Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Monday: Canberra

We left late Monday morning for Canberra, the capital of Australia. The drive down was pleasant and took us through the Southern Highlands, which are a lovely area of rolling hills south of Sydney. We had lunch on the way down in a little town called Bowral, at the Elephant Boy cafe. The decor was very interesting, a sort of British/Indian colonial theme, plus old Hollywood music, Charlie Chaplin movies, and shelves and shelves full of 1900-40s books. (Which I spent the entire meal drooling over.)I had a delicious beef pie, one of my new favorite things and something I'll miss when I'm back in the States.

Canberra itself wasn't overly exciting. I've never been to Washington D.C., but I expect that it is more interesting. I think Canberra is still too new to have much atmosphere. It could be also that, not being Australian, I don't feel any sort of emotion being there. I don't have a sense of their history like I would hope a citizen would. Maybe you just have to be an Aussie to appreciate Canberra.

Anne-Nicole and I spent most of the afternoon at the National Museum. It was a very interesting place. While looking at the exhibits, I got a stronger sense of something I had felt before. There seems to be a very strong collective guilt here over the treatment of the Aboriginies in the past. It is pervasive in the museums, almost to the exclusion of anything else. (Again, being an outsider, I may not be getting the full story, so to speak.) I would certainly not suggest that they not address or gloss over the issue-that would be ridiculous and unfair to everybody. We need reminders of the atrocities committed in the past or we risk forgetting them. It just seems that the fixation on the subject, to the point that other aspects of history are missed entirely, isn't healthy either.

I also noticed that there was little or no differentiation made between those Europeans who came as missionaries to the Aboriginies, meaning to share the Gospel, and those who came to get rid of them. They all seem to be painted with the same brush. While I certainly wasn't there to judge the behavior of those involved, I cannot believe that every European who came into contact with the native people here did it with the wish to wipe them out.

Now that I'm finished spewing-

We had a fantastic dinner Monday night at The Chairman & Yip, where we dined alongside at least one Australian MP (Mr Kevin Rudd, Labor's Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Security and apparently a very important person.) The establishment was the sort where, not only do they take you coat at the door, they also pour your wine and dish out your food for you. (The wine thing can be dangerous.... I'm too much of a lightweight to make it past one glass, but our waitress just filled it back up as soon as I had finished. Good thing I had Uncle Sean there to finish it off for me!)
The food was amazing, starting with jelly-fish/chicken salad and fishcakes for appetizers. Mains were lamb Shan-tung and seseme trout. We even got dessert.....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I had black seseme ice-cream and coconut sago. I could still almost taste it hours later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yep. It's a strange town. Its vibrancy goes up and down, depending on whether Parliament's sitting. I've lived here for six years, now (ex-Sydney), and I'm just now getting a handle on it.
Fine for me (I'm 50-something): museums, galleries, quirky musical scenes, quietness, that gorgeous ring of mountains (you should see them in winter), high incomes, serious intellect.
On the other hand, if I were 20-something, I'd be up the Hume Highway to Sydney like a rat up a drainpipe. No question about that.
Anyway, enjoy your visit.