Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, July 31, 2006

Under and Back Again - Pt. VI

Monday, July 31, 2006
The weekend is over and BLUE Monday has arrived with a thump. Actually, it really is a BLUE day, because we have to say goodbye to Caloundra and our wonderful hosts at our sister school. The thump was from my suitcase, which now weighs about twice as much as it did when I arrived thanks to all the things I bought yesterday.

Our visit to the school is short and emotional. There's a morning assembly in which thank you and goodbye speeches are given. (I translate Mr. K's speech into English without any trouble.) Then the local boy with the excellent singing voice and a female student sing a beautiful rendition of "I Still Call Australia Home" that definitely caused eyes to water up. Of course, that's just the warm up. After the assembly, it's time for our students and their hosts and shadows to part company.

Needless to say, it takes a while for us to make it onto our bus.

Even then, the local students aren't about to let us go easily. (When I snapped this and other photos along the same lines the students behind me were pressed up against the windows wailing. Talk about an emotional parting!)

The drive to Brisbane Airport is uneventful mainly because the kids sleep most of the way there. All that outpouring of emotion has worn them out. Fortunately, it's a domestic flight, so check-in is quick and easy. We head to our gate, where we are given a nice surprise by our travel agents: Japanese-style bento box lunches with green tea. It's a nice, healthy change, and our group is pretty happy, but the kids seem far less enthusiastic than the teachers. I'm sure they'd be perfectly happy with sandwiches and Lamingtons.

The flight to Sydney is short and similarly uneventful. When we arrive at Sydney Airport, however, my gut decides to be despicable again, so I duck into the loo for what I hope will be quick relief. By the time I get out again, Mr. I has already gotten my luggage from the baggage claim carousel, and the students are waiting on the bus.

Guess where we go first...

And to think I was so close to performing here...until all those 11th grade girls last year decided that the dance competition at the school sports festival was more important, forcing us to withdraw from the event...but I'm not bitter. No, I'm not bitter at all. Can you tell?

Funny...I always imagined it would be a bit bigger than that.

The Harbor Bridge is certainly a lot bigger than I expected! It may not look like it in this picture, but when you're standing under one of those stone pylons and looking up it's pretty impressive!

Anyway, both of the halls in the Sydney Opera House are in use, so we can't go inside, but we spend a bit of time in the gift shop and walking around the outside, admiring the view. After that we're off to the Australia Museum

We don't have nearly enough time to spend at the museum. (One needs several hours to see everything. We have only half an hour.) We do manage to get into the Indigenous Peoples (i.e. Aborigine) exhibit on the first floor. I've learned a lot about the Aborigines and the way they have been treated, especially thanks to Andrew, but it still doesn't totally prepare me for the shock. The first part of the exhibit illustrates the culture of the tribes and also underlines how different they really are as well as how similar. Then it goes on to the institutionalized discrimination that endured for so long. Back in the 1960s the Australian government established the Aboriginal Protection Board which, in a misguided effort to improve the lot of Aborigine children, tore them away from their parents and put them in (white) foster families so that they would be brought up white. There is a section in the exhibit called "The Maze" which centers on the lives of such children and their trek not only to adulthood, but back to their own culture. It includes art, writings, and video interviews of people that had to go through that.

"I was made to feel like a white man in a black body." "I was made to hate what I am."

I'm nowhere near the extremist that Andrew is, but indigenous rights has always been something I feel strongly about. Even so, I'm not entirely sure why this is affecting me so deeply. I'm getting seriously choked up, and I have to quicken my pace. I just can't take this. Unfortunately (or even fortunately), it's all over the heads of my students, and I feel I have to explain what it's all about. I have a very hard time doing so, but at least now they've got it.

After that, we go upstairs to an exhibit on minerals and mining. It's quite fascinating. However, after having been through that very moving Indigenous Peoples exhibit and seen how Australia is trying to atone for some of the racist mistakes of the past, I am surprised to see a reference to "American Indians" here. Just for good measure, as we're leaving, I go to the main desk and point out that the term "American Indian" is obsolete, and that "Native American" is better. (I'm almost tempted to say "First Nations". Almost.) The three staff members there thank me.

(As we're leaving, I hear one of them sigh and say, "So it's 'Native Americans' now, is it? What's next, I wonder...")

Leaving the museum, we get a scenic tour of the city. My general impression of Sydney is that it is most definitely urban. Compared with Brisbane, it is much larger in scale, busier, and life clearly moves at a much faster pace. It's also not quite as congenial, though it is a very beautiful city. Whereas Brisbane is an odd mix of the very old and the very new, Sydney shows a lot more continuous development. I'd also have to say that, compared with Brisbane, Sydney seems a lot more...well...British. The look, feel, and style seem to remind me a bit more of London. (I sincerely hope that neither Olivia, YD, nor my various Aussie friends will take any offense at that!)

Anyway, after the tour we are taken to a famous duty-free shop in The Rocks. It is souvenir-hunter's heaven, and it is hardly surprising that almost everyone shopping there is speaking either Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. Our group goes hog wild. When we're done, we all emerge carrying massive loads of shopping bags, many of which are stapled shut and labeled "not to be opened until after boarding departing aircraft". Impatience can lead to a fine of several thousand dollars. That's fine. My souvenirs can wait.

We finally arrive at our hotel, the Sydney Boulevard. It's a tall, nice-looking hotel located downtown, and it offers a wonderful view from its top floor lounge/restaurant. There are some surprises, though. It's apparently part of a Malaysian/Singaporean hotel chain (Bayview Hotels), which might explain why the staff is overwhelmingly Indian (as in India, not Native American or even First Nation). In fact, it doesn't take long to notice that the place is packed, and the many guests are almost all Indian, Chinese, or Middle-Eastern-looking.

(Our students seem a bit nervous, as they are unaccustomed to dealing with so many different ethnic groups, but the Middle-Eastern-looking guests are actually the most polite.)

We have dinner up in the top floor lounge. It's actually the first Aussie beef I've had the entire trip. (It's also the smallest portions I've had the entire trip, but anyway...) Unfortunately, because of a miscommunication with the travel agency, they've cooked all our steaks well done, and they're rather tough. The kids don't seem to mind, but Mr. K is cocking his head and moaning again. (I'm moaning, too, but it's because I'm not allowed to drink anything alcoholic for the duration of our Sydney stay since our students are with us, meaning I'm "on duty". I'll stick to water. My gut will probably appreciate it.)

I don't think I'll have to worry about loud, drunken parties upstairs or people puking and spitting onto my deck (because I don't have one; nothing but a nice view of the city outside my 9th [U.S. 10th] floor window). However, they've put our full party on the same floor. Since this is the first night our students have all together, it's more or less a given that they're not going to be getting any sleep. They have a lot of catching up to do with each other.

Fortunately, I still have Kafka on the Shore.


  • I am enjoying your travelogue so much!

    The PLC farewell was touching, really.
    Your students wailing? Awwww

    No, I don't mind at all your comparing Sydney to London. It was founded by Brits, after all, and my parents think Boston is very English.

    So how does Brisbane compare, with its old and new?

    Listen, don't you take things for your poor tum?

    You mentioned buying Mylanta in Currimundi (that word pops in my head every time I hear Curry now, and someone is cooking some down the road, I can smell the onions now!)
    (Oh, also, the way the Aussies speak, Mylanta would be a perfectly mangled example for any foreigner to hear.)

    Anyway, back to your tum - what about those 8 or 12 hour tablets like Zantac?

    As I said, I have acid problems every now and then (though thankfully not reflux) so I suffer when I read about your episodes.

    Furthermore, acid reflux can cause damage to the upper digestive tracts and such continual damage can be a precursor to [something I have just deleted] - so consider yourself told off by Doctor Olivia and get it seen to!

    *wagging finger*

    By Blogger Olivia, at 10:19 PM  

  • [blushing, bowing head with sheepish grin]
    Yes, ma'am! Very good, ma'am!

    Actually, it took a day or so for my gut to calm down completely, but those Mylanta tabs did the trick.

    I don't take anything for my stomach regularly because, well, it doesn't bother me regularly. It has always been a bit sensitive, but it doesn't act up unless I push it too hard. For example, I can pig out on spicy Indian food or drink myself silly at one of those obligatory drinking parties and be perfectly fine as long as I take it easy for a bit afterward. As long as I stick to my usual "No more than 2 drinks, no more than 2 cups of coffee, and not too much spice or oil each day" diet I never have any trouble.

    The problem was that, while I was in Caloundra at least, I was NOT taking it easy. All that Crown Lager and XXXX, wine, strong coffee, and HUGE restaurant portions (not to mention Western cuisine) every day just sent my system right over the edge.

    The same thing sometimes happens when I go back to Oregon to visit. Too much beer, coffee, sugar, and heavy food, and sometimes I'll get really sick for two or three days until my system readjusts. After that I'm fine.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:54 AM  

  • Tut, alright, defense taken and duly noted...

    By Blogger Olivia, at 1:46 AM  

  • You should check out the movie Rabbit Proof Fence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:14 AM  

  • You sure saw a lot in a short time in Sydney! Have I told the story of our visit to the Opera House - kids were young and my architect brother who lives in Sydney was showing us around. A performance of Madam Butterfly was on so I walked into one corridor to listen to 'One Fine Day'. Then I heard a shout - Hey you little b...... get down off the roof!' My kids were exploring the wonderful rooftop of the Opera House of course. I still wonder if the audience heard it.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 9:30 AM  

  •…lots lots of memories are recalled in my mind now.

    I’d been to Sydney in Nov. 98. It was summer time there. I enjoyed the Sydney harbor sightseeing Cruise. Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to climb the Sydney harbor Bridge.

    By Anonymous L.C_D, at 11:26 AM  

  • According to your Neocounter, I may be your only British reader!

    Likewise, I think you're my only reader in Japan, apart from my childhood Japanese friend who might remember to check in from time to time.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:50 PM  

  • I don't know how I like being referred to as an 'extremist', but I'll take it anyway since you did learn about Indigenous Australian cultures. ;P

    The practice of removing children though has been going on much longer then you may have been aware, with the first Aborigines [sic] Protection [sic] Board being instituted in the 1890's. That was the formalisation of the child removal policy which had been going on for at least 50 years prior to that.

    Oh yeah and Brisneyland shits all over Sydney...even though I'll admit Sydney is pretty fun...and it does have a French Connection and D&G store, which is cool.

    I'm interested to know where you visited in Brisbane? since it is my current hometown.

    By Blogger Andrew, at 9:17 PM  

  • It's fun to read about your tour, all parts. The opera house - bitter. :)

    And your digestive complications; take care. But you got it covered, I'm sure.

    For a moment or two, reading about your student's tour gave the impression of the little wizards' outing at hogwarts, with some of the professors.

    By Blogger agus, at 10:50 AM  

  • Anonymous
    I know! I haven't had a chance to see that yet.

    LOL! Your family made history!

    I didn't climb the bridge either, and I didn't get to go on the harbor cruise, so I guess you're one up on me!

    I used to have one other regular visitor who was in London, but I hear she has returned to Malaysia. That makes you the lone torch bearer for the ancestral motherland.

    Anyone who equates me with "swine" for acknowledging the 4th of July counts as an extremist in my book! ;-) Don't worry; I know and have met plenty of others that are far more extreme in their opinions than you.

    At least you never fail to provide me with new facts and thought material, and you didn't disappoint this time, either. Thanks.

    This time I was only in Brisbane during the morning, so we only had time to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Mt. Coot-tha before heading off to Caloundra. Last year we spent a couple of days in Brisneyland (I LIKE that!), and we ran all over the Queen's Street Mall and the South Bank Parkland, checked out the new convention center, accidentally walked down a scary street with lots of homeless people (who ignored us), and just had fun walking around the downtown area.

    I imagine I'll be back in a couple of years.

    Hogwarts??!? Hmm...I like that! I wish I had the ability to cast spells, though...

    "Oralis silencioso!!!"

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:55 PM  

  • I didn't know that much about Australian history.. this has been incredibly insightful. I'm really enjoying your travelogue as well!

    As far as American Indian vs. Native Indian... I find that I have to say American Indian here because no one knows what I'm talking about if I don't, most ppl think Indian (from India) when I say Indian, unless I say American Indian. I'm part Native Indian... and I can't imagine having the children taken away and raised by 'white' parents. This is truly terrible.

    You know... w/ respect to Native Indian and words and such... I've noticed that I'm starting to lose my vocabulary and ability to remember things/words persay... I guess when you are around certain ppl and they say words/phrases/sentences improperly... if you're not careful, it's easy to pick that up! And I'm afraid I'm doing just that.

    I thought the farewell was so touching. This will be a trip that the kids will never forget. How often do you guys go to Australia? Will they have a chance to go back again?

    By Blogger tooners, at 4:14 PM  

  • Tooners

    As far as American Indian vs. Native Indian... I find that I have to say American Indian here because no one knows what I'm talking about...

    What about if you say "Native American"? I believe that is actually the accepted term now. I remember you mentioning your part NA ancestry. Which tribe would that be, if you don't mind me asking?

    As for how often we'll be going to Australia, right now we're taking turns by year. In other words, they came to us last year, so we went this year. They'll come next year (hopefully), and (hopefully) we'll go the year after that. Eventually we hope to make it annual for both parties, but we're taking it carefully step by step.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:56 AM  

  • It was fun reading that. By the way, I might be the only Arabic reader to your blog. :)

    By Blogger Mysterious, at 12:04 PM  

  • Mysterious
    Thanks for stopping by!
    Actually, to my knowledge, I have had Arabic (well, specifically 1 Palestinian, 1 Lebanese, and 1 native Bahraini if I only look at the comment threads) in the past, but they've been silent for a long time. No matter. Welcome! I'm always happy to meet people from all over this world of ours, and I'm glad you enjoyed reading this still-ongoing story!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 5:36 PM  

  • Moody, I'm Cherokee Indian. My great grandmother was full blooded, so I have some in me. My mother looks Indian, but I got my father's looks, so I look more English/Irish.

    By Blogger tooners, at 7:10 PM  

  • oh yeah, I always say Native American but ppl tend to understand more if you say American Indian. I think I took the native indian from you on your post.. not sure. Really, I thought I'd missed out on something and they changed the name w/out my knowing it! ;) ;)

    By Blogger tooners, at 7:13 PM  

  • tried leaving an earlier comment to follow up on my two previous ones... but puter at work wasn't playing along. anyway... i **thought** i read on your blog 'native indian'... but DIDNT. don't know where in the world i got that term from since i've never heard it... but i've been doing a lot of that lately! ;) anyway... just wanted to clear that up. :)

    By Anonymous kenzity, at 1:20 AM  

  • aaarrrgghh! i think i'm losing my mind... !! that 'kenzity' is me! i'm using my husband's computer and he's signed in... anyway... that is me, tooners!

    By Anonymous tooners, at 1:22 AM  

  • No problem, Tooners. Split personalities are welcome here.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:41 PM  

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