Friday, September 09, 2016

Australia. It's real.

And all these years I thought it was just a myth.

As you may remember from my last post (last year!), I am part of an incredible scholastic opportunity, a master's education program called Global Field Program (through Project Dragonfly and Miami University).

This year my studies took me to the literal other end of the earth: Queensland, Australia.

Firstly...Australia is every bit as magical as you would expect it to be. It's beautiful, it's rough, it's hot, it's dry, it's cold, it's humid--it's all things and it was quite incredible to experience the unrelenting loveliness of its surroundings and its people. 

A large portion of my time in "Oz" as it's colloquially called, was spent in the Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville--what an experience to be able to sleep with the occupants of the Great Barrier Reef! At one point we were even allowed to snorkel right alongside those aquarium occupants (to familiarize ourselves with data collection instruments when later we would venture out onto the Great Barrier Reef). 

One of my favorite experiences was the day we spent at Mungalla Station, now an educational center about the aboriginal people and their culture. I was surprised (although after, I was surprised at my surprise!) by my instant connection with the people we met there. I don't know what I was expecting...someone "foreign" perhaps, but what I found was a group of native people who were just like me. Growing up in the Cherokee Nation and of Cherokee heritage, I have often felt an instant kinship to other Native American people in my travels, but last year this also translated to the native Hawaiian people I met. And, again, in Australia, one of the only times I felt calm and at peace, "okay" because I was with people "like me", was at Mungalla Station. These experiences have made me very interested in personal connections to place and culture--maybe something for further study (because apparently I'm never going to stop going to school!)

When tasked with choosing a destination for my final GFP conservation trip, I knew Australia was going to be in my number one position. I fell in love with the ocean and marine life many years ago, and it's also one of those places where I'm instantly at peace. One day I will live close enough I can step onto the sand any day I need that soulful rejuvenation. 

The Great Barrier Reef is everything I had hoped it would be. It is beautiful and wild and so so so far out from land! 

It is also filled with creatures you don't get to see every day in Oklahoma. 

Our last stop was Magnetic Island..where these beautiful animals live. Definitely a highlight and something I can't imaging being topped in any other experience on an Earth Expedition!

Unless of course, it's having the opportunity to see this little guy:


Yes, that's a platypus, and it's something of a rarity to spot one in the wild (and get good footage! I was blessed!)

Australia is a long, long way from home. I knew that each and every day. But, the sweet generous spirit of her people, and the gorgeous landscapes and amazing wildlife are something everyone should have in their bucket list.

Even though I can cross it off of mine, I might secretly add it back. For reasons.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Aloha ‘āina

For the past two and a half years, I have been privileged to be part of a very unique graduate degree
program through Miami University, the Global Field Program (GFP). Through the GFP, I have the opportunity to participate in three Earth Expeditions (EE) conservation and learning trips throughout the globe.

For my most recent EE in July, I went to the big island of Hawaii.

Hawaii is a truly magical place. To stand on a lava flow is to stand on the birthplace of an island, to witness a landscape in constant flux. It's incredible, and surreal.

In my travels I've found that  many people of Native ancestry, particularly those who live on Native lands, have a connection to the people and places of their heritage. I know that I personally grew up surrounded by the cultural aspects of the Cherokee and I have always experienced a pull, or gravitation, toward like tribal people and places. It's a recognition on a metaphysical level, and there is a measure of comfort in those moments that I have rarely found comparatively anywhere else.

I found that peace in Hawaii.

Leaving my home and family for 10+ days is never an easy task, and an EE typically requires that you push beyond your comfort levels even further, moving that boundary past the point you thought was the end, again and again, until you look up and you're standing some place you never thought you'd find yourself.

It's both terrifying and addicting.

In Hawaii, I'll admit I was surprised to find the same sense of peace that I encountered on the Hopi and Navajo reservations of New Mexico and Arizona. The Hawaiian people have such a rich and beautiful culture; if I have any regrets about my trip amongst them, it's that I didn't spend nearly enough time in their midst, learning their message and beliefs about their lands. My brief moments spent in their inspiring presence still resonate with me.

With this EE more than any other, I think I have thought more about the people, rather than the place. The place is beautiful! Make no doubt!

But the Hawaiian people are what make the islands such a wonderful experience, and I found myself thinking about them, about their struggle to maintain their own historical and cultural connection to their lands, on my return.

Thousands of people visit the islands every year, and I would wager most take the islands for granted as simply a pleasure spot. What damage has this obliviousness wrought? What a double-edged sword for Hawaii and its people: the profitable tourism industry versus the eventual destruction of their home.

And yet, they welcomed us, and taught us the importance of kuleana, and were grateful and generous of spirit in accepting our offers of help during our brief stay.

My visit, our visit, to the island of Hawaii reinvigorated my decision to dedicate at least this portion of my life to conservation. More importantly, though, it served as a gentle, peaceful reminder, that the people are as beautiful and deserving of my attention and time as any singular place.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

I've moved!

Hello friends!

I've decided to migrate this blog semi-permanently to Tumblr. I love the ease of posting to tumblr and sharing content and the layout and the personal dashboard...I just love it. It does involve a name change since "Quality Time" was already taken, but I like my new name just fine.


Never fear, this content will remain for reference, but I won't be posting here any longer.

If you use a feed reader and need me to do something on my tumblr to make that easier for you, let me know.

Come on over and bookmark me or join tumblr and get in on the fun!