So, with all the news about a worldwide economic crisis, how are things Down Under?

The economic crisis in the US is big news in Australia.  We're hearing all of the stories of pending doom and gloom.  For the moment, the storyline in Australia is that we're well-insulated from any international economic crisis.

In fact, our state of Western Australia, more than any other Aussie state, is benefiting hugely from China's demand for resources, especially iron ore.  This week our WA Chamber of Commerce reported that our state's economy continues to "run hot".  As much as they are watching from here the trends in the US economy, the economic future in WA will be more dependent on how China responds to the current challenges in world markets.

A recent CNN story claims that the insulation is due to fewer sub-prime mortgages, heavily regulated banks, and China's demand for Australia's mineral resources.  CNN quoted an Australian news reporter as saying, "'If you want to be anywhere in the world at the moment, it's Australia."  If that's true, it's fine with us.

Minnesota licence plateWhile Peter and I were in Perth for an errand and a walk in Kings Park last week, we stopped at what has become our favourite Aussie fast food restaurant - Hungry Jack's.  We sat down in the booth surrounded by American memorabilia, as most Hungry Jack's stores are decorated, and looked up to see something familiar from home... a Minnesota state licence plate ('licence' is the Aussie spelling).

Also to be noticed in the photo: a John Wayne movie poster and another sign that said, "USA It's Still Number 1".  Interesting considering the current economic crisis.

Now, I have to clarify my ranking of Hungry Jack's as our "favourite" fast food restaurant.  Basically, that means it's the cheapest fast food place that offers food we all will eat.  I think I've eaten a meal at McDonald's here all of 2 times in the 6 months we've been here - too expensive to stop in more often.

We don't come close to eating out as often we did in the States.  It's too expensive, but we also don't have the variety of restaurants we're used to.  No Taco Bell, Culvers, or anything at all similar to Perkins or Baker's Square or Applebee's.  When we do go out, if it's not Hungry Jack's then we might go to Chicken Treat, Red Rooster, Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Noodle Box, or local shops that sell fish and chips.  Nearly every Tuesday, we pick up pizzas from Eagle Boys because they're only $4.95 for a large.

Hungry Jack'sMore regarding Hungry Jack's....  The logo might remind you of Burger King, and in fact, it has been the Burger King franchise in Australia since 1971 beginning here in Perth.  At the time, a small shop in Adelaide, South Australia, held the Australian rights to the name "Burger King".  So, Pillsbury, the owners of Burger King at the time, offered the Australian franchise a choice of names that Pillsbury already held rights to.  They picked the name that was being used in the States for their pancake mix - Hungry Jack - and added the apostrophe 's'.

The Hungry Jack's menu includes the Whopper, like Burger King, but I prefer the Aussie Burger which includes traditional Aussie ingredients:  fried egg, bacon, onion, and beetroot (red beets), with the burger, lettuce, and tomato.

new norciaFor the first school holiday that we had, we went to a sheep station north of our house and east of Geraldton. On the way to the sheep station, we stayed at an old monastic town called New Norcia. We slept in an old hotel and took a tour of the town. We also went on a walk and I took some great photos.

When we got to the sheep station, we played outside. This was our first time in the Outback. We cooked and ate our own meals in an old wooden building with a big, long table. During the night we slept in a small trailer home with no air conditioning. During our time there, we explored some cool rock formations and saw many sheep, goats, and kangaroos.

Our holiday was really fun and we had a great time.



It's spring and moving towards summer.  A weekend down here at this time of year is very different from Minnesota.  A comparison:

Oct-Nov in Warnbro Oct-Nov in Minnesota
  • spring
  • clocks spring forward
  • Trick or Treating in warm, late-sun evening
  • baseball, cricket, and basketball seasons underway
  • tops of 70-90°F
  • school year winding down
  • ice cream trucks out in the community playing "What Child Is This?"
  • flowers blooming and deciduous trees leafing out
  • autumn
  • clocks fall back
  • Stuff as many warm clothes as possible under Halloween costume
  • football, ice hockey, and basketball playing
  • frost, freezes, and early snows
  • school year finishing 1st quarter
  • hot cider
  • fall colors and raking leaves


I'll give a little description of what this past weekend was like for us.  For those who are bored by these details, keep in mind we have grandparents who appreciate this kind of news.

Shed Men (Friday Night)
Our men's group from church gathers every fortnight (bi-weekly).  This Friday night, nine of us went to the lot where one of the guys is building a new house sort of out in the country.  We sat in the uncleared back of the lot drinking beer, BBQ-ing over a firepit and watching a DVD projected onto a makeshift screen on a shed.  The showing was somewhat chosen particularly for me as it was the popular 1997 Australian comedy "The Castle".  It's loaded with corny jokes and humour that only Aussies would catch - thus it never fared will in US theatres.  Lanette saved the night by making an extra drive out to us with a cable that we needed in order to solve a technical glitch.

The stereotypes of what happens when men gather are the same in the US and Australia.  Down here, the typical gathering place is in or around the "shed".  If you need some humour about some Aussie male stereotypes and their sheds, watch this "Marriage Man" YouTube video filmed here in Perth.

Dane the plumberHalloween (Friday Night)
There's mixed interest in Halloween down here.  People definitely know the traditions, but many are opposed to Trick-or-Treating because "it's an American holiday".  Dane dressed up as a obese plumber and went to a backyard party with a ghoulish theme on Friday night at a classmate's house.  Peter and Karl handed out popcorn bags for the dozen or so trick-or-treaters that came by.

Karl and DaneBaseball (Saturday)
Saturdays for us from October through March (minus the six-week holiday around Christmas) are all about baseball.  This past Saturday we were fortunate that both our kids' teams played home games on the same field.  That means a 3 mile drive to Hourglass Park in Rockingham, home of the Rams Baseball Club.  Karl and Dane play in the Little League (same organisation that's in the US) with 8 to 12 year olds whose games are always at 10:30am.  Their team is 4-0 with 3 of those games being won by more than 10 runs.  Both are doing well and have a great coach working with them.  Last week Karl was the starting pitcher (while Peter was starting pitcher for his team on the same day).  Karl opened with a strikeout on 3 pitches and then proceeded to pitch 2 innings (40 pitch limit) giving up no hits and one run (after hit-by-pitch) with 19 balls and 16 strikes.

We then stayed around on a blue sky 75° day for Peter's 1:00 game.  Peter's team (and coach) are a bit less disciplined than Karl and Dane's, but this time they pulled off a 30-15 win.  I think it was actually a no-hitter against the other team as all 15 runs scored mostly on walks with a few due to errors.  Peter played shortstop, but it likely to see action at pitcher, second and first, too.


Warnbro sunsetSunset at Our Beach (Saturday Night)
After Saturday supper we walked over to the beach for some play in the sand and to watch the sunset.  Karl and I waded in the water that's getting warmer now.  Lanette read her book.  The boys made a walled castle as the high tide waters approached.  And the sunset was just incredible.  Peter and I took way too many photos.

See some sunset photos from Saturday in the photo galleries. (login to the site required)

Kids' Church (Sunday Morning)
Sunday morning church was a special "Kids' Church" which we do every few months.  It's a service where everything is done for the kids, so, for example, in the middle of church the kids do a craft with the help of the adults.  The story was about being fishers of men, and Lanette had a hand in helping set up a fish net and preparing some cutouts for the kids.  Interestingly, the prayers included a request that God would lead Americans to choose the candidate who would serve the country well.  I wondered when the last time was that an American church prayed regarding an election in Australia.

Picnic at the Winery (Sunday Afternoon)
After church we headed to the Peel Estate Winery about 5 miles southeast of our house.  Our junior school staff had an informal picnic on the grounds of the winery.  It was another beautiful blue sky afternoon.  We brought out Peter's "cornhole toss" game, and the Aussies had a good time playing this game that was new to them.  Our kids also played catch with baseball, an American football, a soccer ball, and an Aussie Rules football.

Peel Estate Winery picnic      Peel Estate Winery picnic



Another Sunset at the Beach (Sunday Night)
After Sunday supper, the boys begged to go for a bike ride down the beach.  Lanette stayed home while the boys headed out the door.  We biked about a half mile down the beach path and ran up to the top of one of our lookouts for beautiful 360 views.  We discovered that we could actually see the skyscrapers of downtown Perth - barely.  Then we went down to the beach to run around in the sand.  Karl is competing in an inter-school athletics competition tomorrow, so we all practised the triple jump (hop-step-jump) in the sand.  Clouds rolled to hide the view of the sunset.

 

 

Western Australians moved their clocks ahead ("spring forward") last weekend to begin Daylight Savings Time, possibly for the last time as the current 3-year trial period is ending and a referendum vote will decide its future.  Americans moved their clocks back this weekend ("fall back").  As a result, we are now 15 hours ahead of Minneapolis and the US Central Time Zone.  So now, the game time for a Vikings 12 noon start in Mineapolis on a Sunday would be 3:00 am Monday morning.

As some have said, there will always be a tomorrow because it already is in Australia.
Thanks to Al Franken and Norm Coleman, the absentee ballots that Lanette and I sent in by mail will be counted!

As of the moment, it appears that the race for the Senate seat from Minnesota may be as close as 700 votes.  This should trigger an automatic recount of votes.  Our absent ballots wouldn't have been counted normally, but they will be if there's a recount.

The Australians, and even the expat Americans here, are largely in favor of Obama being president.  However, today when Perth's AM720 radio station played a snippet of Obama's acceptance speech, the next song played, whether intentionally or not, was "You Don't Know Me".  Ironic.

Last Sunday I got so hot playing outside.  Peter, Karl and me were playing soccer with other church friends.  I got really sweaty.

So that afternoon, I told Mom that I wanted a haircut... a buzz cut!

On Tuesday my mom finally cut my hair because I had been bugging her.  As Mom described it, "I only used the clippers and gave him the first buzz cut he's had in two years."

After that I felt so good!

Dane's buzz cut
A week ago Friday we had a funeral at our church.  The 19-year old daughter of one of our families had passed away.  She had overcome leukemia as a young child but was left with some significant disabilities and frequent seizures. A few Sundays ago she had a bad fall during a seizure and died a few days later.  She exemplified the "faith of a child" and had been an inspiration to the church family.  Her mother is one of our school librarians and her father has been a quiet but important and faithful pillar in the congregation.  The church and college community took her death pretty hard.

Just a week and a day following the funeral, tragedy hit the family again.  The father, Peter, was killed in a car accident while driving down to their farm a couple of hours south of here this past Saturday morning.  An oncoming truck pulling two trailers of coal had overturned its second trailer which then slide across into Peter's path.  (News story)

Our congregation is a rather tight family of just over 100 people.  Two sudden deaths in one family is quite hard to fathom.  Though not being here very long, we've come to the know the family and have great appreciation for them.  Lanette and I sat next to them during our recent marriage Bible study series.  Peter and their oldest child, Karl, had helped us move into our current house.  We've been storing one of Peter's cars in our shed until he had a chance to take some parts out of the engine before selling it. (It's still there and we'll plan to keep it there for a while since we have plenty of shed space.)  Soon after we moved in, Peter brought over some jarrah wood from his farm for burning in our wood stove.

In the days in between their daughter's death and her funeral, our church's "Shed Men" group was having a movie night in the backyard of the under-construction country house of one of our guys.  Peter surprised us by showing up to have a beer and some laughs.  Besides the hugs he was greeted with, not much was said about his daughter's passing as he was just looking for a night out with the guys.

The night before Peter died, we had a Shed Men meeting at our house to make some future plans.  Peter wasn't there, but the consensus was that we needed to look for another chance to have the guys spend a night down on Peter's farm like they did last year.

It will be a difficult week emotionally on campus.  Plans haven't been announced regarding the funeral.  As much as we've had the family in our prayers, we've been thinking about and praying for our Pastor Mike who's provided some of the immediate support for the family.  After returning at 11:00pm Saturday from driving down to identify the body for the police on Saturday evening, Pastor Mike reworked most of the Sunday morning worship service to present a message of encouragement and hope - and interspersed throughout the service prayers to remain strong in faith.  He reminded people that it's o.k. to wonder why such things happen, but to know that God's love and concern for us (including for Peter, his daughter, his family) is so great that he sent His Son to die for us.

The negative of having a small community is that tragedies are felt hard by all.  The benefit is that small communities can respond to surround the grieving with love and support and encouragement.  We're seeing the hard way how able this community of ours is at doing this.

Dane was chasing me inside the house before school this morning.

Eyewitness Peter claimed, "Dane was sniffling grossly and obnoxiously at breakfast.  So Karl and I asked him to stop and blow his nose.  He didn't.  So after I finished my cereal, I gave him a kleenex.  Dane then gave it to Karl, and Karl gave it back to Dane by stuffing it into his pants."

Karl's toeDane got mad and starting chasing me.  We were running around in the front living room and into the dining room.  After one lap, I hit my middle toe on a wooden chair.  I fell and started screaming.  When I stopped screaming, I looked at my toe and saw it was bent ALOT.

(Mom filling in the rest of the details here...)
We got in to see the doctor right away this morning.  He sent us to hospital for an x-ray.  The x-ray showed an obvious displaced fracture.  The nice Egyptian doctor gave Karl lollies.  After a trip across town back to the doctor and then another return to the emergency department, they yanked Karl's toe back into place. Keen observer that I was, I felt light-headed and nearly fainted.  Two rests down the hall later, we made it back to the car.

(Karl continues the story...)
The first part of the procedure to fix my toe was to give me two shots to numb it.  It hurt really bad when they did this.  Soon it felt really numb.   In the second part of the procedure, the doctor yanked my toe really hard, and was twisting it.  When they were doing that, I was laughing hard.

After the procedure, one of the doctors said that he had broken his toe when he was little.  He said that he was not as brave as me, and he wasn't laughing like I was.

Now I can't run for the next 2 weeks.  So, I won't be able to play the next 2 baseball games.

Australia movieThere's been a buzz around the country down here about the new movie "Australia" which just premiered here on Tuesday.  The movie stars a number of Australian actors, most notable being Nicole Kidman.  The tourism industry is hoping this movie revives a sluggish industry much the way "Crocodile Dundee" did.

The word is that the filming of the natural scenery in Australia may be the biggest thrill in the film.  Some of it was shot in Western Australia, although a long way from where we live. (link here to a list of filming locations)  The movie website has a very entertaining selection of scenery shots from the movie that you can browse.

First reviews such as this one and this one are very positive about the movie.  We'll see how it does when it premieres in the U.S. on the 26th of November.  Let us know if you get to see it.

Rather than sending Christmas cards from Down Under, we thought we'd send our Christmas Greetings by way of a video. Please note that if you still want to send a card to us, our address changed again at the beginning of September to:


15 Pollard Way
Warnbro, WA 6169
Australia
If your internet connection is a bit slow, click the play button on the video below and then click the pause button to allow it to download the rest of the video before pressing play again (watch the progress bar grow left to right below the video)

Thanksgiving TurkeyWhilst Australians do not have any sort of "Thanksgiving" holiday any time during the year, we did find a way to mark the day here.  We were invited to feast on Thursday night at the house of our friends (who used to live in Watertown, Minnesota).  So after school, we headed over to their house.  Another family also came - Aussies who had never celebrated a Thanksgiving Day.  Lanette and the other two wives are good friends who do their own Bible study one day a week.  We lounged outside under warm, blue skies playing croquet in the backyard, and then enjoyed a great meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn casserole, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie.  We had a wonderful evening.

 

After a late night, we had to get up early to Skype Lanette's family who were all gathered on her parents' farm in Illinois.  I actually missed most of the conversation as I was out the door to head to school for a Bible study a few of us have recently started doing on Fridays before school.

 

sandcastleAs those in the US would be shopping probably on Friday, we were in school, and then headed to the beach afterwards.  The boys had great fun making a large sand castle whilst I sat on the beach and read "The Magician's Nephew" from the Chronicles of Narnia.  After taking a break to swim in the ocean for a bit halfway through the book, I returned to my beach chair and actually read the entire book - before Lanette came and found us to inform us we were 1 hour late for supper.

 

With a day of baseball coming on Saturday, it certainly has not been the typical Thanksgiving weekend we're used to.  But we're not complaining too much!

 

 

 

 

The moon was smiling tonight.

With the crescent moon smiling and Venus and Jupiter posing as eyes, this smiling face was a rather unique occurrence tonight.  It was not visible from the US or Europe tonight, and it won't show down here again until 2036 (hopefully we won't be here to see it then!).

You can read more about it in this article from a Sydney newspaper online.  Some of my photos below from our beach.

Moon with planets
 
 
Moon over ocean