URBAN FORAGING


You’re walking down the street getting some fresh air and mileage in your pins and suddenly you come across a box full of lemons sitting on the top of someone’s mailbox. Do you assume it’s free for the taking and if so, how many do you take?

On our recent family walk, we came across two houses in our neighbourhood with boxes of free fruit. One box had ‘Please take’ clearly written on it and was filled with lemons while the other was blank and had several large chokos (type of squash). My 4-year-old son asked Mummy, can we take the whole box?’

Funnily enough, my brother asked me the same question when we told him what we discovered on our walk. Why didn’t you just take the whole thing? In retrospect, I should have asked my brother why he thought we should have done so because then I’d have a better understanding of the logic behind my 4-year-old’s thinking… kidding!

In answering my son’s question, I posed some of my own to him. Did we need all those lemons? What about other people? How would he feel if someone took everything and didn’t leave any for him? He agreed it would be a jerk move (his words, not mine!) and so he and his sister took one lemon and one choko each. It became a valuable exercise in teaching them restraint, thinking of others and only taking what was needed. 

My mother wasn’t too pleased to hear we had taken food ‘left on the street’. She was worried about contamination with germs/poison/needles/coronavirus and didn’t think we should risk it. I could understand why she was concerned.

A few years ago, there was a national recall on strawberries after consumers injured themselves by eating strawberries contaminated with sewing needles. Apparently, a former disgruntled strawberry farm employee intent on revenge had placed needles into strawberries before they were packed for distribution in supermarkets. What followed was a spate of copycat incidences and hoaxes that left people nervous to buy strawberries. Situations like these have made my mother even less trusting of humankind and so she refuses to take free food.

BUT,  fruit or vegetables hanging over a fence? That’s another story. My mother would have no qualms taking them then. Which leads to my next question, is it cool to pick fruit or vegetables if it’s hanging over a fence and on public walkways? It makes me think of hard rubbish days, where junk left on the front of nature strips is considered fair game to passerby, despite it technically being illegal to take. If the hard rubbish is destined to be binned, is it reasonable to take?

I’m conflicted on this. I would rather someone take my hard rubbish if they can get use out of it, as long as they don’t make a mess in their rummaging. As for the overhanging fruit, I think it’s better to seek permission from the owners first.

Why do I think that? Well, years ago, as my daughter and I went for a walk around our neighbourhood, we came across a big feijoa tree that was hanging half across the pavement. I got greedy and picked two hand fulls but was too embarrassed by my actions to carry them. So, I strongly encouraged my daughter hold the bottom of her jumper up to store the stolen goods and transport them home. She was mortified and to this day, still berates me for making her an accomplice to theft.

Then there was that one time I tried picking a lemon hanging over someone’s fence and a branch fell and bonked me on the head. The Ol’ Universe pulled out the big guns to teach me a lesson that day because I haven’t picked anyone’s trees since. 

Let’s take this discussion one step further. What about olive trees on the nature strips? In Australia, councils own nature strips and not the homeowner. As homeowners we pay tax to the council, so really, by default we have a tiny percentage ownership. Does that mean we can pick them? I mean, birds pay no tax and look at them picking fruit like it’s their given right. Should I tempt fate and pick some olives? I could start my own cold compress olive oil brand and sell it at the trash n’ treasure markets. What’s the bet good Ol’ Universe will have a thing or two to say about that?

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UPDATE! UPDATE! READ ALL ABOUT IT.

How time flies when you’re up to your eyeballs in commitments! Every time I’ve sat down to write a post, I’ve been pulled away for one reason or another. Can you believe we’re almost halfway through 2021? Life just seems to pass by in a blink of an eye, especially as I inch closer to the big 4-0. It doesn’t feel that long ago when I was an awkward teenager sporting baggy tencel jeans and rocking a monobrow. Anyway, enough aimless musing. Let me update you with my recent going-ons.  

My brother finally got married, to everyone’s relief. No more egos to calm, no more hysterics over ridiculous issues, no more stress. My dad’s father-of-the-groom speech went off without a hitch. That being, he didn’t cry, swear or give us a running monologue of his life’s achievements. Strangely, he felt the need to emphasise every single word and loudly too, pausing after every few words. It was like he was role-playing a screaming drill sergeant of an army (blog post will follow). My mum skulled a lot of red wine and got drunk as a skunk. Her sole purpose that night was to drag as many unsuspecting people on to the dance floor to join in her crazy robot dancing.

I managed to lose seven kilos from my low-carb diet and was able to squeeze into the red gown I bought for the occasion. Suffice to say, on the night of the wedding, I stuffed my face with EVERYTHING. You know that saying… no man left behind? Well, in this case, it was no food was left behind. I virtually ate the dining table. Anyway, it ended up being a great night, and I’m happy to have a sister-in-law who my children adore.  

Let’s see, what else has happened other than being sick for almost two weeks… I submitted my first university assignment. Remember that literature review I had to write but was struggling to complete? Well, I passed. In fact, I did better than I thought I would. Goes to show that we tend to underestimate our abilities and should have more confidence in ourselves. I have another assignment coming up – a research plan. Have I mentioned that I’m doing two courses at the same time? Yeah, it’s crazy but hopefully, I’ll be done by next year and will start my career in adult education. I’m halfway through one course, so there’s light at the end of the tunnel now. 

It was Mother’s Day last Sunday. This year my 8-year-old daughter refused to use $2 of her money to buy me a gift from her school’s Mother’s Day stall. I won’t lie and tell you it didn’t hurt because it did. Not that I care for material gifts but considering the amount of time I spend being her personal chauffeur, cook and cleaner, you’d think she could part with $2! Anyway, I got a cuddle and kiss, so I guess I should be grateful for that… She will probably declare Mother’s Day a farce soon enough and refuse to partake in these commercial cons. It seems my daughter is eight going on fifteen in terms of attitude. Can’t wait for when she’s actually fifteen-years-old. It’ll be fun times!

That’s it from me. Apologies for the radio silence. Hopefully, I’ll get my next assignment and modules done and will be able to return to blog land soon. Until then, keep safe and be happy!

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PUBLIC SPEAKING PAIN

Yesterday I finished the first week of my face-to-face classes to become an adult educator. It was a tough week of learning and trying to absorb new information, and doing things outside of my comfort zone.

The class was small with about twelve students of differing ages and backgrounds being taught by a knowledgeable trainer. Everyone had similar challenges in balancing studies with life commitments, and so they were supportive and helpful with one another. It was a great atmosphere to be a part of.

Despite some experience with public speaking in previous jobs and volunteering in classrooms, I get nervous standing in front of a group and talking.

It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to children or adults, I’ll still react the same. It could be a bunch of staring lizards and I suspect I’d still get the shaky hands, tremor in the voice and sweating.

On the first day of classes, we had to do introductions. Say your name, why you’re there and what you want to improve on. If you wanted to elaborate further, you could talk about a hobby. There were talking prompts on the board. Sounds easy right? You’re talking about subject matter that you’re an expert on…you.

There’s just something about having the focus of your peers and standing in front of a room that automatically has my pulse racing and my hands wringing. I got through it but internally berated my performance, dissecting it to pieces. I wondered how others felt despite everyone seeming to sail through their introductions.

The next few days, the trainer got us doing one on one, small group and class activities. There were fun learning tasks, short quick “energisers” (quick games to refresh during the arvo slump), and public speaking tasks.

It was rather clever how the trainer worked on building group rapport to create a supportive and comfortable environment for us to do talks. Initially, the trainer got us to do micro public speaking tasks, increasing the time and complexity as the days went on.

By the last day, we had to give a lesson to last twenty minutes that involved a resource of some kind and ideally involved class participation.

I used a PowerPoint presentation on customer service and looked at some of the worst scenarios I’ve experienced. One example involved a customer double parking his Mercedes-Benz in front of the pharmacy and demanding I did his prescription quickly because he didn’t want a ticket. That was used to explain the entitled customer.

After each slide, I tried getting audience participation by asking them their ideas of how I chose to respond in each of the scenarios, using multiple choices as options. It generated some interaction but nowhere to the extent of other people’s talks.

I also got a couple of people up to role-play a scenario but that didn’t work too well. I think I needed to work on my lesson plan and found better ways of generating fun, practical and engaging activities. What I learnt from watching other people do their presentations was that I needed to make my delivery more engaging.

I knew that I’d be more critical of myself, and how I thought I performed wouldn’t necessarily be accurate, so I asked the trainer for her feedback.

Hand tremors, sweaty armpits and hands, shaky voice, racing pulse and jitters aside, I needed to know how I “presented” to others.

The trainer opted for the sandwich method. You know, one good comment on either side of a constructive comment.

“You’re really professional and presentation was great. You could smile more. You look stern, a bit serious. You could inject a bit of humour to lighten the talk. Otherwise, it was good.”

I need to work on my delivery. The problem is, I’m pretty sure smiling isn’t possible when I’m in fight, flight or freeze mode. As for humour, does laughing at your own jokes count?

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