21 December 2005

Bad news

Christmas greetings from Sydney, current temperature 25°—that's 77° to you, seppos. And the first person who can tell me the meaning and origin of that word will get a nod in my next update.
I'm sure most of you have heard about the racial violence here in Sydney last week. If not, go to the Sydney Morning Herald website and read up on it. Basically, the violence erupted from tensions between the predominantly Anglo citizens of Cronulla and a group the media refers to as "Lebanese gangs." Cronulla is a beach community about twenty minutes by train from our apartment. On a Sunday afternoon, 5000 people gathered at the beach in an effort to "take back their beach," and a few hours and many beers later, the mob was out of control. Much of the violence that followed on Monday and Tuesday was retaliatory. It was very shocking for Heather and me. In our time here, we have been constantly impressed with the diversity of culture, and the celebration of this diversity. But after last weekend's riots, we are not so sure. Most people are embarrassed, but letters continue to appear in the paper saying, "yeah, they took it too far, but I've been to Cronulla and understand how they feel." On a more personal level, that same Sunday afternoon, Heather and I went to our favorite Indian restaurant around the corner only to find it was closed because their glass storefront had been shattered, certainly race-related. We spoke to the owner, and it doesn't appear he plans to reopen. I am curious what kind of news coverage this received in the States, particularly any editorials, so let me know what you had heard about it, or direct me to any online articles or editorials you have seen.

Good news

Now for the good news. Heather and I went to several historical museums when we first got here, and we found that to be very helpful in learning about our new home. I highly recommend that you visit these museums where you live and when you travel. One of the museums had an exhibit about Captain Cook and his explorations. We learned quite a bit about the exploration and discovery of Australia and the Pacific islands—reward enough in itself. However, there also happened to be a prize drawing tied to the exhibit. I highly recommend entering these, since fewer people tend to visit museums than your average shopping mall, and your odds of winning are greatly improved. You may win items like a nice dinner or tickets to a play. Or maybe, if you are very lucky, the exhibit may be sponsored by Captain Cook Cruises, and you could win a seven night Great Barrier Reef "ultimate cruise." Well, you won't win that particular prize, because we already did. Go to the Captain Cook Cruises website to see what kind of fun we will be having.
Now, there are some drawbacks to winning this trip. I have already thought of three. First of all, I am going to have to get my scuba certification sooner than I had planned. Second, we had planned to go to Tasmania in April (we hear the (southern) autumn colors are beautiful), but will likely have to postpone that trip a whole year and go on the cruise instead. Third, the cruise is courtesy of Captain Cook Cruises, but the airfare will be covered by the museum, which means I have to make an extra phone call to arrange. Before you scoff, let me remind you that local calls here aren't free—it will cost me an extra thirty cents just to arrange our flights. Into every life a little rain must fall. But do not worry, we will persevere through these trials and make the best of the situation, and of course, take lots of pictures.

12 December 2005

How we spent our Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago, Heather and I were faced with celebrating Thanksgiving in a country that doesn't recognize it. Heather had asked her co-workers if they had a Thanksgiving holiday at any time of the year, and the response was no. The reason: Despite the similarities in the founding of our two countries, there is one major difference. The US founding fathers came in search of freedom, while the AU founding fathers came in shackles. Nothing to be thankful for about that.
Anyway, we had decided to do nothing, since neither of us particularly care for traditional Thanksgiving food. But on Thursday, Heather got a little homesick as she was reading emails from friends detailing their holiday plans. So she came home with our plan: we would support American industries. We headed to Tony Roma's for dinner (babybacks!), then McDonald's for apple pie, then to the movie theatre, where we saw Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, an American film. I think a new tradition has been born.
Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving as well, and next year, consider the ribs.

Canterbury Boys High School

Since my last update, much has happened. If you remember, I said that I would be working as a casual teacher the next day. I found out that day that Canterbury Boys High School would be needing me every day the rest of the year, for a total of twenty days. This will be very helpful to Heather and me as we continue to pay off moving expenses and begin paying back school loans. It is also very surprising, considering the need for casual teachers is usually low at the end of the school year. That was Thursday. On Friday, Mrs. Martin (principal) called me into her office after school and offered me a temporary position for all of next year. This is the equivalent of a long-term sub position, and is the most they can offer me given my current visa status. It will be in the HSIE department (pronounced "hizzy")--Human Society and Its Environment. Think Social Studies. I am actually very excited about this, even if it is not English. This will give me the opportunity to learn much about Australian history and culture, and fully take advantage of our time here. In fact, these last three weeks of school, I will take over a Year 8 history class in order to orient myself with the department. Curriculum is thoroughly planned, often down to the day, and many resources will be available to me, so taking on a new subject area should be rather painless. There are no guarantees beyond next year, but Mr. Ponder (deputy principal) expects temporary positions to be available for the next few years to cover teachers on maternity leave. Given the way the education system here is set up, this has all been more than I could ask for, and Heather and I both feel very fortunate that I ended up at CBHS. Mrs. Martin, Mr. Ponder, and Daryl Currie (English Head Teacher) have all bent over backwards to get me in the school, and I have let all of them know how much I appreciate their help. In addition to job security, there are other advantages of this temp position over casual work. Over the course of a full year, casual pays roughly the equivalent of full time teaching, but there would be no checks coming during the holidays. With this temp position, I am paid the same as a permanent teacher, year round. Also, this position allows me paid leave--twenty days, in fact. As a casual, if I take a day off, I lose money. Anyway, this past week and a half has been interesting as a casual teacher. In a few weeks, I'll send some of the details of public school in Australia.