Brisbane AUS - Farewell

Today was the last full day of my family's 2014 Australia vacation and we spent it in downtown Brisbane, from whence we'll fly back to the USA around midday tomorrow. This makes me sad for reasons I have alluded to (or explicitly stated) in prior posts, so I shant harp on it any further.

We ate an all you can eat breakfast and then I joined my sister, niece & nephew, and Carl for a walk through town. Brisbane is another fantastic civilized modern 21st century city that puts American cities to shame, and American urban decay in stark relief. The one thing I noticed in every single Aussie city was the complete lack of homeless and beggars. Aussies don't tolerate ignoring the less fortunate. Don't get me wrong, they have their grittier lower class neighborhoods, but not the shameful level of blight that American cities do. I did not see any beggars or bums or homeless. They do have sanctioned donation stations set up in some places for specific causes.

Brisbane had a huge community garden and water park right along the river, city funded. They have freakin' banana trees and cassavas growing in the community garden and a veggie sampling cart for passersby to have a free sample of what's being harvested. With no bums and beggars, I guess this cart is rarely exploited by greedy needy people. Besides, it is quasi monitored by parks staff and good citizens. Unrelated to the community garden is a botanical garden that we strolled through. It has an amphitheater where bands play. We stopped on the grounds for a ginger beer (NA) where I got my first mosquito bites of this trip. Nasty stealthy little buggers (pun) with black and white stripes. I will probably get Dengue Fever or some sh!t, since this place is fairly tropical.

Speaking of tropical, it was hot today. Not excessively so, because I love heat (hate WI winter), but like in the 90s. My sister and Carl hate heat, which is probably why they live in Manitou Springs CO. So we ended up spending most of the afternoon in this awesome community pool along the river that runs through Brisbane. I actually got a pretty decent workout playing "Shark Attack" tag with my niece and nephew for a solid two of those hours.

It was Carl's birthday today, so for dinner we went to a sushi bar where the colored plates of sushi come around on a conveyor and you pick what you want and pay based on the number and color of plates you stack up before you. There's no backs, so you have to be kind of careful what you pick off the conveyor.

My folks joined us for sushi. They had been catching up with old (literally and figuratively) Australian friends earlier in the afternoon while we were at the pool. My dad hates raw fish so we had to gamble on a couple items for him and act quickly to grab something he would eat off the conveyor. The mistakes were taken by someone else. I was searching for crunchy (softshell) crab and finally found it, I think. I also scored salmon as both a roll and as sashimi.

The sushi was actually just an appetizer. I am sure the raw fish was perfectly fine, but in retrospect it might have been taking a risk eating uncooked meat the night before 30 hours of international travel starting tomorrow. No ill effects so far though (knock wood). After sushi, we got real dinner at Grill'd, the place we ate at last night. I had a falafel burger and a bottle of Australian beer. After that we capped off the feasting with decadent ice cream. A big storm passed nearby as we were eating and we saw some cool lightning.

Australia is a fantastic place on so many levels. It is no wonder that at least one Australian city (Melbourne) has been voted the most livable city in the world by the people who vote for that kind of things. Australians seem to have decided collectively they want to join the 21st century and live in a value-added society with a strong social infrastructure. They support things that unite communities like city pools and community gardens. Some American cities have that stuff too, but I have never seen anything in the USA of this calibre. Cities are clean and many people are employed in providing social services like street cleaning and keeping up the community garden and fixing things. Australians also have socialized medicine and college is free for citizens because Australians are looking to the future and don't want to live in a country of dummies.

Conversely, the cost of living is, not unexpectedly, really high in Australia. The minimum wage is a living wage here and prices are high for a lot of basics, like food, especially restaurant food. We estimated that we paid roughly $20 AUS for stuff that would cost $10 US in the States. And they pay higher taxes, though it is a progressive tax where poor pay less than rich, going back to the social cohesion philosophy mentioned earlier.

The people in Australia don't seem to be suffering at all though. I mean, when you have free health care and freakin' bananas in your community garden, there's no excuse to be clinically depressed. Just have a banana and get some free meds at the Chemist (Australian for pharmacist) with your doctor's blessing. Everyone seems ridiculously happy and free here. I can't verify my observations scientifically, but this is my subjective observation. Maybe they are just happier because the climate and scenery is better. It's possible, I suppose. Who knows or cares? The point is Australians mostly love life, from my limited perspective as a vacationing visitor. But I would totally move here based on what I saw. Great effing country, of which I am a citizen, I must disclaim (dual with USA).

I think Americans could learn a lot about happiness and freedom by examining other post industrial countries who are embracing modernity and shunning anti-intellectualism as they move into the 21st century. Americans settle for mediocrity and they don't have to accept the race to the bottom being served up by policy makers. They could have awesomeness, but they need visionaries and they lack it.

Look at Germany. This country has really turned itself around since World War 2. It's now a leading technological superpower and the society is vibrant, the people happy. They know the true way to have freedom is to provide for peoples' basic needs so they can self actualize as human beings.

More Americans should travel to other countries and get out of their provincial comfort zones. I know I can't convince anyone of that, but I am 100% certain that I am a better and more well rounded human being as a result of the fact that my parents traveled a lot with us kids as we were growing up.

I guess I will end it there for this post. I will write more on the plane tomorrow but I may not be able to post again until I am back in the States.

How is the weather in Wisconsin, by the way?

We were also discussing today

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