After some visa hassle, I arrived in Cambodia and went to Christina’s new house. It was fun how at home I felt there, even though I’d never been in the new place! But I’d already met her housemates and it was a similar set up, and besides, good friends feel like home no matter where you are :) We got manicures and had our feet nibbled on by fish before Rich arrived a few days later. Rich and I led worship at one of the churches she attends. We also had lunch with the pastors a few days later (great conversation and interesting to hear more about the situation there). We played a gig at a local cafe one night, and packed the place out! 10% of the food and drinks sold went to the youth ministry, and we got fed for free, so it was great all round. Our last night involved hiring a boat to go out on the river with food and friends – lots of fun! We also managed to visit the favourite fancy icecream place not once, but TWICE in the week we were there. There were plenty of late night chats, visits to the Russian market for fresh noodles, and bottles of zenya :)
First stop in Australia was Canberra. It was so fun to have Rich (and Leesha – who joined us a few days later) staying in my home, with my parents, sightseeing in my hometown. We did some kangaroo spotting on Farrer Ridge, took in some of the sights of Canberra, and had lots of lovely hangout time with Amanda & Andrew (who had known Rich and Leesha in China), Esther, and Eddie & Nicole. We performed at TUC (the church I grew up in) and I sold some CDs. I sold enough over the trip to pay my way around the country and back to China! Rich also performed in a cafe in Lyneham, which was a fun night. I sorted through a lot of the things I’d stored in the basement when I moved to China, pulling out things to be thrown out/given away and a lot to be shipped to China – that’s where my life is now. Highlights included Mum’s cooking (as always), a visit to Questacon, tea with Esther, the parents’ wine cellar, dinner with the Naco family, and seeing old friends at TUC (was wonderful to still feel like family after all these years).
Rich went to Sydney to sightsee for a few days while I finished up stuff in Canberra. I drove up to stay overnight with family (sooo good!), then we drove to Wollongong to lead worship in a small church there. It was a lovely morning, we met some wonderful people, and had lunch with a friend (who I’d never met in person before!) who is very interested in China. I then visited with another China-related family who are dear to me on the way to my grandparents’ place in Singleton. I spent a lovely two days with them and my parents before heading back to pick up Rich and go south.
Rich and I hired a car and drove to Melbourne, taking the longer coast road to get a bit of scenery. Rich definitely enjoyed the winding roads! We stayed overnight in Eden before rocking up to the Andersons’ place. We had known their family in Beijing – in particular, Rich worked with Libby and I knew Olivia from the youth group. It was wonderful to see them! While there I voted in the election (first time in a while!), we visited a wildlife park (including a fantastic eagle experience), had lunch with Chris and Ian Loh (friends from Beijing) and Rich went to see the AFL at the MCG. On our last night Rich played at an open mic and I spent the night with dear friends Keith and Leslie (and their new baby kittens!)
Our next stop was Kalgoorlie, where my sister and brother-in-law live. I’d been once before, to visit my friend Jannah, who still lives there. We went to the superpit, a mining museum, and Lake Ballard – a salt lake with interesting installations sculptures spread across it. We also performed at a local Christian school. There was definitely an IAB feel to the staff and students, and we both thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. I even made a quick visit at lunchtime the next day. By that point I’d been away from China for a month and was definitely missing my youth kids there. The highlight for me was definitely spending time with Natasha and Dante! It was fun to see Jannah again, too, and her two boys (I’d not met her youngest before).
Our last stop was Perth. We sang and spoke at PCCC, where we received a wonderfully warm welcome. We shared at both the Mandarin and English language services – at the former I even did some of my sharing in Mandarin (including some translation for Rich). It was a bit of a stretching experience, but smoother and more comfortable than I had expected, especially after a month away from China. I really enjoyed the visit at PCCC and hope to visit them again on my next trip home – whenever that is (currently I don’t plan to be home again til April 2012). After church, close friends Jo and Bruce took us out for lunch, then we said goodbye to Rich at the airport (I stayed on a few more days to see people). I knew Jo in Beijing and attended their wedding in Zhuhai a few years ago. It was so lovely to spend time with them! All three of us are bilingual (Jo and I are native in English, Bruce is native in Chinese) and it was so relaxing to be able to say whatever, without worrying about what language you were in. I spent a night with the Komakech family, more Beijing friends, who I hadn’t see in nearly 4 years – their kids are so big now! My last day was spent hanging out with my sister, Carla, who took me to a fav spot in Freemantle. It was wonderful to hear more about the stuff she’d been working on while studying for her Masters (her graduation is in March and I am very much the proud big sister!)
I will be staying in Beijing over Christmas. I have been offered a place to housesit, which will be a good chance to make myself take a bit of a holiday. In January I will be going to Cambodia again for two weeks. I’ve been planning to continue going down to help with youth ministry stuff whenever I have the resources (time and money) to do so, and after chatting with two of the pastors on our last trip I felt a strong desire to help out with whatever training and other assistance I could offer. I thought January would be a good time, but couldn’t afford it (not without using the money I set aside for my health insurance). When I realised money was the only thing stopping me, I decided that was stupid. I can’t afford it, but God certainly can. So I made a budget and decided to approach a few people/groups in Beijing to help me cover what couldn’t. My church here (CCC) has given me a grant to help me get there, which is a huge blessing! It covers the whole portion I couldn’t afford.
The plan so far is to help with various youth ministry and worship ministry type things. I’ll be helping at the high school youth camp and at youth group, doing some vocal coaching, and some worship leadership training. I think I’ll have the chance to lead worship again, too, which I would very much enjoy. I’m looking forward to helping out however I can :)
So that’s my travel stories! Congratulations to those who made it this far!