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London, Day One

Our train ticket advised us to arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. Having not had any qualms getting onboard our train from Rotterdam to Paris, we figured 30 minutes was sufficient. We arrived, French security let us through, and the UK Border Security had only 2 officials on. The line was not moving at all. So we waited. I watched boarding for our train open. The rail staff starting bumping us up the line. We waiting more. We were skipped from line to line until we finally spoke to the British Border Official. He asked the standard questions, then rolled his eyes when we said we were theology students. Sorry we aren’t lawyers, doctors or customs officers. Our belongings were scanned and we hoped we were going to hop on to the waiting train, but alas, boarding had closed. Thankfully they put us on the next train. We were split up though. I got to sit with a family of three who were sleeping and Ben met the French versions of his 9 and 12 year old self and got to play cards and discuss politics. Again, the train journey was a lot of fun and I definitely see the appeal of train travel over air travel for short trips around Europe.

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Having now arrived in London an hour later than expected, the race was on to see all the sites we possible could in just a couple of hours.

The first stop was to get our London Breakfast from T2 in Shoreditch, a walk from our hotel.

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After that, we headed to the water’s edge and took in the Tower of London:

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And the Tower Bridge:

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We headed on to Westminster and by now the sun had set. Passing by the London Eye:

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We saw Big Ben:

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And the buildings at Westminster:

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A good walk up the road, we came to Buckingham Palace, where the flying flag indicated the Queen was in:

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And if you look closely, you’ll see a guard:

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We then walked The Mall to Trafalgar Square, where the dim light made it difficult to see things, but I could make out Nelson, the lions and silhouette of he rooster on Nelson’s fourth column:

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We then hopped on the tube as quick as we could and headed for the Dominion Theatre in time for church:

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We finished the evening by treating ourselves to dinner in an English pub:

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So, if you would ever like the 2 hour, whirlwind tour of the London sites, I have a couple of tips!

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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in travel

 

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Paris, Part Two

 

Our second day in Paris, we went to the basement for our complimentary breakfast. It was cosy and cramped, but exciting to eat croissants and baguettes in a stone basement. Ham and cheese was the filling of choice, and with breakfast behind us, we headed out into the cold day. The metro was starting to make sense to us and we found ourselves on the most beautiful bridge:

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From which we could see a most astounding structure:

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Full expecting it was not going to meet expectations because how hyped up it has been in the past, there was no disappointment here. It is as majestic and stately as any description you have heard before:

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We found our way to the Arc de Triomphe and it does live up to its name! However, the roundabout is super chaotic, it’s any wonder we didn’t see a number of accidents while we were there! Mind you, it can’t help that we (and dozens of other tourists) were just milling about the median strip. It makes for good photos though:

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For a while we thought we were going to have to leg it across the hair-raising intersection to make it under the Arc itself, and then we noticed the underground stairs, so we made it safely across without crossing moving traffic.

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It was now time for a stroll down Champs Elysees, which I’m not certain, but I think roughly translates to “Avenue of Car Showrooms”. Peugeot, Mercedes, Toyota, Citroen, Renault all had Christmas spaces with a few cars and plenty of branded knick-knacks for sale.

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Partway through our stroll, I noticed a ‘creperie’ down a side street and we decided it was time for lunch. I had a truly French crepe and it was thoroughly enjoyable. We carried on towards the Christmas markets which were a welcome diversion and we followed the sights and sounds, and the distracting shops all the way to end the street. We hopped on the nearest metro and made our way to Notre Dame.

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It is a beautiful building form the outside (the line was too long to go in). We stood and marvelled at the many carvings, both Ben and I wishing we knew more about the symbolism represented in the carvings and doing our best to describe what we knew.

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As we meandered further and the evening turned to night time, we realised that Paris favours those who can spend money. The shopping looked luxurious, the bars and restaurants lively (but expensive) and the hotels nearer the city centre looked inviting. So the verdict is, Paris is a nice city, that smells like wee, and is most fun when you travel on more than a student budget.

 

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in travel

 

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First Impressions: Netherlands

Food – Oliebollen (literally ‘oil balls’) are doughnut-like morsels of sugary delight and traditionally eaten on New Year’s Even (some people only eat them on New Year’s Eve), but available in December. We threw cultural sensitivity out the window and tucked in, It was well worth it. Apparently, the common dishes are hot chips or pancakes. I have no qualms with batter taking the lead in national cuisine. There is lots of cheese here too, especially sing the town called Gouda (where the cheese comes from) is in the north (correct pronunciation: *phlegm*-ou-da). They eat chocolate sprinkles on toast for breakfast.

Weather –  Cold and cosy. When the wind gets up  it is quite crisp. It is also very overcast which I quite like (although I can understand not seeing sun for weeks on end could get depressing).

Church – The best part about traveling, I find, is going to church and realising that God is the same, no matter where you are. And then there’s witnessing the breadth of the body of Christ, I like that bit. Ben’s uncle was preaching, so it was a particularly special morning for us all.

Countryside – Green and flat. The grass is a colour torn from the apes of picture books and rolled out like an inviting outdoor carpet. And the country is flat. Really flat. Not simply lacking hills, but the roads and footpaths fail to present any sort of undulation whatsoever. It’s almost unsettling pristine, but definitely conducive to the prolific bicycle riding. There is also less roadside guttering than I would expect from such a wet country, but it seems to work, so who am I to question any of it?

Architecture – We went to a nearby town called Harderwijk and it was wonderfully picturesque. It used to be a fishing village so this is the water:

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It is virtually impossible not to romanticise a place full of fairy lights. The best part of all is that the Christmas decoration is tasteful. The bogan-garish look doesn’t fit anywhere (truly astonishing). The icicle shaped Christmas lights look well placed and tasteful, rather than ironic (I.e. hideous).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother cultural practice is to kept curtains open during the day so people can see into your living space downstairs. Here is a beautiful shop window display:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA No wait, THAT IS A PERSON’S LOUNGE ROOM. The man (who looked like Santa) popped his head up as we were gawking into his house. He smiled though.

A lot of churches are reformed churches (being in the north* of the Netherlands) and they all have a distinct architectural design. Here is one of the churches in Harderwijk:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe name of the church is roughly translated into English as, “Bloody massive church” (or thereabouts).

People – Friendly. Granted, we met most of them at church and in an English-speaking services, but on the whole there appears to be a lot of smiling. In said church service, I had the pleasure of meeting someone who sailed with the Doulos (a mission ship) and had visited my church in Brisbane about 15 years ago, so this was the second time we shared a church service. The world is small (or God’s family is big).

After first impressions, I find the Netherlands to be a lovely place to visit. It appears friendly and liveable and I can’t wait to explore more of it. 10 out of 10!

*Initially  I had written south, but it is actually the north that is reformed. We are in the middle of the country, so I got confused.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2014 in travel

 

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Thessalonica – Dedication

Today we were in Thessalonica.  There isn’t very much left of it.  Fires and earthquakes have seen the ruins from the 1st century built over, more than once.  Here is the agora:

 

 

 

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There is also the remains of a tanner’s shop (which looks like a latrine):

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It can only be guessed that Paul came here.  There are no records left of specific places that he visited.  He was also run out of Thessalonica in a hurry, so it’s uncertain exactly how long he spent there.  He definitely ticked off the Jews.

In Thessaloniki (the modern city) there are lots and lots of Greek Orthodox churches (obviously), and a good number of buildings from the Byzantine era.  It was brilliant to visit these churches, because so much detail and dedication goes into the icons that are found in the church.  The idea of church is that it is a sensory experience, you touch, smell, see, taste, hear and feel the spiritual, rather than focus on too much theology.  It’s beautiful to see outward expressions of what protestant denominations seem to prefer to internalise.  It helped me appreciate how rich the church is when we combine all the expressions of our worship.

We then travelled to Berea, where Paul fled to after being run our of Thessalonica.  There is a wonderful monument to remember his visit to the city, including this intricate mosaic:

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Tomorrow we head to some monasteries in Meteora (my pictures probably won’t match those you’ll find on google) and then the long drive south to Athens.

Here is a picture of the waterfront at Thessaloniki taken from the Roman castle, just so you can see how gorgeous Greece is, even in winter.

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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in What I Do

 

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Frog Balls

Colour Conference 1 has come and gone already and it’s not even half way through March.  Early Easter means early Colour!  I normally enjoy serving at large church conferences, but this year really took the cake.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been thrust into a position of leadership with little to no training, but the team oversight is a good guy, so I trusted his judgement.  What I never could have known was how amazing the team was going to be.  For those not in the loop, volunteers are put into a general pool and predominantly at random are allocated to a team.  This means they often don’t know each other and there is no spare time to foster a good team community in the midst of fulfilling the role.  More often than not this leads to a team that is functional, but not fun.  In the very worst case scenarios, prickly personalities find themselves at odds (in my experience this is rare, most people just want to do a good job).

God was smiling hard on our team as the good-natured, willing volunteers gathered.  They followed instructions.  They befriended one another.  They spent their spare time investing in a good team community.  They did it, none of the leaders told them to.  And they grew a group of people with a common function in an unstoppable force!  They took to their roles enthusiastically, always ready and willing to help, always prepared to do what it took to see the whole day through successfully.

The team name appeared late on the second day.  After thirteen strait hours of serving (with a short lunch and dinner break), you can function quite precisely in your job role, but conversing coherently is strenuous.  One of the team mentioned we needed a team name and plenty of options were bandied about, but nothing adhesive.  One team member tried to describe the CD cases (that are vital to our role) as “frog eyeballs”.  Unfortunately, the ‘eye’ was dropped in a case of coherent conversation loss, and “frog balls” was all that was said.  Thus, Team Frog Balls was born.

Colour Conference 2 happens this week.  A smaller team is required, but the fun will only continue.  It’s only 17 weeks until our whole Church Conference, and the hope of reuniting Team Frog Balls hangs thick in the air.

Thank yous and acknowledgements for this past week are in order.  A huge thank you (and an overdue cup of tea) to my direct oversight who took his new found responsibility on with relish and allowed me the privilege of being the hands on team leader.  A tip of the hat to the audio recording master, who performed nothing short of turning audio water to wine on multiple occasions.  And to the both of them for reminding me of the pure joy of accumulating uniform rubbish.  Our copyright guru provided much needed maturity wrapped in a healthy layer of cheeky.  I also simply have to thank the big decision makers further up the chain, who look at us rag-tag pack of twenty-somethings and say, “Sure, we’ll let you take care of it.”

Thanks to my supportive husband, who places value on womanhood every day and allows me to lead as God calls.

But most of all, thanks team.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2013 in Misc 'n' Stuff

 

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