The worldwide Augustana College experience

Cairns and more!

These past couple weeks have been a blur! This past weekend we went to Cairns, and it was a very interesting and fun experience! My main goal this whole trip has been to see the Great Barrier Reef. I finally got to see it and it was very surreal! My plan at first was take one dive and then snorkel the rest of the time. However my first dive I encountered some problems I didn’t anticipate. First of all, I would like to say I have never felt claustrophobic in my entire life, until that moment in time when I attempted to scuba dive. But when you’re underwater in the deep blue sea, it’s unfamiliar territory in which you have little to no peripheral vision. So I had a lot of anxiety during this, but finally I got myself to calm down and got the breathing thing down. However, it was never quite right, and I knew I’d feel like I was holding my breath the entire time I was down there. But I tried to fight the feelings and go deeper. At this point my instructor had taken the rest of the group down to the first ring and was instructing me on equalizing my ears as I sank further into the deep. Unfortunately my ears didn’t equalize and I found myself unable to continue the rest of the journey. So he took me to the top and had me return to the boat. All wasn’t lost though, I still snorkeled which was amazing in itself. The reef was a meter or so below the ocean’s surface so literally all one had to do was duck their head underneath the water and see tons of amazing tropical, colorfish fish and coral. It was amazing, we had just gone to the Sydney Aquarium two weeks prior, and here I was swimming with all the fish I had seen in the aquarium. (Minus the sharks and stingrays and such.) I saw one jellyfish the whole time was down there, and got scared and decided to take a break from snorkeling. Otherwise, that was a really amazing experience.

The next day we went to the rainforest. We took a gondola up and the down the sides of mountains covered in rainforest. The cool part was that if you rolled down the windows on the side of the gondola you could hear all the sounds of the rainforest from the birds to insects to the animals. Finally we reached the town of Kuranda. A small hippie town in the rainforest filled with small shops and cafes. There was the largest population of Aboriginal people here that we had seen the whole trip, so it was cool to interact with the locals. Also, a couple of us who really wanted to take a walk through the rainforest ventured out, and saw some pretty interesting things. Bending tree trucks, the tree limbs that hang down (you know the kind George of the Jungle swings from in the cartoon), and colorful birds were just a few of the interesting things we saw.

Also, while we were in Cairns we had a random roommate all the nights we stayed. In hostels they fill all the beds in your room and there were three girls in my room including me. The first night we had a nice Australian guy in our room, who as I said was nice, but it was pretty awkward sleeping with a stranger in the room. The second night we had a British girl named Louisa in our room. I should say British woman, because as I would later learn, Louisa was 29 years old. However, we all agreed she seemed AT LEAST a few years younger. She was a very cool woman who was really down to earth. The last day before we were all checking out and she told us a story that she said she hadn’t told anyone yet, but just had to get off her chest. She said she had a boyfriend from Northern Australia (a year or two back) who told her about something one night out of the blue that deeply disturbed her. She said the racism in Northern Australia she had encountered was kind of unreal. Her boyfriend had told her one night that him and his father had nuked? (I’m not quite sure the word, she used, since she used some British slang) and Aboriginal woman. At this point was thinking, “Wow, they beat Aboriginal woman that was not right”. Then she continued on with her story and said how she had told some Australians at the bar downstairs about the occurrence. Their reaction was, “Yeah it’s bad but..”.At that point Lou was like, “wait a minute, there is no but about it..”. The Australians continue and said, “ Yeah, well it’s bad but that thing kind of happens from time to time”. Lou said at this point she was so upset that the locals had taken this killing so seriously. Yes, I would later find that the word she had used meant killing, instead of beating. So her boyfriend and his father had killed an Aboriginal woman. She said she dumped him on the spot and never talked to him again, but it still bothers her to this day. It bothered her even more that she had just told this story to some local Australians and they had hardly been phased by the matter. We told her it was not excusable in any kind of way, and the thing I found particularily interesting was how things were so similar across cultures. In school they told us how different things were across cultures, but I hadn’t thought once before I got here about the similiarties. I told her Northern Australia is a lot like Southern United States. Although a lot of people don’t still draw the lines of racism there are still people who do. Even today in the year 2010. As free thinking, and open-minded that we are told Australians are, there are still some who (as Louisa called them) are “bigots” whose mind will never change.

Anywho, terrible story aside, Lou was one of my favorite people I’ve met in Australia so far. She was very down-to-earth, had a great sense of humor, and probably told me a story I’ll never forget. So if someone tells you, you can’t meet an interesting person in a hostel for youngins don’t believe them! We only have a week and a half left here, and there’s definitely some things I’m gonna miss. My internship has been AMAZING. I couldn’t have asked for better placement, I love the people, and I love the work!

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