Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mrs. Herndon Gets Her Groove Back

Teacher Work Week has started. It kicked off with a bang when I entered my brand spankin' new classroom and just stood and stared blankly at my mounds of belongings piled into the center of the room for 5 whole minutes. The custodian walked by and happened to see me. "Yeah, I did the same thing last week when I saw it," he said. And then my neighbor co-worker came over and stared with us and said, "Yeah, me too. That's why I came in early."

We did finally get on the ball and move everything into place. I spent the entire day organizing, when I wasn't in meetings, and for the most part it got done. Enough to where I can actually sit at my desk, anyway. Today I was supposed to make my lesson plans for next week. Ha. Like that actually happened. My head is still spinning and by the time I actually had time to sit down and do it, it was time for cheerleading practice.

I'm tired. It has been two long marathon days so far.

But it has been good. I've enjoyed seeing everyone that I've missed over the summer. I'm starting to get inspired and lesson plans are coming. I'm brainstorming with my co-workers and getting excited about the ways I can use my new room. The ITRT (or, "the technology guy" as I lovingly call him because I cannot for the life of me remember what ITRT stands for) came by to share some exciting new gadgets he had ordered. He knows how I love to play with technology and I probably drooled a little when he was describing the new webcams that he found.

So, I'm getting my groove back. Slowly but surely.

I'm even making dinner in the crockpot tomorrow night. I know I know, living on the edge. Life is always exciting around here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Randomness

This is the last Saturday before I go back to work. I'm still not inspired/ready for this school year. Hopefully Teacher Work Week will put me in the mood. Usually by this time my head is spinning with thousands of ideas and plans. Right now, I got nothing.

For the first time though, I'm not nervous about the first day of school. Not yet, anyway.

I'm LOVING coaching cheerleading this year. I think because I have a little more confidence and know the girls so much better now. I don't feel like I'm feeling my way through it like last year; I may actually know what I'm doing. A little bit more, anyway.

I bought enough apples at the farmers market today to feed a small army. Or make applesauce. One of the two.

I have completely broken my mascara addiction. This came as a direct result of a gross allergic reaction to a new mascara while in Indianapolis last week. Like bumps on the face, eyes red and itching, contacts burning sort of reaction. When I didn't wear it for a few days, Patrick said, "Why do you wear that stuff anyway? I like you better without it." And then one of my cheerleaders said, "Mrs. H did you do something different with your eye makeup?" And I said, "Yeah, I stopped wearing it." And she said, "You look so pretty! I like it better that way." Two for two. And the nice thing is that I gained about 3 extra minutes in the morning by not having to carefully apply liner and mascara. Small, yes. Enough time to pour another cup of coffee or put a little more thought into what I'm going to wear or even make the bed, YES. Is it sad that the longest paragraph of this post is about my addiction to mascara? Maybe.

We might get a new couch today for the basement (!!!!). We're going to look, anyway. The basement is my new project. Thus far this summer I have successfully removed all the clutter, rearranged the bookcases twice, settled on a good set-up and started to make a slipcover for the chair in the corner of the new litte "reading nook" I'm creating. I'm also highly aniticipating/planning for tons of framed pictures from our trip. A new couch would take this project to another level.
That is all the exciting news I have for now. Happy Saturday!

Monday, August 23, 2010


While we were in Australia, Patrick and I heard this song on the radio leaving the Perth airport. We loved it and I wrote down some of the lyrics so we could Google it later and find out who it was. Then, while driving to Wilson's Promitory outside of Melbourne, we heard another great song and did the same thing. Come to find out, both songs were by Mumford and Sons. We ended up downloading the whole album.
We. Love. Them.
And we might go see them in Knoxville.
On a school night.
We are breaking bad, people.

(And we are looking for folks who might be interested in joining us?)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Melbourne: The End of the Great Adventure

I have put off doing this post because it sort of really means that our vacation is over. In truth, we have been home for two weeks, wrecked our house with all our dirty laundry and unpacking, gotten it back together in somewhat working order again, gone back to work, and are now in the process of gearing up for our 4-day trip this coming weekend to Indianapolis for Patrick's next big school session. Whew! All this is to say that I really know the Australia trip is over, but I'm hanging on by a thread to all the delicious, lovely memories of it. I want to for a long time.
So, here is the final 3 days of our trip.
We flew into Melbourne on Monday afternoon and rented a car. Patrick wanted to go to Wilson's Promitory, another awesome national park and one of his favorite memories from his last trip to Australia. He was determined to find the rock he sat on for so long the last time he was here, contemplating what it would be like if he ever got to come back to this place. How old would he be? Where would he be in life? Would he bring his wife? A family? He sat on that rock and pondered his future and thought it would be pretty darn cool to return now that a little into the future has finally come.
So we got out of the city a little ways and stopped in for the night in Warragul at a Best Western. Again, not really like our Best Westerns here, in that this was more of a nice motel (instead of a huge commercialized hotel) and the man running the Inn was at the front desk when we checked in. He was so nice and friendly and gave us plenty of ideas on how to spend our one and only day in Wilson's Promatory (we really needed a week!). He also pointed us towards town and an amazing little Italian restaurant where we had the most yummy pizza!
The next morning we set out for "The Prom" (which I continually joked about and told Patrick that he was FINALLY taking me to the prom! I know I know, not as funny as I was going for...). It was a nice day and the scenery along the drive was beautiful! It reminded us of New Zealand.

We got to Wilson's Promatory and drove around for a little bit. There was a fire 2 years ago and you could really see some of the damage. The beaches though were still beautiful. It was such a crazy mix of mountains and beach.

This is our little seagull friend that we found on the first beach we visited. He was injured and it was so sad to see him hobbling along when all of his little seagull friends were leaving him behind! We debated about whether the park rangers would care about an injured seagull and went ahead and reported it. The poor little guy!
Some more amazing views of The Prom.

We did find an incredible rock. It was not The Rock, but it certainly sufficed. We sat for an hour and talked about the beauty of God's creation, thinking back over our trip, talking about what life would be like when we returned home. This was the view from our rock.

The walk back to the car.

We saw these amazingly RED birds and kept trying to take a picture of them. Finally in the parking lot, we looked over and saw a man with one on his head! He was with his wife and his daughter who had cerebral palsy. She thought it was hysterical that the birds were pestering Dad for his ice cream cone! Patrick went over and tried it out. They were kind enough to lend us their ice cream cone.

On the way out of the park I said, "I wish I would just see one more emu." And then, seriously, we rounded the bend in the road and there were some emus.

And then we made our way back to the city of Melbourne, where Patrick had booked us 2 nights at the downtown Hilton. We had some issues with our car rental return. We did not get into Melbourne until around 4:45 and we had planned to return the car to the rental place downtown, which was closer to our hotel than the airport. But it had to be back by 5:00. We checked in, dumped our luggage and asked the concierge to send it to our room, and rushed off. We did not count on the fact that Melbourne is a big city and we really didn't know where we were going and we were DRIVING forgoodnessake. By the time we got to the rental place, it was 6:00 and it was closed. We now had to take the car ALL THE WAY BACK to the airport.

I was really stressed. Patrick was really stressed. It was not good.

We got all the way to the airport, literally into the parking garage, and realized we had not refilled the gas tank. So off we went to do that. But we made it, although we had missed our time AND the one hour grace period so we had to pay a little extra. We hopped on the SkyBus headed back into the city.

By now it was bordering on 8:00 and I was pretty much thinking we were going to have to get peanut butter crackers from a vending machine for dinner. But we decided that we would do a little walking and exploring before heading back to the hotel. We found a nice Mexican place and had a GREAT meal. I don't know if it was really that great or we were just STARVING, but either way, it was awesome. We walked happily back to the hotel and found that we had a seriously nice room with a seriously nice view.

The view from the window in our room. Seriously.

The next morning we had breakfast and I laid around and read the assortment of magazines provided by the hotel in our room while Patrick finished up his final paper for the school term. Then we set out to explore the city a little.

We saw Flinders St. Station.

We went to the Royal Botantical Gardens.

We attempted to use public transportation and failed miserably. We ended up walking all the way back to the hotel to have some down time before dinner.

The view from our window at night. Check out the fire along the walkway to the right! The next morning we were picked up by the bus and driven to the airport. We got Krispy Kreme donuts to celebrate our return to the U.S. (It seemed like it fit???) And boarded our first plane to New Zealand. We barely made our connecting flight from NZ to L.A., which was probably a good thing because it did not give me time to process the fact that we were setting our for an 11 hour flight.

Actually the flight was not bad. We were able to get an exit row that had plenty of leg room. Air New Zealand had great food and we had our own personal little screens to watch movies on. And we slept. Not as much as we would have liked, but we did sleep.

When we got into L.A. we learned that our flight from Dulles to Roanoke had been cancelled and the next flight was not until the next day. After a lot of waiting in line and frustration, we were able to get rerouted through Chicago, which had a flight to Roanoke that night. What we didn't know until we actually got to Chicago, however, is that we were not guaranteed on that Roanoke flight. We were waitlisted. I was furious and little pushy with the lady at the desk, who did not seem to care at all that we might have to sleep in the Chicago airport for the night. She told us to keep checking back to see if we would be able to get on that flight.

Finally, we got word that we had been on the Cleared List.


And we made it home! We were literally the LAST flight into the Roanoke airport on Thursday, July 29. It was so great to see my mom, who had graciously come to pick us up. We got home and of course were not tired at all since we were still on Australia time. And it was dinner time in Australia so we were hungry. Patrick's friend who had stayed at our house while we were gone took us out for a welcome home breakfast/dinner at 2:00 in the morning!

And then we crashed.

For about a week.

It was HARD getting back to normal.

But we are so happy to be home, and to have made such wonderful memories!

Thank you to everyone who has followed our trip and prayed for safe travels!

Nearing the end: Karinjini to Exmouth and back to the Karratha

At this point, we were nearing the end of our Australian journey! (I just had to take a big gulp typing that because our trip is over. I can't believe it! I'm wishing I was still there. These posts are making the nostalgia almost unbearable).) This is the last leg of Western Australia before we headed back to Melbourne and then back to the U.S.A.

After our morning hiking through Weano Gorge in Karinjini National Park, we hit the road to Exmouth. A small beach town in the northwest of Australia.

The drive took about 6 hours but we took our time and enjoyed the scenery and the time together in the car.

Sidenote: Patrick and I had A LOT of time in the car throughout this trip, which I love. I LOVE roadtrips with him. I am often more excited about the car ride than the destination itself (call me crazy). We have such great conversations, really have time to work out our feelings on different issues (this is sounding so girlie, all this talk of working out feelings... wonder if Patrick loves the car time as much as I do? Hmmm....), we listen to music, listen to sermons, and sometimes just sit in the quiet. But something about it... I love it!

We saw another beautiful sunset, with the moon already out!

Um, another sidenote, Patrick almost hit an ENTIRE HERD OF WILD COWS standing in the road on this drive to Exmouth. Folks it is DARK out there and we apparently did not take the warning from the lady at the Vistors Center in Tom Price seriously enough. We rounded the bend, and BAM, SLAM ON THE BREAKS, PATRICK DOING THE SOCCER-MOM STOP WITH HIS ARM ACROSS ME IN THE PASSENGER SEAT KIND OF STOPPING. It was not his fault. There was no way we could have seen them until we were right up on them.

And then they just looked at us and mooed (moo-ed?).

It was crazy! Wild cows...who knew!

We arrived in Exmouth around 8:00, checked into the hotel, and went to the highly recommended Fish and Chips joint for food. We were starving and it was SO GOOD. Patrick was in love with the hamburgers at these Fish and Chips shops and I discovered the beauty of salt and vinegar on your french fries. I thought I knew all there was to know about french fries but NOOOOOO. Salt and vinegar is a whole new world.
We vegged for the night and watched another Australian rules football game
(Andrew, I hope you are so proud of your successful efforts to convert us!).

The next morning, we woke up bright and early for a day of SNORKELING!

The guy in charge of the tour picked us up at the hotel at 8:00 a.m. on a little bus. We picked up some others and hit the beach!

As soon as we got on the boat, we were fitted for our wetsuits. I was doing so well with my motion-sickness issues! I was actually enjoyed being on the sea!

(Please quickly scroll past this horrible picture of me. It was the only one we got of me in the wet suit. Also, wet suits are not unlike Spanx...as in, they suck everything in and make you feel way skinnier! Although this picture does not depict this...)

So, we did a "warm-up" snokel on the reef, Ningaloo Reef, that is, which is almost as big at the Great Barrier but not nearly as popular. Our main goal however, was to encounter and swim with a whaleshark! Whalesharks are the biggest fish in the ocean! But they are harmless or we would not be doing this, that's for sure. This was a pretty intense operation. After the trial reef snokel, we climbed back on the boat. Then, a plane with an "official whaleshark spotter" went up and was to phone the boat when a whaleshark was close. At that point, a loud buzzer would sound on the boat and we were to scramble into our gear, jump off the back of the boat, split into our two groups, and wait for the whaleshark to SWIM BETWEEN US. Craziness. My OCD self was a little nervous about the chaos that might ensue when that buzzer sounded.

But it was all ok in the end! Of course, in the scurrying around to get into our gear, I broke my snokel mask, panicked, and started wildly shouting at the instruction that I needed a new mask RIGHT NOW WE HAVE TO GO AND I'M NOT GOING TO BE READY AHHHHHH. I think she thought I was a little neurotic. But she fixed it and in we went! Below is a picture of a whale shark that we Googled, just so you could get an idea. Of course, we could not take our camera in the water. We did one swim and it was amazing! We came out, took about a 5 minute rest and jumped in again! This is where things started to go south. The Indian Ocean was a little rough, we were pretty exhausted, and we had ingested A LOT of sea water at this point. When we got back on the boat after the second swim, I for-real thought I was going to puke. So did Patrick. And then the motion-sickness set in on top of that.

I spent the next hour and a half laying down.

We did not eat lunch, even though they had put out a huge spread of food.

Just the thought....ugh.

We finally started to feel a little better towards the end of the trip. The skipper spotted some manta rays, and we hesitantly jumped in and did one last swim, which ended up feeling really good (cold water on the face and all).
We ended the afternoon back where we started and took a group picture with all the people on board with us!

We were EXHAUSTED when we returned to the hotel room around 4:00. We had packed things to make dinner and the room had a nice little kitchenette set-up so we enjoyed an evening in.

We headed out the next day to make the trip back to Karratha, where we had to fly out to go to Melbourne. It was a beautiful, sunny, summery-feeling day! The weather in Exmouth was perfect, not too hot, not too cold.

Patrick decided after seeing a sign to randomly take a right.
We ended up in another National Park that had these huge Grand Canyon-esque canyons. We were so amazed that this was just "here" without any advertising or commercialism. Just raw, natural beauty, and we almost just drove right past it!

Then, in another bout of randomness, Patrick had decided to go to this little dot on the map he had seen that said Ningaloo. Naturally, we thought it was another part of the reef where you could snorkel and what not. We should have guessed something was up when we turned on the road and saw the sign that said, "Extremely rough road. Four Wheel Drive Vehicles Only."

We bounced on our way for about an hour.

It was Ningaloo Station, basically a big farm with one house and nothing else around.
But we did have lunch on this beautiful beach.
Seriously, there was NO ONE else around for miles.
Again, incredible. The water was so sparkly!

And then we traveled back to Karratha.

A note about Karratha: Every single hotel (and there are only about 3) is around $300 a night, basically because no one ever goes to Karratha, except to work in the mines, so they don't need accomodations. We couldn't afford to stay anywhere and seriously thought about sleeping in our car, but finally found the Karratha Backpackers which is "only" $90. It was pretty much a hostel, sort of like spending the night in a frat house. They were kind enough, however, to give us our own room instead of having to sleep in a big communal room.

We actually slept pretty well, and headed out in the morning to catch our final domestic flight to Melbourne for our final days in Australia.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Western Australia Round 2

Wow, I humbly apologize for taking so long to post about the rest of our trip!
**SPOILER ALERT: We made it home about on Thursday a week and a half ago and are STILL recovering. As in, I have not stayed up past 8:00 p.m. in 4 days (hence the lag in posting). As in, we have entirely given our lives over sleep, which happens upon us at any given moment. OR we end up staying up the entire night because our body clocks think it's playtime in Australia not bedtime in America. Both are equally inconvenient. Trust me.

I do want to finish posting about our trip, mostly for our sake so we can remember it for a good long while. We're a little sad it's over. Patrick asked me what he was going to do with all of his free time now and I asked him what he did before we went. He said basically he had spent the last 3 months planning this trip. So I said, "Plan another one!" Yeah, we'll see.

After our time in Perth in the southwest of Australia, we traveled to northwest Australia, flying into the little mining town of Karratha. I think I was the only female on the flight. Literally, the only people who fly to Karratha are employees commuting to work in the iron mines.

It's not a very happening place, as you can see from all the bustling activity at the airport office.

We rented a car (an SUV!) and decided to make our way through the outback to Karinjini National Park where we had already made arrangements to stay the night at an "Eco Reserve" near Tom Price, another mining town.
What is an Eco Reserve, you ask?
Oh, just wait. It's so good.

We decided to take this remote "Access Road" instead of the highway. It's apparently shorter because the highway goes all the way around and the access road cuts straight through, plus it makes for a very interesting drive. Because they don't use the term "remote" loosely around these parts, we found the nearest (and only) grocery store, bought a cooler, and loaded up with food for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the next couple of days. We also filled up on gas.

Good thing we stopped at the Visitors Center on the way out of town because unbeknownst to us, a permit is required to drive on the access road. We had to watch a video and sign our lives away, which made the whole thing that much more thrilling.

It was worth it. The drive was incredible.And very RED.

Red dust everywhere you looked. Our car was red. Our socks turned red from when we would stop the car, jump out and take pictures.

But it was beautiful in a whole different way than any other landscape we had seen thus far.

See that sign? That's how far away the next gas station was.

It took about 5 hours for us to get across the access road.
Let's just say good thing we had also bought some toilet paper.
There are no rest stops in the outback.

And our first glimpse at one of the mining trains. These trains are around 5 kilometers long! And Patrick saw one about every 30 minutes on the road (I say Patrick because I slept for a good part of our journey on this road). They are literally moving thousands of tons of iron along with waste every night. We met a couple at the Eco Reserve that night who both worked for local mines. He worked for one of the largest ones and said they move around 40,000 tons of iron and over 200,000 tons (yes, TONS) of waste everyday. The girl worked for a "smaller" company which "only" moved 30,000 tons of iron and 50,000 tons of waste. Unbelievable.

Once we got to Karinjini National Park we stopped off at Hammersly Gorge and walked down to the bottom. We thought about swimming but didn't go prepared with suits on, so we just stayed for a while and enjoyed the breeze going through the canyon. It was beautiful. A small taste of what the next couple days would be like.

We rolled quickly through Tom Price close to sunset and were going to stay for a little bit, until the lady at the Visitors Center said, "Are you going to the Eco Reserve? You better go NOW."

"Now?" we asked.

"Yes, now. After sunset there will be kangaroos and wild cows all over the road. It's very dangerous."


And we went.

But we did see a GORGEOUS outback sunset along the way.

And we arrived at our Eco Reserve (without hitting any wild cows) right after dark.

The Eco Reserve was basically a really nice hotel. But instead of renting a really nice room...
You get a really nice tent!

With a king size bed!

And a full bathroom with a view to the beautiful outback!
There was a very nice restaurant at the Reserve, but we had brought dinner to grill out so we opted for the "true" camping experience. While grilling, we met the couple I talked about that worked at the mines. We had a great time cooking and chatting in the dark.

Steaks, potatoes, and peppers. Yum. Yum.
Yes, we forgot plates so we used the cooler lid. We were proud of our improvising skills.

We had a great sleep in our warm bed. Patrick got up, went out on our little deck and watched the sunrise. I stayed in bed and watched the sunrise.

The next morning, we dressed quickly and headed out for a day in Karinjini National Park. The guy who checked us out recommended some hikes we could take through the nearby gorges. We started out at a lookout and then did a walk through part of Weano Gorge.

The first walk we did was nice and easy and fun. Then we started talking to this couple as we looked at the map. The lady said they had just run into some who had done a harder walk, where you had climb on the rocks and spider walk through, possibly getting wet up to your waist. I was reluctant but Patrick's eyes grew big, so we put our swimsuits on under our clothes and decided to go for it.

The first part was not so hard; some rock climbing and stair stepping. Then there was a ladder that they had bolted into the side of the canyon and you could climb down in. THAT was a little scary.

Then you could either wade through a small pool or climb around on the rocks. We decided to climb. I figured out that it wasn't scary to actually be doing it, but it was scary to watch someone else do it, because you could see how close to the edge they were.

We got to what I thought was the end and I was so excited! I had done it!

But it wasn't the end. We hadn't done the spider-walk part yet. So that was next.

Patrick went easily through, but I was really scared. I started to go, but then felt like I was too high and I panicked. PANICKED. I started to shake and froze and wouldn't move my feet. I think I scared Patrick. He didn't realize how freaked out I was, until I started to cry. Then I kept saying, "I'm so sorry; I have to go back. I have to go back."

And I finally turned myself around and went back. Patrick went on without me. I felt like a loser.

So I sat there and prayed. And thought about a lot. And kept going over to look at it again. Maybe if I go lower; don't let myself get so high up again. About that time, another guy came along and probably thought I was a little crazy because I was sitting there trying to talk myself into giving it another shot. I told him that I had freaked out, but maybe if you stayed lower it wasn't so hard. Of course, he jumped right through like it was nothing.

So I really thought about it and decided to try again.

And I did it!!

Patrick was on his way back to me when he saw me coming through.
"Emily! I'm so proud of you! You did it!" he yelled.
He waited on me to come through and we finished the hike together down to what was called the Kermit Pool. It was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

And we forgot to take pictures of it.

But we stayed for a while and just enjoyed the beauty and the fact that we had done such a hard walk.

We made our way back out of the gorge and by that time, it was time for us to hit the road again.

We spent the rest of the day driving through the deserted outback headed to Exmouth.
We had planned to spend two nights in Exmouth and were going snorkeling the next day! (Hopefully I will get back on the ball and share that story within the next couple of days.)