Ode to my darling Sister

I found this the other day in my huge jumble of piles that continuously occupies my room.

My sister’s 18th Birthday Speech.

I love my little Sister and I really don’t say it enough – ¬†she is a special girl and I’ve proud of the woman she’s become. So here is my speech ūüôā

(I also did one at her 21st but it was impromptu and jello shot fuelled, not for publishing.)

Well Andrea didn’t formally ask me but I ‘d like to say a few words for my baby sister on her special day, or special night.


Iw would like to draw on a few of Andrea’s attributes and qualities to recount a few of the memories from over the years.


We all know that Andrea is truly a unique individual and we love her for that. I refer namely to her dance style which she decide d to demonstrate in the car one day. She would have been ooh 4 or 5 and a song came on that really stuck a chord with her. Andie proceeded to bash her head on the back of the seat (something like this … I demonstrated) in her form of bopping to the song. Rightly so, James and I have never let her liv this down.



Andrea is definitely firm in her beliefs and will definitely let you know her opinion. It is great that she stays true to how she feels- I think another for this is …. STUBBORN. One of her favourite sayings is “I know”. so oneday when we were driving a long way ( yes a lot of things happened in the car with 3 kids squished in the back seat.) The song Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison came on – Andrea insisted she knew the words and despite her brother and I trying to tell her otherwise, she continued to to claim she knew this song. ¬†which led to the running joke whenever the song comes on. The main chorus line being “my brown eyed girl” Andrea however sang along with us my brown eyed girl…. GIRL!” Just to prove she did in fact know the words.

Our friend Bel, Andie and I at my 25th this year


Or should I say BOY CRAZY! haha Just kidding Daniel (her BF). But she has always had great guy friends and got along with boys. Namely her brothers friends, Scholesy and Cot, just a few she loved, but it’s ok she grew out of that.



Andrea is very fortunate in many aspects of ¬†life but perhaps I should include with this lucky. Fortunate and lucky to have a great big brother like James who has not once, not twice, but three times saved his little sisters life. 1st when she was two and he laid over her body whilst she was kicking and screaming to stop her crawling into the pool before we had a fence. 2nd time – When she was pushed in the pool as a 5 year old and she’d not yet learnt to swim. James dove in and grabbed her out. And the 3rd was when Andrea decide it was time to get out of the car, unfortunately the car had not actually stopped and was in fact driving around a corner, so Jamesie leaned over her and pulled the wide open door shut. Big thanks to James for Keeping Andie here with us to be here today.

our hero, Jamesie! Who couldn’t be there at the 21st


Andrea has always been driven. To work, to the shops, to Daniels house – down the coast – haha lame i know. But Andrea does know what she wants, she does after it – congratulations on your job at Mecca baby.



Just look at her hair! She definitely lives up to her Scorpio star sighn. Those who have felt the sting of this young ladies fury will certainly not be crossing her again. Yikes!

photoshoot recently, me and Andrea



Or in the eyes of our parents at least. For it was James and I who always seemed to cop the when there was a sibling squabble – Andrea somehow always got the thumb up, how is that little sis?


But now to the good stuff!!! ….. Ummm…. welll…. So Happy 18th Andie.



With our lovely Mumma, taken by Sabrina Rubina Photography http://www.sabrinarubini.com

Andrea My Darling!

Congratulations to you on your special day,

I hope it is truly wonderful in every single way,

Thank you to all your lovely family and friends,

whose love, care and support for you will never end.


As your big sister, I’m super proud of you,

You’re doing all the things that YOU want to do,

You’re an individual and a unique kinda gal,

and i know that in years to come you’ll be my bestest pal.


I know at times we fuss and fight,

but Andie I love you with all my might,

My lil sis, you superstar, our precious baby boo

Happy 18th Darling, this night is all for you!


Love you loads Andrea and wishing you every happiness in life. I’ll be here for you and celebrating the wins!

Mercy Huts

Sharing with you an amazing organisation started by my darling friends Paulie and Sal McMahon.


The vision of Mercy Huts is to establish eco friendly beachfront accommodation on beautiful Nemberala Beach, Rote Island, Indonesia. The purpose is to provide financial support, employment and training  for families of this area who are living in poverty.


The Thistlewaite family of 6 are still on the ground in Rote and Paulie and Sal are currently in Melbourne but continuing our road trip via the great ocean road and then North on the east coast to raise further awareness for the Mercy Huts project. See below what life is like for this wonderful couple on the Island.

Saddle up for a laugh…

We invite you to take a dive into the day-to-day hilarity of our Rote existence. A mix of cultural and environmental differences compel one to at times¬†laugh hysterically¬†and at other times, to cry with the same intensity. Walk in our shoes – more like thongs or bare feet –¬†through these series of¬†Rote tales and enjoy the attached collage of pics:

– The people of Rote live according to an unusual schedule…if you could call it a schedule at all. They rise at Rooster o’clock, around 5am declaring their days beginning with ‘doof-doof music’ and distinctly Indonesian hollas. As soon as the suns rays can be felt, the Rotenese go into a mild slumber which deepens in the afternoon. A curious byproduct of this daytime slumbering is a mass of ‘group hangs’ where locals sit in large groups, seldom speaking, intently watching every passer-by and often playing cards. At night the place comes alive once again.
-The locals currency of time is referred to here as ‘rubber time’ or ‘Jam Karet’ in Bahasah Indonesia. The locals little regard for time can be summed up in¬†our experience whereby in the company of 20 Indonesians, NOT 1 could offer us the time! “The time, who needs the time?”. Time is no master here in Indonesia and we Westerners are left to navigate this apparent other ‘way of doing life’. Admittedly we’re not even close to figuring it out.
– One admirable trait of Village-like Nemberala is the peoples fostering of community, something quite contrasting with our primarily individualistic lives back in Oz. Everyone here lives together, hangs together, eats together and gets right up in each others ‘personal space’ (a term unlikely known here). It’s curious to us, sometimes endearing and other times claustrophobic.
A funny example of this was on Easter Sunday when Paul & I found a secluded beach, sighed in delight as we lay out our towel and opened our books for some relaxing. No sooner had we lied down when we were invaded by a crew sporting enthusiastic beetlenut smiles, machetes, a couple of spear guns, 3 fishermen fresh out of the water fishy-smelling and wearing only undies (beige at that), and then their wives joined us for a now 12-man ‘romantic picnic’. Learning the true meaning of ‘community’ is not always a voluntary exercise but¬†it is a soul-warming one.¬†It really isn’t hard making friends here!
– Even the farm animals and bugs feel the need to uphold this sense of ‘community’, always frolicking in our backyard and even our bedrooms – is anyone else shuddering.¬†One rainy night a goat sought shelter under our eaves (aka bedroom) and another night a crab burrowed under my bottom while I slept. Our toothbrushes have been embraced by cockroaches, our food and peculiarly my bra nibbled by ants whilst sneaky bugs join us on the wrong side of our mossie net most nights! This is just the sweet price we pay for living under the eaves of a hut and in a wonderful culture where community is everything.
– One of our greatest desires here in Rote is to connect and learn from the locals. They have so many beautiful ways of living that we in the west have busied out of our lives. Learning the language is a thrill and hard work. We experience some really precious moments where neither party knows what the other is saying, yet we stand looking at each other willing for understanding with our stunted language. We have started learning Bahasa Della, the local dialect of Nemberala. ‘In a classroom’ you ask? Not quite. In a dark room of a family home with over 20 people crowded in, simultaneously volunteering us new words to repeat with their eruptions of laughter indicating we still have a long way to go. We are also teaching English to some local women who bring us vegetables.
– I don’t know about you but breakfast has always been a meal I delighted and indulged in. Here we have had a staple bfast of banana, papaya and a boiled egg for over 1 month. Recently Paul brought me home a blender from the markets and I literally cried…over a blender!!! ‘We can now make smoothies!’ I rejoiced…no ice or milk but still an exciting prospect. Making my 1st smoothie was a disaster! No petrol in the generator so no power, a mission to get petrol due to a post-Easter shortage in the village, my addition of satay (with disguised chillie) resulted in a coagulated mess that I fed to the goats. 2nd attempt was far from Boost-juice-worthy but still the familiarity warmed my heart…and belly.
Some other funny, weird and entertaining tales…
– Our entire crew of 8 have sported gruesome infections from open wounds that are stubborn to heal and have hung around for weeks! Our ailments are apparently pretty serious:¬†‘Heavy growth of Lancefield Streptococcus’ or ‘Cellulitis’ but are healing up which is a relief. The lumps¬†are¬†captured in the attached pics – we hope they don’t offend anyone.
– There is a bug here that we affectionately call a ‘Guinea pig with wings’- it’s huge! See Paul trying to catch it!
– Upon visiting a waterhole with the kids from the mercy home we had to giggle when they each received a sachet of shampoo to double the swim with a bath. Some great pics of that day, especially of 8yr old Abraham who has a pretty hard past but is a great kid with the best smile.
– We witnessed a house fire of a 2 story building where the ‘professional’ fireman met with a plethora of good Samaritans to take on the blaze. I had to go to great lengths to refrain from laughing out loud as the men and plants got more of a shower than the house. You know the snaking hose trick, well picture that, but on mass scale…all whilst the house burnt to the ground.
– the car finally got fixed 3 weeks after it first went to the Dr. BUT unfortunately it broke down 1hr from town and is now out of action¬†with a damaged radiator. So far eggs, pepper and soap were applied to fix it¬†hmmm!? We’re seriously a hilarious sight cruising around in ‘the bomb’. Think the locals like it as we’re not in the slightest bit pretentious, but it’s shaping up to be more of landscaping feature than a means of transport.

All in all, these cultural and environmental idiosyncrasies of Rote are all part of its appeal and will continue to bewilder us, grow us and make us laugh¬†for a long time to come. We hope you’ve enjoyed sharing these stories whilst laughing with us!. For more laughs and pieces of the journey¬†visit our Mercy Huts Blog (www.mercyhuts.com/blog/)

Love hearing from you all and take care!

Sally and the Mercy Hutters (Matt, Nat, Jayden, Molly, Grace and Noah Thistlewaite plus Paul)
Follow all that is happening at www.mercyhuts.com and www.facebook.com/mercyhuts or drop us an email at rotevillas@live.com.au
If you’d like to make a donation click¬†here¬†to find out how
‘Thank you for helping us to ‚Äėhelp orphans and widows in their distress‚Äô¬†– Jame1:27


Adventure Travel & Backpacker Expo Sydney

Today I went down to the beautiful Darling Harbour to check out the Travel mania that has swept through Sydney this weekend. My focus was on the Adventure Travel & Backpacker Expo but it was easy to get distracted with Mind Body and Spirit as well as two other festivals going on around there.

My greatest surprise of the day was to get into the Expo at around 3pm (closes at 4pm) and see that it was already time to start celebrating the success of the day. However, my sources inform me that the whole expo is like one big backpacker travel party. Good people, travel on the brain, beers and other beverages flowing and generally a great vibe throughout the whole place.

The expo is run by¬† http://www.myadventureexpo.com/and sponsored by Myexpotravel (http://www.myexpotravel.com/) aswell as TNT Magazine and YHA Australia. The goal of the event is for people interested in travelling in Australia¬†and Around the World,¬†who have¬†a focus on Adventure and Backpacker style travel¬†to connect and learn more about what’s on offer. And man was there a lot on show!

From overseas work to Incredible India, Bungee Jumping in New Zealand and Volunteering in schools in Africa. You had the latest in backpacker accessories, the best in accommodation¬†and backpacking locations around Australia as well as the cream of the crop for Travel agents and guides. Throw in some competitions, live music, 1000’s of brochures, lollies and FREE giveaways and you’ve got the traveller’s dream day.

My favourite stand was definitely the crew from Cairns! They set up a bar and the tunes were pumping out all day. Win friends and influence people with FREE Beer, these guys are on to a good thing.¬† I was also very impressed with an up and coming group, DragonBus.¬†www.dragonbuschina.com¬†was launched¬†last night and they will be offering a hop on/ hop off bus service in China. You also can’t miss the fun teams at TNT Magazine and TravelManagers¬†for their down to earth¬†vibe and great advice (Contact NickBowditch for all the best deals!)

I really took away from this Expo just how little I know about Australian Travel and the many wonderful places that this great country has to offer. I have been to some of the “must see” destinations in the world- Eiffel Tower in¬†Paris, Taj¬†Mahal¬†in India, Pyramids of Mexico and Oktoberfest of Munich. Sadly though,¬†I have not seen Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or Ayers Rock. I haven’t even been to some of our major cities like Hobart, Adelaide or Darwin. It was definitely a bit of home truth for me and Australia is now at the top of my travel list!

The event is on again tomorrow, 8 November 2009 at the Exhibition & Convention Centre (Darling Harbour). Grab a few mates, cool down with a beer and you can start planning your next big adventure!

For FREE ENTRY visit: http://mytraveladventure.com.au/free-sydney-expo-ticket/

Japan- My first ever trip- Age 1.5

Dad and I return- 19 years on

Dad and I return- 19 years on

In a Kimino at age 4. The Japanese culture and the travel bag would stay with me
In a Kimino at age 4. The Japanese culture and the travel bag would stay with me


This is a recent letter from my Dad to my brother about the VERY FIRST trip I ever took.¬† It’s amazing to read about my parents travel experiences with me. At the age of just 1.5 years old, I was already on the traveller’s path.


Dad is my guest blogger this week!






Re our trip to Japan when you were very young, in 1989.  This is what I remember:


We flew on Japan Air lines (JAL)¬†747 from Sydney – Tokyo – London. The Tyo – Lon sector was about¬†12 hours via the North Pole and we saw some great snow and ice covered lands and mountain sights en-route from the plane’s windows.


We stayed in the Shinjuku area west of Tokyo in a Ryokan ( traditional Japanese Inn) complete with Rice-Paper screen doors and a wooden bathtub with a saucepan to wash water over yourself with¬† No shower).¬† I wasn’t too keen on it but it was an experience.¬† I remember walking to find the beer can vending machines I had heard about and came back with a couple.¬†They were all over the place as were machines dispensing cold coffee in cans.¬†I saw many people¬†cycling around. We met some people who had travelled from Canada in the recreation section of the Inn.


On the¬† day after our arrival, the representative from¬†our Japan freight agent (Tokyu Air Services) looked after us for a whole day and evening and took us on a trip to the Temple at Asakusa, one of the features are it’s¬†giant Red lanterns out the front and markets leading up to it.¬† There was a also a religious procession in the streets nearby that we stood and watched.¬† I have some recent photos of the temple as I went there in 2008 with Emma.


We also went to Akihabara – a shopping district specialising in electrical items.


During the time in Tokyo, we travelled on the underground system which was very clean and efficient and had a meal in a another area of Tokyo. Mum might remember where? Many local Japanese people wanted to touch Emma as she had bright blond hair and it is supposed to bring good fortune!


I  hope my recollection helps you.





What a legend!

 My dear friend Rich has just returned from one of the most incredible experiences of his life. Climbing Mt Kilmanjaro.


I am so inspired, amazed and unbelievably proud of the groups achievements. The amount of effort and time that went into the planning, organisation and practice for the trip is incredible. Not one thing was overlooked in the preparation for the big trip and it was a true success.

What I think is so incredible is that they organised the trip themselves. Although going with tour guides and having a prominent charity as the beneficiary, the rest was done by them. Flights, tour group planning, travel to and from the mountain, training, equipment, website, charity communication and fundraising. IT’S INCREDBILE!


I have always thought that oneday I would climb a mountain and last year when I saw Mt Kilimanjaro as I drove through the open plains of Tanzania, I knew this was the mountain for me. I am so happy that I now have a close friend who has done the trip before me and this has filled me with such an eagerness to get there and do it.


My friend Jarred and I are planning to do an 8 week trip next year in December with one of the main goals being to CLIMB KILI!

Again, what an achievement! Really. Congratulations team!

Here are a few words from the group and, most importantly, details on how to sponsor and donate to the charity “Help for Heroes.”


“Kilimanjaro 2009 – Many thanks from all the team for your support. We made ¬£2000 for Help For Heroes which is brilliant. Of the team, Ian, Andrew, Brownie and Jo made Uhuru Peak at 5895 meters. I made Stella Point at 5756 meters and Kathleen and Pete…… made Gilmans Point at 5685 meters. Not bad when Everest base camp is at 5200 meters. Cricket played at Stella Point.

http://www.aimhighchallenge.com (19,344 feet to be precise)

Or if you want to be the one to push us over the £1400 mark for H4H then this can be done at http://www.justgiving.com/aimhighchallenge