G’Day Newmanites! Greetings from Australia!
I am writing to you from the future, where it is already tomorrow (we are 15 hours ahead here in Sydney)!
I have been here since July, working on an international research project (joint project of the University of Sydney and Harvard University), called the Electoral integrity Project, which looks at the questions: “Why elections fail and what we can do about it?” My role here is to do half of my work on the project itself, and the other half of my work on my dissertation. My work for the project so far has mostly involved writing election reports (did you know that there were over 800 million voters registered in India’s most recent general election? They had to spread voting out over ten days to just manage the task!), assisting with conferences (we hosted the election commissioners from Afghanistan and Nepal for a week-long workshop on election security last week!), reviewing articles for publication (including one of my own! Yikes!), and attending seminars (still not sure if I’m a fan of electronic voting, but we had a great discussion on it a few weeks ago!). Judging from the number of exclamation points in this last sentence, I am obviously quite excited with the work I am doing and like the people with whom I work. We have good fun too! Our office is currently working our way through every different types of Arnott’s biscuits (my favourite so far is peanut butter Tim Tams).
My first two stops when I arrived in Sydney were to find the Catholic Chaplaincy and a parish within walking distance of my flat. Here, the Newman Centre equivalent is called the John Paul II Student Centre, and the Newman Catholic Students’ Society equivalent is called the Catholic Society of St. Peter. They do many similar activities to the Newman Centre and NCSS, but since most university students live with their parents (rent is exceptionally expensive in Sydney), all the events happen during the day Monday-Thursday. My new parish, St. Joseph’s Camperdown, is a beautiful little church. It was only a matter of time before I joined the choir and got to know the parish. One of the most beautiful things at this parish is our First Friday devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The whole parish comes together for a candle-lit ‘Encounter’ mass (longer than normal, with ample opportunities for silence and reflection), followed by adoration through the night. Families come and lots of the little kids will end up falling asleep at the back of the church (so you end up stepping over little ones sleeping to get down the aisle for communion). There is such a beautiful community that I am happy to be a small part of now!
I am meeting lots of new people at work, at church and on campus. The accent gives me away as a foreigner, and the most common questions I get asked include:
- “Are you American?” (no, Canadian)
- “Do you speak French?” (yes)
- “Isn’t Justin Bieber is from Canada?” (we apologize)
But, quite honestly, it feels just like home! Australians are (in my experience) relaxed and friendly! It’s like a warmer version of Canada, just with poisonous spiders and funny accents.
Looking forward to seeing you in January (but I’m not looking forward to the cold!)