From the States, Australia doesn't just seem very far away, but, as my oldest daughter kept reminding me, it's also upside down. Thanks to doing yoga, I'm quite comfortable hanging out upside down, but I thought it would be good to summarize the differences so far on this journey Down Under.
There are the obvious differences: the accent, driving on the left side of the road (but people seem to walk on the left also, which is different), and the money. In Australia, apparently the money is washable--doesn't rip or tear. Imagine that?
How about this? Imagine a country that is not at war. And does not allow guns. How's that for a country founded by criminals? I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that there are hardly any churches, either? Seriously, I've seen a few churches in some small towns, but they've all been turned into something else. Actually, I've only seen two churches outside of Sydney. One is now a café. The other is a meditation studio.
In Sydney the churches are all old and in the historic districts, as if to say "we tried," but plain old good living won the war here. Yes, it's possible to live a safe, good, and happy full life without a church! The streets in Sydney are safe, even at night. The people are friendly. I have yet to see any real poverty or homelessness in Australia. Part of this could be due to the fact that Australians take great pride in getting paid a decent living wage for their work. Therefore, tipping is not expected!
Now that I've been to Sydney, I see that there is lots of diversity here. Many Asian people have come here to live and work. And there are accents from all over the world. It's a lot like Los Angeles, but without any of the drama of Hollywood, the traffic, or pollution (there's traffic, but it's on a much smaller scale). Much more greenery and...PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION! Trains, ferries, buses.... And it's all clean, organized, easy to figure out. I could get used to this!
Australia is not perfect. Its prime minister, Julia Gillard, is under a lot of heat and pressure (although I ADORE her). But remember, Rupert Murdoch owns a lot of the media here, so imagine Obama three years ago if Fox News ran The New York Times!
Australia has also not come as far as we are with organic food. Yet Australians are hyperaware of environmental stuff, since they are feeling the effects of climate chaos from all of our spewing of toxic wastes into the atmosphere. This past year they had to add a new color (purple) to heat maps of the country because temperatures here have gotten hotter than ever before.
Also, the women are a bit behind us in leading in the workplace, but I think that's just a matter of time because every woman I've met here has been super smart, funny, warm, and hard-working. AND, they all wear pretty dresses!
Just as in yoga, where inversions are best done on a regular basis, I think this living upside down thing might be essential to my health. So...I'll be back!
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com