I am pleased to say I had the honor of being present at the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day. Prior to studying in Australia I was unaware that this holiday existed, why it is so important and what it symbolized. Anzac day is the remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, peacekeeping operations and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served. Originally this day was to honour the members of ANZAC (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire in WW1. The men landed on the beach at sunrise to fight and that is why the main ceremony is held at sunrise.
Australians take great pride in this very day, so much that the main ceremony is at 5 o’clock in the morning on beaches across the country. I signed up for the free shuttle to take me to Nobby’s Beach bright and early on a Saturday morning, but did not have an actual seat. I was put on the waiting list and had my fingers crossed when I walked out the door at 4 am to catch the bus and as always I just skated by getting a seat on the partially filled last bus to take us downtown to Nobby’s for the ceremony. I knew a group of my ISA friends were there in the crowd, but the dark starry skies didn’t lend me any guidance to where I would find them. I, as I have found out, enjoy time alone and don’t mind doing things alone. I walked to the beach where I stood for about 30 minutes getting lost in my thoughts and taking a few photos. Glad I had worn pants and a dressy top for this chilly and grand event I stepped over to one of the two large projector screens, where later to be known 40,000 attendees could watch the main stage. I was eager to see what was about to take place and gladly kept the silence as everyone else watched the military march in and around the crowd to their destination at the main stage. The main speaker went through the agenda for this significant and historic day in Australian history with great skill, introducing various speakers to present their speeches, recite poetry or play music. I felt chills wash over me at numerous points remembering not only the veterans in my family, but all the Fourth of July celebrations and friends that have been affected by our wars past and present. When taps was played I had a range of emotions, but more importantly when I realized a wife and her military husband were just feet from me watching I could only stand there and smile because they were so happy and in love watching this wonderful service. I watched as she took an artistic photo of the sun rising and the crowd in the background with the profile of her husbands face being the focal point. She was so proud of her husband and his accomplishments that not only hung on his attire, but that of simply serving his country. I took photos of the very same sunrise, my photos were not as moving and symbolic. The ceremony was not only spoken in English, but spoken in Arabic for a short speech because of the original conflict that this day was dedicated to. And in closing the band played the Australian National Anthem, the cannon fired four times (for each military branch) and the military marched out. This was a beautiful ending to a spectacular event that I enjoyed not only for its value, but also for the fact that I got myself out of bed at 3 am and did it alone without hesitation.
On my way back to the bus I stopped at the tent that was handing out food. At first I figured it was free because there were no signs up for prices. I grabbed two Anzac Biscuits and when I went to get a tea I realized it was by donation. I pulled out my wallet and donated a gold coin as it asked, feeling it’s the least I could do for the Australian & New Zealand military. The tea was piping hot, but no worries, I let it cool while I walked to the bus eating my cookies and taking in the views before getting on and heading back to campus for brekky with my friends.
Being the last bus back I was sure that brekky was almost over by the time I got back to uni. Realizing they hadn’t even started I sat with my friends in the dining hall waiting for our Aussie pancakes. Observing the Aussies making the pancakes, I realized they do not know how to make pancakes. I was about two seconds away from becoming Rachel Ray and showing them how to properly oil a grill, pour pancakes and flip them. Thanks to the laid back Aussie lifestyle that I have become more accustom to, I bit my tongue and waited for a decent pancake to come off the grill. It took a couple batches, but they got the hang of it, taking my pancake and topping it with lemon, chocolate chips, confectioners sugar & whip cream (the proper Aussie way). After we all ate our pancakes, we headed inside for a full brekky and off to sleep since it was now 9 am and we had all been up for 6 hours already, or at least everyone else did. I stayed up all day relaxing and had a lazy day, while the rest of the Aussies had a crazy drunken afternoon, the way tradition has it.