Paddling the Gorges

I'm finally posting some pictures from our fantastic canoe/kayak camping trip (May 7-8). These pics were taken by W and P who managed--amazingly--to keep their camera dry under exceptionally wet circumstances! (There are actually quite a lot more photos than this, but I didn't want to overwhelm/bore/frustrate you.)

I consider this trip a particular accomplishment for me since I have a complex of fears relating to strong currents/rapids, slippery rocks, losing my balance (so easy for me to do even on stable ground), and having my face plunged into water unexpectedly.

There were many rocky rapid portages and my instinct was to get out of the water and scramble along the dry rocks. Sometimes I was able to do this, but a lot of the time I didn't have that option. I'd try to stay with the canoe, holding onto the back, while Justin pulled it from the front, until I couldn't hold on anymore. Then I'd be stuck out in the middle of the rapids on some slippery rocks, struggling not to panic. Going down turned out to be just as difficult, with the added (unfavorite) elements of speed and the increased chance of being flipped and dunked.

Although relative to the rest of the party, I was definitely the lame one, I felt actually quite pleased with myself for not giving in to my anxiety. It's good to know that I did it (though I couldn't have done it without the others), and I would even do it again!
All smiles, heading up the river. Posted by Hello
Our lunch spot. Posted by Hello
Portage. Justin pulled the vessel over the slippery rocks and through the rapids. I barely pulled myself. Posted by Hello
Camp! We reached it just before sunset, but this picture was taken the next morning. Posted by Hello
Going down proved as difficult as going up! Posted by Hello
A snake was spotted near Justin's foot toward the end of our lunch break. Posted by Hello

Pigeon Hole Wild Life

When Justin was out at Pigeon Hole last week, he shared the school toilet with a number of cute frogs, as you can see from the following pictures.
Ready...set...jump! Posted by Hello
The shower frog. Posted by Hello
Don't forget to wipe! Posted by Hello

Fire! Firefirefire!

My friend T emailed me this and I thought I should share:

I checked up on your blog and found the fire pictures...and it IS just like CA! You probably know that the native Californians used fire as well, and that the native plants do the same things as your "phoenix grass."

When I worked on the grass seed production farm, we burned a lot of our fields after harvesting them because they liked it. You know how CA summers are: if we burned in October, the natives, esp. the needlegrasses, would sprout, despite the fact that they had not seen a drop of water since April or May. That's because their roots go 5 feet into the soul!

The Dry Burning Season

It is now the time of fires. Fires have been part of this landscape for ages, apparently even before the Aboriginal people came here over 40 thousand years ago. Lightning strikes still set a number of fires, but people have been using fire purposely since they came. The native plants are uniquely adapted to fire, but many invading species are not.

I think I mentioned before that you can be driving along a highway and see a fire crackling away in the bush beside the road and it's not remarkable or worrisome. It's a very strange experience for this Californian (however, the recent appearance of golden brown grass along roadsides and in unwatered lawns makes me feel very much at home--it was something I missed when I lived in NY and the Solomons).

The bike trail I use to get to work is along the river, right in town. There are swathes of burnt grass in various places along my route. The gum trees (eucalyptus) remain untouched, just the dry, golden grass burns. Then new grass comes up out of it, green blades sprouting right out of a clump of blackened grass.

These pictures don't really do the images justice, but I hope they help you visualize it a bit.
Part of my bike route on my way to work in the morning. Posted by Hello
The common sight of green grass coming up from recently burnt dry grass, just beside the bike path. Posted by Hello
Up from the ashes. Posted by Hello
Phoenix grass. That's just what I decided to call it, but isn't it amazing? Posted by Hello
A beaut ute. Posted by Hello

Singin' the Praises of Plastic!

[note: this post written on Sunday, May 8th, but I accidentally clicked "draft" instead of "publish"]

Specifically, I'm really impressed with the plastic kayaks we took up into the gorges yesterday. They seem almost indestructible, considering the amazing battering they took--being dragged up through a lot of rocky rapids yesterday and crashing into rocks on the way down today. The design of the kayaks was also fantastic--virtually untippable (although we did nearly sink, and it performed impressively there too: it did not sink even when almost full of water). The plastic paddles also stood up well to our inexperienced pushing and shoving off rocks.

We did not take our camera, but W & P brought theirs and have promised a rendez-vous between our computer and their camera. However, they'll be gone all of this week, so no pictures till after that.

About that country music festival...
Not quite "alt country" enough for us, but there were some enjoyable acts. We like the Red Hot Poker Dots (Lil O'Dette actually climbs up on her bass while playing it, as featured in all the pictures on their website), the Toe-Sucking Cowgirls, and the Sensitive New-Age Cowpersons. No pictures of that either, but Justin did take some photos of the Beaut Ute section of the Cavalcade Street Parade. I haven't looked through them yet, but I'll try to post one soon.

My first three days of work, by the way, were good.

Workin' Nine to Five

I got a job! Actually it was offered to me the week before we went out to Pigeon Hole and the paperwork in process. Then on Friday, I got another call and an offer of short-term job. That one starts tomorrow!

The "real" job is as a full-time VET (Vocational Education and training) lecturer at Charles Darwin University. There are several parts to it and will require some juggling and a lot of none-obsessing by me (that is, I won't have time to be a perfectionist about my teaching preparation and will have to accept the materials available as they are; I think this may be a good lesson for me).

~ESL teaching to a class of adult immigrants. About ten students. Meet twice a week for 3 hours each time. Apparently really delightful students, mostly women. They bring food!

~Prep Ed: This is basically remedial literacy and numeracy, to prepare students for further education.

~Introduction to Business Basics. Similar to above, designed for students who want to take business course but need to improve their reading, writing, and basic math skills.

I will be teaching at the Katherine Campus, with occasional week-long trips out to communities to teach there. In between my visits (about once every 3 months), students will be bused in from the communities and stay at the college for a week of instruction here.

The communities I'll be working in are Lajamanu (see also this CDU press release) Ngukurr (see That Munanga Linguist for a linguist's take on the community), Elliot and Kybrook. The last is only a day trip from Katherine (up near Pine Creek; see An Uneventful Sunday Outing & Monday Birthday Ruminations in my archives) and I'll be going up there weekly, but only through June.

OK. So that job hasn't started yet. Paperwork still being processed.

The other job: Temporary (3-weeks full-time) Business Lecturer, although the term "lecturer" is really a misnomer since I won't be doing any. The business lecturer is leaving (today was her last day), and the replacement who was hired took another job instead. They students work on their own on little modules. I'll just be there to help them if they get stuck and to record their hours, etc.

I'll tell you more about it and maybe about the weekend Country Music Muster in another posting.