Friday, December 24, 2010

Dear Santa...

Port Wakefield, South Australia
24 December 2010

Dear Father Christmas,

Good day! How are yah?

Busy ay? If our chicken sheds are only empty, I would love to give you a hand in giving gifts to these excited kids down here who have been very good boys and girls althroughout 2010. But I still have two sheds of broilers left over the weekend, and will get emptied on the 27th, so sorry, I can't help you.

Just a reminder though, if you are coming to Adelaide today and tommorow, our maximum temperature forecast here is 34'C and it can possibly get even higher than that. So please leave your warm northern hemisphere clothes over there, you don't need that down here. I am saying this because for four years that I've been in Australia, I have seen you wearing those thermal garment well-suited for the winter season up there. Mate, it's summertime down here, I am only concern of your comfort, you know...

I believe that you know a lot of great costume designers in Australia or New Zealand, they'd be very happy to create a summer outfit for you. I just don't want to see you uncomfortable Down Under.

A Happy Christmas to you Big Bloke!

It's me,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Hour at the Museum

While waiting for my 4pm appointment with the tax agent today, I decided to visit the Art Gallery of South Australia in North Terrace, Adelaide City immediately after lunch.  At the entrance, the receptionist told me that I need to leave my backpack at the baggage deposit area.

When the baggage personnel handed me the numbered card, I asked him if I can take my camera with me inside the gallery, he said, "Yes."   So I did.

Then I explored the entire building for nearly two hours but never bothered to take my camera out of my waist-bag to take photos.  When I was moving out of the Elders Wing, I noticed a group of tourists in the James and Diana Ramsay Gallery that had just started their guided tour.   The scene in the said gallery (that houses the paintings during the Renaissance, particularly in the 17th century) was so theatrical- a typical picture of a museum tour so I thought it was a good opportunity to take a candid photograph...  and this is what I got:

James and Diana Ramsay Gallery, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, S.A.
I forgot the title of these masterpieces except the second painting from the left, it's entitled 'The Crucifixion of St. Andrew' (by an Italian painter).  I can't recall the name of the artists as well, huh! Next time I will take my pen and notebook with me. 

Moments later, the curator came and told me, "Hey!  Taking photos is not allowed inside the gallery."  Then he went away.

I was intimidated, I was lost for words!  I immediately left the gallery and retrieved my backpack and exited the hall, of course with the saved photo in the memory card of my camera.

To the Art Gallery of South Australia, I am very sorry.  I have learned my lesson: When camera is allowed inside the museum, it doesn't mean taking photos is permitted.

Entry Fee:
Opening Times:
Mon - Fri: 10am to 5pm
Sat: 10am to 5pm
Sun: 10am to 5pm
Public Holiday: 10am to 5pm
Christmas Day: Closed
Good Friday: 10am to 5pm
The facade of the Art Gallery of South Australia, photo taken 08 February 2008.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Artists's Style

I spotted these artists in one of the busiest streets in Melbourne- Swanston St. last December 7, 2008.  Obviously, they were there to showcase their talent, and at the same time accepting some monetary gifts from the passers-by who appreciated their work. 

I have some doubts with the authenticity of the other, though. How about you?     


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A 90-minute Getaway

FANTASTIC FIVE.  The pelicans in Gulf St. Vincent, Port Wakefield, South Australia.

The poultry farm is currently empty... and while cleaning and disinfection is being performed in preparation for the coming of the next flock, it is time for the poultry farmer to temporarily leave the farm, have a quick vacation and come back refreshed and recharged after a day or two. 
I would normally go out of town, visit another state, explore an island or window shop during the farm’s downtime but today I decided to break this costly tradition by just roaming around and discovering more about Port Wakefield. 

I have chosen Port Wakefield’s Proof and Experimental Establishment—an Australian Defence Facility that conducts weapon research and testing for the army and navy.  However, outsiders are not allowed inside, so the guard directed me to drive down the mangrove-covered coast of Gulf St. Vincent.  I've been living in Port Wakefield for almost thee years now, but it was my first time to visit the place.

BEFORE SUNSET.  The pelicans grouping themselves into three.

I was expecting to see some large-calibre guns, but I have seen pelicans, instead!  

A LOVELY ESCAPE.  The pelicans flew when I was getting closer. 

Aside from pelicans, I have also seen flocks of seagulls and many species of birds—big and small, that are yet unknown to me.  Port Wakefield is really one of Australia’s most important sites for migratory birds.  I hope this won’t serve as a threat to the health of our chooks inside the sheds. 

The entrance of the Proof and Experimental Establishment in Port Wakefield Road.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A place to B...

An abandoned house along Short Terrace, Balaklava, South Australia.

What could be more frustrating than watching a beautiful sunset knowing that the day has ended with another wrong decision made.  Here I am again trying to uplift my own spirit after realizing that today’s toil would equate to almost nothing after being affected by some lapses that others have done.   

But after the sun has hidden behind the York Peninsula hills and as the flickering highway lights of Port Wakefield starts to appear across the western horizon, my instinct would instantly direct me to the east reminding me that it is worthwhile to enjoy the rest of the night, fall in a deep slumber, and get up looking at the lovely sunrise the next day.    

There’s, actually, another thing in the eastern side of Port Wakefield that shows me how pleasant and relaxing my life would B if I start to go slow, and learn to handle every day-to-day challenge wisely.  I am always inspired how the locals in Balaklava, South Australia—20 kilometres east of this poultry farm- deal with their daily activities with a bit of time to enjoy with their mates in the evening. 

The locals enjoying their beer in Terminus Hotel, Railway Terrace.

There must be something within each of these blokes that makes them happy and, I believe, contented up to their golden years.  Their smiles have actually outweighed their wrinkles telling me that they have proven their resilience through the years. 

Well, their place—Balaklava is an unfrequented town compared to Port Wakefield (my workplace).  But it was once called the ‘industrial centre of the north (of Adelaide)’ because many Australian farm machineries were manufactured in this town.  Grain farming was also encouraged in mid-1900 when the early European settlers built some large grain storage facilities close to the railway running from a town in eastern South Australia to the most important port during those years—Port Wakefield.

Grain silo 1 beside the old tramway.

Grain silo 2.

Grain silo 3.

Until today, Balaklava is still thriving with its local farmer’s grains, and hay products which are exported to Japan, Taiwan, Korea and China.

Balaklava's grains.

HARVESTING.  Balaklava-Adelaide Road (Gwy Tce).

Oats, cut oats and hay along Balaklava Road.

Patrick Portlink (S.A.) South Australia’s first inland container terminal.

Office of BALCO- Australia’s leading processor and exporter of high-grade oaten and cereal hay.

There are two leading Australian banks, a supermarket, hi-tech gadgets and appliance shop that have their branch prospering in Balaklava proving that this town is economically sufficient despite its seclusion.

ANZ (pronounced as /ey-en-zed/) bank at Balaklava's main street.

There are fast foods and two hotels catering for the locals and guests, where night life is also guaranteed especially during weekends.

The Royal Hotel at Edith Terrace.

...and if you want some locally-made yet delicious pizza and pasta, Balaklava is really the place to B!

Balaklava Pizza and Pasta. Yiros-flavoured pizza, small at Au$11.

Balaklava, S.A. is also known for its annual horse-racing festival - Balaklava Cup, and a culture and arts show - the Eisteddfod which are both celebrated every August.  I don’t have a decent photo of the racecourse, so better come and see it yourself.

St. Andrews Catholic church, 1889.

Several old and historical buildings are still standing until today and if you are interested in history, the Balaklava Centenary Hall is the best place to explore.  Picture-taking is not allowed inside, though.  The museum's swarming with donated historical articles with a 3-dollar entrance fee... it is really worth a visit!

Ph. number 08 8862 1854
Open 2.30pm to 4pm on the second and fourth Sunday of each month. Other times by appointment.

Balaklava is 92 kilometres north of- or about an hour drive from Adelaide, a little town with a lot of things to boast and to teach.    


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sevenhill, South Australia

The photo shows the details of the outside walls of St. Aloysius Church in Sevenhill, South Australia.  The bricks were, actually, quarried just around the property back in 1864.  If you are thinking that this is just another typical church, you're wrong, because there are quite a few things that make it so unique.  So why not join me, as I trace my journey back from the poultry farm in the town of Port Wakefield to the charming village of Sevenhill in the Clare Valley Region!

Sevenhill, S.A. is around 69 kilometres from my place, and while I was driving along the former railway town named Halburry, I noticed this antique shop beside the road.  I just thought it's worth more than just a thousand words, isn't it?

I went through the town of Auburn and after a few kilometers, I was attracted to this verdant hill on the right where a flock of sheep was peacefully grazing.  I hadn't seen any shephered looking after them, though, and so I thought that we may be sharing the same loving 'shephered'.   

Not so far away from the flock of sheep, there was a herd of Angus cattle in a relatively dense pasture!  Well, I had seen the virtue of the patience in this herd; surely, these animals have trusted that in due time, the farmer will eventually take them to a greener pasture that they always desire. 

The fresh buds growing out from the wooden vine reminded me that it's springtime Down Under; and in a region where wine is the primary product, nothing's lovelier than the serenity of this landscape! 

The St. Aloysius Church humbly standing in the middle of the vineyard.  This was built by the Jesuit priests thirteen years after they arrived from Austria to escape from the political and religious prosecution that time.  The Society of Jesus started the vineyard, currently 59 hectares with 16 varieties of vines, in 1952- a year after their settlement in the village.

However, due to the lack of funding during those years, the original plan of this church was not followed.  Have you noticed the the front tower?  The steeple is missing!  As you can see from the previous photo, there's a white post standing on the front-left, that's the church bell...  Sevenhill's St. Aloysius Church has no belfry!
The tree in the photo above is a red gum, it's endemic in the area... its timber was used in the roof arches of the church.

These days, anticipated masses are held every Saturday at six in the evening.

The holy water stoup located at the left-side entrance of the church.

The underground cellar of the Society of Jesus.

The visitor centre and the cellar is...

Open daily:
Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
Saturday/Sunday/Public Holidays 10am-5pm

and closed during Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday.

The Sevenhill major wine products- white, red and fortified sacramental wines, and a wide range of other wines.  The altar wines are distributed althroughout Australia, and some are exported to India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. 

After the mass, I was physically hungry.  It's good because the Sevenhill Hotel- bar and restaurant is just located nearby.  

...with a very hospitable, and beautiful bar tender and cashier.

Fresh Tommy Ruff Fillets on a Bed of Rice with Bokchoy and a Thai Curry Sauce (Au$24)

...serving one of the best meals I have ever eaten!  A glass of Anne's LN Moscato completed my meal ( I didn't have my dessert), it's value was actually much, much more than its price (Au$6)!

It was only a 5-hour vacation but it was so meaningful!  And while the meal that I had is a 'must try', visiting Sevenhill's church and cellar door is a 'must do'!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

An E-mail

'An E-mail' is an open letter of an OFW to his sick mother. The story is factual, and is highly metaphorical. The letter sender- RJ and his friend represent the Overseas Filipino Workers. While RJ's ailing mom is, actually, the Philippines amidst the chronic political and economic problems- which, the author believes, are still curable. The other characters may be a typical family member of an OFW, and the rest of the Filipino people.

This is written to show the support of The Chook-minder's Quill to the 2010 Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards.

"Strengthening the OFW Families:
Stronger Homes for a Stronger Nation


DATE: 14October2010 11:59:01 PM

ATTACHED img-PEBA&thecmquill.pdf

Dear Nanay,

Kumusta? I hope that you have been feeling very well these days regardless of your thirty-day isolation period. Across the oceans, I have been seriously praying for your immediate recovery after that radioactive therapy twenty-four days ago; and with the help of the Almighty I trust that you’ll be healed... online publications have stated that the type of thyroid cancer that you currently have has a very good prognosis. I want you to know that even if I am not physically around to take care of you, I have left my heart and my mind at home—and I believe that, with my frequent prayers, these are enough for you to stay stronger and eventually restore your health. Kabay pa...

By the way, my flight from Davao to Adelaide was so tiresome; my stopovers and transient stay in Manila, Brisbane and Sydney before finally touching down in Adelaide wasn’t really enjoyable. In my next holiday, I might get back to the convenient itinerary of Singapore Airlines... it may be a little bit dearer, though.

Nevertheless, the time I spent with you, and with the rest of our family last September was so memorable, especially during your testimonial program and party. It was a very remarkable event, ay?! I am actually planning to send a ‘thank you’ card to your ex-co-teachers in Bialong Elementary School for the preparations and execution that they’ve done; the way they gave honour to your thirty-eight years of government service was truly exceptional!

Uhmn... I have attached our family photo during that event with this email, please check it. I know that Rose has her own version in her digicam over there, but I have noticed that my copy is much better so I decided to send it to you. I’d be very happy if by the time your ‘isolation days’ are over, you can develop a copy of it and if you don’t mind, please buy a decent picture frame from Ivan Robert Bookstore in M’lang and have it mounted. I have already displayed my own copy of that photo here in my living room.

You know Nay, our family picture would have looked happier if Tatay had been with us. I believe you have plans to visit his grave tomorrow; it’s his birthday, right? Just stay away from the crowd, remember you’re under the power of radioactive iodine.

I understand that you feel so crook most of the time and can’t manage to send an SMS to my roaming phone every single day. Don’t worry, because I have been getting regular updates about you from Rick... People may not always find him nice but, yeah, I can say that he has been a good brother to me the reason why I didn’t have second thoughts to give him my 6300 when, before I go, he asked for it. Weng had also sent me a message saying that it was a relief that she and Rick have their own mobile phone now. I bet... the gallery of that Nokia phone must have been full of baby Clint’s photo because Weng was so excited to tell me that she’ll upload some of their photos in her FB account. I am happy that my younger brother has successfully started creating his own family... Somehow, I can feel that Rick isn’t really interested to come to Australia; he told me that he will pursue his plans to join those ‘boys in blue’ in our country. I’m not sure if he has already shared it to you, but that’s what you wanted him to be, anyway.

It’s good that your next visit to the endocrinologist falls on a semestral break, Rose can surely accompany you that day.

Rose told me, by the way, that she is looking forward to satisfy all the requirements of her degree in October next year (so, I better schedule my next holiday). I believe that our decision to purchase a public utility tricycle for Jeff has really gone well with their current situation, at least a good source of Rose’s daily allowance, plus a regular vitamin dose for their daughter- Athena. In that way, Rose’s tuition fee is our only outstanding worry... but leave it to me, I’ll take care of it. Mayad duman di-a kung makatapos. I have, actually, felt the air of remorse during our conversation back home while we were preparing the ‘give-aways’ for your retirement party. Certainly, she has learned from all her mistakes.

I am a little bit concerned about your medical check-up fees in the coming weeks so I electronically transferred some amount to your account this morning. I am surprised that an Australian dollar has been surging up to ninety-nine and a half US cents! I have also heard in The Filipino Channel that the Philippine peso has been getting stronger lately, and is expected to continue to rise especially that the OFW remittances to their loved ones are high before and during the Christmas season.

Speaking... It was on my schedule today to get a Forex box from Ate Nati this afternoon but I haven’t gone because South Australia is currently experiencing a cold front with some showers; and tomorrow we’ll be experiencing a winter-like condition down here. It was also forecasted that the mountains close to the capital city of Tasmania—Hobart will have a snowfall tomorrow. Very unusual for an Australian mid-spring season, and it only aggravates this post-vacation syndrome that I’ve been suffering since I get back. But just like our current weather here, I know that this feeling won’t last very long. Holiday Season Down Under is scorching hot!

But, yeah, as soon as the chicken harvest is over, I will resume my packing so I could send this box the soonest as possible because I know that Paul is expecting to have his robot on Christmas Day. The looks of that little boy really reminds me of the face of Rose when she was younger. Paul really look like his mom, doesn’t he?

It’s almost midnight down here, uhmn... it’s only 9 p.m. up there. I have to turn the feed lines off in the chicken sheds in preparation for the 5 a.m. bird catch tomorrow. 

Get well soon, Nanay. Get well... Who knows, my next vacation will not only be for Rose’s graduation, but for my ‘long table’, as well.


Oops! Nay, remember my friend here in Port Wakefield whose from Batangas? The one who requested me to carry home his gifts to his wife and kids when I had my holiday last month? He told me that their newly-opened bakery and refreshment business has been luckily getting an excellent payback. With this, his family is now having second thoughts in pursuing their plans to migrate here in Australia next year. Perhaps, we are gradually gaining from the fruit of our own labour with the help of the sincere efforts of the new Philippine government.

Huhmn... I am planning to put up a poultry farm in that vacant area adjacent to that mango orchard there. What do you think?



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

'Chicken Joy'

The sun would set at around 8pm in Port Wakefield these days. While I am writing this, the sun has already set, but for me and my job, the day isn’t over yet.

Twenty thousand chickens were taken out of our sheds last midnight... we collected the dead birds from the sheds this morning, and did some mechanical, electronics and plumbing works this afternoon. At 3pm, I received a call from the dressing plant—sixteen thousand birds will be going before dawn tomorrow. This means that I have to do the same pre-catch ‘rituals’ that I did last night, and then starve the birds starting midnight so they could empty their crop before the early morning harvest starts. And tomorrow at eight, the collection of the dead chooks will again commence...

...there are a lot of exhausting stories behind the juicy-licious roasted chicken of Red Rooster or the crispy, spicy fried chicken of KFC... and that is the life of a poultry farmer, the life that I have chosen for almost three years now.

I don’t know if occupying a house built a hundred meter across the poultry shed is a blessing, and at this moment I have this uncertainty if living in this house is really ‘living’ or is actually ‘working’. I am very grateful to have this gift of sight and I wish I could continue to admire the view from my windows which I, actually, doubt if it is really a scenery or just a mere surroundings. It really takes some efforts to split my mind set between my job from my ‘real life’, and during the harvest season I would temporarily lose the power to differentiate a night from a day.

The wages of sin is death; I admit I am a sinner but I don’t want to ‘die’ while I am still 'living'! I have been desperately looking for some other ways of paying the price of being too ambitious, because I believe that this is not the only way. Currently, I fear that the ‘powerful sticker’ stamped by the Australian Immigration on my Philippine passport has started to lose its potency to sustain the euphoric effect that I felt the day it was granted.

I hope I could figure it out—is this job really hard, or I am just weak?


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Worms and Snakes

I WAS CIRCUMCISED AT THREE... not at three years old, but on the 3rd day after I was born... I am grateful I cannot remember the pain of circumcision. So luckily, I was one of those elementary boys who could bravely show their ‘worms’ to each other in the school toilets to prove that they were really tuli*. Ilonggo boys have been jokingly tagged as pisot** but in my life, I haven’t been mocked or branded as one.

Many years later... January 17, 2007, it was my first day in my new job as a piggery farm worker in Queensland. Strict biosecurity was implemented there, requiring the farm staff to take off and leave all their street/house clothes and undies in the shower room’s ‘dirty area’, then enter and take a 10- minute shower in a small cubicle (which was located in the middle of the shower room), and put on their farm overalls in the ‘clean area’ before proceeding to work. Of course there were separate decontamination rooms for every gender.

That summer morning, there were three of us—Filipino guys who were about to take a shower. Honestly, we were literally shocked to see our Australian workmates—who, after greeting us, took all their clothes and undies off, and waited on the queue while chatting to us. We—the new Filipino workers were, at that moment, like the Biblical Adam who were covering our valuable ‘possessions’ with one of our hands, and blushing. I didn’t know the reason why our face had reddened that time—probably because we still weren’t use to this kind of showering routine yet or maybe because we had seen the uncovered ‘snakes’ of those locals dangling in front of us! It was really a funny, memorable conversation when we got back to our accommodation that afternoon!

Three months later, the decontamination routine eventually became a normal thing to us, no covering, and no blushing even if the ‘brown snakes’ were everywhere. Work performance became more important especially when the first job evaluation came.

Being trained as a technical person in the Philippines, the daily piggery routine was very exhausting for me. Of all the new Filipino workers, I was the one who, the superiors said, had the slowest pace at work! I was even told to work quickly and not ‘properly’—because I was very particular with the details that time. I became the subject of mockery, and was rated very unsatisfactory under the ‘Knowledge of the Job’ category.

The next morning, when we were having our smoko in the farm’s lunch room two of my workmates (who were natives in town) ridiculously asked me, “Hey RJ... How would you insult a Filipino guy back in the Philippines?

Tell him that that he is UNcircumcised!” I instantly said without even thinking.

The locals immediately blushed, and had a fake smile.

Instantaneously, I remembered that both of them were ‘uncut’. Well, seven out of our ten local workmates were pisot. And in this country, I think, this is not an issue at all.

*tuli- a Filipino word for a circumcised boy or man.
**pisot- a Hiligaynon term for an uncircumcised boy or man.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finding the cure

Nanay is sick.

She had her goiter removed last August; a thyroid sample was taken for biopsy and it revealed a follicular papillary thyroid carcinoma or simply (complicatedly)—thyroid cancer.

I went home twenty-four days ago to attend Nanay’s Testimonial Program and Party—a tribute given to her by the Central M’lang District for her services and achievement as a public school teacher for 38 years. It was a remarkable event; it actually exceeded my expectations. Modesty aside, the eulogy that I gave was, I think, one of the highlights of the programme.

But three days after the testimonial party, the endocrinologist-surgeon advised Nanay to submit herself into a radioactive iodine therapy. She agreed, underwent a strict non-iodine/no salt diet for seven days...

...and three hours before my flight from Manila back to Sydney she was admitted to the hospital, was then isolated and dosed with a small, but (hopefully a) very powerful radioactive iodine capsule. Nobody was allowed to come and see her for four days because the ‘radioisotope of iodine’ that she had taken was very potent and hazardous to every individual! When Nanay was discharged from the hospital, she was separately transported back home, and has been isolated in her specially-made payag* for five days now. Luckily, my younger brother and our youngest sister were there to assist her, and to provide what she needs.

Nanay’s entire body was thoroughly scanned in the hospital yesterday. Whether it was done to detect the cancer cells or radioactive material left in her body is the thing that I don’t know. I have decided to stay innocent of all the complex things the medical doctors had, have been and will be doing to my mom because I have chosen to trust them, and most especially, I have ultimately trusted the divine power to heal my sick mother.

I had phoned and spoke to my mom a couple of hours ago. Nanay told me that she has been feeling drained and weary for the past few days. She has also lost her appetite, but forcing herself to devour some mangosteen and guyabano... believing that the therapeutic power of these fruits comes next to Heavenly Power.

Nanay is scheduled to see her doctor three weeks later. I am sure that the result of the radiation therapy and scanning will be discussed. I couldn’t put my thoughts into words, nor could I clearly explain my feelings...

If iodine-131 could only alleviate my prevailing anxieties, I am willing to undergo this radiation therapy to get treated.

*payag is a Hiligaynon term for a nipa hut.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Originally uploaded by Chook-minder's Lens
A year has passed... and another year has been added to my period of existence in this beautiful world. I am getting older, and after a year, my age could no longer be found in any of the longest calendar month. But honestly, I feel like I’m only on my twenty-fifth.

I do always think that I am younger than my actual age, and I hope that my looks would always do the same. A couple of years ago, a Caucasian acquaintance was surprised when she realized that I am 10 years older than what she had previously thought! While a month ago, a 15-year old Australian bloke working in hardware shop believed that I was only nineteen. I don’t know, of course, if they were lying. I hope they didn’t...

But ageing doesn’t bother me. I may not be earning a lot, but I am sure that day by day I am discovering and learning a lot from this lovely world!

I haven’t been to many places across the globe, but, somehow, I have started to bloom in this humble place where I have been planted; and looking forward to bear many fruits in the later years.

I am not globally renowned like many other guys of my age (eg. Manny Pacquiao) but I am luckily bestowed with scientific knowledge and fortunately blessed with the necessary skills to understand the 'animal world'—a true usefulness in helping creatures that cannot help themselves.

My bank account is unbelievably close to nothing, yet I am sure that every person that I love the most has been whole-heartedly taken care of.

I am still single, but, definitely, not loveless. I have loved, and will continue to love all those who have genuinely given their love to me, as well as those who have brought out all the best in me.

I will never reveal my birthday wish in this page until that wish is being granted. ...but a sound mind and a strong physique, as well as a long life are all I need so I can continue to serve, and fulfil my mission in this world.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Stranger

The Spencer Gulf, Port Agusta, South Australia

I know it's not right, but I have spoken to a stranger... I invited him to my place, took a safety risk overnight. But here I am now, filling a page of this blog.

The final month of the 54-day broiler chicken growth cycle is always very stressful; and during the last days of the batch, my responsibilities become more and more demanding not only because of the physical challenges but also because of the fact that a day after the six sheds get emptied, I am emotionally tortured and mentally pressured to know if my chickens have performed or not. My chickens’ growth performance would directly speak about my work performance.

Well, luckily, for the past three batches my birds have performed. ...and with the 7 to 10-day shed empty and rest period I always have the chance to escape from the poultry farm perimeter, roam in some parts of Australia to relieve all the tensions, and recharge. I actually have a little regret of not thoroughly documenting my travels and adventures in this blog, I hope I could find time in the future.

I was, actually, planning to visit Western Australia this time, but because I’ll be spending a 17-day holiday in the Philippines next month, I had deferred my W.A. trip and decided to visit the second largest city in South Australia, instead. It’s Port Augusta which, excitingly, is pronounced as Port Agata by the indigenous Australians... it is 209 kilometres away from my place. With this trip I believed that I could relax and enjoy without spending a bag of Australian dollars, only a pinch.

My trip to Port Augusta was very educational and entertaining! Through the Wadlatta Outback Centre, I have seen how the Australian continent has metamorphosed for the past 15 million years! I will not promise, but I hope I could share some of these interesting stories in my next entries.

Andrew's map, he purchased it from Indonesia.

I had the chance to visit the tip of the Spencer Gulf and have seen the Great Western Bridge of Port Augusta. And while I was on my way to Woolworth’s supermarket (which was located close to the gulf) to buy some drinks, I saw this not so skinny, long-haired white guy juggling his 3 or 4 coloured balls beside the walkway. With my desire to take photos of some exciting people I see in the place, I immediately headed towards him. I then saw his backpack and camping gears beside him, and a relatively huge map of the world on the ground which was ‘anchored’ to the ground by a book, a compass, etc., and an up-side down hat with some coins in it. I picked and dropped a two-dollar coin in his cap and thought that it would be a little or enough act of kindness before asking if I could take a photo of him.

Then I asked, and he permitted. After the shot, the guy immediately asked a favour if I could send him the photo to his email. I expressed my agreement so he wrote down his email ad on a piece of paper and gave it to me. His name was Andrew Sable from Lithuania.

I then stayed for a little chat, while Andrew continued juggling, and realized that he had been hitch-hiking from his country, to Russia, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia! And for that journey, he only had to spend money for his airfare from Indonesia to Perth, Australia and all the rest were free! Just hitch-hiking— stopping truck, private cars, motorcycles along the road and ferries for a free ride! He had been doing it since March and he survived! He has seen almost half of the world for free!

It’s been my desire to see the world, and I thought it was very expensive! Not until I heard the story of Andrew. I have met Bertrand before- a backpacker from France, and Phil from Denmark but they were not doing the same risky adventure like what this Lithuanian guy had been doing.

During our chat, Andrew said he will be heading to Adelaide the next day; of course he will be passing by Port Wakefield—where I live and work. Because I am very interested to know more about his adventure, I told him that he could drop by my place.

I was driving to Adelaide yesterday to go to the Asian grocer and supermarket for my tinola-cooking assignment for the KaBlogs Journal, when a blocked number phoned my mobile. It was illegal when driving, but I answered my phone, and it was Andrew on the line! He was in a camping area in Port Wakefield, and was asking if I’m going to pick him up there. I did a U-turn and drove back to where he was.

I took him to my place, offered a meal, a drink, an internet connection, a washing machine, a shower a warm room (it’s late winter in the southern hemisphere) and a comfortable bed.

Before he went to bed, we chatted and he showed me all the photos he had taken during his journey. He said that, so far, Indonesia, and Australia were number one on his list as the best countries he had ever been! ...Indonesia because people are very friendly despite their limited English-speaking skills, and Australia because of its diversity.

After Australia, Andrew will find ways to proceed to New Zealand; then continue his adventure to the Pacific Islands, parts of the USA, South America and North Africa, Western Europe and then back home. The Philippines was not included on his list, but I will let him experience the Philippines under my roof. We will be going to the Barossa Wine Region later for the Barossa Gourmet Weekend... He was still sleeping in the guest room while I was writing this entry.

I accommodated a stranger. Yes, Andrew was a stranger, but only until I have started to speak to him. After that, he was no longer a stranger, but a friend I believe.

Andrew Sable- the hitch-hiker from Lithuania.
You can visit Andrew's blog and follow him as he discover the world.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The 'Heart', in situ

It’s my first time to visit Riverton, a small town in South Australia known as the heart of Gilbert Valley. As we drove through the main street, there were three art galleries and a few antique sandstone buildings which, I believe, were erected in the mid-1900 when the first settlers arrived in the place.

The hallway in the care home, with handrails on the walls.

Riverton is approximately 85 kilometres southeast of my place. The sealed roads and highways were occasionally pine-lined; and across the endless horizon were the flourishing wheat and barley plantations, and the blossoming canola that creates a patchy artwork of verdant rolling plains and bright yellow hills. As we came closer to Clare Valley and Auburn, there was a very distinct transition of vegetation from a rich, blooming field to those leafless vines and melancholic vineyards...

The residents and the caregiver in the lounge.

I went to Riverton not as a tourist, though, but as a friend. Together with Tony and Jane, and their 3-year old daughter Ella, we accompanied Aling Siony to the Riverton Hospital which is also a centre for elderly care in the region. We visited Charles—Aling Siony’s husband who will be turning eighty-four by the end of this month. Charles has been in the care home for more than a year now, and every time he sees his wife he would say, “I think I’m gonna die...”

I, actually, don’t want to think how Charles and the other residents have survived in the care centre. Don’t get me wrong, aside from the inevitable smell of soaked adult pads, the hospital is very clean and tidy, equipped with a complete range of age-care facilities, and by the looks of it, I can say without second thoughts that the entire building has been regularly maintained inside-out. I believe that every member of the staff is well-trained to run the centre and is competent enough to offer the best care to their residents.

The residents' shared room.

...but it is the sense of belongingness that concerns me the most. The caregivers may have been doing the same job for years—skilled and knowledgeable, but the fact that they aren’t even related by flesh and by blood to their patients is truly an emotional pain for me. Elderly people don’t just need excellent care of their competent caregivers, but genuine love and care which should and could only be given by their own family. There are twenty-two residents in the ‘home’, two of them in each room but they don’t even know the name of each other, and couldn’t even remember the life story of their roommate. A ‘care home’ is not a home!

Charles' walker...
We were sitting in the lounge when Charles asked Aling Siony to take him to his dad. He said he wants to see his father, and his brother. Aling Siony held the hand of his husband and squeezed it, she blushed and dropped a tear... the truth is—Charles’ dad has passed away many years ago... dementia had possibly made him believe that his dad was still alive.

Charles asked Tony to open the built-in case of his walker; he said that there’s a lemon and a grapefruit inside. Tony obeyed, and to my surprise, there were fruits in that box! Charles took the grapefruit, handed it to Aling Siony and said, “This is for you, dear. Take it home.” We soon realized that the fruits have fallen from the tree standing in the backyard of the elderly care centre.

When it was time for us to leave, Aling Siony took the visitors book of her husband so she could sign. The last entry was June 23, 2010—a visit made by herself, Jane and Ella. In the first Sunday of September, Australia will celebrate father’s day. I wish that Charles’ children from his first four once legal wives (but now legally-divorced) will come and say hello to their dad (Aling Siony is the fifth, and the couple hasn’t been blessed with a child).

Charles, Ella (the grapefruit behind her pink backpack), and Aling Siony.

I will be celebrating my fourth birthday in Australia this month. I am definitely getting older and older... in this Land Down Under where the conception and views about elderly care are very different from what we have back home. I have been granted with a permanent resident visa in this country, and with what I have seen in Riverton today, I am reconsidering my plans to achieve the ultimate immigration status down here.

The dining, with the lemon and grapefruit trees outside.

I am looking forward to visit Riverton again, not to see the home for the aged but to explore the town and discover more about the real heart of Gilbert Valley.