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Fraser Island

December 9, 2014
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Lake McKenzie

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Champagne Pools

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Australia just keeps getting more and more amazing the more I see. If you plan to visit Australia one day, you must visit Queensland. And you must visit Fraser Island, if you can pull it off. Visiting Fraser is a bit tricky in that only 4x4s are allowed on the island (you will see why when you get there) and there is only one resort (I think) that you can stay at. Mostly people go camping when they go to Fraser. And as we drove around, I wondered how people who don’t go with a tag along group find their way around. It’s not like there are road signs or anything. There are some national park signs that point you in general directions from time to time, but when you are bumping through the forest and come to a fork in the road, often there won’t be a sign telling you which way leads to what. I was so glad I was with Pippie’s Beachhouse tag along tour. A friend and I got a great deal on Groupon for a two day one night tour and drove the 3 hours up to Rainbow Beach last weekend to start the tour. You have to arrive a day early to have an orientation (mostly just watching videos on how dangerous it can be to drive a 4×4 on the sand. And indeed a girl died up there about a month ago when her 4×4 flipped. Several others were injured as well.) and then you leave the next morning on the tour.

We loaded up 3 4x4s and then set off on the 15 minute or so drive to the point where the ferry would get us. Again, there weren’t many signs, so I am not sure how people find the place to wait for the ferry. But, I guess that is typical Queensland (Australian?) fashion – not enough signs!

While crossing the river we saw a whole school (?) of blue jellyfish! It was so neat. We also saw a big sea turtle. Later on when we crossed back we saw several dolphins. =)

Fraser Island is very closely protected, and the whole thing is almost completely unspoiled. I highly recommend a visit if you get the chance!

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Waiting to board the ferry

 

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Looking across at Fraser

 

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We spent a lot of time driving along the beach

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The Maheno Shipwreck (A Scottish cruiseliner that was built for New Zealand – hence the Maori name – that was later used as a hospital ship in WWI before being sold to the Japanese as scrap. It washed up here while being transported to Japan.

 

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All along the beach there were runways for airplanes to land

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We did a lot of driving along the beach, so a lot of my pictures were just snapped out the window

 

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This is the only cactus I saw growing on the island and it just made me smile =)

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The sign we all walked past =)

 

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Can you tell I was a little obsessed with this shipwreck?

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I’m also slightly obsessed with lily pads =)

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Hiking to Wabby Lake while a thunderstorm is approaching. We hiked the 45 minutes back to the car in the thunderstorm and were completely soaked.

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You can’t really tell from this picture but it’s a steep walk down to the lake

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The first dingo that we saw

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The second one

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Best pic I could get of the dolphins from where I was sitting

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 2014

November 28, 2014

Happy belated Thanksgiving, friends!

I’ve only spent a few Thanksgivings away from home, but it seems like every time it’s an interesting experience.

My first Thanksgiving away was my first year of grad school when Rebekah and I hitched a ride to Michigan with friends and celebrated with her aunt and uncle there.  It was a snowy Thanksgiving and when we arrived in Michigan we got word that a fellow student had also been driving to Michigan and had been in a car accident and died. That made for a somber Thanksgiving. After a few days in MI, Rebekah bought a car and we drove back to Wisconsin, so that was exciting for her. And for me, since it meant now we each had a car and a bit more freedom. =) I miss those days like crazy sometimes.

My next Thanksgiving away was when a group of us from church took a trip to Israel and spent Thanksgiving day in airports en route to Tel Aviv. =) That was such an amazing trip. Totally worth missing Thanksgiving for.

My third Thanksgiving away was last year in Russia. I can’t remember anything unusual about it except, well, the fact that it was Russia. And everything that happens in Russia is interesting. Miss that place too.

And then this past Thanksgiving we got the mother of all hailstorms here in Brisbane. My pastor’s wife was on her way to pick me up for Thanksgiving dinner when it hit and now her new car has dents in it.  =( So yeah, I feel pretty bad about that. =( The storm itself was exciting for me, since I stood in my doorway downstairs and just waited for it to arrive. I could see dark clouds moving quickly towards us, and could hear the storm approaching. It sounded like a train coming and reminded me of the one time in WI when I was driving during a tornado and praying I would make it safely to church and not get caught in the tornado. That was a crazy storm too, with rain so loud I couldn’t hear my car radio even at full volume.  The hail we got here was golf ball sized and the fierce wind was knocking it all over the place. I picked up one chunk that came inside my kitchen and it was just like a huge chunk of ice. I feel bad for anyone who got caught out in that storm (it came up so quickly and wasn’t predicted), that hail was coming down really, really hard. I tried my best to get some pictures without damaging my camera. Didn’t get any great pictures, but you can kinda see how big the hail was.

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Can you see the wind just blowing it all over?

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It looked like golf balls were falling from the sky and bouncing all over the yard. Unreal.

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I think maybe next year I will just spend a nice, quiet Thanksgiving at home with family. Miss those peeps. =)

 

Just a walk

November 24, 2014

I’ve been meaning to head up to the top of a local hill to watch the sunset one of these nights, since the views of the sunsets I see from the kitchen window are amazing, but slightly blocked by houses. So last night I decided to do it since I had the time and it looked like it might be a nice sunset. I debated taking my camera, but told myself I would just enjoy whatever I saw without bothering to take pictures [I should know myself better than this by now] for once. I managed to make it out our back gate and to the neighbor’s house before finding a perfect plumeria flower that had fallen from their tree. I see them all the time but they still make me smile and make me feel like I am in Hawaii, so I stopped to pick it up and of course decided I needed a picture of it. So I headed back to the house since I was so close and took a picture.

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Isn’t it so pretty?

 

I set back out again and made it about 6 houses down the street before I came to a short poinciana tree and remembered I had wanted to get some pictures of one. These trees are so gorgeous and I just noticed recently that after being a brilliant red for a few weeks, one petal on each flower suddenly changes colors and starts looking more like a lily. So, laughing at myself, I headed back to the house and hoped none of the neighbors were watching me and wondering if I was casing the neighborhood. As I headed back for the camera, I noticed one of the resident myna bird babies in the middle of the street in front of our house. About 5 adult myna birds were surrounding it as it hopped about. I decided that needed a picture too, so I actually ran back inside for the camera hoping they wouldn’t have moved by the time I got back. When I came back and got close to get a picture, of course the adult birds got riled up and one flew at me:

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Baby at the right

That was as close as I dared get, since these birds will attack you. As I was taking this picture, a car drove up so I stayed to watch. I assumed everything would be ok as the adults scurried out of the way, and the first wheel made it safely over without hitting the baby. Well, he wasn’t so lucky with the back tire and I gasped and covered my mouth as he got run over and stared flopping about. It was horrible. I couldn’t believe I had just seen that and I felt awful. I mean, I don’t even like these birds. In fact, I actually despise them. They are so annoying and it’s because of their babies that they attack us constantly when we walk out the door. They flutter close to you and flap their wings and never fail to make me scream and think evil thoughts towards them, ha. But still, it was really sad. I walked away feeling so sad. When I made it back from my walk it was eerily quiet, no attacking or scolding birds to be seen anywhere. I guess they were all in mourning somewhere.

Anyway, here’s that poinciana tree.

 

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I am so curious as to why this happens

By now, of course, I had decided I needed to just resign myself to the fact that I can never just go out for a simple walk without needing to document everything, lesson learned [again]. Everything happens when you don’t bring your camera, I think it’s one of Murphy’s laws.

I continued walking and came across more insanely huge spider webs than I cared to realize was possible.  Sorry that the pictures are so horrible.

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There were THREE black and yellow spiders on this HUGE web.

I made a mental note to take more care whenever I walk anywhere and to keep an eye out for spiderwebs! These things look evil.

I finally made it to the top of the hill and as I was getting there, I noticed a car coming up the hill behind me. He pulled over and then pulled out again and drove into the parking lot. I eyed him suspiciously as I realized it was just him and me up there and he looked a bit shady. He got out and pulled out a bag and I decided I had seen enough Dateline to think twice about staying up there, ha. I snapped a quick sunset picture and headed back down the hill, bummed that he ruined my sunset-watching hopes. On my way down up came another car with one guy in it. And then another. Ok, so maybe they were planning to just drink [and watch the sunset? lol] and who knows what but still…no point in staying around to find out.

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So they aren’t great pictures, but it certainly was an interesting walk!

 

 

 

I’m still alive!

November 23, 2014

This poor, neglected blog. Back in the day when I started it, to help fill the long, slightly-boring reference desk hours (I mean, what else can you do at 11 pm when there is no one in the library, right?) there weren’t a whole lot of insanely exciting things happening in my life. I mean, I had just finished grad school, moved back to California, started working as the dorm supervisor at PBC, started back at GPL, started working at APU (yes that means 3 jobs at once), ended a confusing relationship, and taken only my second overseas trip (the one that started my love affair with seeing the world), so there was all that. But it wasn’t anything like jumping out of airplanes or snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef or learning to drive on the other side of the road, or struggling to live in a country where you really need to know as much Russian as possible. I wasn’t snapping selfies with McLarens or riding camels or climbing the pyramids or swimming in the Mediterranean. And yet, I was blogging my normal existence with exuberance. Ha. And now? Now when I really have some pretty exciting things I could write about….I rarely take the time to even pop up a few pictures. Pathetic, I know. There are no valid excuses. Anyway, I have today off and am using it to recuperate from a long weekend with the triplets. Want to know what’s even more fun than a short roadtrip with your BFFs? A 2 hour car ride with three 6 year olds, one of whom spends the entire ride putting his feet up on either side of your headrest and kicking your neck. While making a loud, squeal-y type noise the entire time. Oh yes, lots of fun! ;)  Anyway, so today is being spent doing nothing (unless unpacking and doing laundry and cleaning count as something) and enjoying the peace and quiet. Did you know it’s possible to think you might go slightly crazy after spending 3 days with three children, one of whom has Autism and who can literally repeat [in a high pitched squeal] “GREEN CROCODILE!!!!” ALL day long because he played with one at the pool and now has become obsessed with one? I’m here to tell you it’s true, friends. I made it out of Russia without freezing to death, so I am pretty sure I can make it out of Australia without going crazy, but there’s always that slight possibility… ;) Ok so back to the blog. There are soooo many things I need to update you all on. There are so many uniquely Australian things that I need to write about so that I don’t forget them all when I leave this place. I really need to get better at this. But we all know that’s never really going to happen, right? Until the day when life is back to “normal” and I don’t have the time to do it, somehow then I will keep it updated. It’s been interesting living in Australia. On the one hand I love it. It’s amazing. And so easy to live here where I don’t have to struggle daily with people understanding me/me understanding them. Oh, and it’s gorgeous. On the other hand, part of me misses Russia. Don’t know that I’d ever go back, but who knows. I’ve learned to never say never, ha. Who knew I’d end 2014 in Australia? I certainly never saw that coming when I boarded the plane to head back to Russia at the beginning of the year. But I miss the struggles, the constantly having to depend on God for literally everything. Life wasn’t easy there, so it forced me to pray constantly. And I saw God do amazing things. I know I say it all the time, but seriously, that year and a half was the most amazing time of my life. Part of coming to Australia was to continue that journey, but I have to say, it’s harder to live by faith here. Not impossible, but I have to remind myself constantly that just because life is easier here doesn’t mean I get to just coast. I have to make more of an effort to live by faith here. I think that while I saw God constantly doing things in Russia, here in Australia it feels more like a waiting time. Like I don’t see or feel things happening. And it causes me to wonder if I am just not praying enough or if it’s really just a time to test my faith, to see if I really am walking by faith, or if I am walking by sight. Not gonna lie, it gets easier to walk “by faith” when God is answering prayers and doing amazing things. When He’s silent and it feels like He’s not answering, it gets harder to “live by faith.” And it’s convicting. Anyway, I really don’t know what this year/next year holds (I know, none of us do) but I guess that’s become the new normal for me. =) It’s what I asked for, so I can’t complain. It’s frustrating at times to feel like we have to learn the same lessons again and again, but I am glad God is a patient God. I am sure I wouldn’t put up with me like He does! And, of course, some random photos just for fun.

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These poinciana trees are all over Brisbane and I LOVE them. They are so colorful and fun.

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Just a pretty house with a poinciana tree in front of it (the poincianas all have varying shades of red and varying amounts of flowers/huge seed pods.)

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For some reason these ads just crack me up

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Butterflies inside the Queensland Museum and Sciencecentre

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A dazzlingly colorful array of local bugs/beetles. Delightful.

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Especially these guys, eek. They are huge!

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How do you keep 6 year old girls entertained? Treasure hunts work for about 10 minutes lol. (Yes, my bike drawing skills are quite legendary)

The Amazing Wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef

November 12, 2014

This post has the potential to be miles and miles long. Maybe because Jen is too prolific of a photographer. Or maybe because the Great Barrier Reef really is THAT amazing. I think there will be multiple posts to save you all the hand cramps you might get from scrolling and scrolling [if you stuck with me that long] through one long continuous post.

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The famous Heart Reef!

 

In short, if you read nothing else I post, read this: the Great Barrier Reef absolutely must be on every single person’s bucket list.  If you read through my bucket list you will notice that it’s not mentioned anywhere. [This must be remedied. I think I need to go add it. After all, it really needs to be on everyone’s bucket list, ha.] Why, you ask, was it never on my list? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it was the fact that my first snorkel trip  [in Fiji] ended with lots of coral cuts all over my body, along with a horrible case of swimmer’s ear that left me without medical care on a somewhat remote island, popping someone else’s Vicodin pills to help manage the excruciating pain. Maybe it’s the fact that my next snorkel attempt  [in Maui], ended with me hardly even getting in the water [let’s not talk about it, I am blaming it on my hair and the fins. Seriously. And that’s just embarrassing.] Or maybe it’s because my third attempt [ in Jamaica],  ended with me barfing over the side of the boat. Twice. [Granted Jamaica was actually my most successful snorkel attempt to date, with me actually seeing lots of cool things in the water. Ha, no it was not barf. That was later.]

Anyway, so snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef was never on my list, even though I thought it would be cool to see someday. So after taking a fabulous scenic flight over the reef (after all, who doesn’t want to see that cute little heart reef in person?) and seeing how amazing it was, and then snorkeling a nice little reef near Hazelwood island in the Whitsundays, I decided that there was no way I could be that close to the Great Barrier Reef and not snorkel it. So I forked over the painful amount of money required to get oneself over there, and then took the two hour boat ride out to the reef. You could also fly to the reef, but I don’t even want to think about how much that would cost. They call the setup out there “Reefworld.” And it’s basically a pontoon boat (I think?) that is permanently anchored there (when you go down you can see lots of coral actually growing around and on the boat chain). Once on the boat you can change into a sting suit or wet suit (November starts stinger season here), get your fins and snorkel, or lounge in the sun on the top deck or take a semi-submersible boat ride over the reef (sooo cool – that’s how I got my underwater pics since I didn’t bring an underwater camera), shower, eat lunch, view fish from their underwater viewing chamber, etc. It’s a pretty nice setup.

*Sorry I don’t have any amazing photos to share. It was hard to get pics through the dirty semi-submersible windows, there were bars in the way at an odd angle, and some of the fish swam by too quickly. I consider myself lucky to even have these.

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Now…this could also be part of my snorkeling problem but I am one of the most claustrophobic people you will ever meet. I also have a really, really hard time breathing through my mouth. I mean, I can do it, but I just don’t like to. So, usually I “snorkel” without the actual snorkel. Yeah, I know, I’m weird. I just always hold my breath and go down for a while and then come back up for air. Well, this time one of the photographers convinced me to try the snorkel out and….it worked! I was actually able to use it without gulping down large amounts of water. I think my snorkel mouthpiece has never been the right size. Anyway, whatever it was, this time was mostly a success. I say mostly since I am not a fan of snorkeling out in the open ocean and I stayed fairly close to the boat and spent half the time focusing on not drowning myself. So I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have had I just relaxed and floated around and not focused on the fact that if I accidentally  floated out to sea I would never be able to swim back, ha. But I did enjoy it.lot. It was incredible. And I definitely want to go again now. Now that I know the rescue boat will just come rescue you no matter where you end up. Ha.

Near the boat they feed a school of fish periodically. So those fish just stay there by the viewing window, waiting to get fed. It was so fun to swim with them all around me. I felt like I was a fish in an aquarium.

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Fishy kisses!

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Visiting the Great Barrier Reef is a MUST do if you get the chance. I was blown away by how big it is. There are miles and miles of reef to be explored. It’s like a whole different world under there and it’s fascinating!

A few more views from the air:

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It looks really shallow, right? Well, it’s not! And this was a high tide too, due to the full moon.

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View of the reef from the snorkeling boat

Hopefully sometime in the not-too-distant future I will bring you Whitehaven beach from the air and land. =) There’s a reason it’s rated Australia’s number one beach. It’s stunning.

***** Can you believe I just posted that with less than 25 million photos attached? Me neither!!!  But they are coming. ;)******

 

Triplets are triple the…well…everything.

November 4, 2014

Helping care for triplets has taught me one huge lesson and that is “now I know why my mom hated whining so much when we were growing up.” Oh. My. Soul. Whining [also called whinging here???] has got to be THE most annoying thing on this planet. These girls whine about EVERYTHING. Everything is so dramatic at at age six, apparently. Especially when your twin (the two girls are identical) gets more frosting on her cupcake and “always” gets to stay in the bath longer, and “always” gets to have her hair brushed last (they hate it), and “always” gets more ice cream in her bowl and “always” gets to do her homework reading last, etc. It’s enough to drive a person crazy, really.

But in between their whining and fighting, they say some pretty funny things sometimes. Most of it I forget by the time the night is over, I think all the whining drives it from my brain.

Today while helping Sammi do her homework reading, she came across the word closely and immediately sight read it as carefully. I told her to sound it out, so she did. “C-l-o-s-e-l-y.” I asked her what it said. “Carefully,” she responded. So I had her sound it out again. “C-l-o-s-e-l-y…Carefully!” I guess she really wanted that word to say carefully. We both laughed once she realized what she was doing.

Then at dinner the girls asked me (for the umpteenth time) what Americans celebrated on the 4th of July. The 4th of July is the triplets’ birthday, and they know it’s also a big American holiday, so they love asking me about it. I told them we celebrated our Independence Day on that day, kinda like Australia Day on Jan 26th.  Then they wanted to know “independence from what?” So I tried to explain to them. Then they wanted to know if it had happened when I was a little girl. When I told them no, they asked if it happened when my parents were little, ha.

Watching television is a treat for the girls, as their mom doesn’t let them watch a lot of television. Whenever they do get to watch it, they often ask me to sit and watch with them. If I have the time I will sometimes sit with them for a little while. They always snuggle up to me (and all over me) and make me all sticky and hot (it’s hot here!). The other night as Sammi was snuggled up against me, with her leg thrown over mine, she asked me “Jen, are you having a nice cuddle?” Me: uhhhhhhhh, yeahhhh, this is nice. Ha. I guess they think that since their mom likes cuddling with them, that I do too. A few weeks ago when I went with the girls to their first swim lesson, Sammi came over to inform me that I should probably go sit over with “all the other moms.” Haha. I guess they are a bit confused as to the role of this new person in their lives.

A few weeks ago Sammi asked me if she could “ask me a suggestion.” Me: uh, sure, ask me a suggestion.” haha.

I will say though, a 6 year old audience is pretty easy to please. I have been cooking the least gourmet meals of my life, and yet at the end of every meal I am told that I make the “best lasagna” and the “best spaghetti” and the “best brownies….cupcakes…schnitzel (it comes pre-breaded at the meat counter here)…garlic bread….etc… Everything is the best! Ha.

These kids….

Bribie Island

October 28, 2014

Bribie Island is the only local island that you can drive to, thanks to a bridge linking it with the mainland. A few of us headed over there the other day to check it out. It can’t compare with North Stradbroke, but it has some nice beaches and we enjoyed exploring it. Oh, and we saw dolphins. Lots of them! =)

*How many pictures can you take of the beach? Apparently I can take way too many. They are just so pretty here that I can’t help myself.

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JenJe

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