31 October, 2014

Spring in Brisbane

This is our street
As you might have inferred from this post about summer earlier this week, spring in Brisbane is also quite different to Tokyo. For starters, its quite warm. This week it's been over 30 degrees Celsius every day.

But the signs of spring, an Australian spring, are still around.

They are lovely shade trees too, once they have their leaves.
The most striking, in Brisbane, is the purple Jacaranda tree. It isn't a native Australian tree, but there are plenty around and they are gorgeous. Beautiful in a similar way to the Sakura or Japanese cherry blossoms. They gain their purple flowers in spring (October/November) before their leaves come in.

Just as I love being surprised in Japan by the subtle pink flowered tree in random places around the city, it is the same with the Jacarandas. This is their time of the year to shine. Even better than sakura, they flower for longer than just a few days, several week. They also carpet the ground with their fallen flowers.

It is a common story at uni that if you haven't begun to study for your year-end exams by the time the jacaranda are blooming, you're in trouble.
I took this from the overpass at our local train station. I just love how
the trees stand out in spring. (Sorry, dodgy Smart Phone photo.)

That's our driveway.
Australian Silky Oak in our neighbours yard.

The Australian Silky Oak leaves when
they've dried up on our driveway.

The tree I wasn't so familiar with the name of is (I think) the Australian Silky Oak, part of the Grevillea family. I'm familiar with its leaves, they drop everywhere and make an awful mess. But I wasn't aware that they flowered beautifully in the spring, with orange flowers.

I never was a gardening-kind of person. Despite growing up with a mum who loved her garden. However, moving between countries has heightened my appreciation of the different flora in different countries. Spring is much more subtle in Australia because most of the trees are evergreens. But if you've eyes to notice, the signs are there.

30 October, 2014

Amazing underworld river system in Tokyo

 "[Tokyo] is a geologically challenging place to build a megacity - a flat floodplain of soft, alluvial soil, in a monsoonal climate with frequent typhoons, on active earthquake and volcanic belt."
This is not too far from the underground cavern.
I've no idea of how far it extends.
"Few capital cities have been shaped by water as much as Tokyo. Its densely populated suburbs are criss-crossed by rivers and canals."
I saw a video video this week that gives an unusual glimpse of Tokyo, the place I've lived for eight of the last nine years. another part of this network of underground caverns has been built near where we live. We ride over it at least once a week, you wouldn't know it was there.

29 October, 2014

Unexpected challenges of missionary life

I've read a great blog post here this morning by a missionary in Africa. His first three points particularly resonate with me:

1. Raising third culture children is difficult.
"I can’t judge childhood success or failure by the American parameters which informed my own childhood."
Walking recently with our hosts in Perth. That
is my eldest son giving a shoulder-ride. (Not
my husband!)
That I find hard too. When facing parenting challenges I don't know what to do about or feeling a bit insecure, I have a tendency to think, "What did my mum do?" or "What do other Australian mums do?" But this often isn't helpful thinking, because the circumstances in which we're raising our kids is different. It can get worse easily from there when I start to negatively compare myself to how I perceive other mums in Australia do/did parenting. 

2. Furloughs (aka home assignments) are hard. 

Well, if you've been reading this blog over the last few months that should be obvious. The blogger makes the point that the more children you have the more complicated furloughs are. That, I would agree with without question and is one reason we stopped at three. I would add there that home assignments are also expensive, every time we fly with everyone it costs a lot, so frequent trips back to Australia aren't possible.

His children are all younger than ours, but under the first point he said that being a TCK has made his oldest child really good at making new friendships. I think that that ability is partly attributable to personality, not just the circumstances in which they are growing up, as it hasn't worked that way for my two eldest children!

3. Downward mobility
"Our earthly belongings in the States mostly include my theological books and my wife’s pictures and memory boxes."
Us too, although we've gathered the contents of a kitchen and a few other bits and pieces including a bed, a dining room table, and a lounge.

Downward mobility is something I've been thinking about too. We live comfortably, no complaints. But we do have to watch our budget. We don't own any property and sometimes I wish we did (without the mortgage and challenge of maintaining it). 

Sometimes it is hard while we're in Australia, to keep our eyes on the goal and not get distracted by the seemingly free-spending Australians. Not to think about where we might have been if we'd stayed here and moved along in our professions.
"Like many things connected to the missionary movement, there is a tinge of romanticism in being labeled a “global nomad”. Yet living a nomadic existence with children, at times, is more like a dark comedy than a romantic fun-filled adventure. Especially on long plane rides."

In conclusion, he's given us some good thoughts, though not as well written as I might have liked. Oh, but that's the editor/writer in me! I could also add many more points to the topic. But I'll save them for another day.

28 October, 2014

What is summer?

I'm sitting in air conditioning. Yesterday it reached 40 degrees Celsius here and today was forecast to be the similar. When I rode to school with the boys this morning it was about 34 degrees.

This is spring in Brisbane. Sometimes people I meet in Japan ask about the climate where we come from. "About five months of summer," often shocks people.  Tokyo's summer isn't as long, but it is terribly hot and humid, even at night.

The heat in Tokyo ramps up at the beginning of July and sticks around, generally until sometime in September. Compared to Brisbane, where we're getting already 40+C temperatures in October and could be getting them until March, Tokyo has a short summer!  But it's brutal. Some of that is because with 30 million people occupying the Kanto plain, an urban heat island has been created.
An urban heat island (UHI) is a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areasdue to human activities. The phenomenon was first investigated and described by Luke Howard in the 1810s, although he was not the one to name the phenomenon.[1] The temperature difference usually is larger at night than during the day, and is most apparent when winds are weak. UHI is most noticeable during the summer and winter. The main cause of the urban heat island effect is from the modification of land surfaces, which use materials that effectively store short-wave radiation. (From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_heat_island.)
In Tokyo, average maximums exceed 25 degrees for only four months of the year (June to September). In Ipswich (just west of Brisbane, where we're living this year), average maximum temperatures exceed 25 degrees eight months of the year! 

But the real killers in Tokyo are the humidity and night-time temperatures. Humidity in Tokyo sits at around 70% throughout summer. Night temperatures in July and August average 23-24.5C. Average night temperatures in Ipswich never make it above 20 and the humidity stays around 43-54%.

The other thing that isn't so easily reflected in statistics is that Toyko's heat, when it comes, tends to stick around at a high level, like a two-month heat wave. Brisbane/Ipswich's heat tends to come in shorter waves. So a few super hot days will be generally be followed with some cooler ones.

A while ago I mentioned on FB that I prefer a Brisbane/Ipswich summer to a Tokyo one and someone suggested that I'd forgotten how brutal Ipswich summers can be. 

But I don't take either summers lightly. It is so easy to get dehydrated in Australia's dry heat. Tokyo's heat saps you tremendously, especially when you're not able to sleep in air conditioning.

I was going to write a post about spring in Australia, but with the temps what they are today, I think I'll just go and sit at the water cooler and wait until it feels more spring-like again!

27 October, 2014

Another worthwhile conference

I'm back in Ipswich again after a weekend down south in (periodically) chilly Victoria, one day it was 30C+ the next it was only 20C. 
The name tag that produced some
 interesting conversations

The weekend was a whirlwind of meeting people, explaining my name badge (you can see it to the right), and learning new things about writing and publishing.

But overall I'm amazed at how much I have learned about both writing and publishing without having the benefit of conferences and face-to-face time with published writers.

Beautiful campsite with plenty of Aussie bush.
A lot of that has to do with being in an internet critique group. They've taught me a lot!

I'm glad I made the effort to go. It wasn't a small effort either, the travel as usual was tiring. 

I'm going to be pondering all I've learnt in the weeks to come, but my early impressions are that the biggest thing I take away is relationships. I talked to a lot of people. Some of whom I found a good deal of common ground. 

For example:
Wonderful, healthy food, including this large bowl of fruit
that was always available. It rescued me when I missed
breakfast on Sunday having slept in.

  • A cross-cultural worker in China (returning on Thursday).
  • A former missionary to Nepal.
  • Women who spent some of their growing up years in Africa and PNG.
  • Ministry wives.
  • People from Toowoomba and Brisbane.
Some of these people I'll be staying in touch with. I'm anticipating that they'll be great resources to know on the ground in Australia.

In some ways I felt out of my depth, not having written and published a whole book, but no one made me feel inferior or like I wasn't quite there as an author. There was a great sense of mutual encouragement.

View of a portion of the lake and the main building that had
gorgeous views with full length windows.
I've decided that writers are great at asking questions. In this year of home assignment we often have to answer people's questions. I did a lot of that over the weekend and the vast majority of questions they asked were good ones, thoughtful ones!

I'm a little disappointed that many "workshops" weren't very workshoppy. We did very little writing, the hour-long presentations were mostly lecture style.

I haven't come away with heaps of ideas for future writing, either. But perhaps that will come as I ponder the plethora of information that I received over the weekend. My suitcase was more than 3kg heavier on the way home, we received lots of notes, free writer's magazines, some free books, and I bought three books too.

I haven't come away with a sudden desire to write a book. The general impression that I got (and that I already knew) was the writing a book is a long and painful process.

Here are the websites of a couple of the authors I met and connected well with:

Penny Reeve, children's author http://www.pennyreeve.com

Laura John, non-fiction writer http://www.laurajohnbooks.com

Overall it was worth attending. I suspect that I've learnt more than I can articulate. It would be great to be able to go again next year, but we'll be back in Japan.

23 October, 2014

Reluctant but excited

The pin indicates where I'm going. Car-train-plane-bus outlines
tomorrow's journey. Leaving at 7.30am and getting to the
conference eight hours later (with a couple of hrs wait at
the airport), I'm going to be travel weary...again.
Tomorrow I'm hopping back on an aeroplane. I'm actually not that keen to do that, but it isn't an overnight flight, thankfully. I'm just flying to Melbourne, about 2 1/2 hrs.

On the other hand, I am keen to go. I'm attending an Australian Christian Writers Conference for the weekend. As an Aussie who spends most of my time in Japan, I'm rather isolated from other writers in Australia, actually writers in the English-speaking world in general. 

I wonder if it will mostly be people who write or have written books who will go? There seems to be writers of books and then other writers. At this point in my life, I'm the latter, but quite happy to learn from the former.

Having organised, led, and taught at five small writers workshops in Japan it will be interesting to see what a larger event looks like. Perhaps I'll get some ideas.

What am I saying? I'm sure that I'm going to come home full to bursting with ideas. Many of which will probably lay dormant for months or years because now isn't the right time to activate them.

I hope that this will also be a good time of networking. Perhaps some further publishing opportunities will present themselves. I know that at events like this publishers are present and you are supposed to present them with book proposals. I have no such thing in the pipeline. But you still never know who you'll meet or opportunities you'll encounter when you put yourself into a situation like this.

So despite my reluctance to travel interstate again so soon, I'm bursting with anticipation to see what God is going to do with this weekend away.

22 October, 2014

Perplexing the People in Perth

We had many conversations in Western Australia. A couple of unexpected themes emerged early on. 

Length of Stay
People expected that we were staying in Western Australia for a greater length of time than eight days. A common question was, "So, how long are you here." This was confusing for me to start with, I always had to define "here": "Do you mean Australia or Western Australia?"
David with our two older boys enjoying a Perth park.

When I explored this expectation further with some people they confirmed that it is rare for missionaries to just drop in to Western Australia for a week or so. They usually come over only because they used to live there or have relatives there. Our visit was entirely on the edge of ordinary.

Boys at school
It seemed to catch people by surprise that our boys were at school in Queensland. I suspect most people assumed that we live a nomad lifestyle while on home assignment and home school our boys. When I explained that we had to keep our visit short because we'd taken our boys out of school people were confused.

Extensive deputation, no?
We often got asked "So where do you go next?" Again people were surprised to hear that we really only had two out-of state deputation trips, Western Australia and the ACT. We've kept our support team as streamlined as possible. No, we don't have 50 churches all across Australia to visit. Less than 20, I think, and most of them within a few hours of our base in Ipswich.

Is this just a Western Australia thing? Or do others think of home assignment as a time when missionaries are perpetual nomads, roaming the countryside and not stopping in any one place for very long? Would you assume that we were home schooling our boys while in Australia if you hadn't been reading this blog?

21 October, 2014

Finishing off our Western Australia trip

We're back in South east Queensland and gradually recovering from our trip. We arrived back at just after 5am yesterday and came straight home to sleep.

Sunday is a blur, as is Monday morning. Yesterday afternoon many of us felt that Monday morning was "yesterday", probably because we'd had a significant sleep in-between!

We visited All Nations Westminster Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning, speaking in the service and running Sunday school for the 8-12 year olds. My exhaustion was obvious (to us) when I stood in front of the 100+ people and had trouble putting together coherent sentences. Afterwards as usual, we talked to a lot of people, including: 

  • a Peruvian lady who was intrigued by our youngest son's "Peru" soccer shirt. The shirt was given to him by my parents who went to Peru to visit a missionary from their church. She was even more interested in the fact that there was an Australian missionary working in "the boonies" in Peru.
  • some Queenslanders who were on holidays and usually attend the church of good friends of ours. We were last at the same church as this couple when they were cooking for a Wycliffe conference on Mount Tamborine. But we didn't meet them at that time, as is common they knew who we were because we spoke up front at the church. 
  • some YWAM workers who know one of our YWAM friends in Tokyo, whose son is our eldest's best friend
  • a Singaporean whose teenage brother is a TCK (she is too, but only moved after she was 15, so isn't so profoundly effected). Singaporean, but Brazilian inside, then moved back to Singapore.
  • an Australian (adult TCK who grew up in the Middle East) and his German wife who are missionaries in Jordan.
Now that is what I call an interesting bunch of people. A very international church indeed!

We had lunch afterwards with our hosts (ethnic Chinese, but spent most of their lives in Australia), a Filipina who's also a long-term Australian resident as well as a long-time prayer supporter and advocate for us in this church, the above mentioned missionaries to Jordan and some others I don't know who are mission-committee members. It is such a blessings to have been supported by this internationally flavoured church for more than 14 years now.

We rested for an hour after the late lunch and then headed off (sans boys) to another church that has supported us in the past. We weren't speakers this time and it was strange to be there without a defined role. Though we'd told someone we were coming, no one appeared to be expecting us and indeed only one person sort-of recognised us. Not being there in an official capacity was a bit odd, but being at church without the boys was even more odd. We can't actually remember when we last did that.
This super little car got us around Perth and surrounds.
I wish we'd managed to get further out of Perth than we
did, but it turns out I was way too ambitious!

Our plan had been to go from church to the airport for our 10.30pm flight, but church finished early. So we headed for the nearest cafe that we could find open on a Sunday night (that part of Perth was very sleepy): McCafe. We sat there for an hour reading the newspapers, then headed to the airport, which was hopping! Our host brought the boys. He also brought an extra driver to take back the car we'd been lent for the week.

The flight was an hour shorter than our flight over, I think that is because the jet stream flows from west to east? In any case, I must have drifted off to an uneasy sleep for some of the trip because the time went very quickly. There was only one baby on the flight and no toddlers, from what I could see. The baby was the row in front of us and was very good until about 4.30am when he screamed and screamed.

We landed a bit after 5am and hurried home as quickly as we could. David and I crashed at about 7 and I slept for four hours. Then I got up, had a "catch" lunch with everyone and headed out for groceries. Caffeine got me through the afternoon and evening. 

It was a wrestling training/gym night, so we didn't get home until about 7.30, but hurried to bed as fast as our one-bathroom allowed us to. It's getting a bit old now, we've pushed the boys through showers after coming home late too many times this last week. I'm happy to be home and looking forward to a more day-time focused schedule.

This morning I rode to school with the guys, but when I got home I felt so tired. I ended up snoozing for a bit and then reading in bed till lunch-time. Yes, this last week has taken its toll on me. Three midnight nights in four days is too many for this girl.

19 October, 2014

Aquarium and new friends

Western Australia is a huge state, the second
largest country subdivision in the world.
 Population 2.5 million, 1.7 of which live in 
the capital Perth. Texas is big, but five of 
Australia's states or territories (total of seven) 
are bigger.
Today we had an At Home morning. Then we went to The Aquarium of Western Australia, cleverly called AQWA (hint: say it). The main impression I'm left with is not only the vast variety of sea life that is around, but the huge coastline of WA. 

I have to hold back from laughing whenever someone asks me about "the climate of Australia" when I'm in Japan (usually a Japanese person). Because this land stretches far. Western Australia goes from the tropics down to some chilly spots that have nothing between them an Antarctica!

Sea horse.

The boys took over the camera and got some nice images, though it was very difficult in the low light with marine life behind thick glass. Just as we were getting close to leaving thunder and lightning rolled in and we were lucky to be able to miss the main storm. But the guys did get some nice photos of the ocean.

Then tonight we enjoyed a meal with a young family we only met last Sunday. Actually meetings like that are important too. We've been praying for new supporters, new connections with people our age or younger. 
This has to be the best photo of the day and I didn't take it.

As we go along this journey, the older folk who've prayed faithfully for us are gradually being called home to Glory. We need younger people who are able to stay the journey with us for longer. Our prayers are being answered! The time we've spent in WA has been valuable in making connections with people, not just standing up the front of groups saying our thing.
Another ray.

But now I must head to bed again. I've been exhausted all day (till I had my only coffee at afternoon tea time). I fear my body clock has been reset to night time, because I'm feeling more energetic now at 11pm than I did at 11am. Not good. Tomorrow night we get to sit on a plane overnight, arriving back in Brisbane at 5.10am Brisbane time (3.10am Western Australian time). Hopefully we'll be exhausted enough to just drop off on the plane!

17 October, 2014


I'm really tired. We were working again tonight. We ran a program for an hour or so for a couple of dozen people at a supporting church. 

We explained a bit about what we do and what OMF International does in Japan. Then we got them to pray (using the 31 Days of Prayer for Japan booklet that we published a few months ago, it's proving to be very useful). Then we got them rubbish sorting, according to the rules of the city we lived in.

Scitech and one of the fabulous interactive stations: a
moveable 3D contour map.
We'll be back at the church on Sunday morning. But tonight I was so tired that I could have curled up and dropped off, right in the middle of our presentation. Now I'm sitting on my bed waiting for the rest of the family to get through showers so that I can get clean and get to bed. Yes, we're all night showerers.

What amazed me about this afternoon was that we managed to "hang out" in the city for several hours. This is not something we'd usually attempt. Today was the exception because we'd been invited to lunch in the city by an elderly Chinese couple. After that we had four and a half hours until the above engagement. But that was also in the city, so we decided not to bother going home. The unfortunate thing is that most attractions in the city shut at 4 or 5pm.

We ended up going to the science centre, Scitech, but they closed at 4pm. Then we had three hours to kill. Shopping, browsing, window shopping. None of these concepts work well for our boys. But we did get them to spend some time in a shop that sold Australian stuff. You know, tourist stuff. They now each have Australian t-shirts that fit. We also did some Christmas shopping.

Then we sauntered over to Myers and hung out various departments for more than an hour: toys, Apple store, and books. No one threw us out! I stand amazed that we managed it, but I am now very tired.

Tomorrow is a bit quieter. But we're doing the last tourist fling by going to the state aquarium (by popular request). Then we're socialising in the evening once more! Another new family to meet and talk with. Hopefully we'll be home a bit earlier, though. The last couple of nights have been close to 10pm returns.

16 October, 2014

Today's odd schedule

Today is a weird day. We drove north about half an hour and had morning tea with some OMF friends this morning. Then we had lunch at the beach (gorgeous beach, Western Australia has amazing sand).

After an hour or so of playing on the beach we dragged the boys and half a tonne of sand back to the car. I dropped all of them at the train station. They headed south. David stopped in Perth central to drop the boys with our host and continued south to meet up with someone who's driven him 150km inland to meet some folk in a church tonight.

I stayed in the north because I have a Japan prayer meeting here tonight. I had several hours to fill in between dropping the boys off and dinner with the hosts of the prayer meeting. I wandered around at a local shopping centre, had coffee, and did some writing. I'm going to a writer's conference next weekend, I need to get myself into a writing mood.

Then I moved to a local library, which stayed open a bit later than the shopping centre, and kept writing (bonus: free WiFi and a powerpoint to recharge my phone). That's where I'm writing now.

It feels strange to be out on my own in this unfamiliar city after hanging so tightly with the guys this last week. I particularly hope that I don't get lost as I drive back alone tonight.

We're so grateful that the boys are being taken care of, though. We were going to split them up between us, but that wouldn't have been fun for any of us!

15 October, 2014

Fremantle Fun

Today was another tourist day (some of the holiday part of our working-holiday in Western Australia). We spent nine hours in the port town of Fremantle. Again, too many things to do. Our boys make it easy to choose, however. Shopping doesn't appeal, neither do art museums or most museums. Parks are good, though, and so is select food. A beach and a prison tour thrown in too, are bonuses.

We started with a tour of the historic Fremantle Prison. It is world heritage listed. There are several tours we didn't take, like the "Great Escape" and "Tunnel Tour" that the boys wanted to. Now they're keen to come back next time (probably in 3 1/2 years).
Fremantle Prison, main block. Built in the 1850s, used up
until 1991.
Inside the prison. 
Once we'd finished the tour, it was lunch time and we headed with our packed lunch to the Esplanade Park. Lovely grass again!
 Wandering up the coast, we found this little beach. The boys loved making sand castles or other constructions.

We stopped at a Chocolate restaurant for afternoon tea milkshakes. It was hard to choose, so much chocolate in one spot! Then had more time at the beach and finished up with Fish and Chips, what else!

After our early dinner we joined the Fremantle Sharks Wrestling Club for a one-off training session (for us, not them). This was something I'd organised prior to coming. The main reason being that the wrestler who came second to our son in the wrestling tournament three weeks ago is at this club. They made us very welcome! I'm really glad I had this out-of-the-box idea.

We had a good day. All of us got something out of the day that we enjoyed. The boys are settling into our non-routine.

Tomorrow it's back to work, however. A complicated day logistically that hopefully will go well.

14 October, 2014

Wonderful hosts

Thank you for the support and prayers for our family after yesterday's post. We scaled back our expectations on "tourism" today and mostly had a day at home, aside from a foray to a local shopping centre looking for shorts for our eldest, who's grown out of the shorts he wore the last time we had a full summer (August last year). The job wasn't easy. He's very tactile and specific about the length and feel and even the weight of shorts. 

Our host took us on a walk on Saturday after
our long flight. Our boys had a great time
interacting with our hosts's children. Our big
strong wrestler is a favourite with little children
and he's fair game for shoulder rides, piggy
backs, and "tackling" (see below).
We eventually found three pairs that were close to "perfect" and within our budget, so it was a successful trip. Making it a bit of a special treat for the others too, by stopping for some choose-your-own frozen yoghurt.

The rest of the day has been "at home" and lazy. Though we did get the younger boys to do some "homework" that had been given to them by the school because they're missing five days of school. Our eldest didn't get anything, not sure why. Possibly because he wasn't proactive in talking to the teachers about this planned absence?

Now, at 4.30pm, we're ramping things up as we prepare to go out for the evening. A meal at the home of a couple who pray for us and then a small group. I'm excited about the opportunity. Small groups are often more rewarding than large church meetings. Just a little more relaxed and generally full of meaningful interactions. The boys are, predictably, less keen, but not as hostile as on Sunday. 

As I carefully explained to the boys what was happening tonight (as far as we knew) the comments were, "Why are we always 'running things'?" and other less savoury things.

I have to note here the wonderful help of our hosts. We're staying with a family who visited us last year on their holidays in Japan. They're a part of a church here that's supported us since we first left for Japan in 2000. And they've created a wonderful peaceful place for us to stay. Like most missionaries we experienced a variety of situations when staying with others. Some wonderful, others okay and some best described as "not to be repeated if at all possible".

The best situation is when there are kids about the ages of ours and when the hosts are willing to allow us to have privacy and rest (not talking all the time). When hosts have children around the ages of ours, they also have toys and books that our boys enjoy, so it can be a much better experience than a sterile motel room with nothing to do. 

Our hosts this time have been keen to cook food that our boys like, to entertain when appropriate, or let us rest when we need to. They have respected our boundaries and allowed us free access to their kitchen. On Thursday night we have two different meetings at two places about two hours apart. They've volunteered to pick up our kids mid-transit (between a morning and evening meeting) and look after them all evening. Wow! Such a gift.

My devotions this morning included the last three verses of 2 Corinthians 4:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)
Wonderful reminders about what's important and what's permanent and what's momentary (parenting troubles as momentary). And a reminder about where I should keep my eyes focused.

13 October, 2014

Challenging parenting

Today I've put up some wonderful photos on Facebook that we've taken in the last few days. But I don't want anyone who reads this blog to be deceived. It's not been "all good fun". 
It was a magnificent day to go to the park. 

Yesterday we worked hard: two church services with an hour or more of talking to people after each one plus about half an hour of set-up time beforehand plus four times 20-minute commutes. The hardest thing, though, was children who didn't join us willingly, but resisted and complained and needed to be dragged out to get to these events in a timely fashion.

I know by writing these things here, I open myself up to criticism by others. Last time I wrote about how difficult my boys are finding all the socialising and being with lots of different people at weekends and some nights, I had people remind me that that is what children of pastors and church planters have to put up with. There was also someone who criticised my kids, saying they needed to grow up.
I think this is the Tall Kangaroo Paw that I
mentioned yesterday.

This manicured lawn is incredible. And it goes on and on
and on. Japan simply doesn't have lawn like this.
Indeed, we weren't happy with the situation. In fact I got quite angry with them. They aren't perfect and neither are we. And no criticism from others is going to change that. Telling my boys to "grow up" or "you're lucky we're not in church ministry all the time" isn't going to help either. Not that I haven't tried these. Please hear me: we're trying to do our best at parenting in a challenging situation, with challenging boys here.

Thankfully today we could take a break from fitting into other people's schedules. We indulged in some tourism Marshall-style. We roamed around one of the most beautiful parks I've ever had the privilege of visiting. King's Park in Perth is amazing. Even more so when you've lived in Asia for a while. The large swaths of beautifully manicured green lawns are a sight in themselves. Not to mention the views of the Swan and Canning rivers, and amazing array of fauna.

Looking down at the Swan and Canning Rivers from King's
Park. The blues were amazing.
But please, if you are a praying person, please pray for our family over the coming week. Tonight is the only night we have "at home". The rest of the nights we're in different people's homes, or churches, or just out. If our year in Australia has thus far been lacking a bit of routine, this week it's been thrown out the window. Compliant, helpful boys will go a long way to making it an easier week on all of us. The opposite, of course, will mean this ends up being much harder than it has to be.

We love being here and we chose to do this this way. I could have stayed home with the boys and kept their routine going. But by doing that I would have missed out on the encouragement of meeting with people who pray for us. We would have missed out on seeing a beautiful corner of Australia. So, despite the stress, I'm still glad we all came. I just hope that I don't come to regret the decision by the end of the week.

12 October, 2014

Flying isn't glamorous

Flying is not glamorous! Yesterday we flew to Western Australia, it took a long time. Not as long as it takes to fly Australia to Japan, but still it took a long time. 

Not to mention that we were in a smallish plane with only three seats either side of one aisle and two toilets. We were about five rows from the back and the toilet line often reached as far back as us.

We also sat in the plane for 45 minutes before it left the terminal. There were at least three problems that we knew about: 
  1. A passenger boarded, but then unboarded for an unknown reason and her luggage had to be retrieved from under the plane.
  2. An oven that needed attention from an expert.
  3. A toddler who'd recently had an ear infection and the parents had alerted the staff, who needed to check with their medicos that it was all alright. Lots of red tape!
I'm still amazed at the gorgeous, spacious, and frequent parks
in Australia. This land is blessed with space!
In flight another incident occurred. Where a lady in front of us had hot water spilled on her. There was a lot of fuss about helping her and writing up the incident. Clearly the airline is covering their legal bases.

We had a lot of young families in the back of the plane with us. Lots of screaming and crying from the younger ones. It was a loud, tiresome trip. I had a headache for most of it.

The sun was in the wrong spot, but this is Perth CBD and
the WACA (famous cricket ground) across the Swan River
Oh, nearly forgot to mention that we'd had a stressful start. First of all the boys had a lot of trouble getting going that morning. They really didn't want to leave and we ended up leaving late, giving us little time to get through the bag drop. 

Then going through security was an issue because all three boys packed their pencil cases, each with a pair of scissors. We lost three pairs of scissors yesterday. Two of which had some sentimental value. None of which had a high replacement cost.

But I am thankful that our children are older now. it makes flying much less stressful than it was in the past. For the most part they keep themselves busy and for that I am extremely grateful. It also gives me a huge heart of sympathy for the parents who are still in the stages of agony. What could be worse than parenting cranky kids on an aeroplane?

We're also very thankful that our hosts for the week met us at the airport and took us straight home for a late but very yummy lunch. After that we went for a rambling walk down to the Swan River (a more beautiful river than the Brisbane River). 

Roses and a Bottlebrush bush.
I was interested to see the different plants here. We've seen a lot of bottle brush bushes, which are in full flower at the moment. Many more than we see in Queensland. Also there are many gorgeous rose bushes. Additionally we saw Tall Kangaroo Paw, a close relative of the national floral emblem of this state, which is Red and Green Kangaroo Paw, a dramatic flower I don't think I've seen in other parts of Australia. I didn't get a photo, I'll have to rectify that this week.

11 October, 2014

Culture shock or cross-culture stress?

We struggle, as Australians who were born
in rural Queensland, to live in such close
quarters with our neighbours. This is our house
and our neighbours!
Living in a culture that you didn't grow up in is stressful. There's no other way to say it. I've written a little bit about some specific factors that I feel stressed about when in Japan in a post a couple of years ago here

It isn't just early on when you're adjusting, it is an ongoing stress. Though I have to say that the stress decreases (thankfully) as you get used to the place.

I found an interesting blog post that I think is wrongly titled. I don't think this post is about culture shock so much as it is about the mental challenges of living in a culture that is so vastly different from the one you grew up in. One way to label that is cross-culture stress. 

In any case, it is a helpful article. It's especially nice that it's written about living in Japan, but it totally applicable to other cultures. Check it out!

We suffered climate-shock when we
moved from "the Sunshine State" of 
Queensland to this. That's our blue car you can see!

10 October, 2014

Leaving for an adventure in Western Australia

We're going to Perth tomorrow, all five of us. I know, it sounds glamorous. I'm classifying it as something of a working-holiday.

But we're not going there as a holiday destination. Our purpose is work. We're visiting
This is about how old our two older boys were when
they last went to Western Australia.
about six different groups of supporters. Some are churches, others are pray-ers. We'll be working five of our nine evenings there, plus some both Sunday mornings. Each time we'll be speaking or leading a program, from the shortest at seven minutes, to over an hour at the longest

This is the third time I've been to Western Australia on a similar kind of journey. David's been four times. We're so thankful to our faithful supporters over there. Our church is part of a small denomination that began in the west and there are more churches there than anywhere else in Australia. Though they've rarely seen us, they've been faithful in praying and giving over the last 14 years and we're going over to say thank you.

In the midst of all that we're planning to enjoy showing our boys another corner of the country they are citizens of. We'll have three whole days of no work or significant travel, and some partial days. We're hoping to get some serious tourism happening. I've even lined up a possible visit to a Western Australian wrestling club!

This is no small journey. It takes five and a half hours to fly over, and strangely, four and a half to fly back (4,365km, further than New York to Los Angeles). I remember when we first went over we had to beg OMF for funds to cover our fares.  It isn't a cheap way to do deputation, but it's been worth it.

It's become part of our family's story. I have a significant scar on my knee from my last visit there when I fell hard on a ramp down to a train platform. Our eldest son celebrated his first birthday on the flight back. Our middle son has only been there once, when he was two and our youngest has never been there (except in utero). So we want to take this opportunity to introduce our three, now older, boys to the capital in the west.

Hopefully I'll be able to blog a bit while we're over there, so I can share something of our fun and work.