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Life in Tasmania - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
Life in Tasmania
Though I've been here (and thus online) for almost two weeks, there's been far too much happening to summarise in a Livejournal entry. I want to get back into journalling regularly though, so I'm going to cover the move as a quick recap, and then write about the unexpected, intriguing new developments we've seen in the last couple of days.

Move recap:

- We were forced by necessity to sell / leave behind practically all our furniture in the end, and some of our books - fair enough, we have way too many as it is. Also, almost all of my old art... but what am I keeping that for anyway? I never look at it.

- We spent as much time as we could with our friends before we left, and we miss them.

- We left on January 2nd, a day later than planned, but made fantastic time and were in Melbourne by midday on the 3rd (I know. Epic.). Caught up with Joe's various grandparents. His grandad gave me a fishing rod and some tips. Bless!

- The cats were angels for the entire road trip. Buying that dog-sized soft box from Susie was the best idea I've had in a long time; it gave them sufficient space so that they could cuddle if they wished or lie seperately, and so that I could keep a shoebox litter tray in there... which they USED! There were no fights, no accidents, no incidents of carsickness, and a minimum of noise. The one time Nami made a real fuss, loud and persistant wails, we realised the van's side door had unlatched and begun to slide open and she was actually warning us. Vigilant cat is vigilant!

- Despite prophecies of doom and gloom from everyone we know who has done the sea crossing to Tasmania, the ferry was awesome (it'd wanna be, the amount we paid for bloody peak tickets) and the weather was exceptionally calm.

- The only hitch we encountered took place on the night of the fourth. Having arrived by ferry in the evening, we decided to save ourselves the cost of another night of paid accomodation and strike out for our final destination. We figured it'd only be three hours by road. We didn't count on the route the iPhone gave us. It went through the Great Lakes over a number of terrifyingly twisty and badly-kept dirt roads. As dusk gathered (around 9pm, haha) the roughness of the roads shook the old latch of the van's sliding door free, and we were forced to stop to make MacGuyver repairs with shoelaces. Door secured, we continued driving along through the dark. This was when we discovered that not only does Tasmania have a LARGE population of wallabies, but many of them are suicidal. They like to fling themselves under the wheels of approaching cars at the last second. Needless to say, even when driving deliberaely slow, we struck more than one. Happily, we saw (and did NOT run over) a wide variety of non-suicidal wildlife that night, including many more wallabies and potoroos, a Tasmanian Devil, a spotted Quoll, a couple of types of possum and a deer.

- We made it to Amy's place in New Norfolk around midnight, alive and buggered. For the first couple nights Joey and I slept on the floor and couch (one on each, swapping on the second night), and then we bought a nice secondhand bed/mattress combo and a TV cabinet.

- The town is just lovely. Amy is a nice flatmate, and our cats get along well with her cat. Everyone here is friendly, and always up for interesting conversation. We're half-unpacked now, though we've run out of room to put stuff, and don't have anywhere at all to put our kitchen stuff - but we're making do. We discovered to our delight that houses are both cheap and lovely a few KMs down the road, in Lachlan, so once we're both employed we'll be looking to buy a place of our own so we can spread out a bit. Oh, and bookshelves. We're going to need a LOT of bookshelves.

- Turns out the unemployment rate down here is LOWER than in QLD, so not only hasn't Centerlink penalised Joe for moving here, he's acutually had more luck and more leads jobhunting here than he ever did in Brisbane. Nothing concrete yet, but we've been here less than two weeks, so it's early days. His first appointment with the local jobseeking agency is coming up, so that ought to speed things up a bit.

- As for me, nothing much freelance-wise has come my way this month - I've got a tattoo design for one friend, and an iPhone icon design for another, but they're both small mates-rates jobs with no set deadline. I could use something bigger right now, so I'm going to start trawling the freelance websites again. I've been relying on word-of-mouth for too long, and it's not always viable.

Here's where the recap ends. This is what's on my mind now:

I feel little enthusiasm for art / design these days. I never really draw for myself. I draw for clients and, while it's relaxing in the same way that, say, cooking dinner or shelving books or weeding a garden is, it's no more fulfilling than any of those things, and often a lot more frustrating. I'm not complaining. This is my current job and I'm good at it, and at least I have a marketable skill... but of the jobs I've had in the last few years, the one I find myself missing the most is the online customer service one. That's right, the crazy night shifts. That job, I could turn up and do on automatic. It was a device for making money, nothing more. I was treated well (far better than I've been treated in most art jobs) and paid more money, at that point, than I was paid in any job aside from the subsequent one (designing games for pokies / slot machines - and that subsequent job had all the usual downsides that go with art jobs with top-heavy management).

It's just that, in Brisbane, my job was often the best thing I had going on. The rest of Brisbane was pretty uninspiring (barring, of course, the people I know and love - but you can't spend all your time socialising and I wouldn't want to) so going to work was sort of the creative bright spark in my day.

But this place, Tasmania... this place is inspiring. I don't mean that it makes me want to run home and draw or write. Far from it. I mean that just being outside here, just living, is inspiring. Just stepping out the door is fulfilling. In comparison, sitting down in front of a computer to doodle for money is... empty.

That's the thing. For all that you can say "art brings people pleasure", I'm not doing anything with my art that half the people on dA (and elsewhere online) aren't doing too. Nobody would feel a loss if I ceased cartooning. For all intents and purposes, I HAVE stopped: I only draw now when I'm paid to do it. I'm not making a difference in the world. I'm not doing anything TANGIBLE. I'm living, and working, almost entirely in my head. And hell, if I'm going to do something meaningless, I might as well do something I don't have to think about that pays a lot better.

The other day I helped a bloke clear out a woodshed to make room for a couple of bits of garden gear... an old ride-on mower, a hand plow... it was the most fulfilling work I've done in months. Years, perhaps. It was real. Afterwards I could stand back, look at it and see that I'd made some small physical difference to the world.

This probably seems silly to those of you who work with your hands. I grew up living in my head, and people warned me about this. It worked for me for a long time. It doesn't anymore. I want to do something that changes the world (even if only in a tiny way), something that makes a difference to other people's lives. I think it's time for a change. I think this has been a long time coming.

Anyway. Joe and I were walking to the Derwent River the other night (we take a lot of night walks together, and I jog 6km solo every morning too - I've already lost weight / toned up / developed a bit of endurance and it's been just one week) and we saw this guy spotlighting platypus. We struck up a conversation. The guy's name was Tony, and he makes his living from a mixture of wildlife education delivered to schools and tour groups, and teaching self-defense. So we did what anyone would expect us to do: went back to his place for a cup of tea at eleven at night. I heard the sound of opportunity. FYI: it makes a sort of knocking noise.

Tony is a high-level practitioner of about five forms of martial arts, and not the pretty-but-inefficient ones like Tae Kwon Do. At first I thought maybe he was bullshitting, and then he started to demonstrate... while making us tea... and it was mind-blowing, the power he could put into a single short jab with the heel of his hand. He's offered to teach us both, initially for free - he's setting up a sort of community gym - and we accepted.

The wildlife work is the really interesting part. When we went back to his 'house' we discovered he's just started renting and living in the Oast House, which is this massive old rambling wooden structure that was once a hops factory. Very, very historical. Currently not open to the public, as it has become run down and the hops tour part of it has been closed. All the stuff is still there and set up, it just needs some fixing up. He's doing that, and also starting a reptile exhibit in another part of the complex.

Upshot is that we're going to volunteer a couple days per week to help him get the exhibit set up, and if all goes well, he's going to employ us. He's teaching me to track animals, to identify scat and owl pellets, how to handle snakes (all the Tasmanian species are venomous, so this is good to know) and how to trap them. The Oast House is being leased in sections: one part is leased to a guy doing custom furniture, another part is a restaurant which he's still looking for someone to lease, and then there's the hops tour and reptile sections, which Tony is handling himself. The wildlife side of the business will be threefold: educational visits to schools (he's successfully done this before as a singular business), wildlife tours of the surrounding area for small tour groups (again, he's run this as a viable business before) and the reptile house itself, which will contain live specimens as well as skins, stuffed displays, and examples of different types of scat, tracks, feathers and pellets. He wants to train Joe and I to help him, as the threefold business is far more than one man can manage alone. Ultimately he wants to have roughly four employees, plus a manager to handle the financial and organisational side of things. Doesn't matter that we don't have experience with wildlife yet. He says sometimes the universities bugger up otherwise good people, and that he rates enthusiasm, capacity to learn and willingness to spend time in the field over a formal education.

He's generous with his knowledge, and has already taught me so much. I now know how to identify snake and possum tracks, possum and wombat scat (there's some interesting stuff about where and how wombats choose to do their business, but I won't go into that here) and a few bird calls, and this week, weather permitting, he's going to teach Joe and I how to trap and transport dangerous snakes from his land out west. Yesterday Tony and I (Joe was laid up with a sore back) climbed a local mountain to visit the Handsome Cave, where we saw evidence of Boobook Owls, heard their young, and got soundly hailed on for our troubles. I loved every moment: the climb, the dirt, the hail and cold, crumbling owl pellets to see the tiny bones inside.

Blame all the James Herriot I read as a kid (even as a little girl I thought reading about a guy who spent half his time up to his shoulder in cattle ladyparts was bloody compelling) but I'm keen to follow this unexpected opportunity, and see where it leads. Even if this doesn't result in jobs for Joe and I, what Tony has to teach is invaluable. He showed up at the right time. And none of this would have happened if we hadn't taken the chance to go home for a cup of tea with a bloke we met on a bridge late at night.
8 have fought ~ fight the power!
stokerbramwell From: stokerbramwell Date: January 18th, 2010 04:51 am (UTC) (Link)
My goodness, the move sounds like it was a great idea so far. Makes me wish I lived there!
(Deleted comment)
stokerbramwell From: stokerbramwell Date: January 18th, 2010 10:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, believe me, we've had some wilderness adventure already. XD I just want to live EVERYWHERE.
hamatokameko From: hamatokameko Date: January 18th, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Icon love! <3
From: dawnstar_au Date: January 18th, 2010 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Long update is long!

Glad to see it all went (reasonably) smoothly. The pics so far look fantastic, wouldn't mind heading that way for a holiday sometime (camera in tow of course).

Good luck with the future and have yourselves a blast
c_eagle From: c_eagle Date: January 18th, 2010 08:41 am (UTC) (Link)
A good hearty entry!

Glad to hear the cats were cooperative.. and that Taz is such an uplifting atmosphere!
hamatokameko From: hamatokameko Date: January 18th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful to hear things are going so well for you guys! I'm excited for you. :3

And hey, if you're not drawing for money, you may find you start to enjoy it as a hobby again. :)
niaid From: niaid Date: January 19th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
wow. just, wow. that sounds like a dream job, working with animals. talk to Nikhi - (cousin) - she's starting her vet study this year, but i think if there was any oppertunity in the future involving reptile care, she would leap. leap. LEAP at it.

fuck, I want to leap at it. the only critters i adore as much as bunnies are reptiles - i love my two little cranky skinkies (my grumpy splotched blue tongue, and a sweet, massive shingleback).

so happy to hear how well you are going.
cesarin From: cesarin Date: January 19th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
now thats an update, good to know people are friendly, thats the first part id love to see in a place I'm moving to :P
in other hand... good to know as well that you're doing fine so far, let's hope you can settle yourself & stuff :O
I wonder if you will tolerate the life of a small town, all calm & peaceful XD
8 have fought ~ fight the power!