It was nice to have most of the day to get ready for a long flight. Even so, we seemed to scramble at the last minute, with Erica driving us to Lambert International Airport. We arrived in plenty of time, though, to check in and get to our gate, ready for the first leg of our trip to Down Under. We flew in a packed plane to LAX, where we each ate a bakery sandwich, then headed for our gate. Our flight to Auckland took about 12 hours; our seats were in the middle of the middle 4 seats on this plane. Not the best for opportunities to get up and move around but we did manage to sleep a little and watch a couple of movies in addition to eating a nice dinner and a good breakfast, and trying to drink water every chance we were awake when it was offered.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Since we crossed the International Date Line sometime in the night - and the entire flight was over the Pacific Ocean at night, we arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, at about 5:30 a.m. on Friday, “losing“ a day. We decided to get coffee and pastry, since we had to start feeling like it was Friday morning and not Thursday mid-afternoon. The Auckland airport is very nice and full of people from many places, as we could tell from their conversations. For a while, I was convinced that I might just be silent for the next week or so, just to listen to all the beautiful accents! Our flight to Brisbane was over 3 hours (and 3 time zones away as well), long enough to have another breakfast and watch a couple of movies on our personal screens on the back of the seat ahead of us. It didn’t take too long to get through customs and immigration - although, we did get “screened” an extra time or two and, when we emerged, there was Cameron Batkin, waiting to meet us.
Cameron drove us to his home in Kuraby, a suburb of Brisbane, all the time narrating what we were seeing and what to expect from the next few days. At their home, we got to meet his wife, Jo. Bringing in our baggage, we moved into their spare bedroom and were given lunch while Cameron went off to a meeting (about a shipping container needed for their church to send off building materials and tools needed in Samoa after the recent tsunami). Since Jo is a software engineer, she and Dan had quite a bit to discuss. After Cameron returned, we enjoyed lots more conversation, then I volunteered to go with Cameron to pick up their 2-year-old son, Max, at daycare, then pick up a couple of things at the grocery store. Orange-haired Max was understandably shy with his new Auntie Janet, but we had a great time at the grocery, where Cameron pointed out so many interesting special Australian foods, like Vegemite and cheerios (the sausage, not the cereal) and kangaroo meat.
Back at the house, Max was fed, and Cameron headed out for Friday night youth group, but not before he prepared a wonderful burrito filling that we ate later with Jo. We got tired quite early and went to bed to sleep quite soundly.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
We awoke early, as the sun comes up around 5:30 here. We could hear Max asking for Uncle Dan and Auntie Janet after he got up and was having his brekky, but turned shy when we came into the living room where he was having some cereal and watching The Wiggles on the telly. He’s absolute nuts for the Wiggles and knows which guy wears which color and which instrument each one plays. I had brought a blue and white knitted blanket for him and he seemed to really like it! Dan and I got to try Vegemite on toast (an Aussie staple with a reputation!, not as bad as everyone tries to make it out to be; it’s just salty) and had some cereal before we got ourselves ready to get to the Logan City Library for the Bible Quiz Ministry training. It was good to see Shane Fa’ata’ape again (we met him at Third Wave in South Africa in January 2007); he had organized this seminar. Eighteen people from 3 churches attended, asking good questions and enjoying the demonstration round enormously. They even brought refreshments - scones (I have a request in for the recipe) with raspberry jam and Devonshire cream, cupcakes, and a large bowl of ham, olives, cheese, and crackers. We have great hopes for a good start here.
At 12:30, we had the banners packed up and, since Cam and Jo had a wedding to attend, we got to spend the rest of the day with Shane’s parents, Nick and Beverly. (Nick is Samoan, while Bev is a Kiwi - New Zealander. They have 5 adult children.) With Beverly driving, we took “the back way” to Springfield shopping mall for lunch at The Coffee Club. What an enjoyable lunch we had, with lots of conversation and getting acquainted. (Bev and I not only have baking in common, as she had made the scones; we’re also both knitters!) Along the way, we saw signs like the deer crossing signs at home, only they were kangaroo crossing signs! The huge jacaranda trees were peaking, loaded with lavender blooms, and we enjoyed so many other beautiful species of trees, flowers, and bushes - it’s springtime!
Our first stop after lunch was Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. It’s a wonderful park/zoo near the Brisbane River. We took our time strolling around, enjoying the colorful lorikeets (bright red and blue and green feathers) and the soft, sleepy koalas (they sleep up to 18 hours a day) and got to walk into a huge fenced area and right up to kangaroos and wallabies! We also got to see Tasmanian devils and wombats too, but they’re not cute or attractive!
After Lone Pine, Bev drove us up to the lookout on Mount Coot-cha (a Maori name meaning ____), where the view of Brisbane is awesome! We could even see to the ocean and all around. There were lots of people enjoying the view, as well as some picnicking and snacking at the restaurant. From there, we went past the Botanical Garden (maybe another day we can actually visit), through Brisbane to a Sizzler restaurant for dinner. I had grilled fish, while Dan enjoyed a steak.
Back at the Batkins’ home, we let ourselves in and got to bed shortly after 8:30 and slept soundly, not even hearing Cam and Jo arrive home later from their friends’ wedding!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
After a brekky of Wheat Bix with milk, we headed off to the Logan Church for worship service. A very friendly congregation of Samoans and Aussies, they’ve outgrown their church building, they’re worshipping in a school auditorium. The band was already playing and singing familiar worship songs and loads of families were already there. Max was taken to his children’s Sunday school classroom for a while and we began to mingle, meeting people introduced by Cameron. This congregation is full of families, with little ones everywhere (and don’t figure that the baby on a lap belongs to that woman; they’re all crazy about each other’s kids, so she could be an auntie or anyone else!). We certainly enjoyed the topics of the morning, especially the relief efforts in progress to send to Samoa to help in rebuilding after the tsunami (Cam and Shane have been instrumental in obtaining a shipping container at a considerably reduced rate). A lady named Jean also brought other missions concerns before them. (We’d have like to have heard Nick preach, but he and Bev were at another church that day.)
Back at Cam and Jo’s, they fed Max a little while we packed our bags for 2 days with Max’s “Nanny and Poppy”, Cam’s parents. The expected 1 ½ hour drive was broken up halfway, with a stop at Humble Pie, a restaurant well-known for its individual pies. We chose our pies and ate on picnic tables outside the back. Dan’s was a steak pie and I had a chicken pie, both rather like our potpies from home, but the pastry is layered and flaky and they’re served with mashed potatoes and mashed (!) peas and all drizzled with gravy. Back on the road, we played games with Max (where’s your elbow, Max; where’s your earlobe; followed by his excited, “What next, Mum?”). Bill and Joy Batkin live on the Sunshine Coast, in Bli Bli (Aborigine word for blue sky), a small coastal community near Maroochydore on the Maroochy River, but also very close to the Pacific. They have a lovely 4 bedroom home and we were given a bedroom with “en suite” (our own bathroom)! Very generous people, Joy and Bill immediately made us feel welcome and relaxed. They obviously adore Max! Cameron had promised us a typical fish and chips dinner, so we headed off in 2 cars for the beach. We followed Jo and Max to the beach while Joy saved us a picnic table and the men went to buy the dinners. It was great fun to watch Jo make a race car shape, burying Max’s legs in the sand, as we strolled barefoot along the Pacific shore. We took photos as the sun lowered in the sky. Then, after collecting the sand toys and brushing off, we headed up the wood steps to join the others for dinner. The fish and chips came wrapped in paper and were “awesome!” Back at the house, we went to bed before the others, having been wiped out by the abundance of fresh air!
Monday, October 26, 2009
We woke early (the sun is up around 5 anyway!) and decided to take Joy up on her invitation to join her and Bill in a “6K walk” with Max. By 6:30, we were out the door with Nanny and Poppy and Max in a stroller. It truly was a 6K as we took a road under the bridge, then across the bridge over the river and into Maroochydore. Stopped to buy a newspaper for Bill, then we started back. Dan pushed the stroller for a while, tipping Max back again and again, as he cried, “Mo-ah!” (More!)
Brekky followed and, as Cameron was complaining of a sore throat and stuffed head, we left him behind, got our “swim togs” and towels and joined Jo and Max in the car headed for Mudjimba Beach. The beach had fine, white sand and very few people; what a pleasant way to spend the morning! After a little time at a nearby playground with Max, we ate ice cream treats across the street before driving back to Bill & Joy’s for lunch (dessert first?!) of salad and sandwiches. Max needed a nap, so we relaxed and added to the journal.
Cameron loves to cook (and I love grocery stores in any country) and Max will go anywhere, so we three headed for the butcher shop just outside the grocery store (in a mall!) to buy steaks for dinner. Cameron did a great job with dinner and, after Jo got Max to bed, Jo and Joy taught us how to play Rummy-Kub, which we did until 10:30, fully rested and “into” the time zone now.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Joy and Bill headed out for a social outing, so Cam had a plan for the day - driving around the coastal area, but up into the mountains. We started by going to Yandina, to a Ginger Factory for a tour and tasting, as well as souvenir shopping. Then we went through Nambour, Mapleton, Montville and then got some picnic food at Maleny. The scenery was just beautiful, all green, with meadows dotted with sheep or various colors of cattle. Lots of trees and small towns with tons of flowers; glad we took lots of photos! We stopped in the Mary Cairncross Park for our picnic lunch, looking out over a beautiful valley (fighting off a pesky turkey and a magpie, both interested in our meal). Heading home, we went back through Maleny and into Kenilworth to a dairy full of their handmade cheeses and… ice cream! Max and I enjoyed the mango flavor, although he enjoyed wearing it as well as eating it! Had to run him through the sprinklers at the park across the street, then relax at the playground while he used up some new energy.
Back in Bli Bli, Cameron fixed Aussie burgers, including beetroot (beets to us) - delicious! Then we drove back to Brisbane to pack for our early flight in the morning.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Up early for a quick brekky, Jo got up to say good-bye, but not Max (we heard that he was mildly upset later, asking where we were and when we’d be back). Cam drove us to the airport with plenty of time.
The Batkin family were excellent hosts for this assignment/visit and we are so blessed to have Cameron, Jo & Max as dearly loved friends in our Christian family.