Here's an attempt to describe the foreshore of Warnbro Sound...

When we walk, jog (Tim), or ride bikes to the Indian Ocean beach, we only need to go about 0.7 mile straight west from our house to set foot in Warnbro Sound.  The walk to the foreshore is extremely flat from just about anywhere in Warnbro.  There are carparks and access sidewalks spaced nearly every half-mile along the foreshore in Warnbro.  Most of the carparks are set just before and below the coastal dunes.  From the carparks you walk a paved sidewalk up the dunes (maybe 20-30 feet up).  The dunes are covered with vegetation - the product of a more recent dune rehabilitation project.

A beautiful paved walking/biking path follows the ridge at the top of the dunes parallel to the beach.  The path winds left/right and up/down considerably, and you could follow it for nearly the whole length of the sound.  From the path, there are unpaved (sand) paths down to the beach every few hundred feet.  There are also a couple of places where there are steps up to high lookout points.  From the paved path you can see many large fancy homes that have grabbed elevated spaces along the dunes.  Most of these house are 2-3 stories tall and look nothing like the typical Warnbro home (almost always 1 story).

To get a visual understanding, I've put together a panorama photo looking south from a point nearly straight west of our house.  Click here or on the photo to show a larger view of it in a new window.  In this photo, the carpark is hidden down below the dunes, between the houses and the point from where I took the photo, and about 1/4th the way across the photo from the left.  You can see the winding paved path that continues much of the way down the coast nearly as far as it can be seen in this photo.

Holiday mapWe survived our first venture into the Outback of Western Australia this week.  Of the two week winter holiday, we took off for 4 days and 3 nights.

Since we've got all sorts of people checking our website from time to time, and some want to know all the details and some are just checking in to see if we've been eaten by a croc yet... Here's a rundown on what you can choose to do to find out about our holiday:

  • Read the paragraphs below for a quick summary of what we did.
  • View a Google map that shows our route into the Outback and some photos marking the way - and make sure you zoom in close to see all of the markers and click on the 18 or so markers that have links to photos. (Or, download this .kml file and open it in Google Earth for a 3-D view of the same map and photos.)
  • Or, Skype us and we can talk more and hear about your summer holidays back in the States!

OutbackThe quick summary...
We first headed north about two and a half hours to the monastic community of New Norcia (pronounced by Aussies as "New Nausea").  Founded in the bush in the 1840s (and still in the bush!) as a Catholic enclave among the Aboriginals, it's been a unique community operated by the resident Benedictine monks now only numbering about 10.  We toured the grounds of the community including several chapels, the former boarding school buildings, and the monastery itself.  We stayed overnight in the quaint and rustic New Norcia hotel.

Next we drove about 5 hours into the Outback along the Great Northern Highway to Wogarno sheep station.  We stayed two nights on this working sheep station of 152,000 acres.  We explored a few different areas of the station including Wogarno Hill and the "Breakaways".

We had a quick tour of the Mt. Magnet gold fields about 40 km from the sheep station and then headed back home to Warnbro.

Dane's Coffecake & YogurtWe have been on a 2 week holiday from school. The boys were given the task of preparing one meal sometime during our holiday, in order to help me out with the meals. They took to this responsibility with much enthusiasm!! They each did their own meal(s). They loved picking out new recipes using the Taste of Home Quick Cooking book, which has fantastic pictures. Dane started simple with hotdogs and jello but then served a yummy breakfast of frozen yogurt and fruit dish and also coffee cake this morning. Karl fixed Hot Hoagies with our favorite corn casserole, fruit and dip, finishing with chocolate cake, made from scratch! Peter did 2 meals including Cajun Chicken strips, seasoned fried, Chocolate Peanut Dream Pie, Circle-O Skillet Supper and homemade chocolate pudding. We have had wonderful meals!!

Peter did much of his meals on his own, with me spending lots of hours in the kitchen to help them all prepare these well thought out meals. They were very proud of their meals. Karl even had a menu sitting on our plate and the candle lit on the table. Much fun! Tim was very kind to take over a whole week's worth of washing dishes for me--much appreciated!

Jeff Utecht is an ex-pat American who has been teaching overseas for a number of years - most recently in China, but now in Thailand.  I read his ed tech blog The Thinking Stick on almost a daily basis.

After his most recent trip back to the US, Jeff compiled a list titled "You know you are an expat when….."  Though we've only been out of the US for 3 months, there are several of his points that we can appreciate - especially ones related to his shopping experiences on his last trip to the US:
  • you look forward to Wal-Mart just to browse the aisles and look at all the choices of shampoo!
  • it takes you 25 minutes to pick out a juice to drink because you just love reading the labels
  • you can pack a suitcase to 49.9lbs without a scale.
  • you freeze when people ask you “paper or plastic”
  • you can’t relate to gas prices in the States cause the rest of the world has been paying them for years

You can read the rest of Jeff's list at http://www.thethinkingstick.com/?p=697.

I've never been much of a shopper, but I miss Walmart and Home Depot and the vast choices they offer.  Even more, I miss those reasonably priced chains of family-friendly restaurants like Perkins, Baker's Square, DQ Grill & Chill, Applebee's, and Culvers.  There's just nothing like those here in Rockingham (city of 80,000), and a limited choice of such in Perth.  A couple of weeks ago we enjoyed a great meal at a Sizzler's in Perth which the same chain that's in the western US and Hawaii.  The price for the 4 of us (Peter was at camp) was $82.  The best meal deal is what we get almost every Tuesday night... we pick up two large pizzas for a total of $9.50 at an Eagle Boys Pizza near our house.

(As I just finished typing this on a Friday after school, Lanette just rang me.  She's stopping by Subway to pick up meatball sandwiches for supper with a special deal - $5.95 for a 12-inch meatball sub. We'll have a taste of home tonight!)

An historic moment occurred here this evening!  Columbus may have brought sugar and horses to America, but it can now be said that the Schumachers have delivered Sheephead to Australia.  Scholars are still dumbfounded that in a land of 200 million sheep, until now there had been no Sheephead.

Sheephead is the official card game of the Schumacher clan and of Carver County, Minnesota.  It's German name is Shafkopf.  And to those of you in Wisconsin who might read this... yes, in Carver County it's spelled Sheephead and not Sheepshead, and for us the 7 of diamonds is not the lowliest of all trump but rather it's honoured as the "spitz" - the second highest card in the game.

As fate would have it, the historic moment of introduction of the game to the Aussie folk took place at nothing other than an actual "Shindig."  We may have missed attending the bi-annual Schumacher Shindig in Mayer, Minnesota, last weekend, but tonight our Rockingham Lutheran Church hosted it's very own first annual Shindig.  Never having hosted a Shindig before, the planner of the Shindig asked me earlier in the week regarding what people actually do at a Shindig.  Speaking from experience, I recalled that it involved food, beer, and Sheephead.  Whether or not the planner of the evening took me seriously enough, there indeed were decks of cards placed at every table tonight.

Sheephead cheatsheetSheephead is a game that doesn't make much sense to the un-initiated... nor to the initiated, nor to the inebriated, nor the sober, for that matter.  Hence, when young ones ask about the intricacies of the game (such as, why do 10s take tricks over kings?), the family elders typically and simply respond with, "Well, that's why they call it Sheephead."

It's a game for 4 hands where more of the cards are trump than not.  You play for nickels, unless you're an elite player in the weekly Tuesday afternoon tavern league where you play $20 a hand.  You play with a partner, but you don't know who he/she is until it's usually too late the way I play.  Partners try to shmear each other... and that's a good thing.  And they try to keep the other pair of partners from getting schneider, unless they aren't the ones who picked up in which case getting schneider means you lose but at least you save yourself a nickel.  The one who picked up can chop their partner and go loner, and that's not good if you're the one getting chopped and you have a hand of 9s and 10s.

Sheephead is not played with all 52 cards, hence it can be said for more than one reason that those who play it aren't playing with a full deck.  Generally, the more powerful trump cards are worth few or no points, while it's difficult to take a trick with the cards that have the highest value.

So it was after a wonderful 3-course catered meal this evening in the room that doubles as our church sanctuary (a sacred place for this sacred game) when our pastor and college principal relentlessly begged me to introduce Sheephead to Australia.  It's debatable as to whether the beer was a contributing factor in my decision to go ahead with the introduction, or whether it contributed to the others' wilingness to take up the game.

I, myself, am a late-comer to the game, having only been tutoured by the family elders in the last 10 or so years.  Thankfully, I always carry in my billfold a Sheephead cheatsheet where years ago I began detailing the basic rules and wisdom (probably shouldn't use that word in the context of this discussion) of the game on one of Vivian's bank deposit slips (see at right).

There was enough scribbled down on my cheatsheet to get a game started with the principal, the pastor and his son.  We played without nickles (though could have played with beer bottle caps, I suppose).  I consider it a successful introduction to the game given that I left the table with my position at the college stil intact, and hopes expressed about playing again sometime.

I'm guessing that some who have read to the bottom of this blog post and had never heard of Sheephead are quite confused at this point as this whole bit probably makes no sense to them.  Well, that's why they call it Sheephead!

It's a blue sky Sunday in WA today ending a streak of 6 consecutive days of rainbows here.  I had written about the frequency of rainbows in a recent blog post.  On Thursday I saw a rainbow before school, later at 2:00, and then again on the way home.  Tuesday's was the best, though.  As I walked home in a slight bit of rain, I saw a complete rainbow in bold colors with a faint double rainbow.  I tried taking a photo with my mobile phone, but it was just too big to capture well.  I'll have to work on my rainbow photo technique.

ToodyayOn our way back from the Outback over holiday we drove at dusk through the lovely Avon Valley and the quaint, historic town of Toodyay.  We had said we needed to get back there sometime, so yesterday was our first chance.

The annual Avon Descent was happening this weekend. (see the map) It's a two-day race down the whitewater of the Avon River from Northam into Perth (about 100 km).  International professionals and local amateurs race motorboats and kayaks while 100,000 spectators show up at the exciting (that is, dangerous for the participants) parts of the river.

We didn't know a lot about what we were going to see.  By the time we arrived at about 11:30 am at the weir (dam) just upriver from Toodyay, the competitors had just finished passing through... except for an old guy who was pulling his kayak around the weir via the portage.  But we did get a sense of the fast-flowing river, and we think we'll want to try to see it next year.  We didn't get any photos of the racing, but you can see some coverage from Perth's West Australian newspaper.

We headed into the town of Toodyay for lunch and a look around.  They were hosting an international food festival on the riverbank.  We had some good German bratwurst and some tasty Thai food while listening to live music (bluegrass).  Karl and Dane tried riding a mechanical bull, each lasting only about 4 seconds!  We walked the shops in town, had some ice cream, and then headed back home.  The 2 1/2 hour ride through the hills was very beautiful.

Our letter box often has a bill in it or sometimes even a card from a loved one back home. One day I brought the mail in, laid it on the table and then noticed it had a few small snails attached to it. Hence, ...snail mail. They must crave paper. The snails must wait for the postman on his motorbike to come along and then venture up to the letterbox to feast on the paper. If I don't catch the snail in the act, I can still tell it has been there because the envelope and sometimes a few more layers have been eaten. We know the mail is bound to have a few snails on it if it falls out of the letterbox and is found on the ground. The snails pictured are the small ones. We have many that are 1 1/4 inches in diameter. One day after a good rain, I counted 20-30 of the large snails in our front yard. We are reminded that we are in Australia and not in Eden Prairie when we find "snail mail".

LambWe drove 2 hours northeast this weekend into the hills to a small town that was bustling with people. The town is quaint with gift shops and ice cream parlours. As I looked into a shop with it's door open, I saw the cutest little tan and white lamb, only 3 1/2 weeks old. The shop owner is mothering this orphaned lamb and is letting it roam around the store. The boys and I were able to pet it and it let me hold it for a short time. I love lambs!

LicksThe signs behind me are classic to a small Australian town: "Licks and Lollies" is an ice cream parlor that also has candies. We enjoyed an ice cream cone there. The other sign advertises "Lamb and gravy rolls". Sausage rolls are very popular here and is meat rolled in a pastry. "Slices" are not pie slices, but are what midwesterners would call bars. "Brekky" is obviously their phrase for breakfast.

This little town of Toodjay was the choice location to view paddlers on the river on the Avon Valley Descent. There is a spot of rapids just out of town. However, when we pulled into the grassy parking area, there was a long line of cars leaving. We had just missed all of the boats by maybe 30 minutes. We will definitely put it on the calender for 2009 and get an earlier start. We didn't miss it all, though. The town of Toodjay had live entertainment and an international food festival. German brats, Thai noodles, and Spanish churros with whipped cream and chocolate! Karl and Dane even had a few seconds on the mechanical bull--no more than 3 seconds!




This week at the student assembly at Living Waters I got a student of the week merit certificate.  The words on the certificate say:

"Awarded to Dane Schumacher for a fantastic start to Term 3.  I really appreciate the way you tackle your work and the positive way you contribute to class discussions.  The effort you put in to design and create your guitar was excellent.  Thank you for being such a positive role model.  God bless."


Mr. Kupke, head of junior school, gave me the award and it's also signed by my teacher Mr. Brinkman.  Mum was able to come to the assembly to watch.  Mr. Brinkman's note on the award mentioned my guitar.  Dad and I made a guitar out of wood and rubber bands for a class project.  I'll have to blog about it in a few weeks when I can bring it home and take a picture of it. (Dad helped me type this!)

    

On a wintry Saturday afternoon (75° and blue skies), the boys and I went hiking at Pt. Peron.  It's a beautiful point of land jutting into the Indian Ocean right in our city of Rockingham.  Peter had been there with his class, and had been telling the rest of us that we needed to get there soon.  He was right.  To the south from the point is Warnbro Sound, which is has the beautiful beaches nearest our house.  To the north of the point is Cockburn ("Coe-burn") Sound where Rockingham City's foreshore is followed by a not-so-scenic stretch of industrial sites and naval bases almost all the way up to the Perth's port at Fremantle.  The point stretches out to a line of reefs that parallels the coast from north to south and includes Garden Island (large naval base to the north of the point) and Penguin Island and a line of rocky objects that spread south to Mandurah.  This is a very popular site for scuba diving we're told.

We stayed and watched the sunset while the full moon rose.  Later that night we had a lunar eclipse.

My panoramas are below (click on them for larger views).

Pt. Peron north
 
Pt. Peron south

West from Pt. Peron

Pt. Peron map
 
Just as we're getting settled in, it's time to pick up and move again.  We'll be moving between September 5th and 14th about a mile from our current house to a another rental house.  It's directly between the beach and the college - only 2 blocks from the ocean beach to the west and about a half mile from the college to the east.  It's got 4 bedrooms and 2 baths (currently we've got 3 and 1).  It's a much nicer neighbourhood than our current one. (read the original listing)

In truth, we've known since we first arrived here that the house we were renting was likely to be sold by our landlord (someone on the staff at the college).  We could have chosen to stay longer and see how long it takes to sell (which could be months the way the market has turned here) or hope the buyer would let us stay.  But the "for sale" sign went up in the yard this week, and we figured we could move anytime if we found the right place.

(Buying a house isn't an option for us since banks here won't offer a mortgage for a term longer than our 3-year temporary visa.)

We started looking at houses about 3 weeks ago.  Lanette's been attending viewings of available houses.  We actually "applied" for one that we liked but was a half-hour walk from the college - but we weren't selected by the owner.

15 Pollard HouseOn Wednesday this week Lanette went to a another viewing.  (She's still the only one of us to see the inside!) That same afternoon we applied for the house.  On Thursday, the head of the campus canteen where Lanette works realised that someone on our staff lives on the same street.  Actually, the house is next door to a couple who both are on our staff at the college.  Thursday night we chatted with that couple (two wonderful people).  They then talked to the owner who they know well and told what they knew of us.  Their input apparently was a factor in convincing the owner to pick our application over someone else's - the news we got on Friday.  Clearly, God's doing some coordination on this.

There's another couple from the college that live a just a few doors down the street - Dane's teacher and his wife who is one of our Japanese teachers.

We get possession of the house on Friday, 5th of September.  We'll move things bit by bit, and we think we'll finish moving by Sunday, the 14th.  More details of the house will be posted here in the coming weeks (after I get to see the inside!).

Click the map below to go to a Google map I set up that you can interact with.  On that Google map I included markers highlighting some of the places we frequent around here besides the showing where our new house will be.  If you haven't used Google maps before, after going to the linked map, try clicking on the markers for more information, scrolling the left margin for a list of sites marked, click and drag on the map to move around, and click on the plus and minus buttons to zoom in and out.
 
Map of WarnbroThe listing of the house read like this:

15 Pollard Way, Warnbro

YOU CAN HEAR THE OCEAN FROM THIS PROPERTY

Outstanding location - lovely 4 x 2 with study home, in a quiet street, just one street away from the beautiful Warnbro Sound beach. Air conditioning, side access with plenty of parking for boat and caravan, double carport to the rear with double lock up garage/workshop.

- Separate Lounge
- Kitchen/Dining
- Study
- Air Conditioning
- Reticulation
- Backyard
Surf SkiingNow that winter is over down here, the ocean water is a little more inviting.  I spent two nights with the college's Year 11 class at their Leadership Camp.  We were at Woodman's Point just about 25 km north of us at a camp that uses the old (haunted) buildings that housed and quarrantined immigrants as they came off their ships in the early 1900s.

We had beautiful blue sky days with a top of 26°C (78°F).  I went out on the ocean with the students on "surf skis" - very similar to open-type kayaks we've used on the Root River in southern Minnesota.  Before we got to the point where we all were asked to practise recovering from capsizing, I found my own reason to practise flipping my surf ski back to upright and climbing back in in water over my head.  Sorrow - no pictures of that titanic moment.  Though not intended, it will have to count as my first swim in the Indian Ocean, and it ranks right up there with seeing my first kangaroo (dead on the road).