I will be starting a new job at Fremantle Hospital in February. I was accepted to a position as a physiotherapist assistant (PTA) as of December 2nd. 

I haven't made any plans to get licensed as a physiotherapist here in Australia. I have been happy to be working at the school canteen and making some money. One week, I happened to email one of my past client's family and just reconnecting to that family got me thinking that I really miss my old job. That week, on a Friday night, I looked at the government website to find a job posting for this PTA job. The application had to be completed by Monday, so that weekend I went to work to get a resume together.
I interviewed for the position on Nov. 13th. I really felt God nudging me throughout this process and feel that this is God's plan.

I was asked to begin on Feb 9th and will be able to work 3 days a week as I requested. It is a 45 minute drive to the hospital as Fremantle is up the coast, closer to Perth.

I have 2 more weeks of work (3 days a week) at the canteen and then will enjoy our summer holiday together as a family. The boys' last day of school is Dec 16th.

Here's a map showing where Fremantle Hospital is in relation to our house.  You can click on the map to move around and zoom in.  If you change it to "Satellite" view, you can zoom in and see the sprawling hospital campus in Fremantle.


Peter bowlsIt's a warm December evening so the boys were out in the driveway playing cricket after supper tonight.  They use the driveway as their "pitch".  They set up their baseball pitch-back net as a backstop - although there isn't such a thing in cricket.  We still need to buy a set of "stumps" - the 3 posts behind the batsman that hold the "bails".

In short, the game is all about a bowler throwing the ball on one bounce toward the stumps, with the batsman's job of using his bat to keep the ball from knocking the bails off the stumps.  If the batsman hits the ball, he and his partner run between stumps (also called "wickets") to score runs. (learn more about cricket here)

Cricket is the number one summer sport in Australia.  The biggest competitions are the "test matches" played over 4 or 5 days between Australia and other international teams like England, India, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies.  They play for about 6 hours on each of those 4 or 5 days, and the entire match is usually live on TV and radio if it's a test match.  Each team usually scores several hundred runs a match.  The boys and I are hoping to go see Australia play South Africa at the WACA in Perth in a couple of weeks after the school year ends.

Karl batting in cricketI'm enjoying watching cricket for many of the same reasons as I like baseball.  It has a similar pace to baseball, as there's time between each bowled ball to reflect on the game and talk about the history of the game.  The real fans are obsessed with statistics like baseball nuts would be.  The best players seem to have a balanced temperament that matches the pace of the game.

Peter has been playing cricket at school every day at lunch and recess since we first came here.  He's got some friends who are pretty good at it.  Karl and Dane play cricket at times at school, although Aussie Rules Football is stil their game everyday at lunch.

Three Videos from the Action Tonight

Here's video of Peter showing his bowling form - which is actually
looking pretty good. The bowlers have a run up and then a kind of
skip step before bowling a one-bounce ball whilst keeping their
elbow straight.

 

Finally, here's some video of Karl batting and running between
wickets.  Notice how despite his hobbling around the house, he's
now running just a little over two weeks after breaking his toe.

 

And here's Dane bowling to Karl...

Although snow and sleigh rides are oddly connected to Christmas even down here in the midst of summer, there have been some attempts to adapt the Christmas traditions to the local flavour.  We were given a CD titled "Christmas in Australia".  Some of the titles include: "The Colours of Christmas", "The Three Drovers", "Christmas Where the Gum Trees Grow", "Report of the Stockmen", and "Six White Boomers".  In case you need some translation: drovers and stockmen relate to the wool industry, gum trees are the eucalyptus trees some of which are home to koala bears, and boomers are male kangaroos.

My Year 2 students taught me the Aussie version of Jingle Bells as written by a bloke named Colin Buchanan. Here's how it goes:

 

Aussie Jingle Bells

Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden Ute,
Kicking up the dust, esky in the boot,
Kelpie by my side, singing Christmas songs,
It's Summer time and I am in my singlet, shorts and thongs

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Engine's getting hot; we dodge the kangaroos,
The swaggie climbs aboard, he is welcome too.
All the family's there, sitting by the pool,
Christmas Day the Aussie way, by the barbecue.

(refrain)

Come the afternoon, Grandpa has a doze,
The kids and Uncle Bruce, are swimming in their clothes.
The time comes 'round to go, we take the family snap,
Pack the car and all shoot through, before the washing up.

(refrain) 

 

Aussie to American translation notes
 
The bush is the remote land of Australia from which comes much of the Aussie national identity.

Holden is an Aussie car maker owned by GM.

Ute is the iconic and still very popular Aussie utility vehicle with models made by several car makers today.

An esky is a picnic cooler, as in eskimo.
 
(To put some of this together, see this photo of a true Aussie esky... a ute filled with ice and beer.)

The boot is the trunk of a car (the bonnet is the hood).

kelpie is an Australian sheep dog.

singlet is a tank top.

Thongs are flip-flops for your feet.
 
Beaut is short for beautiful, as in a beaut ute.

swaggie would be like a hobo or homeless roamer.

Snap is short for snapshot or photograph.

The school year is coming to an end on Tuesday this week, and I still have to confess that I never did completely master the names of the 420 students I had each week (plus about 60 more names that I only had in the first semester).

Whilst it's not like dealing with a list of student names from India or Japan, there are plenty of names around here that are not as common in the US.  I've had multiple each of Liam, Lachlan (or Lochlan), Riley, Brodie (or Brody), Aden (or Ayden), Haydn (or Hayden), Jayden (or Jaydon), Rhys (or Reece), Callum (or Callam), Kahlia, Georgia (three in Dane's class), Chloe, Harleigh, Olivia (and Olivera), Zali (or Zahli or Zarlee), Lucy, Mikayla (or Mikyla), Madison (or Maddison), ... among many other multiples.  Then there was Caitlan, Cairney, Cariss, Ciara, Kiara, Kai, Kailan, Kahlia, Kaelah, Kayla, Karina, Keelan, Keenan, Kieran, and Kyra.  Also Declan, Demi, Danique and Danica.  Peter's friends include Cameron, Tynam and Yoel.

On the spot, my favourite names (not necessarily favourite students): Hayden, Danique, Zahli, and Luther.

These thoughts about names were spurred by a story I read today from a Sydney newspaper reporting the top baby names of 2008 in the Aussie state of New South Wales (where Sydney is).  So, I checked and found the most current list of popular baby names from Western Australia (current list from 2007).  Here they are:

Girls 2007 in WA Boys in 2007 in WA

Ella

Emily

Chloe

Mia

Charlotte

Olivia

Isabella

Grace

Ava

Sienna

Jack

Joshua

Riley

James

Ethan

Thomas

Lachlan

William

Lucas

Daniel

 

I think I had 16 of those 20 in my classes. The complete lists of the top 50 baby names in WA can be found here.

Peter GraduatesPeter was going to break this story on the web site, but that was a week ago and I thought the news needs to get out.  So, I'll tell a little and show some photos, and then hope he has more time to tell about this after the school year ends tomorrow.

At Living Waters Lutheran College, the middle school includes Years 6 to 9, hence at the completion of Year 9 they graduate to senior school.  Peter and his 129 Year 9 classmates had their graduation ceremony on Wednesday, 9th December.  It was held on the Mandurah waterfront at the Performing Arts Centre - about 30 minutes down the coast from our house.

Peter was awarded significant academic honours as the best Year 9 student in Design & Technology (woodwork and art) and in Christian Studies.  By virtue of his Christian Studies award, he was asked to read the Bible reading at the ceremony (Romans 12).

Peter receives diploma

 

Mandurah Performing Arts Centre

Karl at his Year 5 junior school graduationWe celebrated our second graduation in a week tonight.  Karl graduated from Year 5 marking the end of Junior School and the move into Middle School.

Karl's class had a ceremony in the chapel on our Warnbro campus at Living Waters (same building as our church).  It was very nice program with some drama, choir singing, and a message from Mr. Kupke - Head of Primary School - on the theme of "Crossing Bridges".

 

Karl's graduation class of 57 Year 5 students

It's not what we're used to at Christmas time, but we certainly enjoyed this.

There's a popular Australian tradition that communities and churches host "Carols in the Park" or "Carols by Candlelight" programs outdoors in the evening in the weeks leading up to Advent.  On a warm summer evening, you come to the park with chairs and cool drinks to sing along to Christmas carols as the sun goes down.  The kids wave glow candles and other battery powered candles and eat ice cream.

We attended the "Carols by Candlelight" put on at the Halls Head campus of our college down in Mandurah on Sunday, 14th December.  It had been 38°C (101°F) during the afternoon as Peter rehearsed with the band outside, but it cooled down into a beautiful cloudless evening by dusk which came just before 9pm.  Peter and the band, which included our Pastor Mike and his wife and our good friend Wolfgang (on trumpet with Peter) were terrific in leading us in the classic Christimas carols, plus the Aussie version of Jingle Bells.

And, yes, we were well aware of the weather back in Minnesota which was approaching blizzard conditions and severe wind chills.  (I'm just now catching on TV the weather report on Fox News saying it's -28°F wind chill in Minneapolis right now.)

We only had our mobile phone camera with us, but we posted some photos in the photo galleries. And I also used the same mobile phone to record some video so you can hear a bit of the band (and if you listen close - Peter and Wolfgang on the trumpet).

This past Sunday at our church, our dear college principal, Mark Rathjen, shared with the kids his twisted and humourous version of the story of the shepherds on the night of the first Christmas.

As you listen to the audio recording below (about 15 minutes long), imagine the kids sitting at the front of the church, Mr. Rathjen and a few of the kids dressed as shepherds and angels, a wash tub with plug (with Omo brand detergent), some smelly socks, and two kids holding a clothes line.  Later, the young girl bantering back and forth with Mark is his daughter.

 

 

Dane with mates at Christmas/Last Day FeastThere are some new ideas I'm being exposed to in Lutheran education in Australian that I'm sure I'll be able to take back to the US... but this one may not work if we land back in the upper midwest: On the last day of the school year, have a Christmas feast with all of the junior school kids outside in the courtyard complete with a visit from Santa Claus (or "Santer" Claus as some of my students spell it because that's how they say it).

For one, it wouldn't work in Minnesota-Wisconsin-Illinois because it wouldn't make sense to have a Christmas feast on the last day of the school year (in June).  And two, the chances of getting beautiful 80°F weather for an outdoor feast in the midst of winter would be quite slim.

But that's what Dane and his mates were able to do today.  Later, Karl and Dane finished the day and the school year with a Christmas Sing-a-long in the chapel. After supper, the boys and I walked to the beach to build sand castles under the setting sun.  Not a bad ending to a school year!

Christmas Feast And that's it.  The school year is done.  Summer is officially here. I have a half-day of staff stuff tomorrow, and we then won't meet again until the 27th of January.  The kids will start the new school year a week later (Peter in 10th, Karl in 6th, and Dane into 4th).

I have a feeling that the 6 1/2 week summer holiday will fly by quickly as we're used to an American summer break twice as long.  I'm not obligated to work over the break, but I've got heaps of work to do on IT curriculum in order to be set for the next school year.  I'll have to post here a note about how my position will change for next year and why the curriculum work is needed over the holiday.

Seating at the WACA

I attended my first cricket match on Friday!  It was an "international test match" between Australia and South Africa.  A test match can be played over up to 5 days, and this was Day 3.  I took the train and bus with our pastor and our college principal to the WACA stadium in downtown Perth. The original plan was to take the boys, but we decided it might not be the best first-time experience for them considering it's 6 hours in the sun watching a game known for it's slow pace.  We'll try to get them to a one-day 20/20 cricket match later this summer.

Just before getting off the bus, an older gentleman offered us free tickets.  They were $50 tickets for fourth row seats with backs.  We had planned on settling for $37 tickets for sitting on the grass.  The photo at right shows about where we sat.  Sitting down low isn't exactly ideal for cricket as most of the action is out on the center of the field (the "pitch").  The best seats are in the upper decks of the grandstands that sit at either end of the pitch.

I had a great time watching 6 hours of cricket on a beautiful 85°F blue sky day (we had to leave early and miss the last hour of the day's play).  First we saw the Aussies take the last two wickets of the South Africans' first innings - that took about an hour and a half.  Then the Aussies batted the rest of the day trying to extend their 94-run first innings lead.  South Africa had taken 5 wickets (of the 10 needed to end the innings) against the Australians by the time we walked out.  (video review of Day 3 here)

We left thinking the Aussies were building towards a safe lead.  When they finished their second innings early on Day 4, we had a 413 run lead.  However, things went badly on Day 4 and Day 5 as the Aussies struggled to take wickets and the Proteas slowly nicked away at the lead.  In the end the South Africans overtook the Australians with 6 wickets to spare.  This was the second largest second innings comeback in the 131-year history of international test cricket. (news story here)

Now both teams move on to Melbourne for the traditional Boxing Day match beginning the day after Christmas.  The Boxing Day match at the MCG is as much a focus of the holiday as the NFL games are on Thanksgiving Day in the US.  (If you want to try to practise your cricket skills, try the interactive game on FoxSports here.)

I tried taking my camera into the WACA but security didn't want to allow a "professional grade" camera (I strongly disagreed with their definition).  So, I took some shots with my mobile's camera and stitched them together in the panorama photo below (larger view here).  We thought the security was a little overdone both at the gates and in the stands, but apparently it's a more recent reaction to years of tolerated hooliganism. (This being a country where in October I flew to Melbourne and back without even once being asked for ID or my passport!)

WACA panorama

Keith and Tim with Keith's boat on Garden IslandWe've been talking about doing this for months, but finally today we got out on the Indian Ocean with our friend Keith and his sailboat.  Keith knows boating from his days growing up near Lake Minnetonka (Minnesota).

The boys and I met up with Keith this morning at the Rockingham Yacht Club and took off in his 23-footer for a trip around Garden Island.  We went out under the causeway that connects the Naval Base on Garden Island to Rockingham.  We sailed up the windward coast of Garden Island.  Turning back into Cockburn Sound, we stopped on the beach on Garden Island for lunch and a little hiking.

The return trip down Cockburn Sound back to Rockingham was quite a challenge as the regular afternoon wind known as the "Fremantle Doctor" was in our face.  The wave splashing soaked us and the ride got pretty rough, so the boys hid away in the cabin.

After about 8 hours out to sea, we were all quite glad to get back on land.

Click here to view a Google Map of our journey.

I've been practising piano since we got here 7 months ago.  Mom has been teaching me a lot of songs.  I've recorded two of them.  The first one is "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" played as a duet with Mom.  Then the second one is just me playing "Make Me a Servant."

 

"It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"

played by Dane and Mom

 

"Make Me a Servant"

played by Dane

 

 

shingleback skinkCheck out this critter.  It's a shingleback skink (lizard) that strolled into our yard on Christmas Day.  We had just taken some family photos in our front yard and then walked to the beach for some more photos.  When we came back, this bloke was walking in the garden just a few feet behind where we had taken the front yard photos.  He was probably about 14 inches long.  This species tends to be lazy and slow.  They have an odd, stunted tail that some can mistake for the head.  One web site says they're great with humans and make good house pets!  Read more about shinglebacks here.

The strange coincidence was that soon after spotting the shingleback, we went to the Fulwood's house for Christmas dinner and were offered Shingleback brand wine from the McLaren Vale in South Australia.

Shingleback wine