Saturday, 27 March 2010

Queensland - G'day mate

Queensland, Australia - what a journey this is going to be!  For those of you who regularly read this blog, I'm just back from two weeks of 'real' travelling around Cuba and it feels like centuries since the last time I blogged.  One of the great things about Cuba was that I got a break from 'being connected' with the rest of the world.  As much as I love Facebook and Twitter and my blog, it does no harm to get some time out every now and then.  On the flight on the way over to Havana, I watched Julie and Julia which was an amazing movie and I can understand now why people draw parallels with what I'm doing, although it's vastly different (apart from the cooking bit).

I've been writing this blog for seven months now and I've really enjoyed it.  I've had over 1,000 hits, from all over the world and, most excitingly, from places like Lesotho, Oklahoma and Paraguay, ie. the places I've been blogging about.  For those of you who are visiting for the first time, in the next month or so, I will try to immerse myself in the history, culture, music and cooking of Queensland.  As much as possible, I will try to see the world from the point of view of a Queenslander and I will try to understand what it is that makes Queensland tick.

One of my closest friends in the world (and a regular reader of this blog) is from Melbourne so, thanks to her, I have learned an awful lot about Australian culture already.  I've also read The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, which is a truly inspirational book and really helped me understand Aboriginal culture a little bit and the idea of the first people being 'caretakers of the land'.  I've listened to a lot of Australian music, watched Muriel's Wedding, got addicted to Kath and Kim and Summer Heights High (also the Einstein Factor when I was living in Thailand and had ABC - I wish they would make a British version of this quiz show).  My point is that, with a country like Australia, I will have to dig even deeper to learn new things.

I thought Queensland would be an apt starting point as, compared to Victoria or New South Wales, it's a part of Australia I know very little about.  Of course, we've all heard of the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the Great Barrier Reef.  I know about Queensland's amazing climate, how important tourism is to the state and I've also vaguely heard about the Torres Strait Islanders, although I don't know why.  I guess Queenslanders have had a lifetime of being compared to Victoria and New South Wales - even the name suggests that Victoria got there first.  I get a sense that Queensland's history has been one of playing 'catch-up' with these two bigger states.  One of the first things that has become really apparant to me, in my prelimary reading, is that Queensland today is an incredibly dynamic place.  It seems to hold all the aspirations and drive of modern Australia.  Australians from other parts of the country are moving there in their thousands.  So much so, that Queensland is poised to take second place in the population stakes by the late 2020's, overtaking the older and more established communities of Victoria. 

A brief glance at today's edition of The Courier-Mail, Brisbane's main newspaper, shows me that immigration is somewhat of an issue for Queenslanders (and all Australians?).  The main newspaper article is about a group of 'boat people' from Afghanistan and Kurdistan, who've been taken on a shopping trip to the Centro Toombul shopping mall in Brisbane.  I must admit, I really hate the term 'boat people' - something about the fact that the word 'boat' is put before the fact that they are people.  The image of people floating around in a boat, not identifying with their origins, somehow negates their home culture.  They're not Afghans or Kurds, but generic people who came to Australia on a boat - as if their culture or political repression is somehow not interesting enough to be defined. 

I think it's going to be an interesting and challenging experience learning about Queensland.  I have books, movies, music lined up.  Still need to look at things like traditional recipes (I wonder if you can buy crocodile meat in London?) and I also want to listen to local radio from Brisbane, keep an eye on the newspapers and perhaps find an interesting blog.  I'll also try to follow some Queenslanders on Twitter, as I've found this a really useful way of getting an insight into the daily lives of people in the countries I'm learning about.  If you're from Queensland, please leave a comment and tell us something about what's great about your state!

I'm leaving you with a video from YouTube which shows images of Brisbane - it's (quite strangely) silent and seems to be part of a series by YouTube user pleasetakemeto



Image credits:

The image of the Queensland flag has been created for Wikimedia Commons by user Denelson83 who is male and comes from Vancouver Island.  He has contributed a lot of flag images to Wikimedia Commons, so thanks Denelson83 for sharing these with the world!

The wonderful image of Noosa River in Queensland is by a very enthusiastic flick photographer whose username is neilalderney123 - his real name is Neil Howard, he's orginally from Brisbane, but now lives in the Channel Islands.  Thanks for sharing this with us, Neil. 
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