You probably won’t see such groups in big cities, but the Australian region has been a haven for private boarding schools for more than a century. As the economic sheen has been erased from rural Australia, taking the economic base of the private school population with it, such schools are encouraged to seek replacement students elsewhere, only to stay afloat. Especially in Asia.
It’s a fact of life, but it’s one that can easily be overlooked because of all the persistent and inactive public voices about returning Australians stranded to Covid abroad. It’s not that I have no sympathy, either for Australians trapped abroad or their families here, but their profile is much higher than the foreigners trapped here, just as annoying.
Indeed, two of my acquaintances are in that position to be precise. One person, whose health is not very good, has an only child in Hamburg, northern Germany, one of Europe’s Covid-19 epicenter, while another has constant worries about a child trapped in Beirut where, frankly, anything can be. happen.
Meanwhile, I was having a quiet afternoon of flat white decaf watching this little party a few tables away. It seems that the holy couple who have taken over this group of stranded Chinese girls, have a child stranded abroad, and must therefore feel a sharp isolation from their accusations. And accept the challenge. Which, of course, was quite voluntary on their part.
It makes me wonder too. Why, if foreign students are so integral to our present economic well-being and if they are stranded here to protect the entire Australian community from imported strains of the coronavirus, why is the well-being of very young people (which we have been encouraging) to come here at such a cost. great for their parents) relegated to volunteering?
On the other hand, however, I cringe at the thought of the indirect treatment they would get if the Government actually accepted responsibility for these children and decided to put their welfare in the hands of a bureaucrat who was not humorous and watched over time. At least their current presenters can always see the cute side of things, as the girls are giggling happily. Between iced chocolate drinks and French pastries.
It’s not something we think of as Australians, but when I see a group of kids in a mall from a very different environment from ours, I wonder what it was like to be settlers here from another part of the world, especially in the 19th century, when things were much grimmer than they were now.
I tried to put myself in the shoes of all the Wises and Bridges and Thomases and Tudehope who left England, Wales and Scotland around 1850, not quite sure what to expect upon their arrival in ‘Gondwanaland’ or whether they would ever see a close family member. . again. And knowing that every letter they send home will take months to deliver at a time when the recipient can be healthy and completely dead. Even though you just replied to their last letter as if it was chat over the fence.
We seem to have forgotten how scary it is to give up everything you will ever know or love to climb a fragile piece of wood and canvas and go into an unknown virtual world. Yet millions of people do it and we are here today as proof that it is not impossible if you have the motivation and determination. As I look back, and as I talk to others about their own immigrant stories, I realize that the common thread in all of these stories is determination. I wonder if we can do it today?
One thing is certain and that is this small group of Chinese school students – they are cleaning crumbs from their clothes now – must be prepared. They don’t look very determined, kind of tacky if you ask me, but were sent into a whole new world by parents who clearly wanted more for their children than for themselves – somewhat like our own ancestors – and did, seemingly without complaining.
Maybe they cry themselves to sleep at night when the lights go out and no one can hear. If absenteeism is the only thing they have to bear away from home, then I think we should take our hats off to the volunteers who give up their time and money, with no gain to themselves, to spread as little joy and care to those who might. . Need it. And maybe an éclair or far Breton, if there’s anything left in the glass case under the counter. I know I have to.