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Kangaroo Korner

posted Jun 29, 2014, 11:31 AM by Bowmansville UMC

Hi, everyone, and welcome to my last article on life in Oz.  With summer coming in, I thought I'd stick to the lighter side of topics, with enough material to take you through both July and August.  So here we go...


We here in Australia, although very much an 'outdoor' culture, still love our sports, TV and movie entertainment.  It amazes me that most of the television entertainment comes either directly from imported American TV series and movies, or from 'knock offs'.  For example, we have our own "Dancing with the Stars" and "Australia's Got Talent" to name just two of many.  As to live theatrical shows, I have to opine that Australia doesn't have a patch on (a colloquialism meaning 'can't hold a candle to' or 'can't compete favorably with') Broadway in NYC--or anywhere else in the US for that matter. We have a large variety in our own right, and some are quite good, but most of the best are those that are imported from the Broadway stage.  From my experience, the standard of acceptable quality here is more lax, which often leads to a less polished, sophisticated presentation. The emphasis is much more on the casual and humorous here. 

The movie industry rarely makes a mark outside this country with its films, but we are blessed with amazing actors like Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackson, Geoffrey Rush, Rachel McAdams, Clive Owen, Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, Toni Collette, and more.  Curiously, our biggest musical names, Kylie Minogue, Olivia Newton John, The Bee Gees, and Queen, to name a few, are either British performers who made their fame in Australia, or Australians by birth who found their fame in other countries!  Of course, popular foreign musicians like Michael Buble and Josh Grobin are universal household names, as are all the greats of the past (Sinatra, Cole, etc).

As to sports, we have the same hype, huge stadiums and avid followers as anywhere else, but with a few differences.  Swimming and surfing are almost an obsession here; fishing and water sports like water and jet skiing, wind surfing, kayaking, canoeing, pleasure boating and rowing are quite passionately pursued, and going to the beach appears to be a national pastime.  None of this is a surprise considering the most densely populated cities are those on the ocean shores of this continent.

American football doesn't exist here, rather we have 'Footy' (or 'League'), which is an entirely different game.  Curiously, soccer here is the same as it is in the US, but is known in many other parts of the world as 'football' (confused yet?).   The closest thing we have to US baseball is 'criquet', which is really a very different animal as far as I'm concerned.  We have rugby, tennis and some croquet, but bowling here is called '10-pin' to differentiate it from an outdoor game called 'lawn bowls' that looks suspiciously to me like the Italian 'bocce' (which I saw being played in the park here by members of our Italian community).  If you've been following all that--'good on 'ya, Mates!  In the snow belt of the country, skiing and snow boarding reign, and there is even a Mt. Selwyn! 

The flora and fauna is what you would expect in the tropics--lots of azaleas, orchids, hibiscus, delicately flowering trees and bushes (my faves are the 'jacaranda' and the 'bougainvillea'), all the summertime flowers of WNY--except they pretty much bloom year-round here.  And I love the fact that WNY's Christmas cactus and poinsettia bloom here several times a year! Our national flower is the 'kangaroo paw', which grows as a furry puff on the end of a thin stalk, and grows in a variety of colors.  It really does resemble the animal's paw, and my florist imported some for my wedding bouquet.  

As to the natural wildlife (as opposed to the bikies and hoons from an earlier article), we are richly blessed by so much variety and uniqueness in the thousands of species of animals, birds and wildlife that inhabit our rivers, oceans, rainforests, deserts and national parks. Kangaroo and koala are well-known, and you've likely heard of wombats, the wallaby,Tasmanian devils and dingos.  A new favorite little one for me is the 'quoll', which looks like a white spotted, brown coated field mouse, and which is currently the subject of a concerted effort at re-population in Kakadu National Park.  It faced extinction when cane toads were introduced to stem a growing problem elsewhere, but which in turn were being eaten by the quolls.  The cane toad was poisonous to the quoll, so the current program is actually teaching the baby quolls not to eat the cane toads--and it seems to be working, as the quolls are beginning to proliferate again after being re-introduced into the wild.  Then there's the 'bandicoot', a cat-sized marsupial that also resembles a mouse, but has an elongated snout.  It's not a particularly attractive creature, but I just like saying the word... 

Bird and water fowl life are extraordinary, my local favorite being the Lorikeet, a beautifully and richly colored small bird with a lovely, musical call that visits our balcony garden and thrives in the trees and bushes that surround our property.  But there are also magpies, ibis, flying foxes (very similar to bats, but with kinder faces), budgies, and hundreds more, as well as the flightless emu and ostrich. 

The lizard population is interestingly varied, and tiny little geckos often find their way into your home to feast on flies and spiders.  They aren't obtrusive here, but every now and then I see one--no worries.  Water dragons are interesting pre-historic relics that can be found all along the river system and even around lushly vegetated private pools.  They don't bother anyone, but are fun to watch lazing in the sun.  They scurry away if they feel threatened by your presence. 

We also have whales and dolphins in the ocean, seals and penguins in certain beach areas, and bull sharks and crocodiles in the rivers.  But it is the astounding bird, animal and sea life of the Great Barrier Reef (including, of course, the coral itself) that has captured my heart.  What I experienced while snorkeling there was unlike anything I can even describe-so breathtaking was the reality.  Sel and I recently watched a 3-part TV special on the reef and it's inhabitants, and we taped and saved it to view again because it was so miraculous. 

There are flies and mosquitoes and little 'no-see-ums' too, but they are only obnoxious in the very arid bush, deserts and mountains of the country, as well as in the outback rivers.  In fact, they can be so miserable that you have to wear a full-face netting over your hat, and even then, you may be better off just staying on the tour bus!  On that same topic of problematic nature, kangaroos can be very destructive on night raids of townships.

An interesting side note is the relationship between the government operated national parks (Kakadu in the Northern Territory being one of the most well-known and visited) and the Aboriginals who reside there and are known as the 'Traditional Owners'.  The wishes of the Aboriginals are honored as the primary law.  For example, the crocodiles that make their way into the rivers of the park in heavily touristed areas must be removed, of course, but they may not be killed unless sanctioned for food use by the Aboriginals in that area. And if there is a particularly prized croc (perhaps because of its age and/or size), if the traditional owners refuse to allow the kill, the croc must be captured and removed to allow it to live out its life on a croc farm.  These farms then also present another type of tourist and research facility.

In 2003 Cliff and I visited Kangaroo Island as part of a small group of tourists.  We were cautioned by the ranger to move as silently as possible, with no talking or laughing--whispers only if necessary--and were instructed to "observe, not interact" with the wildlife.  That's a good general rule to follow, I think, and one which both the Aboriginals and Native Americans understood as necessary to a respectful sharing of life and the land.

As far as Food is concerned, we are very similar to WNY in our love of food and in its preparations.  The biggest difference, as I've said before, is that certain things have different names e.g. french fries are 'chips' here, potato chips are 'crisps', cakes are 'sponges', and there is no actual equivalent to our pudding--that's just sad-- (the closest thing is mousse, but that's just like our mousse).  We also tend to use the British pronunciation for 'tomato' (toe-mah-toe); the US's 'ketchup' is Oz's 'toe-mah-to sauce'; and a bar-b-que is a 'barbie' (actually pronounced 'bah-bee').  We also have some fruits and vegetables that are only known or at least common, if at all, in certain parts of the States or in the Hawaiian Islands, like paw paw and passion fruit.  Our patio is the only known place to experience strawberry rhubarb pie and American potato salad (both of which are quite sought after among our family and friends), and 'beer' is its own universal language and beverage of choice.  But the end result is the same--obesity has become a problem here too (but not because of our patio--honest).

I hope you've enjoyed your tour of Australia through my eyes.  It is a beautiful country with rugged and glorious landscapes carved from centuries of nature's changes.  In addition to our travels, Sel and I have been learning a lot about all of this through some recent and magnificent TV series on nature and geology.  In many ways it is still an untamed continent, but with a uniqueness and breathtaking beauty, and a natural force still very much at work, that I cannot help but love and respect the more I learn of its heritage.

My love to you all, and I hope to see you soon on Sel's and my planned trip back to WNY this summer.  And as always, please remember to pray for the world's children.




"I love you for putting your hand into my heaped-up heart, and passing over all the foolish and frivolous and weak things...and for drawing out into the light all the beautiful, radiant belongings that no one else has looked quite far enough to find."  Anonymous