Monthly Archives: August 2012

jogging for biscuits #2

Something strange happened today…
Maybe it was because I outed myself as a jogger, maybe it was because I have been doing to for nearly two weeks, maybe it was because I knew all of you had read this, maybe it was because I had casually measured my waist…

but I jogged today, I jogged hard. I could even say I ran!

It was just me and K today. NO dogs, no children and a nice cool breeze pushing us along.

Today it didn’t hurt as much as it did before. I even picked up speed. My feet left the ground, not shuffling, but jogging. We jogged until we got to a tree that was far enough away to feel a good jog, then walked for a bit, then jogged to the next tree or powerline. Ok, these are STILL short spurts, but we are doing it. I am doing it! I am joggin for my biscuits in the bush. I am going a little further each day and it’s not as horrific as I thought it would be.

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jogging for biscuits

Jogging for biscuits
Before I came out to the bush the vision I had of myself was riding horses regularly, spending plenty of time outdoors, eating prime cuts of meat and fabulous home cooking and just watching my muscles build and the weight fall off.

That is not the case of course. My day involves walking the 12 or so steps from my bedroom door to the classroom and then an additional 12 steps to the house, and I never walk back out of there without having eaten something.
Then there is the food: the volumes of it, which I readily accepted so not to be impolite on first arrival. The Smoko (cakes/biscuits/pikelets/tea/coffee etc) at 10am, and then again at 4pm, (more of the same) and dinner is a mountain of food very often followed by a dessert. Lunch is starchy and meaty unless I make it myself.
So to summarise: I have grown. I am not the svelte shape I hoped I would be, but a larger, much less fitter version of the one I was aiming for.

In my first two weeks I was in the kitchen readily baking for eager mouths, loving the novelty of having people to bake for, but I soon started to notice an ugly pattern. The two bushies decided to get me jogging one day, which was absolute hell. I pounded along a dirt track, one behind me hitting my bottom and the other in front encouraging me on like an old cow going in for milking.

We coined the term “jogging for biscuits” which became my incentive and much fun for them as they turned my plodding efforts into biscuit rewards!

Now, some weeks on, having had many many relapses, I am now going for a stiff walk, and breaking occasionally into a jog or a shuffle, as we call it, every day! Since almost two weeks ago, I have not missed a day despite the pain and undesirable state it leaves me in.

We agreed that at 5pm every day we will go for a walk. We put on trainers (yes I have been lent a pair!), enlist a few Labradors, I don my leggings (because if I feel sporty, that’s half the task done!) and off we go into the late afternoon sun. Sometimes it’s just me and the bushies, sometimes me and their mum, sometimes me and my new pig-hunting-dog friend, but it’s always me!

We walk/jog/shuffle up the hill, down the track, around the paddock: It doesn’t matter where. I know if I break a sweat (not hard!) and get my breath going (equally easy) I have earned at least half a biscuit. Sometimes I can manage a whole 100 metres of jogging, which those of you who know I can barely run for a bus will understand is no mean feat!

One day I even walked the LONG way to the mailbox and back, which was over 10km. Some days I have longer energy spurts, some days a pain appears from nowhere and makes me wince, but every day (since two weeks ago!) I go.

I jog for biscuits in the late afternoon sun of the Australian Outback.

Dear old Tiger

Dear Old Tiger

Tiger is not a tiger, despite her name. She is a cow. A milker, to use a local term. That means that we don’t eat her: she makes babies and milk and if she doesn’t have her own calf to feed, she’ll feed whatever poddy needs feeding. New word for Grace and maybe some of you: Poddy – An orphan calf.

This old dear usually has those two words in front of her name, as she is a longstanding member of the crew here. She’s about 9 years old, which is fairly old for a cow, and looks all skin and bones but I am assured she is very healthy indeed.

She has been hanging around the paddock closest to the house recently, because loved as she is, she gets fed Udder Buster to help her produce good quality milk for her offspring. Apparently she can produce bucket loads of the stuff, which is supposed to be my job to milk her for the family, but I am not akin to just walk up to a cow and start pulling on her udders unless someone shows me how to do it. And her udders, despite being fed Udder Buster (is anyone else finding that funny?) are in a pretty bad state after a little trip she took the other day.

I had gone for a walk with the girls, and Tiger who was in the house yard saw us walk over the cattle grid, and started to follow. I got anxious, wondering what we would do if she got herself stuck in it. She thought better of it though and moved away from it, along the fence. The barbed wire fence. A determined old dear found a slightly weak link and pushed her way through it. I stared aghast wondering how the cow was going to get through, but a trained pro, she stepped her way through the two levels of barbed wire, udders and all! I was alarmed, but as always E wasn’t, so we carried on. I wondered where old Tiger was off to, as she determinedly walked off down the track.

3 quad bikes went out later (this was before we lost one) to try and find her, and she had walked all the way to the other yards, several kilometres away to get back to her calf that had been weened off her that day.

Dear old thing was brought back up here, with cuts on all her teets after her treacherous journey. She mooed and moaned for days to come, despite being patted and fed on a daily basis. This saddened me, as many things do about harsh cattle station life, but I was told she has made many many trips like this before, and would walk the 26km breadth of the property to get back to any of the calves she has fed and mothered.

Mother’s love!

a lesson in forgiveness

 

A lesson in forgiveness

It’s something we often find hard to do, or maybe even forget to do, but can unwittingly affect us for the rest of our lives.

The not-so-simple act of forgiveness.

It could be anything from a family feud to heartbreak or from a sibling squabble to a disagreement at work. Holding onto anger and pain is poisonous and the only person it damages is the person holding those feelings, rather than the person who caused the pain. That’s why we don’t forgive, isn’t it? Because we have been hurt by someone or something and we choose to hold onto the pain and not to let go due to feeling that person doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.

But what do you gain from that? How does that help you move on? How does that help you enjoy future experiences by allowing previous ones to still hurt you? What good can that negative energy do you?

There are relatively few extremely evil people in this world whose life intention is set out to cause others discomfort. In life many of us make mistakes, and the majority of us learn a hard lesson from those. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you are condoning their behaviour, or making room for it to happen again: it’s releasing yourself from the restrictions it had over you.

Walking in the bush the other day with my two bushies C pushed E over, she hurt herself and cried. I made him apologise, which he did without meaning it. She sulked for a few minutes and then continued to skip along beside him, giving him a shove now and again. I was amazed at how quickly her tears dried up and she let that go. I doubt he meant to really hurt her, or even injure her. And she got over it pretty quickly, moved on and enjoyed the rest of our walk.

Forgiveness can come in all shapes and sizes. I recently let go of something much much bigger than C & E’s afternoon fall out. Once I felt forgiveness, the clouds began to part, and something was released inside and out. I realised, to my horror, that I had let those feelings of anger poison any other feelings surrounding that. And not just that either. I sat down and thought about all the wrong doings I had received in the past and all the people who had pissed me off or worse: done something that had resulted in me no longer enjoying a memory of something, or cutting someone out of my life due to a stubborn intention to no let them ‘get away with it’. I asked myself what good that had done me and realised that the only person that had affected was me. The doer of those actions probably got over it long ago.

I don’t sit here on my blogging high horse suggesting that we all rapidly forgive anyone who steps out of line, breaks the law or intentionally disrupts your life. I only write to suggest that we all take a lesson in forgiveness. That we ask ourselves if holding onto pain helps us heal and move on. And that we take a lesson from the innocence of two children: forgive, let go, move on. Learn what hurts you: avoid it. But don’t hurt yourself by living in pain caused by others.

a day in the life of a cattle station governess

A day in the life of a governess on a cattle station…

The alarm goes off at 6:50, and as usual I feel I have been robbed of some sleep because the crows have started cackling at least half an hour earlier, and the dogs would have had something to bark about at least once in the night, so I hit snooze.

It goes off again, this time I reach down for the remote and switch on the tv, letting breakfast television into my life, and starting my day. I resist another snooze, get up, stretch, open the blinds to see another sunny day in the bush. Sometimes Tiger, one of the old milking cows is in the paddock outside my window or one of the horses has come up for a different patch of grass. The crows are there, sitting where I can’t see them, but taunting me with their child-like cries.

Flip-flops on, I head into the house yard, to my “bathroom”, which is a glorified shed. It’s got a toilet in one room, washing machine in another and then a shower, which is like a walk-in wet room. Sometimes there is a frog there to greet me, or one of the dogs comes for a sniff on my way.

The shower is fed by the dam, which I am now used to, but the smell used to put me off getting washed in the early days. I nip back to my room, have a cuppa, shovel down some breakfast, get dressed and pack my bag for work.

I have to walk approximately 15 paces to the classroom, which is where I spend the next 8 hours. On a chilly morning, I have my gloves and scarf on, switch on the heater and wait for the burst of energy that comes over from the house at 8am. Now internet is part of our lives, I plug in my laptop, and wait for any school notices of sickness, timetable issues, or last minute requests for phone lessons to appear. I also get some funky music on if it’s a Tuesday, cos that’s when we have an early morning boogie.

First class of the day is at 8:30am. One goes off to the phone room, and I stay and have a concentrated hour with the other one. This time it’s maths, which isn’t always easy! 9:30 we have a quick brain break, which is a new invention, and helps marvellously. We chuck some soft balls around between the three of us, improving our catching techniques and taking our mind off the previous lesson.

Just enough time after that for a spelling lesson, or some maths revision before Smoko at 10am. That was a new word for me, originating from Smokehouse, which perhaps is where morning tea used to take place? In we troop to the house, although the kids usually have some energy to burn outside first, and it can be a battle to get them back inside. If I have had a good morning, I go for a piece of fruit, but if we’ve had a bad one, I seem to hit the cake.

The next two hour session is broken into chunks, which depending on the day, consists of reading time, handwriting practise, journal writing, or a simultaneous spelling lesson: which can be quite complicated running at the same time, with two kids on different levels. It goes something like this: “Ok, C, exercise A, write this down, E spell NOISE. C, what’s the spelling rule for those words? E, spell SIGHT, C, do exercise B, No E, that’s not how you spell that, C, what are you doing?”

11:30 there is another phone lesson for the other student, so one-on-one time for E and I, again it’s maths. We have a quick brain break between activities, and if things are going particularly bad, we have to put pens down and they do laps around the house. It works, trust me!

Pissing me off, answering back, getting into class late or fighting results in a yellow card. I am a referee in so many ways. Two yellow cards and they get a red card and are sent off ( we like football here), and have to make up the time after school. This has only happened once, and I made sure the other student was doing something REALLY fun, so we haven’t had a sending off since!

After lunch we have science or history, and this lesson is conducted to both at the same time. Again, it goes something like this: “Ok, C, start on task 6, read that for me, and tell me what you have to do. E, go to task 4 on the disc. Ok C, what do you need to do? E, click on that, C write down the answer please, E let’s try this activity. One Sec C, I’m explaining this, do your maths sheet whilst you are waiting. Ok, have you read that? Let’s try the next one. E, draw a picture of what you just saw….” It’s exhausting!

Half past two rolls around and if we are on schedule, we have an hour of craft or project. Paints come out, we get messy! Then it’s tidy up time, there is always a squabble about whose turn it is to sweep. Jelly babies are given out for good behaviour, classroom is tidy and they literally burst out of the room.

I have a few minutes to myself, go to the house for a debrief with mum and a cup of tea. At 5pm, sometimes earlier it’s time for a walk or a jog. This is sometimes accompanied by children and/or dogs and the length and destination change according to mood. 6pm, shower time, minute to catch my breath.

6:30 over to the house to help dish up dinner: this is the only way to ensure you don’t have to eat a bushman’s portion of meat (which is a lot for us non-bushies!) it’s meat and veg of course. Then the station hand and I clean up the kitchen, knowing we both have stories to share, and few moans to have, we clink and clang in the kitchen as the family sit down to the tv.

Off to the classroom to get first lessons ready for the morning, make sure exercises are cut up, books are ready and read up just in case! And then I go back to my shipping container after checking my emails in the classroom. Now it’s getting hotter and there is a station hand to share my evenings with, we sit in my hut, with the fans on, crack open a beer, have a whinge, let off some steam and chill out, before getting an early night for it all the start again the next day.

G’day mate

G’day mate!

What is a mate to you? A good friend? A brother? Someone you can rely on? Someone you call to go for a beer with? Or is the guy who works in the corner shop, or drives your bus, or who walks his dog in the same park as you?

“G’day mate” is probably the most quintessential Aussie catch phrase there is and that’s because over here everyone is a “mate”. But I find it hard to bandy about a term that I think should be used for mates. Yes, I can refer to my mates back home, or talk about someone I am mates with, or maybe even after the word Cheers, it seems to roll off the tongue. And sometimes it does feel nice to have a stranger call you mate when they thank you or tell you something, but that’s a far as I go.

Over here, as I said everyone is a mate, and it’s something us foreigners laugh about. When do you not say mate? When the police have pulled you over for speeding, do you say, or do they say g’day mate before they slap you with a fine? When you call the tax office to ask a question, should you thank them and say Cheers mate? What about passing your boss in the corridor on your way to make a cuppa, do you say alright mate then? These seem like silly things to contemplate, but when you are in the bush there is a lot of time for pondering, and it just so happens I am near my laptop.

It came to mind because I realised that over here parents call their children mate, which I found bizarre when hearing it on a number of occasions recently. Like when a sick child is taking medicine and a mother says “well done mate”, or when a mum is explaining something to her son she says “no mate, do it like this” or when she asks her daughter what is wrong she says “what’s up mate?” I find it a bit weird. I don’t think your children warrant the word mate, at least not until they are adults and they choose to be your mate: My mum is one of my best mates, and I use that term regularly to describe her because I really mean it.

Because of this mate obsession and perhaps its uniqueness that other cultures or languages often don’t have – the foreign students I taught in Melbourne found it entertaining to use it in class. It became an in-class joke to see how many times you could get the word mate into one conversation, which made us laugh even more about the ridiculousness of overusing a word so much that it no longer has the meaning it’s intended to have.

 

500 trumps!

500 trumps

I learnt a new card game last week called 500. I had never played it before and since I had a few glasses of wine each time I played, I found part of it rather funny.

A trump is a trick, of course I knew that, but in my country it also means fart.

So, having the childish mind that I have and fuelled by a bit of vino I giggled my way through the first few games. I was told to trump as often as I could, and told that everyone was trumping, so I should trump too. I was also made aware that it was possible to overtrump, and that it’s always a good idea to have a trump up your sleeve. Everybody trumps when they get the chance, if you don’t have that card: throw a trump, if your partner trumps, you win the points. Watch out for other people trumping… oh it went on and on and I was in fits of childish titters by the end.

What fun!

 

mini school

August 14th

Temp 25C

Location: Emerald, QLD

I am sitting on my stretcher bed, in the outstation where I sleep with about 50 other people all in their swags. That’s like a heavy duty sleeping bag to you non-aussies. It’s made of canvas and is like a bed/sleeping bag/possibly even tent all in one.

The snoring is horrendous. The babies crying is even worse. And then there are the mental ones who get up before 5 am with no regard for the sleep of others. The first morning I woke up at 6:50am and really was made to feel as if I was wildly oversleeping! People kept saying things like: “oh you’re not a morning person then” or “what time do you usually get up?!” It was a little confronting to say the least.

Throughout the week, breakfast is served from 6:30 am. Having worked at many camps and residential schools before, THAT was a shock to me. Can anyone who has done a summer school in Spain imagine them getting up at that hour? In fact, I have never worked with kids who did NOT need to be woken up, and quite often dragged to breakfast!

School starts at 8:30am, and this is also odd for me too. I am not teaching this week. Their teachers are doing it. So the home teachers and mums sit around all day drinking cups of tea and getting bored. Very bored. I am the only foreigner here. Most of the govvies have been doing this for some time, and know the drill. Then there are the mums. Most of them have been to the shops and bought brand new water bottles, hats, duvets, blankets, anything for their kids just for this week. There are mummies with babies, and with kids who have been friends for years. I say friends, when I refer to the friends these children only see for 1 week, four times a year at this residential school.

These children live far too far away from neighbours to have sleepovers, do homework together. But this week they are best friends. There are no fights, no bickering, no discipline issues… it’s all just too easy! Never have a worked such an easy week with children.

As the week slowly drags on, we eat more and more to compensate for having nothing to do and I go to all the “teacher development” workshops to learn things i already know and listen to every single mum who thinks her child and her problems are unique and they are something we all wish to hear about. Poor little Johnny finds this hard, and angellic jane found question 4 on lesson 8 just impossible. Really thrilling stuff!

Still half way through, on the home straight and you never what might be on the shelves in Big W that i might have missed yesterday, so it’s always worth the trip into town later on…

Emerald City

12th August

temp 22C

Emerald

Here I am at residential school in Emerald for one of the termly “mini-school” weeks with the two children.

I should start by talking about Emerald itself. It’s a city, apparently. It has an airport (my entrance and exit to the bush), a huge mine and really not much else. Yes, in fact there are a number of motels that serve the miners, there are a collection of schools and three shopping centres that house Coles, Target, Big W etc., There are also your regular dumping of fast food places and really to be honest, not a lot more. People who live in the bush travel for miles (sorry, here that would be kilometres, but it doesn’t right does it?) to get here because it’s got the big supermarkets and clothes shops that the little towns (of course!) don’t have. It’s got the banks that they don’t have, doctors and a hospital or two and even a train station, where I could take a train to Brisbane if I wanted, if I am prepared to sit on it for 12 hours.

And that really IS all there is to say about Emerald….

rainforest magic

aRainforest magic

I had books of rainforests when I was younger and they fascinated me. I always wanted to walk through one, and whenever I went to some attraction that had a “rainforest” in it, I would walk through the polytunnel imagining I was in the Amazon. Now I can happily say that in the space of 6 weeks I have visited two real ones here in Australia. The first being the Daintree, up in the north of Queensland, and now one of its much younger sisters: the Nightcap national park in The Terania Valley, NSW.

Again I was led through the forest by someone who used to live in the valley and has adored the area for decades. It cost me nothing: I wasn’t on a bus, nor surrounded by tourists, I was just taken on a magical walk through the chilly leafy footpaths, stopping when I wanted to observe the wildlife, take a photo, or even scramble down to the creek to taste the fresh running water.

The vividness of the flora surrounding the walk may never be captured by photos quite the way you see them. The sunlight filters through only in privileged sections and the air is fresh and wet: it’s invigorating. I found myself thinking of shower gels and shampoos I have had that claim to be Rainforest scented, yet I don’t feel it’s an aroma that can ever be captured in a bottle. Nor is it a moment that can ever be captured in a photograph. With all places where nature takes precedence: it’s up to the individual how they see it, how they experience it. And for me, this place had an air of magic and enchantment about it. I wondered if water nymphs might have been skipping along the rocks at the waterfall, or if Unicorns had ever wandered through the leaves. There was certainly something in the air that was captivating.

When we reached the “grand finale”, after steadily making our way upwards, up steps of rocks winding their way slowly to something spectacular, we were rewarded with Protester Falls. Their name is thanks to the group of protesters who bravely stood in the way of bulldozers waiting to do away with this forest, people who recognised, loved and shared its beauty. The waterfalls themselves cascaded from way up above us into a pool of green water, hidden by rocks until you reach the summit. The air was fresher, cleaner and more certain than deeper into the forest, with a breeze that comes from nowhere and makes the waterfall dance.

I feel in my relatively short time in Australia I am getting opportunities to have magical moments and experiences that make everything worthwhile. Mother Nature really did have a good time in Australia and although she also put the world’s deadliest creatures here, she put them in an incredibly beautiful country.