Sunday, February 13, 2011

Australia Day

I know I'm a bit late in blogging about it but January 26th was Australia Day! When I was at my culture camp from the 4th to 8th of January in Los Angeles all the other aussie exchange students were talking about all the australian memrobilia they'd brought to celebrate Australia day. I on the other hand had completely forgot and didn't have so much as a flag to celebrate so quick smart I skyped my mum and told her to send me as much aussie 'junk' as she could find. I say junk because most of the merchandise sold to celebrate Australia day is made as cheaply as possible and usually found int he $2 stores (not 99c stores like they have in the US!). Luckily on about the 23rd of January I received a box from Australia filled with tooth-pick sized flags, balloons, napkins, stubbie holders, flashing and non-flashing aussie badges plus an aussie flag themed hacky-sack, a giant flag, bandana, wallet and a cd of classic bush songs! That parcel made me grin from ear to ear, never before had I felt so happy to be surrounded by tacky aussie merchandise. I've labelled this year, 'The Year Of No Year'(but those of you in the know will know that technically the year of no fear was last year but it's really applicable to me for 2011) so I knew I had to do something wacky for school even though I didn't know many people at that stage. My mum had also sent me a set of sweatbands and a matching headband with the Aussie flag on it so I knew I had to suck up the courage and wear them. I also wore one of the flag badges and an aussie rubber wristband and took a bag filled with the hundred odd tooth-pick flags to pass them out to people at school. Although I looked totally crazy I had such a blast and have never felt more patriotic and proud of my country in my life- one girl asked me what was with my get-up and when I explained what day it was she said "Well I never wear anything for Mexican day"! Everyone enjoyed getting their tooth-pick flags and I gave them to a couple of my teachers who stuck them on the classroom walls. My choir teacher was the most excited by the small gesture her face lit up when I handed her the flag, I totally made her day!

After school we had a bit of an Australian day bash. I put on the cd with the bush songs, we blew up balloons, used the giant flag as the tablecloth and set out the napkins. Me and Hannah, my exchange sister played a little game of hacky sack whilst our host dad set up the barbeque. We had a lot of trouble finding some decent sausages. They had everything but a decent beef or pork sausage at the supermarket, they had chicken sausages, hot dogs, big fat italian sausages, bratwurst, sausages that were sealed up in air tight packaging and then there were breakfast sausages. Why an earth you would need a specific type of sausage for breakfast is beyond me but they were the closest thing we could find. I was pretty chuffed being in charge of the BBQ and turning the sausages, I've never really done it before and I felt so Australian! Unfortunately the sausages weren't quite the same as real Australian ones but I really didn't care as our little Aussie feast reminded me of home and I was as happy as pig in mud! I even made Anzac biscuits that day too which we pigged out on for dessert, they're like oatmeal cookies but 10 times better. It was a shame about the sausages so I'm going to see if I can get an Aussie recipe off a friend for homemade sausages but other than that I had the best day out!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's not all sunshine and rainbows here.

About two weeks ago, January 17th, was Martin Luther King Jr Day in America, a holiday I have never celebrated before. In Australia racism hasn't been much of an issue compared to the United States. To me, just the fact someone would actually consider making blacks take back-door exits and sit on different seats on buses is just crazy- African Americans are still Americans and are still humans for that fact and should be given some basic rights. My host mom even said that when she was a little girl growing up in the 60's in California, black people had to use different toilets and were sent to the back of the bus. My US history teacher showed the class a short cartoon clip on what would have happened if Martin Luther King didn't actually die but instead went into a coma and awoke thirty years later. In the clip Dr King wasn't too impressed with present day society as they hadn't progressed the way he had hoped. My teacher, Mr Valencia was discussing with us how segregation still exists today as my school, Santa Maria High School has approxiamately 80-90% Hispanic students whilst the nearby highschool, Righetti has the complete opposite with approxiamately 80-90% Caucasian students. For me coming to America I did have quite a few expectations of what my life, home and school would be like, even though my exchange company, EF reminded us several times to assume nothing. So walking into a school where you see only about one or two white teenagers at a time(if not less!), is a little different. My first day at the school was almost like stepping foot into another country(ie. Mexico) as everyone looks and dresses differently and many of them speak Spanish too. Righetti High School was actually the closer high school to my house here and originally I was going to be attending there but it turned out that they were too full. But if I had just gone there I don't think I would have had the cultural experience I'm having at SMHS.

I have also heard that an exchange student who went to Righetti said some of the kids there weren't very nice yet at SMHS I haven't heard one rude comment even though I walked solo past many big mobs of guys who you'd speed past if you were in the streets at night. However in my suburb of Orcutt(just outside the Santa Maria town centre and closest to Righetti) I had a young white male honk his horn at me as I was on my way up to the shops. I actually had one of the mexican guys from SMHS drop me home one day to Orcutt and he was surprised I lived there and still went to SMHS as he exclaimed "This is like whiter-than-white town!". It's kinda sad how people don't mix as a Hispanic girl in my history class said to me that she lives near Orcutt(AKA Whiter-Than-White Town) and she said that she just doesn't talk to her neighbours. I think it's really good that they have exchange programs like EF to help share cultures and show what different people around the world have to offer. We need to embrace our differences!