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26C - Australia Diary – Hospital #4 May 9 – July 13 – Fourteenth Week
Saturday, Aug 12 – Rainy all day
VIBES Card – Share a breath – Give Michelle a chance and help her feel comfortable with the jobs, was what I got from this draw.
Ruth’s last day and she accompanied us to the joey pen for bottle-feeding before she left for Cairns. I will see her in December and know that she will be someone that I will recall fondly when I think of my time in Ravenshoe.
With Ruth leaving, she had decided to lighten her baggage and leave some stuff behind. I am now the owner of two new sets of beige trousers (that will replace one of my trousers that is soiled and I am not able to clean it adequately) and a danskin jacket that will be good for Europe. I am already beginning to plan what I will leave in Ravenshoe (the sleeping bag that I bought for Marlborough and several items that I bought at the local thrift shop for working at the hospital) and what I will ship home just as I leave Australia. I am also trying to decide if it is time to send one piece of luggage home or wait until after Spain. No idea at this point, but I am still pondering. I know I will do a major purge after South Africa as I will not longer need clothes for working around animals and will most likely send my boots and sandals home as well.
Michelle and I began the entire round of pens to have her see the entire scoop of duties. It began to spit rain that lasted all day. As I was filling water buckets, I began to weed a flowerbed that was a wonderful break from netting and wire. Michelle and I continued weeding until lunch, when the rain increased and looked like it was here to stay. Harry said to take a break today, as the weather was awful, so Michelle and I went into Ravenshoe for internetting. 37 birthday emails awaited me. It was a lovely afternoon. David Maurek got back to me with patron saints for gardeners (including Adam and Mr. Christopher), but I selected a lesser-known saint, as I figured he wouldn’t be very busy. So I asked Phocas the gardener, to assist with the pumpkins. I heard from Annie who was still in Scotland due to the terrorist plot in England. She says she will be able to fly home in 5 days.
When we returned, we were met my Harry who said he had spent 90 minutes retrieving 14 rabbits that had escaped from one of the lower outside pens. Ooops! Michelle learned the lesson of closing a pen completely as you leave the area. I remember learning that lesson when I let an entire pasture of cows out when I was leading trail rides one summer. Harry was very kind about it.
The rest of the afternoon found me reading, a quick dinner and then off to the caravan for the night. Slow days will be in short supply once I get to South Africa, so I plan to savor them while I can.
Sunday, Aug 13 – Market at Jacobs Bridge
Rained all night and another grey, snizzly day.
We all jumped to and fed quickly and Harry, Michelle and I went off to the market. It was sort of a flea market/produce market along the side of the highway, not far from the hospital. Harry bought veggies and some plants, Michelle and I bought hot donuts and I found three books. I know the weight, the weight, but I may be able to read them and leave them in Ravenshoe or in Sydney at least.
As it was still piddling when we returned, I decided to take advantage of the two days of rain to fork up the last bed in the garden and try and get some mulch mixed in. Michelle helped, but even with two days of rain, the bed was not what I would call workable. By the time we were finishing, the bus with the girls from St. Bernard’s College arrived to help. Harry had then tackle the still-cyclone-ravaged veggie garden with the downed papaya tree. At the end of the day, they had so much fun, they want to return every Sunday and finish the veggie garden and then continue with other tasks as assigned by Harry.
Phocas the gardener is already working 10 PUMPKINS SPROUTS IN VIEW TODAY! I nearly did a handspring!
With the colder, rainy weather, we have several new faces in the kangaroo pen this morning. A large agile wallaby Pepper, who was so stressed after the cyclone, she arrived back in the pen, demanded bottles and stuffed herself into a pouch meant for someone considerably smaller than she. This afternoon, we also have a little rock wallaby with baby in pouch that Karin recognized. Hopefully, the return of these little guys does not signal an approaching storm. We will see.
I spent a lovely afternoon reading and lounging and listening to Australia outside my caravan. What will I remember most? The dingo howling, the kookaburra’s laugh and their cute little faces as they arrive for handouts, Curleeta, the curlew without toes that arrives nightly for her minced meat, and the lovely magpies with their tuneful songs. What I will remember specifically from Ravenshoe is the sound of the rock wallabys landing on my caravan in the dead of night and the little hopping feet outside under the awning. I will also remember little Seddy’s call in the am as I go to the dunny reminding me that his bottle is late, and how Skippy, the pretty face wallaby, closes his eyes when he drinks his bottle.
PHOTO –Skippy and bottle
At dinner I received my two sponsorship certificates for Ashes and Princess Julie. Ashes is doing so much better, she is feeding her self when presented with mice and rats. My goal is to have her aviary completed before I leave so that she can really spread her wings and fly around. I also had the chance to review the revised brochure that Ruth and I worked on for the hospital. It looks good and they are pleased is it ready to go to the printer. It feels wonderful to see that your input has made a difference.
Monday, Aug 14 – Wiring and Netting Ashes aviary
Another rainy night but we awoke to the most marvelously bright and from what I could see, complete rainbow. We will have fine days this week I feel and it will feel good to get a lot done in the short time that I have left.
Michelle and I worked on the wiring of the owl aviary with Michelle working on her twisting wire technique. After 5 posts, she had it! We had all the wiring done today and we felt very proud of ourselves and very tired after two days off.
During out day, Harry had a call about an owl caught in barbed wire. She came in and she is a beautiful barn owl, with the feathers around her face making a perfect heart. She only appears to have damage to one wing and as we approached her cage, she did her I AM BIG routine and was very impressive. She is lovely.
PHOTO – Barn Owl
12 little pumpkins, all in a row!
Tuesday, Aug 15
13 little pumpkins, all in a row! Yippee!
Today, we worked on the netting of the owl aviary and it was not going as smoothly as I would have liked. We were expecting the arrival of two wwoofer’s from Germany but they did not appear to make the bus. Harry has asked me to show Michelle and the two girls all the different things that need to happen with the netting and wiring, so that they can continue when I leave.
At one point, Harry came by and said that the netting was almost too tight, more like wire. I guess I was in “keeping the charging rhino in his pen” mode again. Oh well, we eased up a little. Tomorrow we tackle the corners and the doorframe that I did not want to attempt in the wind today. I will ask the universe for sunny, cool and mild to no wind tomorrow as I might be up a ladder a lot tomorrow.
Tomorrow, we also bottom the rabbits, which will be a little tiring and hard on the back, but it is wonderful when they all have clean cages. It will also be my last time to totally clean the guineas. There are several that appear to be large with child, but no one has presented yet. Harry said they have looked this way for months and are only supposed to gestate for 28 days. We either have false pregnancies, very fat tummies or something very wrong with several of the guineas. I have asked Francis for his assistance on this matter.
Today, I also took video of Carlotta, the sulfur cockatoo, who has had a damaged wing for over 10 years, but had previous lived in a school classroom. She has a lovely trick of bowing to you if you say that she is pretty or bow to her.
PHOTO – Carlotta
Wednesday, Aug 16
15 little pumpkins smiling at the sun!
Today was going to be the day that Michelle and I finished the aviary. Nice thought but didn’t quite make it.
Before lunch, we bottomed the rabbits, which was quite a job, especially the outer cages that are now full of 6-14 medium size rabbits, all trying to get out as you are trying to clean. It is definitely not a one-person job, and I was concerned how Michelle would manage without assistance. I know, not mine to worry about. As we finished the last cage, which is now in the chicken house, a chicken introduced herself to the mix. I was crouched and trying to juggle my flake of straw, four rabbits and one chicken when I twisted my left wrist. It is not badly hurt, but painful when I flatten my hand and push with it.
We took a well-deserved rest and then I puttered around in the garden, counting little pumpkins sprouts, watering and weeding the three beds, two sweet potatoes and one of soon-to-be pumpkins. Next Michelle and I went to the aviary and tied the netting to the support poles. We figured we would get back to the corners after lunch.
After lunch, Harry, whose back is hurting a lot today and who took a morphine at lunch without any improvement, decided it was time to put up the moveable pen that has been laying in pieces in the cage yard. He said it would take 10 minutes. We began to assemble the pieces and he found that the wire was on the wrong side of the panels. Then, most of the panels had been pre-drilled and numbered, but when they painted over them, the numbers were covered up and forgotten. Add to that, the panels have been laying out in the elements and wind and are not quite square anymore, and you begin to get picture of the puzzle we were trying to reconstruct. With Harry on the drill, me with my wrist on holding the two pieces together and Michelle on panel support and nut and bolt fetcher, off we went. We had 5 pieces set after about 45 minutes and when were about to add the last piece, when we found that it was two-inches shorter than the rest. Then Harry remembered that he had used one section over at the eagle enclosure, so off we trooped with the short piece to replace the one that we were removing from the eagles. We got it back and it fit, with a little finagling. Now it was time to find the roof pieces – two were needed. The first one we tried looked like it was going to be okay, until when we just about had it in position, we realized it was too short and it fell inward, nearly missing Harry and gouged a large rip in the wire near the corner. Luckily the second one fit and with more huffing and puffing and Michelle and I holding our breath, Harry managed to get it bolted together. Harry remembered that they final piece is covered with shade cloth and it the panel we have to keep picking up and readjusting at the other end of the yard every time the wind blows. What is left after our adventure is 5 pieces of a cage, 2 with doors and we aren’t even sure that all 5 pieces are the same size. Luckily, I won’t be around for that puzzle construction.
Tomorrow is my last full day of work at the hospital. Harry keeps telling me that I get the day off. I keep telling him that when I am on a placement, I want to work as I vacation between placements. Plus, he gives us two days off every week and I don’t feel comfortable lounging while the rest of the group is working. My goal tomorrow, is to get the four corners finished on the aviary. We will see.
More about daily life at the hospital - Michelle, as the last one to arrive, is on dish duty. The kitchen has a gas range and stove and counters and shelves for supplies. There is one fridge that is cold, and another that is for storage of things in bags and packages. There are two microwaves, one that works and one that is used as a breadbox. We found that you cannot use the microwave and the toaster oven at the same time or you blow a fuse. When that happens, we unplug the cold fridge, wait three minutes, reset the power strip and plug the fridge back in. An insurance adjuster would gasp in horror if they saw the nest of wires at most of the power strips.
Outside the kitchen and around the corner of the building is a stainless steel sink. Under the drainpipe is a bucket to collect the water. The sink is stoppered and filled with water pumped up from the river. Next to the sink is a baby bathtub, filled with the water for rinsing. Next to that is a basin for hand washing and four small buckets of water to add to the system when needed. The procedure is to empty the bucket under the sink before you begin, stopper and fill the sink with water and soap. Clean the dishes and rinse them in the baby bathtub and then let them air dry. When the water gets nasty, drain the sink into the bucket, restopper and start again. As with all dirty water on the grounds, as you dispose of it, you water the closest plant. The liquid soap that they use is from Vietnam, but it is really Sunlight and it is fabulous at cutting grease with cold water. After the dishes are dry, they are put back into the kitchen and the four buckets are kept loaded with water for the next set of dishes.
Basically, anywhere there is a water tank, you tend to leave buckets loaded ready for the next person or the next day. There is nothing more frustrating that getting ready to work and have to spend time filling buckets before you can properly begin. This reminds me what Mom made me do when I was learning to sew. If I made a mistake, I had to pick it out before I left it, so when I returned, it was clean and ready to begin again. Thanks Mom. I hated the lesson then, but the wisdom of it is finally clear.
Next to the sink is the rainwater tank with tap where we fill the bottles of water that we use to drink and cook with. About every four days, a collection of empty bottles is put by the tank and we fill them up and take them back into the kitchen. As I watch these systems work, I realized how much I take for granted the availability of reliable electricity, abundant clean water and the ease of my life in the US. The systems I have seen in use in Australia at all four of my placements are not really that hard, but they take forethought, consistency and diligence so that nothing is wasted or thrown out when it can be reused.
I am leaving Australia in 4 days and I feel complete on this placement and with Australia for this trip and I am ready for my next adventures. It has been wonderful to be in two countries back to back where language was not an issue and where I pretty much understood the culture. It has been fun to work with animals and to be in longer placements with fewer people. I have felt more like a productive member of the work team and it has been nice to have the chance to develop routines. I find that when I was on the two-week placements, I would finally get in the groove and it was time to go.
Thursday, Aug 17 – My last full day of work
Vibes Card – check your vibes.
16 little pumpkins waving at me! I will do one last check first thing tomorrow and see if we can make it to 17!
Wrist is much better and I have been using Traumeel – a natural anti-inflammatory. I have it both pill and lotion form and it does the trick. It has lots of Arnica and Echinacea in it.
This was to be the day that I would finish Ashes aviary. Michelle and I began to work on one of the back corners. Midway during the morning Harry asked if he could use Michelle because the backhoe was coming today. It took me a while to understand backhoe in his Austrian accent, but that is what it was. He asked me to finish the netting around the door so that he could put the door on properly. I began to work around the door and it began obvious that I would need to finish the corner before I could finish around the door. I tried to do it by myself, but I found I could not load the clipper tool and hold the netting with enough tension to make it work. I found that Michelle was weeding so I went to ask Harry if I could borrow Michelle to finish the door.
He said that he needed her to finish the weeding because the backhoe was coming to move the crushed rock and he wanted the weeds out first. He said I should sit down and have a coffee and that I was a work-a-holic. I was not at my most balanced when I told him I would help her before the backhoe came so that she could help me with the door. I harrumphed off to find a spade and help Michelle. (They say that you take yourself with you wherever you go, and I have taken the agenda driven part of me on this trip. I had hoped to leave her home, but she does show up every so often. I was not feeling pleased with myself and how I handled that interaction. NOTE TO SELF – It is not your project, it is their project, and you are only assisting. YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL AND YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO BE IN CONTROL!)
As soon as I got back to Michelle, Harry arrived with another spade and showed us how to do the work efficiently. We were being too timid and would never have finished the job by the time the backhoe arrived at 3pm. I apologized to Karen and she said, not to worry, it will all get done. She was very generous. I also apologized to Harry for snapping at him and he asked when had I snapped. I showed him my harrumph movement with my arms and he laughed and said if everyone snapped at him like that, he would be in good shape. Again, he was very generous. For the rest of the afternoon, everything was lighter and with a firmer understanding of what the backhoe was going to do, Harry, Karen, Michelle and I, weeded a bigger area, moved the mound of potting soil into as many pots as they had and then relocated the pile to an area where the backhoe would not go. Harry did my harrumph arms movement several times. At least I caused some comic relief this afternoon. Michelle said that he had thought weeding would be easy. Not on this scale it isn’t. I got a great workout today with the spade
(I had just had this conversation with myself yesterday about needing to be a drama queen and build up tension so that I can harrumph and feel better. At 47, you would think I would have figured out that this does not work as I would like it. Maybe by the time I am 48.)
When all the spading and weeding was done and we were still waiting for the backhoe to arrive, Michelle and I finished the netting around the door and the corner. There are only two more corners to go on that aviary and once it is landscaped, it will be ready for Ashes. I will not see it, but I know that it will be finished without me.
Friday, Aug 18 – Off to Cairns and then Sydney
I was up earlier than usual to get packed, check the pumpkins and otherwise say goodbye.
I was hoping for 17 little pumpkins and I found 18 plus a little stem with the leaf off. I will only claim 18 LITTLE PUMPKINS! YAAH!
I know you will find it hard to believe, but Harry was having difficulty reading my writing! He had asked me for a brief synopsis of me for the newsletter and for an entry in their volunteer visitors book. So I read them to him and it looked like he was really touched. I had a chance to say goodbye to Raja, the cat, my favorite cage of rabbits, Ashes the owl and the new barn owl.
Now that I was leaving, Dusty, the mature eastern grey kangaroo, who will never leave the property, was finally treating me like one of his mob and kept coming up for treats, scratches and attempting to box with me. I think it was because I gave him a chocolate biscuit to get him out of the kitchen one morning. He is only allowed one, and he expects it thank you very much.
I said goodbye to Karin, Michelle and Harry and I went off in the car for the bus. No tears, but many heartfelt thanks and him telling me that I was one of their best volunteers. He said it was not common to be able to ask a volunteer to help direct the other volunteers. It was a lovely compliment.
The bus was the local commuter between Ravenshoe and Atherton (one hour away) and we picked up and dropped off many school-aged kids. In Atherton I had the chance to grab a quick coffee before loading on to the larger bus for Cairns (another 2 hours away). Total cost A$33, or about $25 US.
The first stop in Cairns was the airport, so I got off and was able to check my luggage in for my 7:15 flight to Sydney. YAAAH! I love Virgin Blue. This is the second time they have taken my luggage many hours prior to my flight. I then cabbed into Cairns and spent most of the day internetting and checking emails.
I did go down to the mall for a wonderful carrot/ginger smoothie and went to the department store in search of gifts. What I found was the recently released DVD of an Australian miniseries about Irish convicts sent to Australia in the 1800’s. It was called Against the Wind and it was shown on US PBS in the early 70’s. I had been researching the available of video or DVD of this before I left the US, but at the time, all they had was a pirated copy from one of the actors. I had an email once I was here that it might be available and I FOUND IT. Not only that, it was not restricted to region 4 (which is Australia’s region for DVD’s. The US is region 1) Rumor has it that they will be doing away with the regions soon as there is so much pirating going on, they cannot control it any way. I haven’t played it yet, and I haven’t decided if I will try and load it, or just carry the 4 DVD’s with me.
I cabbed back to the airport for my wait for the plane. We were 30 minutes delayed getting off, but my luggage was the first off the plane and I was at my hotel before midnight. I had left what I thought were two pieces of luggage at my hotel in Sydney. They only had one, which I took upstairs, and they promised to look for the other one and let me know. As I began to unpack, I found that I had managed to pack everything into my duffle, so I went back downstairs to tell them all was well.
I have had that happen several times on this trip. I remembered something a certain way, when I get back to it, it appears lost, but what has happened is that I have been even more prepared and together than I thought. Thank you angels for keeping me on track.
Stayed up until 1pm reorganizing things and trying to figure out what to take, what to mail, and what to leave behind for someone else.
END OF ANOTHER PLACEMENT. Only 5 more to go and I am home.