On day six in “The Land of Oz,” we were split into groups of two to three students to explore a specific neighborhood in the Brisbane area. Groups explored the residential communities, bicycled over all of the hills in Brisbane, spoke with café owners and locals, explored the nightlife, and even ran into various herds of shirtless Australian footballers! Whatever the adventure, each group experienced new culture, explored new territory, and grew within themselves.
I am disappointed to share that I am unable to blog about all of these wonderful neighborhoods in the detail they deserve, because I have only experienced one of these neighborhoods firsthand. The rest of them I was fortunate enough to learn about from the perspective of my peers during presentations the following day. My team, Team Fortitude Valley, was able to experience our neighborhood in two very different perspectives–one during the day and the other at night. To begin, I will dig deeper into the perspective my group had during the day.
Zoe, Chris, and I embarked from the Queensland University of Technology campus in the morning not fully realizing what we would experience during that day. Our walk to Fortitude Valley consisted of bustling streets of vehicles, tourists, business people, happy people, angry people, as well as one group of very sincere Aboriginals who were having an honorable dedication and remembrance of one of the many influential men who spoke up for the rights of Aboriginals. This man was executed long ago in the courtyard across from our hotel, and this ceremony was a traditional Aboriginal practice in which they respectfully remembered their leaders. This section of our walk was not technically part of our assignment but all three of us agreed that it was such a significant part in the history of Brisbane and the culture around the area that it enhanced our knowledge and understanding of the community as we began to explore.
A few blocks further down, we noticed that the bustling streets had calmed down to a very quiet neighborhood of businesses with few people walking around. The individuals we did see seemed less frantic than the individuals running around the city a few blocks earlier.
This change in foot traffic hinted to our group that we were entering a new community in the city of Brisbane. The beginning of Fortitude Valley showed a handful of trendy and modern high rises with other older looking architecture scattered in between. As we walked deeper into the heart of Fortitude Valley, the businesses became less modern and we started to see a larger Asian influence. In fact, there was a large area called Chinatown Mall.
At this time in the afternoon, we found half of this neighborhood to be open and the other half seemed dead, and you could almost sense a little bit of sadness in the air. That sadness disappeared quite quickly when the whole group joined us later to experience “The Valley” in the moonlight–or should I say the light of glamorous night clubs. In a manner of hours, this half dead community was brought to life. We saw people of all ages walking these streets. The smiling faces of local Australians energized our American group and we proceeded to have a wonderful evening.
One important thing I learned during this adventure was humans have an incredible ability to completely change the landscape of a community. In this course, we have been studying the word landscape and what it truly means. Team Fortitude Valley experienced the vast ways a landscape can vary in a matter of hours, merely due to human influence on it and interaction with it. Jeff and Courtney chose some very informative articles for us to read that helped us define landscape. I enjoyed these articles and felt like I understood and could better grasp the broad definitions of landscape after reading them, however, I can say with confidence that the neighborhood adventure opened my eyes to what my brain was already grasping. I not only read but also experienced vast landscape changes in less than a day.
Not only did our group grow in our academic knowledge, but we also explored deeper into ourselves as contributing members of society. The wonderful thing about traveling is the variety of perspectives you run into. We have students with a variety of backgrounds, opinions, and perspectives about many subjects on this trip. Not one sees life through the same lens as another, which allows for personal growth as we engage with each other. We are able to hear a point of view, process our thinking in relation to the other person’s, and no matter what we conclude at the end, we have thought about what we stand for and why. At this time in our lives, as students, it is a very import process. Not only does this trip in general give us the opportunity to listen and understand others, but this activity specifically led us to discovery about ourselves. Whether we were paired with one or two other people, spending all day in a foreign place led us to connect with our partners. No one knew their way around the neighborhoods, we utilized many forms of transportation and maps to figure out how to get around. Basically, we were all in a vulnerable state which allowed us to empathize with the others and connect in a way we would not have been able to in a classroom in Laramie.
During the activity, wandering in new places, some of us may have felt frustrated, confused, sad, happy, or even intrigued. But at the end of the whole experience I am able to speak for everyone along in saying that this adventure energized us for the next adventure to come.
I’ll end this post with a quote that I think is very fitting for our trip. It is by Samuel Smiles, a Scottish author and government reformer in the late 1800s:
“The experience gathered from books, though often valuable, is but the nature of learning; whereas the experience gained from actual life is one of the nature of wisdom.”