Call it ignorance lost.
Just before I left to study abroad in Australia, or as I’m calling it in front of my liberal parents, my “deployment,” I realized that I know next to nothing about that lovely little continent, saddled on the Southern Hemisphere like a giant, planetary hemorrhoid. Then I did a little bit of research on The Google. I should have stayed ignorant.
Australia, it seems, is a dangerous place. As I write this, eastern Australia is under attack by an army of more than 200 million cane toads, invasive creatures that can weigh up to 6 pounds each and kill other animals with an extremely toxic chemical that is lethal to humans. It’s gotten so bad, the country has even considered deploying its National Guard to “fight them in the field,” an Australian official said. I do not kid.
Turns out, many animals in Australia are deadly. Australia has 166 species of sharks, a high percentage of venomous snakes, barracudas, and, of course, sting rays. (We all know what happened to Steve Irwin.) And these are only a few.
And now, according to the BBC, because of a drought, “tens of thousands” of extremely venomous snakes are invading Australian cities in search of water. They’ve already killed a small child, bitten more than 60 people and been discovered in people’s bedrooms.
This all decides to happen just when I’m about to live there for almost five months. Thanks, snakes, now I’m terrified. Instead of immersing myself in Australian culture and broadening my narrow American horizons, I’m going to have to constantly be on the watch for death.
Before I read all this, I thought, “Boy, Aaron, you’re going to have a great time, chilling on the beach, seeing all the exotic animals … .” Now, not so much. Most of the wildlife will probably attack me on sight. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up like one of those oh-so-stupid passengers in “Snakes on a Plane.” If there was one thing that film taught me, it was to never have sex in an airplane bathroom when there are snakes aboard. I can’t even have sex in a regular Australian bathroom now.
A couple of weeks ago, my dad got strangely serious with me while we were shoveling dirt.
“I want you to promise me you’ll come back,” he said.
He always gets serious when we do manual labor. I made some joke about finding an Australian wife and settling down, and then agreed that I would come back, if only he would continue to let me dig holes with him.
God, if only I had known about the snakes then. I wouldn’t have made any promises.