People: Nick Williams, a 12-year-old with memories of Australia


The jet lag still was lingering a few days after 12-year-old Nick Williams and his grandparents, Earl and Barbara Pinkston, got back from a two-week trip to Australia. But the memories of the land Down Under were as clear as the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

They left March 23, a Tuesday, and arrived on a Thursday, as they crossed the international date line. The airplane trip took them from Lexington to Atlanta to Los Angeles to Melbourne, in Victoria, where they spent four days.

They took in Captain Cook's Cottage, the Queen Victoria Market and the Princess Bridge. They also toured Fitzroy Gardens and saw the Shrine of Remembrance, a World War II memorial that has an unusual feature. Nick said the sun comes through openings onto the memorial, lighting up the words written on it. But the best time to catch the memorial in its full glory, he added, is on Nov. 11.


They also caught a "footy game," which is Australian football, Nick said.

"They have an oval field, two poles, and they kick the ball to players and juggle (the ball) like a volleyball," he explained. "They can only take a certain number of steps, then they have to dribble or kick."

The team members wear tank top-type shirts and no equipment, Nick added.

The weather was hot wherever they went. In Alise Springs, which is a desert country, it rained for the first time in many, many days while they were there.

"They thanked us for the rain," Pinkston said.

They saw Ayers Rock, which is more than 1,100 feet tall, while around Alise Springs. While tourists are allowed to climb on the rock, the aborigines prefer they not do so.

"The aborigines don't like you to climb on it because of their spiritual beliefs," Nick explained.

They also saw Olga Rock and Gorge, which is 1,791 feet tall.

Pinkston recalled the educational system in Australia.

"They had an overland telegraph station in a central location, and they teach that way," she explained. "The teacher talks to the students," who are spread apart over the vast expanses of Australia. "They children want to go, and enjoy going to school."

When they turn 12, the children are sent to a city for board school.

Cairns (pronounced like cans), in Queensland, is a city near the Great Barrier Reef. They flew from stop to stop in Australia. While in Queensland, they traveled from Cairns to Green Island to take in the immense reef.

"The water is very blue, and you can snorkel there," Pinkston said. "Nick couldn't - he had broken his wrist before he left."

They took a "semi-submarine" ride as well as a trip in a glass-bottomed boat, and saw the coral and a variety of fish, including a black miniature shark.

Outback was their favorite part of the country

They also spent time in the Outback, which was the favorite location of both Nick and Pinkston.

"There is a lot of wildlife there," Nick said. "I saw two captive dingoes ... and different birds, like parrots, of all different colors."

Pinkston said they attended a "barbie" while in the Outback.

"A boy made bread in front of us that they called 'damper bread,'" she explained. "It had flour, salt and water in it. He put it in a pot over a fire, with coals on top and around it."

One aspect they weren't too keen on was the Australian penchant for extra-rare meat. "It's barely flipped" when cooking, Nick said.

They ate meats such as kangaroo, the national animal, salmon, emu and crocodile.

Added Pinkston, "And every breakfast, they had baked beans."

They visited a "night zoo," where they saw two albino kangaroos - "they look like big rats," Nick said - as well as several crocodiles, cockatoos, snakes, koala bears and "bilbos," or little kangaroos with skinny snouts, he noted. One of the kangas had a joey in its pouch.

"I got to box with a joey," Nick noted. "He had little hands."

From Cairns they traveled to Sydney, home of 20 million people.The Queen Victoria building in Sydney contains more than 200 specialty shops on five levels. "It's very expensive (there)," said Nick.

They also visited Kakadu National Park, an area where dinosaurs roamed millions of years ago. "It's mostly a lot of greenery, with birds and parrots," Nick said.

There also are a lot of flies that go for humans' eyes, ears and mouths. "You can swallow them," Pinkston said.

Added Nick, "That's where the accent comes from - talking out of the corner of their mouths because of the flies."

His grandmother said nets are sold there to keep flies away from faces.

A noteworthy aspect of Australia was how much more everything cost, Pinkston said.

"Minimum wage is $12," she explained. "A 24-pack of Coke costs $22.09. A candy bar is $3. Meals are really expensive."

While Pinkston enjoyed her trip to Australia, she said she didn't necessarily want to see the country again.

"I like to move on to new territory," she said, adding her husband had wanted to see the country for many years. "But I loved being there."

Nick said he wouldn't mind living there. "It's really nice."

Aussie speak, per Nick Williams

Men = blokes

Women = sheilas

Bathroom = toilet

Tractor-trailer trucks = road trains

Outhouse = dunny

Sidewalk = footpath

Ranch = cattle station

Round up = muster

Hello = G'day

Right of way = give way

Carry out (as in food) = take away

No problem = no worries

Barbecues = barbies

Flashlights = torches

French fries = chips

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