Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good Morning! It was our last day here and we tried to cram a thousand last things into our day. We got up really early, ate breakfast, and caught the bus to the Wharf. We walked a couple of blocks and caught the 9:30 tour of the Opera House. (Erich and Pam walked to the rocks instead to do some shopping and scope out where the teens might like to go after their tour.)

The tour was awesome! Our tour guide, Toni was a lot of fun. She said that the Opera Theatre was going to be closed for an all day rehearsal starting at 10am, so she took us in there first. The theatre is one of five different venues housed in the Opera House. It holds 1,547 people and rotates 5 different operas at any given time. They never have the same opera two days in a row! This means that they have to change sets up to three times in a 24 hour period depending on the show times. Because the Opera House is on a peninsula, it doesn’t have the backstage room on either side of the main stage like most. They solve this problem by having huge lifts above and below the main stage, that literally raises or lowers the sets as needed. The entire inside of the building is made up of Australian Timber wood, to help with acoustics. This hall also boasts a Wagnerian Orchestra pit, which just means that it is located under the main stage instead of out in front of it.

The next hall we went into was the Concert Hall. We were lucky because the Sydney Orchestra was rehearsing and let us come in and take a listen. The sound was wonderful. Toni explained that the plastic rings that were hanging from the ceiling were put there to bounce the sound back down to the musicians (so they can hear what they are playing) along with letting the sound through, to the ceiling, so that it follows the curves in the wall for the audience to hear. This hall holds 2, 690 people and is only used for classical music. The lower seats in this venue are called stalls. The upper seats are called the dress circle, and the side seats are box seats. The organ in this room is outstanding! It has over 10,500 pipes! It was massive.

We learned a lot about the history of the building and saw some audio visuals to help with the telling of the story. There is a lot to hear, but one of the biggest things I remember is that it took 16 years (13 more than projected) and 102 million dollars to make it! That is some perseverance by the Australian government to make this happen! Ask your teens more about it. If they don’t remember, ask me.

After the tour we went to the Rocks and went shopping for souvenirs. (We walked a lot, but really didn’t mind.) We took the bus back to the hotel and all went our separate ways for lunch. Most of us rushed back to the hotel afterwards to change into our suits and go swimming in the ocean!

The Bombies were wicked! We caught multiple 20 footers and the rip was ferocious! We stayed between the flags and had a bitchin’ time. (Translation: The waves were huge. They were easily 20 feet high, and the rip tide was strong. We swam between the life guards flags and had a great time….just so you get a taste of the lingo. )

After the swim (where the water temperature was 64 while outside temperature was in the high 50’s) we either took hot showers or got in the hot tub. (See the theme here?) It was a really relaxing afternoon, and I think everyone had a great time. We went as a group to a restaurant called “Hurricanes” for dinner and then hit the IGA to get some Tim Tams for home.

Andrew, Emily, Maria, Carolyn, Audrey, Cathy, Patrick, and I decided we wanted to go the Harbour one last time. We caught the bus to Circular Quay (pronounced key) and walked around a while. We saw the Opera House lit up at night, the Sydney Harbour bridge, and a lot of neat artwork. (They had sculptures all around the city, and when we couldn’t find one to take our picture in front of, we made our own art. It was silly but lots of fun.) We finally decided we had enough, stopped to get some ice cream and drinks and caught the bus back to the hotel. Now we are frantically trying to cram all of our stuff into our suitcases in order to come home. (It’s not working so well…..)

Please continue to pray for our safe return. We can’t wait to see you and tell you all of our fun stories! Lots of love…..

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Taronga Zoo

Good Morning ! We started our day out by getting up early and getting ready for the zoo! We took our friend, the 333 bus, and were on our way. The bus got stopped by a police brigade that was blocking the street. This was really odd since we hadn't seen a single accident, etc all trip. Then, as were waiting to go, we saw it! The police presence was huge because they were leading the Pope's motorcade! The first three white Mercedes were full of cardinals and support staff, and then came the black limo/van! How do we continue to luck out with the Pope sightings?! (Thanks Holy Spirit!)

The ferry ride cost $4.20 for a one way trip across the Harbour to the Taronga Zoo dock. It was a short trip, but lots and lots of fun. The views were gorgeous from the ferry and we got a lot of great pictures of the city! (I can't wait to get home and go boating!) At the boat dock, we took a bus up the hill to the gates. We wanted to ride the Sky Cam, but because it was so windy, they closed it. (I don't think this upset Mary Jo very much. jk)

We walked all around the zoo and saw a lot of animals native to Australia. We passed out a lot of leftover swaps to the kids there on 'holiday'. It was fun until Eric got accosted by 30 kids at once.

We stopped at the Taronga Food Market for lunch~although a lot of the teens packed peanut butter and jelly from breakfast. We rested our feet for a few minutes (Why are all the zoos on hills?) and we were off again. We saw a really cute seal show and watched them feed the koala's. (The keeper told us that basically Koalas do three things: eat, sleep, and breed.) They are very cute, but kind of stinky. (They only eat Eucalyptus leaves, so they tend to smell like Vic's Vapor Rub. jk) We were disappointed that it is illegal to hold or pet Koalas in New South Wales, so we took a big group picture next to a stuffed one. (Silly, but great fun!) At the end of the day, we walked to the wharf to catch the ferry back to the city, along with about 400 other people. The crush to get on the ferries was kind of scary. I kept having visions of someone going overboard. Thankfully that didn't happen and we got back safely.

At the bus stop, three different buses passed us that we could have gotten on to get back to the hotel. Poor Patrick was starting to get a complex because they weren't stopping for him. One of them finally did, and away we went again. A very nice English man sat next to me on the bus and talked about what it was like to move to Sydney on his work visa. He had only been here for around 7 months, but loves it! He asked about my family, and if we were homesick yet. He was really sweet. When he was getting off the bus, he shook my hand, asked my name, and then said, "I'm Hans. It was nice to meet you." We got off at the next stop, and I had to run to tell the girls. You see, they had made up my foreign soul mate and that was his name. It was to funny!

We split up at the bus stop and all went to get some dinner. Andrew, Cathy, Christine, Emily, and I went down to a restaurant called Bondi Fresh. It was yummy pasta. . . .until Emily ruined it by telling me it was lamb meat. (Jk, Em!) Now most of the teens are playing cards and hanging out in the lobby, while Erich and I are trying to get the game plan down for tomorrow! We are going to try and see the inside of the Opera House, get some shopping time in, and let them swim on the beach. We'll see what happens.

I am excited that we have had another great day. I've been thinking about the past week, and how much we have relied on Saint Anthony. At some point, we have left plane tickets and a passport on the plane, a book bag on the ferry, lost a wallet, lost a camera bag, and lost a credit card. Every single thing we lost/misplaced was found after prayers. (I bet St. Anthony will be thrilled when we get back home. hehe)

We miss and love you all lots and lots. See you in a couple of days!
P.S. Matt, Did you find the checkbook? We are all dying to be in the know. hehe
The outside of the Taronga Zoo. We took the ferry there this morning and spent the day there.

You can't come to Australia and not see a kangaroo!!!

We watched the seal show - it was a "trial run" for one of the new seals Micah. It remembered all but one of the tricks and was very enjoyable.

We got to see the Koala's get fed. It was amazing to see them active on the trees (they are sooo cute)

This one is just for you, Taylor :)
For those who don't know, this is a meerkat (Timon from the Lion King). They were a favorite of most of our group and we could have watched them for hours.

This is our great looking group at the Zoo. We know that you all love to see our faces every once in a while :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thinking of you Dad. :)
Brandon and Patrick giving away swaps to the Bishops as they walked by.


Hi Gang! I finally got some of the earlier pictures to post also, but you have to go back to July 16th on the blog to see them. (Not sure why, but at least they are there!) Have a great night!
This is a powerful shot of the stations - definately worth the cold night to witness it.

This is a view of the Sydney Opera House from the bridge as we crossed on our pilgrimage walk

Sydney has NEVER closed this bridge down before, so we felt privileged that they closed it down for us (and 300,000 other pilgrims) to walk across.

This is some of our gang settling in for the overnight Vigil. The sun was down but the temperature hadn't really plummeted (yet). It got VERY cold overnight so not much sleep was had and bad hot chocolate was a premium just to keep your hands warm.

Somehow we managed to luck into seats 15 feet away from the Pope TWICE!!!!. While we were a little disappointed at how fast he passed us at the Opera House, he drove around the track slowly before the closing mass and somehow we were only 15 feet away again. This is a much better picture than before.