Thursday, April 7, 2016

Land of Oz

We decided a few years back that we wanted to change our gift giving habits at Christmas time.   After packing containers of STUFF,  throwing away boxes of STUFF and struggling with each move to find places to put STUFF we decided we wanted to make Christmas less about getting.  We want our family to focus on the birth of our Savior, giving to those in need, blessing others around us and creating special memories.   Our poor little tree does look very barren come Christmas Eve.  It's ok though because we are learning you don't wrap experiences and memories in pretty paper to sit under a tree.
You live them.

We headed to AUSTRALIA otherwise known as OZ to those of us in the Southern Hemisphere.  We left Christmas Eve and found ourselves in Melbourne (pronounced "Mel-bun" NOT "Mel-BERN").  We stayed with some lovely friends we met in Fiji a few years ago.  We hosted a NZ trip for them now they were showing us "Melbun." 

Cultural Note: Kiwi's and Aussies are EXTREMELY competitive against each other.  Don't confuse the two, they will be offended.   Let's say you meet a New Zealander in the US and you say, "Oh, are you from Australia?"  They will want nothing more to do with you after that comment.  Same if you call an Aussie a Kiwi.  (CONFESSION: i can rarely tell the difference between an Aussie accent and a Kiwi accent.  If i admit that to my NZ or Australian friends they are both equally appalled i can't hear the revolting difference.) 

We spent a very hot Christmas Eve at Brighton Beach.  

Cultural Note:  Can you tell the difference between a NZ flag and an Aussie flag?  There's only a 1 star difference between the two.
 We learned about the value of beach front property.

Brighton Beach Boxes.  

Adorable little colorfully painted huts lining the beach. No running water or electricity.  A place to store your beach stuff and find some shade.   How much would you pay?! 
(Read about some Crazies here!)
(At $285,000 i am not sure i can legitimately use the adjective adorable anymore. )       

Christmas Day our gracious friends included us in their gigantic family reunion and lunch at the local Lawn Bowls Club.

Next day we headed to the country side.  We were on the lookout for the amazing Australian wildlife.

During our drive out to Flinders we were GIDDY to see kangaroos bound across the road in front of us!  (The only way to possibly capture this on film is to drive the whole trip with my eye glued to the camera.  Not gonna happen!)

i did manage to get a shot of one bounding across a field during a walk. 

We found a Christmas Beetle and various other types of birds and bugs.  We were able to avoid other deadly Aussie animals so we considered that a success.  

Cultural Note:  NZ prides itself on having NO deadly animals, spiders, snakes or plants.  You can walk out in the great outdoors and never worry about being harmed regardless of where you step or what you pick up.  Australia on the other hand is known for their strange and deadly animals and spiders.


But the views!

Will she remember this as the Christmas her parents didn't buy her any of the latest toys or the year she stood at the edge of Australia with her Mum?!? 

Next we headed to Sydney and played the part of ultimate tourists.

Friends in Sydney hooked up us up with a sampling of all the local junk food.  

We did it... We sampled Kangaroo meat.  That's how we roll, gotta try the local stuff.  The kids are keen to try anything!  (For those interested it is a gamy tasting meat and doesn't taste at all like chicken.)  i preferred it as a burger rather than on a pizza and honestly i'd choose a camel shwarma over a kangaroo burger any day. 

Cultural Note:  Kangaroos are so common they are considered pests and locals do consume the meat.  If you go camping you may very well run into some at your campground.  Friends of our shared how the cute little 'roos boxed and scratched their kids one summer.

But i mean come on!  How adorable are they?!  

The koala on the other hand completely harmless.

i am not kidding when i say we were tourists.  We saw the platypus, the dugong, the wombat
and the cassowary.  
The only thing missing off my animal bucket list was the adorable  
(rhymes with the way an Aussie would say Soccer... Socca')
We even caved and took our kids to Tussauds Wax Museum.  We kept telling ourselves, "Memories... Memories we are creating memories for the kids."

 Turns out even the Wax Museum is culturally based.  There were quite a few unrecognizable figures.

The kids actually refused time at the local amusement park.  A little too freaky it seems.

But the again the views...

There are lots of ways to save money as a family.   
Pay $250+ per person to climb the arch of the bridge (which would be very cool) or be frugal like us and pay 13$ to climb the tower to enjoy similar views but less thrills.   

i got to spend my birthday at Bondi Beach.

Bondi Icebergs Swimming Pool

One of the few pools in the world where you should check the daily surf report before swimming.  Pounding surf effects swimming conditions.

Bondi to Coogee Walk

i was treated to a delicious sushi dinner and hand made birthday messages written in soy.  These are sweet and fleeting days!

My mama's heart knows i need to hold tightly to images like these.

This teen guy willingly walked this way with his arm slung over my shoulder for 20 minutes chatting it up.  i am still a bit taller and can still wrestle him to the ground but i know we are just counting down the days until that all changes. 

 Taking in the sights of a different city is exciting and memorable but its the togetherness of ANYTHING that turns it into a remarkable memory.    

Chris and i try to make time for just us but often it is hard to make it work and rarely does it happen on family trips.  BUT how lucky were we to score a babysitter for our kids the night of NYE?!  
Aren't we Sassy Funky Fresh?!   
i mean really!  We get to take a dinner/dance cruise on the Sydney Harbor at New Years Eve! Feeling pretty fabulous and in our prime.  Not at all like an old married couple.  

We mingle, we dance, we meet and befriend other fabulous people from California.  We are TOTALLY relating and having a great time.   Just when we are feeling all fabulous and youthful we find out these very cool people who are SO like us (hear the sarcasm?) have only been married 6 months.  SIX MONTHS!  The only people they know that have been married longer than us are their PARENTS!  Our feeling of youthfulness quickly flies out the window but we are able recover some of our fabulousness when they swiftly mask their shock with, "We would never would have guessed we've been married 18 YEARS!"  Sigh 

We discuss similar service projects we've all done in Mexico.  We ask them how they ended up with the organization they went with.  "Oh, we connected through Facebook."  

Oh, OK....Mark Zuckerberg was still in diapers and the Internet wasn't even INVENTED when WE went to Mexico.

So from here on out we are hoping to cling to Sassy and Funky but thinking Fresh is now a mute point.  
We continued to danced the night away (because we can!) and take in the stunning fireworks show.  We gave in to the fact that we are indeed an older married couple with teen and pre-teen kids

but there is a whole lot of fabulousness to love about that!

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