22 July 2018. Sunday 

“Wherever you go, there you are.” ~Jon Kabasa-Zinn

And so are the mosquitoes. ~Me  

I’ve carried the bug spray and Sarna on trips where we never took them out of the bag.  In Sydney and Uluru, I thought it would be the same this time.  In the tropical north of Australia, we are thankful to have carried both.  I swear if there is one mosquito on a continent, it finds us.  We have been found by more than one.

Silly pictures outside our hostel.

We’ve been in Port Douglas for 3 days and in need of a lazy day.  I start by declaring that a lazy beach day has become really hard for me but I will rise to the challenge. I had a wild idea of sunrise on the beach but settled for an early morning walk to the Sunday market and some breakfast.  The cafe we stopped in for breakfast had scones with jam and cream.  We indulged.  Scones were okay, not London or Chester but much better than Madison. Madison doesn’t serve scones with cream, definitely a mistake.

It is hot and muggy but a breeze at the beach, perfect beach weather.  Julia wants to swim in the pool.  She has been dying for more bookstore browsing time and that too can be indulged today.  I want an afternoon nap.  Scones and the market are a good start.

As a general rule, Australians are friendly and willing to engage in conversation at almost any time.  It has been easy to satisfy my conversational urges.   Waitstaff will stand at your table and chat, as will most vendors.  

Last night, at a Japanese restaurant, Julia wanted an udon noodle soup and the waitress said, ‘good choice for this weather.’ She meant winter. We hardly needed jackets.  The perception of winter and cold is interesting.  It is so warm that I keep forgetting that it is winter here.  There seems to be less birdsong than I am used to in a Madison summer but there is still some.  Quite wild sounding just before dawn and I swear that just writing the observation has coaxed more bird song into the air. There are fewer flowers in bloom but camellias are in hedges and something red is on trees. The center of town and around the resorts are planted in tropical color. The color is a bit less vibrant but then again it is winter, our February.

I scribble more notes, aware of the way I am detached from my home turf and free to re-look at the ordinary. I see magic in the conversations I engage in. An aboriginal woman at the Sunday market said that the stories of her people were passed down verbatim without much interpretation or updating for 10,000 years.  The stories were written down for the first time in the 1940’s. I wondered at choosing words for a 10,000 year old story in translation. Written words suddenly seem so still, the murder of a living tradition.  I know what it feels like to put my own wildish ideas on a page or into a screen.  What was breathing in my imagination gasps and stumbles. One flash of an idea needs 30 words weighing it down. Dreams needs reams of paper. I admire poets.  Maybe their perchance for spare capture is closer to an oral tradition than my prose. 

But prose, sometimes fiction, is what I have.

When I was thinking of a year away from Madison, I thought that after traveling for so long, I might consider relocating.  After this past school year and almost a month away, I can imagine easily.   The high school juggle has been exhausting.  My advocacy and villigence resulted in a pretty good time for Julia.  There was an art class each semester, choir with Mr. Cao, cheer team and biology with a great special ed Co-teacher.  I was still doing a lot of work at home to keep Julia involved in classes and doing well on quizzes and tests.  She made little progress in math. She still loves to read and write but I’m not sure that has anything to do with school.

I usually plan a math and reading curriculum for her summer and I began that for this summer.  We are reading Fahrenheit 451 that will be read in class next semester.  It is very slow going.  We will not finish the book this month, not even half. I don’t know if she can keep up with 10th grade reading no matter how hard we work before school begins but the is no alternative.  I haven’t had the energy for word problems which is the math work she needs.  She is reading a magical adventure book on her own and writing nightly in her journal.  She either draws or prints a photo on our tiny printer for each journal page.  This is the summer work that has been most successful. It is not an art journal yet, but she inches closer.

And although I got together with two art teachers and her case manager early this year to plan out Julia’s art curriculum for the next three years (loose plans), next school year, she is not scheduled for two classes a semester like we planned And no pottery at all. If she is not learning about art in an intensive way, what is she doing at West? I ask this same question over and over but I have no alternative worth considering. 

Before I left home, I got a call from the alternative school, Shabazz, that had rejected Julia in the Spring.  They are a public school but they don’t support special ed students.  The call was to tell me they were reconsidering their rejections, probably prompted by another pain in the ass mother, a good friend of mine.  I don’t know how good a match the school would be even if they accepted Julia.  They don’t have a great art program but it might be no worse than what she will get next year.  And then the issue of support. The official reason for the rejection was that she wasn’t doing grade level math.  That has not changed. It was the School’s special ed teacher who said there was no support and word of mouth said they didn’t take special ed students who needed support. I would guess the rejection was not legal, but a challenge didn’t seem worth the fight.  My exhaustion was showing.

Ah, six weeks away from the school year and I’m still obsessed.  Oy!  I promised to take vacation off!  I made 3 weeks.  Possibly not bad.  On the positive, the school and art issue is still important no matter how many times I put it down. I trust that if I keep looking something will be found.

The beach, the beach.  The sound of the surf.  Why don’t I live near pounding surf.  The Port Douglas beach is wide and the waves many and very small.  Not exactly pounding.  No surfers here.  People walk out very far to swim.  It is an easy walking beach, the sand, more of the lovely white Australian sand, is hard packed down.  People are riding bikes. It is pretty clean considering it butts up to a tropical forest.  The beach is busy but no where near full.  Lovely!  Julia plays in the sand; I write.

Yesterday, went to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure, a croc based wild life park.  I saw more crocs and learned more about them than I thought possible.  Lots of safety lessons for folks living in the north of Australia.   

On the drive back, we stopped at a beach look out and watch a person gliding and another one taking off.  The take off was a two person affair. I assume an experienced person was giving a newbie a ride.  I want to be that newbie one day.  To fly with sounds of a motor. Almost a bird experience.

M