Learning in Australia: Strange Days

By BJ Poss
Elm Staff Writer

A light ringing begins to break the silence into which I have been consuming myself deeper and deeper. It’s my watch telling me that it has just hit three o’clock in the morning. I look down off the edge I’ve been sitting on, only to see six stories of darkness laid down beneath me.

I’ve been in Australia for almost a month now, trying to find all of the answers I came here looking for. When you’re in one place for any extended period of time, you start to fall under some sort of both self and generally perceived norm or label of yourself. All of you know just what I’m talking about. But I am in a new place where I have never seen or met any of the people that I am coming into contact with, and they know absolutely nothing about me.

The reality is that I can be anybody I want to be for these next four months. Not to say that I don’t like the person that I am back home, but perhaps I will uncover another side of myself that I didn’t even know was there in the first place. Almost like I have a second chance at who I am, while still being myself. I can step into a
direction that I may have passed up on the first time around.

Since getting here I have experienced things that I have never even come close to in my entire life. I grew up in southern Maryland and have never been off of the east coast for more than a week, or in any real city for more than a weekend. So this is a completely different animal to me. To start off with, this is in no doubt pound for pound the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life. There’s just something about it, everything seems to pop out just a little bit more. I don’t see the spray painted writings on the city walls as graffiti; over here it’s pure art. Every part of this place oozes with expression of something or someone. You can just tell that it is all there for a purpose.

Even to this day, as I ride the bus over to Burleigh Heads, I just think to myself, “there’s no way the grass could be greener on the other side.” The thing that has hit home the most for me so far is the freedom of the kids over here. Even though I want them all to shut up as they sit behind me on the bus, you can tell that they have absolutely no worry in the world. And this doesn’t come from them knowing they can get in trouble because their parents can pay their way out of it. If anything it’s just the opposite. As they joke around in their worn out Van’s and torn tank tops, you can tell that they know they don’t need any of the things that some of us feel we can’t live without. Maybe Janis was right after all, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

So it’s a Saturday night, and for the first time in my life I am actually legal. We decide it’s about time to start saving a bit of cash over here, so instead of going into the city we dip off into the local bar across the street from campus to hang out for a while. It’s not a quiet bar by any means, but is much more homey than the clubs full of strobe lights and mashed -up house music that I’ve gotten used to over here. So it’s a nice change of pace. It’s closing time, and as I walk around in the mob of people huddled around the exit of the bar, I realize that the people that I walked over with had left already.

As I try to make my way out I run into a small group of people and get caught up in conversation. Some of them I knew already, but a couple of these were new faces. One of them in particular I recognized as the lead singer of the local band that was playing at the bar all night. Turns out a couple of them live right down the street and invite us all over to chill out and have a beer for a little bit. I didn’t know that I was walking into what was a palace of an apartment compared to my dorm room. Leather couches, covered balcony on the water, the whole nine yards. We all start to get more comfortable with each other as they bring out a Big River Harp and an old Cole Clark and begin to slowly pick away.

It was a real nice mellow mood, one that I’ve missed from back home. But after a little bit, the itch for something more starts to take over as I notice they’re doing construction right next to the balcony, which has a full construction platform that goes up farther than I can see. So next thing I know I’m looking down as the rest of the group turns back while I continue to climb. For some reason I was convinced it was some type of failure if I didn’t reach the top.

A light ringing begins to break the silence into which I have been consuming myself deeper and deeper. It’s my watch telling me that it has just hit 3 o’clock in the morning. I look down off the edge I’ve been sitting upon; only to see six stories of darkness laid down beneath me. I scoot back a little bit onto the roof as I look out to see the lights of the cityline illuminate the dark night just as a light drizzle breaks out. I don’t mind, I’ve always thought there was something special about rain in the night. Sitting on this drenched dark roof, I honestly was more in touch with myself than I had been in a long time.

When I boarded the plane for my thirteen-hour flight, I thought that I was missing something that I’d be able to figure out through my journey here. But what I ended up stumbling upon was that I’ve had it all this entire time. Sometimes it just takes a real moment for you to realize it. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned so far through this whole thing is how amazing it is what you can see sometimes when you’re not even looking.

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