Reflection

Funny…I write this post about arrival upon departure.  It’s a strange moment in which I find myself; literally suspended in time and space.  The sun just rose and turned the sky above the Great Barrier Reef delightful shades of pinks and oranges as we banked over fluffy clouds and watched the coastline of mountains and rainforests we’ve fallen in love with drift by–small enough as if as if to be inconsequential.

 

But, it was of great importance to four travelers.  Not tourists.  Travelers.  Whats the difference you ask?
We were dubbed travelers by folks here who appreciated our desire to immerse ourselves into the culture.  To be willing to stay out a few days in each location and do what the locals do.  To set aside familiarity and try new things.  We felt honored to be considered travelers.
And now all with an additional stamp in the passports.
This trip was a dream-come-true for yours truly some thirty-five years in the making.  And thanks to some gatherings of folks discussing turbo-prop engines, I found myself being allowed the chance to join my sweet man and bring along Justin and Kyrsten.
Addie, now happily married and busy tending her nest remained at home.  So strange to travel without her, but truly she was with us in our hearts as we all brought her with in a thousand moments of, “Addie would hate this.”. Or, “We have to find some signal in this jungle this morning to call and tell Addie goodnight!”
This trip was something we planned in advance as a needed reward for the four of us who survived The Summer of the Wedding.  And it got us through.
And then, all of a sudden it was time to pack our bags and venture into the unknown.
All that was known was that we were intimidated by the flight and looking forward to opening the giant package of surprises our God had in store for us.
And did He!
Our minds were blown.  Our hearts are full.  Our lives enriched by the sights–breathtaking moments above the jungle and beneath the ocean.  Our world expanded.
And once again, we find that no matter where you roam, people are very much the same.  All looking for hearts with which to find common ground and make a connection.
It’s a huge world.  And yet, so very small in the scope of things–when you measure it against the hands of the One Who created it for our pleasure.

30+ hours later…

I am writing from our last plane on the last leg on the last day of our trip. We began the journey home in Australia on Saturday, the 17th and it will end some 30 hours later on Saturday the 17th.  We’ve come back to the future!
I can hardly describe the exhaustion.

 

We have each cat-napped between an hour or two in the last 30+ hours.  We have gone through customs at each stop.  We checked our bags at each stop.  We went through security each time.
These things all mean we have hauled heavy bags around airports and waited in RIDICULOUS lines at each stop.  We faced strict, serious questioning and scary scanners.
We have no idea what time it is or what meal to eat when.  I think we all had sandwiches and salads at 8:00 am in California.
It is evening here.  The sun has gone down and appropriately so at the closing of this epic adventure.
Christmas wreaths and music fill the airports here.
We are still scratching bug bites.
Within the hour we will land in Detroit–back in the mitten–sleep for the “night” and get up early to drive to see our Addie and Austin and their kitty Lulu.  Most assuredly, this momma will weep with joy to see my married girl.
I can’t wait to give her the little trinkets I picked up all over the land down under.  And to get all of that chocolate out of my suitcase!!
On our way home, I will be buying the turkey to begin preparations for a Thanksgiving meal in four short days and the day following we get our Christmas tree!
Addie is making us dinner and bringing us supplies tomorrow, and we will spend the day catching each other up on the two worlds we’ve each been living in.
One quite real.  The other most certainly a dream.
As we drove down the coastline (yesterday was it?) with the iPod on random one of our old favorite worship songs came on.
I grabbed Christian’s hand and we both cried tears of joy as we reveled in the love of our Father.  The One Who is so big that He holds the oceans in His hand.
He did this, and all the other things He does, just because we’re His kids and He loves us.  Just to make us happy.  We stand amazed.  And grateful beyond any words I could ever type.
There’s truly nothing my God cannot do…

 

Farewell…and a surprise

It was a gloomy breaky to be sure.  All of us had the end-of-the-trip blues.

We’ve taken enough trips together to see it coming, however, and put some speed bumps in place.
But before I tell you about the end, I have to go back to the beginning.  At the beginning of our trip, knowing there could possibly be a slight chance of crabbiness through the grueling days of flights, we had made a deal.  Whoever got called out for being crabby would have to eat a spoonful of Vegamite.
No one did.  We did try some on toast.  Most of us found it disgusting beyond words.  It is sooo salty and bitter.  What we learned is that from a very early age, Aussie children eat sandwiches made of cheese and Vegamite the eay we eat peanut butter and jelly.  It is supposedly very high in Vitamin B and the theory is that after all those years of high doses of B the mossies no longer like the Aussies.
Believe me,  if I thought I could consume enough of that nasty stuff to avoid looking and feeling like I have the chicken pox, I would have eaten it by the gallon.  But apparently, it takes more time.  I asked.
So, on our return, our deal is this.  Whoever gets crabby on the return ridiculousness home gets assigned to cat chore duty the whole first week home.
But that morning, we all were more than a bit down in the mouth.  At breakfast we just looked at each other trying to muster up not only the energy to go home, but adding to it the knowledge of the dreaded travel time.
My husband (gosh, I love that guy) suddenly announced that we were under-budget for our trip.
We weren’t sure what that meant, but we felt good about it because the kids and I had eaten several meals in at the beginning of the trip to save on costs and I had used coupons and done my research to get us the very best deals possible.
By the way, food costs here are beyond ridiculous.  We learned that though food and clothes are extremely high-priced, wages are higher here to compensate.
That didn’t help our food budget any.
But the good news is, we had not come up short.  On previous trips I swear we made it home on our last dollar.  Kinda scary when you are on the other side of the world!
So, get to the point, Alison.
“We are under budget, guys!” he said with a smile.  “I am going to go call our snorkeling guys and see if they have four seats available this afternoon.  If they do, we’ll go one more time.  If they don’t, we move on.”
Our jaws hit the floor. Our hopes soared.  We tried to hear his phone call at the desk.
The best news ever.  We were in.
We packed in record time, happily drove two hours back down the coastline, ate some lunch and made it onto the boat.
The company we chose, we chose for three reasons.  One, they get us out to a fantastic snorkeling spot in fifteen short minutes.  Everyone else is a half or full day trip.  Too many times, too many places, we have been stuck on a long boat ride back from somewhere with that guy or that gal.  You know the ones.  The ones who talk or complain loudly THE ENTIRE TIME!  Seriously, that alone made us want a quick boat ride.
Two, quality. These guys get fantastic reviews on Tripadvisor–my travel planning scoop.
Three, cost.  Since it wasn’t a half or full day trip, the price (plus a coupon) was great.
So when our guide saw us again, he was happy, and in return he made us very happy by letting us “repeat offenders” skip his usual instruction spiel and get our own equipment ready and jump into the water well ahead of everyone else which meant 15-20 extra minutes in the water.
He also knew that my wish to see a sea turtle had gone unfulfilled on the first trip.  He made huge efforts to go look for sea turtles and point us in their direction.
And he did it.  And we saw them.  And it was magical.
I’m swimming along and I look up and Rob says, “Over there!” and I get so excited that I start swimming with every thing I’ve got.  I’m swimming so hard that I’m quickly out of breath and energy and making silly mistakes and taking in water–sputter, cough!
And then I see him.  Gliding along down about three feet and I dive down and reach my hand out and he looks back at me with his big, soulful eyes and pushes ahead just out of my reach.  And, though my heart is pounding out of my chest and I’m laughing aloud through my snorkel, I flip my flippers even harder and put my hand on his shell and we swim!!
I quickly came up and hollered for my family who all swam over and began having their own swim time–Justin and I with one and Kyrsten and Christian with another.
I have no words beyond that.
God allowed yet another of my dreams to come true.
We swam on.  This time feeling much more comfortable in the water.  We all dove down as far as our ears would allow us to see bright blue starfish and swim with schools of fluorescent fellas.
Justin came up to tell me he had just spent several minutes following (and videotaping) a 4ft. white-tip shark.
We saved that information for Kyrsten until after we got out of the water. :o)
By the time our time was up, we were pretty pooped, and we felt like we had done that as much as we could.  We all had perma-grin for the rest of the day and somehow felt more ready to fly home now.  As ready as we could be.
We drove another hour to Cairns to the Palm Royale–the hotel at which we began our trip, did some laundry, ordered some pizza, and headed to bed by 8:00.
That 2:00am alarm was going to feel rotten no matter how we sliced it.