Wednesday, December 27, 2006


The last few days have been filled with heaps of fun, food, laughter, (extended host) family, and holiday cheer!

I officially was decommissioned from Warren Central School on December 21st, and it was weird to say good-bye to everyone at the campus where I've spent the last few months. Unlike the last day of school in the States, at Central their longest school "summer vacation" is under 1.5 months long, so there is a marked difference in the amount of jubilee in the whole process of letting out of school. I had been constructing Adriondack outdoor chairs for nearly 4 months at the Woods Shop at school, and I've finally given them to my first host family, the Sandell's, on Christmas Day! They turned out marveously, if I do say so myself.

Christmas Eve was a day of preparation, and, in true Australian style, I worked on that day! For tea (dinner) that night we actually went out to the Golf Club and had Chinese! How reverent to Christmas, I know! But it was a fun different way of celebrating the holiday Australian style. To satisfy any religious obligations I should fulfill for the sake of my family at home, I even attended Eve mass at the Church of England. My host mum, aunt, and two host grandmums and host sister and I were one of three, yes three families at the service. Australia is just not a religious country, although the Catholic Church down the road had a few more cars out the front. After service we drove around and looked at all of the beautiful Christmas lights, and since the hymns at Church left something to be desired, we sang Christmas Carols whilst driving!

My host dad loves Christmas morning so we got up extra early to open gifts with our immediate host family. I got some great practical and thoughtful gifts and was really quite spoiled on Christmas morn. My family from home sent me a package and I opened that as well! Much to my pleasant surprise, Bernadine made a hot glazed ham for Christmas lunch (the big meal), just for me because I love it so much, in addition to pork, chicken, and turkey, with all of the trimmings (sweet potato, cashew stuffing, pumpkin salad, etc.)! As if we weren't stuffed enough, there was the traditional Australian Christmas dessert of Christmas pudding (which is more of a moist cake, topped with warm custard and cream) and trifle (kiwi, strawberry, cream, cake, etc. all in layers soaked in alcohol). We did our extended Christmas exchange, and before we knew it it was time for dinner! HA! Sandy's (host sis) boyfriend Sinclair's family joined us for Christmas tea and so did some host family friends, so we had a large merry group, and ate more of the same, with the addition of green salads.

To work off some of the excess food, we had a tournament game of bocce ball in the yard. It had rained very hard (yes!) on the Eve, and was just bitter freezing (by Warren standards) for Christmas and even Boxing Day morning. It was an unusual occurance, as Christmas is typically the hottest day of the year! Boxing Day was a continuation of festivities, a day of cricket (on the tv) and more relaxing and eating with family! We had prawns and salads, and more ham, and just ate and ate and ate!!! I have great memories of the holidays here, hearing Sluggo's (my host uncle) stories about his youth, dancing around the Christmas tree, and just laughing together around the table!

Thus ends the Christmas festivities with the Taylor's! I've really felt like a part of the family these past few days and it's going to be very hard to leave! Speaking of leaving, my time in Warren has reached a premature end with Sydney New Year's Eve. I plan to go there and then move right to Newcastle, which means I have only 3 days left in Warren. I'm now scrambling to say my good-byes and get my stuff together...when it rains, it pours!

Until the New Year, Carl.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Time flies! It's already been one month since my last post, and I just don't see where all this time went.

The big thing at the beginning of the month was when all of the inbound exchange students from this district came to Warren to experience the bush! (picture above) Rotary had organised for us to stay at the Warren Racecourse grounds, in "indoor camp" style accommadation. It was so funny to see how the other students reacted to all of the flies and the desolation of this are of the country (most of them are on the coast). Unfortunately, we didn't get to demonstrate how hot and dry it is here, because for the 3 days that they were in Warren, it rained! This was the most rain we had gotten since I arrived in Warren in July.

We had a great time just hanging out the first afternoon and night, and the other days we had bush tucker, went to various sheep shearing/merino studs, and climbed Mount Foster, which is the highest point near Warren. The walk up the "mountain" was very degrading and moods were pretty low after the flies and ensuing heat took their toll.

On our final day together in Warren we went to Auscott Macquarie, which is an absolutely huge plot of land (tens of thousands of acres) that is utterly flat for kilometres in all directions. The idea was to see wildlife, but most of us have already seen kangaroos and emus, so it was a bit of a waste of time. We were travelling on the back of utes in cages, and it was pretty fun, especially when one of the drivers tried to get back onto the dirt road and nearly flipped the thing over with 10 exchange students on the back!

We went on to spend a night in Dubbo and go to the Western Plains Zoo the next morning before parting, and it was heaps cool. The sad thing was that I had to go back to Warren, and they got to go home to the coast. I will join them soon, though!

The next weekend the famous Australian Cotton Cup was held at the Racecourse in Warren. This is the big horserace of the year for Warren, and the whole town gets out in all of the finery and has a big party. Boarding school students came home for the race weekend and it was great to get to know them. The party after the races were over was a big shock. Now Warren isn't the most sophisticated place on earth, and this was demonstrated by the dozens of broken glass bottles strewn across the floor, the large amount of clearly overintoxicated people staggering about, and the occassional fight. However, it was a really good experience and I shall never forget dancing to the music of the really good band that was playing, carefree amongst people of all ages.

Not long after Cotton Cup, I moved in with Kevin and Bernadine Taylor, and their son JT and daughter Sandy. This family is heaps active in the community and is so nice. I think I'll really enjoy my last few (very, very hot) months in Warren with the Taylor's.

And here we are in December. Let me begin by telling you how hot it is. The leaves in direct sunlight burn. A candle left in the shade of the verandah melts. The flies that once hoarded you to frustration have been heated and burned to death. The wind does nothing to cool you down. In fact, when the wind blows, it's like somebody opened a fan-forced oven right in your face. And this is just the beginning. It gets hotter. The hottest it's been here while I've been here is 44C, or 111F. In the shade. But 120F, even 130F, in the sun, is certainly not out of the question, especially on Christmas Day. It's not just one day of heat that gets under your skin, it's the prolonged week of non-stop heat that takes every bit of energy and concentration out of your system and the only thing you know how to do is slap sunscreen on and jump in the pool.

What a relief it was to go to Maitland this weekend. Maitland is just west of Newcastle, and it was another briefing for the inbound and outbound exchange students. We stay at Tocal (picture of group above), which is a quaint little college on a hill outside of Maitland. And was it ever cold. Rainy and cold. You could have said I was in England and I would've believed you. I was so excited to see everyone again, and then I found out that this was our last get together before the Brasilians leave to go back! Even though we've only known each other for a few months, it's going to feel like there is something missing from our group each and every time we meet from now on. Our exchange still feels like it's just in the beginning, not even having reached the halfway point, and for these students its the end of their exchange journey in their host country. It really makes you think about how you should make every day count.

Besides the sometimes boring meetings, it was awesome to be with each other, and we had a very fulfilling time, and heaps of laughs.

I missed Thanksgiving, and Halloween for that matter, and I wish everyone Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas. Enjoy the snow if you have any, enjoy the cold! Christmas will be so different for me, and I will miss everyone dearly during this time.

Season's Greetings,