Saturday, August 31, 2013

Banana Festival time!

[Michele]  The Mission Beach State School's big fund raiser is the annual banana festival.  Having been to this party four years ago we felt that we knew what to expect: banana art, cake contests, fresh coconut juice, guessing the weight of banana bunches and a lolly drop (someone throws candy down at the kids from the roof of the school -- very amazing to watch).  This year's banana festival did not disappoint.

In fact, this year provided some unexpected entertainment, such as juggling Aussie-farians.  The jugglers were patiently teaching young kids how to throw soft balls into the air, watch them fall and then pick them up.  Some kids proceeded to do this repeatedly for 1 or even 2 minutes before wandering off bored.  When Gavin came up and started tossing a few of the balls around the Aussie-farian perked up at the chance to work with someone with juggling skills.  They had a grand time juggling and trying out new moves.

Gavin shows off his moves to the Aussie-farian and Robin.

Another unexpected entertainment feature was country-western dancing jet-lagged Americans.  Yup. You read that right.  The morning of the banana festival, we drove to Cairns to pick up my mom and step-dad. Did we let them rest or regenerate after 30+ hours of travel?  Heck no!  We drove them right down to Mission Beach and brought them to the Banana Festival.

When the musician started playing a rhumba, they took to the dance floor (aka staff parking lot).  Now, one could blame jet-lag on this odd behavior but truth be told, they have been known to break out country western dancing in all sorts of places when they hear a song that they like. Super markets, malls, school fund raisers, you name it.  One is prepared for this when going anywhere with them in public.  Fortunately for Barbara and Phil, there is a line dancing group that meets in Mission Beach so they can get a good dance fix while here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Selamat siang!

[Michele] As with just about every other aspect of school at Mission Beach State School, even foreign language study is different than back home.  Most US schools start with Spanish, French and German in middle school.  If you stop and think about it why Spanish, French and German?  Why not Chinese, Russian and Arabic? OK, there might be some overachiever public schools like Amherst, MA but most middle schools only offer Spanish, French or  German.  Heck, even the fancy private high school that I attended only offered French and Spanish.  OK maybe there was Latin but let's just not go there.

One could argue that the English language is derived from French and German so learning these languages will enrich students' understanding of English. Sure. I get it.  One could also argue that Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the US and students ought to know it.  Yeah.  I'm convinced.  

OK, now let's look at Mission Beach State school.  This term the kids are learning Indonesian. I've learned from Robin and Will that Selamat Siang is how you say Good Afternoon in Indonesian. At Mission Beach State School, they don't learn French or Spanish or German, which seems very strange at first until you look at a map.  Indonesia is like, right there.  Far North Queensland, where we are, is especially close with just the Torres Strait between Australia and eastern Indonesia.  There is currently a big political hoopla about ending the immigration of Indonesians who come by boat to Australia shores. So it makes sense that schools here would teach primary school children Indonesian.  Just as the countries neighboring the US speak Spanish and French, Australia's closest neighbor speaks Indonesian.

Today Will had his Indonesian oral exam.  He and his mate had were taped by the examiner having a conversation in Indonesian. I was sort of surprised at this since it seems like the only vocabulary that I heard him learn was related to sports. The boys cleverly scripted their conversation out and guess what it was about?  Apparently, the hobbies of those boys involves a lot of sports!  Will is pretty chuffed* about his exam performance.  That is great but I'm still wondering how he will actually function on a visit to Indonesia knowing the words for soccer, tennis and read a book.

Meanwhile Robin's class has been learning Indonesian words for clothing and their assignment is to put on a fashion show. Once again how will this come in handy when you are in need of potable water while traveling through Indonesia?  Will they understand that when you say "Do you like my skirt?" you are really trying to say "Help!"?  In truth learning Indonesian words for sports or clothing is still a lot better than teaching the kids to say "Don't come here by boat", which is what the government is saying in a vast and somewhat controversial print ad campaign.

Anyways, when writing out her fashion show, Robin just made stuff up and didn't realize that she was expected to actually videotape herself wearing the clothes in her description. Doh!  So now she is working on a cartoon stop-motion version of the fashion show. This should be interesting.

Or, as our northern neighbors say 'ini harus menarik'.  [translation courtesy of Google translate].  

* chuffed is aussie-speak for quite pleased

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Americans are rude and stupid

[Michele]. A guy came to the primary school to do a program on deadly Australian animals for the year 4-6.  You know... "See this snake? It will kill ya!" and "See this spider? It will kill ya!" that sort of thing. I guess to add humor to his program, part of his schtick was to call Americans rude and stupid.  Well his joke didn't quite go over as planned at Mission Beach State School. Hardly any of the students giggled and most looked over to Robin and Will for their reactions.  They, of course, were too shy to say anything.  Needless to say, this guy did not charm my kids.

Ironically, Robin has a reputation for being a smarty especially for science, which is one of her passions. She doesn't want me to tell you this but she actually corrected the teacher for calling Pluto a planet and taught the class on the reasons why Pluto was demoted. That was back in the first week of the term and.. well yeah, that is how reputations are made.  Anyways, her classmates take Robin's smarts in stride. She heard them say "Well yeah, she's smart, she's American and they are all smart."

Rude?  Shy?  Dumb?  Smart?

Another only peripherally-related note but since I'm blogging and this one is short I might just keep going here.  On a reality cooking show that we are addicted to, Australian Masterchef, the challenge was to cook North American food. This was both contestants' last choice.

Contestant 1: "All I think of for North America is fast food. What am I going to cook?"  and "If only it had been South American then I could have done Mexican."

Since when is Mexico in South America?  Sigh.  So this prompted a dinner table conversation on notable American foods that the silly contestants could have done.

Rude? Dumb? Cuisineless?  

Through these experiences and thousands of others it has been interesting to view Americans through Australian lenses.

Sharing the road

[Michele] Look what I saw on my morning run!  I must have missed this Cassowary by minutes.

Cassowaries are big birds with big appetites.
And yes, I did just blog about poo.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Soccer boots AND joggers

[Michele] We signed up Will for the Mission Beach youth soccer. Go Barracudas!  He is the only grade 6 kid on a team of very talented grade 7 & 8 kids.   The team has welcomed Will warmly and it has been great to see Will step up his game to their level of play.  OK, well, so far, the under 12 Barracudas have lost every game that they have played but nevertheless they are a great team with a terrific and patient coach.

We anticipated that Will might join soccer so we brought along his cleats, shin guards and some soccer socks.  For the first few weeks that we were here the Barracudas had to practice on some rainy evenings.  The messages left on our mobile read "Practice tonight 5:00 bring soccer boots and joggers."  After some discussion Gavin and I deduced that soccer boots must mean cleats and joggers must mean sneakers.  See, it is really a completely different form of English spoken here!  Why joggers? If the field is too wet, then they practice on the indoor court and no cleats.. erm I mean boots allowed.

All the regional youth soccer games are played on Saturday afternoon at a set of fields in Silkwood, a town 45 minutes away from our house.  The place has something like 6 games going on at once and there is a kiosk that sells drinks and food throughout the afternoon's series of games.  The smell of greasy chips emanating from the kiosk is not something that I had associated with soccer games before.

The Barracudas anticipate the throw in --
or are they distracted by the view...
The soccer center is set in the midst of sugar cane fields.  In this photo at left you can see the cane train cars sitting on tracks at the other side of the field. When they harvest the cane, they load it into these cars that are taken by train engine directly to the sugar mills. In the background of the picture you can see the rainforest covered coast range and in the foreground you can see Barracudas losing a soccer match.

Dead lines of grass and red-roofed kiosk of
greasy food in the background

In this part of far north Queensland, they don't mark the field with chalk or paint.  Instead, the boundaries and key lines on the field are marked with bare strips of no grass. They must apply something to kill the grass along the lines.  All the fields are marked this way at Silkwood and also at Mission Beach State School.  Gavin says that they kill the grass by spreading oil along the desired lines. I've never seen this before and don't appreciate the benefits. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can comment on why this is better than paint.

Aside from being grass killing, cane farming, greasy chip cooking and boot wearing people, the Aussies approach soccer pretty much the same as Americans. The coaches yell comments from the sidelines -- (some supportive and some critical).  Will proudly remarked that his team's coach is much more positive than most of the other coaches.  Mums and dads cheer from the sidelines in folding chairs.  They cheer wildly when the Barracudas have good plays and clap politely when the other team scores. Then, when the Barracudas fall irrecoverably behind in points in the second half, the mums and dads pretty much talk amongst themselves with less attention paid to the game.

ADDENDUM August 17: The U 11/12 Barracudas won!  This breaks their 2-year long losing streak.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Drinks for your lifestyle

Sign at the Woolies in Wongaling Beach
[Michele] I recently posted this picture on facebook and asked

What grocery store product would you expect to find in this section of the store?

Prooving once again that I have amazingly clever and interesting family and friends, here are the responses (names are removed to protect the innocent):

  • Rum and eyepatches for the Pirate lifestyle

  • Definately alcohol!

  • Gatorade.

  • Red Bull and Robitussin

  • Baby formula

  • Vitamin water and beer

  • Sports drinks, fancy waters, fancy iced teas

  • It's an entire aisle filled with Absinthe and glow sticks. And Geritol.

  • Fermented yak's milk?

  • Sex toys

  • Wine! My lifestyle is greatly enhanced by wine 

  • Metamucil and milk of magnesia.

So I am starting to think that you clever people should write this blog instead of us -- it would be far more interesting!

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for.... What products does the Wongaling Beach Woolies call lifestyle drinks?

Sure enough... gatorade and fancy ice tea.  Just off the picture to the left were some sparkling grape juice and non-alcoholic beer.

None of my personal drink choices (diet coke, IPA beer and red wine) are in this particular section of the store. I'm not sure what this means for my lifestyle.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

homophone fun

[Robin]  Today we learned about homophones in reading.  What we did was we had a list of words that all had one or more more homophones.  We had to find at least one homophone for each word. Most of them were pretty easy like
  • through   --->  threw

But the first one that I got stuck on was
  • caught  --->  ?
I took a moment to think and then I thought of cot.
  • caught  --->  cot
But when we were going through them the teacher said the homophone was 'court'.
  • caught  --->  court ?!?!?!
I was confused because that is not a homophone!

I told he teacher that I though the homophone was cot and she was confused at first. Then she realized that I was American and she explained to the class that in America they say things differently.

The second one I got stuck on was
  • floors ---> ????
Now guess what the homophone for that could be? It is tough isn't it.  Maybe it could be
  • floors ---> flowers ?
  • floors ---> flours ?
  • floors ---> flares ?
Nope.  the actual answer is
  • floors ----> flaws !?!?

Australians are wierd as.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Been there done that?

[Michele] Coming back to far north Queensland I wondered if exploring the region would have lost some of its fun since we've seen a lot of the landscapes and critters before.  Yeah, yeah, another cassowary.. whatever.

On the bus home from school last week Robin saw a dad cassowary and his chick and exclaimed "Cool!".  Robin's friend responded "Did you just say 'cool' about seeing a cassowary?  I see one every week."

Well sure, if you see things a lot you can get blase. Certainly, none of us are charmed by wallabies anymore.  So would tidepooling here just be dull because we've seen all these creatures before?  Would we yawn our way though rainforest walks?

Um, no!  At a super low tide a few weeks ago I saw an octopus crawl into a hole under a rock. Cool! Note to self: bring camera on tide pool trips!

Today Robin, Gavin and I walked up Bicton Hill on a track that we hadn't explored before.  It was awesome and at the top of the hill we were rewarded with this amazing view. Can a place this beautiful ever seem commonplace?

Mid-winter view of Mission Beach from Bicton Hill

On the way back down, some other astute hikers spotted an Echidna. We had never seen one of these in the wild and even in zoos they are tricky to see because they are typically nocturnal.  This one was just 1 m from the trail and happily snuffing around for bugs under the dead leaves.

echidna snuffing for bugs
Echidna in photogenic pose

Australia continues to charm us!