Friday, April 3, 2009

Getting Lost in Australia

I have Nicole to thank for this idea -- she suggested we could write a song or poem about getting lost in Australia. We drove out to Box Hill (a suburb to the west of us) for a birthday party, and once again, proceeded to get lost and flounder around trying to find the exact place we needed to be ... of course our arrival was late, but all were gracious, and the kids still had a bit of time to take part in the party.

This is happening less often than in the first few weeks, as we are finding our way around, but I can still get disconcertingly lost. We're finding our way around the physical environment, have adapted a bit to the heat and sudden weather changes, and have started to comprehend that Australia is an extreme place (just like Canada!).

We are gaining some familiarity with the community (remembering names at the school, on my part) and our emotional responses to the newness of the place are not as fresh or raw. Nicole, Gabriel and Kai are settling into school (the first term is ending today), and are finding their way into friendships, musical and sports experiences. They are who they are, and it's intriguing to watch them uncover new things about themselves. It hasn't been smooth all the way, don't get me wrong. My dealings with the bureaucracy that is the communications (a misnomer if I've ever heard one) company called Telstra are totally frustrating, even for someone experienced with the ways of bureaucracies. Just when I think I've got the skills for the position... I digress. Just like we've had to feel our way around the roads and maps, the kids have had to feel their way around the new school setting and figure out where they fit and who they can trust. Tom pointed out that this is a precursor of adolescence, a new awareness of themselves, and how they can function in an entirely new setting. It's a door opening into a new maturity.

As a parent who is not employed in a "job" outside the home, I am learning as well. Without the worry about my work, my brain has more time for creative thoughts and ideas. I find I can engage with the kids on a different level... we have more interest in each other's new experiences. Much as our adult jobs and careers are important roles for us, it's refreshing for me to take a break from it and see myself in this new setting. I love the quiet time, without phones (especially since the phone still isn't connected), I love just letting my brain go. It's a bit like dreaming, just streams of consciousness sometimes. At times I note it, at times I let it go. Slips of thoughts that gather momentum, pushing me to memories long lost. It's the freedom to have a mental earthquake or two.

Tom is finding his way around as well, although he hasn't been able to make any of his own work yet. He immediately began teaching at least 8 classes, double his normal load, with technology that wasn't required or available in his Canadian position. He has found that he can function in that environment, that his students, nine weeks in, are producing some amazing work. He's planting the seeds of the artistic output for the rest of the academic year. The year 6 students are finished, while the 7 to 10s continue for at least the next term, and the year 11s continue for all four terms. The year 11 students are learning about different artists and their works, and are also settling into the production of their own artistic work.

Last Sunday we went back to the Ian Potter Centre in Melbourne to view the finalists of the 2008 VSE student competion (year 12). This exhibition brings together the best work of the students who completed Art and Studio Arts studies in the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), across Victorian school sectors. Check it out.

The work is professional, beautiful, disturbing and gorgeous. To be that talented at that age; to be able to describe the influences and steps that lead to the final product is a gift. I am jealous! We were asked to vote for our favourite pieces, and I again noticed the uniqueness of each of our children in their approach to art -- each was definitive about the choices they had made, and did not need our help in making their personal selections!

As an aside, I think the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which already does an admirable job of presenting the art work of the kids in their own in-house programs, could strike up a similar collaboration with Manitoba public and private schools and the Department of Education, Citizenship and Youth, and start a competition for Manitoba grade 12 students. The University of Manitoba's Fine Arts program hasn't always supported Manitoba artists, and this could jump start a way for young artists to get the recognition they deserve before they hit the postsecondary world.

What I'm realizing is that there are signposts marking this journey to the southern hemisphere. We aren't hanging upside down, although while in Winnipeg I tried to persuade our 3 that this would be the case! The differences we are experiencing are part of this journey, and getting lost in new places doesn't matter. They are not extreme experiences, but they are unique. Some form of disconnection happened as soon as we left, but we are now solidly living in this place, while life goes on in the other place we called home. The season is the opposite of what we expect at this time. Our words and thoughts are generated by this new place. We "oldies" (I love this Aussie term for "parents") are learning what is important for each of us. The younger ones are starting to see snippets into their own growing up. We know there will be more losing and finding of our ways as we continue.

We are heading off on a driving trip towards Brisbane, starting tomorrow morning, planning to take in the sights of the Murray River, southern NSW, Canberra and the Australian parliament, the tourist spots of Sydney, and up towards Brisbane, depending on weather, floods, etc. I expect there will be U-turns (my favourite for getting back to where we started), confusion and we'll get weary. We are taking a computer with us, hoping to get some wireless connections on this trip, so I'm hoping to provide updates. Maybe Telstra will be able to "provision" a new land line for our home, so we'll be accessible in Ferny Creek when we return.


The good sister... said...

Doing the midnight to go, need a nap...zzzzz.
Catch you later

Ed Wiebe said...


Did you get your telephone line hooked up yet? Are you following the spring flood in Winnipeg?