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12 September 2003

If yesterday was a day for the birds, today was a day of roos. It began with the morning walk. No ears popping up over the hill in the bush, but we went down by the cemetery and there was a large group grazing on flowers and grass among the graves. Peggy took the dogs off running (so they wouldn't go chasing the roos) and I snuck up to take some photos.

When we'd finished our walk, we came home to get ready to leave within the hour. We were meeting Peggy's friend Monty and his wife Carolyn. Monty (who is originally from Dublin) is the guy who keeps Peggy's computer running. He has networked her two computers to give me internet access, he's loaning us his laptop when we travel next week (probably won't be a daily entry next week, but whenever possible), and he had helped me with some computer questions via e-mail some time ago, so I was quite eager to meet him. They are delightful people.

We drove to a town called New Norcia, Australia's only monastic town, about an hour and a half (82 miles) from Perth.

The drive up was in spots eye-blindingly beautiful. The canola fields are in full blossom and as far as the eye can see are fields of yellow.

We arrived in New Norcia with several dozen caravans...Peggy and Monty agreed there were more tourists than they'd ever seen in that part of Western Australia (and were careful to make the distinction that they were not tourists, but sightseers. I, as a non-Australian, was a tourist).

New Norcia was established in 1846 by a Spanish Benedictine monk, for the purpose of christianizing the Aborigines. An on-line Catholic encyclopedia describes the situation thusly:

This mission at first had no territory. Its saintly founder, like the Baptist of old, lived in the wilderness, leading the same nomadic life as the savages whom he had come to lead out of darkness. His food was of the most variable character, consisting of wild roots dug out of the earth by the spears of his swarthy neophytes, with lizards, iguanas, even worms in times of distress, or, when fortunate in the chase, with the native kangaroo. After three years of unparalleled hardships amongst this cannibal race, Salvado came to the conclusion that they were capable of Christianity.

An informational building explains that as aborigine couples married, they were given houses on the monastery grounds and over time, a village grew up. Where New Norcia stands today, the boundaries of that original village are indicated by pieces of fence, the foundation of one of the original buildings is preserved, and the monks still live and work in the monestary. I had problems with New Norcia. As I stood in the museum and looked around at the trappings and artwork of the church, the same vestments, and religious paraphernalia that was so familiar from my youth, I was struck with a certain sadness. I remember sitting on the porch of the Mission at Santa Barbara with Steve and hearing him say "so this is where they destroyed the Indian culture..." I remember reading about the missionaries in Hawaii and their determination to bring Christianity to the heathen Hawaiians.

While I have no doubt that Dom Rosendo Salvado was a well-intentioned man, it made me sad to see that bringing religion to the indigenous people anywhere came at the expense of the culture of those people.

There are, however, touches of the culture evident. I loved that the Stations of the Cross in the Abbey Church are painted on the wall

...and I loved this depiction of the Nativity:

We stopped for lunch at a pub in the hotel near the museum and art gallery, then went through the museum and art gallery, picked up a nut cake in the shop and went to the car to have a snack before going up to wander through the cemetery.

I love Australia. It's like the States in that the old historic places are generally from the 1800s, as opposed to Europe where the old historic places pre-date the pyramids and the Great Wall of China. It was a very familiar feeling to identify with the "really old" graves as being from the mid 1800s!

On the way home, Monty stopped at the university campus where soccer practice was going on, under the watchful eye of a group of grazing kangaroos. We began to walk toward them and just kept getting closer and closer, while I continued to snap photos. I loved the baby peeking out, leaning out when the mother was grazing to take a nibble of the grass himself.

We ended the day watching the first playoff game of Aussie rules football (which appears, from first viewing, to be a combination of football, soccer, and volleyball...and makes you realize what wimps American football players are, with all that protective gear!)

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