Tress and I dropped the boys off at Heather’s on Friday night. Early on Saturday morning, we headed to Tullamarine, and caught a flight up to Newcastle. It’s the closest city to Taree, where we could fly directly from Melbourne. We arrived at Newcastle shortly before 10am, picked up a rental car and drove up to Taree. Or, more precisely, Old Bar. Old Bar is some 16km from Taree. It’s a small beach town, with a population of fewer than 3,000. Our niece, Nicole, has been there for a couple of weeks. She works as an medical intern at the Manning Base Hospital in Taree, and shares a house in Old Bar with 3 other fellow interns.
We arrived at Old Bar around noon, and headed to a cafe, where we met Nicole. It was wonderful to see her again after more than 3 years. After lunch at the cafe, we walked took a short walk to her home for the next 2 years, and were introduced to her housemates and colleagues. Tress and I then checked into a motel some 600 meters away, and then took a drive with Nicole into Taree. She showed us around, including the hospital where she’d be working. Later that night, we went to dinner and a couple of the young interns joined us. We had dinner in a little Thai restaurant in Taree, then headed back to Old Bar for some really nice ice cream in a shop that is just across the road from their home.
Tress and I then went back to the motel. Tired as we were, we caught the ladies’ singles final of the Australian Open, before crashing out in bed.
The next morning, Tress and I took a walk to the beach. It was a little after sunrise but it was beautiful all the same. We then walked to a bakery before heading back to the motel to get ready for church. Tress and Nicole had googled around and landed on one in Taree. It was the “One Life” church. People were really friendly there. After church, we went back to Old Bar, packed and checked out from the motel, and had lunch a fish and chips place (“Blowfish”) at the beach, before saying goodbye. Tress and I then drove back to Newcastle, where we whiled away walking through some parks in the city, stopped at a wharf pub which was heaving with lots of party going patrons. A live band was playing too, so we had a couple of drinks there and something to eat, before heading to the airport to return the rental car and catch the flight back to Melbourne. We got into Tullamarine a bit before 10pm, and got home way past 11pm.
It had been a long and hurried trip (some 2,400km return), but it was very reassuring to see our niece has truly become a wonderful person. She is warm, very smart, articulate, thoughtful and is always respectful to Tress and I. With her colleagues and housemates who all appear to be equally smart and switched on, I was assured she will be fine. She told us about Jon’s plan to come to Melbourne for a Master’s degree at RMIT for the next couple of years. She was the one who encouraged him to do that, and so he’d be here in a little over a week. That sounded to me like she is also forward thinking and planning for the future, which was even more reassuring. Sim would have no doubt been very proud of her, as Tress and I are.