08.01.2008 - 14.01.2008
Jeannie & Greg:
The novelty of traveling in a new country has worn off a little and that has made space for diving into the everyday culture, spending more time in studies about Australia, and getting out of the big City of Sydney for the weekend.
First, you should know that because we got very lucky with an amazingly warm and loving babysitter (THANK YOU SOFIA!) both Greg and I have been able to attend lectures together. Mia, Natalie, and Neil are always along for excursions, but the formal classroom lectures at Sydney University are geared towards the Lewis and Clark College student audience.
We've just finished a meal together at our apartment with the LC students - the new relationships are rewarding - our little ones especially love it when the "students" are around. Journal entries, art projects, and playing together are keeping the kids busy with Sofia in the mornings. Send them an e-mail and they WILL write back!
So, this is a picture of Margret Campbell at The Rocks in Sydney Harbor. We are on a walking lecture/tour in which we were first introduced to Aboriginal History and Culture: The Dreaming and Sydney Harbor. Sydney is a large metropolitan city, 5 million people (1/4 of the entire Australian population). And yet, Aboriginal Australians have a very old history here. A few facts: Aborigines are the oldest continuous civilization by at least 40,000 years. They represent about 2% of the current population in Australia. European Settlement decreased their population by about 90%. There are some similarities to Native American history, however Aborigines are a much older group of people and no treaties were ever signed, presenting the Australian Government with a big issue of how to recognize Aboriginal peoples. Aborigines make decisions within a "council", men and women are always voting members. While we don't have an in depth understanding, the take home message so far has been that women hold a great amount of power in Aboriginal culture. Since this tour, we have had another morning of lectures from Cleonie Quayle. She is an Aboriginal woman, part of the Stolen Generation, having been removed from her family by the Australian government in the 1960's because she was Aboriginal. The studies of Indigenous People are very sad and emotional. The injustice suffered is abominable. Yet, hearing the stories from strong, resilient, mothers is powerful. Cleonie reminded us that people are more similar than different, putting us all at ease about acknowledging and understanding her history. Australia Day is coming up on the 25th of January, the Aborigines hold their own celebration - Survival Day.
Back to the photo.......you might notice the shape in the tree bark, the long vertical lines with the openness in the center is just one example of nature informing Aboriginal Culture - boys at age 11 would make a canoe from such a tree and use it to paddle to an island in Sydney Harbor, where they would stay for a month (by themselves). A right of passage.
Mia: Right now you are looking at a box with about 100 eggs in it. The largest egg in Australia is an emu's egg. It is the second largest egg in the world. The emu and kangaroo are on the Australian logo because they can't walk backwards. Most of the birds and animals I have have seen are are only found in Australia because millions of years ago when all the islands of the earth are connected together, Australia was one of the first to break off, and has been isolated ever since.
Natalie: This is called a gondola. We saw elephants when we were riding up the gondola, also Sydney Harbor. I saw my first koala, wallaby, and kangaroo at the Taronga Zoo.
We spent an afternoon at the Royal Botanical Garden watching a play called The Wind & Willows. Weasel and Rabbit are singing a song!
An afternoon at Coogee Beach, one of about a dozen beaches at the eastern edge of Sydney. Neil loved his Calamari & Chips!
Mia, Natalie, and Neil are enjoying playground equipment unique to Australia.
We spent a weekend in Blue Mountains National Parks/World Heritage Site. The Blue Mountains are an ancient canyon/mountain range (10 times as old as our Grand Canyon) covered in rainforest and eucalyptus (depending upon how close the forest is to water). We stayed at an eco-lodge at the top rim of the canyon.