It’s been a very full day here in Australia! We are at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) starting our first day of guest-led classes.
This morning began with a lecture by guest speaker Dr. RW (Bill) Carter welcoming us to the campus and the Sunshine Coast. Dr. Carter studied Forestry, Marine Biology, and Tourism and Cultural Change. He spends much of his time for the university working in Cambodia and Indonesia, introducing those international students to USC. Dr. Carter gave us a wonderful, well-rounded orientation to Australia, comparing and contrasting the country to our own. It was particularly interesting to see the many features that link the US and Australia. Both countries share a similar central land mass size, as well as many common cultural views, beliefs, and styles of life. Australia seems to be a very multi-cultural, fun, and sport-loving country that holds fast to their mate-hood values. Just watch out for the plethora of deadly animals!
After our introduction to the country, we met Simon Osborn, who took us downstairs to USC’s high-tech CAVE2. The University of Wyoming has had our own CAVE, a 3-D visualization center, for a few years now. USC has one of their very own, this one with more screens! As we stepped into the visualization studio, we were welcomed by around 60 screens showing an array of 2D videos. Then we donned our glasses and entered into the 3D realm, where we were shown a variety of the university’s projects including one that was designed to showcase the Engineers Without Borders students. We “flew over” an entire African village in the Cameroon, all of it laid out to scale. Simon explained that he and fellow designer David Dixon created every object in the scene from a real-world still image in order to maintain authenticity.
Our day at the university ended with a lively presentation from Lyndon Davis–from the Mooloolah River Gubbi Gubbi country–who showed us many of his own handmade tools and instruments, and who shared with us stories from his people, life, and philosophy of interrelationships in the world around us. He gave a wonderful introduction to the culture of the Gubbi Gubbi (also referred to as the Kabi Kabi) people of the Sunshine Coast.
There was one particular story Lyndon told that stuck with me. He told us about the red stringybark tree and the fish who share the same name in the Gubbi Gubbi language. The two, he said, were “one in the same, connected in the dream world, connected in creation.” He told us that it was no mistake to call these two entities by the same name because they relate to each other. When the stringybark trees bloom, it is a sign that the first fish have come to spawn, Lyndon explained. And after the fish, the eagle comes. The eagle waits and watches as the first fish go by, allowing the thick, meaty leaders to pass so they can return another year to lead the next generation of fish. He waits patiently before striking the next, slightly smaller line of fish. Then the hunt begins. This is when–finally–the humans join.
This story illuminated the concepts we are looking at in class. Lyndon’s narrative did not assume the separation between humans and nature that we are so familiar with in the western world. In his story, humans were merely another entity held within the sphere of the natural world–a piece of the puzzle, patiently awaiting our part, our turn, our piece.
Here’s to another great day in Australia! Hope all is well wherever you find yourself today.
As they say in Australia, cheers!