Ballarat, Australia, is four hours ahead of Vietnam, so the jet lag set in, making it hard to wake up in the morning. After sleeping in a bit, I made myself a bagel for breakfast. Carolyn, the homeowner of the house I was about to watch, looked surprised. She said, “Americans really do like bagels, huh?” I replied, “Yes! And I haven’t had one for two months, so this is delicious,” I said as I spread the cream cheese across the toasted bagel.
She told me about Vegemite, an Australian favorite. I had heard about it from all of the Australians that I met in Whistler the year prior. It’s usually in a glass or plastic jar, and it looks like thick oil. She put some butter on a few crackers and then added some Vegemite. It was my first time trying it, and I didn’t care for it much. The flavor is unique, and it’s very salty. Australians grow up eating it, and they put it on crackers, toast, and even make vegemite and cheese sandwiches.
A couple of months later, I discovered that I did like it! My favorite way to eat it is to toast a slice of fresh sourdough bread, spread butter on it, and then put a minimal amount of Vegemite. If I added too much, I didn’t like it. But with the sourdough, butter, and a small amount of Vegemite, it was savory!
Shortly after, a man came over to the house for a four-hour training class with Carolyn on a topic that she has some expertise. I stayed in my room, getting some stuff done. They invited me to join them for lunch – sausage rolls. These are another Australian favorite. While we ate, we talked about politics. Being an American during President Trump’s presidency means people continuously ask me about it. I enjoy talking about politics, so I usually don’t mind.
The man struggled to understand why Trump was elected because what they see on the news is not flattering. I tried to explain to him why people voted for Trump and what is going on in the U.S. There is a vast class division, and growing up in the midwest, I’m pretty familiar with the reasons why people voted for him. The man seemed to get angry with me, which made me feel bad. I’ve noticed that I tend to debate the opposite side of what someone believes. I intend to show that there is another side to it, but I mostly just end up pissing everyone off. Liberals think I’m too conservative, and conservatives think I’m too liberal. I enjoy looking at both sides. It helps me form my own opinion if I truly see why the other person would believe something.
Once the man left the house, Carolyn and I took naps. Then we went to Aldi to get a local SIM card. I was happy to have guidance from her because I had no idea that Aldi sells SIM cards. The plans are inexpensive, but they use the Telstra network, which is one of the best in Australia. For $25 a month, I got 18 GB of data. My AT&T plan was costing me $85 a month for unlimited data. Using it outside of North America cost $10 per day. With Aldimobile, I could call, text, and use data with an Australian phone number for less than a third of the price I had been paying. To call the U.S., however, I had to use Messenger, Skype, or What’s App.
I ended up moving my Los Angeles phone number to Tossable Digits. For around $5 a month, they store your phone number, so you don’t lose it. I could still receive and send text messages, but I had to use their website to do it. This service was helpful because if an account needed to verify my identity, they’d send a text to my Los Angeles phone number. I would get an email with the message. When I returned to the U.S., I was able to reinstate my phone number to another carrier.
After picking up some soap and shampoo at the store, we headed back to the house. During our errands and once we got back to the house, Carolyn and I continued talking about politics. It was fascinating because we are both Christians, but we disagreed on almost all politics. We talked about abortion, and I explained to Carolyn that some states in the U.S. have recently passed bills allowing abortions up until the day of birth for any reason. Other states have made abortions illegal once a heartbeat is detected (around 4-6 weeks).
Bear with me here. Carolyn supports abortion, but I do not. She was shocked to hear that abortions are done at clinics by private companies instead of at the hospital in the U.S. I won’t get into all of the reasons why I do not support abortion, but I thought the conversation was meaningful. Carolyn’s opinion was formed because of her experience being a high school teacher and witnessing young girls get pregnant with no resources available. Maybe their parents even abandoned them. I could understand her concerns because of this life experience.
People often say there is no point in talking about politics because nobody ever changes their mind. I don’t think that’s true. I think if you argue like a middle-schooler, then nobody will change their mind. But having a useful, logical discussion can change minds. When I was in high school, I supported abstinence because that’s how I grew up in the church.
However, after hearing from people who ended up with unplanned pregnancies, including both my sister and my brother, I realized that it wasn’t going to solve anything. Pretending that people aren’t having sex outside of marriage, including people in the church, isn’t going to help anyone. I changed my position, and now I think schools should be teaching about pregnancy prevention. If people don’t have access to condoms, I’m ok with there being a resource to get them.
I still don’t support abortion, but I understand that some people are in tough situations because of an unplanned pregnancy. Those who support abortion often argue that some mothers don’t have the means to support a child on her own. I thought that was a valid argument. In LA, I used to donate to an organization that helps mothers with things like diapers, counseling, clothes, food, etc. Their case enabled me to see that I needed to be a helpful resource for women in this situation.
I’m not trying to change your mind on this topic, but I would love it if people had open minds when discussing serious issues with people. Their personal experiences impact their opinions. I’ve known people who supported abortion until they saw the science involved with the fetus. Now they only think abortion is ok only if it’s less than three months into the pregnancy.
Carolyn and I talked about the fact that we could talk about topics involving president Trump and abortion, and still be friends. She said the key was to attack the argument and not the person. Calling someone names, like a misogynist, isn’t going to help your case. It will only push them further into their belief system. Even though we both got animated at times, we had respect for each other and were able to have a discussion and not an argument. It’s something that I have to consciously work on, and I don’t always succeed in preventing my emotions about a topic from making me angry. Sometimes I fail miserably. The best I can do is try.
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