G’day From Cairns

Photo by Brian Cassey

On the night of the lunar eclipse, I sat with my host family on the roof of a pickup truck watching the supermoon towering above us. Green tree frogs, cicadas and crickets filled the air with a symphony of night sounds. I took a deep breath of the crisp night air and bathed in the moon’s light. I’ve been living with an Australian family in a small town outside of Cairns in Far North Queensland. During the day, when we open our doors and windows to the breeze and share our backyard with native Australian wildlife, my host family shows me the Australian way.

As a Fulbright scholar, I spend the majority of my days studying Australian indigenous relations. My work over the next year will take me to Western Australia, where I will collaborate with indigenous groups as they document local knowledge and make important land and water management decisions. This project stems from the need to improve communication between indigenous communities and organizations, nonindigenous organizations and the government. As an environmental science and theatre double major, I find it fascinating that Australian indigenous worldviews are centered around storytelling “on country” (out in nature). Finally, I am able to see the connection between my passion for performing arts and the environment. Now, I spend my days collaborating with indigenous groups who want to use their local knowledge to make tangible environmental and social change and make their stories heard.

When I’m not at work, I’m often with my new family. I love planning elaborate dinners for us to eat together and hosting dinner parties for their friends and family. On the weekends, we often visit friends or spend time at a local watering hole with a picnic lunch. We spend the evenings talking, learning about each other, joking around and planning our next big event. In late January, we celebrated Australia Day by inviting friends and neighbors over for a potluck Australian “barbie” (barbecue). We made fresh burgers and skewers on the grill and listened to oldie Australian bands while the rainforest hummed around us.

I’m learning that a hearty laugh can go a long way because Australians never take themselves too seriously. They are not afraid to be silly and make a joke at their own (or others’) expense. My days and nights are filled with laughter. At work, at home, at the beach, at the supermarket — wherever I am, I keep a smile on my face.

Though I’ve only been here a short time, I already know that I will be sad to leave at the end of the year. I’m drawn to this country’s culture and ecology, but the real charm of Australia is in the charismatic and exceptionally welcoming people and culture. The Australian way — enjoy what you do, spend time with those you love and laugh lots — is what I will carry with me forever.

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