Roadschooling

We’ve come back to Bundaberg for a week with Nanna, and this is a chance to get stuck into our roadschooling adventure. The enormous challenge at the moment is the absence of wifi. Mum doesn’t have it, and Telstra being the monopolied rip-off merchants they are don’t offer a prepaid service that meets our needs. They also have very interesting methods of calculating data use. How the heck they think I used up 6GB in 1 week checking email, social media and using Google Maps, The End, is beyond me?

Anyway, we’ve made use of the Bundaberg Library, which is a lovely space (today they randomly had a highschool brass band playing) and I’ve finally been able to subscribe to Mathletics. On the road I have also purchased a bunch of workbooks which, given the state of flux we are in puts my mind at rest for the time being. My biggest challenge at the moment is finding a free online curriculum organiser that will help me keep track of things.

Our rough curriculum at the moment is focussed on getting into a routine.

Maths

I’m being very boring with an hour of Maths each day, starting with revision: New Wave Mental Maths (who have helped us uncover some main problem issues), followed by a unit in Nelson Maths. Now we have Mathletics we might focus on that as I think she’ll be more motivated there. I’m still stuck in teacher-mode, worrying about which grade she should be doing, but trying all the time to shift my thinking to the level where she is being challenged, but not being completely overwhelmed.

Language

An hour if we can, letting Matilda choose the language: English, Spanish, Chinese. I added about half an hour of grammar to this today with a Grammar Rules workbook I picked up in the local newsagents (much to her disgust). Once we get to Spain she will focus on Spanish and I will need to keep an eye on English. Chinese is a little more problematic. I think we are going to have to rely on a serendipitous encounter for this.

Units of Inquiry

We’re not doing so well on this as we haven’t had time. We’re focussing on Australia, makes sense as we are here, but although she is discovering a lot of new things (museums, art galleries, rainforest walks), we have not had time to follow it up. She has collected about 3000 brochures and the plan is to put them together into a sort of journal/record of the trip, but this is a bit low on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Science, Society & Environment, Geography etc

This is a bit annoying as I have to do more work before she can. I’ve decided to check out the ACARA (Australian Curriculum) and Scottish curriculum topics and see what she should cover as these are the most likely curriculums she will end up in for Secondary. I want to try to incorporate these into the UOI as much as possible.

Music

Gah, don’t even speak to me. Only plus is that she is missing it and keen to start learning again when we get to Spain.

All in all, it feels like it’s more work for 1 student than for a class HAHAHA

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Logistics #blogjune 17-18

Falling behind with #blogjune but I have an excuse! We have finally found a way to ship some boxes of stuff to Spain. I’m not sure how confident I am it will actually arrive. All the stuff for shipping is slowly being stockpiled in the lounge room:

IMG_2020
Mostly I seem to be shipping suitcases. How many suitcases does a person actually need? I think I have around 15…and that’s not counting those half handbag/half carry on bags!

We are flying AirNZ to Australia (squee!). They’ve always been one of my favourite airlines, but sadly leapt out of my price range when they started emulating budget airlines with a ridiculous Seat+Bag+Meal pricing model. Somehow by stopping over in Auckland for a few nights en route we managed to find the cheapest flight home. Yes, I realise I will spend those $$$ anyway by staying in Auckland, but it’s been too long between NZ visits! Ironically, given price moan above, they are letting us bring 2 x 23kg bags EACH. What on earth? I’ve scoured the web to see if I can get this deal going to Spain, but so far nope. I even considered ditching the shipping and paying extra to fly AirNZ to Europe, but I have a hatstand and a rug and can’t see that getting stowed by any airline.

As we are backpacking south China for 2 weeks before we fly to Australia we’re going to leave our big bags in the apartment until we get back from our Yunnan/Guizhou/Sichuan adventure. Speaking of which, I haven’t kept up with blogging due to the pain of trying to book that trip. If only China had a rail pass for travellers! But as with everything, why on earth would they try to create new markets when there are already 2 billion people chasing the product?

Queensland day part 2 #blogjune 6

So, about that Buzzfeed article…
1.Queensland is BIG

It is. My family caravanned around Queensland quite a bit when I was younger, and I’ve driven across it myself a few times. I was born at Anglers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, but grew up in the “home of the thunderstorms” – the Aboriginal name for our home in the farmlands to the west. We lived in the shadow of the Great Dividing Range, and from our house you could often see the lights of trucks coming down ‘the Gap’. My mum is about to move to Bundaberg to manage their local caravan parks, and if we ever manage to book our flights home for summer we will be spending quite a bit of time with her up there. Bundaberg is the home of our state rum, and it’s gorgeous. 

4. And it’s home to these bad boys

Never mind cassowaries, how about GIANT BROWN FLYING COCKROACHES. This is legitimately the main reason I left Queensland. Growing up, my bedroom was in an enclosed verandah, and the number of times I woke up with cockroaches crawling on me – ON MY FACE…ugh

7. And every other day is HOT.

Think you know what hot is? Get yourself branded by a seatbelt buckle.

9. And you’re well acquainted with your state transport system

Does Queensland have a transport system? I don’t know anyone without a car. Pat’s Coaches was the only public transport option between my home and the Gold Coast when I was growing up, and he stopped driving in about 1994.

11. You don’t own an umbrella

This is one of my failings.

12. But you do NEED an umbrella. Often.

13. Because it doesn’t rain in Queensland. Water just ERUPTS FROM THE SKY

Yep, check out this weekend’s news. And there is a Qld Facebook group with half a million likes called “Higgins Storm Chasing

15. Every sentence needs to end with ‘hey’.

That’s true, hey

17. Everyone’s pretty laid back. Even the police.

They wear shorts and ride bicycles in Surfers.

18. You know that the ocean is a shared space

Just don’t go in there.

20. Ah, Campbell.

22. You’ve never been to the Whitsundays but your friends from other states have.

Hahahahahaha

23. November and Schoolies are the worst thing in the world.

My grandfather spent many Novembers shouting at the nightly news.

24. You have a precise understanding of both ‘time’ and ‘daylight’

Which Southerners do not. Leave the clocks alone!

25. You steer clear of the theme park ridden Gold Coast unless you absolutely have to.

I loathe theme parks. Most boring things on the planet. One of my jobs during uni was at Movieworld. I started on the registers in Yosemite Sam’s Diner and worked my way up to Chef. This meant I had to wear gloves up to my elbow and sit in the cold room squishing bits of chicken. 

26. And these things are the worst

ARGHGHGHGHHHH

27. Well, I don’t live there anymore, but there is nothing like a January storm in Queensland

Queensland Day #blogjune 6

Running out of ideas for #blogjune already !!

Nobody here knows it is Queensland Day, and I was struggling to explain it, so I’ve googled it. It is the day at school when we used to colour in the Queensland flag and state emblem, then forget about them again for another year. Oh! And our local historical museum used to sell billy tea and damper, and probably have a log sawing contest.

Apparently it’s a celebration of the day we broke free from the colony of New South Wales, and these days it is known as Queensland Week

We have our own state flag, which is really the British flag “defaced” (according to wikipedia) by the state badge:

Flag_of_Queensland.svg

Mysteriously, the state bade is the Cross of Malta – for which even the State Government struggle to provide a logical explanation:

State_Badge_of_Queensland.svg

Our coat of arms is inexplicably being held up by a deer:

qld-coat-of-arms

They were the first Arms assigned to a British colony since Charles II granted Jamaica its Arms in 1661, so perhaps they were a little stuck for inspiration? (Actually, the red deer is supposed to “represent the old world”. Ugh.)

We are also known for our rainforests, reefs and wild weather.

For more Queensland, check it out here for the boring tourist website, or here for the funny Buzzfeed one.

 

Expat v Immigrant #blogjune2

A while back I found this interesting article about the terms “expat” and “immigrant” in the Guardian, and I posted the link to twitter. In the past few days a bunch of people have suddenly discovered my tweet and are commenting and retweeting. As I didn’t write the article I’ve decided not to engage in debate with them on twitter. It usually ends badly.

I always thought “expat” referred to temporary stays abroad, while “immigrant” was a permanent move. So, while in China, I am an Aussie expat, but once I finally get back to Scotland I will be an immigrant.

I retweeted the article because as a “white expat”, it made me think. I was curious if the reason was as the author (Mawuna Remarque Koutonin) suggests (white supremacy, dominance of English language). At the same time our Year 11s are sampling their first unit from next year’s IB Diploma English programme, and looking at why English has become the dominant world language, and the impact of this on other languages and cultures.

This has parallels to Indigenous issues in Australia, as well as Gàidhlig issues in Scotland – the significance of language on culture.

 

Slow boat in China

So we have given up on our Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian railway dream…for now. Back to the drawing board for travel plans.

Options:

  1. Visit Mongolia
    1. At first, this was our plan. Ditch annoying Russia and their annoying visa process. Then I discovered obtaining a Mongolian visa is just as difficult as a Russian one. Don’t know where I got the idea a Mongolian visa was easier, but it’s not. So scratch that.
  2. Fly to Europe and start travelling there
    1. Schengen visa complicates this, as the 3 months start ticking as soon as I land in any Schengen country. Also expensive
  3. Japan
    1. Meh. It was okay but for some reason I just can’t get excited. Probably because it was so expensive.
  4. Korea
    1. Going there for 4 days over Duan Wu festival in early June.
  5. South-east Asia
    1. Hot, mosquitoes, hot.
  6. Australia
    1. Expensive. Extra flights. The whole “but I’ve spent over $10000 visiting my family 4 times over the past 2 years and they’ve not visited us once”. This whole thing is really starting to get to me. Also we – well, I at least. Not sure about the kid – have reached a point where I’m comfortable living away from home. The apron strings have snapped. I’m keen to keep moving in a northerly direction, for now.
  7. China
    1. Well, this is something I have thought about and discarded and thought about and discarded…
    2. We haven’t seen enough of China. We don’t want to come back anytime soon.
    3. The parts I want to see are in the south, which is hot, with mosquitoes, and heat and humidity…

Hmm.

Sewing

My grandmother was a sewer. Inevitable with 6 children, the eldest born during the Great Depression. My mum was the baby, and often tells how every stitch of clothing she owned until she got her first job at 16 (including her underwear!) was made by Nanny. One of my aunts became a professional seamstress, and my mum always had a sewing machine set up in our house.

One of Dad’s birthday or Christmas gifts for Mum was a proper sewing desk/cupboard contraption that he picked up at a clearing sale. Mum made my sister and I a lot of outfits, usually in coordinated fabric. One of my favourite outfits was a retro circle skirt. She made it from her old honeymoon dresses. She sewed us coordinated bike shorts outfits in the early 90s, and I think the last thing she made me was a blue pinafore dress. I wore it to our Year 7 disco and copped such horrendous teasing I never wore it again. I’m trying to remember the last time she sewed us something, and I’m thinking it was probably as I entered high school, and my sister and I started complaining that she was making us look daggy and embarrassing.

Mum used the sewing machine as an office after that, typing up church flyers and newsletters. I spent most of 1995 in Mum’s sewing room, making costumes for a Christmas play. I made outfits for my baby cousins. The effort this required my aunts (from the other side of the family) never fully understood or appreciated. I think this was my final sewing project. After that I started senior high school, we got a computer and the room became my assignment room.

I don’t know where any of the clothes she made are now. Probably handed down to the cousins, and subsequently discarded. Shame.

IMG_1918

 

Hong Kong

Overnight transit in Yau Me Tei. Hong Kong seems like a magical land after 3 solid months in 2nd tier China without a break. We didn’t go away for CNY as it is a ridiculously expensive time to travel. We went down with Influenza B all holidays, so my frustration with flight prices and refusal to buy tickets was for the best in the end. We spent 4 days in bed, sick, freezing, band eing rocketed to oblivion by new year fireworks. By the end of the holiday we were both ready to kill the next person who hocked up form near us. 

So I sent the 10 year old back to Australia for a month. She’s spent 3 weeks climbing trees, swimming, fishing and going crazy with her cousins. Not entirely sure she’ll get on the plane back here. But if she does make it, there’s only 12 weeks left in China and it won’t be minus 5

I have a week of holidays before I collect her. I can’t remember the last time I travelled on my own. I’m doing a hand papermaking workshop in Chiang Mai, meeting a friend in Bangkok, re-learning screen printing in Hong Kong, and meeting daughter off the plane at HKIA. 

Today though, I’m spending Easter Sunday roaming the streets of Kowloon, thinking about how fortunate I am. It’s hard to say it without sounding like a prat, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel, to explore, see the crazy things I’ve seen; to be healthy, to have an amazing daughter who is growing into a super smart tween with a Hogwarts obsession; to be Australian and come from that crazy flat land where the sun and spiders and snakes are all conspiring to kill us; to hear that nasally drawl in backstreets or Cafes or airports always makes me smile.

And mostly, I am awfully grateful to have survived two difficult years in a not-so-awesome job in China, and grateful for the job and all its trials, because it is the means by which we will travel and live in Europe. 

  

Paper in the Monkey year

We’ve had a hectic month. Given the crazy flight costs and that I am potentially unemployed come July, I decided to stay closer to home for out Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) holiday, and had thought we might do a short trip to Seoul to explore their hanji paper in the middle. Fortunately I didn’t book any flights, as we both came down with a shocking flu. One of the worst I can remember. We were bedridden for 4 days straight, which the locals celebrated by releasing tones of fireworks, from around 6am until 10 at night. When we finally recovered we were able to stagger into the city for a couple nights in fancy hotels, but our plans of heading to Korea faded.

Around the same time I’ve received disheartening responses from every university in Australia where I’d hoped to enrol in a research degree. Tasmania never replied, despite multiple attempts. CDU sent me a copy/paste of their website, telling me to identify a supervisor, which would be fine if they put any identifying information about staff online! Not even an email address…

University of Newcastle were the most promising, and I received a lot of advice and direction, AND they have an onsite paper mill.  However the artistic lecturer I found was not qualified to be sole supervisor, and although half a dozen others expressed interest in the project, none of them felt qualified to take me on as a candidate. The art lecturer also indicated that I should gain more practical experience, and I feel this may have influenced the rejections. He is right, so I have decided I should focus on this for now, and come back to the research at a later date.

The problem is, I live in a backwater in China. I can’t find supplies here to create a home studio. I have the blender and frames, felt and etceteras, but cannot find the mesh. Intensely frustrating. So far the onlmy practical experience I’ve had were two goes at elephant poo paper parks in Thalamd. It was fantastic, and I’m so desperate to get started on making all my mistakes so I can be closer to being an expert craftsman, it kills me! I’m hoping the upcoming Easter break will provide an opportunity. I’m looking at washi paper in Japan, hanji in Korea, Thailamd again, or visiting the Miao or Dai ethnic groups in south China.

Wombat poo in Tasmania

So, UTas is on my list for potential Masters by Research. And there are a few uncanny little ways in which this would be a very fitting location:

  • I’ve always been drawn to Tassie. It’s cold and it’s an island – just like the parts of Scotland I love.
  • A few years ago I discovered my maternal grandmother was born in Launceston, as was my great-grandmother, Eileen Littlejohn.
  • I carried Eileen’s leather-bound KJV around Europe, destroying the cover in the process. That drew me to bookbinding, and I found a leather artist in Tasmania that was a dream life goal of mine just before I became a librarian.
  • Again, before I was a librarian – I travelled to Tasmania for a library job interview in Burnie. We stayed in a grotty old hotel, and I managed to squeeze Matilda into a lovely childcare for a day while I went off to be grilled by a panel of 4 or 5 beige-dressed, dour looking council staff, for what I think was a 12-hour-a-week library assistant role in Strahan – a sort of town from where you can quite possibly see the end of the earth.
  • While researching sheep poo paper, I came across Creative Paper Tasmania, who hit the headlines by making paper out of wombat poo. They’ve also been mentioned by famous paper artist, Helen Heibert. Turns out, when we were in Burnie for that job interview, we stumbled upon the visitor centre. The exhibition was an amazing paper display – life sized paper mâché people and all sorts. I remember it gripped my soul – I was possessed with the idea that I would get the  Strahan job, work part-time and become a paper artist, maybe even a book-binder.
  • Burnie is fascinating because hand papermaking began there as a “work for the dole” project, in part to combat the closure of commercial papermills…which links to my research!
paper burnie tas
Discover Burnie

I didn’t get the job in Strahan. Seems funny now. I wonder who did? Nobody I’ve ever met in Library land. They took months to get back to me as well – months and months to the point of ridiculousness.