The school year is well and truly underway and already many lessons have been learnt thus far. This year I have left the creature comforts of city life and headed to the Australian Outback. Yep, I now live smack bang in the middle of the desert. I’m teaching in the remote community of Ampilatwatja, approximately 320km north-east of Alice Springs.
I arrived in red centre on Wednesday January 21st and quickly found myself in a Vietnamese nail salon, as it was the only place this city girl felt like she fit in. To say I felt out of place in such a tiny little town is a complete understatement. I couldn’t quite get my head around how quiet it was at a time of the day when the peak hour hustle and bustle of Melbourne would have been infuriating for even the most patient of people. But naturally, I soon found my feet, ventured back to my hotel and spent the rest of my day lazing by the pool. In the following days I met people who I knew would become lifelong friends. Out here everything is heightened, you meet somebody and within five minutes you’re besties swapping stories over tequila shots. It’s quite refreshing.
My drive out to community was interesting to say the least. In weeks prior to my arrival the Sandover Highway had been completely under water for close to a month. Add to this the fact I had only ever driven a manual once before in my entire life. Luckily we drove out in convoy, so I wasn’t actually able to get lost or stranded in the middle of the desert. Winning! From the moment I stepped out of the Troopie I felt as though I belonged. The next few days involved me getting to know my new colleagues (aka. family) meeting members of the community, trips out bush to gather tucker and of course getting to know my beautiful grade 3/4s.
I have found life in the classroom to be quite challenging at times and have often wanted to throw my hands up in the air and scream ‘I don’t know what I’m doing!!!’ But never once have I felt the need or want to pack up and leave. Fortunately, I have a beautiful support network of friends and family who are only a phone call away.
The country is beautiful, the community is welcoming and my students are funny and bright. Just last night I was dancing to Flo Rida’s Low at the Friday night disco, and I tell you what… There’s been very few moments in my life that compare to that. The smiles, the laughs, the genuine happiness.
In just four short weeks I feel like I have conquered the world! I traded in my Victorian Driver’s Licence, racked up almost 5000km in a manual 4×4, witnessed the most beautiful of sunsets, been attacked by a terrifying spider, climbed The Devils Marbles, ran over a deadly snake, partied with Ray Martin at a roadside pub, attended a community funeral, watched a lizard dance on my verandah and ate bush berries and bush bananas with some local women.
I don’t think I’m ever coming home.