Brisbane, the Zoo and Classes

I have to admit, keeping up a consistent blog is a challenge for me. Deciding what to say and regularly saying it is difficult. I once heard that 60% of the sounds that come out of a preschool girl are words and communication, 60% of the sound coming out of boys the same age is simply noise or sound effects (explosions, guns, sounds of vomiting and other noisy bodily functions, etc.) I figure blogging is like that, too. So I’ve spent my allotment of words. We visited Brisbane, the Australian Zoo and the Glass House Mountains Sunday-Tuesday and have been in classes ever since. Here are some images of what we saw.100_6901
yellow candle flowers


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entry portals to the St. John’s Anglican Cathedral

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Oh look, flying butresses!

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Brisbane skyline from Mount Coot-Tha

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forget this big guy’s name, but he’s prehistoric (looks good for his age, though)

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yeah, these blokes are a lazy well-fed bunch

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anyone for a cute, cuddly wombat?

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Chillin’ red kangaroo (my desktop pattern for now)

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yep, kuala’s everywhere in the Australian Zoo

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this is the only dingo we saw in captivity or otherwise (reminds me of Jack)

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Tough to see in the mists, but those mountains reminded Captain Cook
of the glass factories back in his home town of Yorkshire, England
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Shine, Little Glow Worm, Glimmer, Glimmer

This has truly been one amazing day. First, we have been in class for two weeks, so it is time for our four week exams (we have a condensed semester here in Australia.) We’ve spent a lot of time in classes and watching movies (Walkabout, Rabbit Proof Fence and Gallipoli are all very good films related to Australia.)

We’ve been working our way through a video called Everything is Spiritual by Rob Bell in our chapel time. For those unfamiliar with Harding University, we have chapel everyday we are in regular classes. Our group really loves to sing and pray and praise God. The video talks about scientific discoveries and how wonderfully made is the universe. Well, this afternoon we got an up-close look at another amazing example of that fascinating world. We traveled up to Mount Tamborine to see a glow worm cave. We saw it at night, so no cameras allowed. The glow worms are actually the larval stage of an insect life cycle. The larvae spin a silken harness in which they hang from underneath outcroppings of rocks, roots, dirt, etc. They then suspend “fishing lines” of silk webs all around themselves with a sticky mucus on the lines in order to catch other insects to eat. Their tail end lights up and attracts insects (we don’t know why) and they get stuck in the lines.

The walking path to the glow worm cave runs through the rainforest and over a creek. All along the pathway, if you turn off your lights, you can see little green points of light in the forest on the embankments. Some are brighter than others. The brighter lights are emitted by the more mature larvae and the dimmer ones by the younger larvae. This particular insect spends 5-9 months of its life cycle as a larvae. After pupating, it lives as an insect for 2-4 days, just long enough to mate and lay eggs, then both male and female die. Brings new meaning to the phrase “these children will be the death of me!”

Any way, I digress. Once we reached the cave and walked in, we let our eyes adjust to the darkness. The roof and walls of the cave looked almost like a clear night sky with thousands of points of light clustered here and there--some brighter, some dimmer. Quite an amazing sight. We also spotted several kinds of spiders, slugs, a common green tree frog and two eels in the creek. God is good.

I’m off to fix up some biscuit mix. We are having one of the girls apartments over for biscuits and bacon tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM. I discovered that I can make American style biscuits in Australia and they taste great. After that Meagan and I will walk on the beach and head over to a large shopping area to see about purchasing a digeridoo. Until next time…
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Surf's Up

So today I went surfing. I’ve never surfed before and probably will not again. But it was fun. 39 of us went to Surfers Paradise Beach for a 2 hour lesson today. First we had to learn how to catch a wave. That was easy and fun. I can scream across the top of water on a board. Mind you this whole process took place in waist deep water. They stress safety.

But then, we had to learn how to “pop-up” into a standing position. That is not so easy. We tried first to jump up from a lying down position on the board deck, but it was to difficult for most of us to just pop up into a standing position from there, so we had additional instruction on a three step process to standing on the board. It involved catching a wave and moving forward on the board with toes on the tail of the board. Then you move your knees up under your hips (like a dog standing), then “just stand up from that position… I can surf like a dog very well. I actually stood up briefly twice before falling into the surf.

With about five minutes left in our two hour time slot, I was trying to stand on the board and wiped out in about one foot of water. I turned over, face up-feet toward the ocean, when a wave blasted me in the face. Sand and water forced up my nose and into my mouth. It was very gritty and unpleasant. The best thing about this afternoon is there are no pictures! We did have a great time, though. Tomorrow I’ll write about our trip to Binna Burra and the rainforest in Lamington National Park--a World Heritage site.
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Uluru (Ayers Rock)

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The sketch above was drawn early Tuesday morning (14 Sept 2010) from the overlook at Pioneer Outback Inn. You can see the log rails of the overlook, the scrub brush and desert oaks in the middle ground and Uluru to the left and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) off to the right on the horizon. I am including a few photographic images from Uluru below for those who can’t read sketches.

Uluru is the name that the indigenous peoples of Australia have called the rock that sits one-third above ground at around 1200 feet high. It is the earths’s largest rock–also known as Ayer’s Rock by the rest of the world. It is made of sandstone mixed with feldspar and iron oxide, so it changes color with the atmosphere appearing reddish pink in the morning, but by sunset--a blazing red!

Our group spent several days in the outback learning from the elder Anangu people about Uluru and their spiritual ties to the physical environment. They have many ancestors who were larger than life (kind of like the Greek gods), they took on human form and walked the earth in the ancient times, creating what is and the stories that explain how life works. It is an animistic culture and one that is very put off by the loss of land, life, property and dignity that took place when the European settlers came. In fact, when white Australians celebrate Independence Day, the Aboriginal groups mark it as Invasion Day. Their story is much like our American story with the European colonists and the Native Americans. Still, all is not bitterness, the Aboriginal clans are actively involved in educating the public as to their history and culture, through the arts, dance, song and guided tour programs. You see, until recently the Aborigines had no written language--their entire culture and history and belief system was passed down orally and through the arts.

It was a pretty incredible couple of days to say the least. A lot to think about as a Christian who wants to share faith, but must be careful in doing so because of the bad taste “Christians” have left in the mouths of the indigenous people of this wonderful land. (Oh yes, don’t wear white--the red dirt stains white clothes a sick orange.)


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Morning drive to Uluru. Notice how reddish pink it is.

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This close up of one small part of the rock is later in the morning, around 11 AM

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A slightly bigger slice (probably 1/4 mile away)

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Reggie Uluru grew up here and is showing us how to make fire in the bush.

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He also showed us how to throw spears.

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Approaching Kata Tjuta (pronounced Katta Chuta)

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I kid you not, unretouched photo of Uluru at sunset. Took it myself.
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Wicked @ the Capital

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This was a very impressive performance. First, the physical stage and set: the Stage didn’t extend very far out into the audience due to the necessity of having use of the orchestra pit. However, the set design did extend across the entire front of the auditorium. Description: the curtain was a map of the Land of Oz (in a Middle Earth, Lord of the Rings kind of illustration–teh Emerald City at the center.) The sides of the stage to the box seats were covered in old lumber, old pulleys and tied up bunches of rope. These all appeared to be covered in cobwebs and dust. There was also a very large mechanical “paper” dragon suspended above the proscenium. Upon further observation, you can see bits and pieces of cogs and gears (machinery.) The primary element of the physical set was the gears and faces of watches and clocks. (Time is important.) Some video projections were used to further enhance the expressive possibilities of the set. There was an excellent use of lighting and smoke to enhance the storyline.

The sound was fine, the actors clear and in tune and the orchestra strong.

The story is a retelling of Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” from the viewpoints of Glenda and Elfa (good and wicked witches.) It begins with a back story of their school days, the meeting of the wizard, disillusion with reality and subsequent playing out of their convictions.

The theme throughout most of the play seems to be the contradiction of what is and what seems to be (Elfa is smart and good/Glenda is shallow and power hungry.) People don’t seem to understand that and assign those roles to the opposite characters. Truth is what we choose to believe and our tragedy is to live out the lies others believe about us. Magic doesn’t really happen, it is all manipulated in a calculated, mechanical way.

Even though Glenda sings about how happiness is getting everything you want–no one gets anything they want because we live the lie, attempting to please others, gain power or both. It is also about how others will begin to believe lies if told often enough.

The constant presence of the clock faces reminds us (as the hour glass did in the original story) that time is running out. It all begs the question, “What choices will you make with the time you have left?” It is a good question. But I feel that the relativity of truth told in the musical belies a solid reason to give much of a thoughtful answer. However, the play did make me ask the question in light of my own belief in our beneficent God–who, by the way is not a man behind a curtain pulling levers and blowing smoke. God never wanted us to be happy–he wants us to be right. Joy flows out of that relationship.

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We also visited the Sydney Opera House. A very beautiful and impressive place.
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First Morning, Sydney, 2nd Day

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So, just like every time I travel overseas, I woke up early this morning. The flight over to Australia doesn’t count, because we all woke up on the plan around 5 AM to eat breakfast before arriving in Sydney. I digress.

So the hotel where we are staying is called the Hyde Park Inn. It is directly across from Hyde Park. The park is a beautiful place of green in a major metropolitan area. In the center of Hyde Park is the ANZAC Memorial, a large art deco building completed in 1932 that is dedicated to the Australian and New Zealand armed servicemen and their sacrifices during the wars of the last two centuries.

Now I will mention the sketch. Six years ago when I couldn’t sleep in Porto Rafti, Greece, I got up, made some coffee and sat out on our apartment balcony. It happened to face east, and I watched the sun rise over a ridge of hills behind Harding’s permanent campus–The Artemis. The sun rose directly in front of our balcony. I was surprised and pleased to find out that our eighth floor balcony at the Hyde Park Inn points exactly the same direction, albeit on the other side of the world and the opposite hemisphere. So I couldn’t resist getting my sketchbook out and doing my first sketch, once again of the beginning of a new (but familiar) adventure. This time, the sun shown through the construction of a new high rise building just on the other side of the lush green of the park. trees
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LAX is so not what I expected

Well, we’ve been at LAX waiting on our final (15 hour) leg of our flight to Sydney, Australia, for about five hours. We have about 90 minutes to go. So far only one student got rerouted, but we’ve all managed to get to the Los Angeles airport together. There was an earlier issue with our electronic visas for Australia, but that seems to have been resolved.

We had a family with a two-year old sitting across from us from Memphis to LA, and she wasn’t very pleased with the situation--the whole way here. We felt sorry for her and her parents, because she’s to young to understand why she couldn’t get up and run, why she wasn’t in her room to take a nap, etc. I must confess, there were a few times where I became annoyed, but then I would think why, and it was for purely selfish reasons--that family was probably more miserable than I was. God uses a two-year old to teach and remind me at 34,000 feet.
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One more day

It seems on the one hand that our trip will never get here as we wait in anticipation. On the other hand, it seems as if our trip will never get here due to the mountain of unfinished projects looming before us. It is a quiet time at our house at the moment–everyone but me has gone to take a nap. I’m trying to get some last minute note taking done so I can avoid taking a 1 pound book on the trip. Meagan functions better late at night, so she’s napping. It seems so long in coming, yet it arrives all too quickly.

We’ve not yet explained all the household chores that the girls never think about--like taking out the trash, feeding the animals, sweeping, walking the dog, and on-and-on the list goes. They will do fine and we will have a great time. My next blog entry will be after we arrive in Sydney. (Yes, there are a couple of students who want to find “42 Wallaby Way, Sydney” while we are in town for a few days.)
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Going Down (Under)

Well, in a few days, Meagan and I will be traveling to Australia on the first leg of a semester long journey in the eastern hemisphere. We will be teaching in Harding University’s Australian International program. We will spend one month in Australia, one month in New Zealand, one week on a cruise off the Great Barrier Reef and three weeks in South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore). I’ll try to keep everyone updated from this blog on interesting sights and thoughts along the way. I’ll include sketches, photos and a word or two to try and give you a sense of where we’ve been and the significance that I perceive in our travels.
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