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While life for postal workers, politicians, and media personalities has taken on a very sombre note, we continue to remain safe from the hazards of the ongoing conflict. I continue to pray that a peaceful and just resolution will soon be found, and that our security is maintained.

I feel like one of the squirrels rushing about trying to prepare for the coming winter. I have bought some snow boots and a few warm clothes. Marie-Francoise sent me some gloves, a scarf and a hat made of thermolactic fibre, so my wardrobe is starting to look more able to cope with the months ahead. So far the weather has see-sawed a bit. We have had a few chilly days, and lots of rain (I wish I could send some of our leftover flood waters over there to the Downs), but these have invariably returned to much milder, even pleasant, weather. They are predicting that there is a cold front coming in this afternoon preceded by severe storms, so I might get a chance to wear some of my winter woollies.

Marie-Francoise sends her best wishes to all her Australian friends. She is still full of her happy memories of their holiday with us, and has been delighted to receive messages from you. I am busily translating her second book so I can pass it on to some of you to read. It is not an anthology of short stories like the first one, but a self-help type booklet on “How to be Happy” (I am still trying for a better translation than that). She has based the information in the book on Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) techniques, which are very similar to cognitive behavioural therapy techniques. Marie-Francoise uses NLP in her counselling sessions and attends and runs regular training sessions in this field. The book was published early this year and has been very well received. A couple of weeks ago, she was interviewed on a French radio station which has a listening audience of some millions. I hope they were all listening that day. She is sending me a transcript of the interview on CD. She has sent the translation that I did of her first book to her publisher to see if they would be interested in an English version. It would be very exciting if they were, but I am happy to have done the translation so that my family and friends could at least read her stories. Doing the current translation has been very useful to me in two ways. Firstly, it gave me something meaningful and interesting to do when I first arrived and found things so difficult, and it also gave me some very good advice on how to lift my spirits. Translating is a slow process for me though, and I have a long way to go before I get to the end.

After the deluge of the previous weekend, we were very happy to have beautifully fine and mild weather last weekend. We took the opportunity to travel down to Brown County which we had been told by many people was the best place to see the Fall colours. It certainly lived up to its publicity. Unlike the flat terrain here in Tippecanoe (pronounced tip-uh-canoe) County, Brown county is blessed with small rolling hills, so the effect of the colours in the trees is much more spectacular. We also stopped at a small town which was having a car show.

These are quite popular in these parts (and probably all around America). The paint work and detailed treatment on these mean street machines are extraordinary. Lea, Liam, and Matt would just love to see these Yank Tanks, I’m sure. One was painted a very glossy hot pink, as was the air filter thingy, and they had a mirror on the ground so that you could see that the underbody was also painted to match. I don’t think they do a lot of off-road driving with it.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to a fund-raiser at the church. This took the form of an Italian dinner (choice of spaghetti and meatballs or lasagne), which was provided by one of the parishioners who is also a restaurateur. He and his wife have donated the food for this event for the past 40 years – quite a substantial commitment! There were several hundred people fed and a special presentation was made to Bruno and his wife in honour of the 40th anniversary.

We have a small core of parishioners whom we know quite well now. We meet with some in the hall for coffee and donuts after Mass each Sunday, and I have been invited to join in a group of women who meet for 8.30 Mass each morning and then head over to McDonald’s for breakfast and coffee. I am about 20 years younger than most of them, and I only go along on Monday mornings, but they are an interesting and friendly group and I provide an interesting and exotic diversion for them I think. They are always interested to hear about life in Australia. We met some different people at Bruno’s Dinner and one lady has invited me to a luncheon at the Country Club in early November. That sounded very exciting, so I accepted with pleasure.

This coming weekend is the homecoming football game at Purdue. A friend from the Sweet Adeline’s has given us tickets to go to the match the week after that (I had originally thought it was for the homecoming game, Hannah, but I was over-excited), so we won’t get to see the football this weekend, but we will go along on Friday night to see the Homecoming Parade. This had been an annual tradition but I think it is some years since the last one. It has been resurrected this year because it is the 80th birthday of their big bass drum. So here’s another piece of Purdue trivia – Did you know that the marching band at Purdue has the world’s largest drum? It is about 8 feet high and made from cow hide – and of course the hide came from Texas! The answer to last week’s question was, of course, Cliff. A winner will be selected at random from the small number of correct entries received. First prize is a front row seat at the first Sweet Adeline Christmas gig at one of the old people’s home here in Lafayette on 5th December. The winner will be liable for all travel costs associated with the event, but I will throw in a cup of spiced hot cider.

People have been asking about the comparable cost of living, so I will try to shed some light on that for you. When we first arrived, everything seemed very expensive because we were spending those 50 cent dollars we brought with us from Australia. Our weekly bills were also overly high for two other reasons. The first being that we had to buy so many things (and I am still lacking so many basic ingredients), and we were also trying to buy the same things we would be buying at home.

From our memories of our trip in 1998, we had been looking forward to being able to buy cheap petrol, but when we arrived the price was about $1.40 a gallon (divide that by 4 for litres and multiply by 2 for our dollars), which wasn’t all that much different from the Australian price. The price continued to rise and got to about $1.60 a gallon. There was a big jump on September 11 when panic buying raised the price to $3 and $4 a gallon. That, however, was a brief aberration, and by the next day prices had returned to their September 10 level. Since then, prices have actually dropped, and last weekend we saw fuel as low as $1.03 a gallon. Predictions are, that so long as the Middle East crisis doesn’t influence supply, prices could go even lower in the winter when demand for petrol drops. This will be more than offset however by the additional heating costs we will have to pay.

Clothing is quite cheap – I got my snow boots for $12 – and because there was a recession underway even before the events of September 11, there are heaps of sales and discount offers to entice buyers to spend, spend, spend. Electrical and computer equipment is very cheap, but I think we have bought all that we need of that. Local phone calls are free, but long distance and international calls are more expensive than in Oz. We have finally got onto a reasonable plan, but our first bill was a shocker!! Eating out can be very reasonable. There are a number of family style restaurants which won’t stretch the budget too far, but pizzas are expensive by Australian standards. They obviously haven’t had the pizza price wars that we have had. Special offers include a one-topping pizza with garlic bread for $10. Each extra topping costs $1 each. Where are Dominoes when you need them?

The groceries are the biggest fun though. If you are prepared to put in the effort, you can really make some savings here. The first thing of course is to eat what is local and in season. Corn is abundant and my best bargain with that was 6 ears for a dollar. But even normal prices are very reasonable for corn, and corn syrup, and popcorn, etc. We are now in apple harvest time and apples are 33 cents a pound (multiply that by 2 for kgs). We have stopped multiplying by 2 for Aussie dollars now as Peter is earning US dollars. Also cheap and abundant are apple products – dried apples, apple sauce, caramel apples (with or without nuts, chocolate, etc), apple butter, apple cider, apple juice. Pork and chicken are cheap. I regularly get chicken breasts for 99c a pound. Eggs are also regularly 79c a dozen (don’t multiply that by anything) but I have bought them on special for 39c a dozen. Specials! Now there’s the thing!!! We get the usual serving of junk mail each Sunday. These consist of store catalogues and sets of coupons from various manufacturers. The coupons are good at any store and you can save 50c on this product or $1 on that one. I have used these quite a few times. Sometimes individual stores will have “coupon specials” where they will double or treble the value of the manufacturer’s coupons. In most cases, store specials are only available to shoppers who have a discount card for that store. It is a cunning marketing ploy to ensure customer loyalty and to track your shopping habits, but I am prepared to sell my consumer soul for the savings to be had by using these cards. For example, this week with my Marsh card, I paid 99c each for large packets of Corn Flakes usually priced at $3.09 a box. I now have enough in stock to cater for Nick when he comes at Christmas. A couple of weeks ago I got a similar bargain on Raisin Bran. Each week I save at least 30% on the regular prices by using my discount cards. At this stage, I would say our regular shopping bill is considerably less than what it had been back home (and we don’t always just eat apples and chicken).

Additional costs we have here include rent, which is substantial, and cable TV charges. We only have the very basic cable service, but without that we would not have any TV at all. Our favourite channel is the weather channel and we love the “live doppler 18” which always gives you the feeling (often quite false) that you know what the weather will be doing. I have it on now because of the severe weather warning for this afternoon, and I want plenty of time to head for cover if there is a tornado on the way.

We get a regular newsletter from the Blackbird Farms management and in the last one they advised us that October is Auto Battery Safety Month, Clergy Appreciation Month, Computer Learning Month, Diversity Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Dryer Vent Safety Month, Family Health Month, Lupus Awareness Month, National AIDS Awareness Month, National Car Care Month, Dental Hygiene Month, Liver Awareness Month, Make a Will Month, Vegetarian Awareness Month, Pork Month, Reading Group Month, Roller Skating Month, Skin Care Month, Stamp Collecting Month, Polish-American Heritage Month, and Popcorn Poppin’ Month. No wonder I’m exhausted!