Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tasmania, more than just a penal colony

Michele -- Tasmanians are subject to many jokes among Aussies. Sort of like New Jersey in the US. Since I grew up in New Jersey, I felt an instant camaraderie with the Hobartians. We are misjudged and our homelands maligned. Together we can fight against the comedians jokes told at our expense and end this oppression! At the same time, I was curious if all the inbreeding stories were true and examined my Hobartian neighbors closely. Maybe. No obvious signs of second head removal surgery.

It seems that everyone has heard the stories of the Tasmanian penal colony. In the 18th and 19th centuries, after England couldn’t ship her convicts to the US anymore, she shipped them to Australia. The badly behaved of those convicts were then sent to the ends of the Earth -- Hobart. More specifically, to Port Arthur at the southern tip of the Tasman Peninsula and 90 km from Hobart. The transportation of convicts ended in 1853.

It may surprise some that these days some people voluntarily travel to Hobart. I’ve met graduate students and post-docs at the University of Tasmania who have come from all around the world. Hmm.. Is graduate school a modern-day penal system?

I've been working very hard since arriving in Hobart. After giving a public lecture and running a 2.5 day workshop I'm pretty worn out. Now that I've served my time, tomorrow I get to leave for Queensland. I will miss the old stone buildings in the Battery Park neighborhood where we are staying and the exquisite views of Mt Wellington when it isn't raining. Who knows, if I behave badly, maybe I will get to come back.

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