Tuesday, July 2, 2013

3 continents, 2 days

Before heading back to The States, we went on a trip to Australia.  We left the day after school was out, stayed in Melbourne for a week, headed back to China for one night just to grab our luggage and headed to The States the next day.

I knew it was crazy when I booked our flights, but it was the way it needed to happen if it was going to happen and I was up for the adventure!


            Australia                                           Asia

                                                                    North America
United States of America


Melbourne International Airport (MLB)

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN)

Shenyang Taoxian International Airport (SHE)

Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN)

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Albuquerque International Airport (ABQ)

AEST – Australian Eastern Standard Time
CST-China Standard Time
KST – Korea Standard Time
PDT-Pacific Daylight Time-Los Angeles
MDT – Mountain Daylight Time-Albuquerque

(In China)

(In Australia)

After calculating the difference in time zones and converting military time to standard time, my brain hurts!
We left Australia at 10:30 p.m. Friday night and landed in Albuquerque at 6:30 p.m. Sunday night.  3 continents, 2 do the math. :)
Our Itineraries
It was exhausting, crazy, emotional, nuts, adventurous... a whirlwind... but so WORTH IT.  I'd do it all over again!

My sister, Sarah surprised us with this "Welcome Home" banner along with
some of our favorite goodies that weren't available in China.




Monday, July 1, 2013

adventures down under

Visiting Australia (and even living there) has been one of my dreams for as long as I can remember.  I remember completing an interest form to see what different programs Hillsong in Sydney had to offer and how excited I was when I received their huge information packet in the mail about 8 years ago.  The idea of attending one of their programs was really intriguing, but just didn't seem like the right path at the time.  I later found myself completing a Study Abroad packet in college and listing Sydney as my number one choice.  But then I became a mommy and that idea was put on hold.  Then, my second year of teaching, I taught a "Holidays Around the World" unit and I distinctly remember teaching about Christmas in Australia and telling my darling first graders that it was one of my dreams to go to Australia and that I would do it one day.  When we were getting ready to move overseas to China, someone asked me, "Out of all places, why did you choose China?"  And my automatic response was, "God chose China.  I would have chosen Australia!"  I had no idea how or when, but I was determined to make my Australia dream happen one day.  So when the PERFECT opportunity came up, I just had to take it!

Amanda, one of my close friends and super sweet babysitters from college, is currently studying in Melbourne, Australia and invited us to come stay with her!  Flying from China, we had a shorter distance to go, paid half the price we would have from The States, had a free place to stay, had an awesome friend to catch up with as well as a wonderful host and tour guide!  God's timing was so much better than my own and I am more than grateful we had the opportunity to fulfill my dream to head Down Under!

  • People drive and walk on the left side of the road/sidewalk. (I felt like I was constantly dodging or running into people!)
  • People wear Uggs as house shoes!  They don't wear them out.  (Funny, I really wanted to take mine since it was winter time and I knew Australia was the home of the Uggs, but they wouldn't fit in my suitcase, and now I'm glad they didn't!)
  • When using the bathroom, you have the choice to do a "half-flush" or a "full-flush"... giving you the opportunity to save water if you can afford to do so. :)                                                                 
  • Candy is called "lollies" and we went to the Lollie Store 3 times!
  • Australia already had a "Burger King", so when our version of Burger King came into Australia, they had to choose a new name!

  • Melbourne was awesomely multicultural!  I loved the way the city was aligned, how convenient public transportation and walking was and I particularly loved seeing so many different cultures represented with people and places.  There were "strips" of culture (like Chinatown)... there was a strip of Italian restaurants and another strip of Greek, and Indian, etc.  I really loved that one day we were walking and we saw Chinese people pointing to Emily and saying "hen piao liang" (very beautiful in Chinese).  We felt just at home!

Amanda and Emily
*Notice the distracted look on Emily's face... 90% of her pictures on this trip look like this!

Showing true colors! :)

Shopping at the market for souvenirs... I'm loving this!

Shopping pro
Pickin' up just where they left off 2 years ago!

Amanda, me and Emily

Silly faces!

My little monkey

Emily actually chose not to go to the Kids Class
and slept through the whole service... probably
because she flew in an airplane for 13 hours this day,
but I had to get this picture on our way out as proof
 we were there.  I was so excited about this!


This day was a designated holiday because it was the queen's birthday, so we knew the zoo would be busy, but since kids were FREE this day, we decided to brave the zoo anyway!  By the way... crowded in Australia is minimal compared to a normal day in China. :)  The crowds didn't phase us one bit!

Waiting for the tram with her new Koala coin purse

Amanda and Emily on the tram

The Zoo!

Lazy Lions

The sign said this is a "Brown Bear"... we came to the conclusion
by how slowly he moved around that he was a very OLD brown
bear with grey hair.

Can't remember exactly what these were called, but I'd call them
a Porcupined Warthog... disgusting.


GIANT Tortoises... they looked much larger in person!

Gorgeous Giraffe

Bizarre Baboons


Me with the koalas in the background

The koalas were my favorite!


Fun day at the zoo!

Emily and Amanda watching a video about dreams.

The Gardens

This was beautiful!

We found the children's corner just as we were heading out!

The River
(Notice I almost always have a "lollie bag" in my hand!)

Sangi (Amanda's friend from Singpore), Me, Emily and Amanda

Emily feeding the ducks some "lollies"
 It may seem odd that we opted to go to an American Diner in Australia, but it had been a really long time since I had some true Western food and we were extremely excited about these burgers and shakes at Misty's Diner!

Amanda and James (Amanda's boyfriend)

Me and Emily

Emily's kid's meal in her pink Cadillac

Emily and Misty (the owner) and the cast from Happy Days! :)

St. Paul's Cathedral
(beautiful church!)

Melbourne is a very artsy city and this is just one of many  streets with lots  of cool murals!

I loved this one!

Emily is just thrilled that we are making her take a picture with The Hulk. :)

Elmo cupcake!

Amanda and Emily with their cupcakes;
tired from a long day of walking!

Whoops... we got locked out of the house and it was raining,
so we went and got coffee and hot chocolate until Amanda's
friend came home with the key!

*Funny story.... Emily and I accidentally locked ourselves out of Amanda's  room the night before and   there were 6 of us attempting to pick a lock with coat hangers, bobbie pins, paper clips, and "How to Pick a Lock" YouTube videos.  After calling a locksmith and deciding we weren't going to pay that ridiculous price, we had to wait a while to get back in, so having it happen 2 days in a row made for good memories. :)

This day was one of the best and worst days there!  Amanda had a class all day, so I booked a non-refundable all day tour (7:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.) down Great Ocean Road---a "must-do" when visiting Melbourne.  Emily went to bed with a fever the night before, woke up several times throughout the night saying she was going to throw up, we didn't get more than 3 hours of sleep, she actually did puke 30 minutes before it was time to leave AND she had a 101 fever.  We were leaving Australia the next day and I knew I would regret it more if we didn't go than if we did, even though she wasn't feeling well, so at 7:30 a.m., in the pouring rain, we went to the tram and headed to the tour bus.

Once we got there, they told us there weren't enough people going to do the tour we signed up for so the koala viewing and rain forest part of our tour was cancelled.  Those were the 2 things I was looking forward to the most.  I was really bummed and very tempted to not go, but Emily said she was up for it, so we hopped on the tour bus!

She puked 3 times by 9 a.m., the roads were very curvy and caused motion sickness on top of her already yuckiness, and she couldn't keep the Tylenol or even water down, so her fever was rising and we were getting further away from Melbourne.  By 9:30, I was out of puke bags and napkins, had puke down my entire right leg, her jacket was ruined for the day and we had seen nothing but rain.  Emily rarely gets sick, and other than her baby days, she's never puked so this was really unusual and horrible timing!  

We kept stopping at different sites to get out and see the ocean, but it was really cold, windy, and rainy, and I knew she didn't need to get out in the cold, but I also knew we may never have the chance again.  So we agreed to get out, look, snap a picture and get back on the the bus as quickly as we could!

View from the tour bus

Here we go down Great Ocean Road!

Ran out, grabbed a photographer, and ran back to the bus!

Our tour bus

The beautiful road that didn't agree with Emily's stomach

Pour girl is freezing, and that jacket won't be around much longer!

Next, we stopped for lunch, which I was really looking forward to.  I had heard it was great and it was included with the tour. Luckily, there was a pharmacy next to the restaurant, so I was able to get Emily some motion sickness medicine which stopped the puking for the rest of the day, thank goodness!  Unfortunately, she had no desire to indulge in this yumminess... which if you know Emily and her sweet tooth, you know this is a big deal!

Lunch at Apollo Bay

Trio Chocolate Mousse Cake
(and Emily didn't want ANY!)

She's eating a motion sickness lollipop instead. :(

After lunch, we went on to explore the Twelve Apostles and The Gorge.

Twelve Apostles

A few of the apostles

She's such a good sport!

Yay!  I found a Dr. Pepper! :)

Emily and Me

The Gorge


Yay!  Blue skies, no rain, lowered fever... things are lookin' up!

Emily's got this picture-taking thing down.

Runnin' from the waves... here comes some energy!

We found someone to take a picture of us, yay!


Another motion sickness pop before we head back

Very blurry picture, but those are wild kangaroos we spotted on our way back to Melbourne!
Rough day in Australia, mate...  but at least the pictures were worth it!


Melbourne Aquarium

Emily and Amanda outside the aquarium

Penguin Photo Bomb!

Lots of sea creatures

Rain Forest Exhibit

Emily and Amanda

It took her a whole hour to get up the nerve to do this,
but she insisted on giving it another try on our way out!
(Holding a starfish.)

Yummy!  Indian food for dinner before we fly out.

And Gelato!

Emily is sad to leave already!
Elaine and Emily
(Elaine is one of Amanda's flat mates from Singapore.)

Emily and Yeni
(Yeni is Amanda's other flat mate from Korea.)

Sangi and Emily
(Sangi is Elaine's cousin.)

Emily and James

Silly faces one more time!  See you in Austin, Amanda!

 6 days was way too short!  Pretty sure Africa is next on my list...  Where do you wanna go?  What do you wanna do?