After the lovely glass-bottom boat tour of this morning, the afternoon is spent sitting on the porch, chatting with Farmer Jane and writing, while enjoying the intermittent rain showers. The evening is spent chatting, drinking wine, and eating pizza. (Kongy goes to pick up the pizza as there’s no pizza delivery on the island.) This is a regular pastime here on LHI where life is slow and people live in the moment.
In the morning, I hop on my bike and pedal the three-minutes to the museum to enjoy a latte and breakfast at the Coral Café, while taking advantage of the VEW (Very Expensive Wifi). Besides exploring the tiny museum and using the WiFi, this is a great place to observe the goings-on of the island. I see the get together of the Mommies’ Group, overhear that a local business owner is traveling home to look in on his elderly parents, and am approached by a man who asks me for the Drop Me Anywhere website, while showing me some of his paintings.
At 12:15pm, Farmer Jane and Kongy join me for lunch on the deck of the Coral Café before we head on over to the school. Today I’m giving a talk to the thirty-eight students at the Lord Howe Island Central School. They enter the room by grade with the kindergarten and first-graders entering first, followed by the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders. The majority of the students are in kindergarten and second grade and there’s only one sixth-grader, which will make planning her reunion a breeze. After sixth-grade, kids have the option of home-schooling, distance education (using school computers for online learning) or going to the mainland for boarding school.
I’ve prepared a half-hour Power Point presentation about travel, volunteering and living your dreams. I come prepared with two small bags of Starburst candies. (If I bore them to death, I’ll still be a hit!) During the talk I show them photos of the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met along the way, and some of the places I’ve volunteered. When I show a photo of a landmark, I challenge them to name the location. Any correct answer gets a Starburst (though most answers shouted out seem to be “India!”). I encourage them to go out into the world and explore, learn new things, and meet new people. I tell them that they don’t have to change the world, but they can change someone’s life. After explaining a simple mantra to them, “Dream, Travel, Do-Good,” I ask them what their mantras are. Some express things like, “Eat Sleep, Play” and “Read, Play Music and Try Hard,” and one little kindergartener says her mantra is, “I stayed at the doctor’s house and his dog is named Bruce.”
“That’s an excellent mantra,” I tell her. (It’s certainly a unique one.)
After saying goodbye to the kids, Farmer Jane, Kongy and I head over to Neds beach to feed the Silver Drummers, Mullets, Blue Fish and, well, all the fish in the sea. Or, more precisely, all the fish on the beach, as these fish seem so desperate for food, they beach themselves in an effort to grab some of the pellets of fish-food which we’ve purchased from the gumball-type machine in the beach hut. There are also beach-chairs, wakeboards and snorkel equipment for rent in the unlocked beach hut which works on an honor system. Oh, and if you don’t have the cash with you, no worries; you can simply write your name and the lodge you’re staying at in the notebook, and the rental company will stop by your place to collect it.
We spend some time feeding the fish, being careful not to do so by hand as the Silver Drummers have teeth and aren’t afraid to use them. Still, Kongy, showing his island experience, reaches in and catches a fish with his bare-hands. Once the food runs out, we stop by the house before heading over to the movie theatre to see the historical movie put on by the school-kids every Wednesday at 5:00pm during the school year. A couple of kids introduce it and thank the audience for their support; the $5 admission goes to the school to buy sporting equipment and send the kids on a semi-annual trip to the mainland. The show consists of three-short movies, shot in the 1940’s, 50’s and 70’s, which show what life was like on the island and the experience of being a passenger on the flying-boats, which used to be the mode of transportation from the mainland to LHI. Flying boats were similar to sea-planes, but just a bit larger. The drivers of the planes were called “Skippers” and they weren’t considered planes which could float, but boats which could fly. Sea-planes stopped bringing visitors to LHI in 1974 when the first runway was built on the island and when the surrounding reef became a marine park.
We end the night at the Bowling Club. Tonight is Members’ Draw, where a raffle is held and prizes include cash, meat and vegetable trays, and wine. The food is great and the drinks flow freely. This is definitely a night to meet the locals and hear a bit of island gossip. While we enjoy our liquid libations inside, a storm is crashing outside. We take advantage of a break in the rain, hop in the truck, and head back to Thornleigh before the thunder begins booming again.
I wake up early in the morning and Kongy drops me by the board offices just before 7:00am. Today I’m on the “Weed Team.” This group of mainly paid employees (with a few volunteers) hikes into the jungle four-days per week to get down on their hands and knees, and cut weeds from the ground. These weeds don’t belong here and, if left unattended, will eventually take over the beautiful green hills and kill the native plant-life. This weed eradication program is in its tenth-year and is proving quite successful. You’ll be able to read about it next week in the philanthropic sister-site of Drop Me Anywhere, www.Rebel-With-A-Cause.org.
We suit up with our jungle tool-belts and backpacks before climbing into the truck where we drive up and down steep roads and grass-covered hills before getting bogged down in the mud left from last-night’s storms. As the truck begins sliding sideways I decide this would be a good spot for me to bail-out and walk. Actually, we all do.
We hike through the jungle to the grid marked by blue tape on trees which we’ll be working on today. I’m shown examples of which two main weeds we’ll be concentrating on and how to properly cut them from the earth. While they tell me the proper names, I call them “the fuzzy ones which grow in my backyard” and “the ones which look like rosemary.” By the end of the day, everyone else is calling them the same.
I work with a team of seven which includes Margie, who began the job in April; Mandy, a volunteer here from the mainland to work on the Weed Team for three weeks; Ernie, who’s lived on LHI for eight years and has worked on the Weed Team for three; Aquila, from Fiji, whose wife is also on the Weed Team and today is his first official day on the job; Gili, a local legend who has simply, “been here forever”; Frizzy, originally from Bosnia; and Louis, who has a pet owl and sounds just like Ringo Starr (Louis, not the owl) yet has no idea who that is. (“You’ve heard of the Beatles?” I ask, to which he replies, “Yeh, I’ve think I’ve heard of them, but I don’t listen to them.”)
It rains off and on throughout the morning and early afternoon. Sometimes we’re protected by the jungle canopy and, well, sometimes we’re simply wet. I do my best not to slide down the slippery rocks which we traverse throughout our time on the hillside, and am constantly falling as the jungle roots stretch low to the ground. It’s clear they get their jungle jollies tripping me and watching me fall.
At 12:00 we sit down to eat our packed lunches in the jungle rain before hiking down the steep hill with the slippery rocks to join the truck which takes us back to town to catch a warm cup of coffee at the museum.
More LHI fun and excitement coming. In the meantime, the next vote is up and running. You decide where we travel. It’s a BIG decision! VOTE HERE!