Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Climbing up the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

Today I got to do one of the things that I had on my “must do” list – the Sydney BridgeClimb. It was a fantastic experience! After an hour of orientation, clothing changing and gearing up, we were led out side to the stairway that leads to the bridge walk itself. Now when they say BridgeClimb, they mean climb. All in all there are 1494 stairs that take you to the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge close to 500 feet above sea level. As you climb of the ladders and stairways, twisting and turning in between the almost 75 year old grid work of the bridge, you finally reach the upper surface of the structure where the pathway of steps arches more gently across the harbour. All the while you climb from the very bottom of the structure you are attached to a guy wire by a very ingenious contraption that was invented by an English sailor to keep him and his mates from falling off a hard keeling sailboat. It works great always following you up and down the stairs, ready to hold you “just in case.” Our guide assured us that since BridgeClimb has operated none of the 1.9 million people who have made the climb has been lost!

The whole thing lasted 3 1/2 hours and it went by in a flash! They offer the climb 24 hours a day in all kinds of weather, only canceling for electrical storms (right!). All in all it was a terrific day! I am glad that I had all the walking around on the previous days to get me ready for this adventure.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Australian Museum

Today I took a trip back into the city to see the Australian Museum. My fellow residents at The Centre, Pete and Eddie and I traveled by bus to CBD (remember that’s Central Business District) to the museum. Yesterday’s walk proved to me that one has to use his energy wisely or when you get to your destination, you may be too pooped to enjoy what you can to see.

The museum was quite good featuring the many birds and animals of Australia – all appropriately stuffed and displayed. A special section of the museum offered a very enlightening exhibit on the history of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. It was only in 1967 that the national government gave these folks full citizenship and formally apologized for the taking of their lands and the disrespect of their traditions. Did we ever do that for our Native Americans?

The weather was again glorious and we went out to one of the many local Randwick establishments for dinner.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sydney's CityRail System is good.

I walked to downtown Sydney today, first for some execise and secondly to see how far it really is. As I write these words I can feel my calf muscles tightening up after the 7 mile walk. Those big buildings seem closer than they really are!

I had as my goal today to get to the Central Rail Station to see what kinds of train transportation this city has. I was impressed with the system called "CityRail". There are several lines which stretch out into the suburbs and the airport. The trains are a mixture of 70's and more modern style. I did not have enough time to ride the length of any one line and had to content myself with only a few station stops. Clearly I'll be back to go the whole of the many routes.

Dinner tonight was in an Italian Restaurant in Randwick. The menu was varied and the food very good. The irony was that the waiter was Chinese and the chef was Viet Namese. Sydney is a city of many, many different cultures for sure. This morning I met one of the people who work here at The Centre. Her name is Marquise and she is from New Caladonea, which is a French possession in the South Pacific. Just about everybody here comes from somewhere else. I think this is why the folks are so friendly and lay back, they have all known what it is like to be strangers in a foreign land. Mofe of than later.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Day at the Beach

Sunday afternoon, after mass at one of the local churches, I loaded my pack pack and walked down to Coogee Beach. It was a nice 27 minute walk "downhill" to the beach. When I turned the corner in "downtown" Randwick, I caught my first sight of the Pacific Ocean. It was a windy but sunny day and the beach was packed. Summer holiday ends for grammar school kids on Jan 30, so that's why so many folks were getting in a day at the beach, I presume. I had a delightful time, but since I didn't apply sun screen to my back I am paying for it today!

I am doing well and enjoying myself as I get oriented to the Southern Hemisphere. For those who are wondering, the water doesn't seem to swirl in the sink in a counterclock wise direction. When I figure out how to upload video's I will give a propper illustration. I have not as yet mastered the art of looking in the correct direction when crossing the street. I find myself stepping in on coming traffic because I'm looking to the left, when it's the right from which cars a coming.

Off to do some more orientation with the transportation system.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Australia Day!

What a glorious summer day we had for Australia Day! This annual celebration is like our 4th of July. All sorts of folks and families converge upon the “CBD” to picnic, party, mill about and consume large quantities of various and sundry liquids. I went with two guys I have met here who are from the Archdiocese of Chicago. One of them, Pete has been here on Sabbatical since October, so he knows his way around. The other, Eddie, is visiting Pete, his classmate, and will be here for just another week. We went to the “centre” of Sydney via bus. So many things here are “backwards” from my perspective; like the cars and buses drive on the left hand side of the road. The two times that I have gone out in a car I have instinctively tried to enter the passengers side which here is the “drivers side.” Yesterday’s bus ride proved no less disorienting. I went to the wrong corner to catch the bus because I forgot which direction the traffic flows. It’s all part of being in a different culture! I am a quick study, but this will take some time to absorb.

Because it was Australia Day yesterday many of the streets were closed to vehicles and we got to walk about very freely. The parks are beautiful and grass is green (despite a severe draught). The Botanical Gardens offered a large variety of trees, flowers and critters like I’ve never seen before – like the Flying Fox Bats. As you can see these creatures hang up side down from big trees in the day time and cruise around by night. They are vegetarians and seems to have made the Botanical Gardens, where there are plenty of fig trees, their home.

As we rounded the bend in the gardens, we came upon the sight that is so familiar and so famous: The Sydney Bridge and Opera House. Both of these are on my “see again up close and in detail list.” The Sydney Harbor is magnificent and a challenge to take in. As we walked along toward Central Quay (say “key”), we can to the area where the CityRail and the Ferry Wharf converge. I look forward to getting more acquainted with the rail system, of course.

All in all it was a very exciting day and the crowds, including us, made their way home!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Safe Arrival in Sydney

1/25/07 My bags were among the last to arrive off the plane and when I had passed through the necessary Customs procedures, Sr. Judee, the Director of The Centre, was there, “Ed Palumbos” sign in hand ready to fetch me from the crowd of arriving people. There must have been over 300 people on that flight! I am typing these words in my new base location for the next few months. As you can see from the picture, I have a wonderful view of downtown Sydney. They refer to it as “CBD” – Center Business District. I unpacked and tried take a nap but getting into this time zone will take a while. Tomorrow is “Australia Day” and the Founder of the Centre, Bishop David Walker, is expected for a picnic. I look forward to meeting him, he moved from here when he was ordained the Bishop of Broken Bay, which is one of the three dioceses in the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Arrival in Los Angeles

1/23/07 I arrived in Los Angeles on time and after a few futile attempts to get a seat assignment, got the “I’m on my way to pick you up call” from Doug DeBeech, my niece Beth’s husband. After a tour of their really neat Brentwood Apartment, Beth and Doug took me to one of their neighborhood restaurants. As you can see from the photo, they are expecting a baby in a few months and I will be stopping by their home on my trip back and then there will be three of them to visit!
They got me back to LAX for the 10:30pm flight to Sydney. The flight was as full as I have ever seen. Repeated appeals for “volunteers” discouraged the many stand bys as they realized that the flight was overbooked. I had finally got my seat assignment after waiting in line for over an hour. It turned to be an aisle seat about half way back in the plane. I was pleased that United’s new cabin configuration provided for more leg room than I was expecting! We left an hour late but arrived just a few minutes behind schedule. Of courses, we had crossed the International Date Line so it was Thursday, even though we departed on Tuesday. Wednesday, January 24, 2007 is lost forever for me!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Today I got up in time to go to Mass at the Cathedral of St. Augustine at 10am. It was a nice celebration with Fr. Alanzo Garcia presiding as well as leading the hymns.

After breakfast at a local Denny’s, I drove north to “Biosphere 2.” This is the only place in the world where there is a desert, a tropical rain forest, marshlands, savannah and an ocean complete with coral formations all with in 31/2 acres…and this at 4000 feet above sea level! This is possible because in 1991, Biosphere 2 was constructed out of of glass and steel as a huge terrarium/aquarium like complex buildings. It is a private venture which cost over $150 million. The tour was fascinating and when the tour group emerged from one of the two “lungs” which are engineered to allow for the expansion and contraction of the air in this closed system, it was snowing!

Yes that’s right, it was snowing here in Tucson! In fact, as I write these words at 8:30pm, it is still snowing and it is accumulating! There was over an inch on the car when I came into the motel. There is a weather advisory scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen. They don’t do snow here! It’s funny – I thought I was escaping the snow and cold weather incoming here before departing for Australia!

Friday, January 19, 2007

It's off to Tucson today!

1/18/07 The sun has been warming up the midday temperatures to almost 60! This means that I have been able to sit in the sun when the wind died down a bit. It was still pretty funny to be sitting on the beach in sweat pants and a winter jacket on the Sea of Cortes (better known to us as the Gulf of California). I have had a wonderful day in the sun today. The temperature was still only 58 degrees, but the warm sun off the white sand and the only slight breeze made it possible to sit on the beach and read.

1/17/07 When I said I was going to Australia because it was a different culture, the same language and far away, I didn’t realize fully how important the “same language” would be when it came to technology. Our hotel here has an area which is “wifi” equipped. Great, I thought. No problem I’ll bring my computer here and then post a few notes onto my blog. Wrong! First, it was getting my laptop to talk to their network. I asked one of the local techs here to help me and in the process he somehow disabled access to all my files. Several calls to the DOR IT folks have led to more frustration, despite their best efforts. Language, even computer tech talk, is very hard to do across cultural and country boundaries.

You may have noticed that several blog postings have been repeated here. Hopefully they are corrected now, but these occurred because I couldn’t decipher the word for “delete” or “edit” or “remove” or “erase” in Spanish and since I was posting from a computer in Mexico, my blog site must have assumed that Spanish was my first language! Oh well, this whole thing is a learning experience!

1/16/07 The TV reports from across the boarder in Arizona say that this is the coldest weather that the southwest has experienced in 16 years! Informative, but not consoling to my warmth starved soul. The sun is out here, but the temperature is still only 45 and the wind makes it feel even colder; not exactly bathing suit weather! To make it all more challenging, the “techs” in the Cybercafé at the hotel did something to my laptop when they were giving me access to their wifi system. I have since been unable to access my own files in the laptop. This has proven to be a source of frustration – ah, technology! Great when it works (which is most of the time!), but troubling when it doesn’t –like now.

Safe Arrival in Tucson

1/19/07 After a quiet uneventful trip back across the border, with a stop at Organ Pipe Cactus National Park and a trip up to Kitts Peak NOAO (National Optical Astromical Observatory) at 6875ft above sea level and the largest collection of optical telescopes in the world, we arrived at Tucson. Pictures will follow when I get them out of the camera.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hope for the warm sun tomorrow!

1/14/07 The sun was out all day today, but the temperature remains in the low fifties. Off to the city of Puerto Penasco to check out the sights and go to Mass. The noon celebration lasted until 1:15 and included a very spirited homily that included a few words that I could understand. I’m sure that the folks around me got more out of it than I did. I was impressed with the devotion of the community and the number of families who were there. The people in the streets are friendly and welcoming. Tonight we had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the port (“Puerto”). My selection was a fantastic shrimp dish. The waiter told us that it was locally caught shrimp – who knows, but it was good.

The highlight of the day was a trip to the local super market. It was far away from where the tourists go and was literally filled with locals doing their weekly shopping. There were lines up and down the aisles with people waiting to be checked out. It took over an hour to buy bread milk and cheese. Believe me, Wegman’s never looked so good.

I am hoping it will be warm enough for the beach tomorrow, even if it a fully clothed and jacketed sun bathe!

Cold in Mexico

1/13/07 I arrived in Tucson, AZ after a long flight which began with a 3:50 wake up. The plane rides were long, but uneventful. They were followed by a 250+ mile drive from Tucson, across the boarder into Mexico at Lukeville, AZ and then on to Puerto Peñasco. This is beautiful old city on the Sea of Cortes as the Mexicans say. We call it the Gulf of California. There is unusually cool weather here right now. The cold air they tell us is coming from the north. The beach is huge and beautiful but not a soul is walking on it. It was 42 here last night! I swam today in the INDOOR pool and took a long nap. Dinner tonight was in the Restaurant of the resort. It was very good and I am hoping tomorrow (Sunday) will bring some warm weather!

I arrived in Tucson, AZ after a long flight which began with a 3:50 wake up. The plane rides were long, but uneventful. They were followed by a 250+ mile drive from Tucson, across the boarder into Mexico at Lukeville, AZ and then on to Puerto Peñasco. This is beautiful old city on the Sea of Cortes as the Mexicans say. We call it the Gulf of California. There is unusually cool weather here right now. The cold air they tell us is coming from the north. The beach is huge and beautiful but not a soul is walking on it. It was 42 here last night! I swam today in the INDOOR pool and took a long nap. Dinner tonight was in the Restaurant of the resort. It was very good and I am hoping tomorrow (Sunday) will bring some warm weather!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Last Supper with Staff

The final piece of my leave taking occurred on Wednesday evening when the staff and their spouses gathered for dinner. It was a wonderful evening of well wishes and good byes which included an appearance by our own famous songsters – The Supremes. As the staff gathered below the balcony, Marie, Cathy and Chris sang their latest hit, “There goes Fr. Ed” to the tune of: “Here comes Santa Claus.” Give it a try!

There goes Father Ed, There goes Father Ed
Rushing for his plane
You have to promise before you leave
That you'll come back again.

While you're away, we promise you
That everything will be fine
We'll help the poor and bury the dead
And pay the bills on time.

Here comes Deacon Ron, Here comes Deacon Ron
Taking the baton
You don't know what you're in store for
Trying to lead our song…

We're good and smart, we know our stuff
We'll carry this tune just fine
But just remember, we like fun
Don't make us tow the line

So...goodbye, Fr. Ed...Godspeed, Fr. Ed
We send you on your way
Take this time to rest and study
Take this time to pray

When you return, you'll find your chorus
Tuned and ready to sing
Get on the plane, and don't look back
We'll see you in the spring!

Monday, January 8, 2007

The send off!

My sabbatical farewells began at the Saturday evening Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany. The community threw a wonderful pot luck dinner that night and followed up with a coffee hour after all the Sunday Masses. During the Liturgy we had a ritual of transition as I passed the baton of leadership to Deacon Ron Tocci, who will the temporary Pastoral Administrator in my absence. I am very confident that our Pastoral Staff, Fr. William, Fr. Bill and the members of our community will carry on the ministry of the Lord in our parish with joyful service and great commitment while I am gone. Ron will be conducting the Symphony Orchestra which is our parish with confidence and competence.

I depart on Wednesday night (1/10) after dinner with our wonderful staff and spouses. I’ll be keeping a journal of my travels and adventures down under here. Enjoy!

This quote was given to me by Phil and Donna Yawman. I think it sets a great tone as I begin my travels.

This is the true joy in life – that being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, that being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. it’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw