A Peace Fellow in Australia

It is Autumn in Brisbane, and we have just returned from mid-semester break. I was recently given a friendly chiding on my use of the term “Fall.” It’s just not done here. You see, the native trees don’t shed their leaves. Rather, in the early-Summer (November-ish), they lose their bark. It sloughs off and leaves great curlicue bunches at the base of the trunks. This is just one example of the myriad “little ways” that life here is different.

From colorful wildlife to strange turns of phrase, we are having to re-learn how things operate in our daily lives. And here’s the rub- I’ve worked in cultures very different than my own before, faced linguistic and social barriers- but in those places, it was very apparent that I was the “other.” Here, everything is just similar enough that it seems the same. We share a common language, dress similarly, and have the same understandings of time, space and place of self in society. Yet- we find ourselves still relying on our host counsellor, Merv, to be our cultural liaison. We laugh together over the silly things that create great confusion and (sometimes) frustration.

And here I must talk about the importance of host counsellors. I cannot stress enough how instrumental Merv has been in making us feel welcome and secure here. Even before we landed, he had gathered some furniture and housewares for us, and shared many an email and Skype session. When we landed, it felt like coming home to the arms of a family member.

PeaceCenterFresh off the plane, he took us to see kangaroos in the wild- which cemented the fact that we had arrived!  He has taken us to visit the coast, the mountains, and “the bush,” given great hugs when we are homesick, and offered wisdom when we are ignorant. I cannot laud his efforts enough.

On campus here at the Rotary Peace Centre in Queensland, it is a busy week as we prepare for the Annual Peace Fellow Seminar this Saturday. My cohort is assisting Class XIII with logistics as they prepare to share their experiences on Applied Field Experience (AFE). They’ve been to Myannmar, India, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, among others- their various research and field work rich with meaning and impact. They are nearing the end of their tenure, and it will be a bittersweet goodbye in July to our first friends and mentors here.

We have this, our first and their final, semester together to come together in classes and social gatherings. I have learned so much from them, and the professors here, during our brief time together and am eager to see what the rest of this term will bring. No doubt it will be startling, eye-opening and challenging in unexpected ways. That’s what we came here for, after all!

If you would like to keep up with the ups and downs of my family’s experiences in Australia- please follow bloxinoz.com.

Posted in District News, Peace Fellows.