Saturday, January 03, 2009

Burkas at St. Kilda's.

I am teaching a Centre College class on Australian National Identity in Australia this month.

For our first full day in Australia, I took everyone to the beach. This was fun for the students, and had the practical effect of beating jet lag. Our bodies spent the day adjusting internally to the Australian sun clock, and they were so tired afterwards they went to bed at a reasonable time (I think - I do not enquire to closely).

St. Kilda's is an human-scaled beach town just down the tram from central Melbourne. We were advised to get off at the Luna Park stop. We puzzled at the name until we saw the front gate of the amusement park of that name, a four story clown's head. We walked through the clowns' gigantic mouth into an old-fashioned amusement park, with bumper cars, rocking "ships," and a big old roller-coaster running the perimeter. The one oddity of the rides was the "hellarious" haunted house, featuring evil clowns.

Every world city features wonderful cross-cultural mixes. Australians with Japanese tattoos, Americans with Aussie Rules Football team shirts, a Japanese girl with an "I don't give a chuck" tee-shirt that showed a Chuck Taylor sneaker. My favorite sighting of the day came within Luna Park. Muslim mother and daughter, Pakistani at a guess. Daughter in modest Muslim apparel - covered head, arms, legs. Mother in full burka, only her eyes showing. Both laughing, heading to the rides. And both wearing Crocs - pink for daughter, purple for mom.

Go calmly mixing world.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year From Fiji - Tomorrow

I am teaching a Centre College class on Australian National Identity in Australia this month.

We are in Fiji on a day-long layover on our way to Melbourne. We left Los Angeles on New Year's Eve (we watched the ball drop in Times Square on streaming video on a student laptop, then blew noisemakers while we waited at the gate). When we arrived it was already the Second (thanks to the International Date Line).

I was going to store our luggage and force sociology on the students by taking cabs to a Hindu Temple and the one-block main street. For ten hours.

Wiser heads prevailed, though, and through the help of Margaret Travel Agency in Nadi airport - that is, by Margaret herself - we instead bought three rooms for the 22 of us at a modest beach resort. We stored the luggage, got to shower and swim in the ocean and the pool, eat a leisurely lunch, and head back to the last leg of the flight refreshed.

I recommend this plan to all.