Thursday, June 10, 2010

Buddhists, Burglars and the Beach…..

As I write this blog it is Friday morning and we have arrived in Main Beach on the Gold Coast. Since our last blog we have travelled form Yeppoon to a little town called 1770, named after Captain Cook and his first contact with Australia. The park at 1770 was named Queensland's best park as it is situated right on the beach front. Whilst we had escaped the crocs and stingers of the north we were now confronted with the presence of stonefish and were discouraged from swimming or even walking in the water without footwear. 1770 though had the most beautiful sunsets you can imagine. There was a pilgrimage of campers at around 4.30pm in the afternoon as people headed on mass to the beach to sit and watch the sun go down. For the next 60 minutes or so there was the most amazing range of changes in the sky as first the sun set and then there were the ever changing shades of red and blue as the glow of the setting sun transformed the sky, even the kids were impressed. We had some nice walks along the beach, Indy's pancakes at the park one morning, and some good park time with the kids along the 1770 beachfront. We also had a nice beach day over at nearby agnes water where we were able to swim again. The water was crystal clear and beautiful. On our final morning we were packing up the camper, Indy had taken Gus for a short walk to the beach and everything seemed fine. Next minute we hear Gus walking up the road followed by a young lady with Indy and Mags nowhere to be seen. The lady had seen Gus walking up the road by himself and apparently asked him where he was going and he replied "I am going to see my mum" and he did. It turned out that Indy had decided to take Gus down to the park, got sidetracked in a game with Maggie and Gus decided to head off for a walk. Fortunately no damage done but a constant reminder of the challenges of a wandering 2 year old. I recalled the time when I was about 2 or 3 and apparently I walked almost a neighbourhood away, crossed a busy road to see the horses that lived nearby to our home. Gus wasn't quite this dramatic but remember he is only warming up.

From 1770 we headed back to the sunny coast and our stay at the lovely Coolum Beach. The drive went well and we arrived to our campsite again right on the beach at Coolum. After setting up Bec headed down to the beach with Gus and Mags and Indy and I did some shopping, picked up a bottle of bubbly and we enjoyed this on the beach as the sun was setting. After all of our trips to the sunny coast we had never been on the beach at Coolum and it was incredible. The next day the Westys arrived to stay at our neighbouring campsite. We had a great few days with Dave, Dan and the kids and some great waves at Coolum Beach. As you may recall from a previous blog Dave is affectionately known by Gus as 'Dragon Man' due to his dragon tattoo on his arm. Dave was very thoughtful and bought Gus a dragon tattoo to sick on his arm and Gus instantly became Dragon Boy and thought he was very tough. The weekend though was not short of its dramas. On the Saturday night at about 12.30am I was sleeping with Gus and I heard Bec in a very manly voice yelling "GET OUT OF THERE" and it was one of those surreal moments. I had no idea of where I was or what was happening. At first I thought Bec was calling to a possum in our bin but she was far too ferocious for that. It turns out Bec had earlier caught someone in our annexe going through her box of clothes and she banged on the camper and he had run off. She sat and watched for a minute as she had seen someone else out the corner of her eye. It turned out that this other person was scoping our car and just minutes later she saw the light come on in the car and a guy trying desperately to turn the interior light off, without success. It was at this point that big mama got out her man's voice and scared the intruder off. By the time I had worked out what was going on and had gone out to inspect there was not much to be seen. We did a quick pack up of anything valuable, locked the car, something we had gotten very relaxed about whilst up north and went back to bed with an ear to the outside. As it happened Dani had been going to the toilet a little later and saw a man in her car which she had assumed was Dave. She said to the guy (thinking it was Dave) "what are you doing in there?" He replied to Dan, "this is my car". At this point Dan realised it wasn't Dave and proceeded to have an argument with the intruder about whose car it actually was. He was in the process of trying to steal Dave's surfboard. Fortunately Dan managed to scare him off before he completed his task. So whilst the big boys slept our little women were on the job scaring off intruders and keeping us all safe! It turned out that several campsites were visited in the night and also the next night. Fortunately for us we didn't lose anything this time around. During the day the kids had some great time with the Westy boys, playing in the park, on the beach, and at the local park. Maggie just loves playing with other kids and Indy loves being in charge and being the oldest she had reserved the right to be leader of the pack. We played lots of games on the beach with the kids, sandcastles, flags, catch, beach cricket etc, and had a great time. One last little story, Gus was swooped by a small bird which actually cut his eye lid (only a small scratch) but certainly gave him a fright. Little man is certainly experiencing a broad range of experiences, some good, some not so good.

One of great highlights for us on this trip was our trip to Australia Zoo. Again for all the times we had been up here I hadn't had the opportunity to go, the girls went some years ago but the zoo had grown significantly since their last visit. It was amazing. The park was built so well and the range of things to see kept us busy all day. From the minute we arrived there were keepers standing just inside the front gate with baby crocodiles and lizards. Within 60 seconds of entering Gus and the girls were patting a baby crocodile and a lizard, it was just incredible. The kids had been watching the croc hunter movie all the way up so you can imagine there excitement at patting a croc! We patted kangaroos, saw snakes, crocodiles, amazing birds, alligators, lizards, elephants, echidnas, and an amazing tiger exhibition. There was just so much to see and do. We saw the show in the crocosseum which was just amazing to see the crocodiles in action. Indy and Mags and even Gus all had their photos taken holding a large python. Indy and Mags were exhilarated by the fact that they were brave enough to do this by themselves and as Gus woke up just as the photos were being taken we also got a photo of Gus and the girls holding the snake. After a day of walking around non-stop we visited the animal hospital on the way out. This facility was built by Steve in dedication of his mum Lynne and treated injured wildlife. We were able to walk around the hospital and through glass see the ER in action as animals were brought in. The hospital treated hundreds of animals every month and even had a koala ICU. The trip to Australia Zoo was just incredible to see a family who were so dedicated to their passion and mission in life. To think that a guy who liked to catch snakes and crocodiles had, through his passion for his cause, been the catalyst for the building of this amazing legacy. It was such a highlight to see the work of Steve Irwin and his family, it was almost unbelievable to see how all of this had unfolded. As Bec and I walked around the park we had the inevitable sense of sadness at what a loss his death was. It is so pleasing to see his legacy though continuing on through his zoo and ofcourse through the work of his family. What a great person he was and we felt very fortunate to be able to experience his work first hand.

Our last couple of days at Coolum were pretty quiet but nice. I was able to have a great surf to finish off a great surfing stop. We picked up some fresh peas at the supermarket, one of our favourite vegetables, and made a beautiful fresh pea and chicken risotto. Whilst we have been living life on the road our housesitter Maree has been busy managing our renovations at home. We have been getting a wall knocked out, new kitchen and flooring put in, ensuite retiled and new toilet installed and Bec had been managing this all by phone and long distance. So far so good and Marie has been a saint. We are assuming ofcourse that they have knocked out the right wall!!!! Bec was able to have a very inspiring visit to the Buddhist temple in the mountains behind Coolum with our good friend Amber. As I wasn't a party to this visit I will hand over to my beautiful wife to share of her experience….

On Wednesday Amber came and collected me from our Park to chauffer us on our beautiful scenic drive meandering through the hills to the Buddhist Retreat Chenrezig. Whilst I was so excited about our destination, the drive and some quiet time and space to be with Amber and chat was just what I needed! As we arrived the peace and tranquillity was palpable and you couldn't help but slip into a calm state. I turned my phone off and was ready to soak up every last ounce of this opportunity. As we walked into the grounds we came to the little café first. The café was filled with training Monks, Nuns and every day Joe's like me. You had to book well in advance as there was limited seating and they only made a certain amount of food and once that was gone, there was no more! Amber and I collected our lunch (there is only one option on the menu!) and went outside to find a quiet spot amongst the trees to enjoy a delicious vegetarian meal. (as you may not know Buddhists don't believe in harming any animals, hence vego only) After our lunch followed by delicious desert of chocolate brownie and pecan pie, we headed off to walk down our sumptuous feast and explore the amazing facility. We explored the prayer wheels, shrines and Temple which was a spiritual and visual treat with it's array of bright colours and textures. We then ventured down to the gift shop and mooched around exploring the great collection of reference and reading books, prayer flags etc. Amber and I both added significantly to our current collection of Buddhist literature and Amber very generously gave me a gift of prayer flags and a book on how to meditate, both of which I shall make excellent use of. On our drive home Amber took me past her, and her husband Corey's, home that was being built in Buderim. The views were incredible and their plans for their home are awesome! Back to the park to reunite with the family, recharged and refocussed after this special experience…Thankyou Amber!…..

Me again….things are going well for us. The trip north was a little draining but now we have relaxed and are definitely enjoying our time heading South. It is getting cooler, especially at night and Bec has even had cause to get the heater out on occasion. We have been keeping up with Master Chef, usually via the internet watching episodes as we go. Things are slowly becoming clearer for us in terms of our work and life choices we plan to make back home. Whilst taking the best part of 6 months off was a huge risk when you are self employed it looks like the work is starting to trickle in for when I return with numerous requests for support coming in over recent days. Bec is likely to start back at her nursing 1 or 2 days per week when we return although she is primarily focused on her full time role, as keeper of the house and all things family. Despite the opportunity to expand into other areas it is clear to both of us that Bec loves being a mum and loves the opportunity to be at home and look after us all. We all realise that she has an absolute talent for this and our kids (and me) are certainly better for it. I imagine Bec will venture into some form of counselling or therapy work as the kids get older and she is loving her research into building strong and happy families and sharing her own personal growth experience with others is something I am sure she will put to good use in time. As a family we are very excited about returning home to start our vegetable patch. We have resisted up until this point due to our travels but having watched Kosta's odyssey on SBS last night we are all very pumped up about getting our vegie patch going again. For me professionally, I am committed to rebuilding my people development business having taken my eye off the ball for a while and feeling absolutely drained of energy it is time to crank things up again. I am also starting to build a vision for what I would like to achieve with my life and the work we have all done at Grace Agape in India is hopefully just a start. I want to make an impact on the safety, health and education of kids and I want this to be significant. In this day and age it is unthinkable that hundreds of millions of kids are deprived of an education, that kids are exposed to wars and violence and that thousands of children every day are dying from things like diarrhoea. How to make a difference that counts, that is the challenge. What this ultimately will look like I am not sure but our work in India has provided an example of what is possible with help from friends and family. I am likely to head to Africa for work in 2011 and I have a feeling that this might provide us with our next opportunity, stay tuned for more details.

Not long now until the Harry's arrive. The kids have been counting down the days and it will be great to have the crew all back together again. We plan to spend the first couple of nights in the camper which should be cosy and a lot of fun and then we have rented a house outside of Byron Bay. Signing out for now, Nick Bec, Indy, Maggie and Gus.



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