The thinker

"What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality."
-- Plutarch

My last day in Australia had arrived.  I realized that I acquired a few basic things while living overseas that were crucial to my independent life in Oz.  In the process of preparing to leave I shed: a comfortable pillow to sleep on (makes all the difference); a mobile to call for information; a library card to borrow maps of Australian hostels/caravan parks; an Aussie bank account since American credit cards/money would not suffice as deposits; a towel to dry myself off.

Four hours before my airport shuttle departed for SYD I made my last two choices -- what to eat & where to go. First, I decided to spoil myself & ate only chocolate covered strawberries for lunch in the middle of Hyde Park.  It was a sunny, clear day & all of Sydney ate their lunch outside (there hadn't been too much of this weather in the last month).  A rugby team practiced.  The bums were awake.  Competitors played life-size chess.

Next, I revisited St. Mary's since the last time I went with Mom the doors were shut for mass.  This time it was mid-week and calming inside.  With all the sunlight the stained glass windows glowed magnificently.  I sat in reflection.  I thanked the Lord for my infinite blessings, especially the opportunity to live in Australia, and other usual things.  Most pressing, I asked Him for strength and acceptance to endure returning home & starting anew financially, physically, morally and emotionally.

Last, I went to the Australian Museum.  It was worth every penny.  The only tellie a.k.a. television I can really tolerate is Australia's Deal Or No Deal & U.S.A.'s Discovery Channel, but the museum was like every good show and channel compacted into one thrilling place!  Let me say, if you don't know anything in the next paragraphs I suggest you Google it -- you won't be disappointed!

INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA:  Tons of real Oceania artifacts like Vanuatuan slit drums and Aboriginal coolamons.  There were also spears, didges, pipes, carved eremonial walking sticks, elaborate headdresses & a Possum cloak.  There was so much I forget a lot, but my favorite part was all the photos of adorable, smiling Aboriginal children.  Another great showcase taught about the Aboriginal flag's makeup: yellow = sun, black = their people, red = the Earth.  Just having been to Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park it was much easier to relate.
PHOTO COMPETITION:  All blue-ribbon worthy in my opinion!  I swear every photo was more intriguing than the last:  an odd-looking spider; blood suspended; an explosion that created the color spectrum; the negative emu image from Yulara's sky show (see "The Stars Are Projectors"), however, only one time a year it rises directly above famous emu rock art -- and the one time coincides with the only time emus give birth.  Hey!  I saw that image in person two days ago! I was two exhibits into the museum & already having a ball!

SKELETONS:  Exactly like its title, but bones of very unusual or rare animals, the exhibit included flightless birds like cassowaries & kiwis.  It was amazing to study the shell of a giraffe or massive boa constrictor.  Also, there were skeletons of both monotremes.  I learned that only males have heel spurs and their legs are positioned like reptiles'.  There were even hands-on tools for kids -- which you know I explored!  I examined a whale's baleen plate and cuttle fish's only bone.

CRYSTAL GALLERY: A little redundant when coupled with the next exhibit (see below).

GEOLOGY OF AUSTRALIA:  Native & foreign rocks/minerals in all types of cuts and colors. There was the beautiful Tiger Iron, vivid Azurite, and Malachite with its jade color.  I could not believe some of the objects were not damaged as they were removed from the Earth, which naturally made these funky shapes!
DINOSAURS:  As a four year old in preschool, I remember being the only girl -- or child for that matter -- to know more than 10 dinosaur species.  I was ecstatic when I learned half of the top floor of the Australian Museum was dedicated to these extinct animals.  There were extremely large casts of dinosaurs & a humongous impression of a reptilian footprint in Queensland.  Plus, there was a dino named after Australia's premiere airline: the Qantassaurus.

I pushed onward.  The museum one-upped the dinosaurs by showcasing other extinct, archaic animals such as Diprotodon -- the world's largest marsupial.  Google these!  Also displayed was a current wombat's skull size compared to an ancient wombat's skull size.  The difference was shocking!  You mean my third favorite animal, native only to Australia, was not always soft and lovable?  Nope.  In fact, based on the prehistoric skull -- with its sharp teeth -- scientists assume prehistoric wombats used to eat meat =(  Equally freaky, there was a withering skull of a deadly Terror Bird.
SURVIVING AUSTRALIA:  All about the country's native and isolated animal life.  The exhibit highlighted deadly spiders, more of the monotremes, and various biomes around Oz.  Even though I was 25, there was a fun interactive water table that changed whenever a finger touched its flat surface.  I learned about dangerous sea creatures & finally saw a sample of deadly Irukandji.  How would you ever see these tiny, inxorable creatures coming for you?  Sadly, there was little about the Box Jellyfish.  Also, I learned about the top 25 most venemous snakes, of which 20 lived in Australia!
BIRDS & INSECTS:  With an assortment of stuffed birds I was able to identify many of the birds I had seen while walking Forest, at the beach, or at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo.  With the insects, there were absolutely lovely collections of butterflies.

CLIMATE CHANGE:  Truthfully, the most influential exhibit within the museum walls.  It was devastating and foreboding.

Let me touch on something I have not emphasized in my blog until now.  Eungella National Park, Harbour Beach, Australia Zoo, Sydney Aquarium, Sydney IMAX and Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park, in addition to every Lonely Planet book, referenced the impermanent nature and wildlife of Australia.  I could not walk through an oceanrium in Sydney without reading about the illegal marine animal trade -- the third largest illegal trade in the world.  I could not watch the evening news without the mention of the disintegration of the picturesque Kimberley region.  I could not read about an animal at Australia Zoo without also reading how their habitat was being destroyed by deforestation, urban spread, and human influence.  I could not find all the creatures in the Pacific at Harbour Beach without seeing at least 7 tankers from China parked in the middle of the ocean awaiting crude oil.  I could not watch Aussie tellie without seeing a commercial urging citizens to help save The Reef.

There were two decade-by-decade chronologies of our world:  one marked Earth & humankind's progress if we stayed on our current path.  The other marked how we could be coexisting for the next 60 years.  Agent Smith's epiphany kept replaying in my mind (from The Matrix), "I'd like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species, and I realized that humans are not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. Instead you multiply, and multiply, until every resource is consumed. The only way for you to survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern: a virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer on this planet, you are a plague..."

Each decade's outlook became more and more bleak.  Soon, there will be no more Great Barrier Reef -- the only living organism able to be seen from outer space.  Soon, acid rain and smog will deteriorate much of Italy's famed sculptures, churches, and fountains.  Due to global warming, when the sea level rises just 8 meters from further floe/ice melts, Greenland will be completely under water.  The landmarks, countries and wildlife I have seen in my lifetime and want to show my children will be obliterated too soon.  The most depressing thought?  We have the power to change this!

Yes, the museum was beyond thrilling -- so wonderous that I was almost left behind by my airport shuttle because I was 15 minutes late.  It was mind-boggling to read and semi-experience past life and culture.  Yet I fear everything I have seen in Australia will be in the Australian Museum before my kids are grown.