Thursday, April 30, 2015

To Brisbane and Back

The end of February Garth and I had an unexpected vacation in Brisbane, Australia. What started out to be a little bit of a scary trip, turned out to be a delightful, fun-filled few days in a beautiful city with good friends.

We ended up going so I could see a doctor about a funny heart rhythm I was having. Turned out to be nothing of consequence.

Our flight back to Tonga wasn't until Monday. So, with a clean bill of heath, we decided to have a little fun and play tourist. Lucky for us, Sister Mary Ann Arseneau, mother of Denise Arseneau Clark and mother-in-law to our former Bishop in Juneau, Zane Clark, was serving a mission in Brisbane. She and her companion, Sister Parsons, took such good care of us while we were there. They arranged for an apartment for us to stay in, as well as a car, bought us groceries, and visited me in the hospital.
Me, Sister Arseneau and Sister Parsons in the Brisbane mission office
Then, after I was released they played tour guides! They spoiled us rotten, and we loved every minute of it!

The first thing I wanted to do Friday was to get my hair cut. Sister Parsons suggested a girl who had cut her hair a few times, and she had time on Friday to work both of us in. Ahhh.....I felt like a new woman. I haven't had a professional hair cut since before I came to Tonga. What a treat!

The hair salon was in a mall. At one end was a grocery store. Garth and I walked in right at the produce section. We just stopped in our tracks and stared. SO MUCH PRODUCE!!! Peppers of every color, different varieties of apples and oranges, several kinds of lettuce and cabbage and onions...... and STRAWBERRIES. I have really missed strawberries. And there were MUSHROOMS. I LOVE mushrooms. You can get packages of dried mushrooms, and sometimes canned mushrooms here in Tonga, but they are not the same as FRESH mushrooms. My heart nearly stopped beating. We just walked up and down the aisles of produce wishing we could pack our suitcases full and bring them to Tonga with us. OH...MY...HEART! (To borrow a phrase from my good friends the Meyer's...miss you guys!)  We felt like we had died and gone to heaven.

We often ask missionaries who are going home what will be the first thing they eat. Ribs at Texas Roadhouse is high on the list. Food from Cafe is also very high. Me? I'm gonna find a salad bar! I have missed all the variety of vegetables.

Garth decided to check out the local happenings in Brisbane and found that Wicked was playing. Lucky for us, there were still a few tickets available for Friday night. We were about eight rows back, just right of center stage. We had wonderful seats. The play was AWESOME!
The "Wicked" merchandise counter

Great seats!!! Waiting to start.

Glinda and Elphaba

On Saturday, Sister Arseneau and Sister Parsons took us to the Lone Pine Koala Bear Sanctuary. There were so many koala bears...little ones, big ones, fat ones, skinny ones...and babies.

And you can get your picture taken while holding one!! Squeal like a little kid....I GOT TO HOLD ONE!
The handler is getting the Koala ready to hand off to me.

Isn't that just the cutest thing you've ever seen? With Sister Arseneau.

And I got to feed kangaroos...

And Garth fed kangaroos....

And Sister Arseneau fed kangaroos...

And then we just watched them...

And we saw an Emu...

Look at those feet!!
And a Tasmanian Devil! Unfortunately for us, though, he was sleeping and was not very devilish. But, I got to see one live and up close!

And, a duck-billed platypus. Unfortunately, none of our pictures turned out. The lighting was too dark, and they swim fast! So, all we got were blurs.
Can you see it....kind of? It's that brown blurry thing in the middle of the picture.
This is a model of a platypus on the outside of the exhibit
This is a skeleton of a platypus
And we saw a wombat! And of course, he was asleep, too. Darn those nocturnal animals.

They also have lots of birds....parrots and cockatiels....all different colors. They were very beautiful.

This is NOT a cockatiel. This is an Australian Brush Turkey.
There was also a kookaburra. And yes, he was sitting in a tree...don't know if it was a gum tree....and he occasionally laughed at us.

Did you know there's an owl that barks like a dog? It really does! I heard it!
They're kind of hard to see. They're hiding up towards the top. Those gray oblong things are the owls.
And we got to feed Lorikeets. Hundreds of them. The Lorikeets fly all over, and you can see them in the trees just hanging out, looking cute and colorful, and visiting back and forth with each other.

But when it gets close to feeding time, the Lorikeets descend onto the feeding grounds, waiting for the park worker to bring out the trays of mash they feed the Lorikeets. Don't ask me how they know what time dinner is, but they know! The food trays are put up and suddenly you are awash in sound and color. It surrounds you on all sides. They land on your head, on your shoulder, on your arm. They zoom past your head anxious to get at the food.

Most of them were rainbow Lorikeets....vibrantly colored. Painted as if by a child...the head one color, the tail another, the body three colors.

There was an occasional scaly breasted Lorikeet (in the foreground)...

...and miner bird seen in the crowd...

...but the rainbow Lorikeets stole the show.

And, of course, there were the ubiquitous Eastern Water Dragons everywhere.

I felt like a kid...amazed and awed at the wonder of such unique animals I've only seen on TV or in books.

Brisbane city skyline

Saturday night, along with Sister Arseneau, we rode the CityCat along the Brisbane river, from one end of the city to the other. All for just $6 each. I teased Garth that he was lucky I was such a cheap date. We watched the sun set over the city, and the lights of the city come on. We passed the Brisbane temple, just barely able to see the steeple from where the temple sits on a cliff above the river. So lovely, and so relaxing. After a long day spent walking in the heat at the koala bear sanctuary, I was kind of thinking I just wanted to go back to the apartment and put my feet up. But, we decided on the boat ride on the river. I am so glad. It was just what I needed.

View of the Queensland Performing Arts Center - those green signs are
advertising "Wicked"!!!!!

Sunday we attended church with Sister Arseneau and Sister Parsons. What a diverse ward. We attended the Gospel Principles class. There was a couple from the ward attended the class as ward missionaries...they were from the Netherlands. A woman who with her daughter had been members for just a few months were from Australia. Another sister who was a fairly new member was from Turkey. One investigator was from Iran, and another from Iraq. The Lord is gathering his flock.

After church we took a drive up into the "hinterlands" just north of Brisbane, and walked through the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.
View of the Glass House Mountains - named by Captain Cook because their shape
reminded him of the glasshouse furnaces of his home in Yorkshire

It was like stepping back in time. The trees were old, and tall, the sun barely filtering down to the ground in much of the park.

See the big open space left by a fallen ancient?

Where a tree HAD fallen, the sun streamed down onto young saplings all struggling for supremacy, reaching towards the sun, desperately trying to outgrow all the saplings in the vicinity so it could take the place of the fallen, once mighty monarch.

Me, Sister Arseneau, Sister Parsons

Sister Arseneau. She's so cute.

And we saw two.....TWO wallaby's in the wild. I'm speechless. And that's saying something!
Look hard. It's there. Center of the picture. Looks like a large rabbit.
Their true name is "pademelon." And this is what I saw...TWO of them!
And the very last thing we got to do Sunday night, before leaving first thing Monday morning, was to go to the beach. It was a small beach, but a beach nonetheless. I got to step foot on the sands of Australia. And I DID find some shells :)

Visiting Australia again is DEFINITELY on my bucket list. Brisbane is such a small piece of Australia. I want to experience more of the beauty and diversity of Brisbane, and see what the rest of the continent of Australia has to offer.

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