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Kimble: America as seen by Australian youths
Kimble 2
4-H Agent Terri Kimble working with Year 4 and 5 students at Corrigin District High School in Western Australia. (Photo by Jackie Jones.)

"What do you wear to sleep?"

"Why do all Americans drink from red cups?"

"Have you met Michael Jordan?"

"How many Sasquatches are in Georgia?"

"Are you rich?"

These questions were all real questions asked by the Australian youth during our trip so far. The last four seem to be based on television shows and movies, although I'm still not sure about the first one.

Maybe he thought we all wore pink footie bunny pajamas like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story."

When you think about it, we do often drink from red Coca-Cola cups in restaurants, and the kids seemed to watch a lot of shows like American Idol which is sponsored by Coke.

I suppose Sasquatch is our Loch Ness monster, and if everyone in America lived like our movie stars we'd be rich indeed.

I was able to bring one bit of the movies to life for a Year 4 and 5 class in Corrigin, Western Australia: s'mores.

I hauled a suitcase half full of giant marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey bars around the world, but 27 youths and one teacher are looking forward to a treat tonight.

Interestingly, I did find giant marshmallows in an IGA grocery here, but in a half-sized bag for five times our price, and labeled "an American tradition."

I found a store a few hours away selling imported candy bars too, with a $3.50 price tag on a single Hershey bar.

Equally interesting to the way the youth view America, however, is hearing adults' perspectives and questions.

On the first morning of the district Rotary conference, we heard from economist Jonathan Pain, author of The Pain Report.

He talked about the downfall of our economy as well as those across Europe, and discussed emerging economies in Asia he felt were the ones to watch.

It felt a little harsh hearing about our economy's weaknesses from an outsider, but he said nothing that wasn't factual.

"Beware the prism through which you view the world," he said.

I figure that applies to a lot more than just economics.

While I studiously read guidebooks, websites and blogs about Australia, as well as popular and historical novels, it's still impossible to visit a place without any bias.

It has made a favorable impression when people learned I was interested enough in their history and culture to make the effort to learn about Australia before visiting.

It has also helped me to learn even more while I am here, already being at least a little familiar with the history and current events.

One participant at the conference said you can't say Rotary without the rest of the name - Rotary International - because "we are a world community."

While Rotary clubs are in communities, performing great service in their own communities, the focus of Rotary International is to serve the entire world.

Georgia Rotary clubs participate in international service projects like fighting for the complete eradication of polio, as well as national projects in disaster stricken Caribbean countries.

They host high school and college students from around the world through the international Rotary student exchange and the Georgia Rotary Student Program, giving students from our country and others a chance to study abroad, while also exposing Georgia students to foreign cultures here at home.

Most important to me right now is the Group Study Exchange, allowing young professionals to gain a greater global understanding which we can apply in our local communities.
Certainly, each of us will return home changed.

Each GSE participant I meet, no matter where they traveled talks about the impact of the experience.

Our team spent the last two weeks around the Western Australia countryside, including Kununurra, Geraldton Wongan Hills, Cunderdin, and Corrigin.

We volunteered for a gunfire breakfast honoring veterans of Australia and New Zealand, attended another ANZAC day service, made a presentation to the Corrigin district school, toured a Spanish monastery, and enjoyed many other activities with the local clubs.

The prism through which we each view the world is changing, and I think we're helping change a few other prisms, as well.

As one teacher commented, now the students will know Americans don't have two heads. They also know we sleep in pajamas.

Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (770) 784-2010 or