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Darwin and the slap in the face

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 25 March 2008 | Views [1308]

Feeding the fish in Darwin. Fun!

Feeding the fish in Darwin. Fun!

I’ve been running. I admit it. I’ve been suffering the controversial ‘cultural cringe’ for most of my life. When the opportunity arrived to escape, I took it. I’ve been living abroad for 11 years. And I came back to a slap in the face.

We arrived in Darwin to torrential rains. Pretty typical for the time of year (i.e. the wet season). At the airport there were sniffer dogs, white men with sun roughened faces (similar only to men I’ve seen in South Africa) and courting a  burly look.  People were friendly and talkative, even if it was one o’clock in the morning.

So far, so good. I was happy to smell the rain. I missed the proper heavy have-it-all-in-one-go-rains I’d grown up with. This pitter patter they have in Europe is a bit of weak sprinkle in comparison. We stood outside in a a que for an hour before the bus  arrived. But the driver explained it was the rains that had caused the delay. Again that talkative friendliness so typical of Aussies.

We stayed in backpacker’s – Gecko Lodge – and ate the pancakes served up by a fun, talkative, bike touring English guy.  In the communal room about 6 teenage men, varying in age from 20 to 40, were slouched heavily, with bleary eyes around the TV. Well, that’s ok. Its what I expected and still I was ok.

Then we went into town. As they promote, Darwin is a one street modern town. Its clean and tourist friendly. There are signs telling you where to go (pun intended) and lots of restaurants, pubs, live music and walks. We walked along the beach. A pretty promenade (I’m aware of  all my alliteration).  And that’s when it started to go down hill for me.

We heard a deep voice. Obviously in distress. Yelling. Pause. But the waiting, and then the voice yelling again. And as we moved closer, and we could hear the abuse pouring forth, I was thrown back in time.

My early childhood, of screaming, of yelling, of anger, of alcohol, of the same swear words put together in the same telling way. The same intonation. The same despondency. The same calling.

And it felt like a slap in the face. A wake up call. For me to face this unpalatable reality of Australian life. To stop running away in denial. I was old enough now, with enough experience and more maturity, to look the reality in the eye and try to make head or tail of it.

The yelling came from an Aboriginal male in a park. He skin was as black as I’ve seen. His jaw was slack. His eyes bleary and red. He was yelling at an invisible (obviously visible to himself) foe.

The episode repeated itself in varying forms during the three days we were in Darwin. We witnessed an Aboriginal couple yelling at each other in the street. She was angry at him, and yelling loudly about his lack of loyalty, and he was yelling back about her lack of trust. And most of the people watching, and I will say they were all white, walked past with a bit of smirk around their mouths and an indulgent shake of their head.  I was fuming. I couldn’t think straight. Jett (our 8 year old son) wondered what was going on. Why where they yelling at each other. As soon as he heard the word ‘drunk’ he too just kind of shrugged as if to say, well, what can you expect then and I don’t need any more explanation.  I can accept that attitude in an 8 year old. But not in grown adults. I’m sure there is a lot of caring, I’m sure that there are some people that ‘do their bit’, but I didn’t see it that day. 

And then what?

Ahh, there’s the rub.

Then what….

(pause to look out of the window. I have a pretty view. I’m typing beside a ceiling to floor window. I look out over a turquoise pool, the palms gently moving in the breeze, the sun shine through the leaves making pretty shapes across the paving.)

I’m so uninvolved with the painful things of this country. I teach about inner spiritual guidance. I talk about  the self and self responsibility. Maybe its time to look out and act out the compassion I feel on the inside.

Feelings are great. But compassion isn’t compassion if it doesn’t have action.

And then I think, god, what can I do? Teach yoga? Talk about meditation? Who really cares about that stuff? 

But I guess, the same with every new project. Each journey starts with the first step. Every query starts with the first google search.

Tags: relationships, responsibility


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