Thursday, January 28, 2016

Alice Springs

After our crazy night and day in Adelaide, we boarded the plane to Alice Springs, right in the middle of Australia. The flight crew chief is tall, bald, and wearing a black suit and red tie. A bit intimidating. But if I can handle the outback, I can handle him. 

I was excited to see the Red Center terrain. The books and movies make it sound so harsh and unlivable. This was the view from the plane.

This is now the screen saver on my computer. It got even better from here. 

It does look pretty harsh. 

We are a long way from ANYWHERE.

Scarab beetle was a beautiful find. 

We landed in the late afternoon. We had to take a shuttle to our hotel and then walked a few blocks to our tour company to check in. Most of the shops were closing in just 30 minutes but the guide advised us to avoid the galleries anyway, as the paintings are overpriced. There are always aboriginal artists in the park ready to sell their paintings direct. There were just two artists there.

The first woman sat quietly and had just one painting. I think it was because she was so talented that she'd already sold the others. She had a beautiful painting of two kangaroos on a bright white background. She was clearly skilled, I just didn't like the lack of color in it and was looking for something more bold and traditional looking. But I'll never forget her. Her face was so dark, her eyes so deep, her lips so large and distorted in shape. She looked like she was 104 years old. She could barely communicate with me. But she knew how to say "thirty" to tell me the price. She looked right at me and I couldn't begin to imagine the harsh life she's had. I wish I had bought her painting too.

I chose this painting from Jimmy Marshall. He had a mutilated right hand and some on his left. He was the artist and I asked if I could take his picture with his work. And I insisted he sign the painting. So they grabbed a ball-point pen and signed it on the nearest post box. His wife helped him with the spelling.

I completely forgot the information that aboriginals don't like having their picture taken or 
I'd have been more cautious about asking, but Jimmy didn't seem to mind at all. 
Whatever it took to sell the painting. He held the canvas and said, "Hello!"

His wife had many scars on her back. They looked like cuts that varied in length but were deep enough to spread open and leave a wide scar. I learned later that the aboriginals have a tradition of "sorry cuts" to settle disagreements. If someone has trespassed another, it may be determined that appropriate restitution is to give them a "sorry cut." Sometimes it is mutually agreed upon, and sometimes not. Sometimes they are given to each other until the one or the other party decides they don't want anymore and agrees to accept guilt. Definitely outside of the modern culture. You can see already how bridging the gap between the white Australians (invaders from England) and the aboriginals who have lived here for 30-60,000 years is very complicated and nearly impossible.

They didn't have change for my $50 note, so I said I would go to the store and get change. They didn't want me to walk away so his wife offered to go with me. I had to reassure them repeatedly that I would indeed come back. They eventually let me go.

After buying food and getting change, we headed off to ANZAC hill to watch the sunset as suggested by our guide. We were able to see just a small portion of town on our way. I was surprised that it was much greener than I expected.

This was the river bed, which was nearly dried up. 
But just two weeks ago there was rain so everything had greened up quite a bit. 

The river bed. 

They go to great lengths to preserve a tree. Here they built the building around the tree. 

Almost everything bears the English name as well as the aboriginal name. 
Here ANZAC Hill is also "Untyeyetwelye."

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. They banded together to help Britain capture the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey in 1915. It was a more difficult battle than anticipated and many soldiers were lost. April 25 is now ANZAC Day, when all military personnel are remembered for their sacrifice. 

Food was sent from home to sustain the soldiers. Because of the long delay in the food arriving, they had to send something that would still be nutritious and edible on arrival. What was first called a "soldiers' biscuit" is now known as an ANZAC biscuit and you can buy them now in stores. It is essentially an oatmeal cookie. 

While we waited for sunset, we noticed millions of ants in a wide path along the edge of the monument. They turned out to be more interesting than the sunset.

Alice Springs

Because of my soil science class, I recognize small plants living in the cracks of 
boulders is the beginning process of breaking down hard materials into new soil. 
Here I'm seeing a millions of years process just beginning. 

I know my hat is dorky, but there is a hole in the ozone layer over Australia and New Zealand. 
UV rays are harsh. You can feel the sun bite your skin in a different way. 
1 in 3 Australian women are diagnosed with skin cancer by age 85. 1 in 2 Australian men. 
That's half of them. HALF.  
I wear 55 SPF sunscreen everyday and wear a hat when I'll be out for awhile. 

Good graffiti artists are welcomed everywhere. 

Not much time to enjoy Alice. The light was fading and we had to get up at 4:30 to meet our tour bus. 

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