Friday, June 30, 2017

Celebrate the small things: some toilet paper and a spade

Let me say right off the bat that I am not a BCF* guy. Admittedly, we camped on our road trip to Darwin, but we drove from sun up to sunset each day and pitched our super easy to set up tent before eating, showering and sleeping. That's more like just sleeping in a tent rather than camping.

Real Men is the name of the mens' ministry group at my church, and we had a mens' camp last weekend which is why I didn't write a 'celebrate' blog last week. I took the longest time to decide to go on this camp, and a mate of mine was in the same boat. Eventually we talked each other into it in the belief that God wanted us there for some reason: that, despite our reticence, it would be good for us somehow.

The campsite was only accessible by 4WD and there were no amenities. Apart from the abundance of equipment brought along by the BCF guys (that is everyone else) this was real camping complete with campfire on the beach. 

It was a weekend of many firsts for me. I had never driven along a beach in a 4WD for example, but there is one debut experience in particular which I want to share with you.

One of the guys returned from somewhere and drove a spade into the ground. It functioned as a giant toilet roll holder even though there was just one roll on it. After breakfast on the first morning, I grabbed the spade and toilet roll and asked some of the guys for some advice about doing what bears do. 'Dig deep and cover well,' was the pearl of wisdom I received.

To spare you the unsavoury details of my expedition to answer the call of nature, I'll just say this: I really appreciated my toilet when I got home. I'm also very thankful for toilet paper.

Aside from the overabundance of conversations about 4WDs and fishing, I really enjoyed the experience and I now know why I was there. It wasn't for me, but for my mate who I learned had good reason to be very reluctant to go camping. I applaud his bravery and I'm glad I was there.

Have I converted to an outdoorsman? Am I now a BCF guy? No. Will I camp again? Probably. Are you a BCF person? Or do you prefer less adventurous forms of recreation?

* BCF There is a outdoor recreation store in Australia called BCF which stands for Boating Camping Fishing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Celebrate the small things: teach me

Student X, whose departure was due this week, but which I celebrated last week, did not attend any classes in his final week. However, he did come and see me before class on his last day to say goodbye. It was a slightly awkward conversation during which I'm pretty sure he never said thank you or sorry, but he did wish me well for the future. I shook his hand and honestly wished him good fortune as well. (even though I don't really believe in fortune as such.) He made me want to be a better teacher and a better person. I should have thanked him, but I did not how to do it. Too late now, but thank you student X.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) sent me a letter to say they are cancelling my Australian Business Number (ABN) because there is no evidence that I am carrying on a business -which isn't true by the way. I was very surprised to receive this letter, and annoyed that I have to contact a huge government department and argue with them when I know they don't care. Now, I'm thinking about how seldom I have used my ABN, and how much more often I could have potentially used it. And still could. This notification from the ATO re-fired ambition in my heart. (Go figure!)Thank you massive, uncaring government department.

Amazon contacted me to say my latest royalty payment could not be paid because it been rejected by my bank. I don't understand why, and neither was Amazon able to provide an explanation. Big organisations can be very uncreative when it comes to solving their customer's problems. This little irritation reminded me that although I may not be setting the publishing world on fire, I am selling books, so thank you Amazon for your inexplicable banking disturbances.

What little, seemingly negative thing taught you something this week? Or made you feel grateful? (even if that was not your initial reaction)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Last Sunset

Title: My Last Sunset                                
Author: Christian Chiakulas
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62420-322-0
POD ISBN: 978-1546836339

Genre: Mystery/Crime
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Christian will give one digital copy of My Last Sunset to a randomly drawn commenter.


Although it is not described in detail, this book deals with sexual


An antisocial teen sets out to solve the mystery of why Jessica  Carpenter killed herself in the halls of their high school.


My Last Sunset is a hard-boiled detective story set in a contemporary American high school. Damon Riley is an angry, antisocial teenager with a penchant for solving mysteries.  His life is shaken up when Jessica Carpenter, a girl in the grade below his, shoots herself in the halls of the school itself, leaving behind a note that names him as the culprit for driving her to suicide.  Taking the bait, Damon embarks on a quest to find out what really happened to Jessica, leading him through a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and brutality.  Along the way he learns more than he ever dreamed possible about the girl he could never have saved.


Michael might be having the same idea as me, because he says, "Hey, you hear about that freshman who killed herself?"

"She was a sophomore," I say, staring ahead at the blackboard.

"Oh," Michael says. He's a senior, so it makes sense he wouldn't know."

"That's right, I knew that." Liar. "You heard she did it here?"

"Yeah, in the bathroom downstairs," I say. This class is on the fourth  floor. Jessica killed herself on the second. The music was so loud from the dance that nobody heard the gunshot, and she didn't get found until a janitor came in the next day. She'd been absent from school Thursday and Friday last week, and I heard her mom had reported her missing to the police. Then, for whatever reason, she came back to school to end her life.

What the hell, Jessica.

It's not that I can't believe it. Jessica was a nice girl, I think, and seemed happy a lot of the time, but seeming happy and being happy aren't the same thing; you don't have to be smart to know or even articulate that. Like I said, I didn't know her that well, but I knew her a little; enough to see that, like the rest of us, she had shit going on she didn't talk about. What I didn't see was that she was the kind of person who couldn't deal with it, like we all do.

Or that it was the kind of shit that can't be dealt with."Heard she left a note," Michael says, and now I'm aware that he's looking at me even though his face hasn't moved. His eyes moved.I didn't hear anything about a note. Whatever was going on with her, she definitely wanted to be found, wanted somebody to know.

Or maybe everybody.

Half a dozen more people stream in over the next two or three minutes; this class is pretty small to begin with and there are four absent. The eight o'clock bell rings just as Goldman appears in the doorway. Behind him is Panzer, one of the school's security guards (not his real name,
but it should be).I raise an eyebrow as Goldman enters the classroom and the talking dies down. Then he looks right at me and says, "Damon, could you please go with Mr. Cousins to the dean's office?"

A low "Oooooh..." goes through the small class, and I stand up, wondering what the hell I did. Usually when I'm in trouble, I know exactly why. As I cross the room to where Panzer is standing, arms folded across his chest, I notice the two girls who'd been in the room early shooting me nasty looks, like I personally wronged them. I don't even know their names.

Panzer steps aside to let me exit the room first then closes the door after us. I throw my messenger bag over my shoulder and look at him.

"What's this about," I say, a little worried.

"Just walk."

The halls are deserted, and I stare at the floor as we walk to the main nexus where the stairwells are, passing over the blurry reflections of the fluorescent lights in the freshly-waxed floor. The dean's office is on the second floor, right down the hall from the girl's bathroom. I stare at the door as we pass it.

The dean's office is small, considering there are three deans that share it along with a secretary and the school's sole counselor. The hub is a yellow-painted room with the secretary's desk, several file cabinets, a large wooden conference table, doors to the private offices of the deans and counselor, and plastic bins hanging on the walls filled with handouts and leaflets about substance abuse, sexual abuse, good ol' fashioned domestic abuse, birth control, STDs, juvie, and there at the end— suicide.

The three deans are all sitting at the conference table along with the counselor, Mrs. Mullen, and the school's police liaison, Officer Pasture. A pit drops into my stomach. Whatever I did, it must've been
"Damon, please sit," Dean Goodfellow says. He's a pudgy man with long blonde hair and a face like a bulldog; if you're picturing him comically, stop, because everyone in this school is terrified of him, including yours truly. The other two, Dean Haskins and Dean Washington, are serious men, but none attack their jobs with the rage-filled passion of Dean Goodfellow. He runs this school like it's the streets of Baltimore in The Wire, keeping detailed, ever-growing files on every student with the misfortune to cross his path and trading favors to some of them for information. I'm not gonna lie, I've gotten out of more than one detention this way. Wouldn't you know it, he's in charge of students
with surnames P-Z.

But they're all three here, which means this is really serious. I pull up the blue plastic seat across from him, willing myself not to break eye contact, and Panzer disappears outside. The secretary isn't here
either. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. What's going on?

"Damon," Goodfellow says, shifting in his seat and locking his fingers together on the table in front of him. Everybody else at the table is staring at their laps; they know the drill. When Goodfellow is
working...interrogating, more let him be.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: good-bye and good riddance

I'm going off a week early here, but that's because a secondary departure occurred which also pleased me. The primary departure will occur when my my current least favourite student, and arguably my least favourite student of all time, leaves.

I've had a real struggle with him over the six months he has been with me. The first day I met him, he explained that his grammar and spelling were not good, so I told him that we could fix that. He said 'No, we can't.' I knew, therefore, from the get go that he was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to teach. How do you teach unteachable people? How do you open closed minds? I have no idea.

Rather than bore you with the details, I'll save my X (student's name) stories for other occasions. Suffice to say, he has caused me angst and made my job difficult. A mostly negative influence on the class, a bigot and a self confessed misanthrope, he will not be missed. 

Secondary departure occurred when another student, who also possesses a poor attitude and is lazy, decided to transfer to another college to do another course. I desperately wanted to advise him to lose the attitude or he would bomb out of his next course as he did my course. However, as he only showed up for three hours this week (out of 20 required) to do his catch up assessments and exit test, I thought better of it.

My problem is that I care more about the education of my students than most of them do. I love my job and I am thankful for it. I am also thankful for my students-past, present and future, both good and bad. I am thankful that I care, and that after 11 years, I still care, and by the grace of God I have not grown weary in doing my best.

The challenge for me remains though; to love the unlovable. How do you deal with closed-minded and negative people, especially those with whom you spend a fair bit of time?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Celebrate the small things: a crocodile burger

What makes Mindil Beach market special is the location. A mouth-watering collection of food from around the world is available and once you have your food you can walk not more than 50 metres to the beach where you can sit and watch the spectacular sunset.

I don't know if a Darwin sunset is uniquely extraordinary in fact, or by reputation alone, but it is something magnificent to behold. It is a natural light show of stunning beauty.

Usually there are but a handful of people on the beach to say good-bye to the day, but on Thursday nights during the Dry with the market teeming with locals and visitors, the sand is littered with happy and relaxed people. The atmosphere is heavenly.

Last Thursday, Jessie and I were among them. She ate some barbecued octopus while I had my first taste of crocodile. The Road Kill Cafe offered a selection of buffalo, kangaroo and crocodile burgers. Having often eaten and enjoyed kangaroo, and sampled a buffalo pie at the Pink Panther Hotel on our road trip up to the Top End, I wanted to try crocodile.

The verdict? Quite nice. A tender patty which was like a combination of chicken and fish, on a roll with fresh slaw, and sauce. The hot chips which accompanied it were really great, and the whole meal only cost $15. I liked the burger, and I loved the whole experience.

What a sweet life I live. I thank God for it.

What unusual foods have you tried, and what did you think?