Tag Archives: Australia

Follow the Yellow Brick Road…

australia-homeOf cash and environmental degradation and planes trains and automobiles to the wish I could see it destination of Australia…world’s smallest continent but sixth largest country.

What can I say about Australia that hasn’t already been said by the excellent Bill Bryson in “In a Sunburned Country“? He explains there that everything in the natural world in Australia is trying to kill you. Spiders, sharks, snakes, sun – you can practically hear the country hiss at you!

Well, except for the Australians, who are generally non-poisonous and cheery, if a bit pushy. I was lucky enough to have parents in law, one from Australia (him) and one from New Zealand (her), and to see their interaction. It reminded me of those studies done in the US where they’d put a northerner and a southerner in the same room and let them talk and the person from the south would end up chasing the northerner around the room because South would try to close the room between them and North would try to widen it. Aussies push forward, New Zealanders quietly get even.

It was part of my marriage agreement that my hubby and I would go to Australia and New Zealand, but after 23 years of waiting for this to happen, I gave up and left. The hubby. Still haven’t got to Australia or NZ. Sigh.

There are about 22 million Aussies in the world but they are hard to count because they are always travelling everywhere. Any time anyone goes anywhere, they’ll run into travelling Aussies. Try Antarctica – they’ll be there. Norway? Been there. Go to Niue, and an Aussie will pop out of the surf. They’ve been everywhere or are en route to there. It’s a bit annoying since for us to get to Australia seems like such an expedition.


When they’re home, they run a good country, doing well financially, only occasionally cruel these days to their native population. They’ve dumped the Queen as head boss, which angers many. But they have compulsory voting, which I think is brilliant! Might get some of those lazy “think I’ll just stay home and complain” types we have here out and active.

In any case, I’d give good money (and would have to) to go there. According to the CIA Factbook, the only real problems are the usual overpopulation and climate change desertification, and a really healthy poppy population in Tasmania that contributes hugely to the opium industry.

And the place itself is glorious. Who doesn’t want to go there? See Kangaroos and Koala Bears and other weird creatures, see the world’s best surf, go climb the world-famous Uluru, a.k.a. Ayers Rock.

On second thought, don’t do that last one. The native population doesn’t appreciate people walking all over their sacred land, and, according to my friend Heather who just visited there, they feel terrible when people climb the rock because they are sad when they die. And this happens a lot.

So why not plan, instead, to look on the marvel from afar and honour the Aboriginal traditions. They’ll be happy, and you’ll survive to be bitten by that deadly snake just behind you.


Wandering the earth through 251 Countries

Did you know the earth is split up into 251 countries? I didn’t. I guess I had a vague understanding that I really didn’t know about all those teensy weensy countries in the middle of vast oceans, etc, but it wasn’t until I reviewed a computer registry program that I saw the names of so many I had no idea existed.

So I’ve decided to find them and write a bit about them, if I can. I was going to go alphabetically, but that’s kind of boring, so I think I’ll play lucky draw and pull one country out of a hat a day, gradually working through my list. The list, btw, is the official UN one.

So here goes – first one: Kiribati = joined the UN in 1999.

Robert Louis Stevenson was here, and with his wife designed a flag that was never used. It had a crowned shark on it. They have a better one now.

kr_large_locatorKiribati is a collection of island and atolls scattered like grains of rice down in the waters near Australia. According to Wikipedia, it’s the only country to have parts in all four hemispheres, which I suppose depends on how one slices hemispheres, but there’s something interesting about a place that has the international date line on its east coast. They moved it, the locals, after years of being split by time and day. Now they get to be the very first at everything, primarily receiving aid from the rest of the world.

Given that a few of its spots have already sunk beneath the waves, they’re opposed to climate change and are fighting it with the support of the Australians and others. They’ve arranged to move the population to Fiji at some point.

From Wikipedia:

“Kiribati is expected to be the first country in which all land territory disappears due to global climate change. . . .the Kiribati president Anote Tong said that the country has reached “the point of no return”; he added: “To plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I think we have to do that.”

About 100,000 people live on the 32 islands. They have their own musical style and dance style, which seems to consist of sitting or standing and keeping their arms outstretched. It is rude to smile while dancing, as it is meant as a form of religious observance.

Also they practice “pubusi” wherein you can ask anyone for anything they have and they must give it to you or lose face. Remember this if visiting.

Lonely Planet tells of three things to do in the country. Three. Seems a long way to go to play “can you spot the island that isn’t an atoll?” There’s one in the country, I guess. How would you ever tell?

I’m sure it could be a lovely place, but a few things that concern me about this island paradise. They have a leader who once shut down all newspapers in the country after the first non-government newspaper started up. There is one policeman for every 222 people.  Elected officials stay in rather too long. And the country is probably still smarting after the Brits came in and gathered up all their phosphorous (their one source of money) and went away.KR_002

According to the CIA:

Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
typhoons can occur any time, but usually November to March; occasional tornadoes; low level of some of the islands make them sensitive to changes in sea level
Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
heavy pollution in lagoon of south Tarawa atoll due to heavy migration mixed with traditional practices such as lagoon latrines and open-pit dumping; ground water at risk





The main island, Tarawa, was the site of gruesome battles during WWII, and has been used to film movies about them ever since.

As far as I can tell, there have been only a couple of writers from there, but one visiting fellow, J. Maarten Troost, wrote what seems to be the hilarious “The Sex Lives of Cannibals – Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific”.  He and his girlfriend spent time on Tarawa, forced to listen to endless playing of “the Macarena”. I’ve put this book  on my wish list.

Sounds better than actually going there.