I have been back some time now from Australia. In Australia, I attended the Common Dreams Conference in Canberra where I wrote several posts, but did not for one reason or another publish.
Here is the first as written on 24 September. Minor edits are included.
The conference starts today. Check in is at 3:00 pm. I tried at 1:15 was politely told to move along. Ordinarily, I would have just walked around the campus getting acquainted with the lay of the land. It is too cold, windy, with the possibility of showers. Nasty outside. I am warming my heels in a coffee shop/eatery. I am too old to fit in here, although I can spot other Common Dreamers or professors sitting in out of the wind.
I came early to do things such as add funds to the bus pass Judy, my landlord for the week, loaned me. Then there was the matter of replacing my wireless mouse that found its way to Barb’s suitcase and an early return to the states. Another bummer. The first two weeks in Oz was great with only minor glitches. The morning we left the hotel in Melbourne was the turning point. We had the wrong time for our flight to Sydney. We were late; the error was easily rectified with the exchange of a hundred dollar bill. Actually it was two fifties, AUD. My leaving my Australian phone in the limo that transported us to the airport was not so readily fixed. Then, my bag was overweight. Books and papers, wireless mouse, meds and other items unceremoniously transferred to Barb’s suitcase. Not all of managed to migrate back to mine after we landed in Sydney.
I’m a little grouchy. I’m cold. I spent yesterday trying to retrieve the phone, grocery shopping and trying to find free WIFI. Two McDonalds in Canberra with free WIFI. I was forced to try one after finding out that the Mall’s free version only lasted 30 minutes. The first one had unreliable connections. Found the 2nd store and was able to do most of what I needed to do. Canberra is completely different in the WIFI situation than the other Australian cities I have visited.
Sydney, and Melbourne are big cites of over 4 million each while Canberra is only about 300,000. I don’t think that makes the difference, though. Cairns, don’t pronounce the “r”, is about half the size of Canberra. I found Cairns just as cosmopolitan as the larger cities. Two factors that come to mind is that Canberra has no building older than 100 years. It is also an inland city; the others are on the coast. Historically coastal cities are almost universally more cosmopolitan than inland cities.
Canberra’s commerce is the government of Australia and that also lends itself to certain stodginess. Less hustle and bustle for sure. At any rate, Canberra exudes a provincial air of being out of touch with real life. There are no Starbucks either. The coffee isn’t the reason for my wistfulness. Drinks rivaling those of that chain’s are available in plentitude. No, the thing about Starbucks is the Starbucks card. I found that my card was good in Australia and even better, the exchange rate was better than any bank I could find. Ah, how good is that? If there is a Starbucks in this provincial backwater, I haven’t been able to find it. The good news is: the McDonalds that has the free WIFI has coffee as good as Starbucks.
I wonder if Jesus found Jerusalem as backwards as I find Canberra. I note that he did not find his disciples in Jerusalem. What he found there was hidebound traditionalists wedded to the old ways. They killed him for preaching a new way.
When I first learned that Canberra, like Washington DC, was deliberately set aside to be a national capitol, I thought: “How cool”.
Maybe, it is because the power leaders come from elsewhere unlike in Jerusalem where the leaders were from there. At least the religious leaders. Although, that particular tactic hasn’t appear to have worked for the Vatican. Or in Washington DC. Jesus’ disciples seem to have come from Capernaum and the immediate area surrounding. While not a seaport, Capernaum was a fishing port on the Sea of Galilee. It also was close for communication and trade with the cities of the Decapolis. It is easy to imagine fishermen, such as Simone Peter, trading with merchants from larger cities. Funny thing about traders, they accept others who are not like themselves. Pissing merchants or suppliers off means no deals. In such environments, people become used to others with different ideas, looks and even gods.
When Jesus came preaching his good news, the fishermen could look past their prejudices and see the possibilities. They saw the future and embraced it.
I wonder...if we (the USA) could move the nation’s capitol to, say, San Francisco. Australia is on its own here.