Day 10 – A Surprise Encounter and Kingston Rotary

I started writing this post on Tuesday. Then, I gave up trying to finish it because I was too busy having fun. And as I wrote last week – people are more important than writing.

But now I’m home so I am catching up on writing. Here is the complete piece. I will catch up on the rest very soon!

When we returned home from the Rotary District Conference on Sunday (March 22), there was a message from my friend and former music teacher Philippa. She invited us to attend an event being held on Monday morning at Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum in Hobart.

Douglas Mawson led the Australasian Antarctic expedition from 1911-1914.  He and his men established a settlement at Cape Denison in 1912. They established a radio connection with Macquarie Island and further explored the region. Philippa’s grand-uncle was one of the men on the Western Expedition team. He brought an organ to Antarctica – an organ!

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation was established in 1997 to conserve Mawson’s huts on Cape Denison. In 2013, they opened the replica museum in Hobart. The hut is a faithful replica of the actual hut on Cape Denison. The Foundation recently acquired the organ originally played by Philippa’s grand-uncle. You can hear Philippa play the organ and learn more about it from this news story.

Phillipa playing the organ in the replica hut.
Phillipa playing her grand-uncle’s organ in the replica hut.

Monday morning, we were fortunate to hear Philippa play the organ as part of the festivities surrounding a book launch for Mawson’s Remarkable Men, the new book written by David Jensen, Chairman and CEO of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation.

As we gathered in Mawson’s Pavilion for the speeches, a kind gentleman came over to say hello and shake my hand. He smiled at me and said, “Are you one of the descendants of Mawson’s men?” I laughed, and answered that I was just a friend of a descendant. He replied with a “Good on ya! Thank you for your support.” And that was my exchange with Sir Peter Cosgrove, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Sir Peter Cosgrove
Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia

Just in case you don’t know, here are some trivial facts about the Governor-General. The Governor-General is appointed by The Queen (as in Elizabeth II) on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Governor-General is the Queen’s representative to the Commonwealth. The Governor-General has certain ceremonial and constitutional responsibilities. In doing some research, I found this helpful page detailing the roles and responsibilities of the Governor-General. Does this chance encounter mean I am only two degrees of separation away from Queen Elizabeth?!

Malcolm and Rae’s younger son, Simon, works just up the street from Mawson’s Pavilion at Parliament House. Parliament was not sitting on Monday, so Simon was able to join us for a quick coffee in Hobart.

Australians have an interesting coffee culture. Australians may be laid back about many things, but coffee is not one of them. You can order a flat white, a piccolo, a macchiatto, or a cappuccino. You can get a tall black or a short black. But don’t waste time looking for regular drip coffee. So far, I have only had black drip coffee once since my arrival in Australia. Kelly and I are getting spoiled by our morning cappuccino. She is looking to order a milk frother for back home.

The skies were clearing when we got in the car, so we decided to risk a drive up kunanyi / Mount Wellington. The mountain is west of Hobart and is located within Wellington Park. There is a narrow road leading to the pinnacle and on clear days you can see for miles and miles when you get to the top. Although the skies were clear when we started, by the time we reached the summit we were blanketed by fog, wind and rain. We waited for a bit to see if it would blow over, but eventually decided it would be best to just drive back down. Sure enough, the skies cleared and we were able to capture a photo from a lower observation turn off.

The clouds cleared as we came down the mountain.
The clouds cleared as we came down the mountain. Looking east over the city of Hobart towards the Tasman Peninsula.

Monday night I was the guest speaker at Kingston Rotary Club. The Club invited special guests and I was thrilled my friend Phillipa could attend dinner. I was also excited to see Audrey, who was my third host mother during my exchange year. Audrey was visiting her daughter last week so I was not able to see her with my other friends on Wednesday.

I was humbled and honored to speak to the group which gave me the opportunity of a Rotary exchange experience. Kingston Rotary took it upon themselves to offer me a chance to have the best year of my young life. When I arrived in Tasmania back in 1990, I was greeted by my host father, and Kingston Rotarian, Gerry Verdouw who said, “There’s our gal!” I have always felt like I was Kingston’s gal, and I have done my best to always make them proud to have me as their representative. You can find wonderful Rotarians throughout the world, but you will have difficulty finding a group more fun, kind, or generous as the wonderful men and women from Kingston Rotary.

Twenty five years ago, Kingston Rotarians invited me to join them and shared with me their homes and their hearts. They welcomed me back, and generously provided my cousin and I with transportation and housing for this stay in Tasmania. Their continued belief in my abilities has strengthened my confidence. I express myself with words but I often find myself stumped when I try to find words to adequately express how much I appreciate all they have given me and taught me. I did my best to express it to the Club at the meeting and while the words may not have been everything I meant to say, the sincerity was genuine.

**This post was brought to you by Aunt Joan. She may not be my actual aunt, but she is still an inspiration in strength and determination. I appreciate your support and belief in me, and I am grateful for your assistance!

All photos used with permission from Malcolm W.