The students did a wonderful job working together and presenting their final group projects yesterday. Today we were treated to a day out of Brisbane to see yet another part of Australia: the bush. We learned ‘the bush’ generally means anything out in the country. A few students are working on final take-home exam and packing up for our journey home tomorrow. We concluded our day with a sweet ceremony honoring each student and our four graduates: Cam, Jamial, Robert, and Zane.
Professor Burgess has threaded the theme of ‘story’ into the course. What’s the ‘American story’? What’s the ‘Australian story?’ and more importantly, ‘What’s the danger of a single story?’ as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie eloquently discusses in her TED Talk. Here are a couple more excerpts from student reflections about the many Australian stories they have encountered here.
The activities we experienced during the workshop ranged from a variety areas of the world. We had an opportunity to make rhythm with African drumming and learning a series of sounds just from our hands. We put sand into hallow instruments to make designs and art called mandala making. We had race to see who could make a lantern the fastest out of glue sticks, cardboard, and tissue paper. We got transported to India while we laughed and shaked our hips to an upbeat song while learning a dance.
For me, the workshop that empowered me the most was the aboriginal dancing. The four men who ran the dancing were all of aboriginal background. The leader of the group used to dance with a man that our group had previously met at an aboriginal center we visited a week ago. The biggest shock to me was the two young men that seemed to be around our age. They seemed so engaged with the dancing, and really embracing their culture. What I noticed the most is that they seemed very comfortable with the dancing, almost like they’ve been doing it all their life. Even the actions that the school kids would giggle at, they moved with power, believing and acting out the story that they were telling. One thing I wanted to ask them was how they learned these dances. Was this dance something they learned at a young age? Do they routinely visit their people and practice this dance? How do they seem so confident and proud of the movements they were doing? Looking back, I wish I had a chance to interview these young men, and their background with aboriginal culture and how often they practice it.
Australia has surprised me in a number of different ways, but the biggest surprise that it’s given me is its attitude about multiculturalism. Perhaps that’s just unique to Brisbane but it seems that Australia from what I’ve seen is not only welcoming to those of different cultures and ethnicities, but celebrates those differences. This became most apparent to me during the multicultural festival of June 5th, featuring the Luminous Lantern Parade and concert that featured so many different showcasings of different cultural dances and songs. Bits of Sri Lankan, Indonesian, Aboriginal, Torres Straight and African cultures all demonstrated for different people, particularly getting young schoolchildren involved as part of their education during the Little Luminous school event featuring all sorts of cultural workshops for kids. And all of this is thrown to welcome new refugees, new people from all over the place to Australia.
They also make quite the big thing about reconciliation and making restitution for the Stolen Generations, the aboriginals who were taken from their families and forced to be educated to be “civilized.” They even have a holiday, Reconciliation Day, to if I recall correctly, commemorate the day that the Australian government actually issued an apology to the native people that it had wronged. Something The United States still hasn’t done for the Native Americans.
Students are feeling the effects of two intensive weeks of living and learning in a new land. Yet, they are also focused on working in small groups towards final presentations later this week. As mentioned earlier, one of the writing assignments for Intercultural Communications, was to write blog entries. While we can’t post each one, here are a few more excerpts from the students’ perspective.
From Will S.:
Now as I was told by another member of our Hostel group Australian Football is the 4th most watched sporting event in the world after American Football, German Football and England Football. We categorize the German and England leagues as soccer in our country. From what I understand of the game there is a football that looks very similar to a rugby ball and a player may only hang onto it for a few meters before either punching it or kicking it to another player before they get tackled. Also similar to Rugby there are no pads involved in this game. In order to score you must kick the ball between the two innermost goal posts to score the full 6 points, there are four goal posts as pictured above. The easier way to do this seems to be by kicking the ball and having one your players catch it inside the goal square (end zone for us Americans) and then they get a free kick at trying to kick it between the goal posts.
From Ray T.:
I asked him what his view of America was and he said despite the problems going there he thinks pretty highly of the United States. Next, he said “Americans like everything really big”. I asked him to elaborate and he claimed many people he knows say America is very over the top with a focus on having the most, being the biggest and strongest country. That being said he admires the rich history and valor of America. He claimed many Americans he had talked to don’t get British humor. He asked me if I appreciate British comedy and I said not only I do but many of my friends enjoy British programing including Top Gear. I asked him to describe what he considered British humor. He claimed “We use humor in a direct and cheeky sense, a lot of it is geared towards making good of bad situations by making fun of the situation and somewhat exaggerating it.
After having a good chat with the English fellow a French man asked me to review his resume. This was interesting because I assumed he thought that me being American, and fluent in the English language would aid him in spotting any flaws. I was surprised he did not ask someone from England to review it because it is probable the Australian writing methods are more similar to those used in England than the U.S.
In 2008 I did reading program called Lindamood Bell with a tutor named Sara. One of the activities was to read a section on the flying fox: the largest bat on earth. Seven year later, I finally got to see one of these magnificent animals up close at The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. From downtown Brisbane we took a ferry to the Sanctuary listening to the automated Australian voice informing us of different points of interest along the way. The Lone Pine Sanctuary is approximately 100 acres of land dedicated to the preservation of the Australian koala. However, since its founding, it has expanded to include kangaroos, emus, and a variety of other wildlife native to Australia and nearby islands.
After seeing the flying fox and several other animals, I got a chance to hold a koala something every small child at some point wants to do. I suspect they bathe them because I did not smell any distinct scent at all. It weighed slightly more than expected. The holding of the koala is one of the ways in which the sanctuary raises money to stay in business. For a fee of ten Australian dollars, you can hold a koala and have your photo taken with it.
Traveling can be exhilarating, yet stressful at times. This week, we had the difficult task of experiencing Australian beach culture at Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island (about an hour off coast of Brisbane). The students thoroughly enjoyed a couple days of respite from class and city life. Tangalooma has a unique wild dophin education center. We learned a great deal about dolphin behavior and the individual wild dolphins who have been coming to the Tangalooma dock for years to eat fish. We also had a chance to sand-board in the desert! Moreton Island is 98% sand and 2% volcanic rock. We also learned more about how Aboriginal people lived off the plants and sea life on the island.
Yesterday we were honored to participate in “Little Luminous” educational program to teach school children about diverse cultures that make up Australian culture. The students learned Bollywood dancing, Aboriginal dance, Sri Lankan lantern-making, Ghanaian drumming, and Tibetan sand-mandala making. Lastly we were touched and proud to hold a Landmark College banner in the evening’s Luminous Parade.
It’s been another full few days Down Under. At the end of last week, we visited the Queensland Police Headquarters to hear from their Cultural Support Unit. It was fascinating to learn how they work to accommodate diverse cultures. Today in class, Professor Burgess talked about mass media and its role in culture. In the afternoon we toured two major Australian radio stations: Triple M and Hit 105. Over the weekend some of us went to a professional “Aussie Footy” game also known as Australian Rules Football. It is only played in Australia. Sadly, Brisbane Lions lost, but it was very exciting to watch.
One of the assignments this week was for students to write for this blog. Here are a few excerpts:
It has been quite a joy to get to know the people in Australia in the little time I have been here. Whether it was on the bus, at an AFL game (Australian Football League), or simply passing them on the street. I haven’t met one of them that seemed ill mannered or less then friendly. I remember passing a giant of a man. He looked as if he would tear your arms off for looking at him the wrong way. Bald with a handle bar mustache, sunglasses, black tank top, heavily tattooed. I was ready to walk widely around him when he singled me out asking for the time. I didn’t bring my phone on the trip and don’t wear a watch so that’s what I told him, and in a big Santa Clause chuckle he laughed and went o as to how he couldn’t even figure out his new phone. I showed him what to do and we talked for a while about Australia and the States. Couldn’t have talked to a nicer guy if I tried.
In order to get to the koala sanctuary, we had to take a boat ride down the river. During the ride we were able to enjoy listening to commentary over a speaker that gave a history lesson about the historic sites that we passed on our way. During the trip one of my friends invited me to come on down to the front of the boat to get a feel of what it’s like. Standing on the front of the boat was awesome. It was easier to get a sense of how fast the boat was going and it was nice to feel the powerful wind blowing. While on the boat we also were able to view lots of beautiful homes along the river with a few that had some interesting history to them.
From Ray T.:
My educational experience so far in Australia has been nothing short of amazing. I have learned a plethora of information about its history For instance, two days ago we visited the Aboriginal cultural centre, a place dedicated to teaching young white Australians about Aboriginal History and culture. He explained Aborigines are the true native of Australia who arrived here over 60,000 years ago. In 1820, British prisoners began to occupy Australia while pushing the Aborigines onto reservations. Furthermore, one hundred years later, white Australians assimilated the Aborigines by removing them from their homes forcing them to live in white home and attend white schools under the Protection Act. In 1974 the protection act was abolished. However Aborigines and historians call this cultural imperialism the “The Stolen Generation”. Now members of that generation have become assimilated but, are struggling. According to Joseph Lyodon, Aborigines are the poorest ethnic group in Australia, currently live twenty years shorter then white Australians and lopsidedly commit suicide more than any other ethnic group in Australia. Even though their history is grim the Aboriginal at the centre are proud of the culture and feel responsible that others are aware of Australia first people.
Eating six termites will cure an upset stomach. A boomerang was used to scare birds into nets set up in tall trees. Lemon myrtle was used to keep bugs away and to season kangaroo meat. These are just a few of the incredible things we learned today from the Aboriginal people at Ngutana Lui. The students learned to throw a boomerang, create traditional dot paintings, and heard ancient stories that have carried Aboriginal culture from generation to generation.
Tuesday we got our hands on, quite literally, some of the fantastically unique Australian animals. We took a cruise boat up the Brisbane River to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. In class, students learn the many layers that influence our perceptions of the world. For coursework, they are keeping D.I.E. Continue reading
The students are great sports dealing with the jet-lag! We have had a full few days since arriving on Saturday: markets, shopping, money exchange, traversing the Brisbane River, walking tour, and group dinner al fresco! The weather has been warm with a cool breeze–typical autumn weather for Brisbane.
This morning, Professor Burgess got students thinking: What is communication? What is culture? In the afternoon we took the bus up to Mt Cootha to get beautiful views of Brisbane. We also took our first hike ‘into the bush’!