Monday, December 12, 2011

Family Down Under

“Aunty Moni, where do you live?  You should live in Australia; it’s so great here!” said my cousin Caroline’s four year old son.  His top reasons included the fact that there are lots of shops including a K-mart where you can buy lots of toys and there’s even a McDonald’s (although they call it “Mackers”).  Every time I did anything for him, I consistently heard, “Thank you Aunty Moni” and I was pretty impressed to see this four year old help set the table, empty the dishwasher, and put his laundry away.  Our conversations with him were one of the highlights of our time in Melbourne.  

In December, 1991 I met the Australian side of our family for the first time.  Since then I have been dreaming about visiting Australia.  My heart is filled with many fond memories of that Christmas with my cousins, all of us imitating each others funny accents.  After 20 years of waiting, I was thrilled when this lifelong dream became a reality.  I was on Cloud 9 and don’t think I slept for the first few nights we were there.  Matthew and I arrived in Melbourne and stayed with my cousin Caroline and her fiancée and son.  We loved spending time with them!  They took great care of us by feeding us, taking us around Melbourne (and even other parts of Australia), and taking care of everything we needed.  Spending time with the rest of the Australian family bought my heart such joy to see them again!  

Caroline took us on a road trip down to the Great Ocean Road to see the Twelve Apostles.  They are eroding into the ocean so there are only nine “apostles” left.  A postcard we saw showed that from one day to the next, one of the giant rock formations completely disappeared into the ocean.

The five of us also went on a day excursion to the beach.  Caroline’s little one was super excited to see the beach and we loved seeing the city and the harbor. 

Caroline and her son also took us to the Healsville Sanctuary to see Australian animals…koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, and an impressive bird show where the majestic beasts are trained to fly directly over the audience.



Tasmanian devil

The Bird Show

See the bird flying over our heads?

Our last day in Melbourne was spent venturing out on our own to explore the city.  Shopping at the Queen Victoria Market and seeing the city’s architecture were definitely highlights! 

Queen Victoria Market

After exactly 20 years in the making, it was a blessing to spend time with each of my family members in Australia.  They are all amazing and wonderful people and it was incredible to be together.


From Melbourne, Matthew and I flew to Sydney and our sweet friend Monique picked us up from the airport.  Matthew met Monique when he studied abroad in Australia, and after she visited us a few times in America, she has become a dear friend to both of us.  The three of us had a great time catching up, with Monique demonstrating her excellent listening skills while we told countless stories of our adventures around the world.  Monique and her boyfriend took us to dinner and on the drive she suddenly said, “There it is Moni!”  I casually turned to look and was shocked when I realized that by “it” she meant the Sydney Opera House.  It was incredible! 

The following day, Monique drove us around Sydney so we could tour the city and see the Opera House and Bridge during the day.  Matthew ate a breakfast that was sweeter than dessert at a place called, “Pancake on the Rock,” at the Sydney Harbor.  Monique drove us to the city, Wollongong, where she and Matthew attended University.
Matthew and Monique reminisced about their college memories, as we drove up to an overlook to see the city before driving around to explore Wollongong.  It is a lovely town nestled right between the ocean and mountains.

Although my actual family members live in Melbourne, we visited many of Matthew's awesome friends in Wollongong that are such warm and welcoming people that they make you feel like family.  They invited us into their homes, fed us, and made us feel welcome every day.  We stayed with Matthew's former Pastor Ferdie and his wonderful wife and kids for a few days.  Our friends, Mel and Joe who also traveled the world after they got married, hosted us for several days too.  Joe took Matthew and I out to spend a day at a beach called "The Farm".  The guys surfed together and Matthew said that the Australian water is cold!

The timing of our trip also worked out for us to go to a concert where Matthew's friends were performing.  The four brothers formed a band, called Carry On, and were performing together after having just released a new CD.  Their music was excellent and it was great to meet Matthew's college friends.

Matthew's good friend Levi (the lead singer in the band) took us out around Wollongong for a day.  The guys went for an early morning surf and then went out riding go-carts in the rain.  The three of us went out for a delicious lunch and I was proud of Levi and Matthew as they graciously tagged along while I spent the afternoon browsing through some of the shops. 

Although we were loving our time in Australia, I was feeling sad to be missing such a meaningful American holiday, Thanksgiving.  I was particularly feeling sad on the Monday before Thanksgiving, which happened to be the night that Levi invited us to his family's weekly dinner.  Shortly after we arrived, we were chatting with Levi's parents and they said, "You're Americans?  We are having Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday and we were looking for some Americans to invite!"  I felt overwhelmed with love and care in that moment.  I love how on the very day I was feeling sad, even though I did not tell anyone, God brought this family across our path.  I love how He cares for the details in our lives.  We had a wonderful time enjoying dinner with friends that again made us feel welcome and loved like family.

We loved our entire time in Australia and if the country wasn't so far away from our family in the US, we would consider living there.  We were so thankful for the time we spent with our family and friends and we hope to return again someday soon.  As we flew out of Sydney towards Fiji for our last week on this adventure overseas, we saw a breathtaking view of the city...

And now onto our 20th and final country of this journey ...
One week in Fiji before heading back to America...

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