June 13, 2011
Kangaroo Island was magical. I feel like my entire study abroad experience was justified by this one utterly unreal week. The trip was sponsored by Conservation Volunteers Australia, and there were seven of us: a big guy named Tiny who has been volunteering there for years, two Korean boys, a German woman, a woman from Australia who works in Scotland, a Chinese girl, and me. There was Peggy, a goanna, echidna, and tiger snake researcher. All we know about these animals is from her research. And there was Mike, who worked in 40 different countries, spent a lot of time living in the wild by himself (well, with the animals, he corrects us), and started the Pelican Lagoon Research Center, which he built by hand. Peggy and Mike were both incredibly kind and generous with both their hospitality and their vast pools of knowledge. I learned so much from them about plants, animals, sustainable housing, and life.
The seven of us lived at the Research Center with them, in houses that were hand-built to be energy efficient and completely sustainable and self-reliant. And we learned to build, and helped build stone houses. Their home is incredibly beautiful. A group of kangaroos lives with them. The alpha-female, Rooby, was adopted by Peggy because Rooby was orphaned when her mom was roadkill 18 years ago. Now Rooby is a great-grandmother, and the whole pack lives right outside of the house.
I helped an Aboriginal man named Carno plant trees, and he taught me that the best way to plant them is to have my back facing the sun, which gives the plant the most energy. He taught me lots about his culture, told me stories about giant kangaroos and emus and showed me their tracks. He showed me colorful rocks and told stories about how they represent different tribes. Carno is an amazing person.
I saw possums, black yellow-tailed cockatoos, many wedge-tailed eagles, a mushroom that looked like a boulder, feral cats, and rainbows every single day, everywhere! A peacock flew in front of our windshield while we were in the van, and it just hovered there for a while, and we had to slow down so we didn’t run into it. I’ve never seen a wild peacock in flight before. I imagine this is what seeing a phoenix feels like!
I was really sad to leave Peggy and Mike. They are such incredible people, and if I could stay with them forever, I would. But, I still had more adventures. The German girl and the Scottish girl and I went on an exploration of the western part of Kangaroo Island during the weekend. We went on lots of hikes, slept in a comfortable barn that had a fireplace, visited the remarkable rocks before breakfast, saw lots of koalas, went to Hanson Bay which is a gorgeous beach, saw an echidna in its natural habitat, visited a bee farm, climbed Prospect Hill during sundown and saw the entire island from the top, and then took the ferry home.
The trip made me think a lot about what kind of lifestyle I’d like to live, and it also made me realize that my life has hardly begun, and I don’t need to figure these things out now because throughout the course of my life I’ll be exploring different careers and making new places my home. I just have to take it all in stride and find beauty in everything, and love generously, and the combination of all things I will experience, I’m sure, will be tremendous.
Bernice Chu is a senior majoring in Global Health & Nutrition and Environmental Science. She traveled to Adelaide in spring 2011 and kept a W&M blog of her travels. In her spare time she plants gardens, reads Roald Dahl books, and plays the ukulele to her cats.