*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! :)
On my week off of school, I decided to take a risk and fly to Cairns with two friends from the Australian Studies Program. We took an early morning flight on Monday and arrived just past noon. Cairns is in the North-eastern portion of Australia. It is a major tourist destination because of the Great Barrier Reef, beautiful beaches, and the Daintree rainforest.
On our first day in this sleepy little town, we went to a beach called Palm Cove. The guide recommended it as the best beach in the area. I don't know about the best, but it was the most expensive for sure! Luckily, everything I wanted to do was free! I laid out on the beach and walked on the pier. On my way back from the pier, I talked to a roadside vender. I asked him about the salt water crocs because of the multiple warning signs about them all along the beach. He sort of laughed (thinking dumb tourist I'm sure), but then answered causally, "They are around." There is an area of the beach that is enclosed by a net to keep out (deadly, poisonous) jellyfish. He told me that last year about 3 beaches down from Palm Cove, a woman took a morning swim in the netted area and saw a log in the water. When she got done with her swim, she told some beach workers that there was a log in the netted area they should get out... little did she know it was a SALTWATER CROC!!!! Yes, this woman had no clue she was swimming with a living, breathing, deadly, aggressive beast! Needless to say, this southern girl (i.e. me) decided it was best to stay away from the water... and I made sure other people were closer to the shore... just in case a croc wanted a snack! Unfortunately, I wasn't as good at avoiding the harmful UV rays. When I got back to the room, I looked like a lobster. I do not think I have been this red in my life. I seriously could not sleep for 3 nights because my skin hurt SO BAD! The lesson you should take: never, ever, ever go on an Australian beach with only 30 SPF. The sun in 7 times brighter... and will make you 7 times redder! GUARANTEED!
Yesterday, we went to the Great Barrier Reef. It was amazing! We were able to take a semi-sub ride and see the reef underneath the water through glass. Unfortunately, I didn't see Nemo, BUT I did see a shark, a stingray, a seaturtle, and many fish and other amazing creatures. After the sub, we went snorkelling. I have always had a fear of water that I couldn't see through, but I learned something on the reef I never knew about myself before: I am dreadfully terrified of the ocean. Snorkeling on the reef was beyond words. It was exhilarating and fun and beautiful, but the entire time instead of thinking about the colourful fish, I was looking for sharks, crocs, and jellys. While my friends stayed out snorkelling, I went back to the shore and sat looking at all the other people snorkelling. I'm sure I was a sight... I was standing ankle deep in the water with the cold rain beating against my back. I had a terrified look on my face and I was shivering. I stood there for what seemed like hours just thinking that any minute snorkelers would start disappearing before my eyes. It didn't happen, but if I stayed in the water... I guarantee that something deadly and poisonous would have come for me!
On Good Friday, we planned to go shopping in Cairns. We had no idea that the WHOLE TOWN SHUTS DOWN! Good Friday is a public holiday and they take holidays seriously here in Australia. I admit it is wonderful to rest. God commands us to do it and in my opinion we have gotten so far away from resting like God intended it... but the selfish side of me just wanted to go look at the shops in the neat little town (this is the point that you should ignore that I'm being selfish and feel sorry for me!) So, we went to the city anyways and ended up at a barbeque restaurant called "Hogs Breath" instead of the Australian restaurant (that was closed) that sold Kangaroo. Yes, I ordered bbq, no it did NOT taste like southern bbq. The walls were covered with American posters and license plates and they played country music. The atmosphere honestly reminded me of Jim n Nick's bbq at home. Anyways.... by the time we left I was so homesick that I was in tears... yes, tears. It was good for me though. I realized how much my home means to me. As much as I love to travel, everyday I realize how much the south is ingrained in every fiber of my being. There is something about breaking away from my normal, mundane life that has helped me accept who I am and where I come from... but I'll explain all that in a future blog!!!
As for now, I challenge you to listen to the adventures of your heart. Regardless of how big or little, I bet if you listen, you will see yourself in a totally different light. I know I do!
I have never seen a rabbit proof fence, nor do I have a need for one. Rabbits are not a problem in America like they are in Australia. When the rabbit was introduced in Australia, they had no natural predators. Thus, they bred like crazy. In an attempt (among many others) to control this problem, the Australian government attempted to keep them out of agricultural areas of the country by creating a fence. It was a failed attempt. This is only one of many problems caused by the European settlers to the land in Australia.
Unfortunately, there is one problem the Europeans caused that trumps all the others. It is called the "Stolen Generation". We watched a movie in class on Friday about the stolen generation called Rabbit Proof Fence. It is a true story about three girls who are ripped from their mothers and taken to a children's home run by a church organization. The girls escape from the home and face the dangerous journey back to find their mothers. They are able to survive on the rough terrain because their mothers taught them from a young age how to survive in the bush. (An aboriginal child can fend for his or herself in the bush by the age of 8!) Instead of giving away the end of the movie, I encourage you to rent it and find out what it is all about!
After the movie, we were privileged to have two people from the stolen generation come speak to us. I was unable to speak after hearing their stories. I sat outside the classroom thinking about how awful it must have been to be taken away from my parents on the sole basis of their skin color. The man who came to speak was taken away from his father while his father was fighting for the Australian Army in WWII. A veteran of two wars could not have his children after returning from the battlefield. He told us of the injustices done to him as a child and how that affected the rest of his life. He did not have anyone to depend on. As this frail, old man was brought to tears, my heart was outraged at the injustice.
It is easy for me to sit here and say that this kind of cultural bias should stop. It was obviously attempted genocide. The theory was that through taking the Aboriginals from their homes and putting them with "white" Australians, they would eventually become part of the European culture and eventually would be a forgotten race. However, I rarely think about the injustices done to the Native Americans in America. Sure, I can get angry about something that happened on the other side of the world, but can I admit that there was the same type of mentality in the country I love the most? This class session helped me realize that it is important to acknowledge injustice even if it does not affect me daily. If I expect other people to join with me when I feel discriminated against, I should show the same respect. As a response to my current studies of indigenous culture and heritage, I want to find out about the native culture around my home. I think learning about the original inhabitants will help me appreciate the land and maybe learn more about myself along the way!
Although Sydney is the largest city in Australia, it is not the capitol. The capital of Australia is Canberra. I lost count of how many people I have explained this to... so for future reference, NO, Sydney is NOT the capitol!
This weekend, my study abroad group went to Canberra. We had to be at school bright and early on Friday morning (6 a.m. if you were wondering). All 37 of us loaded into a van and we were off to a weekend of learning and fun. Little did I know how amazing it would be! (YES, I am a nerd!)
When we arrived in Canberra, we had a day full ahead of us. Friday was spent at Embassies. First, we went to the Indonesian Embassy and learned about their relations to Australia. Indonesia is considered to be Australia's greatest threat, although Australia is very peaceful and really does not fear being attacked. The motto of Indonesia is "Millions of friends- zero enemies". HAHA ! I thought it was super cute and maybe not actually true, but what do I know. The New Zealand High Commission was our next stop. I was blown away by the honesty presented by the New Zealand politician. I thought the man speaking was lying or at least sugar coating everything he was saying, but I asked one of our leaders from New Zealand and she said it is true. New Zealanders will not tolerate a politician who lies. New Zealand upholds what it stands for even if their stance hurts the country economically. Our last stop was at the Aboriginal Australian Embassy. Yes, you did read it correctly, but it is not what you are imagining. The Aboriginal Embassy is actually a protest. A group of Aboriginals camp outside the capital trying to get rights to the land taken from them- or even compensation for their hardships.
If you do not know the history of Australia, Aboriginal people were treated in horrible ways by the Europeans who arrived in the 1700s. Even up to the 1960s, Aboriginal children were ripped from their mothers and given to white families. It was not until Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister that Aboriginals got a public apology for their treatment, but the Aboriginal people are still suffering today.
You might notice that we did not go to the AMERICAN EMBASSY. This is simply because we were not allowed to go. First, it was because President Obama was coming, but then he postponed his trip. Our own embassy denied us access to the grounds! In the words of Stephanie Tanner, "how rude!"
Friday night, I went out for coffee with some friends, but we were unsuccessful. The entire town closes down at 10 P.M. EVEN THE COFFEE SHOPS! The capitol of Australia does not have coffee after 10 at night! CRAZY!
Saturday we went to museums and art galleries. I fell in love with an Australian painter: Arthur Boyd. I encourage you to look him up! His work is fascinating and left me with so many questions. We went to the second largest war memorial in the world. (The first is in Britain.) Did you know that there were 11 Australians in the world trade center on 9/11? Or that during the first battle of WWI, the American soldiers were technically under an Australian general? OR that every war America has fought in, Australia has too!?! Yes, Australia is our most faithful friend! The weekend was so packed, I cannot even begin to explain everything I learned, but hopefully my blog has given you a taste of Canberra! For anyone who enjoys history and art, it is a fabulous place to visit!
Last night it hit me hard that I am not home. I wanted nothing more than to be back home, but the cost of a plane ticket would be too much. I wrote down how I was feeling... probably how most people feel in a new environment. Maybe you can identify:
I should probably be sleeping right now or doing homework. Instead, I am coming up with every excuse to avoid it. It would be a lie for me to pretend like everything is okay. I am usually good at ignoring problems and putting on a happy face. I like to trick other people into believing all is well so they don't ask me tons of questions. It is easier to stay a hermit that way. Really, at the moment, I just want to go home.
This weekend I went on a wonderful trip to the Blue Mountains. I saw beautiful views on my first bush walk, but inside me there was unrest. As much fun as it was, I still wanted to go home. I want to be in my town with my car and my school and my professors and my life... not to mention my bread maker! Do you get the picture? I'm having a hard time with the change, distance, and overall culture shock. Yes, Australia is a beautiful place and it does look a lot like the U.S., but it is not Alabama and the mentality here is much different. Change has always been hard for me. I have always avoided it like the plague. Some part of me wishes I never started on this adventure, but my logic tells me that my emotions are trying to prevent my heart from falling in love with Australia. Change makes me uncomfortable... because when we change we lose something... and I hate to lose anything. So, as a coping mechanism, I try to avoid getting attached. I hope that it will get better as the weeks begin to pass and I hope they pass rather quickly.
There will be bad days and good days. I am aware of this fact, but during the bad- the hard- the less desirable days, I hope that I will be able to look back at the good days and realize that it is worth it. I hope that I will look back in the future and laugh at how silly I am being right now. I hope that it will be like my Judson experience: rocky at first, but eventually it became a part of me THAT I WOULD NOT GIVE UP FOR ANYTHING. Whatever the outcome, I fully intend to grow a tremendous amount...