Monday, October 15, 2007

Ben & Jerry's in Australia

Dragonheart Vermont proudly wore our Ben and Jerry's shirt at the Pink Parade to kick off the 2007 Abreast in Australia Regatta in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Hmmmm, I see a berry pink flavor in B & J's future.

The Endless Friday

Breakfast buffet. Yes! Fijian Music. Yes! Tropical fruits.Yes! And one more swim in paradise. Ahmron took us once again to Natadola Beach. We lingered one more time in the crystal clear water and white sandy beach. If ever anyone felt lucky, it was us. Gisella left our mark in the sand for any future passersby. See photo.

By late afternoon, we once again we had to say goodbye. This time to Gisella and Tingo who had 2 more days left in Fiji while Red, Mary Alice, Pam, Jane, and Linda headed homeward. A deep sadness came over all of us. After almost 3 weeks together, we were parting. The journey began by bus at 5pm. We arrived at Nadi International Airport by 8pm. We board Fiji’s airline, Air Pacific at 10:30pm for a 10-hour flight back to LA. It was hard to sleep but we tried. Joel strummed on his ukele that he bought. Everytime I looked over the aisles to Red, she was as wide awake as I was! I was entertained by Mick, an Australian professional lawn bowler, who was heading to LA for a tournament . .. and people think dragon boating is unusual!!!!! We got to LAX at 6:39am on Friday morning. Was this a déjà vu!!!!!!

We took a taxi ride out of the airport to a restaurant in Manhattan Beach to pass the time before our next flight that unfortunately does not take off until 9:40 in the evening. Isn’t there a law that forbids an airline from booking a person on two red eyes in a row!!!! Trust me, there should be. We are so tired but almost all of us crunched into middle seats so sleep is not easy to come. Thankfully, the plane lands in Philly and it is no longer Friday but the start of Saturday morning and we are in the City of Brotherly Love. After 9 flights on our journey without a hitch, we should have known our luck would run out. The USAirways rep tells us that Red, Mary Alice, and Pam are set for a midday return to Burlington but alas Beth, Joel, and I are not. We strangely have a reservation but we do not have a seat assignment! So, assign us a seat, right? With this weekend being peak color for our leaves, every flight going into Burlington from ANYWHERE is not just booked but overbooked! Darn those leaf peepers!!! We sadly watched Red, Mary Alice, and Pam get on the flight but still had hope that we would get on. When the door was slammed shut, we knew the gig was up. We could wait until Monday for flight into Burlington or our only hope was a standby flight into Manchester, NH. Perhaps it was our long faces or our puffy eyes, but fortunately we made it on board this New England-bound flight. We got a rental car and Beth drove us the rest of the way home. Joel slept soundly in the back seat. Beth and I gabbed and stopped at every rest stop as we tried to stay awake. Home never felt so sweet. My first sight of John was even sweeter.

I want to thank all of my Team Aussie ‘mates for sharing in this vacation of a lifetime. It was so fun-filled. I was so proud of our teams for the great efforts. Our BCS team went out and gave it their all at the regatta. I do believe that we savored each moment of each and every day. Our supporter team was definitely awesome. Only a fulltime Aussie team beat them but trust me they were flying down that course. I speak for our entire BCS team when I thank our Team Aussie supporters for helping us every inch of the way. Such great people. We have so many stories and photos to share with you all. We surely wish that all of our Dragonhearters could have joined in. NO worries. I have 650 photos that I took myself. The 28 others of us on the trip probably have the same. Trust me, you will feel like you took this trip when you come to our photo party. Our Team Aussie was truly a team—people caring for and looking out for each other. I feel so proud and soooo fortunate. Special people. Oh so special time together. There are so many memories to share with you all. For me, the most touching moment of all was seeing our very own Dragonheart teammates assembling at the airport and giving us the most special send off. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the best!!!

NOTE: Team Aussie: Please complete the blog with your trip reflections. Filling in the missing pieces. Add some photos. Add your final notes. Contact me if you need instructions in how to use the blog. Marianne and John, we would love to know how John did running the Melbourne Marathon. How was your climb? Please blog it. Peter and Karen how was New Zealand? It surely was incredible. Please write it up with photos on your blog.

We would like to compile the best photos into a slideshow. Is there some Team Aussie member willing and able to take on this task? Please let me know ASAP. I would love to be able to share these photos at the Breast cancer Conference on November 2.

Our Last Night in Fiji or Getting Lei-ed in Fiji

Our last night in Fiji began with a long dip in the pool and a stroll over to Gisella’s and Rafi’s (we now have learned that Rafi’s nickname is Tingo) so —Gisella’s and Tingo’s bure. As the sun was setting, we sat on their front porch swinging on their hammocks. Tingo had been saving a bottle of champagne that he bought in the duty-free shop. He poured the glasses of Moet & Chandon with a chaser of African chocolates. As if this moment was not special enough, Joel showed up with a big box. What happened next took us all by surprise! Would you believe that we got lei-ed by Joel! Yes, Joel placed beautiful flower leis around our necks. He had arranged for the wife of the taxi driver to make flower leis for all of us. How incredibly sweet is that! The necklaces were made from the most fragrant flowers ever. We found out the flowers are called Frangipani. I think we call them plumeria in America. The smell is unforgettable. The look on Joel’s face when we said that we were going to tell all of you that we got lei-ed by him was priceless. Even better was Mary Alice’s comment that she got lei-ed in her room when Joel was chivalrous enough to deliver the lei directly to her room. Snicker. Snicker.

Our digestive tracts managed to take in one more meal. We even topped off the night with a special chocolate soufflé—a house specialty. It was delicious. Knowing our adventure was nearing an end, we took turns commenting on our favorite moments of our trip (Caloundra, Cairns, Sydney, & Fiji. All of our memories are so special. We can’t wait to share the stories with you. When we finally got up to go, we realized that we were the last of the diners in the restaurant. The waitstaff asked if this was our last night. We said it was and they asked us to sit back down. They soon assembled all of the waitstaff and offered up a special farewell song for us. The song was so beautiful. It expressed the best wishes for safe travel and happy life . . . until we make our way back to Fiji to be part of their family here again. Their voices blended so beautifully. I am sure that they sing this song night after night but they made us believe that they were singing this especially for us.

We took a photo of us all together with the waitstaff. Each and every server hugged and kissed us goodbye. When was the last time that this happened to you? We then took a photo of just them. They mugged and laughed for the cameras. They clearly loved it! We are going to send the photos to them and hope that they get copies. I know that we will forever remember this kind and gentle people.

Natadola Beach Day – Tuesday October 9, 2007

The day began with yet another breakfast buffet that has always included eggs, bacon, and baked beans! All of us hope in the Toyota van to explore the island with Ahmron. The goal is find the most beautiful beach on the island. Ahmron tells us that he knows just where to go. He takes us to Natadola Beach and clearly the beach is incredible. White sand beaches. Azure waters with gentle waves lapping op on the shore. We have the beach to ourselves, except for a few locals who are selling bead necklaces, coconuts, or horseback rides. The Fijians are extremely friendly and polite wherever we go.

We took our obligatory group photo and then swam in the 80° water until our hands looked like prunes. We dried ourselves in the sun under the rain umbrellas that we borrowed from the hotel. When our breakfast buffet finally wore off, we made our way to a little lunch place for fresh fish and fruit. Yum-O! After lunch we walked the beach almost pinching ourselves that we were in paradise. We loaded back into the van—did I mention that there are 9 of us squeezed into this 7-passenger van. And we check out the local village called Sigatoka for yes, anther shopping excursion . . . even Pam shopped with enthusiasm! By the time we returned to the Outrigger, there were only a few minutes to shower and change for the night’s activities. On tap was the Fire Walking Ceremony where yes, the Fijians do walk across burning coals in bare feet. OUCH!!! There were no stunt doubles here nor did any tourists offer to try it. Then it was off to a seafood buffet, tons of desserts (just ask Joel), and a traditional Fijian song and dance ceremony. I have never experienced such happy and musical people. They drummed on hollowed-out tree trunks, strummed on ukeles and small guitars, and acted out their traditional songs. The Fijians are so good that they make the Happy Birthday song sound mellow and so melodic. At one point in the ceremony, we noticed that Pascal (for those of you who went to camp and remember our Coach Pascal) was up and dancing among the Fijians dressed in a necklace of healing herbs and flowers in his hair. Clearly, he makes friends wherever he goes.

Bilibili Races Fiji Day

Flower Ceremony

Flower Ceremony

Savunamatelaya Waterfall Fiji

Bilibili Races

Monday: FIJI Day!

It was not until the morning after a great night’s sleep on truly heavenly beds, we woke up in the morning to verify that we had arrived in paradise. Beyond all the hotel rooms, bures, and pools, we could see the glistening Pacific Ocean. The water was a beautiful bluish-green color and the waves broke off in the distance. The beach closest to the resort was filled with coral that was completely uncovered in low tide and undetectable during high tide. We walked the beach and collected shells and discovered blue starfish everywhere. We were startled by what looked just like water snakes but at closer glance we were glad to learn that they were just plantlike snakes. Whew!!!

Gisella and Rafie (Tingo) wondered off the resort and quickly made friends with the locals. Gisella had her hair braided and beaded (108 braids in all). She looked like a carefree teenager (photos to follow for sure). Tingo had a massage and was rejuvenated as well. Before long, we all hopped aboard a Toyota and headed into town with a nice taxi driver named Amron. We soon learned everyone was in town. Why? It was Fiji Day, Fiji’s national holiday. It is a day like our 4th of July. All the businesses were closed and everyone was down at the riverfront for the big event of the day, the Bilibili Races. Imagine a Fiji version of our Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival. This was the community event of the year! Every resort on the island sponsors a team in the races. They have matching t-shirts in bright colors with matching bilibili boats. Only men raced in the billbili event although the women took part in kayak races leading up to this big competition. The boats are handmade out of bamboo. They resemble a dragon boat in many ways but maybe not quite as long. Where our boats are high tech, theire’s are long tech. This is no way diminished the skill, determination, and spirit. Like our races, they are all heart. Each team had 7 paddlers. The last paddler was the steersperson. He sat in the back and steered with a paddle. It seemed that most of them were waist deep in water as they tried to keep the boat on the straight and narrow. Some teams positioned themselves in one long line. Others sat their paddlers 2 by 2. We positioned ourselves out on the bridge where we could see the boats coming down the river and the locals rallying on the shore. Seated in front of us were mostly kids who were actually sitting on the railroad tracks with their legs dangling out over the river. Each team had their supporters dressed in their colorful shirts. Canopies were set up all along the river where they were barbequing and cheering on their teams. From our vantage point, It look ld go on. As soon as the train passed, the kids hopped back on the tracks and the race began. The race course was probably a bit shorter than our festival racecourse , say 200 meters. Of the 11 contenders, 2 kept the boat on the straight and narrow. The others either capsized or zigzagged down the racecourse. Everyone cheered loudly for the favorite teams. In a matter minutes, the green and yellow team from the Fijian Resort was declared the winner of the 2007 Bilibili Races. There were smiles and cheers everywhere. We wove our way down to the riverfront and had our photo taken with one of the Bilibili Race teams. Go Dragonheart! We even scored some Bilibili Race shirts which has a its own story, which will surely share at another time. In any case, we really felt lucky to be part of this special celebration. ed like a dragon boat festival and we had to pinch ourselves that we were in Fiji watching Bilibili Races. Just as they were going to sound the start of the race, the kids of the tracks suddenly hopped up and jumped over to the bridge where we were. Believe it or not, a train was coming by!!! Luckily, it only consisted of an engine and 1 car so that the show cou

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sunday: Ahhhhhh.. Fiji Time!

International dateline goes through the center of Fiji . Believe it or not, there is a 16-hour time difference between Fiji and Vermont! After a 5 hour plane we arrived in Nadi to sweet welcome of ukele music and a gift of a shell necklace. Fijians are the most amazing people. They give everyone the most cozy welcome everytime they see you. Bula! Hello. Supposedly the louder and more energetic you say BULA!, the longer life you will have. Don’t you love it? We were told that while we were in Fiji, We were all part of the family and I have to say it was a very peaceful feeling.

We boarded a bus after we retrieved our bulging suitcases. We were told to go to the restrooms because it would be a hour drive to the resort. If truth be told, it was more like a 2-hour drive down some dark windy roads before we arrived. There were some moments of anxiety as we realized that none of us had bothered to check out where we were staying. We were trusting that GoWayTravel would come through again. We pulled up the Outrigger Resort and the entire waitstaff came out to sing us a song and welcome us. It was long before a tropical drink was placed in everyone’s hands and a butler was taking our bags to our rooms. The Veve’s choose to stay in a bures. It was a traditional Fijian thatched cottage with butler service and hammocks on the front porch. We thought we could hear the ocean in the distance.

Sunday’s Farewell

It was a bittersweet farewell for all of us. After 2 unforgettable weeks together, it was time for our first goodbyes. After hugs and kisses and, of course, photos were taken and we departed to lands afar. John and Marianne headed to Melbourne where John was running in this year’s marathon. Way to go, John!!! Then, they were off to take on the challenge of climbing Oz’s highest peak, Mount . .. . something (please help us here Marianne and John to fill in the details and let us know how your journey went.) Peter and Karen were headed to the breathtaking country of New Zealand to sightsee and even ski. Please, Peter and Karen, let us know all about it! Pam, Red, Mary Alice, Jane, Linda, the Bradley’s and Veve’s headed on to tropical Fiji. The remaining Dragonhearters headed home to Vermont. Please let us know how your journey home was. I am sure there was loads of chuckles.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blue Mountains or Bust! Sydney and surrounding area, Australia: Oct 6th

We had a hard time getting everyone rallied to get on the bus again. Like obedient children we lined up and took our seats. The trip began with a stop at a park where we had breakfast with the animals. The breakfast was poor but we got to photograph some of Oz’s most beautiful animals. We got to pet a wombat, a strange 70 lb nocturnal marsupial that was oh so huggable even though she was yearning for a good day’s sleep. We saw koalas precariously perched in trees as they slept. We had our pictures taken with a sweet koala mom with a baby in her pouch. She only put up with us only because she was being fed continuously eucalyptus leaf offshoots. The handler said these leaves were like caviar to her and she refused to eat any of the old leaves. From there we walked among kangaroos, emus, and sheep. We saw kookaburras sitting on a gum tree brand and fruit bats hanging upside down.

Then back in the bus for 2 hours to the Blue Mountains with great anticipation. We stopped for a 10 minute view of the landscape. This was breathtaking and has to be comparable to the majesty of our Grand Canyon. Elaine walked up to the Aboriginal that was at this overlook. He said to her do you know what happens when a woman stands behind an Aboriginal male? Elaine learned she is now betrothed to him! Congratulations Elaine, sorry Steve! A lunch followed at a beautiful Victorian hotel complete with ornate stained glass and painted ceilings. Once again, we were served and ate in record time! Then on to shopping in the village of Leaura. One interesting side note on the way home was a stop at the home of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The coolest thing about that is that it was totally off the grid. The site created enough solar power to power the Olympics and were still able to give back to the grid. Note: this was the site of the 2007 World Dragon Boat Championship.

The night was young. Jim, Penni, Louise, Marianne, Jeanne, Peter, Karen, Roberta, Elaine, Glenna, and Pam took up Jeanne’s recommendation and experienced the Lord Nelson Pub and their great brewed beer. We first were entertained and took pictures of the silhouette of a man showering across the street. We had a jolly old time and a great evening of cheer.

Livona, Trish, and Mary Ellen ate at the Grace Hotel’s café and spent hours talking, giggling, and enjoying each other’s company. They enjoyed having a front row seat for the Sydney Walk for the Cure where they got to take in pink power once again.

Ann Marie, Linda, Mary Alice, Red, Jane, Paula, Beth, Joel, Gisella, Tingo, and Cheryl were lucky enough to snag tickets to this season’s opera, Tales of Hoffman. It was as intimate as any of the best theaters in NYC. Though the plot line was unmemorable, everything else about it was unforgettable. The acoustics, seating, voices, choreography, costumes, and staging were magnificent. Being able to actually view the pit orchestra was a treat. The voices were so incredible that if you had closed your eyes you would have thought it was Pavarotti singing to us! Did we mention the bathrooms? Ask us to see the photos.

Harbour Cruise and So Much More! Sydney, Australia: Oct 5th

It was the most gorgeous day with brilliant skies and 23 degree temps …. Centigrade!! We hoped aboard the buses, once again, with 300 of our traveling friends for a bus tour of Sydney,. We saw the botanical gardens, old English quarters, Mrs. McQuarie's seat, gorgeous cliffs overlooking the many inlets of the bay. The highlight for many of us was Bondi Beach. It was a fabulous surfing and swimming beach within the city limits. It had beautiful white sands, turquoise water, and great waves. The best part is it was free to all! We frolicked in the waves and would have loved to go for a swim but alas it was back to the bus and on to the harbour lunch cruise aboard the Captain Cook Cruise Lines. As we waited on line still with our 300 friends, a large Captain Cook boat came into the dock, took one look at us and headed out again. Before long, another CCCL came into the dock. This ship was twice as big. We all loaded up and enjoyed a lovely lunch while taking in the Sydney from the prospective of the water looking back at the city. Magnificent! We learned that the harbour is the second largest in the world. Homes on the bay went from millions to tens of millions. It was all so beautiful that we did not want it to end. In fact, it didn’t for five of us (Pam, Ann Marie, Penny, Jim, and Linda). They made a pit stop and when they came out of the bathroom to a surprise. The crew thought the boat was empty. The boat departed the dock. We were stowaways on Sydney Harbour for another cruise. What luck!!

That afternoon was filled with discovery for all of us. Shopping, walking, picture taking. In the evening everyone set off in a different direction. Jeanne and Glenna went to Australia’s oldest pub called the Lord Nelson’s Pub. Girls, can you fill us in on the details? Red and Mary Alice went to the Sydney Tower. It was an incredible experience. They got there at 5:30pm and were seated by the window. The sunset and panoramic view that unfolded during their almost 2 hour rotation was truly “over-the-top”. Carol, Louise, and Laura went to the Aquarium and were amazed by the number of sharks. Roberta was off for an evening with Kate, her son’s girlfriend who is studying in Sydney. Trish, Elaine, Cheryl, Ann-Marie, Mary Ellen, Paula, Linda, and Pam took the monorail and checked out Chinatown. We found it hard to choose from the many restaurants but when we did we got a good chuckle. The hostess, excited by a table of nine diners physically picked up and made some other diners who were eating move to another table so we could have a big table. We sat down, ordered, and ate in 20 minutes flat! (Linda says only 10 minutes, you know how she likes to exaggerate!)

WOW ! Sydney, Australa October 4 2007

Hello again , after a week of has been grand and we are back in the USA where we can once again communicate, as we wait for our flight in LA to take us to Philly and on to Vermont. Stay tuned for more to come...we welcome any team Aussies to add to the blog

We left Cairns with yet heavier suitcases after a few more opportunities to shop. I don’t think anyone was prepared for the beauty of Sydney. We stayed at an old elegant hotel called The Grace. The first evening was fun-filled as groups headed off in different directions to explore the city. Sydney is alive at night. It twinkles with all its city lights and city life: shops, restaurants, clubs. The harbour is simply brilliant! All the photos you have ever seen do not do justice to its majesty. The Sydney Harbor Bridge is the backdrop for center city and is all lit up at night. You can walk across it center span for free. You can even climb its upper span for $150. But it requires some courage and a breathalyzer test. You must wear a wind suit and be cabled in as you climb to the top of the bridge. No one was game, how about you?

By far, the most incomparable site was the Sydney Opera House. It really takes your breath away. The first night, last minute, the Meyers, Pam, and Linda were able to take in a Gilbert and Sullivan show called The Gondoliers. We were first blown away with the architecture. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house.

Red and Mary Alice ventured down to the Darling Harbour, a center that includes the aquarium, wildlife center, shops, and lots of cafes and outdoor restaurants. Roberta, Elaine, Mary Ellen, and others also ventured down to this fun area the first night. The Veve’s and Bradley’s went out for a night on the town to the tallest building in Sydney with panoramic views of the city. Paula and Jane visited the Botanical Gardens this evening since both are master gardeners. Marianne and John met a friend and ate at Jordan’s in Sydney Harbour. Jim and Penni met their Two Abreast friends for the evening. They enjoyed a monorail ride and ate in Chinatown. (Anyone other team Aussie that is reading this please fill in the blanks or create your own heading in the blog to fill in the blanks!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Trip of a Lifetime

We spent a long time dreaming and preparing for this wonderful trip to Australia!!!! The team was on the go from the moment we stepped on Australian soil and didn't stop until we were back home again. I remember reading the itinerary of all the wonderful places we were going to visit and all the exciting things we would experience, like the rainforest, breakfast with the animals(we didn't actually eat with them; although I did eat a couple of them for dinner one evening), Bondi Beach, the great-barrier reef, etc. The most exciting experience for me was meeting wonderful people from all over the world and sharing this special dragonboat event with them. I even made two new friends from differrent countries who I will keep in contact with. I can't wait until 2009 for the next World-wide Breast Cancer Regatta!!! ~ Trish Alden

Monday, October 8, 2007

Let's go surfing by Laura and Glenna

Let's go surfin now, everbody's learnin how... well not everybody, just Laura and Glenna. On the first night of our stay in beautiful Coloundra, Laura and I found an advertisement for a surfing school. We were having problems deciding between learning how to surf or riding camels on the beach. We wished there was time to do both, but in the end we decided we'd have a better chance of having a gorgeous surfing instructor, so that's what we chose. We inquired at the front desk about the classes and where we could find this surf school filled with babes. We booked a 1 1/2 hour "private lesson" and spent that night dreaming of hot guys, surfboards, and oh yeah, great waves.
Jeanne and Linda told us to practice our "pop-ups" before getting to our session. (We wouldn't want to look foolish in front of our future husbands.) So, Laura and I practiced "popping up" from our bellies to our feet in one fluid motion. Hmmm, how are we going to look good doing that? We practiced a bit and felt pretty confident in our abilitites.
The morning had arrived and we were full of excitement. We couldn't wait to try surfing! Laura and I had talked our moms Carol and Paula into going with us to take photos. We needed pictures to show our future children how we met their fathers.) When we arrived at our lesson, we were greeted by a very cute, very tan young man. We were glad that we had already practiced our "pop ups". He told us John would be our instuctor, so we patiently waited for him to show up. Much to our surprise, our "hunky" surf instructor turned out to be closer in age to our mothers than to us. Oh well, we were ready to surf anyway.
We were issued a "rashie", our surf school tops, and got a quick lesson on the sand. We were off, running into the surf, like first rate surfer girls. Within the first few minutes, Laura and I had managed to actually get up on our boards! John told us we were naturals! We sure felt like it. By the end of our lesson, we had figured out how to turn our boards and everything! It was so much fun surfing in Australia, and even more fun doing such a great job at it. The next chance we get, we definately want to try it again. John was an AWESOME teacher and who knows, maybe next time we'll do even better!

Something to Blog (Brag) About

Airplane food was never so tasty as flying Quantas Airlines- according to Jeanne, Roberta, Mary Ellen and Elaine. Beef stir fry and Asian noodles, chicken with a lemon sauce, hot fluffy white rice, mush-but colorful vegetables, a wonderful selection of red and white wines to compliment this meal along with mars bar and a delicious chocolate creamy ice cream bar. --covering all 3 important food groups, chocolate, wine and chocolate! The happiest people ever got off this plane. Does it get any better?!!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007 Great Barrier Reef

Wednesday, October 3, 2007 Great Barrier Reef

The team hopped on board the Quicksilver catamaran to high tail it 34 miles out into the Pacific Ocean to explore one of over 2,000 coral reefs that grow in this region. We began the adventure with a spot of tea and some ginger tablets to ease the queazy tummy. The day was overcast but could not put a damper on our excitement.

When we reached our destination, a platform in the middle of one of these reefs, our boat docked and served as our lounge for the day. Most of us donned these memorable blue lycra suits that covered us from head to toe, to avoid the poisonous jellyfish sting. Imagine telebubbies or The Blue Man Group minus the talent or smurf or oompaloopa from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We were quite the sight.

Into the coral sea we dove to join 1000’s of wild colored fish and float above the live coral that is the only living organism that can be seen from the moon.

Personal comments from the Dragonheart group:

Rafi & Gisela comments- After about 1 ½ hours of exhausting snorkeling we swam over to a rectangular floating buoy, where we hung our arms around for a brief rest and gave three Dragonheart cheers for the unique opportunity of bonding in this heritage site that is the Great Barrier Reef. We were giddy with delight and pinching ourselves for the unbelievable moment. Not only did we see hundreds of fish, but the support staff fed the fish and the fish came up to our hands to be petted.

BTW- (Side comments)-Rafi is an experienced diver and dove down with his snorkel and took pictures. When we saw the camera we knew right away that he was not just another big blue fish.

Mary Ellen comments- The Great Barrier Reef,-a paradise of beautiful coral and breathtaking fish, mountain ranges and a “Quicksilver” boat ride!

Cheryl comments- Thanks to Jim and Penn on my second trip of the day out snorkeling, I saw a beautiful coral reef made up of blue and turquoise. We entered the water during feeding fish time and it was quite exciting to see the fish surface with mouths open to feed. We really did swim with the fish. It was a wonderful day. Many great moments and memories were had for everyone.

Louise comments- Carol, Laura and I snorkeled until Laura was too cold to stay in the water any longer. The vibrant colors of the fish and coral were amazing to see. After a great buffet lunch, we three went out in the semi-submersible submarine and we delighted to see a minke shark swim by us. What a memorable day it was.

Elaine comments- I snorkeled for the first time and what an experience! I loved seeing and being so close to all the fish. The submersible sub was also a great experience! It is still hard to believe we were at the Great Barrier Reef!!

Jeanne comments- The time we spent at the Great Barrier Reef was truly one of the most spectacular and amazing activities of this trip. I have never seen such a large expanse of living coral, so colorful and vibrant, in all my life. I not only snorkeled at the reef, but had the opportunity to scuba dive with a group as well. It was truly an experience and I felt so fortunate and blessed to have done so. Seeing the multitudes of colorful fish and such a wide variety of coral was fascinating. I even had the opportunity to pet a large fish, while my dive master held it and I placed my hand in a giant clam shell to see it slowly close up. The water was so blue and clear that I was mesmerized the whole day. Words can’t really describe the beauty we saw that day.

Roberta comments- Have you ever eyeballed a giant grouper? Well, I can now say I have. She really wasn’t a grouper, but something very similar with a pale yellow body and fins the color of turquoise coral. Swimming with schools of yellow striped fish is a hoot! What a magnificent day on the trip to OZ. Oh,- if you all could only have been here.. Miss you.

Penni comments- The Great Barrier Reef is just that. Soooo Great. The experience was a moment of joy. I wanted to just giggle with delight. The fish and coral were vibrant. Cheryl pulled me in for a second swim and that was even better than the first. I felt braver and went out to the white buoys. What a wonderful part of creation. I am so blessed to say I swam in the reef with my Dragonheart friends.

Jim comments- My trip to the Great Barrier Reef started perfectly thanks to our new friend Oliver from Montreal. He gave Penni and me each a Dramamine. Otherwise, between the bus trip of 1 ½ hours on a very winding road and another 1 ½ hour boat ride out to the platform by the reef, it could have been a sickly disaster! Instead, we suffered no ill effects of motion sickness. Even with my mild case of claustrophobia, I entered the glass bottom sub with a surprising amount of comfort. As for my experience snorkeling on the Great Barrie Reef, nothing on my trip compares to it. Can’t wait to show my pictures and tell my stories.

Red comments- Our trip to the Great Barrier Reef was great! While trying to navigate my way out, my mask kept filling with water and Penni spotted me and came back helping me along the rope, pointing out where to look and staying back with me. Thanks Penni!

Carol and Laura comment- The sound of the reef were fascinating. Parrot fish crunching on the coral- broken coral pieces tinkling in the current, and of course the waves swishing over our backs. And then there was that shark…..

BTW- side comments- Everyone returned safe and sound- No bites or stings or missing digits.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Reflections of Festival PINK Weekend--Mary Alice

Few events in life defy description, and this was one.

Friday night, acres of women in pink boas, tutus, cowboy hats, shirts, tuille, wigs, and everything else that can be put on a body paraded through the streets of Coloundra. (Even our supporters wore pink! Hooray for them.)

First impressions for me were the joy and energy of the women. The sweetness and friendliness of approx. 1500 survivors and supporters waiting for the parade to begin was so exciting. And what fun! The costumes kept getting more outrageous and innovative as new groups appeared. We also saw friends from other festivals and events--making the world seem so tiny.

Prior to the start of the parade we started to swap pins with women from Australia, Singapore, Italy (the most coveted), Canada, New Zealand, Tasmania, and of course the USA. Little did I know that the SWAPPING would eventually become a very big deal.

Throughout the week before the Festival we were impressed and awed by the sincerity of the welcome, the courtesy, and the kindness that the people of Coloundra showed us. But that was nothing compared to the reception we received while marching through the Main Drag in the little town. Storefronts, balconies, large trucks, and people were all decked out in pink. Six to eight people deep lined up in some spots, cheering and applauding us. We returned the favor by repeating our chants and songs over and over. We had overtaken this small town and then they, in turn, took over our hearts! We started shouting, "Thank you, Australia! Thank you, Coloundra!" meaning it from the bottom of our hearts.

At the end of the parade, we arrived at an oceanfront park for Opening Ceremonies. The most interesting part of the evening was watching our teammates show up in other team's shirts. Don't ask me how this was accomplished, suffice it to say this was the official beginning of the SWAP mania! (The most coveted shirts were the Missibittititti shirts--for obvious reasons.) It was precious to see everyone having so much fun!

At the races the next day, we were stunned and astonished to see en masse the number of women in pink who came from all over the world to race. And, according to the Tickled Pink team--they had " . . . one boob, two boobs . . . or None!" Guess you had to be there. And we were all paddling 500 meters in under three minutes--quite a feat! Strong in body, stronger in spirit!!

Of course the swapping continued. More pins, more shirts, then hats, flags, jewelry, and then almost underwear. Ask Gisela about that!

So much fun . . . so much camaraderie . . . so many laughs--it was an experience of absolute joy!

By the way--we won our first race too!

The next day through great luck, we were one of the twelve boats to participate in the flower ceremony. This ceremony was particularly special for all of us because in addition to all the survivors on our boats, we were able to look at the shore and see all the others-- so much pink!!

This, to me, is the epitome of activism for Breast Cancer. We are here, we are strong, we may be missing some body parts, but we want the world to see us and take note. We want newly diagnosed women and all survivors to have HOPE. It was all there on the shores and waters of Lake Kawana!

I am so proud of my team and all the other participants. I am stilled awed by how much this experience affected me.