Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Canberra Part 2


Just to follow up on my previous post regarding my trip to Canberra, Australia's capital city. I must say that although alot of Aussies wondered why I would bother going to Canberra when told I was going there, I thought it was a nice town and really pretty. It was randomly created as a neutral city between Melbourne and Sydney, so perhaps thats where some of the negative sentiment comes in.

But I should get back to our program while there. After a good first day of tours and meetings, we followed that up with a second day of, well, tours and meetings. We spent a good portion of the day discussing things that are different about Australia than the US (A good history lesson was involved revolving around how no revolution against England took place here). We also were briefed on how to go about things with banking, visas, housing etc as most of my fellow scholars had newly arrived. If only Brandi and I had come in August, we could've learned alot of this stuff the easy way instead of a trial by fire which we chose to be subjected to.

The highlight of my day was the afternoon where we got to go see the Australian War Memorial, a tribute to their armed forces who had served with Britain as far back as the Boer War in South Africa. This was a memorial/museum and it was as big or bigger than any military museum I've been to in the US, with intricate diaramas and full-size planes etc within the confines of the building. I really military history, and its exciting to see how wars were fought and percieved in other countries because it gives you a whole new perspective. World War I was a major highlight of the museum, as Aussies see their role in WWI as a kind of "birth of a nation" moment as they had gained their independence from Britain just a few years before war broke out. One of my favorite pictures was the one I've shown below as it was part of the "British Empire in 1890" and I like to point out that the big chunk of North America not highlighted in red may have had something to do with us.

Following a great afternoon at the War Memorial, we had a formal dinner and presentation for all of the Fulbright Scholars at a lovely restaurant called "The Boathouse on the Lake". We talked, ate a nice steak dinner, and were recognized for our achievements by Fulbright Staff and honored guests such as the US Ambassador and two Australian Senators. The night was capped off by an amazing performance on the harp by Kristen Keyches, a 2010 Scholar based in Canberra. We wrapped up our sessions on Friday morning, before taking a trip down to the Canberra Glassworks, where another 2010 Scholar is studying as a glass artist. This facility was amazing, as it had been refurbished from the original coal-fired power plant that provided electric to the city after it was formed in 1917. We had a great tour and got to see some glass being worked and melted into a beautiful vase (in the picture below). Afterwards, Scholar Matt Perez had arranged for us to get to make our own glass "artwork". Some of us have more artistic talent than others, with myself falling into the others category. I decided to keep it simple and make a tribute piece to my residence in the US and my lovely wife's home state of Kansas.

All in all, we had a great trip, made some new friends and got a glimpse of some Aussie history. I wish I had stayed for an extra day or two to see some more museums, but as I have pigs currently on feed at Dookie, I had to get back to take care of the little guys.


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