June 7

Hello family and friends! 

Anna prepared to smash the ball while playing cricket!


Today we woke up covered in dew, after a great night of sleeping in the outback. We were moved out of our tents and were eating eggs, toast, bacon and cereal by 8:00am. After breakfast Paul, our awesome bus driver, taught us how to play cricket. It is a mixture between bowling and baseball, and I definitely think the hardest part was learning how to “bowl” the ball instead of throwing it when it was your turn to be pitcher. 

Maria giving us fresh coffee beans to try


Our first stop of the day was at Malobertt’s North Queensland Gold Coffee plantation. Maria and her parents, Bruno and Louisa, have been running their coffee business since 1980 when they first planted the seeds. I thought it was interesting how they have been using a trickle irrigation system for almost 30 years, when some farmers are just now converting from above ground irrigation. They use the trickle water system to help prevent evaporation from occurring and to provide water directly to the plant’s root, preventing weed growth. Another sustainable practice they’re using is selling their product locally. Maria explained that their biggest market is mailing coffee to returning Australian customers. This allows them to help the local economy, save money in advertising as word-of-mouth markets their coffee for them, and prevents carbon emissions by not exporting their product globally. 

Mark explaining the banana growing process to the group


Later we headed to Mt. Uncle’s Distillery banana plantation and ate a quick lunch. The Head Distiller, Mark Watkins, explained how they are the largest banana growers in Australia with over 250 acres. The lifespan of a banana tree is roughly seven months and each plant only produces two bunches within that time. After their second bunch is removed, they cut down the tree and turn it into mulch that is returned to the paddock to act as a natural fertilizer. Meanwhile, the stump that remains is left there to decompose and provide the newly sprouted banana tree, called a sucker, with its nutrients to help it grow quickly. 

Mark explained how birds and bats eating the fruit is currently their biggest problem. To prevent this they put bags on the fruit as soon as it begins to form. When the bundles have ripened and are ready for market they was h the bananas, grade them and ship them in refrigerated trucks. To be sustainable, they recycle the wash water to irrigate the plantation, reuse the bags that hang in the trees and use recycled cardboard boxes for packaging.  This allows them to have less impact on the environment while educating the public about ways to be sustainable. 

Mark learning how to throw the Boomerang from Pat


We spent our evening with an indigenous family, Phil Barlow and his brother Pat, learning more about their culture. Our first mission was to learn how to throw the Boomerang. Some of us caught on quickly, while got it stuck in a tree … but overall it was quite fun! 

We then sat around the campfire and listened to Phil educate us with the history of his aboriginal family. We learned about a variety of events they have been through and all of the racism that still exists today. I was shocked to hear that until 1980, Australian residents could buy a permit at the local police station to hunt aboriginals. Another surprising fact was that a KKK article appeared two years ago in a local Cairns newspaper. 

The group listening to Phil speak about his family's history


Phil’s family prepared dinner for us by creating a pit in the ground, using hot rocks to heat the food and covering it with leaves, burlap bags and soil. This was just one of the many ways their culture continued to amaze me. After dinner, we learned how to play the Didgeridoo (a wooden musical instrument) and then spoke with Phil individually to be given our spirit animal. 

Through this experience, I learned that aboriginals today are being sustainable by trying to keep their culture alive. They have 40,000 years of knowledge and experience that is on the verge of being forgotten. Phil’s plan to prevent this includes continuing to educate the public about the indigenous history and teaching youth skills they can use, such as how to spear a fish. 

A few of us trying out their uniforms!


Later a few of us visited Queensland Fire and Rescue, which is located next to our hostel, where we’ll be living until Thursday. The  there are part-time volunteers and have other full-time jobs to support their families. They gave us a detailed tour of their station, let us try on their uniforms and even climb into the fire truck. 

Overall, we had a fabulous jam-packed day and are exhausted for sure! See you soon! 

Love, Sarah



  1. Cant wait til we see some Holstein’s! Any Brown Swiss or Jersey?? Are they as huge there as here, or have they downsized them? Do they have a cow with a “view” at a university there, like MSU has? So glad you’re finally getting your feet dirty! Need your rubber boots?

  2. Hope your day at the farm, was what you had hoped for. Were their cattle as well trained as yours at home? Looking forward, to seeing you, and hearing all your stories….Love you, Sarah

  3. I agree with you on the racism issue Sarah. I was also shocked by this and couldn’t believe that in Australia they are just starting to form a group.
    Definitely one of my favorite parts of visiting with Phil was getting to hear what my spirit amimal was. He gave all of us different animals and colors and explained what all the colors meant. I was a fish with white, green and dark purple.

  4. I found it interesting how many companies are only shipping locally, whether by choice or not. One big example of this is the tea farm we visited. They only get 10% of the Australian market and they’re the only large tea company in the country. Labor is so much cheaper in other countries that even with the cost of shipping the foreign companies are still able to offer a lower price on their tea. Other companies, like the coffee company we visited, however, choose to only ship in country to minimize the amount of “food miles” their product travels. This helps cut down on carbon emissions and make their company more sustainable.

  5. I totally agree with the racism thing too sarah. Its absolutely disgusting what they had to go through and what they are still going through. Even after the governtment appology and national sorry day. Its just not enough. phil told us how just a few years ago a huge cycolne went through. When the area was insepected for damage all around them it was a category five so people were given money for the damage. But on his land they recorded it as a category three and they did not recieve any money for the damage even the the damage was just as bad as the area around them. It is jus disgusting to be that that kind of racism still exists today. He even talked about how is neighboors still dont even talk to him. It was very intersting to hear phil talk and was definitely one of my favorite parts of this trip so far.

  6. Visiting Phil and his family was definitely one of the highlights of this trip. However, it was shocking to hear all that Phil’s family goes through due to racism, even in today’s modern world. For instance, his children are not currently enrolled in school because of the racism and harassment they would endure because of their race. Phil’s family is shunned by all of their surrounding neighbors, even though they do nothing to disrupt anyone.
    Receiving our “spirit animals” was a touching, deep moment for all of us. As an Aboriginal, Phil is very spiritual and is able to read people very accurately. It was amazing that he could pinpoint certain points of my personality and goals that I had not mentioned at all during the night. I ended up being a “sea turtle” in spirit, which will be hand-painted on my boomerang by Phil.

  7. This was a great experince in all we actually had to a sit down talk with Phil a real Aboriginal. He told us about his life and the struggels he had growing up. Much of the history he told us was really crazy. For instance Butcher Creek where he lives close by is one of places where they had 7 diffrent massicares which was all in a way to get rid of the Aboriginal people. Also, it was really incredible that he could tell a little about us just by being with us for a couple hours. That was pretty cool my spirit animal was the Crocodile.

  8. Adding to Sarah’s post I thought our evening spent with Phil and his family was really eye-opening. The racial trauma that him and his family went through were incredible, and it’s a testament to his spirit that he is willing to sit down with students and talk about his past. I think it is incredibly important to share that information with people to ensure these types of injustices never happen again. That being said, Phil was one of the nicest and well-spoken people I have ever met. His family’s hospitality was wonderful and the dinner we had with them was certainly delicious. I was really proud of our group that night because everybody asked really good questions and participated in all of the activities. Even some of our pickier eaters didnt hesitate to try the meat that was smoldering underground all day. Another fun and informative day for MSU Study Abroad 2010!!!!

  9. Hi mom and grandma! The dairy farm was awesome and it felt great to be on a farm after a month without it! Their cattle operation had roughly 500 head and they focused on producing milk, cheese and chocolate. I learned about their feeding program (similar to ours) and they have had a milking rotating table since 1980. I was very impressed and it made me want to come home even more! Can’t wait to see you Saturday! love you, Sarah

    • How Exciting!!!!!!!!!! You all had such a wonderful experience, it’s been great following through each of the daily events. WE ALL FELT a part of your trip and anxiously awaited the updates. We welcome you home and cant wait to hear and see the photographs! Creating memories is what LIFE is all about! xoxo Love Mom

  10. Thanks for the opportunity to follow your group during this once in a lifetime adventure. It has been very education to all of us here at home.
    Also with the updates, we were assured, our loved ones, were happy, and enjoying, and learning, all with an enjoyable experience.
    Love you Sarah, see you soon!!!!!!!!

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