Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

I don’t know much about the Indigenous population in Australia, and I know I’ll have at least a preliminary understanding by the end of the trip.

I am currently on what will be a bus trip starting on the third and finishing on the fifth of July in Katherine. While there my plan is to stay the night and then meet everyone the next morning, so we could embark together to Barunga. However, that seems far away in the first stretch of a long journey starting in Adelaide on a modest Greyhound bus, with a stopover in Alice Springs. Despite the bus trip I have ahead of me, I still feel gratitude towards the past attendees of this school who offered encouragement and helped me make an informed choice to attend this trip. I am confident that this journey will be well worth battling against the financial limitations, even if it means taking the bus. This trip to Barunga is an investment in myself and in my education that will have a generous return.

I left Australia at the age of six and returned in 2015 at the age of twenty-three, having grown up among an insulated community in Southern Arizona; even Adelaide seemed massive and chaotic (imagine my shock last year visiting Sydney). I desire to understand more about the country of my birth, and this I believe will be accomplished by accepting an invitation to visit Indigenous community of Barunga. I tend to respond quite well when someone extends an invitation for me to learn something new.  That is my expectation of the whole experience, I’ll get to learn something new, about myself and the world around me. My opinion is that it is better to learn by immersion and some things are just confusing to understand in the classroom. I don’t know much about the Indigenous population in Australia, and I know I’ll have at least a preliminary understanding by the end of the trip.

I am hoping a failure to emote doesn’t cause others to think poorly of me, and that my enthusiasm isn’t stifled by nerves. I love to meet new people. I am terrified of making a social or cultural misstep – even in the most benign situations I am inclined to be socially inept. It’s a concern, as the last thing I want to do is disappoint anyone.

 

Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

There is extended family now for me at Barunga, and I will miss talking with the people here.

I am miserable but not because of the people.

I feel like I’m a bit overdramatic, but Barunga is an aggravating experience when you factor in the assessment portion. I feel like I sound like a whining child. This is the longest I have been outside in three years. I’m struggling to write anything in open air, and I guess it’s huge pressure writing something you know will be posted. I am struggling to focus with all the flies about, but it’s too hot in my tent to write properly.

I have had the most wonderful experiences and I am struggling to articulate them to a written format. I’m not even looking for professionalism in my writing at this point, I just want to write something. I thought the social side of this field school would be the difficult part and reassured myself that at least I would do well on the writing portion, and now here I am struggling to write a blog post for an assessment that has no wrong answers.

I want to assess this experience without factoring in the assessment portion, because I wanted to be sure to mention how much I enjoy working with the community. While the sheer volume of all who would gather around the fire was a little overwhelming at first, I slowly became accustomed to it; the crowds of community are something I will miss when I return to Adelaide. A return to Adelaide after the bus trip home will be bittersweet, there are only three around the dinner table in the Ward household, or just one at a desk working in the university library, it will be quiet, but I miss my mother and my boyfriend. I am even missing my little sister.

I love working with community and feel sad that Jocelyn is to be leaving today – she gave me my skin name; I am Beling. There is extended family now for me at Barunga, and I will miss talking with the people here. I loved hearing Kriol worship songs, and it was lovely hearing Rachel sing one night a memorization song she learnt as a child for John 3:16 in Kriol. Faith in this community is admirable, their church kept active for almost eight years occasionally only having an official preacher visiting one Sunday out of the month. As a Christian archaeology student from a sheltered existence, seeing a service and speaking with those who practice their faith in a remote community is an irreplaceable, invaluable experience. My time in Barunga gave me the opportunity to start gathering information for a project talking about faith, my hope is that by the weeks end I will have been able to find myself writing something half decent, in the hopes I will do justice for the wonderful stories associated with the Barunga Church.

 

Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

I am uniquely situated to make a difference in so many spheres of daily life in Australia, and with confidence I can boldly state that my childhood aspiration to help others can be achieved through my career as an archaeologist.

On the floor of a YHA in Canberra last night I approached this blog near an inconveniently placed charger to aid my dying laptop, with six young women who I share accommodation with stepping over me as they shuffled around our cramped quarters to be ready for a good night’s rest to prepare for what will be the last day of Aerospace Futures. With the Barunga field school group of 2018, my wish was fulfilled. I have my desired preliminary understanding of the Indigenous communities of Australia. Last night battling against the Wi-Fi brought back some familiar feelings from Barunga and recalled my most valuable lesson: sometimes you will benefit when you step back from your assessment. I find it ironic that this lesson went unrealised until that night on the YHA floor, but I am glad to take that away from Barunga. While unfortunately this lesson was remembered a little late, at least now I realised this lesson. After all, I almost let the unhealthy relationship between my grades and self-confidence, with the anxieties that surround it, trick me into thinking nothing had changed after this field school.

Although not everything has changed, making such a bold statement I feel would cheapen the experience, there is so much to learn, and I desire to discover how to be utilise that preliminary understanding if Indigenous communities I was hoping for at the start of this field school. There is still much to learn, but this gave that valuable chance to understand myself and my place as an archaeologist in Australia. I am uniquely situated to make a difference in so many spheres of daily life in Australia, and with confidence I can boldly state that my childhood aspiration to help others can be achieved through my career as an archaeologist. My time in Barunga helped give me direction to find my way in the world, but also gave me a legacy to pass to my children, who will have the skin names, thanks to mine (Beling) graciously granted by Elder, Jocelyn McCartney. There is extended family in Barunga, I feel closer to current and past participants of this field school who also spent time there.

As a practising Christian, participating in this field school is of the utmost personal value, the ability to be able to engage academically with a church was an absolute pleasure! I am grateful to all my teachers in this experience, especially the children through this experience and will value my new knowledge. More than anything sitting in an auditorium as part of Aerospace Futures, I want to return to Barunga and my friendly fieldwork attire, not the stuffy outfits of formality. I would want more than anything to hear more of their beautiful culture and eagerly I await the day of my return, I am honoured to have taken part, and given the chance would return there again.