Saturday, September 3, 2011

Canberra: A Meeting Place


I recently had the opporunity to travel to Australia's capital city, Canberra, for 3 days for a Fulbright Enrichment Program. This was an awesome, albeit short trip, where we got to meet and visit with other U.S. Fulbright Scholars stationed around Australia. There are about 12 other Fulbrighters here from the U.S. right now, and their research areas cover every end of the spectrum. For example, one Senior Scholar is bringing Shakespearean Theatre into prisons as a form of rehabilitation, while another is looking at potential trade barriers to US apples in Australia.

Most of the scholars got a real kick out of my research, the effects of an immunological alternative to castration in pigs. I don't think I stopped talking the entire time, which doesn't say much for me as Brandi can attest, however it was amazing how interested everyone was to learn about pigs, meat and agriculture. My generation is one that is yearning to learn more about their food, how it is produced and where it comes from. This can make them vulnerable to propaganda from animal rights groups, but it was amazing to me how interested they were in what I do. Being the talkative person I am, I was happy to oblige.
The first day we had the privilege of traveling to the U.S. Embassy to meet Ambassador Bleich and his wife and have morning tea. The embassy is beautifully done in Virginia colonial style, and the Ambassador and his wife were gracious hosts.

In the afternoon, we went to visit the Australian Parliament and meet the Prime Minister. Upon arrival, we had a nice tour of the building and a description of the symbolism that was worked into the construction of the Parliament building. It was amazing to me how thought out the whole process was. After the tour, we had to 'cloak' all of our belongings, including cameras, cell phones and such. They collect all of these from people going to watch Parliament in session because they claim, "It's to keep you from being able to throw things at them," which should give you a good perspective of how well-liked this Parliament is currently.

All of us US Scholars got a real delight out of watching this session of Parliament, as it was basically political damning of the other party whenever someone got up to speak. I can honestly say about 75% of what was said would have been considered slander in the US, but nobody ever accused the Aussies of not speaking their mind. The session was capped off by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, staging a walk-out with her party after refusing to answer a question posed by the minority party!

Afterwards, we had a chance to get a quick picture with Julia, who is currently under a lot of pressure from the Australian public for her new carbon tax initiative as well as many other current issues.

We spent the rest of the day going over things we need to know as Fulbrighters, as the majority of the scholars were recent arrivals from the 2011 group. During this time, I was wishing I had been there last year to hear these things upon my arrival in Australia and not having to figure them out the hard way! After dinner, we all imbibed in a little bit of the amazing yet relatively cheap Aussie wine, including the fan favorite "Passion Pop". Below is a picture of myself and Lee Pearson, fellow scholar, showing off the hotel's list of items for purchase, which included $7.00 "Just in Case" condoms.

I could go on for pages, but I think I'll end here and come back in a few days to talk about the last two days of our trip to Canberra, which means "meeting place" in the local Aboriginal language.



1 comment:

  1. Glad you got to go to Camberra. I also went through the Parliament. Did they tell you that Camberra is a planned city?