I woke up with a memory that saved the day.
When we had been planning our holiday, Tim had seen a map of Canberra. He mentioned to me that there were national parks around there. I told him that's nice, but I doubt we'd have time to go to any. We have so many museums and government stuff to see in Canberra. We were packed with activities. We'd do some nature stuff at our next stop in the South Coast.
But here we were with a full day free and nothing to do. Except now we did have something to do. We could go to a park...see wild animals.
Before we left for the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Jack and I took a walk around the Carotel to see all the nature there. We saw birds and rabbits. At some point, we made up some silly game....the type that Jack loves. Every time I saw a Magpie, I'd pretend to lose brain cells. Jack would ask me a simple question and I'd pretend not to know. The cure was to see a big ant. Then my brain would be okay again. I think in some way, I was trying to make Jack see the ants in a positive light.
The ride to Tidbinbilla was long. I mean that's a really subjective statement. For me, it felt long. I think it was less than an hour. I think it seemed long because we felt so isolated. It was extremely rare for us to see any other cars. There were very little signs of human life. And I know in Aussie standards, this is nothing. I'm sure there are people who go HOURS and hours without seeing human life. As an American who lives in the suburbs, it felt weird.
It was BEAUTIFUL though. I enjoyed looking out the window.
At the same time, I wondered if we'd ever get there. Were we lost? Would Jack get carsick? Would I get carsick? What if one of us needed a toilet? If Jack peed on the side of the road, would he get bitten by a snake? If Jack and I both got bitten by a snake and were unconscious, would Tim know to call 000 instead of 911?
We finally found something! It wasn't the nature reserve. It was the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. There were huge radio telescopes. I felt like I was in a science fiction movie. I was a little confused at first because I thought the big dish was in Parkes. Well, it turns out Australia has multiple dishes.
It was exciting finding the space place because it was completely unexpected. I had no idea it existed. It made me feel adventurous. What else could we find if we just drove around like this?
We looked around the museum and used the nice clean toilets.
Then we ate lunch at their Moon Rock Cafe. Jack and Tim had a sausage roll which they liked. I had a quiche with spinach and feta cheese. I didn't like it at all. I thought it was old or something. But later in the South Coast, I had a pie with spinach and cheese and hated that too. I came to the conclusion I don't like pastries with spinach and cheese. So, the Moon Rock Cafe's quiche was probably perfectly fine.
They also have a store so I bought Jack a t-shirt. I thought it would be cool to get t-shirts from more obscure places. Unfortunately, that was the one and only time we got a t-shirt like that. The rest of the shirts we bought were the typical tourist ones. I think the main reason is the obscure t-shirts are usually expensive. Oh well.
We left the space center and went to the nature reserve.
We started at the gift shop where a woman gave us a map and guidance about where to go. I think we were all a bit confused. We drove around a bit and came to a picnic field with a bunch of kangaroos. There were other tourists standing there and we got out of the car to join them. It was nearly impossible to walk without stepping in roo poo.
Jack didn't keep enough distance from the kangaroos. He scared them away. I felt a bit rejected actually. I don't know. I guess I wanted them to run up to us and hug us. Welcome to Australia!
Here though appeared a highly significant point in my Australia-obsession-journey. I had reached the point of seeing enough wild kangaroos that they weren't so special anymore. I'm sure it happens to most tourists eventually. My first kangaroo in Tasmania had been an almost religious experience. Heart-stopping. I might have even had a tear in my eye. The second one (in the holiday park) had been poetic. It was like that moment in Stand by Me when Gordie Lachance sees the deer. I felt Kangaroo Momma and I had BONDED. Now in this nature park, I was soon more worried about my shoes getting too dirty than looking at kangaroos.
We got back into the car and drove around until I got sick of driving around. I told Tim we should stop at one of the designated walks.
He stopped. We entered the gates and found ourselves in ant-land. They were everywhere! And they were big! Jack was terrified. I tried to reassure him. I didn't know if they were bull ants. And if they weren't, I wasn't sure if they were the type of ants that bite. I said though that as long as you keep walking, they probably won't bother you.
The only time you really need to worry is if you sit down or stand in one place for awhile. Jack wanted to be picked up. Tim carried him most of the way.
Jack complained. Tim attempted using dishonesty to quiet Jack's fears. He told Jack that if a Bull Ant bites it feels like a mosquito. Okay, this might be work for some children. But one of Jack's favorite books is about dangerous Australian animals. He KNOWS that a Bull Ant sting hurts.
I used a more honest approach. I said it does hurt if a bull ant stings, but the pain goes away fairly quickly. And I added again that it was highly unlikely that he'd get bit (or stung) if we kept walking. I said I was more worried about Tim carrying him. Tim might trip and then they both could fall right into one of the ant hills. That would not be good!
I think Tim also kept trying to convince Jack that there weren't a lot of ants. I'm not sure who Tim was trying to fool. It looked like there was an infestation.
Eventually, we made our way out. Jack wanted to leave the nature reserve. Tim wanted to try another walk. He promised Jack that there wouldn't be a lot of ants. I agreed to go, but told myself if there were a lot of ants in this one, I wouldn't make Jack go.
I've come to believe in using honesty with children. I do believe in reassuring them, but I think lying can backfire. If they find out the truth, how can they trust you afterwards? I understand why parents resort to lying. It can be horrible seeing your child so terrified. And I've lied to Jack before in the past. He was really terrified of tornadoes which happen a lot in Texas. I didn't like seeing him cry, so, what did I do? I told him if a tornado gets you, it's okay. All that happens is you get taken to Oz (not the Australian one). I regret telling him that.
I'm more honest with him now. I try to answer his questions honestly and at the same time try not to terrify him. It's a hard balance to maintain sometimes. And sometimes you do end up with a scared child. But we live in a dangerous world. Bad things happen. I think you can know that and still be relatively okay. I don't think it shatters your soul or anything.
Anyway, we entered the other path. This one had very little ants. It was on a boardwalk and was much less rustic.
We saw an emu coming in our direction. Then we saw a few other emus following. I got a bit nervous. I tried to recall if Jack's dangerous Aussie animal book had mentioned anything about emu gang attacks. Tim and Jack happily watched the emus and snapped photographs. Later though, Tim confessed to me that he had been a bit nervous as well.
Right after we saw the Emus, my phone rang. We were expecting some huge news so I quickly rummaged through my backpack for my mobile. I looked at the caller ID. My parents! This was it! The moment we were waiting for.
I answered the phone saying something like Do you have good news?
My dad laughed. No, my little sister was not in labor yet. He was calling because he had heard about the fire and was worried about us. I reassured him we were totally okay. No fires. No emu attacks. No ant bites. We were quite safe.
We chatted a bit. Then Jack had his turn to talk.
We didn't stay on the phone long since it's expensive.
We walked and saw more animals.
We enjoyed the nature.
There was this sign that annoyed me. It tried to say that without rocks there'd be no ice-cream. Supposedly, you need rocks to make minerals and minerals to to make fertilizers. You need fertilizers to make grains so the cows can eat and make milk. And then you have your ice-cream. But don't we need minerals just to stay alive? If we're all dead, who needs the damn ice-cream anyway?
We need rocks so we have something to throw in the water. That's purpose enough. Why do they have to use ice-cream to try to prove the validity of rocks. Without ice-cream, do they fear we wouldn't see rocks as having a right to exist? Are rocks even endangered? Should I be worried?
Speaking of ice-cream, after the nature park we drove to a town and went to an ice-cream place called Goodberry's. I just looked it up and it turns out that it's an American company. It started out in North Carolina. It seems to be only in Canberra, North Carolina, and South Carolina. I think it's funny that it jumped continents before spreading around the United States.
We had Concretes. Of course, Jack still remembers what we all ordered. He said he had vanilla with Lychee's. I supposedly had Jaffas as a mix-in, and Tim had cheesecake.
There was an Asian grocery in the shopping strip. Tim went up there to pick up some supplies. We'd have a full kitchen in the South Coast and Sydney so we figured we'd do some cooking. By that I actually mean TIM would do some cooking.
At some point during our drive, Tim and Jack got the idea that we should go to the Mint. I don't know why. Maybe we had passed it? Maybe they saw it on the map? Wait. I think Tim had seen a description of it, because he told Jack you could make your own coin there. Jack assumed this meant we could make a coin with our picture on it. He was all excited about that. We told him this was probably NOT what they meant. Jack was still excited though. His favorite book series at the time was Judy Blume's Fudge series. In one of the books, little Fudge becomes obsessed with money. To satisfy his obsession, the family takes him to the mint in the United States.
Coincidentally, when we were back in our cabin watching The Simpsons that afternoon they had a episode which showed money made with Bart's picture. The episode also had a massive fire in the beginning. That was a bit weird.
For dinner, I had convinced Tim we should eat Ethiopian. It's not something we can get on a regular basis. In fact, it had been years since we last ate it. Anytime, I mentioned Ethiopian Tim would remind me of what happened the first time we ate it together. We both had toilet emergencies.
I was pretty excited about eating at Fekertes. I figured the toilet thing had just been a fluke. It wouldn't happen again.
We didn't have a great time at the restaurant. First of all, compared to most Aussie places this one was much less friendly. The first thing they asked us is if we had a booking. I mean that's not a bad thing to ask. It was about the tone they used. It's like how dare you think of coming into our restaurant without a formal booking? The restaurant wasn't that crowded and they did actually have a table immediately for us. And they probably meant nothing by it. It probably came out in a tone they didn't intend, or I just heard it wrong.
That wasn't the only thing though. They seemed too serious there...almost sad. It was like they didn't want us there because they didn't want to be there themselves. There were no smiles. Now I'm thinking maybe something awful happened that night and they were all sad about about it. Maybe they had family members in the fires. You never know. We could have just come on a bad night.
I wasn't that impressed with the food. I think I was more impressed with Ethiopian food the last time I had eaten it. But back then I think I had been more innocent when it came to cuisine. Back then it seemed exciting and different. Now it tasted very much like Indian and/or Middle Eastern. I think the last time I ate it, I was enchanted by the idea of scooping up food with the Injera bread. But since then, we've scooped up plenty of Indian food with Naan.
I like Naan better.
After the Ethiopian restaurant, we came to the conclusion that we had shitty luck eating in Dickson. I didn't like any place we had eaten at. Maybe I should have tried the Vietnamese restaurant that had been recommended. Oh well.
We gave up.
We decided from now on we'd elsewhere.
And guess what? When we returned to our cabin, Tim and I both had to use the toilet. Is it a coincidence? A self-fulfilling prophesy? Or maybe something in Ethiopian food acts as a laxative for us.
I don't know.