The unquestioned highlight of our time in Adelaide was the Central Market. We made a point of getting back to Adelaide early our last night in South Australia, so that we might make a second visit. Open four or five days a week, the market offers everything from premium meats and cheeses to coffee and crafts. I found it very similar to some of the markets I saw in Italy last year, but vastly less intimidating in English and dollars.
Our party sampled an array of olives, tapenades, cheeses, and sweet yoghurt. It made a marvelous picnic meal and helped me through my grief for giving up such delicacies in China. On our return, we grabbed a chicken and vegetable pie (and more olives) to eat at our hotel. I found myself more than a little sad that the market experience is not one available in the U.S.
The glory of the market is that each item can be purchased from a specialist. In the States, buying premium meat, artisanal cheese, organic produce, and fresh bread might require a visit to three or four different shops and a prohibitive amount of driving. Consequently, we settle for the supermarket ---or Whole Foods, such as we can afford it. In the market, I visited four different stores in ten minutes, none were cheap but all tasted fantastic.
Throughout my visit to Adelaide, I noticed an unusual flag, red and black with a yellow circle in the middle, the flag of Australia’s Aboriginal people. Also, quite common on public signs and markers is a small note that the local organization recognizes their site as the traditional homeland of a particular tribe. Apparently, similar reflections are frequently offered as preface to public ceremonies and celebrations. While these hardly restore to the Aborigines a specter of what they have lost, the common belief that such sentiments are worth expressing regularly speaks well of the Australian people.
On my tour of the Rocks in Sydney, our guide reflected on the Aboriginal plight through the lens of Bennalong, one of the first Aborigines to learn English and participate in Australian civic life. Kidnapped from his tribe, he served as an adviser to one of the early English governors. Eventually, after many years and travels around the world, he earned his freedom and tried to return to his tribe. He found it impossible and asked the governor to build him a small house, on the spot now home to Sydney’s Opera House. He died there. Our guide explained that Australian children are now taught a history that includes the primacy of the Aborigines on the land, but they are also taught that, given the biology and mindset of the times, the decimation and conquest of the Aborigines was the only practical possibility. Remembering their history, honestly, providing them a place to live, and including them as they desire in today’s Australia, is the only recourse.
I don’t know that any of these are the right response to the terrors wrought on native peoples, but I know that, in the US, our response to the past is still a blank page. I taught about the Native Americans extensively in fifth grade but every unit ended with a big “Huh.” Few sentiments are stronger in a child’s mind than fairness, and they always wanted to know how we could make it fair for the Indians. I never had an answer. Nothing we can do can make amends, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing.