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


FROM: rjofw@yahoo7mail.com
TO: mrs_filipinas@yahoomail.com
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.