Wednesday, May 8, 2013

MAY 3, 2013:  The wind is really stirring up the leaves today, and I'm thankful to be sitting in a warm, comfortable office.  We had pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch, and for their first time in my life, I took my favorite pair of black shoes in to be re-soled and re-heeled.  We are looking forward to having the Wong family for creamy enchiladas on Sunday and finally found all the ingredients.  Diced green chilis aren't available here, but thankfully, we brought a few cans with us.

 It seems we can never get enough of the beach, even when the wind is blowing.  This photo was taken along the Great Ocean Road, and we commented about how warm it was, in spite of the wind.  Within 5 minutes, the temperature changed and we were freezing cold. 

 Before Elders Kirklin (pictured with pizza in his hand), Wing, and Petersen were released, we bought pizza at Costco and took to FHE.  Elder Priestley and Jacky joined in for the feast.

 This is a very crooked photo of Yvonne and Elders Snyder and Christensen when we celebrated Elder Snyder's birthday.   Note the lovely dining table and retro chairs. 

 All the girls at Gina's baptism. 
The cameras come out in full force at the baptisms, and memories are digitally captured. 
We are trying to see as much of Victoria as we can before we ship off to Tasmania, and Woffindens are happy to join us for PDay adventures.  This day we drove about 2 hours to Phillip Island, home of the little penguins and Seal Island.  We hadn't planned to visit Panny's Amazing Chocolate Factory, but were glad we did.  The chocolate was yummy! 

Picnic lunch while we waited for the 45 minute boat ride to Seal Island. 
 We never dreamed we would see so many seals playing/fighting in the water and lounging on the rocks.  It was a beautiful day, and the stench from the seals was blown away by the wind.  The boat captain circled around, probably for an hour, while we took photos and watched these amazing animals.

 The playful pups frolicked in the water and on the rocks, while the moms swam far into the ocean looking for food.  Occasionally those lounging on the rocks would heave their huge bodies over the sharp rocks into the water.  We were fascinated watching these magnificent  beasts. 

We learned that when sharks come near the island, the bulls, who normally avoid each other, band together, get in the water, and chase the sharks away. 

Another ocean view; this the coastline of Phillip Island
We purchased tickets for a private penguin parade experience and were happy we sprang for the upgrade.  We had a very informative private guide and were ushered to seats right on the beach.  We watched  the little birds wash up from the surf, form sort of a line, then waddle as much as 3 K to their burrows, where their offspring waited impatiently for food. 
A local elementary school built hundreds of penguin burrows that were put in the hillsides by conservation volunteers.  The penguins live in these little burrows when not fishing, when moulting, or when sitting on an egg.  The young stay in the burrows during the day. 

We'll never see a road sign like this in the USA.....

....nor one like this. 

They are very much creatures of habit and follow the same path to their burrows.

 Three of our favorite missionaries from the Language Zone went home in April.  We worked with these three daily while we lived in the city.  Elders Kirklin, Petersen, and Wing impacted the lives of many, and we love them.
 One of our office assignments is to make airport runs.  Generally President Lifferth likes to pick up new missionaries, but he was involved in a training this day, and we drew the lucky straw.  We took Elder Cowser to meet his new companion, Elder Chang-Tung.  New missionaries are either wasted from the long trip from Provo, or if coming from New Zealand, are relatively fresh and eager to start their new experience. 
 Another PDay adventure with the Woffindens took us to the Otway Forest and Warrnambool. In the forest, we walked along a prehistoric path and saw lots of dinosaurs.  We were glad this snake was high in the tree and seemed rather benign.
 The Otway Fly Treetop Walk goes through a rainforest on a high steel structured treetop canopy that takes you right into the treetops. 

Looking down from the top of the walkway
The walkway is over 600 meters long and 30 meters high. 
 The road was winding and we were almost lulled  into thinking we were driving someplace in Utah.  We remembered we were in Australia when we saw the road sign warning us to watch out for kangaroos and echidnas that might be crossing.
 Or there might be koalas sleeping in the trees.
 Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warrnambool was built around 1858 and was a very lively port during that time period.  The village reminded us of "This is the Place State Park" or "Pioneer Village" at Lagoon, but was a reflection of life in a sea village.
 This is one of two working Warrnambool Lighthouses.  When ships enter the port at night, they line up the lights from the two lighthouses  in order to have safe passage.  Over 180 ships came to grief along the Shipwreck Coast prior to the lighthouses. 
        Sorry, there were no glazed donuts available.
The ocean was rough, and it was easy to see why many ships met their demise trying to find their way to Warrnambool's port. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 1, 2013

In our minds, the calendar reflects spring, but in Australia we are experiencing fall weather.   The leaves of some trees are turning from green, to red, orange, and yellow, and they crunch under our feet when we walk through them.  The numerous varieties of Eucalyptus and Evergreens seem to lose needles and leaves all during the year, so they are still green and lush.  The grass that was so dry during the summer is also green, roses are in bloom, and hydrangeas are at their peak.  We have become accustomed to our "summer home" and like the proximity to the Mission Office and a shopping center.(more than one actually)  We walk and run through the many reserves nearby, and so far, neither of us have encountered a snake.  Here's hoping we never see one!  My favorite time of the day is when we leave the office for the evening and walk out to see the Melbourne Temple 50 yards away.  Daily changes in the landscaping and weather enhance the beauty of this House of the Lord. 

We maintain regular contact with our many sons and daughters in the Chinese Branch and participate with them on Sunday, Monday for Family Home Evening, and at baptisms, which occur pretty much every week-end.  We have invited some to our home for dinner and a lesson and love the time we spend with them.  We don't miss our "winter home" in Richmond or having to take pubic transportation or walk where ever we go, but we do miss the city and activity of Melbourne. 

In June we will leave our summer and winter homes, the mission office, our Chinese sons and daughters, the mainland, and the city behind, and move to a vacation home in Tasmania.  We are told it is a beautiful island, and we are excited to get a bit closer to Antartica. We are in the process of down-sizing what little "stuff" we have accumulated before making this move.  We anticipate that this will be the final resting place of our missionary service, but know that the new mission president, President Maxwell, might have other ideas for us.  We feel lucky to have served three missions in one:  our experiences with the Chinese Branch, the Australia Melbourne Mission office, and a South Pacific island.(Indian Ocean)
Work in the office is just that:  WORK.  We are thankful for a variety of additional assignments and the onslaught of missionaries who invade the office from time to time, all of which helps break the monotany of a daily 9 -6:00 routine.   We've helped furnish  flats for the influx of 100 additional missionaries by putting 20 IKEA desks together, made many trips to the airport to transport arriving or departing missionaries, and welcomed the arrival of 10 brand spanking new white Toyota Corollas, which Max gets to adds to his fleet. 

We become frustrated with flight schedules that change daily, visas that are slow being approved and delayed missionaries scheduled to arrive, disobedient missionaries, vandalism to vehicles and flats, all the holidays that Aussies take, and stores and banks that close at 5:00 daily.  But we love seeing the Spirit ignite a fire in investigators, listening to the missionaries teach and bear testimony, watching recent converts accept and magnify callings, and visiting some of the beautiful places in Victoria.  We are fortunate to be serving in a country where freedom is treasured, people are accepting and kind, water is pure, and everything we need is readily available.  We also feel blessed that Medium Max, our oldest grandson has been called to serve as a missionary in the Mexico City South Mission.  We are proud of him and all of our children and grandchildren, and treasure photos, emails, and letters we receive from them and from friends.

One of our favorite P Day activities was golfing 18 holes with Elders Gray and Lacy.  Elder Christensen, dressed in his suit and tie, was our caddy, photographer, and security guard.  The scores weren't very good, though Elder Gray did have some really good shots. 

Cuckaburras are hard to spot, but this one posed for us when we stayed in  Lorne, our first stop on the Great Ocean Road.  Occasionally when we are in the reserves or mountains, we hear one of these unusual birds laugh.