6 juin 2018

Surprised by Australia

Going 16 950 km away from home, on the other side of the world; I knew that things were going to be different. I was right, and it started from day one when I received a note from the student living explaining what it was going to be like to live on campus. 

Our campus is in a forest on an old swamp, which means that we are sharing the space with animals and insects. There we can find many species, from harmless to really dangerous. The inoffensive ones are rabbits, rats (common animals but still surprise to find those on a campus) then opossums (appendices B) and parrots (really lousy one). Those are animals that I had never or rarely seen in my all life, so seeing them on a daily basis was amazing. Finally on campus you can’t find pigeons but we have Australian white ibis, a really big white bird with a long neck (Appendix B); I had never seen or even heard of them before coming to Australia, but there are really common birds. Going on to the one a little danger some we have the Komodo dragon, usually harmless for men, still a really big animal that if scared would bite off your fingers. Then we have the Magpie, typical Australian bird really similar the pie we have in France; but this one can be really dangerous. Around breeding season, those birds become really aggressive as they fear for their newborns; meaning they will attack you (those birds bite and aim for the eyes) if you just walk by their tree. The last one isn’t an animal it’s an insert: the mozzie (mosquitos). The campus is full of them and going out without repulsive spray can actually be really dangerous. Even with the spray you could easily get bitten 10 times within a few minutes (its the reason why the student living offers to every new students a repulsive spray on the day they arrive). Finally the really harmful ones, there are two mains one: the spiders and the snakes. We have different kind of snakes, poisonous and non-poisonous, but the rules were the same, to walk on the path, stay away of the bushes and do not get close to the snake if you see one. The spiders, we have all kind on campus, they are everywhere, but focus goes onto a particular specie: the red back spider, a highly venomous spider. The campus security is constantly reminding us of how careful we have to be. Those spiders like to live in dry places close to mankind (habitations) and especially under bike saddle. As many people on campus travel by bike we found a lot of those spiders. Its was a lot to take in but then I got used to it, but when I think about it, I still can’t believe that I’m leaving so close to so many dangerous creatures. 

The wildlife on campus was extraordinary; but so was the one outside campus (Appendices D). Again Australia is known for this, but still I was not expecting to be confronted up close to so many wild creatures. When I arrive I took a beach safety session (offered by the university) to learn a little more about the do and don’t. During this session I experienced right away the hazardous nature of the sea, you could see on the sand the cadaver of hundreds of Jellyfish (or marine stinger). Australians waters are full of those, and even though they aren’t really dangerous their stings are really painful. It’s the reason why, on every beach concerned there are special indication regarding these (for example when the lifeguards notice a shoal they will putt up the yellow sign). Another animal that I was surprised to encounter was a shark. Again it is known that in Australia their beaches are populated by such creatures, but never in my life I though that I would see one. We were swimming on Green Island with our snorkeling gear (mask and tuba), we were just 100 meters from shore and we encountered a reef shark (those types of sharks are inoffensive but still pretty impressive). The animal was barely a meter away; we could have touched it. I was beyond amazed to have been confronted to such a majestic animal randomly. On land now, I was daze to see Kangaroos.  Australia’s famous mascot is actually everywhere. To give a point of comparison, you see kangaroos as often as you see cows in France. I was really surprise of how common these were.  

Besides the wildlife, I got really surprised by the Australian language. English is the official language, but the thing I didn’t know was that not only their accent is different from the British or American one (that I was expecting) but they have their own words for things, their own slang. Even though English was no problem for me, sometimes I would not understand a whole sentence (not on word of it). 

Another thing that shocked me was the Australian lifestyle. We all know the cliché of the Australian men with long hair going surfing everyday, well it is not a cliché and more a reality. Surfing is THE Australian activity, practice by everyone from 10 to 60 (and more). No matter the day, the weather or the time there are always people surfing. Their way of life is really different from our, they follow a mojo that is “Chill Mate”, which basically means relax. They are not really stressed about anything and they take everything lightly. For example in Australia shoes are optional, and I’m not talking about the beach. People everywhere, whether is on the street, at the supermarket, the bank, in their cars, people are barefoot and it’s completely normal. 

The distances in Australia also surprised me. On a map Australia does not seems that big and every cities look pretty close to one another; but in reality the distances are huge. For example between Sydney and Perth (for one coast to another), there is 3 934 km, that’s a 41 hours drive. The distance Sydney-Perth is equivalent to four times Lille-Perpignan. I then realize that travelling in Australia isn’t really done by car (unless you have a lot of time), but done by plane. 

Last but not least, I was dazed (and not in the right way) by the cost of life, and especially the prices of alcohol and public transport. It’s only after arriving that I realize that the cost of living was really high. My accommodation for one was around 600€ a month (same price as a room in Paris) even though I was living on campus located in the suburb. Adding to that, public transport (which isn’t as performing as the one we have in Ile-de-France) was really expensive. For just a small bus drive of 20 minutes, the price of the ticket could go up to 5 AUD. Regarding the alcohol, Australia has a really high tax for those products in order to discourage the population from consuming it. As a result a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka cost 50 AUD for 10€ in France. 

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