Wombling in Wagga

It’s been two weeks since we made (our very long) way to the land down under and six weeks with all of our indispensable stuff completely inaccessible in its snail-like shipping container. So we’ve been living like the miserly beggarly thrifty resourceful wombles of Wimbeldon with twelve plastic cups, plates, knives, forks, and spoons that are washed and dried after each meal and enthusiastically encouraged to endure for just another one … and then another … and of course, another.

In this time, we’ve made the most of what the previous home owners so kindly left behind for us:

  • one bouquet of flowers (now dead) and bottle of champagne (already drunk) to make us feel welcome;
  • three self-sharpening knives, attached magically to the top of the pantry cupboard by no visible means, which have been invaluable in cutting every thing from bread to the rather large cardboard boxes in which everything we’ve ordered seems to arrive;
  • one built-in tv unit, now home to six bottles of contemptuous don’t-drink-for-the-next-ten-years wine, one box of tissues, two self-install Telstra boxes and their bits, and all our life-and-death documentation for proving not only that we were born and exist but, more importantly, that we have the right to be here;
  • two bread boards and one hall bench on which the children have relied heavily as they have tried to complete each day’s schoolwork with their mean mother protesting about their untidy handwriting;
  • a half-finished bottle of dishwashing liquid (plus built-in dishwasher) to mock our use of plastic utensils whilst igniting the hope of pots and pans to come;
  • three bags of pool chemicals to remind us that we chose to relocate during the bitterly cold weather months – clever! –
  • four disembodied brass taps which have invited us to explore every nook and cranny with curiosity and wonder;
  • OH! And one hairy spider who lives in the heating vent on the stairs and pops his head out from time to time to cheer, “faster, faster! Your bum’s already looking firmer!”

We’ve also mastered the art of recycling.

See below the foil tray that originally contained a ready-made lasagne and has been re-used to play a game of coin-toss, cook a roast beef (after a thorough washing and straightening of course), steam cauliflower, and, ultimately, rustle up this morning’s cheese and salami frittata (the cheese was minutely cubed with the magical knives as the grater is one of the things in the shipping container).

Also, the plastic containers from Tammy’s Thai Kitchen on our first night in town which have stored leftovers and come in handy as mixing bowls. And – the most recent addition – the cardboard tags from our brand new dining room chairs which double-up cleverly as coffee coasters.

PicCollage

Finally, we have become proficient in completing a weekly Woolworths shop for less than $150:

  1. Make a list of precisely what you are looking for – preferably steering clear of anything from aisles 2 through 8 as most experts agree that no processed items are beneficial to your health in any case.
  2. Buy bulk when it is sensible. You may not be able to finish 5kg of potatoes in a week, but a catering-size tub of mayonnaise will last for a lot longer and is probably much cheaper than its fancy-squeezy-tube relation. Actually, a household including two teenage boys should easily get through 5kg of potatoes AND the tub of mayonnaise in a week.
  3. When searching for the items on your list, look for the specials running in each section. You can often get up to 30% off of whatever it is that you’re looking for.
  4. Within those items marked as reduced, examine each one carefully as any item approaching its expiry date is further discounted – often by two or three dollars.
  5. Don’t be afraid to handle the produce. Pick it up. Smell it. Ask whether it speaks to you, “Eat me. I’m delicious. And nutritious.” Really, really feel it, and if you’re not feeling it, then maybe it shouldn’t have put it on your list in the first place.
  6. Use the self-service terminal to checkout. That way, when you come across something that won’t scan or you don’t know how to scan (because it has no barcode), you will have the choice between disturbing a manager who will have to come to your assistance or surreptitiously setting it aside. The savings are surprising!

All in all, life on the floor has been surprisingly pleasant and revealed some of the pioneer spirit long hidden beneath Sorbet manicures and years of daily household help.

As the Wombles so proudly proclaimed:

We’re so incredibly utterly devious
Making the most of everything
Even bottles and tins
Pick up the pieces and make ’em into something new
Is what we do.

 

 

Simplify

<A memo to myself in case I start wondering, “What on earth have we done?!?”>

 

Simplify.

It’s a simple instruction. Used very commonly by Mathematics teachers throughout the world to inflict massive psychological torment upon their students …

… erm, I mean, to take the complex and the complicated and resolve it into its simplest form.

To simplify is not to reduce or cube or factorise or expand; though these processes may be an integral part of getting to the solution.

Nor is simplifying the same as solving. x – 14 is as legitimate an answer as a plain old 3 as long as you have gotten absolutely as far as you can go within mathematical laws and the problem’s parameters.

Simplify is to Mathematics what précis is to English. Or perhaps, I could argue, more akin to haiku because reducing the world around us to three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables is as simple – and as deep – as it gets!

Between fast feet and
growling cars on the go-go-GO!
Crow stops, pecks, and eats.

For a number of years now, the yearning to stop, take stock, and sup on a life of simpler fare has been swelling within our spirits, and our mammoth migration to “The Land Down Under” is ultimately an expression of the desire to rework the sum of the parts of our lives in a new place, in a new way.

Simplify.

We are certainly having to with most of our possessions packed away in a container or being shared out among the family and friends we leave behind.

Simplify.

We certainly will as we trade in busy life in a city of over 4 million for a regional town of 60 000.

Simplify.

We certainly must as the savings we have accumulated over 20 years of work are divided by 10 before we have even spent a cent.

Simplify.

It’s the challenge that we meet with an unequivocal “YES!” despite the sometimes daunting processes involved, thereby transforming it into:

SIMPLIF-AYE!!!

A season of endings …

… a.k.a a season of beginnings …

… a.k.a discovering the eternal ….

About four years ago, our family started exploring the option of immigrating to Australia. In rapid succession, our expression of interest was accepted; medical tests, language-proficiency tests, morality tests (a.k.a police clearance certificates) passed; visas issued and activated.

And then the long wait began – the umming and aahing, wondering, debating, evaluating, thinking and re-thinking, and, of course, the imagining about what life could be if we were free of the patterns, places and personas into which we have settled so comfortably.

Until, suddenly, the decision was made – and affirmed by unforeseen circumstances which would have resulted in our uprooting in any case – and we were in the season of endings: a bittersweet time of savouring things so often taken for granted because it might be the last time in this particular context, in this familiar place ….

… our last Christmas … my last Ash Wednesday service in a community that has nurtured and challenged me … last teaching and preaching opportunities to fit in farewells and a thousand things so often edited or left unsaid … last trips to see family and friends who already live afar and will soon be on the other side of the world – literally … last harvests of beans and granadillas and blooms of day lilies and roses … last suppers in well-loved places … and, of course, living in a home that’s no longer our own, making the last few memories there as the seasons change.

Yet as we have started packing (okay, okay started talking about packing) and marking off a substantial number of “lasts” from our to-do lists and researching some of the places where we would love to settle, the jobs we’d love to do, the places that speak to us of community and worship etc., I have been amazed by how many treasures we have accumulated over the years that we have called this particular place home:

~ the ugly yellow Pikachu that many might bin but it was made by Brad as a Mothers’ Day gift, and the tall Gandalf the Grey that sits beside him – one of Kev’s earliest attempts at sculpting;
~ the glass-blown hippo from my dad when I still lived at home;
~ the table-cloth that Ma crocheted for the little round dining room table (another family heirloom that is traveling with us) in our first home;
~ granny’s jelly bowl, tucked away onto a top shelf for when the boys were old enough not to break it, and all of the family stories that accompanied it;
~ photographs (that should have been organized and filed years ago) that trace four generations of where we come from and hold faces that bring back names and memories of people we studied with, laughed with, played with, loved, and sometimes lost;
~ the heart family who we can go without seeing for months or years (and miss intently during all that time), yet we simply pick up where we’d left off as though we’d had dinner together just yesterday;
~ hundreds of books (and plenty of journals) that give insight into every topic that’s ever interested us, every world we’ve ever explored;
~ four cats and a dog who delight us, exasperate us, entertain us, snuggle up with us, and love, love, love us (or maybe that’s just the Fancy Feast tin);
~ growing philosophies on marriage, parenting, faith, gardening, health, education and so on;
~ ways of seeing, of doing, of being that we would never have discovered without the communities that have embraced us;
~ and, an abundance of love and joy and laughter.

In the giving up and the saying goodbye we are certainly discovering what is important, what is eternal, what is engraved upon our memories and our hearts – and these will certainly accompany us into a new season of hellos, of beginnings, of putting down roots in a new place.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

I’m so grateful for those who have encircled me, enriched me, challenged me, inspired me. And as I look forward to new names, new faces, and new places to be woven into my story and I into theirs, I begin from a richer, deeper place because of the treasures that I carry with me.

#blessed

 

Hakuna Matata

We’ve just gotten back from a WONDERFUL break on the island(s) of Zanzibar where an oft-heard phrase is “Hakuna matata – no worries” – especially when something has just gone wrong.

Naturally, an ode was in order to chronicle some of the amusing mishaps during our stay:

Hakuna matata –
what a wondrous refrain:
it means “no worries
come sunshine or rain.”

So the urchin you stood on
pierced right through your shoe –
Hakuna matata,
what can one do?

The coral you grazed against
left a gash that’s still weeping –
Hakuna matata,
go back to sleeping.

The sunscreen did nothing;
your back’s angry red –
Hakuna matata,
at least you’re well fed.

Projectile vomiting?
Diarrhea too?
Hakuna matata,
just let it run through.

It rained through your roof
and your luggage got wet –
Hakuna matata,
the sun will still set.

The ferry was grounded;
the children turned green –
Hakuna matata,
we’re living the dream.

What’s that you say –
a scorpion on your book?
Hakuna matata!
Did you get a good look!?!

A giant cockroach lurking
in the compost depths* below –
Hakuna matata –
he’s just enjoying the show.

You went snorkeling for hours
without sunscreen on your bum –
Hahaha matata,
sitting must be fun!

A reef shark was circling
with an evil toothy grin,
Hakuna matata –
did you spot his twin?

There was a hole in your goggles
and you swallowed half the sea –
Hakuna matata,
here’s a nice cup of tea.

Hakuna matata
in true island style –
our worries did vanish;
at least for a while.

 

* While composting toilets certainly do have many advantages over flush toilets, sitting on one once you’ve realised that there are about 6000 cockroaches swarming through your waste (and occasionally popping up above the toilet rim) is not conducive to a pleasurable toilet break at all! 

 

 

How the kangaroo got its pocket

This is not my tale; rather it is stolen borrowed from my “Little” who had to write a Just so story as part of his English assessments this year …

Once upon a time, long, long ago in the green and grassy land down under lived a kangaroo with a beautiful coat which he absolutely loved. He spent at least two hours washing it every day! All of his neighbours loved him.

One day he was doing what he would normally do: saying hello to his neighbours, reading the newspaper, eating breakfast with his son – Joey – and wife but because he was a feeling a little bit bored he decided to do something different: to go for a walk in the forest where nobody else went because they were afraid of the bears.

None of his friends wanted him to go into the forest but he assured them that he would be alright. So, a little later, he put on his favourite coat, armed himself with a bundle of grass and leaves for a mid-morning snack, and went off into the woods.

While he walked he whistled a happy tune but, sadly, that attracted a bear. When he heard the deep growling he stopped to listen more closely and looked about to see what was making the noise.

Then he saw it – a giant bear with paws as big as his head and a body twice the size of him!

He backed off slowly hoping that the bear hadn’t noticed him but it charged him immediately. The kangaroo threw his leaves at the bear but it pounced on him and tore right through his coat with its humungous claws. Luckily, the kangaroo was small enough to fit through the bear’s legs and run away!

When he stopped to catch his breath he noted that his coat had a large hole in it and cried bitterly because his favourite possession was ruined. When he got back home though, he noticed that he could store useful things in the tear – even Joey! And that’s how the kangaroo got his pocket.

An Ode to the African Bush

Here we sit with utmost glee
Within our cage of glass,
Watching four rhinoceree
Scrape insects off their arse.

The calls of birds within the bush
Uplift our pounding hearts,
While lions eat an antelope,
a lonely warthog farts.

The colours delight our wandering eyes
Brown grass, brown trees, grey sky.
Amidst this lovely drudgery
The hours just fly by.

As setting sun bids the day adieu
Homewards we must go.
Today we saw a record high:
the rear end of a hippo,

three thousand gay impala,
one hungry, mangy dog,
a squirrel in a far off tree
and yes, of course, a log!

O wondrous bush here let me dwell
Where light and life abound.
As we traverse your sacred plains
May merriment be found!!!