Monday, November 26, 2012

November 27,2012

It is a damp, cool, dizzily, morning in Melbourne. I am bummed. I bought a new rain gauge a few weeks ago and attached it with a couple of fishing nails to the 2x4 railing atop the fence near our entry door. I had one that I brought from home in the same place and it blew off one night and did a Humpty Dumpty on me and you know the rest of the story.  The new one is or at least was working fine until I found it lying on the side walk the other morning.  It is not broken but I am not putting it back up there without proper nails or screws that have large enough heads that the gauge will not slip right over them and go plop or splat or whatever again.  We were at Bunning’s yesterday, (Australian version of Home Depot). 

Actually, better than Home Depot in the area of customer service for sure and I think they have all of the (Home Depot) stuff that one would ever want or need.  My problem is I am such a tight wad.  Sharla wanted to buy a little pack of nails with heads on them. It was over $5 and I said, no do not spend that kind of money for two little nails. Of course then it would rain overnight.  What a dilemma!! It is even more complicated because we were looking at Big W (Australian version of Wal-Mart) right after we got the new gauge and I was too tight to buy nails that day.

They were laying loose in the bottom of the display case. We took, borrowed, or stole them. They did not do the required job as I have described.  Then on Sunday I was in the Member Janitorial Closet at the Branch and I found a couple of nails and a couple of screws that I put in my pocket to bring home and try. It was a hot day and I had my jacket off many times and in a couple of different trunks (boots) of cars and Sharla carried it a couple of times for me when we were walking to or from the train or tram. Very long story short,  I am still looking for those nails or screws.  I will get this project finished somehow.  It is raining quite hard right this minute and I am going to go out and put it in a temporary spot. Perhaps you will hear more about this sometime in the future.  Probably not much more.

We are doing fine.  Most of the time well, and once in a while not very well. The not very well is associated with times when we are missing our family, like Thanksgiving which of course is not celebrated in Australia. ( We did a P-Day dinner on the 19th for our Zone. Total of 28.  Turkey and the trimmings, 2 11# whole birds and a boneless roast that was dozens or more pieces all neatly rolled in and placed in a net, all for a total cost  of $194.49.  It would have cost $194.50 had I not paid for it on the credit card, since in Australia they round all transactions to the nearest nickel.  They do not have pennies. They have 50, 20, 10, and 5 cent coins, as well as $2 and $1 dollar coin; no one dollar bills, just 5,10,20,50, and 100 dollar bills. Someone said the other day that they have a $500 bill. Probably, I will not carry one of those around any time soon.

Back to our doing fine, We are about as settled into our efficiency flat as we can get. There is no room for any more stuff.  There are at least a dozen things that we complain about regarding the flat, but we have come to accept that our complaining is not going to change any of it, so if we want it changed we do something about it (at least Sharla does) and otherwise we have limited most of our complaining to each other.

We are accustomed to the fact that we rely 95% of the time on public transportation. The newness of that has worn off, and a few Sundays ago when we walked over 60 blocks doing all of the stuff that we had to do that day (we also rode the tram a few times and even rented a Taxi) we complained to each other that it was too far, too much walking.

 We actually rented a car a couple of weeks ago for a day and went on a beautiful drive down to Inverloch and visited a woman and her son who I met nearly 50 years ago in my first area. We felt so liberated to be able to stop along the way at a travel plaza and go buy a map or a diet coke or whatever we wanted. It was a beautiful drive, The ocean there was spectacular. We also borrowed a missionary car on Friday and drove to Costco, mostly for supplies for all of the Branch feeds. (paper plates, flatware, cups and that sort of stuff).

The amazing, truly amazing part of being here is the Chinese and Vietnamese people and the missionaries. (the young ones, not us) I will never cease to marvel at how hard the missionaries work and how dedicated and obedient they are and how they are blessed to learn the language that they are assigned to learn and then speak that language almost exclusively for two years. Think about the challenge of being a missionary and teaching the gospel to someone you have never met before and then throw into the mix that you are going to do it in a language you know nothing or very little about and you are going to be teaching people, many of them who know nothing at all about Jesus Christ or his Church. That is what is going on here and we are privileged to be on the sideline taking it all in, or at least as much of it as we can.

Most of the students have completed their finals. Summer vacation has begun for them and many of them will return to China for 6-8 weeks. We are anxious to see what that means regarding participation in the various activities. We are having more than 100 in Sacrament meetings; often a dozen or more first time investigators. At “English Class” a couple of Saturdays ago there were 19 people there that had not been there before. (Sharla has them eating out of her hand.) Last night at FHE there were over 50 people there. We had 5 baptisms this week;  three Chinese and 2 Vietnamese. 

We are  touched with the testimonies spoken and the accounts that we are hearing about how these people were guided to come here. One young man told us he was trying to find a job in China and also applying for his Australian Visa concurrently, and that he had decided he would enter the door that opened first. They both opened the same day but the Visa was first and he has simply stated that God brought him here to learn about Jesus Christ, and the Restored Gospel and Church of Jesus Christ. We are so impressed with them, their faith, and how willing they are to step into a brand new world with Jesus Christ being at the very center of it. Hopefully, we (all of us) can be of some worth in our lives and hopefully we can keep Him in the center also.

PS: the rain gauge has measured .96 of an inch since I put it out.  Just thought someone might want to know.  It isn't as big as it looks.  Sharla had to stand on a chair to take the photo.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Bla Bla Bla Blog !   November 15, 2012

October has come and gone, and it is past time for me to share my rambling thoughts about this “Mission Down Under” another time.  It is very interesting to look back to the day of our arrival and the first few days that we were here and to move forward as we have done each of the following weeks. It makes me think of the quote that says something about the nature of the task actually does not get any easier but those of us working at the task discover, develop, or create ways to do the task more efficiently.

Maybe we are becoming more efficient in our efforts. We seem to have completed most of the tasks that would be required if you were all of a sudden Robinson Crusoe on a deserted island. We were in fact dumped here and given our agency to sink or swim. We treaded water a few times, we drank some nasty salt water more than a few times, and now we are quite familiar with our mission, able to go about the activities, and put forth the effort to complete each day, and even feel most of the days like we have accomplished a little bit of good.

Spring is in full swing in Melbourne. We have enjoyed watching the flowers and plants and trees as they have followed the natural path of buds, blossoms, and leaves.  We had over 1.25 inches of rain at our flat in both September and October. We were hardly ever impacted by it in our travels back and forth. (I wrote this a couple of days ago and sure enough, yesterday it rained a lot and we were out in it numerous times. We stood at a tram stop after we got off of a train for about 12 minutes, and it was raining. We came home cold and wet and sorry that I had mentioned how well we had fared so far in the blog.) Unfortunately I am saddened by the demise of my rain gauge that we brought from home. It was blown off its’ perch by the wind one night; we found all of the parts,  but after we got them all put back together in the proper Humpty Dumpty fashion it does not work anymore.  Oh well Christmas is coming and perhaps we can find something similar in this civilized country/continent of Australia.

We were joined last week by another Senior Couple who live in the “flat” just above us. They are the Lacys from Centerville, Utah. We were glad to be at the Branch on the day that the President brought them there after having delivered them and their stuff to the flat. Although we were expecting them all for district meetings and Introductions about 10:00 AM, they arrived around 1:00 PM. It seems that the keys President Lifferth had for their flat were wrong and they had to drive back to the Mission Office to secure the correct ones.  As we have previously stated.  Everything, and we mean almost everything here is hard, and it takes more time and more effort than one can imagine. 

We are thankful however for a good bed and the ability to sleep quite well most nights, good water to drink right out of the tap, fresh produce that we buy at a farmer’s market every Saturday morning that sets up in a street only about three blocks away, and plenty of Diet Coke. ( We bought some yesterday 30 cans for $10. It is usually about twice that amount so we actually bought two of them and of course then had to carry them through the streets of Melbourne. The Zone Leaders however brought them from the branch to our flat for us in their car, and we did not have to carry them on the tram.) We are also thankful for the financial resources that allow us to be here, and most of all we are thankful for each other, our family, friends and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October 29, 2012

It is a beautiful Monday morning in Melbourne, and we are waiting for the zone leaders to pick us up and give us a ride to Costco.  It takes a lot of food to make meals for 30 – 40 people three or four times a week, and we are always glad when we don’t have to buy everything at the local grocery stores and haul it home on foot.

We had a couple of great diversions last week.  On Monday we rode the train 45 minutes or so to Brighton Beach, where we enjoyed collecting shells, filling our shoes with sand, and a eating a yummy burger from a dive near the beach.  When the menu said “Burger with the Lot” we thought it would include fries.  We were wrong.  The “Lot” part meant beets, a fried egg, pineapple, cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, spinach, and what appeared to be a 3 ounce sausage patty.  It was yummy and we hope one day to take our bikes on the train, ride along the beach, and eat at the dive again. 

On Wednesday our friends from Packenham took us to Warburton, sort of a resort/old mining/country town along the Yarra River in the Donnabuang Mountains, 2 – 3 hours northeast of Melbourne.  We hiked along the High Lead Walking Track, an old logging tramway through lush rainforest type vegetation.  Robert warned us to watch out for snakes, as all snakes in Australia are supposedly poisonous.  Well, a red-bellied black snake slithered across the trail in front of Max, causing him to jump and me to scream bloody murder.  Robert is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Australia, and he pointed out wombat burrows and identified bird calls.  We had a yummy dinner at an old hotel, and on the way home he pointed out an area of which he said he had painted a picture.  He drove us home and to our amazement and surprise, presented us with a beautiful 24x36 inch canvas of the scene he had pointed out to us!

Probably the best part of the week was Sunday, when what used to seem like clamor and noise to us seemed normal, and we felt like a part of the branch.  The Chinese teased us about 100… 1000 year old duck eggs they were cutting up to put in a soup, since it was “Soup Sunday.”   I guess Chinese used to preserve the eggs in horse urine, but now use ammonia.  Anyway, the eggs were black, smelly, and seemed like they belonged in a spook alley not in soup.  Needless to say, neither of us ate any of the soup.  Sunday we were invited to Tam’s flat for a surprise birthday celebration for Elder Lynguyen.  Eight or 10 Vietnamese members and investigators were gathered in her small flat, and yummy food was prepared and consumed.  Elder Lynguyen was surprised, because he thought they were coming to help Tam move.  Even though Vietnamese was the language spoken, once again, we felt like we belonged.  Marring the evening was a phone call to Elder Rigby that his grandfather had passed away that day.  Earlier in the week, he received word that his grandmother had died, so it was a double whammy for him.  The Spirit was so strong as, through his tears, he bore testimony of the Plan of Salvation in both English and Vietnamese.  

We have been teaching English to a number of students, and basically teaching means asking them questions then correcting grammatical and pronunciation errors.  It is fascinating to learn about Chinese customs, traditions, and what it was like to grow up in Communist China.  We are very blessed to be citizens of the USA!  In spite of tired feet and on-going frustrations with how long and or difficult it to accomplish what were quick, easy things at home, we are thankful for the spiritual and cultural experience into which we are immersed.