Australia, Life with COVID-19

Hotel Quarantine in Cairns

I packed Thursday morning before work. My two good friends (my double D’s) took me away for my soon 50th birthday next month. We went to Port Douglas in far north Queensland where it’s sunny and warm and also to our surprise there was an event called Carnivale going on.

We were in the warmth. We were on holidays. We were together. We were ready for anything. We talked, we cried, we ate. We danced, we laughed, we slept. We walked, we wrote, we shopped. We healed our hearts, asked questions of life, and shared our honest views of each other’s world. I wish everyone a trio like ours.

On our second to the last day, we went stand up paddle boarding on the Mossman Gorge. It was beautiful and peaceful. After having a relaxing for hours on the river, we came back to a text message from my boss telling me I needed to go get a COVID test. We turned on the news. A person who had recently been in South Australia hotel quarantine tested positive for COVID and had been shopping at the shopping centre I work at on Thursday evening. I worked that evening, and it was possible he could have been one of my customers. The announcement was anyone who had been to Highpoint Shopping Centre on Thursday 20 May needed to get tested immediately and go home until further notice, and here I am in Queensland.

Panic started to squirm its way into our lovely sunny holiday. We were due to fly out in almost 24 hours. This was a problem. I couldn’t safely and honestly answer the questions to allow me to get on my flight. We got onto the Queensland government website, and I filled out the contact tracing questionnaire sheet then rang the COVID hotline. The advice was to stay in our accommodation and get tested in the morning. My closest testing site was a 20 min taxi drive away that opened at 8.30 am the following day. We had to sit tight. The three of us gathered on the couch over cheese and crackers. We retraced our steps from the weekend. The fresh fruit and veg market in Cairns on FRIDAY, Shopping, dancing at the Court House restaurant, watching the fireworks, A cup of tea at a second-hand book shop. SATURDAY: Grocery store, beach walk, Mosh pit at the Siderbait concert, more dancing to live music at the Court House–me the serial hugger making friends on the dancefloor and ‘front row’ bestie at the concert.

Not to mention the few trips to the toilets. SUNDAY: Meandering up and down the stalls at the Sunday market, handing out by the pool the countless people we spoke to over the weekend. We had to laugh at our possible headline:

“Three mothers from Melbourne, Super Spreaders in the mosh pit at Spiderbait concert Saturday night.”

Phone calls were starting to be made to loved ones at home about the possibility that we may need to be in quarantine in Queensland for the next fourteen days. Work. Kids. Life. Potentially all about to be put on hold. We laughed because if we didn’t, the seriousness of it would have made us cry.

The thing that nobody knew the answer to is what shops did this person visit? There could have easily been 10,000 people in and out of Highpoint shopping centre that day. Did I serve him? If so, I rang him up behind the Perspex barriers that the first round of COVID brought with it. I could be safe. What if I had answered his question in the aisle? Maybe not safe. What if our conversation had turned to laughter and book recommendations to each other? Not safe. There were just too many unknowns at this stage. It all came down to 1) getting tested for COVID and waiting for the results 2) the centre management tracing his exact whereabouts through CCTV. Both of these things were going to take some time.

I slept okay but was on the phone early calling the Mossman Multipurpose Health Services precisely at 8.30 am when they opened only to find out that they won’t be opening the testing site today because they were understaffed. My only option now was an hour’s drive to Cairns and an hours drive back. Everyone I spoke to was very clear about getting tested asap and stay inside my accommodation. I also knew that Queensland Health would be contacting me this morning because of the contact tracing form I had filled out last night. We just needed to do more waiting.

A nurse from QLD health rang me to ask questions about my whereabouts at the COVID hotspot site, aka Highpoint shopping centre. After she got all the information she needed, I waited for her to ring me back. She was sweet, empathic and understanding of our situation. I had been in a recent COVID hotspot and possibly infected not just my two friends but half of Carnivale, which was full of people who came from somewhere else just for the weekend. The nurse rang back after instructions from Brisbane. The Cairns Police Dept would come and pick me up from Port Douglas and deliver me to Hotel Quarantine, where I would be isolated and tested in my hotel room, where at this stage could be my new home for the next fourteen days.

“What about my friends?” I asked.

“At this stage, we are only interested in you as you were the one at the hotspot.”

I hung up, told the girls and started packing. My last day in paradise was spent in my pyjamas, sitting on the tiled floor with my phone plugged, answering phone calls and questions from strangers who were all consulting with each other, not knowing what to do in this bizarre situation. Even my head was struggling to understand the severity of all that was happening. The only thing I knew for sure is that I was spending the night in hotel quarantine until the Queensland government knew I was not a risk to their state. Heavy-hearted, I called Jet Star and cancelled my flight to Melbourne that was leaving in a few hours. But I was happy my friends were able to make it home as per usual.

The driver rang my mobile to let me know he was downstairs. My friends walked me down. We said our goodbyes, not knowing what the next few hours, days or even weeks might look like, but they were safe to catch the flight back to Melbourne. We set out on the hour’s drive to Cairns. I took this time to finally send some messages to family and friends who were expecting me to be back in Melbourne tonight.

My driver was a lively, chatty guy who owned a tour guide business that was dormant. He has a fleet of busses he can’t use, let alone can’t sell. Working for the Cairns police has been a lifeline for him. I talked about his splitting his time between Hong Kong and Australia. Hong Kong is where his wife lives, separated not just by oceans but this world pandemic like so many others. Too many business and people have had to reinvent themselves. I’ve got friends who worked for Qantas Airlines who are now working in hotel quarantine. It’s been a long hard few years.

When we were ten minutes away, my driver called the hotel to let them know. The hotel worker then shared with a lady who had been in quarantine only for a few days, tested positive for COVID and is about to be taken to the hospital via ambulance. As we get closer, the ambulance was pulling away. Will I breathe the same air? How safe is this place for me? The original guy ended up catching COVID on his last day in hotel quarantine in South Australia. His symptoms didn’t show up until yesterday, hence why everyone is scrambling now.

The ambulance lights hypnotised me as we pulled up into the parking spot where they just were. My attention then turned to the military guy who stood out front of the hotel and the six masked up officers I could see standing upright inside, all social distancing wearing bulletproof vests. It was an intimidating sight.

They had me wait in the van for about 5-7 mins before I was allowed to get out. I watched a lady walk past the front of the hotel with a box of wine. The military guy came out to make sure she didn’t get too close, but then she started talking to him. Maybe it was wine for someone inside quarantine? While I was trying to follow this wine box to its conclusion, it was my turn to go in.

I stepped out of the van, grabbed my bags and followed my driver inside. Now, as I write this, I can’t remember saying goodbye to the driver. I just found myself standing there wishing I had the guts to pull out my phone from my pocket and record this. Constable So and So stood in front of me very serious and asked me to say my name and date of birth out loud. I assumed he had some camera on his person. I felt like I was being recorded. He read from a laminated card. He told me I was here for fourteen days and that under no circumstances was I to open the door to my room unless they told me to. “From time to time, the alarms go off. You are still not allowed to open your door. If it is serious, we will come and get you. The only time you are allowed out of your room is if there is a fire in your room. Do you understand?” I nodded and said yes. He then pointed me to another officer. This officer gave me a stack of paperwork. I needed to fill out the top three sheets then slip them under the door to my hotel room ASAP for my COVID test. As he handed everything to me, I realised this was the first COVID test that I will take. I’ve taken my son several times, but this will be my first brain poke.

I grabbed my paperwork, and he introduced me to another officer. This officer towered over me, so tall that I just had to comment. I guessed 6″ 6 and was right. We got into the lift together. I was asked to social distance as much as possible and to not touch anything. It was a small lift that only 4 or 6 people could squeeze into in standard times. I complied. We reached our floor, and I followed him to my room. I noticed he was carrying a yellow laminated paper with my name written on it in black marker. I saw the same signs on some of the doors we passed, others here in quarantine. He struggles with the key but eventually let me in and kept the key. “There is a phone near the bed if you need anything”, the officer said, and I said thanks. As the door shut behind me, I could hear him sticking my yellow laminated sign to my door. I was officially in hotel quarantine.

The room was freezing. I put my bags down and looked for the air conditioner switch on the wall. I couldn’t turn it down, so I turned it off. Then I opened my bag and found my coat that I thought I would only need to travel back to Melbourne. I pulled out my phone and did that video, showing people my room and the surprisingly big balcony. I knew about hotel quarantine’s lack of fresh air in Melbourne, and here I had a balcony. I didn’t feel like a prisoner, but I didn’t know what to do either. So I turned on the TV and saw I had lots of movies at my disposal. I called the front desk to ask if I needed to pay for the film. They told me they were free. With my coat on, I crawled into bed and propped myself up on some pillows.

I had no idea who was in this room before me and who cleaned this room. Was it done correctly? I had to trust that it was. The guy in South Australia who started all of this for me caught COVID in hotel quarantine. I pushed the decorative pillow away as it didn’t look like you could put that in the washing machine, laid my head back and searched for a movie to start.

Shortly after I started the movie, I had knocked on the door. I got confused. Was I not supposed to open my door? The TV was up loud. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it down, and then it wouldn’t turn off. In a bit of a panic, I went to the door and said hello? Then I said wait and scrambled for my mask. I opened the door to see two lovely nurses dressed head to toe in PPE. They were here to give me my COVID test. They wanted me to stay in the room with my back up against the door, ensuring I stayed inside my room and stay side to them while they did the test, and they were safe from me breathing on them. But the way they were telling me what to do was confusing, and at one stage, I ended up turned around with both hands on my front door. Laughter emerged as it looked like I was about to get frisked. They stuck a swab in my mouth, tickled the back of my throat, then stuck the same swab deep enough in my nose to make me almost cough sneeze, all while my movie was blaring from the TV.

I went back to the tv to try then figure it out. I was able to stop the movie. The room was still cold, and I realised how hungry I was. My beautiful friends sent me with most of the food from our apartment: I had a dish of fresh veggies cooked in oil and garlic, a loaf of bread, a bottle of olive oil, a box of salt, a few squares of chocolate, three limes, a passionfruit and an avocado. I grabbed out the cooked veggies, got back under the covers and ate. By now, it was around 5.30 pm. My friends should just be arriving at the airport.

I couldn’t figure out how to start the movie, so I started another movie when my phone rang from a Queensland number.

“Hi, this is Andrew from Tropical Public Health Services. They have reviewed the CCTV footage of Highpoint. The guy was never near your bookshop. You are free to go right now. You can stay the night in the room if you want, or you can try to catch your flight to Melbourne.”

“What? Wow. The flight I cancelled?”

I got off the phone with him rang the airline. Having no luck on the phone, I texted my friends at the airport and told them I was cleared and to try to get me back on the flight. I called the front desk to ask how long it would take a taxi to get here and how far away from the airport was I? A 5 mins wait for a cab and a 10 min ride to the airport. This just might work.

In 12 mins, my friends got me back on the flight. Andrew at the QLD Government cleared me to the hotel police, and I stood bags in hand waiting for my police escort down to the lobby.

I met my friends at the gate with 10 mins to spare before we boarded our flight. I crawled into bed just after midnight, my head still spinning from the days’ events.

Currently in Victoria, we are in our fourth COVID lockdown. I am home safe with my kids on day two of a “snap seven-day lockdown’ statewide.

A world with COVID-19, Australia

COVID – Lockdown 2.0

I do not know one single person that has tested positive for COVID.

NOT ONE! That includes all my family and friends across two countries. I don’t even know someone that knows someone that has tested positive for COVID. I feel so far removed. But the morning news on replay keeps COVID front of mind. The bare shelves at the grocery store keeps COVID front of mind. The fact that nobody is allowed in my house at the moment keeps COVID front of mind.

I am hiding inside my house as if everyone around me has it. If I breathe the same air, I will die. That’s what my reality feels like right now, again.

I joke, but I do know how serious this is. I’ve listened to the devastation its causing my home country via my favourite podcasts. Entire families killed off by this coronavirus. My heart breaks and I know I am living among the lucky ones—the frustrated ones.

<img src="https://themelbournemormon.files.wordpress.com/2021/02/e147a-matt-seymour-69zvsgrejy4-unsplash.jpg?w=1024&h=769&quot; alt="<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@honeypoppet?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Sandie Clarke</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/lockdown?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a&gt;
Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

Officially we are in a second lockdown, well for Melbourne anyway. Australia had 191 cases overnight a few days ago—America the overnight numbers soaring over 35,000. But 191 was too many for Australia, especially since most of those numbers came from Victoria, the state I live in and since that day numbers have risen.

Don’t get me wrong.

I support this lockdown.

I want an excuse to close the world out.

Stop letting people in.

Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

I’m an early riser.

My eyes open at 5 am, and usually, I am ready to start the day. But not today. Today I rose and went back to bed. Surprised my body let the sleep come again. I peeled myself out of bed close to 10.00 am, not like me. I had Vanilla Coke and lasagne for breakfast (don’t judge me), again, not like me. No morning walk, definitely not like me. It’s an off day. I’ve accepted it and so should you.

Nothing is normal anymore. Everyone feels it–an uncomfortableness that has spread right across the oceans.

Last week I was on a walk with a friend (when we were allowed to walk together), she took a phone call that she knew was coming. Her boss had to let her go again. Yes second time since COVID she was fired from the same establishment. She took it in her stride. She is beautiful and optimistic.

Now I am eating all the chocolate in my house. Everyone is panic buying pasta and toilet paper again. I need more chocolate.

The next six weeks we can only leave the house for the four following things…

  • To buy food.
  • Exercise.
  • Work. If you are an essential worker.
  • Taking care of the elderly.

They are pulling people over again but, this time the tickets are $1600.00 on the spot fines, not the $1,000.00 like before.

Schools are not officially closed yet, instead, they have extended the school holidays by one week. Teachers are due back next week to get organised, back to remote learning. Everyone knows it: some happy, some sad. I don’t know what I feel anymore.

My son’s sports have been so off and on that, I don’t even know what day it is.

Photo by DICSON on Unsplash

During the first outbreak, I became a statistic of COVID, back in April. I’m a number among many other people that make up numbers. I’m not ready to share just what that is yet. But it’s been my reason for keeping the covers over my head, eating too much chocolate and lasagne for having breakfast.

Be patient with me. I need to be patient with me.

So it seems COVID is here to stay. COVID is our new normal. So chin up, take a deep breath in and let’s move forward. WE GOT THIS! Or at least that’s what I tell myself and what my friends have been telling me.

One thing for sure, I have enjoyed this much slower pace of life.

Australia

Yackandandah is Yack-amazing!

Yackandandah the country town

If you live in Victoria and you don’t know about the Yackandandah Folk Festival, you really are missing out. This place is magical in the ordinary sense. All its residents really care about the environment and show it in their actions. We can all learn from Yack…

Photo by Thandy Yung on Unsplash

In 2018, Yackandandah only had ONE rubbish bin that went to land fill! ONE rubbish bin for the whole year from a whole town. That is truly incredible!

And here’s what they do with the money the town makes from the festival…

In case you are not aware, Yackandandah is now the greenest festival in the country with a share of all ticket sales going to TRY. TRY is Totally Renewable Yackandandah and with the funds from the festival – and other sources, TRY has purchased solar panels for community facilities. With the funding provided Yackandandah now generates more than 5 times the power used during the festival.

They will be the first Victorian town to totally go off the grid. The term “off the grid” refers to living autonomously without reliance on a utility for power. Off-grid living is often ideal for rural locations where there is a lack of reliable grid access. Off-grid homes will require alternative power options like solar energy.

Yackandandah the music

SO you know now how amazing this sweet little town is but let me tell you about the Music Festival they created and have been hosting for past 22 years. My family and I have been lucky enough to attend the last three.

Photo by Tony Rojas on Unsplash

The Yackandandah Folk Festival sells out every year with two camping options in town. Quiet camping and loud camping, each set on a footy oval. Quiet camping is exactly that, where families usually camp and loud camping is where the artists are usually found strumming, singing and drinking into the sunrise.

Each year the festival is set up little different. There are anywhere between 9 – 11 different stages set up around town. Outdoor and indoor stages. Big stages, small stages. Some totally free and some you need to have the Music festival wristband for entry.

You buy a little program book or download the free app to see who’s playing where and who are they. I like a bit of a strategy going into it as it’s impossible to catch every act. So you’ve got to find your taste then soak up their talent.

I always fall in love with some incredible acts. Usually, their music sings right to my heart or makes my body want to dance. Last year it was Ukulele Death Squad. The year before that it was Les Poules A Colin a French-Canadian band that came over for the festival.

One of the best things is having access to these talented artists on the way to bigger pastures. After each set you can find them selling CD’s for $10-$20 and they will be more than happy to have a chat and sign your CD.

This year I even got several hugs and you know that makes me happy. I was in my element listening to beautiful heart-telling prose accompanied by acoustic rhythms. There were great places to get beautiful food but I just wanted something quick to appease my stomach as I ran to the next stage.

There were so many acts that turned my head. Lovely people with amazing music. I don’t buy CD’s from everyone. I have a budget I need to stick too (sort of) and my son obsess over how many CD’s I usually purchase. This year I kept the number from him but I’m happy to share it with you.

I purchased CD’s from all of these artists, in no particular order so I can reive my fun experience in Yack over and over…Joel Havea, Fred Smith, Maja, Montgomery Church, Monique Clare, Melissa Crabtree, The Neon Effect, Dayan Kai and the Maes. PHEW! I’ve added their websites to their names. Check them out.

Maja

Love this girl!
Photo taken from Maja’s facebook page

First my heart skipped a beat when I listened to the beautiful Maja, a Melbourne girl originally from Brisbane. She is young and extremely in tune with all the life lessons that have come her way. She learned things that took me 40 years to understand. Her songs opened the doors to her personal life with a welcome mat to brush your feet on before you came in and sat down in her world. Look her up. Incidentally, she is playing in Fitzroy on 16 April at The Night Cat. Please check her out on www.majaofficialmusic.com.

Melissa Crabtree with Dayan Kai

The increadibly cool and talented Melissa Crabtree

On Saturday afternoon, in the intimate Clarence Room, I had the pleasure of hearing the poetic prose of Melissa and Dayan. They have been playing off and on together for over 17 years. Both American and extremely talented. They are born performers and in an instant let you into their personal world with details of each song. They took turns singing their own songs while the other accompany with sweet harmony and Dayan plays a rainbow of instruments.

From the first strum of the guitar strings and their harmonized voices together I was captivated so much that when Melissa said: “the next song is about a river in Utah.” I put up my hand and said, “I’m from Utah.” I met them afterward to buy a CD and offered up my house for a gig in Melbourne which took place on Monday night. I was humbled to have them play in my living room for family and friends.

My living room in Newport Australia right near The Newport Lakes Sanctuary

Dayan (and partner Maya) have gone back to Hawaii, however, Melissa is still here in Australia touring around for another month. If you are in Byron Bay next weekend, check her out…

On a little personal note, Melissa has had some serious unforeseen financial tour complications and is kind of stranded in Australia at the moment. If you have been touched by this post and/or her music feel free to make a donation to a traveling musician. The easiest way to make a donation is to go to Melissa’s “about” bio page on her website https://www.melissacrabtree.com/bio and scroll down past the bio and quotes and you will see a tab that says “donations”. If you click on that tab you can donate directly here. on her PayPal account at melissacrabtreemusic@gmail.com

Also here are some links to their incredible work together… (here).

Thanks for reading everyone!

Australia

Newport Lakes Flasher of 2019

It’s come out recently in the news, that we had a man expose himself to some ladies walking around the Newport Lakes. This is where I walk every morning, by myself. With music in my ears, but never in the dark for safety reasons. But it seems it’s not early in the morning when you need to worry. This flasher works his magic after lunch time. Here is the news article from a few days ago. Since this was written he has been caught and locked up and Newport Lakes is currently rid of this flashing pervert.

Photo by Matt Benson on Unsplash

What is so special about the Newport Lakes?

Newport Lakes is the best-kept secret in Newport and Williamstown and quite possibly in all of the inner west. It is my peace, my sanctuary and it’s only a 20-second walk from my front door. It is the reason we bought our home.

Twitchers come from all over the state to get a look at the rare birds that find their way to this peaceful special place. Walkers and runners pound the trails in the fresh air. Families enjoy balancing on the big boulders, that separate the two lakes, watching the wildlife enjoy their sanctuary. Newport Lakes is a very special place. It’s my families backyard. We’ve played too many games of hide-and-seek to count. A place that my two children are growing up in and one day will share with thier own children.

Newport Lakes Park is a bushland oasis created from a former bluestone quarry.[7] The park is 33 hectares in size and has been extensively revegetated using native plants, with over 200 species of plants and 85 species of birds recorded here. The park has a picnic area, toilets, drinking taps and free electric barbecues.[8] Dogs may be exercised in the Pavey’s Park and Picnic Area, the north west area of the park and in the Arboretum.[9]

What is so different now?

Last month, I walked around completely clueless that there was even a threat inside my sanctuary. I pass the same people each day. We would share a smile and a ‘Good Morning’ simultaneously. Mostly older men breathing heavy out for a jog or a brisk walk. But sometimes you don’t see anyone because of the all the trails and pathways.

Now that the Newport Flasher has been on the 5 o’clock news, the community is talking about it. When I went for my walk on Saturday morning, there was something different in the air. The lakes were the same, the animals still scurrying in the bushes, the happy birds overhead singing their songs, the ducks doing their water skiing landings and me watching out for the two foxes that live in the area. The difference was those men, the same men I always passed, they seemed nervous as they passed me. No simultaneous ‘Good Mornings’ today. I said it first and they would give me the nod. These men who love the lakes as much as me, are now cautious over the recent flasher news I’m guessing.

They are not worried about being flashed, they are worried about being accused of being the flasher.

Since the whole #metoo movement, some good men are left unsure of how to talk or act around women and that’s all because of those other men who think they can have whatever they want.

A Story my good friend told me…

She asks me, “Did I tell you about the time I was cat-called last week?” She was walking home from the train station when a group of boys in a car yelled out to her, “Show us your vagina!” Now she could have been upset or disgusted like the rest of us, however, I love how her brain works. She is one of a kind and they broke the mold after they made her and that’s why I love her so much. Anyway, they call out “Show us your vagina!” She wants to yell out back “Are you sure? I’ve had three babies. Do you still want to see it?” Those silly boys had made her night and before she could yell out “THANK YOU”, they were gone. And she walked the rest of the way home with a sping in her step.

So what kind of a world is it now?

So we have a flasher in the Newport Lakes (x a million in the world), a car full of boys being boys (x 100 million in the world). We have 7.7 billion people in the world, every second person (a woman) is trying to figure out their place in the world. Now I don’t need to be cat-called by a carload of boys, or flashed by some pervert to make myself feel better about getting older. However, I don’t want those good men and boys out there to feel uncomfortable about paying a woman a simple compliment either. Nothing is wrong with giving up your seat to a woman on the train. Or opening a door. Men are unsure where they stand in this modern age of women finding thier voices and making them be heard loud and clear.

Another friend put it beautifully in some of his writing I just read this weekend. He was writing about an old boxing coach he had and what he learned from him. This line sums up so much about how things are today… “I learned about what it means to be a man in a world where masculinity is poisoning such concepts”

So what do you think? Tell me? Am I way off base? This is just my opinion and I would love to hear yours. This is also coming right off of my post about International Women’s Day.

And a big THANK YOU to the Friends of Newport Lakes and all you do to keep our land beautiful and all you’ve done to make it what it is today.

Feature photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

Australia, Being American

Lest we forget–but first we must understand for those of us too young to remember.

Tomorrow, April 25, Australia and New Zealand will celebrate ANZAC Day–Australia New Zealand Army Corps (for the American’s, it’s our equivalent to Veterans Day). It’s not just a holiday but an occasion where Australians and New Zealanders all over the southern hemisphere (and the world) will wake extremely early to attend one of the several thousand Dawn Service’s held tomorrow morning starting at 5:30am sharp.

This holiday means a lot to me. I am humbled and hold so much respect for the men and women who fought for their country on this ANZAC Day eve.
Shape of Australia in flag colors

I remember having my first ANZAC Day and it didn’t have the same meaning to me as it did to Australians. I didn’t understand the importance of Gallipoli, in fact, I had no idea what Gallipoli even was.

The ANZAC’s attempted to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, a strategic position. The invasion did not succeed. Turkish troops waged battle with the ANZAC forces for eight months, during which over 8,700 Australians and 2,700 New Zealanders died.

The soldiers’ sacrifices and dedication to the cause roused admiration back home. “Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives,” explains Australia’s government, “the actions of Australian and New Zealand forces during the campaign left a powerful legacy.”

People therefore held patriotic events in Australia and New Zealand, and as far away as Egypt and England, on the one-year anniversary of the landing, marking the first Anzac Day as a half-day holiday in 1916.

By 1941, the traditions were well-established when TIME wrote of the day:

In the big continent down under, the scattered cities and distant towns celebrate yearly with prayers, parades and boutonnieres of wattle Australia’s most important holiday, Anzac Day. Australians like to recall that it was on April 25, 1915, when Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli, that the youthful nation ‘first got into trouble.’

In later years, for example during World War II, the memory of Gallipoli—as observed on Anzac Day—was used as a rallying cry to keep fighting even in the bleakest of circumstances.

Now, the dawn vigils are standard, marking the time the soldiers first landed in Gallipoli. People also hold marches, memorial services and play plenty of games of two-up (an Australian game of chance). This year, remembrances are scheduled at memorials in New Zealand and Australia, as well as across the world — including the Gallipoli peninsula itself, where buses will take early-rising groups for a 5:30 a.m. vigil.

time.com

Growing up American, I only really knew about American history…

Teachers and parents taught us how privileged we were to live in a free country and how our forefathers fought for all of us to have that right.

In our thirteen years of school, we got to our feet every Monday morning.  Right hand over our heart, facing the flag and quietly listening to the “The Star-Spangled Banner”–our national anthem. After the song finished, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” 

Watch an American Olympian receive their gold medal. It’s moving and powerful the amount of respect all Americans have for our flag. The National Anthem kicks off all our big sporting events. The silence is deafening as thousands stand there, right hands over our hearts, facing the flag and listening.

I think ANZAC Day felt different to me because the rituals were foreign to me. For example, I’d never heard the ANZAC Requiem, nor had I ever sang, “Advance Australia Fair” or “God Save the Queen”. We don’t have the Last Post, Reveille, lying of wreaths and poppies were just flowers to me. There is a piper (bagpipes) and a bugler. The Lord’s prayer among other prayers are quoted, hymns are sung and reverence is present. I’d never heard of “Lest we forget” until I came here, but on ANZAC day it’s repeated over and over.

In America

We have Veterans Day to commemorate all veterans in the US military. It occurs on November 11th to memorialize the Armistice which ended the World War I on that date in 1918. This is the same as Australia’s Remembrance Day. We also have Memorial Day on the last Monday in May that commemorates men and women who have died serving the United States. It was first instituted to remember soldiers who died in the Civil War. And we have Flag Day on 14 June which commemorates the official adoption of the US flag by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. It celebrates the history and symbolic meaning of the American flag and is also an opportunity to remember those who fight to protect it and the nation for which it stands.

We have 3 separate holidays which honor our men and women in the military and their contribution to a free country. But all of them combined is not as big as ANZAC day. Many hours are spent in organizing, preparing and executing the ANZAC Day events throughout the country. That is appreciated by all Australians.

Washington DC

A few years ago my husband and I got the opportunity to go to Washington DC. I had never been there before. There is something so special about seeing the places you grew up learning about come alive.

The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Mt Vernon, and where Martin Luther King stood and gave his famous “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Capitol. All the museums, The Smithsonian’s–I lost count but I think there are about sixteen of them.

There are so many Monuments and Memorials that it’s hard not to be affected.  Standing in front of the Vietnam memorial, I was transported to that moment long ago. It has bigger than life-size bronze soldiers walking in the rain and mud. Some are holding each other up while marching and others are laying in the mud, fallen with fatigue. You can see their faces, feel their pain. I was so overwhelmed it’s like these statues actually had beating hearts that drew me in, taking me to that time.

I have so much gratitude for all soldiers who have ever had the courage to fight in a war.

Arlington National Cemetary

The night before we left, we visited Arlington National Cemetary. My heart broke as I saw acres and acres of gravestones.

It was almost too much to digest.

Just a few facts about Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia:

  • Arlington National Cemetery contains the remains of more than 400,000 people from the United States and 11 other countries, buried there since the 1860s.
  • Nearly 5,000 unknown soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • The flags in Arlington National Cemetery are flown at half-staff from a half hour before the first funeral until a half hour after the last funeral each day.
  • The partial remains of the seven astronauts who died aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, are buried at the cemetery.

It had been a wonderful tearful adventure. I literally cried the whole week because I was so touched and humbled.

I was emotionally exhausted by the time we got to the airport to fly out. As we were waiting to board, I noticed a few men and women in military dress gather in the next gate over. A Freedom Honor Flight had just landed–A Freedom Honor Flight a non-profit organization that flies veterans (our heroes), who have never been to Washington DC before, to visit the memorials that stand in their honor.

Each military division was represented by current men and women who hold those military positions now. Then they started clapping as veterans were escorted and wheeled off the airplane as they entered the gate. Soon all of us at the surrounding gates joined in the clapping. I noticed all the people helping were wearing the same t-shirt that read “If you can read this, thank a teacher, but if you can read this in English, thank a Veteran.” I was so touched by all of this concentrated patriotism that the tears just streamed down my cheeks. I stood there, with a crowd of other travelers, crying and clapping,  watching over a hundred veterans being slowly wheeled, escorted under the arm and some of them walking themselves, come off that flight. It was truly an honor and a blessing to be there in that moment.

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ANZAC Day

I’ve been living in Australia for 18 years now. I became an Australian 10 years ago in 2009. Since then, ANZAC Day has taken on a new meaning for me. We always go to the dawn service as a family and we always catch up with all of our extended family celebrating and honoring the glorious dead in a march at Dandenong RSL. We all get together to watch our own soldiers march with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In our extended family, we have 2 British, 2 Americans, 3 half American/Australians, 1 Canadian, 2 Canadian/Australians and 2 Australians. We are a melting pot.

I love that Australia spends the whole day honoring our men and women who serve and served their country –no matter where in the world they are. Respect is shown, and stories are shared. We especially honor the heroes who never returned. It’s a day for families to remember. Soldiers to remember. The world to remember.

Thank you to all of those who put their lives on the line or on hold and fought for their country, you are truly brave and we are truly thankful. You gave us the freedom to do what we want.

Let’s be thankful. Let’s not waste that freedom away, do something big with it. Be big and brave in your own lives. Move your own mountains! Lest we forget.