Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Place To Be

Friday, April 25 is Anzac Day here in Australia – a remembrance day, of sorts, for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and a national holiday. So we took advantage of this long weekend and flew down to Melbourne, in the province of Victoria. The licence plates in Victoria state “Victoria – The Place To Be”, so we figured we were in for a good weekend.

We rented a car from the airport and took three days to drive along what is known as The Great Ocean Road, which runs along almost 200 km of the south coast. This road was built by WWI veterans when they returned from duty and passes through some breathtaking scenery and cute coastal towns.

Our plan was not to have a plan. We stopped when we wanted to, made up the day’s itinerary as we went and found a place to stay at the end of the day. What a great feeling of freedom after some very long days in the World Youth Day office.

As we drove on the winding roads, sometimes level with the beach, other times up high above cliffs, we took in gorgeous views of the ocean to one side and varied landscapes to the other - scrub bushland, tall eucalyptus rainforest, rolling green hills with dairy farms, and high vertical limestone cliffs. Because of storms out over the ocean and sun shining elsewhere, there seemed to be a perpetual rainbow over the water. We even splurged and took a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter thrill ride 500 feet above the ocean around one of the highlights of the weekend (and what I think should be a Wonder of the World) – the Twelve Apostles.

Close encounters with wildlife – kangaroos, koalas, emus, and interesting birds. We also saw a seal playing in the water about 80 feet away … and little fairy penguins coming onto a beach in a big group just before dark to settle in after a day of hunting … unfortunately, we viewed this from a cliff 100 feet above them, so they looked like little moving black dots, but they were still somehow very cute.At the end of the weekend, we had travelled over 1000 km and were so very grateful for this time we were able to bask in God’s awesome Creation.

Thanks, Jetstar, for getting us to Melbourne safely on Friday night. Much appreciated.

The next morning started with breakfast in the coastal town of Torquay and a visit to their beach.

But please leave your butts at home. (Referring to cigarette butts, but I thought it was funny to have a bum free beach... look at the guy on the sign... he has no butt.)

Then, we hit the road. The beautiful view for the first part of our drive.

We stopped to get groceries in the town of Lorne. And I spied a park with many cockatoos. In Canada, in any pet store, I would be scared of these birds eyeing my up from their cages. But when they're out in the wild, they seem okay.

More road... look what side we're driving on.

Yup. Left side of the road and opposite sides of the car. (Except for those two times when we forgot and drove on the right side of the road.)

As mentioned earlier... Victoria is the place to be.

And this is David, the car model, posing with our car, the Ford XR6. The Great Ocean Road is very car commercial-esque.

More ocean views along our drive.

And one of those rainbows we paid extra for on our tour. They were everywhere... the downside of travelling in the rain is that you're travelling in the rain. The upside is that you get pretty rainbows to look at.

Some kangaroos. We were excited to spy these ones... but then we spied the fence keeping them in. Not exactly a wild adventure.

By the end of our first day, we arrived at the 12 Apostles. When the sun is shining brightly, it reflect off the cliffs and turns them a beautiful red. We got the cloudy version, but it's no less dramatic or beautiful.

The next morning... sunny and bright and the perfect day for a helicopter ride (ie. the most expensive 10-minutes of our lives).

Difficult to tell... but this is the shadow of our helicopter in hot pursuit of a cow.

The 12 Apostles from the air, followed by some other aerial shots. Our pilot made some dips and rolling turns so we could see straight down. Fun. And very Top Gun.

Back on the ground, we visited Loch Ard Gorge.

David on the beach of the Gorge. There were some pretty high waves crashing into the cliffs behind him.

The Bay of Martyrs. Pretty and dramatic... this is what you can see from the road as you drive by... we screeched to a stop and pulled into the parking lot. We imagine that a lot of people do that and there are probably lots of accidents on the Great Ocean Road. Tourists.

As close to the edge of the cliffs as we could get... or wanted to go.

End of day Sunday got us to Port Fairy. We walked out to Griffin Island, where we spied some wallabies and seals (not together... wallabies on land and seals in water).

From the dock, facing back toward Griffin Island.

Monday morning... a short drive to Tower Hill Reserve. These kangaroos greeted us.

The view from the top. Tower Hill is a volcano that's 33,000 years old, with some younger craters inside (only 11,000... spring chickens). This is the large crater, filled with water. We walked along the edge of the craters, following kangaroos and looking for koalas.
And this is the koala we found, just as we were leaving the park. He was having a nap, until David shook the branches and woke him up. Then he just stared at us. Tourists.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Work is seriously getting in the way of travelling

So, I bring you a picture of my desk.

With a story about what we do all day.

First of all, we work here: http://www.wyd2008.org/.

Gillian: I'm a Workforce Coordinator. That means I'm playing a part in recruiting those 8000 people we will need as event-time volunteers for WYD. That's a lot of people to manage so I spend most of my day replying to emails [Dear Volunteer - I know you would like to meet the Holy Father and I am honoured that you think I have the power to make such an arrangement, but unfortunately I cannot promise that he will be available to baptize your child] and answering phone calls [Hello Volunteer - I understand your desire to be the volunteer that stands right next to the Holy Father but, again, due to security complications, I don't think I can make that happen]. I also coordinate the work and schedule of the casual volunteers - these are the people giving an hour or a day of their time right now to help us make phone calls. We need to do a phone interview with each of our volunteer applicants. As you can imagine, that's a lot of phone calls to make, so these volunteers are crucial. And, when I have a few moments, I'm putting together the pocket guide for volunteers, which will be their handy reference guide during WYD, writing the offer letters to send to them offering them a volunteer role, and coordinating all the paperwork that goes along with that.

It's fun, it's challenging, it's a lot different than the work I'm used to doing.

And David?

David: I'm working in the Contracts and Procurement department, which is really composed of my boss Geoff and me (Geoff is super as a boss, thank goodness). Any contract to be drafted with suppliers or anything that World Youth Day has to purchase goes through us. With the huge scale of WYD, there are many, many suppliers and with more and more purchases being made and me being the supposed 'expert' with WYD's purchase order software, it's getting busier and busier. So this incorporates some of what I did as an engineer.

The other aspect of my job here is working with the Pilgrim Accommodation manager. I get to figure out how many temporary showers and smoke detectors go in each of the 350 or so Catholic schools/parishes around Sydney and work with the various suppliers who are installing them at the sites. I've even had the chance to visit some schools to figure out the best place to put the temporary showers, which has meant getting used to the backwards way of driving here.

Most recently, I've been working with a group of 12 students to put together a checklist that has to be submitted to the government for each accommodation site.

There's lots of variety and I get to deal with a lot of good people, which makes my job enjoyable.

So, that's what we do. We work on the same floor. If David stands up at his desk and I stand up at my desk, we can see each other. But we try to avoid making googly-eyes at each other across the office... that would be distracting to our coworkers.

And this is the maze through cubicle-land. Offices in Australia look just like offices in Canada.

The big issue of the day is why David got a name tag and I didn't. Here we have a picture of David smiling. I'm taking the picture and pouting.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

for Cindy and Tim

Happy, happy wedding. (And sorry about the guy in the Speedo.)


Monday, April 7, 2008

Another fun and action-packed weekend in Sydney

Another good weekend in our Australian home... let's demonstrate with pictures...

First, a bus ride into Sydney's City Centre, where we were joined by a travelling companion... this pretty blue bug. Later, we gave the bug to a little girl and he went to spend the day with her.

Then onto Circular Quay, where we jumped on the ferry heading out to Manly. This peninsula is also accessible by bus, but the ferry ride is a whole lot prettier.

See? Prettier.

Here's us on the ferry.

A seagull being chased out of Sydney by a jetboat. Actually, this seagull was in pursuit of a piece of bread being offered by a ferry passenger standing next to me.

When we arrived at Manly, we were hungry. And as our guidebook said, nothing tastes better than fish and chips on the beach. I opted for calamari and chips, but I think it tasted just as good.

Filled up with fish and chips, we headed out onto Shelly Beach, named so because...

... it has quite a lot of shells.

Here's a picture for Julie... we found another amazing bunch of Birds of Paradise.

After a short tour of Manly (we will definitely go back to do more walking and seeing), we met up with some WYD colleagues. We went to Mass and then took a little walk to this beautiful beach.

Does anyone recognize the guy in the back row with curly hair? It's Darren, from Australia. He volunteered for WYD in Toronto. He remembers Pedro and Larissa and Joan and Khitanya and Natalie and Erin... he just doesn't remember ever meeting me.

Us on the beach.

The pathway leading to the beach... I just thought it was pretty.

Then, from there, on to the Trivia Night held at St. Joseph's Parish. This was organized as a WYD fund-raiser (but they let us volunteers come for free). It was so much fun. BYO food and drink, and the parish community came together for trivia, auctions, raffles... a lot of money was made and a lot of BYO consumed.

And Darren provided a little entertainment by playing his didgeridoo.

Now, onto Sunday. After we went to the WYD Volunteer Uniform Launch, we went to take a walk across the Harbour Bridge with our housemates, Anna and Tomasz.

Tomasz captured this lovely moment of a gleeful David tossing me overboard into the harbour.

The Harbour Bridge from below.

And taking pictures from the bridge. I think I was taking this shot...

As we walked home from our Harbour Bridge visit, we came across this... the best Art Show ever.