was next door to Christchurch Cathedral.

We continued walking through the city over to the Botanical Gardens...

passed the tram that takes you on a circuit around the city...

and then came upon the holy grail. Literally...the Holy Grail Sports Bar just down the street from our hotel. The sky should've opened up with a beam of light on the sign as angels in one chorus broke out in a harmonious "aaahhhhhhh". Wings and cokes...20 something dollars. Being able to watch the Phillies play and win Game 3 of the World Series on a 50 foot tv screen while in New Zealand...priceless!

As I type this, I'm watching the replay of today's game where our Phillies won the World Series. We watched it live this morning/afternoon as well and I think Phil speaks for us all when he turned to me after the win, while watching the pile-up on the mound and said, "I think I'm gonna cry." Sweet day! Now if we could only be there in Philly for the parade down Broad St. this week...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hanmer Springs...New Zealand's Alpine Spa Village

Or so the advertising slogan goes. On Saturday morning (being the outdoor enthusiasts that we are so known for) we decided to do some outdoor stuff since we were up in the mountains and all. And there was so much to choose from...mountain biking, hikes (or tramps as they call them here), fishing, hunting, bungy jumping (uh...no), jetboat trips, river rafting, quad biking, skeet shooting, 4x4 tours, paintball, mini golf, horseback riding, helicopter tours, archery, and even sitting in the thermal pools at the main attraction- Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa.

First...we chose archery. No, really we did. And it was fun. The competition was fierce. After a stinging injury on my left inside elbow (got in the way of my blazing arrow and stung like the dickens!), I couldn't keep up. Actually...I was never in the running. I don't think I could hit a target if it was painted on the side of a barn. Got a few in, but was no match for Phil aka Robin Hood. Look at the equisite form.
And if you can see it...the end result. I hit the paper a few times but nothing to write home about.

Late morning we left for our next adventure...horseback riding. Seriously! I've never ridden a horse before and it was always something I wanted to try. The drive out to the farm was again, beautiful. So was the farm itself. Take a look.

Now the horse lady knew that in our group, I was the only one who had never gotten on a horse before. And which horse did I get? Raleigh...who according to her is, "The biggest horse in all of New Zealand." Uh...thanks. One seems very far off of the ground when seated on a huge horse while holding tightly to the reins. But Raleigh and I hit it off...when he wouldn't jerk his big ol' head forward nearly lifting me off of the saddle. Now I thought we would just be plodding along little trails around the farm. And we did...but soon set off up a small mountain. With no guard rails. On a horse. Yeah, I was a bit freaked out. Remember the scene from The Brady Bunch when they were at the Grand Canyon and taking a mule ride down into the canyon and Alice is furiously waving her hand over to get the mule to hug the canyon wall? Yep...I know the feeling. But the views...

See? Raleigh is the biggest horse there!
Oh...I've got to add a picture of the farm's pets on the front porch. They would nudge you like a dog to be petted. And no...I wasn't thinking of dinner. That's just sick.
Later that day we drove to "Thrill Seeker's Canyon". Not necessarily looking for a thrill, but that's where a lot of the outdoor activities are based from. Including bungy jumping from this bridge. Seriously crazy!

We drove back to the village past some more beautiful countryside...

and then put on our bathing suits (or swimmers or cosi's) as they call 'em in Australia and relaxed in the thermal springs for awhile. Ahh...a great end to a very fun day. Tomorrow...Christchurch.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We're Back from New Zealand

Whew...now that the Phillies game is on a rain delay (maybe stoppage? stupid Australian tv is now showing motocross so I don't know what's happening) I can post about our weekend in New Zealand. First, let me say that it is one of the most beautiful places that I've ever been to. For all you Lord of the Rings fans, I didn't see any spots where they filmed, but hopefully you'll still like the pictures below.

We flew into Christchurch last Friday afternoon. Close to the airport is the International Antarctic Centre so we started there. Did you know that 70% of the people/scientists that fly to Antarctica go out of Christchurch? Nope, I didn't either. It's called international because New Zealand, the US, and Italy all have offices and programs here. The US Air Force also flys planes to Antarctica from here.

We started out (after I begged for a quick stop at the cafe because it was past lunch time) at the penguin exhibit where they were feeding these tiny little penguins. The Little Blue Penguins to be exact. Apparently they swim near the shores of South Australia and New Zealand. After that we went to the Antarctic Storm where they simulate a storm every half hour. Yep...it was pretty darn cold. (Notice my hands tucked into my borrowed coat.) And this was even before the storm started and the wind started blowing.

After going through the museum, you could get in line to ride the Hagglund, a vehicle used down in Antarctica. The obstacle course that it took us through was a bit jarring to say the least! But very fun.

We got on the road and headed north to Hanmer Springs where we stayed for most of the weekend. The trip up was just beautiful. On either side of the road were just hundreds of rolling green hills that kept getting steeper as we got closer to the mountains. And the sheep...we must've seen thousands of sheep grazing the hills over the entire weekend. Mmm, and tasty, too. How could I not have lamb for dinner when in New Zealand? Although I would pay for that because after Friday night for the rest of the weekend whenever we drove by any sheep Phil would say."Here she comes, boys...run for your lives!" Such the comedian. Here's our hotel that we stayed at...the Settler's Inn. And it even came with a golden retriever named Rosie.

Some pics of Hanmer Springs...

Tomorrow...our Saturday in Hanmer Springs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It Is What It Is...

I got nothin'. (That's the phrase but the former teacher in me still cringes at the grammar.) Not a whole lot going on at the moment. Still going in a couple of days a week to the church to volunteer in the office. Still liking it. Even got taken out last week for Thai food. (My first time eating Thai!) Okay...I only ordered chicken and fried rice but I did try bites of my fellow diner's meals. Pleasantly surprised, in fact, but the jury is still out. I don't like to try new foods.

The week is passing a bit slow, due to the fact that Phil is away right now in Singapore. Bummer. I don't even have him here to ply with questions as soon as he steps in the front door. "How was your day? What did you have for lunch? Do you know what I had for lunch? What are we going to do for dinner? Do you want to go out? I wonder what's on tv tonight? Guess where I walked today?" etc. etc. I'm sure he's glad for the reprieve. (while also missing me, the joy of his life.)

I really just wanted to put up another post to check and see if people can now post comments. For some reason, the last two posts wouldn't let people do that. Due to the overwhelming demands of my reading public (okay...two people asked what was up) I, the tech wiz that I am, was determined to fix the wrong and let you be heard. I think I found out the problem, although I'm not really sure and just hope that the comment thingie (official tech wiz language) appears at the end of this post. Good news, however. The blog will once again get interesting after this weekend because Phil and I are leaving the country!

Not to head back to the states just yet, but we're spending a long weekend in New Zealand. We're heading to Christchurch on Friday morning and then driving to a little town in the mountains called Hanmer Springs. For those of you who are uninformed (which was me until just a bit ago), New Zealand is made up of two islands and we're headed to the South Island. People here have said to me that it is the better one to go to because it's just so beautiful. They remark that the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed there.

Well...that doesn't do anything for me, because I think I've only seen one of them. I say I think because I don't remember a whole lot about it. Something about a ring, a guy named Frodo, and some guy with a long white beard? I don't know. It was just kind of dark and had lots of suspense in it...which I don't do when it comes to movies. But, at any rate, if I come across any signs that say, "LOR filmed here" I'll take a picture for all you fans. So...on that note, hopefully my next posts will contain stunning pictures and witty prose about our trip to New Zealand.

And on a totally different note...I just found out at the library this afternoon (while reading the New York Times...yes, I have time on my hands at the moment) that Grant Balfour, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay baseball team is from Sidney. An Australian who plays American baseball?? Interesting, yes, but in no way pulls my allegiance from our beloved Philadelphia Phillies who play in the World Series(!!!!!) this week. Darn it...Murphy's Law states that one will be thousands of miles away on the other side of the world when your team finally makes the World Series. Hopefully we can still watch it in New Zealand this weekend to say...GO PHILLIES!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

This is What I'm Looking At

Thought I'd give you a peek at what I see when I take a walk around Sydney...depending on which route I take. Yes...I've walked so much here, I actually have several routes that I can choose from when stepping out. Wednesday afternoon, I chose my "Dawes Point" destination. I walk from our building through Circular Quay (where the ferry boat terminal is), passed the aboriginal who sits there every day making music on his digideroo (couldn't get the picture because he was on his smoke break), next to The Rocks, under the Harbour Bridge, around the peninsula (Dawes Point) and back. On my way, I get a pretty good view while walking under the Harbour Bridge.

On the other side of the Harbour, you can see an amusement park called Luna Park. At night when it's all lit up, the face at the entrance is lit up in a freakish way. I see these big eyes and mouth (which is what you walk through to get into the park) staring at me all the way from our balcony. Here's a closer look...

Coming from around the point on my way back, there's a great view of our next door neighbor, the Opera House.

Moving my head just to the right, you get a good look at Circular Quay. Of course, our apartment, the beloved Toaster is the first building you see on the left of the picture.

Today, after meeting Phil for lunch at Australian Square, a food court in a building close to his, I decided to take my "Into the City" route. Right at Australian Square was a group of army vehicles parked in an alley (not sure why they were there) but thought of my nephew, Sammy who's 5, loves anything to do with the military, and wants to fly jets off of a carrier in the Navy when he grows up. So, Sammy...this is for you.

And what do you know, as I was walking up George St., in this little alley was this space thing hanging between two buildings. I thought of Sammy's big brother, Jake who's 7, loves anything to do with space, and wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. So, Jake...this one's for you.
I kept walking up George St. until I came to the Queen Victoria Building or QVB as it's sometimes referred to. This building (which spans an entire city block!) was opened in 1892 (whipping out my trusty guidebook once again) as a produce market. Some older people we've gotten to know at our church here, say they can remember going there as kids when it was a farmer's market on the first floor and offices on the second floor where their parents paid their electric bills. Today it's the home to nearly 200 upscale stores. They also said that at Christmas there's a huge Christmas tree in the middle under the main dome that goes from floor to ceiling. I'm hoping that goes up before we leave to go back to Philly for Christmas.

See the statue in front of the building? The same people told us that the story goes that when the building was completed, they wanted to put a statue of Queen Victoria out in front of it, but there wasn't one in the whole country. So later, they found a statue of her from some city in India who wanted to get rid of theirs after India gained independence from Great Britain, bought it from the Indian city and finally put it out in front of the QVB. Better late than never, I guess.

Monday, October 13, 2008

So I'm Looking Like a Raccoon...

Just love getting a sunburn on my face while wearing my sunglasses. But it's the middle of October...I'm not used to having to remember the sunscreen. I'm all mixed up... it's getting warmer, the days are getting longer, we're passing by huge blow-up Santa lawn ornaments being advertised at a nursery when it's around 80 degrees out...just crazy. And just where did I get this sunburn? After church on Sunday we hopped into the Jeep (top down-hence the sunburn) and drove about an hour and a half north to St. Alban's. This was where Phil drove before I came back here last month.

First, in Wiseman's Ferry, we had to take the ferry over to the other side of the river.
We ate lunch at the Settler's Arms Inn.

The website for the Inn, http://www.settlersarms.com.au/ states that the Inn was built in 1836 and is surrounded by mountains. True. It also states that the Inn is "nestled along the Macdonald River". True, again. The website did not say we were in the middle of absolutely nowhere, but that was true too.

Just passed (past? I'm not sure. They both look right) this tree on the right and down a bit is the bank of the Macdonald River. Imagine the surprise when a helicopter comes and lands in the middle of the river. Yeah, really. About 300 feet in front of where I was sitting. Now the river wasn't too full of water and the helicopter did land on a sand bar, but still. Not sure a helicopter could just land in a river next to a restaurant in the states so the people could have a bite to eat.

On the way home coming through Wiseman's Ferry, lo and behold we passed the property for what used to be the Word of Life Christian Camp and Bible Institute of Australia. Felt the urge to break into a rousing rendition of "Holding forth the Word of Life..." Amazing (and a bit frightening) that after all these years the song never leaves the recesses of the mind of a former Island STC'er and wolbi alum. The property no longer belongs to Word of Life (as the sign in Korean? Chinese?) showed us (as well a check on the internet once we got back), but the old faded WOL sign was still there. Quite the beautiful piece of property.

All in all a nice day spent outdoors. Except for the raccoon eyes, of course.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Deep In Thought at McDonald's

I take my job as a professional tourist down here very seriously, and it struck me today at lunch as I enjoyed my tasty cheeseburger, that people have strange habits here at Macker's (as it is referred to at times...I know...what?). Is it me, or do most people in the states take their sandwich out of the "to go" bag (or take away as it is called here), open the wrapper, spread the wrapper down like a place mat, put your drink in one corner, and your fries and ketchup (or chips and tomato sauce) in the other corner? Okay...maybe it is just me. Or maybe most people don't order the cheeseburger.
But down here, I've seen people time and time again (yes, I eat at McDonald's way too much) take the "to go" bag, rip one whole side of it open and then eat the food as it lays from inside the bag. It looks like they're dining from a feed bag.

And what's with the opening of the burger (cheeseburger, quarter pounder, big mac, whatever) and piling on a fist full of fries before they bite into it? On the burger? How does that taste good?

Speaking of taste...the menu now sports that you can add avocado to your quarter pounder. Eeww. And if you want to, you can add tomato and avocado to your Egg McMuffin breakfast (or brekkie) sandwich. Double eeww. Yes...deep thoughts down here. But again...I take my job very seriously and wish to report all aspects of Australian culture as I experience them.

Yes...my "experiences" haven't been much to report lately. I've been volunteering at the church in the office a couple of days a week, so the weeks have flown by. I'm liking it. (Although I still have a bit of a problem trying to figure out what people are saying over the phone with their accents. I think I drove some guy nuts yesterday trying to figure out if he was saying his name was Matthew or Michael. I'm still not sure.)

I am happy to report that I now feel pretty comfortable driving around Sydney. Who would've thought? I still cringe when I cross the Harbour Bridge, praying that I haven't just breathed my last, but the music has returned. (I tend to sing while I drive.) Still not crazy about changing lanes because I can't see behind the darn head rests in the back seat, so I try and look, send up a prayer, hope nothing's there, and then get over into the next lane. I've pretty much memorized the route and what lanes to get in so I don't have to do much changing.

We are trying to arrange a trip to New Zealand next weekend, so hopefully that happens. Will keep you posted...

Monday, October 6, 2008

The (Sea) Eagles Win the Championship!!

No, not our beloved Philadelphia Eagles...the Manly Sea Eagles in the Grand Final of the National Rugby League. Our good friend from church, Steve, offered to get Phil a ticket to the big game (kind of like our Superbowl) yesterday afternoon. Well, of course, I had to get Phil a rugby jersey with the official Manly Sea Eagles emblem, for his birthday last week so he could wear it to the game at the ANZ Stadium (where the opening and closing ceremonies were for the 2000 Olympics.) The pre-game ceremonies included a navy helicopter landing on the field.

A pre-game show.

Some rugby action. And let me just say...those guys are nuts. It's like full-tackle football without any pads. Crazy! And they beat Melbourne 40-0.

And finally, the beginning of the awards ceremony where you can see Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, third from the right in the line of people congratulating the winning players.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Night Away in Canberra

Last night we drove 3 hours south to Canberra, the capital of Australia. No, really...it is. It's not Sydney. Nor Melbourne, but Canberra. Pronounced Can-burr-ah with the emphasis on Can. First...a word about the highway between Sydney and Canberra. That is one dark ride. Once you leave the Sydney area, there are no lights on the highway. The countryside (and I do mean, countryside) is dark. You don't see any lights. No lighted billboards. Not even any houses. Does civilization just end once you leave the city?

We found London Circuit which is the circle that our hotel was on. And in the words of Phil, when we got into the room, "Man what a dump." It wasn't really, but did not exactly look like the pictures on the internet. And "lakeside view" did not apply, though we paid $10 extra for it. The next morning, if you looked really far between the row of trees, you could see glimpses of Lake Burly Griffin. (Nope...no idea where that name came from. But it did make me laugh several times.) Hmm...lakeview, indeed.

We passed up the breakfast buffet at the hotel ($26...yeah right) and stopped at a food court at the Canberra Centre on our way to our first stop. The Australian War Memorial.

You walked up the front stairs through a walkway and then came to this.

You can't see it well, but there's an eternal flame at the top of the water pool there. And on the upper level behind all those open windows on each side are two huge walls, called The Roll of Honour, with the names of every Australian who, I think, has died while serving in the military. You see little red poppy flowers pressed into the cracks between sheets of names.

The War Memorial Musuem has sections on WWI, WWII, an aircraft hall, Australia's Unknown Soldier, Anzac hall, and among other exhibits, also a section on Conflicts from 1945 till today. That's where this helicopter was...in the Vietnam section.

Thoroughly enjoyed the whole museum. Could've spent more hours there, but I think my other half had seen all he wanted to see. So alas...I did not get to read every plaque, picture, and display there. But still...was good.On the steps of the War Memorial you can see the old Parliament House (the white building in front) and the new Parliament building (the modern building in the back that looks like it has a big compass on the top of it). Cool view.

We then went to the old parliament building and went on a tour of the building. After that, we drove over to the new parliament building and looked around as well. Saw both the Senate and House of Representative chambers.

We drove back to Sydney tonight. Saw a full rainbow...both ends! Both of us had never seen a full arc before. Also drove through seriously torrential rain and if that wasn't enough, then thru soupy fog. Quite the ride! I white-knuckled through it a few times.

Well, with the time change that happens here tonight, it's now almost midnight. So on that note...
(Note to any callers from the states, we are now 15 hours ahead. Karen, thinking about the call at 5:00 am one morning...especially, take note.) :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We're Gonna Watch the Eagles!!

Just found out that the Eagles/Bears game which is on Sunday night at home will be shown here, Monday night at 7:30 pm. Whoo hoo...we're gonna watch some football! So no checking the scores over the internet tomorrow. Everybody now..."Fly Eagles fly, on the road to victory..."

And while we're on the subject of sports, how about those Phillies?!! I can feel it...it's going to be their year. And we're all the way over here on the other side of the world. Sigh. Good news...we will be able to watch every playoff game as well as the World Series live. Bad news...because of the time difference they will be shown anywhere from 5:00 am to 7:00 am. But if the Phillies are playing...I just may have to set the alarm a bit early.

Saturday O' Fun

Let me start by saying it was a busy week. I've started to volunteer several days a week in the office at our church here. On Thursday even drove home by way of Victoria Rd. Which means instead of driving home by way of the Harbour Bridge, I drove home by way of the Anzac Bridge. On the other side of Sydney. Meaning...I drove through the streets of Sydney from one to the other all by myself in Beast. I'm in the middle of the city at an intersection surrounded by skyscrapers thinking, "What in the world am I doing here behind the wheel?" Very surreal. But I made it home with no problems (if you don't count the slight balding of the sides of the tires that have continually scraped the sides of the concrete pillars in the parking garage as I make the what I would call hair-pin curves as I circle down and back up from 2 stories below ground.) Anyways, we woke up Saturday morning with the idea to enjoy the sunny, warm day. (Which is still weird when you are at the end of September and it's getting warmer.) We walked over to The Rocks and found a food market set up. Bought some bagels (finally found some in Australia!) and fresh flowers.
And look...we were serenaded by two members of the Oom-Pah-Pah band from the German restaurant, Lowenbrau around the corner (the ones in the loud red pants and the guy in the yellow shirt, who was playing a clarinet). We walked past this little French bakery that we've been told by friends from church has the most excellent pastries that you've ever had. Usually when we've walked by, it hasn't been opened (what is with the French?) but it was today and we went in, ordered a fruit tart for me and some airy puff pastry for Phil. Yummy!
We then walked over to the regular market at The Rocks. Bought a birthday present for Phil (who celebrates this Wed!) and a Christmas ornament. Over the years I've gotten in the habit of buying an ornament from every place we've ever traveled to for our Christmas tree. Lots of fun to remember where we've been, as I decorate the tree. (And yes...it's usually just me decorating the tree. Phil's job usually ends after wrestling the tree parts up the stairs from the basement and setting it up. I'm not OCD about where the ornaments go, he just doesn't like to do it.)

We then took the Manly Ferry over to well, Manly to walk next to the beach. After a quick lunch of Subway (love that meatball sub) we made our way to the beach. And man, was it ever crowded! I guess because it's school holidays here (they go year round here starting in Jan. then have 2 weeks off in March, July, and Sept. and then finish up before Christmas), and it was a nice, warm day, everyone decided to spend the day at the beach. Take a look.

And, a quick pic of the lifeguards at the beach. They always wear these red and yellow uniforms.
Later this week, I'll take you on a tour of India. Phil was there for a week before we met back up in Sydney. My favorite kind of tour...commenting on pictures that I didn't take and was not there when they were taken. Should be fun...