Thursday, July 31, 2008
So what's new? I'm happy to report that the unseasonably wet weather here in Brisbane has led to a slight filling of the dams to over 40%, meaning that the water restrictions have been relaxed and everyone has breathed a sigh of relief. There is now enough water in storage to last for a full three years even if we get no rain whatsoever. Hopefully we'll take the recent drought as a warning that the city is vulnerable to water shortages and people will maintain their conserving ways.
It's bloody cold here! There was snow on the outskirts of the city the other day, and we currently have five layers of covers on our bed. Overnight lows drop into the low single digits and there ain't any insulation to be found. It would be a shock for someone to arrive here right now from Canada, where it is in the mid to high twenties every day and drops only to the mid-teens overnight. This is supposed to be Australia - land of beaches and palm trees! Of course, this cold spell is only short-lived, and no doubt by December we'll dying from the heat and humidity and reminiscing of the lovely cool days of winter.
In her last post, Laura alluded to bird attacks here during the breeding season. I got a first hand taste of this the other day when I was bull-rushed by a masked plover while I was out jogging. There was a pair nesting in the park near our house and I made the mistake of running through their territory. Next thing I knew one was headed straight for me. It veered off at the last second, sparing me from the pain and embarrassment of a spur in the head. These Australian animals do attack and defend far more aggressively than other animals I've seen, although this recent attack did bring back memories of being challenged by a partridge on a hiking trail back in my MREAC days.
Along with the jogging I've been playing pick-up touch footy once a week at the university. It's a lot of fun and a good workout. They play Rugby League rules - teams line up against each other and try to advance the ball (no forward passes allowed). If you get touched, you place the ball on the ground, step over it, and a teammate picks it up. The opposing team has to back off the ball while you are doing this, which goes against natural instincts (the ball-swarming mentality of American football). I narrowly missed scoring my first try last game when I was touched just before getting the ball on the ground. Laura made fun of me because it was a girl that caught me. You just can't win with that one.
The pro rugby season is also heating up here. Australia is taking on New Zealand in the Tri-Nations Series along with South Africa (rugby union). The Wallabies (AUS) beat the All-Blacks (NZ) last weekend and the teams meet again this Saturday. We caught another Broncos Rugby League game last weekend which they won against rival Cronulla (a Sydney suburb). The playoffs are not far off and Brisbane is in fifth, with the top eight making the playoffs and whispers of another possible championship in the air. And biggest of all, Queensland defeated New South Wales in this years "State of Origin", making it three years in a row. Imagine if the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs played a three game series every year, only the Canadiens could have all the best players from Quebec and the Leafs could have all the best players from Ontario, and these players played harder than they did for their club teams the rest of the year. That would about equal the intensity surrounding State of Origin. All the other League games pale in comparison.
So that's all the news from here. We're only about a month away from the big watermelon day, and we're starting to think that maybe we might be ready. Our labour bag is packed, the phone numbers are on the fridge, and we know where to park when we arrive at the hospital. Of course, we don't own a car but that's a minor detail. We'll figure it out.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Another week and some more stuff to tell. And there’s just so much, I really don’t know where to begin…Trying to make people feel like they’re here experiencing everything with us treads a thin line between entertaining (i.e., Tim’s encounters and learnings from up north) and potentially quite boring (after months of looking I might have found an Australian substitute for my “Hans the German sausage Saturday morning at the Fredericton market” fix- very exciting for me, perhaps not so much for you…)
First off, to piggyback on Tim’s entry from last week, this week I had an appointment with a midwife at the hospital that we’ll be working on delivering the Goob from an aquatic to a terrestrial state in. I usually see the same midwife every three weeks, but this week the hospital was short staffed and I had a different lady. She’s actually an aboriginal midwife who usually works in clinics liaising young & pregnant aboriginal women with the public healthcare system. This day she’d been asked to help out in the midwife clinic that I was attending. So I got to have a pretty great chat with her about what her job was like. Apparently she’s been working with young aboriginal women for the past 20 years and is finally seeing that young women are feeling comfortable/confident using the public system for not only birthing issues, but for things like addressing the social issues that are plaguing many aboriginal communities here in Australia, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, etc. (very similar to social issues found in first nations communities in Canada…although I would argue that if you looked closely you’d see the same problems in many non-first nations communities in Canada and Australia). Either way, she (the midwife), and other women like her have been able to relate with and successfully engage new generations of aboriginal women in ways that other non-indigenous people haven’t been able to, which she believes is key to the changes that she’s seeing. It was an encouraging conversation. And she was really good at her job, made me feel like I knew what I was talking about when we discussed my own pregnancy, which is a feeling a lot of other healthcare professionals haven’t given me. It’s easy to see how she’s changing the way that young aboriginal women perceive the public resources that are available to them.
So during that clinic, I finally got weighed again, it’d been over 2 months because either the midwives thought I looked fine at my previous appointments or I’d forgot to ask to step on the scales. I haven’t mentioned this, but you might have guessed that Tim and I don’t have a lot of stuff here in
Last weekend we took our final honeymoon (I think that puts our honeymoon count up to around 30- and the word “honeymoon” is loosely defined by us as a trip (sans enfants) to somewhere where someone cooks us a great breakfast and we have access to a place to swim (or get into water), most preferably a hot tub). After work last Friday afternoon we picked up a rental car and headed north to
Our short (in distance) but long (in duration due to waddling pregnant woman) hikes proved to be excellent places for bird/wildlife viewing. We saw some new (to us) birds and animals that are only present in rainforest climate…Isn’t it nuts that we live near rainforests? I’m so used to Christmas trees that I must look like the biggest weirdo walking these trails just gawking at the size of and amazing features of even just the trees. It really is straight out a movie scene from Tarzan or perhaps the Jungle Book (Dad used to play that movie every morning while we were getting ready for school as kids…I can still quote lines from it with the best of them (“them” being my brother and sisters mostly…and my Dad of course)). We’re talking vines hanging everywhere, huge waterfalls, trees bigger then I’ve ever seen, strangling trees that wrap themselves around these huge trees in the most amazing contortions. Amazing stuff. We were the most pleasantly surprised by the sighting of 2 Padymelons, which look like mini-kangaroos. They didn’t seem too phased by us so we got to sit and watch them for a while before they hopped off. Unfortunately our photography on this trip was a bit lackluster. We tired so hard to get good pictures of the wildlife, but our limitation might just be the camera we’re using. Ahh well, the nice thing about digital is the fact that we took so many pictures that at least some of them turned out nicely. It’s purely a statistical phenomenon. The more pictures you can take, the more chances of getting something worth posting on a blog. Someone was thinking.
So Tim and I finished our antenatal classes yesterday (still hard to believe that we’re actually going to have a baby in about a month now…or less, or more…). We had 1 evening (Tuesday) and 2 full-day sessions (Saturday and Sunday) to gather all of the information that we could get from the midwives running the workshops. It was nothing like what we expected. My idea of prenatal classes probably links up with the many sitcoms that I’ve subjected myself to over my lifetime that have the girl sitting on the floor learning how to breathe during labour (heee heee hoooo), with the partner coaching from behind. And of course it would always end up with a scene in the delivery room where the partner faints at the site of the birth. A popular storyline in the 80s and early 90s I think. These classes were nothing like that. The first session was all about the physiology of a pregnant woman and how to best address the changes that happen in a woman’s body, including fallen arches…I truly would not recognize my feet and ankles right now if I had to pick them out of a lineup. The Saturday was spent on discussing labour and strategies for coping, along available options for dealing with pain during delivery (apparently the hee hee hooo breathing is not all that common, or recommended). And the 3rd day was spent learning what the heck you do with a baby once it’s out, and all that goes along with that in terms of physical and emotional well-being. In all of that, we got to visit the birthing suite that we’ll be using at the hospital (just finished being constructed in June, and so top of the line it seems like you shouldn’t even touch anything in it, let alone have a baby in there) and got to witness a 2 day old infant have its first bath, she was pretty cute, and the midwife definitely made things look easy. The whole thing was pretty intense I’ll say. It was nice to go through the sessions with other couples who were looking just as uncomfortable as we were, and I’m sure that there are a few with whom we’ll keep in touch. Overall, I came away from the classes excited about the fact that there is a CD player in the birthing suites, so we have the option of having music during delivery. So the question is, do I risk having a negative association with one of my favorite artists simply because labour was a horrific experience (if it happens to be horrific), or do I think that having my favorite music on during labour will make the delivery less horrific? I suppose the midwives that ran the sessions on the weekend were probably hoping for deeper thought questions coming out of the sessions. But I’m really excited about selecting music.
In other news, Tim and I have been on the hunt for a rocking chair for the past couple of months, mostly for rocking with the Goob. We were looking for a solid timber rocker that was comfortable. In general, we like to buy things that were once owned by someone else a) because it was most likely loved by someone prior to us, so we know it’s got to be good and b) because we’re tired of greasing the wheels of economy through purchasing from the same major corporations over and over again and try to avoid it, and c) the mass production factor really doesn’t make us feel good. I think we’d rather use our purchasing power to spread the wealth rather than allow one company (although there are some good ones out there) to distribute or hoard profits as they see fit. So, despite the fact that we like to buy second-hand, we were getting kind of desperate thinking that we wouldn’t be able to find what we were looking for 2nd hand. We even resorted to looking around in stores that we normally would never go in to, but thankfully resisted the purchase. Why thankfully? Because early Sunday morning at the market we happened to stumble across an old man and woman selling off some of their old furniture. In the middle of their lot was an old wide-bottomed wooden rocker. Tim and I both had a rock and fell in love. So we handed the couple the $60 they were asking for it and picked it up later in the afternoon. It’s so very comfortable and is now sitting in the sun porch so that we can rock and watch the birds outside. It’s also perfect for sitting in while consuming amazing fruit salad in a housecoat every morning. Life is good.
Speaking of bird watching though, it’s very interesting these days. There’s definitely something in the air, something like pheromones (or being twitterpaited, according to Bambi, another classic movie in my house growing up). The crested pigeons were the first that we noticed were acting a little oddly, and over the past week we’ve seen why. They’re mating! Or “doin’ it” if that’s more clear (that’s what I yelled to Tim when I looked out of the window and saw the act the other morning). But since then, we’ve noticed that all of the birds seem to be getting much more aggressive with each other. The miners are going nutso, flying after anything else that moves in the most erratic flying patterns…They’re aggressive anyway, but are getting super brave these days. It’s a great time to have a rocking chair in the front porch to watch the action.
So, to wrap up, if we ran a trend analysis on topics discussed in my blog entries, I’m sure that we would see a significant increase in baby references the closer we get to d-day. I’d like to think that I’d be able to be more broad-scaled in topics, but it’s harder than I thought it would be. The big bump I’m carrying that seems in perpetual motion these days seems to take up a lot of my thought life. And of course, our activities seem to revolve more and more around it as well. I know what it’s like to have friends become engulfed by baby talk when I wasn’t in a baby-state myself, and it’s hard not to feel weird about it (or at least it was for me). So, to those who might feel that way, I apologize. For those who like it…good?
I forgot to mention that a few weeks ago I received a package from our friend Joy who took the time to learn to knit this winter. Amongst many other baby treats, we received a little cardigan and booties for the Goob that she’d knit herself (see picture). So very amazing! Thanks Joy! On the other hand, I think that Australia Post ate the package from home that my family sent over at the beginning of June. I still haven’t seen it Mom! Perhaps there is another Australian family enjoying the goodies, and if that’s the case, good! And maybe the guy reading the label thought that the address said
Love to all, please take care!Laura
Monday, July 14, 2008
Life in Kowanyama is, as expected, very laid back. A large diesel generator supplies power to the community, and people purchase debit cards to supply their houses from the grid. An underground aquifer provides drinking water. Family groups gather in circles, in that compelling Aboriginal way, in the grass throughout the day. What they talk about, I haven't yet had the privilege of learning. Being in Kowanyama makes you realize how little time white people spend with each other. There, people are always outside. Walk down the street at night and almost every house has a group of people out on the porch, talking quietly. During the day children roam the way we used to when we were kids, hopping on bikes and staying out of eyesight and earshot of parents until bedtime.
On our first trip there we were out exploring when a cattleman, looking just crazy and wily enough to have forged a living in those remote parts, pulled up in his truck. A young Aborigine rode in back with the remains of a freshly slaughtered cow. Raptors circled overhead hoping for an easy meal. I became aware that this may have been the closest I will ever come to the rural sub-Saharan Africa experience - whitefella up front, blackfella in back, a dead cow and buzzing flies, and dry dusty heat. And I guess in a sense it works. Kowanyama is a functional, respectable community, a place that would be fun to live in (if you don't mind the odd snake in your toilet).
Yet despite the isolation and the "traditional way of life" in parts of the community, all the trappings of modern society are there. Hip hop music, alcohol, processed food to name a few. I must admit that it is a little disconcerting being there, seeing such a noble culture being eroded by our white influence. And the paternalistic Queensland government continues with a controversial strategy known as "the intervention," a series of reforms meant to curb growing domestic violence in Aboriginal communities. These include withholding social security payments from untrustworthy individuals and severe limits on alcohol sales, to name a few. On our second trip there we arrived after dark, weary from seven straight days in the bush. Our vehicles were searched by white police once we crossed the town limits because carriage of alcohol into many of these communities carries exhorbitant fines (up to $75,000). As the driver, I was even given the breathalizer (and came in at 0.00% alcohol!). Upon entering the town we found the streets choked with people, slowly wandering back home after the canteen had closed. It was more than a little intimidating, especially since we had instructions to "find Willy when you get into town.....just ask around." Willy is one of the Rangers, great guy, and fortunately Dominic and I recognized him almost immediately amongst the flood of people. He set us up at a guesthouse, but not before a long conversation with his wife, Hazelene, who is one of the few Aboriginal teachers at the school (the remainder are white). She was adamant about the effects of the intervention on her community, and I must admit I agree with her. These people have lost their right to self-determination. If you want to have a beer in Kowanyama, you have to wait until the canteen opens on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night at 6:30. You then have a limit of six beers and they must be consumed by 9:00 when the canteen closes. I still have my souvenir punch card showing that Tim Jardine used one of his six drinks on the 19th of June 2008. Just imagine introducing these kinds of measures in a white community in Australia or elsewhere. You would be confronted by outrage, and the outrage would be totally justified. While I may not adhere to the strictly libertarian principles of my brother, I can certainly see his point on a lot of matters.
Having said all that, Australia is making moves forward in some respects. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made global headlines with his apology on behalf of all white Australians for the ill-fated government policy of removing children from Aboriginal communities in the 20th century, literally stealing them from their families to be placed in boarding schools if they had any trace of white blood. From what I understand the apology was well received in Aboriginal communities, and I'm thankful for that. I'm not sure if a similar apology by Stephen Harper in parliament for our similarly poor treatment of Native Canadians was as momentous, perhaps someone can fill me in.
All told I've spent a total of four days in Kowanyama, not nearly enough time, but more trips are planned. I'll continue to keep an eye on developments there and in other Aboriginal communities. Somewhere along the line blackfellas and whitefellas will figure out how to get it right, how to stitch together a culture that stretches back 60,000 years, while elevating its members to the level of dignity that they deserve. Until then, we can take solace in knowing that they still prefer grilled wallaby and turtles to pancakes.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Another Sunday evening, another retelling of events and non-events of the past week in our lives.
This week has been nice. I figure that life is just better when Tim is around. I hope I always feel that way. I rolled in last Sunday afternoon following the EWB retreat that I was at to find that Tim had polished off a pizza. Yes, an entire pizza. You see, Sundays are usually our 100% homemade, wholewheat, rockin’ good pizza days. It’s been a bit of a tradition for us on Sunday evenings, ever since we pinched the crust recipe off of my Aunt Marylin (won’t hold up to genetic testing), a couple of years back. It’s evolved into a “lets make a better pizza than last Sundays” kind of event. So when I walked in the door last Sunday afternoon I was met with the glorious smell of amazing pizza, only to shortly thereafter find that the pizza was gone. To Tim’s credit, he didn’t know when I would be returning, but after a weekend of starchy camp food, I can’t say that I wasn’t a little disappointed to find that Tim had eaten the whole pizza by himself for lunch. I figure that it’s good making fun of Tim material. That, and the fact that we now get mail delivered to “the pizza lover at 29 Yarranabbe St” from Dominoes Pizza, because Tim wanted to order a pizza online one night when we were strapped for food. So yes, in
The EWB conference was fun. Reminded me of how much I liked working for the organization in
In all honesty though, despite the fact that it seems like all people ever hear about
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned that I’ve been working at
Tim celebrated his 30th this past week. We’re going to a rugby match later on in the month to formally celebrate, but in the meantime I showered him with gifts all week long. He won’t spend a cent on himself, so I use the traditional gift-giving holidays to take advantage of him getting new stuff without being too miffed. So, if you know Tim and I at all, practicality wins over flashy. So, a pizza cutter, underwear, a few new sweaters and some kitchen pans were lavished upon Tim. It was kind of fun to pull something new out of the closet every night for him. But I can’t say that the thought that birthdays should be more fun than kitchen wears didn’t cross my mind. When I was a kid I could never hide my disappointment in getting practical stuff over something that I really wanted. I hated getting socks and undies, and perhaps a few tantrums were thrown over this fact. If you ever meet my dad he’d be the first to tell you how true this was. Ask him about a Wayne Gretzky lunchbox incident. He loves to tell that one.
So during the week a friend of ours asked me if she and her husband could take us out to their favorite restaurant for a celebration of Tim’s birthday. I thought it was a good idea, and we decided to keep it a surprise from Tim. So for the entire week I had to ensure that we didn’t make plans for Saturday…Not such an easy feat when married to a planner. But I succeed. So on Saturday morning we woke up and I told Tim to be ready to be picked up at . Again, to Tim’s credit, there have been way too many surprises in the past 6-7 months of our lives, so maybe keeping this outing a surprise wasn’t the best approach. And I’m sure that he was thinking that we’d already done enough to celebrate his birthday (likes to keep birthdays as low-profile as possible), he wasn’t as receptive to the surprise as I’d hoped. But he warmed up when he saw our friends Rene and Noreen pull up. We ended up taking a drive down to the Gold Coast and having lunch at a rotating restaurant located on the 26th floor of a skyscraper just off the beach. It was a seafood buffet and the food was AMAZING. Such great company and scenery too. It was just a great way to spend a Saturday. Maybe next time I’ll be a bit more conscious of how much I like surprises in relation to how little Tim likes them.
As for an update on the Goob…The little critter is growing like a weed. That, or I have “wind” according to a lady at church this morning. It’s growth. Let’s keep it at that. She/he is moving almost all of the time, and we’re not just talking kicks and punches anymore, it’s full on butt stuck in my ribs on one side to a slither over to the other side in a matter of minutes. I used to think that I had an abnormally large ribcage for my size, since I can’t find my ribcage anymore, that theory is out. And there’s just so much pressure inside right now. I must say that if I could spend the majority of my time in a bathtub or heated pool, life would be so much easier. But, I’m still feeling great, and it’s really fun to feel movement and to guess which side of my belly will be stuck out in the morning. Tim likes to find appendages. So we’re just about a month and a half away from the delivery date and I simply can’t believe how fast time has gone. Or, for that matter, how much has changed in the past 7 months. Because we can only take things a day at a time, it’s not very often that we reflect on just how much is going on in our lives…but when we do, it’s a bit overwhelming. This baby has already traveled more than lots of people that we know, but even more intriguing I think is just how many stressful things that we’ve gone through over this pregnancy that have nothing to do with being pregnant. For this reason I’m glad that at least we’ve kept a loose journal of happenings in the form of the blog. I think that when the Goob is old enough to understand just what we’ve done, he/she will probably think that we were nuts, and we’ll have to agree. Ahhh, what’s life without a little adventure? We can only hope that things will be as good for our offspring as they have been for us.
Time for a lie down. I miss my family lots this week. Friends too. No matter how long we’re here, the distance from here to home is still so impossibly far. I feel like I get a better grasp on that every single day, which pretty much manifests itself as a dull ache. It would feel that way no matter where we were, and we take lots of solace in the fact that we will be back home someday. For now, we’re just hunkering down and remembering to be thankful for the many, many good things and equally tough things in our lives right now. It’s a good time to be us.
Love to everyone!