An Australian Adventure(r)

Excerpt from Bethany Van Eps’ personal blog “An Australian Adventure(r).” Bethany is a Spring 2017 student from Dordt College.  Reproduced with permission.

Hey all!
I swear I’ve been trying to write this blog post for like a week and a half now. Unfortunately, the fourth and fifth weeks of school (so last week and this week) in Australia marks the start of assessment due dates and increased reading requirements. It’s been a busy week and a half to say the least.

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Here’s an ultra-flattering picture depicting the humidity. I had just stepped out of the AirCon* of the bus and was going to walk home. My glass fogged up immediately.

But I am not complaining. I mean I’m in Australia! And the humid 80-degree weather won’t let me forget it. Last week we had heaps* of rain so the grass and trees have become increasingly vibrant and lush and I am now living in a tropical wonderland. It is gorgeous. Interestingly the rain here is different than at home. At home when it rains it gets a little cooler and the humidity is generally released from the atmosphere. Here however, after the rain it stays just as warm and muggy as it was pre-rain meaning you’re walking around in a greenhouse. The rain also comes in like 5 minute showers of varying intensity which is fun for walking and public transit. Let’s just say I bought a raincoat within two weeks of landing and am still working on my timing. Queensland weather, I tell ya what. Technically it was supposed to be autumn a few weeks ago but the summer heat has held out. I never thought I’d say I miss the cold, but living in a literal sauna has changed me.

We’re in the midst of week 6 here in Australia, which seems crazy. It feels like I’ve been here forever, but I credit that to very long, very full days. Some of my days have been fairly chill, but due to the whole ‘I’m on the other side of the world’ thing, each day is being treated as an adventure none the less. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Queensland State Reserve library, working on the piles of homework I’ve accumulated. With big windows overlooking the skyline and four floors of study space with big tables and comfy spinny chairs, it’s quickly become one of my favorite spots. Lots of coffee shops have been visited and lots of coffee has been drunken (drunk? drank?) as well. I honestly think I’m more hooked on it here than at Dordt, which quite frankly (with how often I visited 55th and the Bunsen Brew and how quickly I ran out of defender dollars last semester) is impressive.

Another area of this city I’m coming to love is just a short walk along the river from the library. South bank is this gorgeous area along that is right along the Brisbane river, situated next to the big ‘BRISBANE’ sign and the Eye of Brisbane (ferris wheel). It’s this really chill, semi-touristy area with some awesome features and some real good photo ops. There are two main pools; one is a normal pool surrounded by big rocks and the other is a sand-bottom pool attached to a man-made beach. Next to this is a splash park and kid’s pool area. Leading down the river a bit further is a mini, super shallow river area covered in and surrounded by rocks (perfect for sun baking*). It’s difficult to explain, but not at all difficult to enjoy. Every Friday night and Saturday afternoon the little side street of shops that runs parallel to the pools gets turned into a little street fair/market selling art, clothing, crafts, and food. I been many a time, with many a friend and I’ve loved every visit more than the last. 😊

I’ve been on a few awesome class field trips, but I think I’ll do a blog post dedicated specifically to non-Brisbane awesome-sauce a little later (when my list is a bit longer 😉). Sorry this was so very delayed! I’m going to try and get better at updating. I’ve been requested to comment on some differences in food, vocab, and other daily conveniences so stay tuned!

Love and blessings from Brisbane,

Bethany ♥

*Aussie Slang, look at me adapting to culture

Week 1 Adventures

Excerpt from Spring 2017 student Tarian Atallah “Adventures in a Foreign Land – a reflection on life being lived in Brisbane, Australia. Reproduced with permission.

So after 24 + hours of traveling I made it to Australia! What an adventure it was just to get here! The flights were not nearly as hard as I thought they were going to be but I will admit that I am trying to not think about the fact that I have to do it again to come back to the states.

I landed around 7am Tuesday Brisbane time which allowed me to skip most of the jet lag which was insanely helpful. That same day all the International Students (yes it is weird to call myself that) walked about 7miles (which is about 11.26 km) around Brisbane. I saw everything from skyscrapers to palm trees to weird lizards roaming freely. I also traveled on a boat that took me across the Brisbane River which winds throughout the city. This day was exhausting, sweaty, and hot but so so so surreal. Throughout the day I found myself in awe that I was ACTUALLY here in this place. To be honest I really don’t have the words to express how grateful and happy I am to know that I have the chance to live here.

The next day, Wednesday, was filled with orientation materials about what it is like to actually live here and take classes in a foreign place. This day was also filled with a time of reflection and communion. While sitting outside under a palm tree in about 85 degree weather I found myself having a changed perspective. All the doubt and fear I had about not being at Cairn University anymore was completely gone. I found myself, in a sense, indebted and grateful for all the people who still told me to just go on this trip. I so easily almost did not come on this trip and am glad that the Lord was speaking to me through these people. Brisbane, Australia (and its surrounding areas) are seriously magical and I find myself undeserving of an opportunity like this. Praise the Lord! I have also found myself needing to trust and rely on the Lord in ways I haven’t in the past. In a sense I have been plopped into this place so foreign and Him and only Him can bring me through. When I realized this I found myself so so so humbled.

The next two days were filled with orientation with other Australians at Christian Heritage College (where I am attending) and a beach day down on the Gold Coast. Because the sun is 7 TIMES hotter here I totally got burnt but now it is turning into a cool tan I guess haha.

Then on Friday I moved into my host family’s house where I will live for the rest of my time here. There is a dad, mom, daughter, and two other international students, one from China and another from Malaysia. They also have a very cute Pomeranian, named Olliee, who snuggled with me on the first day. This family is originally from South Africa which gives me the opportunity to not only learn about the Australian culture but the South African.

And so here is the deal, before coming here so many people said to me, “well isn’t Australia just like America?” And I am here to say that it is NOT! I have only been here for just under a week and I can already tell you almost everything is different. Obviously the seasons are different so I basically went from the dead of winter into 90 degree weather. Australia uses the metric system and Celsius so I very often find myself unsure of distances, weights, and what the temperature actually is haha.  I have found that Australians tend to be a bit friendlier that I am used to having grown up right outside Boston. Multiple bats have flown over me at night which is COMPLETELY foreign to me. Morning and afternoon tea are often partaken in. And the fact that Australians drive on the left will be something that will always throw me off. These are just a few of the many things I have found myself needing to process through. In a sense this past week has been easy considering I haven’t started classes yet but my mind has been overflown with information and new ways to live life. When I say that almost everything about this experience is different than what I am used to I really mean it.

I recently came upon a quote that read “Yet departure from home is insufficient in and of itself; it does not guarantee a transformative journey. Some…board an airplane without ever leaving home; others arrive in a new place but never engage, preferring instead to live as consumers, wandering about seeking the next self-affirming experience.” But I hope that this experience is the opposite for me. Instead I hope that is more like this quote from Henri Nouwen, “Following Jesus involves leaving the comfortable place and going to the place that is outside our comfort zone. Spiritual displacement is what is called for. The dictionary definition says that to displace is ‘to move or to shift from the ordinary or proper place. As a ship at sea displaces water, so we are displaced when something greater than ourselves moves us in a new direction or state of being. For displacement to be a real discipline, it has to be voluntary.” My prayer has been that I would be willing to embrace the unknown and to, in a sense, not be and American in an unfamiliar land but to be so immersed in the culture that I become like an Aussie.

Busyness

Excerpt from Ashley Legget’s personal blog “Dear Australia“  Ashley is a spring 2015 ASC student from Messiah College. Reproduced with permission.

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This is just one of the many beautiful views along the Gorge walk on Straddie Island.

There is way more then I can fit into a blog post to write about, so be prepared to read a novel here, arranged by bullet points:

1.) The main focus of my time in Australia is learning about the modern culture and Aboriginal culture, which has sparked a deeper passion in me for equality. For the American’s who don’t quite understand, Aboriginals are like the Native Americans of Australia, so technically the “Native Australians.” They inhabited the land, and were forced out and abused in many different ways. The thing that makes this class so close to my heart is having a true Aboriginal teacher who spends a lot of her time teaching us about her culture and the close to home problems that they faced and are still facing today. Aboriginals still do not receive the recognition, love, and rights that they deserve as the rightful “owners” of the land. Aside from seeing the true heart of Lea and experiencing a deep passion for her people, this has really sparked a general passion for equality of minorities. Whether they are separated by religious views, culture, language, sexual orientation, or enslaved by anything such as human trafficking… or really anything else, everyone deserves the same rights, respect, and a chance at life the way they decide to live. It breaks my heart to hear the stories of the oppressed.

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This is from the Art Museum a few weeks ago, but it’s taken on a whole new meaning as I continue to understand the Aboriginal culture more and more.

2.) Second, my internship is going so well. I work about 15 hours a week overall at Citipointe, doing a variety of things from administrative work, making phone calls, organizing information, connecting with youth, running a cafe, and many other random jobs. I am really getting a chance to see a whole different youth culture. It’s a large church, VERY pentecostal/charismatic, has a large body of volunteers and about 30 full time workers. I am learning a lot about myself and youth ministry. I must admit though, as I have before, I LOVE my small church and the community around a small church.

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The band is amazing, and extremely well known throughout Australia. This is the main youth event that is put on on Friday.

3.) I finished my first big assignment on the Background of the New Testament if anyone is interested in that topic… it was hard.

4.) I spent this past weekend at North Stradbroke Island, which is mainly an Aboriginal culture. We attended an opening ceremony, which included celebrate the 21st birthday of the elders! I heard many great speakers with beautiful hearts and passions for Aboriginal culture. We did so much to learn more about the culture! We each got to attend a few workshops, which included sand art (not the kind in the bottle), basket weaving (we made bracelets), spear and boomerang throwing, and Aboriginal art. Personally, I learned how to throw a spear and I made 2 keychains in the weaving workshop; it’s the same technique, you just wrap it into a circle and make a basket instead of just a small straight line! We kind of got stormed out of there, so we headed to our camp to unpack and get settled in before we headed off to an Aboriginal weapon and artifact lesson from an Aboriginal! We learned how they made all of their different weapons and learned some crazy hunting methods. We also got our faces painted like a sting ray I believe, and learned some awesome dances and took some crazy pictures (not on my camera, so check back in another time to see them!) The next day we traveled around and got to see some cool landmarks. First we saw a Midden, which is one way Aboriginals can prove how many years they have occupied a land. The midden just looked like a large hill covered in grass, but if you were to cut the hill in half you would see many layers of shells, bones, and other things that they threw in a “trash pile.” It was really cool to see the bottom layer of that! After that we went to Point Lookout, which is the most beautiful beach/gorge walk ever. There’s many pictures (thanks to the other people in my class and myself) of the view, so check them out in the Photograph tab. Then we went to Brown Lake, which is classified as “Women’s Business” where women prepared for ceremonies and gave birth. This is a sacred place. It’s called Brown lake because it’s surrounded by tea tree’s which have died the water brown and “contaminated” it with tea tree oil, which actually made the water soft and great for your skin!

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This is our Aboriginal professor Lea showing us the bottom of the Midden. The Midden is where the Aboriginal people used to throw shells, bones, etc. If you cut the hill behind her in half, you’ll see hundreds of layers, proving how long they have been on that island.

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This was the opening ceremony during the dance segment!

THE CRAZIEST THING: They drive the car ONTO the Ferry! There were like 3 coach busses and A LOT of cars on that Ferry… that made me very very nervous, but it was a beautiful boat ride to the island and back!

5.) I had a bit of a fall… and this is quite the funny story looking back on it now. I was sitting getting ready for Internship with a few friends at Rivers Cafe, which is the cafe attached to the church I am working at. The seating area is up on a platform, which you can walk up 4 or 5 steps on either side to get to. I was sitting with my back to a set of stairs when one leg of my chair when over the edge and I fell (over a matter of 5 seconds) on the chair down the stairs onto the very hard turf ground. I got entangled in the chair and now have a crazy bruise to prove for it!

6.) Australians love American accents, think were all fat and eat unhealthy, and basically every stereotype you can think of America that is negative.

7.) That is all I can think of. In general I spend a lot of time with Dana at my internship, which has been so lovely working with her. In my off time, I go out to eat with friends and take naps… but don’t worry.. I don’t typically have free time, so I am soaking up every ounce of this time.

Bay View Park

A poem by fall 2013 student, J.T. Cummings

Water trickles under the dock at Bay View Park. A heaven on earth.
Alone with one’s thoughts, in silence, he sits.
Meditating, listening, hearing what his heavenly Father has to say.
Broken, undeserving: Feelings that pass through the mind.
Relax. One’s mind begins to wander. Peace. Taking the burden from one’s soul; God arrives.
Anticipation of God’s direction, the summer breeze. Rest.
The water is still. The birds chirp in the distance. The sun sets.
God, a beautiful artist. The sky filled with colour.
Whole once again. Redeemed. One sits in his presence.
Serenity. Tranquility. Bliss.

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From Linear to Circular: An Indigenous View of Returning Home

Excerpt from Fall 2014 student Tim Almquist’s blog “A Season Down Under“. Reproduced with permission.

“Our Western dualistic minds do not process paradoxes very well. Without contemplative minds, we do not know how to hold creative tensions. We are better at rushing to judgement and demanding complete resolution to things before we have learned what they have to teach us.” 
– Richard Rohr

“What Western Christians struggle with, then, is a dualistic belief that for God to be in something, that thing must transcend the ordinary—it must become outwardly different in order to distance itself from the natural, evil, world and thus become “Christian.” They cannot accept a natural expression of God among us. This is in absolute contradiction to what the Bible teaches in John 1:14: and the Word [God] became flesh and dwelt among us.”
– Richard Twiss

“You don’t find truth. Truth finds you.” 
– A wise Australian friend

“Study abroad students often go home more uncertain, but more committed.”
– Australia Studies Centre Program Director

As I began to prepare for coming to Australia, I made a mental list of the many personal things I was going to achieve while transcending the barriers of the community I call home. I don’t exactly know where this mindset came from: that because I was off on an international adventure I would somehow find the answers to different questions I’ve been asking myself in the past couple years. More broadly, they are questions like: what will you do with your life?, and when will you begin?  I often struggle to make or give meaning to things and so I find myself sitting and wondering when it’ll come. I wait for reasons, rhymes, certainties, patterns and answers, as if God would just hand me a prompt, so I can get on with it. The problem with this way of living, is that most things don’t actually work out in such a conveniently ordered fashion. We are often left with choices to make and sacrifices to risk. I want to suggest, that we (assuming I’m not alone) find ourselves in this trap because it has something to do with the West; particularly the Western understanding of Time. Below I have drawn a simple illustration of the difference between the Western and Indigenous understandings of time:

TIME

While those of us with a Western worldview default to a linear sense of time, the Indigenous worldview understands time circularly. What does all this abstract theory have to do with my time in Australia? Well, back to those unanswered questions I had at the beginning of my semester, believe it or not, I head home in less than a week and according to the linear worldview, they are still unanswered. And I do believe at some point certain things will become clearer and I will have more direction about post-college life. It just feels liberating to try and commit to an Indigenous understanding of time, not because it means I won’t have to make some choices and take some risks, but because it does a better job at allowing me to experience the meaning of life interwoven between past, present and future. The Western concept pulls up its boot straps never looking back, while the Indigenous view has a center to revolve around. I will describe this with an example from class a couple weeks ago.

I woke up the last day of my Aboriginal cultures class with a significant thought. The thought was that I came all the way here to Australia, expecting to change and grow as a person. I realized that it doesn’t matter what you do in life, it’s not material things or even grand adventures like studying abroad that truly change and satisfy you. Implicitly and explicitly, you will learn and grow and I have learned a lot. Really though, what matters is not one more experience or one more accomplishment, but it is the people we are in relationship with that counts as a worthy pursuit in everything before us. I know that sounds sweet and cliche, but do think with me for a minute about how easily we make our lives about accomplishment rather than contentment or conquest instead of love. It’s like we never learned how to be still and know that God is God, delighting and trusting in that. On that same day I woke up with this significant but simple thought, I found myself seated on the dry ground in a circle with a number of Aboriginal women as kookaburras sang from the gum trees surrounding us. We learned from them how to interpret Aboriginal art theologically and watched as they danced the story of salvation in Christ. A missionary who joined us helped bridge the gap between Indigenous and Western and gave us examples of how Westerners tend to view the world. One thing he said was “it’s not about tasks, it’s about relationships.” This quickly connected with the thought I had earlier that morning. The people in our lives are what matter, rather than the things we get done or the answers we discover. There will always be people to share life with, either directly or indirectly and I have learned a deeper sense of what that means by being abroad for the semester. Despite all the places I’ve traveled to, papers I’ve written or even those bright mornings out on the veranda when I journaled and read, there’s nothing about my adventure as important as sharing it with other people who are trying to make their way in the world just like me.

Warlpiri

As I prepare for my return home, it is tempting to want to tie it all up and simplify it into pictures, souvenirs and drawn out journal entries. Instead, I feel the need to rest and release the labels and categories of ordered control from my weak grip. This season has been special in many ways. It has also been a reminder that life is simple and ordinary, even on the other side of the globe. I will be home after enduring several more hours on a plane and the mystery of time travel and be presented with the same invitation I was given before I left. And this invitation is sacred as it comes from our Creator saying:

“I know you have a lot of questions, unresolved tensions, and life often feels overwhelming with paradox and a lack of certainty. Instead of living each day in fear, you are invited to partake in a revolving communal journey of simple yet eternal redemption. There is a harmony to be had with other people and the land on which you wander. It is a harmony singing the songs of everyday love and grace. Everyone’s invited. Even you.”

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