Monday, December 24, 2007

Family and more

After two months, or more, it is high time I published another chapter on my blog. Why have I been tardy? Well, one could say that life has been rather busy, but then everyone says the same. While it has been hectic, I should still have found time to update my blog. So, perhaps it is also in part a motivational matter.

What have I been up to these past couple of months? I won't bore you with board (bored! Uhhh!) meetings, gardening (the garden looks very healthy, judging by the number of weeds that have grown over the past couple of weeks), etc. So let me just share some of my activities, with appropriate pics - of course!

One special highlight in November was to welcome Natasha back home for a couple of weeks from America. We had just so much to catch up on - and WE DID! She even let me cook a meal for her and five other grandchildren (the emphasis of course on GRAND!).

Lauryn's baby Noah was also part of our dining together.

Nat with baby Noah:Lauryn, Rosalind and & Nat enjoying the meal grandpa dished up:And me with baby Noah - a beautiful child, of course!The roles were reversed a few nights later when Nat cooked for me and the Holts at my place. Father Graeme is always ready to lend a hand in dishing up:Just great to have Nat over, which was even more special when sister Amy also turned up. I miss them a lot, but am really happy that they are experiencing life to the full.

What else. Ah yes, you may remember that I am enjoying bush walking with old friends of mine. It really is a great opportunity to catch up with them and during November we again put our hiking shoes on and walked from Kingston to Taroona and back along the bush track. The day's weather was fantastic and the walk again, most enjoyable.

Kingston Beach was our starting point. Click on the next image for an enlargement and have a look at both the scenery and the great weather we experienced:John, Jack, Henk and a rather dark me, enjoying each others's company:Along our walk, we spotted a sea eagle perched atop a tree (circled):As we returned, the luxury boat 'Peppermint Bay II' sped south.This is the boat that dear friends John & Jeltje took me on the following week. Life indeed is good!

And the next pic shows you what kind of a day we had when we sailed to Peppermint Bay. What a day and such outstanding beauty along the way. The next shows John, Jeltje, Henk, Gea, Adrian with on the background the boat that took us:Late November I took the car on the Spirit of Tasmania and crossed Bass Strait to visit Mark, Cal & family in Gawler (SA). It is always great to catch up with the family and visits like these make me realise again how blessed I am.

Jess and I took the Sunday afternoon and went into the Barossa Valley. Had lunch at Peter Lehman Winery and then went on to Maggi Beer for a cuppa coffee. While we were there, there was an announcement that there would be a cooking demo in Maggi's ABC Kitchen and patrons were welcome to attend. (I enjoy watching Maggie's TV Show, The Cook & the Chef'.) We went and loved it. Even had a photo taken of me in the kitchen!On our return to Gawler we visited the Barossa Pioneer Memorial lookout and thoroughly enjoyed the lovely views as well as the creative sculptures. It was pretty special to spend time with this lovely granddaughter and enjoy the sights:We even posed, being a little silly. But I did enjoy this photo of Jess:And mine wasn't too bad either:Not sure about the next one, but it at least shows that we had fun:I also spent a lovely afternoon with Jess' twin Sarah. We went to the Japanese gardens in downtown Adelaide, once again on a lovely day:A stroll through the city showed two huge contrasts. The first was a huge Santa with his message of consumerism:The second one was Frank, the Adelaide Bible man whose passion it is to give free Bibles to as many people as he can. His is quite a story and I knew of Frank during my time in Bible Society, though never met him. It was a special honour and privilege to finally meet him on assignment! Sarah also enjoyed meeting Frank and would like to do a special documentary feature on him and other Adelaide Mall personalities. Here she is setting it all up: On my way back to Melbourne I chose to travel via Bendigo and visit my brother John who is now in a nursing home. It was good to see him and June and I was glad of the opportunity to encourage them.

Then on to Melbourne where the Petrusma brothers and sister Iemke met for a re-union. It was a magic time very much enjoyed by all, except for Henk's hospitalisation with chest pains. That took the gloss of things a bit, but certainly served to draw us closer to one another. Errit took a number of photos of Henk's dilemma and I took the following pic taken from our apartment high up in the place where we stayed. It shows two ambulances in attendance just before taking Henk to hospital. Thankfully, he was ok and was able to came back at 2 am!We very much enjoyed our time together as the next photo shows:While in Melbourne I had the special joy of attending Georgina's graduation ceremony where she received her degree as a Veterinary Surgeon. It was a very special moment and Carol would have been justly proud of Georgie's achievement, as I am. We both delight in the success of our grandchildren and acknowledge that they have been 'fearfully and wonderfully made'! Excuse a proud grandpa! Here is Georgie with her equally proud mum:And here she descends the stairs clutching a well deserved Honour Degree. Wow!!Time to sign off. As you can see, it has been a busy time and I have left so much out. There is much to be grateful for.

Now, CHRISTMAS! Celebration plus, but with a note of sadness and loss. Yet, I know the Christ is with us and I am content in Him!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Agarabi Quartet returns - Part 6

The final days in Port Moresby, including the Kokoda Track

I realise that the preceding chapter was a rather massive one, but it was such an amazing adventure that we all enjoyed. Our time in the Highlands was outstanding and we all felt uplifted by the experience. It was now time to say goodbye and return to Port Moresby, this time on board the Norman Islander with Brenda up front to show the way:A day visit to Ower Corner - the start of the Kokoda Track, was top on our agenda. I was delighted with the vehicle that Budget allocated to us. It was a new 4WD (essential) and had room for eight people. Might be a bit sluggish, but a comfortable vehicle appropriate for our need. I had invited Leontine, Jerry and Ian Tamate to come with us, partly because they are good friends whose company we appreciate, but also because of security. 'Rascals' could be lurking near Ower Corner and it made sense to have some additional strength with us. Being nationals, also helps.

We left in high spirits and hit the Sogeri road - all old terrain from the sixties. The big difference is that today the road is sealed, which makes for greater comfort and we didn't have to breath in dust! When we neared Ower Corner, we came across McDonalds Corner, which we remembered very well because of this photo in 1971:Brenda and Mark re-enacted the shot, but note well that the 303 rifle has been replaced by a bit of shaped iron. Perhaps the local 'rascals' had pinched the 303 and restored it for criminal purposes:A family picture was very appropriate:And one of the Tamates, who very much enjoyed this spot too. It was all new to them!:When we lived in Port Moresby, a rubber plantation was located at McDonalds Corner, but is no longer operational. We were told that there is renewed interest in producing rubber and that old plantations could reopen:Leaving McDonalds Corner, it was not much further to Ower Corner, which is the official start of the Kokoda Track. But it still took a while to get there because of a very poor road (TRACK!). Finally, we were treated to the following view that looks out to Imita Ridge, the closest the Japs got to Port Moresby during the Kokoda Campaign in 1942:The Memorial Arch, which depicts the contour of the Owen Stanley mountains, is an impressive site. It remembers not only our own diggers, but also the Papua Carriers that did such stirling work and by their efforts, saved many Australian soldiers. They were affectionately called 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels' by our troops. This has become quite legendary.As we wondered around, we noted that Leontine was deeply affected by this place and she showed the girls the affect this location had on her skins. Remember, neither she nor Jerry and Ian had been here before. She then told us that her father was one of the Carriers used on the Kokoda Track, assisting our soldiers. It made our own hair stand on end. She told us how, when Japanese planes passed over her village during the war, the children would pray, 'Please God. Don't let the bombs fall on my daddy.' Having Leontine, Jerry & Ian with us, made the visit all the more meaningful. Ian told us that only recently he had written a song about his grandfather and he was deeply touched that he could now visit this place where his grandpa served.

The following photo is of Leontine:
Please take a couple of minutes to read the next plaque as it tells its own dramatic story about what took place here in 1942. You will need to click on the image to see it in larger print:In recent times, many Australians have walked the track and all speak about how tough it is. The family just went down the hill a little but of course could not really get any idea how tough it was in the war with a full backpack and snipers constantly a danger:A final shot of the group under the Memorial Arch. We were blessed indeed:There were many who died along the Kokoda Track and most of the Australians, plus a number of Papuans were finally laid to rest in the Bomana War Cemetery:Too many died during the course of the war - any war! These beautiful grounds are carefully maintained by the Australian War Graves Commission and immaculately kept. You will note that guard dogs patrol the ground to protect visitors like us; a sobering reminder that criminals have no respect for any one and will pry on, and indeed attack, the unsuspecting.The CROSS is dominant in every Australian War Cemetery and it always touches me that those who died are buried in the shadow of a Cross. A stark reminder also of the Prince of Peace who died 2000 years ago in order that those who believe in Him will live for evermore.There are numerous graves that contain the remains of servicemen who could not be identied. Their headstone simply says 'Known unto God':Then there were the many who we know died, but whose bodies have never been found. Their names are recorded in the memorial up the hill overlooking the graves. The Cemetery continues to receive remains of men whose aircraft in which they perished are found in recent times. Even while we were there, I was told that a war plane had been located on New Britain and the remains of the crew were being recovered to be interred in Bomana War Cemetery. This is still a regular event in PNG.

The following photo gives more information about this location and also gives statistical details:Bomana was always a favourite place of ours when we lived in Port Moresby. On regular occasions, we would take a pic-nic lunch after church on Sundays and visit the place. Considering it is a place with a background of war and violence, it paradoxically is also one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited.

We recalled the memory of those visits vividly as we wandered around the graves. The following is just one photo taken in 1971:And this is how we were in 2007:As we leave Bomana, our memory will always be reinforced by the Cross that dominates this special place:On our return from Ower Corner, we made a delightful diversion to Crystal Rapids at Sogeri and had a picnic lunch there.The following is just a small sample and gives you some idea how beautiful this spot is and what a great time we had in company of the Tamates:And as we drove back to Port Moresby, just another reminder of the past - Rouna Falls, the site of Port Moresby's Hydro Electricity scheme.Before we left PNG, we visited the Botanical Gardens and came across an old friend, the KOKOMO Bird. It brought back memories of stories told long ago!

But it is time to go to the airport and catch our flight back home to family, friends and responsibilities. God has been most gracious to us. We experienced so much including each other's company (stories were told during this time of things I knew nothing about), the love we shared, the memory of our special mum who was with us in spirit. Above all, we experienced God's overwhelming presence in everything we did and where ever we went. Thanks be to God!!

Up and away.........!!