We spent the few days between leaving the MTC and our departure date for Adelaide at the homes of two of our daughters, and then met with the entire local family at a restaurant for lunch before heading to the SLC airport on August 1st. We really appreciated that all four local families came to the airport, although it was a tough, tearful goodbye. I loved the group hug right before we left!
Lots of pictures were taken and lots of love was shared. Why is it that it’s so hard to be physically away from those you love, even though you can see and talk to them almost anytime you’d like while you’re away?
We ran into seven missionaries in the airport that were heading to Perth and Adelaide. We all traveled as far as Sydney together, with three missionaries continuing with us to Adelaide. Although there was a 2-hour window in Sydney, due to customs and baggage delays we all missed that flight and waited for an additional 4 1/2 hours for the next one. The total traveling time from our luncheon in American Fork, UT to the mission office in Adelaide ended up being in excess of 34 hours. Fortunately, both of us had been able to nap a little on the 15 hour flight to Sydney in spite of our seated positions in the economy section of the plane.
President and Sister Parker were waiting for us inside the airport and after some hugs took pictures of everyone. We then packed into two vehicles (one of them was pulling a small trailer for all the luggage) and arrived at the mission office at 3:30 in the afternoon, joining
Elder Buckner & I, Sister Fossett, Sister & President Parker, Elder Chen & Elder Pickett at the Adelaide Airport. Elder Chen comes from Mainland China!other missionaries that had been arriving throughout the day. We had some training, a nice home-cooked dinner, and then more training. At the very end of the day we found out that we were being assigned to Darwin, over 2200 miles away at the “Top End” of Australia. Bob was overcome with emotion when he heard “Darwin.” He had received a strong impression about a month earlier that we would be going there. I had also had strong feelings that I needed to take clothing and shoes suited for very hot weather, rather than warmer things for Adelaide’s cool winter season.
There was quite a wait for all sorts of details to be handled by Elder Larkin from the mission office that evening before he could take us to our hotel. By the time we walked in the door, we had been up for over 54 straight hours and were exhausted. Our hotel suite was a pleasant surprise with a small kitchen, nice living area, bedroom and large bathroom. At first I felt guilty having such a nice hotel room as a missionary, but later found out it was the most suitable hotel near the mission home.
The next morning we were picked up and taken back to the mission office, which shares a parking lot with a stake center and the mission home. We were a little late for the training that had already started. Although it was geared to the younger missionaries, I found it helpful and uplifting, and was glad we were included. We had eaten breakfast at the hotel, and had lunch and dinner at the church across the parking lot from the mission office. Elder Buckner received a driving lesson and we were given a car to drive. It was dark before we left, and we soon found ourselves lost without GPS, so pulled into a parking lot to try and get our bearings. In glancing around for landmarks, I saw that we had pulled into
the parking lot of the Adelaide Temple! Moments later, Elder Larkin called on our little mission phone, gave us directions back to the mission office, and then drove us to the hotel. Driving on the wrong side of the road in a strange city at night proved more difficult that we had anticipated. The names of the cross streets were posted, but it was often difficult to figure out which road we were driving on. Once we got there, I found a free GPS iPhone app called “Navmii” for Australia that works offline, and that we have used ever since. We have also been able to use iPhones and my iPad here for texting and FaceTime for calls, which has been wonderful.
Since then, things have been a bit varied. In the office we have spent a little time learning from the senior couples in the mission office what their responsibilities are, and how we will interface with them once we are in Darwin. We had dinner with the Halls at their flat on Thursday and again tonight (Sunday), and with the other couples on Friday night at a Mexican restaurant called Montezuma’s. The food was delicious!
Saturday we took the day off, caught up a bit with some of our family via Skype and FaceTime, and then around noon headed out to explore an area called Waterfall Gully. There were four waterfalls scattered along the 3.7 km hike up to the summit of Mount Lofty.
Just below the summit we learned there was a restaurant at the top with a road leading to it. We could have driven there! The views at the top were beautiful, and we enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine on this sometimes steep 5 mile hike after so many hours of airports and planes earlier in the week.
We had been warned that most stores close at 5 PM on Saturday night, and were happy to make it on time to a supermarket called Foodland. There was a great variety of meats and seafood, as well as some fruits and vegetables we had not seen before. Nearly everything was considerably more expensive than at home – some 2.5 times to as high as 5 times higher, and we’ve been told that everything in Darwin is more expensive than Adelaide. We decided that maybe this was a good thing, and would give us some incentive to cut back and work on losing some weight. Elder Buckner also commented that he might need to do some fishing in Darwin to help cut back on our grocery bill (facetiously, of course). That all being said, we are so grateful to be staying somewhere now with a kitchen. Cooking our own meals always costs considerably less than eating out, which so far looks to be 25-50% higher than at home. Together with some “welcome” bags of groceries Sister Parker sent with us, we should be set for a few days.
I have found the plant life here to be interesting, in that nearly everything is evergreen, and there are very few broad-leafed native trees. Instead there are rather fern-like or airy leaves on most everything. (You can see that in the pictures above.) The biggest and most impressive trees are the ghost gum trees, which are in the eucalyptus family and have striking, smooth white bark rising well above the ground before the trees branch out. They say these are the trees in which you sometimes see koala bears and their young.
I am still finding myself really tired from about 5 PM most days from the time change (5 PM here is 1:30 AM at home), but it’s definitely getting better.
Tonight (Sunday night) we attended a multi-stake missionary fireside. I enjoyed hearing from two different men who shared how the gospel had dramatically changed their lives. One had been on drugs & alcohol and in and out of jail, and the other had just drifted away. Both had been so very lost, and now were so much happier being focused on and anchored in the Savior’s love. I hope I have the opportunity during this mission to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord in helping people like these men turn to faith in God, where they can find and experience hope in place of despair.