Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wrapping up in Brisbane

By Elijah Probst

Nothing seems to typify the college experience like academic crunch time interspersed with nights of partying.  In that sense, living in Brisbane hasn’t really been a whole lot different from the life we are accustomed to back home.  I would venture to say that most of us here are becoming very comfortable in our homestays and that life down under has begun to feel as normal as it ever will.

I thought I might as well start with my individual paper, which focuses on the public transportation system of Melbourne.  A good portion of the program has been dedicated to forming my topic, researching, and then actually writing the paper, which is basically the most important assignment we have here in Australia.  With the final due date coming up on the 1st of March, this past week has been largely claimed by writing and finessing my paper.
Rachit studying extra hard
All photos courtesy of Marc Steiner 
The week I spent in Melbourne involved a lot of riding on the tram and talking to people about their experience with the public transit system.  Melbourne’s a great city to be a tourist in, because it’s so easy to get around without renting a car.  In fact, there was not a single moment in my week there that I wished I had access to one.  The number one thing that I learned researching my paper was that Melbourne’s really one of the most progressive places in the world when it comes to public transit, and certainly the best place for it in Australia.  While a big part of my paper was to look at all sides of the issue, I certainly was very impressed with what I saw.  One of my main conclusions, however was that the city needs to not rest on its laurels and that there are significant issues facing Melbourne moving forward due to projected population expansion.  While it is generally the case that inner suburbs are very well serviced by public transit, that becomes less and less true farther out from the CBD.

Population increases could greatly influence the city if decisions are made to allow for sprawling development to occur on the fringes.  At the same time, the city does have a golden opportunity to pursue infill development to increase density and access to public transit.  Along these lines, Melbourne’s success in this realm of city planning could highlight it as a world leader, and will undoubtedly be great for the city’s economy to be seen as such a progressive place and one that will be flourishing in the future.

But enough about my project and Melbourne! I expect most of you reading this want to hear about what’s going on in Brisbane right now.  I mentioned before that my whole group has been busy working on our papers, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been having some fun in the meantime.  This past Saturday morning was beautiful and sunny so my host dad took Marc, his son, and me to the West End farmers markets.  It was great to be back at the market and to experience an average day in the life of our host family. 

One hilarious moment off the bat was when our host dad used his “negotiating” skills (it’s all part of his job of course) to secure us a parking spot right next to the entrance.  We spent some time looking through the eclectic mix of stalls, especially the one that sported a wild collection of ukuleles as well as a mix of other smaller percussion and miscellaneous instruments.  Moving on to the fruit and vegetable stalls, we were able to pick up a couple boxes of items to take back to the house.  To all those who love the bounty of summer, you’ll understand how satisfying it was to take so much fresh, local (I hope), and colorful produce home mid-February.  After picking up the produce we characteristically ran into some of our host dad’s friends from Brisbane and their friends that were visiting here from Wales.  It was great talking to them all and we gathered many different ideas about where to go for Spring Break.
Range of instruments
Playing Mbira
The market
Back home, we went straight to work on our papers.  At the same time, there was only so much focus that could be achieved at the house because it was approaching the Saturday night, and our host brother was getting ready for his going away party.  Earlier that week he had secured a job doing radio in Broken Hill, and being the charismatic and charming man that he is, invited all the friends over to celebrate before he took off to the hinterlands.  I wont say too much about the party, aside from mentioning that it involved putting a lot of California (where I’m from) stereotypes to rest, and the realization that when Australians party, they party.
Our host brother!
Making sushi with the family
These past few days have involved many an interesting lecture, and the one that has stuck out to me in particular was one where we learned about the significance of the ANZAC legend to Australians.  Every Aussie likely has a different notion of what the legend is, but it all revolves around the strength and courage of the soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign in WWI.  To many, the nation was born that fateful morning halfway across the world in Turkey.  It meant a lot to learn about this very important Australian icon, and our lecturer had a particularly moving story about her work surrounding an ANZAC memorial site in France.  The stories from both World Wars have always moved me, and I think that Americans tend to only think about our own myths with regards to both of them.  We could do well to understand more about how our country’s actions involve more than just us.  It’s lectures like that one that remind me how fortunate we are to be here and learn about what’s deeply important to other countries.

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