Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Traveling: a series of goodbyes and hellos...

Traveling can be emotionally draining.  The amount of times you say goodbye when you’re traveling can make you really sad and can often have you questioning yourself and what you’re really doing with your life.  Then you end up somewhere new.  You’re still in touch with the friends you’ve made and talk to them often, while meeting new friends and seeing new places.  When it comes to my “year” in Australia, I haven’t really done it how others have expected me to, or how other traveling teachers I’ve met have decided to spend their year.  Everyone makes their own decisions according to what makes them happy and what spikes their interests.  Myself, on the other hand, have just gone with the flow with some minor penciling in – and it’s been glorious.  I’ve been asked often if I have “seen the sights” of Australia, and for that I have two answers.  No, I have not seen Uluru (Ayers Rock) yet, nor the Sydney harbour, nor have I driven the Great Ocean Road or seen Kangaroo Island.  But yes – yes I have seen the outback, yes I have seen the several ways Australians live, yes I have grasp on Australian politics, and yes I have seen places that many younger tourists might not see because they aren’t on the top 10 list of things to see in Australia.  I have met so many terrific Australians that I keep in touch with almost daily, and have become a part of people’s lives.  I’ve been invited out for dinners and for overnights with friends, and offered to stay in their houses while they travel – as long as I feed and water their pets!  Solid deal if you ask me. I’ve always loved and can now really appreciate the quote: “your life is your story – don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”  I may not have had the chance to go and see the top 10 things of Australia just yet – but I have acquired my second year enjoying one of the most unique traveler experiences in the outback, and have a second year to explore this beautiful country.  Nearing eight and a half months here in Australia, I can say I’ve had an incredible adventure, with a six week stint teaching in another rural community just beginning, before a three week house sitting stay on the Gold Coast again, and then hopefully finding work on a station somewhere before going to New Zealand for a few months.  My pen is doing a fantastic job writing my story if you ask me.

My time in Toowoomba was incredible – and I didn’t expect anything less than that.  I just adore the Girdler family, and the kids keep me laughing and on my toes every day I’m with them.  I was originally going to leave Toowoomba on the 5th of July, but then with the acceptance of the Robinvale contract for six weeks, and turning down my job at Victoria Station, (the handbag and luggage store), I decided that staying for the weekend and for Rachel’s birthday on the Sunday only made sense!  Rachel and Dave and the kids were happy I stayed, and we had a great weekend.  The British and Irish Lions played the Australia Wallabies on the Saturday night, and the Lions won.  Rachel and Dave were so pleased about the win, and apparently it’s a once every twelve years dealio – so it was pretty awesome that I got to watch it with them, in Australia!  We will have to meet up in twelve years from now when Ava is 16, Charlie is 20, and Michael is just turning 22!! We laughed about the thought of that, but I can totally see it happening somewhere in the world. 

On Sunday, Rachel had her birthday!  Dave and I had some team work skills going on, and with my help and Dave’s wallet, Rachel got a stylish heart rate monitor/watch that she wanted and was beside herself when she opened it!  I did a craft with the kids for her gifts from them, which were personalized art pieces - Sharpies and ceramic plates – who knew?!  They each picked a plate, which worked well because the boys got bigger ones that matched and Ava got the smaller version.  I asked them why they loved their Mummy, and was so impressed with some of their answers!  A little coaxing was needed for the right words, but we got them!!  Check out the pictures.  They were so proud!  If you’re interested, these, or mugs, or the tea pot we made for Dave are such great gifts!  Dave got a teapot because “we don’t want Daddy to feel left out.” Sweetest trio ever.  – Sharpies! Ceramic. Go nuts and design things, write things, draw things, write things you love about someone or write a poem or quotes.  Get artistic.  Then bake them for 30min at 350C. after 30min, just turn the oven off and let them cool down naturally (possibly best to bake them before bed?  Then they can cool down and you can take them out in the morning.) – After opening her cards and gifts, we got sorted and made our way to the Sunshine Coast!  Forecast said 21 and sunny! 

We weren’t heading to the beach to tan or do the summertime thing, just enjoy the ocean and the beach, let the kids muck about, and sit in some warmth for a few hours.  Toowoomba was so sunny!  Heading towards the coast was sunny too!  Then we got closer and closer to the coast… whilst the forecast still said clear sunny skies… and it was overcast.  Bummer.  We still stayed for a good hour two hours or so before heading elsewhere.  The kids played in the sand, making sandcastles and burying each other’s legs and such.  We had some cake on the beach, and coffees from a convenient café too.  Since I was to fly out from Brisbane on the Monday, my plan was to spend Sunday night on the Sunshine Coast with James’ family when the Girdler family headed back to Toowoomba.  I gave Heather a call, and she suggested we go up to Maleny for some ice cream then head to their farm for milking.  (James’ Dad David is a dairy farmer.)  So that’s exactly what we did!  The drive up the range to Maleny is breathtaking.  You can see for miles, and on to the east, if you look closely, you can see the sea.  Looking inland, you can see a series of volcanic mountains.

The view from their house: “breathtaking” doesn’t describe it well enough. It’s captivating, and can have you standing, sitting or laying in bed just staring at it.  Throughout the day, it changes so much, as the sun travels from east to west, touching the different edges of rocks, leaves of trees, and faces of the mountains.  No wonder Heather gets so much inspiration for her artwork living there!  Tess and I went out for some ice cream and enjoyed the main street shops before heading to the Simpson’s house for a tour of the dairy.  Rachel grew up on a dairy farm, so the milking process wasn’t anything new for her, although she could really appreciate the size and simplicity of the one man operation.  Tess is the new owner of two miniature horses named Phoenix and Noah, and man are they sweet!  Ava loved that they were “bubble” sized horses, since one of her nicknames is Bubble!  She’s so cute!

Another sad goodbye with the Girdlers, but with some foreseeable visits within seven or eight weeks once I’m back on the Gold Coast!  They headed back to Toowoomba late afternoon, and I helped Tess brush the minis.  Once Heather was home from work, we relaxed on the couch while the soup finished warming and cooking in the slow cooker. It was lovely to sit and visit with Heather and Tess, and Dave once he’d come back up the hill.  Dave and Heather had a friend staying with them, and he joined us for a delicious soup that Heather had made.  We didn’t stay up really late, since it had been an all around long day for everyone.  The next morning, Tess and I drove down to a little beach called Moffat Beach, just up the coast from where I’d been with the Girdlers the day before.  We had a huge breakfast together, and then had a little walk down the beach to get out toes in the sand and the cold seawater.  I got to see Nan again when we made our way back to the house, which was fantastic!  She’s such a sweetheart, and I enjoy catching up with her.  The plan for the day was to meet up with a heap of close family friends of the Simpson family!  Heather and Dave have are best friends with a couple of Steve and Sally Dykes.  Sally and Heather went to boarding school together, and Steve and Dave go way back as well. 

Steve grew up in Kenya, and has cousins in South Africa and in the UK.  Since his family is all spread out, they arrange a family vacation in a different location.  It’s beautiful!  This visit was for an 80th birthday celebration, and started in Brisbane.  Everyone made their way up to Maleny to visit the Simpsons, and the picnic was amazing.  Sandwiches, turkey, cheese, veggies, fruit, salads, you name it… beer, wine, soft drinks too.  The weather was perfect, with a slightly clouded sky and a hot sun.  The wind was soft enough and cool enough to keep the heat off of us without chilling us too much. The younger kids played around in the park, while the others mingled between picnic tables and lawn chairs. After a few hours of visiting and eating, we to the farm so everyone could experience milking!  The Dyke’s family had seen it before, but the others hadn’t been to Maleny, and quite enjoyed the experience! 

After milking, we went back to the house for some snacks and to relax for a while before we all parted ways.  I hopped in with Steve Dykes and one of his sons, and his cousin Gilli and her son.  They gave me a lift to the Brisbane airport, since I was to fly that night around 9pm.  Their company was fantastic, and we had some really great conversations about the livestock/agricultural industries and mining industries in Australia.  Gilli an Steve told me all about Africa and things they’ve done there, and things they will take me to see when I get myself there one day!  I was at the airport for a few hours, but was happy to do so!  It gave me time to read and write and make a few calls.

I slept a bit on the plane, and had an empty seat beside me which is always nice for night flights.  A late arrival into Melbourne and a bus then taxi back to the apartment had me in bed shortly after 1am.  Ange and I had plans to meet up the next morning around 10am, so we could spend a day together before I left! – She had only just come back from her month long trip to Canada with her boyfriend. We ended up meeting at Flinders Street Station closer to 11am, before finding the platform we needed to be on to get to our destination: Brighton Beach!  I had wanted to go for quite some time, and now was able to go, and couldn’t have thought of someone better to go with.  We had a lovely few hours walking along the beach checking out the beach houses, all painted in bright colours, with pictures and patterns on them.  They’re stunning, the way they line the beach for a few hundred meters of humble existence.  Apparently, one will sell for $250 000 minimum, but more often don’t sell, because they’re in a family and are passed down the line.  They’re repainted and maintained, and used as storage only – but bring in people every day to see them and take in their authentic beach house beauty.  Ange and I had lunch near the train station at a little Italian restaurant.  We both had lasagna, which Ange had had previously and highly recommended.  I was carrying around an extra purse all day… an empty one, a brand new one, full of little goodies to send home with a friend who was traveling to Canada the following week!  So once Ange and I headed back in to Melbourne, we took a different train from Flinders Street Station out towards Box Hill, where we wandered around for a while in the little mall there trying to find Ange a chain for a really pretty one of a kind pendant she had from her grandmother.  Once successful, we met up with Liz, the friend traveling to Canada, and gave her the purse and a bag to put into her suitcase to take home to my Mom!  Liz was heading elsewhere on her way to get the purse from me, so we only had a quick visit and exchanged best wishes and a warm hug and went our own ways.  Ange and I headed back into Melbourne, acquiring a hefty appetite for some more Italian food! (Why not?)

We took a tram to Lygon street, where we walked down the street looking for the most enticing restaurant.  It was a quite night, being a Tuesday, but there were still owners and managers and servers out on the streets in front of their restaurants, really talking up their menus and offering perks that varied from a bottle of wine with the main course to free appetizers by just sitting down. We found one with a great menu and an attractive Chilean server, with whom I spoke some Spanish!  That made me pretty happy – it’s been a while.  I had raviolis and Ange had the gnocchi that she had been craving, in a tasty creamy sauce.  The next day I had to make my way out to Geelong to pick up my bags from Kristen’s house, and the journey managed to consume most of the day.  In the afternoon, I packed and organized as best I could before meeting up with Ange and going to a mutual friend Jess’ house for pasta dinner, red wine, and a night out at an open mic.  The entertainment wasn’t nearly as good as the girls’ company!  I headed home around 11pm to continue packing for my early departure from the apartment to the airport for my flight to Mildura – my newest adventure.

The bus ride to the airport was via Skybus, an airport shuttle servicing all of Melbourne. I don’t mind airports at all, and took the time I had to call home and read for a while.  The flight to Mildura was a total of 50 minutes, which on a flight is literally up – seat belts sign switches off, you take out some music to listen to or your laptop as I did to type for a while – then the flight crew has to prepare for the arrival!  Bam, you’re there.  The airport was really small, which I was happy to see as it’s just another indication of how small and country Mildura and Robinvale were going to be!  I was thrilled to be greeted by the assistant Principal Rod and his partner Cathy, which made starting at Robinvale P-12 on the Monday even more real.  We made a few stops for bedding for my room before heading to Robinvale, which is roughly an hour’s drive. 

The house I’m staying in is no mansion, but is certainly better than hostel alternatives.  My roommate Eliza is 26, and is a secondary teacher at the school I’m working at!  Since internet is nonexistent for me these days, I’m struggling to post reasonable blogs and pictures with my laptop, but will be able to do so soon! 

This blog updates until only July 15th! (Scary…) I am working on one from then until now, so stay tuned.


BELOW! 1. The love of my life. 2. My current office, which you will hear much more about that in my next post! 3. The most thoughtful gift I've received in a while! It's from Allison, and has three little charms for Allison, Kinley and Joe, three of my favourite people to be with me at all times.


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