Our time in Australia was marked by the generosity of our friends and their parents. We arrived in Perth and returned to the English-speaking world. To be fair, we spoke quite a bit of English in Indonesia, as most Indonesians spoke some English to interact with tourists. But we did our best to speak a little Indonesian, to respect the culture we were visiting.
Anyway, we hopped off the plane and entered into the generosity of our friend's parents. We were blessed to have been afforded some accommodation at their home, and quickly realized that their generosity went far beyond that. They cooked us meals, became our informal tour guides of the sights, drove us around and catered to our needs and desires, spent hours after dinner in discussion with us about anything and everything, and didn't let us spend much money at all. We felt a little guilty and a little overwhelmed by the hospitality, but accepted it as graciously as possible - once we realized that was going to be the way it was!
We were able to experience a real Australian summer day - with 104 degree heat, but so much less humidity than Thailand. It did limit our sight-seeing for an afternoon, but oh darn - we had to spend some time in the pool. Highlights of the sights in Perth and the surrounding area were:
- the Fremantle Prison tour and learning a little of its history,
- watching a movie at an outdoor cinema (our first time 'out to the movies' in a very long time),
- seeing the variety of Australian vegetation,
- and my personal favorite - a trip to Caversham Wildlife Park to interact with and observe all animals Australian: kangaroos, wombats, koalas, dingos, black swans, such a variety of birds, and more. I never realized that kangaroos use their tails like a fifth appendage for stability.
After a few days, we found ourselves on a plane again - this time to Melbourne. We were welcomed by our dear friends, Brett and Kat. Oh, and their feline friend, Kibby. We had a lovely balance of touring the sights in Melbourne, with road trips to local sights - like the Great Ocean Road and its 12 apostles: a stunning piece of coastal land with limestone rock cliffs dropping off into the Southern Ocean. Although my personal favorite were a few spots off the beaten path.
Our friends took a long weekend trip with us to Wilsons Promontory, and we were able to explore a different section of the coast, including Mt. Oberon and its beautiful views. We stayed at a delightful farm-side cottage, and got to experience a taste of the expansive Australian countryside.
Thanks to John's dutiful research, we found lots of free sights in Melbourne. We did a ton of walking! Including a couple of eight- or even eleven-kilometer walks along the coast. We saw many free art exhibits, including some Aboriginal artwork and learning more about Australia's indigenous people. We enjoyed a free walking tour and learned of the infamous Ned Kelly.
And we got to continue our ease into the English-speaking world, with our dear friends - talking and sharing about things on both a small and large scale. We are so lucky and grateful to have such great friends and family all across the world.
As our travel end date looms in the near future (and has now passed since I first composed this), I am simultaneously excited and nervous about returning to the states. We have so enjoyed our travels - even its trials - and it will be hard to return to 'normal' life. But I don't know what 'normal' will look like anymore, and I hope that it won't look exactly like our life did before we left. Because I want to encompass and incorporate more into my life. I hope I retain much of what I learned in Thailand:
- about treating people with decency and kindness,
- asking questions and trying to understand the complexity of each person's situation,
- and to live with love, as GSV asked us to consider doing: "It is not enough that you love them, they must know that you love them."
In the inevitable difficulty of returning to our home country and all that transition entails, I hope we remember to share our love with others - and to be gentle with ourselves and others.
Post-script: We have since arrived home safely in the Midwest. More updates on our adjustment to American life once again in future blogs.