Introduction

It was at the Centrelink offices in Box Hill, Melbourne where I first thought of writing down my memories from my past. It was during June 2015 when my brother Steve and I went into the Centrelink offices to inquire about his age pension entitlements.

Steve wanted to know how his recent inheritance would affect his age pension. The Centrelink official at Box Hill was very helpful and provided us with useful and up to date financial information for Steve to make an informed decision about his financial affairs. During all of that personal questioning, the question of: When and how we came to Australia came up, we answered simultaneously and instantly "In March 1960, by a ship!" The lady then, with a great deal of understanding, possibly due to her personal experience, remarked. "It must have been a great adventure for you two".

Just then I thought to myself, yes, it was a great adventure, greater than anyone can imagine as a flood of memories started rushing down from my past. It was a personal moment of reflection at the Box Hill Centrelink offices. I had these types of moments before and each time I thought to myself that I should write them down before I forget them, but each time I dismissed the thought of writing anything about my past as not being important enough for anyone to want to read.


Dedo and Baba in front of what appears to be the travel agent's office in Lerin.

Slightly more than two years later though, when my first granddaughter Grace was born and she was old enough to call me "Dedo" (grandfather), I realized that she would one day want to know why I am called "Dedo" while the grandfather on her mother's side is called "granddad". Another thing she might want to know about is, why her father has a different surname name to her Dedo. Well, now, I feel I need to explain the above and at the same time give my other grand children and other interested relatives and friends a brief description of my early history via my childhood memories. I will only cover moments in time, personalities and feelings that I experienced during the time I was in Macedonia which made an impression on me and thus formed my character and personality.

The title "From a Shepherd to a Chemical Engineer" was suggested to me by my wife to highlight the vast transformation that I went through in that short period of time. I was plucked from a rural village in a war torn country where I had just completed primary school and I was destined to live on a subsistence farm tending to our fields and the small herd of sheep and domestic animals for the rest of my life. Within nine years of arriving in Australia and not knowing one word of English I managed to complete a Degree in Chemical Engineering and ended up working as an Experimental Officer in the Defence Standard Laboratories (DSL). The work at DSL required me to design, develop and test military weapons for the Australian Army to use during the Vietnam War; needless to say this was top secret work requiring a security pass and silence about the nature of the work for the next 30 years. As I now look back at this period of my life, I too am amazed at the transformation that I went through, that is from a shepherd in an undeveloped village where animals were the main source of power to an advanced country where I was using state of the art equipment to develop modern weapons. The educational path leading to a degree in Chemical Engineering will not be covered in this essay as it is not the subject of this article but my thirst for knowledge and more precisely the need to know how things work was instrumental for me in completing my engineering course; this will became evident to the reader as I outline my observations of nature during my formative years. The seeds for a deeper understanding were sown into me by me looking at natural objects and observing natural events.

Even though I said that I will only cover the period of time that I was in Macedonia, I will now break my promise and transport myself into the future for a brief moment and correct a false statement I gave my science teacher. I feel it's appropriate to say this now as this will further emphasize the effect that my observations of natural things had on my personal and academic development. I was half way through my year 11 at Richmond Technical School when and where our science teacher was trying to encourage his students to study more.

He asked every student in turn how many hours per week he studied and the teacher compared the time of study with the student's physics results.

He was trying to establish a correlation between the physics result and the study time.

I had the top result for physics at that time. When he asked me I suspected he was expecting to hear an extraordinary figure for my hours of study.

"How many hours do you study, Olie?" he asked.

I answered "None, sir." My answer put a spanner in the works. In desperation he said "You are unique, I will leave you out of this."

Here is my belated confession. I wish that I told him that I studied since I could walk. I studied every day, but not from books (I didn't have any books). I studied nature. I could read nature like a book. I observed, I analysed and at times I experimented with nature. Nature was my teacher.

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