Stradbroke Memories

This blog is written by Sarah Reed. It comes from her personal blog “Sarah Reed Down Under“. Sarah is a Fall 2018 student from Messiah College. Editor’s note: This post was first published on the 13th of August, 2018 and has been lightly edited.

A few weekends ago my classmates and I traveled across Moreton Bay to Stradbroke Island for a weekend with our Indigenous worldviews class. The ferry ride was short yet relaxing and upon arrival we were welcomed with a smoking ceremony to cleanse ourselves.

Stradbroke Ferry

Having fun on the ferry on the way to Stradbroke

The morning continued with our ears being filled with stories about local customs of the Indigenous people of the area.  This was followed by dancing, boomerang and spear throwing! Which was really fun!

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Boomerang throwing

See videos of my boomerang throwing and spear throwing activities.

The day finished with a brisk Gorge walk. The scenic trail snaked around cliffs and we were fortunate enough to see whales jumping out of the ocean, sea turtles and other wildlife.

A view from the Gorge walk

The next day, we worked with artist Craig to create sand art on the beach. Each design unique in their expression!

People on beach creating sand art

Working on sand art designs

This was followed by a time of worship at Brown Lake (a historical site where local Indigenous women would bring with their children).

Musicians playing guitars and ukulele at Brown Lake

Worship time at Brown Lake

Now I know this sounds like a nice weekend getaway, but it was much more than that.  Before coming to Australia, I thought Indigenous people were just an ancient group of people that used to live in Australia, little did I know that I was very wrong.  The weekend showed me, this ancient culture is still every much alive! The elders of the community, shared with us the importance of country and showed us ways to utilize plants and the things on the island. We were invited onto sacred grounds which were had been frequented by their ancestors. They also shared with us stories of hardships faced by Aboriginal people today.

Over the weekend, not only did I experience Aboriginal culture and history. I also learnt how an Aboriginal person can be both Christian and still hold on to their cultural values. I have never experienced anything like this and I will forever hold onto the memories I made this weekend.

Using found materials to create sand art

 

 

 

the place that calls my heart

This blog is written by Marissa Showalter. It comes from her personal blog “Riss Lynn Takes Brisbane“. Marissa was a Spring 2017 student from Messiah College. Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2017 and has been lightly edited. 

This past week has been a tough one. Every day that passes makes me wish more and more that I was on a plane headed back to the place that calls my heart. There are just too many in completes that I left behind in my sweet Brissy, and I want nothing more than to return to finish what I started under the sweet summer sunshine of Queensland. What do you do when your heart physically aches for somewhere else?

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A Gold Coast Beach

You would think that the more time passes, the more I would settle back into life here. WRONG. Yep. If anything, I feel even more listless than before. People here are talking about taking their GREs and applying to jobs, and I can’t help but feel like a frozen over creek, stagnant and unmoving.

I have been encountering so many well-meaning folks who, upon discovering that it’s my senior year, inquire as most do about what my plans are after college. I fake a smile and start going on about how I plan to go to grad school for counseling. HA. Who am I fooling?? Not that I don’t still feel like counseling is my calling or anything, but now I have bigger dreams and weirdly they look a lot like palm trees swaying on a spotless beaches and kangaroos bouncing across a stretch of barren desert.

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A mob of Kangaroos

People are usually rather incredulous when I tell them that I want to move to Australia. They think I’m joking or being dramatic or just exaggerating the impact that my time there had on me. “You would really want to live over there?” they ask me. “But it’s so far! Wouldn’t you miss your family?”

Then they ask me what I would plan to do when I got there and that’s just the kicker, because once again, I have no idea. Like, not a clue. I could go and work odd jobs for a little while, which no one would understand once I have earned my degree. I could do grad school abroad potentially, but of course I don’t know what that would mean financially as an international student or the implications for becoming a licensed counselor in the US. All I know is that I need to find my way back somehow.

So this has been an especially hard week emotionally as I move yet again into my new apartment. In the move, I packed up all of my Australia mementos and carefully tucked them away to be prominently displayed in my new home. I cling to even the smallest item that claims even a little bit of sentimentality. You know what? I still have the packaging for a necklace that I received over there that should’ve gone in the trash long ago. And yet I continue to cling.

If I come to a conclusion about all of this, I’ll keep you updated.

Until then.

xoxo, Riss

Father of the Year

Emily Doherty

“Wait for me Dad!” a little boy shouted as he passed the bus stop trying to catch up to his dad during their light jog around the neighborhood both in bright yellow matching running gear. While watching this scene I could not help but think to myself that this little boy is the cutest thing I have ever seen and what a great dad this guy was for spending this quality time with his son. As my time here in Australia progresses the relationship between Australian fathers and their children stands out to me more and more each day. Everywhere I go whether it is on public transportation, at the beach, in the city or even just walking around my neighborhood there are far more fathers taking their kids out by themselves than I have ever seen in the U.S. I see dads pushing strollers and riding bikes alongside their kids. Even when I see moms out with their kids, the dad is usually right there next to the mom. In the U.S it is so unusual to see a dad acting this way with his children; it is almost always the case that moms are the ones out with the kids.

This led me to wonder what is it in the Australian culture that makes dads more involved with their kids. My first thought was that it must be the divorce rate in Australia. I assumed it had to be far less than the U.S which would explain the stronger fatherly presence in Australian households. However, I found that fifty percent of all first marriages in the U.S end in divorce where as in Australia forty percent of first marriages end in Divorce. That is only a ten percent difference which is not the drastic difference I was looking for. There is no way that a ten percent difference could explain why fathers in Australia seem to have a more of a participation role in their families than fathers in the U.S. To go through and research all the reasons why this might be so, would be too long for this blog. What is apparent to me though is that it is common in the Australian culture that fathers are the ones taking the kids out whether on errands or just to have quality time. I cannot help but wonder what this says about American culture. Why did it come as such a shock to me? Maybe it is because in the U.S we do not expect fathers to spend time like this with their kids. I am not sure if I have the right answer to this question but maybe I will the longer I am here in Australia.

Sources:

Divorce Rate 30/4/12 http://www.divorcerate.org/
Divorce rate in Australia 30/4/12 http://www.divorcerate.org/divorce-rates-in-australia.html

The Australia Panel

The legacy of the British Empire is felt across the globe. English-style city planning, a glorification of armed forces, and the English language itself can be found from the slopes of the Rocky Mountains to the arid plains of Australia. Both are prosperous westernized nations with a history of direct British colonial rule. To many it may seem that the two are nearly the same.

Enter the Australia Panel.

 

 

 

 

 

Three members of the Wesley Institute staff who have been hand selected to represent Australian culture to the ASC students, each with a unique area of expertise and background. Prompted by questions pulled from students’ readings the three weighed in on important aspects of Australia’s cultural myths, convict history, engagement with Aboriginal Australians, and modern issues in Australian culture.

Beginning with the quirks of Australian language, Jo Kenny, coordinator and lecturer for the drama department, describes, “Irreverence is very Australian, but we do it with a sense of humor, so we have a charm about it.”

Mark Stevens, lecturer for the theology department, adds, “I identify with that sense of humor, I think it keeps you grounded in a way that doesn’t bring you down.”

The three encourage the American students that, “if your host families or Australian friends seem to be cutting you down, that’s a sign of acceptance.”

Julie Matthews, head of the department of education, brings in an historical perspective     explaining the connection between the convict beginnings and modern Australian society.   Ideas like the “tall poppy syndrome,” distrust and irreverence for authority, fatalism, and   mateship, she says, come from a legacy of people who were thrown into a fierce land against   their will.

“That ‘mateship’ that Australians became known for is something to be proud of,” says Julie. She mentions the storming of Gallipoli by Australian and New Zealand troops, an important moment in the formation of Australia during the First World War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one point Jo begins reading from a book called 800 Horsemen, an account of a gallant moment in Australian history abroad. It tells the story of the 4th and 12th Australian Light Horse units that successfully performed an incredibly risky charge upon well-entrenched Turkish artillery. The American students were surprised to see her so overcome with emotion for a moment that happened even before her parents were born. Such is the deep feeling of mateship between Australians.

Mark explains further, “No one would ever say, ‘I’ll die for you’ but when the situation gets really tough there’s no question, we would die for each other.”

Questions also prompted a look at some of the challenges Australia faces today. Struggling with a younger generation taking to binge drinking and a viciously post-Christian society is no simple feat. But Mark brought it home, “I don’t just weep for my culture but for the world,” as he explained the challenges here reflect those of the globe.

“Australians are best when they live for others,” he says, “I suspect that’s true of human beings.”

Listening to the students debrief the panel it became apparent that learning about another nation provides the ability to think critically about one’s own.

Friday

Friday brought the second class the ASC students will take during the semester, Indigenous Cultures, History and Identity (of Australia and New Zealand). As a former student I can personally say this class alone, taught by Jennifer Newman, is worth the 15 hour flight. The first session of class opened with a history and overview of the Aboriginal Australians, their language groups and regions. Sitting in on the class I noticed an entranced silence. I have never seen college students so unashamedly riveted for almost 2 hours. This is going to be a great class.

An Aboriginal Language Map of Australia

The legacy of the Tower of Babel can be felt across the planet. Anyone who has traveled knows this. But even here in Australia, a well-developed former British colony, the clash of cultures can be witnessed. During the Friday’s session the ASC students engaged in an exercise created to embody this phenomenon. Though it has its roots in antiquity (the late ‘70s), the concept of the game still holds true.

The class is divided into two groups, each representing two different cultures. The two groups learn the rules associated with their cultures and then take turns visiting. The game is good fun but the discussion afterwards shows that this is about more than a game. This is about how people interact with one another, and the students dove into it wholeheartedly sharing experiences and asking insightful questions of their own.

“How powerful is culture?”

“Should we even evaluate culture?”

“Maybe it is important to identify where one comes from in order to understand how to interact with other cultures.”

Asking these sorts of questions and critically looking at one’s own culture are key to growing from a semester abroad.

Welcome to Australia

As the newest addition to the Australia Studies Centre staff, I’ve had a fair share of work in preparing for the arrival of this semester’s ASC students. From making thousands of copies to building shelves, I’ve been working hard in anticipation for the beginning. Coming from working in motion picture in Los Angeles, I’m not quite used to having my own desk. It is certainly a welcome change. But I’m looking forward to bringing expertise in visual storytelling to the team here at the ASC.

Classes are now full in session with students bustling about the campus. After a fantastic orientation week of meeting, greeting and heaps of fun in the sun, the ASC and Wesley students are now well acquainted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the ASC students Tuesday morning brought the first session of the View from Australia class from Program Director Kimberly Spragg. Next the bright-eyed students receive the gift of hundreds of pages of reading material in the form of A Concise History of Australia, Henri Nouwen’s Can You Drink The Cup, and the View From Australia Reader. These books along with weekly trips to important sights around Sydney form the content of the course: the history, government and identity of Australia.

The class encompasses everything from the current antics in Australian politics to eating with a fork and knife in true “Aussie” fashion. This is not just a dry history lecture that can be read in any book. This class seeks to explore the world through the eyes of those on the other side of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Along with the cultural education comes a crash course in forming relationships with Australians.

“The thing you will remember the most after you leave will be the relationships you form,” says Kimberly.

“Most of the Australians have made friendships with ASC students and have had their hearts broken once they left,” she tells them, “so you may have to pursue friendships more.”

She reminds them that relating to Australians is the biggest part of learning about the view from Australia.

I already hope to take some of that wisdom as I settle in my new home for the next 10 months. The possibilities for the semester are infinite with such a great team and an eager group of students.

Ty Tuin

ASC Assistant