We've had a cool summer, but now that the tourists have all gone home to get their kids started at school, the sun has come out and the weather has become very warm. It got so incredibly hot today that at 6 in the evening the fan was still blowing hot air at me and there was no relief in sight, so I turned on the weather channel and according to them it was 41.1 degrees Celcius. That's 105 Fahrenheit! No wonder it was getting to be a bit much...
So we went down to the beach for an evening swim. It was so nice! The water was just right, although the air still felt like a furnace an hour later.
Evening Swim at Asling's Beach
February is normally the warmest month here, and the best for swimming because the water has warmed up by then. I don't know who decided that kids should start school in February in this country. It seems cruel, especially since most schools don't have air conditioning. But at least we have the beach!
Yesterday I picked up a hitchhiker at Pambula. He was headed to Eden, so we had a chat on the way, and he told me a great local story about himself. I wish I had asked his name and got a photo of him for you. He is probably about 60, very tall and slim, healthy looking with long grey hair and beard.
This man says he loves walking, so the distance from Pambula to Eden was not a worry to him, though it takes 10 to 15 minutes by car...
30 years ago, he was helping to unload tuna off a fishing boat. The tuna is packed in ice, and somehow he froze both his feet, way beyond the stage of mere frostbite. He ended up in a hospital in Sydney for 3 weeks, and at the end of that time, the doctors were going to operate and remove both his feet. He spent the night before the operation wide awake, thinking about what he was going to do, and realizing that despite his love of walking he would never walk again after that.
In the morning when the hospital staff came to do the pre-op on him, he was sitting in a chair next to his bed, fully dressed. They asked where the bloke in the bed was, and he told them "he's gone down the hall". When they went looking, he made his escape!
I was wandering around the Eden Library when this book caught my eye. Desert Queen - The Many Lives and Loves of Daisy Bates. I flicked through and it seemed quite interesting, but I especially wanted to read it because of the Aboriginal history.
In short, Daisy was a poor Irish Catholic girl who was orphaned at an early age. She was educated as a charity student at school for girls, where she picked up as much as she could by observing the well-to-do girls. By the time she was 20, she was on a ship bound for Australia, as part of a group of orphaned Irish girls. This was her big break. She realized that as a poor Irish Catholic orphan her chances of having a good life were very slim, so she applied her talents to the situation and reinvented herself as an heiress who was going to the colonies for the fun of the experience. She told the story so well, that even in her old age she was able to convince the historian who befriended her and interviewed her for her life story, that this was the truth.
Daisy had an interesting life, marrying three different men (including the infamous Breaker Morant) one after another, without divorcing. In those days, divorce would cost a woman her reputation and her social status. Daisy loved status, she did her best to move in polite society and cultivate powerful people as friends, and this was something which she continued to do through most of her life.
Daisy travelled all over Australia, worked as a governess, helped to drove her and her husband Jack's cattle, and even went as far south as Tasmania. She had one child who was dumped in a boarding school and left for 5 years while she went to England. When she came back, she had a mysterious sum of money which she invested in a cattle property with Jack, who mismanaged and lost the money.
I imagine Daisy lost hope in the dream of success via marriage, but in the meantime she had learned a lot about Aboriginal people, and had taken a personal interest in them. Over time, she began to spend more and more time with Aboriginal people, and wrote down many words from their various languages, as well as their myths and legends, in what became a huge manuscript.
Daisy felt for the Aboriginal people partly because, as an Irish Catholic who had no right to own land in her own country, she related to the plight of the dispossessed. She also had a feeling and a respect for their spiritual traditions and artwork, and felt that they should be allowed to keep their own religion and not be forced to take on Christianity.
Later in life, Daisy ended up living in Western Australia during the drought of the early 1900's. She camped next to the Aboriginal people and tended to their illnesses and provided food from her own meager funds.
She also wrote newspaper articles and scientific articles about the Aboriginal people, and did her best to bring their plight to the attention of the government. At one point she was named Protector of Aborigines, but due to her gender (and other distractions such as World War I) she was not paid for the position.
Some of the things she wrote are not approved of today, and it may be that she did it for the money, or that hardening of the arteries from years of a poor diet affected her ability to think clearly. On the other hand, the maps which she asked the warriors of the W.A. tribes to paint were later used in land rights claims, and her records of tribal languages were in some cases the only documents available.
Daisy finished her remaining years near Adelaide, still camped in a tent for a lot of the time. By then her Aboriginal friends from W.A. had moved to other places so she had no-one to go back to there, but due to her years in the desert and her slightly loopy ways, she had no real status and few connections in the well-to-do European community. It seems that by the time she knew enough to be truly useful in affecting government policy, she was no longer able to maintain the respect of government officials.
In some ways it seems that Daisy failed at everything she had set out to do... no husband, no acknowledgement from the academic world, no money. On the other hand she lived a truly unique life, especially for a woman of her time. She loved her freedom, the beauty of the desert, the Aboriginal people who returned her friendhip. She met Prince Henry, spoke at several scientific conferences, and experienced the beauty of this country from the tropics right down to Tasmania and W.A. I don't know how she felt about her life in her final years, but I hope her spirit looks upon that life as a life well lived.
The Watoto Children's Choir, all the way from Uganda, came to sing at the Eden Marine High School Hall tonight. I didn't know what to expect, but it sounded interesting so we went. The evening opened with songs from a local choir and some of the high school kids. Pastor Ozzie Cruze did the Welcome to Land address, which is his usual role as the representative of the Aboriginal people here (and by default the rest of us, I guess), and then Watoto burst into action Wow! These are kids, from about ages 8 to 15, and the amount of energy they put into the show was astounding. The African dancing was great, and the singing was very good too. The audience had a chance to join in with both, and that was fun. There were also video clips of the Watoto Childrens' Village, and verbal and video accounts of their lives in Uganda. The Watoto Childeren are all orphans, having lost their parents to Aids or war. Watoto is a Christian organization which aims to bring healing to these children, especially to ones traumatized by their experiences as child soldiers, and to bring them up as responsible Christians and future leaders. If these kids are any example, the future of Uganda is bright indeed!
The songs were all about Jesus. The Watoto group was equally intent on expressing their enthusiasm about Jesus and getting the audience to accept Jesus too. I can understand that religion has helped them and that the Christian Watoto group has been good to them, but as an escapee from religion, I hadn't bargained on being preached to! It was funny to realize that after all these decades of the West sending missionaries to Africa, Africa had now turned around and sent these missionaries to us!
After the show there were bags and beads and other unique trinkets to buy, all made by the women of the Watoto Villages, and there was also the opportunity to sponsor a child, baby or woman. If you want to check out their website go to http://www.watoto.com, it is a worthy cause.
I learned a lot about the situation in Uganda and life there, and I felt greatful in a way that these kids (and their carers) had come all the way to Eden to share their story.
(Apologies for the poor photo, it was the best my mobile phone could do under those conditions. I wish I had brought my "real" camera, then I could have got some photos of the dancing. The background was so nice!)
Eden whale festival is on this weekend, and we had the usual parade through the main street. The weather was great and the parade was good value, with vintage cars, trucks, old Harleys (with old riders, grin) and so much more.
The kids had fun watching, and collecting lollies which were thrown from the floats and vehicles.
On the front of this old truck it said "Click go the years", how true!
Sorry St. Joseph's school, my camera didn't do what it should and I've got no photo, but Eden Primary did very well. That poor kid waddled all the way! Well done penguin boy!
Mermaids and more from Eden Primary, above.
I'm not sure who these were, with the black and orange, maybe the dragon boat ladies.
The Sea Scouts looked pretty happy.
What would a parade be without bagpipes?
It's great to see Eden so alive, this must be the most exciting day of the year around here! After the parade passed, everyone walked down the hill to the wharf for the stalls and rides.
The Defence Jobs stall drew a lot of people.
The Dragon Boat ladies did their thing.
This little croc is 4 years old, and his owner says that he is allowed to keep him until he reaches a size of 1.2 meters, at which point he must be handed back to the crocodile farm. He is keeping his croc small by feeding him enough to keep him happy, but not so much that he will grow fast.
Check out the carpet python slithering down the lady!
Spray on tattoos again, at the Campbell-Page Youth Centre stall.
The kids were very happy to see that ride again!
The ride is over, but they will go back to do it again in the dark, when the fireworks go off this evening, woo hoo!
Sydney had dust storms today, and I think we were lucky that it rained here instead. I awoke to a strangely yellow sky, and looked out to find the mailbox coated in mud and my doggie friend's water a very strange colour!
Down at the wharf, our usually pristine bay looked like a mud puddle and the sky was not much better. Such a strange and dismal feeling.
With bush fires blazing all around the country, Eden got it's share of smoke today. Above, a smoky sunset this evening at Aslings's Beach. Below, sunrise this morning. Smoke from fires burning near Wyndham was high over Eden yesterday afternoon, below.