Creative Essay by Julia Kaburaki

Mum is wailing in the kitchen. Her piercing cries stabbing into my heart. I never want to see her like this. Every time she cries, warm salty tears overflow like a river that never ends. My heart starts throbbing as if someone is grabbing it and ripping it apart. I am standing in front of the kitchen door speechless. All my muscles strained. Frozen. Stopping me from moving. Tension fills the air making it an uncomfortable atmosphere around the whole house.

Dad fled after committing a crime. He had been running away from the police for weeks. Mum had lost all energy. Dark black bags under lifeless eyes, hair like barbed wire. Once bright and rosy cheeks, now turned pale and white like a ghost. Looking at her gives me shivers.

Why did this have to happen to my family? Why can’t we just be like other families? Warm, happy, a life filled with smiles. It used to be like that. Dad coming home every day, Mum preparing dinner, the delicious smell of spaghetti gradually spreading in the house making my mouth water. Those days are now like a dream. Can my life become any worse? Our big and spacious house seems so dull and small. Bitter cold air flows in and out every time the cold winter wind sneaks through the little gaps between the windows, whispering unpleasant words in my ears. When we were together we didn’t seem to notice these small things.

Wherever I go, it seems as though everyone is staring right through me. I wish I was invisible. Invisible so no one can give me cold looks or judge me. What have I ever done? Everything around me seems to be whispering two words into my ears, “criminal’s child”. People around me avoid me as if I am a contagious virus or something. Giving me the ‘special treatment’ doesn’t make me feel any better. The world around me seems so colourless and lifeless. It used to be so bright and colourful, just like what I read in picture books when I was little. Where did all the pretty butterflies and rainbows that appeared on rainy days go? Since when did the whole world turn against me?

As I am wandering into the playground, in my neighborhood, it starts spitting. At the same time tears unconsciously flow from my eyes. The grey clouds cover over me as if it is an ominous sign. The rain saturates my clothes, making them heavier and heavier. Coldness seeps into my body. I shiver like a little puppy that got abandoned. My hair sticks to my skin, which is pale. Lips become a bruised colour. Rainwater mixes with tears making my vision blurry.

I close my eyes imagining a place. Somewhere with colour, warmth and smiles. A world without darkness. Always luminous. People welcoming me with a gleaming smile. Everyone together and laughing at pointless jokes. Nothing gloomy, no more frowns, just looking at them makes me feel warm, seeing the happiness flowing out of them. A world where you don’t need words to communicate, just an understanding of each other.

As I open my eyes to see the colorless world, something seems to be different. I look up to see the beam of the sun’s ray finding its own way through the grey clouds. Seeking its own way, by itself. The tiny beam of ray shines on me, I feel warmth.

Maybe I could change the world myself, with my own hands.

Australian kids living in fantasy world

A land where yoghurt grows on trees and animals produce cotton socks — sounds like a great premise for a creative writing piece, doesn’t it?  Alarmingly, this isn’t fiction; according to many Australian kids, it’s fact.

A study, conducted by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER), was reported recently in the article, Kids think yoghurt comes from plants, survey finds. Of the 300 students surveyed, the study found:

- three-quarters of Year 6 students thought cotton socks came from animals;

 - just under half of Year 6 students did not know that bread, cheese and bananas all came from farms;

- a quarter of Year 6 students thought yoghurt was a plant product;

- only about a quarter of Year 10 students knew that salmon and eels were farmed animals.

In response to these findings, president of the National Farmers Federation, Jock Laurie, expressed his concern: “It seems incredulous that children are not taught more about where these vital products come from, or what goes into growing them.”

While the statistics are certainly alarming, just who should be held accountable for them? As a psychologist and educator, I believe these lessons are the shared responsibility of both schools and parents.

First and foremost, parents must recognise the importance of engaging in round table discussion with their children during meal times. Not only are such conversations a great way to practice social skills, they are also invaluable opportunities for children to broaden their knowledge base.

Parents should also be regulating the amount of time their children spend on computers. The survey’s findings suggest that, despite all it promises, the Internet is isolating children from the world around them. At Edworks, we far too frequently see kids in grades 5 and 6 who have little concept of where Sydney is in relation to Melbourne, what states are where, and what our capital cities are. The attitude that kids can just ‘Google’ answers is a dangerous one to adopt, too. Young children need a broad general knowledge in order to make informed decisions. Such lack of awareness is cause for great concern when we consider that these children will soon be moving into adolescence and adulthood.

Finally, unless schools and parents are proactive in working to remedy this predicament, the sort of ignorance the ACER survey has identified in our children will have significant environmental affects down the track. Consider, with the world’s population growing at such a rapid rate, a generation of adults with little concern for the environment or our world food source.

So, parents, rather than simply asking your kids how school was, or what homework they have, set small challenges for them to get them engaged with their surroundings. And there’s no better time to impart your wisdom than when sharing a meal at the dinner table … you can even discuss the origins of your food!