BRIDGES OF FRIENDSHIP ACROSS THE OCEANS
Australia-India BRIDGE School Partnerships Project – 9th to 19th March 18. Our adventure began as we gathered at 0600 hrs at Terminal 3, IGI Airport, New Delhi. It was as if there were three factions in that one larger group –excited students, anxious parents and the teachers. Those few moments of us standing outside the airport entrance went by as if in a few seconds, and …we were off!
We reached the International Terminal at Sydney Airport the next morning after a layover at Singapore. It was a rushed experience as it involved figuring out how to go about immigration at Sydney’s international terminal, and then rushing to catch a transfer bus to the domestic terminal to take a Virgin Australia flight to Townsville, our final destination. Our onward journey had almost come to an end!
Just before our descent in Townsville, North Queensland, I woke up from a deep slumber and looked out of my window. What I saw was beauty I had never witnessed before in my life. Clear skies, white candyfloss clouds, wide roads, the sea, and green all around. It was a simply breathtaking view… and one could only anticipate what more the trip withheld.
Our host families, along with Ms Elena Hawkins (the Head of Department of International Programs at our host school, Kirwan High School) and her team, received us at the airport. My host family – The Browns, along with their friends Lilly and Kylie were there to meet me and I knew immediately that my stay with them would be a wonderful experience. The Browns and their friends then took me to Castle Hill, an isolated pink granite monolith from where one can view the entire city, including Magnetic Island, an island just off the coast of Townsville.
On the next day, Sunday – 11th March, most of the host families took us Indian students to places of interest, and for me this meant a visit to the Rock Pool and The Strand.
12th March, Monday, was our first day at KSHS – Kirwan State High School. Our host families packed lunch for us and dropped us off at school. The school had arranged a welcoming ceremony for us, where we were introduced to our school buddies. These buddies were to help us and take us to their classes in school. After the welcome Ceremony, we were introduced to some of the art forms of the aboriginal (throwing spears and Boomerangs, playing didgeridoo or the yigi-yigi) by the art teacher Les Tanner. We also tried our hand at making some native dishes like Vegemite Scrolls, Pavlova cake (a fruit dessert), scones and cookies.
The next day, we visited the Port of Townsville, a commercial port that dates back to the 1880’s. We were given a short tour and presentation of the port. Since Townsville is near the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, the Port Authorities take utmost care not to damage the ecosystem of the Reef.
The much awaited full day excursion to Magnetic Island was slated for 14th March. We travelled to “Maggie” as it is locally called, by ferry and travelled around the island by bus. We spent time at Horseshoe Bay and swam in the sea. We saw the cutest Rock wallaby at a bus stop on the island.
We visited the James Cook University, Townsville campus the following day, and were given a campus tour. We also got a chance to observe the Marine Biology and Chemistry lab classes, where we watched specimens of Phytoplankton with live forms of zooplankton. The University personnel had put together a presentation about their University and the courses conducted there.
But this week was not only a sightseeing excursion. We attended classes with our school buddies and worked on our Sustainability and IT projects collaboratively with them. As part of the Sustainability project, we built water filters with specific materials like coal, sand, gravel, sponge, etc.
On our last day in KSHS, we performed a song and a solo guitar performance as a token of gratitude to our host school during a Special Assembly. We also presented a set of paintings done by the Primary school students of our school to KSHS. This was followed by a fun-filled session on bush dancing, a local folk dance form.
Saturday was our last day with our host families. My host family took me to the hugely popular Billabong Sanctuary. I indulged myself by cuddling koalas and wombats, feeding little joeys and ducks, holding a writhing carpet python and a freshwater crocodile. We saw the giant Salty, Jaws, being fed and took selfies with dingoes.
The moment for goodbye came all too soon. And Sunday saw us bidding adieu to our lovely host families who had looked after us so well for the entire week. The journey home was filled with happy memories of Australia. While we were eager to return home, we were hit by bouts of nostalgia of the week gone by. We returned to our Indian families loaded with souvenirs, memories and a very red tan!
Friendships forged and bonds strengthened with friends- old and new, Indian and Australian. This “Bridge Program” really did live up to its name for its built bridges of friendship across the oceans.
– Ananya Bhagwat, Grade 9 , Shiv Nadar School GurgaonMar 29, 2018 by Shiv Nadar School Gurgaon