Dr. Eric Conway, touring in Australia with Selected Members of the Morgan State University Choir, sends his latest dispatch:
Today is a travel day back to Sydney. Temperatures in Canberra this morning were cold enough to see your breath in the air. We will stay in Sydney tonight, the same hotel that we stayed the first 3 days in Australia, to take a plane tomorrow to Melbourne, the 2nd largest city in Australia.
Before leaving Canberra, we made two more stops for sightseeing. First we returned to The Australian National University, site of our concert last evening, to stop at the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre on campus. As we walked into the cultural center, we were greeted by another Didgeridoo player, serenading us as we entered the facility. We were given a great 1st hand account of Aborigine culture by the Cultural Center Director Ann Martin whose father was white and mother was aborigine. She presented a didgeridoo to our president, Dr. David Wilson, as a gift to the university. As she spoke about her first-hand experiences as a child to our group, we all felt the sadness in her spirit as she spoke of being separated from other family members due to the local practices of the country. Another employee there, Asmi Wood, a lawyer spoke of never-knowing his parents. He was taken from his parents at age 2. He still remembers a few words of his tribe's language, but just a enough to get by. You may notice that aborigines although considered Black, were not African by descent but from New Guinea. He shared with the group a map of the Aborigine "countries" which were geographical named regions by aborigine tribe. He said that there were over 350 "aborigine countries"in Australia. He said the farther away the countries were from the cosmopolitan regions, the safer their cultures were.
After the cultural center, we travelled to the Australian War memorial. A massive complex which was a huge memorial to the 102,000 Australian soldiers who have lost their lives to war in all the conflicts in their limited history. The facility was at the other end of the War Memorial Mall (parade in Australian lingo). Their mall was patterned after our mall in Washington DC. At one end of the mall was the Parliament Building that we visited yesterday. At the other end of the mall was the War Memorial. The distance between these structures was the same distance between the Washington Monument and Capitol Building in DC - see photos attached. The War memorial which is also a huge museum and cultural center could easily take a day and a half to cover. As we only had approximately an hour to see the memorial, the group took one of two tours - World War 2 or Korean/Vietnam Wars. I chose the latter as I knew a great deal more about WWII than the other conflicts. You will see many photos of aircraft and army vehicles that were viewed through the exhibits.
After the exhibits we visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A few years ago, President Obama visited Canberra. He made it his business to pay respect to this tomb, where so many Australians have fought on the side of America. From the very beginning, America and Australia have been staunch allies. Strangely enough, Australia has never fought a war on their own soil, but always traveling far to assist in the wars of the world. President Obama in paying his respects, was thanking Australia for all the soldiers that teamed up with America for world peace.
Outside of this tomb was the wall of Remembrance where the name of every Australian soldier is shown. Between the names were poppies, to commemorate their great sacrifice. I was told the poppy flower was chosen because during World War I, the poppy was the first flower to grow on the fields of France after their death. The poppy was significant because the red flow symbolized the soldier's blood shed. Below the Wall of Remembrance was an eternal flame that has been burning since the War Memorial opened in the 1970's.
We had lunch in a small town about 20 kilometers outside of Canberra in a small town called Burgendore.
After returning to our hotel, we went out for a group dinner. We all said good bye to Scottie, our bus driver who has been with us these past several days. We presented a small token of our appreciation to him before his departure.
The highlight for many was ordering a kangaroo burrito for dinner. The kangaroo was delicious! It tasted like steak! See photos of the kangaroo burrito served for dinner.
More to come. . . Upon a faster internet connection, I will send a link to video of some concerts and tours of interests.