Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monday, May 4

We left town under a cover of rain. It had been pretty cloudy all morning, was able to take the dogs for one final walk.

The goodbyes were slightly tearful, although no gushes of water, other than what was falling from the sky. Rhett got a little choked up as he began to pray. Fatigue coupled with anticipation raised the emotion level a fair bit.
Once in the vans the air lightened and laughter drowned out the tears.
I think I am going to laugh more than I have all year. Jessie Sarver
And that is really the truth. Already we are laughing and making jokes, creating funny situations out of the efforts of travel.

Portland to Los Angeles – nothing exciting happened along the way.

Sara Kelm won the first game of ‘finding someone you know.’ There were two gals from GFU traveling to New York. They were Chinese. Sara recognized them from the Portland airport. She also recognized them from school. She didn’t really know them so I am not sure she really wins. But in order to instill enthusiasm for the game I made a big deal about it.

The game is still on. I will try to think of a prize of some kind along the way.
Traveling on the shuttle bus to our terminal was interesting. Doubts were raised as to whether we were going in the right direction. See I had exited our flight in LA first. I took it upon myself to find out from an airport employee where our next gate was. Gate 35, take the shuttle bus to terminal four. Two shuttle buses later we arrived at our destination. For a brief moment there seemed to be a question as to whether I knew where we were going. Was I leading everyone astray? Jordan Beanblossom volunteered to accompany me as I inquired from someone with Quantas. Vindicated I motioned everyone inside the terminal – we were on the right path.
Due to my deviation to visit the Davidson’s after our stint in PNG, my seating was different from the rest of the gang. It soon became a point of humorous contention when I was seated in row 9 and everyone else was in 23. I reminded everyone that the safest part of the plane was the back.

On our flight to Australia I was seated in row 51 – everyone else was in 65 or so. Hey, it’s not like I selected my seats! I only asked for an aisle seat, which I received…both times.

All in all the 16 hour flight went pretty fast. I watched a couple movies, slept, watched another movie, talked to Rhett, watched another movie and then we were preparing for landing!

There is no standard for entering a new country. Each one is different. An hour before landing we were given customs forms to complete. Standard questions about how long we were going to be in the country, and who we were staying with, and then a host of items to declare – weapons, steroids, medicines, fruit, meat, cheese, etc…
Most of us were sniffed by the food sniffing (not drug) Beagle because we misinterpreted dried to mean fruit not crackers. It took a while to get through customs. But at least we made it.

A $14 train ride and we were at Central Station in downtown Brisbane. I’ll mention right here that I am in debt to Stephen Pick. I had 4 pieces of luggage to carry. I was carrying the hostess gifts for our stay in Ukarumpa. Plus the presents I had for the Davidson’s. Without Stephen carrying my big suitcase I am certain I would still be navigating the stairs to the train platform. Assistance to the disabled is not always available in other countries.

A quick jaunt to St Andrews Unity Church where Rhett had arranged to store our stuff while we explored Brisbane. Later that night we would be uniting with our host groups. But we had the whole day in front of us.

After several clothing changes, teeth brushed and hair brushed, the consensus was that we travel together to Lone Pine – the Koala Bear Sanctuary. Amazing. Not only Koalas but roos as well! Not only did we see them but we touched them, held them and quite a few other animals as well.

It couldn’t have been a better day. The weather was perfect: partial clouds kept the hot sun at bay and the many trees provided shade when the cloud cover was scarce. We were all excited about the accessibility of the animals. Again I marvel at the restrictions we suffer in America because of the selfish, stupid people who ruin things for the rest of us.

Almost everyone got their picture taken with a Koala.

Our mode of transportation to the sanctuary was bus. Our ride back to Brisbane was a slow cruse down the river. Bonus: traditional Australian folk music played softly through the loud speakers.

For a group of road weary travelers the journey down the river was just what the doctor ordered. I shared my life’s motto with everyone and received a few laughs from those who were within ear shot.

After disembarking from the boat, and with plenty of time on our hands before reuniting with the pastor of St. Andrews, we slowly made our way across the bridge to downtown. We stumbled upon a farmers market on the corner across from the old treasury building which, ironically enough, is now a casino.

A few people bought some fruit but all expressed a desire for buying more. Rhett and I promised more lovely fruit in PNG and since we wouldn’t be able to take what was purchased at the market to PNG it seemed best to wait for the sugar bananas, papaya and mangos of New Guinea.

We collected our wits and our bags from the church and made our way through ‘end of the work day crowds’ to the train station.

Rhett, who has been a bevy of great ideas so far, suggested that due to the crowds, we spread ourselves up and down the train cars so we would be assured a spot on the same train. With our destination in hand (he had printed maps before leaving the US) we knew that our stop was Corinda, where we would meet up with our hosts from the St. Johns Lutheran church.

We were all divided into different households: I was assigned to go with the pastor. At least that is what we thought. Pastor Mike (?) told us that he would be taking two gals to stay with Ruth. Sara and Jessie piled in with me and together we drove into a suburb of Brisbane.

However, when we arrived at our host family the pastor told me “I’d like you to stay here” which I interpreted to stay in the car and wait while he got Sara and Jessie settled. In fact he wanted ME to be one of the three of us staying with Ruth.
I’ll say now that I was blessed. Ruth grew up in PNG and we were likely around the same age. We had a delightful time chatting as Sara grew more and more weary and ready for bed.

We each had our own room (one more night not worrying about my snoring) and had the most delightful dinner. Ruth and I ended the evening with a cuppa while Sara made her way to bed.

Although concerned for Jessie, we felt blessed with our hostess and pray a huge blessing upon her.

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