From Sea to Shining Sea

by Barbara Ann Oliver

OK, hang on. This is going to be a fast trip.

It has been awhile since I have been able to get online, so here is a synopsis of the trip to Tasmania.

We left Bangalore by train on Monday evening and arrived in Trivandrum 18 hours later. We were met at the train station by brother P.K. Varghese, who took us to his home.

Several years ago, J.C. and Betty Choate had taken a site-seeing trip with the Varghese family. Since I had never been to south India before, Betty wanted me to see some of the sites (since we had not seen any so far – after a month!). So Thursday we went on a harrowing car ride to visit the palace of Patmanabhapuram and then down to the tip of India where the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean meet.

J.C. reminded me that I had been to Kashmir back when I had lived with the Choate family in India for a year and a half during 1972-74. Now, here I was at the tip of India. “Not many Americans can say that they have been from one end of India to the other”, he said. Wow! What an adventurous life I have had!

The next day, when we were ready to leave, Thankum, P.K.’s wife, had tears in her eyes. She told Betty that they had not had a holiday since that time many years ago when they had taken that one with the Choates.

We boarded a Sri Lanka Airlines plane on Friday morning at 9:00 am and got to Banderanaike Airport about 55 minutes later. Lilani Thomas, Reggie Gnanasundarum’s daughter, picked us up in her pickup. Lilani is great! Everyone should have the privilege of meeting her. Her life story is an inspirational one, and she tries to make every day count. You won’t be around her for more than a minute before you will hear her infectious laugh!

As she drove us to her house, to my surprise, I discovered that she lives about a quarter mile from the ocean! We got to visit it only one evening, though. We did a bit of relaxing there and left by plane on Sunday night at 1:30 am and got to Singapore three hours later at 6:30 am. That is not a math mistake! We were going backwards in time.

We went to the Supreme Hotel and checked in and slept for about 2.5 hours. Once again, I regretted my inability to sleep on a plane. We got up about 11:00 and picked up our tickets for the New Zealand-Australian part of our trip.

We left Singapore at about 8:00 pm that evening and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand on Tuesday morning about 9:00, and were met at the airport by John Staiger. We stayed at his house with his wife Linda and family and left by bus the next day for Palmerston North. The 10 hour drive was beautiful. Lots of sheep and cattle, snow-topped mountains, and beautiful beaches!

Thursday evening was the start of the Ladies’ Challenge. There were about 50 ladies who stayed in a cottage motel-like place at night and then drove to the church building for the seminar. Betty was the speaker, and she did a great job. The seminar ended on Saturday at about 3:00. We went back to Graham and Frances Walker’s to spend the night.

The next day after morning worship, the Walkers took us to Wanganui where we met Nathan and Rachel Paki and had dinner at their house. We hopped in their car and they drove us to Kent and Rachel O’Donnell’s house. They took us to New Plymouth the next day to meet Steve and Juricz Blackman and family. I also met her mother, Ma, who read to me out of the Samoan Bible and then made me read to her to make sure her lessons had taken.

The next day we went site-seeing in Taupo and stayed in a hotel that was 15 meters from the lake. Kent’s parents, Wally and Maureen had joined us and we all had a wonderful time together in that beautiful place.

Wednesday morning, we drove for a couple of hours and met Rex Banks, who had come down from Hamilton, just to drive us all the way to Auckland! He dropped us back at the Staigers and took off to get home in time for his Wednesday Bible study.

As we were driving up to John’s house, he turned to Betty and said, ‘The ladies have a Bible study tonight. I bet you would like to speak at that.’ With no preparation time, she headed into that study and did a wonderful job, as usual! When it started, Linda said that they usually had a prayer session in the beginning and then at the end, but for time’s sake they would dispense with the starting prayer. Betty, in a panic, shouted out, “Oh, no! We have to pray!”

By the time we got back from the ladies’ class, it was 10:30 pm. Since our flight was at 6:00 am, we decided that we would just go to the airport and wait instead of trying to get a few hours of sleep, only to get up at 1:30-2:00 in the morning to get to the airport, which was about an hour away. So John got us to the airport at about 12:30. We slept on some chairs, and I wondered around the airport until about 5:15, when we were allowed to board the plane. We went through Melbourne to Tasmania. As we were picking up our luggage, a voice behind said, “There you are! Welcome to Tasmania.” Dennis Grisham drove us home to his wife Shirley and she has taken good care of us ever since!

Whew! That was a fast trip, I know! We covered lots of miles and met lots of great brethren. We went from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, but wherever we were, we were with family, so we were home.

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