From down under with love

By Solmaaz Yazdiha

In less than three weeks, I will be back in the United States. For the last 13, I have been living, working and studying in Australia. With this “back to reality” feeling looming, it’s hard not to think about what reality means for me. As someone lucky enough to have this opportunity abroad, I’ll share some things I’ve learned.

It is vital to travel to better understand the world. A good portion of you reading will stop and move to an editorial that will tell you something you didn’t know. “No shit, Sol. I’d love to see the world.”

Problem is, you’re busy working towards a major that will hopefully put some money in your pocket. Busier doing the math of how your minimum wage paycheck could ever cover your tuition bill. You’re thinking, “Traveling would be great, if only I could afford it.”

I get it, trust me. Having reached a point in life where graduation is looming and I’m scratching my head wondering how on earth my gleaming journalism degree is going to make me any money, I get it. What I’m saying is: It’s a shame how many Americans don’t get the opportunity to travel.

I think it is important for Americans to realize that their world is not the only scenario available. There are other ways to live, ways many of us have never imagined or thought possible.

Health care for all. Many Americans have been fighting for it. We’re one of the only industrialized countries without it. It’s a sense of humanistic security, a promise that if, alas, something happens to your health, you could be focused on medicine, not money.

Mandatory voting. Every voice, literally, counts. What’s strange is, at the thought of everyone having to vote, you’d think there would be a dangerous number of people voting for the wrong, uninformed reasons. Surprisingly, I have seen different. Sure, there will always be the bunch that doesn’t care and never will, but so many of the Aussies I’ve met know more about US affairs than I do. Australians seem to always know what’s going on. They read newspapers and follow world sports religiously. Oh, and they hate Bush.

Vacation time. Say it with me now. Work in Australia is not life. Fridays are as casual as a bottle of champagne passed around the office. Consistent breaks for “tea” and customer service that doesn’t earn a tip means a much more laid back environment for workers and patrons alike. Shops close by five and believe it or not, everybody deals. Month-long vacation time from work makes room for beach vacations to Thailand and getaways to Fiji. Life is kind of nice.

No guns. Strict gun ownership restrictions leaves very few with means to a pistol. What it means is a safe city. Ask almost any Sydneysider and they’ll tell you the streets are safe. Not including the occasional “My friend Cherie got her purse stolen at the McDonalds in Kings Cross,” you rarely hear stories of muggings or stabbings. The best part? Not a gun in sight.

Public broadcast without food stamps. A channel that doesn’t bank on audience count. Their version of our PBS is fully funded by the government. But wait, won’t that mean the government will take charge of the conversation? Won’t they censor what they will and control the public agenda? Grassroots organizations like the “Friends of ABC” make damn sure this doesn’t happen.

There are two important things to keep in mind now. First, I’m not saying Australia is ideal. Far from it, if you ask me. The government still avoids a shameful past of forced assimilation and a denial of rights to the Aborigines. The country lags behind on anti-discrimination legislation. They don’t celebrate Halloween.

Second, I love America. There are things about home that could never be the same here or anywhere else. We have plenty to be proud of and rightfully so. I could sit here and name off patriotic praises or I could simply say what I’m honestly missing. I love you, orange cheese, cheap beer, winter snow. I love you Taco Bell, keg parties, football. I love you the most, friends and family.

So what’s my point? I am afraid that Americans live in the bed they’ve made, thinking it’s the only way to live. So I ask you this. What if a little ruffling of the sheets, energy to put up a pillow fight, some “movement,” let’s call it, could make things a little better, easier, happier? What if it would help you to sleep at night? In a blink, I’m headed home with ideas of a better life for Americans, urging you to consider it. So go ahead, jump on the bed.

I miss you, America. Mama’s comin’ home.

Solmaaz Yazhida is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]