Monday, April 29, 2013

The Outback!

So finally, my reflections on the trip our ASC group took to the Outback...

    -     4 days of travel out to the middle of nowhere ie. "Back of Bourke" or "whoopwhoop" 
    -   12 hour bus ride both ways
-       Stayed in an awesome hotel ( seemed awesome after hostels and such)
-       actually only 2 full days in Outback
-      it felt longer though because we just could do whatever we wanted and explore
-        I signed the "No Shower” pact with the group (4-5 days ish) yum.

-       Where we stayed was called Trilby Station, Louth-- a 300,000 acres sheep farm-- they herd the sheep with not just dogs but also planes, yes, planes.
   ^ That is the sheep farmer, Gary.... you can find out more crazy awesome info. on him and his wife and their farm by looking up their website for Trilby Station!)

-       Saw my first wild kangaroos hopping by while I was on the bus! 

-       Most amazing star-gazing ever! Saw a huge possible meteor (ball of fire thing, need to ask Dad, lol)?
-       Tons of shooting stars, saw a very clear Orion, and saw my first Southern Hemisphere constellations like the Southern Cross!
-       Twinkling stars! So bright and clear and twinkly! (Red, whites, blues/purples)
-       Saw Mars distinctly, but no moon because it was a new moon, weird
-       Canoed and relaxed viewing the beautiful scenery on the "Billabong" ie. creek 
-       Practiced enjoying the moment (easier there than in Sydney)
-       Slept outside under the stars the first night (not much sleep but still awesome)
-       Got to play with the sheep- herding dogs, the Kelpies! (Rudy, Tanny, Plugger)
-       Was part of a little worship team some of us created for the ASC group
-       Sang improv and harmony by the fire at night with some talented ASC friends, so fun
-       Saw Kangaroos everywhere on the property, and on the tour our bus driver, Ian, took us on around the Outback, also saw rare pink-winged cockatoos
-       Worst part: the AWFUL annoying loud huge amounts of buzzing FLIES, the do not back off! lol just group of them land on you and stay there and buzzzzzz. ick.
-       The ground was covered in burs, which were felt like little thorns that just work their way into your skin and clothes, they were annoying also!
-       Still finding burs in my clothes (socks mainly, although i painfully discovered one in the back of my athletic shorts while dancing in hiphop class, that was fun :p)
   -        Loved the gorgeous red dirt! White socks and a t-shirts are permanently stained, and there's still some red dust and dirt on my camera and bag, but it's like i'll always have part of the Outback with me now ;)
   -       Some of us went Mudding in the billabong! Just like a foot of mud on the buddy, didn't want to know what else was down there, sketchy! But super fun! Except when it dried, it dries like cement :p oops
-       But it was nice to cool off/take a half shower in the pool ;)
   -  It was super hot by day, super cold by night
-       Got ANOTHER cold while there (fun fact)

-       Went on a sunrise walk last day to find some kangaroos and get video of them hopping!

The scenery was beautiful:
Red, bright dirt; green, twisting trees; blue, clear skies; white, puffy clouds

The horizon went on forever and ever! Breath-taking.
-        I had a few moments where I just was so calm and I felt God there, as cliche as it is I know, but it was something I'd never felt that strongly before... comfort, peace, security..

My Goals While There:
   -    To get red dirt on my face, of course :D

   -  But also, I wanted to grow closer to God, and it happened in finding time and silence and relaxation to just sit and listen and pray and read

   -      I wanted to be more open and outgoing with others, and it happened through the sharing time with our ASC group and through good conversations and bonding, still struggling with being quiet and shy overall, but this trip helped me feel more comfortable in myself

-       I loved being on my own with God and nature, but I also stepped out of my comfort zone to let others in more and to just enjoy all the interactions and fun, new experiences together

I definitely miss the Outback, it was just overwhelmingly peaceful (minus flies) and comforting.  It was also like a whole new world, hard to believe people still live that remotely (reminds me of the Dominican), but it was cool to be integrated into that type of life even for a few days...Makes me realize more and more that I'm definitely not a city person.  But I am not a country person in terms of that type of remoteness either, lol, but I think I've decided I'd like a happy medium... :) preferably a place with skies that go on forever and kangaroos that hop past you on the road, nbd.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

New Zealand: Wellington

So for the first part of break I went with 5 girls to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. It's on the North Island (southern part) and is a beautiful harbor city.  Overall, it was an amazingly challenging but awesome trip, it was not what I had exactly dreamed of or expected, but God has been teaching me a lot that I need to be more grateful and enjoy what I do have-- I realized how spoiled I often am...Anyway, although it wasn't the typical New Zealand views you think of (kayaking through waterfalls with dolphins or hiking to snow-capped mountains, lol) it was still beautiful and relaxing nonetheless! And so cool to have seen just a glimpse of that gorgeous country!

So here's a day by day itinerary:

Day 1:

-       Got lost, (got laughed at! lol) got told wrong place to go in searching for a waterfall hike
-       Ended up finding a great hike to Mt. Kaukau
-       I think it would be considered a normal hike to any local, but to us it was phenomenal!
-       It was so green! Soo many shades of green-- I loved it!
-       The view was full of yellow, tan, green, with blue sky and puffy, fast moving clouds (and unfortunately lots of fog while we were there all week--which is why the sky looks white^)
-       Cameras don’t do it justice, so picturesque
-       Not the view I’d imagined, but was just as good because we worked to get there
-       I will never forget just running up the side of a steep cliff to the highest part we found at first, it was so windy we were tripping and falling and that made it all the more memorable and worth it :p!
-       We hiked and got lost and wandered all day, and it was exhausting but I just kept walking and was not bothered because everywhere I looked was interesting and new and gorgeous (we even walked all the way back to Wellington, got lost for over 3 hrs)
-       “Just 30 more minutes…” (that's what everyone kept telling us as we wandered trying to find Wellington after our hike, haha)
-       After first day, nice to relax and not have a plan all the time, stressful but freeing, my mind kept racing with all that I wanted to do there, but it’s a group and it’s limited time and money and I had to learn to go with it and adjust and appreciate what we did do, which ended up being awesome!
-       Learned that I need to go with the flow more, trust God more, not let frustration and expectations overwhelm me so much! (Below pic is the beautiful harbor, Wellington was just gorgeous, esp when the skies cleared up!)
-       Learned to THANK GOD more: creation, means, opportunity, safety, etc.
-       Found that the time and the views gave me opportunity to reflect and feel overwhelmed with emotion and thankfulness for God’s grace and love for me and his creation that he allows me to enjoy and experience
-       Wanted them to be there to experience it-- Dad would love it (seclusion, peace, silence, wildlife, never-ending hikes and trails), Jami and Jase would love the adventure sports and such, and Caleb would love the LOTR references everywhere!
-       Overall, the visit was like a “TEASER” for me, I didn’t see all I wanted to, and I’d love to go back, especially to South Island!
-       But I still loved it because I did stuff that stretched me (literally sometimes :p ie. ropes course, haha!), challenged me, and was completely new to me. 
-       Fun fact: budget was $800 and I made it! (With six girls it was awesome because we split and shared and packed meals each day and cooked huge, awesome meals each night at the hostel! I learned to make pancakes :D) Food overall: $25 (score!)

Day 2:

-   Zip-line (“Flying Fox”) and high ropes course! Super high in the trees, hard to reach stuff cause I was too short :p, but still awesome to complete it and feel proud that I could
-       Physically hard but rewarding and beautiful and scary and exhilarating!
-       Indiana Jones rope swing! Aw yeah.
-       There was a literal skateboard on a rope across a wire and you just glide across on it--sweet!
-       Body- slammed a few times after ziplining to fast without breaking (fun! and woops! haha) and almost fell off twice from the rotating logs on ropes which were super slippy and hard to figure out, and there was a zipline hanger thing where my hands slipped at the end--eesh!

Day 3:

-       Mountain biking!
-       Hard, fell off twice! (cut & bruised...) haven't fallen off a bike since I was like 5 (not cool & embarrassing lol)
-       It was scary at times because it was a tiny trail right by the edge of the cliff..
-       Pushed my bike up 50% of the time (not gonna lie ;p)
-       REFUSED to give up! Although I was not physically completely able to do it, I still wanted to make it to the top, there was no way I wouldn’t after being halfway up lol
-       Minimal view at top (FOG and clouds...but still cool views on way up-- see below pic with windmills!)
-       But still felt proud and accomplished since it's something i'd not normally do
-       Going back down was fun, fast, and bumpy :D best part.
-       Same day: Wharf Jumping! (2 diff locations)
-        First one was this staircase thing ^, it was so fun and i'd never done something like it before! So cool, plus it's a tourist spot that locals tell you about but don't warn you :p (unknowing tourists get splashed/soaked because we stand too close to the edge when ppl jump off, hehe)
-       The other wharf jump we did was on a wooden “plank” over the actual harbor, supposed non-stinging jellyfish in it that locals told us about, but I didn't feel/see them :(
-       So COLD but exhilarating and cool feeling of adrenaline (esp of the high staircase one)!
-       Random: sweet, friendly woman asked to take our photos while on the plank lol, she told us how to pose haha

  *Trip Highlights:
o   Friendly, warm Kiwi people
o   Stumbling upon Mount Kaukau and loving it
o   Mountain biking to the top!
o   Wharf jumping!
o   Time for growth, prayer, reflection, and appreciation for my family & friends back home!