For my directed research group, and myself the week began with a trip to Cairns. The Environmental Policy directed research group is in the process of analyzing the future of tourism in Far North Queensland, and the students have been exhaustively conducting interviews with tourists, tourist companies, information centres, residents, and experts on their topics. We arrived in Cairns fresh-faced, and the students were ready to hit the pavement and get started with their interviews. I have not been part of conducting research with them, but have been acting as their chauffeur, advisor, and sounding board. While they pounded the pavement, I went off to find air conditioning to grade papers and skype. I had the great joy of getting to skype with one of my closest friends from college; it was so lovely to see her face and catch up. As we left Cairns, the clouds closed around us and it began to rain. It continued to be very warm and humid early last week, but the rain brought the welcome relief from the humidity.
On Tuesday, the students headed out into the more local community; they interviewed residents in Yungaburra, while I stayed to continue grading their final papers. While grading papers on a large scale might be incredibly tedious, it was actually quite fun for me to look at this set of papers. For many of my students, this was the final paper in the social sciences they’ll ever write; looking at their writing from the beginning of the semester, it’s so clear how far they’ve progressed. I would love to see some more critical thinking on their part, but overall, their writing has improved dramatically, and it’s been very fun to see.
On Wednesday, we headed into Kuranda, which I hadn’t yet been to. While it’s a very touristy town, Kuranda is very lovely. The drive there is very nice; we drove through the dry country of Mareeba, and then slowly crept back into the rainforest. The trees never felt like they closed overhead again, but we did feel like there was a nice forest surrounding us. To me, it was the best feeling of being in the forest. I spent the day wandering around and talking to various shopowners and locals. There’s a lovely soap shop there, and the owner (an expatriate American) is a riot. He loves to give (very good) advice, and is generally an entertaining person to interact with.
The rest of the week fell into a pattern of grading and working quietly with the students. The weather progressively cooled down again throughout the week until it began to feel comfortable again, and it was lovely to sit in my office (and not drive!) I called my family on their Thanksgiving, and it was so nice to hear their voices. We did not celebrate Thanksgiving on the traditional 3rd Thursday here, in part because our groups were still heavily enmeshed in data collection. We will be celebrating Thanksgiving on this Thursday, the 29th, with many of the members of the community that have provided so much support to this program throughout the semester. It will be a gigantic celebration, and while I expect pandemonium, I also expect a lot of laughter and joy.
Finally, the weekend rolled around. While the students and most of the staff packed off to Cairns, I chose to stay at the centre. Saturday started with a trip to the Yungaburra Farmer’s Market, which was a really lovely way to start the day. It was nice and warm, and I always love to see what’s happening in the community. The students and staff then headed off, and I settled in to clean the dongas and watch some movies. It was a very relaxing weekend, and I greatly enjoyed it. On Sunday, I headed into the kitchen to do some Thanksgiving preparation; I baked several loaves of bread (some of which turned out better than others) for my stuffing, and baked a Sunday treat for my fellow staff members. It was quiet and peaceful, and it offered a much-needed interlude in between the weeks to come.