Sunday, August 31, 2008

Surf 101

It's Sunday night and I am salt-saturated, sun burnt, wind burnt, sore all over, bruised in random places, exhausted and...thoroughly satisfied. I just got home from my first adventure in the Indian ocean on the back of a surf board. I went for a two day trip up north to a little town called Lancelin that is known for their good learn-to-surf waves. Along with 11 other random people, all students or travellers, I had two 6 hour days of learning all about surfing. From safety to water etiquette to getting up on the board to turning, the hours flew by and it was a ton of fun. Our instructors were a few hardcore surfers who are pretty much as Aussie as you can get! Check out some pics below of the action.

Our knowledgeable instructor, Rob. Learning the basics
The surf shack

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hard-hitting but Heart-hitting...

I've been spending a lot of time alone lately. Something to do with being on a continental island on the other side of the world....I dunno. But here's the thing- my moments of aloneness and solitude have been some of the richest moments of my life. The solitude I am experiencing away from others has translated into some of the most intimate and fulfilling communion with the Lord.
Listen to this quote.
"The Christian man, in his present state, is like a bird in a cage. His body imprisons his soul.
His spirit, it is true, ranges heaven and earth and laughs at the limits of matter, space and time.
But for all of that laughter, the flesh is a poor scabbard, unworthy of the glittering sword.
A mean cottage unfit for a princely spirit. This body is a cog, a burden, a fetter." - C. Spurgeon

Ok, deep breath out. Not the most light-hearted quote. Charles Spurgeon is not known for his soft deliveries. It's solid, hard-hitting truth...but it hits the heart and resonates there. Because deep inside, we all know this body, this life, these present circumstances, are not what we were made for. There's something more that our souls know exists...and I need to be reminded of this often or I find myself getting wrapped up in the scabbard and forgetting about the true treasure- the glittering sword.
I've been listening to these amazing podcasts that a friend recommended to me a few months ago and I've been hooked on them ever since. They've been challenging, inspiring me and hitting me pretty hard upside the face quite often. A good slap in the face is healthy in my opinion...keeps you on your toes. They're by a guy named Matt Chandellor out of the Village Church in Texas. First of all, he speaks truth in a powerful and relevant way. He drives to the core of the message and focuses on the essence of what really matters. Plus, he's freaking hilarious. I've been caught laughing out loud multiple times, most commonly on public transport which is probably the most somber and silent atmosphere out there. Somewhat awkward but thoroughly enjoyable.
Matt Chandellor.

wool socks, hypothermia and cuba.

it is the dead of winter in perth, WA. how do i know this? why do i have pictures of the beach if its winter, you ask?? or a more common question, does australia even have a winter? well, that depends on how you define the term "winter". because to my aussie comrads, winter means pulling out the wool socks (the ocean breezes tend to get a bit chilly!), slapping on a wetsuit before braving the waters of the indian ocean, and spending the evening hibernating indoors due to the dreadful cold of the winter nights (some even get down to 5 degrees celcius- shocking!!).

no wonder i am an oddball here. first of all, i see ocean and that means swimming. i will not lie on the beach for hours. ew. so no matter how white and pasty i am, and how weird i look diving through the waves while everyone else is covered from head-to-toe with an ultra-heat retaining wetsuit, i'm gonna be in that water. sask lakes have taught me a thing or two... mostly about hypothermia and how to make use of your limbs when you've lost feeling in them, as well as the best methods of recovery once your lips are blue and your sentences are slurring. we're tough up there.

next of all, i have not owned a pair of wool socks for at least 15 years and i intend to keep it that way. if i can manage through -30degree weather in canada, i think these "winter" temps of 20+ degrees celcius (thats around 70degrees for all my american friends) will not be my undoing.

and finally, i have struck up an unlikely yet beneficial friendship with a young girl named Cuba. we have similar interests in mind...enjoying the coolness of the evenings, walking together along the river, pondering the greater things in life. no words are necessary between us. she is longing to escape the confines of 3 fences and the back of a house, and i am looking for a protector, a little security. its really quite beautiful, actually. cuba is one of the only aussies who will join me on my night time outtings to take in the AU stars and revel in the beauty of the amazing landscape seems that all the two-legged aussies prefer to hide behind their tv screens and space heaters (shocking statistic- australia currently has the highest obesity rates in the world!) at least until the end of august, i am told.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


This week I have realized a very important fact about my life here: I am a student. I have homework. I have research to do. I have group assignments to begin. And I have to learn where the library is...

In the excitement and emotions of being here, I confess that I allowed myself to fall into what I like to call the "First Weeks Floating Phase". It is that blissful time in the semester when you float into class, pick up the syllabus, float through the lectures only somewhat paying attention, and then float out of the class, letting your mind float away from the class and to more important objects of thought like plans for the evening or the next meal to be consumed. I have been floating in this realm for the past four weeks and have had an abrupt wake-up call the past few days, which have mostly been spent in the computer lab and pouring over my textbooks. I have decided that the floating phase has come to an end.

Other news in my life- I have a new family! They are absolutely amazing and I am already feeling comfortable with them and at ease in my new home. I am helping Celeste (the mom) with random stuff around the house, as she suffers from terrible migraines that sometimes make it impossible for her to get out of bed in the morning. She is a joy to be around and we became friends instantly. Her husband, Jon is also great and they have a 6 year old son, Asher. It is such a blessing to be living with them, one that I likely would have taken for granted had I not experienced such a contrast from my first home here.

There's something really beautiful that happens when all that you count on is gone. And I mean gone for more than a day or two. Removed from your life for an extended period of time to the point where you ache for the familiarity and comfort and reassurance that comes with it. And until now, I have never truly experienced the depths of this feeling, nor have I had to prove what I profess to believe when I say that Christ alone is enough. That when I take away everything else- family, friends, a friendly place to come home to, a familiar face, time spent the way I want to spend it...I am still perfectly content. Content in the truth of Christ alone and His saving grace for my life. The past weeks have been so challenging for my heart because God has made me aware of how tightly I am holding onto worldly things and how closed my fist is around certain parts of my life. And that until I open up my fist and consider these things a blessing and not a non-negotiable, I will be controlled by self and the things I cling to so tightly, instead of Christ himself. It is a self-examination that has resulted in the realization of my conditional contentedness, which in reality is conditional faith and love for God. It is taking God in a conditional way with my own expectations and not simply following, obeying, loving. This is what we are called to do as Christians, and God is showing me more and more, through my sinfulness and imperfections, what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ.

"When humility delivers a man from attachment to his own works and his own reputation, he discovers that true joy is only possible when we have completely forgotten ourself. And it is only when we pay no more attention to our own life and our own reputation and our own excellence that we are at last completely free to serve God in perfection for His own sake alone."

-Thomas Merton

Friday, August 15, 2008

Settling In...

As you might have guessed from the title, I am beginning to settle in to life in Perth and the Aussie way. I have been here for almost 4 weeks and can now say that I am through the worst of homesickness and am starting to drink in each moment and experience what life has to offer with complete enthusiasm. I remember my international business class talking about the 4 stages of transitioning to life in a new country:
1) Tourist phase (first week I was here),
2) Culture Shock (week 2 and 3- depression/homesickness),
3) Beginning of Adjustment (currently experiencing) and lastly,
4) Complete Adjustment (can't say I'm there quite yet!)
I didn't really think that I would experience this in a mere 6 months away from home, but in hindsight, I have definitely felt the emotional rollercoaster ride that is a part of each phase. It is so crazy taking learned theories from a class and experiencing them firsthand!

The Aussie way is sooo laid-back, and I am noticing this more and more each day. The beach seems to pose enough reason to skip class, hop out of work early, and take an extra long weekend for a coastal roadtrip. The Aussies love to travel and I have swapped stories with a few people who have been up our way in North America. It is so interesting to hear what they have to say about our country (Canada and the US!) and to gain a bit of insight into what they think of us as people! Lets just say that they are not afraid to speak their minds!

I am actually in the midst of moving to a new family to live with and do my part-time nannying stint. The family that I was living with initially was just not a fit for me and for any of you Harry Potter enthusiasts out there, the word "house-elf" comes to mind...I think you catch my drift! It has been a long process but I am feeling optimistic about the idea of moving in with my new family.

I'm going to end this one because I am heading off to meet some friends at the Tavern on campus. Miss you all so much and think of you often!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Yes, I am still alive!

And I have no good excuse for my lack of blogging over the past 2 weeks...unless you consider the factors of jetlag, culture shock, homesickness, and a little bit of nervous anticipation thrown in there as well. It has been exactly two weeks since my first day in Perth, but I feel like I have been here a lot longer. This is probably because I have ridden more buses and trains than I have in my whole lifetime, moved into the home of an unknown family whom I am a part-time nanny for, started classes at a new university, fallen into fellowship with a completely new church (95% asian!) and tried to become "left-oriented" so that I am adjusted to walking, driving and jogging on the left side! I really do feel like I am on the other side of the world. I am so thankful that there is no language barrier apart from the weird sayings of the Aussies (more to come about that!) It has definitely been a full two weeks in which I have had a ton of "self time" and have felt the crazy feeling of being completely on my own in a foreign country. It has made me miss my family, my friends, my dog, my house, my school, my church...EVERYTHING FAMILIAR, like crazy!...But it has also shown me a new and greater sense of what it means to rely on and wait for the Lord each day, hour, minute of my life. And that I am really not in control of everything (thankfully!) but that His hand is on my life each step of the way.

As far as my current residence goes, I am living with an Australian family in a beautiful area of Perth, right next to the Swan River. It has made for some really great jogs alongside a gorgeous view. Once I figure out how to post some pics, I will be sure to include some. I am looking after two girls, Isabella (2 1/2 yrs) and Alexia (4 months) who are probably the cutest kids in the world, but are also quite a handful! Their parents are a mix of Italian and Persian so when you throw an Australian accent on a little dark haired 2 year old, it is absolutely adorable.

Classes are underway and the Aussies are living up to their laidback stereotype. My professors ask me to call them by their first names, classes take on a conversational tone, and the students seem to feel very at ease in the classroom setting. Surprisingly I look forward to going to my classes each day (will be interesting to see how long this lasts though!). Curtin University (or Uni, as the Aussies call it) is a culturally rich and diverse school. It is rare for me to see another white face in the classroom, as most of my classes have students from Malaysia, Africa, Europe, Australia, China, just to name a few. The diversity of the school is refreshing as well as stretching because I have realized how different it is to feel like a minority! As I mentioned earlier, the church I have been going to on Sundays is predominantly asian students from different asian countries around Australia. I have tasted more asian food than ever and have had the amazing opportunity to worship with some of the most lively and passionate worshippers I have ever met! So encouraging.

That's all for now, but I promise more to come. I used to be a computer tech when the most complex command was loading up a game of Packman, so it may take me some time to figure out how to embed some pics....but they're coming! I miss you all so much and hope to chat with each of you individually while I am over here! Ciau!