Volunteering

Pelican Misty Morning

This morning I am unable to successfully motivate myself out of bed. I am completely comfortable, warm, and happy. I am severely struggling to peel back my inner silk sleeping bag nor willing to unzip from it’s very limits my extended extra feather filled outer sleeping bag, nor the blue and white checked fine woolen blanket that completes my all encompassing cocoon.

The weather has dropped in temperature, in the evenings, quite noticeably in the last week and so with it my enthusiasm to rise with the sun. No longer do I rise in singlets, shorts and ready with my shades, but a combination of clothing reserved for the aged and married couples who revel in outdoing each other in the ‘most comfortable, least attractive ‘ I’ve gone past caring what you think’ stage of their relationship. This climate might be considered warm of course for your regular UK citizen but when your body has acclimatised to 35*c days and 20*c mornings the chill creeps in faster than you expect or prepared for. Morning temperatures have dropped in the last week from double digits to singles and long gone are my mornings of the ‘walk-out wardrobe’ when I sneak to the washing line and unclasp my daily wears straight from the line at 6 am. Now it is only dewy socks that are grasped off the wet line on the odd occasion I miscalculate my leftover sock rations until my weekend washing trip. For a country that boasts an inviting warm climate I should not be surprised that no heating or insulation is ever utilised. This house has single pain glass windows, a tin roof and one highly questionable heater in the living room which I suspect is only capable of heating the blanket of dust that surrounds it. We daren’t attempt at plugging in the mouse chewed wire cable or fumbling to fix it’s 1960’s rusty exterior.

21 minutes and seven snooze alarms later I hesitantly unravel my way out of my three blissful layers and into my goose-bump cloak of coldness, and begin the grueling effort of morning preparation. We attempt to leave the house at 6.30 am this week so we can arrive at the farm near Chinchilla for 8 am. I emphasize the word ‘attempt’ for I am often the culprit for our 6.50 am delayed departures. It always takes longer than I calculate to accomplish my morning tasks. I haven’t yet decided whether the cold is hindering my reaction time or whether it is hindering my ability to calculate the correct time-frame to get ready in the mornings! Either way I am ignorantly aware of my housemate’s secret frustrations and yes I do empathize with them as they sit patiently in the Ute at 6.40 am, and are feasted on by the local Mosquito population in my absence.

Our day in the Chinchilla farm is uneventful. In that I mean just another working day with nothing for the people at OH&S to delight in, nor any tales of tragedy or comedy in which to engross or amuse my audience. The highlight of the day is in fact a minor addition to our packed lunches. 35 days of ham and cheese sandwiches and the cheeky offering of home made fruitcake on the menu puts a smile on everyone’s face, as well as an extra inch on the waist. If there is one thing I have learnt from this experience it is the small things that make the difference when the small luxuries, such as city style extensive lunch menus, you are so used to are unavailable.

Another full day debris clearing and fence straining leads to nodding heads in the back of the Ute on the way home. You can feel the fatigue and exhaustion amongst the almost motionless passengers. You can smell the hard days work through a combination of perspiration and rain soaked soft denim, and dusty shirts that are now standard attire in the farming field. The beginnings of brown tanned faces and freckles are a hint at the warm weather we’re still lucky enough to enjoy during daylight hours. The physical work undertaken has become so much more tiring than a 12 hour day in the office. The silence and occasional half hearted yawns, from volunteers, during the journey back to base camp only suggests at the tiresome days the landholders endure on a daily basis since the floods wreaked havoc on their lifetimes’ hard work.

It is times like these when we appreciate how lucky we are to be able to close our eyes at the end of the day and only see the back of our eyelids. For those that lost something or everything I am confident they see only the devastation, cost, loss and what seems like a lifetime of rebuilding their homes, land and livelihoods.

Fencing as far as the eye can see

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