Saturday, January 14, 2006

::: My Year Away :::

To: Anon, hope this keeps you busy and keeps the mozzies at bay. Thought back to the past and found this essay which i wrote before. Its kinda long, be warned and please help!
::: My Year Away:::
There was not a building in sight as I looked out of the grubby square next to me, only miles and miles of flat brownish land tinged with slight greens here and there as far as the eye could see. Dotted sporadically around were trees and what appeared to be little brownish blobs, which apparently were sheep. Sheep? I thought they were supposed to be white? (Apparently ‘Mary’s little lamb’ had a rather strong impact on me). My stomach started churning as the little aircraft bobbed up and down on the wind. The bright sunshine which filtered into the little grubby square window hurt my eyes and the cheese and dry crackers served with orange juice that I consumed earlier, bounced around in my tummy. I felt like regurgitating everything. To be honest I was regretting even getting on the plane, actually I regretted even leaving Malaysia the only home I knew.
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It all started about a year ago when my mum came home and told me that her bank was going to sponsor 6 teens to go for a student exchange program and she thought that I would make a good candidate. For me, it was my one chance to leave, to broaden my horizons and to see the great big world. To make a long story short, I got the scholarship and was on my way to Australia for a whole year. I was to going to stay with the Eaton family at a small farming community called Temora in the Riverina, New South Wales. I didn’t know who the Eaton’s were, and for the life of me I didn’t know where Temora was. Everything was one gigantic mystery and I couldn’t help feeling excited, nervous, scared, sad and happy all at the same time. What a strange combination, huh?

My churning stomach had finally settled down but my heart started thumping as the little plane finally reached the little town of Wagga Wagga (an hour away from Temora), I was finally here. My host family, the Eaton’s, were there with huge smiles on their faces and after the introductions I was packed into the car and we were off for Temora. On the way there, the shock of not seeing any buildings and highways troubled me and I asked my host family about the lack of them and they told me that in Temora, there were no skyscrapers or even 10 storey buildings, there were no shopping malls, no McDonalds, or KFC’s. My stomach started to churn again as I heard this. I looked out of my window and once again I saw the sparse trees, brown sheep and miles and miles flat brownish land tinged with slight greens here and there as far as the eye could see
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As I reached the town of Temora - population 4600 - my family showed me Hoskins Street, which was the Main Street in Temora. I did a rough count in my mind of how many shops they had and surprisingly the figure did not even reach 30 shops. The Eaton’s then drove me around to show me the ‘tourist attractions’ and I was praying to God that this was not all there was to the town but sadly, it was all there was to the town. I was more than a little worried about how I was going to survive, after all I practically lived in 1Utama and ate fast food almost every other day. I asked myself this similar question on many occasions during that year abroad. It was a question that shaped me in some way and I remember reading a quote while I was about to leave. It gave me a whole new perspective on life and my experience there in the little town of Temora. The quote went like this
“God doesn’t put you in any place to small to grow in”.

Well, after the "long" tour, which lasted a whole 10 minutes, I was driven to my new home ‘Jesadale’ which was a good 45 minutes walk from the Main Street. ‘Jesadale’ was a large single-storey bungalow surrounded by; you guessed it, miles and miles of flat brownish land tinged with slight greens here and there as far as the eye could see. The house was nice and homely. I loved the floor to ceiling glass windows that overlooked a wonderful garden bright with flowers of every colour and size. All the rooms had no locks and there were no grills anywhere. I wasn’t given a set of house keys simply because there was no need for them. I was rather alarmed about the lack of locks and grills and I spent many sleepless nights creating hypothetical scenarios in my mind of burglars breaking into the home and replaying horror stories my dad likes to tell me about "the dangers all over the place", but as the days passed by I got used to the lack of grills and locks and came to enjoy the freedom and the convenience that came along with not having to worry about keys and locks though the bathroom was a slight problem especially if you were halfway through some important business or having a glorious refreshing princess bath.
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The Eaton’s as well as the people in Temora were all nice people as they always made me feel welcome wherever I went and were genuinely nice to me. My friends there were not that different from my friends here though at the beginning I thought it strange that many of them wanted to become farmers like their parents when they grew up, but that was their way of life there, farming. There were acres and acres of crops and it was wonderful when it was harvest time as I got to sit on the big machines and harvest the crops along with them. It was a unique experience, one that I still treasure . In the beginning though, some of my classmates, thought that Malaysians lived on trees and wore leaves as clothing – though in my case I would need huge banana leaves, eh??? Anyways, I sure put them straight when I told them all about the ‘mamaks’, the shopping malls, the clubbing, the food and the multi-racial culture we had.

While I was there in Australia, I didn’t just stay in Temora. Besides attending classes at Temora high school where I studied Biology, Advanced English, Math, Visual Arts, Geography and Drama, I got to travel quite a fair bit. I visited a town called Quandialla, which was located some 40 minutes away from Temora. Its population was less than a 100 people and they had only 4 shops in their whole town. It was interesting to live their kind of life for a good week, but I was really happy to be back in Temora, which then seemed like a huge town. I visited many other smaller towns and was amazed that there were people that actually lived in such small places. During my winter break, the Eaton’s took me to the Sunshine Coast, which was in Queensland. We drove there and I was fortunate to see breathtaking sunsets at Nembaka Heads, watch dolphins frolic at Port Macquirey, and a whole host of other things. The Sunshine Coast was wonderful with stretches of clean white sand and clear blue water. I spent many hours walking along the beach with my host brother or sitting on the beach alone whilst snacking on their delicious and famous fish and chips.
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During my spring break about 35 exchange students from all over the world, piled into a coach and set of for a 30-day safari. We went to many places in Australia, such as Melbourne, Adelaide, Alice Springs, and Copper Pedy. There were so many sights that we saw that it would be impossible to name them all. However, I remember the serene rainforest in Melby Gully where there were actually glow worms blinking like little fairy lights around us in the dark, the wonderful rock formations of the 12 Apostles and the London bridge along the Great Ocean Road, the magnificent birds eye view of Ayers Rock and the Olgas from a helicopter, the pristine moon that shone above us as we camped under the millions of stars in the desert, the dazzling opal mines that we saw in Cooper Pedy, and the smelly and surprisngly super fast camels that we rode on near the desert. It was a wonderful trip, one that I will not forget anytime soon.

It was not only the trips around Australia that created such a huge impact on me, there was other things such as my debutante ball that I attended. All the girls were dressed in immaculate gowns of white and the guys wore smart suits. We even had to learn a dance, which was called ‘The Pride of Aaron’. The girls had to walk around in a circle with their respective partners whilst the judges and guests looked on. I strangely felt like I was participating in a dog show though at the end of the night I had the time of my life dancing with all my friends and getting sloshed on bunderberhg rum and JD and coke. It was all so exciting the church fairs and street carnivals, abseiling and mountain climbing, canoeing and horse riding, volleyball tournaments (I actually won three medals) and line dancing, and the many barbeques and bonfires. At times I wish I had a video camera in my mind so that I could tape all this wonderful memories that I experienced, all the colours, the sights, the sounds and the smells.
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I have to be honest though, that when my one year was up and I had to leave, I wasn’t that upset. Not only my physical appearance (I had reddish black hair and was some 15 kilos heavier) had changed during that one year away but inside, I thought, spoke and felt differently. I was actually happy to go home as I missed my family and friends and I realized that there were so many things that I took for granted when I was back home and I was eager to start college and to get on with my life. That year away was like one long enjoyable holiday and as I think back I feel the pang of homesickness as I regard Temora as my second home. I plan to go back again soon to visit my family and friends and to once again be greeted by only miles and miles of flat brownish land tinged with slight greens here and there as far as the eye could see and the now distinguishable blobs of brown sheep.
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To help *Dream Weaver* visit Temora again
PLEASE donate to the
“Send *Dream Weaver* to Aussie Fund"
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Telesia said...
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Maiju said...

It was very interesting to read your text "My Year Away", because I'm a 16-year-old girl from Finland and I'm leaving to Temora in 13 days.. I will be there a year as a Rotary's Exchange Student. :)

* Dream Weaver * said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
* Dream Weaver * said...

Dear Maiju,

WOW! I am so envious of you being able to go to Temora in just 13 days time at that.

Hearing you say that you wil be going to Temora brings back a flood of memories for me.

I would really like to know more about your exchange such as who you will be staying with and etc. It would be good as well if you kept in touch so that we can compare notes on the Temora I know and the Temora you know. :)

Rest assured, I am sure you will enjoy yourself there and have a blast of a time.

One tip, don't think about home too much. Think instead of the new adventures, people and places that you will see.

YOu know what, I even made a speech at a rotary club meeting once as my host dad, Dan Eaton was a member of Temora's rotary club.

I do hope to hear from you soon and if you read this reply, it would be great if you could email me at

Thanks Maiju and have a wonderful time in Temora.

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