Archive for Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Tonganoxie ties keep Australia resident returning home

October 29, 2003

When Ted and Vera Duncanson welcome their daughter, Karen Grainger, home from Australia, her mother always has a concern about Karen's ability to drive while in the states. In Australia, cars are driven on the left side of the road, or "on the wrong side," as Vera Duncanson said.

"It has always amazed me how Karen is, she gets over here and the next day she gets in the car and drives off," Vera Duncanson said. "And she doesn't get in a wreck -- at least so far."

Once again, Vera's words carried true regarding Grainger's clean driving record. After a monthlong stay in Kansas, Grainger returned to Australia last week, her parents car in just as good of condition as when she arrived.

So far from home

Grainger met her husband, Graham, in 1983, when both were on a bus tour of England. At the time, she lived in Kansas, he lived in Australia.

Five years later, Karen went to Australia for a vacation. She stayed. The couple soon married, and now they have an 11-year-old son, Andrew. The family lives in Lynbrook, a suburb of Melbourne.

Her parents journeyed to Australia once, in 1989.

"I couldn't stand it," Vera said. "I had to get over there and see where she lived and how she lived. I don't care anything about going back. To me it's no different than it is here -- except they drive on the wrong side."

Since moving to Australia, Karen has come home about every other year. In between trips, the family keeps in touch through phone calls and letters.

Karen's father, Ted Duncanson, was already familiar with Australia when his daughter moved there. During World War II, while he was in the Air Force, he was stationed in Melbourne for three years.

One thing Duncanson understood about Australia was that it was a long way from Kansas: "When you get to Australia if you keep on going you're coming home again," he said.

Worker benefits

Karen, who works at a university law library, speaks English with an Australian accent. For instance, when she speaks, the word "day" sounds more like "die."

But she said, Australians tell her she speaks English with an American accent.

"Not every day (die), but at least once a week someone comments on my accent," Karen said, chuckling. "I say I don't have an accent. So, according to people over there I've got an accent as well."

For Karen, who in 1971 graduated from a Raytown, Mo., high school, Australia continues to give her a broad perspective on the world.

"It's very international," Karen said. "There's people from all over the place. In my library we have a huge Greek population, as well as people from Singapore, Hong Kong, two of us from the States and the rest Australian."

Employees in Australia receive benefits that might seem foreign to Americans

For instance most workers receive four weeks of paid vacation each year. And every 10 years, they receive three months of paid leave in addition to four weeks of vacation.

But, said Karen, there's a drawback -- after time off, employees can find themselves bogged down by work that wasn't done while they were gone.

Resistance to the states

While there are similarities between the Australia and the United States, such as technology advancements and fashions, Karen said there also is a conscious resistance to becoming too Americanized.

For instance Halloween is not celebrated in Australia as it is here. At a neighborhood meeting, Karen, who is active in neighborhood and community groups, suggested starting up trick-or-treating for children and organizing neighborhood residents so everyone would be prepared with candy.

"One of the people on the committee said we don't want to do that American thing, so I just said that's all right, let's move on," Karen said. "A lot of people resist becoming a carbon copy of America, but it's the way the world is these days -- everything is so much the same."

And, it used to be that Australian residents felt insulated from the dangers of the world. When the terrorism against the United States occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, Australians may have felt their distance would protect them.

"But last year with the bombing in Bali, they said they were targeting the Australians or Americans, that's pretty close to Australia," Karen said. "You start thinking that these things are happening in our back door as well."

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