Thursday, August 31, 2006

All quiet on the Northern front

Not much to report today.

What a difference one hundred and twenty kilometres make. While the children at Lajamanu were friendly, they tended to give up easily and while they may engage with the puzzles, there was no self-direction to it, it had to be almost force-fed at times. It’s different in Kalkarinji. Admittedly our sample size is small. In two of our lessons only five of twenty kids showed up, because someone has just died here and many kids are travelling around with families to various royalty gatherings.

Even so the difference is amazing. The literacy and numeracy levels were much higher. We were able to bring out logic puzzles (lots of writing) and arithmetic puzzles. We didn’t have to explain how to do each puzzle. We dipped heavily into the high school puzzles. The kids kept focus throughout, they didn’t get bored and start wandering around as so often happens. One group we had for over an hour and a half, and they probably would have gone for longer if it hadn’t been lunch time.

After the stressful environment of Lajamanu, where you had to desperately try to keep as many kids entertained as possible or risk having a small number disrupt the whole group, it was nice to be in a situation where we didn’t have to spend all our time on crowd control and instead could really focus on enriching the experience for the kids.

I think part of it is because they had the three kids complete their year twelve there a few years back. That made all the papers and probably engendered a more positive attitude towards school amongst the community, which leads to more pliable kids. It also allows the teachers to control the students better as they can be more sure that the parents will care that their child is at school.

Of course, I have no idea why it really is, this is just skin deep analysis, there’s all sorts of things that could contribute to the difference. It was just nice to have an easy day.

Oh, and I’ve been linked to by someone I don’t even know. All the fame is going to my head.

I'll be outside reception the next few nights, so don't expect another post before the weekend.


Maths Thingumee #8
Most of you probably know this proof, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

To prove that 0.9 repeater = 1
0.99999...= x
10 x 0.99999... = 10x = 9.99999...
10x -x = 9.99999... - 0.99999...
9x = 9
x = 1

This one is true, you can try to disprove it, but it’s airtight, so you’ll just have to accept it eventually.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Motorvehicle Mayhem

Don’t know what happened with the comments on yesterday’s post, but I’ve turned them on again, and hopefully for today’s post they’ll be turned on automatically.

We left Lajamanu today. It’s one hundred and twelve kilometres of dirt road before you hit the main highway. Which you need to do if you want to go, well, anywhere. I don’t know how many of you have done proper dirt road driving before, but when you’re on a dirt road there are places where the road tries to tell you where you should drive. You try and avoid those spots, but sometimes it’s simply not possible, and you have to fight the road to stay on track and not (say) annex a cow.

The road was especially bad today, as it had just been heavily used by all the people coming to Lajamanu to collect royalties, so these spots were more frequent than I would have liked, but mostly the road was fine, except that we had to keep up a decent clip to get over the corrugations (another pleasure of dirt road driving).

Coming off one set of corrugations, I found myself being led off the road by the furrows in the dirt. I pulled Gustav around as gently as I could, but to get out of the rut I had to turn a little bit harder than I would have liked, and our nose ended up pointing toward the opposite side of the road. I applied the brakes gently but firmly, steered lightly A! woke up and we came to a soft stop parallel with the road, but beside it, having calmly beheaded a few wildflowers.

Although disgusted with myself for getting in that position, I’m happy with the way I responded when the situation occurred. If I’d slammed on the brakes any harder, we probably would have had a brake lock, a tail slip, a spin and ended up on our roof. If I’d tried to swerve any more we probably would have just rolled. The side of the road was flat, no ditches, but even if it weren’t, I’d prefer to hit something with the front of a four wheel drive, where I have a nice long crumple zone and a willing airbag, than to roll and possibly kill A! or myself. I really am surprised I didn’t just freak out and try and swerve and brake at the same time. Yay me, perhaps this driver training stuff worked a little. We noticed afterwards that Gustav had popped out of 4wd mode, so I’d been driving with less traction than I thought, though the largest part of the responsibility definitely falls on me.

Afterwards we discovered that J!&M! had popped a tire and hit a tree (at an ant’s walking speed, reportedly the ant did not survive). They only had one spare so they may be in trouble for the rest of the tour, or the Rental place may be able to replace it on the weekend.

Lajamanu was very stressful today, with both the middle-school groups acting like hooligans prior to lunch. At lunch, we had a pleasant surprise as several of the kids who had been in the middle school, but hadn’t had the chance to finish their bridges thanks to their classmates came and finished, refined and tested bridges with us. One kid managed to make his bridge strong enough to hold a brick.

After lunch we had the senior school, a surprisingly sensible mob. They had been going for eight days straight, and were a tad exhausted, but they came in to see us, sat down, did puzzles and if they did get bored with them, they didn’t destroy anything or bother any of the guys who were working, nor cause any sort of disruption. Great bunch.

I got my picture from Lilly. Apparently I got quite the bargain, though I did pay her more than she’d asked. I wanted to pay her more, but didn’t know she was planning to come down to the school, so I hadn’t got the money when she brought it down in the morning, as it was I had to borrow from A!. I think Lilly liked me because I was working with the kids and I called myself Kuminja, proving that even if I am an uncultured white person I am at least trying.

Maths Thingumee #7

An inspector walks into a restaurant across the road from where there has been a drive-by-shooting. He talks to one man who had been sitting by a table at the window, from where he should have had a perfect vantage point to witness the murder.
“In your own words, what did you see?” he asked the man, flipping out a notepad.
“I’m sorry officer, but I didn’t see anything, my table was wobbling, so I’d leaned down to place a napkin under one of the legs when I heard the shooting. By the time I was up, they’d already driven off.”
“This table here?” Asked the detective.
“Yep, that one” nodded the witness.
The detective looked under the table and saw that there was indeed a new serviette carefully folded beneath one of the three legs of the table.

“Take this man in for questioning, he’s lying to us.”

Under police brut… interrogation, the man revealed that he was indeed a knowing accomplice of the murder, how had the detective known?

I have the overriding suspicion that Floor is going to want to ring me after reading the above post. Floor, we're in Kalkariji tonight and tomorrow night, and have CDMA reception during that time, so you can call me on the tour phone. Thursday night we'll be in Pigeon hole, and I don't think we'll ahve nay reception there.

Kuminjay

Remember yesterday I mentioned that the names of deceased people are taboo to the people here? Guess what! I am Kuminjay. It’s a word that means all things taboo, I think. My name can’t be spoken around the locals. They’re good about the times we’ve slipped, but there’s no reason to be rude. Besides, there’s a strange freedom in not having a name, and a true feeling of satisfaction that if you die your name goes with you. Given the number of people with my name that we’ve met up here, it’s not surprising that my name is taboo, especially since the taboo can last years after someone dies.

The Lajamanu school is the first of the true community schools we’ve been to. All the descriptions of camp dogs, awful attendance rates, and a desire to talk in the indigenous tongue rather than English, have all held up here. The communities friendly though, and we don’t feel worried about walking around provided we’re together and it’s not night, and that’s more about the half-feral dog packs than about the people.

The children down here who have desert blood in them have hair a bright white-blond that’s hard to believe. It goes away as they grow up, but the contrast with the dark skin is really quite stunning. Apparently a lot of the teenagers dye their hair blond after it darkens, but in the little kids we’ve been dealing with it’s all natural.

There are two famous indigenous artists here and I commissioned a painting from one. I’m embarrassed by the price that she asked, and feel guilty for not being able to pay her what the painting will really be worth, but I am going to give her more than she asked for, because the exploitation of indigenous artists here is really sickening.

We’re back at Lajamanu school tomorrow with a day almost entirely devoted to bridge building, then we’re off to Kalkaringi. A school most famous for getting four indigenous students through their year 12 in recent years. It’s sad that that is a news worthy matter.

The desert nights are not nearly as cold as I was led to believe, at least not here, probably much more so down Alice way. I’m vaguely disappointed with the stars as the community light stops it from being as impressive as it could be. The dozen or so large solar dishes on the edge of town more than make up for this disappointment however.

Maths Thingumee #6

The largest calculation of pi pre-computer was to roughly 750 decimal places. It took him 15 years. A test by early computers showed that beyond the first 500 decimal places or so it was complete garbage as he had made a mistake in calculation. This isn’t such a big deal however, as once you know the value of pi to 39 decimal places, you can work at the circumference of the known universe and be wrong by one atom (or so I’m told, I feel uncomfortable with the description of the known universe as a sphere).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Death in the desert

Six hours of road travel on roads with an unrestricted speed. We are now as far South as we will penetrate in this tour, and the land has changed dramatically. No more palm-trees, no more scraggly but verdant forests. Now we have rich red dirt and the world flatter than can be imagined, even the hills are flat.

We stopped for lunch at the Top Spring’s roadhouse where it appears that segregation is still the acceptable practice, provided you didn’t talk about it. Also don’t ask for a large orange juice. You’ll get a litre.

Lajamanu is the home of a dispossessed people. They were moved off their homeland, so they quietly made their way back, so they were moved off again. The cycle continued until the exodus stuck and they settled in Lajamanu.

We came at a bad time. The people here take death very seriously, so seriously that if you have the same name as someone deceased in the last few years, you’re not allowed to use that name, you have to use a different one. Currently, the people here are mourning a funeral. Funerals are important, you don’t have a choice whether or not you go, the disrespect you’re showing if you don’t is immense. So there are many people from other communities here at the moment to honour the deceased. This makes it a very social time, a time to catch up with old friends and relatives. Which is as good a reason as any not to go to school.

Worse, it’s royalty time. When the goldmine pays royalties to the people whose land they’re using. This means that anyone with any tenuous connection to the land turns up in town to get their share, which again makes it a highly social occasion. Exactly how many kids turn up tomorrow is anyone’s guess. The principal assures us that although some kids will be missing, others from outside the community will come along with their family. It should be interesting.

My parent’s-in-sin bought me a (premature) birthday present today (thanks guys!), a therma-rest self inflating mattress, which I went and got eagerly today as I was sure we’d be lying on a school room floor for the next couple of nights, and my old blue foamy thing wasn’t cutting it, instead they’ve put us in a house that is considerably larger than where I live, and has a fridge for me and a fridge for A!. I also thought I’d be out of reception, but that is apparently not the case. Every time I assume something here, I’m wrong.

Our troupe has gained another member; Pepé an unshaven lego-man who has tragically lost his hands.

Maths thingumee #5

Here is a proof that shows 1=2. Find the error, here’s a clue, you can use the same error to prove anything you like
Let a=b
Multiply both sides by a
a^2= ab

Add a^2 to both sides
a^2+a^2 =a^2+ab

That is
2a^2 = a^2 +ab

Subtract 2ab from both sides
2a^2 -2ab= a^2 +ab -2ab

Or
2a^2 -2ab= a^2 - ab

Therefore

2(a^2 -ab)= 1(a^2 - ab)

And factor to
2=1
You know it’s wrong? Prove it.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Anthropomorphism man

I have a bad habit of naming things. Which wouldn’t be a problem except that when you give ‘things’ names, they have a dreadful habit of developing personalities. This can be difficult when you’re treating objects in a way that you would never treat a real personality,

For example, A! has just bought a pillow. Or rather a big pink fluffy ball that she intends to use as a pillow. As soon as I saw it, I determined that it’s name was Norman. Then the problems began, because I looked at Norman and knew that he was grumpy, and he was grumpy because he was lonely. So I decided that Norman needed a friend.

Sizing up Norman I decided that his ideal partner was a similar but yellow puffball, whom I would name Sherman. I endeavoured to purchase Sherman but could not find his like anywhere. At his point I feel I should apologise to Norman, not just because I failed to procure him a partner, but also because he didn’t need a partner prior to me christening him Norman.

I have also named A!’s marionette (an itty bitty feathery troll form Norway) Johansen - his favourite pastimes includes, pillaging, defiling, looting and crocheting) and our four wheel drive is dubbed St. Gustav (though I haven’t told anyone). All of these names have effected how I treat these items. It’s vaguely annoying, but I can’t shake it.

We went on a crocodile tour today. Those things really do look like dinosaurs. I have finished both my books. Katherine is a hole of a city, it’s very depressing.

Tomorrow we head South to Lajammanu, down on the edge of the desert, I can’t wait to look up at the stars and see the milky way stretch from low horizon to low horizon.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Back under the sattleite, hear me emote!

Hey, back in reception range again, so I've posted yesterday's entry as well.

Also I'd like to give a big shout at to my father-in-sin who has also entered an older and slower period of his life in the last few days. Happy Birthday H!.

Also guys, a lot of addresses of people I meant to send this to bounced, especially N!nu and J!ju also H!Ju and many others, please pass this address onto them if you're able. Now on to the real message:


Our windscreen is a killing field. A! thought it was raining because the sound of bugs terminating their existence on glass was so constant on our way down the Stuart highway to Katherine. Of course, we were ding 160km/h, so we didn’t exactly give them a sporting chance.

I was impressed by Woolaning Homeland Christian school, all three groups of kids focused well on the puzzles. I think the kids are really helped to focus by being at boarding school, because it gives a clearer division of home and family life.

I walked out of the classroom today, and saw shadows flickering on the pathways. I looked up, and there were six eagles circling low over the school. The birds are beautiful. Perfectly adapted predators, creatures of the air. The awe subsided somewhat when a passing teacher told me they were always around at this time to collect the lunch scraps.

We met up with J! and M! in Katherine and all went to dinner. They have not killed each other yet, but there seems to be a slight undertone of exasperation to both of them that they may not be aware of yet. Still, we’ve got three more weekends for this to develop, it’s like a weekly soap! The MJ!

Going to keep it short tonight as I need the sleep and it’s already 11, I get to sleep in tomorrow for the first time (A!’s a slavedriver! : )) and I need it, I also have a nice queen bed to myself, much better than the fare we’ve had to date.

Maths Thingummy #4
Two fathers and two sons go fishing, they catch one fish each. They go home and make a fish dinner out of the fish they’ve caught. Being messy male chauvinists, they leave the plates on the table, when one of their wives comes to clean up there are three bowls to clean, each with the remains of one eaten fish.

How can this be?

24/8 - Out of reception, out of mind

Finally on the road again, our job today - drive through Litchfield National Park to get to our next school, Woolaning home stay Christian college.

We peppered our trip with visits to various park features, it’s a tough life. Our first stop was Buley rockhole a series of paddling pools and waterfalls. Sitting in a waterfall is a wonderful massage, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who considers it.

I never used to enjoy swimming. I still feel uneasy whenever I have to first put my head underwater. I think it’s because I almost drowned as a kid when I decided I wanted to learn to swim. I walked determinedly down the steps of a pool until the water swirled above my head. Thanks again for saving me mum! I didn’t think that the Northern Territory, being the driest part of Australia, was likely to affect my bias.

The broiling temperatures, mixed with some gorgeous scenery, have turned my head, and I had great fun at every swimming hole we’ve visited. Screw man-made pools though, the real thing is so much better. Waterfalls, rocks, sand and fish all help to build the experience. The only downside is wondering if maybe, just maybe, you’re about to be a tasty treat of crocodile nibblets.

We stopped at a second and even more beautiful watering hole, Wangi falls. It was a huge rock wall with two waterfalls driving down it, one had a tight but deep paddling pond about two and a half metres up into the waterfall itself. I got thoroughly wet on both occasions.

There was a site on our map that no-one had mentioned to us as a must see. It was intriguingly titled ‘the lost city’. As no-one had mentioned it to us, we naturally wanted to see it, even though it was located down the end of a 10.5km 4WD track. So, variously humming and singing the theme to a certain 80’s cartoon favourite, we made our bumpy, bumpy way to ‘the lost city’.

After a while we thought we’d missed it, and started wondering if there’d be a sign at the end of the track saying ‘Did you find it?’. As a practical joke it would have been grand, but as a waste of our time it would have been monstrous. Finally we arrived to find huge chunks of rock sticking out of the ground in all sorts of contorted positions. We also discovered that our numberplate was hanging off our car by a single screw, swinging back and forth comically. The place felt old beyond belief, the forces at play so distant from our own tiny frame of reference as to make us insignificant. I thought it looked less like a lost city and more like the remains of shattered giants, but I’m like that. We fixed our numberplate, but it fell off again soon after.

We arrived at Woolaning and had a good chat with the principal about the philosophy behind the school. The school is in the middle of nowhere. There are no towns or communities nearby, a placement that is quite deliberate. It was an attempt to stop the school as being seen as owned by, or the territory of a single tribe. The kids are boarders, but not in the traditional sense, they have ‘school families’ of a few kids and a pair of ‘house parents’ to help make school similar to their usual learning environment. It’s interesting that every school we go to has been trying a different way to engage the aboriginal kids in education. We have so many different methods, but I’d make a rough guess that no-one knows what really works, not yet.

The problem isn’t an aboriginal one, it’s a common problem in social groups with lower levels of formal education. Education begets education, mistrust of education begets mistrust. If you don’t break the cycle, you end up with a culture that puts no high value on education. I don’t think that the aboriginal people put no value on education, but I think there’s something in the culture that makes classical western systems of education less effective to people growing up in that culture. It’s certainly not intelligence, as I said in an earlier entry, I’m awed by some of these kids. I don’t know what it is, nor what can be done about it. That’s the impression I get from my time so far - that there is an unresolved issue that is keeping aboriginal children from getting an equal education to other Australian children, maybe I’ll have changed my mind in a week.

Maths thingumee: #3 You are on a game-show called ‘Got my goat’. On this show, you’re given a choice between three doors, two of them have a goat behind them, one of them has a million dollars behind it. You get to keep whatever you find.

You choose a door. Before you can open it, the host tells you to wait, he opens up one of the two doors you did not pick, behind it is a goat.

Having revealed the location of an unpicked goat, the host then offers you the choice of either the door you originally picked, or the third unopened door. What do you do?

(Presume for this exercise that you would prefer the million dollars over the goat, and the prize is equally likely to be behind any of the three doors)

Ps. For those worried that my albino legs will lose their lily white complexion to the harsh solar barbeque, fear not! They’re still as pasty as always thanks to liberal applications of sunscreen. Also, my face grows hair, but still not beard.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bridges and Brats

Not much to report today, we’re still in Batchelor, and visited Batchelor area school today. It’s the second biggest school on our schedule at a massive 150 odd kids. (Hey Sherdie, is this your old school?)

The high schoolers were first up, and we made them build bridges, unlike the Belyuen kids, they didn’t just blindly copy A!’s good bridge. Instead coming up with a mish-mash of different designs. One group had intricate clever plans that they got half way to realising, then they were told they had five minutes left, so they took all their bits smooshed them into a ball, and held it all together with half a roll of sticky tape rolled around and around and around. Such auspicious beginnings, such crap results. Time management is your friend people!.

We then moved onto the opposite end of the spectrum with the four and five year olds. One of the girls was an utter kleptomaniac. She pocketed puzzle piece after puzzle piece, and did so badly. Her sleight of hand wasn’t exactly sleight, it was just ‘of hand’. When we were packing up the puzzles we had lost a piece (the third she’d try to steal from the same damn puzzle, I‘d caught her in the act the other two times). The teacher suggested that we check the floor, and that everyone check their pockets as it may have ‘accidentally’ fallen in there. Guess where it was?

A big loud boo-yah to my father, who entered a new and older phase of his life yesterday. Happy Birthday Dad!

Maths thingumee #2
This one is courtesy of J!
Imagine a list of all the teacups in the world. None of the items on the list is going to be the list itself, because the list isn’t a teacup. Call that a type A list, and have our working definition of a type A list be: A list that does not contain itself.

Now imagine a list of all the things in the world that aren’t a teacup. Amongst ‘A brain’ ‘a heart’ ‘courage’ and ‘saxophone’ would be the list you are making. The list itself is not a teacup, so it is listed in itself. Call this a type B list, our working definition of a type B list is: A list that contains itself.

Now make a list of all the Type A lists in the world. What type of list is this list A or B?

Alright, here are the more impressive termite pictures:

This is a cathedral termite mound


















This is a magnetic mound













This is a lot of magnetic mounds.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Butterfly brothels?

First pictures of termite mounds as promised...

We went to Batchelor area school this morning to sort out a few odds and ends for tomorrow. We got chatting with the receptionist about this and that, and we told her we planned to visit the butterfly farm. Her face took on a disapproving cast, and she mentioned that the guy who an it was ‘quite a character’.

Adequately warned, we decided we’d go anyway. When we arrived we discovered a café with a wide balcony, on the balcony were some gorgeous mahogany tables. Sitting at one of the tables was a lady of more than generous proportions. I didn’t have the most, ahem, revealing, vantage point, but she seemed topless.

We paused, unsure how to proceed, she saw us, and in an aggravated tone told us to ‘come on up then’, a command we wearily obeyed. It was then we made two important discoveries. One, she was just a customer not a staff member, and two, although her dress appeared to just be a skirt, it did pull up at the front to maintain her dignity. Satisfied that we had not stumbled upon some bizarre entomologically themed brothel we bought tickets for the butterfly house tour.
Before the tour began, an odd man in purple pants gave us a large scrapbook to look through, it was many pictures from the creation of the butterfly house. It became clear very quickly, that the whole Butterfly farm was one man’s eccentric but friendly vision. It did contain some amazing information.

The butterfly farm was staffed by WWOOFers (willing workers on organic farms) giving the whole place the inviting feel of a commune. The mahogany tables came from some trees that had been planted after cyclone Tracey and knocked down by cyclone Billy. These glorious trees had been on their way to the dump until the butterfly farmer offered the tree haulers a couple of cases of beer for them. There was one photo showing a bushfire nearby that just said ‘the smoke and dust killed all our butterflies’.

Purple pants, a Lancastrian/Irish hippy came to give us the tour he showed us around the Northern Territory’s largest man-made waterfall (not very big). The pool at the bottom was meant to be a crocodile pond, but his daughter had demanded a swimming pool. Knowing kids as I do, I’m sure both desires could have happily been accommodated.

We passed by a full clothesline, and the BF turned to A! and told her that ‘This is when you find out if he’s worth marrying! I’ll say go, and then he has to get as many clothes down as he can, as quick as he can, and you can see if its fast enough for you’. I took down no clothes, and A! has not yet proposed.

In the butterfly enclosure we saw all of 4 butterflies, maybe, and all the same type. This was more than made up for by the aviary. There were some bold, crazy looking chickens that A! was sure were going to attack her, some peacocks, and the oldest most pathetic looking turkey you have ever seen.

After a nap we went out to the Litchfield National Park. The flora here is mostly snake like trees sticking out of the ground with sickly yellow green leaves, most of the time they’re barely taller than the ant mounds, which can, admittedly, be quite large. Even so, the place is verdant and lush, teeming with a million different bugs. Many of which I have squashed.

We arrived at a tourist spot, that looked like it came straight out of a pamphlet. Two waterfalls had cut a basin into rock, and the pool at the bottom was cool, clear and croc free. On our way down to the pool we passed a lady wearing a leopard skin swimsuit, army boots, and knee high black socks. Her swimwear did not completely hide her rear. It was an odd combination.

We swam over to the waterfalls and had them crash on to us. The falls were powerful and being underneath them was an onslaught of force. The experience was ruined by a bus load of drunken contiki tourers doing stupid shit, but we’d had our fun so we left.

On the way back to Batchelor we passed some more termite mounds. Yesterday’s mounds were made by cathedral termites, and were impressive enough, but these were the work of the magnetic termites. There nests are flat. Two and a half metres tall, one and a half metres wide and only twenty centimetres thick. They look like fields of giant gravestones.

Anyway, today’s maths thingumee, this is a riddle we ask the kids, and it was also in a Scrubs I watched last night, so I thought I’d share:

I have two Australian coins, together they are worth exactly thirty cents. One of them is not a ten cent piece. What coins have I got?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Belyuen and Batchelor. Bloody brilliant

Sleeping on the floor isn’t as easy as I remember. The Belyuen kids were great, I took the older (yrs4-7) kids and they really engaged with the puzzles, with all of them telling me what to do when I was demonstrating the puzzles. They were all really lovely, but it was obvious there were huge cultural differences between us. The puzzles that are usually easy, the basic arithmetic ones, were almost universally shunned by these kids, while the shape jigsaw ones were adored.

I’m not saying these kids were dumb, they really weren’t, most of them are bi, tri or even tetra-lingual, while all efforts to make me understand more than English and the bastardised English we import from the land of the great brown hamburger have failed miserably. One kid who came to chat with us at lunch and discussed what can only be described as the rudiments of the flat-land hypothesis, something he’d seemed to develop by himself. I know adults who don’t understand flat-land.

Making bridges also went well, and I’m happy to say that the local kids made stronger bridges than the (anglo) kids who’d come down from Dundee beach to join in. Their teacher had a Joey that she’d found by the side of the road, apparently she’s raised dozens of Orphaned roos.

Most of the kids had skin problems, one had a partly black tongue. It scares me how bad health care is up here. I’m also frankly glad that the school had a big bottle of disinfectant soap. Unlike the more anglo schools we’ve performed in, the kids don’t perceive a physical contact boundary between kids and adults. So they’re always grabbing, pulling, poking. Not in a violent way, just to tell you ‘oi, over here’. So the ability to scrub yourself clean before eating is more than welcome.

A! and I drove down to Batchelor today, past many a gigantic termite mounds - photos to come- and past a tree that had grown into itself. That means we’ve got tomorrow mostly off and can go and see the butterfly farm. A! assures me they don’t slaughter them for meat, so I’m wondering how they milk them.

Batchelor Area school has put us up in there Outdoor Education unit. We have tiny rooms with two beds in them, in the interests of not getting bitten by anything, I’m going to sleep with my blue foam mat on the bed frame, rather than on the seedy and possibly crawling mattress on the second bed.

I cooked tonight, a Stir fry of vegetables that were probably about to go off, and with a little help with my darling Floor (almost her real name) who called while I was making managed to do a passable impression of an edible meal.

Watching : Scrubs
Reading : The Eyre Affair
Playing : Nethergate (romans)

Signing out,
Mechanical

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The barmy air of Darwin

Sunday the 20th, 9.22 pm. My second day in the Territory is coming to a close. We finally arrived yesterday after a slight delay in our flights because a man two rows behind me had to be rolled out in a wheelchair with a paper bag over his mouth. Maree was told he had a heart-attack, but I'm not sure it was that serious. If offered the chance to watch Mission Impossible three, just say no.

Darwin's an odd city, and not as backward as I'd hoped, the airport is in the middle like a bizzare centre's piece, and the whole thing feels as backpackery as New Orleans. We'll be going back on my birthday weekend, which is nice, because I'd like to see it a little more.

The two teams split this morning with M! and J! heading off early, that's going to be an interesting dynamic, M!'s never had an older brother, and J! Is the world's older brother – with all the good and bad that entails. A! and I ended up leaving Darwin a little later than we had planned this morning because our four wheel drive wasn't ready to be picked up until Midday, so we hung around the Casurina shopping Centre (freakishly similar to Woden Plaza, but not for any reason you could put your finger on) and did some random shopping, Miff, they have Woolworths up here. I bought a game called Wetrix. It's awfully odd and cost me $2.95.
I Noticed that a large proportion of cars have vanity plates. Apparently it's free. The best one I've seen yet is 'Eggplnt'[sic] which almost, but not quite, beats my old favourite of 'mmm Pie'.

We arrived at Beluen school, up on the cox peninsula, after a two hour drive through a suprisingly green and tropical countryside. They burn off a lot around here, but it grows back just as fast. It was strange to see 2 metre tall termite mounds grey and charred on the outside.

We lucked out with our first school, there's a giant TV and DVD player in the library. As well as hot and cold running internet. The buildings seem nice and new as well. Beluen is not a dry community, and when we walk between the staff room and the library we hear some noises that are probably just normal everyday noises, but creepy none the less. The wonderfully friendly principal tells us the community is a nice one, and there's never been an incident with the school. We saw two of the kids earlier and they asked us if we had a video camera. They seemed disappointed that we didn't.

There was apparently a band playing at pub down the road in the Mandulah, but A! and I opted to stay in and take advantage of the large TV instead. A! made dinner, but her forgetfulness shone through and when I went to get beverages, I also had to turn off the hotplate.

If you get a chance to watch best in show, do.

Opening thoughts

Whilee I'm stomping round the top end, internet is going to be a rare and precious commodity, I'm going to use this blog as a way to communicate with as many people as possible. I can't promise that it'll be particularily interesting, but I'll try.

This way I can type up new posts on my shiny new laptop (Lappy McTavish as the networks know him) and then publish them when I get access to the net. So if they get updated at no other time during the week, they'll probably get updated on the Weekend, when we're in Katherine, so look for new stuff on Mondays.

Anyway...