of pumpkins & birthdays…

I came downstairs, this morning, and was thoroughly happy birthday-ed by my family, which was quite fun. A bunch of enthusiastic little girls, and at least one of them flinging themselves at me in her excitement. I did miss the Mother’s Day excitement, as they had given their mum her present a while earlier, and everyone had some of the tea that came in the boxed assortment. Later, I received chocolates and tulips, for my birthday present.

They left for Mass at 8, but I was headed to the Emerald Christian Assembly, so I didn’t have to leave until a little after. I was nervous about the drive, but it wasn’t a difficult route, and there was very little traffic, so nothing crazy happened on the way. I arrived, parked the car, and tried to figure out which part of the fence actually opened. There was a childproof metal gate that completely threw me off, and then a large palm frond fell from the tree, right where I’d been standing a minute or two before. It wouldn’t really have hurt, but it would definitely have startled me, and Russell’s first impression of me might’ve been me shrieking in surprise.

I enjoyed the meeting and breaking of bread with fellow believers, though it was in a slightly different order than I’m used to, and every song was accompanied by piano and guitar. It was nice, just different. Before everything started, a gentleman came over to talk to me, and I found out afterwards that he was the speaker, as he went around introducing himself to the locals. He was a worker with Family Voice Australia (formerly Festival of Light), and traveling around Queensland, I believe. I believe they’re a ministry, similar to Focus on the Family, that’s dedicated to upholding marriage, family, the sanctity of life, and working with the churches in AUS. Also, encouraging their government to pass laws that uphold all these things, as well. It was quite interesting, as he talked about their mission, and went through the Word, using verses on each subject.

A friendly lady named Sheila introduced herself to me, took me into the other room for their tea break, which comes after the other meetings, and invited me over for lunch. She also introduced me to a number of people, and told me about a Bible study that some of the young people my age have on Sunday afternoon.

So, I went back to my house to change, and then followed her to her house. She was nice enough to stick to roads I knew, as I slowly expand my mental map of Emerald. Then, right before lunch, she asked if I’d like pumpkin or potatoes with the stew. Of course, I was happy with either. And the subject of pumpkin had arisen again. You see, the other day, Mrs. B made pumpkin soup, and we’d had a discussion about that. According to her, Australians eat pumpkin as a vegetable, while she found that in the U.S., we eat it for dessert. She thought this very odd, and didn’t really like the idea of eating pumpkin pie.

Well, I attempted to make pumpkin soup once, and my family knows how well that went over. It was too bland, too much like baby food, and a number of other things. And I eventually put too much of a certain spice in it, so I couldn’t finish it. So, I was very interested to see what they did with pumpkin. We discussed how the U.S.’s main use for actual whole pumpkins (besides the companies that put it in cans) was for jack o’lanterns at Halloween.

Now, that day, I wasn’t there when Mrs. B cut up the pumpkin, I just saw it after it was chopped up. So, when I was at Sheila’s, she got it out to cut up, and I had to check and make sure that was her pumpkin. Because it was wide, squat, and green-striped. She told me what kind of pumpkin it was, and picked up another off a shelf, and told me it was a “butternut pumpkin”. The light began to dawn. I told her that we would call that a butternut squash, and maybe this was why Mrs. B thought pumpkin pie sounded weird… because she was thinking we made it with squash.

Sheila described how their pumpkins usually looked, and they’re either like the butternuts, or they’re varying shades of green. It was very good. We had slices of it, with boiled potato, cooked cabbage, stew, and corn on the cob. With fresh pineapple for dessert. And it was a special type of pineapple, that when you get it at the grocery store, it will never have a top. That’s because it’s only grown in a certain area of Australia, and they need a special license to grow them, and if someone got a top on one, they’d try to grow it. So, they cut off the tops, and ship out the extra sweet pineapples without them.

From there, I followed Sheila to the house that would have the Bible Study, and she left me there, after introducing me around. There were just a handful of us, but it was a great time, and an interesting study of the book of Luke. We were actually using the same type of books that I used at my last Bible Study in PA, so we had some jokes about it being an “American book”, and how some of the words, Aussies don’t use. Who knew that Aussies don’t say “sputter”? But I knew what a fortnight was, when they double-checked with me. Americans don’t use that word, but I’m too well-read to be caught out there.

Speaking of words, we played Pictionary, last night, and something was drawn that I had no clue about. And then somebody said “zebra crossing”, except they pronounce it “zeh-bruh”, not “zee-bruh”. They really had me stumped, as I knew they probably had kangaroo crossings and camel crossings here in AUS (I’ve seen pictures of these signs!), but never heard of a zebra crossing. Didn’t think they had zebras over here. They thought I was joking, but I wasn’t. I told one of the girls that zebras have stripes, in her drawing, it had spots. “That’s a car!” Or maybe she said automobile, I forget. Turns out, a zebra crossing is a crosswalk, because of the blacktop with white stripes. Whodathunkit?

After a lovely study, I headed home to help get ready for dinner. There were a group of young people coming over that are involved in the local parish, and some family members, too, because it was Mother’s Day. And there was plenty of dessert and lots of good food. And when we finally sorted out the chaos (14 adults, 8 kids), we had pumpkin with dinner. I’m sure it was loaded with butter, and it was really good. I said something about the pumpkin/squash controversy, and amidst the noise, it took me a minute to realize the guy sitting next to me wasn’t speaking with an Australian accent.

My neighbor was from Canada, come over to work with this special parish team. He told me that it was actually squash, they just call it pumpkin, which finally confirmed my suspicions. And going online, I looked up pumpkin and then squash, and I find that what Aussies refer to as pumpkin is what Americans call winter squash. So, maybe Mrs. B will be a little easier over the idea of trying pumpkin pie, if I ever make it. Mr. B is all for it, as he really liked it when he was in Texas, a number of years ago.

After the regular food, there was plenty of dessert, and I had to sit back and let them all sing Happy Birthday to me. Aussies apparently end the song with a “Hip hip, hurray!”, which was interesting. Then, while we all munched on Belgian chocolates (my birthday present), chocolate cake with chocolate whipped cream icing (with strawberries on top), apple crumble, and vanilla ice cream, we drank either Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea, and listened to some of the men swap stories. Oh, and I’m going to have to try the different teas while I’m over here, and maybe eventually I’ll be able to tell the difference between them.

And could someone please tell Roma that, yes, they boil their water in a kettle on the stove. I’ve only microwaved my water and tea bag once, since I got over here.  : )

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