Monday, November 29, 2004

The old, the new and the Næem

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

Well, after finally finishing the rundowns of each day of my one week holiday, one thing I haven't been doing much through all that is really sit back and reflect on other things I was thinking of throughout the week. One thing I noticed is that throughout my week, I completely pushed aside doing my regular quiet time with my big Daddy a.k.a. God. Usually I am quite regular with reading a short chapter of some book in my Bible, once at night and once in the morning, but recently even before my holiday, I was getting less regular and more lazy. And during my holiday, I completely threw all that out the window, barely touching my Bible and only praying to God when I needed Him to help me kayak back to shore quickly, or keep the bus from leaving without me, or make sure my parachute opened well. And I'm not mentioning this to kick myself for being less 'spiritual' than I should be. It just made me think about how amazingly easy it is for me to be so into reading my Bible and be fascinated by the fresh things God reveals to me through it everytime I read it, and then the next day, I completely forget what a wonderful book it is and just don't want to take a few minutes to read it. And my prayer life is even more pathetic than my Bible reading time , coz' usually, even though I know I'd have plenty to talk to God about if I just sit down and thought about it, I'm just too lazy most of the time and I don't really wanna talk to Him. I'm too lazy to spend time with God. The big guy whom I know can love me better than any other person in the universe. The big guy who loved me enough to give His son to die a pretty nasty death to save my unworthy ass. I'm too lazy to spend time with Him. It's kinda like I'm saying to Him, "Yeah God, I really appreciate and believe in the whole Jesus dying for my sins and all, but I still wanna live life my own way, so I'm just not gonna bother talking to You all that much or reading that big book of Yours. But would still like to be able to ask You for some favours every now and then, cool?". And He's always answered my prayers and blessed me with with so many things that I want. Yet I continue to take Him for granted, especially since I know He'll always forgive me. And because I haven't been praying much or Bible-studying much, my character has barely changed for the better, and I really don't think anybody sees any overwhelming love outpouring from me like it's supposed to for Christians.
To the nonbeliever's point of view, my unchanging character, in light of scriptures' claims that anyone who truly believes will become a 'new creation', is just evidence that the Bible is full of hogwash. I mean, it doesn't seem as though being a believer for most of my life has made me much of a 'new creation' at all. I'm not full of love for everybody around me. I'm not bright and sunny and joyful like some supposedly completely transformed Christians are (good on them, by the way). I still get depressed. A lot. I still get very annoyed by people who ask me silly and redundant questions all the time. I still swear some colourful things, although usually not in public. It seems as though I'm still just like anybody else, instead of becoming more like Jesus. And after repeatedly praying that God will help me to change so that I can become more loving and patient and all the other nice things Christians are supposed to be, but never really seeing any change in myself, at some point I have to ask myself...If what the Bible says is true, why am I not changing much for the better even though I keep praying about it and I am a believer? Could this mean that I've been putting my faith in a lie all along, and there really isn't any all powerful big guy who can miraculously turn my personality around as soon as I fall to my knees and yell "My life is Yours, Jesus! Take me, mold me, use me, and all those other things in that song!!!"

Well, I have read enough to be pretty sure there's plenty of evidence to support that what the Bible says is true, which I won't go into coz' that would make this the longest blog entry on the planet. So I know my faith is based on pretty good stuff, although I suppose any non-believers reading this would argue otherwise. But for simplicity's sake that the Bible is completely true in its teachings, which I believe it is. Which means there would be nothing wrong with what the Bible teaches about believers being changed and becoming 'new creations'. So what exactly is wrong here?

One thing I've realized in all my years as a Christian is that most people, both believers and non-believers, take certain portions of scripture at face value, without considering it in light of other parts of scripture. As such, they jump to conclusions about what the Bible is saying just from reading one short sentence, and use that to defend their faith or refute the Bible. Many examples I can give, but let's focus on 2 Corinthians 5:17 - "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!". Most people reading that for the first time, me included, would assume it means as soon as you believe in Jesus, you'll be completely transformed into a different, new improved person. Unfortunately, that obviously isn't always the case. Some people do go through that wonderful miraculous change in personality almost immediately. But others, like me, take little longer. Is that really a surprise? Well, for one thing, looking at that verse, it didn't say "...he is immediately a new creation". It doesn't say, "...he is a new perfect creation". My point being that the whole becoming a new creation business probably does take a while, and being a new person doesn't mean we're perfect. Christians everywhere, no matter how changed for the better they become, will always screw up and do naughty things that deserve a spanking from God.
Another thing people might assume when reading that verse is that this change to a new creation will be due to some supernatural touch from God, or something like that. Like as soon as anyone seriously decides they wanna believe in Jesus, WHAMMO! God gives them a big invisible zap from the sky and they are completely changed! And for a long time, I thought that's what's should've been happening to me. I thought, hey, all I have to do is pray and keep da faith and that change in me will happen sooner or later. I will miraculously learn to hate doing things that are bad and sinful, and do all the good stuff instead. But it didn't happen. Coz' I forgot one tiny little detail.

God created people to have free will, which means He gave us the ability to make choices, both right or wrong. Without such free will, Adam and Eve wouldn't have had the ability to choose to do the wrong thing and eat that apple. But they did have free will, so they chose to eat the apple, thereby officially screwing up the entire human race by introducing sin into the world. The point of that is that I, like every other human being, have the same free will, and thanks to good ol' Adam and Eve, am also a sinner. Which means I have the ability to choose whether I want to do sinful things or not. And I will always have that ability to make that choice because even though God can take away my ability to choose to do wrong things, He won't. Coz' if He takes away that freedom to choose, I'd have no choice but to do only things that He finds pleasing. But doing such things would not be coming from my heart, since I have no ability to choose the wrong things! In essence, my obedience to God would not be would be Him using His power to make me do it. And since God loves us, He can't use His power to overrule our choice. As the Sting song goes, "If you love someone, set them free". He loves us, and therefore He lets us be free to make our own choices.

And because He loves us, naturally He would want us to love Him in return, and show our love for Him by obeying Him. Which means I would have to choose to obey his choose to follow everything He says in the choose to do whatever He puts in my heart when I pray to Him. It's not as simple as praying for a change in my character and than WHAMMO, it happens right there and then. He would help me along a lot. But a change in me still requires a deal of effort on my part. I have to choose to change. Only then can I show that I truly love God...coz' it's a heckuva lot more difficult to make that personal effort to change myself. So if I truly do love Him, I will not only want to change myself for Him, but make those difficult choices to do so.

Thing is, at the moment, I'm not making those difficult choices. Obviously, it's because I find them too darn difficult. I still want to do things my own way instead of obeying Him all the time. I still love to do all those naughty sinful things. Which has also made me wonder...does the fact that I still love to sin mean that I don't love God? For a long time, I thought the reason why I continue to disobey Him, even though I desire to follow His ways, is because deep down inside of me, I don't really love God and I just don't wanna admit it to myself. I was still thinking that up until last night, as I was writing this and I came across a section of my Bible that completely blew my mind away. So mind blowing that I just have to put the whole chunk of passage down...

Romans 7:15-25 - I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Aye carumba! It's not just me who went through such issues with my spiritual walk, that dude who wrote Romans went through exactly the same thing! And now I know''s not because I don't love God that I disobey him''s because of my own sinful nature, keeping me from doing what I know I should be doing. I have both love for God, and love for sin, both continuously battling within me. No wonder it's not as easy to make the right choices for God as I thought it would be.

Does that give me an excuse to keep on living the way I live - choosing to not read my Bible, not pray and not follow God's commands - and just blame my disobedience on my 'sinful nature'? Of course not. But at least I've come to understand a bit more about why I do the things I do and why I constantly fail. It's discouraging to constantly try to obey God yet always fail, and to beat myself up for it is something that dastardly devil wants me to do. This helps me understand that there is no need to beat myself up for failing. I will always fail. I will always sin. I will always disobey God. But that doesn't mean I should give up trying. And now I suppose what it meant in 2 Corinthians 5:17 by 'new creation' is not someone who is miraculously changed for the better straight away after believing in Jesus, but someone who is changed in a way that they will continually have that desire to obey God. They won't be perfect, but they will keep trying. :)

Geez, I just love it when God shows me something fresh from the Bible that whacks me straight in the face!

Settling in....

Ok, so I've been back from my holiday since Thursday, and on that same day I moved into my new place off-campus. It's a nice cosy little house, very close to the uni, and owned by this old grey-haired lady called Joan, who's also living in that house. I'm paying 80 smackers a week renting out a room at this place, which includes gas and water, and it's fully furnished, so I guess it's a pretty good deal. At least it's a really pretty house, nicely decorated (you know those old ladies, they have nothing better to do with their time than decorate their houses!), really clean (and clean up their houses too. :P), has a big-screen a tv (which my student residence house didn't have. How did they expect us to survive???) and Joan even lets me use her towels. So it seemed like a really good deal when I first moved in.
One thing I failed to remember is that renting a room in someone's house is a tad bit different from staying on-campus. On campus, I could do whatever I wanted, move in and out as I pleased and not worry about anybody breathing down my neck as long as I didn't trash the house or make enough noise to wake up the neighbourhood. On campus, everybody else in my house slept just as late, or even later as me, and we were all cool with it. I could take showers at 2am, or not bother to clean up the kitchen after cooking, or dump my stuff all over the place, and no one would care. But in this house, well, I like the fact that it's clean. But it's SO immaculately clean, that I feel I'd better not make even the slightest mess...not even leave any water around the kitchen sink area...or else I may suffer the wrath of the little old lady. I mean, she IS nice and approachable and all, but ever since I got here, she's kind of been nitpicking on some things I do and throwing so many rules at me. Like when I had a shower at 2am, I didn't realise would be loud enough to wake her up, and it ticked her off until the next day even. And when I left my room window slightly ajar when no one was home, she told me to close it next time coz' she's afraid thieves might get in. And she told me not to use her computer for more than an hour coz' she's afraid the motherboard will blow quicker if I use it for too long (darn, no blogging there!). And to clean up the stove after cooking, and wipe the dishes before keeping them away, and to turn off the washing machine taps after each use, and yadda yadda yadda....Which is all perfectly reasonable. I mean, I can't expect to live in her house without having to abide to some rules. But man, it just makes me miss the complete freedom to do whatever I wanted when I was on campus residences. It's like living with my parents again. Aaaaarrrrgggghhh!!!!!!!
Ah well, as long as she doesn't start disapproving of the Aussie boyfriends I bring home, I should be fine. ;)

Vacation rundown 5 - Dolphins, seagulls and sand in my mouth

The Tuesday of my one week holiday in Brissy was pretty uneventful, as I spent it mostly at my cousin Evie's place to recuperate from the previous three busy busy days. On Wednesday though, the two of us were on the ferry heading to Moreton Island, about an hour's ferry ride away from the mainland, at 10am. Our day there was without doubt the most fun part of my whole holiday. Not only was there plenty of fun stuff to do there, but we got to spend time together getting to know each other and doing some pretty silly stuff, as the photos will soon show. Coming from a family where our relatives usually only meet up about twice a year - during Christmas and Chinese New Year - I hardly ever got the chance to know my cousin. But I did get to know her a lot better during our week together at the Hillsong conference at Sydney this July, and again during my stay in Brisbane. And it's been interesting getting to know her as a friend and not just as some cousin I see twice a year. And we both get along superbly well, and I know I will miss hanging out with her when I get back to Malaysia coz' Evie doesn't want to stay in Malaysia. This gal has such an adventurous spark in her, she wants to travel all over the world. And she's one of the few people in my family who actually lives her faith in Christ, which I hope she continues to do as she heads out into the big wild world. Some of the stories she's told me about how she came to trust Christ were pretty cool, like how before she became a Christian, she had had certain thoughts or sentences in her mind. When a friend of hers showed her some parts of the Bible, the words corresponded exactly to what had been in her head, and she knew without a doubt that it had to have come from God. And coz' of that, she believes the Bible completely, even going so far as to say that if anyone were to put her gun to her head, telling her to say the Bible wasn't true or else she'd get shot, she wouldn't do it. Hope it never comes to that, but if it did, well, I wouldn't have to worry about anything coz' I'd know where she'd go if it did.

Anyway, back to Moreton Island. We reached the island and got off at the jetty where the dolphin feeding would be happening later that evening. First thing we saw was a bunch of water birds and big pelicans, at least 8 of them, hanging around the jetty, hoping to catch some fish being tossed out by a girl working there. Pelicans are actually quite cute when they're not trying to snap each others heads off getting at fish...

Evie and I had signed up for a desert tour of the sand island, so we could go sand toboganning, but had a little time to kill before we had to go for that at 1.30pm. So we decided to lay back on the beach and munch down on the sandwiches we had packed for lunch. Soon a little seagull came hopping up to us and gave us that cute seagull look and a little squawk that said "Give me some food, or I'll peck your eyes out...please!".

Well, birds aren't exactly the friendliest looking creatures...But being the softie for animals that I am, I tossed it a little bit of my sandwich. And as you would expect it, after a couple of seconds, a whole flock of seagulls were hanging around us trying to get a share of our sandwiches. And to look even more menacing, they all turned left to stare at us with their gawdy left eyes....

Ok, I'm crapping. They were standing like that coz' the wind was blowing strongly from the left and they face upwind so prevent themselves from being blown over. It was a pretty cool shot though, if I do say so myself. And yes, they got quite a bit of our sandwiches. Even took a video of them, which I will watch over and over for many years to come and laugh sadistically at how I had those birdbrains in my hands...bwahahaha! :Þ

*Ahem* After we finished our sandwiches and I satiated the birds a little more with bits of banana, we got into our bikinis, slapped on sunscreen and laid back on the beach for a while, which wasn't much of a good idea coz' the wind was so strong, we got more sand than sun on our skin. And if it wasn't bad enough on the beach, once we were taken out to the desert in the middle of the island, the wind had even more sand to blow into our faces.

Some folks back home may be wondering how the heck a desert got onto an island. Well, I'm not much of a geologist, and though I can't really explain how it happened, I can show you that it really was there!

That tiny little thing in the middle of the photo is the bus that took us to the desert. Yup, it was a pretty big desert. And pretty hot.

Very hot.

But that didn't stop us from getting out there and having a little fun sand toboganning! And for those who're wondering how you do sand toboganning, well, it's exactly like snow toboganning, except that it's a lot hotter and if you scream on the way down, you'll probably get a mouthful of sand. And we use an amazing piece of high-tech techonology as a toboggan...a piece of waxed-down wooden plank. And here's my cousin and I with our toboggans!

The folks climbing up the slope at the back are going to the top of the hill where we of course begin our toboganning trip down. It's more tiring than it looks walking up there...ain't easy climbing up a hill with sand sifting under your feet! But eventually I did get up there, and so here I am coming down!

Ok, I'll admit, I wasn't really coming down the hill in that one. Just posing for the camera. Could've bought a photo taken of me actually coming down the hill, taken by a professional photographer, but it costs a hefty $15-plus, and I had the silliest look on my face which I decided to spare everyone else from seeing. :) Only managed to get 2 rounds down the hill before I decided I was too lazy to go for another climb up the hill. Apparently the record number of rides down by one person was 27! Damn, that's a lot of energy... I was happier off spending my energy taking some other funny photos...:)

After about an hour and a half in the desert, we went back to the beach, where Evie and I decided to rent a couple of kayaks and get some exercise. After my traumatising kayaking mishap a few days before, I was a bit hesitant, but went for it anyway, and made VERY sure that I kept close to the shore. My second kayaking experience was much better, and we had fun racing across the shore, drifting around a bit, and giving wolf whistles to the hot guys playing volleyball on the beach (actually, that last part was just me. :)). Also got a bit of a scare from a wise guy swimming in the water whom I was paddling past. He went underwater and just as I was going past him, he jumped up and gave me a scare! Would've whacked him on the head with my paddle if I weren't laughing so hard...:)

It was getting close to evening, so Evie and I had our dinner at the beach resort and enjoyed the sunset. And yes, the seagulls came back again, and yes, we fed them again and took a few more cute photos. Here's one of a gull snatching a french fry out of my hand. And they're really quick snatching food out of our hands, so I reckon this was the perfect shot!

Evie also caught a cool photo of some gulls fluttering around with the sunset as the backdrop. One of those "ooooOOOoooo..." photos!

Finally, it was evening and the best part of the trip was about to come...dolphin feeding! The dolphins were in fact already at the jetty long before we were scheduled to feed them. There were about 8 adult dolphins, and at least 2 cute little calves. I'd seen dolphins before in Aussieland, but never so up close and personal. It was a joy watching these dolphins playing and rolling with each other in the water. Even saw some catching a live fish that was frantically jumping out of the water, trying to get away from the dolphins! Not quite sure if they caught it. Soon the time came for everyone to line up for their turn to feed the dolphins. And I was really dying to get a video of us feeding the dolphins, but we weren't allowed to take cameras near them for fear of having too many flashes going off in their faces (but of course, they had one cameraman with his flash going off, so they can make even more money off us poor tourists by selling us super expensive photos!). Would've loved to touch the dolphins as well, but wasn't allowed to as well for fear of stressing them out from too much petting. it was still an amazing experience, having a real live dolphin pluck a little fish out of my hand. Apparently the dolphins we were feeding were named Echo and Nari. And even though I couldn't get a photo of me feeding them, I got plenty of photos and videos of the dolphins from the jetty. That's Echo and Nari in the pic below. Don't ask me which is which, coz' I can't blady tell.

And another dolphin!

And a bunch of dolphins!

Also took a video of the final feeding when all the dolphins were grouped together, but too bad I can't put that up here. Was very cool. Makes me love these fun and friendly fellas even more than ever. Definitely an experience of a lifetime.

Even then, the fun in the trip wasn't over, coz' on the boat ride back, it wasn't as smooth as the ride there coz' of choppy waters. In fact, the boat was bouncing up and down and tilting left and right so much as it went forward, that even I felt a bit uneasy... and I never get sick even on the wildest roller coasters or rides! To make it even more fun, I was in the boat's toilet getting changed into dry shorts since it got wet from the dolphin feeding. And I'd never had such a tough time changing my clothes in my life! Needed quite a bit of balance and arm strength so I could hold onto everything in the toilet to keep me from falling over! When I somehow managed to do that and get back to my seat, holding tightly onto a lot of things along the way, Evie was giggling herself silly coz' she was having so much fun! So I think we were the only two nuts laughing like crazy on the boat while everyone else was getting queasy. It was kinda like a free hour-long motion master ride, and we were both loving it! Haha, definitely the best boat ride I've ever had!

So like I said before, it was the most fun trip of my holiday, with all the little free things that happened, like feeding seagulls and funny photos and a crazy boat ride, that made it so much more interesting. Gives real meaning to the saying, the best things in life are free....:)

Vacation rundown 4 - Næem in the sky with a parachute

On Monday morning last week, I woke up at about 8am to go to Steve's brother's place, the place where I was suppose to meet them and be picked up a guy from the sky diving company we were going to for our very first sky dives! Woo hoo! Steve did all the planning for the sky diving thing, since it was his idea in the first place to do it, and he was more keen on doing that first before anything else. So I had no idea where were going, what company he booked for, and all the other nitty gritty details. The only thing I knew was that we could choose to do either a solo jump, where we jump on our own about 4000 feet above the ground, or a tandem jump, where we're strapped onto a qualified (hopefully) skydiver and we jump at about 10,000 feet above the ground. I would've liked the freefall of the tandem jump, but I also wanted the freedom to control my own parachute and go for an actual sky diving lesson, something which the tandem jump people don't have to go through since all they had to do is strap on tight and jump. So I went for the solo jump, which was good coz' Steve, Ben and Ben's housemate Derek, who came with us, all wanted to do solo jumps as well.

So we got picked up at 9.30am by a guy named John, who is apparently one of the founders of the sky diving company we were going to, called Ripcord. Along the way to the sky diving place, or the drop zone as they call it, we picked up a Norwegian guy called Jacob who would also join our group. And when we got there, we found that there were two other instructors named John, one of whom took us through the basic sky diving course which lasted most of the day until about 2 or 3pm. Using a prop of a plane wing, he taught us how to climb out of the plane before we jump. I would've thought all we'd have to do was to jump straight out of the plane, but I suppose considering it was our first jump, it was safer not to jump straight out as we could tumble around in the sky and get tangled up in our parachute and end up as a very messy omelette on the ground. So what we beginners had to do was step onto the plane's door step, holding onto the beam connecting the wing to the plane hull, carefully pull ourselves along the length of the beam as close to the wing as possible (so that the rough wind from the plane rotor wouldn't blow straight into us), jump off the step while hanging onto the beam, and then once we were given the green light to let go, we'd let go of the beam and enjoy the lovely view 4000 feet above the air. Of course, we were also taught how to control the parachute itself, and given all the worst case scenarios, like what to do if the parachute lines got tangled up, or if we were going to land on a building or a tree or somewhere else not nice and flat, or the ultimate sky diver's nightmare...the parachute didn't open! After getting through all that and John made pretty sure we'd gotten most of the details into our heads by giving us a small exam, we were all ready and raring to go. Unfortunately, we couldn't head right out and do it, coz' it was too windy to jump at the time, so we were forced to hang out and get more pumped while waiting for the wind to die down. At about 5pm, the wind had died down a bit, so we all donned our sky diving suits (with me being the only one in white while the guys all wore blue, and looked a bit like uniformed guys from the Village People), parachute backpacks, goggles and helmets. Our group was too large for all of us to go up in one plane, so Steve and Ben went up on the first plane, with an instructor, a cameraman to record all the fun, and the pilot (DUH!). After they had their fun, and poor Ben landed like 500 metres away from the target so he had to walk back a bit, the plane came back, and me and Jacob were on the second plane. The moment of truth had arrived.

They told us that some people had went through the whole day course, went all the way up in the plane, and then chickened out at the last minute. So I couldn't help but wonder if I would be scared enough to do that once I got up. But I wasn't actually as freaked out as I thought I would be. I was a bit scared, but not superbly scared, even when I looked out the plane window and all the houses below looked pretty darn small. I was screaming more with excitement than fear...but not screaming loud enough that the others in the plane could hear me because the sound of the plane drowned out my voice. The only thing I was really worried about was that my parachute wouldn't open, or something else would go terribly wrong. So as usual, I gave God a quick call and asked Him to make sure everything went all right, which, in all His usual grace, He did. A couple of funny mishaps did happen, but nothing too serious. Like I couldn't hang onto the plane beam long enough for me to get the signal to go from the instructor, coz' I wasn't strong enough to hold on. So as soon as my feet were off the step, I had to let go and let myself fall. Which was quite sad coz' I was hoping to give a look to the cameraman and yell "Geronimooooo!!!" as I let go, but ah well... I even hit my left thigh against the plane step as I fell too, but didn't feel it until much later due to the adrenaline. Even as I fell though, I still didn't feel any fear, coz' the first thing I was thinking was "Whoops, I wasn't supposed to let go so soon!". Then once my parachute was automatically opened and I saw that the lines were a bit tangled up, my second thought was "Ok, get kicking so your chute lines untangle, put your hands in the toggles and start steering this chute". After I did that, I looked down on the ground and was thinking "Where the heck is the landing target?". Which I couldn't find at first, but wasn't too worried about that, coz' I could hear John over the radio in my helmet telling me where to steer. Finally, I actually looked around, soaked in the view of the mountains in the distance, the sun setting and the fact that I was floating several thousand feet above the air, and I thought "AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!". Actually, I think I was screaming that more than thinking it. :P My second mishap occurred during my landing. I was actually supposed to pull down on my chute toggles a few seconds away from the ground, so my landing wouldn't be too hard. But John had also taught us to roll on the ground if our landing was rough. So for some reason, instead of remembering to pull on my toggles, I was thinking more of rolling as I got closer to the ground. So I ended up landing so loud, someone could've heard it a mile away! Luckily I did do a nice roll as I landed so I wasn't hurt at all. Well, it's sure something to get everyone laughing when they watch the video of my landing. Sure got Stuart laughing like crazy when I showed it to him, the meanie! :P But I landed pretty close to the landing target, which was a pretty good accomplishment for a first time sky diver...Ha!

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of my actual sky diving experience, but only a couple of photos of me and the guys who were in my group while we were on the ground, in our sky diving gear. It's kind of difficult to take photos while holding on to the chute toggles. But being a photography person, I absolutely had to get some recording of it to remember it by, so I did buy a dvd recording of it. The cameraman had a camera attached to his helmet and he jumped out after me to record my jump, and with his nice fancy small chute, he could land before me and record my expertly executed landing. The dvd was really a ripoff though, coz' it cost $139 for a 15 minute movie! It's no surprise though, since they know people really want recording of their jumps, so they can charge pretty much whatever they want and idiots like me will still pay. But man, that price was just insane. Well, at least the movie looked pretty good, with cool music and good editing and all. And I am glad I have something to watch over and over, laugh about with my buddies, and prove to people that I actually jumped out of a plane. Wee ha! Hopefully I'll be able to figure out how to get screenshots off the dvd so I can post it here, but with my limited webspertise, I think that may take a while. So I shall save the photos galore for the next and final part of my Brissy holiday... dolphin feeding at Moreton Island!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Vacation rundown 3 - Kayaking mishap and Australia Zoo

I realised that posting so many photos has caused my blog to take forever and a day to load, so sorry about that, guys. That's the problem with holidays, just so many photos, I wanna put them all in my blog!

Sunday was a of an exciting day. Exciting in a stressful way, and not in a fun way, due to my own silly misjudgement. The free Australia Zoo coach taking me to Australia Zoo was to arrive at the closest bus stop to my backpackers at 9.15am. Yet I knew the backpackers I was staying at offered free kayaks and I wanted to try kayaking as I had never tried it before. I couldn't try it later on, because I was to check out that day and head back to Brisbane after the zoo. So I could only do it on Sunday morning. But the backpackers office only opened at 8am, so if I were to make it in time for the bus, I would have to get the kayak at 8am, do as much kayaking as possible, head back to the backpackers and be ready by 9am to get to the bus stop. Had it all planned out. Would not be a problem. Or so I thought.

So that morning I woke up nice and early, but only managed to get the kayak out at around 8.10am. The nearest place to kayak was just across the road, where there was a nice calm lagoon, which at one point, opened out into the ocean. But even that wasn't close enough for me, coz' I can tell you, the blady kayak weighed a tonne, and probably more. And I had to carry the paddle along with it, which isn't an easy feat when I only have two hands and haven't been working out too much lately. So by the time I had carried, lugged, and dragged the kayak all the way to the lagoon, it was about 8.25am. Still had time, I thought. I could go out for about 20 minutes, come back by 8.45am, and start lugging the heavy bugger back.

So off I went in my kayak, paddling along the lagoon, and taking a few moments here and there to lie back and enjoy my surroundings. Out in open water with no one but myself, drifting along. This was the life. 5 minutes into it, I thought it was pretty easy, as I went a pretty good distance in just a short time. I thought it would be equally easy to make my way back to shore, so I went out further into the waters.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of heading out a bit too close to the part of the lagoon leading out to the ocean. And when I decided to head back to shore, I found it wasn't as easy as I expected. I was paddling and paddling and paddling, but the shore didn't seem to be getting any closer. The seemingly calm currents were carrying me out to the ocean! The closest people were too far away to hear any calls from me. And my arms were getting tired. Not good.

Of course, I had no choice but to keep on paddling. But it still seemed as though the shore was so far away that I would never reach it without help. I was on the verge of panic. Tried to paddle harder and faster, but every now and then, I would use the paddle at the wrong angle, causing the kayak to turn in the wrong direction, sometimes almost tilting it over, and wasting more valuable time. It was getting close to 8.45am, but I wasn't just worried about missing the bus, I was worried about being washed out to the ocean!

Finally, I took a few seconds to calm myself down, pray for strength and steadiness, and continued on, focusing on paddling correctly, in the right direction, and ignoring how tired my arms were. The shore was inching closer and closer, and the closer it got, the more tired I became. I just wanted to stop and rest, but I knew I couldn't coz' that would waste more time and the current would carry me back out again. So I kept going and going and going. Miraculously, thank God, I reached the shore at about 8.52am. Which meanted I still had time to catch the bus. But now I had to carry the kayak back to the backpackers. I dragged it across the sand a few metres before letting it collapse. I was too tired, and it would've taken me forever to carry it back on my own. There was only one thing to do....

A few minutes later, I had reached my backpackers, carrying my paddle while a nice strong guy whose help I enlisted on the beach was carrying the kayak back for me. I was soooooo grateful, I was ready to kiss the guy! God bless his soul, man.... It gave me just enough time to return the kayak, wipe myself dry, packed my stuff, return my keys and run to the bus stop 6 minutes away. But it wasn't over yet.

The bus stop was about 100 meters around the corner from the street where my backpackers was, and as I was walking along that street, I could see the big bus coming down the road, heading for the bus stop. I hit the panic button again, and started dashing down the street. Didn't help that I was dragging along my suitcase and a backpack. I turned the corner and could see the bus waiting at the stop, too far away from the bus driver to see me coming from behind. So I ran some more, and was praying that it wouldn't leave without me. Please please PLEASE don't leave without me.

Thank God again that I did manage to reach the bus in time, where I saw the driver walking along the street, looking for me. Fortunately, he had my name listed to be picked up since I had called the zoo earlier. I probably looked like a massive mess at that point. But I didn't really care at the time, coz' I was just happy that I managed to reach the bus on time. Soon I was on board and on my way to Australia Zoo.

So much excitement and it was only 9.15am! Even the zoo wasn't as exciting as all that. Although, of course, the zoo was fun in it's own way. I've always loved hanging around animals. They're such fascinating creatures. So diverse, yet so simple in that their sole purpose in life is merely to eat, sleep and have babies. For the uninformed, Australia Zoo is the home of the Crocodile Hunter, Mr. Steve Irwin and family. I didn't get the chance to see Steve Irwin coz' I guess he was off in some other part of the world shooting another show or saving some big mother of a croc or something. But I DID get a chance to see and meet his wife, Terri Irwin and their cute 6-year old daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin. They were in fact, at the first attraction I saw as soon as I walked into the zoo, the Galapagos tortoises. Terri was in there feeding a tortoise a bunch of flowers (and the fella was really chomping them down!) while little Bindi Sue was doing the commentary on the tortoise.

I tell you, even at that age, it was obvious that Bindi Sue doesn't have a shy bone in her body, coz' she was doing that commentary just as good as her dad would, being all animate and excited about it. Made the whole crowd giggle like crazy! Even the story of how her parents named her was funny. Apparently when she was born, the first name that came to Steve's mind was Bindi, the name of his favourite croc, while Terri thought of the name Sue, the name of Steve's pet dog. It's not everyday that a kid is named after a crocodile and a dog, but then what else would be expected from the Crocodile Hunter?

I took quite a number of cool photos with some of the local wildlife at the zoo, most of which were taken by myself, which explains why you can mostly just see my face in the photos. Hey, when you're alone in a place like that, it's so much easier than hassling strangers to help you take photos for you! Here's a good one of me with a koala being carried by a zoo helper.

And another me getting up close and personal with a snake!

I like this one with the camel coz' it looks like she's (or he, can't tell...) posing for the camera!

Didn't really feel like getting too close to a croc, so this would have to suffice...

Got to pose with a couple of macaws...

Got a pic with a human being. Ooooooo.....Unfortunately, I couldn't get the little person on the left in my photo coz' apparently her favourite koala had just died at the time and she wasn't looking too photogenic. Ah well...

And finally, I managed to get REAL up close and personal with a tasmanian devil!

That photo, unlike the others, cost a little extra to take coz' I paid extra to get to spend some time with the tazzy. For $20, I was taken into a pen with a female tazzy kept on a leash and whose name I can't really remember...went along the lines of Jimbi....anyway, for about 20-25 minutes, I was allowed to take the cute fella on a walk around the pen while a photographer took some photos of me and the tazzy. Wasn't allowed to carry the tazzy though, coz' these little buggers can bite, although I could pet its back and feel its tail. Was very cool!

A zoo helper watching out for me the whole time also told me some interesting info about the tazzy. Like the real tazzies aren't as nasty as the Warner Brothers cartoon character, and they don't go around in whirlwinds, snarling like a rapid dog. Although the fact that the tazzy was hissing and snarling at another tazzy in the pen at the same time, with another girl on the same tazzy tour, didn't help me believe that. And although they don't go around making whirlwinds, they do go around a lot, literally! A little later on, I was at an enclosure where another tazzy was allowed to run around, and man, that fella was just running and running and running and running around in circles! It would go a long the same route for a while, and on occasion, turn around and go in the other direction, or go in a slightly different route. But it would keep on running and running and running, like it was on a morning jog or something. No kidding! Here's a few photos I took of the hyper fella going on its first lap.

And its second lap.

And its third lap.

And its fourth lap.

No wonder I fell in love with these guys so quickly, eh? Anyway, I would love to show all the other pictures I took of the animals, but due to laziness and not wanting to overload my blog with photos so it won't take forever to load, I'll only put up the best. here's a super Kodak moment with a koala!

And a handsome looking gecko that posed just for me.

A dingo that was pretty photogenic as well.

Some super cute goats at the kid's petting zoo. Yeah yeah, I know it's kinda lame to be at a petting zoo when I could see some more exotic animals, but hey, they're cute!

A little sleeping calf at the kid's zoo. One of those "Awwww....." moments, isn't it? :)

And some piggy butts. Man, these guys were probably the noisiest animals in the whole zoo!

Of course, what's a visit to the home of the Crocodile Hunter without croc photos?

Plus a pic with Steve Irwin himself...:)

Yup, it was a busy day all right. And at just 3.20pm that day, I had to hop on a Croc Connection bus sending me back to Brisbane city to get my beauty sleep at my cousin's place so I could tackle the next part of my holiday diving!

Vacation rundown 2 - Fraser's Island

I've just noticed that all my blog entries so far except for my my second entry has had the word 'Holiday' in the title, so I've decided to change it to.... vacation! Dadadaaaaa.....*insert drumroll here*. Sighhh....the story of my life...

I woke up pretty early on Saturday to catch the 6am bus (which is actually more like a big van, but for some reason, Aussies don't use the word van here, they call them buses. Don't ask me why) that would take me on my day tour to Fraser's Island. Was pretty worried when after waiting until almost 6.30am, ths bus still hadn't shown up, so spent that time hoping that I hadn't been cheated out of my money and having a little chat with God, something that I haven't been doing much at all lately but that's another story. The bus eventually did show up, and I was on my way up north from Sunshine Coast to Fraser's Island with a bunch of other sunscreen-covered tourists. Along the way, we small bunch of sunscreen-covered tourists were transfered over from the small little van/bus to a real bus, the type that holds 40-plus people. And for small part of the trip, I was sitting next to this elderly Asian lady and her granddaughter, with the parents of the girl being on the other side of the bus. I think they were Thai, but I didn't hang around long enough to find out coz' I was smart enough to move to the front seat of the bus. Smart not because I wanted to get away from the cute kid and her grandma, but because there was nothing much to do during the tour except go ga-ga over the beautifulness of the beaches, and the front seat was the best seat from which to do so. Yes, the big 40-seater bus was actually driven along the beaches of Sunshine Coast as we made our way up to the island, and were driven along the beaches of the island itself once we got there. Most scenic bus ride I ever took, that's for sure. The windscreen was acted pretty much like a big screen tv, from which I would sit back and stare at miles and miles of magnificent view and just go "whoooaaaaa....". I can tell you very truthfully that the pictures I took, even the best ones, do little justice these beaches. The photos can only show water, sand, sky, clouds and life and no movement. What I saw on the bus as it drove up to the island were waters with differing shades of deep blue and green, it looked perfectly untouched and unpolluted. I saw seagulls and other birds flying in their flocks over the ocean, fishing for food. I saw waters shimmering as though millions of small diamonds were floating on the surface, as the sun shown brightly from above....

Along the beaches would be miles and miles of hills rising above the sands, and fading into the distance as the oceanic spray would rise and create a fog shrouding the hills....

Halfway through, we came to a place called Rainbow Beach, named as such because of the coloured sands of the surrounding cliffs. Sands that were yellow, white, orange, dark red and even pink. Pink sands! I don't think I'll ever see such sands anywhere else in my life!

Even on the ride back from the island, we drove along the same beach but I noticed even more things about the scenery. Like how the puffy white clouds would form strips over the clear light blue sky. And in the distance I could see small bery dark blue clouds, probably rainclouds, that added more colour to the sky. The horizon just over the ocean even appeared to glow white before fading into the blueness of the rest of the sky...

As the rolling waves washed back and forth across the beach, it would create a layer of water on the sand that acted like a mirror showing a reflection of those clear blue skies....

As the sun began to set, its rays would reflect of the water on the beach, making the whole beach shine so bright and creating the ultimate "ooooh!" effect!

And if the beach wsn't enough to blow me away, on Fraser's Island, we were taken to Lake McKenzie, which is listed as a World Heritage spot for obvious reasons. The waters in this lake are just so crystal clear and blue, and so clean and pure that the tour guide even said that after coming out from a swim in the lake, our hair would be silky smooth and our skin would be baby soft. And the sand was so fine that it could be used to rub away rough skin and even scrub jewellry to make it shine like brand new! Well, I don't know about the baby soft skin part, coz' my skin isn't usually all that rough, but usually after a swim, my hair comes out all tangled up. That didn't happen after I went for a dip in Lake McKenzie, so I guess the tour guide wasn't kidding. Also gave me a chance to wear my new bikini. :P

Might notice from the photo that the water behind is much more deep blue than the waters close to the shore. That's because the waters close to the shore are very shallow, but the floor level gets deeper very quickly just a few steps away from the shore. It's so deep that even though I wanted to swim out further to the middle of the lake, the darkness of the waters made me think twice. Didn't quite fancy the thought of some lake creature popping out from under me and trying to take a bite out of me or something!

Of course, apart from the very nice beaches, we also got to see one of the native wild animals, a dingo. It was running around on the beach, and as soon as we saw it, the bus driver tried to block it's way with the bus so it couldn't run away and we could get a better look at it. Poor fella. Must've scared the bejesus out of it.

And later on, on the way back, we were lucky enough to drive by some dingo puppies, resting by the side of the road. So cute!

Also saw some other, not-so-native wildlife, like this little fella who found himself on my tour bus window.

Ok, ok, obviously I don't have much more better photos to show. But all in all, for the $100 I spent on the trip, I wouldn't say it was completely worth it coz' we didn't have much time out of the bus to enjoy the beach. I have to say that going on a day tour to Fraser's Island is simply not enough, and by the end of the day, I was wishing I could have spent at least another day there to sit by the beach and just relax, or go camping there. A very good place to go with family and friends to spend time together, I would think. But unfortunately, I didn't have that opportunity. Next time, when I come back to Australia with a real bf in hand, I'll definitely drag him there with me! :P