Settling in

https://www.etsy.com/listing/123205210/

Hectic times! We arrived in Nerja and had about half a day on the beach before we were forced to urgently find a new place to live. Finding something bigger/better than S’s crappy bachelor flat was always on the agenda for after we arrived, but we did not realise just how awful his place was (picture an underground prison bunker), AND THEN WE GOT RATS (again)! M and I panicked and moved to a hotel, but with the cheapest hotels around €60 a night we were desperate for a place. With limited options available we jumped at a place that gave us the option of vacating with 2 months notice (it’s for sale). It’s grand to have a place again (and not have to listen to rats fighting above your head at night) but it’s a good 45 minute walk from town – hardly ideal when you’ve just arrived in a place and need to do large grocery shops, and buy things like bed frames and pot plants. As we’re on a strict budget while we live in Spain (at least until I get residencia and can work), we are trying to avoid getting a car, but the bus service is rubbish (€1 each way, and it’s 10 minutes walk to the bus stop, only goes on the hour, doesn’t go at all between about 130 and 430pm), so it’s been a little disheartening.

For instant happy, just buy plants:

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Roadschool Maths lesson today: how many more pots do we need, and how much will it cost to fill the pallet?

I’m not the only one who has discovered the calming properties of gardening. Just catching a glimpse out the window makes everything seem better. Then I googled “pallet gardens” and suddenly discovered we have a problem – pallets can have toxins in them (due to needing to be pressure treated to kills bugs) so aren’t great for growing food, unless they have a little “HT” on them, which means “Heat Treated” and safe. Our has this…

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We have the HT! But what else is lurking in the timber???

BUT if you aren’t sure what was carried or stored on the pallet, this could also lead to toxic poisoning. GAH! Considering S found this one on the roadside on his way home from work in the early hours of the morning, we will just grow flowers in this one!

Pallet garden advice here and here

Most apartments have terraces – usually more than one (our current place has FOUR), which is awesome. It’s cool to look out from the rooftop and see the ocean (considering we are a good hike from it!). The dream is to fill the terrace with cool plants and loungers, and spend our days up there…

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Terrace dreaming…

Similar to the UK, most places here are rented fully furnished – not empty like Oz. This is a plus, as we sold all our furniture before moving to China in 2014, and it gives us a breather from having to spend more of our savings on stuff.

Anyway, I was going to post about our trials so far with trying to get Spanish residencia, but this was much happier!

Seventeen seventy 

Overnight in Town of 1770. First time in about 30 years. It’s the sort of seaside village I love, and I have spent many hours and days in villages all over the world that are just like this one, Dreaming. Dreaming I lived there, dreaming of the businesses I could start so I could live there. All of the business ideas centred on cooking or coffee or caravans, which are unappealing.  

Kyleakin, Portree, Strahan, Kingscliff, Yamba, Akaroa, Lyttleton, Castlebay, Tarbert, Dunvegan…

There is a photo of Mum breastfeeding me on the beach here. As the story goes, Dad had some kind of episode at work/home, threw everything in the Chesney and took off. This is where he came. 
I wonder what my Dad found in his place. It interests me that the place he came to for refuge is almost identical to all the villages I have tried to escape to.

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

 

Planning for Europe

Only 11 week to go in China. Ms10 is sick today, so I have spent the morning researching Europe.

We’ll most likely be based in Germany, but I don’t want to commit to study, work or school until we are “on the ground”. To keep things flexible, I intend to “roadschool” Ms 10. We’ve started planning already – we’ll subscribe to Mathletics, continue to use the Chinese language site she uses at her current school, attend German summer camp…the only hard part (for me) is planning a series of integrated research projects that cover as much ground as possible so she’s not behind heading into middle/secondary school, but are also relevant to our travels. Through these projects I plan to teach writing genres, research skills and ICT.

I worked as PYP Librarian at a school in Darwin a few years ago, and after 2 years working in a school using the National Curriculum for England & Wales, I have developed a MASSIVE appreciation for the International Baccalaureate. I’m going to use the chronological history of Europe to give us a direction, but borrow from the IB PYP “Transdisciplinary Themes” (2nd wheel in from the outside of image below) to develop the 4 – 6 consistent elements we will investigate at each step of the timeline.

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IB Primary Years Programme

I also plan to use their “Transdisciplinary Skills” (now called “Approaches to Learning“) that cover Thinking, Communication, Social, Self-management and Research skills. I feel strong connection with their 5 essential elements that detail what students will learn – a balance between:

  • Knowledge
  • Concepts
  • Skills
  • Attitudes
  • Action

The one thing that I can’t get excited about is the IB learner profile. It’s cheesy, and boring. I work in a school that is pursuing IB DP accreditation, and this part of the IB seems so forced.

I’m not sure how detailed I will get with the planning. I want to escape the miseries of teaching, not do them for fun! There is a great planner online at Footscray School in Victoria that links all the elements of the PYP together in one document. I think I’ll need something organised to keep tabs on what she covers, but to be honest my preference is for her digital “space” (blog, website, tumblr) to reflect that.

You can find out more about the PYP here.

 

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!
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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.

 

 

 

The case for working with our hands

“Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.” An article that eloquently describes the thoughts I am having about career, future and life.

When I think of moving to Scotland, I think of chickens and ducks and goats, of learning about how to survive life on a croft, of living in the wild places. My Dad went through a similar ‘tree-change’ in his 30s, so perhaps it is my destiny. His choices gave me all the best memories of my childhood – caravanning around Australia, camping on the side of roads and in dry creek beds, running a piggery, and a small farm, so this adds the rose-tint to my visions. Ultimately it all ended in tragedy for my Dad, but that is a thought for another day.

If nothing else, my two years in this job have proven I wilt, not thrive in the school environment. I feel I have not been myself here, have fired on only half my cylinders. Some of that can be blamed on other factors, sure, but I know now that I am more motivated and effective in a community role, but even there I am frustrated by bureaucracy and envious of those private enterprise folk.

As Crawford writes, “good job requires a field of action where you can out your best capacities to work and see an effect on the world”

We shall see where July finds me.