[Near Milford Sound] [At Franz Joseph Glacier] [Heritage Day] [Koala] [Galah in flight]


Australian Journal - April-May 2004

March 30 - April 4, 2004 - Easter: Term 1 is finally winding down, with the usual rush of activities. Thursday was the weekly assembly, with Clara playing violin in the small ensemble that accompanies the hymns. Lucy's class presented their "item" (each assembly, one of the classes gets to present some special project they've been working on.) This week, the Year 2 class did a very clever rap about their studies and projects during the term. Clara had her last T-Ball game on Friday, where Wilderness trounced Pembroke 19-4 (Wilderness has won all of their games this season, except for the first one, when they tied.) Only vaguely related to T-Ball, here's a picture Tim took while at the T-Ball game; this is a picture of a galah in flight, showing off the bright pink feathers which aren't normally seen when the bird is just sitting still - on the ground, they look rather drab grey with pale pink heads. And Sandy celebrated the week by finishing her flannel quilt (she has, of course, started several additional projects, so she has plenty to do!)

Tim has been reading an interesting book, Brimming Billabongs by Bill Harney. It is the story of Marmel, an Aboriginal of the Uwadga tribe in northern Australia. Marmel left his tribe to go walkabout when young; as with the western saying "The grass is always greener somewhere else," he was drawn by the Aboriginal equivalent, "Dry, bare hills look best from the distance." He returned from his walkabout an old man, and encountered an old white bushman who lived alone, and who had been accepted into the council of the local tribe. This bushman also understood his language, and so the two struck up a friendship, which resulted in Marmel recounting his life's story; this was in turn passed on to the author, who has captured it well in the resulting book. This book provides an interesting counterpoint to books such as Chatwin's Songlines, as it represents the view from an earlier time, when western civilization had not yet thoroughly infused the tribal life; further, it provides a view from inside looking out, from someone who has spent a lifetime living with Aboriginal people, and who has earned their trust. Well worth reading.

We've mentioned before that we've been trying to expose the girls to lots of books about the history of the USA, to supplement the Asian-Pacific focus they receive at Wilderness. We've had them reading old favorites of ours when we were kids, such as the Nancy Drew and Boxcar Children stories, as well as more historical American books such as the Little House series, and the newer American Girls series of books about American girls who lived through various periods (and of course the American Girl History Mysteries.) The American Girls have fascinated our American girls, and they have been saving their money to get an American Girl Doll. Well, they finally reached their goal, and Tim brought back a doll for each of them this last trip. Here is a picture of Lucy and her doll Samantha. Here and here are pictures of Clara with her doll Kirsten. Note in the first Clara picture that you can see her most recent diorama for school. It is a scene from The Phantom Tollbooth where the symphony is "playing" the colors of the sunrise.

The weekend revolved around the usual activities - practicing piano, violin and Clarinet, finishing off Clara's term-long reading project - and preparing for Heritage Day. In addition to hitting the thrift stores last weekend for costumes, Sandy had to alter the clothes slightly, and also had to make a bonnet for Lucy. She started with a doll pattern for a bonnet, scaled it up, and Lucy is quite thrilled with the result. Both girls originally wanted to go as Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, but Sandy vetoed that - she didn't think she had time to whip up two flight suits - it was quite enough just to fit in the alterations and make a bonnet with everything else that has to be done!

April 5-11, 2004 - Easter Holidays: A busy week to finish things off starting on Monday with Heritage Day (check out their costumes here, here and here; note the middle picture where Sandy was doing the hula (off camera) to get the girl's attention and get Lucy to smile a little less rigidly! In case you don't recognize the characters, Clara is dressed as Clara Barton and Lucy is Laura Ingalls Wilder. (The girls were all asked to come to school dressed as "a woman who has made a difference.") There was a special assembly at school that morning, and Clara's class also walked to the cemetery to take flowers to the graves of the Brown family who founded Wilderness School. There was also a "sausage sizzle" at lunch for the girls, and Sandy was asked to help with the cooking this time. It was quite an education for her. This is another common Aussie event. Lots of sausages are cooked on barbeques. Then each sausage is placed on a piece of white bread and "sauce" (i.e. catsup) is squirted on. As Sandy was helping to serve the girls, one of the other moms leaned over and told her that "the sausage goes on the bread diagonally." So now Sandy knows the proper Aussie etiquette for serving sausages! As for Clara and Lucy, they have never been fond of the sausages here, so they always order the skewers of grilled chicken.

Tuesday night was "Dress up the egg" night - the Year 5 girls had to decorate a raw egg (NOT hard-boiled, unfortunately!) and then carry it with them all day on Wednesday (why, we're not sure - maybe to encourage responsibility - although it ended up being the Moms who had to wash the dresses in a few cases!) Clara decorated her egg like a bumblebee, complete with foam flower to rest in. Wednesday morning started with an Easter breakfast on the lawn at school for the Year 5 girls and their families with hot cross buns, fruit, chocolate Easter eggs, juice, tea, coffee, etc. Even with all the festivities, Clara made it through the entire day with her bumblebee egg intact.

This week, the Year 5 girls were also given straws, a sponge, and some string, and asked to build a device that would keep an egg from breaking after dropping from the school balcony. Most of the girls' creations didn't pass the test, although it did inspire an extended dinner table conversation about why some things (like cars) are designed to crumple in certain areas to absorb energy and protect the contents. Clara's egg landed with just a slight crack, but moments later another egg landed on top of hers, and it didn't survive the impact. It would be interesting to know how many future engineers might come out of this class of girls...

Thursday came with an Easter Service to start the morning for the girls, and with it a short day to end the term. Tim also has a four day weekend (Easter is second only to Christmas as a major holiday in Oz; since a four day holiday coincides with the school holidays, the roads are predictably full - so we're staying home!)

Friday morning, Clara and Lucy were working away drawing pictures. From their excited tones, it sounded to Tim like they were racing to make the most pictures, rather than the best - so he called out that they should concentrate on drawing well, rather than fast. Clara's response was rather indignant, "I AM drawing carefully, see?" And she had indeed drawn a very nice picture. At Tim's suggestion she add a few more details, she responded "I don't LIKE details!" This is consistent with the opinion of her phonics teacher, Mr. Patchett, who had remarked on occasion that Clara was a "big picture" girl... Speaking of drawings, here's a drawing Lucy did a few days ago and presented to Tim - we're not quite sure what inspired it!

The mother of one of Clara's friends brought in an article from the Sunday Mail on independent schools a few days ago - she thought we'd be interested since Clara was in the picture that accompanied the article (note that the picture is a fairly large file - approx 170 kb).

The girls have been on a paper airplane kick over the last few weeks, and the house seems full of paper planes of all sizes, shapes, colors and styles. Saturday am, the girls were back at it again, and Tim off-handedly suggested they see if any of their planes could reach the tennis court from the upstairs balcony - this set off a massive testing program, which took up the late morning and early afternoon - their screams must have been heard 1/2 mile away when they finally got one over the fence!

Saturday, we had Chris, Jacquie, Allanah and Jessica over for a leisurely informal dinner and get-together. The girls had a good time preparing for an expedition, then backpacking around the backyard and underbrush in the drizzle. After dinner, they built a Duplo zoo, and then put on a show about the zoo (admission 5 cents each.) Easter dawned a sunnier day (we've also been enjoying the quieter-than-normal mornings; usually, we can hear the traffic on the not-to-distant Main North Road, even on early weekend mornings; these last couple of days have been quite quiet - guess everyone left town on Thursday - and since most of the shops are closed, there's no place to go shopping.) Turns out that in addition to Easter baskets and hidden eggs, the Easter Bunny (or Bilby) dropped something - the girls found an empty Easter M&M bag under the table! After Easter breakfast, the girls presented Tim and Sandy (and each other) with handcrafted Easter cards and presents (including belated birthday wishes for both Tim and Sandy).

Tim found another interesting book, Continent of Extremes - Recording Australia's Natural Phenomena by Ian G. Read. He had expected this would essentially be a "Guiness Book of Records" book, but it turned out to have a lot more meat than that. In particular, the first chapter "Perceptions of the Land" provides an excellent overview of the Aboriginal view of their land. This cuts a middle ground between the outright adoration and perhaps whitewashing of Chatwin's Songlines, while avoiding the grittier aspects of traditional Aboriginal life revealed by Harney's Brimming Billabongs (and frequently ignored by modern apologists).

April 12-20, 2004 - More Holidays: The girls continued to have a full holiday schedule. Monday, each girl had a friend over for a sleepover - Clara had Katarina and Lucy had Isobel. Clara and Katarina made the spaghetti sauce for dinner (in fact, Clara told Sandy that cooking dinner was one of the funnest parts of a sleepover!). All four girls enjoyed the beautiful autumn afternoon for a creative game of "soft ball" on the tennis court using our tennis balls and Clara's old t-ball bat from kindergarten! The next morning the girls got into another sewing / cross-stitch mood, and have been making great progress on various projects. Clara's new doll, Kirsten, has also become penpals with Katarina's doll, Francine, with a couple of letters being posted during the week. The week went fast, and Friday the girls went into the city to find some supplies to start sewing nightgowns for Kirsten and Samantha (the new dolls); Tim joined them later for dinner and a trip to Borders, followed by some Hand and Foot. Saturday saw trips to the library, grocery shopping, more sewing, and the completion of the weekend Hand and Foot game. Sunday, more sewing and a trip to the Dunstan Adventure Park to check out some new equipment and explore along the river (lots of baby fish and various birds.) Tim was also working through another book, this one entitled Penelope - Bungles to Broom by Tim Bowden. The subject is a trip Tim and Ros Bowden make from Sydney to Broome via Kimberly / Pilbara regions of northern Western Australia in their Landcruiser ("Penelope") and Jayco popup trailer ("The Manor"). Tim had read his previous book, Penelope Goes West, about their adventures in Penelope. (Penelope was so named because of a chance remark that Ros made about their travel trailer being "The Manor" during the purchase process; this caused the salesman to recall the TV show "To The Manor Born", which starred Penelope - and the rest is history.) And while the book features the Outback of Australia, Bowden still managed to pull in a reference to Scott of the Antarctic; this time Tim was quite pleased that the book didn't glorify Scott's Antarctic disaster - in this case Bowden compared Scott with Burke (of Burke and Wills, the ill-fated explorers of Australia; Burke was another maker of "impetuous decisions", which frequently caused both himself, and his long-suffering, more competent subordinates much grief.)

Monday, Lucy (Clara's friend) came for a sewing extravaganza (her mother Anna is also a dedicated quilter like Sandy) and sleepover. Having two Lucy's in the house did create a bit of confusion, though!

We've finally gotten back to the New Zealand pages and pretty well finished them off. Quite a lot of new pictures and a bit of new text.

April 21 - May 13, 2004 - Back to School: The school holidays came to an end over Anzac Day weekend, which commemorates the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fell at Gallipoli, Turkey, in 1915. Friday night, Tim had a scotch tasting (see here for details), the first since last year. Lucy went to the zoo with her friend, Julia, and Julia's mum, and then in the afternoon Julia played at our house (and helped sample the Scottish short bread cookies that Sandy was baking for the Scotch tasting). On Sunday morning Clara and Sandy went to the sewing and craft expo at the showgrounds and had a lovely time looking at all of the displays together. In the afternoon Allanah came for a sleepover at our house with Clara while Lucy went to their house for a sleepover with Jessica. Then all the socializing drew to a close and it was time to get ready for school and back into the routine for Term 2.

Sandy had volunteered to be a Year 2 class rep, so she's been involved in all the Parents and Friends activities associated with Year 2. The latest part of this occurred Friday night, when we hosted the Year 2 parents, along with Year 2 teacher Kath and her husband Roger. This turned out to be quite an evening, with about 20 people filling our house, and the last ones leaving about midnight. It was very interesting, and as always, we are amazed at the diversity of the families who send their children to Wilderness. Early in the evening the girls stayed close to their safe listening perches on the first stair landing, but later they decided a few of their own card games would be more entertaining. Occasionally they did come down to sample party foods from the buffet!

The girls have also been enthused about the "Premier's Reading Challenge," which is an initiative of the South Australian Premier Mike Rann (equivalent to a state governor in the US), to encourage kids to read. Of course, Clara and Lucy don't need any encouragement, but they're always up for a contest. So they've been scouring the reading list of "approved books", and comparing to their own libraries. Unfortunately for them, they've already read most of the books they have that are on the list! The girls have also been big into games of late, particularly card games, and even the weekly sessions of Hand and Foot are not enough, so they've been playing on their own, and even inventing their own games. This weekend they've been playing a game they made up by combining Go Fish with Hand and Foot, involving two decks of cards (see here and here).

Saturday brought a bit of excitement for Clara - she lost another tooth (and three more are loose!) Sunday brought the first of the Term 2 birthday parties, this one for Ivana, one of the new girls in Year 5. It was down in Marion at the bowling alley. Clara was quite pleased with her bowling, achieving the high score of the afternoon (121). Sandy has also been busy working on quilting projects, and preparing ideas for the craft group which is making crafts for the big spring craft fair at Wilderness. They are meeting every Monday, and getting quite serious about it.

Monday was back to school and work. When Tim came home Monday night, he found all three girls in a very giggly mood. Apparently the day had gone well, and the evening even better! Tuesday, he had to get up early for a quick hop to Williamtown (2-3 hours north of Sydney) and back. He was pretty well-knackered when he eventually made it home - he'd left when the girls were asleep and returned when they were asleep! The rest of the week passed quickly, with Clara loosing another tooth (two more to go now). Saturday was the big day Clara and Lucy were looking forward to - Allanah's birthday party. We all went over to Chris and Jacquie's (and Allanah and Jessica's) house, and helped out - the craft project involved painting and decorating a picture frame, then taking and printing out digital pictures to put in them. It kept all four adults quite busy for the entire time. Afterwards, we stayed for homemade pizza - the best we've had in Oz) and conversation. Sunday was a quiet Mother's Day - Tim, Clara and Lucy took Sandy out for breakfast, then we just puttered about the house.

We had another indicator of how long we've been here - Tuesday afternoon we had to go in for the medical exams related to renewing our visas, so we can stay in Australia. In the course of doing this, we discovered that while Clara's vision has not changed much, Lucy's has deteriorated significantly, and she most likely will need glasses! As the week progressed, Clara started showing signs of slowing down. By Wednesday it seemed pretty clear she was under the weather, so she stayed home with Sandy on Thursday.

May 14-25, 2004 - Settling in to winter: Clara continued sick, but staying home Friday, along with a quiet Saturday (just a trip to the library, home-made pizza and some cards (Tim won!) seemed to perk her up.) Sunday was also a quiet day. After the morning showers ended, Tim wandered about the parklands near our house for a bit, snapping a few photos, including this Long-billed Corella, an interesting gum tree and these gum nuts/blossoms. (For a series of interesting pictures of a tame Long-billed Corella from birth to maturity, click here.) In the afternoon, Clara and Lucy took their new dolls, Kirsten and Samantha, over to meet Francine and Emily, the dolls belonging to Katarina and Zof. Clara and Katarina even attempted making dresses for their dolls. Later on Tim and Sandy joined the girls and shared a lovely Thai dinner with Anj, Pete and their girls. Monday was a public holiday, Adelaide Cup Day (a South Australian holiday based around a horse race). The cool, drizzly day reduced the turnout substantially, causing the promoters to suggest that the race needs to be moved into the summer in future years.

Tuesday, Clara went on a school excursion to the South Australian Maritime Museum, and had an enjoyable day learning about the maritime history of South Australia, including a trip up the Port River on a sailing ship. Seeing the interior of an early ship that brought immigrants to Australia, especially the tight sleeping berths, really made an impression on Clara. The rest of the week passed quickly, with, however, Clara still showing signs of illness, so Friday afternoon, it was off to the ear, nose and throat specialist. It appears she has had a bout of tonsillitis, but is getting over it, although he ordered an x-ray to find out what is going on in the sinuses. Another quiet weekend, with a large chunk taken up with more paperwork for our visa renewal and a birthday party for one of Clara's friends. Monday was Sandy's craft group - they are really churning out the items for the November Wilderness craft fair, but have even bigger plans. Tuesday, Lucy went on a nearly-all-day excursion to the zoo and adjacent botanical gardens including the rain forest conservatory, where they studied Asian flora and fauna, as part of their study of Indonesia this term. After school it was off for Clara's x-ray.

We also went through the New Zealand pictures on the girl's cameras, and added a couple more to the NZ pages. The pictures were of the girls bottlefeeding the three baby animals at Mt Prospect, and a closeup of the twin calves.

This has also been a big week for the Wedgetail program. The first flight of the modified aircraft occurred in Seattle on Friday. Pictures and story from Boeing are here, while the official Australian government site, with even more pictures and a movie, is here.

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