Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Earth Shaking Experience

Early Monday morning and I mean early, (my flight was at 7:00 am) I was on my way to Melbourne.  This time, I was all on my own.  Hmmm whose idea was that?  It actually turned out quite well.  From Monday to Thursday I lived at the Dominican Priory with some of the Fathers and Brothers.  I really didn't know what to expect from the trip and my original contact, Fr. Dom Murphy left Monday afternoon for a Retreat in Brisbane.

Before he left though, he showed me around the ACU campus a bit and said midday mass.  Father then drove me up to the priory in Camberwell and when there, Father Martin gave me a tour and I participated in evening prayer and mass, again.  That night I was sitting in my room wondering what the Lord had in store for me with this part of the trip and I soon realized that I was being given a retreat and time to step back from the first half of my time here. 

I really took that to heart as I spent the week visiting Melbourne, which compared to Sydney seemed to focus a lot more on art and culture and was really obsessed with Australian Football.  I also visited the Dominican founded primary school and went with Father Laurie over to Mannix College which is a Catholic residence hall for Monash University.  Throughout the days I was able to refocus on my prayer life through daily mass, evening prayer, and a new found motivation.  Like the whole fellowship, visiting Melbourne was such a blessing.

There are three things i will remember most from this trip.  First is Fr. Dom's passion for making a difference on campus and his spot on and hilarious Italian accent.  Second, I will always be grateful to Father Martin for taking me under his wing while I was visiting and sharing his stories and his knowledge of the city.  Finally, how could I ever forget the 5.3 magnitude earthquake that shook my bedroom for 30 seconds on Wednesday night.  Yeah I know, I cause devastation everywhere I go. 

Rest of Cairns excursion

Saturday saw us up early once again but this time we walked down to the harbor to get on a boat for Green Island and some Great Barrier Reef snorkeling.  Once we made it to the Island we tried to do some snorkeling but found that the spot we had chosen was too shallow and we were scraping the bottom.  However, we had much more luck when we moved to the other side of the island.  We saw a number of awesome underwater creatures.  The things I can name include: giant clams, starfish, of course lots of coral, clown fish, sea slugs, swordfish, sea anemones, this big eel type thing, lots of schools of silverfish, really bright fish, but also fish that were pretty camouflaged.  It was like all the pictures I had seen but so much cooler in person.  My favorite part was following some to the fish around.

After a break for lunch back on the boat, Em and I took about an hour to just lie on the beach.  After all it is our summer, right?  Em took a turn around the Island while I did another hour of snorkeling which I realized soon after solidified the frying my back took that day.  Soon after, we jumped back on the boat and took the hour trip back to the Mainland.

Before heading back for our free backpacker's meal, Em and I took a leisurely walk along the coast.  It seemed like the place to be as there were numerous people running and biking, or just laying in the grass.  After dinner, we had a few drinks while watching the 2nd Australia Vs Wales Rugby union match and just catching up with each other in general.  We had a rather easy and early night because by then our sunburns were really starting to heat up.

To round out the weekend, we woke up and checked out of Gilligan's and went on a 3 hour and 20 km mission to find a church in which to go to mass.  Unfortunately, our quest ended in vain and we spent the afternoon laying in the grass by the coast and reading.  I ended up finishing my fourth book of the entire trip. 

A good trip it was and a nice break from the cold weather in Sydney.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Bright side of the Road

Friday June 15th

Friday, Em and I scarfed down some breakfast consisting of muffins, apples, and cookies (ok guilty, Em had apple with peanut butter and I was the one eating cookies).  Then we hopped on a Bus with Cousin Rohan and were taking part in Uncle Brian's Atherton Tablelands and Waterfalls tour.  It was such a fantastic day full of rainforest, waterfalls, funny stories, silly stories, funny dancing and singing, water slides, and even a platypus siting. 

Cuz was an amazing tour guide helping everyone feel comfortable right away by being crazier and goofier than all of us combined.  He also knew so much about the land and its history.  Overall, he taught us that beign upset and grumpy doesnt make life any nicer to live so its much better to spend life on "The Bright side of the Road."  If you ever find yourself in Cairns, this tour is an absolute must, I promise you won't regret it.

Another day, another Dominican

Thursday June 13th

In the morning, I made it all by myself to Lewisham walking to the train station and taking the train.  (aren't I getting all growed up).  There I met a Dominican, Brother Frank, who brought me over to the St. Vincent De Paul Society Centre to work with Men's Shed for the morning.  Men's Shed works to give older gentlemen programs to stay active, give support to one another, and an avenue for them to give back to the community.  Once at the Vinnie's Centre, we went straight to the Wood workshop where 5 of the guys were restoring furniture.  I got to work on an old dining room chair with Br Frank which when finished will go to the Vinnie's Thrift Store to be sold.  It was nice to be able to do some work with my hands.  It reminded me a lot of the work I have done with Habitat for Humanity.  The morning was full of hard work, joking, advice, and storytelling.

Before running off, Brother Frank also gave me a tour of the complex which has many different social outreach programs centered there.  I also saw the van that later next week we will be taking out for Night Patrol (a program for helping the Homeless).  Back to Santa Sabina we went where I was just in time to attend the Wisdom Mass celebrating ten years of the Santa Sabina Middle School.  It is very nice to be able to attend some daily masses, they never fail to refocus me.  From there Em and I went off to the airport in order to fly up to Cairns for some snorkeling and other such fun in the sun.  Tourist Time!

World Record Day

Wednesday June 13th

On Wednesday it was time to meet some aboriginal women.  Sr. Rosemary drove me out to West Sydney, to sit in on a meeting of the Baabayn organization.  The Baabayn organization is basically a group of women elders in the aboriginal community dedicated to awareness and advocacy of indigenous issues.  It was a amazing to listen to all the group had done and planned to do.  They really take their role seriously and aim to make big changes.  After their meeting, Sister and I stayed for some lunch and a chat.  The women were so friendly and welcoming, it was a very pleasant afternoon.  I learned a lot about the problems the aboriginal people deal with, and how they hope to fix them.

Wednesday night was the State of Origin Rugby League game.  It is a match between Queensland and New South Wales.  Its similar to an all star game because the best players from the various teams go back to play for their home state.  The atmosphere resembles an Olympics event and with 83,000 people at the stadium, it was really cool to witness first-hand.  Another cool aspect was that the stadium gave out free blue curly wigs and when over 12,000 people put them on we were told that we had broken a World Record for most wigged people in one place.  The World Record on top of NSW winning a tight game made the night one to remember.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Back at it

Tuesday June 12th

I went to Del Monte Primary school, specifically to Alex Zhara's third year class.  Mr. Zhara was an excellent teacher, patient and attentive to his students' needs while also challenging them to behave and perform up to there potential.  Mostly, I just observed but at points I helped with projects or answered questions about America.  Overall, I just had fun being with the kids.  So many questions! "why are you here?" "how old are you?" "do you have a girlfriend?"  "how old is she?"  "are you going to marry her?"  "what's your middle name?" "do you have brothers and sisters?"  "how old are they?"  It was rapid fire, but I got a kick out of it. 

For Dinner, Em and I went back over to Santa Sabina for the Veritas Dinner.  It entailed a meal with about 30 people associated somehow with the Dominicans as well as a discussion led by one of the Sisters.  I had some very delicious lasagna and heaps of dessert but better than that was the discussion of the idea of "New Church" and signs of hope for the future.  We discussed the idea that the Church is calling more on Lay ministry and specifically women lay ministry and how there is hope in some places from an infusion of youth and vitality.  Interesting Topic, if anyone reading has any thoughts, I'd be more than happy to discuss.

God Save the Queen

Monday June 11th

Monday was a public holiday for the Queen's birthday.  Apparently this is the one day that everyone in Australia loves the Queen.  Can't say this American minded the chance to sleep longer in honor of her majesty.  Monday was also Louise Pow's birthday luncheon/ party.  There was some good food and some good conversation centered around healthcare and medical professions that probably bored Em but kept me engaged.  After too much pavlova and strawberries for dessert, we took our leave.  Before dinner, Sarah, Sarah's boyfriend Dan, Laura, and I went and played some squash.  I worked up quite a sweat but am embarrassed to say that I dropped all three games to Dan.  Had a good time anyway.  It's really great being able to have a homestay family, it really allows me to get immersed in everyday Australian life and culture.