SATURDAY NOVEMBER 20
Well here we are again at the Adelaide airport waiting to depart for Singapore. This is the 5th trip I have put together since the inaugural Remembrance tour of 2001 when I was at Mt Barker High School. What a lot has evolved in those years and where we are now is a bit like throwing a pebble into a pond …the ripples just keep on going! People often ask me if I get tired of running essentially the same itinerary……crazy question really as every project and tour is different in its challenges and outcomes. The kids are never the same and the way they approach it each time provides a freshness that even surprises me. So here we start the whole adventure again. And of course this time I start my ‘retirement’ from teaching as yesterday was my last day at the chalkface as a full time permanent teacher after 40 years of service ( the uni years were counted!) Had one hell of a day with the most amazing farewell from the staff many who have become good mates. Yes there were tears but people’s words, thoughts, wishes and presents were so lovely and very affirming. The sadness I felt was today replaced by unbridled excitement for the future as I launch into doing these sorts of tours for other schools and adult groups as a part or full time occupation…depending on how it all goes. So this departure had a very different feel for me and a focus not present in previous tours.
Everyone was either early or on time and thankfully no one this time left their passport home! `Excited kids and parents gathered in noisy expectation along with the supervising adults who also had their own little squeals of delight. Our three youth leaders Tristan Smith, Hamish Jurgs and Hayden Biddle saw to their groups as they arrived handing out ribbons for the luggage and hotel identity cards along with all the numerous presents for our overseas friends. Got through check-in very smoothly the lots of expensive airport coffee to bide away the time. First slip up……I was getting ready for the group photo under the departure sign and the old memory kicked in. Flags! The two flags I have used fir every trip since 2001 and are part of the culture that is Connecting Spirits, the Ngarrindjeri and Australian flag were still hanging in my study at home! Grrrrrrrrrr…..whoopsie. Quick phone call to the hubby however he was still in the city…grrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..so they would have to be posted on Monday to my dear friend in Ieper, Anny Deker in time for the Harelbeke service at Rufus Rigney’s grave. Dylan had an Aussie flag so that was a stand in. There was another minor drama with some administration and the Australian Federal Police, but after getting Monica Williams to drive to school in Meningie, find a form and fax it to the airport we were away through the boarding gate with minutes to spare!!!!
The next step of our journey found us flying over Timor and then an announcement from the captain that we would be returning to Darwin due to the sudden illness of one of the passengers. Back to Oz and a four hour delay all up. Sitting on the tarmac in the heat was unsettling a few of the passengers but generally it wasn’t a massive deal. For Jack however problems with travel sickness was more of a problem as the poor kid threw up several times once not QUITE making the bathroom or the bag. The Singapore Airline crew were magnificent being very attentive and helpful. I was seated further up the plane and sadly couldn’t help! (Phew!) So eventually our long first day ended as we arrived at the hotel around 11.00 Singapore time 1.30 am SA time…...but hey, don’t quote me on the times….was totally stuffed by the time got to know my pillow. What a day.
We all said our final goodbyes at Adelaide today and after a few tears from some of the mothers we embarked on our journey. Tomorrow we have our first commemoration and I am lucky enough to be number one. Words can’t describe how nervous I am: I’m just hoping all goes smoothly.
I just got myself settled in our Singapore hotel room, brushed my teeth, washed my face and managed to dump my clothes everywhere whilst deciding what to wear tomorrow. It has been a long day and I am really looking forward to sleep and what tomorrow will bring. I watched the American version of The Simpsons.