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Reports

Sunday, 18 August 2002
Launceston --> St. Mary's, Tasmania, Australia

On August 17 I stayed one other day at the house of Gail and Philby. Not to party, not to get out, but only to update a whole bunch of things for this website. It took me most of the day and I actually enjoyed doing it, even though it meant I was a real computer nerd for that day. That explains why I easily can skip reporting about that day too. Going straight to August 18, where I left Launceston.

It was the American man Lew Bretz who had just dropped of his wife Pam at the airport of Launceston who could take me back to his home near the eastern coastal town of St. Mary’s on Tasmania.

In his flashy blue Honda sports car we drove from Launceston to St. Mary’s and got to know each other better during this long ride. Lew had studied history when he was young, travelled through over 34 countries and when he was on a bus trip from Kathmandu (Nepal) to London (England) with a company called [url]Sundowners[/url], he met up with the Australian Pam, who he ended up marrying with.

“I am the person who actually introduced the Frisbee in Kandahar in Afghanistan at that time,” he told me and I laughed about that fact.

Lew had travelled most of all those countries while he was in the American military. In 1974 he and Pam decided to get to Australia, because it offered a way better life than that unpleasant America in these times, as he saw it.

“I now have two grown up sons. One is currently doing a long hiking trail in America and the other one creates bubbles in a circus in Western Australia.”
“Creates bubbles?” I asked. “Yes, you know those big soap bubbles that could totally surround a human person. That’s what he does.”
“Okay. I got it.”

Meanwhile we were driving through the Tasmanian scenery of smooth hills and with snowy mountains in the background. Mystical Tasmanian Wonderland, is what I wrote in my paper notebook.

“When we got to Tasmania that time, I taught history and English & European history at a school. When I had enough of that I had a small business where I rebaited business V.A.T.’s and I lived on the commissions I earned with that.”

It was not long ago when Lew and Pam made an offer to the [url=www.stmarys.tco.asn.au/elephant/pancakebarn.html]Mt. Elephant Pancake Barn[/ulr] in St. Mary’s. Dutch people once owned the place and then the next people continued that trade, but they started to hate the tourism industry at a certain point. “Their entire family worked at the restaurant, mostly visited by overseas tourist and they just could not stand them anymore. They simply had enough. And that is when we took it over.”

So now Lew and Pam Bretz run the World Famous Mt. Elephant Pancake Barn along the Elephant Pass, as the signs told me when we arrived.

Meanwhile, during the drive to St. Mary’s I discovered that Lew was a very analytical thinker and a systematic speaker. He talked about things on a global scale, fully researching his long verbalisations and then goes deeper with different threads of subject. I had to concentrate very hard in the beginning to keep up with him. A few times I honestly had to tell him that he just lost me. “Go one step back again, please Lew, I am almost with you.” When we had a drink in the pub of the small town Avoka, halfway the drive, I just had to ask him if he was a chess player. And he was, which explained his way of thinking to me.

Believe me, for so far my experience has learned me, most chess players can be like this too. I therefore acknowledged that Lew would know very much what he is talking about all the time. Very intelligent!

“The idea of the Pancake Barn was to set up a European styled tearoom that provides the locals with a fine cuisine and a spectacular view of the ocean and Mt Elephant that looms in the background,” I had read on newspaper clippings in the restaurant. That sure worked out fine, as soon as I dropped my pack in the outside cottage next to the barn I was exposed to all these beauties in the lushy valley right next to me.

Of course I would have a pan cake dinner, in which one serve was already enough for me. During dinner (the restaurant closes at 6pm, so this was very exclusive for me) and for a long time afterwards Lew and I had “stimulating conversations” (as he would recall it to me later). Not about birds and bees, but about global political situations. With a bottle of good Shiraz on the table we discussed why Saddam Hoessein should be stopped in ruling Iraq and how would that go the best way.

Lew asked me why The West has suddenly become so anti-American and against bombing Iraq, where Hoessein still lets his own people starve and kills thousands of others in gas attacks?

And, how come the European are so slow in taking any actions when there is a conflict. And Lew gave the latest warfare in the Balkan countries as an example.

Okay. That was my go: "I guess that is because European countries are not united like the United States of American (the name already says it). Were are still all European states on our own. Look for example at The Netherlands, which is half the size of Tasmania with almost 17 million people. Economically we are doing very good lately, making The Netherlands one of the most successful countries in the world at the moment – that’s a fact."

"If we take part in actions against warfar or hostilities in other countries, we can’t do it on our own. We are simply just too small. So the leaders of all European countries have to talk and yes indeed, we can talk a lot – sometimes too much. And keep in mind we all take in our own languages, so it’s not easy to make a conversation like Americans can do from New York to Los Angeles and still speak the same language in a country where some 340 million other people speak that language too."

"The United States of America has 52 states, those 340 millions of people and one leader who can say ‘right now: action’ or not. The total difference with Europe and that is where our lack of fast response to anything comes from is: we are all on our own and have to talk with all our neighbours to see what a possible ‘we’ can do."

"If there will ever be a real one-country United States of Europe, I will run for president, that’s for sure. Haha."

So there we were sitting, sipping red wine and enjoying pancakes, while I told Lew about how I thought how things are and then he told me his wise visions and theories. I even learned a bit about the American culture!

“We are not all ignorant people,” Lew said about his fellow Americans, “just half of us is.”


I asked him about the fact that the existence of the rest of the world disappears as soon as a non-American enters the USA. Why is that?

“My sister lives 90km out of New York and she is not even interested in what goes on in New York.” Now why is that? I asked, while I explained how the European media in right on top of the hill if something happens anywhere in the world. From stoning in northern Nigeria to flooding in Europe and human disappearances in Australia. It would be already on the news, before Americans would see it on CNN.

But Lew learned me another fact. “Holland for example, has been known for its explorers, like Abel Tasman who discovered Tasmania and Van Diemans who touched first soil in Australia. People in the Netherlands nowadays, are people who will always look out of the window and they have become aware of everything that happens around the world, just because their first explorers have been to those all these places. That is how the Dutch (and so with them many other European countries) learned about the rest of the world.”

We Americans declared our independence from the British and that was a huge thing for us. Everybody knows that and we still celebrate it every year. Since that moment on we really wanted to stay independent and the country grew bigger and better and that is what Americans are so enormously proud of. ‘Didn’t we do a great job? Yeah!’ We adore our American culture, we love to praise ourselves as often as possible, but don’t really feel any interest in looking outside to the rest of the world.”

And suddenly I discovered a bit more about why Americans see the World differently than Europeans do, and how. It’s the perspective, caused by historic events.

The bottle of wine was empty. I think we did very well. Thank you, Lew.

Good night St Mary’s!

Ramon.