I’m starting to figure out that Australia has an unfounded reputation for dangerous animals that want to kill everybody. Whether I’m talking to a Peruvian or a South African I learn that people are afraid of our snakes and spiders.
Personally I think someone in our defence ministry realised that we could avoid being invaded if we exaggerate our dangers, but it makes us sound bad-ass when we downplay the dangers too, right? Whoever first exaggerated our animals was a crafty bugger, and undoubtedly one that used it to try and get laid. Because it’s so full of tripe. I’ve never once been bitten by a snake and the spiders are actually rather pleasant (how’s my downplay game? 😉 .
Today I had to do a presentation on Australia as a demonstration to students at a school I want to teach at. I was lucky compared to my friends. I had Year 9 students and they had an advanced ability in English. All I really needed to do was keep them interested and engage them in conversation.
But here’s what I learned about my own country from my students, judging from the questions they asked.
They wanted to know about our music, but they especially wanted to know about our dancing.
Well I don’t understand what national dances we actually have, but the students didn’t understand that. So I showed them the heel and toe. I panicked, okay! It’s the bush dance I remember in Primary School. “heel and toe, heel and toe, slide slide slide slide…..left hand clap, right hand clap, both hand clap, on your knees” and then you link arms with your partner and twirl around. (In Year 4 the girls had cooties so it was a horrible exercise, and in Year 6 I asked a girl out to graduation, and she said no (she ran away actually), but we danced during the heel and toe and as we clapped our knees she said ‘see, we got to dance anyway,’ Then I never thought I’d actually be dancing this miserable bush dance at Year 12 graduation, but I did, so there you go. There’s many memories).
I showed the students’ Tash Sultana’s Jungle and they loved that. They wanted to know if we had a traditional dress and the best I could do was show them Indigenous traditional dress, and by then I felt a little sad. I wasn’t sure what culture a whitie like me had that was actually special. Does that make sense?
I showed them a video of the Crocodile Hunter (Mr Steve Irwin himself) and the teacher knew he died in an accident so I had to tell them how (sting ray barb). And I felt a little sad when I told them the story and they could see that.
I taught them that Canberra was our capital city (they thought it was Sydney) and I even taught them how to pronounce it (they thought it was Can – Berra). Then as an extra favour to my nation I taught them to pronounce Melbourne (Mel-ben, not Mel – born).
We spoke about unusual animals they might not have heard about, including the bilby and the Quokka. I showed them the Quokka selfies online and they loved that.
“What about your snakes and spiders?” they asked.
“What about them? They aren’t dangerous. Everywhere has snakes and spiders.”
“But you have giant ones.”
That’s a bit rich, coming from students that live in the same country as the Amazon.
I feel they learned a bit but then they wanted to show me Peruvian music, and I almost fell for it but the teacher said my time was up (I was supposed to only have half an hour tops and I went double that time).
I’m not sure if I really taught that much, but they remembered basic geography. And I feel there was a connection with the students. They liked me but they were beginning to test my discipline by the end.
I’m writing this from a Starbucks. I had to order a flat white (I am an Aussie after all) and they spelled my name ‘Criss’ and that’s kind of cool because I was bored of my spelling anyway.