Culture in Australia…Australian diversity…Continuation of Australia Day photos…

This fish mascot wandered about the celebration for photo ops.

In June, 2015 we posted a brief history of diversity in Australia at this link while we were living in Trinity Beach during our first foray into life on the continent.  Australia has a rich indigenous history some of which may be found at this link. 

“Smallest Pancakes in Town”

Unfortunately, we’ve had little opportunity to get up close and personal with the indigenous citizens of Australia as we have in some other parts of the world.  However, we’ve had more readily available contact with the non-indigenous citizens, comprising over 90% of the population, easily encountered in day to day life.

Homemade jellies, jams and condiments.

Now in Tasmania for three months with only 3% of the population as indigenous citizens, interacting with their traditions is equally unlikely as it was when we lived in the mainland with 6% of the general population whom identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

During our many months living amongst the Aussies we’ve found a unique culture that emerged over the centuries as people from many lands migrated to the continent seeking a new and better way of life.  All these cultures are revered and held in high regard. 

Clever and pleasing-to-the-senses soaps.

This morning,  Prime Minister Malcomb Turnbull made an eloquent speech honoring the Chinese New Year, Year of the Rooster, and the Chinese people’s influence and value to Australia.

Not unlike many western civilization, the melding of nationalities contributes to a distinct persona that may be clearly defined over the centuries.  That culture in itself is different in many ways from our experiences in our old lives in the US and in many countries in which we’ve lived over these past 51 months.

Food or soaps?  Soaps!

After living in Trinity Beach, close to Cairns, Australia for three months, spending a few months on cruises with mostly Australian passengers, we’ve come to the point of having somewhat of a grasp on Australian culture.

Whether its their easygoing style of living, ways in which they’ve embraced their love of their homeland, their penchant for humor and lightheartedness, their seriousness and determination in dealing with important issues, and their commitment to integrity and ethics, the Aussies embody a special demeanor we’ve found to be enchanting.

Tom checked out the baked goods but resisted.

From this university site, we gleaned the following description of the Australian culture which we found clear and concise:

“Australians are generally laid-back, open and direct. They say what they mean and are generally more individual and outgoing than many other cultures.  You may think that most Australians live in the ‘outback’ out in the country. In fact, more than three quarters of Australians live in cities and in urban centres, mainly along the coast.
Some key values that reflect the Australian way of life include:

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of religion
  • Democracy
  • Equality regardless of sex, marital status, religion, nationality, disability or sexual preference
  • Peacefulness
  • A ‘fair go’ (equal opportunity) for all and support for the underdog.

In most practical ways, Australia is an egalitarian society in that there are no formal class distinctions. There is no segregation between people of different incomes or backgrounds and everyone is free to live where they like, attend university and follow whichever religion and occupation they choose. (Continued below).

There was a long queue at the ice cream booth.

What are Australians like?

In the workplace and among friends, Australians generally call each other by their first names. When meeting someone for the first time, it is usual to shake the person’s right hand with your right hand. People who do not know each other generally do not kiss or hug when meeting. Australians show respect by looking people in the eye, however they don’t stand as close or have as much physical contact (such as hugs and kisses) as other cultures.

You may find that your Australian friends have difficulty pronouncing your name, at first. Be patient and prepared that you may need to repeat your name or say it slowly at the beginning. As friendships develop, you may find that your friends give you a nickname, which is very common in Australia and is a form of endearment.

Sport Culture

Australians love their sport and most people watch the finals of major sporting events, even if they don’t normally have an interest in the sport. Popular events include the State of Origin and Melbourne Cup.

Men and Women

 Men and women are treated equally in Australia. Women make up nearly 50% of the workforce and most women remain in the workplace after they marry, and many after they’ve had children. Women are also free to breastfeed in public.

There are no social rules regarding friendships or dating in Australia. Friendships with members of the opposite sex, and social events with both sexes are common. It is also common for couples to live together before they are married, or for men and women to live in a share-house together.

People in Australia generally don’t have servants, and men and women equally share the cooking and domestic duties in the home. (Continued below).

The batter fried mushrooms smelled delicious.


Australians often use humour and are considered to be quite sarcastic. The Australian sense of irony may be difficult for you to grasp at first but you’ll get used to it. The Australian accent and use of ‘slang’ may also be confusing, but if there is ever anything you don’t understand, just ask.

Aussie Slang

  • Arvo – afternoon
  • Aussie – Australian
  • Barbie – BBQ/barbeque
  • Bloke – man/guy
  • Boardies – board shorts
  • Brekkie – breakfast
  • Brizzie – Brisbane
  • G’day – good day/hello
  • Goldy – Gold Coast
  • Mozzie – mosquito
  • No worries – no problem/that’s OK
  • Roo – kangaroo
  • Snags – sausages
  • Sunnies – sunglasses
  • Telly – TV
  • Togs – swimsuit/bikini

Of course, there are countless Aussie expressions that are far removed from our familiar use of the language.  Its never a matter of what’s correct use of the language.  Instead, it revolves around cultural language differences from one country/continent to another.

Homemade pillows and casual furnishings.

We’ve enjoyed the Aussie’s use of the English language as unique and entertaining from our own experience such as:

  • When moving from one home to another, they say “move house.”  Whereby in the US its referred to as “moving.”  That simple difference makes us chuckle over their easy use of the language.
  • They don’t say “sports” in reference to sporting type activities.  Instead, the say “sport” in reference to any such activities. 
  • Comparable to the UK, when referring to a  person “in the hospital,” they say “in hospital” a simple dropping of the word “the” in the sentence.

Scented handmade soaps are popular in Tasmania as personal and gift items.

Its these little nuances that make us smile.  There are endless examples of these types of language differences which ultimately are easily understood by unfamiliar visitors.

Pretty bouquets.

We’ve found that Australian news, although serious when appropriate, is often hilarious over the more lighthearted storylines.  At times, they may use a swear word or slang expression we’d never heard from newscasters in our old lives. 

Handcrafter products made with wood.

On each occasion, we find ourselves laughing out loud, loving the ease and humor they include in telling a story. Even their locally produced TV drama series illicit a sense of humor and lightness.

Although we’re a bit isolated in this remote area of Castle Bay Forbes in southern Tasmania, with little interaction with locals on a day to day basis, we can’t help but grasp every moment possible to spend with these special people.

Enjoy the upcoming weekend!


Photo from one year ago today, January 28, 2016:

The grapes were robust and ripe for the picking at the Okurukuru Taranaki Winery near New Plymouth, New Zealand.  For more details, please click here.

Cultural differences abound…The proverbial WC (water closet), the beach and more…Far removed from our own reality…

At this beautiful stopover, we walked halfway to the ocean, but we didn’t spend much time. We were looking forward to returning to the road behind all the vehicles we had already passed. It was Tom’s rationalization, not mine. (Previously we posted a similar photo at this place).

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Sunset from the veranda.

We knew so little about the lives of those living in poverty until we began to travel the globe almost four years ago. Yes, we saw homeless people living in some less-than-desirable areas as close as 30 minutes away from our home in Minnesota.

However, over these years we’ve traveled through countless impoverished areas, at times a short walk from our vacation home. Today’s post is not a “political piece” on our views on poverty throughout the world. Clearly, it speaks for itself.

Instead, it’s an eye-wide-open observation of how many people must function in this world without the benefit of indoor plumbing and electricity, often living in makeshift three sided shanties with barely any protection from the elements.

The restroom areas are unisex. When we opened the door and looked inside, we wrongly assumed this one was missing a toilet.

Others may live in the streets without a permanent place to rest their heads at night, while in richer areas, may reside in their cars, public shelters and camps. Every public space becomes a possibility, far away, isolated or not.

In many countries like Fiji (where we lived for four months and Bali (where we’ll have spent another total of four months) from what we’ve understood from the locals, most citizens care for their own, whether family members, friends or neighbors. But in doing so they too can live in poverty without the conveniences and comforts that the rest of us easily take for granted.

In neither country does the government provide financial support to the poor, people with illnesses and disabilities, or the elderly. In Fiji, healthcare is free. In Bali, one must pay (prices are relatively low for medical care as compared to other parts of the world) or obtain pricey insurance which is beyond the reach of most.

After further inspection, we realized that the narrow bowl was really the toilet. The bucket of water and scoop were for tidying up, not washing hands. Fortunately, we keep antibacterial wipes handy at all times. This facility was clean in comparison to the other facilities we encountered.

In Bali, there is no such thing as government provided food stamps, no welfare, no unemployment benefits and no Food Shelf. The Balinese people aren’t waiting for a handout from anyone. Their joy of life clearly illustrates their independence and fortitude. They work, they share and they’re resourceful. 

Beyond all the challenges of the poor maintaining some form of shelter and finding sources of food, they have the reality of such basic human functions as finding a place to go to the bathroom when perhaps half or more of the population don’t have a toilet in their place of residence.

In yesterday’s post we touched a local tradition of cleaning the entrails of a cow in the river next door and thus contaminating the water, but, also the deification of humans and buffalo in this same body of water. 

Apparently, there was some type of museum here, but we continued on the long drive rather than take time to see it.

Seeing both children and adults swimming, bathing and playing in the toxic water is disheartening and yet they do so with considerable joy and laughter. Our personal concern for their contracting a disease is irrelevant. Most likely, their bodies have adapted to the bacteria. Most likely, they don’t give it a thought.

Yesterday afternoon, as we lounged under the cabana, our eyes scanned the beach in hopes of finding more interesting “Sightings on the Beach in Bali” a daily activity we’ve found to be quite enjoyable, not unlike searching for unusual seashells on our walks along the shore. We’ll excitedly share what we’ve found in an upcoming post.

Tom’s eyes widened and then squinted as he attempted to focus on a man, pointing him out to me, who was on the beach several paces from the water as we observed him removing his pants and underwear in plain view of us and others. It only took a moment to determine what was to transpire next.

A hut on the property, purpose unknown.

Not that far from us, we watched him, bare from the waist down, digging a hole in the sand to use as a toilet. Once he was satisfied with his handmade toilet in the sand, he proceeded to use it with nary a thought of being observed in the open space.

At first, we were a little taken aback. We’d seen people using the river as a toilet, but not the sand on the beach. The man stayed “seated” on his sand toilet for some time, occasionally pushing the sand around and tossing sand in the air. After about 15 minutes, he arose, covered the hole with sand, put on his clothes and went on his way.

Click here to see the video of beaches in India used for the same purpose.

Another statue.

At first, our normal human reaction was, “Oh, how dirty, how unseemly!” But, then as we spoke to one another of the sighting we came to understand and appreciate that such a use of the sand on the beach may not be unusual in an impoverished country. 

Surely, if the man had a home of his own with indoor plumbing, most likely he wouldn’t have come to the beach for this purpose. Then again, could a taxi driver unable to find a restroom, choose this option? Possibly. In a desperate situation anyone could possibly choose this option, although perhaps more discretely.

What a lovely rest stop halfway through the long drive!

There are few places to stop for a restroom on the highway, as we experienced in the four to five hour harrowing drive from Denpasar to the villa. It was halfway through the long drive that we found a place to stop which was originally the basis of today’s cultural story. It was only yesterday’s coincidental sighting of the man on the beach that inspired us to also include the man’s choice of toilets.

We didn’t take photos of the man on the beach. However, we found this interesting video on YouTube about how this is common in India and perhaps, more often than we’d expect, here in Bali and other parts of the world.

Monkey faced statue.

When we were in Bali during May and June this year, we shared a story and photos of an embarrassing experience I had, using a WC at the Monkey Temple. It was a lesson learned about cultural differences that I’ll always remember. 

Today’s photos illustrate a separate experience we encountered only 12 days ago when we stopped to use the restroom at a beautiful spot on the way to the villa only this time, experiencing an entirely different type of toilet as shown in these photos.

The young cow on the right with her newly born calf checked us out, surely concerned for her calf’s well being. Zoom in to see the tiny calf at her side.

Soon, we’re off to Negara, drinking minimal liquids in the interim, preferring not to bring any beverages with us, other than a bottle of water for a few sips during the heat of the day.

We remain in awe and humbled by our surroundings, grateful for our lives of relative ease while becoming all the more profoundly aware of the lives of those throughout the world. 

Be well on this day and always.

Photo from one year ago today, September 14, 2015:

After we arrived in Fiji one year ago we shopped at this tiny grocery that didn’t have much of a selection for us with only three grocery aisles. But, as always, we figured it out and managed to make good meals during the three month stay. For more details, please click here.

A lifestyle story from a local worker…Far removed from the reality of many throughout the world…Familiar to many others…

Overall, the beaches in this area are rocky.

At the moment, we’re the only residents at our resort other than Mario and Tatiana, whose house is quite a distance from ours, almost inaccessible on foot. Other guests are arriving after we soon depart.

As a result, the housekeepers haven’t been as busy as usual with only our free-standing house to clean and the other units in the main building requiring only dusting and general upkeep in the interim. Tidy and often doing much of the cleaning ourselves, our little house requires little work each day.

When Vika arrived yesterday, the younger sister of Usi with whom she splits the workweek, I finally had a chance to “interview” her knowing she didn’t have to rush off to clean the other units. I’ve wanted to inquire more as to their lifestyle since we arrived, but was only able to do so in snippets as they breezed through doing their work seven days a week.

Vika, who lives with her older brother happily shared the nuances of her everyday life, which was surprising in many ways. We had some idea as to the everyday life of many locals from prior conversations and subsequent posts. 

Each household operates on its own level of affordability based on amenities in their homes, income levels, and also a desire to maintain the integrity of their ancestors and generations past, preferring not to adopt many modern conveniences more out of familiarity than for any other reason.

We stopped many times on the beach road to revel in the views.

Vika’s home currently has no electricity. When the power was out over a week ago, it never came back on at her house. I asked her if electricity was generally available at her home. 

She explained having power was an on and off thing and she needed to visit the power company to discuss it further. I offered her my phone to make the call and that I’d look up the number for her online. She graciously declined seeming unconcerned that they’d again have power. 

They have no appliances…no stove…no refrigerator…no radio…no TV…no washing machine…no means of cooking indoors or preserving food from spoilage…no coolers.

We spent considerable time discussing the preparation and storage of food. When our refrigerator didn’t work for 24 hours, we threw away the roasted chicken, mayonnaise, and many other perishable items. 

Now, we understand why the locals were shocked as we tossed what they may have construed as “edible” food into the trash. They have fewer concerns over spoilage. Perhaps, their bodies have adapted to withstand possible illnesses wrought by unrefrigerated foods. I don’t know for sure.

Cooking is another challenge, all done outdoors on rough wood stoves. Also, without a kitchen in their house, all food prep is handled outdoors as they fire up the woodstove to prepare it for cooking for each meal. All wood used for cooking is gathered outdoors, never purchased, other than if it’s a big holiday celebration with lots of food being prepared.

The narrow road we toured.

Keeping in mind, that Vika lives walking distance from us, albeit up and down a very steep incline, it may be difficult for some to envision the simplicity of life in such close proximity. When she or Usi arrive each morning they are beautifully dressed, coifed, and wearing pretty handmade jewelry and earrings. 

They appear as if they are preparing to attend a party as opposed to cleaning in their colorful dresses, often a long skirt and matching short sleeve top. I always genuinely compliment them on how lovely they look as they shyly smile offering a heartfelt “vinaka” (thank you) for the compliment.  

The smile on their faces truly reflects the kind, loving and happy spirit they each possess, as we’ve seen in the Fijian people since we arrived almost three months ago.

My questions continued with such things as:

1.  Do you shop at the Farmers Market?  “No, we have a garden and get all of our vegetables from there and fruits from the trees.” On the property here we could easily gather enough fresh fruit for a family from the available papaya, cassava, pineapple, lemons, limes, breadfruit, and a variety of other pods that are fit for human consumption.
2.  Do you shop at the grocery stores? “Only once in a while if we need a few items like soap for hand washing clothes and other household items. But, not food.”
3.  What do you do for meat without refrigeration? “My father lives nearby and has electricity and a small freezer where he keeps some meat we can use. Mostly, we eat fish that we catch and only a little meat once in a while all cooked on the fire.”
4.  We’ve noticed the locals like bread and sweets? Do you purchase any of them at the bakery in the village?  “No, I know how to bake over the open fire to make the bread and sweets which we do quite often.” (Her mastery of the English language is flawless and the local accent is easy to understand as is the case for both the native Fijian and the Indo-Fijians whose ancestors came to the islands from India with a current language which is a combination of Fijian and Hindi. Vika and Usi are Indo-Fijians, as is the case for Rasnesh and Sewak).
5.  How do you bake over an open fire? (I knew the answer to this question but wanted to hear how the locals do this). “We will place the baking pan in another larger pan of water making steam and then cover it. It bakes the bread and sweets easily.”
6.  The biggest question in my mind was this: What do you do with leftover food without refrigeration? In a way, this question may have been ridiculous. For millennium, the human race survived without refrigeration. It is only our narrow minds (mine included) that assume that people always become ill from leftover unrefrigerated foods. Vika explained:  “We often have leftover foods from cooking. We place them in containers on a shelf in the house. I pack my lunch for work each day.  It may contain leftovers foods from the last day; meats, rice, fruits, vegetables, and a sweet treat.” I didn’t react, preferring not to embarrass her with my western mentality and concern for the safe preservation of food. They obviously have survived for generations eating leftover food without preservation.
7.  My last question: Do you sleep in a bed?  Vika replied, “My bed is a mattress on the floor. I am happy with this. Growing up, we slept on a mat on the floor. As we got older we got one mattress which my siblings and I took turns sharing. It was so comfortable, we couldn’t believe it.” 

The occupants of the houses across the street have to travel a short distance for a sandy beach.

As we’ve slept on one of those uncomfortable locally available mattresses for these past 83 nights, it did enter our minds how many locals may actually be sleeping on mats of the floor. We didn’t complain and made the best of it with no box springs and a blanket under the sheet so we couldn’t feel the mattress springs as much as they were digging into our ribs and hips.

In an earlier post, we wrote about the often lack of a TV, computers, and cell phones for many locals in this and of course, many other countries throughout the world. 

Their evenings are often spent reading by lantern or candlelight, playing games, and doing a variety of handicrafts. We thought of this a week ago when we had no power for less than eight hours. Working hard during the day, plus the difficult walking required to get anywhere with the steep mountain inclines draws them to crawl into bed early. 

Keeping one’s mind engaged may be a challenge for the local people without modern conveniences, digital equipment, and electricity. And yet, they’ve found ways to busy their minds in idle hours. The crime rate is nearly non-existent on this island (not the case on the bigger island). 

This is a popular snorkeling area with extensive coral reefs.

We’ve yet to hear a siren other than an ambulance on a rare occasion, more often than not used by the foreign residents and travelers. The locals would most likely figure out how to get to the hospital with the help of friends or families with some type of vehicle. Ratnesh explained he often provides “free” taxi service for his friends and family, whether on a trip to a shop or for any type of emergency.

Vika and I spoke about cultural differences which she’s observed working around tourists she’s encountered in this job and her past job at a larger resort. She explained that many are demanding with unrealistic expectations. 

Finally, it was time for her to go but before she did, I showed her a few of our favorite videos on YouTube we’ve taken over these past three years. She giggled, enjoying every moment, thanking me profusely for sharing these morsels of our travels with her. She especially loved the wildlife, “Birdie ” and the albatross videos from Kauai, a few of our favorites.

My heart was singing over her joy from this simple pleasure. Without a doubt, sharing with her yesterday was a day I’ll always treasure. Between humans, animals, and exquisite scenery our travels continue to be enriched in each location in a variety of ways. 

We are humbled. We are grateful. We continue on in six more days. 

Oh, oh, ironically, the power just went out…

Photo from one year ago today, November 30, 2014:

A classic car hanging from the ceiling at the Hard Rock Café in Lahaina, Maui. For more details, please click here.