That liberating feeling! (Part 2)

It is surreal to think about where I was not only two weeks ago. Being back in the normal day to day activities of a school teacher, I find myself day dreaming and looking out the window expecting to see the snow capped mountains I became so accustomed to.

I wake with a start hoping, yes hoping, to find myself on the thin mattress, my clothes and hiking pack strewn all over the tent floor beside me.

But, no, I am in Australia, at home, in a bed and my clothes, while still possibly strewn on the floor are not half as dirty as the ones I was dreaming of!

The second half of this amazing journey was completing the Salkantay Trek. This trek is one of the many pathways the Incas took to get to Macchu Picchu. However, the Salkantay is less traveled by tourists and the general public.

“Why you ask?”

Well it is because it is dam, hard! Its a mental, physical and emotional challenge!

It is 5 days of waking early, constant walking, sometimes for 8 hours or more, over mountains, through snow, rain, sleet, amazonian heat and humidity and bugs…. lots and lots of very large bugs!

We talk about Melbourne weather here in Queensland being temperamental but man this was unreal!

Let me take you through the days one by one!

Day 1, the start…… a puffed out 15min walk from the bus and I was thinking to myself, I am already puffed, how am I going to survive the next 5 days…. A bead of sweat on my forehead and the heart rate increasing……..

It was okay though, these were all an effect from nerves and of course the altitude, as we were now sitting at 3800m above sea level. After breakfast in one of those amazing igloo shaped buildings, which mind you are quite warm and are part of the accommodation available for those who wished to rest prior to the trek, we set off……

The main section of day 1, and by far the most challenging section, was passing through the Salkantay pass, bordered by Mt. Salkantay herself. She is one astonishingly beautiful mountain who frequently disappeared behind the clouds only to reappear a minute later!

This is her, a majestic snow capped mountain!

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It took us approximately 5 hours to get to the top of the pass. We had already climbed a number of false peaks, at the top of which we thought, no more! But of course we kept going. Slow and steady, the altitude making it slow and steady!

It was cold, the lungs were burning, the hear rate was up and the legs were protesting, not wanting to take another step!

Finally, as we topped the 4800m crest we started getting wet with rain. The students commenting on how they hoped it would snow! We had mentioned snow was unlikely and we would have to be extremely lucky!

Well within a few minutes this rain turned to sleet and the sleet to snow! For one of our students this was her first time seeing snow, let alone having it thrown at her. It was such an amazing experience.

Lunch in freezing temperatures, huddled in a make shift thatch covered sleeping area, we admired the mountains as they disappeared under a white blanket, completely in awe of where we were and what we were seeing. I was wearing everything I possibly could and was still cold.

After lunch we left the snow capped mountain and began the decent through the pass and into the valley below where we spent our first night, a very cold night.

DAY 1

Day 2 was totally different, we entered the Amazonian forests. The heat, the humidity and of course the giant bugs that come with a rain-forest environment surrounded us. The mosquitoes were the size of small birds, okay a small exaggeration, but the holes they left in us were and still are quite large and very very itchy! We could not believe the change in climate!

Day 2 was 27km of downhill! This may sound easy, but let me assure you it was not! Camp was hot and humid however, a beautiful place to finally make at the end of a long 8.5 hours of walking. Again, something that had become the norm, we were accompanied at the campsite by a number of dogs. The dogs are everywhere. They line the city streets and all the public campsites even on the trek!

Apparently there is no control over their breeding and in some ways are appreciated by the locals as they deter the native wildlife when in camp. Most were clean enough, others were walking rabies infestations. Note to travelers – maybe consider a rabies vaccination!

Day 3 was a massive day. Whilst only 14km long,  it took us just over 8 hours to crest the mountain our camp was resting on top of. From this camp we could see Machu Picchu, so far away, yet so close. There is no better feeling than seeing your end goal, the reason you are doing the trek, the final days reward as you fall asleep exhausted from the days trek.

We still had a way to go yet but it was a sensational feeling.

Playing UNO while we sat inside a small building atop the mountain, thunder, lightening and torrential rain outside. The mist covering the mountains, we as, as a group came together enjoying each others company and relishing in our individual accomplishments.

The conversations often ‘interesting’ and the topics discussed deep and meaningful. This is what I treasure the most, watching the team push through the hard times, smash those mental, emotional and physical barriers and come together on the other side! There is no better reward.

Day 4, we descended the mountain and followed the train tracks which never seemed to end arriving at our base camp after a mere 17km and 8 hours of walking. Again!

Machu Picchu looming ‘very’ high above us, almost unreachable at that point in time. We all took a moment, stopped and said to one another; “How do we get up there tomorrow?”

Accompanied by 9 wild dogs. Each of which were given a descriptive and amusing name. We enjoyed our final camp dinner, cooked by our very own chef. The chef, who had managed to erect a make shift kitchen using a tarp and three wooden pylons. A hot drink and the maize specialty dessert were had before we retired early, knowing we had a 4:30am start.

Day 5, the day we had all been waiting for!

We set off up the 1876 steps to the summit, or the gates of Machu Picchu.

Joined by thousands of others from around the world we entered these gates and immediately, were breathless. The sheer size of the ruins, atop the mountain and in the clouds was unbelievable! Seeing it from below or the side will never truly reveal how amazing the ruins and the expanse they cover until you are looking at them from above!

The Incans were truly astounding people and what they were able to build and construct without the tools we have now is hard to believe. The stability and precision something we do not see today! They used the boulders atop the mountain to build their places of worship, their houses and even a sundial. The wealthy and the workers separated by the vertical gardens all terraced and now covered in plush green grass.

Splitting from the group and taking the time to move in and out of these amazing buildings, look down the sheer cliffs from their windows and interact with the Lamas was something special. The ruins are tightly supervised by a number of locals who all have whistles. You are not allowed to be loud, jump up and down, eat or sit on the ruins. If you do they will blare their whistles and wave at you wildly. The reason you are not allowed to jump up and down is they have had multiple deaths from people doing this and falling off the side and to their deaths. Who would have thought!

For a lot of people, myself included, life can seem to move to fast, be to hard and feel so unsatisfying. Well this was a moment where it felt all to overwhelming for me! As someone close to me said, “Shelley your cup is never half full, it is always overflowing!’ This was an overflowing moment and boy did I feel it in my bones. How lucky was I to be where I was and to have done what I had done. Even better I had done it with other peoples children and given them an experience I had waited 33 years for before they had even left high school!

That liberating feeling! (Part 1)

It’s weird to think that a week ago today I was finishing the final day of the Salkanty trek, ending up at the base camp of Machu Picchu……

Now I am sitting in my all to familiar little abode with the spring breeze floating through the house, the suns out and I feel liberated, free and totally self satisfied!!

The South American trip was two years in the making! It’s hard to believe now that it is over.

I am still in awe of what we did as a team! I mean who can say they have built three fully functioning toilets for a small kindergarten class that were using the small patch of dirt behind their classroom as their toilet??

Well I can and the 8 students who came with me can!

It’s amazing what hard work, being a team and basically pushing through the mental and physical barriers of being exhausted, adjusting to altitude and an overall lack of sleep can produce.

Arriving at the camp, day 2 of being in South America, our view snow capped mountains that stretched for days! Tents, our accomodation.

I was totally overwhelmed with where we were and what we were about to undertake. Would we finish our project in time? Would we all adjust to the altitude? Would anyone get sick? All these thoughts, racing through my head.

I laugh now as all it took was looking out at the view and we had to realise that we had already achieved so much! We had arrived! The rest was easy!

Waking each day at 6:30am, breakfast in the small hall built by a previous team using mud bricks called Adobes, we fuelled our bodies for the day ahead. The hike down to the school was always a quick and easy one! As downhill always is!

When we arrived it was straight to work. Mixing concrete, sifting sand, walking to get buckets of water…. the list goes on! We all became brick layers, sifters and concrete mixers. We watched the wall start to grow, the first line of bricks already down! We worked alongside a local ‘Mistro’ named Sisilo! He was so amazing and man did he work. He NEVER stopped!

Here in the first world we have no idea what hard work is! These guys do!

Nothing happens quickly in a third world!

Over 6 days our toilet block started to take shape! It was extraordinary! Each day we would pack up, dirty, exhausted and sweaty ready for our warm bucket showers.

These showers though, were at the top of the hill we walked down every morning. Now as I said downhill was easy! The uphill was crazy! We felt the altitude when we started the climb! It was only a 1.16km walk, straight up mind you, but it felt like a mountain! Your heart pumping faster than ever before, your breath stolen from you, your legs burning and the sounds of blood pumping in your ears! Altitude is an amazing thing! You can’t see it but you can feel it!

It took us 47minutes on day 1 and I am proud to say by the end of the 6 days we managed to get it done in under 26 minutes! Booya!!!

When given the chance we can do amazing things! From start to finish here is our progress!!

How amazing is that!!!

I have been asked a few times before why would you pay, or make students pay to go overseas to build a toilet. Why make them pay to work?

Well it’s easy! Look at what we achieved! In the first 6 days of this amazing 17 day adventure (see part 2 coming for the second half of the trip), we flew 33 hours, went on 5 planes, discovered the airports, came together as a team, shared stories, discovered the sights of Cuzsco, hiked up and down a hill each day, watched our project transform from one row to ten to over 20!

We watched the small local kids smile as they themselves saw their toilets transform! Our gift to them! This strange group of white ‘Gringos’ who has flown across the world to build something just for them!

We pay to help as without us they would still be going to the toilet at the back of their classroom, in the dirt and the dust.

We pay to show our over privileged children just how lucky they are!

We pay to give back to those less fortunate.

We pay to find ourselves and to build on what we have already!

We pay to build resilience, grit, patience and awareness!

We pay because the benefits far outweigh the costs!

(Stay tuned, this is only a snippet of what was a life changing, mind altering and liberating 17 days!)

Back of the toilet door

Toilets – something we all need, use often and in fact spend a lot of time in.

I wanted to find out on average how long we spend in the toilet so I used the most trusted website – ‘Google’. Here’s what it said.

“Now research has proved that women really do spend longer locked in the bathroom – the equivalent of one year, seven months and 15 days, a month longer than men.

It found men spend an hour and 45 minutes every week going to the toilet – whereas women get everything over with in a mere 85 minutes a week.

The poll of 2,500 people revealed that going to the toilet accounts for the biggest chunk of time spent in the bathroom – an average of one hour and 42 minutes a week, or almost 92 days over a lifetime”

(https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/www.scotsman.com/news/how-long-do-we-spend-in-bathroom-1-189-years-1-1072528/amp)

Is that not mind blowing or what!

Not only are there a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and layouts of toilets but even more interesting is what can be found on the back of them. It seems this is a place where we ‘used’ and I say that now as more often than not we are no longer staring at the back of the door but rather at our screen.

In saying that, I spent time looking at the back of toilet doors and I found them the most interesting places and it was quite an experience.

The back of toilet doors, water closets (WC), Dunny’s, lavatories, loo’s, home offices, big hole and more, are wonderful places! They are places which may enable one to gather knowledge and find out about the area you are living in or visiting. They can be a source of inspiration or motivation.

What you read and see, on the back of the toilet door can vary from articles, photos, newspaper clippings quotes and comments.

I did some asking around. This included adults, children, colleagues and also some randoms. I must say I did receive some weird looks, but these were the most common things found, seen or remembered in or more importantly on the back the toilet door.

1. Calendars – Some of us need to be assured what day or month it is. I have never seen a calendar on the back of a toilet door as of yet. however, one of the things I think about when i visualise a calendar is more the pictures that may come with the dates. Who knows the actual date anymore? That’s what our phones, computer watches and other devices are for! It may be useful for birthday reminders? You can send of a quick text while on the loo. Saves time later, or even forgetting!

2. Times tables chart or even a periodic table – to help educate our young ones. In this age of technology we would need to pry the phone or Ipad from their hands for this to even be remotely effective! I don’t think I ever heard my daughter reciting the times tables when she was on the loo. There is hope though and I think as parents we do hope the small things will make the bigger difference!

3. Historical posters – for example one teenage girl mentioned her father had historical war posters which included images and history of war tanks. This may mean you spend longer in the toilet reading them and I myself would need them to be changed or updated to be informative. Maybe this is to much to ask.

4. A book review – apparently these can be found on the toilet doors at a school. What a cool idea.

5. Signs, more often than not written in different languages, which highlight cultural expectations – such as please do not stand on the seat or how to dispose of sanitary items. These used to be mostly in English. The one I see frequently is written in five languages!

6. How to squat, the right way to do this. These signs usually include weird little stick figures or images which show the correct posture and then the cleaning process which should follow.

7. How to use a ‘bidet’ these are the small fountains which send cold rushing water into weird places! These are cultural and can be found in;  European countries, South American countries,  Middle Eastern countries and throughout East Asia, especially in Japan. They are more commonly found or as a separate structure anymore but have you ever wondered what the ‘hose’ is adjacent to the toilet.

8. Graffiti – this is where you find out who loves who and also who has hurt who. You can also generally make out the differences between being in a public toilet, a workplace toilet and the of course the high end building toilets. I mean if you take the following. One is the back of a public toilet, another from a popular food chain which has lots of people pass through it and the final one is of a toilet door in a high rise office building where your heels click on the marble as you walk in. You can spot the differences.

9. Motivational sayings and life goals.

10. Mirrors – hmmm I might leave that one alone and let your mind wander 🙂

Not only are toilets such an interesting place, where, face it, we do spend a lot of time but they can also when visiting something send our noses into overdrive or make us feel like we are living it up.

Rather than describe them I thought, as the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words.

Enjoy, these are toilets from across the globe.

A ‘bommy’ or bush toilet used on Outward Bound. A bucket with a plastic bag. These can be interesting, especially when there are 18 people using it!

A public shower and toilet block built by volunteers in Kenya, Africa. This is luxury!The toilet, a long drop. Built by volunteers in Kenya. If you left the light on at night it attracted wildlife you did not want to share your time with.A toilet in Nairobi, I don’t think it was useable.

Bottom of the bottle…. what’s it feel like…

It’s 10am and all you think about is when will you get a chance to have a wine, a vodka and coke or something stronger?

What about it’s after a long school day and you have only one glass of wine left….. is that enough…. no it’s not, you make the trip and vow only to get one bottle but you get two as you know it won’t be enough to numb the pain, the loneliness, the emptiness….

Coming home after a long day, a vodka and coke on ice. An hour later and number of drinks later the numbness sets in. The feeling of inhibition, of pure carelessness and what we think is calmness… but it’s a false calm. A false sense of peace.

This is what you wanted, to be able to feel it’s all okay. The fact you’ve been discarded, thrown away like a piece of gum after being chewed for 6 years and just thrown away… discarded. Stuck under the chapel pew only to be found years later and scraped off by no one who understood why it was placed there in the first place.

The numbness and the haze of the bottom of a bottle makes it okay. It makes your mind seem to accept that being considered trash is okay. It makes the evening pass in a blur. What was once cuddles as you made dinner or simple conversation about your day the norm….. now a blur…

Is it okay?

Who knows, we, as in me and my actual self will have this conversation tomorrow. Then we will decide whats acceptable and what’s not. Until then, the bottom of bottle brings me the numbness and the total illusion that it’s okay, that today will pass, as yesterday did.

You climb into bed alone, the ground spinning, the bed not as comforting as it was once.

You pull the dunar over and you send your leg over the other side, searching for the touch you are all to familiar with.

Then you remember, it’s gone, it’s no longer there, and who knows if it will ever will be there again.

But it’s okay, the numbness makes it seem all okay.

The haze of the bottom of the bottle numbs the feeling of being alone, of being wrong or right. Who knows at this time as the haze is making the whole thing something you can no longer understand!

It’s knowing that eventually the numbness has to fade and something has to give.

That something is you.

You have to realise that the bottom of a bottle only hides and masks what’s really eating away at you. It’s you that’s suffering. It’s you that has to find a way out.

It takes time, it takes strength and it takes those around you to make it possible!

Seek out the help, tell those around you about the haze surrounds you.

If you don’t it’s all you will know and it’s not fair on you to let the bottom of a bottle win!

You’re more than that!!

Trust me!!

Road Trips – what not to do!

Okay, so if you are ever unsure about how your relationship is with not only your partner but also your kids….. Take a road trip!

An unplanned one. One you haven’t thought out, planned for or even spent time trying to figure out what’s what.

Then see if you all come back in one piece, or if you all come back at all!

Let me take you down memory lane. It was a little while back now, but at the time we needed yet another car.

My husband had a thing with never hanging onto a car for to long.

We needed not just a car… but a car that was in Victoria.

Living on the Gold Coast one would think after the hours he had spent looking, there would have been one closer. Well there wasn’t.

So without the money having cleared in the bank ,the four of us set off on a plane to Melbourne.

A young daughter aged 8, a teenage boy aged 14, myself and my husband. We had no idea what the car would be really like, or even if the money was going to clear in time, but I trusted the hours it seemed my husband had spent on cars for sale and in the end all would be okay.

I even managed to imagine the beautiful scenery, the laughs we would have and the memories we would make!

road trip 2

The hard part was I didn’t even know where we would be sleeping…. this sent my OCD and planning brain into overdrive. A few deep breathes and quiet restrained meditation I managed to just go with the flow. I mean what could go wrong?

I should have realised that all would not go as planned when my daughter kept asking; ‘mum, what are we doing?’ ‘where are we staying’, ‘how long will it take’, ‘Is there a plug for my iPad?’. My reply was valid and honest in that I said; ‘I have NO idea darling!

This is what happens when a 40 year old male has an idea. I am sure if I had said, “honey there is a great dress in this shop in Melbourne that I have to see”, he would have laughed at me and turned up the TV!

FAST FORWARD – skip the plane ride and near death experience in the Taxi from the airport.

Well we pulled up and the Nissan Patrol, chunky mans car, was in the drive way.

I left the two men to do their thing, while I got the kids organised to start the long trek home. The whole time I was thinking to myself, lets hope this car is not a lemon!

lemon.jpg

Once all the finances had been settled we got into the ‘new car’. The husband and kids exploring all the new things and me just sitting int he front seat thinking I hope we make it! How different we are!

Spending the days driving for hours on end with a continual nagging feeling that the car was a ‘lemon’……… only to have this fueled by the air con shutting off …….. and then the speakers stopped working…… and being told, ‘do not worry this is normal!’

You have got to be kidding!

Not only do the long drives test your patience but also your ability to sleep in weird and wonderful positions.

I also managed to keep everyone happy, all while feeling flustered, as I had to clean the husbands sunnies, peel a lolly wrapper for the daughter and unpack the condoms we had bought for the teenage son who wanted to see how big he could get them to be if he held them out the window.

Does this sound normal to anyone else.

Mum, whens lunch? Babe, can you make me a sandwich? Mum, can you change the song? Babe, could you get me some water? Mum, how long until we stop?

Babe, why didn’t you see the sign? (Me thinking; because I was making you your bloody sandwich on my lap, on the lid of an esky traveling at 110kmh with no air con in the middle of summer, what bloody sign??)

My reply: Sorry darling,  all my fault, I will be sure to keep my third eye out for all the signs next time!

I swear I was was a second away from doing a tuck and roll out the car! The patience was being tested, the fuse being shortened!

Three days later, two motels, a lot of coffee, lollies and country hick towns we were almost home.

Now I must share with you some tips should you ever have the desire to drive and unplanned trip of 1800km….

  1. Take your own pillow – and one for each of the kids as they will fight no matter what. If you don’t you will find they steal yours just when you need it most!
  2. Toilet paper – As the need arises often when you need it most being in the car with an old man and two young children. Oh and of course it will be right at the time when you just passed the last toilet stop for the next 100km!
  3. Pack music – I think we could all sing the lyrics to the full CD of James Blunt… I still, today, 5 years on cannot play the same CD! It has scared me for life! One CD – 3 days. You do the math with how many times we listened to each song!
  4. Remember you will forget something, and no matter what or who did it, it will be YOUR fault!
  5. 5. Wet wipes are essential – you can clean up anything and everything with these! If you remember to pack them!

It was a long trip and we all survived, but I must tell you what append to the car. Well it was in fact a lemon and we sold it three weeks later.

I was right after all!

Peace… is this what it’s like

It’s been a while since I can say I felt peaceful or even calm.

Years in fact!

So what does the word ‘Peace’ actually mean. Well this is what I found. I particularly liked the second one as it feels like life has been like fighting a war!

“freedom from disturbance; tranquillity”

“a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended”

(Dictionary.com)

Today I took a moment. In this moment I looked at Miss C as she stood in the kitchen and her school friend who had stayed overnight, both with ear to ear smiles on their faces, the TV on in the background, the breeze coming through the door and both cats calmly asleep in the sun.

Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.

I even felt relaxed!

Beach and rocks

Not a care in the world for just a moment!

It was wonderful! An emotion that I had forgotten the feeling of.

In the turmoil of what has been my life for the past 6 years I would say, it was hard to ever say I experienced peace or had a chance to be ‘calm’.

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The past six years encompassed an emotionally abusive relationship which I removed myself from, only to return to the same man after hearing the words ‘I have changed’.

To the family and criminal court system to fight for the right for my child to have peace. With the days of affidavits and lawyers and and endless money steam out of the bank seeming like it would never end.

One would think we or more I had been through enough!

No it wasn’t to be, a few months later a marriage breakdown… PHEW!

There is so much talk about resilience and grit in the media these days. Talk about how to make our kids stronger, able to cope and adaptable. To better prepare them for what is in front of them.

The questions on; how do we make them more resilient? what can we cram in to an already to full curriculum to help them be more resilient? What can we do? what activities can we include? What speakers can we get in?

Personally, it’s not about what we show them, what we tell them or who speaks to them. Often they have heard it all before. They tune out or even, as I see hundreds of teens do each year, they say, ‘I know all this, why do we have to listen to this again?’

For me, I believe, to truly help our kids be resilient we have to be there to support them when they go through the adventure called life. The events they experience day to day, night after night, week after week are what shape them to be strong individuals.

“I am strong, I am resilient and I believe I have grit! All because of what I have both done and experienced throughout my life. I am strong because I have survived and have amazing parents and family to thank for always being there, and coming on my adventure even when they could have chosen not to.

I am who I am because of them and what life has thrown at me! I am who I am because I chose to get back up even after failing many times!

(Sorry dad, I made you grey earlier than you probably would have been and mum for the sleepless nights filled with worry)”

We have to let our children make choices, and fail safely. For example let them spend their money on the theme park rides and then let them wonder why they did after the ride ended 30 seconds later. Don’t give them more money rather say, you made your choice and now you can’t go on another ride. Make them see the other side.

If they fall, help them up and then get them back on the bike or the horse or even back up the tree. Showing them it’s okay, they can overcome their fears and in this they become strong.

To many times as a teacher we now have to defend ourselves and our positions to over caring and smothering parents who want to fix everything for their child. Who always believe it is never their child’s fault their shirt got stained, their shoes broke or the other guys started the fight.

Jumping the gun in front or your kids teaches them nothing but how to manipulate and ensure that even if they were in the wrong they can tell you in such a way you are immediately on the defensive. This does not teach them to be honest or own up to their own behaviours. Neither does it allow them to learn. This will not give them or yourself peace.

I have watched as parents come in seething hoping for justice or an apology only to be shown footage that quietens and sometimes embarrasses them. I have watched parents deflate as they hear the real story or even as their child bursts into tears and tells them they lied, they made it all up and in fact it was their fault.

Kids are kids and they learn through us as role models. We have to remember this when we lose our tempers, when we talk about other people or even how we act just around the house. They learn from us.

So back to peace, resilience and grit. While I realise the past few years have been turmoil and at times I have shriveled up into a ball and tried to hide from the world.

I have survived and am stronger than ever. My daughter, has had an emotional roller coaster ride and she to has survived.

She has in fact been strong for me right when I needed her to be. She has shown me how mature and hyper aware kids are of their surroundings. Do not be fooled by your child’s age, they see and hear everything! Now she is experiencing peace!

This strength and understanding she has learnt from life in all its awesomeness and ugliness will only benefit her in the future.

I always wanted to cover her up and hide her away from what was going on but at the end of the day doing this would only be worse for her. One day she may find herself dealing with the same things or even supporting a friend as they do. I know she will be strong enough and have the knowledge to hold their hand through it or ask for help if she ever needed it.

She has seen that life can be unfair and also rewarding all at once.

Now it’s time for peace, it’s time for us to re group. Re focus and spend time working on us. Working on her growing up to be an even more amazing woman than she already is. For me it is time to look in the mirror at the person looking back and build her back up.

It’s time to be strong, to draw on the strength and resilience I have acquired throughout life and move forward.

Remember to bring up strong individuals we have to be willing to let them go.

peace 1

Then you will achieve peace!

The Art of Farting

A funny side of life!

For generations farting in public and/or even celebrating the act of farting has and is still deemed to be inappropriate and somewhat disgusting.

Culturally ‘farting’ is mostly seen as disrespectful and something that should be done only in private if not at all.

It’s funny though because when we are born we are encouraged, often, to fart and burp. We are patted on our backs and given praise when we do these things. How strange. At what age does this change? 1, 3, 5, 10, 30?

Who knows exactly when it changes but my goodness it does.

I am currently on a camp, Outward Bound, with 16 Year 9 students. It involves taking one large group of students out into the remote bush lands of the Clarence river in New South Wales. This year I have 31 students in total from years 9 and 10 who are split into 2 smaller groups. The aim of Outward Bound is to remove the students from all the ‘mod-cons’ and basic everyday items they are used to. It provides opportunities through challenges for the students to push themselves. Students enter their stretch zone and maybe even their panic zone in order to better understand themselves.

A pretty powerful set of opportunities and challenges!

What are these ‘mod cons’ I speak of. Well they include, running water, showers and toilets. Instead we use river water, which needs to be purified, for drinking, a ‘Bommy’ or man dug hole as a toilet and wet wipes or icy cold river water for a shower.

The students carry on their back the necessities together with food drops, which come every second or third day. The students learn to navigate, work as a team, cook, clean and also maintain their own personal hygiene all the time learning to respect the environment. It’s 10 days where the students are pushed, their personal boundaries stretched and life lessons are learnt. A true hands on learning through doing experience, all of which I am privileged enough, not only to organise, but also attend. Watching the individual triumphs, failures, victories and ultimately their transformations!

Now before I get off track let me return to the title of this blog – The Art of Farting.

Each year I hold a parent information evening prior to departing on this expedition and I mention to the parents and their young ones that we will all become very familiar with each other’s bowel movements. Not only our bowel movements but also ‘poo’. Poo will become what we talk about most. They all laugh at this and think, surely not!!

Well every year, it happens!

I know more about my students bowel movements than their parents!!

Out bush it’s vital that the students ‘poo’ we feed them trail mix filled with all sorts of goodies, including many different types of seeds, not even I am sure of the name of them all. We feed them snacks and lots of fresh fruit to encourage these necessary bowel movements! The breakfast muesli, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are all made up of ‘poo’ encouraging nutrients!

On day one we introduce the students to games such as; bommy golf or fart baseball.

Now these may not be familiar to you but if we are going to spend 10 days out bush, in close quarters, with these kids, we have to make their toileting something not to scary.

A lot of them think of a bommy – a bucket lined with a bin bag, and a hole in the ground as things so foreign to them they would rather wait 10 days and poo when they get home. Well this can bring on all sorts of health issues and concerns!!

So bommy golf – a great game. It’s easy, if they poo once a day they are on par. If they poo twice they are one under. If they miss a day they are one over. A great game for any out door educator who wants to have some fun with kids or help make their bowel actions into a more comfortable and acceptable game. I have had years where we are close to camp and the boys and girls are racing to dig the hole with ‘dug’, the aptly named shovel, in order to win the game. The best score in the past 9 years was on 10 day camp was when male students ended up 32 under. That was more than two a day! Talk about chew the toilet paper!!!

Another bush game, which I learnt this year is called, fart baseball. This was introduced to me by, Forest. Yup that’s his real name! The instructor with me this year. He is hilarious and has shown me other fun ways to ease the students into bush toileting.

So here are the rules of Fart Baseball.

If you fart, you move to base one. This move can only happen if your fart is validated. This means it is either heard by someone else or smelt by someone else. If this is the case and your fart is validated you yell out ‘1st base’. Now the aim is to then fart again and have it validated to allow you to move to 2nd base before someone else farts and moves to 1st base thus kicking you of. It’s all about speed and getting through the bases before someone else does. What a challenge!

Now that you have an idea about the rules imagine unleashing this game on a group of mostly year 9 boys!! Well it happened! Not only has this become the best game ever played but their runs and home runs can happen at any time.

This may be while preparing their food and the next minute we either hear it or smell it! It can even happen when in a serious moment sitting around the camp fire enjoying the silence and, boom…… there it goes. Now these boys are serious! As soon as one person is almost near a home run the race is on. We have farts going off left right and centre. The girls have even joined in.

It’s a great game but I do have some issues with it as I am the one who travels up the back when hiking. A high fibre diet, young kids, exercise and of course a game of fart baseball make for a very interesting smell coming up the rear (pardon the pun) of the team! Phew!!!

The best times are when we are in our tents and the camp is quietening down and BOOM, someone lets one rip and you hear 1st base or 2nd base etc. this of course has us all in fits of laughter and with uncontrollable laughter comes more…. yes you guessed it…. farts!! Bed time is when most achieve their home runs!

Of course we keep score and the winner is the one with the most home runs at the end of 10 days.

Now you may think this is weird but it has to be the most entertaining game when out in the bush. If you’re an adventurer I encourage you to try this. Your students will never forget the game and or be hesitant to poo by the end of your trip!

The students who arrived on the bus 10 days ago, worried about how they looked, whether their girlfriend in the cubicle next door would hear them wee or even worse hear the sound of them pooing.

The students, male and female, who would never dream of pooing in a hole in the bush and rushing back to camp, arms high in the air yelling, ‘I did it, I finally pooped’, resulting in high fives and celebrations all round.

Who would have thought that these students were the same ones who got off the bus 10 days ago.

Farting when we were babies is an encouraged behaviour, but soon it becomes an unacceptable behaviour. Well out here, the Art of Farting is something else! It’s a game, it’s part of being human. It’s not something to be embarrassed about. A lesson for the students who are so worried about what others think about them. Rather being comfortable within oneself.

I know that when these kids get off the bus and we go back their parents they will not be the same. They have conquered mountains, pushed themselves mentally, emotionally and physically. They have been tried and tested. They have been broken, brought to tears at times and felt like they could not go on.

They were taught to accept themselves, their peers and of course recognise that ones own limitations and boundaries are not the same as the person sitting next to you.

The one fun thing we do know from these 10 days is the students have learnt there is an Art to Farting. The students become comfortable in their surroundings and have amazing memories of experiences that are life changing.

For me; I cannot wait until next years Outward Bound!

Bittersweet goodbye…

This morning I said goodbye to two of my most beautiful children.

(You may wonder why this photo but it always made me laugh, something I need right now)

A bittersweet goodbye!

I had to say a bittersweet goodbye, tears streaming down my face as you peered at me through the gate. I think you knew that we may never see one another again. I think you were wondering what was wrong and why I was leaving. Had you done something wrong? Was it you?

No, it was time for me to go, time to go on camp. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to go knowing when I returned you would not be there. The house quiet, the toys from the yard gone. The sound of you whining as I opened the gate knowing I was home no longer there.

We woke together at 5am after sharing the the bed all night.

We ate breakfast together, walked around the house together, you both even sat in the bathroom while I showered. You even joined me in the toilet.

You never left my side.

I think you knew this was goodbye. I think you knew I was sad. You always seemed to know.

The time came for me to leave. We chatted a bit, at the front door before I left. We cuddled and kissed. You tried your best to make me stay.

Your tails stopped wagging as I closed the gate.

I tried not to look back but I did and there you were, still watching me, wondering, waiting for me to yell, ‘only kidding, I’m staying!’

I’m sorry my puppies, my babies, but it was time to say goodbye.

I am not sure if we will ever meet again but I just wanted to say;

Thank you for always being at the gate and so excited to see me. Always.

Thank you for following me round house and making sure I knew you were always there.

Thank you for making me walk for hours along the beach or in the park. You made me get out of the house when times were tough. I think you knew I needed it.

Thank you for keeping me up with your snoring and your butt in my face, while this was annoying it meant we had a bed and I had company.

Thank you for waking me up by licking my face at 5am and telling me it was time to get up and enjoy the day. I mean who could ignore this face!

Thank you for making the house dirty and leaving your muddy footprints everywhere. This meant I had a home.

Thank you for chewing, everything, and I mean everything. Even rocks. This meant we had money.

Thank you for loving the cats and making their life more eventful I’m sure!

Thank you for laying your head on my feet and licking my toes as this meant I was loved, and so were you.

Thank you for being part of my life!

Let’s say this is not goodbye but maybe, see you later! Enjoy your new home with dad, you will still be loved and always happy.

Don’t forget me!

A bittersweet goodbye!

Five days five friends

A few weeks go I had an exceptional five days.

I haven’t, for a long time, taken the time to see some of the people who mean the world to me.

Well this school break I was determined, and saw 5 very important people in my life, apart from my family!

For years I have ignored the fact that I was slowly being disconnected, (forced disconnection) from the people in my life. It was subtle but now it is clear as day to me.

Let me tell you about the 5 days I had.

Day 1. A girlfriend Mrs. W, made the time to drive hours to see me. We haven’t seen each other since she was a beautiful bride a few months ago. Months before that was the last time I saw her. This beautiful lady, she knows who she is, being someone who brought laughter, memories, vodka and a day of card games to my doorstep. I cannot remember the last time I laughed, relaxed, talked about life and just truly felt like I had come back to life. It was short lived but a wonderful 24 hours! After being a ‘shitty’ friend who had and always seemed to have crap going in my life, this wonderful woman was just waiting for me to return! Thank you Mrs. W!

Day 2. I caught up with a long lost love, an inspirational man with his own troubled past .But, who no matter what makes you laugh and laugh. My cheeks were sore and my heart filled with thoughts and positive reinforcement. I know I am loved, I am wanted and I am beautiful! How much more could you ask for. See you soon Mr. J.

Day 3. A friend from the Sunshine Coast made his way down to the Gold Coast (GC) to take me out to dinner. A friend who is still fondly known as the ‘guy who beeped his horn outside my house, letting me know he was there to collect me back in 2001’. This being a pet hate of my father, as no one ‘toots’ for his daughter. This has been and continues to be a running joke and Mr.N knows it! Mr. N has become an amazing man with a heart so big it’s astounding! Always giving to anyone and everyone despite it sometimes being at the detriment of himself. We had a wonderful dinner and an even better, fun filled brekkie! Thanks for the company!! Oh and Mr. N, my daughter cannot wait to have a round of 9 holes with you! Be careful she will whip your butt!

Day 4 and 5, while these two days were also ‘work’, with a wonderful groups of 11 boys and three male staff members I could not have asked for better company. You all may not think working with 11 boys overnight aged from 8 – 23 each with some form of mental health issue as being fun, but it was wonderful. It was made even better by the man who started it all. Mr. A, has made it his life goal to help young men and women who need time to learn, life skills and what we call respite. He is my inspiration, my ‘brother from another mother’, everyone says. We are so alike and yet so different. Mr. A’s passion and love for life make your heart swell, your cheeks hurt and your abs sting. Oh and I must mention your tummy expand as we eat so may lollies and sneak so many treats while hiding around a corner from the kids. Overnight work is tiring and exhausting, as the kids can be so demanding, but there is always positivity, laughter, love and care! When I was asked to help, I did not give it a second thought. At this hard time of my life I couldn’t think of a better person to spend it with than Mr.A!

Mr. A provides experiences which the kids and his staff won’t forget.

I mean how many people can say they watched a huge, 105kg man who’s confident in a boxing ring run from a number of pelicans as they chased him down a small strip of sand exposed in the Tullebudgera river!! Well I can.

On a side note, Pelicans are huge amazing creatures! But up close they can be scary!!!!

Besides pelicans I learnt about the male and female mud crab, more weird and unexpected information Mr. A provided for me!

These crabs, caught in crab pots which the boys hooked an dragged up, were smelly and yet stunning. Seeing them snap carrots in their claws making me squeal in amazement and the kids watching be totally and utterly astonished. A memory, something I won’t forget anytime soon!

I now know how to tie up a mud crab. I will never do this, ever, have you seen those claws, but at least I know how to!

Day 5. Now I am home from the weekend away. I smell like fish and have two crazy and un-walked dogs who are so over the moon so see.

I start the washing, unpack the car and receive a voicemail from yet another important person. One who is driving to see me for another girls night! Who could imagine, our friends are really the most important people in our time of need.

I must admit each of these days I did say to myself, it would be easier to sit at home and do nothing. To see no one and not have to entertain or be made to feel good. To not laugh at this crazy time of life when so much is going on and there is so much to be sad and angry about. However, you know what, no matter how much I have felt like I didn’t need or deserve the past 5 days, I did need the 5 friends. Big time!

Each and every one of them, some I have known since 1999 have played such a role in my life, seen me through thick and thin and are special to me. I may be starting again as a single mum but you know what, my friends re still there. They always have been!

How powerful are friends, how powerful is laughter, how powerful is being inspired!

5 days have shown me how lucky I am, how happy I can be and how happy the time ahead will be. I realise now how I have surrounded myself before with amazing people and I cannot wait to surround myself with more. People have so much to teach us and show us. It’s like the start of a movie, the ads go forever but then the movie begins and you never know what the ending will be. It’s the parts in the middle that matter most! It’s the part that make you laugh, jump, cringe and sigh that matter!

I am excited, scared and counting down the days until my next friend encounter!!

The things our children will not know until they are older.

So many things we do, our kids won’t know about until their older.

Some of these may include thinking thoughts and doing things which may include the following:

I made dinner, butter chicken and rice, your favorite. We didn’t have enough money so I ate the rice and left over sauce so you could have a big meal. I do this because you are important to me and I know that one day you will appreciate everything I did, not all the time but I do know deep down you realise how lucky we are.

I bought you KFC, a regular combo meal with a sunkist. I had two chips and a piece of chicken so you could have a full tummy. A reward for your amazing debate speech, how proud I was!

We bought you new shorts even if it was from an OP shop but it was the last $20 I had in my account. Ensuring you do not grow up to be one of those kids who thinks OP shops are below them. Enjoying the 30 minutes of just you and me time, exploring trash from others that become treasures of others.

I work full time and have to work on the weekends some times as well. I give up spending time with you so I can pay for your Math’s tutor. It is hard to do, I promise, but when you are older I will explain to you why I sometimes worked 7 days a week or late into the evening helping other parents with their children instead of being home with you. Trust me I did want to be home, but I couldn’t. I wanted to give you every opportunity possible and this meant sacrificing things, such as time with you.

Our children are our everything. We do what we can for them, always, without question. Even if it means spending our last few dollars.

At the end of the day it’s just money and most of the time the best memories we have and make are when we don’t spend any money at all. Rather we take the time to be present.

In saying this, be sure to spend quality time with your little ones and your family. It is not quantity rather quality that counts. They are desperate for your love and full attention. This may come when you are rushing out the door or have other things that seem more pressing in your mind but be mindful that that few minutes of pure and utter attention is more valuable than anything else you could give them.

In doing this you will realise you are in fact not poor. Being wealthy, or having all the money in the world, is not always important. It is beneficial of course, but not always helpful.

At the end of the day you are growing your own wealth, a more important wealth in your children. So be sure to take the time to be present for them.

They are what your legacy will be after all, so think about what legacy you would like to leave behind!

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