Friday, March 28, 2014

The Australia Brisbane Mission Office

We have been here six weeks. There is a routine to our weekdays because we are in the office. We get up at six, shower and get ready. My American blow dryer is holding up. It is plugged in to a converter because the plug portion is different than Aussie outlets, but also in the states we use 120 volt power to outlets and here it is 240 volts. I know at some point it will die, it sounds funny and acts weak but it does blow my hair dry. We have breakfast which is often Greek yogurt with muesli, or cold cereal (we recently bought a small box of frosted mini wheats for five dollars, yum!) most of the cereals we have never heard of we just go by the pictures on the box. Sometimes we have an egg and a piece of raisen toast. The eggs here are always brown with really dark yellow yolks, I don't know why. We read scriptures together, often make a lunch and leave for the office at seven thirty. Depending on the traffic it takes us 20 to 30 minutes. We live in Kangaroo Point, the office is in Ascot. On the way to work we stop at the post office where we empty our post box and pick up at a separate window any large packages. We take two reusable bags to hold the mail. We get a lot of mail! With 270 missionaries you can imagine. We get to the office shortly after 8:00 am. We sort the mail into the 10 zones, we have a wall of mail cubbies which has a desk area under it for the mission office elders. The office also includes a conference room, a store room/kitchen, president Hendersons office, a wall of desks and computers along a long wall of windows, one other small office and the secretary area. It is not a bad place to be. It is air conditioned and we can use the internet when we have time (we don't have internet at our apartment yet) to email, etc. there is plenty of light from the windows. We are on the second floor and the area is nice with a lot of small shops and restaurants on the street. 
Ken is doing the finances, he pays the bills, processes tenancy agreements for flats, manages missionary support cards which are the cards the missionaries use for their expenses. Manages the mission office credit cards and keeps the mission money on the straight and narrow. He is also involved with the cars. Yesterday he received three or four calls requesting extra K's for the month (kilometers) from missionaries who have reached their limit for the month. There are 88 cars spread out over the mission, it is a big job. A local brother, Elder Orth helps and he does the bicycles, every missionary has a bike. The secretary duties are answering the phone, calls come in about all kinds of stuff. Handling correspondence. Tracking and managing incoming and out going missionaries. Which involves, visas, passports, travel, reports and lists. Also ordering supplies, filing, copying, mailing, assisting the president and did I mention answering the phone 20 to 30 times a day! Some days we don't do anything we planned on doing and other days are a little more quiet and we get more done.
There are four assistants to the president, two office elders, President and Sister Henderson, Elder and Sister Miles (who leave the end of April) and us. Everyone is not there all the time, but coming and going. We often have missionaries dropping in for something. Sometimes during the day we make another trip to the post office, airport or go get some lunch. We leave to head home sometime after five. We are busy trying to learn all we can, some of it is sinking in, some is floating around. We might need life preservers!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sunshine Coast

Well, we finally saw the ocean, the beach, the sand and the surfers. The tour book calls the Gold Coast, "the Las Vegas of Queensland" as you can see from the pictures there are miles of beautiful beach and then the high rise section. Gold Coast is the most visited spot in Queensland and most of those tall buildings are hotels and condos. We went to a part of the beach called Burleigh Heads and it was lovely. I thought Brisbane was on the ocean because a river runs through the city, but to get to the nice beaches it is an hour plus (depending on traffic) drive to the south from us. Ken and I went to the Gold Coast for a bit a few weeks ago, we were in that area for a zone conference. When Elder and Sister Miles wanted to go that way for Sister Miles birthday lunch we said great! She had heard about a restaurant there that is high up and revolves, it was expensive, the food was ok, but the view was beautiful. It was in the Crown Plaza Hotel, the name was Four Winds. Australia is a huge country with a lot of shore line. Most of the people live close to the Coast. The outback is desert and is not very populated. The Brisbane mission is really large. It includes all of Queensland. To compare, going south to North, it is a bit like going from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. We do have five couples who serve in the north, and young missionaries too. It would take four to five days driving to get to the north part. It is supposed to be warmer there. I don't know if we will ever get there, but it is possible. At the Gold Coast the sand was fine and the waves were numerous and large. This is the best time of year for surfing. There were surfers but we didn't see anyone really good. We did take our shoes off and wade in the water, yes, senior missionaries can be at the beach and wade in the water. I wish we could do that everyday, now that would be a vacation instead of a mission!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Driving Aussie Style

We have been here four weeks and have survived driving on the wrong side of the road, driving is bad enough, but the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car too! The mirrors seem wrong, we keep looking to the right for the rear view mirror, but it is to the left, old habits are hard to break. But the really tough one is the windshield wipers and the turn signals are opposite too. When Elder Montague started driving, we started counting how many times he would turn the windshield wipers on when there was no rain in sight! They say that is the sign of an American driver. He is trying to turn on the turn signal but the wipers start going. There is also a whole new lingo, bonnets are hoods, boots are trunks, kilometers are miles, not really, but you understand. Speed limits and distance signs are in kilometers too. You can't make a left turn on a red light, but there is such a thing as a slip road, which will slip you around a corner without stopping, if you give way (yield) to oncoming traffic. The first thing we bought here was a GPS, we chose it based on the fact that we could change the voice to an American accent, very handy, believe me. All the lanes are narrower, all the parking stalls are skinnier, you go around a round about (which are plentiful) by going around to the left. To make things really laughable, Elder Montague, on top of finances has been made  fleet (car) manager. In the last two weeks we have attended five zone conferences and inspected 55 cars. Sister Montague has gotten good at saying "tight" when Elder Montague is too far left!  She has driven three times around the neighborhood, and is trying to work up her courage for more. There are speed cameras and red light cameras, but they give you enough warnings, with signs, to slow down or make sure you don't run a red light. But every week we get mailed the tickets the missionaries have managed to get, they have to pay them themselves, the average is $220 dollars for going 13 kilometers over the limit, which is eight miles over. Expensive and stupid, just hope we don't get one. Instead of a caution sign on the roadside warning of deer in the area there are signs with koalas and kangaroos on them. Driving here is a white knuckle experience, but we have managed to survive so far and we are getting better at it. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Brisbane skyline

Brisbane City is a very international city, last week in the gospel essentials class we had people from Romania, Scotland, China, the US and other places. We have Mandarin Chinese speaking elders in our mission, there is a large Chinese population here. The city has over two million people. The city is built on an area of small hills, we live in an area by the temple called Kangaroo Point. The Brisbane river runs through the city and empties into Moreton Bay. We enjoy the skyline, especially at night with the Story Bridge lit up. We cross the bridge every week day on the way to the office and for fun we sometimes take the free ferry at night.