Monday, January 30, 2012

Jan 29-31 FIJI

We got up super early (5:30am... we are on holidays so that is really early to us) to leave for the airport. Still a little rainy. Got everything into the suitcases and they are bulging with goodies and memories. Have had such a great time. Refreshing and relaxing. My heart is full after good times with family. I am reminded how much I love and appreciate each one of them and reminded where I came from and who I am. 
Stopped by Mum’s house for a last kiss and hug and then 2.5hrs to the airport. 
At the airport we were met by my Dad, Marissa, Mark, my brother Joni, Penny, Helena and Baby Evie. All come to say good-bye. We had some time together before we headed through security and onto the plane. About a 3 hr flight and we were in Fiji. 
We landed in Fiji about 5pm on Sunday 29th. Caught a taxi to our hotel. First Landing Resort, 25 minutes north of Nadi. Checked into our sea side buree and went to get our welcome drinks (fruit juice). Very nice with perfect ocean views. Of course we were straight off the pool after that. 
Started raining heavily overnight and hasn’t really stopped since. Not so bad, it’s warm and when you swim you get wet anyway. Explored the nearby Marina and counted tropical fish and crabs. Have had some fresh coconuts cut down from the tree for us. Met some lovely Australians holidaying here so we are staying entertained. 
We leave tonight (Tue 31st) to fly back to Phoenix AZ to stay with Rob’s parents for a little while before heading back up to IL to pack the house up and get ready to move. More adventures to come along the way. 

Drinking coconut milk from a coconut.
 Delicious dinner complete with flower.

Went into Fiji to do some shopping. Cooper found a cool chair but we couldn't fit it in our suitcase.
The store that has everything.

Jan 26th- Australia day.

A lot of the next week was spent in Kingaroy relaxing and watching the Cricket and tennis on TV.  It was overcast and cooler (still 85-90oF) and rainy pretty much the entire week.  
We celebrated Australia Day on the 26th of Jan.  I asked everyone why they celebrate it on the 26th like did something significant happen on that day or something?  Nobody knew the answer except Robyn.  Interesting I thought, we mostly know that July 4th was the day we signed the Declaration of Independence from England.  It is as Robyn informed us the day Sydney was founded, the first White settlement in Australia. Anyway we went down and saw the whip cracking demonstration, Lamington eating contest, and Cane Toad races.  Got there to late to bid on a Cane Toad to enter into the competition. I also included various pictures of interesting and curious sites to me in this little Aussie town.

Afterwards we headed back to Ruth's for a family BBQ, Later in the afternoon we had a little surprise birthday party for Cooper and a cake for Robyn (birthdays are in February). Watching tennis and hanging out. Wanted to play cricket in the park but the weather was drizzly and too wet. 
 Cane Toads are in the can ready to be released. 

 Cooper's Aussie birthday party. 

 Happy Australia Day!!!

January 21-22

We left Melbourne on Friday 20th and travelled quickly back to Queensland.

The second day of driving (21st) we stopped for lunch in Parkes, NSW.  This was where the Radio Telescope Dish is located that was featured in the movie “The Dish” with Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame.  This was neat to see.  During NASA’s missions to the moon there were periods of time the lunar vehicles and spacecraft were crossing over the southern hemisphere and this was their only communication with earth.  It’s good to have allies on the other side of the earth.
Internet connection is very slow so I'll post more pictures later on this. But here is one!!!!
Arrived back at Ruth;s house in Kingaroy on Sunday mid afternoon. Ready to do some laundry. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

January 20th

January 19th

We dropped the boys off at the Hart’s in the morning and took the train downtown again.  The Brewerton’s went to the markets and we went to the famous MCG ( Melbourne Cricket Ground ) and took a tour of the facilities and learned some of the history of it all.  I talked the guy into giving us a 20% discount on our tickets.  This was fun and I learned that if I got on the waiting list today I might get an invitation to join the Melbourne Cricket Club in 20 years.  We then went over to the tennis right across the street.  We again scored a free ticket from someone leaving for Rod Laver arena.  Got to see Serena, Djokavic win handily in there.  Had a nice day.  Watched the Bryan brothers play doubles.  I guess it’s our tradition to watch them now at Grand Slam events since we also saw them play at Wimbledon.  One disappointment was that we got here too early to see any of the legends matches.  We really enjoyed that at Wimbledon.  In the evening the Brewerton’s had to leave to meet up with some rellies and so Robyn and I left the tennis went back across the street to the MCG to watch the Big Bash or 20/20 cricket.  I got to see my first ever cricket match and at the MCG.  Too bad it was soo cold that even with jackets on we left after the 1st innings because we were freezing.  Bizarre, it’s the middle of summer here and yesterday people at the tennis were succumbing to heat stroke?! just across the street.  Anyway it fun to say we’ve done it.  As far as entertainmentwise, going to a Riverbandits game is one heck of a lot more fun.
 Doubles sensation Bob and Mike Bryan in action at the Australian Open.
Rob and his buddy Pat Rafter.  I was told that wearing this shirt and going into an Australian cricket ground could get you in hot water.  Luckily it did not as I donned my recently acquired OZ Open jacket to wear to the cricket.
MCG and the Big Bash.  Shane Warne bowls for the Melbourne Stars in Green. 
Interestingly this stadium was also the main stadium for the opening ceremonies, etc. at the 1956 Olympiad although it is much older than that the Melbourne Cricket Club was founded in 1838.

January 18th

We had a late night last night getting back from the tennis.  Daniel seemed to survive the boys and they were actually in bed when we got home.  We didn’t get an early start but we did head off to go see the downtown.  After much debate we decided to  take the train downtown.  We took the free tourist bus around to the MCG, had a look around and then went to Fitzroy Park and Captain Cook’s cottage.  That was a lot to see in the small time we had but it was good because we got our bearings for what was there and what else we might want to do.
 Captain Cook’s cottage in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne.
Captain Cook and friends?  Hope Tucker doesn’t mind being the girl of the family just for a day.

 Yeah, finally here comes our trolley!
John Deere tractor as art. 

We did have to leave though because we were going to meet some relatives that I still had not met yet.  Uncle Wes and Paula Nalder,(Ivan’s brother) and their daughter and granddaughter’s.  We went out to a restaurant that one of the girl’s was working at.  Good food and really nice people.  I enjoyed talking with Wes.  He still plays tennis in his 70’s and had lots of interesting stories about his road rally racing days.  He did one from London to Australia, they drove straight through from London to the southern tip of India and I liked his description of driving across Iran and all the cars blowing up in 120 degree heat.  Nice to finally put a face with the names. 
 Blue tongue Ice cream.

 Robyn Scranton and her Aunt Paula Nalder
 The family get together at Tulky’s.

January 17th

I got up really early and walked to McDonald’s for breakfast and a coffee and to use the internet.  It’s about the only way I’ve found to use the internet consistently and it is still highly unreliable.  After a lot of frustration I was able to upload about 2 pages in the amount of time I normally could do 10.  Not a complaint but a comment, but Australia is about 6-7 years behind the US in access, speed and reliability of it’s internet capability.  It is I think a huge roadblock to economic growth and increased productivity.  I met everyone else at about 10:30 for some bowling.  I think the boys had limited enjoyment out of this. I started with an 85 then went to 140 and 166.  Fast learner I guess in 45 minutes.  We made some lunch and then I really wanted to go to the Australian Open tennis tourney earlier than our night match tickets because local phenom Madison Keys originally of Rock Island was playing that afternoon in the first round.  
They dropped me at the train station to find my way downtown and the rest of them went to visit Granny Thodey.  I arrived at the tennis tournament and started asking questions to one of the workers about the different tickets and how to get in , where to go etc. and  a guy said look I can’t stay around to watch Roddick you can have my ticket to the Hisense arena.  It was a $50 ticket and since I had that I didn’t even have to pay to get in the gate.  I sat there and watched Andy Murray and then Roddick’s match I was in the 3rd row right behind Roddick’s coach Larry Stefanke and his wife Brooke Burke.  It was weird I kept thinking that Andy was looking right at me after every point but realized that he was looking at them.  I got to see Nadal practice and Roger as well.  Robyn, Ruth, and Elray had taken off after leaving the boys in the hands of Daniel Hart and made it down to the night session.  I met up with them and we went over to watch Madison Keys.  Poor Madison after being 2-2 I don’t think she won another game.  I was really hot that night  and stifling inside Rod Laver arena where we watched the Hewitt match.  Late night getting home but I hate to say it, really nice to have a evening out without the boys.
PBA tour here we come. Tucker and Cooper Scranton
Rob (self portrait ) watching his mate Andy Murray and Ryan Harrison 
Rafa Nadal goes through a practice session.

Roger Federer also likes to practice.

 Australian teen phenomenon Bernard Tomic after his 5 set first round match still practices.  He beat 3 top 20 players in the week before this tournament so we’ll see how he goes.
Robyn was asking why does Andy Roddick kept starring up at me after every point?! oh wait that’s his coach Larry in the bottom right corner of the frame and Andy's wife is sitting next to him. Maybe he's not staring at me. Whew!
 Madison Keys originally from Rock Island, IL loses in the first round
Robyn and Rob Scranton enjoying some tennis.  Isn’t  she beautiful! (Not attractive photo but proves we were there)

 Ana Ivanovic working on her form.
Lleyton Hewitt in first round action, Rod Laver arena.

January 16th

We finally arrived in Melbourne last night finally.  We are staying at some longtime friends of the Nalder family through the Wesleyan church.  He is a pastor to the pastors and they are away for about 2 months and said we could stay there while we are in Melbourne.  Thank you Lord.  What a blessing to have all that space.  The MacLachlan’s are very nice people.  We all slept in after our long drive and leisurely went over to Monash Gardens to visit Granny Thodey and have lunch with her.  It was Tucker's first meeting with his Great-Granny. The girls did a little shopping and we then went over to Maurie Conry’s house (Robyn's Uncle) in the evening for a barbecue with the family.   We got to meet Mauries new wife, Jenny and the Hart’s joined us as well. Kids had fun playing with the older second cousins. Sorted out plans to attend the Australian Open Tennis and after a wonderful evening we took the tired children and ourselves back to bed.

January 15th

We continue our journey of chance and destiny down to Melbourne to see the tennis tournament.  We stopped at a town called Gundagai to get a drink, buy some gas, and snap some photos with our Tucker.  There is a famous Australian poem called Dog on the Tucker Box that was set in this town, so we had to stop.  We stopped in a town called Holbrooke named after a British WW I submarine hero.  Therefore they have a submarine buried in the middle of the town hours from any water.   We had lunch and took some pictures.  We also stopped in Glenrowan the town of the famous last stand of Ned Kelly and his gang, the infamous bushranger of Australia.  Kind of the Jesse James of Australia.  They a well known for doning suits of iron hammered out of ploughs in their famous last battle.  There was a very good movie made about it starring the late Heath Ledger if you want to check it out you Netflixers.
Here it is Gundagai!  I can’t wait.

Tucker as usual very dedicated to his yoga, Rob blogging, Robyn supervising both.
Which way do we go to the dog on the Tuckerbox.
 Ok you non-Aussies here ya go, I had to ask too.  Tucker is a word for food, so tuckerbox is like a lunchbox.
Tucker in his appropriate “Me so Hungry!” t-shirt contemplating having himself one of them Tuckerbox Burgers!
And now for something completely unexpected, a submarine buried in the ground in the middle of Australia. 

Ned Kelly casts a large shadow in Glenrowan over Cooper, Aaron, and Tucker.

January 14th

We got up with lots to do.  See an entire capital city in one day is a tall order in any developed country.  We went off to see the the Parliament House and took a tour of the Senate and the House of Representatives, modeled somewhat on the USA example but with a parliamentary system and Prime Minister like the U.K. instead of a directly  elected President like the US.  After being to Washington D.C. even pre 9/11 was a bit surprised at the seeming lack of security and that we were able to get into these areas with no background checks or even I.D. checks.  Metal detectors was about it.  After this we went over to the Australian War Memorial to have a look around.  We bumped into a tour guide who was very good and passionate.  He went around to various things and told story after story and was just fascinating.  This was not just a memorial but also a war museum so I just soaked it up.  It was really fascinating seeing world events that I was well read on being explained through a different lens from a different part of the world.  If definitely affects our viewpoint and opinion.  The first world war seemed to have a very deep impact on the national psyche here much more so than in the USA based on the amount of space devoted to it versus the rest of the museum and WW II.   They were in it from the very beginning I suppose, as contrasted to the USA only really being involved in the last year.  They also made very liberal use of dioramas in the museum, which I found fantastic in their scale and detail but very unusual.
As we were having lunch Robyn checked her email and put 2 and 2 together that the suburb our motel was in had the same name as her friend Sharon lived in so we rang her up.  We were able to go over and pay a short visit and catch up.  They remembered me for being so fascinated 8 years ago that they actually had Koala bears in the trees in their backyard in Brisbane!
Picture of the House of Representatives.  The green is the color of the Gum tree leaves of Australia.
 The Senate at the Houses of Parliament.  The pink being the color of the gum trees flowers.
Robyn, Tucker, Cooper & Rob Scranton in the Senate chamber at the Houses of Parliament pleading with the government to repeal the carbon tax.
 Elray, Ruth, Aaron Brewerton Robyn, Cooper, Tucker, Rob  Scranton on top of the Houses of Parliament.  Bottom of hill (white bldg.) old house of parliament, in the background shadowed by the mountain is the War Memorial. 

 Eternal flame pool at the War Memorial. Throwing coins into the water.
On these walls are the names of every Australian service member every killed in combat.  The poppies tucked into them are put up as a remembrance by family members.  Poppies were plentiful in the fields of Europe in WW I where so many died.  
Let’s see from left to right it looks like from their headgear we’ve got a frenchman, german, and an aussie.
There is Tucker dressed in his diggers (what OZ Infantrymen are known as) floppy hat with Emu feather for decoration.

Robyn with her friend Sharon Tree.