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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Of Birds & Bush Poets

Thurs Sept 19

The number and variety of birds in Australia is mind blowing. Living in the country, we are quite used to having lots of birds around. But multiply and amplify that many times to get what we hear here. None are the same as the European or North American birds with which we are familiar. We see white parakeets with yellow combs, lots of black and white “magpies” types, some black “crow” like birds. Vultures. A cross of dove and pigeon.
Their songs, at the break of dawn around 5 AM, are hilarious. One is exactly like a whistling man who forget the tune, hesitates and tries again.
Another bird sounds exactly like he’s snoring: a loud rattle followed by a whistle.
There are flocks of very excited birds. At the first ray of light they all chant “HERE-we-go! HERE-we-go!”
There are alarm-clock-birds, a Volkswagen-bird (sounds like he can’t get started), a telephone-bird, and of course the kookaburra who laughs at them all.

One night, in a campground, we attended a bush poet evening. I loved it. Two women performed a cross between stand-up comedy and poetry. Bush cowboys are well known for their long entertaining ballads, which relate all aspects of live, funny incidents and everything else.These two performed their own works, poems about grandmothers, about teenage sons, about being a chook farmer (chook = chicken), and more. If you want to hear some, go to:

We stayed 2 nights in Mt Isa at a quiet caravan park with a nice pool. Slept in, had tea in bed, did all our laundry, even mopped the floor of our camper. We visited a small aboriginal center where we chatted with a lovely lady. She told us that aboriginal people have only been recognized in Australia’s Constitution as of THIS MONTH. Unbelievable.
One of the most enjoyable visits was to the School of the Air. In several cities, this special school for Outback children has learning centers where you can get a tour. Many of the students live eight hours of more from the nearest town. Teachers talk with them each day, at a set time, over the phone. The ranches are often so remote that they don’t even have internet access.  The kids don’t see their teacher, just talk with them about their lessons. They even learn music, like playing the violin, via the telephone! The ‘school’ was full of art on the walls and large projects that students had mailed in. Children are schooled during elementary and middle school and sometimes also into highschool but many highschool students go to boarding schools in Queensland. Some boys return to work on the (company or family) ranges. When I asked about further education, I was given an example of a girl from a family of 7 children, who is now doing her PhD in math at Cambridge.

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