Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wilderness Weekend: Through a lens

A couple weekends back, Cate, myself and five others ventured into the heart of southwestern Australia, to the Donnelly River region.  In retrospect, the two days, which seemed to packed to the brim, were really full of nothing and therefore, utterly relaxing.  Not that it really matters, but these pictures are displayed in the reverse order that they were taken.

The sign pretty much says it all; Victorian era technology AND million dollar views!  While we did not actually make it to the lighthouse because of time constraints (and getting lost), I have to wonder exactly which part of the lighthouse featuring the Victorian era technology, and more to the point, is that really something that you want to advertise?

This was the scene outside of our front porch each morning.  Kangaroos and Emus that have been around people so much that they just know where to go to get food.  In a way, this was nice, but after feeding the beasts for half an hour or so, it was inevitable that they would need to... remove the waste.  Needless to say, this created a stinky minefield as we left the house.

Roaring fireplace.  Logs and fire itself courtesy of yours truly (more on that later).

Go Catie, go!

Even though our axe was essentially a dull metal wedge welded to a lead pipe, I think chopping firewood just might have been my highlight of the weekend.  Once I started, I could not stop.  I chopped enough wood to last a winter... but we were only there for two nights, whoops.

Beer tasting at a local cidery (like a winery, but they work with apples to make hard ciders and apple juice).  Not sure why I took this picture, especially since this was not a cider tasting, but, to be honest all the ciders pretty much looked the same and I'm a sucker for a great photo op.

Not sure if you can tell in this shot, but Andie (Cate's brother) is riding a bike with no front tire.  Actually, that's not true, it has a front tire, it's just not attached to the wheel.  Good times.

Ugh!  Yeah, I grunt when I get my lift on.  It's so everyone can see how jacked and tan I am.

"This weighs, like, 15 pounds."

I'm not a huge fan of domesticated animals, let alone pseudo- wild ones in our vacation village, but this old kangaroo seemed harmless enough.

"Eat the seed from my mouth! Do it!  DO IT!"

Alright, that's it.  Take care!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rollin Along

Where have the days and weeks gone?  In a few days, I will have been in Australia for SEVEN months!  This is the longest that I have ever been away from Saint Louis!  I was planning on making preparations to come back to the STL right about now, but instead we are making plans to set up our life :)

Ok, it has been a while since I have posted so there's probably lots of stuff to catch you up on; however, I'm not going to just spill all my beans.  I'm just going to give you a snapshot of my weekend.

- Cate and I are back in the groove of coaching the future basketball stars of Australia!  Sadly, because a new "season" has just begun the teams were shuffled and I had to get used to a whole new crew of ten year olds.  My new kids, who, in an ironic landslide, have chosen to call their team, "The Redskins," are pretty cool.  I mean we won our game 29-2; but they just lack some of the pizazz of my old kids, maybe they'll grow on me.  An interesting observation though: these kids are cut throat.  First of all, let me clarify that we coach in a basketball league fully run and staffed by a local church... and these kids are ten years old... yet in the second week of the competition they are talking about how they'll win the championship and stomp everyone in their way.  I gently remind them that we are here to have fun, learn about basketball, and display good sportsmanship, and one young man's reply was, "Just win, baby!"  Nah, I'm just kidding, but that's their mentality.

- Saturday has become a full on basketball extravaganza.  We coach the kids in the morning (Cate does two teams, one younger, one older) and I do one, then we zip off to Lakeside sports complex to compete in the Baptist Basketball competition with our church.  This league is actually pretty competitive, especially for a basketball loser like myself.  But it is wonderful to be back in an athletic context with Cate and getting to watch each others games again.  Cate's team, which has ten members, yet at most is able to get seven people to show up for a given game struggles with conditioning (as do all the teams in this competition, because, really, it's not that serious) and it cost them their game on Saturday even though her team was far superior from a talent standpoint.  As for my game, we had a rematch against a team that beat us earlier in the year; we lost the earlier game because we were caught off guard by one of their players who is so sneakily fast that he appears out of control, yet he always makes his shots.  This weekend was different.  We brought our A- Game.  We put on our game face(s).  And we recruited an athletic center to block shots, run the fast break, and dunk.  We won by 20.

- Later that night we went to watch a friend's State Basketball League (SBL) playoff game.  The SBL is one step below the professional basketball league in Australia so it's a pretty high level of competition (how many times have I used that word in this post? 6? 8? ugh, I'm out of practice...)  Even though the SBL is pretty serious (each team has an "import" player who is paid and also usually a washed up mid major division 1 American export), the stadiums in which the games are played creates such a feeling of insignificance, at least from a fans point of view.  I would wager that most American high school gyms are larger than that of the SBL teams... and the place wasn't even full!

- While I'm on the subject of Australian people... for some reason, certain events just seem to drag all the most redneck or in Aussie lingo "derro" (short for derelict) people; you know like Nascar or Nebraska.  Well, in Australia one of those places seems to be SBL games.  This isn't really worth noting except for the fact that it reminded me about the dress code at the high school where I work.  Nearly all Australian schools (high school, middle, primary) have dress codes and/ or uniforms.  This can be as stringent as full on slacks, tie, jacket, skirt, dress(all in the school distributed colors and styles) or as casual as a school polo that must be worn with dark colored pants, skirt, or shorts depending on the season.  This brings me to my school, definitely on the lenient end of the spectrum, but now in a wicked backlash to modern fashion trends, this EXACT announcement was sent out to the students, obviously targeting the young ladies, "Tights are not pants.  Tights with belt loops and pockets are still tights.  Tights are meant to be worn underneath skirts, pants, or shorts.  That is all."  Priceless. Haha!

- Late Saturday night! Wallabies (Australian National Rugby team) game at home!  Unfortunately, the team lost, after a fast start, lots of sloppy play and frankly, weakness, gave the game to the South Africans.  Thankfully, the Wallabies will have two more chances to redeem themselves in this "best of the Southern Hemisphere" tournament; and Cate and I will be taking in one of the contests on August 29th!

- Sunday!  Visa red tape.  Cate and I spend many hours this past Sunday collecting old letters, emails, and pictures to compile our case for the Australian immigration service... to prove that we are actually in a relationship.  Part of this visa process is the procurement of a medical examination to prove that I do not have tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis B, or any other undesireable physical ailment that I would have been spreading around this fair land for the past seven months...  So two weeks ago I went to the local medical clinic, got my blood work done, gave a urine sample, went to a different location to get my chest x-rayed, thought I had finished the whole process... and then I got a phone call telling me that I needed to do it all through Health Services Australia.  Ugh.  So early this morning, I got up, went to the right doctor and had them perform all the examinations.  I have to go back NEXT Thursday to get the results and have all the work sent off to the government so Cate and I can finally move forward with applying for my visa!

- My new house is great in the sense that it's cheap and still pretty centrally located, BUT, it's very large and often empty... and pretty much reminds me of the type of place where people are savagely murdered.  It is honestly so scary to come home each night because no one else will be home so all the lights are out and I think, "Oh! I'll use the flashlight on my phone; that will certainly illuminate this vast darkness."  The phone light only brightens the scariest bits of the house until I can get to the light switch!  I have to take some pictures so I can describe this better, but basically, my room is situated near the back of the first floor of the house.  Before you can enter into my room, you must first cross a large empty room.  The light switch is on the opposite wall of the room as you enter, and this panel controls both the large room and my bedroom.  This is pretty embarrassing, but I usually just sleep with the light on because it really is that creepy to venture out of my warm little room in the dark.  Yes I am 23 and getting married in January.  Moving right along...

Actually, that's pretty much all I've got, that and it's 12:22am so I need to go home to my house of horrors and get some sleep.  But, I hope that YOU are getting excited for our trip back to the USA because we definitely are!  Take care!