“Time flies when you’re having fun” is a really worn cliché, I admit. There’s this to be said about clichés, though: They usually ring true. They’re a kind of shortcut to mutual understanding. What I want you to understand by quoting this one is how much we’ve loved our time in Australia, as if we just got here. But Garuda Air just sent an alert. “Time for your online check in.” Airplanes don’t wait (although we often wait for them!) Tomorrow we leave our Richmond home at 5:00 AM bound for Makassar, Indonesia via Jakarta. We’re looking forward to seeing John and Juli Liles’ family, but it won’t be easy to leave our Aussie family behind.
We’ll miss Milly, too. She comes in once a week to help Candy, who like Michael works full-time at Praemium, with the housekeeping–a task which has been tougher of late because of the interlopers camping here. Milly and her husband are Ugandan refugees. In their home country they were professional journalists; in Australia he is currently unemployed and Milly is a housekeeper. It’s a subsistence income, but they are free and out of harm’s way. Melbourne and Richmond abound in signs welcoming refugees and immigrants, signs we haven’t seen lately in America. Milly’s a delight, a devoted Christian minister who cleans houses to pay expenses.
We travel light, as you know: one suitcase, one carry-on, and one personal item apiece. Not light enough, it turns out. Because of my worthless back, Joy too often has had to contend with the luggage, including her heavy suitcase. She packs fewer clothes than most would be capable of, but her big bag is still too heavy, sometimes causing grief when we weigh in. The culprit is the load of art supplies she’s been lugging around. A sore shoulder and wrist have forced her to downsize yet again. She’s shipping her art paraphernalia on ahead and, as I write this, is shopping for a manageable smaller suitcase like mine. Her body will be happier. So will the nice check-in people at the airports. Until we’re Stateside again, Joy will concentrate on her photography.
We both boast overhauled computers. She’d been nursing hers for months; in Florida it finally collapsed. Solution: a new internal hard drive. This was after replacing the touch pad in Copenhagen and several other parts in various IT hospitals along the way. Of course, thought I. She bought a used MacBook Air and its age is showing. (It’s like the tradeoff between paying for depreciation or repairs on your new or used car. Either way it costs you!) I didn’t worry; mine is only two years old. But pride goeth before a fall. A couple of days ago I retrieved my Air from a Melbourne repair shop where it spent almost two weeks because of the holidays. It also has a new internal hard drive. The poor thing had caught a virus. Vagabonds like us conduct our business online: bill paying, correspondence, banking, bookkeeping, Skyping, blogging, airline reservations, etc. Your computer may be laid up, but that doesn’t stop the incoming work!
Then there’s the challenge of keeping your bank happy. Credit cards are frozen because “suspicious activity has been detected.” Pass codes suddenly don’t work anymore. You do everything the programmed template requires–and it’s not good enough. (Case in point: Wells Fargo demanded a nine-digit routing number. I provided it, only to be told again I needed to type in 9 digits. I typed them in again. To be rejected again. Of course you can’t connect with a person who can help you. So you go to a different bank. My favorite is Citizens Bank of Elizabethton, TN. It’s small enough that when I phone in a real person answers. Then she transfers me to another real person who works with me until she resolves the problem. In this “high tech” age, it’s still a business virtue to be “high touch.”
Just 78 miles northwest of Melbourne is Daylesford, Victoria, famous in these parts for its vineyards and mineral waters. Only three miles from Daylesford is Hepburn Springs, where we retreated for our final leisurely weekend in the country. That is, this is what Candy and Michael told us we were doing. Then they pulled up in front of an old folks home. We tried not to panic. Had the whole weekend thing been a ruse to get us to go peacefully into this new residence where “aged care” is promised? Had they detected signs of Alzheimer’s? I mean, we do forget things from time to time, but have we come so far? Have we become unmanageable? Do the kids think we’ve become too big a burden for them to handle, so they’re arranging professional care? Well, as it turned out, Michael had just stopped to get his bearings. His GPS was leading him astray. He needed to regroup. Our children weren’t dumping us, after all. After only an hour or so we began breathing normally again.
These small towns are in the heart of the state of Victoria’s largest concentration of mineral springs, a natural magnet for city dwellers seeking respite from urban pressures. Some even move here for a healthier lifestyle. In the 1850s and 1860s, though, it was gold that drew people to Hepburn, though by the end of the ’60s the rush was over. That’s when the mineral springs became the chief attraction. The locals didn’t regret the demise of mining; in fact, they forced it. The settlers, esteeming water of greater worth than gold (a remarkably sane but rare opinion), petitioned the government to shut down the mines to restore the water supply. The miners were eventually paid to go away. The healing waters returned.
This is a hilly but not a mountainous region, an ideal location for the many boutique vineyards here. Small farmers grow grapes and crush them into wine as a labor of love. They don’t aspire to be major players in the industry. We saw none of the huge spreads so common to Napa Valley and other American and European vineyards. The vintners we met here love to share their enthusiasm for their chosen craft.
Returning to Melbourne made it possible reconnect with the O’s family and friends such as Michael and Cobein Watts and Trevor and Jillian Keetley, and CMF missionary Abby Weller, among others. As I’ve reported before, we enjoy exploring new places, but the abiding joy in our travels comes from the people we get to hang out with. We will return one day. We want to see them again.
JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS