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Fall 2011 Alumni Newsletter

Working at an inner-city school Lindy Smalt (Spring 2009), discusses what studying abroad taught her about America’s achievement gap (pg. 5)... Inside this issue: Embracing Christmas in Australia


Meet the new ASC Coordinator


Working at an innercity school


Response to injustice


Aussie Jingle Bells


Artwork by Emily Knapp

9 Merry Christmas from the ASC Staff (Kimberly Spragg, Michelle Livingston, Tiffany Laws)

ASC Alumni Newsletter

The Australian Christmas Grinch… ASC Director Kimberly Spragg I’m not heading home for Christmas or New Year’s this year. [sigh] In the 6 ½ years that I’ve lived in Australia, I’ve flown home to the U.S. every Christmas. Many Australians chided me, telling me I was missing out on all the festivities. My neighbour Barbara was positively horrified that I wasn’t willing to stay in Sydney even for New Year’s. She’d cry, “We have the best fireworks in the world! Most other countries watch Sydney’s show before celebrating their own New Year! How CAN you leave?” Then she would walk off, completely disgusted at my lack of interest in sticking around. I head home because Christmas means cold weather and sweaters and flannel and hot apple cider and pumpkin pie and REAL Christmas trees that smell amazing! I head home because I get to see my family and my mother makes all my favourite comfort foods: sweet Christmas bread, and turkey, and mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes, and eggnog, and Chex-mix, and fudge! YUM! I head home because it looks like Christmas in the U.S. There are beautifully decorated Christmas trees in most living room windows, houses aglow with twinkle lights (fairy lights in Australia) and hopefully . . . snow! I head home because it never feels like Christmas to me in Sydney. Australians celebrate Christmas dinner by grilling prawns and grazing on cold meats and salads. Salads? Yep, salads. Now, my mother always has a salad on the table at Christmas, but we never eat it. On Christmas day, most Australians head to the beach or spend the afternoon doing whatever they can to avoid evaporating into the scorching heat. The decorations in Sydney even seem to melt and wither in this weather, and they seem cheesy and just out of place. Candy canes and gingerbread houses and evergreen trees just don’t work here. These seem, at

least in my mind, to be cold weather items more suited to frosty December climates.

fallibility and pride in this situation. Richard Foster’s comments on what makes worship acceptable to God would help me underNow, I work on a cross-cultural study program stand who (or what) I’m really worshiping and I encourage and teach students to be this Christmas season. David Dale’s open to embracing difference. (Hopefully, thoughts on American and Australian naASC alumni are hearing the words of Miroslav tional myths and the reasons why our stoVolf running through their heads as I say this.) ries are so different could shed some light So you might think that I would be open to on this situation and help me be more emembracing Australian cultural practices as pathetic and understanding. I could write they relate to Christmas, right? pages about William Cavanaugh’s discussion of the “ontological rest” that pilgrims can Wrong. find in relationship with “the other” in their “movement toward the One who calls him When December rolls around in Australia I home”. And I’m sure I become quite the little could find ways to inScrooge. I wait to purchase clude the readings by any presents until just a few “Like the Grinch, I need Walter Russel Mead, days before I board the plane John Pilger, Richard Twiss to remember that home. I don’t get too excited and many others. or play Christmas music until Christmas isn’t about I’m in the U.S. -- because it’s paraphernalia, That’s not even counting not really Christmas for me the Affluenza book! decorations, food or until my plane lands in LAX. Then all of a sudden (even ambiance. It is far But I won’t. Instead I’d though I don’t love LAX) my deeper, far more like to turn your attenholiday cheer seems to erupt tion to another wellamazing, and full of a like a dormant volcano and I feel like Christmas has arrived. much richer truth and respected author. One whom I know you have It’s a magical moment. I’m inconceivable mystery” all actually read from finally HOME. cover to cover. (We can’t say that about the ASC This year, however, I’m stickReaders, can we?) That amazing author is: ing around Sydney for Christmas. And as such, I’m trying to change my attitude. To bring about this new, improved outlook on Christmas I could cite heaps of well-respected authors like Volf who talk about embracing other cultures, or I could reference other authors from the ASC Readers which connect to this topic. For example, Parker Palmer’s image of “staying at the table” with your community would fit really well here. Donald Miller’s idea that “I am the problem” might vastly enhance my understanding of my own

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Dr. Seuss. You all know the story of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Well, sad as it may be, I think am a little bit Grinch-like about Australian Christmas celebrations: The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

Fall 2011 It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all May have been that his heart was two sizes too small. It very well could be that my heart shrinks two sizes each time the heat starts to ramp up at the end of November. This decrease in heart space might also have something to do with the fact that Thanksgiving is never quite the same in Australia either. I usually get together with a few American expats to celebrate and we make all the typical dishes like pumpkin pie and green bean casserole -thought I typically purchase my French’s onions from Thai restaurants (funny how Australian-Thai culture helps me celebrate an American holiday, hmm). This year for Thanksgiving I was in the Northern Territory on a boat on the Adelaide River (near Darwin) watching crocodiles jump out of the water to catch their dinner. It was, I have to say, very cool. But it didn’t put me in the mood for Christmas. Whatever the cause, this heart shrinkage and Grinch-ish and Scrooge-ish behaviour is really not acceptable. Things must change. Like the Grinch, I need to remember that Christmas isn’t about paraphernalia, decorations, food or ambiance. It is far deeper, far more amazing, and full of a much richer truth and inconceivable mystery. It demands wonder and awe and worship. It asks me to be grateful and joyous and celebratory not because I’m in the mood or I’m with my family or I’m eating holiday foods

or even because “it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.” I’m called to rejoice because: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1: 15, 914) When I read this passage it completely changes my perspective. It makes me like the Grinch-transformed whose “small heart grew three sizes that day.” I feel myself opening up to experience Christmas in Sydney or anywhere, to worship fully and to be amazed at the grace and love poured out on me, and to enjoy the favour which is so freely given and that I am so unworthy to receive. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)

Customs House, Circular Quay Photo by Alessandra Spellman, (Spring 2011) Page 3

A Christmas decorated bus in Sydney Photo by Melissa Clarke Amen. And Amen! Or in the beautiful words of Dr. Seuss: And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet icecold in the snow, Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!" And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.” "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!

ASC Alumni Newsletter

Introducing Michelle - the new ASC Coordinator... past three years in Oregon school districts. Her teaching practice has allowed her to grapple with daily challenges of being salt and light in a broken and hurting world. The challenge of integrating faith with practice is a steep learning curve, but one that she is eager to explore.

Michelle Livingston

Michelle Livingston joins the ASC staff in Sydney as the new Program Coordinator. An alumni of the ASC (Spring 2006), Michelle graduated from George Fox University with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and a Master of Arts in Teaching. Michelle has worked as both a substitute teacher and High School Art Teacher for the

She has also remained invested in the local art community, recently creating a painting exhibit that was displayed at her alma mater, and subsequently at two local coffee shops. She is a regular participant of the Nobel Hill Anagama kiln firing, an ancient collaborative firing method for pottery. She is keen to remain a part of the art community here in Sydney, and is excited to be based at a campus brimming with artistic life. Her favorite class when an ASC student was Life Drawing with Trevor Hotten, she sees that class as a key turning point in her own skills as an artist. As a result of growing up in Oregon’s Willamette valley, nestled between the coast and cascade mountain range, Michelle loves nothing better than exploring all the outdoors has to offer. Summers and weekends spent at the coast or in the woods climbing, backpacking or hiking are some of her favorite activities. Fueled by that love for the outdoors and her

passion for community building, she has also worked as a part-time Challenge Course Facilitator for Team Synergo and two local Christian Camps. She loved the opportunity to facilitate group process while working in an outdoor experiential educational context. Her work on the challenge course is what eventually attracted her to the job as ASC coordinator. The opportunity to both mentor and work with American students on their semester abroad (possibly the ultimate in experiential education) is one that she could not pass up. Michelle is looking forward to planning the various trips and outings that flesh out the program at ASC (Bring on the Outback!). Currently she is keeping busy preparing for the arrival of next semester’s students, by arranging homestays and student housing. In her off hours, Michelle is enjoying exploring Sydney, searching for the best coffee shops in town, soaking up the sun and surf of Manly Beach, running Concord bay, and is already eying the trails and climbs surrounding the city. Michelle feels very blessed to be back in Australia as a member of the ASC staff, and is looking forward to the tremendous opportunity of working with ASC students.

Michelle’s artwork recently featured in an exhibition at George Fox University

“Shelter and Reprieve”

“Tread Softly” Page 4

Fall 2011

From Australia to Revere, MA Former ASC student Lindy Smalt (Spring 2009), from Wheaton College discusses what studying abroad taught her about America’s achievement gap..... In the spring of 2009, I packed my life into two small suitcases, kissed my family goodbye, and got on a 20-hour flight that would take me 10,000 miles away from home. My knowledge of Australia fell somewhere between Steve Irwin, kangaroos, and Mary Kate and Ashley’s Our Lips are Sealed—but I knew if there was one thing that would change those conceptions, it would be that mythical and insurmountable experience of studying abroad (or so everyone said). The following year, I graduated from college and became a Teaching Fellow with Citizen Schools. Though eager about the new challenge that lay before me, I couldn’t help feeling like I was largely unqualified to be working in the inner-city. I had, after all, grown up in the suburbs of New York City, gone to college in the suburbs of Chicago, and studied abroad in a first-world nation— at least my older sister went to Africa! But as I got to know and love my nineteen incredible sixth grade students, a series of unexpected parallels began to emerge between their struggles and those of the Australian people. I was stunned. Up until that moment, I felt I had failed to integrate my overseas experience with my preestablished life in America; was it really possible that my desired incorporation of worlds was going to be found here— in Revere, MA? The answer was yes. Being a globalized citizen, it turns out, is not just about utilizing iPhones and social media; it’s about making interdisciplinary connections—

Lindy with students from Citizen

absorbing our cross-cultural experiences, however different they might appear, into a holistic worldview uninhibited by our unseen biases.

an outsider. Despite a Massachusetts address, many of my eleven-year-olds feel like outsiders; they see images of success and have no idea how to make that success into a personal reality, or even to discern what kind of success they truly want for “There was an their own lives. Is staring incredible on a reality show success? Or being discovered on authenticity to my YouTube? Or something experience, one that else entirely?

One of the ways that my experience in Australia continually informs my work in Revere is through a growing understanding of national myth. While the “American Dream” informs us that any individual can achieve taught me just as success regardless of means or As the behaviour managecircumstance, the Australian much about “Tall Poppy Syndrome” seeks to ment specialist on campus, humanity as it did a large part of my role equalize achievement rather includes finding creative than encourage it (poppies grow about a country” ways to inspire students to at exactly the same height, reach for their own definistrangling any plants in the field tion of success. When they misbehave, I that grow higher than their surroundings). ask, “What do you want to be when you Without American-like competition, it is not uncommon for Australian children as young as grow up?” And then I let them talk until I see that little ‘click’ go off in their eyes— fifteen to drop out of school and begin workthat moment when they realize, “Whoa, I ing, and even students who do receive a high school degree often take at least one gap year actually get to decide my life for myself!” or attend TAFE (a type of vocational school) before contemplating college. Although I still It’s been two and a half years since I left for often struggle with this Australian methodolthat sunburnt country. Occasionally I’ll click ogy, it continues to give me a framework for through old Facebook albums, giggling at approaching many of my low-income and pictures of me dancing in front of the Sydimmigrant students in Revere. Rather than ney Opera House or holding a koala near examine them through a lens of what they the Great Barrier Reef. I’ll post, “Meet you don’t have—my own commitment to often in Australia?” with a smiley face on my old externally-validating academic achievement— roommate’s wall. But then, for a moment, living among the Australian people taught me I’ll remember the things that Facebook to better see them for what they do have: could never capture: stories of stolen chiltight-knit families and neighbourhoods that dren, faces of protesters in the capital city, value relationships and shared experience and the impossibility of my own four-month above anything else (whereas the five memstruggle to adapt to a culture in which I—for bers of my family are all currently pursuing the first time—was labeled as an outsider. their own idea of “success” in five different For somewhere between Vegemite and states). In realizing this, I take steps to meet sunshine, there was an incredible authenticmy students where they are—by regularly ity to my experience, one that taught me communicating with their families to ensure just as much about humanity as it did about that both home cultures and school cultures a country. are in consistent agreement as to how to provide the best future possible. And as an added It is that wisdom that translates to my work bonus, this realization also consistently rewith Citizen Schools; in classrooms, in minds me to take a step back and remember phone calls, in the tears of the students why it is that I work for Citizen Schools: to who get picked on for their differences. work through cultures—not to “make them Every day I get to teach a new generation of more like mine.” visionaries about tolerance, culture, and the future of our world. Overall, the most impacting experience I had during my four months abroad, was gaining What will YOU teach? the ability to see America through the eyes of

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ASC Alumni Newsletter

Response to injustice Savannah Chastain from Crichton College, was an ASC student in the Fall of 2007. She has recently been travelling with Photogenx, a non-profit that operates under Youth With A Mission, taking photographs for a book on injustice, called “Act now, Love now”. She shares how her time in Australia shaped her for this experience... Recently I discovered a journal that I kept during my semester at the Australia Studies Centre, in Fall 2007. One of my last entries reads, “All of this learning about other cultures and ways of thinking has really got me wondering what things I myself have gotten wrong, and what things I can adopt from these cultures into my own life? For example, am I doing anything about social justice? I think one of the first things I am going to do to start answering this question is to read up on social justice and indigenous rights. I want to use this new knowledge and awareness to guide a new phase in my life.” The new phase of my life started the day I came home from Australia, I had graduated college, and was looking for a way to make a difference. I was fired up about social justice issues and indigenous cultures and eager to get involved. But the transition As always, the children are the first to greet us, and are eager to have their picture taken from college took a year and a half as I in a slum-town outside of Srinagar, India. looked for an opportunity. I tried applying for grad-school, and several jobs around the AIDs, orphans, human trafficking, refugees, country but nothing quite fit until one day I and many other injustices, which, quite As we sat talking I noticed the children in the was searching the web and found an organi- truthfully overwhelmed me. Most of the home begin to set up a table. Patricia exzation called Photogenx. time I felt that I had nothing to give, and no plained that once a month she prepares a way to overcome such enormous issues. meal for the community. She takes from her own meager salary, and cooks for as many Photogenx is a non-profit that operates people as she can afford. The crowd are under Youth With a Mission, a global nonWhile in South Africa I met a woman named mainly children, and sometimes as large as denominational missions organization. The Patricia. Patricia lives in a huge slum-shanty three hundred people. That is when I realized goal of Photogenx is to use creative media town where the houses are made of tin and that I had it all wrong. Here is a woman who as a tool for cultural transformation by adfound objects and running water and elecby my own western standards lives in povvocating for and empowering those who tricity is scarce. Patricia is the sole-provider erty. She works her fingers to the bone to cannot speak for themfor her family. When we met, provide for her family, to give them a chance selves. I was sold when I husband was too sick to “I soon realized that her to get an education, to keep food in their read this line on their webwork, and her children still in bellies, to keep them safe from harm, and yet site: “Photogenx is demy journey was not school. From the outside she still gives. She gives her time, she gives signed for those who are Patricia’s life looked hopeless. a lesson in changing her earnings, she gives her very heart, and broken over the injustice But from her point of view, truly expects nothing in return. I remember of our world, want to know the world by there is always hope. She had thinking. What have I done that compares to God more and are eager to affecting strangers, a trust in God that was this? Are not the true heroes of this world the use their gifts and talents stronger than mine. Aside ones who serve others when no one is lookto make a difference”. but instead an inner from her two biological chiling? Those who selflessly give out of what I joined Photogenx with journey of learning dren, Patricia had become they have, even when they have little. As the guardian to three others from the hope that I would use journey wore on, I learned that change doesto love from the a rough family. She had photography to change the n’t begin with addressing major issues, or opened her home as a safeworld, but little did I know inside out ” even with bringing solution to a problem, haven for children in need, that the change would change comes in the daily choices of how we and told me that often, late at take a more personal form. live our lives. The two-year program that I joined took me night, children as young as three years of age come knocking on her door looking for a to 16 different countries in the course of 16 safe place to lay their head. It became apparent in the day to day lives of months. I saw poverty, racial displacement,

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Fall 2011 our group. We were eleven girls, living and working together 24/7 for two years. As you may have guessed, we had our spats and disagreements, our frustrations and our differences. We shared life, discovered each other’s strengths and sharpened each other’s weaknesses. We discovered that in order to show love to those we met on the street, we had to first love each other. We could not make a difference against injustice if we ourselves were treating each other unjustly.

neighborhood, city and world. Ideas as simple as smiling and starting conversations with your local grocery cashier, to actions as big as adopting a child into your family; we challenge both ourselves and our readers to get involved in living out the love of God. So it all started with a semester in Australia, with classes on our response as Christians to the injustice around us, and it has grown into a lifelong commitment – one that I plan to continue. The closing words of my journal

entry say it best; “I am a different person to when this trip began. I pray that this is the beginning of something great. It is already the beginning of a new phase in my life; I am ready to make a change in my own life for the better. Of course how and where is up to God.” Links:

I soon realized that my journey was not a lesson in changing the world by affecting strangers, but instead an inner journey of learning to love from the inside out. As we met people in both poor and rich communities, our mark of change was in the way we treated one another, and subsequently the way we treated those we met. The question we received most often was; “Why are you here? Why do you want to take photos of us?” And we could answer truthfully, “Because your life is important, and your story is worthy of being told.” At the end of our journey we published a book. We named it “Act Here. Love Now,” because we had discovered that it doesn’t take an epic journey around the world to make a difference, it starts wherever you are, because as cheesy as it sounds change really does begin in your own thoughts and actions. Between stories of people we met, and reflections of our shortcomings, we suggest Children lined up beside Patricia's house awaiting her monthly dinner feast in Capricorn, ways to stimulate change in your own

South Africa.

Intern position available at the ASC The Australia Studies Centre (ASC), a program of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) and Wesley Institute (WI), seeks a recent graduate to provide assistance with program administration and student life activities. The Program Assistant position is for the period from February-December, 2012. The intern reports to the ASC director. Applicants should submit a cover letter, current resume and three professional references (with contact information including name, relationship, address, e-mail and telephone numbers). No paper applications or phone calls please.

Apply online here:

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ASC Alumni Newsletter

Fall 2011 students on the Outback Trip

Colin Buchanan’s Aussie Jingle Bells View a video of Colin Buchanan performing his original, Australian version of “Jingle Bells”

Christmas Day the Aussie way, by the barbecue.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, Christmas in Australia

Dashing through the bush In a rusty Holden Ute, Kicking up the dust Esky in the boot, Kelpie by my side, singing Christmas songs,

on a scorching summers day, Hey! Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!, Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

It's Summer time and I am in my singlet, shorts and thongs Come the afternoon, Grandpa has a doze, Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!

The kids and Uncle Bruce, are swimming in their clothes. The time comes 'round to go, we take the family snap, Pack the car and all shoot through, before the washing up.

Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!, Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, Christmas in Australia

Engine's getting hot, we dodge the kangaroos, The swaggie climbs aboard, he is welcome too. All the family's there, sitting by the pool,

on a scorching summers day, Hey! Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!, Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Welcome to ‘Straya, where Christmas decorations go up just as beach towels go on sale

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Fall 2011

Australia-inspired graphic design Emily Knapp (Spring 2010) Huntington University

We love this image and the email that Emily sent to the ASC staff: “I was filling out an application the other day. One of the questions got me thinking about my semester in Australia, and how often we talked about our stories and how important they are. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about how we become part of other people’s stories and they become a part of ours, so I decided to create some art with these thoughts in mind. I wanted to share it with you since it was “Australia inspired” - Emily Knapp

Australia Studies Centre a program of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities 5 Mary Street, Drummoyne, NSW 2047 P.O. Box 534, Drummoyne, NSW 1470 SYDNEY AUSTRALIA Tel: +61 2 9819 8823 Fax: +61 2 9719 1714 E-mail: Website: ABN: 76 128 260 793 (CCCU-Australia Pty Limited) Page 9

Australia Studies Centre Fall 2011 Newsletter  

ASC Fall 2011 Newsletter