Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Week That Started It All

Blood, sweat and bruises. That's one way to describe my week at Kulaba. Another way is to say it was fun, a huge learning curve and an eye opener.
Kulaba is a 2000 acre sheep and cattle station owned by Craig Pickette. Craig runs OutBackPackers, a farm stay designed to show people how cattle and sheep stations run.
At the beginning of the week Craig told us that it was hard work and he was going to show us all the hard work. This wasn't going to be easy.
And he was right. From day one we got hot, tired and dusty. But we also learned.
We learned the difference between lambs and ewes, between bulls, cows, calves and bullocks. We figured out how to think outside the box. Craig told us that farmers were simple people. Maybe they are but some of us found it hard to keep things simple. We over thought or under thought. We almost stole the neighbours cattle, we fell off bikes and horses, we banged our heads and in the end we survived a week on a real Australian farm.
But it wasn't all about the work. Every night we gathered around the table and talked. People told outrageous stories and others made us laugh. Beer flowed thick and the stories got more ridiculous. I may not have agreed with everything that was said. In fact a lot of it a I disagreed with it but I was in the midst of authentic Australian life. It was how they live, how they talked.
My eyes were opened to how most people in this world think. I met people who only have one night stands because they have seen so many relationships fall apart. I've seen others flirt when we all know they have a special someone back home. And they do it all with an ease that shocked me.
While I learned about the actual work I also became aware of how priviledged I am to have grown up in a Christian family.
There was a reason for me to behave, to live as I had been taught. Maybe they didn't understand it and maybe they did but that was no reason for me not to go on living just as I did at home. I spent time with my fellow trainees and had some good conversations with a few about my beliefs. They listened, they probed and I learned to dig deep down and remember all those things I had been taught since I was a young child.
Did I judge them? Maybe at times I did and that was wrong of me. But I also saw that a lack of proper upbringing brings most people to ruin early on. One of the girls I worked with admitted that she had done somethings she was ashamed of.
Maybe I could have brought her some comfort but was it the right time? The same person also told me that she was glad I wasn't forcing the Gospel on her. What could I do? She was talking to me and listening to what I had to say. We barely knew each other.
My one hope is that the things I said and did this week will stick with them and the next time they meet a Christian they will be ready for something more.
The work was hard but rewarding. I know so many things I didn't know when I stepped out of that van last Sunday evening.
I can tie knots that will keep loads from moving, I can draft sheep, I can ride a quad, change a tire and find tools when they are needed. I can handle myself in situations that are strange and at times embarressing. I found out that I have a strength from God that never fails.
People knew right away that I was differnt yet they accepted me and always urged me to come out and talk and not to hide away. That was good too. I learned to open up about myself, to tell them the things I believed.
In the end I ended up with a job that was quite different from what I had thought I'd do. But Craig and Jo, his office helper, try their best to match us with a job that they think will suit us. So I trust their judgement and will do my best to prove them right.
These next months are going to be just as challenging but I know I have a Father who loves me and will always be there to help me. That is what I cling to as I step into the unknown.
My week was amazing, something I will never forget. It was a huge stepping stone for me and I managed to step on and off without loosing anything that belonged to me. The memories and friends I made may one day fade but I will always remember this time as a time of strengthening, of challenge and most of all of fun.
It was the beginning of the adventure of my life.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

World Famous in Sydney

When people think about Australia the first thing that comes to mind are the white domes of the Sydney Opera house.
The construction of this world famous concert hall began in 1958 and finally ended in 1973. Over the years it has become one of the most famous and recognizable buildings in the world. Some 1,500 hundred performances are hosted every year with upwards of 1.2 million people attending.
The Sydney Opera House was designed by Jorn Utzon. The theory is that his idea for the domes came to him while he was peeling an orange. Beneath its famous domes is a complex of linked theatres and halls.
The biggest threate is the Concert Hall, which can seat upto 2, 690 people. Here symphony, choral, jazz, folk and pop concerts, chamber music, opera, dance and everything from body building to fashion parades are hosted.
The Opera Theatre, now known as The Joan Sutherland Theatre, is mainly used for opera and ballet and can hold up to 1,507 people.
One of the smallest theatres is the Playhouse. Holding only 400 people, it is used for intimate productions but still able to hold plays with larger casts.
The Drama Theatre can hold up to 544 people and is used by the Sydney Theatre Company and other dance and theatrical presenters.
The Monumental Steps, along with the forecourt, are used for outdoor performances.
The Studio can hold up to 400 people depending on how it is configured.
Inside it's halls are two famous paintings. One is a mural by Michael Tjakamarra Nelson, an artist from the central Australian desert. It is called 'The Possum Dreaming'. In the Utzon room is a tapestry designed by Jorn Utzon. This tapestry was inspired by the music of Carl Philippe Emanuel Bach.
The Northern Foyers and the Utzon Room can be rented for conferences, lunches, parties and weddings. The windows boast spectacular views of the harbour.
Outside many walkways surround the building allowing visitors to see all sides of the building. Along the walkways are many restaurants, cafes and souvenier shops. One of Sydney's finest restaurants, Guillaue at Bennelong, is located close to the front of the building under it's own little domes roofs.
From every walkway there is a view of the harbour where the boats come in and out.
Even though it took many years to build the finished result is something of legend. When the construction first began, the complex design had never been used before and therefore caused many problems. But finally it was completed and began it's famous performances which never fail to impress.
The Sydney Opera House, with it's white domes, will never be forgotten by those who visit it.