Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

From the motherland

May 9, 2012

Actually the title is a lie, I write this while in the beautiful surrounds of Positano. Before I let the Springtime weather completely take me, I wanted to write a few more words about old blighty, good ol London.

Previously all mentions of London had included the words cold and dreary. While that definitely remains true, I am happy to say that I found the good bits behind the icy exterior.

England to me was always a depressing place that I had little interest in visiting. Much of my opinion had come from the glimpses shown on various tv programs. Usually it showed drab people in rundown looking locations surrounded by grey grey and more grey. Usually there was some drizzle there to boot.

Of course the tv can never really illustrate what a place is really like, and anyone who feels it can is clearly deluded. No as with anything, the only way to experience it is to actually go there.

Completely ignoring the shitty weather, I was first surprised by just how green London was. No not the rolling green hills just beyond the city limits; with their wide yellow belts of rapeseed, but the sheer number of public parks or greens as they call them. They were everywhere and in most cases beautifully well kept little plots of nature. So many of these were markedly statues of some old notable that further added to their interest.

And here I will mention squirrels. Why can’t we have these in Australia? Someone needs to sneak some past customs (yeah good luck with Nazi Germany..er Aussie customs) and start a breeding program. I love these little guys! I probably stood out like tourist scum from half a mile away, my neck always craned back scanning the trees for cuteness. I have a feeling our beefy brush tail possums might eat them for breakfast however.

In many ways London reminded me of a very big Melbourne, though I do have to say I think we peg the motherland in the food and coffee departments. I loved the old buildings, the plinthed statues, the layers of history that were simply everywhere. The entire place was alive with movement and activity and like Melbourne, so utterly multi-cultural.

I was also floored by the cab drivers. These guys were the most polite, friendly and well spoken people I have encountered in a very long time. They were genuinely concerned about their customer, querying in detail our destination so they could most effectively deliver us there. They would offer random facts and information, all with sweet east London accents. Australian taxi drivers could learns few things here. One guy told us the story how his school had sung in Pink Floyds The Wall (showing us the school as we drive past- Islington Green it was called back then) and how he was absolutely gutted as they used the grade 3 students while he was in grade 4.

All in all i came away from London feeling like I had experienced the essence of what makes it one of the worlds great cities. Not only was it nice to see where my brother (and several great friends) have lived and worked for many years, but I have cleared up that tv instilled inspiring that London is a dreary hole – it so isn’t. Individually, many of the housing buildings can be seen that way, I do understand how it looked that way. Taking into account the entire picture however paints an entirely different picture.

I was also blown away by just how effective the bus system was. For tourists I can’t recommend enough cruising around on the top level of a double decker. The way that these buses allowed us to view the city really surprised me.

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Racism downunder

April 27, 2012

 If there’s one thing that pisses me off from time to time, it’s how some Australian’s treat foreigners. While of course it doesn’t apply to everyone, there are definitely underlying currents of racism running beneath many ‘white’ Australian’s. Typically these people are our own form of ‘trailer trash’, that we affectionately (and I say affectionately with tongue firmly in cheek) refer to as ‘Bogans.’ Bogans are utter trash, and unfortunately everywhere.

You know that tattooed guy on the train who’s drunk as hell and absolutely stinks of alcohol, abusing people around him? Yep – bogan. Those two young feral girls swearing their heads off in public and talking about playing ‘spot the aussie’ while in the middle of a town with a large Asian population? Yeah – bogans. Those guys parading up and down the shopping centre with no top on and using an Australian flag as a cape while intimidating the Asians as they walk by them on the Australia Day public holiday? Correct! Bogans. 

These people are my least favourite part of living in Australia. It was actually refreshing living in China as there

was absolutely none of this element. While walking the super populated streets of Wuxi at night, the people were completely normal. Minding their own business, wandering around shopping and dining. There were no in your face abusive drunk idiots – and man was that refreshing.

Of course that element is also not so prevalent in Australia that it’s a day to day problem – I have definitely over-emphasised it – but it is there none the less.

I was reading this article this morning about some Chinese students who were bashed by a gang of teenagers in Sydney. These poor guys were not only beaten, but robbed while their attackers said things like, “They’re Asians, they have money,” and other fairly hideous acts such as burning them with cigarettes. I would bet any money that these people who attacked them were aforementioned bogan scum. It is seriously not cool as most Chinese students I know or see around the place, are about the most non-threatening, harmless people anywhere. I can only imagine the terror they felt at the hands of these ferals. Thankfully it appears they were arrested.

There were problems last year with similar happening to Indian students, where they were attacked and robbed for no reason, all the while being racially abused. In the case of the Indian students, there was uproar back in India, and the same is happening now in China. Even old Kevin Rudd has dusted off his Foreign Minister hat and has been posting sympathetic comments in Chinese on various Chinese social media sites.

Old KRudd all across the Chinese social media

Australia most definitely is a secure country. You do not need to walk around looking over your shoulder or worrying that something like the above might happen. However, like in ANY country anywhere (including India and China), you also have to be aware of your surroundings and not take unnecessary risks. It is possible that these Chinese students were simply unlucky, but it did occur after midnight – and well, if you want to exponentially reduce your chances of this kind of thing happening, avoid travelling too late at night.

Anyhow, there is my 2 cents.

Australia gets set to launch bilingual schools

November 15, 2009

In what I believe is a fantastic initiative from the government, four schools in New South Wales have been set to launch a new bilingual program. Starting initially in kindergarten and grade one, with hopes to spread across all year levels, young students will be exposed to Mandarin Chinese at a very early age. It is believed that the earlier a child is exposed to another language, the greater chance they have of soaking it in and truly becoming bilingual.

The students will initially be taught Chinese for an hour and a half per day, and along with English, will also coincide with other subjects such as history and art. The project is estimated at costing around $2.25 million dollars, and in my opinion, is a great step forward.

Too few Australians are fluent in a second language. If you look at your average European, they can know anything from 2+ additional languages. I guess it’s the result of living on the other side of the planet from approximately everywhere else, but it really is no excuse. Australians are one of the most traveled cultures out there, and having access to a second language would be nothing short of beneficial.

I myself have been struggling to learn Mandarin. Grammatically it is a simple language with far fewer actual words and a vastly more simplistic structure, though the tonal nature and almost inverted* (*compared to English) sentence structure makes it incredibly hard to understand. I have a real desire and interest to become fluent in Mandarin, but whether that actually happens or not is yet to be seen – made all the more difficult that over here I feel silly using even basic Chinese in Chinese run restaurants for fear of looking stupid. At least in China it was used out of necessity – which makes me think that you truly do need to live in a country for a certain amount of time to really master its language.

While I studied French for over 3 years in school, I can barely remember any of it, and it was started in my later student years. I would have liked nothing more than to have been exposed to another language from such an early age that the whole process didn’t feel so difficult to initiate as it now does. Though a French friend of a friend we were recently speaking to at a party got me thinking when he said that anyone has the capacity to learn another language, they just need to commit themselves – himself being a speaker of a good handful of languages themselves.

I often look at Chinese toddlers as they prattle away in Mandarin and think, hell, if that little kid can speak it, how can I not learn at least that much?!

It’s my fault!

January 29, 2009

Well I did mention how nice it was to come home from a Chinese Summer period(which lasted at least 6 months opposed to the regular 3) to enjoy Australia’s more regular temperature. I mentioned that we were having a cooler than usual Summer and well – it was nice.

Well that all changed this week! We have been absolutely sweltering under 40+ degree celcius temperatures. It is the biggest heat wave we have experienced in years, and well, it was possibly my fault! Karma can be a real bitch 🙂

In other news, the Chinese tennis player Jie Zheng I had previously been speaking about dropped out of the 4th round of the Australian Open due to a wrist injury. As a result, Zheng(ranked 22) went down to Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova(ranked 8), 4 games to 1.

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China, we need you!

January 24, 2009

With the whole world spiralling into what looks like complete recession, our new illustrious leader, Kevin Rudd has warned Australian’s that China; who once seemed financially impregnable(considering practically every country in the world appears dependant on their goods these days), is also showing signs of economic slowdown. A fact that alone would shave a cool 5 billion from the Australian economy. We were initially in what appeared to be a ‘not too bad’ position in the current crisis. Well I guess this at least catches us up to the Johnsons.

Australia has considerable resources tied up in China. China is a massive destination for Australian exports. If they truly go down, where will it leave us? Interesting times ahead, that’s for sure.


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