Sizzling Down Under

Bonaventure Meadows Public School
London, Ontario

By Alicia H. (Grade 6)

Where is a country that has hot weather like we would never have in Canada, and kangaroos that jump around in the bush? Well, if you haven't guessed yet, the country I'm writing about is Australia. Australia is also known as the "Land Down Under".

In Australia there are different places to live. There are many people who live in town, but there are also many who live in the bush. Two of those people are Jerry and Melissa Jeffress. You might not have heard of them, but Jerry worked on the special effects for "Star Wars", "Indiana Jones" and "Star Trek" in the 70's and 80's. Melissa and Jerry moved from Hollywood, California to live in Australia. On December 9, 1996, I e-mailed Melissa Jeffress at home to ask her some questions like "Where do you live?", "What are some of the noises you hear in the bush?", "What do you use for power?", and "What is life like living in the bush?"

On December 18, Melissa e-mailed me her answers to these questions. "We live in the bush in Far North Queensland, Australia, beside a river that flows year round (usually). We live past the power lines." Her next answer was, "The bush is very quiet, the noises we can hear are made by insects, birds, frogs, sometimes the river in flood. At night we hear the thumping from the kangaroos hopping past and the odd barking of a dog or yipping of dingoes at night. I might hear the occasional "hee-haw" of a donkey, and a generator running on cloudy days, and on a New Year's Eve, we'll probably hear the faint notes of electric music coming from the band at the community centre."

"We are 'self-suffiicient' in the sense that we produce our own electricity using solar panels (with a backup generator for cloudy days) and provide our own water by collecting rain water for drinking and cooking, and by pumping river water for showers, gardening and the toilet. We buy bottled gas, (propane) in town, and use it for cooking. Because there are no city lights nearby, the stars are astonishingly bright. You can even see them through the trees on the horizon, so the air is quite clean (unless there is a bushfire nearby). When the moon is full, it is so big and bright that I don't need a flashlight when walking. I worry about stepping on snakes like taipans and death adders that might be out and about at night in the summer. Since we immigrated nine years ago, we have become much more attuned to the demands we place on our environment. How much water shall we use? Will our stored rainwater last until the next rains? Did we get enough sun for the solar panels to charge the batteries? We notice how nature intertwines with our lives. Cloudy days mean cooler weather but less electricity. The Dry Season means get ready for bushfires. The black cockatoos appear to announce the start of the Wet Season, and that means we better be stocked up on supplies in case there is a cyclone and the roads are impassible. When it's hot, we work in the cool of the mornings, and again when it cools off in the afternoon. I'm glad school holidays have started because daily schedules don't seem to consider tropical conditions."

"Our house is very open and the weather year round is so warm that we can wear shorts and T-shirts during the day. In winter, early morning and evening feels cold enough to wear more layers and sit in front of a fire. Once in a while we get frost in gullies and near creek bottoms."

"Our car is a 4 wheel drive and that means we can usually get through creeks that rise during the Wet Season. Some of my students live across the river and when it's in flood, they usually stay home. If the river stays too high for a 4WD for more than a day or two, they can get across at Pomplepoo Crossing. There is a wire strung between trees across the river and the kids (and adults) walk to the river, put their clothes in plastic bags and go across the river holding onto the wire (and bag) with their hands while their bodies are submerged in the river. It can be pretty exciting. I remember one year a galant friend of ours went across several times to help a lady-friend ferry all her groceries and the dog. The dog was the hardest part. I love living in the bush."

Life in the the Australian Bush sounds pretty exciting, but I am not sure if I am ready to give up all the comforts of living in Canada and have snakes for neighbors!

Front Page April 1997