Thursday, February 14, 2008

Gone Fishing

The next couple weeks are very full with some workshops, so I won't have time to post as much as I have been. This coming week especially I probably won't be posting. Check back at the end of next week.

Having said that, one FYI and one more post.

The FYI: People have been asking me when we're doing our long retreat. I must say, I sense a certain impatience, as in, Lord, you've been there a month. When are you guys going to get down to business? It's a fair question. Our retreat will begin March 13 and go until April 13. We'll be out of Sydney at a place called Sevenhill, in the southern central part of the state (pretty near Adelaide on the southern shore). It's the place where Australians used to do their entire tertianship, so it's got a lot of history and makes for a neat connection with the older men of the Australian province. I'll provide more information about it as it gets closer, but yes, it really is a 30 day silent retreat!

The post:
I've been here a month and really not said too much about Australia itself. Not that I haven't wanted to. I actually have a list a mile long of interesting things I've wanted to share. (Like, how about this: the Australian Parliament began its session Wednesday by together reciting the Our Father. How's that for different than the US?)

(Or this: in Australia, the smaller monetary amounts are in coins: 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, one dollar and two dollars. And what's fascinating to me is, the dollar and two dollar coins are each smaller than the cent coins. 5, 10, 20, 50 each gets bigger than the last, then the one dollar is small again, but thicker, and the two dollar coin smaller still, but thick, too.)

But anecdotes aside, I just wanted to tell you a little bit about what I've learned about the country itself. (Most of which I got from a great book about every part of Australia called In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. I highly recommend it; I will be stealing stories from it regularly. Thanks to Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Stan for giving it to me at Christmas.)

Australia consists of six states and two territories that function similarly to the District of Columbia. In the South East there's New South Wales (that's where Sydney is); Victoria is farther south still -- that's where Melbourne is, which is almost the same size as Sydney (about 3.5 mil). West of there is South Australia; farther west still is the massive area known as Western Australia. I'd say it's about one third of the country in size. (And given that the country is about the same size as the continental U.S., that's a huge honking tract of land.) Perth is the main city in South Australia; a lot of the rest is desert. One of the guys here was talking about how Perth is so vastly separate from most of the rest of the "civilized" country -- most of which occurs along the southeast shore (some call it the Boomerang Coast) -- that there was talk among some at one point of it seceding from the rest of Australia.

Anyway, east of Western Australia, to the north of South Australia, is the Northern Territory. It has an area of 523,000 square miles, about 20% of the whole of the continent. And in 1998 the citizens received the option of becoming Australia's seventh state. They refused. Apparently they enjoy the status they have. From what Bryson writes, the far north is quite tropical, lush. The big city is a place called Darwin (also called the "Top End"). I don't know how exactly it got that name, and the chances of me seeing it are quite low, but I love it just because it has that name Darwin. It's a great name for a town. The kind of place I'd expect to see all kinds of interesting creatures.

To the east of the Northern Territory is Queensland. And by the way, don't ask me why the one is called the Northern Territory and the other is called South (instead of Southern) Australia. Or why they never came up with names like Victoria or Queensland. Like Bob would be nice. Sort of goes with Victoria. Hello, this is Bob, and this is Victoria.

Anyway, east of NT is Queensland. The Great Barrier Reef is there -- I just read that it's equivalent in length to the entire west coast of the United States. Somewhere between 280000 and 344000 square kilometers. Also about a million different species of fish and aquatic life, many of which can kill you, or make you wish you were dead. (There are actually critters living in cone shells -- sea shells lying on the sand, we're talking about here -- that will poison you if you pick them up. There's a jellyfish called the box jellyfish that's the most deadly creature on earth. Though it lives only on tiny shrimp, and is only 6-8 inches long, its tentacles are each instant death for humans.

Don't let that put you off, though. They say the Reef is beautiful.)

The last state of Australia is Tasmania, which is little island on the southern end, south of Melbourne. On the right, a real Tasmanian devil.

From what I gather, this real Tasmanian devil does not spin at all. The Looney Toons of my youth were filled with lies. I feel totally cheated.

Darn thing looks more like a pig than a devil.

The last territory is the ACT -- Australian Capitol Territory. It's the District of Columbia of Australia, the land surrouding the capitol city of Canberra.

There's so much more to tell you, but for now it'll have to wait. Go read Bill Bryson's book, and I'll see you in a couple weeks with stories of Arthur Phillips, James Cook, Uluru and the great possibility that if you never hear from me again it's because I have been eaten by a saltwater crocodile.