Australia is the best country in the world…?

I love my country. Sometimes I marvel at how I’ve won the lottery of life, being born here in the lucky country, the land of opportunity.

When I started travelling, I realised that my passport is one of my most precious possessions. Wherever I go in the world, I carry the golden ticket: a document saying I belong in Australia – that they will always let me come home.

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But recently something has changed.

I was talking to a new friend who grew up in Iran. As a teenager, he left a war-torn country, having witnessed unbelievable horrors, for a new life in Australia.

He worked hard to overcome barriers of language and culture. He studied late into the night, earned a degree, and won a government job. You’d think he’d had it made, but it broke my heart when he said that if he ever had children, he wouldn’t raise them here. He’d rather take them back to the war-torn Middle East than put them through the daily racism he faces. After twelve years, he still feels like an outsider – ignored, bullied, excluded, slapped with religious slurs – even though he’s never been Muslim. For the first time, I felt ashamed to be Australian.

I look at our indigenous people, who, according to the UN, have the second worst quality of life in the world, and I wonder about our lucky country.

Australia is the best country in the world… for me. But I’m not the only one who lives here.

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Do we even know whom we voted for?

2016-07-04 20.14.47Australia is awaiting the drawn-out verdict of our election. The probable hung parliament is an unsatisfying result confirming fears that Australians either don’t know what they want, or don’t have confidence in anyone to deliver.

A big part of the problem is that most of us don’t really know whom we’re voting for.

This became mind-twistingly clear to me chatting to both my ‘leftie’ and right-wing friends and trying to reconcile all of their opposing views based on contradictory evidence.

It was daunting to think that as an educated person, I had next to no chance of figuring out what would be good for our country. I wasn’t sure there was any information I could trust.

Were the candidates really whom their websites portrayed? Could party policies be taken at face value or were there hidden agendas that I could never support? Was there truth or merit in any media reports? Do any of us have any idea what is actually going on behind the scenes of our country in defence, or international relations or economics or anything?

As I watched the election count ‘barracking’ for the party I thought I wanted to win, a friend jokingly reminded me that it probably didn’t matter anyway:

Whoever the Illuminati want to get in will get in.

Let’s hope that’s not the case, but either way one thing is still true: God knows who will get in, and whether the world goes to pot or not, He’s got the end game covered.

What not to do when you travel to another country

10435070_10152346014383143_5684411763653682514_nA couple of weeks ago I was in Mataranka, a tiny town south of Darwin famous for its hot springs. Tourist spots like this draw people from all around the world and it’s not wonder with the clear, warm water and natural foliage draped overhead.

As we swam, I overheard a Swiss couple, probably in their mid sixties, speaking in German. Knowing that one of the greatest things about travelling is the opportunity to speak to people from all around the world, I struck up a conversation with them in German. My Aussie/German friend Nelly soon joined in, and we heard all about their trip around Australia.

Perhaps they felt comfortable with us, speaking their own language, but it wasn’t long before they were expressing some strong opinions about what they’d seen. Our country quickly came under attack as they expressed their disgust at the living conditions, treatment and segregation of our Indigenous people. They capped it off with a stinging assessment: They’d travelled all over the world, and never seen anything as bad as what they’d seen here.

Having just driven across the country feeling these same concerns myself, I felt chastised and ashamed but also annoyed at their condescension.

Despite all they may have seen, they had not walked a mile in our shoes. I was challenged to recognise the privilege it is to be welcomed in to a country that is not my own, and to accept what it offers, without handing out my judgements and criticisms.

Wondering if I really know my country at all.

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I’ve just returned from a road trip with three girlfriends. We drove all the way across Australia, from one coast to the other, south to north.

On our first day of driving, as we left our city and drove through the countryside, I felt an almost umbilical connection to this land. My love for my country and my sense of pride in it runs deep. It’s what I know, it’s my home, and it’s been good to me.

By the end of my trip, however, I began to wonder how much I know my country at all.

The face of Australia is so multi-faceted, that I began to realize how vastly different my experience of ‘home’ is to other people’s. Outside the cities we drove through rural farmland; country towns that have a lifestyle and culture of their own.

Beyond that, things change even more. Decades of bush lifestyle have been carved out in remote regions, where a run down roadhouse is the central social hub and isolation is a way of life.

Further on we came to Aboriginal lands; where children roam the dusty streets with vicious looking dogs in the middle of the day.

And I wondered about school.

And I realized how much I don’t understand.

And we discussed and debated what should be done, and realized that we don’t have the answers.

And we wondered if anyone does.

And I thought of the bright lights of Sydney…

…and it felt like another world.

Why You Won’t See Me In A Bikini This Summer

Picture1Bikinis seem to be a way of life during Australian summers, but I’ve decided you won’t see me in one.

I’ve had people suggest that perhaps the reason that I’m never seen in these ‘barely there’ bits of frills and lycra is because I’m ashamed of my body, or lacking in confidence. It isn’t.

To be honest, the reason you won’t find me baring it all at the beach, along with everyone else, comes down to my Christian fatih. And, hard as it is at times, that means that I don’t always follow culture.

The Bible consistently calls for a radical standard from its followers and when it calls for women to dress modestly… well try as I might, I just can’t find anything modest about the bikini.

My body was not created to be flaunted to the world. It was created first as a temple of the Holy Spirit and then for the eyes of one man. Not because I couldn’t enjoy the attention of dozens, but because I was called to a radical standard.

I think that as Christians it’s really important that we don’t judge others who don’t agree with our standards. That’s not our job, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stand for what we believe in.

So this year, I’m making a stand for elegance and modesty, and I know there are a lot of girls out there who will be joining me.

(For a really interesting look at the evolution of the Bikini and the way in which it has affected our society, check out Jessica Rey’s talk here.)

Remembering that my Body is Amazing

383185_8493I spent the last five days in bed with a nasty virus. One of those ones that has you staggering home from work on the first day, crawling into bed with the quilt pulled high, and shivering uncontrollably. (And this is Australia remember, it was 32 degrees that day. Celsius)
After sleepless nights, and constant doses of Panadol, a sore throat, sore ears, (sore everything), the fever finally eased off and I had a few hours respite.

The following day the fatigue hit and I found myself almost more debilitated than when I was fighting the fever.

I had an amazing moment though as I lay, crashed out on my stomach on my bed. ‘You know what?’ I thought, ‘I don’t have to do ANYTHING.’ As I lay there I thought about what was happening in my body. It was as though a legion of microscopic soldiers were in there, primed for the cleanup job, and all I had to do was lie still and let it happen.

Somehow, completely apart from my thoughts or intentions, my body was going to clean away the rest of the virus and then gradually restock its depleted energy sources. Within a few days I’d be better. Just from lying there and letting it all happen.

And I wondered: which takes more faith? To believe that there is a God who designed and orchestrates it, or to believe it all evolved by chance? I know which one I find easier to believe.

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What it Feels Like to Jump off a Cliff

Thanks to Luke George who took this photo a couple of years ago at our cliff jumping spot.

Thanks to Luke George who took this photo a couple of years ago at our cliff jumping spot.

If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you follow?

Actually, yes I would.

One of my favourite summer activities is cliff jumping.  There’s a spot about 2 hours away, where the deep ocean meets the cliffs to form chiseled inlets.

There are various heights from which you can jump. Three meters; seven; fifteen. I once saw someone jump from about twenty meters and was afraid I’d see their body splat onto the rocks below.

I say I love cliff jumping, but to be honest, everything in me hates taking the leap. As I stand on the edge, every nerve ending tingles, frantically bombarding my brain with the instinctive message that jumping is a bad idea.

I hate the moment when I almost jump but don’t, and then, even more, when I launch myself out and have that split second realization that it’s too late to go back.

I hate the feeling of falling; legs kicking at the air; arms tensing in an attempt to defy gravity.

I hate the way the water hurts if you hit it on a bad angle, like a mammoth slap.

In fact, there is only one thing I really like about cliff jumping. It’s when the water catches you and holds you momentarily in its belly, and you rise and break the surface and feel ecstatic triumph. When you know, with a sense of pride, that all your friends jumped off a cliff, and you were brave enough to follow.

We’re Free to Abuse our Political Leaders (but we’re also free not to)

broken-glasses-1_2379464I live in an amazing country in which our freedom of speech extends so far as to enable us to publicly slander, poke fun at, or disrespect our political leaders. This is a right I would not be without.

Unfortunately, however, there seems to be a general consensus that not only should we have this right, but that we should exercise it.

Leading up to our recent election, social media was rife with slander and abuse; people pushing their own agendas, and openly condemning those who didn’t agree. As I drove to work each day, I saw campaign posters; the faces of those running for the right to represent our communities, disfigured by graffitists.

On election day, as the votes were counted, I waited for the inevitable. As soon as it was called, the abuse started. I saw the new leader of our country being called names that I would not allow my high school students to call each other. I saw people threatening to leave the country as if the world were coming to an end. Have some global perspective!

Maybe it’s time to grow up Australia. You have a voice. But you also have a choice in how to use it. Use your voice to vote; use it to campaign; make your opinions heard, but don’t be the high school bully. Let’s show our leaders some respect, whoever they are, because we didn’t achieve one of the best standards of living in the world by ourselves.

My Post-Adventure Bucket List

Towards the end of high school, I began composing a bucket-list of sorts. It had the usual things on it: skydiving, eating snails in Paris, seeing an aurora, getting a degree and writing a book. Most of them I’ve achieved, but as I look back, I’m not sure they’re actually the most radical things I’ve done.

Bucket-lists can be beneficial but they’re all about forward-planning and imagining. Sometimes they’re not realistic. Life may bring restrictions like health, finances, time or circumstances, and suddenly our dreams are out of reach.

As I reflect on my life, I realize that my BEST bucket-list is my POST adventure one; the things that I’ve already experienced that I’d never have imagined up myself.

Here are some of the things that I’ve done that weren’t on my bucket-list:

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I took this photo while paragliding near the Annapurna Ranges in Nepal.

Flying over Mt Everest

Walking across a Burning Ghat on the Ganges River

Paragliding with eagles in the Himalayas

Cliff jumping into the ocean

Being elbow deep inside a sheep, trying to deliver a lamb

Road-tripping through torrential rain in outback Australia

Living life to the full isn’t always about planning, but about making the most of every opportunity; appreciating what we have been given, rather than focusing on what we’d like.

I may never see an aurora, get a PhD or travel into space, but I have no doubt that I will have experiences that I never would have dreamed of. I’d hate to miss them because I was so focused on my own plans.