Saturday, June 18, 2011

Settled in Broome

Cable Beach - our local beach
A week may be a long time in football but it seems an eternity in our travelling life. Having been somewhat disconcerted with our accomodation situation on arrival, everything now seems to have settled down. A bit of a tweak in our expectations and general approach seems to have done the trick. We now effectively live in Bridget and Marten's house and just sleep in the van. The ants haven't quite been eradicated - still working on that one - but their numbers have certainly been reduced. We also have the luxury of using the van as a sort of parent's retreat during the day. I have been using it some days as my office. Tori has been using it to sneak off and have a sleep or watch a video. So we've managed to configure the best of both worlds. The meal situation has been working out well. We decided early on to lump in together and cook and eat dinners as one big family. Mostly Bridget has been cooking, which is great because she produces delicious meals without really batting an eyelid. And the kids have teamed up in pairs to cook on a couple of other nights. Tori's and my turns will also come. So the load is being shared depending on who has what on during the various days. Marty's days are alternated between running the business for their jewellery store (The Courthouse Collection) and trying to make some progress on house construction down at their block. Bridget is split between making the jewellery for the store and also working down at the block, plus making school lunches and essentially keeping a household running. I've been working on my laptop in the sunshine out in the backyard or occasionally in the van, depending on my mood. I managed a solo escape on my pushbike down to Cable Beach for a lunchtime swim. It's really the first piece of time I've spent down there other than going for a quick look and a sunset. Cable Beach regularly ranks in the top ten lists of World's Best Beaches and today I could see why. In the dry season, which is now, every day is a beautiful clear blue sky day with temperatures around 28 degrees. The bright warming sun sparkles off crystal clear turquoise water that washes gently on to a wide pure white sand beach. Hardly a ripple to be seen and then a series of beautiful body surfable waves springing seemingly from nowhere to give a relaxing ride into the shore. Having spent a lot of time on a variety of beautiful beaches over the last few months I was a bit sceptical about the whole ranking system, but today Cable Beach won me over. It truly is exceptional.

Jaz and Finn have been enrolled in Roebuck Primary School which is where Oscar and Rav go. They have just finished their first week there and seem to have settled in very quickly. Perhaps their increased adaptability is a product of our journey which has involved continual change. With 600 students, Roebuck is the largest primary school in the Kimberley. It has a beautifully manicured football oval, basketball courts, large library, excellent computer setup, multiple playgrounds and lovely green lawns. Their facilities leave Warrandyte Primary for dead. The school is more formal than Jaz and Finn are used to with teachers being referred to as Mr. or Mrs. rather than by their first name as is the case back "home". The hours are also different with school starting at the horrendously early 8am, which is a bit of a nightmare for school drop offs. I'm not used to starting my days that early and was quite content not to need to. Now that's all changed with me being the school chauffeur every second day. The up side of that is that I've found my new regular local cafe in which to have my breakfast and read yesterday (or the day before)'s paper. Being more than 2,000km from Perth with the earliest flight not arriving until after 9:30am, the daily paper doesn't hit the newsagents until late morning. Having the kids away in the day is something completely new. We've all spent so much time living in each other's pockets that it feels strange now to not have them constantly around. I still haven't really settled on my perfect daily routine but I think I will be trying to include a ride and a lunchtime swim at Cable Beach as a regular activity. Despite being more active on this journey, I feel that my level of fitness has been decreasing while conversely a nice paunch around my middle has been continually evolving. It seems to have a life of its own and constantly demands being fed beer or any tasty food that may be available. With the early start, the kids finish school at 2pm, which involves pick ups and then after school activities. Finn has been going down to footy training with Oscar and Rav on Tuesday and Thursday nights. They both play for the St.Mary under 13s, a team comprisied mostly of local indigenous kids. The closest game they've had so far this season is a win by seven goals. Back in Warrandyte Finn would actually still be playing in the Under 10s, so is a bit out of his league. He has however been managing to get a few kicks in the training scratch matches against the older and some very talented kids, so he's been enjoying it. I've spoken to the club president now and hopefully he'll be able to get a few games with the Under 11s team.

Broome is a town with a large indigenous population. Having grown up in the Melbourne suburbs, I have never really had any regular contact with Australia's indigenous folk. It was all very white European based where I grew up, with an increase in the number of people of Asian descent through the 80s. But there were no black fellas around. In Warrandyte, there are a few remnants of black fella culture to be found as the area around the river was a major hub of activity for the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. The river provided a major food source and the geology of the area provided inspiration for many of the Dreamime stories. But the people of that tribe have long disappeared from the area, probably not long after the 1850s when gold was discovered there. There's clearly been a lot of bad history involving the indigenous Australians and the rest of Australia, both historically and more recently. Some have been based on outright racism and a feeling of white superiority. Others have been caused despite best intentions. And maybe some inroads into rectifying the situation has been made. But one thing that has become very clear to me quite quickly while living in Broome. The majority of people who live in our major population centres of Melbourne and Sydney don't really have a full understanding of the situation. I'm hoping that I can get my head around it a bit more while I'm here.

Apart from the rich indigenous history of Broome, there is a colourful Broome history related to the pearl trade dating back to the 1880s when Broome was established as a pearling port. The laying of a telegraph cable a few years later that ran from Java in Indonesia along the ocean bed to Broome, coming ashore at what is now Cable Beach, brought a further influx of people from across the globe. The town today has a lot of character having been layered on top of this history. Being now a town of 15,000 or so people, it is a large enough population centre to cater for most needs. A couple of shopping centres, all manner of specialty shops, great weekend markets with a suitable hippy bent, loads of four wheel drive retail and workshops, several pubs, restaurants, cafes, live music, local footy, a couple of cinemas including the world's oldest outdoor cinema, and more pearl selling shops than you could shake a stcik at. And of course a sensational climate when the weather is at its worst down south, accompanied by a magnificent local beach and access to one of the world's great wilderness areas in the Kimberley. I'm looking forward to embracing it all.

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