Central Queensland

Washing Day

Washing Day

I had never thought of writing about washing day – until I was unpegging the washing from the clothesline one day. I don’t know why, but images flashed through my mind, and for an instant, I was taken back to another clothesline, in another place, and another time.

A Little Piece of Paradise

My unit is nestled amongst the trees, plants, and wildlife that fill the twenty-eight acres of bushland that I now call home. Even though it is quiet and peaceful here, it isn’t as quiet as the place that popped into my head on that washing day.

Before I found my little piece of Paradise, I spent five years living and working in Central Queensland. And it’s that part of my life that the washing day memory came from. I was living seventy-five kilometres from one small town, and seventy-five kilometres from the next, even smaller town. Smack-dab in the middle of both, with nothing but bush in between.

In the Middle of Isolation

Apart from a small school on one side, which was always deserted on weekends – there was nothing but bush on the other three sides, which were deserted on any day. My only company on Saturdays and Sundays, unless I drove to the general store a few kilometres away, was the wildlife.

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A school on one side…

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And bush on the other sides

Just Me and the ‘Roos

My routine on Sunday mornings, when I was at home (more about that later), was to sit on the back step with my morning coffee, and watch the kangaroos in the paddock next to my house. I discovered they have an interesting method of checking for safety – not foolproof I might add, given the number of flat ones on the road – but it seemed to work okay out there in the paddock. In the process of hopping through the bush, one of the larger ‘roos would stop, scan, and listen, with head up and ears back. The rest of the mob would then hop a little further into the paddock, usually in single file, and usually with some distance between each one. Eventually, they would congregate, but they were always on alert for the slightest sound or movement.

They were comfortable with my presence, although they were aware of every move I made. Meanwhile, the mob grazed, and I watched and learned.

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The constant scanning, protects the mob in the paddock

It Is What It Is….

That was my existence back then; work all week, and watch the kangaroos graze on weekends. I always had a week’s worth of washing to hang out on at least one of those weekend days. And it was staring at the bush from the clothesline that drove home the reality of isolation. When I wasn’t at the clothesline, or watching the kangaroos from the top step, I was inside, planning for the next week at work.

I couldn’t see the isolation from inside. But outside – it was unavoidable – you just couldn’t escape the aloneness out there. Was it peaceful? Absolutely!

But the isolation was stronger

There were times when the aloneness was overpowering. The nearest big town was three hours away. I would drive there every few weeks and check into a hotel for the weekend – just for the socialisation.  I still took work with me, but it was accomplished over a coffee, in the hotel restaurant. The fact that my only social encounter for the weekend was the waiters, didn’t bother me. They were better looking than the furry-faced kangaroos, and communicated in a way that I understood. As much as I loved the ‘roos, they certainly didn’t compensate for a human to talk to.

Here in Paradise?

As I stood at my clothesline that day, I gave thanks for being here in Paradise. Having people around me to socialise with when I need people-time. And witnessing the beauty of trees, flowers, and fabulous bird life, in my quiet times.

Well, almost all the bird life. The Ibises and Brush Turkeys take some getting used to.

The Kookaburras and Parrots make up for the turkeys that destroy the gardens while building their nests.

Ibis: alias – Bin-Chicken

I’m still wondering what purpose the Ibis serves.

Gratitude

I’m grateful for the quiet reflective times spent in the other place, but not the isolation.

I’m grateful for the lessons I learned about strength and resilience, but not the aloneness.

I’ve finally come home to where I want, and need to be. And my clothesline here in paradise is a symbol of my new reality.

But even my little piece of Paradise might one day be just a memory, to be thought about while unpegging the washing, on another washing day.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
Day Nine – UBC – Inspiration

Day Nine – UBC – Inspiration

People move in and out of our lives. Some stay a long time, others drift in, and stay just long enough to get to know us, before drifting out again. But it is the people who inspire us, regardless of how long they stay, that make the biggest impact. It doesn’t matter how you define inspiration, it’s what it does for us that matters.

And speaking of definitions, Inspiration is defined as: “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. Or, it can be “a sudden brilliant or timely idea”. R Kay Green in the Huffington Post looks at inspiration in terms of: “… what inspires us most are ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. We appreciate when someone has the ability and willingness to be selfless, creative, innovative, or just dares to be different”.  I can think of a lot of public figures who could make it onto the list of people who inspire us, but that’s another story, for another time.

Who Inspires Me?

If daring to be different defines a person as inspiring, then all of the students I taught, qualify. My students were different, and yet the same as any other child. Different, because each had a disability that might have made them look or act a little different. The same, because they, like all kids, wanted to learn, and enjoy life. They inspired me every time they achieved a goal that the rest of us take for granted. For them, most things required a lot more effort and perseverence. I was, and still am very proud of them all.

And if ordinary people, doing extraordinary things fits the definition of inspiration, then the teachers I worked with are my inspirational heroes. Anyone who says that teachers only work from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon, has never known a teacher. Just ask the family of a teacher – they’ll tell you. When most of us have settled down at night to watch our favourite show on television, teachers are marking papers from the day’s lessons. When we decide it’s time for bed, teachers are planning the next day’s lessons. And they do it because they love what they do – providing quality education for the next generation, to prepare them for life. They want the best for every child.

From Beach to Bush

Some of the hardest working teachers I know are the ones who gave up the comfort of city-life and headed to the country.

Teachers in schools in Central Queensland, and beyond, may have given up their city-living comforts, but they gained so much more in return. When teachers choose to teach in schools away from cities, they become part of a larger family, they endure, and give all they have to the community. And after three years, if they haven’t met the love of their life (a lot of them do), they return to the city, and are never the same again. They have a maturity and ‘can-do’ attitude that is hard to beat.

In that small country town, there was no office-supply store at the end of the street, or department store on the corner; resources were made out of whatever was available. Teachers shared what they had, and gave moral support at times when immediate family was needed, but was not there. They took care of each other. And they made friendships that would last a lifetime.


Some Teachers Never Went Back

Of course, there can be an added bonus for heading out west. Many of the single teachers who left the city – found love in the bush – usually in the form of a single farmer or fellow-teacher. They may have driven into the country town, unattached, but certainly didn’t return to city life, unattached. And for the ones who met and married farmers?, well, that country town adopted a new family, and they are still there, raising children of their own.

But most of all, teachers worked tirelessly for every student they taught. I’m not saying that city teachers don’t work hard, they do, but country teachers seem to do more because of the isolation and because they are so much a part of the community. Teachers become a central part of the town they choose to call home, even if only for a few years.

They are:

  • at the football game on Saturday afternoon cheering on the local team, especially the junior teams
  • training students for the Opti-minds competition during lunch breaks
  • driving students to the Opti-minds competition on a Sunday in August – leaving town before daylight for the two-hour drive
  • with the students all day at the Opti-minds competition – encouraging and supporting them
  • at the annual Coal Festival, manning the food stall –  or with the kids, on the back of the decorated truck (don’t even ask about Risk Assessment!; it’s all good – trust me)
  •  supervising Homework Club, and tutoring, after school
  • teaching photography classes after school, and supervising the Disco night
  • at the local campdraft or river festival – helping out and cheering on the participants
  • in front of the grocery store on Saturday morning, selling cakes they’ve baked, to raise money for a local cause or the Coal Festival Entrant
  • at every fundraising event held by the Parents & Citizens Association
  • communicating with parents
  • at school on weekends to prepare for the coming week, and planning lessons late at night
  • missing family and friends in the city, but still giving everything they have to their new community
  • busy making new friends, and being part of a much bigger family
  • learning from each other

And Inspiration Is?

The country-service teachers I worked with who immersed themselves in the community; gave so much of themselves; made the country their home for three years or more, and changed the lives of so many people.

When I think back over my long life, I can think of moments of inspiration. Sometimes, the inspiration was the student standing in front of me, who had just achieved what we didn’t think they would. But mostly, inspiration was reflected in the eyes of the teachers who called Central Queensland their home. They were the ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

Who, or What Inspires You?

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
July UBC – Day Six – Was I Stronger Than I Thought?

July UBC – Day Six – Was I Stronger Than I Thought?

You never know how strong you are until something goes wrong. When life throws all it has at you, you can either crumple, or stand up to it. I found out I was stronger than I thought.

There was a year in my life when everything came apart – it just slowly unravelled, and by the end of the year I knew I had to do something drastic. Without going into too much detail, the problem centred around the job I had at the time. I was a teacher, but I had taken on a promotion position that involved a lot of stress. It’s funny with teaching; you go into it for all the right reasons, but the only way to progress to higher ranks, is to leave the classroom. And in my usual non-planning way, I kind of fell into the promotion situation – temporarily at first – and then for the long haul.

Stress is a Killer!

Along with the stress of the job, I had a few personal things happening as well. It was complicated, and it was really bad timing, but, when are problems ever well-timed? I loved the core essence of my job – the kids – but coping with the other things that make up the sum of what keeps a school going, is hard. Anyone who knows a teacher, knows what I’m talking about. Could I handle another year of stress? Could I handle even one more day of stress? The answer was a resounding, No!

As One Year Ends…

As the end of the school year came hurtling towards me, I  knew there were some tough decisions to be made. There were a few options – okay, they weren’t brilliant, but they provided a faint light at the end of the tunnel. And I was reasonably sure it wasn’t the light of an oncoming train. The first thing I knew for sure, was that at least for a short time, I needed to walk away. Scanning the online job portal became my morning routine for a few weeks. I scoured the pages of jobs, always finding an excuse for not making the call that could take me away from it all. Days turned into weeks, and the situation suddenly had urgency. Then one morning, I made the call that would change my life.

Central Queensland needed a teacher for six months. If I could talk my way into it, this could solve two problems: I would be back in the classroom, and I’d be away from the stressful situation of my current position. Six months was all I needed. Because I already held a permanent position at my current school, I had to do a lot of talking to swing the temporary transfer. Government departments are so technical!

Moving On

The Principal understood my position and had actually suggested I take leave, so he was happy to endorse the move. The problems I had faced were the result of some serious mis-management issues, mixed with a shot of bullying. By the time the Principal became aware of the full extent of it, it had gone too far. My motto throughout life had always been: I can handle this. But I had slipped to one of the lowest points of my life, and would have contemplated resigning from the job I loved, if I hadn’t made the decision to take time-out, instead of leaving – with with my soul and spirit in tatters. This was one time when the I can handle this motto, failed me.

That year was tough, but so was the emotional roller-coaster I felt as I packed up my car, ready to drive the 677 kms to a place I had never been. The trip would take close to eight hours and my car was packed to the rafters, with everything I imagined I would need for the next six months. Yes, I even had my trusty old Espresso coffee machine on the back seat. Thank God I had the foresight to pack it, as I was to discover that good coffee was nowhere to be seen on weekends and late-nights in the tiny town I was headed for. Accommodation was part of the deal, so I only needed the small stuff. My teaching resources accounted for every other available space in the car.

When I couldn’t squeeze another thing in, I headed out of town. But first, a coffee with my best friend. We met at the coffee shop on the brink of the motorway; the motorway that would lead me to one of the biggest changes of my life. Saying goodbye to my best friend, the one who had been my closest ally for the past year, was hard to do. But, I reminded myself that it would only be for six months.

Leaving the sun and the surf behind…

On The Way

As I turned the car onto the highway, a wave of terror descended on me. What could I have been thinking? Was I serious? Yes, it had been a tough year. But, driving eight hours into the unknown? Was I crazy? My mind started doing a juggling act between the lesser of two evils. I kept driving. Ideas rushed through my mind, one after the other, each posing valid arguements, for and against. I kept driving. At one point I almost gave in – I almost turned around. But then, thoughts of the most stressful elements of the past year took hold; I maintained the position of ‘straight ahead – keep going – it will all be okay. I kept driving.

Within days of arriving, the new school year began and I knew I had made the right decision. It was like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. From the first day at my new school, I felt like I had come home. The effects of the previous year weren’t easily shaken off, but it did get better. It took at least six months to be able to breathe easily again, and fall asleep without fear of nightmares.

Six Months, And Then….

Oh, and the six months? By June, my new Principal asked me if I could arrange a permanent transfer. That was one decision I didn’t have to think about. I picked up the phone and rang my past Principal – he was happy to sign it off. And the six months? I stayed in that tiny town for five years, and met some amazing people. In my second year there, I was asked to step back into the Administration role, and I was ready for it. That same year, parents and administrators from the six schools I serviced as part of my role, nominated me for a national teaching award. I felt very undeserving, but honoured, and made it into the final round.

There is absolutely nothing like a country town and country people to restore your faith in yourself. You just have to be brave enough to accept the challenge of surrendering the known, in exchange for the unknown.

I did it! And it changed my life!

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 4 comments
Day 4 Blog Post Challenge

Day 4 Blog Post Challenge

I believe in starting where I’m at…

It is Day 4 of the Blog Post Challenge, yet this is just my second blog post. By my calculations I still have another two posts to write today so that when the Day 5 Challenge lands in my inbox tomorrow, I’ll be ready for it. But for now, I will just start where I’m at and focus on the number ‘Four’. Four Seasons to be precise – or lack thereof.

Where I currently live, the seasons are neatly compartmentalised into four distinct categories: hot; cool; cold; warm. There is enough variation in the weather to justify cluttering up my wardrobe with those quirky three-quarter sleeve, light weight tops that are neither hot nor cold, depending on the season. But it hasn’t always been that way. I have lived in climates that have been singularly extreme: hot and hotter; and where there were only two categories: hot or cold.

My Island Adventure

For two years I called Penang home. It was two of the most memorable years of my life and I could happily have stayed there forever, but duty called me home. Penang is a tiny island off the mainland of Malaysia. There were only two variations in the weather: it was either hot, or hotter. The ceiling fans rotated at a rapid rate twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. They never stopped!

Penang has one of those climates where you step out of the shower, dry yourself off, and within seconds you need to repeat the process. But I loved it! Friends would ask if I missed winter while living in such a hot climate and the response was always a resounding – No! I still hate winter with a passion, but that’s another story.

My Inland Adventure

In 2011 Central Queensland beckoned me. I loaded up my car, a small sedan, with everything that I considered to be essential for a six-month adventure, and I drove. The car was so heavily laden that when I stopped along the way to buy a supply of coffee beans, just in case I couldn’t buy them there, I had to be very creative about how to fit them in. Had I known what was in store for me, weather wise, I could have sacrificed all those quirky three-quarter sleeve tops and made room for more practical things, like more coffee beans.

Crickey! Another hot day!

Four Seasons?

I arrived in Moura late January. It was hot! And it stayed hot – very hot, until one day the weather Gods turned the heaters off. No warning, no transition; just no more heat. Summer ended and winter began with nothing more than a day between them. At the end of winter, summer began in the same way. The cold switched off and the summer heaters turned on without any warning. No Spring, just as there had been no Autumn. The three-quarter sleeve tops stayed safely stowed until I made my way back to a temperate climate. Despite the lack of four distinct seasons, my love of living in Central Queensland persuaded me to extend my six-month adventure to five fabulous years that are etched lovingly in my Most Memorable Years album.

Those Quirky Tops!

And those quirky three-quarter sleeve tops? I’m glad I kept them. For the past four distinct seasons in my new home, they have served me well.

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 6 comments