The worldwide Augustana College experience

No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive. -Mahatma Gandhi

Dear Sydney,

You have so much diversity and culture here it is unbelievable. I am honestly so surprised that it has taken me this long to see this side of Sydney. I have gotten and will get to yet experience some of the most amazing cultural traditions and expressions this week and I feel so very blessed to have been exposed to all the opportunities that I have had.

Sunday: So I last talked to you on Sunday, but that was before the Chinese New Year Parade! Around 6 on Sunday evening me and the rest of my CAPA intern group made our way down to the Sydney Chinatown. I studied Chinese for 2 years at Augie in order to pass my major requirements, but I was ill prepared for the language, the people, the atmosphere, and the culture that instantly surrounded me when I got there. From the gorgeous Chinese terrace entrance to the massive line up of Chinese food options, I felt I had been transported to central China in a matter of seconds. I have always thought that the Chinese culture is one that is easily seen, felt, and one of the most observable cultures of our day. It has such strong traditions, beliefs, and practices that it is hard to not almost envy them the experiences and complete commitment they have to their culture at times. Anyway, after what I considered a very authentic Chinese dinner, me and few friends waited along the Chinese New Year Parade route in anxiousness. So many students who had visited a year before had been amendment on our attendance to the parade and our hopes were high. After an hour of standing around and being slowly sucked into a Chinese crowd of oblivion, the parade started shortly after sunset. We were signaled the arrival of the parade to our area of the route by a score of fireworks off of a nearby buildings roof. After that is kind of a blur because I was so overwhelmed with sound, color, and lights. I do remember though that the first thing I saw and was so excited about was the real Chinese dragon costumes with the awesome faces and bodies that people hide underneath and move to realistically. They were white and gold with red accents and it was incredible and I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Other parade items included a lot of Chinese dancers in traditional garb, Chinese drum bands, samurai warriors, large floats in color and light of huge horse (it is the year of the horse in Chinese tradition), and more dragon costumes. (Pictures below). I also saw a LOT of lit up buildings that had moving projected pictures along their outside walls, as if a movie was being projected and played across the outside of the building in the craziest and brightest colors. I loved those and I loved the excitement of the crowd. No one was just excited for the waving people and lights, everyone was truly invigorated and excited for the New Year. You could tell it meant so much to them and they were beyond happy to be experiencing it. I think the most incredible part for me though is that I left this parade and within seconds was back in down town Sydney. A modern place of massive diversity and modern buildings and people. One parade and the millions of people honestly made you believe you were the middle of China celebrating the most amazing old traditional holiday. Anyway, A really great experience and I couldn’t be happier I was blessed enough to witness it.

Monday and Tuesday: I got to watch the Super Bowl at work! I got really lucky and since my office is awesome, the game was playing in our large, beautiful kitchen. I got to hang out in there all day and work while watching the game. Not that the game was good AT ALL but it was at least nice to hear American accents and watch a 100% American game be played on TV again. I did miss all the commercials though because Australia doesn’t play those, but I guess I can go look those up. Other than that though a rather uneventful two days. I managed to finish my third project and turn it in pretty proudly because I found all the errors and delivered a perfect job. So that was kind of great for the ego, but other than that, nothing of significance happened.

Wednesday: Oh Wednesday… So it started with one of the interviews that I have been conducting of different departments around the office. Wednesday was Supply Chain and boy did I learn a lot. For 1. I do not want to work in supply chain 2. supply chain has WAY too many levels, logistics, and forecasting for my OCD to ever handle doing it. But it was interesting to hear about and the people I met were really positive and had great advice for me. After that was a scramble to get ready for my adviser site visit to Brown-Forman. I was really nervous because not only was the Augustana adviser going to be there and writing a report on my progress, but CAPA and my supervisor Bruce were going to be given spoken reviews of performance. AND I had to lead the meeting and report what I had learned. So I was really nervous and didn’t know what my supervisor was going to say. As it turned out, he gave me an outstanding review and even told me that I was selling myself short. He also told my Augustana adviser that he would be willing to hire me, which was the best news to be ever because it meant he was impressed enough with me to want me as a part of his team if I was interested. So that just about made my day. :)

But that wasn’t the end of it. Me and my fellow interns here (Ashley and Kim) were invited to join a bunch of the women around the office who were going to he Museum of Contemporary Art for a guided tour from the Curator. Brown-Forman has a relationship with the museum so we get cool perks like that. The exhibition we were going to see the biggest attraction of the summer for the museum and is a whole floor of work from Yoko Ono, a Japanese Artist who was married to John Lennon. A little back ground info if you don’t know; She was born in 1933 to a very wealthy Japanese family whose father was a banker. While her father sought to build his business across the ocean in California, she lived between the two countries. However, on the onset of the second world war, her and her family were forced to move back to Japan to avoid the racial tension and racism directed at the Japanese. Once Japan started getting bombed fairly regularly, her, her brother, and a maid were sent out to the country to live with almost nothing. In order to pass the time and try to ignore their hunger, they would lay in the grass and look at the sky and dream of the foods they would eat when the war was over. This experience really resonated with her and is relevant in a lot of her artwork. The concept of looking up to the sky and envisioning a better tomorrow and the end of war is a concept that is apparent in a lot of her work that I saw. Now I won’t explain every piece of hers that I saw in this museum, even though I loved all of them, but I wanted to tell you about a few of them that I saw just so you can get the image of the culture and meaning behind what I got to experience.

Looking at the pieces none of them would make sense, but with the curator explaining the story behind them, it was incredible and actually really moving. A lot of her work invites you to participate or engage yourself with it. One of them had stamps, one of them you had to sit with strangers and rebuild pieces of broken pottery into something new and beautiful (signifying that by working together, even things that are broken can become beautiful again with a new purpose), WWII helmets hanging from the ceiling with pieces of a sky painted jigsaw puzzle that you could take with you (with the concept that all those who take a piece are now connected and could one day come together to put together the pieces of the world together again), and then the Mum Wall… It literally had me tearing up. She literally did nothing but devoted this artwork to her mother after her death and has devoted walls all over the world to the visitors of the museum to write letters to their mothers. Whether it is a message of a I love you, I miss you or I hate you, they are all honest letters. One of them talked about how he thanked his mother for accepting him being gay and helping him out of his addiction. Another one said I hope I can be half the woman you are. Another was forgiving and acceptance because they wrote. ‘Mother I love you and I respect you with all my heart, I just can’t be around you.”. The worst one though was, “why did you let him beat me?”. So it was a really moving wall and got so many people to just open themselves up to a wall and then let their thoughts be seen by anyone entering the museum. It was pretty crazy. I also liked this piece titled “We are All Water”. Along the length of a long wall were jars full of water and each was labeled with a name. They were all famous or infamous names like Micheal Jackson, Adolf Hitler, William Shakespear, Martin Luther King Jr, etc and there was a poem that went with it and basically engulfed the concept that no matter the “container” we are all made of water and that it should unite us and bring us back to water together in the end. That we should accept that we are all organic creatures and no “container” is better than another. There was also a table with a fleshy molding of a woman’s body. You were invited to wet your hands in the water and touch along the body in order to signify the beauty, vulnerability, and also grace of a woman’s body. It was supposed to show the freeing of women’s bodies to control themselves and their sexuality. However, in one of the past museums it was slowly ripped a part by the visitors of the museum. When the Curator suggested they take it off of display, Yoko said to leave it and that it symbolized the pain and aggression that women are often subjected to in this world as well.

Anyway, It was a really cool exhibition and I learned so much from it. It inspired me to see things differently and think deeper about the world around me once again. I left feeling very touched and as if I had my eyes opened to so much in the world that I have a tendency to overlook or ignore.

Thursday: So today I have just been at work all day and not doing anything too noteworthy besides be the best intern ever, but I will not regal you with the details of that. ;) Instead I will give you a peak into next week’s blog because tonight I get to go the “gayborhood” which is where the Mardi Gras parade happens here. Brown-Forman’s brand Finlandia is sponsoring the event and so we are bar hoping venues tonight and looking at areas of distribution. So I will be attending multiple gay bars and watching “Tranny Bingo” this evening! Another cultural experience that I am actually really looking forward to. :)

I will leave you with all that and say again that I love you mom and dad, Sarah you are an amazing girl and I’m so glad you had a great rush experience, friends one and all thank you for your texts and messages that keep me going, and Austyn I love you with all my heart and I can’t wait to see you again. <3

With that,

Goodnight Australia!

 

                              

 

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