Tuesday, March 27, 2007

At least the frogs are clean!

I found fog footprints in my soap this morning. Most Likely put there by Pluggy, the Foot Prince:

Almost every morning, this guy is sitting on the other side of the ‘bars’ of the plughole, looking up at me. I bid him good morning and inform him I’m going to have a shower. He has a little shower of about ten seconds before he decides to go further down the drain and wait till I’ve finished. Almost every evening I find him in the bath, or somewhere in the bathroom, having climbed up through the bars. He’s such a little fatty; definitely one of my favourites.

This is Bowler, so called, not for his taste in headwear, but rather for his insufferable ability to prevent me from going to the loo in the middle of the night (when it’s pouring with rain outside!) by virtue of the fact that he is staring up at me from the bottom of the bowl.

But enough of my froggy distractions for now; what have I been up to this week?

Well, I’ve definitely been busy:

Friday was Harmony Day at the local high school. This was the first thing that I have had to organise in my role as Town Linguist. The day would have gone considerably better had we not been locked out of the library (where all our activities were based) for 30mins. However, we did get some kids in playing on our language computer games (Bilinarra, Dalabon, Kriol, Ngarinyman, Jaminjung and Ngaliwurru), and Colleen and I played a homemade game of Kriol ‘Twistim’ (‘pudim yu rait hen la bluwan’, ‘pudim yu lef fut la redwan’ [prizes to the first of you to translate that into English in the comments! – this is part one of Kriol distance ed. 101]).

On Saturday afternoon, I went to my first Auction and bought a box of books for $5 – Bargain! Another box I was looking at started to sky rocket beyond $25 dollars, so I let it go. That night saw me at the local high school again, this time for a fundraising trivial night for a heart monitor for Katherine District Hostpital. Apparently a heart monitor is around $5k, and we raised $15k. Huzzah!

Sunday, I planned to sit around, write up my post, and do other fairly non-eventful shenanigans such as dish washing and sweeping the floor (no vacuum – concrete slab). But instead, I was whisked away to Edith Falls with Salome and her housemate, Denis, where we snuck a swim in a secret spot. That night was roaming meditation (as I have taken to calling it). It had roamed to my house, where I served Tofu Stir-fry Thingy (official culinary title), followed by Chai and icecream with blue berries. We then lay on the floor and practised Yoga Nidra for 30mins, guided by one of the other roaming meditator’s tapes. It was a great night.

Monday, I was up earlier than normal (6:30am, instead of 7:15), and off to my 4WD training course at Charles Darwin University. It was heaps of fun, and I got to see a (insert appropriate collective noun here) of cycads and go down into some limestone caves. I failed to cover the vehicle in mud (a jocularly threatened ‘fail’ from my instructor), but did manage to avoid nearly getting bogged. Later, when we were trying to get bogged, we all failed. We had to park in the middle of a pond and winch ourselves. After returning the work car, I stopped by the local Civic Video and hired ‘Erik the Viking’ ($1 weeklies on a Monday – bargain!) for a spontaneous video night with Salome and Queenie (one of our Kriol interpreters).

So that leads me to today. This afternoon I was given a skin name. Now that I have an adopted skin, I can fit into the Aboriginal kinship system. It’s so cool – I have heaps of uncles, aunties, brothers, sisters and even potential husbands! My skin is Nangala, this is a Warlpiri skin. Sometimes it’s difficult to align different skin names from different language groups, so I’m not sure if Nangala means I’m Burlanjan or Gotjan (Burlanjan’s daughter) – these are from the East-side skin system more commonly used at work.

In other news:
- Today was Imo’s first day at her new Melbourne Path job. Go you good thing Imo. Go you big red fire engine!
- There’s an interpreting services conference coming up in Sydney that I may just get in on. Excitement. Will let you know more when I do.
- That’s all I can think of at the moment.

Dee, sorry I haven’t got round to photos of the house yet – I have not forgotten, I promise to put some in the next post.

Silent readers: Please comment, I love to hear what’s going on in Melbourne (or wherever you are *cough*Rob!*cough*).

Love you all. Catchya later. x

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I actually found a four-leaf clover!

Must have been a sign from St Patrick. It’s busy being pressed behind the photo that Krish gave me at the pirate party.

Which reminds me, I wanted to give Nat a special mention of thanks here, as, not only did she make the “Pirate of the High Teas” (little stick man with teabag for a head), but she made an hilarious profile to match, which I did not discover til my last minute packing the next day. I was going to post the profile on here, but can’t find it at present.

Other things happening this week: I have been actually doing stuff – contrary to the warning/advice I was given a couple of weeks ago when I started; I’ve been defining my role as town linguist; I’ve been meeting and greeting - professionally, I’ve been meeting the interpreters, and will soon be meeting people who use the interpreting service; socially, I’ve been getting to know people in town with weekly meditation and other gatherings. More of which will happen tomorrow in Pine Creek where a bunch of us are going to celebrate Colleen (another linguist)’s birthday. I’ve been attempting to make her a card today, but my useful box is at home – Or possibly in the rubbish, mum? – I’ll have to make do.

Last night I rode a bike to my friend’s house and back. It took a while to get going – read: I walked the bike a lot of the way there – but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. John, you would be so proud!

Have hardly been able to function today because of the heat. But I did manage to get a load of washing done. And I’ve been slowly reading through a book on Katherine and it’s recent history. It’s cooled down a bit now, quite pleasant actually. There is thunder rumbling around the horizon’s edge, but no rain – yet.

House hunting is not going particularly well. Salome (another linguist, out with whom I am planning to move) and I looked at a place last weekend, but they don’t allow dogs (Salome [pron. Sal-o-mee, stress on middle syllable] had a dog). Luckily neither of us are in dire straights re accommodation, so we are just cruising till the right place comes along.

Have discovered my iPod shuffle can plug into the amplifier here, so I haven’t been entirely forsaken by the likes of Ben Folds, The Strokes, Killers, George, Ani Di Franco or Björk. Huzzah!

Pa, I hope your predictive text is going well. I will try and text you some time this week.

Phil, look forward to catching up on all the goss from arts camp.

Dee, awesome chat on the phone the other night. Don’t forget how welcome you are to wander up the hill and say hi to mum/the cats. You can even try some twig tea if you’re really keen!

Imo, hope to hear from you on Monday about the job. Chookas.

All the rest of you, hope you’re keeping well, have loved catching up with those of you I’ve spoken to. Those of you up with whom I have not yet caught, hope you’re keeping safe and doing well. Send emails – even if I don’t reply, I still read them and enjoy hearing about all the Melbourne goings-on

PS. Anyone planning on coming up to the top end, please stop by and say hi.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Post the Second (with many firsts)

This is what I look like after two weeks in Katherine (note: loss of neck, and other extremities, in favour of god-like rays of linguistic brilliance!):

So I’ve come to the end of my second week in Katherine (at the time of writing, it’s Friday night, though I’ll probably compose this over the weekend, hopefully getting it up on Monday). Since last you eyeballed my literary musings, I have had several firsts.

First first: I travelled out to Barunga community to help a colleague with some translation. Barunga is about 1hr out of Katherine, travelling at about 110-130kmph most of the way.

Second first: going to Barunga meant driving a Toyota troop carrier – so I’ve been driving one of those big beasties that makes Toorak-trucks look Micro-Machines™.

Third first: I participated in a group meditation session with a few of the new friends I have made up here. I’m not sure how enlightening it was, but it was great to sit and chat among new friends, find out about the people up here and what they’re all doing and how they found themselves here.

Fourth first: I think I’ll stop at four, though I’m sure there are more. My fourth first is the staff meeting I attended today. I got a little excited when I wrote “staff meeting” in my calendar earlier in the week. It ended up being a pretty casual affair with discussion of what everyone at the centre has been doing.

Fifth first: I know I said I’d stop at four, but then I remembered that I had a “linguists’ meeting” today as well as the staff meeting. It was great being in a room full of linguists, but I couldn’t contribute all that much to the conversation, as it revolved mainly around the diphthongs of the languages in the region, with which I am too unfamiliar to express an opinion yet.

I have also been doing a lot of reading this week: Peter Carey’s Theft (highly entertaining, unusual though captivating use of language, written from the perspectives of an alcoholic has-been painter and his autistic yet insightful brother), Norah Vincent’s Self Made Man (true story – woman went undercover as a man in different scenarios over about a year), and the Aboriginal language reader given to me by a uni lecturer before I left (oh gosh! You know how I get off on linguistics? Well, this IS my bag baby!).

Most intriguing thing learned this week: bound pronouns in Aboriginal languages are remnants of free pronouns in a Nominative-Accusative language system. *wait for it….wait for it…* BUT – most Aboriginal languages now have free pronouns with an Ergative-Absolutive system; the modern Erg-Abs free pronouns occur in conjunction with the bound pronouns of the past Nom-Acc system! That’s right boys and girls, that’s what Hooch has been getting off on this week!

On a less cheery note, the shine of ‘all things new’ is starting to wear off. I’m starting to crave familiarity, such as cats, pianos, Melbourne and of course you wonderful people, the readers of this blog: my friends and relations.

Sorry for not having emailed or replied emails. The internet is really slow up here and I only have access during work hours. Most of the time my emails fail to send or gmail/hotmail web pages don’t even open.

It’s raining steadily at the moment. I’m about to get picked up to go to a party. The rooster has been giving me the evil eye, and spurred me in the leg the other day (6th first – never been spurred by a rooster before). Last night there were four frogs in the toilet – 2 in the bowl (looking up at me with trepidation through the water), and 2 in the ridges of the corrugated tin wall behind the cistern (sooo cute, they only had their heads sticking out, and looked like they were vertically tucked up in bed).

Anyway, the CD has stopped: a sure sign that I’m due to hop off this thing before I get square eyes.

PS. I have done two more dreadlocks.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

So here it is: my first blog from Katherine.

I’m sitting at a friend’s place where I am house sitting for a month. Van Morrisson’s ‘Astral Weeks’ flooding out of the speakers, my skirt is hitched up into my undies to cope with the heat (but I’m still covered in a sheen of sweat, almost sparkly), and I’ve probably got pasta sauce on my face left over from dinner. The rain is pouring down outside, as we’re at the tail end of the wet season.

When I left Melbourne, Mum was looking pretty stressed out, I was kinda flustered, but in all pretty calm about the whole thing. On the way to the airport I told Sheila that I was starting to feel nervous – she laughed, probably thinking that it was about time, and that it was a bit late for second thoughts.

After a debacle at the gate – I had forgotten that my leatherman was in my hand luggage, and, as it was a going away present, I could hardly leave it behind to be thrown away – to which John gallantly came to the rescue, things went pretty smoothly; we waited at gate 5 and then onto the plane I went.

Nothing prepared me for the elation I felt as the plane took off. I could not keep the smile off my face as Melbourne sank below me and the sun sank below the horizon. Excitement took me over and I gleefully sat, staring out the window. (Jude you’ll be pleased to know, I’m now listening to Leonard Cohen).

I touched down in Darwin where I caught about 6hrs’ sleep before heading in to Katherine on the Greyhound bus.

I’ve been in Katherine for 5 days now. The most exciting thing, apart from the fact that I’m house sitting and don’t have to look for a place of my own for a month (well, I really should start looking before then, but this week’s Katherine Times’ Classifieds section is looking pretty bare!), is that I have a work laptop (on which I am typing right this moment). So even though I don’t have internet access at the house, I can still type posts without having to spend millions of dollars at an internet café.

The most bizarre thing I have encountered at work at the moment, is that they have told me not to expect to get anything done in the first month or so. Everyone’s quite relaxed about it, but I hope to have something to show for myself by that time. However, I have been spending this week getting my bearings, finding out about the office, the people, and Katherine in general.

Things I have found out so far: there is a choir (which I am planning on joining once is gets up and running for this year); I may be able to get my hands on a piano (the principal of one of the local schools told me there may be a spare piano there); everything in within walking distance of everything else (well, almost).

Well, that’s me signing off for now. I think I’ll be quite busy in the upcoming week, but I’ll endeavour to get another one of these up ere long.


P.S. I am going to have to start riding a bike. Eek! (Imo, you know what this means!)
P.P.S. I discovered this morning that there is a frog living in the toilet: every time you flush, you can see it's little legs wiggle as it scrambles to get back up into the cistern!