Field in Borden

Sometimes I forget that I’m in Australia. It’s the little things that remind me – stepping in a sand dune, stepping back and looking at the palm tree outside my house, stepping into the street and nearly dying from the traffic coming in the opposite direction. My mother always told me to look both ways before I cross the street, and now I know why – so I don’t die from utes barreling down the left side of the road at me. Even if I can hear a car coming it is hard for me to force my head to turn and check for it in the opposite direction.

But I’m stalling. I was supposed to tell you about my trip to Laverton, the (predominately) Aboriginal community. It’s hard for me to talk about. The Aboriginal people of Australia experience the exact same problems as the Native Americans – diabetes, alcoholism, domestic violence, un/under-employment, etc. Why is that? There are several reasons, but the most important one I think is poverty. Most of the communities are remote, so jobs are scarce. If you don’t have a job what do you do? You are more likely to be stressed out and fight with your spouse, drink, etc.

Since the same sort of problems exist everywhere, I got to thinking about what I could do about them. I decided that I could tell you. You should know. You are smart and resourceful. And there’s only so much any one person can do, but if we both try our darndest to stamp out poverty then we will be much more effective. You should know that just a few miles down the road from SMU there are children who are going to bed without dinner, because their parents can’t afford dinner. And because these children are hungry they will not be able to focus in school, which is one of many factors they have against them that will harm their chances of getting into college and getting a job that lifts them out of poverty. Maybe you have money to give to a food bank, or school breakfast program, maybe you can volunteer, or maybe you have neither, but will appreciate the next meal you consume a little more, and remember all the people who gave up a little of what they had to make your life a little better – family, teachers, friends.

You should also know that children everywhere are precious. They are resilient, and no matter what their circumstance they laugh and smile and make their own fun. The kids in Laverton called me “Wallie’s girlfriend,” because I wore red and white striped socks. When I protested they told me that I was indeed Waldo’s girlfriend, because I was Waldo, but a girl. They thought I was arguing because I didn’t know who Waldo is, so they brought be a copy of his book. After really looking at Waldo I have to agree with the children. I have funky glasses, a poor sense of fashion, and I part my brown hair to the side of my pasty face. I wonder if Waldo knows where Waldo is? And if he does, does he want to be found? That’s a little too deep for me. I wonder if Waldo will leave me for Carmen Sandiego… she would never wear hideous knee socks.

Unfortunately I do not have any photos to share with you of this trip, because it would have been culturally insensitive for me to take pictures of the Aboriginal people. But just in case you are curious I will tell you that they come in all shapes, sizes, and shades just like every other group on Earth. And well, you’ve seen pictures of me, so I’ve spared you.

Windmill in Borden

A trip to the country town of Borden was my next adventure. I went with other Curtin Volunteers to help run the Oz Opera that was performing there. Oz Opera is a traveling performance group that gives many people in remote communities their first exposure to opera. The opera is very adaptable setting up in every venue imaginable from basketball courts to aircraft hangers. In Borden they set up inside a hay barn for 600 patrons from surrounding farming communities. The town of Borden is so small that without the help of the 12 volunteers from Curtin half of the community would have had to work during the show. We did everything from shovel hay to serve food. It is very difficult by the way to keep hay off the ground of a hay barn. While I didn’t get to see the opera, I was proud to be a part of spreading the arts to people who would not get to enjoy them otherwise.