Connections [part I]

"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal."
-- Albert Pike
I awoke before dawn to two degrees Celsius.  My teeth chattered as I used the outhouse and freezing water.  Along the Stuart Highway, en route to Alice Springs, I saw two large buzzard-like birds feasting on a kanagaroo on the side of the road.  Except... they were much larger than buzzards.  They were larger than my dog back in the U.S.A.!   Also, I thought I saw a dingo but it was a mostly black four-legged animal and I wasn't sure if dingos were that dark, but who knows in Australia?!

Back in not-so-modern civilization, I had two orders of business before I revisited Sydney:  return my unused groceries to Wooly's a.k.a. Woolworth's and return the hire car.  I went to the grocery store at the main hub in Alice Springs and the clerk refunded me for everything but 6 potatoes and 2 ears of corn.  "Why?" I asked.  "Because we don't have a scale at this cash register" was the response I received.  The impatient, pre-Australia me wondered "Why can't you just refund this at any other register then?"  However, the content, peri-Australia me understood & let it go.

I turned around and saw a skinny, somewhat forlorn aboroginal man sitting on a mall bench.  Reflexively I approached and sat next to him.  I explained that I could not take food on the airplane but that the vegetables were only a few days old.  I asked if he would eat them.  He did not look my way and felt distant.  I was jolted back to reality.  Did he not know English?  Was he deaf?  Worse, was it against his tribe's religion to talk to a foreigner? Had I insulted his position and pride by being a woman offering food to him? Suddenly I felt extremely sheepish. I quickly reiterated my point, handed the bag to him, smiled unsteadily, and left. 

I stopped at the food court to eat a crepe & replayed my foolishness in my head.  I acted ignorantly and impulsively, though at the time it seemed sincere to give away the produce.  10 minutes later I randomly looked up from my breakfast and saw the same guy leaving the plaza.  He saw me, gave me a wide, heartfelt smile and waved goodbye.  I grinned & waved too.

Uluru was a personal, defining moment for many reasons.  This moment was equally defining but for another reason: it transcended time/gender/race/social status/origin/everything.  The aboriginal man's reaction made my entire Australian trip worth it in a connective way that no monolith ever could.  I lived the power of attitude and diving into the unknown without harboring preconceived notions.  I learned that sincere gestures are usually met without hesitiation or prejudice.  For me, the aboriginal man affirmed smiles and hand waves are the universal language.

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