Spiders, Kookaburras and Wallabies, oh my!
Trip Start Oct 13, 2007
17Trip End ??? ??, 2009
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Well, it's been 7 weeks since we've been back and I can tell from the number of pictures that we have that I'm long overdue for a little writing. I'll categorize to make the volume of text less daunting:
Our Visit Home
What can I say...it was great to see everyone. And for those that we didn't connect with, we're sorry but can't wait to see you next year! The boys reconnected with friends immediately. In fact, I felt like we had another son--Max's friend, Kyle. I'm sure his parents felt the same, given the number of sleepovers they had at each house. Either way, he was a nice addition!
Jim was able to take 3 weeks off--an all-time first for him. After much research, he bought a camera and spent about 2 days taking pictures of everything you can imagine. He was able to get a little golf in, and most importantly, we were able to visit his family in Missouri where we had a belated Father's day reunion. It was great to see everyone!
Our time was too short at home before we were off to my niece's wedding in Virginia. While there we visited Thomas Jefferson's home and some of the sights of Charlottesville. It was great to see my family, but again, too short. Congratulations to Ann and Dean. The wedding was lovely and we were so happy to be there with you guys.
Back to Oz
We arrived early on a Tuesday am and the boys took the rest of the week off school to deal with jet lag. Again, it took about a week, but then it was back to our routines here. School, music and soccer for the boys, working out and house management for me, and work, work, work for Jim. But as much as I worried about how it would be for us to come back, it was a nonissue. Everyone adjusted easily. And it was much easier switching back to driving on the left side of the road this time!
Sport (singular as opposed to sports in the U.S.)
Soccer season ended, with mixed results for the boys. Max's team, who lost most of the season ended up having a good "gala day" (tournaments), while Sam's team, who had a descent season, didn't fare so well in the end. But the boys enjoyed the season, and now it's on to the spring/summer sports: baseball for Max and cricket for Sam. I've always wanted one of the boys to play baseball, so it's pretty ironic that it takes us moving out of the country to get Max to play. We're 2 games into the season and he seems to enjoy it. I'm loving it. Sam had his first cricket match, and I've included some pics. I really don't get this sport...it's 4 hours long, you "bowl" (pitch) the ball with a straight arm, and the ball typically bounces before you hit it with a flattened bat. Then you run back and forth with another player and there are these things called "wickets" that the other team is trying to get. As you can probably gather, I'm clueless. Maybe by the end of the season, I'll have a more coherent description.
Speaking of Sport...the Olympics
That was definitely weird for us to watch the Olympics from here. Frankly, I feel a littly jipped (sp?). Pretty quickly, I got used to the fact that they just weren't going to pay much attention to how the U.S. was doing, so it was all about them. The nerve! Swimming is definitely the Aussie's strong suit, so there was lots of coverage on that. They'd also cover more of the obscure sports during primetime, like badminton and field hockey. Anyway, we'd get all excited when they'd show the swimming feats of Michael Phelps, but then I was disappointed to not get to see any of the medal ceremonies. I miss our national anthem. Although I will say that I now know the tune of the Australian one...not just from the Olympics, but the boys play it for band. Shoot, now it's stuck in my head like a bad commercial jingle.
There's so many national parks in the area, it's never hard to find new places to walk and explore. About 20 minutes away is a place called West Head, where I did a walk one day on my own. We then returned as a family a couple weeks later and did a different walk. Like my solo walk, it started out flat and easy, but then ends with a steep decline down to the water. On this one, we were able to see some aboriginal engraving in the rocks. But the best part was when we finally got to the water--there was a big picnic area and the wallabies came out of the bush and were everywhere! So cute, and many had babies in their pouches. You'll see from the pictures that we could get fairly close to them as well.
One of our hopes was to be able to see the whales migrating during this time of year. We've been wanting to drive south of Sydney, as it's supposed to be quite beautiful, and since the whales are known to be seen in this area, we decided to make a weekend out of it. We set out on Father's Day weekend (early September here) on a very rainy, windy, dreary and cool Saturday. Our plan was to drive on the Grand Pacific Drive, a scenic route that hugs the coastline, with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. I had all kinds of stops mapped out, and places for Jim to take pictures. We adjusted our plans a little, but still stopped some along the way, each time saying "I bet this would be really pretty if it were a nice day." Fortunately the weather came through for us on Sunday and it was gorgeous, so we were able to see the beauty on the way back. No whales were spotted in either direction, but we instead settled for seeing a famous "blowhole" in the town that we stayed at called Kiama. That night we ate at a pretty good Mexican restaurant (remember, they are rare in Australia). After visiting the blowhole on Sunday, we went to Hyams Beach, a little further south. This is supposedly the whitest sand beach in the Guinness Book of World Records. Yes, it was pretty darn white. On our way back, we walked over part of the Sea Cliff Bridge--a new bridge that juts out over the Pacific. From there we saw hang gliders taking off from the edge of Royal National Park, just south of Sydney, so we stopped and watched for a while. A nice weekend, despite weather challenges and absence of whales.
Spring has Sprung
Looks like our weather is mirroring yours (midwest, that is). Spring officially started on September 1, and we've had days in the 50s to the 90s. Trees and bushes are blooming with vibrant colors and strong fragrances (wisteria and clematis). We even had a couple baby birds in a nest by our house, which Jim photographed daily to see their progress. And with warm weather, comes.....spiders. I'm sure it will be a little less startling to see them this year, but we'd still prefer that they stay in the good ol' outdoors. And as the temps have warmed up, we're able to keep our windows open more at night, which means we get the early wakeup call from the chatter of the kookaburras and cockatoos.
Well, enjoy the pictures, and as always, it would be great to get e-mails and pictures from you. I've had some problems receiving e-mails, but so far seems to be isolated to people here. But if you get an error message, please send your e-mail and the error message to email@example.com. Thanks.
GO CUBS, GO BEARS, GO OBAMA (maybe that will get me a few e-mails!). By the way, we do get some Fox channels, so we can see some of the games and also follow some of the politics, and yes, we will be voting--I've requested absentee ballots!
Gas price this morning: $1.34/liter = 5.06/gallon
Gas price tonight: $1.54/liter = $5.82/gallon
Latest Aussie word: rapt (short for enraptured: "We were really rapt at how well the Aussies did in swimming.")
Love to all,
Barb, Jim, Max and Sam