So Long Australia!

Hello from New Zealand. I'm on my way back to Tonga after just over two weeks in Brisbane, Australia. It's been quite a change from Tonga but I'm ready to get back and resume my duties in the Peace Corps.

It's hard to explain the culture shock you experience going from a developing country like Tonga to a fully developed country like Australia. After almost a full year in Tonga it is easy to forget what the rest of the world is like. When you spend every minute of your life surrounded by pigs running wild and roosters crowing at all hours, it's amazing how 'silent' the sounds of a big city become. My first trip to the grocery store in Brisbane was like being in another world, and I guess I was. The produce section was so colorful with so many fruits and vegetables, many that I had forgotten even existed.

Once I got past the initial culture issues, I found myself loving Brisbane. It's a great city, very clean and very environmentally friendly. I'll elaborate more on that in a minute, but first, I'll preface my comments by saying I haven't been in the USA for a year so my frame of reference is a bit schewed. It's possible many of the same initiatives I saw in Australia are now underway back home as well.

Here's a small sampling of some of the cool things I saw related to the enviroment.

  • The country just hosted a national "walk to work" day. Still to come is a "Leave your car at home day" when everyone will be encouraged to use mass transit. Both are efforts to get people out of their cars for both exercise and fuel efficiency.

  • Many of the building have rainwater tanks attached to their gutters to collect rainwater. This is very common in Tonga and is what I drink, but even in the downtown areas of Brisbane, you see the effort made to capture and conserve water. Every toliet is dual-flush and most of the urinals are either no-flush or waterless. In parks, you see signs that they are watering plants with reclaimed water and they also have tanks to gather the rainwater. (I've already mentioned the effort to get people to stop drinking bottled water.)
  • The transit system is fast and well connected. It's easy to get a train to most locations and all stations are connected by buses and ferry service with free transfers. Even in off-peak times you never have to wait more than 30 minutes for a train. Compare this to South Florida where Tri-Rail trains only run every two hours on the weekend. (As of when I left for Peace Corps).

  • Most of the cars are small. Not tiny, but sedan size and smaller. No huge SUV's. (Yep, I drove an SUV for probably 10 years).

  • The TV News stations do Green Updates during prime-time talking about other efforts underway to be more eco-friendly.

There is a lot more to Australia than just the eco-friendly things I've mentioned. However, these are the things that really jumped out at me.

I spent my last night in Brisbane eating a GREAT meal. I had some of the best lamb I've ever eaten and walked away from the restaurant stuffed like I haven't been in a long time.

My plane should start boarding soon. It's three hours late. Yes, clearly some things haven't changed during my year away. I'll be in Tonga for three more months before I venure out again. That's when I'm heading to Virginia and Florida for the Christmas holidays.

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