Four State Trip
Queensland Part Three (Final)
TUESDAY 24 AUGUST (Cont)
Tedís house unexpectedly large
After about an hourís drive through the city motorways we finally locate Tedís busy street. To make things challenging, the odd and even numbers swap sides halfway along the road, but we finally stop outside what is supposed to be Tedís address. But the house looks huge and expensive, a fenced-in two-story brick mansion. Tedís last house was a humble little two-bedroom bungalow.
Anyway, I get out of the car and open one of the wrought iron gates, walk in and knock on the front door. Dogs bark inside the house and a part Chinese girl, about 20 years old, half opens the door but leaves the screen door locked. She asks what I want. I explain who I am and she opens the door wider and welcomes me. She is Charlene, Maggieís daughter. Maggie is Tedís Chinese partner. Ted and Maggie are out.
As I walk back out to the road I see Tedís boat and the crocodile Marie bought for him last time we stayed. Familiar sights and I start to feel more at home.
Ted's house from the road
We drive in and unpack and Charlene shows us our spacious upstairs bedroom. It is quite warm upstairs in the late afternoon sun. The two little house dogs are excited to have company.
Charlene told us that she is not well, and suffers from epilepsy. This began when she missed several nights sleep about three years ago. She says she has found it hard because her friends do not want to be with her any more, but she has a boyfriend now and feels better.
Ted and Maggie arrive home
Ted soon arrives home, still the same, except for a little less hair, like me. He seems pleased to see us.
He has had the flu for about three weeks and is hoping he will heal properly before he and Maggie go for a weekís holiday to Bali and Singapore next month.
Ted aged 50 and Marie
Ted as a young man in the army.
He gives us a tour of the house. Much of the lower floor is ceramic tiled, like many Queensland homes. This gives a cool surface to walk on and make a house seem cooler in the summer heat. He showed us the tiles he laid himself in the bathroom (an amateur mess), then he showed us the professional job that his nephew Lance (Marieís sister Nolaís son) had done in the lounge. Beautiful. Lance is a very skilled tiler and much sought after in Brisbane. I can see why. The tiles are laid diagonally rather than squarely.
Dining room with diagonal tiling.
Ted tells us how he bought this house much much cheaper than expected. He put in a silly offer which was unexpectedly accepted. Nevertheless he has spent a lot on doing the house up and still has expansive plans for the exterior grounds which are undeveloped. He will fit these in between annual overseas shopping holidays, which he loves. He does not enjoy his storeman-loader job for a wallboard company very much.
Inside open back porch.
Ted's house from the rear.
Pawpaw tree in back yard.
We have baked beans and diet lemonade for tea and then Maggie arrives home from work. This is the first time Marie and I have met her. I liked her immediately. She is Chinese, relaxed, intelligent, level headed, well spoken and seems to genuinely care about people. She appears to bring out a more mature side of Ted. Charlene is one of her daughters. Ted has no children of his own.
Maggie, relaxed, intelligent, level headed and well spoken.
Tedís section backs onto a freshwater lagoon, which makes for a nice outlook. The water is bit murky for swimming, but it is sometimes used for sailing. There are geese and ducks along the shore. The front of his house faces a busy main street which is quite noisy.
Lagoon view from rear of house.
I examine the thick road map book of Brisbane tonight. I see that the main city and coastal cities of Surfers Paradise etc, cover almost the same huge area as Melbourne and Sydney even though they have only a third of the population. This is due to the large sections in the older areas Brisbane, (Ted's typically is half an acre) and the spaced out nature of the city.
WEDNESDAY 25 AUGUST
I walk around the area and lagoon
We awake to another clear sunny day. Ted has decided to take the rest of the week off work, partly to be with us and partly to help clear up his flu.
This morning I go for a walk with Marie to the shopping centre a little distance down the road. However I soon get bored and decide to walk around the lagoon. I have to go by street rather than along the water bank as many residents run their fences into the water to prevent people from walking past their back yards. The lagoon would be about half a km in diameter and almost surrounded by homes.
I soon come to a little park on the banks of the lagoon and see some old men sailing remote controlled model yachts. I also walk out onto a little jetty there and see some tiny whitebait type fish in the murky water. As I leave the park I pass the outlet to the lagoon and notice that there is no water running out. This is no doubt due to the drought they have been having.
I continue on and am amazed at the large but rather unkempt sections of most houses. Many of them seem to be half an acre or more. Australians do not have the same pride in their gardens as New Zealanders and many driveways are unpaved. Quite warm.
Iím regretting buying the brown sneakers I did before this holiday as they are so hot, being packed full of padding. They look nice, but I have to keep removing them now that it is warmer, especially when driving.
Tedís electric bikes
Later this morning Ted shows Marie and I his two electric bikes. I am most impressed. They are smooth and silent to ride ad he tells us they will travel about 50 kms on flat roads on a single battery charge and do about 50 kph. They cost about $900 each.
Ted's electric bike. Smooth and silent.
Tedís car is an old Ford Fairlane and Maggie drives a smaller Hyundai.
Marieís sister Nola visits and more shopping for Marie
Then Marieís younger sister Nola, who also lives in Brisbane arrives to visit us. She hasnít changed much either, still rather crude in her language. She also likes to travel overseas once a year and has just come back from China.
We all five of us have lunch together outside in the front yard in the sunshine. Charlene has gone to visit her boyfriend.
Nola Neilson, Marie's next younger sister.
Nola then takes Marie shopping for about four hours, while Ted and I stay home for the afternoon. He has some jobs to catch up on so I listen for about two hours to his Country and Western CD collection and note some good songs that I donít have. I will try and download them from the Internet when I get home.
Teresa phoned this morning and advised that there is a problem with our business website, a customer phoned and couldnít get the order page to work. So Ted and I check it out on his computer this afternoon and sure enough there is a problem. So I email my web page designer back in NZ to look into it and fix it up. (It turned out to be a problem with our Internet provider Wave, so did not cost me anything.)
Temple visit at night
Marie and I have booked into the Brisbane Temple for a 7.30 pm session tonight. For some unknown reason we leave Tedís house an hour earlier than planned, 5 pm rather than 6 pm. And so begins a memorable night.
We first buy Chinese takeaways at Tedís local shopping centre and then head into the city. Our destination is Kangaroo Point on the banks of the Brisbane River, a drive of about 40 kms.
It is heavy rush hour traffic, but all goes well with our navigating until I fail to take a turning and we end up on a bridge crossing the Brisbane River rather than driving down along the bank.
Nevertheless it is an impressive sight from the bridge with the setting sun on the city buildings and water, but quite stressful at the same time, due to many one way city streets on the other side. After failing to find the way back onto the bridge again we stop in a picturesque side street down by the river side and I consult the map.
Soon we have recrossed the river and located the elegant Temple which overlooks the river and downtown Brisbane.
Brisbane Temple at night.
I am a bit taken back when we go to drive into the underground carpark and find a massive door blocking our way. But then this huge door whirred and slowly slides open, like in a James Bond movie and we drive into the brightly lit carpark. Our tires screech on the newly painted floor whenever we turn.
We are an hour early for our session, so while Marie goes to find the way up into the Temple above and make arrangements, I finished my Chinese takeaways in the car. She soon comes back and says, "Hurry, we can get into the earlier 6.15 pm session."
The session was peaceful and relaxing as always, with smiling white dressed people everywhere. Lovely, and the temple interior was beautiful and elegant.
Painting in Temple foyer.
A walk along the Brisbane River at night
When we finish about two hours later, we leave the car in the carpark and decide to go for a walk along the Brisbane River bank. It is a lovely warm winterís evening, like a Tauranga summer night. The stars are shining above and the thousands of city lights from the buildings across the river are reflecting in the water. Just beautiful.
We cross the road from the Temple to a lookout on the cliffs above the river. Although it is about 9 pm there are lots of cheerful young people around. I take a photo.
View across the river to the city from lookout.
Then we walk down a long flight of steps, cut into the cliff face, to a wide scenic walkway below, which follows the river. There are even more young people down here. We walk for nearly a km and all the way see happily chatting young men and women rock climbing and abseiling up and down the steep rocky cliff faces which are lit up by flood lights. Rather surreal.
Youth abseiling floodlit riverbank cliffs.
Further along, a large group of Christian youth, mostly girls, are having a dress rehearsal for a river Pageant to be held this coming Saturday. Their white costumes look spectacular in the floodlights. Some of the girls had huge butterfly wings on their backs. They were a very happy bunch and gave us pamphlets for the Pageant. We would have liked to have seen it, but we fly out on Saturday.
We climb back up another set of steep steps and walk back to the Temple along the road on the cliff top. Still warm and lots of young people around. The Temple in the distance looks impressive lit up at night.
Me on steps up the cliff face.
We decide to do a quick tour of the Church chapel building which is alongside the Temple. This too is crowded with youth, young Latter Day Saints, eating, laughing, playing basketball. The building is huge, with many rooms, mostly classrooms.
How many churches have 114 rooms?
The drive home
We go back to the car and I decide to take the longer city and suburban roads instead of the boring motorways. The huge car park door of the Temple again slides open as we approach.
On the way home we pass through many shopping areas, city car yards, etc, and lose our way several times, but keep heading in the right general direction.
Several times for two or three kms at a time, we seem to be in the middle of a back country forest, nothing but gum trees on both sides of the road. I even see a kangaroo sign, then we come out into a city suburb again. No wonder this city is so large and spaced out. Traffic is light.
We get home about 10.30 pm. Only Charlene is up. I don't seem to have taken a picture of Charlene, but she looks a younger, slimmer, taller version of her mother.
THURSDAY 27 AUGUST
Off to see Harmony in Surferís Paradise
I spend an hour this morning carefully planning our road routes for today. Marie and I are going to visit our daughter Harmony in Varsity Lakes in Surferís Paradise and also our Katikati friends Dean and Tracey Matenga. Marie is excited about seeing Harmony again. She misses her very much.
The careful planning pays off and after about an hourís drive we arrive in Harmonyís modern suburb without getting lost once.
Her flat is located in an attractive fern lined street crammed with houses and very small sections. None of the half acre Brisbane extravagance here. We are in the notorious Gold Coast property scam area, where houses are frequently sold to gullible investors for 30% to 40% more than they are worth.
Harmony's attractive street.
Harmony's flat, on right of shared garage.
Harmony and her flat
Harmony is as lively and outgoing as ever and seems very pleased to see us. She looks well and appears to be happy. As she shows us around I see Callum and Shereeís pictures next to her bed, so I take a photo to show Callum. He and Harmony are both very fond of each other.
Bedside pictures of Callum and Sheree and her boyfriend.
Harmonyís flat is small, clean and modern with a built-in double garage that is shared with the house next door. This other house is occupied by two lesbians according to Harmony.
Inside Harmony's flat.
Harmony shares and rents half her house from a New Zealand man from Tauranga. His name is Julian. He seems a keen fisherman judging from the magazines around the place and the boat parked outside. He was not there today.
Harmony's transport to work. They have cycle lanes.
Marie and Harmony go shopping in the huge Vanity Fair mall
I then drive Marie and Harmony to a huge shopping mall called Vanity Fair, about 20 minutes away. On the way we pass Harmonyís work place. It looks presentable on the outside but Harmony doesnít seem keen for us to visit the place, unlike the Mount Mellick of which she was very proud.
So I drive on past and we soon park in the huge underground carpark of the Vanity Fair mall. As soon as we walk inside the shopping area, Harmony takes us to some big display cartoon animal figures and insists on me taking a photo of her among them, to show her nephew Callum, our grandson (Teresaís son).
Harmony in forbidden area.
These animals are in a central area, fenced off from the crowds of shoppers. This doesnít deter Harmony. While everybody stares, she climbs over the fence, sits on one of the animals and calls out for me to take a photo. I cringe in embarrassment but do as Iím told. The lady in charge of the area doesnít quite know what to do.
Menís eyes follow Harmony
Then Harmony leads us to an outdoor restaurant for lunch. As she struts along with her shapely slim figure, bare midriff, long blond hair and revealing cleavage I see the eyes of all the men (and many women) following her.
Daughter and mother. My two bottle blondes.
I feel uncomfortable but she seems to revel in it. Itís part of her life. I donít worry over much about her being attacked, as such confidence in a woman can be intimidating to men. She can also be harsh and firm in rejecting unwanted male advances, and is capable of screaming very loudly if distressed. I have heard her many times, especially when she sees a cockroach.
Having lunch with Harmony.
I leave them both to shop and go to the library
I canít take any more of this boring womenís shopping. I feel as if Iíve done enough on this holiday to last me five years. So after lunch Harmony gives me her library card and I leave them both alone to shop for three hours solid.
I drive back to Harmonyís suburb and spend a peaceful two and a half hours in the library reading Wheels car magazines and catching up with the features and driving characteristics of modern cars.
I check my website while there and find that the secure order page is still down.
Public toilets kept locked
I go back and pick up Marie and Harmony as arranged and we drive back to Harmonyís suburban shopping centre. It is about the size of our Cherrywood shopping centre.
While they go off to buy takeaways for tea, I sit in the car and wait. We happen to be parked outside a ladyís rest room toilet and I notice that the women who go inside have to first fish in their handbags and find a key to unlock the door.
When Harmony comes back I mention this and she tells me that all the restrooms in the area are kept locked, and keys issued to stop drug dealers from doing deals there and druggies injecting themselves.
Tea with Harmony then Marie and I visit downtown Surfers
We have tea at Harmonyís flat, outside in her little backyard area, and then say goodbye.
Harmony's little outside area.
Marie is a little sad. She doesnít like Harmony staying in Australia and wants her to come home.
On our way to visit our Tauranga church friends who have moved to the Gold Coast, we drive through the Surferís Paradise city area.
This beach front area is full of elegant high rise hotels, lagoons, tourist shops and public gardens with lots of birds. As we drive through, it all looks quite impressive in the low light of the setting sun. Rush hour traffic is quite heavy however.
New hotel being built in Surfers.
We stop and have a short twilight walk on the huge beach, but Marie doesnít like the brisk cool wind and the soft sand which is tiring to walk on, so we return to the car. I thought all women liked romantic walks along the beach of an evening, or so they say in the Ďwoman wants to meet maní newspaper advertisements.
One of many river canals in Surfer's Paradise.
We visit Dean and Tracey Matenga
It is now dark as we travel the busy motorway to Dean and Tracey Matengaís place. Due to my route planning we take the right turnoff and soon find their house.
It is lovely to see them again and feel the warm Latter Day Saint family spirit and to see their happy little girls. They have two teenage boys and four young girls.
Dean is a handsome part Maori, a singer, natural computer whiz, excellent teacher and returned missionary. He is currently working as a mortgage broker of some sort at present, although his talent lies in teaching and computers. He has put on a lot of weight.
The Matenga family. The eldest boy is absent.
Tracey is a part Aboriginal girl, slim and quite pretty, with a hard case sense of humour. She looks the best I have ever seen her.
She home schools her girls after some unpleasant experiences at the local school. Her husband Dean would much prefer to live back in Tauranga where he was raised, but Tracey who was born and raised in Oz has had some traumatic experiences in NZ and needs to recuperate back home.
Deanís Ward of the Mormon Church
I take some family photos and we then say goodbye to Tracey and the children and follow Deanís Falcon wagon at high speed along dark forested roads to visit the local Church chapel. His Church calling on Thursday evenings is to provide wholesome activities for the young men of his Ward (Branch) aged 12 to 18.
The Chapel is very nice, and most of the members he introduces us to are New Zealanders, including the Bishop. Dean tells us that 80% of the active members in his Ward are Kiwis, mostly Maori. Three Wards meet in the building but their meeting times are staggered to accommodate this. Dean is currently teaching the young men how to sing and dance for an upcoming event.
Dean is not happy living in such a large city. He tells me that just about everytime he jumps in his car he is up for a 45 minute journey. He much prefers Tauranga, but he loves his wife and is living here for her sake, and because he feels the Lord wants him there at this time. He is a good man and it has been nice to visit him.
I have noticed that there is often a conflict as to where to live when a marriage takes place between couples raised in different countries. Grandparents, parents, other relatives, income expectations, and different customs can all combine to drive a wedge in the relationship.
Ideally a marriage is a joining of two families, rather than two individuals, and generally speaking I believe it is best to marry the boy or girl next door, so to speak, rather than an Ďexoticí foreigner.
We drive back home to Teds and spend the rest of the evening with Ted and Maggie. Ted shows Marie her Dadís Army medals.
Looking at Ted's photos.
Marie's father's army medals.
FRIDAY 27 AUGUST
Not able to visit Tracey and Steve
Marie has been trying to phone Kathleenís daughter Tracey and Steve but without success. We had hoped to visit them also, but they live about an hourís drive away in the northern part of Brisbane and time is running out.
Shopping in Surfers Paradise
Today Ted wants to take Marie, Maggie and I shopping in the Surfers Paradise weekly Outdoor Market. Ted is like Marie and loves to shop.
We take the rental car, with me as driver and Ted as navigator.
When we arrive at the Markets we find that the day has been changed from a Friday to a Saturday, so Ted decides instead to take us to the Surfers Paradise tourist shopping area where prices are very low.
We shop for about three hours and I actually buy something, a fawn coloured sleeveless acrylic vest for just $10, and some more soft leather belts. I also buy a pair of small ultra-light 10 x 25 power binoculars, $25, ideal for tramping. They easily fold together and fit in a shirt pocket.
Shopping at Surfers.
We also buy for the two smoking Mikes (Coory and Waddicor) two cool watches that are also cigarette lighters. Marie also buys numerous other items, clothes, shoes, jewellery, pressies. So did Ted and Maggie.
Lighter watcher. Quite cool.
Finally we have a noisy lunch under an imposing naked statue of David.
Quite warm today, 27.5į.
Noisy lunch at Surfers.
We return the rental car to central Brisbane
After lunch we drive back to Brisbane and then carry on into the central city to return our rental car. On the way Ted navigates us past impressive downtown buildings of quite unique designs. Quite stimulating, many of them huge and tall.
Tedís navigation skills fail us for a while as we try to locate the Avis agency in one of the back streets, but after about half an hours driving around we spot it.
As we return the car it is quite a relief to get it back unmarked, as there is a large insurance excess. The rental car girl is hugely pregnant, the only pregnant woman we have seen in OZ so far, that I can recall. She is very pleasant to Marie and I and due to have the baby tomorrow.
Rail trip out of the city
Itís now about 5 pm. As we walk through the rather seedy back streets to the nearest railway station a motorcyclist without any muffler on his bike whatever, suddenly comes hurtling round the corner at high speed and roars down the echoing narrow street with a tremendous noise. It startles and deafens us and causes Marie to feel wobbly. However I hold her hand and she soon recovers somewhat. Just around the next corner we see a Chinese novelty shop with very low prices. More shopping, but just what Marie needs. She buys Alec and me heavy, classy looking Lexus key rings.
Lexus key ring.
After this we then find the railway station and buy tickets back to Tedís local suburban station. The trains are silver units similar to the Wellington ones, quite clean and quiet.
Ted has us get off in the city centre and takes us for a twilight walk in the central Brisbane Plaza, rather like the park area in Manners Street in Wellington, but located on the Brisbane riverís edge.
Brisbane central Plaza.
We then catch another train and eventually arrive at Tedís suburban station. The train ride has taken us about an hour and it is now dark. Ted has left Maggies car at the station, so we all climb in and he drives us to Kentucky Fried Chicken to buy tea, which we take home an eat.
Ted and Maggieís health on the mend
Pleasant conversation this evening. Maggie has a lingering cough from the flu and Ted still has a trace of the flu, but both of them seem on the mend and are looking forward to their holiday next month.
We fly home tomorrow. Iím looking forward to the fresh greenery and beautiful trees of NZ but not looking forward to the mountain of work that awaits me, especially to do with the big change in splitting off the order and dispatch side of the business to Chris and Katie.
SATURDAY 28 AUGUST
Good sleep last night. Nola, Marieís sister came around again, this time with her Boxer dog and spent the morning with us.
The whole five of us sat around in the sun, at the front of the house, eating and talking, mostly about holidays, and Marie and Nola mercilessly teasing Ted about his so called deprived childhood. He always jokes about how he must have been adopted, and how one day his real mother and father will sweep by in their Mercedes and reclaim him. His sisters claim that he was far from being deprived, and that their mother Masie spoiled him at their expense, and they had to do all the work.
Gentle courteous Maggie, with her Chinese upbringing seems amazed at the disrespect shown towards Marieís parents, especially by Nola and Ted who can be very crude.
I like Maggie and can see that she is having a refining influence on Ted, whose attitude to strangers is far from loving. Perhaps it has to do with his military training, as I see similar attitudes in Amron who spent several years in the army. On the contrary the teachings of Jesus Christ are based entirely on love. "Love God above all else, and love your neighbour as yourself." A life changing principle when lived fully.
Marie and Nola go off to do some last minute shopping and Ted disappears inside so I sit and have a nice talk alone with Maggie. She seems a caring considerate person, despite her role in the marriage breakup of Ted and her Chinese friend Swee who was Tedís former wife. However I donít know the full circumstances.
She is 51 but looks 41. But her figure has been let go. She is diabetic, as also are Ted and Nola. I have noticed that Tedís choice of food is far from healthy, he drinks diet soft drinks which contain Aspartame sweetener and although he is only about 50 he has already had a mild heart attack.
Ted's friendly little miniature Doberman (looks evil here).
The Warehouse and airport
This afternoon Ted drives us out to the airport. Maggie comes too. On the way we stop at the local Warehouse so Marie can buy some of the large plastic clothesline pegs that are so popular over here. This Warehouse is busier than the last one we visited.
As we get back into the car I see a Crazy Clarkeís store just a little way down the road. Both shops are displaying the same motto, "Where Everyone Gets a Bargain."
We arrive at the airport with 2Ĺ hours to spare. I tell Ted not to wait, as the Brisbane Airport car park fees are horrendous. We even saw cars illegally parked out on the highway, with drivers sitting in them, reading and waiting for a cell phone call from arriving passengers to say come and pick me up from the main door.
My hand luggage is grossly over the 5 kg limit due to the two heavy Oz tourist library books from the Tauranga library that have been removed from my suitcase by Marie to make room for her shopping. But for some reason the check-in girl doesnít ask me to put it on the scales, although the person ahead of us had to have his hand luggage weighed.
We finally embark on our Freedom Air plane about 6.30 pm after a long long wait.
The girl on the flight home
A very smooth flight home. We are only four seats from the front. Sitting next to me is a tanned, athletic-looking, party-type NZ girl of about 30 who apparently follows the yachting scene.
She seems half drunk or high on something. While sipping her can of beer she talks rather incoherently about the endless parties she has attended on some yachts at Fraser Island in Australia. She has made a last minute decision to leave the boats and go back home to Te Awamutu. A decision which has cost her a small fortune in air fares.
Her life seems totally disorganised and in confusion. She asks us to drive her home to Te Awamutu, which is in the opposite direction from which we are going, but Marie firmly says no.
Back in New Zealand
We land at Hamilton airport at midnight and get through customs in less than a minute. It seems as if they all want to get home to bed. Quite a cold night outside, only 2įC.
We load Marieís little car up with our luggage, then she feeds $48 in notes and coins to a machine, which then gives us a ticket to put into the lift-up arm machine. Up goes the arm and we are off home.
It takes us 1 hour 10 minutes. Our friends the Griffen family with their three lovely children are staying the night in our home as we have a Church Conference tomorrow. All seems well.
The Griffen family.