Sunday, December 02, 2007

Catch-up

Hi guys! Just a quick blog to send some more photos your way...

Below is our Thanksgiving dinner for you to see. I invited all of my co-workers at Starbucks (3 came) as well as some friends from church. Below, starting from the left is Sahar (from Pakistan), Matt, and Sandra (my manager from Canada), all three my co-workers at Starbucks. Then there's Corey, Joylee, Mel (married to Corey), Kath, Cliff (married to Kath, and he's an American!), all from church, and Mark. It was a great meal and good time with other thankful souls. Too bad I didn't get a photo of the Turkey Mark cooked, it was fabulous!

From the left: Kath, Cliff, Mark, me, Matt, and Sandra.


Jumping right along to the next holiday... this is our Christmas tree! Well, our Christmas eucalyptus bouquet. As we're moving on the 15th of Dec. it didn't seem to practical to get and put up a big tree. We also have very few ornaments, so the smaller the better! I like my Christmas bouquet... it makes our living room smell lovely, and very Christmas-y actually. The scent is strong, and similar to pine.


Finally, I went out on a hen day (sort of a bridal shower for you Americans) with some girls from church. We went indoor rock-climbing, then had a picnic in the park, and then back to one of the girl's houses for food, fun and games. It was a nice was to spend my Saturday afternoon. Below is a shot of me climbing a wall with two overhangs. I did manage to get to the top, which I am very proud of! It's the first time I've made it over over-hangs.

Love,

Rachel

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Williamstown



It was a gorgeous evening. That's Melbourne in the background. Mark and I went for a leisurely stroll down the pier. Williamstown is about 30 minutes away from us. It's a little area on the bay's edge lined with restaurants, bars, and gelato shops.









These photos were actually taken a couple weeks ago. You wouldn't see me in so many layers these days! It's finally getting HOT. I wear skirts and short-sleeved shirts whenever possible now. Yaah!

So, at the moment, I'm feeling frustrated. I can't seem to be able to arrange my photos on blogger wherever I want them to go. What am I doing wrong? The 'help' said to just 'drag and drop.' When I try to drag, a little symbol of a circle with a line through it appears and prevents me from dragging and dropping. I'm left with boring photos-in-a-straight-line always. *sigh* I know there's worse problems to have in life. Poor me. It's also frustrating not having our own place, especially with holidays like Thanksgiving coming up.

Here's some good news though: we were accepted for a rental propoerty in Ballarat! We move in on December 15! Photos to come soon, at least of the outside. It's a cute, white-weatherboard, 2-bedroom house with a porch out front and lots of rose bushes. It's about 1 1/2 blocks away from the big lake in the center of Ballarat. The lake has a 6km track around it. It will be nice to be so close to it, especially in the summer.

This morning we went to the church we've been going to for a few weeks now. It's temporary, just while we're living in Hoppers Crossing. It appears to be a good church, and has nice people in it, but an observation I'm wondering if I should be alarmed about: the church is comprised of the same sociol/economic group of people (middle-class, white), and they don't appear to be making efforts to reach out to the poor of their community. They have a heart for global missions, which is great, but what about reaching out to the poor where they are? I must say that I loved how our church in England (Jubilee) was comprised of all colors of skin and social/economic groups. I loved that we reached out to the refugees and poor in our community. Doesn't Jesus call us to do that?? Well, we have made all of our present friends at this church, and they seem to be a good bunch of people. I think though, now that we have their contacts, we'll just maintain their friendships, skip church for the next month, and go camping instead! Mark and I can have our own church on the beach or wherever our chosen spot is. Then, come Dec 16, we will be able to start exploring church options in Ballarat. We already have one in mind called York Street Church of Christ. We went to it once and liked it. We'll probably try it out for a while.

I'm off to the store now to buy ingrediants for Christmas Cake. That's right, Christmas Cake. Recipes suggest you make it 8-weeks before consumption date, so I'm already late. During those 8-weeks I'm supposed to feed my creation Brandy. Glub glub. That's the noise my cake will be making as it eats the brandy I feed it. Mmmm. Christmas Cake. I never really like it until I tried some that Jo Maude's mom had made for their wedding cake. I also have high hopes to make my own mince pies! I need to focus on getting through Thanksgiving first. I'm organizing a big meal we're having at our friends' house on Tuesday night, as we're all busy on Thursday.

Happy early Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for blogs... it's a small way for me to keep in touch with you! I'm also thankful for my husband because he's the best =)

Love,

Rachel

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend Away

We had been feeling a little bit house-bound, so off we went!


Mmmm... homemade ice cream!
We are totally health-conscious, but we're not rigid. That's no fun.
There's always room for sweet things every now and then.


We drove through Geelong to Torquay (a famous surf spot), to hit
the Great Ocean Road
.
There were gorgeous beaches along this long, windy road...
and they were practically deserted. Summer fun, here we come!





This isn't a great photograph, but our campsite was nestled in
a beautiful little corner of
The Great Otways National Park
.
To the left in this photo is a stream that runs from the waterfall,
pictured below.


Rise and shine!
We woke to the sound of raindrops on our tent. I don't mind rain when we're camping at all, as long as we can set up camp while it's dry, and take things down when the rain has stopped. In fact, I love listening to the rain, or to the sound of waves crashing on a beach. Our next camping getaway (hopefully next weekend!) will be to some clifftops overlooking a beach. Fun and free!


Here's the waterfall I mentioned above. It's called Stevenson Falls. It was an easy 1km walk from our campsite, and it felt like we were walking through a rainforest! I bet we were. What makes a rainforest a rainforest??


This is a sprouting fern. We saw loads of them in New Zealand, and more on our walk to Stevenson Falls. Some interesting facts: the Maori people of New Zealand have adopted this as their symbol, calling it the koru. The koru is the Maori name given to the newborn, unfurling fern frond and it symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace. It is an integral symbol in Māori carving and tattoos. The koru is used in a stylised form as the logo of Air New Zealand and as an iconic symbol of New Zealand flora.


Here is a full photo of the fern with the koru sticking out on top.


The icing on the cake of our weekend was mountain biking! The trail doesn't look like much here, though it was quite challenging for both myself and Mark. There were lots of fallen trees of all sizes to maneuver over. I often chickened out and just walked my bike over the logs, but I did succeed in crossing a few of them! The landscape varied quite a bit. Overall it was refreshing just to be out in the wilderness, breathing fresh air and getting a good workout. It was fun, albeit tiring, and I can assure you we will both sleep soundly tonight.


The latest scoop on my job situation... I didn't get the Refugee job as I had hoped. I was initially very disappointed, but I feel completely fine about it now. I was looking forward to working with my African brothers and sisters once again, and other refugees. How sweet it would've been to develop such friendships here in Australia. I particularly miss Africa, their way of life and how life felt when I was there. My initial thought is that maybe Africans tend to have their priorities right, but I'll have to give it some more thought (what exactly I miss). I might be able to volunteer with the Multicultural Council, so the door isn't completely closed to my involvement with them. Anyhow, I'm not sad about it because I'm confident that if God wanted me to have that job, I would. I submitted a great resume, and proceeded to have a great interview. God must have something else in mind for me. What? I don't know, but at the moment the only open door has been to work at Starbucks. As they are interested in me managing a store next year, this option might not be a bad idea. I can only really take it a day at time. Tomorrow is my first day working at Starbucks in Port Melbourne, and I'm excited about it and thankful to finally be working. Please pray for me! I hope that it will be apparent if this is the job for me... that I will move up the ranks quickly if I should stay with them. Otherwise, I hope God will direct me elsewhere. Life is short, and I want to be where He wants me to be, even if it's behind a coffee bar. With this job, I could easily study in the evenings, which I hope to do as soon as we become permanent residents. I can also easily be involved in other things, like church things, or playing basketball (which I'm thoroughly enjoying). Dad, you would be proud... in our game last Wednesday we were tied with 40 seconds to go. I stole the ball for a left handed lay-up, was fouled, and then proceeded to make both of my freethrow shots! We won by two points =)

Monday, October 22, 2007

A little tour of our place in Hoppers



That's what I call it for short: Hoppers.

We are living in Hoppers Crossing, a suburb (only) 25 minutes outside of Melbourne. I love that it's SO close to Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bin), because there's lots to do and see there! Not that we've seen and done lots there, but we will...

Our address, in case you forgot to write it down before:
c/o Kiro Kids, 1 Johnson Avenue, Hoppers Crossing, VIC 3029, AUSTRALIA
Our mobile phone number: +61 403 825 056

We are living in Hoppers until sometime in December. Mark is covering for a doctor on maternity leave. We are living in the clinic Mark is working at. The clinic is a converted house, so it has all we need. We mostly live upstairs, but we use the kitchen and laundry room which is downstairs. When December rolls around, as soon as we find a nice place to rent in Ballarat, we will move there. Ballarat is a city of about 80,000. It is about 1 hour 15 minutes away from Melbourne. Ballarat is where Mark's full-time job will be based at come January, except for one day a week when he will commute back down to Hoppers to cover a day here.

Here's the house/clinic in Hoppers.

It was quite windy outside when I took the photograph.


Below are kitchen shots. I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen, especially because haven't started a job yet (though one starts next week, more details at the end of the blog). Mark and I have actually enjoyed eating raw-food creations from a cookbook I recently checked out from the library call "RAWvolution." I like the name =)

I'm so thankful that the kitchen came with some gadgets... I only wish it had a blender.



Straight through the kitchen is a little room where we eat. One wall is covered in mirrors, as you can see. It can make for strange meals, trying not to stare at yourself.



Upstairs is our humble living room. Like the homemade bookshelf? And the TV is on a box.








Mark had the brilliant idea of putting tea lights in holes of the bricks of our shelf. It looks gorgeous at night (if cynder blocks can be gorgeous).






Last, but not least, our bedroom. I forgot to mention, we're not sure if we can put more holes in the walls, so at the moment we've just hung a few things on the few nails already up in the walls. No rhyme or reason really.


Another homemade shelf to match the one in the living room. We like them.



So, that's our pad. Not very fancy, but we're thankful for it. We're really looking forward to moving into a place of our own soon though, a place we can really decorate and make a home out of.

OK-- about my jobs. I've been offered work at Starbucks, just as a Barista and/or Shift Supervisor at the moment. That starts this Monday. What I'm really hoping for, and I find out this week, is that I'll get another part-time job as a Refugee Case Coordinator. I had an interview for it last week, and I think the interview went really well. I'll let you know what happens... Thanks for your prayers! It's actually been a rough day for me, missing family and friends. I still feel akward, not knowing what I'm doing here, and not really having any friends (though I must say Mark and I have met and hung out with a lot of new people this past week -- it's been fun and a huge answer to prayer).

Thinking of you....

Love,

Rachel

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The last whirlwind of a month...

So let's see... I left England on 28 Aug 2007. I can't believe I've been gone from there over a month now! I miss all of you still there. *sigh* So who's coming to visit us first? My landlady, Mel, in November possibly... then James (of First Class) and Katie (of Planet Coffee) in December for our annual Christmas BBQ on the beach, then... who will it be?? (You??!)

The following is a pictures are in sequential order, from our time in the States, to New Zealand, to the land of OZ.

On the way back from Canada visiting Mark's family (photos to come soon!), we took a 6 hour layover and visited our good friends Jess and Tim who had their first child, a little beautiful girl named Adilyn born at only 34 weeks! She is two weeks old and just under 5lbs. in this photo.



Next, my cousin Melissa's wedding. Sorry I don't have any photos of the lovely bride to post just yet. It was a nice wedding, and I was honoured to be her Matron of Honour. She and her Marine-husband, Brian, are moving to Hawaii! How fabulous!


Then we were well-taken care of at Jenelle and Cameron Lemons house in Temecula (in between San Diego and Los Angeles). Grace was able to come down to see us as well. What a treat! Below, Grace is holding Willow, a little girl Jenelle baby-sits. Jenelle is in the middle holding her oldest child, Josiah (nicknamed 'Si' - pronounced 'sigh'), and I'm on the right holding her youngest, Jordan. Thanks for the fabulous time Jenelle! We enjoyed going to their predominantly black church. It was lively with solid teaching. Cam has such a great opportunity working on the staff of that church!



OK-- on to New Zealand, or is it England? Rolling green hills, sheep... did our plane fly the wrong direction? From people's descriptions of it, I always knew New Zealand would look like England (on a sunny day)(and add in some steep cliffs and gorgeous coasts). OK, so it's not exactly like England, but it sure has a lot of similarities. Below is a little lamb which is such a season-shock to my brain. Lambing is in April, not September! Seriously, this will take getting used to. October = spring. December = summer. What?! AND, they don't celebrate anything 'harvest' at all, not even in their autumn-time (March). Janie, do you feel my pain??!!


We stayed on the North Island, in a little tourist coastel town called Paihia. We there we visited the Puketi Forest and saw a diverse mixture of hardwoods, podocarps and kauri. Below is a big kauri tree. The area is also a treasure house for native birds and plants and animals, and includes populations of kiwi, kokako and lesser short-tailed bats.


In some places they built walking bridges because the forest floor turns into a swamp.


The weather was unfortunately bad while we were there. However, it was still winter there, so we can't complain too much. We went ahead and still did a boat tour of the Bay of Islands. We saw a big school of dolphins which was exciting! Our lunch break was spent exporing one of the islands. We'd definitely like to go back to New Zealand when the weather is better...









Finally, Australia!

'A wilful, lavish land-
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand.'
-Australian poet Dorothy Mackellar (1885 - 1968)

Australia is big, very big. The horizon stretches on endlessly, unblemished by a single skyscraper, or any other building for that matter. It is more than seven and a half million sq km in area which means it is as big as the USA (without Alaska) and 24 times the size of Great Britian. Australians are straight-talking, easy-going, and apparel challenged. I've been told, 'Don't come to Australia for respect of authority, modesty or linguistic restraint.'

Some fun 'Strine' or 'Austrayan' words:

Arvo = Afternoon. 'See you this arvo.'
Barbie = The barbeque pit in your back garden, the centre of all social action during the Australina summer.
Bathers = swim suits/swimming costumes.
Beaut = Great!
Bell = 'Give us a bell tommorow' - please phone tomorrow.
Bickies = Bucks, money.
Blugder = Anyone who sponges off anyone else.
Blue = A quarrel, a row, or else, a blunder.


Look at the cute Koala with a leaf hanging out it's mouth! Although there are still many Koalas in the wild, the photos below were taken at the Ballarat Wildlife Park.


What a treat to be able to pet them! They are very soft and cuddly, like teddy bears.


And let's not forget the Kangaroos! We purchased Kangaroo food. If you just shake your hand as if you have food they come jumping over to you.


See the little roo in the pouch??


Scary! Or not? My friends back in England did a good job of scaring me about all of the DEADLY animals here. Well, I'm not afraid anymore. Spiders: a spider-bite death has not occurred in Victoria (the State I live in) since 1956. In fact, the only deadly spider in this region is the Red-Back, but they have anti-venom for it. At a museum in Melbourne on Sunday I was able to learn all about the good and the bad spiders of Oz. Snakes: deaths rarely occur from these guys either. At the Wildlife Park a gamekeeper held Australia's most deadly snake, still with fangs and venom in tact. He wasn't afraid because he understands snakes (and because they have anti-venom). If I see a snake, all I need to do is back away slowly. I'm not really afraid of them anyway since I grew up with them in AZ. Crocs: still VERY scary to me, but thankfully they don't live in this part of Oz. If I am in croc territory, I'm told that I just shouldn't go near the water's edge, but if I have to, to not return to the same place twice. Also, it's best to stay 4 meters away from the water's edge since a croc can only leap 3 meters in a split second. Still scary, I know...


So, how am I doing? Well, it's been tough, I won't lie. I'm confident that God called us here, and He's providing... It's just tough because I don't really have a home to 'settle' into yet. We're in temporary accomodation for another two months. We're thankful for it, because it's free, but it's not our little nest. Probably even more tough is the fact that I don't yet have a job AND I don't actually know what I want to do with my life. Even things I'm interested in (Naturopathy, teaching Art) have to wait until we can afford for me to go to school to get those additional qualifications. Pray for direction and a job. We're also still looking for a church and friends. Mark is doing well and is enjoying his work, so we're very thankful for that. And the other chiropractors and their families have been very welcoming to us. One couple is letting us borrow their car for 3 weeks while they are on a mission trip to India!

We didn't have internet access for a while, but now we're up and running. We also have skype. We hope to find you on sometime, or perhaps we could set up a skype date!

Thanks for your love and support and prayers. We do feel them even across the great big ocean that separates us. Keep in touch!

Love,

Rachel

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In the land of Oz!

We have safely arrived in Australia.


Our temporary address (for the next two months) is:

1 Johnson Avenue
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
3029
AUSTRALIA

Our temporary phone numbers are:

614 0382 5056 (mobile)
613 5330 1937 (Neil Davies home number, we'll be here 'til this Sunday)


We're doing well. We're being taken good care of. Thanks for your prayers!

I (Rachel) am a bit overwhelmed by it all. Your prayers are appreciated, especially for me to get a good job, and for Mark to get a good start to his job (he starts tomorrow, Thursday!) and really enjoy what he's doing.

Soon I will post some photos of two very cute twin Koala babies that Mark and I saw this past Sunday at the Wildlife Park! We also enjoyed feeding and petting and HUGGING kangaroos.

Love,

Rachel

Friday, September 07, 2007

Back in Arizona!

Howdy folks! Mark and I safely flew from Australia and England and reunited in Phoenix, Arizona. He was waiting for me at the airport with flowers in hand and a smile on his face! Thanks for all your prayers for our safe travels. Mine were unusually uneventful, which I praise the Lord for. It's not easy navigating London and the underground system with two 70 lb. suitcases and a very heavy packback... and a pillow, and a bag of food. Mark had an equally fine time with his layover in Hawaii! He stayed with some friends of mine (thanks Paul and Crissy!) and was able to cruise the island, watch the surfers, and even do some snorkeling.

The morning I left from London I was wearing a wool jacket and scarf, a sweatshirt, jeans, and wool socks (admittedly in part to be prepared for the usually cold airplane flight), to be welcomed into temperatures of over 100 degrees F (and this is at 7pm in the evening) in Phoenix! The warm clothes came off very quickly. I have to tell you, I AM LOVING THE HEAT AND SUNSHINE! Only you friends of ours in England will truly be able to appreciate this. It was definitely initially strange to have sunshine everyday, and warmth everyday. England was unfortunately completely bypassed by summer. One British friend even admitted she has her thermals out already!

We're happy to be reunited, happy to be in excellent weather, happy to be with family and old friends and happy to have proper Mexican food again! Mmmmm.



Take a close look at this photo above... it's me sitting on my mom's lap! The girl next to me is Michelle. I've shown you this photo because below is Michelle and me 26 years later with our husbands at our sides. Our mom's were (and still are) good friends. Michelle grew up in Chicago, but has recently moved to Phoenix, Arizona with her husband. They were able to pick us up in Phoenix, drive us down to my parents' place in southern Arizona, and then hang out with us for the weekend. Here you see us at the rodeo (that's right... cowboys and bucking broncos!) in Sonoita. It was a fun experience!



After the rodeo we drove in to Mexico. My dad wanted to show us the church and Christian retreat center that his church in Sonoita, Arizona helps fund. They are in the poor barrios (neighborhoods) of Nogales, Mexico.


The happy couple reunited!


Shopping in Mexico...


Last but not least, the day after we had a bridal shower for my cousin Melissa who is getting married Thursday, Sept 13th (next week). She is marrying a Marine, and they have just received word that they will be moving to Hawaii! I am very pleased for her and can't wait to visit. I am honored to be her Matron of Honor at the wedding.


Me with my friend, Bonnie, at the Bridal Shower. Abi, thanks for the tanning cream... I have received many compliments on my fake sun-kissed skin!


We'd appreciate continued prayers for safe travels as we still have many airplane flights and long drives ahead of us. This weekend we fly up to Winnipeg, Canada to visit with Mark's family. We are really looking forward to seeing them!

We are both still really excited about Australia. We finally received our 4-year visas yesterday, so that's an answer to prayer. I asked Mark the other day if he saw any kangaroos when he was there and he said, "Only a dead one on the side of the road." How disappointing! Oh well, I'm sure we'll see plenty more.

To all of our friends in England, we miss you! Thanks so much for the book you made us. It's SO special... we love it and will cherish it always.

And FYI, we can't access Facebook from my dad's computer (in case you were wondering why we haven't written back). For some reason it is a blocked site. However, I do anticipate being able to check at Dave and Janie's (our brother and sister-in-law) house in Winnipeg.