Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lady Elliot Island

One of the first things Clarke and I did on our trip after the media madness was to visit Lady Elliot island. It is beautiful! We boarded a tiny plane and WAY out in the middle of nowhere all of a sudden our pilot flew through a cloud and upon emerging from the other side we could see a little island sitting along in a vast sea of... well... ocean. It was pretty cool. He circled once and landed on the grass runway.

We were treated to a lovely day of relaxing on the beach - that's made up entirely of old, broken-down coral. In fact, the entire island is a coral cay. It exists only due to old dead coral piling up on itself. Eventually birds carried seeds and plant life started. Birds are the only animals living on the island. And some of them are a little cheeky, sneaking into the simple restaurant and stealing bits and pieces when they get a chance.











It only took about 45 minutes to walk all the way around the island and then it was almost time to go snorkeling, but I'll save the snorkeling bit for another update. In the afternoon we had lunch, played some ping pong (very badly) and just relaxed on the beach again. It was perfect. Just what we needed being that we were so shattered after the intense interview process.















Lady Elliot is the southernmost of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef and they have some simple accommodation there so you can arrange some dives. It's one of the best places to see the giant manta rays with seven-meter wingspans! You can even see them snorkeling, but I wasn't lucky enough this time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Decompression

So it's finally time for a real blog entry and where do I begin. I feel like a lot of people experienced Hamilton Island right alongside me. It could almost be a dream. I've never been in such a high pressure AND high profile position before. From the word GO we were being assessed and that was made very clear to us. "The bus will leave the lobby at 3:00 sharp. Not 3:05, not 3:01. 3:00 sharp and if you're not there, you will miss the bus, and that will be noted - you're being assessed. If you miss the bus, you won't be at the ferry on time so you'll miss the ferry and that will be noted - you're being assessed."

Wow, welcome to Hamilton Island! What the heck did I get myself into here? Andrew giving us the drill sergeant intro, the selection panel sitting directly behind us, the other fifteen candidates sitting around me, all with the same look on our faces - HOLY CRAP.

I guess it wasn't that bad, but I think we were all taken aback by how GRANDE it all was. Finally the other day it sorta hit me. I have a dictionary with 38,000 words in it. That's close to 34,684 so I flipped it open and chose a word - just one word out of hundreds of pages full of words. Even the top 16 of us were less than one page. Incredible. God does some amazing things, but all you have to do is take a look around at His amazing creation to realize that.

This is what they think our galaxy looks like... it's so massive they can only guess.

This is earth from 4 billion miles away! Everyone we've ever known, all our triumphs and failures, our peace and our war is right there on that Pale Blue Dot. Puts things in perspective.

But I digress... venturing back to an even smaller dot on that dot - Hamilton Island!
It was so amazing getting to know all the other candidates. We had much in common, but we're also very different. Coming from all over the world, the jargon and accents were very interesting and we shared more than a few laughs over confused speech. That is what was so amazing about it - we all got along so well. And I don't think it was just for show either. There was a very real sense of camaraderie. The TV and radio interviewers kept asking us who our biggest competition was, or what juicy details I could give, but there really weren't any. We all genuinely enjoyed each others company.

Having met Ben S and George at the SIN airport I got to know them early on and we got along really well. George is hilarious and Ben is going to be a GREAT Island Caretaker! Everyone was great, and now that I'm almost done in Singapore I'm considering a world tour of all their home cities. I'll welcome any suggestions on getting my air travel sponsored :)

This experience has opened my eyes to a whole new world. I never even considered traveling for a living, but now I am. I only just realized I'd be perfect for adventure tourism, and I'm going to pursue it! It's not time to go back to Minnesota yet. There is so much yet to do!

So, life-changing? Yes
Eye-opening? Yes
Incredible trip? Yes
More updates to come since I'm totally spent and can't think? Yes
Peace out!
-Greg

I woke up a tourist and became a dugong!

Here's the blog task from my third day on Hamilton.
See the original: http://islandreefjob.tumblr.com/post/103714909/greg0505

Today we headed to Daydream Island and I’ll tell you, this island lives up to its name! With mermaids awaiting our arrival and such a friendly staff, who couldn’t unwind and have a daydream or two here?

The weather didn’t allow us to sail to beautiful Whitehaven Beach, but thanks to Daydream Island’s amazing staff and flexibility, we had a memorable day anyway. There’s nothing like a little respite at Daydream Rejuvenation Spa! While I love a good massage, the Naturopath treatment suited me perfectly - it’s not every day I’m connected to electrodes! Don’t worry, there were no attempts to resurrect Frankenstein. This was the real deal and my therapist gave me some great news. The small electrical current running through my body provided lots of information about my fat content as well as my muscles’ condition. Tally it all up and I’m happy to report that my biometric age is 26! That’s five years younger – the most my therapist had ever seen! Made my day!

We went on to perform an Island Caretaker duty – Feed the Fish. If you’ve never fed stingrays or seen sharks tear fish to shreds, this is the place to go! My personal favorite was Pancake, the stingray, belching water out of the opening behind his eye… and onto me! Compliments to the chef!

Lunch was amazing! I’m seriously going to pack on some kilos during my six months here. Steak, lamb, crab, couscous, pasta, chocolate fondue, and much more! I loved it, enough said!

Lastly, we got to turn the cameras around on our media friends as they enjoyed the spa! A lovely taste of their own medicine, I say!

We took another lovely cruise home and were met by an interesting task to perform for our friendly media. Grab a bottle from the beach, find your team, and in fifteen minutes prepare a five-minute presentation on your topic. We presented on the natural wonder of the GBR! To do so, each of us became one of the reef’s many residents: turtle, groper, manta, crab, shark, and dugong. With a strange mixture of British and Eeore I somehow managed an apt dugong voice. And that’s how I woke up a tourist and became a dugong!

Monday, May 18, 2009

My first blog assessment task - May 4th

4 May Blog

In a word, today was Spectacular! The beauty and intricacy of the Great Barrier Reef cannot be aptly described in words, but I’ll give you my best shot.

Starting out on a Fantasea cruise out to the reef we had a rather bumpy ride. The strong wind brought in some large rolling waves, but we managed it just fine. I think it made the ride a little more interesting. En route we were privileged to learn all about Fantasea, Reefworld, and the Great Barrier Reef!

Did you know that Hardy Reef – the one we visited today – is a great place to spot humpback whales and manta rays with a seven-meter wingspan? Now you do! That’s not all; this is also a great place to go if you’re curious about mass-coral-spawning. It’s also home to coral that grows so close to the surface that it can actually be exposed to the air at low tide.

Fantasea and Reefworld work together to not only educate people about the largest reef in the world, but get them up close and personal too. Did you know the GBR is the largest and best protected reef in the entire world? That protection got its start 35 years ago, meaning that this is where you’ll have the best chance of seeing pristine coal of all sorts. And with Fantasea and Reefworld operating in the Whitsunday Islands it’s SO easy to see. All you have to do is enjoy the ride!

We took advantage of most of their offerings - riding the waves on the way out, snorkeling along the reef, and departing by air. But before I get too far ahead of myself, let me tell you about the amazing snorkeling.

If you’ve ever looked over a cliff you’ll understand what it’s like to look over the edge of a reef. Then again, you’ll have no idea at all. Sure, the drop-off into the depths of the ocean is similar, but nothing can compare to a cliff made by billions of living organisms scarcely two millimeters in diameter. All of these tiny creatures, called polyps, work together to form the reef by excreting limestone as an exoskeleton. Each different kind forms a different structure, and believe me when I tell you there are TONS of different corals. With a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, and structures, you could visit the same reef over and again and still have a new experience every time.

Oh, and don’t even get me started about the fish! They’re everywhere. Showing no fear I even had one come up and ask me to take his picture! I wasn’t able to find the fish-cleaning station, but I guess it’s meant only for the fish to use anyway. In case you didn’t know that’s a part of the reef many larger predators and prey lay down their arms to work together as the little guys swim in, out, around and through to help the big guys by cleaning out their mouth, teeth, and gills. What an amazing symbiosis. Divinely inspired, I’d say! I can’t forget to mention George, the resident groper fish. George is actually a female and she’s very famous. Being three meters long she should be! Make sure you ask the Fantasea staff about her when you make your visit!

After checking out the fish, giant clams, and reef up close and personal, we headed out from Reefworld in an entourage of two sea planes and two helicopters. That ride was pretty amazing! We had incredible 360o views of Hardy Reef (part of the GBR) from above. And it is just right out there in the middle of the ocean! As you trace the waterline from the horizon… BAM! There it is, out of nowhere, one of the most beautiful creations in the world. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take photos like the ones you’ve seen on your favorite travel shows! I highly recommend it. Here’s my favorite of many photos.



Landing on Hayman Island we were treated to cuisine from around the world. The master chefs on staff spoiled us with treats from all the countries our group represented! I must say Singapore’s entry, chili mud crab noodles, were pretty tasty! I do have to give a nod of genius to the delicious concoction from Canada too. Ice cream, maple syrup, and Cracker Jack goodness on a spoon! But don’t be mistaken, I think I tried nearly every food and dessert, despite having my fill, and all were… Delicious would sum it up in a word. And the resort? Gorgeous! It is luxury and style done to perfection! Everything from the building layout to the d├ęcor to the landscaping was idyllic! We were even treated with a tour of the Hayman Island chocolate room, kitchens, and Chef’s Table. If exclusive dining is your thing then the Chef’s Table is your destination! Seating only 24, the Chef’s Table is located right in the heart of Hayman Island’s kitchen area. This is fine dining! I was also a fan of the outdoor seating at the oriental restaurant. Hayman definitely lives up to its reputation of being a food paradise! Leaving Hayman behind we were indulged with a luxury boat transfer all the way back to Hamilton Island. It was a great ride with some fantastic wind in my hair – er… stubble – and delicious beverages were provided for all.


This has been a day to remember… and we’ve only just begun. The Whitsunday Islands are a MUST VISIT - twice!

See the original: http://islandreefjob.tumblr.com/post/103630013/greg0405

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's the End of the World as We Know It, and I feel... Fine

Well, to be completely honest I'm quite sad to be leaving this wonderful world of Oz. The sixteen of us became really close and the Tourism Queensland family welcomed us with open arms. From start to finish the entire process ran like clockwork and we were well taken care of all along. I'm pretty jealous of the few who are staying even longer to explore more of Queensland. I'll post connections to their blogs once I get proper Internet access. This phone-update thing is getting ridiculous. But at least I can do it while sitting in a plane :)

It's been an eye-opening and life changing experience! And I'm so thankful for it all. God has really walked me through and I am determined to use this experience for His glory!

I'll arrive back in Singapore in about 8 hours and I'm back teaching tomorrow. Absolute madness!
More to come as soon as my head stops spinning.

-Greg

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Onward

Of course I wanted to be Island Caretaker! But would you believe me if I told you I'm really excited for Ben? Seriously, he's going to be awesome! And this has really opened my eyes to a whole new world and who knows what might come from this amazing experience!

I'm currently traveling the Fraser and Sunshine Coasts with Clarke and it's been pretty incredible! We're both pretty shattered/wrecked/tired (whatever you say where you're from) after the intense interview process and the ensuing travel. I'll fill you in soon and I promise pix are coming.. Still haven't laid hands on a laptop!

Walking and blogging are a dangerous combination... So ta for now!
-Greg

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

So close I can taste it!

It's 10:17pm and I finally have a little downtime today. The last few days have been amazing and full on! I am so grateful to God for this amazing experience! The media experience, the opportunity to meet Tourism Queensland's amazing staff, meeting all the other highly qualified candidates, and, of course, staying in and doing so much in the islands of the Great Barrier Reef will be pretty hard to top! Thank you all for following along during this incredible ride! Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement too! I assure you that photos are coming as soon as I can upload them. Expect lots more detail too.

My official interview is tomorrow at 10:40am and the Island Caretaker is revealed at 3:00pm. That's 8:40 & 1:00 in Singapore, and 7:40pm (Tuesday evening) & midnight in Minnesota.

I love you guys!
-Greg

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Today in Paradise

Good evening!
Today was amazing. When we landed on Hamilton Island we were greeted by a flurry of media! I liken it to a cameraman firing squad. There were cameras and reporters everywhere! Poor Mieko was absolutely attacked by the three Japanese TV stations that came out. I don't think the US realized how big this us-they didn't send anyone. Neither did Singapore :( BUT we'll be live to the world, superceeding all other current affairs! Hopefully your media supplier gets it's feeds from Roiters!

We had a swimming test today and we all passed. Then came a briefing of the entire schedule-WOW! This is going to be FULL-ON and tons of fun. Next came media interviews, followed by a tour of my new home :) the Blue Pearl. It is amazing and I'll get you some photos a soon as I can upload them! (I'm writing from my phone). We finished with a nice BBQ, mingling, and for Greggy, a little bit of dancing!

Tomorrow is full and it's getting late.
Buenos Nachos,
Greg

Singapore to Brisbane to HAMILTON ISLAND

Greetings!
It has been quite a blur! I ran into Ben and George at the SIN airport! We flew to Brisbane, got checked in and did a little walkabout in Brisbane. It's a very cool city with a nice chill attitude. All the people we saw on the streets looked like they were just out for a nice evening. There were people of all ages and we even saw a group of street bikers not too far from a group of road bikers. Such harmony!

The weather is AMAZING! Most of the other finalists are coming from winter/early spring so it's nice and warm for them. I'm excited that it's a cool change. It's nice to need a jacket in the cool crisp autumn air. Evenings and morning are absolutely beautiful and the daytime has been equally good.

I was able to explore a little bit of Brisbane yesterday and made my way with Ben and Clark to South Bank which was abuzz with excitement, markets, and performances. Much of it was in preparation for Vesak Day. I was attacked by a water fountain. It was one of those that spout a thick stream over your head. I was being a cheeky tourist, standing under it and the pressure dropped off. I was doused from shoulder to knee! Visitors: Beward the attacking fountains!

Oh, I was even able to find some bubble tea! I love the little gelatinous globules mixed with the tea! I don't think Clark and Ben are big fans though. It grows on you, trust me. I guess it's a little like vegemite :) Don't worry, Australia, I won't eat all your Vegemite.

I knew meeting all the other Best Job finalists would be cool, but I think I underestimated the experience. Getting to know this crem de la crem, if you will, has been nothing short of awesome! I'm pretty humbled to be a part of such a fantastic group of people. It's still amazing to me that I'm here. What a tremendous blessing. Thank you, Jesus!

We haven't been attacked by media too much, but there are plenty of cameras around. They're coming from all over the world! My half-German heritage earned me an interview with the German interviewer! I suppose we can expect a lot more media as we progress. It is the best job in the world, after all :)

I'm sitting in the Virgin Blue airline lounge right now and we're about to head out to HAMILTON ISLAND! How exciting is that! We start off with a swimming test. I hope I pass!

I'll be updating as often as I can! Thanks for your prayers and support. Oh, Taylor - I'll do my best to upload as many pictures of the Great Barrier Reef as I can. Tell your 2nd grade class that "Uncle Greg says 'G-day mate!'". I love you!
-Greg

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Channel News Asia Primetime Morning

Looks like I'll be on Singapore's Channel News Asia Prime Time Morning show on Monday morning, May 4th! Check it out!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Flying High

Hey Ladies and Gents,
Right now I'm in the air on my way to Brisbane, Australia! I'm SO excited! I can't wait to meet all the other candidates and head out to the islands for some sweet adventures! I would greatly appreciate your prayers for safety for all of us. And that I will be able to witness and minister to everyone I encounter there.
Peace!