Sunday, March 25, 2012


The people of First Congregational Church congratulate the Thomas family on the baptism of their daughter Janeen. May the joy of the Lord be your strength, now and always. God bless you all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jessica Sloan studying in Australia

As most all of you know, Jessica Sloan is studying Down Under.  I'll just bet she is bored stiff and having absolutely no fun at all.  Yeah! Right!  If anyone would like to "cheer" her up a bit with a note from home, Jacki provided us with her address, so here goes:
Jessica Sloan
4/6 Mosbri Cresent
Newcastle, NSW 2300
I'm sure she would appreciate hearing from someone from home.
Also, here is an email of the first week of her adventures getting to know the area and getting settled in a new lifestyle in Australia even if for a short time.

February 20, 2012
Hello everyone!
I am sure all of you are excited to hear how I have been doing in the Land Down Under so I wanted to update you with this email and tell you about all about the exciting adventures I have been having this last week. So far I have been doing pretty well and I am simply ecstatic to be here. Classes have yet to start so I have been busy getting settled and having fun before the work begins.
As many of you know this trip is my first time out of the States and my first time to fly, so I want to share with you my experience on a plane. I was nervous to go through security because it was the first moment I was really on my own since mom and I just said goodbye to each other. Security really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Takeoff was by far the best part of the trip. I had a window seat and I thoroughly enjoyed watching everything shrink below me. The houses and cars looked like they were part of a children’s play set and I loved watching the clouds dance from above. After many hours (all together with waiting and layover was 28 hours) of sleeping upright in a cramped seat I got to watch the sun rise over the Pacific and have a spectacular view of Sydney on our descent. Customs was easy and then all I had to do was to wait for the rest of my group at the airport.
Because my program is through the University of Wisconsin-Platteville I am part of a group of students just like me who will take classes at the University of Newcastle and share accommodations with me. I am one of eight students and once we all arrived at the airport we traveled to Newcastle. Newcastle is the fifth largest city in Australia and lies about two hours north of Sydney along the coast. The shuttle bus taking us from Sydney to Newcastle dropped us off at our accommodations arranged by the University. We live in off campus apartment buildings located within a good walking distance to many of the hotspots in Newcastle like its beaches, the train station, Darby Street which has many quaint shops and cafés, and the night clubs.
I share an apartment with two other girls, Nicole and Shiana, from the program. They are both really nice and down to earth because they come from the Midwest, Wisconsin specifically. We share common living areas, kitchen, and bathroom. I share a room with Nicole which has been going well so far. We are responsible for our own meals here so we share tasks that need to be done like dishes, getting groceries, and cleaning. The others in my group include Amanda, Kelly and Melissa, who share an apartment above us, and Paul and Cory who share the adjacent apartment. We all really get along and we like to do things all together.
Shiana is center and Nicole is on the end.
Here is the whole gang. From left to right is Me, Nicole, Shiana, Amanda, Melissa, Kelly, Paul, and Cory.

Ok, so enough about the living situation, I want to share with you some of the fun things I have done.
On Wednesday, the day we arrived, we all decided to go out for drinks to celebrate our efforts making it to Australia. Don’t worry the drinking age here is 18 so I am perfectly legal.
The next morning, on Thursday, I awoke to such strange sounds and exotic smells that I really knew I was no longer at home. There were many bird cries, one of which sounds like a monkey. I relished the warm moist breeze coming through the window which carries the scent of palm trees and flowers in bloom.
After everyone was ready we headed out with our Newcastle coordinator Melanie Ball for a walking tour of the city. It was so beautiful that words cannot come close to how the ocean and sky really looked and neither do my pictures give it justice.
This is one of the cool buildings in Newcastle and it has palm trees in front!

Later in the day we went to the beach and it was my first time in the ocean! The water was colder than I expected but I became accustomed to it after a while. It was the saltiness and the pull of the waves that I couldn’t get over. I really knew I wasn’t in the Mississippi river especially when I felt so sticky after I dried off. Even though it was different, I still liked the ocean and I want to learn how to surf.
On Friday all eight of us went on a bus tour of Newcastle to see more of the beaches and the layout of the city. We went to visit one of the cool land features of the Newcastle area. We hiked to the top of Mt. Sugarloaf, which is really just a big hill, and from the outlook I could see all of Newcastle sprawled below with the beautiful ocean just beyond. It was a little hazy at the time so the pictures didn’t turn out quite as nice as I’d like. We continued to hike around Mt. Sugarloaf and we unfortunately got attacked by leeches. The leeches here don’t live just in swampy areas apparently, but also on the brush in dense moist vegetation. They usually are not such a problem but this summer (yes it is summer here) Australia’s Western coast has been experiencing unusual weather called El Niño, which means rainy or monsoon weather and with all the extra moisture creepy crawlies are out in force.
This is the view from Mt. Sugarloaf with Nicole and me in the frame.

Vegetation around Mt. Sugarloaf

After that the group decided to go to the beach. We had a fun time splashing in the waves, but then we chose to go exploring along the shore toward some rocky areas. There were some neat formations and mostly we had fun goofing around. Hopefully you can appreciate the beauty in the pictures I am providing.
The first picture is of Paul and Corey settling down to get some sun.
The second picture is of my group getting ready to make the plunge because the water was really cold that day. Left to Right: Nicole, Paul, Cory, Amanda, Kelly, Shiana, and Melissa
Here all of the ladies are posing for a photo. Left to right: Kelly, Melissa, Shiana, Nicole, Me, and Amanda
The second picture is of the cliff and rocks we were exploring.
We thought it would be fun to go out on this structure.
Here I am taking a picture of myself with a pretty background.
Shiana and Nicole being silly and having fun!

Later that night we decided to go out to a place called the King Street Hotel. Here in Australia a hotel has several meanings. One is the traditional sense of a hotel, another meaning is a bar, and the last is a club. Where we were going was a club and I had another completely new experience. The music was loud as is typical, but the style of dance is slightly altered from that which I am used to. Here people tend to have more space between them and they keep most of their movements’ vertical with side stepping. It is not that much different except for the fact that the guys actually dance here whereas they don’t usually in the Midwest. I had a good time with my friends.
On Saturday we had a tour of campus, which is ginormous. It used to be two schools that eventually combined somewhere in the last thirty years, and its mascot is a seahorse. It is certainly a beautiful campus but it is easy to get lost because the vegetation is so dense it feels like you are in a jungle. You can’t see many of the buildings in one spot so it is hard to orient yourself. I am hoping it won’t take long for me to get the hang of directions while I am there. The other thing about campus is that I have to take a train to get there. The train station is located about a ten minute walk from our apartment and then the ride is another ten minutes. Walking to campus from the train stop is about three to five minutes and then to cross campus takes another twenty minutes. So all in all I am going to be doing a lot of walking here whether it is to my class, the beach, a club, or to get groceries.
See all of the trees! Yeah that is pretty much all you see on this campus.

That night we decided to go out again but to a different club called Finnegan’s Irish Pub. It was really packed but I had another good night of dancing with friends. At this point with all of the walking during the day and dancing at night my feet were mostly blisters and in so much pain I limped all of the way home. I am still nursing my feet back to health but it is hard to find rest when my only real mode of transportation is walking.
Sunday was our free day and we decided to go to a new beach, the famous Nobby beach with the light house built on what used to be an island but is now connected to the mainland. Again it was pretty but this beach had more people than Barr beach. Also the water was full of seaweed; however with the larger waves I had fun swimming anyway. Pretty much everyone in the group got sunburned except for me and only on my nose. I am using sunscreen religiously because Australia does have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. My scalp did get burned from all of our outdoor excursions, so at the street fair we went to next I bought a sun hat. This fair was really cool because they closed down a street and many vendors were out selling their wares. There was so much to look at and everyone is so nice and upbeat I just really enjoyed myself.
Nobby beach and the lighthouse.

That is it for fun and exciting things so far because today was our official orientation which was not much fun. I hope you found this email from me informative as to what I am up to and descriptive enough so you can picture my new world. Thank you all so much for your support and well wishes because without it, I never would have gotten here. I do miss home but for right now I am having a blast and I hope it doesn’t make you too jealous. Thank you again and I will try to make weekly postings.
With the thrill of adventure,
See!  I told you she was bored and miserable.   lol  ;~)