Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ah, life

Sammy can get the mail...
my god, I need a haircut. it's going all Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men on me. Jordan even noticed that my hair was getting long the last time we talked, and I only had short hair for a week or two before I left, so it must be true. although, I'm sure I'm blending in as a local with this awesome mullet I'm growing out. the only difference is that the locals aren't ashamed of their mullets.

...and read it! :)
other than my long hair conundrum, everything has been pretty great. my sunburn is healing, and we are planning some fun adventures.

two nights ago, Carlee and I booked our flight and hotel in BALI! we are so excited. it's only a short plane ride away (about 2 hours), so we figured we might as well go while we're here! we leave on Dec 9th and return on the 12th. it's just so amazing to me that I left the States never having traveled beyond the North American continent (and I've only spent time in...8 states? and only one Canadian province!), and I'll be returning having lived in Australia and traveled to Southeast Asia. incredible.

pearl ring I bought at the market
as for school, I'm feeling like a bit of a slacker, especially after having so much responsibility in GR, but it's the end of the school year and everything is so crazy. Mara is always thanking me for my help and hard work, so that helps me feel like less of a deadbeat. I plan on teaching about Christmas soon, and doing some daily punctuation lessons starting tomorrow, because they really struggle with it in their writing.

I just hope I don't stuff it up.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

camping in Litchfield: not for the faint of heart

I'm so glad that we are using our weekends wisely these days. we went to Litchfield National Park on Friday, and camped overnight. it was fabulous. I might sound lame, but I actually learned a lot. Blake was, of course, the best guide. he showed us all the best places. when we drove in, there were literally termite mounds as far as the eye could see. the one in the photo was at least 15 feet tall, and very skinny. the termites build them that way so they get the least amount of direct sunlight possible. ah, evolution.

Cascade falls
our first stop was Cascade Falls. we hiked UPHILL for what seemed like forever. the sound of the falls alone was almost enough to make me jump with joy (though jumping would be quite impossible because my legs were JELLY at this point). all the sweat and misery was totally worth it. we changed into our bathers and climbed over slippery rock after slippery rock to reach the falls. as soon as we sat down under the water, we realized that our hands were covered in little bitty leeches, but we couldn't be bothered. the falls were amazing, and it was most welcome, leeches and all, after all it took to get there.

just hanging out on a waterfall, no biggie
Wangi falls
next, we visited Wangi Falls, which we couldn't swim in due to the presence of the very elusive snapping gecko. they were beautiful from afar, anyway. we had the opportunity to hike to the top of the falls, but it was quite a long way. at least is was for someone like me (aka terribly unfit).

we had a lunch break before hopping over to Buley Rockhole for a swim. there were TONS of people, and it was such a great spot. the water was cold and deep enough to swim around a bit. I could have sat there all day, but we didn't want to wait long enough for the mozzies to attack, so we went back to camp. it was here that I discovered that I had gotten a slight sunburn. a bit of lotion, a lot of water, and a couple Panadol, and I was right as rain.

home sweet campsite
Florence falls {photo © Carlee}
at the campsite, Blake cooked up some snags and steak for dinner. so delicious! I swear, food tastes so much better over a campfire after a long day of hiking and swimming. we chatted and had some beers for a while (mozzie-free!) before calling it a night.

the next morning, I woke up bright and early to the smell of breakfast cooking, and Hannah and Carlee woke up soon after. once again, a fantastic meal. bacon and eggs never tasted so good.

standing on a rock! {photo © Carlee}
soon after breakfast, we packed up camp and headed off to Florence Falls. this was my favorite spot by far. two waterfalls emptying into a huge rock hole. the swimming was perfect, and the company was wonderful. the girls and I swam out under one of the falls and jumped off the rocks, and had a ball. I could have stayed there for days on end.

after a couple hours of swimming, we moved on to Tolmer Falls. there was a viewing platform, but no swimming, because they are protecting a cave where endangered bats live. we spent a while taking in the last leg of our Litchfield trip before heading home. Blake stopped for petrol and surprised us some freeze pops which were just what we needed after basking in the heat all weekend.

Tolmer falls, photo © Hannah

I am so excited that we finally got to go to Litchfield (thanks to Blake)! I only wish we had time to visit Kakadu during our stay. it's much farther away, and much larger and more remote. for now, Litchfield will do. despite the sunburn, and having more flies in my face than I care to acknowledge, this weekend couldn't have been more perfect.

I couldn't keep my camera away from all the beautiful rocks we saw in the park, so here are a few photos. I was also amazed how plants and trees grew straight out of the rocks! incredible.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving at last!

they might have laughed, but they loved the hat
Aussie mum & dad!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! it's Thanksgiving in the States now. I just got done talking to my parents. I had to let them go because they had to take the turkey out of the oven! yesterday at school, I taught about Thanksgiving. I talked about why we celebrate, the first Thanksgiving, and showed lots of photos of food, including my family's own Thanksgiving spreads. the kids loved it. they were practically salivating, and I taught it right after lunch. it was wonderful how interested they truly were. though teaching here has at times been rough, days like yesterday really makes it all worth it.

family photo :)
since my speech at dinner was less than eloquent and mostly drunken, I'll try it again. this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for so much. I was given a unique opportunity to travel this semester, and I'm thankful that I actually had the balls to do it.

ze Americans (photo © Hannah)
I definitely couldn't ask for a better place to live while I'm here. Kaye and Roger have been amazing parents, and I owe them so much. it has really been the experience of a lifetime. of course, my host brother Blake. he has been so generous and obliging in showing us around and taking us out and about since we've arrived. getting to know the NT while I'm here is what I want to do most of all, and Blake has been making that possible for us every step of the way. I'm thankful for Carlee and Hannah, and that we get to share this experience together, and for everyone I've met so far. we always seem to be surrounded by family and friends here and I truly feel at home.

indication of my night...
I'm more thankful every day for my family back home. my dad, mom, sister and brother. when I was stuck in Cali with the Qantas grounding, they spent what seemed like every waking hour helping me look up flights, call Qantas, reserve tickets, and give moral support through it all. I'm thankful that my parents have been so supportive throughout my travels, even if they didn't initially want me to go. they'll be glad to hear that I'm having the time of my life! I'm thankful for not only their support in my studies and travels, but in everything else that I do. I can always go to them for advice, guidance, and support.

making pumpkin butternut squash
chocolate chip muffins
saying hi to Dad (in my turkey hat!) while Mom cooks :)
though I do have these "Why me?" moments from time to time (eg Qantas and computer viruses, ugh), but I have to realize that I'm very lucky in spite of it all. this Thanksgiving, and this holiday season, I'm finding it easier to look on the bright side, take the bumps in the road in stride, and take pleasure in the little things. while I'm missing the snow and I'm not wearing a sweater or listening to Christmas music, and I'm missing my family more than ever, I know that Thanksgiving dinner was quite perfect, and I'm so grateful that I got to celebrate it with my Aussie family.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

wildlife park adventure

clever bird throwing a rock at an egg to
open it
what a wild week it has been. the girls and I went to the Wildlife Park in Berry Springs on Saturday, and had a blast. I loved that all the animals at the park were native to Australia. they were all incredible. we went to a bird show (sounds silly, but actually really cool, even if a lorakeet did fly into my head), snuck into a taped-off dingo exhibit, and saw wild wallabies roaming around.

there was a billabong, a nocturnal house, and an aquarium as well. my students would always tell me how great the park was, so I was under the impression that it was more child-oriented, but it wasn't that way at all.

I'm glad I brought my K-x, because I really got some amazing shots. I feel like I was dragging us along, changing my lenses and taking hundreds of photos, but it was just too easy. the animals were amazing!

the walk-through aviary was very cool too. after some smaller bird exhibits, we came to a big, caged-in area with all sorts of birds walking and flying around. quicker than you can say, "hey, look at that cute little bird," I got pooped on. I quickly realized that what I thought was water (it had rained earlier in the day) was warm, freak-out commenced. it would have been worse had I not been laughing so hard.

when I got back from the Wildlife Park, I found out that my computer had a virus (this explains my lack of updating and the obscene length of this post - apologies). it was so horrible that I couldn't fix it on my own, so after crying for a bit Kaye drove me to a computer store to get it fixed. it's okay now. still a couple of problems,  but all my files and programs are still there, which is a HUGE relief.

Sunday morning we went to the markets at Rapid Creek, and to the craft show after. there was some beautiful stuff, but I didn't buy anything. I had actually left my wallet in the back seat of Roger's car from our trip to the Wildlife Park, so I couldn't have even if I wanted to. I came across the Down Syndrome Association of the Northern Territory at the market! I would have gone in if they were open. I would love to get involved with any events, etc, while I'm here!

my special ed teacher heart is melting
spotted at {Rapid Creek market}
Sunday evening we had our roast. our only guests were Fran, Carlee, and Vanessa, Kaye and Roger's neighbor. as much as I love our big groups at Sunday roast, the smaller group was really nice. we had some champagne, some great food, and we actually all got to talk to each other during our meal :)

veeery mysterious fruits at the market...
the only bad thing is that it has been unbearably hot the past few days. the news says the high today is 33º, but the humidity makes it feel closer to 40º. we usually don't need the air con on throughout the house, but we had to this week, otherwise we would melt.

loved this painting at the craft fair
tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and the whole crew is getting together, including the teachers we are working with. Mara and I get along really well. she marches to the beat of her own drummer, and I love that about her. I am learning a ton, and it makes me sad to think school is out in 3 short weeks!

Friday, November 18, 2011

lessons learned and colloquialisms pt.3

hire = to rent (you can hire a car, a movie, etc)
canteen = cafeteria
bikkies = biscuits (aka cookies)
How did you go? = How did you do? (ex: How did you go on your homework last night? or Are you done with your work? Good! How did you go with it?)
How you going? = How are you? / How are you doing? (ex: Hey, Sofia, how you going?)
texta = marker
mozzies = mosquitoes
pinch = to steal
pigeonhole = teacher's mailbox
little boys = cocktail sausages (you can guess why)
gridiron = American football
Esky = ice box/cooler
cherries and berries = cops
dear = expensive
scabby = gross, not good
pissed = drunk
hey? = what?
ute = pickup truck (utility)
banger/banga = sausage
lollies = any type of candy
  • Aussie men wear short shorts!!!
  • rattails. side ones. both sexes. yikes.
  • if you want an Australian book, buy it in Australia. you won't be able to find it in the States, or even online. at least not for a better price.
  • when Aussies talk about pie, 99% of the time, it's meat pie.
  • it's not uncommon for my students to strip off their shoes and socks at random times throughout the day. pretty much whenever they feel like it.
  • I have recently discovered that a lot of words (like Macca's, texta, my student Tayla) are spelled with an a when I thought they were spelled with an er, but it sounds like an a due to the accents. it's so weird! I see these words/names written, and then I feel like an idiot. it's really bizarre.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Obama in Darwin!

earlier this week, Kaye and Roger took us out to the Darwin Boat Club for dinner. the food was amazing, and we had an incredible view of the beach, the water, and the beautiful sunset from our table outside. and when we came home, we saw a CANE TOAD outside the gate. they're an invasive species here, and are killing off a lot of the other wildlife because they're poisonous. I had never seen one before, and I was definitely not expecting them to be so massive.

Mr. Cane Toad
more Harry Potter book covers :X
yesterday, school went pretty well. I whipped up a new math center in a couple of hours while the kids were at P.E. and music class. I am teaching another week of Venn diagrams, but this time I gave them an activity they can do to create their own, and they've really enjoyed it so far. My CT even asked me if she could keep it when I left :)

after school, we hit the shops at Casuarina and made a few impulse buys. this is going to sound weird, but Aussie K-Mart is the BOMB. I bought 2 pairs of shoes (sorry, mom) and a skirt for $25. such good shopping here. definitely going to miss that when I go back to the States.

five dollar shoes! FIVE DOLLARS!
is it possible to be in love with shoes?
today, Hannah and I took the day off school with hopes of seeing President Obama in Darwin. it was such a shock that he was here that we figured if we called around to the embassy and consulate and the NT's Chief Minister's office, that we'd be able to see him at one of his events. yeah, not so easy.

not only did that not work out (surprising, right?), but lots of roads were closed off, and there were no public viewing areas at the war memorial that he visited before he went to the military base.

photo © the news
1st female PM with 1st black president :)
photo © the news
(as I'm writing this, I jumped up and ran outside because I heard some VERY LOUD fighter jets flying near the house... too many clouds to see anything though) it was still exciting that he was here while we were here, and we got to watch it on tv :)

other than that, a fairly lazy day. even though we didn't get to see the President, I was still glad I had the day off today because I woke up not feeling the greatest. I'll just have to vote for him again in the next election so I have a chance to see him again!