Saturday, June 14, 2008

625 Yellowstone

Last week Kelly, Casey and I moved into our new home on Yellowstone Avenue and Sinead stayed for a few days too before heading back to Missoula. It was quite tiring, especially as Kelly and I caught a nasty bought of gastro from Aiden and Evan (Tera’s twins) on the day before we moved in. Many in the family have suffered through this nasty bug. For us it was limited to a fierce 24 hours.

Anyway, it felt strange to unpack my dinner set and put it in American cupboards. I was so looking forward to making a home again, as we have been on the road in one way or another since the end of January. I am very grateful for the house, the beautiful old neighbourhood and all the blessings, but have to admit that a wave of Aussie homesickness swept over me as I realized that ‘this is it’ for the time being. I was unwrapping some crockery from a few pieces of butcher’s paper and suddenly wished it were a serving of fish and chips, something you don’t really get here (along with leaf tea and affordable lamb) Also, the house smells funny, like there’s a whiff of dodgy antiseptic. I know all the unfamiliar feelings will pass, but I suspect that will happen sooner if I acknowledge them and then let them go.

Two things recently brought home to me the fact that I am living in Billings Montana; firstly, Kelly cleaning his guns at the dining room table (in readiness for the rattle snakes out at Blue Creek) and secondly, going to a gun show where Sinead had a baked goods sale. I thought I would help her out a bit and made some fairy cakes. To my surprise she couldn’t sell a single one and eventually worked out why when a couple of cowboys were teasing each other about buying ‘fairy’ cakes. Kelly said I should have called them ‘gun slingers.’

Our furniture arrived on Thursday. Until then we were on swags and had a couple of cardboard boxes as a dining table. I have pretty much emptied all the boxes now, so at least I know where things are. Being a little house, it is a challenge to fit everything in the cupboards, but having the basement with an extra kitchen down there certainly helps. We also have a big box ready for St Vinnie’s. As we unpacked we asked ourselves why on earth we hauled so much of this stuff we don’t need across the planet. How embarrassing – and we tell ourselves we are not materialistic or environmentally irresponsible!

The other big event was that it was my first full week as Teen Coordinator at the Boys and Girls’ Club summer vacation program with about 25 teens in my group. I was mightily relieved when Chuck, the unit director who is not known for his effusiveness, pulled me aside on the second day and said ‘The teens really like you. I was surprised at how well it went, so kudos.” I am still getting my head around what it is that I am doing, and how the vacation program is different from teaching. It’s actually delightful to be around little kids in the afternoon too; lots of tiny, barely verbal girls who jump rope and swing off monkey bars with boundless energy, and boys who cry as soon as they are sent to time out but then want to be your best friend again five minutes later. Navigating my way around the pool table when the under ten year old boys are playing is hilarious. They wield their pool cues like planks in a Charlie Chaplin slapstick routine, and then climb up on the table to fling them in wonderfully unorthodox styles. I have one quiet, big boy from a nearby rural area who reads Louis L’Amour westerns at lunch time :) Lots of kids thought I spoke a different language because I am from Australia, and some of them asked me about the lions and hippos there. I have to confess that I occasionally put on an American accent or use American phrases for some of the little ones when they look blankly at me after I speak to them. As I become more settled in the house I hope to focus a bit more on making a really interesting program and learning all I can from the opportunity of this job.

Kelly has had a couple of promising job interviews in between doing lots of ‘man jobs’ setting up the house and garden here. He has had great help from Casey, Mick and Dad as usual. We now have a vegie garden all tilled and planted with lots of tomatoes, corn and other goodies. This is a real treat as we struggled in Alice, unable to dig the ground properly for fear of wrecking the irrigation system in the base house.

More good news for me is that my credentials are now all approved in the USA, so I am a step closer to getting a teaching position. At least I am fully qualified here now. Even if I have to do relief teaching again, my pay will go up from $65 to $70 per day! How will I spend that extra $5? Probably on a couple of those drive by coffees from ‘Mountain Mud.’ I confess that I became quite un-Australian in my pursuit of a permanent teaching position. There is a form that can be filled out by a teacher if they find the 'substitute' (relief teacher) was either incompetent or exceptionally good. At two of the schools where I subbed more than once for History and Modern World Issues, I offered to do presentations on Australia and got fantastic feedback. Knowing how busy teachers get, I took it on myself to photocopy the evaluation page and put it in the teacher's hand, asking if they would mind filling it out on my behalf. They were more than pleased to help me out. The next time I was in the Human Resources office, the ladies were excited to inform me that they had received some wonderful reviews on me, and I acted pleasantly surprised. In this great nation of competition and self improvement, I decided to get involved in some self promotion I would probably never have considered in Australia, and certainly not in Alice Springs where we all knew each other anyway.

Even more exciting than the positive turn in my prospects is the purchase of Mum’s first airfare to visit us. She will be arriving on August 22nd and staying for a month. That will be Fall (Autumn), and we can take a drive up in the mountains to see the aspens turning. Hooray!

Thanks again for the phone calls and emails. Can’t wait to see Dee, Tone and Bella in just a few weeks!