Monday, July 14, 2008

Australia - Tourist Day

After a chilly but restful night, I got up rather late at 7 AM and made my way to the breakfast tent by 7:30 AM or so. They were pretty organized about all of this. Volunteers were helping out in distributing the food that the WYD organizers had sent over in pallets. One of the ladies, Margaret, was interested in a US pin that I was wearing and wanted to trade for a Koala bear that she gave me. A little later, Br. Peter gave me one of the ones he’d brought with me and I was able to complete the transaction. I hadn’t realized that this trading thing was a big feature of WYD and now I wish I’d brought a bagful of the stuff. Knowledge for next time.

No time for doing the blog either last night or this morning (I’m doing two days worth on Tuesday morning – right now.). Our group met at 8:30 AM for morning prayer – at least those who were interested in doing so (it was optional). By now Eric was not any better and we would have to have him seen to. The rest of us went over to the Brothers chapel – I asked earlier – and had our morning prayer there. It was a good, restful, prayerful way to begin the day and contextualize the whole thing for ourselves.

We decided to meet around 9:30 AM to make plans for the day. In between, Br. Peter and I were working out various details with those in charge at this location. The hospitality has been terrific, but there are always unexpected things that happen along the way (security alarms at night, folks getting ill, computer access, liturgy plans, etc.). When we got together, one group (Roberto, Otto, and Chris) went off with some student tour guides from the school and the rest of us decided to go beyond the Sydney Harbor Bridge and walk across it back to The Rocks area. Those who had wanted to go on the walk across the top of the bridge would not be able to do so (no openings – I’d checked last night) so this was the next best thing.

It was recommended that we should go one stop further (North Sydney) on the train and visit the McKillop Place where Blessed Mary McKillop lived and died. She’s the first Australian saint (Blessed for the rest of the world, for now) and they’re very proud of her. We met Paul at the station (he’s staying in a hotel in downtown Sydney – lucky stiff) and walked to the location. They are ready for thousands of people, with long lines and assembly areas all over the campus of the Anglican college located next door. We were pretty much the only people there, and they couldn’t have been nicer to us. We paid $5 to see a marble slab. Along the way there were tents with knick-knacks and all sorts of things for Catholics, staffed by very friendly people. I met a Sister who said she’d made the Sangre program recently, and she was very pleased to meet a Brother. We walked to the church where Mary McKillop is buried, walked quietly down the aisle while their daily Mass was going on, and took some pictures of the marble slab. Then we left.

We walked down to the main freeway and walked on a path along it until we arrived at the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Along the way, there was a nice little park with a statue of a Dingo dog (I believe). The guys wanted to take a picture there because one line that they’re using ad nauseum is from some movie: “The dingo ate your baby.” (Said with a pronounced Australian accent.) I have no idea of the context, but I don’t plan to see the movie. I would take bets, however, that they will repeat that phrase at least 50 more times before the end of the week.

The day turned out to be glorious and the effects were evident as we walked across the bridge, stopping every once in a while to take pictures by sticking our cameras through the metal grating on the side. We took a couple of group pictures with the Opera House in the background for most of them. I’d asked some passing people to take a group picture with me in it, but none of them figured out how to raise the camera high enough to have the Opera House in the background. The pictures are there, however, and that’s the main thing.

We walked to Circular Quay (pronounced “key”) where we split off into smaller groups for lunch, agreeing to meet back if we wanted to walk up St. George Street – the main drag. Br. Rich Galvin and I found some food and sat on one of the concrete walls, while very “friendly” sea gulls hovered closer and closer, eyeing any stray bits of food. When I was done with my meal and dumped my leftover fries onto the sidewalk, there was a feeding frenzy of gulls and all the food disappeared in ten seconds flat.

The group walked up St. George Street, stopping only when the guys saw a store advertising the new iphone. They were drawn in like a magnet and spent some time hovering over the phones on display, discussing relative merits of various models like professional salesmen. This new iphone had just been introduced a couple of days ago – hence the great interest.

By the time we reached the Queen Victoria building, the tempus was fugiting and we got onto the train to go back on the Liverpool line to the Bankstown station. It takes about an hour. Then there’s a 10-15 minute walk back to the school. Mass for the Lasallian group would be at St. Brendan’s and we had to get ready for it. Robb had checked this morning and found that they were happy to have him serve the Mass, so he and some others were off to the church directly upon arriving in Bankstown, first stopping by a Target for some pillows. The rest trooped back to the school to get ready ourselves.

Br. Ambrose offered me a ride to the church, which I gladly accepted, since getting there appeared to be quite convoluted. As it happened, many folks got lost trying to find the place and either arrived late or never arrived. At the church, the Mass was similar to the other Masses we’ve had, with the same music and style, although the priest(s) were less spontaneous than Fr. Chris had been – which was fine with most of us.

After Mass, the group made our way to the Bankstown Sports Club, a huge place that had lots of places to eat, slot machines, and a huge auditorium for performances. It took a bit of walking and asking of directions before we got there, but it was worth the effort. Each of us had a $12 food certificate to use at one of the eating establishments inside (won’t work for the slots) and had to plan to be in the auditorium at 7:15 PM or so. Br. Rich Galvin and I went to a relatively quiet “Tapas” restaurant at the end of the building where we had something to drink and something to eat. The waiter there saw our horde of people coming into the building and said, loud enough to be heard: “I hope sombody’s going to tell me what’s going on.” Apparently no one in the place knew that several hundred kids and chaperones were about to descend on the place. But it all worked out.

Br. Peter joined us toward the end of our meal. He had spent the day with Eric and a couple of other kids who were ill and needed to see a doctor. They were given some prescriptions and Eric and another student decided to rent a room at the Sport Club where we now were. Br. Peter checked into their situation and found that they were still sleeping – probably what they would do for the entire time there. Pete was ready to relax a bit and have a meal.

After our meal we made our way to the auditorium where a show had been planned featuring six or seven of the Lasallian groups. It was a lively, highly-spirited, very supportive and noisy crowd. There were performances by the Australian contingent, a group of kids from South Africa, another group from Colombia, a terrific one that featured the Vietnamese (real pros who do this all the time), and a striking one by the New Zealanders. By that time, I really couldn’t stay around and returned to the school with Logan, who was also ready to return. During the performance, I ran into Br. John Forsythe, whom I’d hoped to meet up with. John is from the school at Marrickville and had been very helpful to me the last time I was in Australia. I plan to visit Marrickville at some point this week, but if I don’t it’s good to know that I at least ran into him.

Upon my return, I was simply too tired to do anything with the blog. These are intense days already, and while doing this blog is a good thing, it takes a bunch of time. Nevertheless, it's a good record for myself and others so I'll keep doing my best to keep it up. For yesterday and today, however, pictures won't be uploaded to this site. You'll have to go to