It is hard to believe that it has only been a few weeks since we returned from our excursion to Australia. Hosted by High Street Uniting Church in Frankston and The Uniting Church in Australia, I first want to thank the main organizers, Robert Johnson and Jay Robinson* for such hospitality and welcome.
We had a lovely time. Thank you!
While I was there primarily to work,** Robin and I were able to spend quite a bit of time just hanging out with locals and learning about some of the nuances and cultural realities of Australia. Now I am under no delusions that spending two-weeks in one part of any country is fair, but nonetheless, here are my TOP 10 Observations from our visit to Australia.
I would love to get some response to some of these observations: disgreement, nuance, explanations, etc.
In no particular order:
Fairy bread. All you need to know: white bread, butter and 100s and 1000s candy sprinkles. [Pictures]. For the record, when I substituted whole grain white bread for the white bread that is usually used, I was informed that “healthy,” when it comes to this particular delicacy, is just wrong.
There was more US presence than I had expected. Watching TV one night, we suddenly realized that we were watching Gwen Ifill on PBS Newshour. While the US presence certainly created a feeling of comfort, I had expected a stronger British feel . . . or at least more not US. This was again evident as we walked around the city — other than navigating cars driving on the other side of the street, it often felt like we could be in Any City, USA. Possibly a result of globalization or simply the ways that the area has developed, “we’re in a different” country moments were not blatant.
Language is not as censored. Throughout our time, we were surprised to see and hear language that we would NEVER hear in the US in such public ways. My puritan sensibilities keep saying, “oh my” as we walked the streets. Good thing we didn’t have our cuss cup
Platypuses are awesome. While they really do look like they were put together with spare parts from God’s animal building workshop, seeing Platypuses in real life was really cool. This also goes for all of the other peculiar looking creatures that we saw at the Healesville Sanctuary.
Australian Rules Football is also Awesome. During our time, we quickly learned that footy fans seem to come in three forms: LOVE Collingwood, HATE Collingwood and “don’t really care .” We were also informed that once one chose for which team they would barrack (Remember, no “rooting” in Australia) there was no changing allegiances. So while we are pictured above in Collingwood gear thanks to our hosts and I made some Geelong friends, no promises have been made and no team has been chosen
Race. Australia deals with race and immigration too. During our trip to the Immigration Museum (A must-see), while there are definitely some differences, there were many similarities between the US and Australia in how people of color and immigrants have experienced welcome and exclusion. Even now, though Australia’s overall political spectrum seems to be wonderfully to the left of the United States some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric sounded all too familiar. On the positive side, the public ways in which the government blatantly and publicly encourages diversity and multiculturalism was refreshing.
Food. The best food we had was by far the meals that were cooked at home. Other than that as we explored some of the food in the area, like many places, the best stuff had a multinational flavor. We ended up eating lots of fish and chips, found a couple great Indian places and I did find the meat pies just lovely. We also found many a coffee house to have a flat white or tall black (Yeah, took me a bit to learn how to order.)
Melbourne, the San Francisco of Australia. I think one of the reasons we felt right at home was because Melbourne felt much like San Francisco in its overall vibe and pace. As we talked with folks, some Melbournians seems to exhibit the same kind of lovely smugness and attitude towards Sydney that San Franciscans save for Los Angeles and Southern California.
Shattered assumptions. We did not see one member of the cast of Dance Academy, kangaroos were not in every backyard, not one person said “G’day mate!” and no one invited to wrestle a croc. So disappointed On the flip side, I did say “A dingo ate my baby!” more than once.
It’s a small world. One of the communities that I connected with was St. Albans Filipino Uniting Church in Victoria. And yep, within about 10 minutes of the “Do you know . . .” game, one leader there and I discovered that I am good friends with his cousin wh0 lives in Los Angeles. Awesome.
I was able to snap a few pics of the sites; here are a few of my favorites [More on FB Page]:
** For those who attended any of my social media talks, here are the compiled slides on SLIDESHARE.