We are kept quite busy by our work. This last week has been especially busy in terms of distance as well as time. On Thursday we set out for Coff’s Harbour which is the far north of New South Wales, the “state” in which we’re located. Coff’s Harbour, which is located about 350 miles north of Sydney is supposed to have the most livable climate in Australia. We went up there to train the District President Grant Owen and also to do a presentation for the mission zone conference. But Joe was anxious to get out of the city and had been waiting for a chance to escape since we got here. So we traveled mostly on our own dime.
The drive up took us about six hours. Of course we stopped in Port Maquerie and drove around a little and had lunch there. Port Macquerie was founded in 1821 as a penal settlement, replacing Newcastle as the destination for convicts who had committed secondary crimes in New South Wales. It is a lovely town which has become a retirement destination, and indeed when we stopped at the local shopping area, it looked like another St. George except with gorgeous beaches instead of red rocks.
Coff’s Harbour is also a retirement town. We stayed near the beach in one of those beachy little rooms with a kitchenette, definitely not a place where one would want to spend time inside. We were walking back to the room after taking a long stroll on the beach when I discovered that I had left my dress shoes in Sydney. We had travelled in our casual clothes because we were in the car for so long and no black shoes were packed.
After stopping someone on the street to ask where I could buy shoes, we headed for Big W, which is the closest thing to Walmart in Australia, we found a pair of cheap black shoes in the nick of time before 5 p.m. closing. It is the strangest thing here. All the shops close at 5 by law. The only exception is Grocery stores. Sad thing about the shoes, though. They were flat and uncomfortable and I was limping before the night was over.
Thursday evening we spent with the Owens. They took us out to their neighborhood club, so it was nice and quiet. We met with them about 3 hours and had a great time. Presidnt Owens has about 4 branches in his district. He used to be in the presidency of a stake in Sydney, but moved north to take a job. When he was later “made redundant” which in Australia, means laid off, he started his own business which is very successful. He goes into Tonga and hires crews of workers who come to Australia to pick fruit and do lower grade construction jobs. He contracts with the growers and trains these workers and pays them well.
We spent quite a bit of time talking about how to implement the self reliance program in branches. The Australian government is quite generous with their welfare benefits and some families flat out refuse to work. This state of being does not promote growth and progress in an individual or family, church member or not. He definitely has his work cut out for him. He had to fly out to Melbourne the next day, but we spent more time with Penny his wife, the next day. In fact she took us out to see the Kangaroos that you see in this picture. The Kangaroos are quite used to people and were grazing in the yards of Heritage Park, a subdivision north of Coff’s Harbour.
We spent all the next morning with the missionaries in Zone Conference. There were about 10 elders and 2 sisters and two couples besides us. The Checketts, who are the mission presidents did most of the training along with the Zone leaders. Unfortunately, our presentation on Self reliance was not til after Lunch. Several of them fell dead asleep. Our message did not resonate with this crowd as well as we would have liked. It is back to the drawing board for us before we present to the missionaries again.
We managed to regroup and have a nice afternoon walking around the beaches and having Thai Food. Penny Owen, also took us around the city to see the major sights. One of them is the Big Banana.
The area was famous for banana orchards, but now much of the acreage is planted in berries, especially blueberries which are grown for the major food retailers.
The next morning, we went for a final walk on the beach where I snapped a few pix which really don’t do the area justice.
Then we set out to travel a different way home. Even though it was a longer drive home, Joe wanted to see some farms. So we headed west to Armidale. On the way we saw some of the most beautiful verdant farms you could imagine. These were set in green rolling hills and meadows with little lakes and streams in the hollows, really one of the most idyllic places I’ve ever seen. Armidale itself is set in the high country and is dryer and colder than the rest of New South Wales. Armidale is a university town, also. Quite unexpectedly I found a going out of business department store sale and bought two summer dresses and a shirt for $30. ($22, American) It’s funny how even though I’m on a mission and supposed to be beyond the “material”, can still make my day!!