I was asked by my friend Melissa, a first-grade teacher outside of Seattle, to answer some questions her students had asked about Australia. Why me? Great question. I'm the closest thing she has to an expert on hand since I lived there for a few months back in 2008. Below are her students' questions and my responses.
Apologies to my Aussie mates.
How many sheep are in Australia? (Sorry, I know I can Google it, but they want to ask you.)
Do they ride the sheep?
Do they have movie theatres [sic]? (Specifically ones that show James Bond? Seriously dying right now . . . the questions they come up with!!!)
When they get mad, do they butcher sheep?
Why do the sheep run on the road with the cars?
Why do they eat the kinds of foods we eat? What do they eat that's different?
Do they have carnivals?
Do they have any zoos?
What do people do for a living? (Most popular jobs!)
Dear Mrs. Brown's First Grade Class,
I'd be honored to answer these; I'll even type them in an Australian accent. I'm sorry I didn't get to it earlier this arvo (afternoon), it's been chaotic day chockablock with the crazies.
How many sheep are in Australia? While living in Australia, I never encountered any sheep! However, I know from asking around with the locals that there are over 80 million sheep Down Under...more than any other country.
Do they ride sheep? Yes they do. And they do it in competitions much like our typical rodeos, in an event they call Mutton Busting. Usually the kids do their very best to stay on top of the sheep for more than eight seconds.
Yes Virginia, they DO have movie theaters in Australia. I saw Iron Man there. And I called back to the states and spoiled the ending for a friend because I was a day ahead of him and it already debuted. In Australian movie theaters, there aren't ads before the movies start and you actually select your seat when you buy your ticket (kinda like when you go to a football game). Movies in Australia typically lag behind what is out in America by a month or more. And sometimes they change the title of the movie. In America we say, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but in Australia it's called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. And yes, the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall was released in Australian theaters, but about two weeks after it came out here.
Sheep and kangaroos are everywhere in Australia. And although I don't recall ever running across any wild sheep, I frequently had to stop the car because a kangaroo was in my way. Sometimes I would see them on the golf course, and often with baby kangaroo in it's mommy's pouch. I saw a fair amount of wallabies as well, which are smaller kangaroos. The animals run on the roads so much because their habitat is shrinking. More and more people are moving to Australia so the animals have fewer and fewer places to live, so sometimes you'll find them on the roads, hitch-hiking.
Foods! Great question. Know what they call hot dogs in Australia? Snags. They call 'em snags. And they don't eat them in hot dog buns, they just use a piece of white bread with ketchup. Weird right? My favorite thing to eat in Australia were meat pies. Sounds strange but they're brilliant. I'd gladly pay $1,000 for one right now. It's like a little pie, about the size of a large doughnut and it's filled with hamburger or sausage and other spices. Sometimes you can get breakfast ones. You put a little ketchup on them and eat them hot. SOOO GOOD. There's also Vegemite. It's a byproduct of beer and they slather it on toast. It's across-the-board DEE-SCUST-ING. For the love of God, kids. Say no to Vegemite. And drugs. Don't do drugs.
Australians love carnivals and fairs. When I lived there in 2008, they were celebrating the anniversary of their hosting of the World's Fair about 20 years prior. THAT'S how much they love celebrating. They celebrate anniversaries of celebrations! And they did it with a hovercraft parade. How awesome is that? Can you top it? No. You can't. Unless you were watching a hovercraft parade while Back to the Future was playing on an outdoor screen in front of hundreds of people. See! I told you that sometimes it takes longer for movies to reach Australia. Hovercraft parade! Let that sink in. Meditate on it for awhile. So awesome.
Do they have zoos? Are you serious? Are you Yahoo Serious? If you are, then you're already Australian and your movie career peaked in 1988 with Young Einstein (though some would argue that Reckless Kelly was his defining work in 1993). Just north of Brisbane is none other than The Australia Zoo. Steve Irwin's zoo. You know Steve Irwin, right? He and his family's TV show are responsible for more of my animal knowledge and spirit of conservationism than any other Australian TV show! The zoo is huge, and many of the animals roam freely about it. It's not unusual to see a wombat just walking by searching for food, or a zoo employee holding a dopey koala bear (side not, koalas are not bears, they are marsupials). At the Australia zoo I also saw a giant reticular python that would have no problems eating a child and then going back to watching a rugby match.
What do you people do in Australia for work? It depends on where they live. Some are dentists in Sydney who keep expensive and exotic fish in their office (and sometimes they leave the window open and a pesky pelican bothers them). Some people are eccentric crocodile poachers in Walkabout Creek in the Northern Territory who eventually fly to New York and marry Linda Klozowski (essentially ruining her career). Some of them heartbreakingly blow a six-shot lead on Sunday the 1996 Masters. But most of the citizens of Australia hold the same jobs that people here in America do. They people I worked with were some of the hardest working and dedicated people I've ever known; but they also liked to have a good time after work. They played in intesne Australian Rules Football leagues, they golfed, and they went surfing in the Pacific.
I hope this helps and I sincerely hope Mrs. Brown explains all these references to your young, budding minds that she's shaping like an exquisite clay vase.