Monday, February 23, 2009


One of the things that we're enjoying in Australia is the existence of wonderful parks that are full of great things for children to do.

It seems to be quite common here for people to meet and entertain in parks -- many people do it instead of entertaining at home. There are 'barbie' facilities -- a flat surface heated with gas -- that you can use for free. Many of the areas are fairly well shaded and there is great equipment for the kids to play on.

I headed out to Wynnum at the weekend. It's on the bay and has a great park where the kids and I had a picnic and they had a wonderful time playing.

There is the jungle gym, whales that squirt water (Kai's favourite) and a rope type of climbing structure (Slade's favourite).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thoughts from the Week

I continue to be amazed at how Australia has come together in support of the victims of the bush fires, and also the floods in North Queensland. Slade's school had the sausage sizzle and collection boxes on Thursday and raised over $6500. Our church collected about $3000 on Sunday. This week Sunday has been declared a national day of mourning and services are going to be held around the country, including in South Bank in the centre of Brisbane.

The kids have had a good week at school. Slade has settled a little -- his teacher is encouraging him to do lego which he's really enjoying as it's definitely a strong point. In fact, after saying goodbye to me this morning he sat down with the lego, but when I started to talk to another mom he came and said that he wanted me to leave! I felt really good that he was happy for me to leave. Kai has been asked to bring anything from South Africa -- books, music, pictures -- that the teachers can show to the class so that they can teach the other children about South Africa. We're going to put some things together for her to take on Monday. She's really excited about that. The teachers are really good about encouraging whatever the children enjoy and good at turning everything into a learning experience.

I've spent a lot of my time with Sabona this week trying to help people trying to help people in need. We've set up an appeals website where we're posting details. Many are in Australia on 457 visas, which means that they are sponsored by their employers. With the current economic situation, they are being made redundant and, according to the provisions of this visa, they have 28 days from the day the one job ends to find another company to take over the sponsorship. There are also others who are here as permanent residents, but at least they don't have time pressures relating to the visa. Some of the people on 457s that we're hearing from have been in Australia for years, while others have recently arrived. The one email we got today related to a man who arrived in Australia with his family just over a month ago. He has been made redundant and is desperate to find another position. Otherwise they'll have to return to South Africa.

There is a good side to all this, and that is the response that we've had from people trying to help. There are quite a few recruitment agencies who are trying to help the individuals find jobs, and then there are many people who've made themselves available to provide counselling or even just have a cup of coffee or a chat on the phone.

A few other excerpts from The Australians, that I've really found reflect some of the things that I've found here. The first piece was written in 1966 by Craig McGregor: "Australians are generally free of the extreme forms of snobbery, rudeness, and deference which are the outward signs of social antagonism in older countries. The bus driver and conductor regard themselves as equal to any of their passengers. The skilled tradesman regards himself as every bit as good as the white-collar worker, and sometimes gets paid more. The subtle distinctions in the behaviour of people of one class to another which bedevil European social relations are comparatively absent in Australia. Often the first things visitors notice about Australia is this apparent classlessness and social equality: the easy relations which exist between people of all walks of life, the absence of gross privilege, the pleasant sense of camaraderie."

The book also refers to 'mateship' -- such an Australian term that! And how people have in the past responded to bush fires and floods. Amazing to read at such a time as it really reflects what is happening now. In a book called The Future Eaters, which was written by Tim Flannery in 1994, reference is made to mateship emerging during the times when floods and fires have devastated parts of Australia. Flannery says that this has resulted in people doing extraordinary things to help those whose lives have been affected. He describes some of the amazing things that people did to help others. "As a result -- in contrast to the aftermath of the Los Angeles earthquake of 19 January 1994 -- there was no tent city, indeed not a single tent in Sydney following the fires (of January 1994). For the people of places like Jannali, the prospect of a tent city housing their neighbours would have been a deep insult to their sense of mateship. They would have done anything in order to avoid it."

Another characteristic that was highlighted in the book and has also been evident is the general honesty of people in Australia and that people expect that others are honest. There was an item on a TV recently showing foreigners who had tried to scam their short term insurance company and got caught out. Their behaviour was referred to as "un-Australian"! Ok, it's not always the case. As I've been writing this there's been a report in the news of one lady who as tried to get money from the bushfire appeal by saying that her father had died when, in fact, he hadn't!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Goodenough History

I'm really enjoying my trips to the library and am borrowing lots of magazines and some different books, especially those about Australia.

This week I found a book called The Australians by John Hirst. The author, a historian, was commissioned in 2006 by the National Australia Day Council to look at Australians -- who they are, their character, whether they are different from 100 years ago etc. The book includes excerpts from various places and written by various people. I've browsed through it, concentrating a little more when I find things of interest.

Then I found reference to Goodenoughs!

The excerpt is from a book called My Brother Jack (1964), the best selling novel by George Johnston. That narrator David Meredith has a discussion about what should be planted in their suburban garden. David tells his wife that he went out to buy a tree from Goodenough's Nurseries. They then have a long discussion about the kind of tree that David bought, with David saying that he wanted a proper tree growing in their garden. Although they live in Beverley Park Gardens Estate in Beverley Grove, there isn't a park, a garden or a grove! David then refers to Old Joe Goodenough who had assured him that the tree would grow into a real tree.

I've been unable to find any reference to Goodenough's Nurseries through google, or even Beverley Grove, a few Beverley Streets etc, including some in the Brisbane area. I did find a site compiled by a Clyde Goodenough based in Australia ( though so that was something fun to find!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bits and Pieces

Time is going by so quickly.

We're settling down here. The kids are doing well although we've had a few days this week when they didn't want to go to school. By Friday things had improved and I really do hope that next week goes better. I found it hard coming home to my quiet house after dropping off two children who were clinging on saying they didn't want me to go.

Kai was learning about caterpillars on Thursday and her teachers had encouraged them to bring anything relevant from home. She has a book about caterpillars and another about snails so she decided to take those. Slade then said that he wanted to take something too, and after some discussion decided on his photo album from our trip to the Kruger Park in September. Of course, Kai then insisted that she take her album too.

So off we headed. Slade's teacher was really pleased as she said that Slade had pointed out South Africa on the globe to his classmates the previous day. Slade was really pleased to show everyone his photos and seemed a lot more positive about school when he came home. Kai had to do some explaining about some of the animals in her album -- I realised this was going to be necessary when a baby hyena was identified as a dingo! That did remind me of how far away I am from South Africa.

Another heartwrenching moment was going to a parade that Slade has at school -- it's really like an assembly, just for the junior school. Parents are welcome to attend each week. They started it off by singing the Australian national anthem. It is the first time that I've heard it here, and it really brought tears to my eyes thinking that this is the anthem that my childre are going to learn and that the sounds of iNkosi Sikelele that both of them sang at various times after learning it at pre-primary are not going to be so familiar to them.

On a more positive note, while Australia really has been shaken by the fires in Victoria, it has been amazing to see a country coming together to provide support for the victims. Everywhere we look there are people raising money and giving in various different ways. Coles supermarket chain donated profits from all their stores nationally yesterday to the support fund, Slade's school is doing a sausage sizzle (something we haven't experienced yet, but a big fundraiser here -- a thin sausage on a piece of bread!) and there are lots of other fundraisers. There have also been floods in northern Queensland and it was incredible to hear that a victim of the floods handed back his cheque given by the government saying that it should go to the fire victims.

I must end by saying a belated "thank you" to Andrea for giving me an award for my blog. Being new to blogging and not having got an award before this is a new thing for me, but here goes:

The 'rules' are :

'This blog invests and believes in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes for self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!'

This blog award should be sent to your favorite eight bloggers and they, in turn should forward to eight of their favorites. You should include the text for Proximidade (above) in your announcement blog.

Being new to blogging (writing as well as reading blogs) I'm not going to get to eight, but I'm just going to mention a couple:

I have to include Andrea because she really is my inspiration for this blog.

Cara has started a web that is inspired by a great idea -- sharing fantastic business ideas that she comes across

Bronnie writes about her life in NZ after relocating there from Queensland with her husband and two young children. It's great reading about her experiences.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I decided to visit a South African shop this week. I haven't really felt a desperate need to get to one since arriving in Australia -- no 'I absolutely can't live without...' moments. But this week I was driving past one of the shops that I'd heard lots about and thought that it would be fun to visit and get a few things.

It was really wonderful to see some good ole South African things -- porridges and other cereals, washing or cleaning products, magazines, wine, biltong, of course, sweets, chocolates, biscuits and the list could go on.

I really am still getting used to the price of things here in Australia. It's so difficult when you multiply things by 7 as EVERYTHING seems to be really, really expensive. So while some of the things in the SA shop seemed to cost a lot of money, I found that in comparison to some of the Aus prices they really weren't too expensive at all. In fact, I thought that a couple of the SA products (like toothpaste) were cheaper than the Aus equivalent.

So what did I leave with, and what did it cost (as I remind myself again not to compare prices)?
Biltong and dry wors (of course) $10 each (not sure of the weight, but I think the biltong was just under 200g)
Jolly Jammers biscuits 3 boxes for $7 (they were on special and quite a lot more if bought individually)
Kreemy meel porridge $5
Chocolate log $2 (which I really really savoured)
Sunlight soap $1.80 (this was a big bar of soap to use for hand washing -- asking at a supermarket for soap for handwashing soon after I arrived, I got a really funny look, as if to say 'who washes anything by hand?! And there was only one box or pure soap flakes that was suitable for hand washing.)
Fizz pops 30c each
Mrs Balls chutney $5

Talking about food, I've found it really strange that when I do find some of the same products here, they don't taste the same. Chocolate Nesquik made by Nestle definitely doesn't have the same taste (I've eaten enough on ice cream to know), and the Milo container looks the same but the texture is different. Also they do have Bovril in the shops (made by Unilever in the UK) but it's a vegetable extract (and suitable for vegetarians even), whereas in SA ours was a beef and vegetable extract. They taste pretty similar though, and the kids haven't noticed that I've started to use the local version!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I have a job!! I'm going to be doing some hours every week from home for Sabona which is a magazine for people from southern Africa living in Australia. The magazine is a really great resource. It is available electronically for free, and a printed version is available in some shops (especially those selling South African products) throughout Australia.

Sabona's mission is to provide a positive environment for ex-Southern Africans to build strong new relationships and help make Australia their home. I'm really excited about being involved. I'm going to be writing some articles in the magazine and also producing copy to put on their website. They also get a whole bunch of emails with various requests, including asking for help for a large number of people who are being left without jobs in the current economic crisis. I'm going to help with responding to those.

Sabona also organises networking functions in various parts of Australia. Phillip has attended a business networking group that meets in Brisbane south, and I'm looking at getting together a similar group that will meet during school hours for those who are dropping kids off at school in the morning and can't attend the early function.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Settling in

Well, it's the start of the kids second week at school. They are riding their bicycles every day. Slade has a bike rack at school where he can park, but Kai had to ask her kindi if there was a place for her bicycle as it's the only one! They were quite happy for her to park it at the entrance to the school, between the little pedestrian gate and the door.

They really enjoy the riding and I've enjoyed the walk home and back to school to collect them. Last week was warm most times although I did get caught in some light rain on the one morning. It was actually quite refreshing though. Today was a different story. As I came out of Slade's school it started to pour, and pour. I made a quick dash for the bus shelter and thought I would try to wait it out. The rain here is often in short spurts, and then the sun is out for a while, before we get hit by another downpour!

So there I am hiding out in the bus shelter when I get joined by another mom who had made a dash from the school. She had got completely drenched, but was fortunate enough to have a car outside Kai's school which is a little down the road from where we were hiding out. We chatted for a bit and when the rain seemed to be subsiding a bit, decided to head out. Well fortunately my new acquaintance offered me a ride as the downpour wasn't as short as I'd hoped. Trudy lives just around the corner and usually walks her children too, but I sure was glad that she had her car with today. What an amazing way to meet a friend!

I also made an arrangement today to go to the home of a friend that Slade has made. Tyson particularly wanted Slade to go over to his home, but Slade wasn't so keen to go on his own. So we're going to go together, with Kai as well, on Wednesday afternoon. I've spoken to Tyson's mom Ayseak at drop off and collection times at school. They moved here about 8 months ago from NZ looking for a warmer climate where they're able to spend more time outdoors.