If I had no idea about my current whereabouts, I would honestly believe I was in a city in the United States. From the shopping plazas, coffee shops on every corner, busy roads and pedestrians walking in a hurry to catch the bus, it reminds me just of home. When being in a foreign country, especially one that is on the other side of the world, many people ask about culture shock and homesickness – something I thought I was going to experience severely. But when taking my daily walks to go on the bus to school, grab some groceries, or get a delicious bowl of gelato, I learn a lot. Every day I realize and learn that Australia and Australian’s are just like us. They may be located in this far off place that not many people know much about, but they are so similar.
I had this realization early on in my time in Australia, but once I saw this assignment, I really started to pay attention in more detail. When walking alone, I had to be much more cautious because there’s a rotary or intersection at almost every block, and since they drive on opposite sides of the road, you never know which way a car is coming from. Also I have learned that stopping for a pedestrian is not really a thing here in Australia – we have to yield to them. So for this assignment, I decided to start going solo for my daily coffee trips and jogs around the city. Instead of listening to my music, I listened to everything that was going on around me. Men and women were catching up over a cup of coffee, parents were yelling at their kids to not run too far ahead, waiters were calling out orders being ready, and the loud beeper at the cross walk could be heard from half a mile away (any of my pals who have been to Australia definitely know what I’m talking about). When I got closer to the beaches shore, I could hear and feel the breeze picking up as well as the waves crashing into shore. What’s so amazing about Australia is that if you just stand still and close your eyes for a moment, you’ll feel at such peace. Everything about it here is exciting as well as relaxing. I think it has to do with the fact I am in such a beautiful and new place, but yet still have a sense of home around me.
Every time I step foot outside my hotel, I am overwhelmed by the amount of smells surrounding my building. Right at the corner is a Chinese restaurant that smells of fried rice. If I go left on Elizabeth Avenue, which is my street, I can smell the freshly brewed coffee with eggs and pancakes being made on the stove from on of the many breakfast places. If I go right out of my hotel towards the center of town, there are pedestrians on the sidewalks in their business attire waiting for their group to be called to sit for a bite to eat.
At night it always smells of cheeseburgers and kebabs – an Australian favorite. In my travelogue, In a Sunburned Country, the author says how he asked a group of teenage boys where he could get something to eat and they responded, “There’s a McDonald’s just around the corner.” (Bryson, p. 89) They have all the same style of restaurants as we do and eat the same foods, which is nice when I am craving a dish from back home.
Fortunately or unfortunately, however you want to take it, I faced my first major challenge that is needed to successfully have my Rites of Passage. My wisdom tooth became extremely infected during the week of the orientation exercise, and at the time I thought, “Of course this would happen to me with my terrible luck.” Being in a different country without my parents and having no idea where to go for this, I was definitely in panic mode. On page 192 Slimbach says, “Our actual entrance into the community requires that we venture out to observe everyday life, interact with strangers, and slowly absorb an alternative reality.” So, taking on what this assignment said to do, I went for a walk. Granted I was going for a walk to find a dentist office nearby, but it forced me to ask the locals where they recommended and was told of some of their dental horror stories. I also had to ask multiple times for directions, considering I still was not completely familiar with street names. I know from previous abroad students that Australians are extremely nice, but I was now able to experience it first hand! They were so helpful and successfully got me to a dentist office so I could book to get my tooth removed. If I had not just walked and explored the area, it would have been much more difficult to get my tooth checked.
These walks I took this week really made me learn a lot about Australia and what they take pride in. They look forward to their beverages and meals so that they can spend time with friends and loved ones. Australian’s love to know all about a person and are truly the greatest to talk to when you just need someone to listen. They’re honest and brutal at times, but they would rather say the truth than lie to you. None of the buildings are run down and all have unique designs on them that make them stand out from the one right beside them. The beach is in pristine condition with no signs of any loitering. It is truly the most beautiful place to just walk and take everything in.
The travelogue I chose, In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson, talks about the parts of Australia that most people don’t go to and never will go to. Australia is so large, yet has such a small population. Almost all of Australia’s population can be found around its coasts. Once you get to the middle of Australia, there is no civilization, no big buildings, no bars and no beaches – it is completely barren. Reading this travelogue was so fascinating, because the way I see Australia and get to experience it is so different from the way Bryson explains it to be. He ran into the dangerous creatures of Australia that I was warned so much about, but have not even seen anything of the sorts yet. Frequently, he complains about the struggles to even find a decent bar to have a beer at. On the Gold Coast of Australia, where I am residing, is heavily populated with restaurants, bars and clubs that populated with people every night. If I had to experience the Australia that Bryson is experiencing, I definitely would have had a much more difficult time transitioning to my life at home to my life here in Australia.
I chose this picture of my bed because I always feel safe there. When walking around the streets of Australia, I feel exactly this way. I never get nervous, even at nighttime
when the streets are dark and quiet. There are no creepy alleyways or sketchy people walking the streets. I know anything bad can happen anywhere, but I truly have no worries when I am walking the streets of the Gold Coast, even when I’m alone.
Bryson, Bill. In a Sunburned Country. New York: Broadway, 2000. Print.
Slimbach, Richard. “Getting Oriented.” Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. 192. Print.