Down under with the Aussies

It’s been a great week in Australia! Again, I’m not reporting the research results in this blog. They will turn up over time in different ways.

I landed last Friday night. On Saturday I walked all over the downtown core of Sydney (what they call their CBD – Central Business District). CBD, Sydney Australia

I toured the Opera House,

An unusual view of the Sydney Opera HoiuseSydney Opera House

visited Hyde Park Barracks and learned of the convict history,

Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney Australia

walked through the Domain (‘city park’) and the Botanical Gardens,

Sydney Domain

walked out to Mrs. MacQuaries’ Chair and watched a cruise liner pass by (which was blaring LOUD party music and everyone was on deck enjoying a great party – the cruise company obviously wants people in the harbour to know that cruising is FUN),

Near Mrs. MacQuarrie's Chair

visited St. Mary’s Cathedral and enjoyed the architecture and looking at the two large pipe organs they have and then, on the spur-of-the-moment, bought a ticket for The Barber of Seville that was on that night. I’ve always wanted to attend the Sydney opera. (I wish I had been around for the one-man show of the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy!)

Lord of the Rings poster

On Sunday, I attended the early service at Hillsong Church and then drove down through the mountains to the Kiama Blowhole and then back up the coast.

Kiama Blow Hole, Australia

South of Sydney Australia

A beautiful arch of trees and rocks

A dramatic rock formation

After I was done my meeting on Wednesday, I drove up into the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains, Australia

Australia's Blue Mountains

Blue Mountain sheer drop

Blue Mountain rock

Forest walk in the Blue Mountains of Australia

and walked for what seemed like miles at Wentworth Falls,

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains

Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains

Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains

Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains

Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains

Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains

Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains

the Three Sisters,

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains Australia A panoramic view of The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

and in a what seemed like a tropical rainforest.

A forest walk in the Blue Mountains of Australia

Birds in the Blue Mountains

A beautiful bird

On Thursday I drove north to Wybung and saw streets with funny names, such as Woy Woy.

Sailboats north of Sydney Australia

Shoreline north of Sydney Australia

Beach north of Sydney Australia

North of Sydney Australia

Tomorrow, Friday morning, I leave for Bangkok. I’m very excited because I will be staying with my daughter while I’m in the city. It will be great to see her as an independent adult on her turf!!

Memories of Australia

Here are some random memories of Australia.

  • I always thought the Opera House had a solid white roof. It doesn’t. The roof is beige and brown with a pattern. It just doesn’t show up in the pictures.
  • It rained from Saturday afternoon until Wednesday. They haven’t had rain for several years, someone said, and then they are flooded.

Bridal party coping with rain

Bride ready for rain

  • Politics here is even worse than in Canada, if you can believe it. There is a state election on Saturday and the negative attack ads are just ridiculously below the belt. And so is Question Period, which I heard on the radio while driving around.
  • The MacQuaries were in Australia for only eleven years (he was governor), but in that time they put their stamp on Sydney that still exists almost two centuries later in its public amenities, architecture and public institutions. Neither of them just put in time while here. They went out of their way to leave a positive legacy. A great lesson for us all.
    The Governor-General's House in Sydney
  • Related to the last point, I heard someone on the radio whose research shows that our personality and character are deeply affected by what we think about and who we associate with. In other words, oh be careful little eyes what you see! He said that other people, and what we see and read, imprint themselves on us and become part of who we are. We then act out that personality and character with others. He said that if you parent a child with great love, that child will likely parent your grandchild with the same love. In a way, he said, if you have immortality at all, one way of being immortal is having your personality and character live on in hundreds of generations that follow. Remember the impact a teacher or someone else had on you at an early age? Same idea.
  • I spoke about my church-agency research at a breakfast meeting with ministry leaders. I felt like I was at home. World Vision, International Teams, The Leprosy Mission and a whole bunch more very familiar ministries were represented there. I thought that each one of them would know the same people I know back home in Canada, so these strangers and I have friends in common. Actually, they didn’t seem like strangers at all. I felt like I was among friends right from the start. It is great to see the people of God all over the world. And appreciate the common connection we all have.
  • I really enjoyed the individual meetings I held. What a fabulous group of people. It is very clear that the issues we deal with in Canada are identical to the issues the church faces here in Australia. I have several lawyers I want my legal staff to talk with later in the summer, because I think there are some real synergies that can be achieved. We can learn much from each other.
  • This was so funny I just want to share it. The Barber of Seville was set in the early 1900s (pre-WWI) in Surrey Hills (I think it is a suburb of Sydney). The set for Scene 1 was a street with the backdrop being houses. To achieve distance, the backdrop was built with perspective, so the houses only came up to the actors’ chests at most. The door of the central house opened and a cardboard cutout of one of the opera’s characters came out, turned sideways and walked, well really it slid on a track, down the street past the live actors. The funny thing was, of course, that the cutout did not grow in size as it approached the live actors. So the appropriately-sized cutout at the door became a tiny man barely up to the actors’ knees! Then a cutout of the lead actress came out on the balcony and sang a love song to the lead, live, actor. People roared with laughter.
  • The traffic in Sydney is far, far worse than anything in Toronto. Not only is traffic thick, but many streets are blocked off or come to an end and you have to make a quick right turn followed immediately by a left turn. Couple this with driving on the left, and I’m glad I’m done with it. Parking in the CBD is terribly expensive. One place wanted $64 to park in the evening (I didn’t park there) and another charged $29 for 38 minutes in the afternoon.
  • The mountains and coasts around Sydney are gorgeous. Lots of hidden surprises as you come around corners. I wish I could stop and take pictures, but I only saw one scenic lookout the whole time I was here.
  • Careful with your speed. They have variable speed zones here. The speed limit constantly changes. One truck driver said on the radio that for a week he logged how many zone changes he went through a day. He averaged 198 speed zones a day with the speed limit changing every 2.5 minutes. Every half mile or so there is a sign saying cameras are in use. They only have 40 permanently installed in New South Wales right now, but the government just announced plans to install another 3,500!! They also have six unmarked cars with radar cameras (the public calls them ‘mobile tax collection offices’). So, keep your eyes on your speed and the road signs! Not surprisingly, most people drive about ten kph below the speed limit, not twenty over as we do in Canada.
  • When boat people approach Australia, they are intercepted and taken to Christmas Island to be assessed. They never reach the mainland until they are approved for entry. I’m not sure what the relationship between Christmas Island and Australia is (a dependency?), but it’s been in the news this week because the High Court has ruled that Australian law applies to Christmas Island too, so the refuges there are entitled to more legal options than they have had to-date.
  • I happened to mention to Gary Williams at dinner how much my whole family and I love the miniseries version of Pride & Prejudice. He said if we like that, then we’ll like Wives & Daughters just as much. It is another period miniseries by a different author. Gary said the female lead is the best depiction of pure virtue he has ever seen in a television or movie production. I’ll check it out when I get home, but if you like Pride & Prejudice, you might want to get it now and let me know by commenting below what you thought of it.
  • Sydney has a very loud and boisterous nightlife. The place is hopping! I felt energized just walking around the cafes. The music is very loud and the conversations add up to a roar. The crowd is mostly young adults, and it was impressive how vibrant the night is here. (This was in the Opera House area.) Sydney is a great city.
  • Finally, the people I spoke with were incredible sources of stimulating ideas. I have much to think about for CCCC.

It has been a wonderful week down under with the Aussies. What a great country.

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