1-26-13, 12:26 am NZ time
I keep trying to post on our blog! I started this one ten days ago, and then never found the time to add photos. So here I am, needing to go to bed, and I am trying to get this post to work. I had it all written and captioned and accidentally didn’t save it when I navigated away. I hope this has been worth the wait!
Here is an email that I tried to send from our “hotel” room when we were in Sydney, Australia. (I say “hotel” because we stayed in a 3-bedroom service apartment, much better than a hotel. It had a kitchen and six-person meal table, utility room with washer and dryer, and two complete bathrooms.) I could not send with Outlook, even though I could receive. It was quite disappointing, because I paid for 24 hours of internet, but I barely used it, due to inability to send by hitting reply. I gradually got smarter, going to webmail and then to my Opera account. What I wanted from Outlook was my address book! Who takes the time to type all that into webmail? Not me! I can open Outlook and find addresses, but I wasn’t about to spend my day and half in Sydney typing addresses into Opera or webmail. I could have done it on the long flight over, had I realized I would want it. Oh well, we live and learn. Anybody traveling may want to consider doing that if they plan to send out large group emails!
This “email” I am about to post was supposed to be forwarded to the whole church (Old Paths Bible Baptist Church), but the copy in my inbox doesn’t seem to have the words. So here it is, as I sent it.
Well, it’s kind of funny. I asked a few people who had come this way before if I should try to get Australian money through AAA before coming. I was told that the exchange rate here would be better, so I assumed I would get cash (after talking with our NZ friends) at the airport with my credit card. I misunderstood just about all the advice I received. I don’t usually pay for things in life with cash. I like to have a record of my spending, so I used mostly credit card, some debit, and some online banking, with a few checks written a month. I actually had a $100 bill in my purse that I took out and left behind, because I don’t like carrying around big bills. Trevor had paid it to me for his insurance.
So. We landed and stopped at some benches to compare our landing cards and make sure they were filled out the same. They were close enough. 🙂 Then we lugged our way to customs. I told the man I had unopened packages of nuts in several suitcases. Not a problem. I told the man we have shoes from a farm and they might have a little soil still on them but that we had wiped all the shoes with disinfectant. Not a problem. I asked if the Pepperidge Farms goldfish in a package were OK. Not a problem. We just walked right along and got to the counters. The man said, “Grab a line.” So we got into two lines and just sailed right through. Everyone was friendly and cheerful. We took our many, highly-loaded carts to the quarantine area and we laid our bags on the floor in a line. A cute little dog (maybe a beagle) sniffed all along the line. He stopped at the same one on the way up and on the way back, but the handler didn’t seem to be bothered by it. Then he sniffed another one near the beginning and the handler asked if we have a dog at home. We answered that we didn’t. I asked if the dog barks if he finds something. The other man said he just looks up at the handler as if to say, “I found it. Now can I have my treat?”
We went on to the exiting area and I herded us over to the money exchange business in the corner. He said they only exchange cash; they don’t give cash for credit cards. I was directed to a bank machine across the way. I told the kids to encircle the carts of luggage while I used the cash machine. I put in my Visa card and it asked me for a PIN. Pin! I don’t have one of those for my credit card! So I called the number on the back of the card. No connection. Did my new international phone not work as I expected it to? I tried again and got through. I explained to the lady in Missouri that I was in Sydney, Australia, and that I needed a PIN to get money to pay for a cab to take us out of the airport. She connected me to some automated PIN department which proceeded to tell me I would receive my PIN in 7-10 days! What!!! It said if I needed cash before that to go to a bank. Great. I had 14 suitcases and about 10 carryons and we could not take the luggage carts away from the airport to find a bank somewhere to get some cash! Now what?
I decided to call my junior pastor who has traveled more than anyone in the church probably and who had helped us arrange most of the portions of our trip. I had to leave a message. It was actually one hour before the evening church service was supposed to start for Wednesday night back home. It was 10 am here in Sydney. So I called our friends in New Zealand to see if they had any brilliant ideas. Not really. I called Pastor Folk while Reese and Dylan went to ask a taxi driver if he took credit cards. I could hear Pastor, though his words were fuzzy, but he kept saying, “Can you hear me?” I didn’t go outside because I didn’t want to leave the children and I didn’t want to move the whole pile outside. I had to hang up. 🙁
The boys came back and said there was a long line and they didn’t want to stand in line just to ask a question. It was about that time (I was talking with the NZ friend at that point) that Trevor spoke up and said he had some cash. I had $79. He had $172. The girls each had $25 from their grandmother to buy food on the plane, but it wasn’t needed after all. Dylan had some and Reese had some. So we thought we knew it would take $80 to take a Maxi Taxi (a minivan) because that is what it cost for the group of six when Reese had come with a group from church in 2011. I was sure it would take two taxis for all those suitcases. I wanted to get $200 Australian, so I borrowed from all the children until we had $200. Reese wrote down the loans in a little notebook he was carrying. I went to the window and asked him how much US I needed to get $200 AU. He told me $250. There was a $12 commission and $10 fee. So I motioned to the children until someone saw me and came. I borrowed more until I had $250. He told me if I exchanged for at least $400 AU I would pay no commission. I told him I didn’t think we had that much. I dragged out the $8 I had kept in the wallet and we got up to $408. I needed $450 USD to get the no commission. I asked how much it would cost when I went back through and exchanged again. If I got the higher amount, I would get a receipt to show and I would pay no commission and get a better rate than that posted on the wall. I called Karen over and asked her to look for her other $5 bill. The man spoke up and said, “How much do you have now?” I said, “$408.” He punched some keys and made the commission $6 and gave me the receipt to pay no commission going back through. I forgot to say that he was encouraging me to exchange more at the beginning because I would pay $12 commission no matter how much I exchanged, unless I went over $450. I knew I would need $50 AU for each of us when we got to PNG to buy visitor visas in a few weeks, so since I had plenty of time this morning and maybe no time going through from NZ in a few weeks, I thought it would be better to get plenty of cash now and just have that over with. So I thought I needed $160 for two taxis. I wanted so badly to get out of the noisy airport and into our room so I could call my credit card company and explain that I needed a PIN now.
With cash in wallet, we went to find the taxi area. The man told us to go to No. 14. That was a small station wagon, so I went to him and told him we needed the maxi taxi. He motioned me to one that had just pulled up. I told the man I thought I needed two and he was sure it would all fit in his van. He let down his hydraulic “ramp” and they loaded it. We got into the middle section, which had a row of three seats facing the back of the van and three facing forward. Trevor sat up front. For just a second I wondered why he got into the driver’s seat. Silly me! They drive on the other side of the road. 🙂 I told him the address and the name of Meriton Apartments. As we drove along, with our video camera going, he asked the address again. It didn’t seem to satisfy him. He was from Africa, a nice man. I kept saying “DeVries”. Finally I dug a briefcase out of the stack and found my folder of reservations. It was Defries. So I said, “deFRIES, like French Fries.” It turns out that they pronounce it “DEFFreez.” (That rhymes with “Jefffrey’s.”) Oh well, we got here. Then the bill was only $51. And when he swiped the credit card, it wanted a PIN! I said I didn’t have one and it declined. So I was glad I had cash! I gave him the 50 and the 20 and he gave me the 20 back. I said, “Wait, I have a ‘one’ here in my pocket.” He said, “That’s OK, I have another fare.” A woman had come up and asked him to take her and her party to the airport. He was happy to have more customers. 🙂 Normally he would probably drive back to the airport empty. [editor’s note: a ‘one’ is a one-dollar coin.] For anyone wondering, it took only about 8 minutes to get here and he didn’t drive particularly crazy.
I was hoping we could check in early, but there were no empty rooms. They had told me at the time of booking that we could if there was a clean one when we arrived. But it’s summer and vacationers are everywhere. We were blessed to get a room this late in the booking. They had us put our luggage on two huge, fancy trolleys which they locked into a room. We sat in the side part of the lobby and I combed the girls’ crazy, messy hair. I got directions to a grocery store and we started out for a 20-minute walk. Since our “serviced apartments” have a kitchen, we can save money because we don’t have to eat at restaurants. We walked through a couple of cute little parks. There are many eucalyptus trees planted along the streets and they smell good. We had fun looking at all the food and choosing what we wanted. Should we buy sliced cheese, or buy a sharp knife and pay half the price for the same amount of cheese? Reese and Dylan went to see how cheaply we could get a knife. Trevor and the girls went with me to the produce section. Everything was stacked neatly and the produce manager was apologizing for the messy look due to the holidays! I tried to tell him it all looked great. Several employees in the store were very friendly. We gave several tracts in the store and on the walk to and from it. Lord, please open their hearts to the Saviour and His love and His plan for mankind. We got chicken thighs, avocados, tomatoes, apples, Australian cheddar cheese, an onion, half a head of garlic, bread, butter, eggs, milk, ice cream, and frozen green vegetables (green peas, green beans, and a smattering of broccoli). The cheap veg here is green peas. We had planned to stop in one of the parks and make cheese sandwiches (hence the need for a knife), but we realized it was quite warm and the chicken and ice cream and milk wouldn’t survive. Besides, we were tired and the room was ready. We had killed 2 1/4 hours. It was in interesting walk, with lots of cranes and cars to look at.
We got into our room and had our ice cream on the balcony. We then made the sandwiches and ate. Everyone lay down to take a short nap and slept four hours! I had a hard time getting them up. I don’t have time to write all the funny things about our room, like a shower with just a partial clear wall and a drain in the floor. The kids raised their eyebrows about that. They have a lot of experiences to build up.
I was going to attach pictures, but I have to pay for internet $5 for one hour or $18 for 24 hours, so I wanted to wait until tomorrow morning to send this. We don’t want to waste the one day we have to look around Sydney.
We have other stories of the actual flights, especially Reese talking about the Bible so loudly and clearly that those of us a row ahead and beside him could hear him. He was talking to a saved girl, but the Mormon next to him heard it all. And the Catholic missionaries on his row did. I talked to a Muslim after giving his daughter a tract. I’m so naiive, I didn’t know what they were. They had distinctive clothing on, but I don’t know enough to guess religions of people. I had to ask. Well, I won’t elaborate more right now. He was very congenial.
~the restaurant called “lemonade” that we had supper at in LAX~
~loading our 14 suitcases and as many carryons into the maxi taxi~
~arriving at our serviced apartments: Meriton, in Zetland~The girls were looking up at the top floor, because that is where they told us would have a room. Ours was one of the five-story blocks.~
While we waited for our room to be ready, we shopped at Coles. There are interesting things for sale in the meat case! (It might help to know that in the UK, sausages are called “bangers.”)
In UK societies, they don’t refrigerate eggs.
~Reese using his new camera to capture memories~
Annabelle, Naomi, and Karen enjoyed hearing and seeing multiple fountains. For fun, the girls and I walked across the footpath between the bubbling fountains.
It was a long walk back to our apartment on a warm day, toting our groceries.
Gas (petrol) is priced by the liter (litre). Don’t you think Hungry Jack’s got their design idea from somewhere in the USA?
~getting our two trolleys of luggage to our room in the building next door~
Ice cream tastes even better after a long walk on a hot day and it’s even MORE special to eat on a balcony! 🙂
The view from our balcony was not beautiful, but was new and clean. Very modern; just the opposite of quaint. The kids loved it. Plenty of dishes and utensils were provided to cook a nice meal. It was so pleasant to have a table big enough for the whole family and enough dishes to serve them all. We never served chicken and vegetables quite like this before. It was delicious.