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.