Where in the World is Kris? South Africa!

20190210_090454What an amazing adventure!  I knew Africa was far away – but I didn’t think about how much traveling there would be!   Planes, trains, automobiles, vans, buses and safari trucks!  And, of course, our own two feet!  The journey began last June when I signed up to go on a 10-day mission trip to South Africa with 10 other ladies from my church.  We met and planned for months – and now, Thursday, January 31, it was time to depart for the airport.  Such excitement!  We had first a 10-hour flight from Dulles to Accra, Ghana where we landed, changed out the crew and passengers, and had our passports checked (we stayed on the plane).  We then took off for another 5 hours to Johannesburg. Our foreheads were checked for elevated temperatures before we could come into South Africa – fortunately we were all good! We were greeted by our guesthouse representative and wisked us away to our lovely rooms, a refreshing pool and dinner!  The next morning after breakfast we returned to the airport for our next flight to East London.  It was a shorter flight, followed by a very long van ride.  We made it to Canzibe in time for dinner – which was traditional South African Bobotie, and moved into our house – 13 women, 2 bathrooms.

But, what exactly were we doing in Africa?  About a year ago 3 women from my church had a vision to bring Entrust, a woman to woman discipling program, to the teachers and workers at 25:40 in South Africa.  25:40 was founded in 2003 to help save children impacted by HIV/AIDS and poverty in the rural areas of Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.  This area is characterized by extreme poverty, high incidences of diseases and HIV/AIDS (more than 25% of the population) and lots of violence toward women and children. This beautiful area is sadly among the poorest regions in Africa, with more than 72 % of its people (about 4.6 million) living below the poverty line.  25:40 cares for these vulnerable children by having a safe space and advocating for them so that they are not the last rung on society’s ladder.  Preschoolers receive both breakfast and lunch daily, health monitoring, and early education.  School aged children receive a healthy meal, tutoring and assistance with their school work, as well as enrichment programs in the areas of English, Life Skills, Arts and Crafts, Gardening, and Hygiene.  All of the children are monitored for health, emotional, or educational needs, and either the needs are met by 25:40 or their caretakers are assisted in meeting those needs.

The workers for 25:40 work hard to love and assist the children.  Our goal was to not only encourage them but to also bring Biblical discipleship training to them.  This required not only our discipleship teachers but also others to fill the voids left by the teachers and workers.  Thirteen of us answered the call to go to Canzibe, South Africa to work in 25:40’s Masonwabe Preschool and the aftercare, to make home and hospital visits, and to bring nourishment to the souls of the 25:40 staff and local community women. Amber, Michele and Steffani taught the discipleship class.  Maggie, Caren, Val and Joyce taught the older preschool class and Angela, Lauran and I taught the younger class.  Tanya was the home and hospital visit person and Amy and Monique prepared our lunches and generally floated – putting out fires here and there and getting 25:40 business done. 52582505_10218756871218712_1883482449380376576_n

Our first day on the ground was Sunday morning so we all dressed in our long skirts (only unmarried women wear short dresses) and went to church.  It was so different from what we were used to!  The women sat on the left side, the men on the right.  There were no musical instruments – just hymn books and a pad for thumping to keep time.  We individually brought up our offering and laid it on the altar during the service – two ladies immediately counted it right then and there and told the minister the amount.  He said it wasn’t enough, so they had another offering!  The church service lasted 2 hours and then we had lunch, followed by relaxing, prepping, napping, talking, and walking.

Although we had been told to expect rain on Monday, our first action day dawned bright and beautiful!  I began with an early morning walk (with Monique as it was not safe for us to leave the mission grounds by ourselves) before morning devotions at 7:45. Here we sang and read scripture, prayed and began our day!  After filing out of the building, we stood in line and shook the hands of everyone who came behind us, even the preschoolers, before going to our classes.

The preschoolers were adorable and loved the attention.  We had table time and circle time, play time and nap time, story time and craft time, breakfast time and lunch time, and above all, potty time!  They loved stories and making noise, singing and eating.  When they played with the dolls, whether boy or girl, they would put the baby on their back and find a towel or piece of fleece to put over the doll and tie around their chest to carry the baby, just like their mamas or grandmas do (many are being raised by grandmas).

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At outdoor time, they took car tires and rolled them around, saying “beep, beep” – these are their “toy cars”.  We sang “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” with them numerous times.

We had a little guy, around 18 months old, come to our room so his grandma could participate in the Bible study.  But he wasn’t happy unless I was holding him.  On the 2nd day, I put him on my back and wore him, just like his grandma did! Preschool finished at noon – and by then we were worn out!  The children got lunch and then most of them piled into a pickup truck and were driven home by the “taxi” driver.

After our lunch, which was leftovers or tuna, we prepped for the aftercare program.  They don’t have a long program, but after school the children would change clothes and then come to the program.  Here they got a hot meal and then activities by age group (grades 1-3, 4-5, 6-8).  This program not only keeps them safe for a few hours and encourages them in school work, it also provides a hot meal.  We did activities with them and on one day even painted fingernails.  thumb_IMG_0917_1024Part of our program with them was teaching that they are special – each has attributes given by God.  On our second afternoon I had the girls grades 4-8 come to a separate room and we talked about how they were special and different from the boys because they would menstruate.  I then handed out a purse to each girl that contained 2 homemade reusable washable sanitary pads, 3 pairs of underwear, a bar of soap, a washcloth, a toothbrush and some other small item.  They loved the purses and the contents!  It was so fun to see their delight and it made all the many hours of sewing the pads worth it!

Instead of doing preschool on our third day, I went for some home visits with Tata Nonno (an evangelist and translator) and Lauran, one of the other women from my church.  Tata Nonno drove us to a nearby neighborhood, we parked the car and then, after collecting sticks to ward off the wild dogs, we walked around to the houses.  We encountered chickens, inside and outside the houses, and nice houses (refrigerators and cement floors) and old houses (cooking fire in the middle of the room and dirt floor).  Most were round because, although they are more expensive to build, they are thought to keep evil spirits from having a corner to stay in.  We talked and prayed with the people.  One old man, 92 years old and blind, told us that yes, he would like to have Jesus in his life, so we prayed with him.  Another old woman, who wasn’t even sure how old she was, told us she never thought she’d see a white person in her house.  She asked us to pray for her arthritic feet so they would carry her up and down the hill to get water for her family – her children were dead, her husband never came back from the mines, and she was raising 5 grandchildren on her own (they were in school at the time).  She lived in a small rondavel with the cooking fire in the center and the bedding piled on one side.  She offered to give us a chicken when we came back next time!  At another house, the 11-year-old daughter saw us and gave us the biggest hugs!  Turns out that although she has cerebral palsy and does not go to school, she did go to the aftercare program and had seen us there.  She was thrilled to see us at her house!

At the end of our 4th school morning, we loaded back into the vans and drove on a bumpy dirt road for 1 ½ hours to the Coram Deo orphanage, also managed by 25:40. 20190207_075558 I gave the three 18” dolls I had brought to the little girls there and we played with the kids for a while before going to our lodging about 15 minutes away in Coffee Bay. Here we experienced paradise with lovely beach rooms on the Indian Ocean!  I roomed with Maggie, from BCC and Kholiswa, the African program director for 25:40.  We had the opportunity to go for a hike the following day to see the caves Nelson Mandela hid in during the revolution as well as to cliff jump into the ocean.  It was quite the hike – up and down hill, over rocks and rivers.  We went into huge caves, sat in fresh water pools and ultimately, climbed barefooted up a cliff to jump into the ocean water far below!  It was scary and amazing!  Later we also went by safari jeep to “Hole in the Wall”, a well-known natural arch on the Wild Coast not far away.

Early the next day we began our homeward trek – a 4-hour ride to the airport.  We began with a flat tire, got stopped by the police twice and made it to the airport with 15 minutes to spare!  This was the quick flight to Johannesburg where once again we stayed at the Sunrock Guest House.  Three of us had an early morning big adventure planned for the next day – the Elephant Sanctuary.  Our driver Norman met us at 5:45am and drove about 1 ½ hours to the sanctuary.  He told us some South African history and pointed things out to us as we went.  On our arrival, we first got to see the playful meerkats.  Then on to the elephants!  We fed them, brushed them, rode them, petted them, held them, walked them and even got kissed by them.

What an experience!  Our next stop was the Lion encounter where we not only saw some beautiful lions and tigers, we also played with some 3-month-old cubs!

And if that was not enough, we went on to a couple of African markets and then went to another animal place where we petted and fed giraffes. IMG_2689 What a day!!!  Our driver drove us directly to the airport where we met up with the rest of our team and boarded our plane, returning the way we came with a 5-hour flight to Ghana and then a 12-hour flight back to the US.

Unfortunately, my adventure did not end there.

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After getting home, I snuggled into my bed for a short nap and a couple hours later woke up with a raging fever!  Since 104.1 is not something to be messed with, I called my husband and he came home and took me to the hospital.  I knew I had a cold, but after many tests, I found out I also had a kidney infection and an inflamed liver and, the following day, a bad case of diarrhea!  What a way to come home!  But what an amazing trip – to see the body of Christ in action as each member of our team was so important to make the whole trip work!

It’s okay not to be Okay (non-fiction)

We’ve all experienced that moment where we wish we could start all over again. Failed marriages, lost friends, addictions, lost jobs. This is not the life we imagined. Yesterday can sometimes leave us stuck, sad, shamed, scared, and searching. Sheila Walsh encourages readers to face the pain head on and then start again, from right where they are. She shares that when she discovered “I’m not good enough and I’m good with that,” everything started to change.

In It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, Walsh helps women overcome the same old rut of struggles and pain by changing the way they think about God, themselves, and their everyday lives. She shares practical, doable, daily strategies that will help women move forward one step at a time knowing God will never let them down.

I really appreciated Sheila’s openness and honesty – she doesn’t have answers for everything, and that life is hard and disappointing and not what we imagined!  But she also says that God is good and “we can trust Him even when we don’t understand where we are in life.”  That it is okay to not be okay because that’s why we need Jesus.  Yet she has struggled with this all her life.  I really related to her when in the 1st chapter she talked about wanting to be Wonder Woman – yet fails to have devotions or is not a good wife or mother.

Each chapter Sheila tells stories, of her failures or successes.  She also adds Biblical stories and take aways.  At the end of the chapter she has questions and verses to ponder.  It’s not a long book, but one you will go back to receive encouragement.  I highly recommend.  I received a copy of this book from Bakerbooks. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Author:Sheila Walsh is an author, speaker and Bible teacher who has sold over 4 million books. Her heart is to show what happens when your real life meets the Word of God. She is the author of the #1 best-selling line of Christian books for little girls, “Gigi, God’s Little Princess.” Sheila is the creator of Children of Faith and the Gnoo Zoo, a ministry to children that communicates God’s love for them. She is the author of several books for women including “Honestly,” “Gifts for Your Soul,” “Living Fearlessly,” and “The Best Devotions of Sheila Walsh”, “The Shelter of God’s Promises” and her latest book, “God Loves Broken People and those who pretend they’re not.” As an accomplished musician, Sheila has recently released the CD “Beauty From Ashes.” Sheila, her husband, Barry and their son, Christian live in Dallas, Texas.

Searching for You – a novel

Searching for You (Orphan Train Book #3) by [Hedlund, Jody]

Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won’t abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he’s in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

The story of the third and youngest Neumann sister!  This is the 3rd book about the orphan train by author Judy Hedlund and she has done a magnificent job of showing how difficult life was for the youngest of immigrants – those orphaned at a young age without family to care for them.  I really can’t imagine such a life!  The author not only shows the positive aspects of the orphan trains, but also the truly horrifying parts.  But she brings in so much more than just the story of the orphans – she brings in issues such as pride and over abundance of self-sufficiency and more.

This is the 3rd book in the series and I highly recommend reading the previous ones – although you will not feel lost if you begin with this one.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it!  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Author:  Jody Hedlund is the author of over twenty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

Romancing the Bride

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Marrying a stranger to save a ranch is one thing; losing the land on their wedding day is another.

Desperate to keep the ranch where three of her children and a husband lie buried, Annie Gephart must marry or sell. Which of the few bachelors in town would consider a surprise proposal to wed a plain widow with a rebellious daughter, a spirited boy, and unpaid taxes–without laughing in her face?

Jacob Hendrix has never fully let go of his ranching dreams despite ending up as a small Wyoming town’s marshal. The job wouldn’t be so bad, except he’s more errand boy than lawman. When Annie proposes marriage without a single coquettish bat of an eyelash, can he commit himself to a woman he hardly knows for a choice piece of property he’d be an idiot to pass up?

But taxes aren’t all that threaten Annie and Jacob’s plans. Cattle rustlers, crumbling friendships, and wayward children make this marriage of convenience anything but. When they lose what they’ve sacrificed everything to save, will the love of a stranger be enough?

Romancing the Bride is the first book in the Frontier Vows Series by award-winning Christian romance author Melissa Jagears. If you like heartwarming marriage-of-convenience stories, you’ll love this sweet romance filled with endearing characters.

What an enjoyable romance set in Wyoming in 1884.  Annie is none too happy that her husband is dead, leaving her to raise 2 children and run the ranch, which she has absolutely no experience.  And not only does she not have a good foreman, she doesn’t even have any ranch hands, and the cattle are disappearing.  She doesn’t want to leave her land – she’s got 3 babies buried there, but with taxes due she must do something!  I cannot imagine the difficult life and decisions she had to face!

And thus begins the novel with Annie quickly marrying Jacob, the town marshal.  But the author doesn’t just make this a romance novel, there are also real truths woven in, such as when Annie advises her rebellious daughter Cecilia, “What matters now, is what you choose to do in the next hour, what you choose to do tomorrow. If your past decisions didn’t get you where you wanted to be, figure out what decisions will. Beating yourself up over the past won’t change a thing.”  I enjoyed this book with all its ups and downs, twists and turns, noble people and sleazebags!  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Author:  Much to her introverted self’s delight, ACFW Award winner and double INSPY finalist Melissa Jagears hardly needs to leave her home to be a homeschooling mother and novelist. She lives in Kansas with her husband and three children and can be found online at http://www.melissajagears.com, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Welcome to Adulting – Treasure of a book for young adults!

Welcome to Adulting by Jonathan "Jp" Pokluda

You’re an adult . . . now what?

Adulting is hard. But sometimes we make it harder than it has to be. Combining entertaining stories from his own experience, insights from the Bible, and compelling evidence from research, Jonathan “JP” Pokluda lays out a roadmap for how to navigate your life as an adult, addressing topics such as:

· friendships and dating
· career and money management
· interpersonal conflict
· controlling anxiety
· recovering from addiction
· discovering your purpose on this earth

If you’re struggling to find a footing in the world of adult life, this witty, non-patronizing guide is for you.

“I remember the first time I went grocery shopping, paid a bill, and rented a room. These were all highlights of adulting before the catchphrase was even created. In Welcome to Adulting, Jonathan Pokluda spends less time on the trivial and more time on the transformational. He points the way and gives advice on how to live an adult life that honors our holy God.”–Kyle Idleman, pastor and author of Not a Fan and Grace Is Greater

“If I could go back to my twenty-two-year-old self, I would hand her a copy of Welcome to Adulting and tell her to soak up every word. Jonathan so candidly and beautifully breaks down the myths of life after college and leaves us with a roadmap we’ll return to again and again, no matter how old we are.”–Jennie Allen, author of Nothing to Prove; founder and visionary of the IF:Gathering

This book should be read by every young adult at the age of 17 and then at 21!  It has so very many important truths that it is a treasure chest needing to be unpacked.

The author acknowledges upfront that he made a plethora of mistakes as a young man and he wants to use his knowledge gained the hard way to help others not make the same mistakes.  He has broken the short, easy-to-digest book into eleven chapters.  Life and Purpose are the first two, followed by Authority, Work, Money, Community, Conflict, and Dating and finishing with Worry, Recovery and Eternity.  Each chapter ends with a few discussion/reflection questions.

Pokluda pulls in quotes from others, such as from a friend of his who says, “So whether it’s mothering, medicine, CEO, sales, teaching, ministry, writing or so on…it is important to remember toil in work was part of the curse and it is difficult and you do the things you don’t like because it’s RIGHT and OBEDIENT and HOLY.  And on the days work is fun, smile and celebrate, and on the days work isn’t fun, don’t rethink your whole life.  Do the work.”  He also uses studies and statistics such as, “…people who have premarital sex are more prone to divorce later on.  In fact, having even just one premarital sexual partner makes you about four times more likely to divorce within the first five years of marriage, and having multiple partners results in a divorce rate five to six times higher.”  His own personal examples are also sprinkled throughout – and he is a great story teller!

This is such a powerful tool to help young adults as they transition from teenagers under mom and dad’s roof to adults navigating the world themselves.  I cannot recommend it highly enough!  I am grateful to the publisher for giving me a copy of this book. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Author: Jonathan “JP” Pokluda is teaching pastor at Watermark Community Church, with an average weekly attendance of 12,000 people, and leader of The Porch, an influential gathering of thousands of young adults who come hear the gospel and get equipped for Kingdom purposes. Pokluda came to understand the grace of the Gospel in his early twenties after being involved in different denominational churches his entire life. This ignited a desire in him to reach people in their twenties and thirties for Christ. He lives with his wife, Monica, and their three children.

 

 

 

 

 

Shelter of the Most High – a novel

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a City of Refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood and chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Will they break free from the shackles of the past in time to uncover the betrayal and save their lives and the lives of those they love?

Wow!  Once again, I’m blown away by Connilyn’s amazing story – and all the things it makes me ponder.  Taking place in around during the Biblical days around the time of Joshua, Sofea is from Sicily and, after being captured by pirates, ends up in Israel, in the City of Refuge Kedesh with her cousin Prezi.  There she doesn’t know the language and there are no dictionaries to help translate.  Her entire life has been flipped 180 degrees – her family is gone.  Instead of living in a coastal, seafaring, pagan, human life-sacrificing village, she now has been taken in and being loved by a YAWEH fearing household in a landlocked city.

If you have read Connilyn’s previous books you will recognize a number of characters – but if you have not, you shouldn’t have any problem following the story because it does stand alone.  I thought this was great historical fiction – giving a depth to the time of the Bible when the Israelites had settled in the Promised Land.

Amazing story – full of familial love, romantic love and ultimately, Godly love.  Mercy reigns!  I loved this novel and highly recommend it!  I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Author:  Connilyn Cossette is the CBA bestselling author of the Out from Egypt series. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for the Christy Award, the INSPY Award, and the Christian Retailing’s Best Award. She lives in North Carolina with her husband of over twenty years and a son and a daughter who fill her days with joy, inspiration, and laughter. Connect with her at http://www.ConnilynCossette.com.

Where in the World is Kris? Australia

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No photo shop – he’s a real koala!

“I come from a land down under, where women glow and men plunder.” Well, I’m not from there but Kate and I visited the land down under (and heard that song a lot) earlier this month!  Wow! Australia is amazing!  We didn’t have a lot of time, but we stayed very busy and saw so so so many amazing things. I just want to tell you about some of them.

First of all, I was a little nervous about the very long flight (and getting on the plane – but that’s a different story), but the reality was the flight is so long that I watched a movie, then took a sleeping pill and then still had a good 10+ hours to sleep so, when we arrived there I wasn’t feeling too exhausted (of course I had my neck brace, my eye mask, my foot sling, etc…)!  Our first destination was to fly north to Cairns and go to the Great Barrier Reef – which is actually almost 3000 reefs, so it isn’t really 1 reef.  (And, the Australian airline Qantas is great!).  Cairns is a sleepy seaside city, so we wandered and relaxed after arriving – no swimming at the beach though because of the crocodiles!  And they have some massive sized bats there – just flying around in the evening.  I don’t mind bats, but these made me feel a little uneasy!

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Nemo!

Our excursion to the GBR would begin early the next morning. We elected to go on a smaller boat which would take us to two different sites. Both were sites were good and we saw lots of fish and coral and even a giant clam.

Confession though – I’ve dived in Bermuda and the Caribbean and can’t honestly say the GBR was any better but maybe if we had done deeper, more experienced dives?  The reefs appeared healthy and we got to hear a talk from a marine biologist about the health of the reefs and more.

We also did an aborigine experience – complete with fire and didgeridoo and a dinner buffet that included emu, kangaroo and crocodile. (Emu was “gamey” but the kangaroo and crocodile were quite yummy.)  I have no desire to play the didgeridoo!20181014_211413

We picked up the pace when we returned to Sydney – only a 3-hour flight away but when you take the 5am flight, you get a full day! 20181015_131118.jpgWe opted for a pass that got us the Hop-on, Hop-off Bus, Sea Life Aquarium, Wildlife Sydney Zoo, Sydney Tower and Madame Tussaud’s! I’m usually not that impressed with the open air, sightseeing buses, but it really was great for Sydney – the blue bus goes further out of town taking you to Bondi Beach (the famous Sydney beach).  20181015_163830We saw things we would not have otherwise seen so I highly recommend it! The bus also has a running commentary about the history of the area and what you are seeing.

We also thought the Aquarium was fun.  It has some wonderful glass tunnels you walk through while rays and sharks glide over you!  20181015_122218There we also got to

 

go on a little boat through the penguin enclosure – they really smell!  And we saw a dugong – a cousin to the manatee (they look very similar but the dugong has a tale more like a whale and the manatee has a tale more like a very large beaver).  The Aquarium’s dugong is named Pig – they feed him romaine lettuce every 15 minutes and he is quite a messy eater!  A few years ago we swam with manatees so it was fun to see the dugong.

At the zoo we saw a Tasmanian devil, kangaroos, koalas, an enormous crocodile and lots of snakes (but no petting of any of the animals!).  My thoughts as we went through the displays were I was glad I didn’t have to be the zoo keeper for all the dangerous, highly poisonous critters there!20181016_114633

We had fun at Madame Tussaud’s – posing with Spider-Man and Superman and Wonder Woman.  Kate liked Wolverine and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  But my favorite display at Madame Tussaud’s was of the Queen and Prince William and Kate!

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I think they said that the Queen has had more wax models made of her than any other person.  I couldn’t resist getting a photo with Nelson Mandela since I’m going to his country in a few months.  In addition to those places, we also did a tour of the Sydney Opera house – including a brief symphony concert!  The building really is unique with great acoustics and gorgeous wood.  20181017_180722Our guide told us all about the design and the architect – Jorn Utzon,a Swede, who was basically fired from the job halfway through the project.  He did live to see the day that UNESCO recognized the opera house as one of the most outstanding places on earth in 2007 even though it had only been built 34 years earlier.  There are more than a million Swedish made tiles covering the roof – and they are designed to never need cleaning.  The Opera House was the place to be that day as Prince Harry and Meaghan were also visiting about an hour before us!

Another place we enjoyed visiting was the Sydney Tower.  Rising high above Sydney it offers great views of the entire area – and we were fortunate because the rain dissipated and we were able to see those views!  We went late in the afternoon so we not only got to see the day view, but also the evening view.

1016180501Our biggest event in Sydney was actually climbing the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, or the coat hanger as they call it. What an experience! We showed up at our appointed time and after getting our flight suits on and divesting ourselves of all personal items, got our safety harnesses on and began the assent – through the pylon, up ladders, and finally to the top of the bridge.  1016180526  1016180553The view was magnificent, especially since we had done the evening/night tour, so all the lights were twinkling in the skyline.  I am always amazed by God’s creation – either the natural or the man-made and seeing the city lit up was wonderful!  We were also really thankful it wasn’t raining!!

Our last day in Australia was spent on a tour of the Blue Mountains.  I didn’t think we could top the climb from the previous day but…   We began by going to the Featherdale  Wildlife Park where we touched a wombat, petted a koala bear and fed kangaroos – even the joey in his mama’s pouch! This was a fabulous place and I only wish we could have stayed longer!

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2018-10-31 (2)The koala’s fur was very short and thick and soft!  The kangaroos reminded me of my golden retrievers – they just wanted the food and would hold your hand to keep the food there.  Petting koalas and feeding kangaroos was pretty amazing!!20181017_091648.jpg

From there we went on to the Blue Mountains, named because the many eucalyptus trees cause a blue haze.  We didn’t see any wild koalas, but we did see some amazing rock formations (the Three Sisters).

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We were told that that Aborigine Dreamtime legend is that there were 3 sisters who were turned into stone to protect them during a battle.  Unfortunately, the person who turned transformed them was killed in the battle and no one else could change them back so there they stand.  This is a beautiful area with the Katoomba waterfall,  rain forest and and eucalyptus trees!  We went to Scenic World and rode the skyway, a cable car that has a glass floor so you can see the valley below your feet.

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20181017_145035The view of the waterfall from there was magnificent!  After that we went down to the valley floor via an old mining railroad that goes down at a 52-degree incline – the steepest in the world – which was quite the ride (we did it 3 times!).  We finished our day by going back into Sydney via the river – a river cruise!  (Interesting fact – Sydney Harbor and the river that feeds it is a known breeding ground for bull sharks – it’s not very safe swimming outside protected areas!!).20181017_180722.jpg

Australia gets lots of tourists – and most of them are from Asia.  I guess they aren’t used to Western toilets.  In every toilet they had picture signs showing that squatting on the toilet is not the thing to do – and to please throw the toilet paper in the toilet, not the trash. 20181017_115035.jpg As we wandered, we were as likely to hear Chinese spoken as English.  We did enjoy some amazing Thai food, right around the corner from our very quaint, Victorian flat (well, the building was Victorian but they had updated in the 21st century so we had old floors, tall ceilings and modern Ikea furnishings!)

So, with 2 days in Cairns, and 3 days in Sydney, our 5 days in Australia were over and it was time to return home!  We didn’t see everything but we sure experienced a lot! And our return trip was wonderful – 14 hours in first class sitting next to each other!  Yes, they gave me pajamas to wear and I lounged my way back the the USA!  20181018_125035.jpgI’m looking forward to my next trip!  P.S. While we were in Sydney, we saw the Royal Caribbean ship, Radiance of the Seas, set sail – maybe someday I can cruise from Sydney!20181016_130922