This might set my dubious record of the longest post to get around to writing, but it’s important (to me) as the fitting close to my month of November Down Under.
That image at the top of the post represents the peaceful view from the back deck of Kate Bowles‘ home in Thirroul, New South Wales, just a nudge north of Wollongong. Better I should say that this is a town right on the ocean, it’s within walking distance.
Not a bad place to be. I had four days where I was not presenting, not shuttling around, just a place to be still. And in the welcoming, warm hospitality of Kate and her family. But I did have to rewind two days earlier, because getting here started in Wagga Wagga. Tim Klapdor had arranged to drive me a scenic route to Wollongong after my days in Wagga.
(this leg of the tour seemed to be all the “W” places Wodonga – Wagga Wagga – Wollongong)
The trip from Wagga involved stopping at places like Junee, home of an organic licorice factory (did I know there was such a thing)
We overnighted in Canberra, which was fitting as it was the first place I stayed on my first trip to Australia in 2000 (unfortunately my host back then “Big Al” Allan Moore was not available to see on this trip). I thought I remembered the big lake well, but much was new. The night we were there was actually American Thanksgiving. We celebrated with Thai food.
The next day was a spectacular drive over mountains and bush, like this view at Jerrawangala Viewpoint. And Tim had designed a perfect route, with a view of what I was told is the “whitest sand beach” in Australia, Hyams Beach (the heck with the sand, look at that water!)
How could it get better? Well how about maybe the best fish and chips I’ve ever had at World Famous Fish and Chips in Huskisson.
Well fast forward to arriving at Kate’s house, meeting everyone, and enjoying home made pizza made by one of her daughters. Tim stayed over nearby and luckily he forgot his sun glasses and returned in the morning, so there was time for a photo
I guess I might have written longer about getting there than the time there. That’s the thing about having some slow time, it really blurs time. Some of the best was sitting on that back porch, sometimes reading, or a little geeking, or talking to Kate about our mutual teaching and the ins and outs of the online spaces we usually interact in. And an idea we talked about as an online version of a “listening bench”.
Oh and I also got the full details and partial gossip about the town of Thirroul. The best coffee shop, though people seem to have different preferences un baristas (I prefer the one making me a flat white right now) Tell tale inscriptions on buildings. How shady deals were done at a “table of knowledge”.
And most importantly, how central in all ways is the IGA.
Kate took me one day to see the University of Wollongong where she works and O got to sit in on an interesting consultations with one of her students.
I had seriously failed my Kean students I teach online in being a month in Australia and not showing for it one photo of a kangaroo or koala. They would not accept my photos from previous trips (even the penguins!).
The best I got was a bronze one on the University of Wollongong campus
On my last full day there, Kate joined me for a rather special Skype call / recording with my colleague Antonio Vantaggiato in Puerto Rico and Parisa Mehran in Japan. Just arranging this time was juggling schedules, but it worked out perfectly for a conversation about connections and care. This is part of an idea to help show support for Antonio and his students who were knocked out of the normalcy of life by two hurricanes and the wretched treatment by our paper towel tosser in chief (oops dial that back). We ended up talking and recording for an hour, longer than most anybody will ever listen, but it was as much for us four as anyone else.
You can listen to the podcast and also see media placed on the timeline at our show on TapeWrite “The Puerto Rico Connection” (WordPress.com probably will not let me embed the player).
Again I am not in any way really giving enough words to the warmth Kate and her family provided me, even with a zillion things going on in their lives. I so adored listening and talking to her daughters who bear the insight and wit that Kate exhibits herself. I may have fallen asleep watching cricket with her husband. Sorry! It was exciting.
This part of the trip, the days with Tim and also Kate, fit the pattern of my internet initiated friendships. I think both Tim, Kate and I connected beyond blogs/tweets passing by the time dabbling in the Federated Wiki. Kate and I got to meet first during a panel at University of Mary Washington, but the best part of that trip was the walking and talking around Fredericksburg. What starts online as finding people to inspire, challenge you, but also can laugh at similar things, is all enhanced a thousand-fold after the honor of being able to be in their homes, meet their family.
Even to get to know their cats. Lola is ok.
Thank you Kate for capping this trip so perfectly, the right pace.
Until the next time…
And this marks the end of the Australia 2017 trip… having blogging it almost 7 weeks later. No one is keeping score.