Thursday, November 3, 2011


So, my laptop has died (just the computer and not the hard drive, fortunately), and with it all my plans of uploading photos, catching up on blogging, and getting homework done.  Right now Nora is kindly letting me use her computer, but I feel bad taking it from her to often, so I probably won't be getting nearly as much done as I intended.  On the plus side, I won't be staying up late online, either.  Anyway, all that to say that my posting schedule is not going to be as promised the other day.  Maybe I'll write some retrospective posts once I'm home, if anyone's interested in that?  (If you are, let me know...)

But for now, here's a little more on where I am now and what's been going on: Nora and I are staying with a family who live in a suburb of Auckland.  The dad is from New Zealand and the mom is American (from Michigan); she moved here with him after they got married less than 10 years ago.  They have three children, ages 2, 4, and 6.  The kids are all quite high-energy, and the youngest, especially, has been playing with us a lot.  She likes to make me pretend to go to sleep and then sing, yell, or hit me with a pillow to wake me up.  She's super cute; they all are.  We've been eating great home-cooked meals with them and we watched NCIS (an American crime show that I'd never heard of before we came here) with the mom the other night.  So it's been fun so far.

For the past two weeks we've had Gary Baxter, a Houghton art professor, with us to teach the Art and Film courses.  So for the past three days our classes have consisted of watching New Zealand films, which is fun.  The movies are, in case anyone's curious, Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, and Boy.  All quite good, all dealing with some hard issues--Once Were Warriors is especially dark, very disturbing.  Boy had a good amount of humor in it, so that balance was good.

Today we visited a super nice public school and heard about it from one of the teachers and chatted with some of the students and then had a wonderful afternoon tea there (here and in AU they eat so many times in one day; breakfast, then morning tea, then lunch, then afternoon tea, then dinner [which they call tea--so many teas!  But it never means just tea, there's always food too], and sometimes supper, which is a light snack before bed).  Tomorrow we have a guest lecturer in the morning, and then we have a free afternoon.  Not sure what I'll do; maybe try to get into the city by ferry if it's not too expensive and if I can figure out the bus system to get there.

So yeah, I guess that's a pretty good overview of things right now.  Not sure when I'll post again, but I'll try to at least once or twice before I come back on the 18th!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A post!

Wow, my last post was September 9th--I lost my momentum early!  But here's a quick update on what's going on with me now (I just copied and pasted from an email... :P).  I definitely have more free time this week than I've had for ages, so there will be more posts--both on NZ and the past weeks in AU--soon!

NZ feels very different from AU.  Much quieter and less busy--you can tell the population is smaller.  We were in Auckland yesterday and today, and the city just feels so empty compared to Australian cities.  The countryside, what we've seen of it, is beautiful--the shoreline is cliffs, and there are lots of rivers and sand flats.  So it's a nice place, and I hope we get to see more of it.  The area where we've mainly been--we have classes at the church where most of the host families go--is kind of ugly, all developed with stores everywhere.  And the suburb where I'm staying is just packed with houses; you look out the window and just see tons of them, as if they're piled on top of each other (it's really hilly here, so it's kind of a funny perspective.  Driving in Auckland was scary because the hills were so steep).

We went to the Auckland Art Gallery on Monday and the Natural History Museum today.  Who knows what we'll do tomorrow!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The past week

This week we’ve gone into the city (Brisbane) every day for “classes” with Peter Breen, a former pastor who now runs Jugglers Art Space.  According to the website, "Jugglers Art Space Inc. is an Artist Run Initiative that is committed to supporting emerging artists across a broad range of genres. It was founded in 2002 to address the critical shortage of exhibition and studio spaces available in Brisbane." PB wanted graffiti artists, especially kids, to have a place where they could do their art legally.  Now artists have shows there, and Jugglers has rented property from Queensland rail which they in turn rent to artists to use as studios.

So anyway, we’ve been going in and basically chatting with Peter Breen.  He’s talked about the church and art and about loving and serving people.  Monday we just stayed at Jugglers and talked.  Tuesday we visited two of the studios Jugglers rents out and the artists talked to us about their work.  One man was part Aborigine, and he makes and plays dijeridoos.  (He played one for us, and it was amazing.  Then some of us tried, and it wasn’t so amazing.  You have to do this weird circular breathing thing, which takes a while to learn.)  He also paints, and his work is inspired by Aboriginal stories.  You can see some of his paintings here:  Then we went and talked to Nic Plowman, who also paints.  His most recent work, some of which he showed us, has been inspired by his recovery from a bad fall.  It was really interesting to talk to both of these men and hear the stories behind their art.

On Wednesday we talked with Peter Breen more and also Terry Fitzpatrick, someone Peter knows (I forget exactly how…).  He and Peter both have some ideas about God and Christianity that are very different from everything I’ve heard before, such as, in Peter's words, that "love is an end in itself"--you don't necessarily have to evangelize to people; it's okay just to love them.  It’s been great to hear a completely different perspective, especially when I agree with a lot of it.

Yesterday, Thursday, we went to the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art.  We didn’t have any instructions or assignments, we just got to wander through the Australian art area at the QAG and the surrealism exhibit at GOMA.  Surrealism can be pretty disturbing, especially when you’re seeing so much of it at once.  But it was really interesting, and it was nice to just be able to go through at our own pace.

~An interjection--I wrote this post yesterday, so we've been to Jugglers and back today, but I'm really tired, so for now I'll leave the paragraph that I wrote yesterday about today as it is, and write about today another time.~

Tomorrow there’s a new art show opening, so we’re going to help with that if our help is needed and also just participate in it (we’re going to be throwing paint balloons at the currently white tunnel walls).  It’s been a good week; it’s been nice to get out of the NTC and see a little more of the city and hear from a cool Australian guy.  And not having traditional classes is really nice.  There’s also not really been any homework; we do have to write two papers, though, one four-page one having something to do with this past week and one one-page reflection on the sculpture we’re building.  Oh, yeah, another part of this week is that we have to build a sculpture out of objects we’ve found.  It’s kind of hard for 12 people to build one sculpture, though, so it seems like a few people have been doing most of it.  So it’ll be interesting writing a reflection on it…

We don’t have to be at Jugglers till 2 tomorrow; we’ve been getting there at 8:30, meaning I’ve had to get up at 7 (although twice I slept through my alarm and my roommates had to wake me up), so it’s going to be really, really nice to sleep in.

My flying horse

Earlier this week I had a dream that I flew to America to visit for the weekend on a flying horse.  It was really quick and easy.  I stopped at Houghton and then I went home, where I asked Mom, “Want to know how I got here?” because I was really excited to tell her I flew in on a flying horse.  But she never answered me, and I was disappointed.  Then I was thinking about how it wasn’t possible for me to actually have gotten there on a flying horse, so I decided I must just be imagining that I was there, but it felt so real.  Then I thought I would just imagine myself flying back to Australia, and I knew that would feel real too, but then I thought how everything that happened in Australia after that would only be in my imagination, and that I would eventually wake up and have to live all that time over again.

Monday, August 29, 2011


A few photos are on Facebook, for anyone who hasn't found them yet:

Classes, church, bus fail, food

Well, classes have started...  9am every day this week we have Music with a professor from Houghton who lectures via Skype.  So far it's been about music in general rather than Australian music in particular, which I think is a little weird since it's only a week-long class.  But it's been pretty interesting.  Some of it just goes over my head, and sometimes there's this horrible echo on Skype so you can't really understand anything, but there have been a lot of YouTube clips of different types of music from around the world, so that's been cool.  In the afternoons we have another class, Engaging Australia Culture (I think...), but we don't really know what we're doing for that one yet.  Yesterday we talked about different stages of adjusting to a new culture and intro stuff like that.

Let's see... on Sunday we went to church, not the one where we had youth group but a different one, Southgate Wesleyan Methodist, I believe.  It was kind of in the middle of nowhere and was a big square building, not particularly church-like.  There was a peacock in the front when we pulled up--they're wild here.  The service was pretty normal; we sang some familiar songs and some new ones, Prof. Kettelkamp preached, and that was about it.  Afterward we had snacks and tea and chatted with the Australian people.  An older man told me about his grandsons and how to make pumpkin soup.

Back here that afternoon, we didn't have anything to do and wanted to do something exciting, so we decided to try taking a bus for the first time.  We walked to the bus stop and waited 10 minutes or so for the bus to Victoria Point, where we'd gone shopping the first day.  When the bus was in sight, we all watched and waited expectantly for it to pull up and stop.  But, as we all stood there, waiting and watching, the bus drove right by us.

Of course we were all like, "What?  What was that?" especially because the next bus wasn't for another hour (they run the least on Sundays).  Then we saw that on the sign for the bus stop, beneath a picture of someone waving to the bus, it said "Hail driver."  So, realizing our mistake, we headed back the way we'd come to the other close bus stop, deciding to take a bus in the other direction, where there's another shopping center.  When that bus came into view we all waved frantically, and were very relieved when it pulled over and stop.

But then, after talking to the driver for a minute, we realized that that bus wasn't going where we wanted to go; the bus we wanted didn't run on Sundays.  So we finally gave up and headed back to the college.  It was pretty sad.

But after a little while of sitting around in the lounge area, some people got a ride to Victoria Point with one of the Australian students here, and Adam, Nora, Bekah and I ended up biking there, led by the only American student here, who's really into biking and was happy to show us the way.  It was a nice ride there, all downhill.  We bought a few groceries--everything was closed but the grocery stores and Kmart; things shut down around 5 here, it seems like--and then we had to bike back.  All uphill, this time, with our groceries.  It was exhausting, but we made it (walking up the last hill helped).  And we'd had our adventure for the day.

Yesterday Prof. Kettelkamp drove us to Victoria Point--he'll be doing that every Monday and Thursday, which is nice because I was expecting to have to pay for the bus every time we wanted groceries--so Nora, Adam and I went and got even more food.  The three of us have decided to cook together, and now we should be set for a while with food.  There was a community dinner last night for everyone at the college, and we ate burgers with fried egg and beetroot.  It was different, but good.

Class time... more soon.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jetlag and awesome Australian animals

Still very jetlagged and exhausted, but I want to write about things before I forget them.  Today we went to a koala sanctuary, and I got to hold a koala!  The zookeeper lady had me hold my hands a certain way to support it, and then set it in my hands facing me, with its hands on my shoulders.  It was so cute and soft!  They have lots of other animals at this place too--a platypus, dingoes (my favorite--they're really pretty and look like normal dogs), wombats, lots of birds, and kangaroos.  We got to go right in with them (the kangaroos) and hand feed them and pet them.  Most were really small ones that looked a lot like wallabies, but there were some red kangaroos, which were a little bigger and more like typical kangaroos.

We also saw a sheepdog demonstration.  The dogs were so eager to herd the sheep, and it was so cool how they knew exactly what to do.  When a sheep didn't go with the group, one of the dogs ran right over and got it back with the others.  They herded the sheep into this small fenced area where they were all packed together, and to get from one side of the group to the other the dog would jump up and run right on top of the sheep!

It was raining pretty much the whole time, which is normal since it's winter here now.  It also starts to get dark around 5, which is very weird because I'm used to it getting dark around 8.  That makes adjusting harder, because it feels a lot later than it is.  I can't believe it's not even 8pm yet.

Last night at the youth group thing was a weird time.  The first thing we had to do was wash each other's feet, and I was so tired and it was such a random thing to do on my first night in Australia that afterward it felt like a strange dream.  The whole thing was like a weird dream, actually, because after a short message we had a Wii tennis tournament.  Playing Wii tennis in Australia while exhausted and jetlagged was pretty surreal.  I lost my match.

We were there for a pretty long time.  By the time we got back it was after 9.  I was in bed about 10, and I feel asleep right away but woke up at 1 feeling really nauseous.  And then I couldn't get back to sleep; I would close my eyes and then "wake up" later feeling like I'd been asleep, but when I looked at my watch barely any time had passed.  Actually, I think I was sleeping, but just very lightly, and I kept having this dream where this man was telling me and the rest of the Houghton group about these different Australian boxes and how they were used for different things, and I had to do something with them but I couldn't figure out which box was used for what even though the man kept explaining it.  This kept going on, and I kept looking at my watch and seeing that time was hardly passing, and at one point my over-tired, sleep-deprived, half-awake brain reasoned that something in my dream was preventing me from going to sleep, and it seemed like there was something I could do about it but at the same time I couldn't do it...  That probably makes no sense, but at the time, it was very logical.

But I finally did get to sleep, and I only woke up very briefly hours later when I heard the kookaburra, which they told us like to make noise early in the morning, and then I slept right till 9:15.  I woke up feeling great, not sick at all anymore and very well-rested.  After I got up, though, I started feeling off again, and that's continued all day.  But I know soon my poor body will be adjusted.

Tomorrow morning we're going to the church where the youth group was; Prof. Kettlekamp is preaching.  Then we have the whole day free before we start classes on Monday.  Sometime soon I'll write about this place where we're staying; it definitely deserves a post of its own.

P. S. I forgot to mention our trip to the koala sanctuary.  The group was in three cars; I was in the second one, following someone who had a GPS.  It seemed to be taking a long time to get there (over an hour); I'd gotten the impression it was closer.  We were driving through the city, and had been for a while, which seemed kind of strange.  And then we got lost.  We had to stop at a red light, while the car we were following had made it through.  This had happened before, and the lady driving would pull over somewhere and wait for us, but there must not have been anywhere good to pull over that time, because when we drove on we didn't see her anywhere.  So we kept driving and then asked for directions at a gas station, drove some more, then asked for directions from a guy walking, drove some more, saw signs for the place, followed the signs, stopped seeing the signs, saw a sign pointing back the way we'd come, followed the signs again, and finally made it there, after almost two hours.

On the way back we stuck to the highway, and the drive took 50 minutes.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Right now, I really wish I wasn't sitting.  My legs are aching, just like they ached the whole plane ride over here.  What I really want to do is lie down, but that isn't going to happen for a while, because if I lie down I'll fall asleep, and we have to be somewhere at 7 (right now it's about 6 here; we're 14 hours ahead).  This day has been ridiculously long.  I've had way too much time (a very uncommon problem for me)--they gave us 3 hours to unpack, then 3 hours to shop, then 3 hours before some sort of youth group at 7.  And originally we were told we'd be able to sleep at 7.

But it's been really exciting, too.  About an hour or so ago I saw my first wallaby, and it was pretty amazing.  Then he hopped, and it was even more amazing.  I saw a bunch more wallabies, too; they're all over the campus, just hanging around, eating, watching us.  And I saw this cool bird called a curlew, and we've been hearing kookaburras and magpies, and Professor Kettlekamp told us there are koalas all around this area, and I saw koala and wallaby crossing signs, and we drove on the left side of the road and it was super weird, and we can't go off the paths here because of snakes and who knows what else...  I'm actually in Australia!  It's actually real!  It's very cool, very weird, and very overwhelming.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I fell off a horse

Yup.  On Wednesday during horsemanship.  The first time I've fallen off a horse since horse camp when I was about 10.  It was pretty scary.

I was cantering--that's what we're learning this semester, in Horsemanship II--on Dream, a big mare.  She's not that big, but she's bigger than Brooks, the horse I'd been riding.  Just a few weeks ago they switched several of us to different horses, so I'd only ridden Dream once before.  She's a lot faster than Brooks, and I'm just not used to her.  But I was cantering, and it was going well, until I was supposed to slow down.  I tried, but Dream wasn't ready to stop yet.  Megan, one of the TAs, was there to help everyone stop, and she reached for Dream to slow her down.  But that freaked Dream out, and she twisted away to the right--while I kept going to the left.

All I was aware of during this was that I had lost control of Dream.  As she rounded the corner, I felt myself shifting and realized I was going to fall off.  And then I saw where I was going to fall.  We were right next to the wooden mounting ramp that runs along one side of the arena, and as I was sliding off I knew I was going to hit the edge, and that it was going to hurt.

I hit the ramp just like I knew I would and then flipped over somehow--people said I bounced off--and then I was lying on my back.  The floor of the arena is covered with little bits of rubber, so hitting the ground was really soft.  But my legs had smacked right into the ramp, and I just lay there, not moving, because they hurt so much.  Adam told me later he was afraid I was unconscious because I didn't move for so long.

Andrea, our teacher, and the TAs came over and asked where it hurt, if my head was okay, stuff like that.  I could talk to them fine; I was completely okay except for my legs.  They mentioned ambulances, and I immediately said I didn't think it was that bad.  Andrea and Cindy, one of the TAs, helped me stand up, and I thought they were going to help me walk into the classroom, but then Andrea just picked me up and carried me out of the arena.  I was pretty impressed.

I finally got to see my legs once I was in the classroom sitting down, and they weren't pretty.  There was a huge scrape on the left one and a big bruise on the right.  Andrea got me ice and had someone come make sure that there were no worse injuries, and there weren't.  I tried to walk and I could, although it hurt.  Then for the rest of the class I just sat with my ice.  I had been kind of shaky already just from the shock of it, and having the ice on my legs didn't help.  But I did get calmed down and more relaxed.

I walked a little slower than usual the rest of that day, and the next day I was somewhat sore and it still hurt to walk, but I've been doing everything I normally do, like my cleaning jobs.  I did skip going to the gym yesterday; I didn't think running or biking was a good idea.  Although, today I went to a scavenger hunt floor event where we raced other teams, and we had to run a lot for that . . . so hopefully I won't be too sore tomorrow!

So yeah, it was scary, and not fun, and I'm going to be bruised for a while, but it hasn't made me scared to ride or anything.  Next week is the last time we're riding, so it's my last chance to get that canter right!

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I've been home on break this past week, and on Tuesday Joyce and I went out to the former town of Alvira. The short version of the story is, in 1942, the valley where Alvira was was chosen as the site of the Pennsylvania Ordnance Works, a TNT manufacturing plant meant to supply the US army. The residents of Alvira and the surrounding area were forced to sell their land for low prices and find other places to live. The government promised them that they would be able to buy the land back when the plant closed, but even though it closed after operating for only eleven months, hardly any of the people actually got their land back.  All the town buildings were destroyed, and today there are just old foundations, rubble, and tons of TNT storage bunkers.  Most of the land is now state game lands, although some of it belongs to the Allenwood Federal Prison Complex.
For the long version of the story, go here:

Today, you can go to the game lands and see the site of the former town.  My main purpose of this post is to share some of the photos I took, because I think they're pretty cool and there really aren't a lot of pics. of Alvira online that I've found.  So, here a few of the best.

Bunker at Alvira, PA
 One of the many bunkers; most are locked up now.

former town of Alvira, PA

well, Alvira, PA
 Looking down an old well . . .

 . . . which is inside here.

 The Montgomery Area Historical Society put up markers where all the houses were.

Another old well . . .

. . . with what looks like newsprint on the stone?  This really intrigues me; I don't understand it at all . . . if anyone can explain to me what this is, I would really appreciate it!

Someone found all this old glass and left it here.

The most intact thing we saw; it might've been a church?

This open bunker was set back from the main road.

Kind of spooky inside, and really echoey; Joyce had a lot of fun.

The entrance to Washington Cemetery.

It's in pretty bad shape.