We arrived in Australia and I don't know what I expected from Brisbane, but wow is it clean. Sparkling clean. No, no it is really clean. I got up two hours before we docked and saw the whole harbor, the shore lines, the factories, the oil tanks, etc. Not one speck of trash. No graffiti anyplace. I am very, very impressed. I have travelled a bit, yet never have I seen anyplace so immaculate. Naturally, now I really looked for any trash because it is so hard for me to believe. Yes, I found two grittier spots, but only two street signs or stop signs that had some very small scribbles in silver written in a corner. The fine for dropping any kind of trash, even cigarette butts, is an instant $ 200.00 fine at least, and the town does give out tickets. They are patrolling and looking. The overall effect is a bit weird. It struck me as almost artificial, I am not used to it. There must be some dirt, trash or rubbish, right? Not in Brisbane, Australia. It is clean!
We chose the aboriginal tour the ship offered as an excursion. We went on a hired city bus, which was scrubbed clean and impeccable, to visit the River Walk, a long walkway, styled and arranged right next to the Brisbane river in the middle of town. After we walked about one KM we came to a set up tent with a platform where a few aborigines introduced us to their way of looking at life. Some stories of the dreamtime were orated, sung and danced. Nobody knows how many tribes lived before the white man came. Came, like he did all over the world, with sicknesses and Rum and an attitude of " this is now our land". For some 50,000 years the aboriginals lived and managed to live off the land. Food was plentiful, water was pure and ran clear in the rivers. They had no housing, so no mortgages. No cars, so did not have to pay for the purchase, gas and insurance. Clothing? They did not wear any. Furniture? They sat on the ground or on a tree stump.
The people we met showed us they could make a fire within 2 minutes, using two sticks and some wood shavings. Their focus was never, nor is it today, on what one possesses. They believed the land does not belong to you; you belong to the land. It was free for all to use, just like the air we breath is free for all to breathe. What they did know, still know today, is what most of us never knew. The aboriginals know their plant life. They know what is edible, what works as medicine and what is poisonous. I could not compete with them on their level. They know too much. They know their stars through oral stories and connections to their dreamtime sagas. The dreamtime was the time during the creation of the earth and the beginning of their existence.
Aboriginals are earth people. With inner peace, they are more peaceful than natives in other parts of the world. There are no written records. All stories are to be remembered, and most have a fabulous memory. Music is passed on by example, our group had a 4 year old in the dance group and another 6 year old boy who danced along with the adults. The 6 year old did not miss a step or gesture. The dances seem simple, but when I got up and tried to imitate their steps I found out my eyes had deceived me. Not so simple at all, if danced correctly. The same is true about blowing the simple looking diggdigaroo which is just a hollowed out branch from a bloodworm tree. Instead of hollowing out the long branch, the aboriginals use termites to do the work for them. It shows again their thinking. Time is of no essence. And they use nature to help them do a job. They use the termite to do the work and have the mental strength to wait until the termites have completed the job. So what if it takes some years, what is the hurry?
Thousands of the native population were killed by illnesses brought by the white man. They came with clocks and watches to divide each day into ever smaller pieces to "manage" their lives better. They came with new ideas. Life for the white man becomes ever more frantic with stock market reports, the latest news, Olympic medal counts all brought via the latest tablet computer or iPhone. Our worlds are so far apart, the white man's from the aboriginal's, that we can only look at each other in awe and puzzlement. Both groups have good points. It is yet to be seen whether the white man can keep on going, like the aboriginals did for close to 50,000 years and leave a bountiful, beautiful and healthy earth behind. Somehow I see the Aboriginals as having a better way of life.
As part of our tour we were to get some lessons on which plants are good to eat, and which have medicinal properties. We went to the botanical garden in Brisbane and were there on time but.... The guide did not show... So we all just stood in an Australian jungle section looking at signs but had really no clue of the purpose of each plant. I felt kind of like an eager beaver at the river, ready to learn something but....the one who knew was not available. Bummer!
We ended our outing with some bus trips to lookout points but what I thought would have been a good trip was a bit disappointing. Yes, we had a few dances with the native groups, but it could have been a lot more educational and left me feeling somewhat flat.