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A place we call ‘Home’

Tu Lien Chu is currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce and was able to claim this experience as part of her Experiential Credit.

A story from GLP Cultural Series Cabramatta October 2015:

Last year, I, together with a group of beautiful ladies and one gentleman, had a one-day trip to Cabramatta, a small suburb in Sydney that is believed to be a great example of multiculturalism. Despite originating from Vietnam, I have always wanted to explore Cabramatta, where most Vietnamese people, together with other cultural groups such as Cambodian and Laotian, have formed a community in Australia, where I’m studying abroad. The day has given me one of the best experiences in my GLP journey, helping me to understand a place that I call my ‘second home’.

The day started in the early morning, at the Mingyue Lay Temple, our first destination. Mingyue Lay Temple is one of the largest Chinese Buddhist temples in Cabramatta. It has four main halls, which represent an ecumenical celebration of Buddhism, Taoism and Zen. Miss Hong warmly welcomed and introduced us to the establishment and the story of the temple. At the main entrance, we took in the majesty of the ‘Three Buddhas’, who are also known as ‘Ru Lai Fao’. They represent the teachers of Western Universe with the ethereal world of the faithful, the earthly universe and the Eastern World, from left to right. We also had a chance to appreciate the beauty of goddess Quan Yin, a great deity in Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhism, as well as Di Sung Wang, the God of the underworld.

We were lucky as this day was a celebration of Chung Yeung Festival (Double Ninth Festival). This festival falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month in the Chinese calendar and is observed as a traditional Chinese holiday! Nine is a yang number and that date is said to have too much yang (double nine). On this day in Chinese culture, people visit the graves of their ancestors to pay respects by cleaning the graves and dedicating food, which is believed to have spiritual elements.

During the visit we watched the Buddhist monks gather together in front of the three Buddha, reading out loud Buddhist scriptures. There was such a relaxing atmosphere.

After having Vietnamese cuisine for lunch, we began a walking tour around Cabramatta. We were so amazed by the richness of the community, from the meaning of spirit animals to the structures of the buildings. The gateway or Pai Lau located in Freedom Plaza, a pedestrian mall between the main shopping areas of John Street and Arthur Street, stands as a symbol of friendship, freedom, democracy and multiculturalism. The five languages on the gate, English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Lao and Khmer, are the most commonly used in the community. The statues that stand on either side of the gate further represent the characteristics and wishes of the local people. The ox on the left-hand side symbolizes strength, hard-work, and luck while the horse is a symbol of entertainment and stamina.

Our final activity of the day was the Amazing Race. We were put into groups and had to race around Cabramatta to find local shops and items, or to interpret the special terms. Our main target places were the markets where we could find fabric, fresh vegetables and special herbs. We were amazed by the friendliness and kindness of the shop owners when we asked for help even though we did not buy the goods! Their willingness to help us was astounding. Despite having to overcome language barriers, at times, we had a fun experience and learnt so much more about the community.

We were given a glimpse in to the lifestyles and traditions that have been kept so dearly since the 1990s, and the strong cultural and social relations among the locals. In Australia, where multiculturalism is encouraged, we are lucky to have the opportunity to work and live with so many different people. Small or big, the uniqueness of each culture affects each other, blending together to build a picture of colours that makes Australian culture even more rich and attractive.

We came together, learnt together, had fun together, a small group of young visitors craving to learn about new cultures, regardless of our backgrounds. Even though we left our footsteps behind, the lessons we bring home will forever stay in our hearts.

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