Canberra and democracy
This is a tale of me travelling to Canberra from Sydney for a day trip with a colleague. As the day was starting, I was running past the ticket counters at the train station in Bondi Junction, to catch my train to central. I was 10 minutes late from my ideal schedule since I got lost in the car park of my newly moved in, apartment. It’s confusing to get down from one elevator and enter a car park thinking that there should be a way out to the ground level — Sri Lankan ignorance I presume.
10 minutes of so in the train, I was trying to find where the Eddy avenue was on the Google map to get on to the Grey Hound coach. My friend, Asitha was waiting for me outside the coach with a kebab wrap I asked him to buy since I couldn’t catch breakfast. This kebab wrap my friends, is in a level of its own. Filled with mixed meats, it will fill you up half way through it.
Coach ride to Canberra I thought would be boring turned out to be very interesting. We saw a roadway accident, where the police cars were parked around the vehicle and policeman horse-back was going around. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the fire brigade was already there. Another interesting part was seeing weather changes throughout the journey. Some parts towards Canberra, mountains and the fields were covered with a thin layer of snow.
And then we saw lake George. Lake George is very mysterious- you don’t see water on the lake at all. All you see is marshy lands. The water has dried up, but you can see the marshes from far away. You can also see ‘billabongs’ — aboroginial word for water holes in certain corners of Lake George. They seem to be the local innovation before the immigrants arrived. This somewhat lines with the great lakes and dams built by ancient kings in Sri Lanka.
When the bus was coming towards Canberra — it was driving through the memorial drive for some time. There are trees planted in honoring the national heroes who served in World War II and Vietnam.
When we got to the city, the most notable thing was that buildings were not as tall as Sydney. The architecture and the layout of blocks were different. People seem to be different too.
In the main Canberra city center, there was an Indian food festival and everyone was enjoying Indian food and occasionally crying the spices out. I for my aversion to Indian Food settled for some local Thai. Before I arrived there — I had my morning coffee in hand and it seem to me that I had some coffee tanginess when eating the spicy Thai food. And did I tell you, that I started eating more Pad Thai — in my previous trip to Bangkok with Yudanjaya, I didn’t really appreciate Pad thai. But it’s in Sydney that I found the wonder of Pad Thai!
After having lunch, we were strolling through the shopping malls to pick up a My Way card (the local Opal card). Compared to the Opal card, there is an initial fee of 5$ (at the time). We topped 2 card up for 15$ since we had a couple of bus rides to take. Next we went to the local ALDI, the supermarket to buy some water. The layout of the ALDI looked similar to Sydney. But one contrasting difference was the type of people visiting. In Sydney, only the low-income thrift saving type visit the ALDI store. But in Canberra everyone seems to be visiting it. We bought a bottle of Sparkle Water, a brand that we thought would quench the thirst.
The main attraction seems to be the federal government’s Parliment house. I have to confess, I haven’t been to the Sri Lankan Parliment house. Going to ours, is much of a shame than a pride since most of the fools seem to indulge in it for far too long. Coming back to the Oz’s Parliment — it’s situated in a park. You can stride through bushes and enter the old Parliment house (for which I can see the kitchen is still active due to the smoke coming from the chimney).
Before we arrived at the parliament house, we ended up getting off on the wrong bus stop and had to walk on the commonwealth avenue for a bit.
At that time, all we could see for a parliament building was a big flag pole.
And we manage to capture the below beautiful moment of me trying to grasp the sight of the Parliment under a signpost that said “Parliment House ->”.
Next few hours of our time was well spent inside the Parliment learning how the current system was working. The Australian parliament is bicameral and there are 2 houses. The house of representatives and the senate. The government is formed out of the house of representatives.
Afterwards, we were strolling through an art gallery which had portraits of influential politicians of Australia. One of the things that I was really surprised and happy about is the representation of women in the parliament. If you take Sri Lankan Parliament — we have a very low rate of women participating in politics and the worse lot ends up there.
However- one thing I did notice was the lack of aboriginal representation in the parliament. As the natives of the island, they should have more representation than what’s currently available in the country. There is an interesting read from RightNow.org.au regarding this issue and they state, “There have only been three Indigenous representatives ever in the Parliament”.
Next ‘attraction’ was the rooftop of the parliament. It was a cool bright day, and luckily the weather wasn’t too cold for us. I particularly enjoyed the view of the city. As I mentioned earlier, there is a flag pole in the middle and it serves as an icon which you can see miles away. The rooftop has a yard that’s decorated similarly to a footy ground.
After our tour of the parliament, we got back on the bus to head to the city center. On our way — we decided to get off from the bus and walk on the bridge that’s across the lake Burley Griffin which interestingly is an artificial lake. Another intriguing fact I found was that city of Canberra was a planned city. The Burley Griffin lake came about when the nearby river Molonglo was dammed.
The lake and the walk crossing the bridge was beautifully relaxing. When we got near to the city, it starts to reek near a parking lot nearby. Ah, the irony of beauty.
We caught a bus again and was heading to the city center to quickly move ourselves to the war memorial. “Maybe the 15$ won’t be enough”, was ringing in the back of my head. Just this one trip. After getting down from the City Center, there was another bus towards the war memorial but it was departing in 20 minutes. We didn’t want to wait for that long. Off we go with our two feet.
The walk towards the war memorial was different; the houses surrounding looked old and somewhat looked like Sri Lankan neighborhood without many houses cramped in together. Some of the houses had a little wooden door outside to enter the garden. Cars were parked on the driveway, therefore, no giant gates are needed. That was indeed a good walk.
The war memorial was a giant building with lots of relics and monuments from the World War II and Vietnam. The path ways around the memorial are dedicated towards platoons and valorous soldiers. The tank outside the war memorial was really cool! Now the sun was going under and the sky has turned into an orange ocean.
We hurried back on the walkway as before towards the city to catch the bus since the bus was leaving at 6 PM. Before running off, we decided to try out the local kebab shop — ‘Alibaba’. We caught the bus and was ravishing the kebab out of exhaustion. Yet it was nothing compared to the kebab that I had in Central. Alibaba was a letdown. I opened up the bottle of water we bought and took a sip, my mouth curled up, “Shit this is soda!”.
Sparkling Water was not a brand but the term for soda. Oh, ignorance how sweet can you be. After that little mishap — we didn’t have water till we got back to Central.
Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. — Confucius