Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Watery eyes

No, I'm not crying yet, but I am exhausted. The last few weeks have been hectic and stressful, and I have a load of things to do before I leave for Korea in the morning. I'll have a big sigh of relief when I board the plane.

I'm flying Korean Airlines to Seoul - have not flown with them before, so it will be interesting.

I'm due to arrive - complete with suitcase, laptop, backpack and two cartons of books - at around 7.30 pm and I understand I have a two to three hour drive to the city in which I will stay. A small city I have been told - but I am sure I will be wide eyed with wonder at the new sights.

I'm still a bit hazy on detail, but at this point of time, I can not load any more information into my head and will fly with my Lonely Planet Guide to Korea on my lap, and my book, "My Life with Steve Irwin" by Terri Irwin.

I have work to do on my laptop, and my MP3 player is loaded, so I expect I will be kept amused during the 10 hour flight.

May be I will sleep too..................

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Korean accent

Here I am sitting at Adelaide airport - and a young Asian girl is sitting near me, and when I hear her talking on the phone, I know it is not Mandarin. Something made me ask her what her nationality she was. I could not believe it - she is Korean.

We had quite a chat - she has been in Australia improving her English and returns to Korea a week after I go.

Amazing world we live in. She is a sweet kind young girl - maybe we will meet again, as she has given me her phone number, in case I need help in Korea.

Perth to Adelaide

Somewhere over Esperance

In South Australia

I have made this flight before - usually at night. This time the skies were blue and clear! And what a wonderful view I had of that part of Australia as we passed over. I was enthralled by the many lakes, some were coloured - reddy brown, green, blue, white and yellow. They don't show up well in the photos but I know what they are. When we passed over Esperance I watched the coast line until it ran out, and we flew over the Great Australian Bight with nothing but a huge expanse of blue water below. Several hours later we were back over land, this time it was the peninsulas of South Australia, and the islands to the south that fascinated me. It has always been my dream to travel over Australia - perhaps in a helicopter and be able to take photos of the brilliant country below.

Short stay

Royal Steam Roller Flour Mill - 1894 -1933 Dongara

Main Street of Dongara

Dongara Hotel - opened 1867

Beach south of Dongara

As always - time runs out very quickly. We drove to another beach area just south of Dongara, and had a look around at some of the old historical buildings, but all we wanted to do really was talk. Try and reconstruct some of the events of over 40 years ago. Our memories are pretty good - but there were some things I remember and some Toby remembers and others are a bit cloudy. I had of course intended to stay longer but the Korea adventure reared its head, and I had to make some quick changes, to fit in the visit to Perth and Adelaide.

I would love to have spent longer, and wandered around and explored more. There are some wonderful old buildings, and there is a museum that I would like to visit. We had dinner that night with another bloke - a friend of Toby - who loves cooking and we wined and dined at his wonderful home. I was thrilled that Toby has such good friends, and especially impressed that they made me so welcome too. Wonderful. I arrived on the Tuesday, and had to leave on the Friday. No great haste. We kept up or chatting marathon, and Toby packed her car as she was planning to stay in Perth for a few days, and after lunch we trundled off, in no great haste. Instead of travelling the route that we had on Tuesday, we journeyed along the coast and I saw a little more of this remarkable Coral Coast. Little towns like Green Head with a population of 300, and Jurien that seems to have more. More photos.

Toby managed to meet up with two of her grandchildren whom she had not seen for a while, and I was pleased to meet her granddaughter. I'm thrilled that she was so thrilled to make contact with them as recently she had had limited access to them.
The highway on both sides had many wildflowers, but yellow banksias were prolific (sorry - no photos), and we stopped to take a photo of a huge windfarm. (These things really fascinate me)

Soon we were driving through the Swan Valley with Vineyards and Wineries on either side of the road. One day I might manage a visit to one or two.
We arrived at Toby's friends place around 6 pm, and soon the three of us were chatting like old friends. We went out to a pub for dinner, before returning for coffee and chocolates. It was early up the next morning, for my flight to Adelaide. I'm pleased I could go. At one stage I thought I'd miss out.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

My favourite photo - the old Dongara Jetty

This is one of my favourite photos of Dongara - it is the remains of an old jetty near the marina. The water was crystal clear and there were quite big fish swimming here, as well as a small stingray in the shallows. I found some postcards later in the post office, and they had a similar shot of this old jetty. Quite spectacular really.


While walking along the esplanade at Dongara a couple walked along each with a dingo on a lead. It is not common to see dingoes on a lead, and we stopped and spoke with the couple. They told us that the dogs were pure bred dingoes,and that they were working with a group of people around Australia to maintain a collection of pure bred dingoes.

The gentleman told us that dingoes are more like wolves than dogs. Once upon a time it was not legal to keep dingoes and even now, I suspect that some sort of permit might be needed, but that was not discussed. They were quite friendly dogs. They do feed them cooked meat, as they like to ensure that they don't get a taste for raw (or live!) meat. Apparently they love cooked kangaroo meat.

You might like to read a little about dingoes here.


Crayboats in Dongara Marina

Looking down the coast from Dongara

The mouth of the Irwin River

What a pretty place! Build around the Irwin River that right now does not escape to the sea as sand has built up at the mouth, and until rains come and push the sand away from the opening, the river is trapped behind the sand dunes.

There are wonderful pathways and boardwalks and great walking tracks around the sand dunes, the river and the beach - to get a good view of the spectacular scenery.

The Irwin River

There is a marina where the cray boats come in to offload their catches, and where the locals put their boats in to head out to fish the waters of the Indian Ocean. There are a lot of houses being constructed and around the area there are huge and expensive houses, many with great views seaward. On the first morning my friend and I went for a very long walk to see some of the local sights. The sky was clear, the sea was spectacular and we walked and talked for several hours before returning to her house.

That night we had a great meal - of crayfish. Beautiful white fresh crayfish - a meal to remember.

Perth - here I come (and go)

I hate doing things in a rush - but there has been little choice. Despite all the "toings and froings" about Korea, I still had the air tickets to Western Australia and South Australia. When I received the details about Korea I was leaving earlier than I had been told, so the pressure was really on.

Having decided to cut my trips to WA and SA short, I was really freaking. But with all that I flew off to Perth on Tuesday 24th.

The trip across from Brisbane to Perth was over 5 hours. Uneventful except for Lake Eyre. I had heard that this amazing lake had water in it - it is mostly a dry salt pan, where recent floods in Queensland had filled the lake. There was a lot of cloud and I felt that I'd miss it, but when the plane was somewhere over the lake, the clouds parted and a most amazing sight greeted us. To understand more about the lake read here. It was a sight that few people would have witnessed - this huge lake full of water. Beautiful dark blue water with aqua blue water near the edges and what looked like white beaches along the fringes.

It is not easy to take a phone from a plane - especially one at high altitude, but I am glad I have some (albeit slightly fuzzy) images of that amazing sight. I don't know how long it took us to fly over it - maybe 45 minutes or more - which will give some idea of the size of it.

Toby - my friend from all those years ago - was at the Perth Airport to meet me. Toby (we always called her Toby - and I had spent little time together over 45 years, as we lived on opposite sides of the great continent. We had lots of catching up to do. I had anticipated we would stay in Perth, but I was delighted when she suggested that we just go to her home in Dongara - way north of Perth.

We gave our tongues a great workout! For the whole trip, and the whole stay there! It was so good to catch up and swap stories.

Monday, 23 March 2009

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time they tell me, though I don't know anyone who has tried. The Korea project is on, and today most of the documentation has arrived for me to apply for the Visa. Not all, mind you, but most.

I am still running out of time though. If the Korean Embassy completes the process within the 5 days, I will still only get my passport and Visa the day before I have to leave. I hat leaving things that late. I'll freak. What if it doesn't arrive on time? I am due to fly out early on April 1st! What will happen if the paperwork doesn't get back to me in time? I hate to think.

It is a 10+ hour flight from Brisbane to Soeul and then about 2 or 3 hours to the city in which I will live and work for 10 hours. Scary. Scary that I will arrive late at night.

Exciting though, and all I can do is resolve to make the best of it.

Meanwhile I fly to Perth tomorrow morning.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Am I totally mad?

This I am beginning to worry! Why am I doing this? I am about to sign the contract for the position in Korea, despite the scant information. Boy I wish I had more, but time is running out. I am due to fly to Korea in about two weeks, but I have a trip to Perth and Adelaide BEFORE hand, and I have so much to do.

It seems I will arrive in Korea one day and teach for seven hours the next. So why amd I doing it? I don't know, but it sounds like a great adventure and despite the initial hardships I can do it. I know I can. I hope I can!

I will have scan time to prepare - and time is running out to fast. But.....

I have bought a Lonely Planet guide on Korea, which gives me a lot of information. I will buy a phrase book. There is less English spoken in Korea, and I'm not sure what assistance (if any) I will have in the classroom. And certainly getting around I will NEED the phrase book.


There are two Koreas - simply South Korea and North Korea. North Korea I am unlikely to visit - sounds a bit scary really, but I will not have time. It would be interesting to see this country which is really under th control of a strict communist regime. There's no internet, and if I did choose to visit I would need two tour guides with me, as it is impossible for foreigners to visit the country without this type of chaperone to ensure one does not see certain things, and that one does not talk unsupervised with the local people. Of course we know much about the nuclear program, and no doubt they have missiles aimed at China, and South Korea. Who knows really.

South Korea is apparently quite a lot more sophisticated. In fact I'm told I should find things more advanced than in China.

I'm glad to see that Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonalds, and Subway are there - so if I don't like the local fare, I won't starve to death. I'm hoping that I lose more weight - another 10 kgs would be nice. No one will know me when I get back.

So, I am scared and excited. A lot of work to do in the meantime.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Korea on the agenda again.

I did get a message re the Korea job - so on Monday armed with my CV I'm off to Springfield to meet with the recruiter and find out more. As I've written I'm currently indifferent. It is quite appealing, though I need more information to make a decision, and the dates don't suit me, but it is an amazing opportunity.

I've had messages from students in China this week - quite a few in fact, and I think I've managed to reply to them all. Sometimes they come thick and fast and it takes time to create the reply.

I do miss it all - there's something about China. As challenging as it is I can't get out of my head the wonderful people and the amazing history that I wandered through almost on a daily basis. I have plans for when I go back. I know what I am going to take, what I am going to buy, and where I am going to go next time, so I feel far more enthusiastic and confident than I did.

I remember just twelve months ago, I was struggling to keep my head above it all. So much to learn, so many things happening and all too much in the end. I did struggle and I admit it. It was much easier the second semester, and I am sure will be much easier the next time too.

I wonder if I will struggle in Korea. Though I'm more accustomed to the differences in culture now - even though it is quite a different culture to China in many ways. I'd love to see it.

Oh, well, maybe by Monday night I will have some idea of what lies ahead for me.

Meanwhile - back to my writing.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Indifference about Korea

After offering my services for the position in Korea I have received only a "we'll be in touch" email, and nothing else. Hopefully they have found someone else, as I'm running out of time to change my plans.

I'm somewhat indifferent about it now. Interesting, but sounds like too much hassle.

I met with a friend (the one who recommended me for the Korean position yesterday) and we chatted for a long time about our lives in China and what we were doing back now in Australia. We'd both like to go back.

Monday, 9 March 2009


I'm not sure if it will happen but I have been asked to consider a short position in Korea starting early in April. MM seems to think it will be OK, but a few hurdles to overcome - some documentation and the fact that I have plans to go to Perth and return via Adelaide, around the same time.

It will be teaching TESOL - interesting, but I know very little about it.

It will be for about 10 weeks, so not terribly long and it does have some appeal. I will have to make up my mind in the next 24 hours or so, so I guess I will know in the next day or so.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Moving forward

Things are settling down for me a little. MM is getting better and able to do more things for himself, which frees me up to do some more of my things.

We went to Ikea and bought some more things - another bookshelf was one. How did I really think I could reduce the number of books easily. Actually I have piles of books to be given away or sold on the garage sale, and I've discarded all the magazines that I have kept for eons. But there are still so many books I cannot part with. I'm surprised how many books about writing that I have too. Anyway, the new bookshelf is erected and ready to fill, but I just have to move a cupboard to fit it in.

We had two items delivered by Ikea, and I must say I was impressed. We bought them on Thursday and they were to be delivered on Saturday. We were told that they would be delivered between 6 am and 1 pm, so were wondering if we would have to "hang around" all day. On the Friday night there was a text message saying the delivery would be between 6 am and 9 am, and at 5.45 am, the mobile went off - the delivery would be at 6.15 am. Half an hour away!

And it duly arrived. What amazing service! Congratulations Ikea and Kings (the delivery people)!

Maybe today we will put together the big wall unit and television stand. It is a big thing, so will probably take a few hours. The bookshelf took less than 45 minutes to make. I've getting very good at this!

I have a short house sit to do, and I will look forward to some long hours on my own to write. I've collected much of my work on the old computer and have started editing and planning to send some short stories for competition. I've resurrected some half finished tomes and will work on these as well over the next few weeks and months. I must get them finished.

As well I am working on my book about nurses. It was just an idea, but I am now setting out to do something about it. I was inspired after meeting with a friend and talking about our nursing days, as she knew I had previously mentioned that I had wanted to do something on the topic. Immediately I set to work, and I'm rather thrilled with my progress.

It will be a collection of stories about Australian nurses and nursing. If any Aussie nurse is reading this and wants to know more, leave a comment. I'm interested in interviewing anyone who trained as a nurse or worked as a nurse. I am in particular keen to get stories about nursing in the 1950's and 1960's, though even current nurses are of interest. Just let me know.

I have had messages from students in China and I'm still keen to go back. I wrote to the collect to say "don't forget me for 2010 and the reply was that I am on top of the list!" Whoohoo!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Chinese-Australian History

My knowledge of Chinese history is minuscule, and my knowledge of the Chinese in Australian history is marginally more. I had never planned to travel to China – there were other world destinations on my dream list, but life does take many twists and turns and in 2008 I went to China to teach English at a foreign languages college. I remember in the few days while I was considering the offer, and the few short weeks later as I tried to put my life on hold in Australia and prepare for my amazing adventure, I did read quite a bit about China in Tourist brochures, websites, travel guides at a time when I was already struggling with information overload.In any case, anything I read did not prepare me for the culture shock and the widening of my own horizons.

In retrospect I wish I had more time to do research, but I am enjoying a fascinating journey of inquiry now as I try and understand more about the Chinese culture as it is in Zhejiang province where I spent most of 2008. And other things have conspired to make me want to learn more about the Chinese in Australian history too. Another journey of discovery is underway.

In China I found that a knife and fork was an unlikely to be found on the table, and I was quite experienced at using chopsticks. The Chinese students were surprised about this – though they relentlessly attempted to improve my technique without much success. How did I know about chopsticks? When did I learn to use them? Had I eaten Chinese food before?

It was then that I wished I had known more about the history of the Chinese in Australia, and remembered more about my experiences learning to eat Chinese food, with two small sticks.

My overcrowded and ancient memory recalls that I was probably in my early twenties before I actually visited a Chinese restaurant, and then it would have been to stand and read a menu, order with fear and trepidation food that I was not familiar with, and wait to take it home in some sort of plastic container. Of this I have scant memory. Maybe I was older.

I can remember later when I was married and had two small children in tow, we had Chinese takeaway a little more, and as I became more adept in the kitchen, I explored cooking Chinese meals myself. I’ve had a series of woks (incidentally not a word that my Chinese students recognised), and I have regularly cooked pork, chicken or beef stir fry, with rice, and other recipes gleaned from my huge collection of cookery books. I can make spring rolls, and other delicacies, but as an adventurous cook in the kitchen I have explored the foods of many nations.

It was then that I wished I had known more about the history of the Chinese in Australia, and remembered more about my experiences learning to eat Chinese food, with two small sticks.

My overcrowded and ancient memory recalls that I was probably in my early twenties before I actually visited a Chinese restaurant, and then it would have been to stand and read a menu, order with fear and trepidation food that I was not familiar with, and wait to take it home in some sort of plastic container. Of this I have scant memory. Maybe I was older.

I can remember later when I was married and had two small children in tow, we had Chinese takeaway a little more, and as I became more adept in the kitchen, I explored cooking Chinese meals myself. I’ve had a series of woks (incidentally not a word that my Chinese students recognised), and I have regularly cooked pork, chicken or beef stir fry, with rice, and other recipes gleaned from my huge collection of cookery books. I can make spring rolls, and other delicacies, but as an adventurous cook in the kitchen I have explored the foods of many nations.

Somewhere over the years I have collected and used chopsticks, and strangely a wonderful Chinese china set which includes two large serving bowls, 8 small bowls, 8 small plates, and 8 serving spoons. And I regularly used these when I created Chinese food in the kitchen.

As well, I collected Chinese plates, bowls, spoons in blue and white china, and especially sought those with small pieces of rice embedded into the clay before the firing process. Was I destined to have a greater connection with China?

I was aware from my Australian history lessons many years ago, and reading the book “Oliver’s Diary” edited by my second cousin Margaret Ragless of the many Chinese who came to work the gold mines in Victoria in the 1850’s. Oliver Ragless, kept a diary of his life at that time. I knew the Chinese were also involved with the gold fields in New South Wales, but that was about ten years later

I know they settled in our major cities from the 1850’s onward, and I know there was a big community of people from mainland China in Australia, but was surprised to learn that there were about 50,000. In any case China and Australia have had strong connections from the beginning of Australia’s written history.

In China I learned that Admiral Zheng He was reported to have at least visited the northern part of Australia, probably around 1412, though there is some conjecture on this. In any case it was not until 1777 that Captain James Cook discovered the east coast of Australia and claimed it for England. I wonder how our history would be if Admiral Zheng He had claimed the land for China?

Chinese people settled in the major cities and larger towns of Australia around 1850. As always they were hard workers and created our first restaurant and cafes, and for a long time were involved in market gardening.

I remember from my own childhood in Adelaide, that some of our vegetables came from the market gardens of people who had come from China, or whose ancestors had come from China. I don’t think they were near where we lived, but perhaps in the northern suburbs of Adelaide.

All this information is probably new to my students and friends in China.

I remember well visiting Chinatown in Melbourne in the 1970’s, and I have often visited Fortitude Valley here in Queensland, which has a strong Chinese community with shops and restaurants and other business with a Chinese focus. One whole streets looks very much like a Chinese street, and when I showed pictures of it to some of my classes in China, they could not believe it was in Australia.

I remember visiting the Chinese temple behind The Breakfast Creek Hotel at Newstead, and the Chinese temple in Bendigo, in Victoria many years ago, and recently going to Yum Cha at a restaurant at Sunnybank, which is full of Chinese shops and restaurants.

Over the years I have read many books with Chinese theme – and especially remember Wild Swans.

As well I find myself talking abut Emperor Yu and the story of how he tamed the rivers in China and reduced the flooding especially from the Yangtze River. I tell this story in a vain effort to point out that something should and could be done to capture the flooding rains in north Queensland where houses, farms and businesses have been underwater for several weeks, and channel it down to the south of this big arid land, where there is no water and rivers are drying up. If only someone in Australia in the 21st century could have the foresight that Emperor Yu had!

Australian and Chinese people have been working together in Australia for almost all our history, and I know many Australians are now working in China. We have a huge Chinese population in Australia and many of the brightest are our key doctors and surgeons.

For the most part we have a good relationship – Australians are often touted as racist and some are. The majority though are very thankful to have good Chinese people in Australia. They are hard workers and generally very successful business people. The young Chinese students are usually very dedicated to their study and many have made their mark in music too.

My learning journey continues.

(In the next post I will list websites with good information on the Australian/Chinese connections.)