We flew from one of the smallest countries to one of the largest – an entire island continent country with one of earth’s longest continuously surviving indigenous cultures separated from the rest of their species for fifty to hundred thousand years.

We’ve been Down Under for 15 days and we’re loving it. It has mostly been a beach kind of vacation. Fremantle and Yallingup in Western Australia have spectacular beaches with clear sparkling blue water and white sands. Melbourne, Brighton, and Sandringham are more urban beaches with golden sand and colder waters (and occasionally a few flies at this time if the year). Burleigh Heads beach on the Gold Coast about 100 km south of Brisbane is beautiful with the best swimming and boogie boarding so far.

Australia to us casual tourists feels more like America than any place we’ve been on our travels. In fact, like Texas. Superficially (because I don’t know any better), people seem warm and friendly, drive trucks, barbecue, listen to country music, and wear cowboy hats. They drive on the left but otherwise the highways are more like in the US than Italian autostradas or German autobahns. But Christmas feels different. There doesn’t seem to be a frenzy of buying. And they don’t seem to make a fuss about decorating. For Christmas Eve we had a great dinner at a restaurant and then went bowling. On Christmas morning we hiked up to a lookout at a national park by the beach and watched Aussies congregate on the beach to seriously picnic.

The kids got edible Christmas gifts because we don’t want to buy any crap that adds to their luggage. And they got loads of books downloaded to their devices.

Jen joined us in Melbourne and I quickly realized that I am out of shape. But now, after a week, I feel like I’m back to being able to help Jen put away a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc during the day and a nice Cab in the evening. The wine here is good. We’ve enjoyed wandering into any old liquor store and picking up bottles we’ve never heard of before and always ending up with something supremely drinkable. The Australian god and/or his people are also more chilled – liquor stores are open at 9pm on a Sunday night!

Evan and Vivian have really enjoyed boogie boarding and swimming. For two kids that sometimes act like smiling costs money, I’ve seen noththing but huge grins on their faces when they are hurtling along on the surf. Jo and I have enjoyed walking on the beach, though rarely together : (

Jo planned a few activities that I thought I’d roll my eyes at but they have been great. The koala encounter was amazing and the kids learnt a lot about these gentle strange marsupials. Sand boarding down huge dunes of sand blown inland from the beaches was spectacular and probably what the kids will remember most about Australia. A spooky late night flashlight tour of the convict prison in Fremantle, with a couple of special effects and actors kept us on edge till the very end but also taught us a lot about Australia’s convict history and the English’s strange proclivity for island incarcerations. I enjoyed hearing Vivian and Evan contrasting and comparing the Fremantle prison with Robben Island. The visit to the Science Museum in Melbourne was hugely educational and entertaining, especially the Lightening Room where they zap different things inside a giant Faraday cage with artificial bolts of lightening from a Tesla coil.

In certain places in Australia there are more Chinese and sometimes Indians and Malays than there are white Australians but it’s spotty because at other times Australia looks like the whitest place I’ve seen. If the whites are unhappy perhaps the Aboriginal people can find it in their hearts to console them. But so far Australia seems to be making it work as a melting pot (though there was this very awkward expression of gratitude to the “original owners of this land” by multiple presenters at the science museum in Victoria). Perhaps the notion of being Australian is strong and can bind people to their larger tribe. While we’ll be here for another ten more days, we can confidently say we’d love to come back to Australia!

2 thoughts on “Australia

  1. MERRY CHRISTMAS from Austin, Arun! It looks and sounds like y’all have had a delightful holiday.
    Peace and love,


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