Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dispatches from the Southern Continent.

I have just arrived back from a wonderful trip to Australia to meet relatives over there. As I am currently studying in New Zealand, it would be remiss not to take the opportunity to go see my Australian family. Following are some interesting observations I made in my time there.

Sex and culture:
Sex is a much less taboo subject in Australia. Perhaps I am only contrasting my USA families with my Australia one, but sex is brought up often, talked about very openly, and treated as a conversation piece as normal as the weather. I can see a few consequences of this: crude sexual humor is less shocking than it is in the US, young people seem to be on the whole more educated about how relationship dynamics when it comes to sex should be, and there is no mass delusion and expectation of sexual piety (especially for women) that I feel exists in the USA. It was slightly shocking at first, but rather refreshing once I had mentally adjusted.

Lots of cursing in normal conversation. Words that are saved for extreme cases in my experience are used with abandon. And, just in case you suspect I wasn't being scientific about it, I did take sample conversations outside my family, thank you very much. Even 10-13 year olds on the beach were dropping pretty much every bomb in the alphabet. My main issue with cursing in general is that many of the "bad words" have their origin in sexism. Example: think of as many bad words as you can. How many of them refer to females? Males? There ya go. In Australia, though, I would hope that the increased awareness in the area of sex in general would curb the inherent sexism that can exist in many curse words. I wasn't there long enough to explore this area further.

Cleland Wildlife Park:
So I was in Australia. I had to see a kangaroo, of course! A wildlife park in/near Adelaide one-upped my desire to see a kangaroo. Their setup has large fenced-in areas where they keep the animals. The park is designed so "people paths" are right through these areas. You can walk right off the trail and right up to a kangaroo. Many of them will eat right out of your hand. You could even walk up to an emu, if you somehow didn't notice or could ignore how much they resemble velociraptors from Jurassic Park. I really loved and appreciated the park setup whereby you could have such close interactions with the animals (I must have fed like 10 kangaroos, including a very young one, 2 wallabees, 0 emus, and petted 1 koala). I wish there were places like that in the USA, but something makes me think that greater numbers of people would kind of screw it up. Not only that, but one injury from a scared kangaroo, and the lawyers make sure that everyone pays for some idiot's mistake. Perhaps I'm being too harsh and cynical. Point is, that park was awesome.

I had never met most of the people there, but I nevertheless felt perfectly at home with them. Part of this was, of course, because they were so sweet and welcoming to me. But I also felt the similarity in family dynamic and general connection with these people like at home. It is interesting how the family culture is still so present and palpable even when oceans separate us.

Green Flash:
I saw the green flash while flying from Melbourne to Sydney. It was really cool, because I wasn't even looking for it or expecting it, but it was there.

--Originally posted April 10th, 2010