As you may well imagine, after the refreshments of Perth, the first few hours back in Dili were rather sobering, to say the least. Setting aside the impact of the return to the heat and thick layers of dust, we came home to a house with a gate ajar and numerous indications of neighborhood children using our porch and yard as a playing field and tomato-throwing battleground. Thankfully, we discovered no serious mishaps and were able to set things right in short order. Our friends, David and Jill, retrieved us at the airport and drove us to the market for fresh food. Not having to negotiate taxis or spend a morning coping with a cross-town bike ride for groceries helped make the return really okay. In spite of having the most wonderful of times in Perth, David and I knew we had to come back to Dili in order to be able to finish the year and see our grandsons, children and friends again. So bring it on, as they say!
We overnighted in Bali, staying again at the Catholic guesthouse near the airport. I was able to squeeze in a great beach run in the morning, which made the rest of the day all very manageable. Those endormorphs really work.
Our last days in Perth, we traveled inland with John Davis, saw a dam dating to gold rush days, walked a suspension bridge and went to mass at the downtown Cathedral of St. Mary, recently completed after decades of incompleteness. The mixture of old and new architecture in the cathedral was quite pleasing, and the beautiful stained glass windows previously hidden by the organ were striking. The low numbers at the masses we attended on both Sundays seem to corroborate Australia’s secular reputation. Returning from mass, we left the train early and enjoyed a fabulous bike ride along the Swan River, made possible by their world-class train and bike infrastructure. (It rivals that of Munich, Mark!)
Australia appears to have been unscathed by the worldwide recession. Perth, in particular, has benefited from a mining boom that is leaving the construction industry breathless in the race to build enough homes for anxious first-time buyers. To give you some perspective on just how far this is from Michigan, imagine putting your name in a lottery in order to have the priviledge of buying a small three bedroom, semi-detached home with no property for more than $420,000! That is just what the Davis’s daughter and her new husband did, with the help of $40,000 in government incentives. The high cost of living is evident, too, in the price of food. For example, an ordinary cup of McDonald’s coffee costs an extraordinary $4, a pizza $20, and a bowl of soup $10.
Before we left down under, like all tourists, I had to see a koala bear. David didn’t have this need, opting for a long bike ride instead, so I went with Bethany to a wildlife park where my need was satisfied in spades. After strolling through many exhibits of kangaroos, birds, quokkas and wallabees (they are strange), we arrived at the koala exhibit at feeding time. This was a stroke of good fortune, as koalas sleep 80% of the day. They are as cute and calm as their reputation, and I was able to leave that island continent with some good photos and great memories. We are very grateful to John and Bethany for their generous and warm hospitality, our visit coming directly on the heels of a daughter’s wedding. We are sure they are ready for some down time and life without American guests. Thanks, John and Bethany! [posted by Rory]