Country Not My Own

Excerpt from Fall 2014 student Sammie Oh’s blog “Ink Spot: A speck in the universe“. Reproduced with permission.

With only two weeks left in Australia, I’ve finally written a poem about being here.

 Country Not My Own

Australia, Australia,
Could I have ever known,
Just how much I’d love thee,
Oh country not my own?

Can three months truly justify,
What fondness I have grown,
For sidewalks lined with gum trees,
And Jacarandas sown?

I could swim with jellyfish,
In oceans opal blue,
Or watch the outback sunset,
With wallaby and ‘roo.

Red dirt bakes with billabongs,
Under the blazing sun,
But coastal waves are clear and cool,
And I hear, the surfing fun…

But there’s a rue inside of me,
And I’ve felt it there before,
Persistent, though, a bit subdued,
An ache I can’t ignore.

Ah, America, America!
I miss thee my sweet home.
How I long to trod your soil,
No matter where I roam.

All your wonders, all your woes,
Your men, your air alone,
Is sweet enough a memory,
To draw a mournful moan.

And so escapes from deep within,
As one is often prone,
The gentle cry of living in,
A country not my own.

-Sammie Oh

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That Spider Meant Business

Excerpt from Fall 2014 student Rachel Parkhurst’s blog “Walking Through Oz“. Reproduced with permission.

It’s taken me 2 months to experience a deadly Australian creature. And, must I say, Australia has finally lived up to its “creepiest place on Earth for things that will eat you” stereotype. Here’s the story..

So every Saturday I serve on Hillsong’s Street Teams. It’s a Church service that does many things, but yesterday I was gardening at an elderly lady’s house with three teammates. So they’re like, “Oh Rachel, go trim those bushes.” And I was like, okay I can do that, easy enough. So I go to trim these bushes with these scissor things and I think I’m doing a pretty good job when I look up and there is this GIANT spider just sitting in its web right above these bushes. His web is actually attached to these bushes… so while i’m hacking away at these bushes, he’s getting closer and closer to falling on me. So I dr

op all my tools and prance around the yard for about 10 seconds going “AH OH MY GOSH! SPIDER! SPIDER!!!” Then my team leader Ingrid walks over with this rake and hits this spider into the wall of the house and shakes the rake around a little bit, then looks at me and says, “I’m not sure where it is, but these bushes need just a little more work.” And I was like yeahh… about that. So I didn’t go back to work on those bushes, I ended up planting three cute plants, in which case it ended up I planted them right in the elderly ladies garden walkway. Anyways, I figured out I’m not a gardener today. BUT IT ALSO FIGURED OUT WHAT SPIDER IT WAS! It’s a Golden-Orb Spider, except it was black…

Yesterday we also went to an Aboriginal Christian Church. The people were SOOOOO welcoming. When it was time to say hi to your neighbor, everyone got out of their seats walked through the aisles and other rows to say hi to people and give them hugs. They even did this to the Americans. I think I got 3 hugs and at least 5 high fives from strangers. It felt like one huge family. Also, while the band was playing, people would just be like, oh i have a song request, then the band would play their song! Without even practicing it! It was incredible! And there was the CUTEST little baby who literally just wandered around and tried to play the drums and guitar, it was so cute. It was honestly the most eye-opening experience I have ever had. This is what church should look like. It was relaxing and joyful at the same time. Everyone was more than glad to pray for one another, or suggest songs for the band to play, or clap when someone mentioned in the mic what they were currently struggling with. The community of the church was one that I have never experienced before. It wasn’t a group of strangers who came together to learn a new passage in the Bible. It was a family uniting for a weekly reunion to find joy in the celebration and worship of Christ. All I can say is that I will definitely share this experience with my church back home, in hopes that it can reflect the same welcoming and joyful spirit that I found in that church.

ALSO, I went to a South African Sokkie with my host family and their relatives. A Sokkie is a South African dance that primarily consists of shuffling. It’s kind of like swing dancing and ballroom dancing mixed together. It was SOOO fun. I made a few friends, danced twice, did the macarena, and much more. I have attached some pictures from the sokkie, and a picture of that spider!

Golden Orb

Golden Orb

Sokkie

Sokkie

Sokkie

Sokkie

Adventures at Tyrone Station

Excerpt from Fall 2014 student Sammie Oh’s blog “Ink Spot: A speck in the universe“. Reproduced with permission.

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At last, a collection of tales that unfolded between September 11 and September 14, otherwise known as my ‘ASC Outback Trip’. It was the best retreat from uni and suburban life that I could have ask for. And who better to spend it with than my fellow American students? Anyway, here are snippets of our time there:

Rest Stops 

Along the way to and from Charleville we stopped in a couple places including Toowoomba, Chinchilla, and Morven. Small, little towns they all were too.

20140911_095246Toowoomba

20140911_151353I would have loved to step inside this place of miniatures if we had had the time! The white sign says “Morven Historical Buildings in Miniature”

20140911_150305Also in Morven

Mark & Grace Ironside

We were hosted by the lovely Grace and Mark Ironside, owners of Tyrone Station. With three children out of the nest, a track record in pastoral works, skills in sheep-shearing and cattle raising, and a charming story of how they started dating, the Ironsides were very good to us. Besides the food and fence replacing lessons, they imparted wisdom through their stories and testimonies. I would also like to mention that they and their land, where we stayed, featured on an episode of “The World’s Strictest Parents” in Australia. Here’s a yard shot which excludes all the living and activity facilities.

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The place was so peaceful.One of us even brought a hammock to hang between the trees. It felt like a cocoon when I climbed inside and the edges wrapped over me. I reckon a couple people had decent naps in there.

Old Abandoned Ranch House and Cattle Lands 

On the first full day at the cattle station we all piled onto the back of two trucks (or ‘utes’ as they call them in Oz) and rattled across the dusty red land. Mulga trees and billabongs were the main attractions. Occasionally we saw clumps of cattle and a frightened kangaroo. The land isn’t as barren as some are led to believe (then again, there are probably different levels of how ‘outback’ it can get). Some might say it’s empty but I’d like to think there is a lot going on that I just can’t see for lack or exploration. Driving through acres and acres of the same scenery was still exciting for us who only had a couple days to take it all in.

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One of our main stops included an old rusted house with piles of metal scraps that were once tractors, motorbikes, and other machines and tools. Heaps(a popular word here, “heaps”) of dried out kangaroo and wallaby corpses, or at least what was left of them since who knows how long, littered the site. Did they all just go over there to die?

20140912_113413You can’t see them in the picture, but the skeletons are there. Some are camouflaged by their brown skin still stretched over their bones.

20140912_113858This side of the abandoned shelter has a lot of fence work and gates.

20140912_114113One of our ASC Coordinators, Kimberly, was especially excited. She’s the one with the scarf around her neck. The girls on the bike are posing for a different camera.

As we rode on I was able to capture some bovines. After all, it was a cattle station so how could I not? Later, a group of us witnessed calves get dehorned and that was also an interesting experience. I confess I lacked the same concern some of the other girls had over the bleeding stumps(just a bit of dribbling) where the horns used to be. Perhaps I’ve gotten used to(although I hope not desensitized by) the sight of animal blood and suffering in regards to livestock treatment. In the case of cattle welfare, the stress and pain of dehorning calves is outweighed by the multiple long term benefits, one of which includes the prevention of cows bruising and damaging each other with their horns. If I somehow accidentally roused a mad cow here(highly unlikely) it’s good to know I won’t be gored by it.

20140912_102014Hello there hornless cows!

Diego the Dingo

Mark shot a dingo. They’re worth $50 a scalp because they like to prey on farm animals. I jumped at the gunshot and saw Mark lift the little pup by it’s legs then lay her down on the road so he could reset the trap.  And now I sort of know how to set a trap if ever I need to. Despite it being a female and quite dead, someone named her Diego, Diego the Dingo. She was put in the corner of a ute, right next to me. She could have been sleeping if it weren’t for her eyes, unblinking and lifeless. A couple of the girls were a bit distressed by the experience.

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Little Crawlers.

I’m no entomologist but I do find most insects quite fascinating. There were lots of ants and moths. The ground was full of antlion traps but I didn’t get to see any in action. A few butterflies flit around the trees and red dragonflies dominated one of the greener waterholes. Surprisingly, there weren’t that many flies. And then there was this thing:

20140911_180529This centipede looks unreal. Just saying. It’s real though.

 

None of my other pictures were that good or I lost them which is sad because I took some ant and caterpillar ones.  It’s hard to take pictures of small moving insects in great clarity with my little android.

Cliffs and Caves

One evening we explored some neat erosion formations that had been carved into a cliff side. After a time of quiet meditation on one of the pocket ledges (everyone had their own space somewhere nearby) we gathered and set off in search for caves and the sunset. It was beautiful. And would you believe it if I said there were more bones?

20140912_175319An example of what I meant about corpses.

20140912_175521The entrance to a couple shallow caves.

20140912_175740The tunneling insides of one of the caves.

20140912_174650A view from the cliff’s edge.

Starry Nights

Each night I looked for the stars. The first night, before the moon rose, was probably the best. In the cloudless sky I could see the band of our Milky Way for the first time. Perhaps I saw it before as a child and have forgotten. There is no way I could have captured the beauty of the night sky with my phone camera, so no pics of the glittering stars. But here are some sunset and dusk shots:

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Goodnight and Goodbye

We had a beautiful bonfire before bed every night. I would like to say those were some of the best nights in Australia thus far. Yes every moment is precious, but some are more sacred than the rest. Such were the moments for many of our bonfire spells.

I feel as though these memories are already far away even though it’s only been two weeks. The first few days back in Brisbane was difficult. I missed the atmosphere, landscape, and stars. Assignments were piling up. Life was speeding up again. And now it’s back to the books and the heroics of mundane Monday moments.