Australian Journal - February 2003
January 28 - February 12, 2003 - Back to School: Hard to believe that another couple of weeks have gone by so fast. Tuesday was phonics in the morning, and Kimba, another friend of Clara's, came to play in the afternoon. Wednesday we did grocery shopping. Thursday Sandy and the girls went to the Harry Potter movie with Jacquie, Allanah and Jessica, then to the school to pick up Clara's books and supplies. Friday the girls went to the art museum (Lucy's request), and then met Tim in the city for dinner and a trip to Borders. So not much of the girls' vacation is left.
Saturday morning was swimming again for Clara and Lucy (with school about to start, they've gone back to a once-per-week schedule). Sunday morning, we awoke to the news of another tragedy - the loss of the space shuttle Columbia during re-entry after 16 days in space. Tim remembers halting a physics lab class he was teaching over 20 years ago, so all the students could watch the landing of the first shuttle - Columbia. Clara still insists she wants to be an astronaut (among other things!) and we went to the library, bringing back books about Columbia, the Challenger disaster, and the Space Station, which she promptly sat down to read.
Sunday and Monday were spent getting ready for school - getting all the school supplies in order, ironing uniforms and polishing shoes, deciding what to put in the lunch boxes, etc. On Sunday, Clara also set up the crystal growing "garden" that she received for Christmas, and we all enjoyed watching the transformation over the course of the day. Both girls also enjoyed photographing the changes every hour or so. Another neighbor who has a pool offered Clara and Lucy a swim in their backyard on Monday afternoon--which was a fitting way to spend the last afternoon of the Australian summer vacation.
And then - it was back to school, and the associated routines, which just seem to fill our days to the brim. Friday evening we had a lovely babysitter, Natalie, come spend the evening with the girls, and they had a great time teaching her several games from the US. Meanwhile, Sandy and Tim had been asked to come to a committee meeting to kick off the fund raising campaign to build the new school gym/auditorium, but having come from a public school system, we felt a bit like fish out of water. Afterwards, we extended the evening out and had a late dinner at a new Japanese restaurant. Then it was a new week, and a bit of change for Lucy.
Lucy had been quite excited about Reception when she first started in late July, but her enthusiasm dwindled quite rapidly, and she often chose to play or do things on her own. After discussions with the teachers and the head of the junior school, we took Lucy to a local psychologist / education consultant. Based on the results of his assessment, Lucy has been moved up the hill to Year 1, and she has seemed happy to rejoin the girls she was with last year. Due to the upcoming construction of the gym, many of the classrooms in the junior school have been rearranged. The Year 1 and 2 girls have all been moved up the hill to the part of campus where Years 3 - 6 are located, so now Lucy is just a few doors away from Clara's classroom.
Wednesday was the day for the swimming "heats" in preparation for next week's Wilderness Aquatic Carnival for the Year 3 - 6 girls, so Clara spent the morning at the Norwood Pool, trying out in various events. Meanwhile Sandy did some baking and had invited several other ladies in the neighborhood to join her for "afternoon tea." They all had a lovely chat, so we are planning a regular get-together every fortnight--on Tuesday evenings, so it looks like the Down Under chapter of Ladies Night Out has been launched.
February 13-23, 2003 - Valentine's Day and Kangaroo Island: The rest of the week went fast, and then early on Saturday morning, we were off again on a mini-trip - a long weekend on Kangaroo Island. We only spent four days there, but we did enough, and took enough pictures to justify another set of dedicated trip pages. So, once again, it will take a while for us to get the trip travelogue complete - but you can check our progress to date by clicking here for the text, and here to go right to the pictures.
The day after our late night return from KI was Clara's Aquatic Carnival. This is a Wilderness-sponsored competition at the Adelaide Aquatic Center (Adelaide's premier swimming complex, which hosts international competitions). The girls in Years 3-6 are formed up into house teams which compete in various divisions and events, including a variety of races designed more for fun and participation than style, such as the inner tube relay, and the over-and-under relay. Wednesday night, we remembered to put Lucy's tooth under her pillow (it had actually come out the previous morning when we were still on KI, but we were all so tired by the time we got home at 10:15 pm Tuesday night that we forgot). Thursday, Lucy discovered that the tooth fairy had found her in Australia, and left behind 4 US State quarters to add to her collection.
Wednesday night and Thursday brought welcome relief to much of Australia, including South Australia, with a very healthy rainfall. It pretty much rained all day, which reduces the bushfire risk and helps out the farmers tremendously. The downside is that it doesn't help the grape growers, who are now looking at the potential of their nearly-ripe grapes getting mildew. Friday, everyone was glad for the coming weekend - it's amazing how tiring a vacation can be! We've been realizing that we so want to maximize our exploration of Australia while we have the opportunity, that we don't relax nearly as much on the trips themselves, since we tend to always be always on the move. However, this weekend we just spent puttering on odd jobs and getting this journal (and the KI trip pages) updated - in fact, we were so laid back that we missed Lucy's swimming lesson by mistake - she was not amused! However, she gets to start piano lessons next week, so she is quite excited about that.
February 24-March 2, 2003 - Back to the routine: Now that the rains have come and the drought may be ending, the bushfires are also ending. This past season has been acknowledged as the worst since 1939. However, the bad news is not yet over for farmers and others. Since there is no feed available, cattle stocks continue to dwindle - and will be hard to build back up. The tourist regions have missed their prime season, and some schools in the affected regions are only now starting classes, putting their students behind as well. Plus, the rain has brought floods to many regions, washing away roads and houses, particularly in Queensland. Closer to home, the vineyards are worried about their grape crops - which, if they haven't already split from too much water, are in danger of developing mould before they can be harvested.
The other topic which continues to dominate the news here is the potential war with Iraq. Radio and TV shows discuss it, anti-War marches and rallies are held in Adelaide, and the prime minister continues to be battered about his decision to support the US and Britain. We miss having CNN and other American TV channels to allow us to more easily compare the coverage in the states and here.
The girls are happy to be back at school and are enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, they've both gotten sick - Lucy with a cold, and Clara with some sort of virus that has given her some fever, headache, and left her rundown. She didn't even protest too much at staying home from school on Thursday to go to the doctor. Instead, she played games with Sandy and immersed herself in the "TypeQuick" program they use at school to teach typing on the computer (and which we have at home). She is making great strides. She'll soon pass Tim's how-fast-can-you-go-with-two-fingers-and-an-occasional-thumb speed! This has also been an exciting week at school for Lucy's Year 1 class - their new playground equipment was finally installed, and the girls were allowed onto it. They showed great politeness and manners by lining up and taking turns on each piece, all by themselves.
On Tuesday the Down Under branch of Ladies Night Out had their first evening get-together at Katrina's house across the street. Everyone enjoyed the casual conversation, and all are eager for our next gathering, but there are a couple of distinct Aussie differences from the White Horse Crossing branch. For one thing, everyone voted to meet at 8 pm. As we have noticed, many families here have a later dinner in the evenings. The refreshments also had a different twist. Rather than a dessert with a cup of hot tea, the ladies here opted for a glass or two of wine with some fruit and cheese. But the relaxing visit with laughter, tidbits of advice, and the comfort of shared experiences and stories that help put our own lives into perspective were exactly the things that Sandy had been missing from the White Horse Crossing group!
Friday arrived, and with it, Lucy's first piano lesson. Lucy enjoyed the lesson, but her teacher noticed that her fingers were a bit tense. After school, Lucy was eager to start practicing. Friday afternoon, as Sandy was preparing a new recipe for spinach and ricotta- filled cannelloni for dinner, Clara asked "Mom, is this another one of your experiences?" By this, she meant experiments. Fortunately everyone survived the meal. Saturday turned out to be an on-the-go day for us all. The morning started with swimming for both girls. Tim was able to accompany the girls for the first time in a while and was quite impressed with the progress both have made since he last watched them. Afterwards, it was time for a trip to the library, a haircut for Lucy, gift shopping for a birthday party Clara would be attending, and violin (Clara) and piano (Lucy) practice. Then late in the afternoon Clara was off to her birthday party. Shortly thereafter, our babysitter arrived (she had some exciting news that she would be appearing in an episode of McLeod's Daughters, a popular TV series filmed near here), and Tim and Sandy had a rare night out. We took the opportunity to go up in the hills to an Argentinean restaurant located inside a former church, and then up to the summit of Mt. Lofty to enjoy the view of the city at night.
We've also added quite a few more pictures to the KI (and KI pictures) pages, and a few words of text. Most of the additional text is near the front, and relates to Aboriginal Dreamtime tracks of Songlines, and contains excerpts from The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin.
On a more mundane note - the speed limits in Adelaide changed on the first of March - down to 50 km/hr (31 mph) on most city streets, from the former 60 km/hr (37 mph). The girls noted that this wasn't a very good birthday present for Tim, given his troubles with the abundant speed cameras here--the favorite "revenue-raising device" used by the cities and state authorities!
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