Friday, May 30, 2008

Okay, use your imagination ...

... a sea of people as far as you can see in all directions, waiving flags, chanting hymns, praying and cheering as the Pope appears ... probably cold and a tad wet ... but full of excitement and joy.

This will be the scene at Randwick Racecourse, the venue for the Final Mass for World Youth Day on July 20.

A group of us had the cool opportunity to visit Randwick now before much of the construction has taken place and any pilgrims arrive. There are still 700 horses training daily here, so construction has been very limited. What they have built are hundreds of the 3200 toilets that will eventually be built ... yes, built. These are real toilets that flush ... no overflowing port-a-potties. These pilgrims are going to spoiled.

As we stood on the station where trainers look out onto the racetracks and monitor their horses, we took in a 360 degree view of this vast space ...

... and imagined what it would be like full of pilgrims.

We also stood where the stage will be built and looked out over the course, as Pope Benedict XVI will do in 44 days. Look at alllll the people.

This is where the stage will be... this is where you really need to pull out the imagination. The stage will be more fancy than jst a few piles of dirt.

This is what we would look like if we hung out with Bob the Builder more often. And that's the direction of the stage you see over our shoulders.

Why, yes, these are the best toilets at any WYD ever. They're real. And they flush. (Franciska and David demonstrate pilgrim usage.)

Toilet village, with aforementioned real toilets. It really is that big of a deal.

The starting gates for horse races will be removed before WYD... but until they are, this is us with our best horse expressions (Hannah, second from left, is the happiest horse ever).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

At a Target Near You

... if you live in Australia near a Target.

They're carrying a line of WYD clothes! And these are our friends, the models. That's Hannah, James, Therese, Paul, and Thien.

They did such a good job of advertising the clothes that David and I went out and bought one each. The green one, modelled by James. Yes, we both got the same one. Matchy.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Special Collection

At Mass this past Sunday, as a parishioner held up a large photo of Cardinal Van Thuan, a nun made a special announcement. As she spoke about the late Vietnamese Cardinal, his remarkable life, the flight of his family from Vietnam and his cause for beatification, Gillian leaned over and whispered, "David Naglieri [her colleague at Salt + Light] is doing a documentary on him." Almost on cue, the nun continued moments later with, "a Canadian television station, Salt and Light Television, is producing a documentary on Cardinal Van Thuan, and we are here to take up a special collection to help defray the cost of this documentary."

We spoke to this nun after Mass, a lovely Brigidine sister from Ireland, and found out that Cardinal Van Thuan's sister is a member of our parish, hence the special collection. Not only were we made aware that the world is extremely small, but also that way over here in Australia, on the other side of the world, Salt + Light is having an effect. This little television station with humble beginnings after World Youth Day in 2002, is now reaching around the world, a testament to the hard work of Salt + Light staff and World Youth Day itself.

On a very ordinary weekend here in Sydney, we went to a very ordinary Mass at our parish and were reminded that God works in extraordinary ways.

Indiana Kantor and the Temple of Popcorn

On Saturday the Kantors had an appointment with Indiana Jones. And while he did his adventure thing on the big screen, we, too, had our own adventure. We ate this entire bucket of popcorn, washed down with this gigantic tub of coke. (It really was much more dangerous than it sounds... they don't put butter on popcorn in Australia so imagine how dry and scratchy it was - ooh danger!)

Anyway, now David has a free drink bottle and I have this free hat.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Time of Your Eternal Life

Just... quick count... 54 days until WYD. These commercials are airing on stations around Sydney so keep your eyes open for those.

And don't forget to register as a volunteer! If you show up for all your shifts, you will not only get a WYD pen, pin, and keyring but also...

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will hold a special audience with the 8,000 people who volunteer for World Youth Day (WYD08) to thank them for their hard work and dedication.
WYD08 organisers today confirmed that instead of holding a tickertape parade, all WYD08 volunteers will be invited to an exclusive event with Pope Benedict before he boards his return flight to Rome.
"This will be a wonderful way to thank the 8,000 people who will have devoted their time to become the face of World Youth Day," said WYD08 Chief Operating Officer, Danny Casey.
The Pope's enthusiasm for the volunteer spirit is joined by Sandy Hollway, the man who led the 'best Olympics Games ever'.
The former SOCOG CEO is calling on Australians to once again unleash their volunteer spirit and welcome the world to this happy and peaceful celebration.
"We are still remembered for the generosity and altruism that around 47,000 volunteers displayed during the Sydney 2000 Olympics," Mr Hollway said.
"I'm keen to ensure that Sydney once again showcases Australia's renowned hospitality at the largest event we have hosted since the Olympic Games.
"With World Youth Day just nine weeks away, Sydney has another great chance to shine."
WYD08 only has around 8,000 volunteer roles on offer and organisers have already received applications from 5,000 people.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Week in the Life...

It was so good to have Michelle here ... our first visitor. It also gave us a whole week off - a welcome break from the busyness of our jobs. Now where to begin ...

Last Wednesday morning, we whisked Michelle from the Sydney airport and back to our place so she could freshen up after the long flight (well, the taxi whisked... we were just in it). We then headed into the City to 1) see the sights, and 2) keep Michelle awake until bedtime (we were just starting out at 8pm Sask time). On this sunny day, we walked through Hyde Park to the Botanic Gardens, which led to views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. On the way, Michelle got a special kick out of the bats that were hanging and squealing in the trees overhead. Scary. Also very noticeable were the large numbers of people running and exercising in the parks ... the conclusion: people in Sydney (other than at the World Youth Day office) don't work. And a tour of Sydney wouldn't have been complete without a stop at the Girodat sisters' favourite store - Lululemon.

Up early the next morning to go the the beach ... and a run to keep Michelle in good shape for her upcoming half-marathon. Then off on the ferry to Manly, northeast of Sydney, where we scanned Shelly Beach for ... yes, shells ... then got all caught up on news from Shaunavon on a long walk to the very tip of the coast. From here, we soaked in an incredible panoramic view of Sydney all the way over the South Pacific Ocean.

Friday, we flew to Cairns to expore the Great Barrier Reef. Besides views of green mountains surrounding it, Cairns itself wasn't much more than a collection of surf shops, hotels, restaurants and souvenir stores - all geared toward tourists. But the two days we spent out at the Great Barrier Reef and on Fitzroy Island made the trip, as well as the 30 degree weather.

The first stop on our Reef tour took us to Michaelmas Cay, a sand island which is home to gazillions of birds. Equipped with flippers, a mask, a snorkel and an underwater camera, we entered an underwater world that was more colourful, more full of life and more fascinating than we could ever have imagined. The multi-coloured coral and grass-like organisms swaying in the current were sometimes only a metre below the surface of the water so we could see everything very clearly. Fish of all shapes, sizes and colours drifted and darted around us and away from us (we could even hear the sound of the fish picking food off of the coral). We had about 1.5 hours to explore (the water was 24 degrees and by the end we were quite chilly), and we got some good underwater pictures (though it was cloudy so none of the pictures really shows the vibrant colours). I was lucky enough to spot some stingrays (bigger around than my arms - so I kept my distance), and I followed a turtle around as he glided peacefully through the water. It was literally like swimming in an aquarium of tropical fish. Our second stop was a part of the Reef in the open water. Here we could look down the Reef and see it descending into the depths. Here we also happened on a family of Nemos ... of course, our cameras were out of film by then.

Next day, we took a 45 minute ferry ride to Fitzroy Island. We and the 20 or so others on the ferry were the only ones on the island for the day so it was a very peaceful day. We hiked through the rain forests, walked along the beaches made up mostly of broken pieces of coral (as the waves came in, the coral made a sound that resembled glass wind chimes), found a nice sandy spot on the beach to have a picnic of local fruit and sit under the sun (and get good sunburns) and do more snorkeling right off the beach. The water here wasn't as clear as by the Great Barrier Reef, but we still saw lots of fish and even more stingrays. It was wonderful to be stranded on this island for a day (made us think of your famous question, Julie, of what one food you would choose to have if you were stranded on a deserted island) with no other job than to relax.

We spent part of our last day in Cairns in a wildlife dome, where we got attacked by birds and had some close encounters with some mean looking reptiles (this was my favourite part). Gillian and Michelle's favourite part was holding Harvey the Koala and having our picture taken with him.

Coming back to cool Sydney was tough. So to help in the transition, Michelle and Gillian went shop browsing in Newtown, a little suburb known for its funky shops and restaurants. And on Michelle's last day in Sydney, we took her to see some Australian animals at the Australian Wildlife Walkabout Park in the hills about an hour north of Sydney. All the animals in this wildlife sanctuary roam free, except the dingos who could eat the other animals. So we had some good conversations with kangaroos, emus, wallabies and a very cute koala.

So ... after a week of fun and good visiting, we said bye to Michelle. What a week. We love you, Michelle, and we can't wait to see you and everyone else in Shaunavon.


Woohoo ... Michelle's in Sydney! On this, her day of arrival, there was enough to see to keep her awake until after supper.

Any guesses as to where we are here?

Keeping Michelle in shape for her upcoming half-marathon. Notice the surfers catching the wave in the background.


On the ferry to Manly.

Shelly Beach.

A long walk was rewarded by beautiful views back toward Sydney.

Looking from the cliffs of Manly over the South Pacific Ocean and coastline.


Through a mixup with the airline, we travelled to Cairns with Marion Hansen... we hope Michelle made it okay.

Our boat and crew for our tour to the Great Barrier Reef.

The boat ride out the Reef was choppy, but the views were beautiful.

Michaelmas Cay, taken from our boat. We snorkeled in the water between the beach and the boat.
These fish congregated near our boat while it was anchored at Michaelmas Cay ... weird, until we heard the staff announce they were going to feed the fish. Domesticated fish, hmph.

Wet and cold and raisin-skinned after an hour and a half of snorkeling ...

... but amazed at what we saw.


The ferry ride was a tad windy ... you should've seen our hair when we arrived.

A view of the island, as the ferry approached.

We started the day with a bit of bushwalking through the rainforest.

All sorts of wildlife in the forests.

The beaches of coral pieces ... you couldn't walk barefoot.

A peaceful stroll on the beach.

I got to wear my superhero suit (also known as a stinger suit to protect against jelly fish) to go out snorkeling off the beach.

Gillian took a turn checking out the underwater world off the beach.

Relaxing and picnicing on the beach.

Walking down the steep slopes from the lighthouse, with the ocean in plain view below.

The vines attacked us like snakes.


The wildlife dome was filled with colour birds like this parrot.

I found a friend (or he found me).

The bird show was entertaining.

This guy hardly moved at all the whole time we were watching him.

This blue-tongued lizard needs to work on his manners.

Michelle, the reptile lover.

Everytime I'd pet this guy on the top of his snout, he would close his eyes like a cat or a dog (ahhh, that feels good). But I'm sure if he didn't have tape around his snout, I would've been minus one hand.

David's first time holding a python. Don't worry, pythons aren't venimous, they just kill you by squeezing you to death.

This is Harvey ... he likes to sleep, but agrees to pose for photos for 1/2 hour a day (any more would be too stressful on him).


A 200-year-old Aboriginal carving of a wallaby, pointing toward a prime hunting spot.

200-year-old Aboriginal paintings on a cave wall. They blew paint at the wall from their mouth while holding their hand against the stone to make an outline of their hand.

It's a tough life.

This Emu nearly took Michelle's toast right out of her hand.

Koalas are stressed out animals ... they eat eucalyptus leaves, which are poisonous, so they have to sleep 20 hours a day for their bodies to break down the poison, so you have to be lucky to see them in action like this.

Kangaroo and emu in action (eating carrots).

Deep conversation - kangaroo to Gillianaroo.

Bye, Bye big sister. Thanks for the awesome visit.