A-M u s i n g s

Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.

                                                                                                We are not alone

I happened to notice recently that the head of one of the region’s major organisations boasted that he had visited over a quarter of the countries in the world – good for him! They say that travel broadens the mind – perhaps that’s why our much travelled leaders are so broadminded – and it is certainly true that a receptive mind can gather a wealth of information on its travels, which leads me to tell you that I know things about St. Lucia that I bet you don’t know.

Feeling a little far from home, I recently encountered St. Lucia, an exclusive, affluent suburb situated some 4 miles southwest of Brisbane on a peninsula in the Brisbane River, where some of the area’s finest homes, as well as the main campus of the University of Queensland, are situated.

The area, originally part of Indooroopilly and later part of Toowong – I do so love these Australian names; they are so unlikely, like something out of Harry Potter – was, in the 1860s, an area of sugar plantations where one William lexander Wilson, born in St. Lucia in the West Indies, purchased the Coldridge Plantation in 1882 and renamed it the St. Lucia Sugar Plantation. Just a year later, the plantation was subdivided for housing, but the name stuck.

The student population of St. Lucia is high, especially in the immediate vicinity of the university, but the suburb is also home to wealthy families. Of the population of 11,195, those aged between15–24 comprise 46.7% of the total, compared to 13.3% nationally. It’s a young community. Just over half the people living in St. Lucia were born in Australia, while just under two-thirds of residents speak only English at home; the next most popular languages were Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and just about every European tongue. The place is fascinating, as you can imagine, to someone like me who works with English as a Foreign Language. Interestingly, one third of the residents admits to no religious beliefs while 18% profess to be Catholics, 12% Anglicans, just over 5% followers of Islam, and a similar 5% adherents of Buddhism.

Half a world away, in South Africa, I came across yet another St. Lucia in the Umkhanyakude Municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa – if you are already in love with Australian names, the South African ones are to die for – a tongue twister’s paradise!

It is amazing really how little we understood – I say ‘we’ because I think I am no different from others – when we chose our careers all those years ago how our lives would be mapped out as a consequence, often through a whim. When languages became my passion, I had little idea that the rest of my life would be made so rich. I guess I got lucky.

The South African St. Lucia is old, very old. Over 130,000 years ago, people lived in caves high in the Lebombo mountains where 69,000 stone implements and various human remains have been recovered.

In 1554, survivors of a wrecked Portuguese ship, The Sao Bento named the area The River of the Gold Dunes. On 13 December, 1575 the region was renamed Santa Lucia. In 1822, the British proclaimed St. Lucia a township. In 1895, the St. Lucia Game Reserve, 30 km north of the town, came into being. By 1971, the St. Lucia Lake, the Turtle Beaches and the Coral Reefs of Maputaland were listed by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and in December 1999 the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site where crocodiles, hippopotami, leopards and black rhinos live freely.

Another procession, quite different from a parade of animals, takes place each year on December 13th in Sweden when girls clad in white full-length gowns and bearing crowns of candles in their hair celebrate the feast of Santa Lucia. They are followed by Star Boys who, like the handmaidens, are dressed in white gowns, carry stars on sticks and have tall paper cones on their heads. The brownies bring up the rear, carrying small lanterns. Lucia is the bearer of light in the dark Swedish winter. Every Swede knows the Lucia Song by heart, and can sing it, in or out of tune. Celebrations include Ginger Snaps and ‘lussekatter’, saffron-flavoured buns shaped like curled-up cats and with raisin-eyes best eaten with glögg or coffee. The tradition can be traced to St. Lucia of Syracuse, a martyr who died in 304. In the old almanac, Lucia Night was the night when supernatural beings were abroad and all animals could speak. By morning, the livestock needed extra feed, and people, needing extra nourishment, were urged to eat up to nine hearty breakfasts before the Christmas Fasting began on Lucia Day.

Now go on! Admit it! You’ve not even left home, but your mind feels broadened already, doesn’t it?

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