Monday, June 16, 2008

On the Townsville, Chapter Five

Okay, so it’s been a while. It hasn’t been the best year ever (read: a total bust and a waste of my precious youth…) so I haven’t exactly felt inspired to write and tell you all about it. However. Things are on the up and up, I think, and I’m starting to feel a bit better about the whole situation – I’ve stopped with the daily mantras of “Suck it up, Princess” and “Well, it can’t get any worse,” which I think is a good sign – so maybe this is the perfect time to bring you all up-to-date on the rip-roaring good time that is Townsville 2008 (before it gets bad again and I decide not to write after all…)


Teachers’ College is still total crap, but I loved my first placement and am looking forward to getting back in the classroom for the next phase – some time in August, not sure of the details. I’m supposed to be sent out into the bush somewhere, so hopefully they’ll let me know where I’m going sooner than later so that I can set up some kind of living arrangements… Or whatever. I have a sleeping bag, I can figure it out.

Wallaboo is a beautiful school with really lovely kids and no real dress code, which is the definition of a good job as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t have to go out and buy dorky “professional” clothes, but could just wear whatever skirts, jeans and tops I felt like, and the students were endlessly pleased with having what they described as a hippie teacher. (They could barely contain their excitement the day I brought in my guitar for a musical send-off – apparently hippies are back in? Or at least, faux-hippies?)

As well as thinking that I was fabulously bohemian, the kids were convinced that I was having an affair with Mr. D, the funny seventh-grade teacher who is the only permanent male staff member and thus the only possible candidate for such a scandal. What were the events that prompted these rumours, you ask? Two things: first, I was assigned to Green House for the full-school track-and-field day, as I happened to be wearing green, and so Green-Captain-Mr.-D and I spent the morning leading cheers and rounding up groups of sweaty, confused, dehydrated Greenies. Then, that same afternoon, we stood together at the awards assembly, as our classes sit next to each other and this was the only place we could stand, and we talked for about thirty-five seconds about how things had gone for our sad, defeated Green House, before hushing up for the assembly and monitoring the kids.

Doesn’t seem like much, but apparently this is more than enough material for upper primary students to work with; by the end of the day Mr. D and I were in love, possibly secretly married, definitely dating, and the kids were giggling madly into their hands if we were spied anywhere remotely in the same vicinity. (My classroom directly faces his and the staff room – and only washroom – is in-between the two; we were, by definition, in the same vicinity pretty much all the time.) They asked me if I played love songs for him on the guitar, they told him that sunflowers are my favourite so that he won’t go wrong on our next date, they wrote Mr. D loves Miss Thomas on the blackboard in my room, they advised me on which clothes make me look prettiest (one boy: “if I were you, I’d wear a lot of green because it makes your eyes look like cats’ eyes”)… it was a very exciting week, to say the least. I’m back at Wallaboo for all of October, so it will be interesting to see if the time away has diminished or aggravated their commitment to this Very Exciting Situation. I will keep you posted.

Theft and Bicycle Assembly

Now, if my bike was stolen from the beach, in broad daylight, while I was having a little swim-and-read, how likely is it that I had locked it up properly? I SUSPECT that I was distracted by something, possibly by my discovery that the left brake had come apart, and didn’t actually lock the bike to anything. Locking the handlebars to the basket isn’t necessarily the best security strategy I could have come up with, is all I’m saying here.

Whatever the reason for the grand theft cyclo, I went back to K-Mart to buy a new bike – and helmet, lock, basket, lights and pump, bloody hell – and none of the assembled ones looked very appealing, so I chose the one I wanted and decided to just assemble it at home. I thought I’d take everything out of the box, just to see where we were at, and I saved time by pulling off all the taped-on packaging as I went. Then I looked at the booklet of hieroglyphics that claim to be assembly instructions, I turned the various bike parts around a few times, hoping for a clue, and ultimately I stuffed all the now-unprotected parts back in the box, drove back to K-Mart and paid the sixteen dollars to have the thing assembled, which took a week and did not, apparently, include putting air in the tires. In case you were wondering.

Adieu, my fair sky-blue Turbo bicycle, and god speed. Hopefully the punk kid who stole it discovered that the brakes were shot by crashing into a tree, or something karma-appropriate like that. More to the point, hopefully the kind of punk kid who steals someone’s bike won’t want to steal my new pink one; I’m considering getting handlebar tassles and those little clicky things for the spokes to further deter possible punkage – though then I might not want to ride it myself, which I reckon would defeat the whole purpose. Besides, I have a fancy new lock, with a KEY. I just need to remember to use it.


Waitressing is generally a good time, as there are all manner of shenanigans going on in the kitchen. Also, sometimes I get free mud cake. Yum.

The drawback: waitresses get asked on dates, usually from within the safety of a group of dining colleagues/friends. This might actually be a bullying strategy, because I find that I don’t want to embarrass them so I say yes, and then I end up on these totally lame dates, listening to some yobbo jock tell me about the car he uses for drag racing and how much money he makes and all the clever ways he has of not spending it.

Remember how I was going to meet Ben, my funny, clever and interesting marine biologist? Well. I have met more marine biologists than I can shake a coral reef at, and let me tell you something: they’re a bunch of frat boys who care about the planet about as much as I care about drag racing.

I suspect I’ll keep getting suckered into these awful dates – at least I get a free dinner out of it, right? Thursday is taking me for Indian food – but I can more than abandon the charade that I’m going to meet any kind of successful romantic match here in Redneck Central, where there are no men, but only little boys in men’s bodies. Nothing like a whole year of me-time; some healthy introspection can only be a good thing.

(Who am I kidding? I’m chomping at the bit here! Where are the real men? Send me a man, dammit!)


I do love a good epiphany, and one Wednesday night, halfway through the game when the whistle was blown for maybe the eighty-sixth time, I realized that I fully and completely hate netball. Worst game ever. Any time you build up some kind of rhythm, you’re booking it up the court and feeling really good about whatever cool move you just pulled, they whistle you out for something – obstructing, stepping, holding, blocking, itching, scratching, whatever. The worst is when I have to defend, because my feet have to be three feet from the person with the ball. This is pretty irritating for anyone, but at least the seven-foot tall women on my team can reach across the three feet and still kind of – kind of, at best – block the ball. Me? I got nuttin. I basically just wave my hands around people’s shoulders while they stop, get comfortable, take aim and score, and I usually still get whistled out for obstruction because I can only stay leaning forward on my tippy-toes for so long before gravity takes over and I step forward, breaking the three-foot rule and getting them a free shot.

No more netball: I thought you might like to know.

My New Home

I have been blessed with the friendship of my pal Jess, a fun girl at the best of times and a life-saver at the worst, such as when I need her help (and her utility vehicle) to move my stuff yet again. By now we’re almost professional: we can take my bed apart in under four minutes and load the ute in under twenty, and nothing even gets touched by bike chain grease.

Living with my bosses, Jim and Millie, was a lot of fun, and I still miss that beautiful, swanky apartment and its bean-shaped pool. They moved into a two-bedroom apartment, though, and I would have had to live on the couch, besides which living with the bosses meant that I was even more the go-to girl than usual and was working crazy shifts, as it was hard to say no when I was part of the family. (Being the only staff member who does not suffer from three or four hangovers a week, I’m their official Reliable Employee and end up picking up a lot of slack at the best of times, not to mention when we share a bathroom…)

I stayed a couple of stressful months with a girl I knew from uni and her housemate before I found the place where I’m living now: it’s two seconds from the nudist beach, my favourite place in Townsville (I didn’t come all the way here to have tan lines!) which makes it five minutes from work and forty minutes – down from fifty-two! – to uni. Roommates are Steve, who works at the museum and seems fussy but is actually hilariously funny, and Mark, a business guy who gave me his extra laptop to use and has been a fun garage sale and cooking buddy. (He even made lamb palatable – no small feat, I assure you.)

I got milk crates from work – strapped four of them on to my body with my bike lock and rode very slowly home – and a side table from St. Vinnie’s, and the landlords and I got along so well that they brought me their extra wardrobe. My room looks AWESOME, just for the record. This is a picture of the view from my window.

I worried about being a busy-body, coming into an apartment and OCD-ing my way around the place, but when I suggested a possible re-arrangement of the living room furniture, they jumped right on it and were quite pleased with the results. So… I decided to get comfortable. I borrowed some bar stools from work – another fun bike ride home, only this time a police officer pulled me over because he thought I was stealing public property; I had to show him the text messages with the okay from Jim, which I bizarrely and providentially hadn’t erased – and got some baskets and things to help keep things tidy in the bathroom and kitchen. Pretty turquoise baskets, a woven floor mat for the kitchen…? Great, said Steve and Mark, we love it! Sunflower pictures hanging in the kitchen and bathroom? Have I gone too far? Beautiful, said Steve and Mark; why don’t you hang some in the living room, to complete the theme?

Steve and Mark: best roommates ever!

Mark and I donned our skulking-around-garage-sale jackets and caps and set out on a Saturday morning patio furniture mission; we also found a mirror for my room, a book shelf for his and a bunch of giant plants that have turned the balcony into a jungle and will make our poker games into a tropical adventure. (I lost the last one and have to make dinner, so I’m going to make crepes; eating Nutella makes everything okay, even losing at poker…)

It’s been a bumpy road, but I think it was all meant to get me to this apartment, these roommates, this location and this jungle patio; if I’d been less miserable in the other places and had stuck it out, I wouldn’t have met Mark and Steve, the heroes of Townsville 2008. See? Everything for a reason, my friends. Everything for a reason.

Funny Australianisms

We all know “no worries” – but had you heard “you’re alright”? As in, I bump into someone and say sorry, and they’ll say “y’ar-right” instead of “that’s okay” or similar. Kind of weird, isn’t it?

I like this one:
“Can I get another schooner of Heineken?”
“Too easy, mate.”

The only people saying the word “sheila” are foreigners who try to sound Australian. What the Australians say, it turns out, is “hey, doll, can you pass me that side plate?”
And even though they say it to everyone, I feel kind of lovely every time. I’m an easy sell, it turns out.

The plural “youz”? Totally acceptable here.

As for dangerous slang, the Canadians have all been warned about wearing any Roots paraphernalia, as our great Canadian clothing line is the equivalent of the f-word, as in “whose leg do you have to root to get a drink around here?” Anything to do with reggae music or taking the bus suddenly becomes very tricky indeed.

And here’s a funny one: my friend Whitney and I spent a couple of days in the Blue Mountains. Our couch surfing host, Sam, picked us up at the train station and asked if we were hungry, but we had spent the train ride snacking on almonds and pitted dates. I said “we’re good, we’ve just spent the last hour sucking on dates” and he almost choked on his gum; when he stopped laughing, he explained that “date” is a slang word for – ahem – bum hole, so our train ride sounded a lot more daring than it actually was. Tee-hee!

Concluding Paragraph

I just spent a really great week in Sydney but that will be for another day; now that I have a lap-top, I can write whenever I want to (if I can tear myself away from Minesweeper…) and just pop it on the internet when I get the chance. You’re going to have updates up the wazoo, you lucky ducks!

See youz,


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