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Hanging with St Pete

And now we're in St Petersburg. It's taken a long time to get here. We left Sydney about 30 hours ago and I've only seen one night and one day. It's a little odd.

So perhaps I should do a little recap the highlights of the trip.

We got away from Sydney with little problems except for no blogging. I bought and read "He Died with a Falafel in his Hand", which was rather amusing. We flew from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur on leg one (not one leg). As we flew into KL at around midnight the air hosts walked through the plane spraying it with some kind of aerosol. When they'd walked past us and we'd had time to start wondering if this was some evil plot to kill us or put us all into slavery, the Captain came on the PA to tell us that Malaysian regulations are that they spray everyone to kill bugs. They said "It's non-toxic, but we recommend you cover your mouth and nose till the spray disappears." Which was a little disconcerting seeing as they had already walked past us. Oh well, we might die. No worries.

In KL we wandered around their shiny airport looking for free internet but all of the computers were broken or had long queues. The whole airport was deserted except for the free internet, so I didn't get to blog there. I was finding it a little difficult to get my head around the idea that I was in a different country. I'm still struggling.

Seeing as there was no internet we went to the toilet, the next best novelty, and hopped back on the plane.

After flying through the night again, sleeping badly, getting caressed by the elbow of an old Austrian man, and only getting up once because I was scared of him, we arrived in Vienna at 6am Vienna time, 2pm Sydney time. And I've blogged that experience.

We headed off to catch our plane to St Petersburg, but it got delayed. Finally after falling asleep on uncomfortable, green, metal chairs it was time to board. We handed in all the neccisary stuff and hopped in a bus, stood around a bit then were told to get off the bus because the plane needed new tires so we'd have to wait a bit. That was sad but I thought the idea of the plane getting a flat tire and all these men getting out plane jacks to fix it was funny, so I think that held me over till we got on the plane.

I don't really remember the flight cause I slept the whole time, except to eat my beef thing. And I am very glad I woke up for the beef.

We arrived in St Petersburg and the first thing I noticed flying in was that everything is rather old looking. The runway at the airport isn't all that flash, and they have lots of dinky old buses and cars driving around. Pulling into the airport looked just like I would have expected a Soviet airport in the movies to look like. Except it was missing men in fur hats and nuclear missiles dotted around the field pointed at Washington and Hollywood. The customs officers look like Societ Army officers so that made me feel pretty happy. And scared. Handing in my passport for them to check my visa was the scariest thing I had done in at least 24 hours. But the customs chick was so bored I reckon I could have handed in anything and she wouldn't have cared.

We were picked up by Valentina (Step-Grandmother) and a diver (I don't remember his name but he had a mustache so if you're ever here, look for him) and we hopped in the car and started off towards the city on the wrong side of the road. It was wierd. I kept getting worried people were going to have head on collisions.

Driving through St Petersburg was great. There are so many impressive buildings that you can't help but be impressed (obviously). But then you realise that the impressive buildings seem to mostly fit in about two distinct categories, palaces built by crazy Tzars, and big, imposing buildings built by crazy Stalin. And that's about it. Every impressive building starts to look the same, and then you start craving a building built by a crazy captitalist or something. But there aren't many about.

The other thing that's interesting is that everyone here lives in appartments. And none of the appartment buildings here look to be in good shape at all. Even the nice looking ones look dingy when you get up close. And the dingy looking ones from far off just live up to and exceed your expectations. And there are huge slabs of town full of these unit buildings that look exactly the same. Of course I hear that's what they did in communist times. You thought all the units in Chatswood look the same, what till you get here. Meriton has nothing on those enterprising Soviets.

Valentina took us to a block of units somewhere in somewhere, and brought us to meet her parents and son and daughter. We're staying here with them in their tiny appartment. They've given Jo and I the one bedroom and they're all sleeping elsewhere, lounge room, bathroom, I think Oleg (Son of Valentina, my step-uncle) might be sleeping in the oven.

They're lovely people. They don't speak much English, so they may not be lovely at all, but their body language and hospitality suggests otherwise. I like them.

At dinner I had Cognac cause I figure that's what one does in Russia. One of the guys in the youth group told me to drink Cognac when I was in Russia, so I did it for him. He also told me to drink it while sitting in a club dressed a black suit and pretending to be a hitman. I didn't get quite that far but small steps...

Now I should be sleeping. I hear the sun never goes down here in summer. So I guess after the longest night of my life, I'm about to have an even longer day. Yeehaa. It's 10:20pm and the sun is showing no signs of going down. How fun. I should move here and have barbies at 2am. That'd be fun.

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I found my way back to the sterile computer cause I got bored. There'sonly so much to do here in this tansit land and there's no toothbrush or toothpaste any where to be found so the options for entertainment are very few.

It's 8:57am.

On the flight over here we were in darkness for 20 hours straight. That's the longest night I've ever had.

I got given a chocolate on the plane. I put it in my pocket and forgot it was there so it melted. That was sad.

Now I'm going to go change some money.

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We're in Austria. Vienna to be exact. I'm typing on a dodgy metal keyboard at a bar that sells coffee or something like that. The Y and the Z are in the wrong place on this keyboard. I know it's not that bad but it's giving me worse culture shock than everyone speaking German.

In a few hours we'll be off to St Petersburg. Till then Jo and I have to spend the time in a postage stamp sized area of the airport.

My time on this sterile computer is almost up so I should publish. If you're wondering we're tired, exited and I had three pips in one of the grapes I had for breakfast.

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I'm up later than I had planned. But well here I am.

I just sent an email to most of my address book telling that if they want to know what I'm up to while I'm away then they should read my blog, this blog. So if you're checking, I haven't left yet. I'm still in Australia. I'm about to go to bed rather tired. It's been a big few weeks and a massive 2 days. I'm worried I'm not going to get time to blog about seeing Coldplay (Excellent!) or watching the Socceroos (Crushing). But I have photos on my camera. So maybe I'll find time to post a photo or two.

At least I've put up the new banner. It's not very good, I think all those designers out there who read my blog will be gritting their teeth and wanting to attack my blog with their Photoshop blog attack tool. But I don't care if they don't like my new banner. They can all go jump in the designer lake. Yes I'm talking to you.

I'm not defensive.

Anyway I must sleep I have a bag to back tomorrow. But first I have to get the bag to pack tomorrow, otherwise I'll be travelling across Europe with all my clothes in those green Woolies bags. At least I'd be saving the environment.

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If I was a crying man, I'd be crying now.

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Coldplay tonight! Yip!

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Now it's Getting Close

I finished the three week series of preaching tonight. Preaching three weeks in a row was easier this time than last time. I think because I started doing my research for the series a month before I started the actual series.

Last week's sermon was really hard. I finished it feeling pretty terrible. I'm not sure why. I just finished it feeling really bad, like no-one liked what I had to say, and everyone was upset with me. It took me a while to get over it even though I knew the sermon wasn't that bad.

But tonight I finished feeling pretty good. It was probably the best sermon of the series. I think maybe because I'd been thinking about it for the longest of any of the sermons. Maybe because the two points I made I've been thinking about for years. Maybe because when you've been preaching for three weeks by week three you're getting into the swing of things. I'm not sure.

Anyway I'm glad it's done. It was fun. I do like preaching.

Now I'm starting to feel like I'm going away soon. The 3rd sermon was the last big hurdle before I leave. Now everything I do will be in preparation of leaving. So it's getting close. It's odd thinking that I have three more sleeps in this country. This time next week I'll be in Russia. How odd. I've never been to Russia. I've only seen it in movies and read about it in Tom Clancy movies.

How exciting.

Tomorrow we have to reconfirm out flights. Sounds fun.

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Tonight we had a Games and Dessert night for my small group. We went the house of one of the girls in the small group and it was all a bit of fun. Except that at one point there was a cobweb in a light in the ceiling that was making an annoying shadow on the wall. So I decided to clean the light and got the broom, stood on a chair, and brushed the light. It would have been a good idea except that as well as getting the cobweb I brushed the light out of its socket in the ceiling. Now they have a light hanging out of their ceiling by a wire. Oops. It's always embarrassing when I go over to people's houses and break their stuff. I had to go and apologise to the Dad. Lucky Dad's a nice guy.

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The Photos

Jo and Jem Before Game.jpg

Jo and Jem at 4:45am waiting to get our tickets.

On the Street.jpg

The people on the street just after the game.

Martn with Ball.jpg

I like this one of Martin and his ball.

Flag Man.jpg

I thought this was an interesting shot. In December the picture of a young bloke drapped in an Australian flag was a symbol of rioting, racist Australians. Today it was a symbol of proud, celebrating Socceroos fans. I'm glad that I was at a celebration of a world game rather than a race riot this morning.

The Theatre.jpg

The Theatre.

After that I went home, blogged then went back to bed.

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I think Harry Kewell looks like Hugh Jackman. So much so that when I watch Australia play I keep seeing Kewell and thinking "Gosh he can act and play soccer is there anything Jackman can't do?"

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Final 16 Baby!

Never thought I'd be so excited about a draw. Celebrating hundreds of people in the Enmore is great. And there's dancing in the streets. Still dancing now I reckon. And we play Italy the day before I fly out, so I can cheer again! Yeehaa!

I don't know if I can cope with this tension though. Poor old Kalac. I wasn't feeling real happy with him during the game but I just saw a photo of him on SMH and he didn't look very happy, so I'll feel sorry for him. But I reckon he's probably happy now.

Hooray. Now I'm going to sleep. Or eat breakfast.

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Aussie Aussie Aussie!

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Do This With Me

I bought a cd on Tuesday. It's by Angels and Airwaves.

The lead singer is Tom Delonge from Blink 182. But the music is a lot more electronic and rocky, rather than ponkish. It's not too bad. Although I was turned off when I read Delonge say this: "It sounds like it has the conceptual depth of Pink Floyd, the anthemic architecture of U2 but with Tom from blink writing all the melodies. All the songs are very cinematic, anthemic and epic-sounding. The music sounds angelic. Every song gives you the chills and you feel like you want to cry but you're conquering the world at the same time. It sounds like stadium rock done by a band that's meant to be the absolute biggest band in the world."

And he also said the album is about leaving blink to start this band: "It's the story of the album, which is the story of the break-up of one of the biggest bands in the world and the creation of the world's greatest band."

So anyway, the cd doesn't live up to his hype. They aren't the greatest band in the world, they don't have the conceptual depth of Pink Floyd and they're anthems all sound a bit the same. But it's not too bad. I've been enjoying it.

There's one line that goes "I can't live, I can't breath, Unless you do this with me"

Which I really like. I think it's the best line in the whole thing. He sings it over and over. It reminds me of in Acts where Paul quotes: "In him we live and move and have our being" And I thought "That tag (is that what it's call musical people?) could be a good tag for a worship song." So now I've been singing "I can't live, I can't breath, Unless you do this with me" and it's coming as a worship even when I haven't really planned it that way but it's been real fun. It's kinda crystalised my constant need for God. I have a continual feeling of dependancy so it's been good to be able to put it to music.

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I went to bed last night a little apprehensive about this morning's exam. I had only done 18 minutes and 36 seconds worth of study (exactly) when I half listened to a sermon by the unstoppable John Stott while I did some envelope printing at work yesterday.

So when I got home last night I decided to get up at 6am and study for an hour or so before I went to my exam. But sadly when I went to bed I discovered my alarm clock blinking because my power board had tripped during the day. I just set my clock and went to bed, forgetting to also set the alarm.

But no worries, I woke up at 5am and remembered that I hadn't done my alarm. So I hopped out of bed, turned the thing on, then went back to my warm, lovely, bed for another hour.

I woke up when my sister walked past my head on the other side of the wall. (My bed is in the corner of my room, and my room is bordered on two sides by wooded floored hall way so I bounce and hear every "clip-clop" whenever anyone walks to the bathroom or back. Lucky I'm a heavy sleeper.) I looked at the clock and it said 7:24am and I thought "Bugger, I have an exam in an hour." When I set my alarm at 5am I forgot my tripped out powerboard had reset my alarm from Monday morning so I actually set it for midnight tonight, not 6am. So I got no study done at all this morning. I thought that was interesting given that I had a semi-premonitionish dream this morning about having to go and preach but not having prepared anything so I just had to make it up. I'm sure that was inspired by my upcoming exam and the lack of preparation. Although I doubt it was a premonition, rather a certainty given the way I study. (Example 1, Example 2, Example 3)

Anyway I turned up at my college, walked to the Newsagent and bought two pens then put them to work for 2 and a half hours as I just tried to say things that sounded good. I feel alright about the whole thing. I could pass. Whatever the case the extra one and half hours made up for the unpleasantness of the exam. And I only fell asleep in the exam twice, so I reckon that's an achievement.

Now I'm just working (or not) from home because my one meeting at work got canceled so I figured I could relax with some pad-thai and a bit of blogging for a little. Yeah.

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It is silly to work a 14-hour-day the day before you have an exam you haven't studied for.

But in other news this time next week I'll be on a plane. With a sore bum. Yes!

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You may remember that I lamented recently the demise of my discman. For months I lived with no mobile source of music. I dreamed of iPods and portable melodic pleasure. I traveled from place to place listening only to the noise of the world around me, like an ascetic monk fasting from his musical machines except that I had no choice.

Eventually, a friend had compassion on me and lent me his old discman. All I had to do was buy new batteries. So I did that today and thought "Perhaps I should just test them in my discman." So I did this and lo and behold, my discman miraculously healed itself. Now I feel a little silly that my discman was not ever broken, just a suffering a little flat battery.

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Well is we're all going soccer mad, this made me laugh.

What am I doing still awake?

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I'd just like to say that I'm not not watching Australia vs Brazil tonight because I don't care. But because I worked a twelve hour day today, I'm doing another one tomorrow and I have to be on the other side of the Harbour Bridge in eight hours.

But "Go 'Strahhlia!"

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As I was saying a few days ago, this is why I like George W. I would like to be his friend.

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Writing sermons, well, I'm not really good at making myself do it.

I woke up this morning and in a burst of energy I punched out about 3 thrilling pages (I'm not sure thrilling is the word, but wouldn't it be cool if it was?) and then I got invited to go eat potato stacks in Newtown. That really put a dent in things. Who can resist a potato stack invite?

Since then I've dribbled out about one more page and spent the last 2 hours getting distracted by Google video. But there is some fun stuff there. Nothing helpful, but I did enjoy myself.

Oh and guess what, now I'm blogging. But you knew that didn't you.

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Yesterday at the shops there were two woman talking and a man walked up to one of the women and said "Have you divorced you husband yet?"

"I'm going to leave him tonight" the woman replied

"That's good because I want to go out with you" said the man.

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Some people are murmering that Al Gore might run for President in 2008. That would be good. At least that would be a darn sight better than having another Republican.

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Some Things

I went to the local high school's performing arts night tonight. There were lots of people from church in it. I did enjoy it a lot. Much talent. And I laughed some.

These late night blog posts are kinda short.

I've realised I'm not blogging about the politcal things much at the moment. Although I have been thinking about them.

I'm still trying the figure out the absurdity of calling suicide an act of war. At what point do we have a society where we stop worrying about what causes a person to take their own life and start worrying about the threat that taking of life is to us.

I'm not sure whether George W is smart, ernest, likable and terribly flawed. Or smart, dishonest and terribly flawed. Either way I don't think he's stupid. I really hope it's option one, because the more I see of George the more I like him and the less I would vote for him.

But I did enjoy tonight's performances.

Oh and I think think it's a splayd.

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Zap! Pow!

Last week we, the youth group, went to Zone 3 (laser tag).

For the first game, I was amazing! I had hit accuracy of 161%! Which is pretty damn good if you ask me. I fired 68 shots and hit 89 people, or something like that.

In the second game one of the guys in the youth group decided that he wanted my gun and pack so he stole it and won the game. My accuracy dropped to 23% and my fleeting dreams of joining the SAS or a SWAT team were dashed. Oh well.

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I'm not sure if I should be saying this, but I've been enjoying "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira lately. I have a bit of a sing-a-long when it comes on the radio and my spirit lifts.

"Woo-oo, you know my hips don't lie, cause a manam manu ma na,
A lets go, a ponto, everybody do the fandango"

Or something like that.

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We sat in the pub tonight for our house meeting. I ate steak, watched the Origin and drank beer. I did enjoy that. Not the game as much as the food and drink. NSW were poor, sloppy, poor. On the other hand Queensland were on fire, so that was nice to see. Still, I'm a Blues man.

I think people had an intense conversation about Community while I was sitting there but I didn't really notice. I was too busy buried in a screen in thr corner.

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I really shouldn't stay up so late. But Ryan is smart at making websites. I looking forward to living with that man. More because he's fun than because of his html skills. But they're pretty snazzy too.

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That was fantastic!

We win.jpg

Go Australia!

Ok. So now I'm a soccer fan.

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I'm going to watch the football tonight at the Enmore. Yeehaa!

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So now I'm home. I've returned from my days in Hornsby with the lil Sister and big Brother. I did have a nice time in Hornsby. It's nice to be somewhere different but familiar. Coming in with all my bags on Thursday night felt like I was coming home from a really long holiday. It was good to sit on the couch again and watch dvds, and stay up late chewing the fat with Howie. It was nice to see Hannah first thing in the morning every morning. It was nice to make her breakfast, even if I wouldn't eat what she eats. It was fun to be back at the home of my youth.

Yesterday I spent most of the day working on the sermon, or thinking I should be working on the sermon. It was a really hard sermon to do. The passage was rather bleak, lots of death and things going badly. And the subject matter that came out wasn't real fun either. I spent many hours last night trying to make something workable. But it didn't really feel good. I went to bed at around 1:30 am with the sermon not feeling there. I dreamt all night about war, shooting people and being shot at. I think the sermon was getting to me.

I finished it this afternoon, and it all felt better. But still, it wasn't a real happy sermon. I preached it tonight and it was hard. Some sermons are fun, some feel like you're pushing a pile of bricks up hill. This was one of those brick ones. Anyway, I hope it fits well in the series. I think things get better from here. One sermon down, two to go. That's both an exciting and tiring concept. Cool.

Hooray for public holidays.

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Oh it's working again now. Not sure what's up with that.

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Warm Smell

I bought a heater for my room. And it has new heater smell blowing out of it. Oh. It just turned off. Crap heater. Now my legs are getting cold. I paid $23 for you and I get 7 minutes of warm air. That's over $3 a minute. I could go to the solarium for less that that!!!


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This morning I looked after Hannah and took her to her Saturday fun program. The problem with looking after Hannah in the morning is doing her hair 'cause I'm really bad at doing hair. This morning all I could manage to do was brush it. So when I dropped Hannah off, my friend Sam, as soon as he saw my sister when she entered the room, said "Hannah your hair is very messy"

So as I walked in behind her I said "Shut up. I can't do her hair, I'm not that skilled."

Soon a little girl who had been outside and overheard came in and said to me "You shouldn't say beep words." (I assume she was referring to the "Shut up")

Knowing she was right, I had to swallow my pride and say "You're right I shouldn't have said that. I'll try and find more appropriate things to say next time."

I should try not to offend little girls, I don't think it's virtuous.

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Ranking Officer

Right now at Church the Senior Minister is away as is the Assistant Minister. Which makes me, the Youth Minister, the last remaining full-time staff member. I guess by chain of command I'm it. The remaining staff have taken to calling me the Senior Minister. It'll stay this way at least till Friday.

I'm planning on abusing the position. I might do a few communions for underage drinkers or condemn a few people to hell. Plus I might speed while wearing a clerical collar so I get let off. Oh what fun you can have when running a church!

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The Question

Is this a Spork or a Spalyd?


Please note that I got the image from here.

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I'm about to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. Classic! I'm so excited.

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With all this rain falling but never in the dam why don't they just move the dam? I'm sure it's not that hard is it?

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Today could be day of the hair cut. Scary.

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And while we're onto the whole "Reader comments thing" I have another question for all you readers out there (there's an average of 45 a day now, you're like an oversized public school class):

If you could say one sentence to the whole world what would it be?

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Actually, scrap that, I can't remember ever complaining outloud that I do have all my social life taken up. But I could be wrong. Have you heard me complain?

Have your say, right here.

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Ahh. I spent Saturday night alone in my house. Why is it that I complain that all my social life is taken up by stuff and then when I get a free Saturday night I have no social life to fill it with?

Anyway, I watched a DVD and ate take away food. Sal came around at one stage to drop a car off and I didn't invite her in for a drink. It was rather rude of me, sorry Sal. Oh well one day I'll learn to be friendly.

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My Sister Waits

Jo  waits.jpg

I like this photo. It looks a little posed, but it was what I saw when I walked out of the bathroom last night after brushing my teeth and I thought "I need to take a photo."

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I broke my fake tooth off again yesterday. Generally even though it's loose it'll sit in my mouth pretty snug. This time though I broke off lots of the glue that held it in place.

It's rather embarrassing being in the middle of a conversation with someone and having your tooth fly out of your mouth. It's happened to me many times in the past two days.

Happily it's all fixed and I have masses of glue in my mouth this time because my dentist said, he doesn't want to see me again.