Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I won, I won, I won !!!

That's right! I beat Phil by 15 minutes in our Amazing Race back home. I managed to get the straight through flight from San Francisco after all (and for less than $70 bumped myself to Economy plus seating!) and even had the whole row of three seats to myself to stretch out and sleep for an hour and a half! Felt real good after the miserably, long flight from Sydney where the girl in front of me had her seat back so far, it dug into my knees the entire flight. Yeah, that was fun. I admit, I couldn't resist the extra hard shove of the seat everytime I got up to stretch. I know...not nice. But it was all worth it to see the look on Phil's face when I met him at his gate (which happened to be right next to mine). Priceless.
Now as for my list of things I was dreaming about...
Seeing Sox- check. Oh, so nice.
Eating a Cheesesteak- yet to come
Sleeping in our own bed- check. Felt like I was laying on a marshmellow. Man, there's something to be said for a memory-foam, pillow-top mattress.
Drinking glasses of Diet Coke filled to the top with ice- check. Four and counting...
Watching tv shows that aren't reruns from years ago- yet to come. Who has time for tv when I'm catching up on all these other things?
Pizza from Peppi's- yet to come but did have Brother's Pizza tonight. Mmmm.
Going to Phillies games- check. And last night's game...The Phillies beat the Rockies 20-5. Hits and home runs galore. And a bonus...dollar dog night at Citizen's Bank Park. Ashley declined the hot dogs, I had one and Phil had three, but Gregg took the prize with five.
Being with friends and family- check. Just the best, with more to come.
Driving on the right side of the road- check. It's so nice to drive without the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I just may hit something this time.
There's no place like home.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Amazing Race Part II: Phil's Revenge

Yes, we leave tomorrow (Phil at 10:00 am, me at 2:40 pm) to go back to the states for a few weeks. As we stand right now, Phil is scheduled to get in about an hour before me (who is supposed to get in around midnight), but we'll see. Phil is taking the treacherous route through Canada known for massive delays in past trips. I am scheduled through San Francisco, then Chicago, and then finally to Philly, but will try to get on a straight through from San Francisco to shave time off of my trip. Perhaps if I plead at the counter that I'm in a race and tell them I have to get on that flight they'll let me on the as now full flight. :) I'll keep you posted, while I'm not holding my breath.
I'll leave you so I can continue dreaming about seeing Sox, eating a cheesesteak, sleeping in our own bed, drinking glasses of Diet Coke filled to the top with ice, watching tv shows that aren't reruns from years ago, pizza from Peppi's, going to Phillies games, being with friends and family, driving on the right side of the road...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Busy Weekend

Friday night we discovered a new (to us) restaurant in the The Rocks. I give you: The Gumnut TeaGarden (cool name, huh?) Picture an outdoor stone patio surrounded by trees and gardens with candles on all the tables and lit lanterns hanging around the gardens while two guitarists play duets together. Nice, huh? And the food was good, too. Love that lamb! Saturday morning we drove down to Darling Harbour. We took a walk around Paddy's Market in Chinatown. It's a big indoor market that sells lots of junk. Really. We then walked over to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. I posted about it earlier but Phil and I actually went in and walked around. Very pretty.

Here's a picture of yours truly a little bit closer to the waterfall.

And here's a picture of the building at the top of the waterfall.

Why, why does it sometimes put pictures sideways ???? Sorry, I can't figure out how to change it, but if you tilt your head to the side, it's still a good picture of a cool building.

We then drove over to Watson's Bay to walk around Gap Park and eat some good ole' fish and chips at Doyle's Wharf. Check out the skyline of Sydney from the top of the cliff we climbed and hiked around. Fun weekend!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Driving Solo in Sydney

That's right! Tuesday morning I finally jumped behind the wheel and drove BY MYSELF to a women's Bible study at church. No worse for wear and the jeep only has a tiny, miniscule, hardly-noticeable scratch on the left side. To explain...first, let me show you a picture of Beast.'s like driving a tank down the streets of Sydney. And did I mention that the streets of Sydney are more narrow than the streets of the U.S.? I'm crossing the Harbour Bridge with a huge bus on one side of me and a cement barrier right out side my car window. I'm sucking in all air and holding my breath in order to make myself more narrow. Anyhoo, see that pole next to the car? That was my nemesis. But you can hardly see the scratch, right?

It took me a full 15 minutes just to get out of the parking garage (or car park as they call it here.) Trying to make these tight turns in Beast...nearly impossible. Picture lots of going forward, backing up, going forward while turning the steering wheel as far to the left as possible, stopping, backing up, trying again...

Once I got on the open road, no problem. Except for those narrow lanes. Oh, and parking once I got to the church. There was absolutely no way I was going to try and turn this tank into a parking spot so I just parked on the street.

After the Bible study, I felt brave and decided to drive to a mall that we usually go to on Sundays after church to do our grocery shopping for the week. (Yes, most malls here have a grocery store in them.) That car park isn't a problem because it's much bigger and I parked in the middle of no-man's land without anything near me for a good 20 feet. This was after I nagivated through one of Sydney's most annoying features. Round-abouts. They're traffic circles that they have everywhere instead of a lot of traffic lights. Remembering which way to go around the circle isn't the big deal. Remembering that the car already in the circle has the right of way is. Happy to report the brakes and seat belts work real well in Beast.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Back From Camp

We're back from family camp and had a great time. The place was a bit, uh...rustic but nice just the same. We were in a cabin with two other couples. I kept having flashbacks to good ole' Camp Kirkwood, the church camp I went to as a kid, as I laid there freezing in my bunk bed. Yes, bunk bed. (Well...flashbacks minus the sound of men's voices in the room. For pete's sake, it was church camp back then and boys were not allowed in the girl's cabins and vice versa.) We got to know many people from the church better and met some new ones for the first time. Here's some pictures of the camp. Beautiful and out in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

And now for the answers to the last post's game. winners. Not even any guesses. I suppose from now on, I'll just stick to posting the pictures and telling you where I am at the same time.
A. The Opera House
B. Sydney Hospital
C. St. James Church- built back in 1820- therefore the oldest one
D. Hyde Park Barracks- This was built in 1819 to house convicts who worked in the city. It then
became a place for poor, single women and orphans to live. It's a cool
museum to walk through.
E. Parliament House- Where the NSW state legislature sits and meets
F. State Library of New South Wales
G. Sydney Conservatorium of Music

And for the bonus question answer...they are all on the street we live on- Macquarie Street.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Where in the World is Sandra Lankford?

In a nod to the annual Matt Lauer trip on the Today Show that usually happens around this time of the year, I thought I'd create my own game. (Yes...I have a lot of time on my hands over here.) I'll show you a picture of a building here in Sydney. You name the building. And I may even give you a hint.
A. Hint: you really need a hint for this one?


Hint: You never want to go here, but if need're glad it's here.


Hint: It's the oldest church in Sydney


Hint: Convicts


Hint: There are government flags outside of this building.


Hint: If you read this right, you may be able to figure out what this is.

G. Hint: Stop here and listen to the music

AND FOR YOUR BONUS QUESTION: What one thing do all of these buildings have in common? (And no, it isn't just that they're all in Sydney.)

So start digging, surfing the web, or whatever you do to find stuff out and post your answers as a comment. I'll reveal the answers and if we have a winner, when Phil and I return on Sunday afternoon from our weekend away. We are going to family camp. Yes, that's right. The church we've been attending has family camp every year so we're joining the fun this year. It's at a conference center about an hour and 1/2 north of Sydney and I have no idea what to expect. I am looking forward to getting to know people better, though, so I'll let you know how it went next week.

Oh...last night Phil and I met with a guy Phil works with and his wife at a restaurant in Chinatown for dinner. Yes, I was afraid. Very afraid. (of the food, not the people). I tried Peking Duck, one of the appetizers. I'm happy to tasted like chicken. It went fine with my main dish of yes, you guessed it...chicken. I did have some Mongolian Beef as well as these lettuce wraps that reminded me of the lettuce wrap appetizers that we always get at P.F. Chang's. See...I'm branching out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We're Supposed to Bring What??!!

First, let me just say that yes, I'm still having trouble with the Australian accent...especially over the phone. Combine that with people talking their normal speed (i.e. too fast) and sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what people are saying to me over the phone.
Last night, Phil and I decided to go over to the home of a couple from the church we've been attending who hosts a small group every Tuesday night for Bible study. I wasn't sure of the time, so I called Judy to ask her when it starts. I thought to myself (rather proudly) that I remembered reading a book on Australian culture before we arrived that said to always offer to bring something when invited over to someone's house here. So I asked, "Can we bring anything?" Judy responded, "Just a bottle."
Now...still thinking to myself as I dialed Phil to let him know the time, "Does she mean a bottle of wine? Are we supposed to bring one every Tuesday night?"
After I relayed the conversation to Phil in all seriousness on my part, I was met with silence over the phone on his part. And then Phil said (with what I sense was a bit of mirth on his part), "Ya think she might've said to bring a Bible to Bible study?" Oh. Yeah. That would make more sense, I thought sheepishly, as I replayed the conversation in my mind. But I swear it sounded like bottle with that accent. English, indeed.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling the Barrier Reef

Sorry I didn't post yesterday. We took the ferry over to Manly Beach, ate some lunch, watched some lifeguard boat races, and then later, drove over to Hillsong for their Saturday night service to hear this U.S. pastor who was speaking. Long story short, but someone who shall remain nameless (ok, Phil) got the campuses mixed up and Erwin McManus wasn't speaking at the Hills campus, but the city campus. Oh well...he's speaking at the Hills campus tonight for their 7:00 pm service so we'll try it again tonight. To continue last weekend's story...

On Saturday morning we walked over to the docks to the boat that would take us to the diving boat that we were staying on for a couple of days. As we're rolling along on the waves (very glad for that Dramamine pill I took earlier) I asked Phil how long it would take to get to the dive boat. I really thought he was kidding when he answered 2 and 1/2 hours. Seriously??!! I was not aware of that. Convenient how that was left out when the whole trip was explained to me... Here's a picture of the boat that took us over.

We got to the dive boat around 11:30 am or so and after a briefing on how things worked and lunch, we had our first water session at 1:30. Here's a picture of the boat that we stayed on with the mountains of Cairns, Australia way in the distance.

Yep...we would dive/snorkel, then the boat would pull the anchor up and we'd go to another area on the Reef and do the same. For those who wanted to (and there were quite a few who did) you could dive/snorkel all 6 water sessions every day: 6:30 am (yeah, whatever), 8:30 am, 10:30 am. 1:30 pm. 3:30 pm. and then the night dive at 6:30 pm. And no...I did not partake of the opportunity 6 times a day. I did snorkel a few times. Mostly on my own since Phil was with an instructor completing dives for his scuba certification. And yes, I also spent quite a bit of time on the top deck sitting in the sun with a book. Finished two of them on the trip. Here's a picture of some snorkelers, so pretend I'm one of them.

Now to be honest...I would be a snorkeler with a pool noodle. You know those tube-like floats that people like to lean on when in a pool? If I'm going to be floating along in the middle of the ocean, I'm not ashamed to admit I want a floatie.

When the boat was not in the middle of a water session, everyone sat around getting to know each other. I've never met so many people from other countries in one place in my life. We met people from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, France, the UK, Brazil, New Zealand, and of course, Australia. And a couple of Americans as well. Would you even believe a recent grad of Bob Jones University?

To be honest, I'd never really given the Barrier Reef much thought. I guess because I never thought I'd ever see it. But the colors underwater are just...unreal. Pink, light blue, purple, golden, white, deep blue, etc....It's beautiful. The fish included. I've never seen so many colors and different sizes and shapes. And last snorkeling session, I did find Nemo! :)

One night we went out on the top deck to sit and look at the sky. I've never seen so many stars in all my life. And the Milky Way, too. I actually saw it! The stars seemed to go all the way to the horizon. I've never seen them so close. It felt like you could reach out and touch them. I don't remember the actual reference, but some verse in Psalms states that God has numbered the stars. It was amazing to really think about while looking up.

Finally, some pictures of Scuba Phil himself. Here he is with his diving partner, Frank. He did get his certification and really liked diving. Great...I was just thinking that Phil needed another hobby.

And here he is coming up from his last dive. After being hauled out of the water and onto the platform with all of his heavy equipment. By a girl. hee hee.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cairns to Kuranda

Friday night we flew the three hours up to Cairns. When we got to the airport, Phil went to the Avis counter to get our car. Banking on the fact that they never have the tiniest compact car actually there, Phil agreed to the small car. Well...did you ever see Ashton Kutcher driving around Europe in his movie, "Just Married"? The car wasn't really that small but we did fondly name our car: The Rollerskate. Picture us driving to the hotel...Nnnnneeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Saturday morning we walked through the town to the train station to take a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, an hour and 45 minute trip to Kuranda, in the middle of the rainforest. Yep...I didn't know there was a rainforest in Australia either.

The trip was beautiful. I got a flashback to the Von Trapp family, the day they wore the play clothes made from Maria's curtains as they explored Salzburg. Do you remember the scene on the train? Is it just me or do you get that flashback too? Take a look...

The trip took us through Freshwater Station, Redlynch, and Jungara: the site of the largest field hospital in the southern hemisphere during WWII where soliders injured in the Pacific were flown for treatment. We also passed by Stoney Creek Falls. Very pretty.

Ok, now I don't know why that picture came up sideways, and I can't get it to turn, but if you turn your head to the left, it's still a nice picture of the falls. We passed Glacier Rock and Red Bluff, while also going through 15 hand-carved tunnels up the mountain. After tunnell 14 we saw this great view of the Coral Sea with the city of Cairns at the coast.

We also passed by Robb's Monument (and Rob, a fitting monument to you!) and then finally Barron Falls. Another pretty waterfall.

Once we got to Kuranda, we walked through the little town. Lots of shops, restaurants, cafes, and tourist traps. While eating lunch I once again pondered why Australians think that putting beetroot (or beets as we call them) on hamburgers is a good thing. I don't get it. And hamburgers here taste more you're eating meatloaf. A sad thing when the best hamburger I can get here is at McDonald's. For the way back instead of taking the train we took the Skyrail. Notice the entrance is calm, even serene one might say.

Calm and serene is not what I'm feeling as I find myself once again, white-knuckling it in a little cable car for 4.7 miles as we flew over the rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park. I hate those things. And serene is not what I'm feeling as Phil is swaying the cable car from side to side. In fact, I believe my exact words were, "Sometimes you make me not like you."

But all was well as we took a bus back to Cairns and walked around the town before eating dinner. Tomorrow...our trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Anzac Day Parade

We're back from our weekend in Cairns! We had a great time and I'll take a couple of posts to describe what we saw. That way I'll keep all fans of the blog interested. Because in the words of Phil, "If you don't post, they won't read." So...As I posted previously, the 25th (Friday) was Anzac Day. No, we did not get up for the 4:00 am service. Just wasn't going to happen. We did get up for the parade and made our way over to George St., the main route of the parade. As we were walking over, I made note of several things. First, there were military men and women everywhere. And many former military members. Current and former all wore their service medals on their jackets or shirts. If they were their own medals, they were worn on the person's left side. If they were the medals of a deceased family member who served they were worn on the person's right side. And just about everyone was wearing them. It was something to see! Second, it must be a tradition to also attach a small sprig of rosemary attached to a small Australian flag. They were handing them out everywhere so Phil and I joined the crowd and attached them to our clothing (alas, without my little Australian flag that Phil wouldn't buy me.) A picture of the parade route to follow. (And yes, it rained buckets on our parade.)

The Anzac Day Parade is different from any parade I've ever seen. There are no floats or cars, just people. Every regiment from every branch of the military is represented. Each group walks behind a banner announcing their particular group and where they've fought. The actual soldiers walk directly behind the banner and then descendants and family members of those who are deceased (often carrying pictures of the deceased) follow behind. Those who couldn't walk were driven in an army truck.
As each group walks by, the crowd along the parade route clap and cheer. It's really very moving. Along with the military regiments there are also high school bands (heard many renditions of "Waltzing Matilda") and lots of bagpiper groups.
Every group also walked next to the cenotaph on Martin Place. This is a memorial to all who have served. As you can see, lots of people laid flowers there. Many of them had notes attached with actual names, dates, and battlefields of relatives who had fought and died. Again, very moving.
Actually, every town and city in Australia has a memorial somewhere in it to WWI. When we walked by the one in Cairns on Saturday, it had many flowers around it as well from their Anzac Day service. All in all....a good morning. Lest we forget, indeed.