Friday, July 11, 2008

Australia - Second Fervor

Today was a long but rewarding day that was filled with inspirational moments. The presentations were excellent, the atmosphere was relaxed and positive, and the sense of community became larger as the day progressed.

By now, I have almost gotten used to getting up real early, getting ready for the day, and spending a good hour or more in the lobby of the Discovery Hotel to upload the blog and pictures. It’s the only place where the wireless connection is solid, if somewhat slow. That task completed, I’d make my way over to the café where others from our group were already having their breakfast. This morning we lingered a bit so that by the time we arrived at De La Salle College, we had missed morning prayer and folks were moving to the gym for the first session there.

The keynote speaker was the Maronite Archbishop of Galilee, Elias Chacour. He was a great hit with everyone. His story, message, and presence were very engaging, sincere, and even holy. The hour went by in a flash. He told of his experience as a child in Palestine when Israel was created in 1948 and his subsequent vocation and involvement with the Palestinian Christians. He identified himself as a Palestinian, as a Christian, and as an Israeli citizen. His appeal and challenge was to work for reconciliation and to resist categorizing either Jews, Christians, Muslims, or Palestinians. He started out saying the he sincerely loved each student in the room, spoke some Arabic to the group from the Middle East, and then launched into a talk from the heart. I really wished this had been videotaped. It would be something that could easily be used in any history or contemporary issues class in the West. (I taped the end portion of his talk on my small camera and will try to edit and upload it to YouTube.) At the end of his talk, the kids spontaneously gave him a standing ovation and they pretty much mobbed him during the tea break that followed.

The next session was similarly engaging and inspirational, but it was from an entirely different part of the experiential spectrum. Jessie Manibusan is a funny, inspirational, and talent liturgical musician and clinician who soon had the group laughing, dancing, singing, and thinking seriously about their Catholic faith. He first makes fun of himself – a good strategy that archbishop Chacour used as well – and then moves into ideas, notions, and questions that keep people intensely focused while moving them from one idea to the next. I’d say that both of them were excellent teachers, on different levels. These two sessions were a good balance to the information-bound sessions from yesterday, and by the end of the morning, folks were in a good place.

The afternoon was “free” for the groups to shop, tour Melbourne, or do what they needed to do. Our group had a brief meeting in the gym and then we disbursed to different places. Some had a box lunch here at the school, while others left for the train and downtown Melbourne. The group I was part of decided to have lunch elsewhere and made our way to town via train. On the train, we met a group of Lasallian Youth from Adelaide, and we decided to join them for a while, wandering down Bourke street and looking into various shops along the way. When our groups split off, we made our way to Melbourne Central where we went to the food court so that each could get their own preferred food but we could sit together at a table. After lunch, of course, a couple of guys needed to get a Baskin Robbins ice cream to round out the meal.

By now it was almost time to reassemble for the evening’s activities. We went by our hotel, and while the rest went inside, Robb showed me Victoria Market (a bunch of stalls selling most things imaginable) where I looked for a good hat. We saw lots of hats (see some of the pictures that I’ve uploaded to the Google website), but there were none that I found particularly appealing, and so we returned to the hotel.

The group assembled downstairs at about 4:30 PM to make our way to the Telstra Dome for the Diocesan Days liturgy. It was about a twenty-minute walk away, but the exercise would do us good. Along the way, we were startled by a small animal that had made it’s home in a tree along the sidewalk. We didn’t know quite what it was but it was very interested in us. When it was pointed out to the group, practically everyone had to get a picture of it. It just kept looking at us with a serious expression, darting back into the body of the tree every once in while, with its mate looking out from another hole in the tree. It wasn’t quite a possum but reminded me of one.

Telstra Dome is located right next to a major rail station. It seems to be a fairly recent addition to Melbourne and looks as if it could seat about 100,000 people. As it was, we were told that 50,000 people would be there. Once inside, we went up the third level and found our seats in a section where all the Lasallian Youth, except for the Vietnamese group from San Jose, had been assigned. The next hour was filled with songs, flag-waving, shouted-out calls, group picture-taking, and general fun and vocal mayhem. The Egyptian LY group organized a “wave” for our group, and after working on it for a good ten minutes managed to get one going throughout the stadium. It went around some 6 – 8 times before petering out. The thing really got going when, on the opposite side of the stadium, the 300 or so priests (all vested in white) who were sitting there did the wave along with everyone else.

As noisy as the whole thing was, as soon as the Mass started everything went completely quiet. The atmosphere turned on a dime and now we were focused on the Liturgy. First, about 10 minutes before the procession, these “incense machines” along the processional route were activated and smoke began to fill the inside of the stadium (I’m presuming it was incense and not just smoke, although I never smelled anything.) A long line of some 40 bishops processed in, followed a short time later by 10 – 12 others who were either archbishops or cardinals, along with bishops from various Orthodox traditions.

The archbishop of Melbourne presided, with his visage on the large color stadium screens, singing all the prayers in a rather good voice, with the choir and others responding in their parts. The whole thing lasted a couple of hours, of course, but the experience was a foretaste of what the large WYD liturgies will be like. It was interesting to see the many things that they did to try to create a “holy space” in this huge stadium. For the most part, I’d say that they were successful, given the circumstances. A large part of the success, of course, came from the serious spirit of those in attendance.

At the end of the Mass, most of our group walked to a place that Br. Peter had picked out on his walk here – the Celtic Club – for a bit to eat. This place, we found out, was established in 1887 for the Irish community in Melbourne and, while inviting and filled with good spirit and music, had two burly security guards at the door and seemed to be focused mostly on the Irish members who were part of the club. It took a bit of effort, on the part of Paul Avvento mostly, to talk our way into the upstairs restaurant part of the Club. Once in, they couldn’t have been nicer. We had to become temporary members and filled out some sort of membership form before going upstairs for a very nice meal with some great conversation .

It was a wonderful ending to an inspirational day.
Note: These are some of the pictures taken today. All the pictures for any one of the days are uploaded to

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Australia - The Classroom

Today was a day filled with information and input. There were lots of talks, several interviews, a couple of homilies, and one instance of native dancing, each of which had a “point” to make or a personal motivation to touch. I would call it the classroom day for the Lasallian Youth. And like a full school day anywhere, by the end of the day the studednts were quite ready to be finished.

The day began at Federation Square in Melbourne, where the OMI youth had organized an ecumenical “Peace by Piece” event in which we would be participating. (During the event, our Lasallian Youth folks seemed to be much more visible and as numerous as the OMI groups there.) Br. Richard Galvin and I made our way to the square on foot, arriving in time to see that the Vietnamese had taken advantage of the free time before the start of the event to organize one of their large-group games / community builders. Their energy and enthusiasm is usually expressed through a large circle of people moving and dancing, lots of clapping of the hands, some running around, and a whole bunch of fun for the people involved. You certainly cannot fail to notice them. I also ran into Br. Phong from San Jose who, as usual, was having a great time himself. This went on for about half an hour and then things settled down, groups assembled on stage, and the speeches began.

First, large posters of the symbols of various world religions were brought forward – most by various Lasallian Youth – and placed in front of the stage. This was followed by an Aboriginal series of dances, the point of which seemed to be to either bless the stage and/or to invoke the spirits of peace. Then individual representatives of the religions represented came forward to speak about the pursuit of peace in their tradition and to read from one of their holy books on the same topic. After one or two of these, a number of folks in attendance (not too many) found it to be somewhat repetitive and wandered away. I have to admit that I ended up being one of these towards the end of the ceremony. The whole event had been an optional one for us, and a good number of our group had apparently decided to do something else or to simply sleep in this morning. I was impressed, however, at the respectful attention that was given by the 500+ attendees to each of the speakers during the 45 – 60 minute ceremony.

Towards the end of the ceremony, I went for a walk across the nearby river and down along the river path, getting a good view of the Melbourne skyline in the process. The weather was not overcast, although not warm either, but it was a great day for walking. About half a mile away I went into a rather fancy looking building and found myself is a very upscale mall surrounding a huge casino. When I went in – after following the request that I drop off my backpack at the coat room – I found lots and lots of slot machines (many with 2-cent or 5-cent slots) and Blackjack tables that seemed to start at a $20 minimum and quickly moved up from there. The real action seemed to be at the roulette tables, which were surrounded by crowds of people who reached across to drop their new bets as soon as the old bets had been cleared. It seemed as if they couldn’t wait to part with their chips. And not one person I saw either at the tables or at the slots was smiling – even when they won. It kind of makes you think about the whole thing… In a more plush section, separated by fancy metal grating, was a room obviously for the really wealthy, where one or two people per table were playing with brightly-colored chips that certainly went from $1,000 up. They seemed especially bored / serious / not having fun.

I didn’t stay long and happily picked up my backpack in the cloak room to escape to the outside and the generally smiling and happy folks and families walking along the river.

By about 1:30 PM, I’d made my way via train back to Malvern, stopping to have lunch in a small restaurant along the way. The city has a very large number of Asian places to eat, and the ones I’ve samples are uniformly excellent. The classes/presentations for the afternoon had just started. (During their lunch, apparently, they had had great fun building things with their lunch boxes, and Br. Lawrence gave me a couple of pictures that he had taken during that time.) Br. Adrian Watson had told me earlier (that’s him in the picture above with Roberto Martinez and me) that they had decided that the logistics of getting 500 kids to and from various venues in the school was impractical and they would have everything in the gym as a large group. So we were in the gym, pretty much, from 1 PM to 8:30 PM, with breaks for tea, Mass, and dinner.

The presentations (all of which went longer than planned) were these:

1) Lasallian Vocation – Given by a Lasallian Volunteer, Br. Ambrose Payne, and Br. David Hawke. Experiences of the Lasallian vocation – stories and examples of the Lasallian vocation in action plus an invitation to consider a religious and/or Lasallian vocation.
2) Education under Occupation – Bethlehem University students showed two videos and gave a short introduction. One was an overview of the school, its history, its components and its mission (very nice video), and the other was a slide-and-music look at the holy sites in that part of the world (a bit too passive – the natives started to get restless during it).
3) Lasallian Youth Ministry in Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea (the areas covered by the District). Examples of the kinds of work and summer opportunities are provided for those interested in LY in Australia. Lots of talking.
A nice tea-time break to process all of this information, to get some exercise, to meet some new people, and to get the juices flowing again. In other words, recess.
4) The Rights of the Child – Lasallian Foundation. A narrated slide presentation of the Lasallian Foundation and its work throughout the District by Br. Paul Smith. The presentation was clearly the standard development office one, given lots of facts and figures about the world’s situation (mostly quite bad), the various works touched by the Brothers, and the like. Natives getting a bit restless again.
5) Interview with a Brother. Three Brothers were interviewed by a moderator about their vocation (how it began, what it’s like, etc.) and contemporary religious life issues (aging population of Brothers, new Brothers today, and the like). It ended with an appeal again for the guys to think about the vocation. One of the members of our LY group mentioned that some of them were reminded of “The Actor’s Studio.” Although perhaps good for select students, most of the natives continued to be restless. At one point (I believe it was during this presentation), all of the Brothers in the room were asked to stand up. This received an enthusiastic response from the rest of the folks in attendance.
6) International Council of Young Lasallians. A member of their international board spoke about this group. Unfortunately, he and his message didn’t connect with the group, especially coming at the end of five presentations that had allowed for little if any interaction among the kids. His slides were very wordy and in a small font, and his message was more of a description of organizational strategies, results of past conferences, and the like. Quite dry and esoteric for die-hard Lasallians. Natives respectful but you could tell that most were talking softly with friends, amusing themselves with their phones, and the like.
7) Liturgy in St. Joseph’s Church. The parish church that we’ve been using is pretty much next to the property, and we now made our way over to it for a Mass that was similar to the one we had yesterday – loud modern Christian music, lots of hand-clapping, a song by the celebrant during the homily, acclamations that we sort of didn’t know, etc. The only difference was that when the servers (which included two guys from our group) knelt down after the Sanctus, so did most of the rest of the church.

Then we had dinner. We walked over the to large Town Hall that was about a block away, where lunch had been held as well, and lined up for dinner. The line stretched into and through the eating hall, snaked through the lobby, and extended out to the street. They were as efficient as possible with this process, but feeding over 550 folks dinner is quite a task and took some time. The kids and adults, of course, were amazing, having great fun just standing in line and continuing the positive attitude that they’ve been displaying throughout our time together.

By now the schedule was a bit out of kilter, but eventually we all ended up back in the gym of the school for the evening’s presentation.

8) An overview of De La Salle and his life by Br. Michael Broughton from Singapore. He was engaging, humorous, relaxed, and had a good sense of the kids and what would appeal to them about De La Salle’s story. Although near the end of the day, he was able to make some very good connections between DLS’s story and the one that each of us has within the Lasallian family.
9) The final talk was by Br. Thomas Johnson. He was also well-prepared and even included a short time during which students could talk with two or three in their area about their service experiences in the past and what they had learned from that experience. The kids were VERY eager to talk at this point, and the five or so minutes that followed was some of the liveliest time in the room today.

Mercifully, the organizers had decided not to have Night Prayer back in the church. Instead, we had a “short” 10-15 minutes prayer service in the gym at the end of Br. Thomas Johnson’s presentation. I had told some of the guys that I would probably go back after the last presentation, skipping out on night prayer, and some of them had been interested in this as well. But when we got to the back doors of the gym, they were locked and barred. The only exit was the front door. Apparently, others had had the same idea because there were a bunch or people at the back who didn’t quite want to walk to the front, in view of everyone, and walk out just as the prayer was beginning. At the end of the prayer, however, there was a wave of people that went for the doors lickety-split. Clearly, there were other folks who were ready for the end of class.

On the platform at the Malvern train station, Robb wanted to see when the next train would come. He walked over to a unit with two buttons, a blue one to hear what the next train would be and a red one in case of emergency. He pushed the red button. Immediately, he heard a phone ringing through the speaker and he realized what he’d done. But there was nothing for it, so he went back with Chris and spoke with the operator who came on and somehow was able to find out when the next train would arrive. I think we were all pretty tired by now and happy to finally return to our abode for the night.

Note: These are some of the pictures taken today. All the pictures for any one of the days are uploaded to

Below is the YouTube video of part of the opening ceremony from yesterday, as promised.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Australia - First Fervor

Around 5:30 AM the first noises in the hall began to wake me up. With some 100 or so people on this floor – most of them students – it’s likely that some would wake up early to get ready for the day. In this case it was the Kiwis, as I found out later, following Br. Anthony’s instruction to be ready in the downstairs lobby at 6:30 AM. Since it would be pointless to try to sleep any longer, I too awoke and got ready for the day. Most of the next few hours after cleaning up and putting myself together for the day were spent processing the pictures and writing the first blog entry.

At 8 AM (the agreed-upon time) those from our group who wanted to go to breakfast met downstairs and left to find Muleta’s Café (422 Queen St.) where breakfasts had been arranged for. We first walked the wrong way, and gave the wrong advise to the group from Malaysia, before figuring out that Muleta’s was staring us right in the face across the street from where we had left. However, the guys used the opportunity to take some group pictures right there on the street. First it was one camera, then two, then a whole pile of them. Pictures completed, we proceeded to the café.

Inside Muleta’s, we found out that the pre-arranged breakfast was a simple but sufficient one of toast, tea/coffee, juice, and cereal. Pretty soon the place was pretty much filled with the Lasallian groups staying at the Discovery Hotel, all happily munching away at their breakfast, with some even going so far as trying out the Vegemite on their toast (think soy sauce in a pasty form).

Breakfast done, we had some free time until noon. I spent the entire time downstairs in the common area of the place, where the wifi was strongest (none reached my room), and completed my blog work. Others went for walks and tram rides around Melbourne.

At noon we all met in the Big Room for prayer, for which I was responsible this time. The theme I’d chosen was “Our Vocation” and the prayer lasted about 20 – 25 minutes, including some good intercessions from the gruop. This was followed by some practical details, and then Br. Peter told us to begin making our way over to De La Salle College in Malvern by 2 PM. Different little groups went out for lunch before heading over. I thought I’d make my way to Malvern slowly but ended up getting something to eat nearby and then hooking up with three of the guys (Robb, Eric, and Chris) to go to Malvern by way of train, convinced that this was faster than the tram (turned out that is was – by a long shot).

When we got to the Melbourne Central station, we (picture- - l to r: Robb, Eric, and Chris) reached the platform just as a train for Malvern was ready to leave. The guys ran for it, and even though the doors were half-closed, Chris grabbed the door, leaned into it to pull it open, and reflexively looked over his shoulder to the front of the train. He explained later that in New York subways that usually does the trick. Either the doors reopen themselves or the conductor sticks his head out, yells out a none-too-friendly greeting (“But it’s really just a hello,” says Chris) and flicks a switch to open to doors momentarily. Melbourne is not New York City, we found out. While the people in the train on the other side of the door looked at us with some confusion and alarm, the doors continued to close and Chris had to let go. I have no idea what the people on the platform thought of us, but I wish I’d gotten a picture of Chris’ NYC strategy in action.

As it happened, the next train was an express and got to Malvern in a jiffy. Once there, there was some discussion as to which direction to take on foot, but after a couple of false starts we recognized a couple of stores from the previous day and were on our way.

Reaching the school, there were some large groups of Lasallians there already. Pretty soon, the Vietnamese group (67 strong) had organized some group games which others joined for fun. I met Br. Dennis, who lived there and was walking a dog in the yard, and a little time later myself and several other visiting Brothers were sitting down to tea in the community house next door, with new Brother arrivals joining us over the next half hour, including David Hawke and Ambrose Payne and a number who remembered me from when I was here before to give a retreat.

When the time neared for the first major event, we made our way over to the church nearby and found some good seating. The church was rather small, but the 550 of us fit into it cozily enough. The opening ceremonies involved the marching in of the flags from the various countries represented, accompanied by loud cheers and the singing of a song “We Are Lasallian” written for the occasion. (I'll try to upload some video to YouTube today and include it in the blog tomorrow.) The group certainly was a lively one, and pretty soon we were all fully engaged. Then the Opening Mass started, led by Fr. Chris from New Zealand, who himself had written quite a number of songs on Lasallian themes (he sung one as part of the homily). The music was led by student musicians, mostly, and was typically lively and contemporary. It was Brendan from our group who carried in the American flag, to a lot a cheering. But he was surprised to learn at the last minute that "North America" would come in by itself (as Australia and some other countries had done). It was a nice gesture and made sense.

At the end of the Mass we proceeded back to the school for an Australian barbeque. You can imagine the coordination that goes into a meal prepared for over 500 people, especially if you’re doing it all yourself, with the help of volunteers. But Ivan (from yesterday’s blog) pulled it off and everyone seemed quite happy to sit on the cement in the semi-darkness enjoying their Australian BBQ fare. Groups of students afterwards began again to organize large-group games of various sorts while others went around to meet new Lasallian friends from other countries. I met and sat with a group of women from Papua New Guinea.

The meal occurred at around 6:15 PM and an hour later we were gathering in the school’s gym for a presentation by a prominent Australian psychologist. He was very good at engaging the group in areas that they would be interested in (what it takes to be happy, according to the research, and how Christian principles are backed up by psychological research). It’s not easy to keep over 500 restless teens interested for an hour, but he managed to do so pretty well. Right after the talk, he fairly ran out of the place, probably because today, we were told, was also his wedding anniversary. Quite the situation at home, I’m sure, for a man of his profession. The most interesting conclusion of the research, to my mind, was the fact that if you had 30 eggs to place in the three baskets of Self, Family, and Work, research says you should put 15 into Self (all the good things you can and should do for yourself – spiritual, physical, relational), 10 into Family (keeping good relationships, etc.) and 5 into Work. This is true because a healthy Self will help make the Family effort twice as effective, and both of them will lead to high quality Work.

Then there was a short break before going back to the chapel for night prayer (some readings, a number of popular Christian songs, and a closing ferverino little talk). At the end of it all – about 9:30 or so – we made our way back the way we came. It was pretty dark now, and the shops were closed, but everything was quite safe. It only took a little time to figure out at the train station how to get back to Melbourne Central. During the ride on the train, Robb and Eric and I had some very good conversations about the Church, young people today, and contemporary issues. They were serious young men who took their faith quite seriously as well, and it’s great to have these kinds of conversations on an experience such as this. Then it was simply a short walk to get to the grand Discovery Hotel and the prospect of some sleep. But I knew that I would want to stay up, like I’m doing now, to process the pictures I took and write the blog. I’ll upload them tomorrow morning, since I can’t get a signal in my room, but at least I’ll have things ready to go. Done by midnight.

All in all, today was a fine start to our gathering. Enthusiasm is high and folks are quite friendly. I ran into a couple of friends (from Lebanon and Brazil and Australia) in the Brothers whom I haven’t seen since the General Chapter last year, and I’m making new friends among the Brothers who are acting as chaperones for their student groups. Now if I can only get some good sleep tonight, since the psychologist explained how crucial that was to our mental health – and I can use all the help I can get in that department.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Australia 1 - The Longest Day

(Warning: This first entry is a long one – to match the length of the day. The pictures are distributed throughout the entry.)

I don’t quite know how to begin this thing. In fact, I don’t quite know what day it is. What I do know is that it’s early on the second morning of being in Australia, and yesterday was a day that stretched from Sunday into Tuesday when somewhere beyond Hawaii we crossed an imaginary dateline and managed to lose all of Monday.

Sunday already had been a very busy day with both our regular Sunday Mass at Mont La Salle and then an afternoon Mass celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ordination of Fr. David Deibel, our chaplain there for the last 16 years. Around 6 PM one of the novices drove me to SFO where I would meet up with the rest of the contingent going to Australia from the United States. Packing was a challenge, of course, since I wanted to pack light and yet bring all I might need (the parachute didn’t make the cut). But I managed, repeating the mantra of “tickets, money, medicine, passport” as I went along.

I arrived at SFO at about 7:30 PM and the flight was scheduled to leave at 10:40 PM. I Proceeding to the Qantas counter, I found a long line to check bags in economy with almost none (of course) at the Business and First counters. Just for giggles, I walked over to the Business class counter and asked what it would cost to upgrade. The attendant smiled benignly and said: “Oh, about five thousand dollars.” My response was, “I’ll go get back in line now.” A half hour or so later, after glancing back and seeing a huge group of Vietnamese kids and adults, carrying big boxes and luggage and dressed in bright yellow t-shirts, getting into line a bit behind me and stretching out in a line down the hall, I got my ticket (seat 70E) – sorry, no window or aisle seats available – and headed over to security and the gate. I said a little prayer that 70E wasn’t going to be the middle seat in the 747’s economy section.

There was hardly anyone in the gate area at first, so I simply waited and read a bit. Soon the place began to fill up and I discovered that the bright yellow t-shirted Vietnamese were 67 Lasallian Youth and their chaperones from the Vietnamese community in San Jose. I knew at least one of the chaperones, and we got re-acquainted. She explained that Br. Phong was in Vietnam with another contingent of 30 and they would all meet up in Australia.

Gradually our own group of twelve trickled in. When Paul Avvento got there, he told us that he was going to be keeping a website record of recorded conversations, film footage, and photos of the experience. He started in on the interviews right there in the waiting area, speaking with some of the Vietnamese contingent. (Don’t know the URL, but I’ll post it here when I do know.)

Time came for boarding and they called rows 65 – 70. The others in my group had seats in rows 35 – 37, so I got into line and inched forward, being located near the end of this rather large group. Just as I was about to hand my ticket to the agent at the door, another agent reached over and grabbed my ticket from the other side. “Sir, are you traveling alone?” “Yes, I am,” I said. He fiddled with the computer a bit, put another blank ticket in, gave it to me, and said “We’ve upgraded you to Business Class.” I said a polite “Thank you” and didn’t ask questions. Don’t know how; don’t know why – I was simply grateful. It turns out that they had changed planes in midstream and needed to rearrange folks in the three cabins. I was one of the lucky ones, and most of the others in our group were upgraded to Economy Plus. I love Qantas.

The trip was rather nice as a result. The “seat” turned into a bed at the touch of a button, and the service and food was pretty decent as well, as you can imagine. I decided to begin living the time schedule in Australia right away, having my dinner later and then trying to sleep during the time is was night in Australia. Generally, this worked pretty well. Would it be inappropriate if I spent some time during this trip praying for a similar happenstance upgrade at the end of my time in Australia?

About fifteen hours, several movies, a couple of recorded TV programs, and half of a novel later, we arrived in the Sydney airport. We got our luggage, gathered together in one spot, and were processed by a lady from “quarantine” who asked if anyone had any pop-corn, wooden crosses , or other potentially disease-bearing food or plants. The guys had great fun later imitating her and what she might have said if anyone had indeed had a package of microwave popcorn in their luggage. I took a few pictures and was politely told not to do so, with a customs agent then going through my photographs and telling me the ones to delete. (We were told later that the Vietnamese contingent had boxes with 400 plastic hats in them and were made to open up each box so that each hat could be shaken – don’t’ know why.)

Then it was off to another terminal, via bus across the tarmacs at Sydney, to catch our domestic flight to Melbourne. Our group was split up among two different flights, but they left pretty much within the same time frame. Otto, Brendan and myself went to our gate as the others went to theirs. That's a picture of them with a copy of The Australian newspaper. What I didn’t know at the time was that Paul (the one doing the interviews, etc.) had realized that he’d left his very nice camera either on the plane from SFO or in SFO. So he stayed behind in Sydney trying to sort things out with Qantas and would figure out a way to get to Melbourne. More later about this little tidbit.

In Melbourne, we were met by Mr. Matt Breen, a teacher at a local Lasallian school, and by Br. Adrian Watson, the main organizer of this whole event, who seemed to be just a tiny bit harried. We were then all put onto a large bus, along with Lasallians from Malaysia, Mexico, and elsewhere, and Br. Adrian gave his welcome and explained what would happen today. Off we went to downtown Melbourne and the grand Discovery Hotel. As we left the airport, I took a quick photograph of an older woman who was part of an arrival group and evidently appreciated being in Australia, to judge from her shawl. We were brought to what turned out to be a Youth Hostel with a solid community atmosphere. The room at the Discovery Hotel was indeed a discovery - seven bunk beds and little else. Well, this would be a new experience, wouldn’t it?

We took about 30 minutes to divide up the beds and then met with another teacher from one of the Lasallian schools here, Ivan, who would show us the public transportation ropes and take us to La Salle College (the name of the high school) in Malvern – a suburb of Melbourne - for our nametags and the like. Ivan is originally Irish (pretty obvious), went to a Lasallian school and is now teaching at one of the three Lasallian schools in the area. He was a great tour guide, taking us on the train out to Malvern and providing commentary at different places along the way. At La Salle College they were all ready for us with name tags, a backpack full of stuff, a couple of polo shirts for the Brothers and very nice jackets with ILYG logo on them (yellow liner for students; red lining for Brothers). We stayed there having some tea or coffee, meeting others arriving from all over, and generally settling down a bit. Then Ivan helped us make our way back to our “hotel” via the local tram – so that we would know two ways to get back to the school for the daily events – and we had the next few hours to ourselves.

A couple of the guys wanted to check out local hotels or motels to see if there were any other accommodation options, so we spent a couple of hours walking within a 20-block radius of the Discovery Hotel, inquiring about the rates at hotels and resident apartments that we encountered. Let’s just say that the cost was rather prohibitive. We did, however, see a lot of “backpack” hotels, which evidently are quite popular here, and whose accommodations were the same as the place where we were staying. When we finally returned, we spoke to the young ladies staffing the desk at the Discovery Hotel, and the guys sweet-talked them into having us speak with the manager in charge of the group bookings who came out and couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. We left with three more rooms in the place –two single rooms that that they had been saving for bus drivers and a room with three bunk beds. Now the 13 of us could spread out a bit more. I was simply happy to be able to have a room to myself – after having checked with the other Brothers (Well, I was a bus driver at one time.). Privacy is one factor, of course, but it’s also simply the fact of having had my own room for most of my life in the Brothers. I would have stayed in the large room with the others if needed, but this new arrangement was preferable, if truth be told.

At 5:30 PM, we all met in the Big Room for prayer and a meeting. We sat on the floor and said the evening prayer in the Magnificat booklets, which Br. Peter had purchased for everyone. The intentions were sincere and extensive, including both those who’d sponsored our journeys and our hopes for the next two weeks. After the prayer, we introduced ourselves and Br. Peter shared some thoughts as to how to make our time together go more smoothly. It was all very practical and timely. Just at the beginning of our prayer time, the door opened and in walked Paul, who’d finally arrived from Sydney. He had called Qantas at SFO, spoken with Qantas in Sydney, tracked his movements and possible places where he could have left his camera, and had failed to find it. Then, when he’d finally arrived in Melbourne, he had to wait for 4.5 hours to get a bus into the city – meeting lots of nice people along the way, apparently – and then taking a taxi to the Discovery Hotel. Having been to previous World Youth Day experiences, his attitude was still positive and he wasn’t going to let this little hiccup ruin it. (I’m not sure if he loves Qantas.) It turns out that I’d brought an extra small camera and I was able to give that to him to use.

After our prayer and meeting, different groups broke up to go out to dinner on their own. Br. Peter, Br. Richard, Paul and myself followed the advice of the front desk and walked some five blocks to a street full of restaurants. There we picked a small Italian restaurant that looked good and went it for some beers (Melbourne Bitter for most of us) and pizza. For some reason known only to God, it took some two hours for the pizza to get there. After an hour or so, we were joking about the whole thing and ready to just lay our heads on the table and go to sleep. Other groups would come in, have there food, and leave, and here we were still waiting for our pizza. Br. Peter make a comment, half in jest, to one of the waiters that we should have a free round of beers because of the delay, and darned if that isn’t just what happened. This was a different waiter, and I think that he went to check on our order, since it was only 30 minutes after that that we finally received our food. It’s one of the few times that I’ve not left a tip.

Then it was back to grand Discover Hotel and a well-earned rest. I decided that I could simply not write this blog entry at that point but that I would do it in the morning. And there you have it. It will be another full day today - Wednesday (I think).