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Australian Journal - February - March 2004

February 7-10, 2004 - Heat Wave The temperatures have been in the high 30s (95-105 F), but haven't quite hit the predicted 40 - and the power has stayed on (we haven't had any power brownouts or blackouts since we've been in Oz, but they have happened in recent times, and people have warned us to expect them.) There has been talk in the news of shortages of gas for power generation purposes as well. Otherwise, it was been a normal weekend at home - the girls went for their swimming lessons on Saturday, we did some reorganization around the house, along with the usual violin, clarinet and piano practice - and the inevitable weekend-long game of Hand and Foot. After the first two rounds, Lucy was far in front, much to her glee, with three times as many points as Tim, who was bringing up last place after being caught outside his foot twice in a row. However, Clara made a great comeback in the third round, while Tim made a fair return in the fourth and final round, with Clara finishing first, then Lucy, followed by Tim, barely ahead of Sandy.

Monday was Clara's first day of T-ball practice - it went well, but we're wondering how long she can keep up T-ball, tennis, swimming, violin and clarinet - never mind school and homework... The team only has two more practices until their first game - it should be very entertaining.

And of course a few more pictures and some new text have gone up on the New Zealand pages. The text is almost finished, but there are still a few pictures to go.

February 11-22, 2004 - Swimming Carnival and the return of cooler weather: The girls had a good week at school. Clara's class went downtown to the Electoral office to see how elections work and to use the official voting equipment for their vote for representatives to the junior school council. Lucy was very excited to have her first real tennis lesson on Friday afternoon. Her teacher, Libby, remarked that she'd never seen such focus and determination in a girl of her age before!

With the girls back in school, Sandy has been able to get back into some adult-focused activities! Thursday she returned to quilt group, and made progress on her bright flannel quilt - she's in serious danger of having another complete quilt on her hands. She has also gotten her sewing room organized (and finally managed to win a two-week-long Monopoly game with Clara - Lucy was the banker - and the only reason it took so long is Clara absolutely refused to give up until she lost her last cent.

The temperatures have remained hot (or at least very warm) and occasionally a bit muggy. We're hoping that Saturday (Valentine's Day) was the hottest we are to see this summer (at 44 C or 111 F), and it's all downhill from here. Even the locals are admitting that it is indeed "stinkin' hot." Although some people have lost power, we have remained lucky. Monday's T-Ball practice was canceled due to heat, so if they go ahead and have their first game on Friday, it should be very interesting - many of the girls have never played T-Ball before, and have had only the one practice session!

Wednesday was the 2004 Wilderness Junior School Aquatics Carnival for Years 3-6. There were 69 events spread from 9 am til 12 pm (as usual, the timing was optimistic and it ran over!) Clara swam in five events, and Tim managed to slip away from work long enough to watch her in the first couple and take some pictures. Here is Clara diving in to start the 50 metre breaststroke (notice her cap), here she is almost at the finish (where'd that cap go?), and here she is recovering, clutching her third place ribbon. This year, Sparaxis house (Clara and Lucy's house) almost won (they were leading when Tim left), but Amaryllis came on strong to overtake them in the end.

Thursday, it was clear that Clara, Lucy and Sandy were all coming down with colds, perhaps due to the perpetual air conditioning we've been living in for the past several weeks. Both girls went to school, but when the T-Ball coach told the Year 5 girls that she need volunteers to sit out Friday's game, Clara volunteered. The teams are only allowed to take 12 players to each game, so since there are 15 girls on the Wilderness team, the girls will have to take turns sitting out games. This sit-out pleased us, since we were afraid the game, on top of a very busy week, would just do Clara in completely. (Tim was also happy, since he had a conflict at work, and didn't make it home until quite late on Friday - he very much wanted to be at Clara's first game.)

Thursday evening Clara and Lucy had babysitters (a couple of Year 11 Wildy girls who live nearby, Kate and Nat. Clara was quite pleased to learn that Kate played both violin and piano.) Tim and Sandy went to the school for the Curriculum Night, where the teachers talk about the coming year and their approach to teaching. We also got to look around their classrooms and see what they've been up to - Tim was quite taken with a family coat of arms that Clara's class did - Clara's coat of arms had recognizable drawings of the four of us, plus a drawing of our goldfish pond, among other things. Tim and Sandy returned home to find Lucy in bed, and Clara trying to teach Hand and Foot to Kate and Nat!

Friday was another warm day (up to 33 C - 91 F). It also marked the start of the Adelaide Art Festival (actually, the Fringe Festival, one of several concurrent/ overlapping festivals / events that run through March, and are a large part of what give Adelaide the nickname of City of Festivals.) The Year 5 girls were supposed to go on an excursion to one of the shows, but upon arrival, they found there had been a mixup, and the show was overbooked - so they got to stand around, along with another Wildy class and classes from another school, until the bus could return to pick them up. The good news was that a cool change came through overnight, so Saturday was only in the high 20s, and there was even a bit of rain.

Saturday, Sandy spent the morning preparing potato salad and peach cobbler to take along to a barbeque at Jacquie & Chris' house, along with Peter and Anj, and all the kids. Clara worked on her first term project for school, while Lucy drew and read, and Tim put the finishing touches on the proceedings from the whisky convention, which should be published soon. In spite of the rain (which was a very pleasant break from the heat), we had a very enjoyable afternoon and evening; the six girls did well together, playing some damp tennis, exploring the beach and dunes, and then playing other games on the tennis court until it was time to go.

No more work on the New Zealand pages since last time - we still need to finish those off one of these days!

February 23-March 6, 2004 - Nothing out of the ordinary: Sunday, we spent around the house - Clara working on homework and violin, Lucy on piano - and both girls practicing T-ball with Tim (there goes Lucy again, insisting whatever Clara does, she can do!) Lucy also got in a little solo tennis practice as well.

Another week went by very fast, topped off by Clara's T-Ball game on Friday afternoon. This week it was the girls from St. Andrews, a nearby co-ed private school. Wilderness won by 2 runs, spurred on by their cheering section ("Give me a W!" "W!" "Give me an I!" "I" ... "What does it spell! "WILDY!") Here's Clara heading for first after one of her hits.

Friday night, Pete, Anj, Katarina and Zof stopped by for pizza since Anj had been at the doctor's all afternoon. Saturday, we went to have a barbecue lunch with Donna, Tony and Sarah, where the girls had a great time on Sarah's trampoline. After we came home late in the afternoon, we started the inevitable weekend Hand and Foot game. The rest of the weekend went quickly as usual, with a fair bit of homework for Clara, music practice for both girls, and a spot of T-Ball practice for both Lucy and Clara on Sunday, followed by Tim and Lucy racing each other to see who would finish their respective volume of Harry Potter first (Tim finished Volume 5 just a few pages before Lucy finished on Volume 1.)

Monday, the temperatures started to climb again. Sandy volunteered to be one of the two parental class reps for Year 2, and Tuesday was the first get-together - Sandy, Mary (her co-organizer) and several other Moms had a coffee and brainstorming session at "The Store" in North Adelaide. ("The Store" is the grocery store cum cafe across the street from the Old Lion where we first stayed when we arrived 2 1/2 years ago.) Tuesday afternoon, Sandy escaped inside for a couple hours with Anj to see the movie The Passion of Christ by Mel Gibson (which has been getting a lot of attention down here, given that Mel is a native.) Tuesday evening, we noticed what seemed like loud music from our rear neighbors, went out on the balcony, and realized we were getting a free listen to the Fleetwood Mac concert going on downtown at the Adelaide Oval!

Wednesday evening, Sandy went off with friend Donna for another movie, Mona Lisa Smile - more movies in a week than she normally sees in 6 months! Tim stayed with the girls and assisted with homework - one interesting aspect was Clara's homework from her writing class where they are studying different types of writing. Today's assignment was to talk about an ad you found interesting - but Clara watches so little TV, that she didn't really know any - so out came the American Girls catalog, and we declared that a catalog was close enough to an ad for the purpose.

Thursday morning was the weekly assembly at school, and Clara's class showed projects that they had recently constructed and told the audience about some of the engineering/design problems that they had encountered. Clara's group was given the task of building a bed for Snow White. Another group had to build a chair for Goldilocks and another had to construct a bridge for the Three Billy Goats. On the same morning Clara was also playing the morning hymn, Amazing Grace, on violin along with a small group of girls playing other instruments, so Tim and Sandy attended the assembly. Afterwards Tim headed to work and Sandy to her quilt group. It was again a very hot day, so Clara's afterschool tennis was cancelled. Friday the heat lessened, and although Clara's T-Ball team had a "by" this week, Lucy still had tennis practice.

Festival season is really heating up in Adelaide, with the Fringe Festival having been underway for a couple weeks (Lucy's class got to attend Circus Oz, which is here as part of the circus), the Festival of the Arts entering it's second week, and Womadelaide running this weekend. We've continued to hear occasional snippets from some of the louder performers down at the Adelaide Oval / Festival Centre. And then the Clipsal 500 motor race comes to town days after the festivals end, running through Adelaide's city streets and among the parklands. Adelaide truly lives up to it's name of the Festival City this time of year!

March 7-29, 2004 - More of the same: The journal has been in hiatus for a few weeks again since Tim has been off in America. He went to Seattle for a week, then to California for a S/W development conference and a fortuitous chance to meet up with some of his American whisky friends at the Whiskies of the World expo in San Francisco, back to Seattle for a few days, and then finally home.

In the meantime, Sandy and the girls have been busy with school and all the other usual activities. Sandy has been working with the group of Wilderness moms preparing for the Wilderness Fair in November (part of the ongoing celebration of Wilderness' 120th birthday) by making craft items for the craft stall. She has introduced them to the beaded socks that she makes for Clara and Lucy and others, and Tim brought back a few thousand beads to support the effort last year. The first week Tim was gone was also the week when the Year 2 girls went to the aquatic center every morning for swimming lessons. This term Lucy has started taking tennis lessons, and Clara has been having T-ball games each Friday (with practice each Monday). Friday night was a get-together for the Year 5 parents at a local Greek restaurant, so Clara and Lucy had a nearby Year 11 Wilderness girl (Kate) come by to babysit. Not only did Kate look after the girls for the evening, but she also rescued Sandy by helping to tune Clara's violin. After doing a lot of homework on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, Clara enjoyed having Rebecca come to play for the afternoon. Lucy's friend from our old neighborhood, Sarah, also came to play, and all the girls had a good time.

Another week passed with the days just as full for everyone, but on Friday night after the T-ball game, Clara went to a sleepover at Katarina's, so Lucy and Sandy had a "sleepover" in Sandy's bed as well. Saturday and Sunday nights, Sandy and Clara watched the movie Titanic. We were worried a little about whether Clara would find it disturbing, but some of her friends have seen it and talked about it, and we have read other books about it with her, so in the end, she seemed to handle it with equanimity, and picked up on a lot of the character details. Sunday, Lucy went to a disco birthday party at Holly's and enjoyed that.

The next week, Clara had to take a project to school one day to demonstrate to the class. She and Ella each brought a project, and the other girls had to watch what they did and then write down the procedure. Clara wanted to take the stuff to make the little pom pom critters that we had made from yarn at her birthday party last year. So Sandy and Clara spent one evening gathering up all the stuff and refining the technique a bit.

Tim got home Friday mid-day, and came along to Clara's T-ball game. The other school Wilderness was supposed to play had to cancel, and the coach couldn't arrange another game, so she decided to recruit a couple extra Wildy girls and divide the Wildy team in two and have them play each other. Saturday morning we all went to the girls' last swimming lesson -- the pool is closing down for the winter. Then we stopped at a couple of thrift stores to find some things for costumes for "heritage day" at the school next Monday. All girls are to dress up as "a woman who has made a difference." It could be someone famous or not famous. Clara is dressing up as Clara Barton, and Lucy has chosen Laura Ingalls Wilder. Again, this is another part of the 120th birthday celebration at Wilderness this year.

In a funny coincidence, Clara has had another Clara in her swimming class (the first Clara we've met in Oz, and pronounced Clah-rah in the Aussie way), and then the clerk at the Red Cross thrift store was also named Clara! At Wilderness, where there are nearly 600 girls, there is only one Clara.

Sunday was a day of musical practice inside and tennis outside - in a bit of a spitting light rain (which eventually became quite heavy with a lot of wind - winter is really arriving in SA.) Then in the evening, the usual weekend Hand and Foot game started up. Monday, the girls took off for school with a full carload of stuff - their usual backpacks, plus instruments for Clara and tennis racket for Lucy, along with Clara's diorama to go along with part of her reading project. This term, her big project has been to select four books (two novels, one non-fiction, and one "picture" book) and then use them as a basis for various activities. Clara's first book was one of the American Girls History Mysteries; she had to make a prediction about the storyline of the book before starting to read it (she wasn't allowed to look at the back cover either - just the picture on the front and the title), then evaluate the book afterwards, and do another related activity. Clara has been making great strides this year in her writing skills, and is writing more insightfully, and with better structure. She still needs a lot of editing (like Tim!) but is progressing well. Her second book was a book about electricity, and she had to come up with a set of questions she expected the book to answer, then make an educational poster to show the class what she learned. Along the way, she had a lot of fun with an electricity kit she got for Christmas which allowed her to make various gadgets which flashed, howled, played music, etc. Her third book was The Phantom Tollbooth, which she also had to analyze, and then make a diorama of a favorite scene. She really enjoyed the book since it had a lot of word play and puns. The main character was Milo, who has a watchdog named Tock - and who was a clock to boot. Clara chose to make a diorama of the scene where the orchestra was "playing" the colors of the sunset.

Changing subjects a bit, but inspired by some recent discussions with the girls, one of the things that has struck us over our time in Oz is just how much Australians love to compete--in everything. Even hobbies for relaxation all tend to involve competition. Tim has checked out fishing and photography clubs, and they all seem to be focused around competitions - rather than learning and enjoying a new activity. Quilting in Australia involves lots of competing for prizes, and the Australians have stormed the international quilt competitions as well, winning many of the top prizes at the big quilt show in Houston this past November. Doing something purely "for fun" doesn't happen much. Not surprisingly, this is very evident in sports - whether it is swimming or PE exercises, there is an emphasis on finishing first, as opposed to interest in other virtues (e.g., being safe in the water, and living a longer, healthier life). In academic life, children at young ages routinely participate in writing competitions, music exams and competitions, science competitions, chess matches, solar boat races, and so on. Then all of this culminates in the ultimate competition of a student's school years--the Year 12 exams which determine whether a child will be able to attend university or not. A student's score on their Year 12 exams determines whether or not they will be admitted to an Australian university, and which fields of study they are eligible to pursue. As you might expect, medicine requires very high (nearly perfect) scores because so few places are available, while other fields have lower requirements. Unlike in the US, where nearly anyone who wants to go to Uni can find a way, somehow - here, it is much more cut and dried - either your test scores are good enough or they aren't.

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