*Christina Lee graduated from Judson College in June 2010. These are her archived student blog entries.*
Hey, ya'll! I am so excited you decided to check out my blog. My name is Christina. I am a small-town girl from Smiths, Alabama. Judson College has been my home for the past 2 ½ years and I am now embarking on a study abroad to Australia. (Thank you, Judson!!!) At the end of the year, I will have a degree in Psychology and Religion. A perfect day for me consists of sleeping, baking, running, reading, and karaoke! I hope you enjoy. Happy reading! :)
Weekends are always my favorite. After the rush of a long week, I am able to enjoy my time in the city. This weekend began with a celebration. One of the girls I'm rooming with had a birthday! We went out for Italian food and then had cake and ice cream. We knew that the night could not end so typically, yet we could not think of ANYTHING to do.
Finally, our homestay brother, Denning came up with a fabulous idea. We all bundled up in jackets and scarves and headed off to a playground- yes... I did say a playground. In fact, it was the most amazing playground I have EVER been to in my life. It was full of dangerous toys. It would probably shut down in America for all the hazardous events that could take place. I bet three people break bones at this playground every week. We went on tons of cool rides at the playground. We went down the zip line, raced up an incredibly tall obstacle course, and spun around in chairs. Unfortunately, my fun was cut short when I got my hair caught in metal while spinning on one of the chairs. Not only did my hair get caught on a metal pole as my friend spins me around it, but my ear somehow gets attached too. This happened three days ago and I STILL have a headache and a sore ear. Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable night.
Speaking of headaches, if you think American football players get them you should see a game of rugby. If I ever had a doubt in my mind that Australians were exceptionally tough, it was wiped away watching this game. The game is kind of like football, but you cannot pass the ball forward and you only have six tackles before you have to hand over the ball to the other team AND there is no padding or helmets. I assure you it is not because there isn't a need for them. Did I mention that the defensive players are not allowed to block the offense from tackling the player with the ball? So, picture 6 or more angry, aggressive, HUGE guys coming straight at you and their only objective is to get you on the ground. During the game, I saw at least 3 injuries- but no ambulance. In fact, when a player is down, the game keeps going on without him unless he is blocking the way. I heard one man behind me yell out to an injured player, "Get up and play, there is nothing you can do about it now!" I knew right then that I was with some serious fans.
Rugby game in Newtown
It was at that moment that I fell in love with Newtown rugby. It probably sounds heartless, but that is not my intention. I mean that for a second, I felt at home. The stadium was small and all the people knew each other. They all sat together reminiscing on the glory days of the stadium. They put their lives into this game- like grid iron football back home. They screamed at the players like their life depended on the game. It was like I was back in Alabama.
Me and Father Dave at the game
My journey on the other side of the world is quickly drawing to a close and soon I will be back in Alabama. The closer it gets, the scarier it seems. The end of this trip is the end of my undergraduate college experience. I do not know what waits on the other side, but I like to think that it will be just as magical.
I have a friend who is very passionate. It is the kind of passion that is contagious. When I was on Facebook Thursday, he messaged me extremely excited. He said that the Invisible Children bill went through to bring more relief funds to displaced children in Uganda and (most importantly) to find Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA (a group in Northern Uganda that has terrorized and killed numerous people). After talking about it and sifting through questions in my head, I began researching Joseph Kony. I wanted to know what pushed this person to the point of leading an organization of torture. I found information about a boy (a little small for his age) who grew up with Christian parents- a Catholic father and an Anglican mother. From my reading, I found that the group Kony began in had good intentions. He joined for a noble cause from my investigation. Eventually, after a series of events (including becoming the leader), Joseph Kony became power hungry. This evolved into the evil acts Kony is in charge of today.
Class on Friday was completely emotionally draining. We had another person from the Stolen Generation come talk to us about the abuse he suffered. As he told his story- and the effects throughout his life, my heart began to break. He told us about the day he decided to take his life. He went to an old drinking buddy's house to say goodbye- because he wanted to say bye to someone. When he arrived at the house, there was a priest there who talked him out of it. If the priest had not been patient, listened and stood behind this man, he would have taken his life that night. Now, he is a counsellor for displaced Aboriginal people who are trying to find their families.
When I was talking to my friend about Joseph Kony, we agreed that every person has an impact on each person they meet. I can't help but wonder the difference a person like this priest would have had in the life of Joseph Kony. Maybe the entire situation would have been different- maybe millions of lives would have been saved.
When I think about all the heartache in the world, I often get overwhelmed. I can't see how a small person like me can ever possibly make a difference. Yet, when I remember moments that impacted me the most, I always think about the small acts of kindness that I did not deserve. Moments like the speaker from the Stolen Generation had with the priest. I hope that in moments of need, I have people like the priest to help me along. In turn, I hope to be a representation of good amongst the sorrow and hurt in the world.
If I could get away with living life in my room, I probably would do just that... my introverted nature keeps me from enjoying my surroundings sometimes. Luckily, I have two roommates who made it their goal to make sure I do not lock myself into my room for the remainder of the trip. This week, even though I really just wanted to stay home and do homework (or sleep), they insisted I get out and actually enjoy Sydney.
Wednesday, we celebrated Cinco De Mayo! There are very few Mexican restaurants in Sydney (about 3 in the entire city... now remember that Sydney is the size of NYC and you should be surprised). We found one in Newtown... the hip- trendy- really awesome suburb of Sydney that had $5 burritos on Cinco De Mayo! So of course, almost all 37 students in our program had to go get one! Now in Sydney, any meal less than $10 is incredible. Even subway $5 footlongs are $7 here! So, for us to find a good Mexican restaurant was amazing and the fact that they had huge burritos for less than a Subway footlong is just like icing on the cake!
Thursday morning, I met 3 friends for lunch at a cute little Italian shop. It is the kind of place where you look at the selection of desserts and realize that if you got one of everything that looks good, you will probably spend your entire life savings... so we decided to get the much advertised ricotta cheesecake (it even has a facebook fan page!) I must say, I was a little disappointed in the cheesecake consistency, but the flavour and the crust were both fabulous.
We went on a 5 hour hike in the Blue Mountains for class on Friday. It was a nice change of pace from learning about aboriginal history in the classroom. We went with an aboriginal guide to a few sacred sites and painted our faces with homemade Ochre (rocks mixed with water to make a pasty paint). It was so much fun and totally worth the 1 ½ hour ride to and from Sydney.
After such an intense day, I really just wanted to go to sleep.... but of course, my roommate Amy would not let me stay home. She says we can sleep when we are dead (what she doesn't realize is that without sleep, I'm as good as dead!) After the fact, I was very glad she convinced me to go out. We ended up going to karaoke, which is what I usually do in my living room every night, so it was refreshing to do it for the first time in 3 months.
I finally fulfilled my goal to see a show at the Opera House on Saturday. There was a special Rodgers and Hammerstein show on and when I found out about it, I could not resist it. It was a conglomeration of highlights from 6 musicals played by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. I almost had to watch the show by myself. I was supposed to meet my friend in front of one of the ferry entrances, but the place we decided to meet was numbered wrong, so we both walked around the area for about half an hour wondering what to do. Eventually... right before the show started, we found each other. At the end of the performance, the conductor recognized a special guest in the audience. I was surprised to hear that one of the original cast members (Fredrick Von Trap) in The Sound of Music was in the audience (with me!!!!) It was certainly the highlight of the night.
I must say that I am very glad my roommates have been persistently encouraging me to take every opportunity to experience Sydney- just from this week I have so many memories that I would not have if I had stayed in my room every night.
I thought that I was coming to Australia to gain educational knowledge. Politics, global issues, theology, and culture are the topics that I signed up to learn about. While the course load is intense, this is a comfortable area for me. I am one of those odd people who loves an educational challenge. School work is something familiar. It is a tangible way for me to define myself.
When someone asks me about myself, I immediately respond with my educational standings. I usually rattle off something like this, "I am a Psychology/ Religion double major at Judson College I don't know what I am doing next in life. My plans for the future change everyday, but eventually I will get a master's and probably a doctorate in something." What is interesting is that this does not define who I am. It just explains what I do. I am so much more than my educational experience. While education is a large part of me, it is not my whole being.
The challenge for me here in Australia has not been educational. I have been stretched more in a social arena than I ever imagined. If I knew before I came that I would be stretched socially, I would have avoided this trip like it was a plague. If you know anything about me, you probably know I am very quirky and I have a hard time dealing with people who aggravate me.
I have not been able to control my surroundings here. I was plopped down on another continent- with 37 artsy American students from all over the country. There are people who make me uncomfortable everywhere I turn. I remember at the beginning of the semester I automatically categorized people into 2 groups. Group one was the "Christina will associate with these people" group. Group two was the "Christina does not understand and therefore will avoid these people" group. Luckily, I was forced to associate with many of the people in group two. What I found was that my initial judgment of these people blinded me from seeing the beauty in their character. This is hard for me to admit, but I need to learn that people will always be different from me. I can be okay with loving people for who they are- their faults and failures included. No one will ever fit into my perfect friend bubble... and really what kind of life would I live if they did? :)
Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections. (Author Unknown)