7-30 Thoughts (Wow, I made it)

So as most of you may know, I have this thing against Finding Nemo. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I just couldn’t like that movie. Well, for all of you who were shocked to hear that when you first found out, you will be glad to know that I may be rethinking my position on the movie after diving in the Great Barrier Reef. I was on the reef from Friday to Saturday and stayed overnight on a Liveaboard boat. We did a total of 7 dives and I haven’t been more tired in awhile. By the seventh dive I finally found Nemo and was pretty excited. On top of Nemo, I found essentially every other fish in the movie, including the sharks. The way the trip went was that we did 3 dives on Friday, 1 dive Friday night, and 3 dives on Saturday. Well as you may have guessed, the sharks were a fan of the night dive. We got in the water around 7:30pm and were each given a flashlight (but for some reason Scuba divers like to call them torches). Because this was may first night dive I had to go with a guide, so 4 of us grouped together and went down with a guide. Night diving is one of the coolest things, if you’re claustrophobic, you probably wouldn’t care for it. All you can see in the water is darkness and beams of lights moving around from all the torches. You have to scuba a bit to actually get to the reef so for the first part you are just swimming in darkness with no idea what is around you. We then got to the reef and saw all of the fish and turtles sleeping. The turtles kind of just glide around and you have to be careful not to shine the light in their eyes or you will wake them up. Our guide then took us to a section to show us luminescent material, we kind of saw it but we didn’t know what we were looking for so instead we all sat on the ocean floor starring at our guide trying to figure out what he was saying. We then came back to the boat and stopped at one of the mooring lines. Tied to the mooring line was an oil drum. The four of us held on to the mooring line as instructed as our guide swam down to the drum. According to our guide, there’s no better way to attract sharks than to beat on an oil drum. So there we were, hanging in darkness with a few little flashlights and being shaken about by huge vibrations echoing through the water. For the next few minutes, we saw brief glimpses of gray bodies moving by us, I couldn’t quite make out the sharks but from what I heard when I got on the boat, there were quite a few circling us. So yeah, it was pretty awesome. After that dive we were quite exhausted but it was all well worth it. We then ended the trip with an awesome last dive. As I was swimming back to the boat, I looked up and noticed that everyone on the boat was pointing and looking off in to the distance. As I turned around, I saw a humpback whale surface about 100 feet out in the ocean. The crew tried to get the whale to come by our way but it stuck to it’s path and swam off, but nonetheless, I can legitimately say that I saw a humpback whale as I was scuba diving. What a way to end the trip.

However the excitement doesn’t end there. For the last day of our stay here in Australia, our group organized a party at AJ Hackett’s Bungee Jumping. The facility is hidden back in the rainforest and has both bungee jumping and the large swings that you find in amusment parks. Since it was our last day in Australia, I decided that I had to go out doing one more awesome thing. We started off the swing to warm up and prepare for the bungee jump, which was a great idea until we realized exactly how high we were about to jump from. The bungee tower is about 160 feet high, which isn’t bad in comparison to sky diving however for this, you have to make the decision to jump and you come about a foot from hitting the water. A little bit more scary. Yet this didn’t stop me from jumping, and although I was nearly peeing my pants, I made the jump. It was one of the coolest feelings, and just like skydiving, is a little hard to describe. The thought of looking off the edge of something really high and then jumping pretty much sums it up. What made the jump even better was that we were doing it at night, so when you looked straight ahead, you looked out over the city of Cairns and you could see all the stars above us. To make it better, we were jumping on a full moon. What a way to end my summer, I don’t think I’ve ever done so many crazy things in such few days. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

But now it’s time to head home and I am itching to touch ground in Philly. This summer has been incredible and I am so grateful for everything that I have been able to see, learn, experience, and take back with me. I’m still processing some things and realizing how lucky I have been. It’s amazing how fast 10 weeks can go by. Now it’s time to start back up in PA, hopefully I can apply many of the things that I learned and hopefully I never forget the friendships and memories that I have made here. Between my journal, this blog, and letters that I have written, I have a feeling I should be able to remember it pretty well. If there’s one thing I took from all of this, it was the importance of just writing and keeping track of your thoughts. By actually writing down some of the things I was doing and seeing, I realized just how incredible this summer has been. The fact that I have circled the globe is cool in itself. I can’t wait to see everyone back home (especially my dogs) and hope to talk to everyone really soon. For one last final good bye from Australia, g’day mates!

7-26 Thoughts

So I just got back from Sky Diving, and wow, what a ride!! That was by far one of the craziest and coolest feelings. We got up at 7:00 to be picked up from the company, but when we got down there, we found out that because of the rain they were going to cancel the beach site that we were scheduled for, however we were able to rebook and go on the Cairns site which is located in the middle of the mountain range, both very cool options. So Dave and I switched over and drove quickly to their headquarters to get suited up. By this point we were a little late so we had to rush through to get everything taken care of. We got to the building and filled out all of the “sign your life away” paperwork and signed a bunch of forms. They then brought our harnesses out and strapped us up. The harness is essentially a rock-climbing harness and has the same cut off circulation feeling. We then spent about 1 minute talking about the form for falling out of the plane and then we were shuttled into the bus and off to the airport. It was a pretty efficient process to say the least. A few minutes later we arrived at the airport and were standing outside of our plane. It was raining lightly so we had to wait around for a few minutes before it passed over. We were then given the go ahead to board the plane and before I knew it, I was sitting on the floor of a plane on my butt with my feet essentially hanging out of the door. Now one thing I did not expect was the fact that there was no door, instead there was a hole in the side of the plane. Since I was the last of the four people to get on the plane, I got to sit right beside the opening for the entire ride. This was equally as cool as falling out of the plane. As we ascended, I got look right outside of the plane and see the mountains that we were about to fly over and the ocean beside them which lead to the Great Barrier Reef. Farmland then began to come into view and soon we were passing through the clouds. Looking out an open doorway from a plane in comparison to a window is entirely different. I could see the clouds passing right beside my feet and soon we were up above them all, with the sun the only thing in the sky. I wish I could accurately describe what the clouds looked like; it looked like the surface of Antarctica, huge snow-like mounds with a magnificent light blue sky. Now this entire time going up, I was not yet attached to my instructor. So essentially I could have just leaned over and fallen out, there were no handles or seat belts to hold us in, just the floor, walls, and an open door. As we were going up, my instructor then told me to put my hand outside the plane. For those of you how might now, I love the put my hand out my car window as I’m going down the highway and ride the wind, well this was about 1000 times stronger and cooler. As we neared 14000 feet, the height in which we were jumping (which is equivalent to a 60 second freefall) we started to attach ourselves to the instructor. Then before we knew it, it was time to fall face first through the door. I was second to fall and I don’t even think I had time to think about it. The first person fell through, I was shoved to the front, I had about 5 seconds to stare down at the clouds beneath me, and then I was thrown through the opening. The rest of the dive is hard to describe (luckily I got the DVD so I can show it to everyone back home) but essentially the best way to describe it is that you are falling through a cloud. That’s something you typically don’t do. You’re face is going in every different direction and the clouds come upon you quicker than you can imagine. All I could think about was the fact that I was getting down so much faster than it took to get up there. After 60 seconds, which feels like 15 seconds, the parachute is pulled and you are jerked a bit. At this point, I hear the instructor talking to himself “come on little guy, open up, open up, a little more, ok there we go.” I’m not sure if he always does this but I just tried to ignore it, assuming that everything was fine. The rest of the dive was then so surreal, we gently floated (although I’m sure we were still booking) down to our landing site. Around us were mountains on every side with the ocean peaking through between the peaks. What looked close to Lancaster county was directly below me and quickly we were about to land on one of the fields. As we were coming down, the instructor put his hand around me and started undoing one of the straps. Naturally, I began to slowly slide down. Assuming that he knew what he was doing I let him go, but still was quite unsure of what was happening. I later found out that in order to see for landing, he had to lower me a bit. The fact that I didn’t know this at the time really added to the adrenaline. I pulled my feet up and before I knew it, we were sliding along the ground on our butts, much like the position we were sitting in on the plane. And now I’m laying in my bed and going over the fact that I just jumped through a cloud. That’s awesome!! Anyway, so tomorrow I have a two day scuba trip and then the next day is Bungee jumping. Talk about ending Australia on a high note. I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep good on the plane ride home. Well now it’s time to play some sand volleyball, see everyone very soon!

Quick Update

So Australia has been keeping me quite busy over the past week. Our final project and presentation is on Thursday and as things typically go, we’re all working on it down to the last minute. My project is on energy and sustainable design for developing countries and what is the correct way to approach aid work in developing countries. It’s an awesome topic so I’m not complaining. Conveniently this topic will most likely be very similar to my thesis topic so it’s like I’m getting a jump start on it. On Friday, a group of us went to the Blue Mountains which is about a 2 hour drive from Sydney. At the base of the mountains is an entire rainforest which we were able to hike to. We then took a train car which has the steepest slop (52 degrees) in the world. It was a wild ride. I sat in the front, which was actually the back (I was facing the valley) and there was no seat belt or front to keep you in, it was a little more intense than I expected. The next day we went out on the Harbor and went Whale Watching. Well I guess we actually went out to sea, but we started on the Harbor. Out of about 200 people on the boat, about 100 of them were throwing up, even the lady over the loudspeaker telling us about the whales got sick. It was pretty crazy, but we did end up seeing two whales which swam under and around our boat for nearly 2 hours. It was awesome!! And now it’s Tuesday night and we’re cramming to get our project done. I needed a break from the Engineering style writing for a bit so I jumped back to the blog. After writing creatively for the entire summer, I’ve realized that engineering papers are extremely dry, they’re much harder to write. Anyway, it’s time that I get back to work. Lancaster count down…15 days!

Getting to know the Sydney criminals

Talk about an interesting past few days, Sydney keeps getting more and more interesting. So I’ll take you back a few days. On Tuesday night myself and two other guys, James and Albert, went downtown at night to explore and find the lowest price TimTams we could. For those of you who don’t know, a TimTam is one of the most addicting chocolate biscuits, and I go through quite a few packs quite frequently. 11 TimTams are enough to power a car 1 mile, yeah theyre pretty awesome. Anyway, so we were wandering around and managed to stumble across the entrance to the Sydney Harbor Bridge, so naturally we walked across it. The weather here hasn’t been the greatest so it was raining out but the rain made the bridge look even more spectacular. It was about 10:30 at night so the water droplets reflected the light shining on the bridge. It was amazing but unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me. Around 11:30 we started to head back to our dorms which involved catching two buses. We got on the first bus and took it back into the heart of the city, from there we walked to the next bus stop and that’s when things began getting interesting. Odd coincidence, but the bust stop we were at was located on Hyde Park, which happens to be the street my house back home is on. As we walked up, there was one guy sitting on a bench with two other guys standing in front of him. Little did we realize that those two guys were mugging the guy sitting down. Well as soon as we stopped at the bus stop we became involved. The two drunken muggers came up to us and immediately let us know that they wanted money from us, although all they were asking for was $5. Now although you are typically taught to always just give over the money, the three of us wouldn’t budge. We quickly found out that these guys weren’t messing around. Now quickly I need to describe the two thieves. The first guy, the taller of the two, was the ring leader and the one that we talked with mostly. In his hand he had a bag of wine and his other hand was concealed in a gym bag. The second guy was smaller and had long blonde hair. He essentially just hopped up and down with really big eyes the entire time. He looked almost identical to Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. As they approached us, James and I began to talk to them and Albert said on the bench and avoided them the entire time. James then made the comment, which he later regretted, that he liked their bag, speaking about the bag of wine. The mugger’s response was “oh, you like my bag huh, well you want to find out what’s in it (referring to the gym bag)? Do you know what it feels like to have a gun to your head and a bullet through your skull?” Well by this point our heart’s started to beat a little faster. By this point the conversation began to get a little more extreme. We continued to try to just talk with them and calm them down until our bus came. Usually a bus comes every 5 minutes but we were at the stop for at least 10-15 minutes, although it felt like a couple hours. However, through all of this, James and I refused to hand over money. We started to talk to them about where they were from. Unfortunately we made the mistake of telling them we were students, they of course then realized that we didn’t know the area very well because it’s pretty easy to tell that we aren’t exactly Australian. The gunman told us “so you don’t know what the real Sydney is then, do you?” By this point we were digging ourselves in a hole and were trying to recover as fast as we could. We made up some story of how we’ve been here for months and knew it quite well, I’m pretty sure they didn’t buy it. Eventually the ring leader shoved the gym bag at James’ stomach. James claimed that he only felt a fist and no gun but it was still not worth risking anything. James happens to be a third degree black belt and I had the feeling that something was about to go down, and there I would have been in the middle of Sydney taking down a drunk guy with a gun. Luckily our bus came shortly after and we quickly made our way to the bus. On our way over I gave Shaggy 20 cents, trying to distract them as we made our break for it. Well that didn’t work as planned because the drunks followed us onto the bus yelling that we were cheap and 20 cents was nothing. Again, the heart began to beat faster. The bus driver immediately flipped on the recording for the cameras on the bus. The guy with the gun stood at the front of the bus with his gym bag and stared the whole bus down. The driver then asked him where he was going and he responded “Sydney”, which took a lot from me to hold in my laughter. Eventually the guys got off the bus and we were home free. That story proved to be quite the entertainment around the dorms the next day, but to our amazement was outdone by another situation that took place this afternoon.

So today we stuck to our typical day, eat breakfast from 8:15-8:45, class from 9:00-1:00, and then fooling around for the rest of the day. However, class today proved to be a little more exciting than normal. Since four hours is incredibly long for one class, we always have a short break halfway through for coffee and biscuits. Personally I just stick to the biscuits but the break is always well needed for everyone. So today around 10:00 we all got up and went to get our goodies. The coffee was in the front of the room so a line quickly formed in front of it. As we were all moving around, a large man, probably around 280 lbs walked into the room on his cell phone and walked to the back of the room. I noticed him walk in but assumed he was going to talk about our field trip the next day or possibly was fixing a light or something. A few minutes later, the man walked back out of the room still on his cell phone. It really didn’t seem too out of the ordinary. However, a minute later one of the girls in our program realized that her cell phone was missing, sure enough she had her stuff sitting in the back of the room right were the strange man had walked in. Immediately pieces started to come together and it appeared that this man had walked into the middle of our classroom, with all 25 of us standing there, rummaged through a girl’s purse and stole a cell phone. Pretty impressive. Taking any excuse to get out of class, immediately a group of guys jumped at the situation and sprinted out of the room. Now by this point the man was probably 2-3 minutes out of the room. Once again, a brief description needs to be given of our thief. The man was most likely from Figi, weighed about 280-300lbs, and had both a mustache and a pony tail. That pretty much sums up the description of someone you don’t want to mess with. Five of the guys from the group had sprinted out the door, meanwhile the rest of us huddled by the window the watch the chase play out. Essentially this is what happened. As the guys ran out of the building, they saw the man standing in the middle of the walkway. They quickly ran up to him and told him they had called the cops and to give the cell phone back. He denied having anything and started walking away. As he walked away, he turned a corner and then started sprinting down the sidewalk. The chase crew quickly followed and after 50 meters the man had already run out of breath. I guess he didn’t quite have the stamina he thought he had. The guys again started questioning him for the phone but he denied having it. Along the way, the man had actually ditched the cell phone into a trash can. Luckily a maintenance guy saw him throw it and flagged down one of the guys who had run to the security office. He got the phone and brought it back to the classroom, yet meanwhile the other four guys continued chasing the thief, not yet knowing that the man didn’t actually have the phone. From what they described, they said the chase quickly turned from a short 50 meter sprint to a leisurely jog while they questioned the man. Soon the chase crew found out that he didn’t actually have the phone so they came back to the room to be congratulated by the professor. A security officer came by a few minutes later and wrote up the theft report. Needless to say, we got out of about 30 minutes worth of class and were all quite awake for the rest of the day. We didn’t need the coffee after all.

So I think it’s fair to say that Sydney has proved to be quite exciting, especially the past few days. I still think being held up by a drunk man and Shaggy at gun point beats the cell phone story, but either way, I got a good story out of them. Anyway, Ill post a picture of the Sydney Harbor Bridge from the next day when we went back to get pictures. That time we made sure to avoid the Hyde Park bus stop.

Sydney Harbor Bridge


For those of you who have been following this blog, you know that I reference lyrics quite often. Most of these songs come from a church called Hillsong, and this morning I was able to go to one of their services. It takes about an hour to get there from the center of the city so we had to leave roughly two hours prior to the service. Hillsong had their yearly conference this past week so they were especially crowded this morning, it took three buses simply to get the people from the city to the church. The attendance is over 20,000 people every Sunday, it’s definitely big. The reason I love big churches so much is essentially for their music, and Hillsong was perfect. As with any church, there are always going to be little problems and things that you disagree with, but if there were the perfect church then wouldn’t we all be going to it? They played mostly songs from their new album (which I still need to get a hold of) with one exception, Amazing Grace. Every now and then you sing a song and afterwards you just know that things are good, that God is in control and madly in love with this world around us. Since I haven’t been to a church since May in which the songs were in English, this was the perfect song to hear this morning. We sung the Chris Tomlin version which includes a verse that most people don’t typically sing. The verse goes like this:

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine

What an awesome picture to imagine, that once this world is gone and this life is over, God will be standing beside us and will be forever ours. Grace is a beautiful thing. We don’t have to do anything to deserve it, God doesn’t follow us and if our plans line up with His then we get it, Grace is simply given to us. Freely and abundantly. It’s one thing that connects us all. From traveling to Tanzania and hanging out with Maasai people and now coming to Australia to live alongside the Aboriginals, it’s amazing to think that each and every one of us are offered Grace. And it’s amazing to see so many people from so many different walks of life joining together on Sundays to worship the same God. One can’t help but smile when looking around. At Hillsong this morning they had a guest speaker Joseph Prince give the sermon. He is a pastor from Singapore and a very energetic speaker. He talked about how important it is for us to rest and listen to what God has to say. So many times we get pumped up and excited to do good for God, and we jump at every chance given to us. But you know sometimes we just need to rest, and listen to where God is leading us. Rest in the sense that we are not boggled down by the busyness surrounding us rather that we are able to hear what God is saying. Sometimes I get quick to thinking that God isn’t speaking to me. I get impatient at certain times and I forget to sit back and wait for God to work in front of me. So many times I feel that I’m supposed to run ahead and carry out what God has told me to do. It doesn’t work that way, God is the one who runs ahead of us. He’s the one planning things out and laying the foundation for us to follow behind. He was doing that all along for me in Africa and now here in Australia. There’s no way things would have worked out so well had I just jumped ahead of Him and not followed His lead. If there’s anything I learned from Africa, it was how to rest. I didn’t realize it until this morning, but rest is so important. Taking the time to sit and write, taking the time to go outside and stare at the stars and galaxies above us, taking the time to pray, taking the time to sing in a room by yourself, taking the time to spend with God. Church this morning was just what I needed, it made me realize how much I miss LCBC and Calvary from back home. We are very lucky back home and don’t realize it when that’s all we are surrounded by. Even compared to the Serengeti and Uluru and the Outback, church will always be that perfect place to go to at the end of every week. There’s nothing better than standing and worshiping with other people. Whether it is 50 people or 20,000 people, it’s all the same.

(Oh and for those of you curious, the lighting was awesome and it sounded incredible, although I prefer the lighting at LCBC. However they did have insane projectors and video, that was the most impressive. It would be awesome to go play in the catwalks one day, but I’m not sure how I would have convinced someone to let me go up there. Lighting is way too much fun!!)

Picture Time!

Alright, so I have been getting a lot of requests for pictures, so here they are. These are pictures from my trip to Kakadu National Park and The Centre of Australia. Enjoy!above: Holding Olly, a 22lb snake at about 2.5 metersabove: one of the many crocs jumping out of the water on the Croc Jumping Cruiseabove: yeah I think that picture speaks for itselfabove: Jim Jim Falls located in Kakadu National Park
above: standing at the base of Jim Jim Falls after freezing my butt off from swimming in the pool. One of the kids in our group even got hypothermia from the temperature.
above: Albert and I on a camel at the Camel Farm on our way to Uluru (Ayer's Rock)above: standing at the base of Uluru after walking around the base of the rock. Uluru is the largest single rock in the world and it has a base diameter of 6 miles. It stands over 1100 feet tall. It's pretty sweet!above: watching the sunset at Uluru (the Aboriginal name is Uluru and the white man term is Ayer's Rock)above: at the beginning of the sunsetabove: 20 minutes later at the end of the sunsetabove: the sunrise beside Uluru the next morning

I tried to put just a taste of what I've seen up here, otherwise I would have to upload nearly all of my pics, which is far too many. God's craftsmanship is truly remarkable, how can anyone not stand in awe of the beauty He has surrounded us with.

7-3 Thoughts

Time for another update from Downunder. So we got in to Sydney a few days ago and we are staying in dorms at UNSW. We are about a 15 minute bus ride to the center of Sydney, which we have gone to the past two nights we have been here. We had our first class in awhile this morning, now the real school work begins. Although we still manage to find plenty of time to have fun. We are working on the Whale Migration right now and I am booked to go see both an AFL and Rugby League game. This Sunday I am going to Hillsong Church which is going to be awesome, you have to reserve a seat on a courtesy bus. The bus leaves from downtown Sydney and takes about 1 hour to get to the church, but it will be well worth it! So that’s what’s on the radar ahead of me, as far as the past week I guess I have some writing to do.

So we left Darwin on Friday morning and flew down to Alice Springs, the only real town in the center of Australia. We got off the plane and boarded a bus which took us to the Center for Appropriate Technology (CAT). This place was awesome, I finally met engineers who were doing really cool stuff that had a purpose. Now that’s an exaggeration because a lot of my professors have awesome passions but this was the first company that I had come across that pretty much spelled out everything I wanted to hear. The companies goal is to secure sustainable livelihoods through appropriate technology for remote communities. Basically that means that they work alongside Aboriginals and develop sustainable technology and practices so as to ensure a better well-being for these people. The communities they work with range from 1-6 homes, very small communities that live essentially in the middle of nowhere. One of the important differences between this company and most others is that they focus on working alongside the people they are working with. Rather than simply moving in and installing new technology for these people and then moving on to the next community, CAT spends many months with the people; teaching them about the technology, showing them how to maintain it, informing them about appropriate energy usages, and a list of other stuff. I was much more impressed with that aspect of the company than the engineering aspect, although the engineering part was pretty incredible too. CAT focuses on simple designs, things that are easy to use and understand. From a toilet, to a wheelchair lift, to the photovoltaics, everything was simple. Now granted PV’s are complex, but CAT made sure to make the interface and control box simple and easy to understand for these people. Everything they did made so much sense, finally engineering applied to helping people. I asked the head of the company if he was thinking of starting up in Africa any time soon, I sort of got a smile as a response. I guess I shouldn’t call them a company because they are actually a non-profit organization. Anyway, the place was pretty cool and if I ever find myself in the middle of central Australia again, I’m gonna stop in again.

From there we got back on the bus and drove to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). Along the way we saw a camel, dingo, and kangaroo running in the middle of the road. We also stopped at a Camel Farm and rode some camels. Considering I have never even ridden a horse, it was pretty cool. From there it was back onto Uluru. Most people have probably seen the picture of this, it is a huge rock in the middle of absolutely nothing. It is considered the spiritual center of Aboriginal culture. The rock is over 1100 feet tall and has a base circumference of 6 miles, yeah, it’s big! The first day we got there we walked up to it and looked at a Rock Art site. We then walked around the base which took about 2 hours and ended the day by watching the sunset. We didn’t actually watch the sun, rather we watched the rock which turned an incredibly vibrant red. To top it off, as the rock was changing colors, a full moon came up directly behind the rock. It was beautiful! Later I found out that it was a blue moon which means it is one of two full moons in the same month which is pretty rare. We couldn’t have asked for a better night. From there we went back to our hotel which was an experience. Essentially Uluru is the only thing around where we were, therefore there was one hotel for miles around. I finally understand what a monopoly means. We paid $200 for one room which had two bunkbeds and was not big enough for all four people to stand at the same time. We had to pile our suitcases on top of each other simply to fit them in the room, it was pretty insane. Since there was nothing else anywhere, we hung out at the bar at the hotel that night. I played doubles pool with one of the guys against a few of the locals. The first game we took them and did pretty well, however the second game we got our butts smoked. See the rest of the world apparently plays with small pool balls, and have a few different rules than back in the states. Between that change and the fact that my partner made some horrendous shots (although I can’t say much because I wasn’t playing too well either), we got destroyed by two locals. It’s safe to say that we avoided the pool tables for the rest of the night.

The next morning we got up bright and early and went out to see the sunrise. This time we went to the Olgas (I forget the Aborignal name for them, I think Kada Tjuta) so that we could see those rocks change color and see the sun rise beside Uluru. It was equally as awesome as the sunset and I took more pictures than I ever have of the sun (which is the only star in our solar system for those of you who are wondering). After the sun was up, we went and hiked into Kada Tjuta. Along the way we passed two kangaroos hiding in the bushes. Now it felt like I was in the Outback, hiking in some boulders alongside kangaroos, not bad at all. Once we got back on the bus we went back to the hotel to pack up and it was back off to another airport. This time it was off to Sydney. We got into Sydney that afternoon and were quickly settled into our dorm rooms. And that’s where I’m sitting now. As far as nature goes, I couldn’t be more impressed after the past few days. I am so thankful and grateful for this experience, it’s not everyday that you get to go from the Endless Planes of the Serengeti to the Outback in the heart of Australia. This planet is an incredible place; it simply puts this Energy course into perspective. We talk a lot about alternative energy and sustainable design and the future of this planet. The way we are living our lives now is not exactly the way to ensure that this planet is around in the future. From simple things like turning lights out in unused rooms to bigger things like reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, there’s so many ways that we can lessen our destructive impact to this planet. It’s becoming clearer and clearer why God led me to these two trips, I’m finding what I’m passionate about. I’m seeing what I want to do with my future. I don’t know exactly where I will end up, but all that matters to me now is that it involves helping others. Whether that is in working with indigenous people to ensure a sustainable future, or working with disaster management teams for natural disasters, or working in an inner-city encouraging young kids that are severely at risk, all that matters to me is what is driving me to work where I am. One thing that I am realizing more and more is that America is not as well-off as we sometimes like to think. There is always this big distinction between developing and developed countries, and although there certainly is a difference between the two, I don’t think we can always approach the situation as “we are a developed country and are here to help those who are less fortunate than us.” Some of those things in our life that we feel make us superior to an underdeveloped country may actually not be as beneficial as we may first think. That’s something that I slowly saw in Africa and is popping up again here in Australia. It’s amazing how poor the Aboriginals are treated by the rest of Australia. Australia is a very divided country, half of them trying to mimic the United States and the other half trying to live like they always have, in harmony with the land. I was talking with one of the locals here and he said something very interesting about the distinction between white men and Aboriginals. White men view the land as something they can own and use and manipulate. Aboriginals view themselves as part of the land, and if they treat the land well, it will treat them well. I think that distinction is what divides most of the world into developing and developed countries, but I’m not convinced that the developed countries have the right answer.

6-28 Thoughts

“You made the world and saw that it was good.” Those are lyrics from Wonderful Maker by Chris Tomlin. Every now and then I’ll put itunes on random and see what comes up, and this was one of the first songs played this morning. How beautifully does that line sum up how I feel lately? Yesterday I got back from a three day trip into Kakadu National Park, the largest national park in all of Australia. After Africa, I didn’t think it would be possible to come across something that is so awe-inspiring again, but sure enough, I found myself full of wonder the entire trip. We left Monday morning and made our first stop at The Crocodile Jumping Cruise, it was your typical touristy thing to do in Australia. First we got to play with their snakes, sizing up around 12 feet. That kept us entertained for a good bit of time until it was time to load the boat. The boat was set up with two levels, the bottom lined with glass windows and the top was an open deck. I took my seat on the bottom and we took off on the river. Basically how it works is a crew member dangles a piece of meat off of the top deck and the crocodiles literally jump out of the water to try and catch it. Although I don’t particularly care for forcing animals to behave differently than they should in the wild, it was amazing to see the shear force and power of these ancient creatures. It felt as if we were in the middle of Jurassic Park. As with most of the things I’ve done, I feel like I need pictures to attempt to justify and explain what I saw, words seem not adequate enough to describe it.

After the Croc Jumping Cruise, we got back in the troopies (the name for their 4x4’s) and took off for our campsite in the heart of Kakadu. It was a long trek and would take us most of the day. We made one special stop along the way, a visit to the Ranger Uranium Mine. Something that only the Engineering group went to, which I can see why. The best part of the tour was that we all had to wear orange vests, hardhats, and eye protection, yet on the entire trip a lady carried a tiny infant with her which wore no protection. I think our group took more pictures of the irony in that situation than the actual mine. After our tour had finished up, we got back in the troopies and finished the last leg of the journey into the park. We arrived at our campsite which turned out to be a luxury tented campsite, which essentially only means that they have bathrooms and more importantly showers with hot water. I was so used to Africa that I refused to use the running water, it just took away from the experience knowing that you could go take a hot shower in the middle of a jungle. Most people came with a large bag with a change of clothes and everything for the trip; I just came with a towel and bathing suit. I’m learning how to pack much more efficiently from this summer. Anyway, so that night we hung out around the campfire and practiced our skills on the didgeridoo. Now I’ve never had much skill when it comes to musical instruments, sadly the didgeridoo didn’t change that. I got pretty good at shooting spit out of the end quite far, but that didn’t count for much.

For those of you who don’t know much about the didgeridoo I’ll come a little history lesson on it. The didgeridoo is made from a hollowed out tree branch caused by termites. The story behind it is that there once was an old evil man who lived on the top of the rocks. He was known for going into the local communities and stealing the women and wives. The men eventually got fed up with this and set out to kill him. They attempted to spear him to death but the man had special powers and the spears only bounced off of him. Frustrated, the men came up with a new plan. The old man would typically come down to the billabong while the women were fetching water to steal the wives. One night, the men of the community dug a large pit and covered it with leaves, the next day when the evil man came down to the billabong, he fell into the hole. As he fell into the hole, his didgeridoo got stuck in the wall. (and when I say didgeridoo I’m referring to the thing special to only men, not the wooden instrument) The men ran over to kill the evil man but the women insisted that they be allowed to have him first to repay him for what he did to them. As punishment, the women ran over and chopped off his didgeridoo, leaving it stuck in the side of the wall. The evil man picked it up and blew into it and then died. This is why only men are allowed to play the didgeridoo, because if a woman were to play the instrument, they would instantly become pregnant. And that’s how the didgeridoo came to be. Anyway, to made a long story short, I pretty much stink at playing it.

Anyway, after we were done hanging out around the fire we all went to bed. The next morning we were up bright and early, had breakfast, and loaded the troopies for the day. The back of a troopies is essentially to long pads lining both sides of the car behind the driver and passenger. Eight of us piled into the back of each of the three troopies and took off. The driver and guide of my troopie was named Lionell. He is part Aboriginal and deeply cares about his culture and history and wants to share it with others. He’s a great guy and I learned so much from him, but simply driving with him was worth the entire trip. We took the lead of the three car caravan and took off for Jim Jim Falls, rated as the number one place to see in the world (at least according to our guides). We were cruising at a good 60-70 mph and talking with Lionel at the same time when he suddenly yelled something and started swerving across the road. We pulled a 180 and flew back in the opposite direction, until he pulled another 180 and slammed the car off on the side of the road. He jumped out of the car leaving us all piled on top of one another in the back. It took us a few seconds to get untangled and jump out of the car after him. As we got out, Lionel came walking towards us with a Frilled-Neck Lizard in his hands. Somehow, between flying down the road, telling us a story, passing a few cars on a narrow road, and flying by thousands and thousands of trees, he managed to spot a lizard on the side of a tree. It was one of the craziest things I have seen, and well worth it. Frilled-Neck Lizards are hard to find and we had started off our day finding one, not too bad. The rest of the caravan soon caught up and we all huddled on the side of the road taking pictures. We got back in and took off back down the road. No more than five minutes passed before we were doing donuts in the street again. This time he had seen an Olive Python on the side of the road, so we naturally went over and played with it. Well I guess he played with it and we all watched. Afterwards we got back in the troopies and took off for the falls. An hour later we got there, but there was still an hour hike ahead of us to get there. Hidden back in a gorge, you have to cross massive boulders in the middle of a big canyon, any kids dream place to play at. When we finally got to the falls, we realized why it was worth all the work to get there. Have you ever seen something and five minutes later you realize that you had been starring at it the entire time, that’s the best way to describe Jim Jim. Towering above you and pouring two twin waterfalls over its’ rim, it crashes into the still pool of water at the bottom. If you try to track the water falling down, you loose it; its amazing any water makes it down without blowing away as mist. The shear height of it is intimidating. Such power and force. After taking my many pictures, I got into the water, which was beyond frigid, and swam towards the falls. I’m not gonna lie, I peed once along the way to warm myself up, but after talking with others that night, I found out that I wasn’t the only one. When I got under the falls it took all my strength to simply keep my head above water. I truly began to appreciate the power of the falls. After a few minutes in the water, it was time to get out. The shore was quite far away and it made a very difficult swim for most people, it turns out my Scuba training came in handy and the swim didn’t seem to bad to me. One guy got out and threw up and started hyper-ventilating. We nearly had to carry him out of the gorge. When everyone had gotten out of the water, we went and sat at one of the beaches and had lunch. Then we made the hike back to the parking lot. From Jim Jim Falls we then traveled to an Aboriginal Art Site. One of our guides explained what all the paintings were and told us the stories behind them. By that time, the sun was setting and we drove to a lookout point. It was our first vertical climb and we hiked to the top of a hill/mountain/rock thing. We sat and overlooked the entire park. The sun was setting behind us and it lit up the rock mountains a brilliant red. If you have ever been to Sedona in Arizona it kind of looks like that. The entire park looks much like the Endless Planes of Africa except covered in trees with the occasional rock structure emerging from the ground. After the sunset, we drove back to the campsite and hung around the campfire one last time.

The next day we went to Yellow Waters, a large billabong near the center of the park. From there we drove to an Aboriginal settlement and met with one of the local women. She showed us around the homestead and told us some history about Aboriginal culture. We then split up by gender and the women went off to weave and the guys had a didgeridoo contest and the winner won a t-shirt. Sadly I had not improved much since my last attempt and didn’t come close to winning. Afterwards we then played some Australian Rules football with the local kids and tour guides. Soon lunch was prepared and then we were back on the road. The rest of the day we spent driving out of the park and by night we were back in good ole’ Darwin. Tomorrow I will be heading off to Alice Springs and then down to Uluru. Sunday I will get in to Sydney and then the serious class work starts up. However I am making sure that I find lots of chances to get out of the Sydney, a few of us are looking into going out on the ocean to watch the Humpback Whale Migration, from what I hear you come a couple feet from touching the eye of the whales. Guaranteed 100% sighting at this time of the year, I’m getting pretty lucky in my timing. First the wildebeest and zebra migration and now a humpback whale migration; not too bad. I’m continued to be blown away by the beauty surrounding me on this planet. God is truly a wonderful creator, I am beginning to better understand what lots of the worship songs mean that we sing in church. “You make everything glorious”, “who imagined the sun and gave source to its light”, “how great is our god”, “blessed be your name, when the suns shining down on me”, “your spirit like water to my soul”, “you’re the water I drink, the treasure I seek”, “I could sing of your love forever”. I’ve never had so many lyrics jump into my head that all of the sudden mean so much more. God is so present in this world around us. What will it be like when we are living alongside Him in heaven?

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