From Sydney to Brisbane

February 24 – March 12, 2020

We wanted to see a bit more of Australia than just Sydney so we travel up the Pacific Coastal Highway to Brisbane and flew from there to New Zealand. We had 2.5 weeks to get to Brisbane and spent 2-3 nights in each of the following locations:

1 – Newcastle/Nelson Bay
2 – Port Macquarie
3 – Coff’s Harbour
4 – Byron Bay
5 – Gold Coast
6 – Brisbane

Once again, our side trip to the Blue Mountains National Park plus our journey up to Brisbane added 1,000 miles to Pedja’s driving record for this Refresh journey.

The drive was easy and overall uneventful. We again did enough sightseeing, saw some pelicans at close proximity, visited koala’s in koala sanctuary, came across a couple of random snakes (my nightmares).

We were in Gold Coast the morning Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife Rita were there, at a local hospital with covid19 diagnoses. We were seeing the first signs of food and toilet paper hoarding there. Since we were still moving around, there was some anxiety about getting stranded without having the ability to prepare for the lockdown as we could’ve if we were at home. Still, we continued the travel as far as we could (until the lockdown caught up with us in New Zealand).

On this Sydney to Brisbane journey, my highlight was meeting my long-lost friend Biljana (Billie), her sister, and their families. Biljana and I were great friends back in elementary school but we haven’t seen each other since I left for the US back in high school. It was fantastic to see each other a few times and for our families to spend time together. Her warm welcome made our time in Gold Coast extra special.

Petra got to play Ultimate with 100+ University students in Brisbane. Ultimate seems to be the most inclusive sport in the world and has provided her the opportunity to connect with young people across half a dozen countries, on several continents.

Nina and I have been concentrating on improving some basic self-care skills – tooth brushing and showering. Doing these tasks independently is still impossible for him. His lack of awareness of his body in space makes these seemingly simple tasks exceptionally complicated. Not having a corpus callosum, a set of nerve fibers (a bridge) that connects the two sides of our brain, causes issues whenever there is a need for repetitive movement of our body parts across the body’s midline. Brushing teeth and moving the brush left and right repetitively (and covering all parts of his mouth), putting shampoo in the palm of his hand and then putting it on his head without spilling it, washing hair and covering all parts of his head, etc – all really hard for him. He still needs help with all these tasks – bathing, dressing, eating, etc.

We have been working on learning some of these skills for a decade now but it’s still work-in-progress.

Starting in Australia, I put renewed effort into making more progress on Nina’s self-care skills. We’ve been at it for 4 months now and still going strong, practicing daily. I can see now what sort of accommodations we should make at home to make this more of a possibility (electric toothbrush,hand sensor shampoo dispenser, preset temperature faucet, etc).

That’s another benefit of this Refresh journey – having the time and mental space to pay attention to mundane tasks that often enough we just do for him to speed him along.

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