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Monday, May 7, 2018

CATCHING UP....

It is time to catch up since almost a month has passed since I last blogged. We have been very busy and then not busy at all and then just trying to catch our breath. There have been quarterly training meetings for our Stake Self-Reliance Committees for which we have decided to provide food. By 'we' I mean us and our counterparts  in the South mission. We provide the same menu for back to back meetings on a Tuesday and a Wednesday. It is a little more work but when these good people come directly from their work it is nice for them to have something to eat. And we have also noticed that there is a better camaraderie and more visiting so it is a 'win-win' for us.

Lots of days we work from home without ever going into the office. We have regular Stake Self-Reliance meetings. Sometimes we have certificates to print and distribute. And always we try to love and encourage those with whom we work. Every week we try to attend a different ward to see lots of people. Our main job is to train and support the Stake Self Reliance committees. If we do our job well enough they should be just fine without us when we leave :) Not to mention the monthly reports which must be filed about self-reliance statistics, car 'mileage' and financial statements.

There are still English classes on Wednesday but we have cancelled a couple of classes recently when I was not feeling feel. We love working with our missionaries and getting their hugs and handshakes. And we hope we are helping them learn more English. Some of them already speak 2 other languages so they are pretty incredible and I believe English is a hard language to learn. However if they get it they will not only be more effective as they teach the Gospel they will gain skills that will help them the rest of their lives. 

Recently we have been going with our counterparts in the South mission to give a seminar for the departing missionaries to help them understand some of the things they will need to know about getting a job or applying for schooling after they get home. Since it is an all day affair we also provide food for them.

And of course we are still giving the Michigan and OPIc tests. A score of 75 is required to pass the Michigan test. It is heartbreaking for us when we have to tell a missionary that they only  got a 72 or 73 and did not pass. Sometimes it is too late for them to try again before they go home. For some that means their dream of attending BYUH is over. But some of them can go home and try another way of proving English proficiency.

And then the missionaries finish their missions and go home. We miss them! But I have recently been able to 'friend' some of them on Facebook. It is nice to see them continue to grow after they return home. And of course we hope that we can see them again some day. But the distance is so great it may never happen.

Many of our Senior Missionaries have also returned home and we miss our association with them. It is crazy to realize that we have been in Australia for 14 months now. We are set to be released in January which gets closer and closer. So, we are beginning to make long range plans for a family history research trip and relocating to be closer to our children. There are just so many details to be worked out.

As we have experienced a few health issues our goal is to become more fit. After all we can't be very productive if we are in poor health. I am very proud of us because for 4 weeks now we have been walking about 5 days a week around the soccer field close to our flat. There is a nice little "Great Outdoor Gym" at the edge of the field which we use to our advantage along with many others in the neighborhood. There is a group that does Tai Chi. there a couple of ladies who do an Oriental dance routine., There are runners, there are walkers, others are those who walk their dogs. Everyone seems to stagger their times so there is plenty of room for us all. Except on the weekend. We made the mistake of walking later on Saturday and discovered the field was full of soccer players so we walked about the neighborhood instead. We learned that we must be out there by 6:30 or 7 to do what we wish to do.
Kind of nice to have our personal gym. We don't use each of the 8 available stations
but enough to help us along.


And it is paying off along with visits to our physio. However we have also discovered the benefits of a short nap during the day time, especially when we have evening meetings.

Fall is here and the leaves are changing but the weather is lovely. Most of the time the skies are blue without rain.

Twice this month we took the Riverboat to the Quay. We went the first time with our friends the Botts  to the Rocks Market to try to find some things I wanted to buy to bring home. Sadly one of the items I wanted from the silver smith was not available but she said she would make me one later. It was a lovely day on Paramatta River. We enjoyed the Rocks and then had lunch. Elder Jenkins decided that was the day he would try a kangaroo burger. How could we be in Australia for almost 2 years and not try one?


It was a truly lovely day!

It takes about 1and 45 minutes to go to Sydney on the Rivercat. You can sit outside  and enjoy sun and water or you can sit inside and just look out windows. Here we are just approaching Sydney.


Sydney!


This is what the guys do while the girls  go shopping ;)


Well there you have it! the Roo Burger!


A good looking burger served with blueberry sauce to compliment the kangaroo. The meat was on the dry side and did not have a lot of flavor. I expected a wild taste which was not present.
Then we went with several Senior Missionaries on another day down the river to the Quay and caught another ferry to Neutral Bay where we walked to Nutcote. Nutcote is the home of author May Gibbs who is famous for her delightful children's books featuring 'Snugglepot and Cuddlepie' who along with their friends are drawn with inspiration of the Australian  foliage. It was an interesting tour and I could not  resist buying one of her books for our grandchildren to read. 

It was trying to be a stormy day but the sun won out!



Waiting for the ferry to Neutral Bay.

Taking a break walking to Nutcote.



The placard explaining the history of Nutcote.

A whimsical caterpillar at Nutcote.

As we toured the house my eye was caught with this interesting oven door.

Couldn't resist this photo. Not sure if I am supposed to Snugglepot or Cuddlepie.

This is a 'Dutchman's Pipe'. I had never seen one before. There were several hanging from the  lattice frame.

Two of May Gibbs' characters in her garden.

The very best chicken salad sandwich I have ever eaten, and probably the best thing I have eaten in Australia.
The skies continue to inspire me. I am not taking quite as many pictures but I still enjoy the sunsets almost every evening. Fall or not there are still beautiful flowers to see. We enjoy attending temple almost weekly.

A particularly lovely sunrise.
I believe this was the same day for the sunrise but this is taken a little later  from the soccer field facing east.
I think these are morning glory. They are actually such a vibrant almost florescent purple which the camera did not catch.

Sadly these morning glory are a 'weed' and take over if they re not controlled but I think they are beautiful!
Another sunset on another cloudy day!


We are grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. Our friend, Allen Jensen, recently passed which makes us again ponder our own mortality. What a comfort it is to know that through the Atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His Gospel that we can be together with our loved ones again. We are grateful for this opportunity to serve the Savior in Australia.  We love the wonderful people we meet and enjoy learning abut this great country. 

Last night for Senior Family Home Evening we were treated with songs about Australia and we could sing along since we had word sheets. And then we were each given a CD with the songs. One of the songs is: 'Don't Call me a Koala BEAR' since of course it is a marsupial not a bear. It was just fun.

So here we are in May. I hope you will enjoy the photos! Have great day!


This gentleman walked out onto the edge of the soccer field and played his violin to his hearts  content. Sadly we were too far away to hear his concert.


Loved this fence on our walk to Nutcote.



A View from Nutcote.





Fall is here and the leaves are beginning to turn.

Another view of the Sydney Bridge.


Another view of the Opera House.


Walking towards the Rocks. In season there is usually a cruise ship docked near by. And there are ALWAYS buskers on the sidewalks singing, doing magic, playing instruments, etc I love the vibe.


It was overcast all day and then a stream of light!



This is the moon setting as we are out walking about 6:30 AM. It was so beautiful but the camera could not capture the orangey golden color. 


The branch is blocking a full view but this lorikeet is one of many who come to feed on the eucalyptus trees every morning. I love their songs and they are so beautiful!


I think this is a magpie or a crow. They have the most beautiful warble that I love to hear.


I don't know the name of this interesting tree but this one is just outside of our flat. In this picture you can see four of it's stages. the small tender new one, the mature cone to the left, the old expired cone and then the dark dried out cone. The dark dried out cone became the wicked Banksia men of May Gibbs books.

A beautiful rose.

I see this lovely purple flowered tree all over. I do not know what it is called but it blooms almost all of the time.

Another rose.

This is one of the loveliest and best groomed yards in our neighborhood seen from a distance. I can't even imagine how any hours they must spend to keep it a beautiful as it is.










Sunday, April 8, 2018

SUNSETS, FLOODS, A SPECIAL CONFERENCE ...

I have been pondering sunsets for awhile. We are so lucky to live on the 4th level of our apartment complex and facing west because we are treated to magnificent sunsets almost every day. However, it was interesting that a few days ago we had a day without any clouds resulting in a sunset that was very bland, so I did not think to take a photo. It got me to thinking about how the clouds make all the difference in designing the sunset. The clouds are the accents and sometimes the focus which make the sunsets so beautiful.  

Going philosophical I understood that the clouds in our lives help us realize the beauty of our lives.  Jacob was told by his father, Lehi, that although he had "suffered afflictions and much sorrow," God would "consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain." [see 2 Nephi 2:1-2]. Like Jacob we will suffer afflictions and sorrow over the course of our lives. That is part of the plan. But when we are able to look back on our lives we will see that those hard things worked together, with the Savior's help, to make our lives beautiful. I am grateful for the Savior who makes it all possible.


And then there are sunrises full of hope, possibility and  encouragement. Since we face west we don't always catch the sunrises but sometimes they are gorgeous on the west side too. See the difference the clouds make? The morning is heralded by a cacophony of bird song. I love to sit with the doors open and listen. This morning was particularly beautiful and when the clouds shifted just a little we could see the full moon caught up in the display. Can you see it?






The past few weeks have been interesting to say the least. We have been recovering from being sick and trying to regain our energy. Crazy how being sick for a few days can knock you down.

Then a week ago on Saturday, after I had baked all day long to prepare muffins. raisin bars and brownies for our Departing Missionary seminar in the South mission, I went back into the kitchen and discovered the floor was covered with water. At first I thought it was a fridge issue but the water kept coming at a rapid pace from under the fridge. Going out into the hall we could hear water gushing from the flat next door. It took about an hour to reach the owner and for her to get home. As her door was opened her friend immediately shut off her water by the washing machine. But the damage had been done. Her whole floor was covered in water and most of our carpet - even into our bedroom -  was wet.

It was just a LOT of water!
Our dear friend, Elder Ellison, came over with fans. President Checketts brought over 2 young missionaries and Elder Bott came up to help. Despite our efforts with our  towels and blankets, the water had ruined the carpet. 

Thankfully we had help to pull it up and put it out on the deck. Our neighbor had friends pulling up her carpet and padding. After the missionaries left about 11:00 PM another neighbor came home, saw the problem, changed his clothes and came to pull out the padding. It was about 1:30 AM when rugs and padding were pulled out and we had pulled the remaining carpet over the couch to dry.  


More water
We were so exhausted and  so grateful for the help since Steve's wrist is still giving him trouble and he cannot use it much. The sad news was that our sweet neighbor did not have insurance so she was liable for our damage.
It took a few of hours of hard labor to pull out all the wet padding and carpet and mop up the water!
Wet carpet is VERY heavy!

It was the weekend of General Conference and we had considered waking up at 2 AM so we could watch the first session of conference live. But we were already awake. Then we realized that daylight savings time was falling back so we went to bed for 45 minutes before waking up to watch conference. 

It was wonderful to watch the Solemn Assembly and be able raise our arms to sustain the First Presidency for the first time since President Nelson had become the new prophet and president. But we were too tired to stay up very long so went back to bed. We have watched the other sessions on  https://www.lds.org/?lang=eng  over the course of the week. I am so grateful for technology [love my computer!] that allows us to watch in real time or even in delayed time, the  broadcasts from across the world.
With everything piled up in strange places and the wet carpet draped over the furniture to hopefully dry, we connected to lds.org and watched the first part of the first session of conference 


Sunday was a strange day as we were exhausted from the night before but thankfully were still able to watch conference before taking a nap.

Monday we drove to Mortdale to hold the seminar for 10 departing missionaries. We discussed getting job, getting an education, basic life decisions, etc for about 7 hours. And we had enough muffins, brownies, raisin bars with fruit and croissant sandwiches for lunch.


Sunset over the deck full of wet carpet and padding.


We limped through the week "camping" in our flat. The rest of carpet started to smell bad because it just did not dry and could not be saved. So, again Elder Ellison and Elder Bott came to the rescue to cut and pull out the remaining wet carpet. 

Then Friday morning they came again to help move out our furniture so new carpet could be laid. Our sweet neighbor had asked if we could have the missionaries move the furniture and save her the cost of paying for that service so of course we tried to help.  She has delayed replacing her carpet to take care of us first.

The carpet was laid and the missionaries came  to put the furniture back. After working all day Saturday we have most of our flat back in order. Still a few bits and pieces to find and return to their spots.




We now have brand new carpet throughout. It is much lighter than what we had before which was not my choice but it looks nice. I am nervous about keeping it clean. We have the large area rug which we had before and we will get a few little ones to put in high traffic areas. But now we almost have our life back.

It is so strange to realize that we have been here in Australia over a year! It is kind of sad to see different flowers, bloom and then leave, knowing that we will not see them again next year. We have been here for a full cycle. It is April and fall but my northern hemisphere head still thinks of April as spring. Of course it has been warm so far and does not seem like fall at all.
This is just in front of the mailroom and distribution centre. I think these Birds of Paradise flowers are so lovely.


This specimen was new and fresh with no dried leaves so I  thought it was worth seeing.


We have just had transfers which released some of the young missionaries we have come to love and sent them back to their homes. It has been fun to connect with some on Facebook and be able to keep in touch. And many of the Senior missionaries will also soon be finished their time here. We miss those who have already gone and will miss those who are soon to leave. It has been a great  experience to work with and make friends with people who understand and love the Gospel.

A few days ago we awoke to see a pile of furniture across the street. It looked like the person who had lived in the house must have  died and everything was just put out in the street. The people in the neighborhood and those who walk by take the opportunity to go through what is there and take what they want. It just kills me to see all of the "good stuff" that is discarded. We constantly are driving by piles of furniture just set out. I saw a beautiful white table the other day but of course we left it. After about a week this pile was just gone. They hire a truck to come and gobble it all up. It breaks my heart to see things destroyed that could be of value to someone. But I guess in a city there is no other way to get rid of things. If we lived here I would find a way to get things to people who could use them. I did pick up up a lovely painting which we have here in the flat now.


So much stuff!

It is getting late. I went to bed early but could not get to sleep. So I got up and a few hours later the blog is written. Hopefully I can get to sleep. Lots to do this coming week!

I will leave you with a few sunsets that have decorated our sky in the past couple of weeks. I hope you love them as much as I do! Good night!