March 2 – 5, 2014
By Sierra Enright
Now that we have been in Brisbane for more than two weeks, we are starting to settle into comfortable rhythms. We have all become experts in navigating the Brisbane bus, ferry, and train systems. We know how to “tap-on and tap-off” to pay our fare and have funny landmarks that remind us which stop to get off at (mine is a fantastic tree frog mural). Brisbane is very different from Sydney, because it is more spread out and suburban. Our experiences here have been very much defined by our homestay families and their patterns of family life. Becca and I share the same host family and we live in a suburb of Brisbane about an hour bus ride away from downtown. Our host family has two children who love swimming, watching movies, and eating vegemite. They love showing us off to their swim club friends; we are fondly introduced as the family’s “Yanks.” They also have a cat named Horace, two budgies (pet birds), a trampoline, and a hammock.
|Our Brisbane Home|
One recent adventure has been taking care of Becca’s injured foot. About a week ago, her foot was very swollen, so she has been going to the doctor to get it sorted out. Part of the Australian heath care system, according to one of the lectures this week, involves treating the most likely cause of illness, instead of running vast arrays of tests. So Becca has been taking lots of antibiotics. Our host family has also been incredibly sweet, getting her crutches, making rice pudding, and giving her the loving nickname of “Hobble.” Our nine-year-old host sister was worried that I might feel left out because Becca has been getting a lot of attention, so she made me a special, big pancake one morning.
|Me and Becca with our Sweet Host Sister|
Staying with a host family has given me new perspectives on various issues. With our host dad, we talked about the racism toward Lebanese people in Australia. From our host mom, we have learned about Australian Catholicism, yummy food, and how to rassle children. We’ve also talked about primary school education, and how children must apply to year 7 (the first year of high school) when they are in year 4. I can’t imagine having to plan ahead like that, especially since children change so much during that time.
In addition to the experiential learning that takes place in our homestays, we’ve also had formal classes this week. Monday’s lecture was about the Australian health care system, which is dominated by general practitioners and therefore tends to have fewer specialized doctors. On Tuesday, we talked about the Australian environment, which is dry, old, salty, and infertile. We also talked about how irrigation, fertilizers, and pesticides can be harmful; they lead to salinization of the soil and water table, and fertilizer run-off often damages organisms and ecosystems in the ocean. On Wednesday, we learned about mining in Australia. While mining can create some highly paid jobs in Australia, it can also cause social, cultural, and environmental problems. In addition to classes this week, we have all been spending a great deal of time in the library working on our research projects. Whether from our lecturers, our personal research, or our homestay families, we are each developing well-rounded perspectives of Australia.