Wide Brown Land

Lake Tuggeranong

I was told that my niece Hansi is the airport expert and she helped me with her expertise,  one very windy morning to drop me at the airport in Melbourne. I was taking Tiger Air after a long time to fly to Canberra. Things had changed and it was very much better than before and it was a smooth check in though,  I am not happy when there is less human contact. Flight to Canberra was smooth. Over the years, I had begun to like Canberra though there was a time I thought it was a boring city. But, there is so much beauty in the capital territory of Australia. It is the place where one could calm down and relax or play golf every day.  Straight from the airport, I went to meet Kathy to her office. I would say she is the best Australian High Commissioner to have served in Sri Lanka. She is a great  human being and an  excellent diplomat. I  was very happy to have met her after a long time. I realised that she still likes her, Kiribath and Katta Sambol because we spoke about it since it was Avurudu time in Sri Lanka. Good Diplomats are good human beings and good human beings are good diplomats. Kathy is both. 

I stayed at a place known as Kambah. It is the northernmost suburb in the district of Tuggeranong, Canberra.  The name derives from Ngambri, the name of the clan that originally lived in the area before European occupation. The same word is the origin for the name Canberra. Earlier, I wanted to stay in the city which would have made my life much easier getting about in the city. However,  I was offered hospitality in Kambah . It was a beautiful area where I went for an early morning walk by the lake Tuggeranong. The walkers greeted each other, gave way for the cyclist when bells were rung or when they heard them coming.  I am sure the cyclist heard our footsteps, too. I saw smiling Australian school kids cycling and roller skating to a nearby school.  There were no traffic or so many school vans and overly anxious parents like in Sri Lanka. This is the way children should go to school I thought. Do you agree?  

Earlier in the night, I met Chloe, and Edwina two other friends, Australian diplomats who served well for their country, in Sri Lanka. These are excellent diplomats who build bridges between our two countries. Sri Lanka and Australia can boast of excellent relations and we are going from strength to strength. Highgate House where we met is an iconic Bohemian Manor situated in the heart of Kingston’s Green Square on the inner south of Canberra in the city.  Canberra was kind to me and it wasn't cold that night. I tasted excellent red wines of Canberra. Edwina hadn't forgotten some of her Sinhala and of course her favourite word is "Aiyo" Chloe for a long time had a red Sri Lankan Tuk Tuk as her profile picture.  Their love for Sri Lanka is much as my love for Australia. Cheers! Aiyo! 

I have seen Kangaroos several times but, not closer as the ones I saw at the Tidbinbilla nature reserve. We met them suddenly and they stopped in the middle of the road. The curious Mother Kangaroo kept staring us at whilst the baby Kangaroo was looking elsewhere. It was their territory. We had to respect it. So we waited until they crossed the road. They took long. I thought they were trying to challenge us the way the mother kangaroo kept on looking at us. It was the baby Kangaroo who first crossed the road and the caring mother kangaroo followed.  I cannot explain how much I love Koalas. Must be because of their sleepy, lazy, tree hugging ways. Some of the koalas we saw at the nature reserve were wide awake. They continued to hug trees, and ate. A young school girl who had volunteered at the reserve told us that though they look friendly and lazy, wild koalas could bite and it could hurt. One could only hug, cuddle or  pat tame koalas. The Koalas made my day. When Parliamentarian Harsha de Silva sent me New Year greetings I told him, "Harsha, I am with Koalas. It is better to be with Koalas than with Sri Lankan politicians" Think he had to agree though he said, "Ouch". 

I was very happy when Somasunderam Skandakumar , we affectionally refer to as Skanda was appointed as the High Commissioner to Australia. He is doing Sri Lanka proud.  He got excellent Public Relations skills and doesn't try to command or impose on others. I heard him sing ‘Danno Budunge’ last year at Vesak Bakthi Gee in Canberra. Someone said they would expect more from him this year. I have no doubt Skanda is even using his cricketing skills and cricket diplomacy well in Australia. I met Skanda at the High Commission in Canberra. He also told me that the relations between the two countries were at a peak. I know it will always remain so with Australia. Skanda hosted me to lunch at Banana Leaf, a Sri Lankan restaurant in the heart of Canberra. Having a regular place at the restaurant meant that the High Commissioner was promoting Sri Lankan food to the Australians and well. We had Sri Lankan ginger beer and an excellent Sri Lankan fish biriyani a Banana Leaf Special. I was pleasantly surprised when the waiter at the restaurant  told me he watches News 1st Television programme Pathikada which I host very happily. I heard that Skanda plans to leave at the end of his term this year without seeking an extension. That’s wonderful of him and it’s a rarity. However, I say he should continue for another year. 

Let me end this week’s street walk with Dorothea Mackellar’s popular poem ‘My Country’ which was written in 1908. I was fortunate to go where it was and the sculptural form that make up the work are inspired by the cursive style of her own hand writing 

Wide Brown Land 

I love a sunburnt country,A land of sweeping plains,Of ragged mountain ranges,Of droughts and flooding rains.I love her far horizons,I love her jewel-sea,Her beauty and her terror -The wide brown land for me!

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