Like most Americans, I know a little about the country down under. That it began as a British penal colony. That it is home to Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, kangaroos, koala bears, wallabies, and Vegemite, the beloved bread spread made from brewers yeast, veggies, and spices. That it boasts a stunning abundance of opal and sun-drenched beaches.
After trolling the internet, I learned:
* Australia is the 6th largest country in the world.
* Australia is the only nation-continent of 20 million people in the world.
* Australia has the world’s 3rd largest ocean territory, spanning three oceans and covering around 12 million square kilometres.
* Australia has the world’s highest proportion of migrant settlers in a developed nation with over 25% of Australians born in another country.
The song of Australia is, of course, Waltzing Matilda. Sung by World War I soldiers in the trenches and at current day sporting events, it is Australia’s unofficial national anthem. Three version I like are by Slim Dusty, Johnny Cash, and The Seekers. (A strange footnote is that Waltzing Matilda was banned at the 2003 World Cup rugby match between Australia and New Zealand.)
But this blog is about more than compiled facts and figures. It’s about people. A voice.
Thanks to my husband, I found the perfect one.
(All photos supplied by Terry or obtained through public domain sites)
Terry lives in Melbourne where he is a professor and brain cancer research scientist. My husband met him through an online game site. Graciously, he agreed to be the voice of Australia.
My Conversation with Terry
Look out a window in your home and tell me what you see.
A typical Melbourne suburban street. Brick houses, pleasant gardens, and a large eucalyptus tree.
What is the most interesting thing about where you live?
I live in a suburb of Melbourne called Box Hill. It has one of the highest Asian populations in Australia, about 30%. This brings a tremendous cultural diversity including some of the best Asian restaurants in the world.
What do you love the most about Australia?
The casual lifestyle. The nature of its people and a warm climate combine to make Australia a very relaxed culture. The relaxed lifestyle also lends itself to a very friendly country.
In your opinion, what is the most misunderstood thing about Australia?
There are not kangaroos on the main streets.
More seriously, though, around 80 percent of the population lives in the five main cities along the coast. Eighty-five percent of all Australians live within 30 miles of the coast. Most non-Australians think many more of us live in the “outback”. They just don’t realize how empty much of Australia is.
If I came to dinner at your home, what would you serve me?
In summer, it would definitely be BBQ. Literally another prawn on the BBQ. Although it never snows, a Melbourne winter is cooler than the rest of Australia. So if you came in winter, it would be hearty soups and stews.
What concerns you about life in Australia?
That we are becoming less relaxed and losing what makes us unique. We have always been incredibly multicultural and live in harmony, but some of the tensions with the Muslim community are undermining that. I worry we will become more divisive. Finally, as our manufacturing industries fail, it is difficult to see what will replace them.
Describe a perfect day in Australia.
The beach in summer. Australians live for this.
What brings you peace?
Spending time with my partner (Nikki). It brings me more peace than anything.
What is your opinion of the United States? Of Chicago?
My opinion is not typical, as I have travelled there over 50 times in the past 13 years, mainly for work but also on holiday. I especially like the people on the west coast. It’s more relaxed, a little like home. I also enjoy the east coast but life is more serious and focused. I find Americans industrious and hard working; indeed their “can do” attitude is something I admire immensely.
On the slightly negative side, as a people you are extraordinarily insular. Even the highly educated people I mix with. I also despair at your inability to solve problems like gun control. It is always interesting, and sometimes frustrating, seeing how the US handles its responsibility as the world’s only true superpower.
Chicago is about the only big US city I have not been to. I will get there one day. I guess architecture and the Great Lakes are the two things that come to mind.
Who or what inspires you?
I don’t have many true heroes. Neil Armstrong, though, has always been an inspiration, even now that he has died. Going to the Smithsonian in Washington and seeing the Apollo capsule as an adult only reinforced that.
I am driven to make a difference for brain cancer patients.
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Tags: All Blacks, Asia, BBQ, Box Hill, brain cancer, British penal colony, Johnny Cash, kangaroos, koala bears, Melbourne, My Brilliant Career, nation-continent, New South Wales, Nicole Kidman, opal, Outback, Russell Crowe, Slim Dusty, The Seekers, The Thorn Birds, The True History of the Kelly Gang, Vegemite, wallabies, Waltzing Matilda, World Cup