Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The travelling has stopped, but should the blogging?

It's been pretty quiet on the Chaz In Oz blog of late, and most of you know why: the last month has been a whirlwind of packing, travelling, packing again, and finally unpacking. We're back home in Canada, and the amazing year is rapidly fading into memory.

We returned two days before Christmas, spending about 28 hours travelling from Auckland to Bracebridge. Jet-lagged and emotionally drained as we were, we decided we really wanted to celebrate Christmas properly, so we hauled out the decorations, bought a few more gifts to supplement those we had brought back from Oz, and hung stockings on the staircase with care. We even got a tree (and believe me, nothing makes you feel like Charlie Brown as much as going to the Christmas tree lot at 3:00 on Christmas Eve).

Now the suitcases have been emptied and put away, the souvenirs have got new homes, the photos have all been downloaded, and the passports tucked away. But I find there are still a few things I meant to blog about. I didn't mention visiting my "aunt" Janet, my didgeridoo lessons, or our adventures in New Zealand. And, as several people have pointed out, the fact that my last post on the Red Centre adventure was labelled as "part one" implies fairly strongly that I have more to say on it. Sure, I can tell the stories to people in person now, but this blog has always been at least partly about saving my memories of the trip, as well as telling folks back home what we're up to, and I know as well as anyone how quickly memories can fade. So, over the next few weeks, I'll try to post a few more blog entries. If you think that's cheating, you're free to ignore them; personally I'm going to enjoy strolling through some more of my Australian adventures, at least in memory.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Red Centre part one: Alcoota School

Before we came to Australia, someone gave us a bit of advice. When on exchange, they said, people will sometimes invite you to do things you may not initially feel like doing. Accept those invitations; say yes to everything.

It was great advice, and we heeded it while in Alice Springs. We were staying with Phil and Trina Kotzur, who teach at a school in Alcoota, about two hours drive out of Alice. On Sunday night, while getting ready to leave, they invited us to visit them at the school. We debated whether to go -- we were already way over the mileage limit on our rental car, and with only five days in the centre we wondered if we shouldn't use the day to do other things -- but in the end we said yes.

It was a real eye-opener, a chance to get a glimpse of life in an aboriginal community. The kids don't speak English when they come to school, so the school employs adults as teaching aids to sit in the classroom and translate if necessary. The school has a fairly high attendance rate, thanks partly to the efforts of one older man who is hired to walk to each home in the village every morning and collect the children (sort of like a school bus, but on foot). The school day begins with breakfast and tooth brushing, shoes are a rarity, and parental involvement is almost non-existent. When boys get to be about 15 or so, the older men will come and get them and take them off in the bush for a couple of months initiation, after which they are ready to get married. When Ana asked a group of teens what they do for fun, they said "hunt" -- kangaroo, echidna, goanna.

At the same time, you don't need to spend much time in the school to realize that kids are kids everywhere -- they mug for the camera, they giggle at the funny strangers, and they play silly when the teacher wants them to be serious. Basketball is popular, and AFL is even more so, with many of the kids sporting team shirts.

Going to the Red Centre was a highlight of our year in Australia, and going to Alcoota was a highlight of our trip to the Red Centre. Say yes to everything: good advice. Thanks Phil and Trina.

There are photos here.