Excerpt from Ashley Legget’s personal blog “Dear Australia“ Ashley is a spring 2015 ASC student from Messiah College. Reproduced with permission.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Here’s a few photos from our Sydney trip this semester:
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:
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.
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.”
Excerpt from Fall 2014 student Sammie Oh’s blog “Ink Spot: A speck in the universe“. Reproduced with permission.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
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?
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:
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.
Turning over a new leaf, the ASC decided that trying orientation in the city would be a nice approach to welcoming the new batch of ASC students.
At first it took some time for the students to learn how to get around.
There were rivers to cross.
And mountains to climb.
After some lunch and a walk around they were ready to go.
A good day in class is watching the newest Australian motion picture musical to hit cinemas. The Sapphires premiered in Brisbane earlier this year now reaching a nation-wide release since August 9th.
The film reinterprets the true story of four Aboriginal Australian women who entertained US troops in Vietnam in 1968. Drawing on themes of Aboriginal connection to land, ideas of kinship and home, the story offers something unique among movie musicals.
Featuring voices from Australian singers, such as Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy, the soundtrack has made it to the #1 spot on the ARIA Album Chart. This makes it the first Australian-produced soundtrack to make the top of the Australian charts since Moulin Rouge in 2001.
As well as featuring a star cast including Chris O’Dowd, the film was helmed by first-time-feature director Wayne Blair. Working with fellow Aboriginal filmmaker Warrick Thornton (cinematographer/director of Samson and Delilah 2009) Blair brought a uniquely Aboriginal touch to an international film.
Of course there are fantastic filmmakers here in Australia who are rarely seen outside the desert island and the barrier is often the box office. Australian films have a tendency to not do very well in their own cinemas.
This theme was overturned this past week as The Sapphires took the #2 box office spot (behind Dark Knight Rises) bringing in $2.32 million in its opening weekend. The total international gross up to this point has reach over $8 million, a fantastic early box office figure for a sub $10 million budget.
With a heartwarming story, beautiful cinematography and soul-wrenching soundtrack, The Sapphires is worth seeking out, not to mention a great method for ASC students to learn about Australian cinema, culture and people.
The Weinstein Company has bought limited international distribution rights to The Sapphires, so you can expect it to be playing soon in a cinema near you.