Happy 21st!

This blog is written by Hannah Herrold. Hannah is a Spring 2018 student from Taylor University.

The rural countryside of Toowoomba was the setting in which I had anticipated living during my entire time here in Australia. Although all of the Aussies laugh at me when I explain this, the view that Americans get of Australia revolves around the movies of red dirt roads and Steve Erwin. Now, I have to clarify that in Toowoomba the dirt is black NOT red, which I was ridiculed over by the Yarrow family whenever I forgot. Anyways, you might be thinking, “This is pretty random and the title is “Happy 21st”, so why is she talking about Toowoomba?” so I will get to the point.

21st Birthday Decorations

21st Birthday Decorations

Last weekend, I was invited to my Aussie (CHC) Friend Emma-Lea’s 21st birthday party at her place in Toowoomba. There we go, there is the lightbulb! In Australia, a 21st birthday is a huge celebration that includes not only close family and friends, but practically the whole neighbourhood. So, in case anyone in the audience is unaware, the drinking age in Australia in 18, unlike the drinking age in America which is 21. This leads to the question of why is the 21st birthday so special? No one actually seems to know… Emma-Lea’s mother explained it as a celebration of someone’s life but either way, I was invited to this party 3 hours away with an expected 80 people long guest list and enough food to feed about 302 people.

Toowoomba Landscape

Toowoomba Landscape

During the party, there were many speeches given, a lot of stories shared, too much delicious food (meat-pies included!), card games, and chats by the fire. However, my favourite moment was after the festivities had ended and the majority of the guests had gone home. Emma-Lea’s family owns a beautiful cotton farm that spans across a couple hundred acres. Since there were so many guests coming, before the party, Emma-Lea’s dad had started the cotton-picking early so that the boll-buggy was full.

What is a boll-buggy? It is basically like this giant metal container full of freshly picked cotton that is attached to a tractor and, after being commanded by Emma-Lea and her friends, you jump into this mess of cotton and ride around under the stars. The ride was my softer and fluffier than a hay ride and the view was incredible. I am still picking pieces of cotton off of the sweatshirt that I wore in the pit, but it was worth the few minutes we rode around looking at the stars. If you are ever given the chance, give it a go, and you might make some life-long friends while you are all jumping with a leap of faith into a huge bin of cotton.

(Also, Happy Birthday Emma-Lea!)

The number of times Abigail has death-gripped our hips…

Sarah Newell attends Gordon College and Allison Green is a student at Azusa Pacific University, they are both part of our Spring 2018 cohort! Read what they had to say about their service placement.
*The names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Allison and Sarah

A few months ago, we were asked to write a blog post about our service placement, and now, two months later, here we are.

Allison: We serve at Citipointe Seniors on Wednesday mornings. We set up the tables, make coffee, and sit and listen to their stories. Every week is a different activity, so one week we could be listening to a Western folk band and another week Sarah could be killing it at bowls while I create bookmarks.


Sarah: Going into service placements, I really didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that we were going to be with seniors and help them out any way that they need. I think I was expecting it to feel like a nursing home and that I would be kind of bored.

Allison: I would agree. I expected it to be a retirement home community. I thought that we would just work in the back and clean dishes and maybe bring them food around snack time. Other than that I was not expecting to be as integrated into their lives as we have been.


Sarah: There are so many things that I love about seniors, but the people are by far the best part. Every week when Allison and I leave, we grab each other and say “I love them.” (Every time!) It has been a real privilege to be able to sit and listen to their stories. There is Deanne, the 93 year old British lady (the first woman we met), who immigrated here with her husband at 23 after living through the bombings of World War II. There is Andrew, a gentle soul who without fail smiles and asks how we are. He is terrified of bungee jumping but once he went parasailing and 10/10 would recommend it.

Allison: Oh My Gosh! There is a man named Maurice who has dementia, and every week he always tells me the same story about how he is unable to push a lawn mower. And every week, without fail, people laugh. He always sits next to Violet, a lovely woman who moved here from Samoa. One time she said that she wishes I would go to Samoa because she thought I would be a good influence on the children. I’ve never felt so honored in our life, I’m going to brag about that woman for years to come.


Sarah: Every Wednesday, Abigail and Sam greet us with a big hug and sloppy kisses. They are in charge of seniors (and by extension, in charge of us). The first day we met them, Abigail gave us the low down on all of the seniors. They know all of their names, and about their lives and their children and grandchildren. They love so well and are incredibly humble in everything that they do.


Enjoying morning tea

Allison: Abigail always makes sure that she is available to us if we have any questions about life, love, or the pursuit of happiness.

Carrie and Graham are also another power couple in the Citipointe community. They’ve been married 50 years, and they are both some of the loudest people that show up! They are so vibrant and vivacious and they always know how to make people feel welcome.


  • S: When they pulled us up on stage to help them sing and dance
  • A: When they sang Sarah and a woman named Peta “Happy Birthday“
  • S: The extensive amount of food that they force us to take with us when we leave because they are afraid we aren’t eating enough
  • A: The amount of women that comment on my glitter eye shadow. They always say “Oh, so sparkly it brings out your beauty.” It’s a real ego booster
  • S: The running of tally of sloppy kisses we get, there is no escape. No matter how much we try
  • A: The number of life stories we get to hear
  • S: The number of times Abigail has death-gripped our hips
  • A: How much better Sarah is at making instant coffee than I am? Tip: Stir the cup
  • S: The times that people finish speaking and we have to run around with microphones for them to ask questions, but no one waits for us to get there before they start talking
  • A: The amount of times we get turned away when we try to help in the kitchen

Making friends with a yabbie during our Outback trip


Sarah: In class, we talked about the Power of Recognition, and I think it relates to our service placement. People often forget about elderly people once they stop working and ‘contributing’ to society. They forget that they had full lives before and still have so much to share. I feel really honored to be able to “sit at their feet”, so to speak and hear about the amazing lives that they have led.


Getting our faces painted up during an indigenous class trip

Allison: Going off of that, I feel like in American culture we have a really big “do it yourself” ideology. Often times when people get older we don’t want to take care of them because it’s “our turn to take care of ourselves” so we push them to the side or put them in a home. It seems that people aren’t as willing to keep up with those relationships because they feel like they couldn’t relate to an elder due to the generational differences. But there are so many different things that we can learn about life from what they have lived. Just because they lived in a different time doesn’t diminish the lessons we can learn. Also, we have a grand old time with them and we spend most of our time laughing and joking around.

Sarah: It’s nice to see that we aren’t so different after all.


See y’all next time!

*Coordinators of Citipointe Seniors