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Australian Journal - September-October 2004

August 30 - Sept 7, 2004 - Spring: Sandy hosted the craft ladies on Monday - they are in the final couple of weeks of actually making craft items for the school fair, then they have to package and price all the stuff they've made. It rained once again on Monday, meaning Clara's last soccer game of the season was cancelled; however, there has been plenty of other activity to keep her and Lucy busy. The 1st of September was the first day of spring down under, regardless of the when the equinox occurs, unlike in the States. However, the weather is continuing winter-like - in fact, this is the wettest, grayest winter that we have experienced so far in South Australia. We had been wondering if we were just finally adapting to the warmer climate, and starting to feel the cooler weather more, or if the trip to the US in the midst of summer had affected our perception, but according to the officials, it has indeed been somewhat wetter and cooler than average for Adelaide - but not for much of the rest of the country. The current predictions are now for a drier spring - good thing all the reservoirs are full!

The election season in Australia is finally in full swing - although the campaigning has been effectively underway for some months, it was only this past week that John Howard, the current prime minister dissolved parliament and called for new elections, to be held in early October. One of the contrasts with the US elections are the use of "preferences" in Australia, whereby people can vote for a smaller party or candidate who is less likely to win, but still have their "second choice" count - so in Oz, there would be no worries about Ralph Nader taking votes away from the Democrats.

Springtime also brings the Royal Adelaide Show - with many kids (including Clara and Lucy) getting the opening day (this Friday) off so they can attend. Even though it is called "the show", we would consider it similar to a big state fair. Tim also managed (unexpectedly) to make time to get away from the office and join the girls at the show. The parking lots were already filling when we arrived within a few minutes of opening, and the crowds just kept growing all day. We decided to take advantage of the (relatively) small crowds when we arrived to go on a couple rides. We enjoyed the Ferris Wheel (here and here), as well as a full-motion simulator ride which was sort of a cross between a Star Wars race and a jet boat ride.

Following the rides, the girls decided that in liue of getting a "showbag", they would like to make their own teddy bear. So, they purchased kits which including a teddy bear shell, stuffing and an outfit. Tim helped the girls stuff and seal their bears, and then it was off to tour the various buildings / exhibits, checking out the various foods for sale (we sampled various salsas and sauces and picked a couple to buy, along with some water buffalo pepperoni and garlic mettwurst.) We also saw lots of animals (here is Lucy with a calf; here are Sandy and Lucy checking out cow and calf pairs) - including some trained ones - we missed the pig races, but we did stumble across the goose-herding dogs. The dog's trainer had the dog herding the geese through the crowds in response to whistle tones - one to turn left, and one to turn right. Just when you think you've seen everything...

Tim wanted to check out the wood chopping competition, and the girls turned out to be much more interested than we expected, and didn't want to leave. They were quite impressed with the Australian version of the Springboard Chop competition, where the contestants had to chop holes and insert three springboards and climb up onto them as they worked their way to the top of the "tree", then cut halfway through the tree, climb back down, and go back up the other side to finish the job. This was a handicapped event, with the fastest chopper starting 80 seconds (!!) after the first. Lucy remarked that it wasn't fair that some people got to start so early - but she was still very impressed that the man who started last still won - albeit by just a few seconds. The announcer had remarked beforehand that the experienced blokes only needed four quick chops to make each hole for their footboards - and he turned out to be right - it was amazing to watch the ultimate winner swarm up and down the "tree" so quickly. There were only Australians in this particular event - but the wood-cutting goes on for the entire duration of the fair, with various events, handicapped or not, men and women, teams and individuals - with contestants from around the world. Considering how limited the forests are in SA, we are still surprised at the extent and popularity of this event here - although other parts of Oz have much more of a lumbering tradition - and Aussies in general do very well competing on the international scene.

Sunday was Father's Day in Australia, so Clara and Lucy cooked breakfast for Tim (bacon, eggs and bagels, "rock melon" = cantaloupe, and strawberries) and gave him a number of very nice handmade items (some of which will get scanned and put onto the website shortly) - including the largest origami crane we've ever seen - about two feet across! (Clara had been in an origami mood a few weeks ago, making crane after crane (as well as other things), and at one point, she was making absolutely tiny (1/4 inch) cranes. We also finally got a picture of Clara and her Solar System model - although the model had lost its asteroid belt by this time...

After breakfast, Tim and Clara walked over to the parklands again to photograph birds. That inspired us to put up a separate page with just Australian bird pictures. Then it was time for music practice, some bike riding - and then Lucy and Clara developed a gymnastic "show" on the tennis court, which they performed for Sandy and Tim after dinner, accompanied by ABBA.

Sept 8-22, 2004 - End of term: Another busy week passed quickly. Saturday was a big day, with Tim hosting a scotch tasting that evening, and BOTH girls heading off for birthday party sleepovers. Clara got perhaps three hours of sleep (there were thirteen girls at her sleepover, so sleep was hard to come by!) while Lucy did better, getting perhaps eight hours of sleep. Needless to say, Sunday was a day of rest and recuperation for all!

In spite of Sunday, everyone started off the week feeling a little under the weather, and by Tuesday it was clear that Clara was sick, so it was off to the doctor again, who recommended she stay home most of the week. Lucy seemed to be doing better, but was sufficiently tired that she asked to come home early on Thursday. In the end, Clara stayed home the rest of the week, in the hopes she will be well enough to attend the Year 5 Camp she has been looking forward to all year. This is a three day/two night camp (and while it is called "camp", it is actually less camping than last year - this year, the girls get to stay in dormitories at Wirraway Homestead Youth Center.

This week also marks the third anniversary of our arrival in Australia - hard to believe it's been that long! This means also that it must be close to time for the Australian Rules Football ("Footy") Grand Final. This past week saw one of the two Adelaide teams, the Port Power, win the preliminary final in a close match against St. Kilda (from Victoria) to get into the Grand Final. Saturday, the three-time-champion Brisbane Lions defeated Geelong (also from Victoria) to gain the other spot in the Grand Final. This marks the first time ever that no Victorian teams have made it to the final - which is significant, since by the rules of the league, the Grand Final is always played in Victoria, at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds - this year's non-Victorian final will give added support to those who say the final should move around, as it does in American football (or gridiron, as it is known here.)

Saturday, Tim finally got a bike, and went riding around our street with the girls. Now that Lucy is off training wheels, and has graduated to Clara's old bike, he couldn't keep up with them on foot anymore. So, all three are looking forward to getting out onto the Torren's Linear Park, and exploring its entire length from the sea to the hills, now that they are all mobile. Sunday, we went to Joslin Reserve for a Year 2 picnic which the Year 2 class reps (Sandy and Mary) had organized. It was a beautiful spring day, and a lovely place for a picnic, with lots of room to play, tennis courts, playground and an electric grill which we were lucky enough to lay claim to since we arrived early by Australian standards. By the time we left in early-mid afternoon, the place was packed with families and other groups - playing, barbequing, and celebrating. Sandy made Grandma's apple cake, and it was a big hit with everyone, too. At dinner that night, after Tim told Sandy it was one of the best she had made in a long time, Clara piped up with "And that's saying something, Mom, since everything you cook is great!"

Monday, Clara took off for school in great excitement, loaded down with all her gear for her camp. After school, Lucy kept saying "I wish Clara was here!" every twenty minutes or so! Sandy's craft fair group decided to take a week off from sewing and instead went out for a lovely lunch at the Wellington Hotel in North Adelaide.

It's hard to believe that this is the last week of the third term - the term (and the year) has certainly gone fast. Lucy keeps pointing out that it is less than 10 weeks of school and she will start Year 3. For us, it is also hard to realize that Lucy is now as old as Clara was when we first came here three years ago.

With only a couple of weeks left until the Australian Federal elections, things are heating up. While Australia has two major parties, there are still several additional parties which get a reasonable numbers of seat, unlike the the US where the two major parties have most of the seats. This means that coalition governments are the order of the day. Given this situation, along with a lot of similarity between major party policies (or perhaps a lack of public interest in the differences), the election tends to be fought in the marginal seats, and over fringe issues as the two major parties try to attract the "preferences" of minor party candidates. At the moment, both major Australian parties are suddely trying to attract the "green" votes, by concentrating on plans to end logging in Tasmania's old growth forests (including the Styx Valley, home of the tallest flowering trees in the world, and which we visited over two years ago.)

Wednesday, Sandy got an unexpected call from school - Lucy was sick, and needed to be picked up. Her teacher said she knew something was wrong since Lucy never complains, but this time came up to her and told her she didn't feel well. Then Clara arrived back from camp, still in one piece, having had a great time - but also suffering relapse! So it is really good that the end of term is at hand - we need it for recovery time!

Sept 23 - October 17, 2004 - School Holidays: We ended the term with both girls staying home, trying to recover from their end-of-term viruses. Saturday brought the big day for Adelaide Footy fans. The Port Power team took on the three-time champions Brisbane Lions, who were trying to tie the record set by Collingwood back in the 20s of four straight wins in the Grand Final. But it was not to be, and Port Adelaide came away the winners by 40 points. Go the Power! Along with the Grand Final, other signs of spring are in the air - the bottle brushes and wisteria are in full bloom, with the Jacaranda not far behind; the pelicans and white cockies (cockatoos) are back - and the Australian cricket teams are warming up for a summer of Test matches.

Sunday, Clara was off for an evening birthday party at Katarina's house. Since she was still a bit under the weather, we suggested that she have a nap in the afternoon (and she slept for 2 hours!), so she was energized and bubbling as the time for the party approached. However, we pretty much just poured her into bed when she returned home, as she was exhausted once again. The rest of the week went fairly quietly, with the girls diving into the workbooks we had picked up in the States, and bringing them to Sandy for "marking" (as the Aussies call grading or correcting of homework) - and the dispensation of stickers for each page done.

Thursday, Allanah and Jessica came for the day to play. However, the girls still seemed somewhat rundown, and on Saturday, Sandy and Clara went to the doctor, who found they both had sinus infections. So, it has been a very quiet school break, with much quiet play and rest / recuperation for everyone. All three girls perked up somewhat over the weekend, which was just as well, since Tim's brother Jim and his wife Brenda arrived for a visit from the States!

They had spent a couple weeks touring Sydney, Queensland and the Red Centre, before arriving in Adelaide. During that time we spent four days on Kangaroo Island, and then three days touring around Adelaide. We had a marvelous time which went all too quickly. We'll be getting pictures of the visit up as time allows, including a new Kangaroo Island text page and KI picture page. Clara was sufficiently inspired by the trip to write a poem about one part of it on her return to school, you can find "Surprise" or "The Sea Lion" here (she can't quite settle on a title!)

The girls started back to school for the final term of 2004 (and their final terms as Year 2 and Year 5 students) - and both they and Sandy were quite pleased that summer is here which brings summer uniforms in place of the hard-to-care-for wool winter uniforms! Last term also brings plenty of activities with it, so both girls are practicing for their solo performances at upcoming school concerts, and Clara is busy working towards her AMEB Level 1 violin exam.

Other recent news in Australia focuses on the election and cricket. In the recent election, the Coalition (the Liberal Party under John Howard and the National Party under John Anderson) was apparently returned (a last few votes remain to be counted) to government with an overwhelming majority - including a majority in the Senate, which effectively gives the Liberal Party complete control over the government. Here is an article detailing some of the possible initiatives and goals of the Coalition once they assume power. This election also saw the effective disintegration of the Social Democrat party, which had been already been imploding through internal squabbles over the last couple of years. The Greens remain a factor among the smaller parties, with the new Family First party having a definite impact on the recent election. In the cricket world, the first major Test match is under way between Australia and India, and it has been up and down for the Aussies so far. Australia easily won the first Test match of the four game series, then completely collapsed during the second. A bright spot was leg-spinner Shane Warne, who achieved his 533rd career wicket (a new world record, at least for a while).

October 18-23, 2004 - School Routine: The girls continue to have plenty of school work and practice to keep them busy, and Sandy's craft group is reaching the final stages of their prep for their big sale in November (reminding Tim of the leadup to the whisky convention a year ago!) Thursday brought quilt group for Sandy and the afternoon saw all the girls practicing on the tennis court with Libby. T-Ball also started up once again at Wilderness, with the Year 5 girls fielding two teams this year.

Last Friday was the first practice, but Monday's practice was canceled - so the first game on this Friday went ahead with very little preparation. Wilderness fielded two teams this year, and they played two teams from nearby St. Andrews. Both Wildy teams won (which resulted in lots of cheers, including a circular cheer which ended up with everyone on on the ground!) Here and here are a couple pictures of Clara in action.

After T-Ball, Sandy whisked Clara and friend Shana off to the house of their classmate Lucy. Since neither Clara or Shana could go to Lucy's sleepover / birthday party, Lucy wanted to have them over another time for a sleepover. They had a great time, feeding and riding horses, making earrings for their moms, etc.

We did find some time to add a few more words and pictures to the Kangaroo Island text and KI picture pages - they aren't quite done yet, but a littler further along. We also came across another interesting website which serves as a collection and distribution site for traveler's journals - Ball of Dirt.

October 24-November 8, 2004 - Busy Week: Saturday night was one of our rare nights out without the girls. We went out to the house of Tim's coworker Jack, and had a very nice evening which featured a Mexican theme. We would have taken the girls, since some of their friends were going, but since Clara had had a sleepover Friday night, and both Clara and Lucy go to bed relatively early, we decided a babysitter would be best for them.

Sunday was a day to catch up on homework and practice, and then into the school / work week. Sandy had to go in for some medical tests on Monday, so Tim stayed home to take the girls to school, pick up Sandy, etc. Monday afternoon was also T-Ball practice. Wednesday brought Grandparent's Day at school, with both girls performing in concerts for grandparents (or other family friends) during the school day. This was followed in the evening by more concerts where the girls got to demonstrate their talents in solo settings. Clara played violin and Lucy the piano, and both did very well - all that practice paid off.

Friday brought another T-Ball game, which started out rather one-sided - the Wildy girls got three outs very quickly in each of the first two innings, and were leading by 5-0 - one of the Pembroke girls was heard to ask "Are we EVER going to score a run?!" However, Pembroke started doing better in the third inning, and got a few runs on the board - but it was not enough, as the Wildy girls continued to bat the order around, in spite of a double play by Pembroke at one point - very unusual for T-Ball! In the end, Wilderness won quite comfortably. However, the other Wildy team did not fare so well, losing to the second Pembroke team. Friday night Tim had another whisky tasting to go to - this one featuring American bourbon and rye whiskies.

One story which recently hit the news served to remind us of where we live, how unpredictable animals are and the dangers of going bush in certain parts of Australia. In this case, a crocodile came up onto shore, and started dragging a man out of a tent and towards the water. A 60 year old woman with the party jumped on the croc's back, distracting the croc, and allowing her husband to shoot the croc.

Saturday marked the start of the swimming season for the girls - they both had lessons at the local outdoor pool. Both girls got in a good bit of musical practice over the weekend as well - especially important for Clara as she has her Level 1 AMEB exam next weekend. Lucy has been quite excited over the last couple weeks, since she is learning fingering in violin now, rather than just bowing open strings. Clara has been spending a lot of time working with Lucy, and extending her lessons outside school hours! Sunday night was Halloween - which isn't a big holiday for the Australians - but a few do it. We didn't go out trick-or-treating this year, but we did get a few coming to the door - fortunately Sandy found a bag of Tim-Tams in the pantry, so we had something to give them!

The week went quickly, this time marked by a trip to the podiatrist on Thursday to check out Clara's continuing intermittent foot pains. He recommended a trip to the chiropractor and possibly the physio (physical therapist) for her, so we'll see where this all ends. Friday, the T-Ball game was rained out, which was just as well, since Saturday was Clara's AMEB Level 1 violin exam. The exam seemed to go well (we don't find out results for a couple weeks!) Clara's reward was a trip to the music store to pick out a couple of fun books of music to play, rather than just concentrating on the same few songs over and over. She picked a Sound of Music play along song book for violin, and a pops book for saxophone. As soon as we got home she and Lucy were both deep into the songs, bouncing from instrument to instrument. Even Tim got into the act, borrowing Clara's saxophone for a while.

We've pretty well finished off the new KI trip pages (or gotten them as far along as we're likely to for quite some time!) They are available here for text and here for pictures. We also added a few more pictures from Jim & Brenda's visit to the Oz Pictures page (scroll to the bottom).

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