Moving in the Miracles

Excerpt from Jo Kadlecek’s personal blog ‘A Sun Burnt Faith’. Jo is an author and journalist from the US and wife of current ASC lecturer Chris Gilbert who’s teaching The view from Australia class. They moved to the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane about a year ago.  Reproduced with permission.

IMG_2658It’s been a year now since moving to the land down under. A year of sunrises, none quite so spectacular as this one at the Easter morning worship service on the beach where the river mouth spills into the ocean. (At least none that I know of since I’m not usually awake then.) It’s been a year of dog walks and magical drives. A year of language translation and hilarious bird songs. A year of stunning blooms and great coffee talks (as in, no such thing as bad coffee here).

IMG_2661All told, it’s been a year of moving in and out of a million little miracles I hear or smell or watch daily.

The colors and cloud displays daily point me to God’s creative hand playing with his palette. Same with the winds and waves, the gumtrees and flowers, each commanding the attention of anyone who is breathing. Every where I look here, in fact, from the beaches and hinterland to the rocks and farms, surfs and lakes and rivers, an Artist is at work. And he’s set the thermostat at a happy temperature for me—no frigid days. No snow to shovel. Like, ever.

IMG_2667I can’t complain. For now, it is easy to feel glad for this outside beach life where our family gathers—in between stretching job schedules and church commitments—for dinner and Scrabble and swims.

But living in Australia is not always as “happy as Larry” (someday, I will get to the bottom of Larry’s identity.) When you move somewhere with only a hint of a purpose, there can be an ongoing learning curve. I still, for instance, ask my husband or in-laws about words and directions and meanings. Just reading the newspaper is an education in cricket and rugby, domestic abuses and shadow governments.  I still walk out the door with questions and come back with more. And I still stare at a place and way of life quite different from the one I grew up in Colorado or enjoyed on the U.S. east coast as an adult.

Kookaburras, kangaroos, or koalas are images in children’s books here because they are common realities. So, too, are chook roasts or pavlova, which before now, I’d not considered for a meal. Nor had I eaten a mud crab or barramundi,  swept a gecko or spider out of my bedroom. And I really never worried much about different spellings or attitudes toward “crazy Americans”— until now.

Grateful as I am to have this opportunity with my husband’s ageing (Aussie-spelling) parents, I know that feeling settled can take time. They say, in fact, that you need at least three years of sunrises before you begin to feel at home. In other words, the wonder of discovery is one thing, planting roots is another. So the waves of nostalgia can sweep over at unexpected times. Somedays, there’s an ache in knowing I’m too far away to applaud my niece’s play, too far to take my friend to dinner for her 50th birthday, too far to holler at my nephew’s soccer games. Skype, though a beautiful ‘presence’, doesn’t yet include the aroma of brownies in the oven or the hug of little arms.

Sure, any immigrant experiences a range of disconnects over even the basics of daily life (start with a phone number), just as any person who has uprooted her life from one town to another moves through miles of change. The challenges of transition, however dramatic or small, forced or invited, are real, and sometimes require an altogether different map.

So three cheers for the sunrise of Easter, because the miracles also are as real as the water on your toes. Both mark the journey and can point us to the Maker who, well, makes new ways through the wilderness—and beach.

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Life in the land of Oz

Excerpt from Cara Schow’s personal blog ‘Authentic Living’. Cara is a Fall 2016 ASC student from William Jessup University. Reproduced with permission. 

The past two weeks have made it clear to me that I was born to be an Aussie.  I think the stork made a mistake when he dropped me off in the states.  Okay, probably not, because let’s be honest, I also am very much in love with California.  But, Australia is amazing and I’m in love.   Last weekend, I explored South Bank with some lovely friends, got to experience a noodle festival that was going on there, and got to see some amazing and beautiful sights.  The city of Brisbane at night is breathtaking. I also got to attend a BBQ with my host family with some of their family friends last weekend which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The family friends had a two year old daughter, so I was instantly at ease.  Children can instantly take away any sadness or discomfort or awkwardness for me…they just make my heart so happy and light.

Fun fact, Australia doesn’t have a tipping system like in the States…and waitresses and waiters make good money here.  I also learned all sorts of other great things but I can’t tell because I was told what happened and what was discussed in that house, stayed in that house.  😉 But I can tell you that they are fun and great people.

This Farris Wheel is in South Bank.  It’s really big and awesome

Tuesday evening, I went with a group of other ASC Study Abroad students to Mark’s house for dessert night.  Mark is the Student Services Coordinator at Christian Heritage College and works with the ASC study abroad program.  He’s also pretty bomb-diggity.  His last name is also Jessop which is pretty much basically the same name as my college back in the States (William Jessup University, woot, woot, represent!) so, that makes him ten times cooler.  Anyways, I digress.  Dessert night was lots of fun.  I had a bit of trouble with catching the public transportation bus to his house….meaning I missed it.  The buses are the only complaint I have about Australia…and that’s just because I haven’t quite mastered them yet, although I’m getting better.

Wednesday evening, I went to my service placement (I have to do so many hours of community service while I attend this college) which is located in South Bank. I and two other American study abroad students, Kyle and Paige, are working with an organization called Micah Projects, which works with the homeless and marginalized within Australia.  They have housing for people who were once homeless and struggling and every Wednesday evening, I will be helping serve a meal to tenants in the housing and spending time visiting with them.  This week was my first time and I was rather nervous at first, but I ended up having a lovely time.  This week was low-key because the chef was sick and so we just served pizza. I got to meet a lady by the name of Kate, who is in the fashion industry and currently attending college for fashion design.  I also met this lovely lady named Meg who has been with this housing project since it was built, four years ago.  She told me about this beautiful place on the coast that I need to visit while I’m in Australia and was just as sweet as could be.  I also got to briefly meet a man named Ahmed, who was adorable and reminded me of Tom Hanks in the movie The Terminal. I am very much looking forward to returning to serve these people and get to know them.

I think oftentimes, especially in the States, it can be easy to dehumanize homeless people.  But the fact is, they are just people, like you and me, who have fallen on hard times, whether it be by some bad choices or just a bad hand in life.  They are people, human beings, with stories and lives and hopes and dreams, people who need to be loved yet are often pushed aside and forgotten, ignored, or treated like problems that need to be dealt with.  Wednesday night, spending time with those people, talking with them and eating with them, I was reminded of the importance to fight back against the stigma and attitude that is given towards the poor and homeless.  People deserve to be given love and respect, regardless of their situation in life…I think Jesus made that perfectly clear.

As one more fun fact before I end this blog post, Australians pronounce my name as Car-a, rather than Care-a.  I’ve learned to accept it and given up trying to correct them, for the most part…because if they aren’t saying Car-a, they say Kierra or some other name that is not, in fact, my name.  So, I just roll with it.  However, I did have someone say, when I corrected them, “Oh, it’s Car-a but with an American accent” which I thought was pretty funny.

Study Abroad: Post-reflections

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From February until June, I spent a semester studying abroad in Australia. When I initially signed up for the program, I was so excited to go. I was ready to leave the country, have new experiences, and get out of my routine for a while. As the semester approached, I was more apprehensive. Some of my fears were totally irrational and some turned out to be legitimate, like the challenge of transitions and being away from familiar support systems. Never the less, I greatly enjoyed my time abroad, and found that I learned so much more than I ever expected. Here is a snapshot of my time in Australia.

What would you say is the coolest thing you did? 

Holding  a koala was definitely a highlight, especially because as a kid, I thought I wanted to be a zoologist just so I could take care of koalas. I also really loved sleeping out under the stars in the Outback. You could see so many!

What was your favorite moment or experience from the program?

We went to a place called Stradbroke Island, and I think I enjoyed every part of that experience. I loved seeing and hearing what we were learning in our Aboriginal studies class in action from Indigenous Australians. It was an honor to have them impart their knowledge on us. My absolute favorite moment was listening to our guide play the didgeridoo and do the hand motions along with them (like a snake, kangaroo, or eagle) and see the animals come to life. As a performance artist, story is very important to me, so to see a form of storytelling so rich yet new to me was great. 

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

It was difficult to be away from my Belhaven family (my home university) and not be in theatre. I really felt like I was starving myself and missing a huge part of me. I did not realize how invested my life is in theatre and therefore did not anticipate how challenging it would be to have it essentially absent from my life. Knowing that I was away from my community and friends pre-graduation was also hard to grapple at times. 

What are some of the biggest take-aways from this trip? 

  • I am a citizen of the kingdom first, the world second, and the US third. My kingdom citizenship should influence my actions and opinions as a global citizen and both of those should influence how I live as an American citizen.
  • The Church is meant to be multicultural. It is made up of people from all over the world and when we get to heaven, every nation and tongue will be present. That being said, we as the body of Christ should be learning and growing more together. Christianity is not “Western” though we act like it is. What does it look like to be a Native American Christian? A Chinese Christian? And how can we create an environment where culture and faith can coexist?
  • Our God can redeem cultural practices just as he redeems us.
  • There is no percentage of Aboriginality. In the same way, there are no percentages of any nationality or cultural identity. I am Filipino American. I am Californian. I am a mixture of my places and backgrounds and there is no reason to deny anyone else’s right to identify with their own cultural mixtures.
  • I am a writer. Though I don’t like to say it because I don’t want to fail to live up to the title, it is a title I take on none the less.

Do you have any advice to anyone thinking of studying abroad?

Do it! Just do it! Though it may be hard to get there or hard once you are there, it is worth it. I learned so much being out of my comfort zone and being in places and situations I would otherwise never find myself in. I also recommend going through a study abroad program like BestSemester. I was hesitant at first because I did not want to be limited by a group, but some of the best learning opportunities and adventures came from being with the group. It was also easier to transition having others there beside me and leaders supporting me.

What advice do you have for those about to study abroad?

You are there on an academic program so don’t forget to study, but remember, your grades do not define you. Spend time with people. Learn about those around you, especially those you live with (like if you have a host family). Keep a healthy distance from your friends and family back home. You can’t be in two places at once and too much contact can actually make you more homesick and/or take you away from the limited time you have in your current place. Above all, be willing and open to learn all the time, not just in the classroom. After all, you’ll have classrooms to go back to at your own university. You are only at this uni in this place for one semester. A few months goes by incredibly quickly. Trust me.

Weekends that could last forever

Excerpt from Hannah Matthew’s personal blog “Mainer Gone Aussie”.  Hannah is a Fall 2016 ASC student from Gordon College. Reproduced with permission.

Wow! It still doesn’t feel real that I am in Australia! It’s been a wonderful weekend filled with small activities and time to adjust.

Saturday was filled with a drive around to see kangaroos! That’s right, three days in the country and I saw heaps of them! I didn’t go far, these kangaroos were mad chillin’ on a golf course! I was fortunate enough to get right up close, maybe six feet, from a few of them including a mom and Joey! Of course I got many pictures.

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My (host) Mum took me by Hillsong Church, and then to Mt. Gravatt lookout. At the top of a winding road that reminded me of home, was a gorgeous view of the city equipped with a café.

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Sunday afternoon was eventful! I went to South Bank of Brisbane where there is a market. After scoping it out for the first time, I of course went to the beginning and started with food. I got a big ol’ cheesy brat with grilled onions and sauerkraut. It was delicious. I shopped around at the local vendors a little, and ended my venture with a Peanut Butter chocolate cookie shake from Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar. It’s just as good as it sounds.

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One full week done and I don’t even know how I feel. I believe I am still, and will be for a little while longer, in the “honeymoon” stage of being here.

This last weekend I had plans of my own. Saturday started with some homework and ended with a bang.. or two. While a majority of us were going to an Australian Football League game, a smaller group of us decided to explore before hand. The day started great meeting up with G and Caven in South Bank. We walked around, saw some cool things and then sat by the manmade beach in the centre of the city. It’s a little different than the all natural New England beaches I’m used to, but it’s still interesting.

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We then met up with one more student Sonya to continue exploring. We spent some time in the candy store which allowed me to purchase enough chocolate covered coffee beans to make it through the night and some gummy snakes which are WAY better than American gummy worms. We continued our way to the tourist area of South Bank to “The Brisbane Wheel.” The wheel is pretty cool and we decided that it was time to finally ride it. It was well worth it with the views we saw while going around four times. At one point, we stopped at the very top and of course another selfie was taken.

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For the whole month of July, there has been a noodle festival that is only open in the evening. The lovely “Brisbane” sign is included in this festival so you probably guessed it, we waited in line to enter into the mosh of noodles that prevented us from getting onto the sign.

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The AFL game was great. We got to hang out right outside the stadium for a while where they have a DJ and some others things before the game started. This is where we learned from the Aussie of the group how to kick and throw an AFL football. It’s hard and I don’t plan on getting better at it either. The game was… alright. The Aussie dad (who saved my life that night by bringing my ticket) was generous enough to explain the whole game to a few of us and I caught on for the most part. While the Brisbane Lions rank 17/18 and we played Port Adelaide or as they like to be called “Power” which rank 10/18, we got crushed. With a final score that didn’t register in my mind, we lost by approximately 100 points. It was sad. All in all, we still got to enjoy each others company and have good memories to look back on.

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