Catching up

A brief summary to play catch-up and then maybe I'll be able to post current thoughts.

A week and two days of what is known in the educational field as 'pee-dee' (Professional Development), some of it with the staff at my school, some of it with the whole network of 4 schools.

Three days of Freshman and New Student Retreat at Stanford. A great experience. Check out Challenge Day. It's an amazing program, and made the whole exhaustion of shepherding 15 ninth graders for three days completely worth it. If you ever have the chance to be part of a Challenge Day, do it.

One week of school.


Now we're in the three day weekend, leading to the short 2nd week of school.

I'll try to get back into some sort of regular posting. Hope you're all well and happy.

BTW, doesn't the new Republican VP scare you? I don't want to be all about fear politics, but in this case, voting your hopes and not your fears amounts to the same thing: we can't let McC & P into the White House!

Back in Oakland

I am waiting for hot water for a shower, as we turned down water heater while we were gone, something I didn't remember until I was stepping into the tub. Traveled for just about 40 hours straight through.

Bus: Katherine to Darwin: 4 hours
Waiting in Darwin & at airport, where computers were down and they were hand-checking everyone in (most of this time was in town, though, where we had dinner at sunset on the wharf, and played cards in the park): 8 hrs
Flight: Darwin to Brisbane: 3 hrs
Changing planes at airport: 1/2 of an hr
Flight: Brisbane to Sydney: 1 hr. +
Waiting in Sydney airport (where we slept and had some actually good sandwiches and Coluzzi Cafe) + sitting on runway waiting out a thunderstorm: 6 hr + 1/2 hr.
Flight: Sydney to SF: 13 hr + 1/2 hr.
Gathering bags, going through customs, getting BART (which happened to have delays a couple of times on the tracks), plus cab ride from station: 2 hrs

Total travel time: 38.5 hours.

Now I go to shower and then to visit the bounteous berkeley bowl to bring fresh vegetables back into my life!

Last Day in Kath

Have had a lovely few days just lolling at Rob's. Helped make a path through the mulch and banana trees in his garden, long walks and swim at low-level, playing with friends at hot springs, "fancy" dinner at hotel restaurant, backyard barbecued fruit and veg and 'roo, watching 'flight of the conchords', playing rummy, laughter, conversation, clean laundry, etc. I finished Wuthering Heights last night, which means I can leave it behind and start something new for the plane.

Have about 24 hours of traveling ahead of us once we get on the plane tonight, but before that we have a 4 hour busride and then six hours or so in Darwin before our first flight.

Looking forward to being in our own humble abode again and seeing all of you dear people who live nearby.

It's been lovely being back in Australia, and now we're happy to be going home.

Territory Wildlife

Justin escaping a croc in the Katherine River. Frogs in the toilet at the caravan park in Kalk.

Crows drinking off the tap in the caravan park.

PIctures from Kalk

Caravan park camping

This was during one of the first three days of camping, when it was unbearably windy pretty much nonstop.
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Caravan Park

That's our tent on the other side of the shade structure.
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Wave Hill

The view from inside the caravan park at the edge of town. That's the highway between us and the hill.
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Written July 20 with no way to post

I'm writing this from Kalkaringi (which is pronounced, and should be spelled, Kalkarindji). We got a lift down from Katherine with two government folks on Tuesday, July 15th. They were interesting to listen to and provided a somewhat different perspective than we usually get.

We spent Tues-Wed-Thur-Fri nights in the house of a teacher who is away because they're on school break (between semesters). It was nice to have a proper house to stay in as we got to know people and our way around. Saturday night we moved to the Health Center housing—a little flat that is used by visiting health workers, I guess. It is empty until the 23rd, so that gives us another four days with electricity (refrigeration, lights, and charged batteries for recorder & laptops).

We'll spend the final 8-9 days at a campsite. We'll be in a tent, but because they're set up for people with caravans (RVs), there is electricity, so we will be able to charge batteries. We don't have any sort of lantern, having only brought small flashlights, so we'll most likely be going to bed quite early once we're over there! Being close to the equator (about 15 or 18 degrees south, I think) means that days and nights are closer in length anyway, but it is also the "winter" season here, so sun sets by 6:30 and it's dark by 7.

It's the cold season here, known as the Dry Season. It has in fact been chilly at night. Some days have been hot, others cool enough to wear jeans and sneakers all day. The difference between day and night is marked, as is the difference between being in the shade and in the sun during the day. It's a dry heat and when the wind blows it's cold.

The landscape is...hard to describe. I will try to take a picture, but pictures don't capture the expansiveness of it. To me, it is like the feeling I get in the high desert, though we're not at a high elevation here. It's definitely Big Sky country, but there's also an openness to the landscape that gives a sense of stillness with plenty of room to breathe. Nothing is crowded together—not the leaves on the trees, not the houses in the community, even the clumps of grass respect each other's space.

People move slowly, except when there's a real reason to move fast: for example, the athletes at the footy[1] match today, or small children chasing each other. Children roam around in multi-age groups, adults sit under trees in their yards playing cards. Dogs fight, squeal, growl and howl all day and most of the night (there seems to be a period right after dawn when the dogs and crows are quiet). There are large crows in every tree and they make a particularly mocking call back and forth, seeming to echo between trees. The crows are called "wak-wak" in all the languages around here, and that seems a much closer approximation to their sound than "caw-caw".

Another sound that surprised us the other night was the sound of hoofbeats clattering down the road in front of the house. It was too dark to see how many there were, but it sounded like more than two. We've seen a few horses around the community, and they all look well-fed and cared for. [Later, we found out that they are wild horses that wander around eating whatever grass they can find.]

Besides the health centre, there is a shop (food store), a take-away (hot food), primary school, secondary school, church, and government offices. There's also a social club—the only place alcohol can be bought or consumed. It's open from 5 pm to 8 pm. Justin went one night and I went with him another night. It's an interesting event. People manage to get more drunk than you'd expect in three hours, but it does limit problems. Also, People are more talkative and friendly to us outsiders after drinking than they tend to be otherwise. There was even a little dancing to the very loud rock-and-roll hits of the ages, which people seem to prefer, despite the prevalence of 50 Cent and Tu Pac clothing.

[1] Australian Rules Football, in this context, though 'footy' can also refer to Rugby (of which there are two varieties: Union and League) and even to soccer, I believe. Can 'playing ball' in the US refer to more than one sport, or is it always baseball?