Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oct 22 Mullumbimby & A Crazy Hailstorm

The kids and I spend the better part of the day about 20 minutes away and through some sugar cane fields - just outside the town of Mullumbimy. We meet with a group of self-titled “Natural Learner” homeschoolers (unschoolers) that I’d found & contacted online from Connecticut. The group seems to be mostly younger families - and fairly geographically spread out due to an overall thinner population base. The Byron Homeschoolers meet weekly for the usual sort of park or project events, or hanging out at Durrumbull Hall.

The hall is an actual community hall, the likes of which we don’t seem to have any more in the States - I can tell you with some certainty from experience. The local folks came together, created the design plan, made the (mud/adobe) bricks, and began construction in the mid ‘80s on the building with a large open hall, kitchen, baths, storage and extensive wrapping porch & grounds. It opened in 1993 for use at a very small fee for meetings, events & celebrations. There is a family oriented Halloween Festival there on the 31st.

The people are a very laid back, welcoming and well-travelled bunch. We make friends whose heritage includes Israel, Brazil, Scotland and Germany within perhaps just a half dozen families represented. Someone has brought a cd player. Finn’s face lights up, “Mom, listen!” when the first track that comes on is “Pata Pata” - one of the folk classics the kids had learned in South Africa last year. One of other the homeschool families there had also spent time living just outside of Capetown.

Maddie & Finn enjoyed running amock within the palms & vines and climbing more fabulous trees. They fall in with a family of four children, the oldest Maddie’s age, and we are invited to their house - “just ring, anytime after 11 is good”. Goodbyes are cut short by threatening storm clouds and a few juicy drops and bits of hail. In the melĂ©e, I proceeded to store the note with our new friends’ contact information in an unfindeable position between the seats of our car for 5 days.

We get some fair-sized cloudbursts dumped randomly on us in our ride home, and as we pull into Byron, Maddie exclaims about what looks like cooler dump zones of ice piled beneath the palms. Though the roads have melted evidence, huge piles of freezer sized hail line the grass, and leaves & fronds litter the streets. Everyone is still scurrying close to buildings with newspaper & cardboard as protective covering just in case the mold green-grey skies let loose again. Waiting at home, Bail has tried to call my cel - which we haven’t activated here - worried about the storm which absolutely pummeled the house with literal golf-ball sized hail. The racket on the metal roof was deafening. He disn’t get any pictures/footage as he had pulled all the equipment away from the porch & windows as shattering seemed imminent. Ever since, we’ve been seeing the local cars that look as if they’ve been ambushed by angry golfers armed with a modified ball cannon.

Our car has remained dent-free away from the storm, so we pop down to Woolworths (the grocery store, not the department variety) as it is nearly the only market open past 7pm. With a goal of comfort food and a movie, we stock up on spaghetti supplies - in this case, Kangaroo Bolaignaise! Hey, ya always have to try the local stuff. We’re not ready for the steak version, but Bail whips up an awesome sauce with the ‘roo meat which has a bit of an earthy-gamey flavor -- perhaps closer to venison.

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