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Posted on October 22, 2015 at 9:42am Post #1
Sarah Jane Butfield is an international best-selling author of three travel memoirs set in Australia and France. We are proud to sell and promote Sarah's books, especially "Glass Half Full" where she describes her (not easy) Australian adventure. Feel free to ask Sarah about her journeys, writing process or her lovely dogs Dave & Buster :)
If you have not read Sarah's books yet, you can start with her blog post: Behind the scenes of Glass Half Full: Our Australia Adventure.
Enjoy our first "Ask Me Anything" session!

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Ula Zarosa Team
Posted on October 22, 2015 at 1:12pm Post #771
I am a huge fan of "Glass Half Full" especially because it shows me an incredible person, that is not afraid to live her life as she wants to! But since it's AMA I'd go for a simple and personal question. When in Australia you and Nigel were vegetarians, since I am a vegan I was wondering what changed your attitude (was it connected with moving to France)?

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 4:34pm Post #774
Great question Ula, We have been vegetarians on and off for a variety of reasons over the last 16 years but in Australia we became vegetarian ( I was vegan for a while) for health reasons. In Alice Springs, I had TB and the treatment meant that when I ate meat it tasted like aluminum foil and so I was a medication-induced vegetarian. Nigel didn't join me as in Alice Springs he enjoyed Kangaroo steaks far too much. In Hobart, I was diagnosed with degenerative bone disease and wanted to get fitter and I have always been a good weight during our period as vegetarians so it was easy to adapt. We were still vegetarian when we arrived in France, but we found it really hard as they are big meat eaters in rural France. For financial reasons we became meat eaters, only because we could get free meat, however, we are now vegetarian again!

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Ula Zarosa Team
Posted on October 23, 2015 at 8:51am Post #791
Thank you Sarah for such a personal response. I hope your bones will be as strong as your attitude toward living happy & fulfilled life :)
And yes, French are enormous meat eaters, I even read somewhere that they are anti-veganism to the point that they have a law that each meal in school diners needs to have some animal ingredient in it. I am not sure if it's still the truth but sounds really weird.

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Ula Zarosa Team
Posted on October 22, 2015 at 2:47pm Post #772
One more from me. Since you are a nurse I was wondering how you perceive health care system in Australia, especially approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. I read somewhere that vision loss is a commont problem, despite that diseases leading to it (like cataract, trachoma and diabetic rethinopathy) are quite preventable or curable.

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 4:37pm Post #775
Another great question, yes vision loss is prevalent due to the increased levels of diabetes among indigenous people. A great deal of healthcare resources go into education and preventative measures to try to change the future direction of these problems, but poor dietary choices and high alcohol consumption are influencing factors. The medicare system in Australia is very effective and efficiently run compared to NHS! We obviously had to use it a great deal with​ my TB, PTSD and Jaime's surgery and CRPS so I have the utmost respect and thanks for a service well funded and provided with ease of access.

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Ula Zarosa Team
Posted on October 23, 2015 at 4:34pm Post #793
I found really cool foundation in Australia - they help all over the world but they are also focused on helping in Australia. They seems amazing and I hope that maybe we could cooperate one day on a fundrising project.

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Monika Pacyfka Tichy Team
Posted on October 22, 2015 at 2:59pm Post #773
Dear Sarah,
you made a lot of brave decisions in your life. A problem I meet frequently among female motorcyclists is that their families, mothers, husbands very often strongly oppose and sabotage their passion, considered to be dangerous and sucidal. Especially when the girls are mothers. "You must live for your child(ren)". A lot of them quit motorcycling because of that. What would you advice them?

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 4:42pm Post #777
Hello Monika, As a parent as your children progress into periods of independence such as wanting their own means of transport, the inevitable question of mopeds, motorcycles and cars rears it's head. In high school peer pressure plays a big part as especially with our boys they had a lot of friends who acquired mopeds in their final year and it was considered 'cool' and a magnet for girls! I am lucky in that the kids all were so keen to learn to drive and have cars that they decided to invest in driving lessons and first cars rather than motorcycles. Nigel has had motorbikes during our years together and it was always a worry that they would want to copy him, but they seem to prefer 4 wheels to 2!

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 4:40pm Post #776
Hello Sarah,

I have a very simple question for a start, and you might have heard it many times so far but I'm gonna try: what do you like most about Australia and what do you like least about this country? What were you first impressions?

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 4:49pm Post #778
Hello Magdalena, I never tire of this question because Australia is such a varied country both in culture, climate and environment. I fell in love with Australia from our first holiday visit to Tasmania and NT. Actually living there the things I loved the most were the weather, the sense of community and ease of integrating into a new country. This probably sounds ridiculous given what we experienced in Australia, but I love the country and the lifestyle and I can't think of anything I didn't like! Well maybe the spiders!

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 5:54pm Post #782
Dear Sarah, I want to ask you about your decision-making process before you moved to Australia. You wanted a change in your life, but were you considering other destinations as well, perhaps some being not so far away from the UK and, which would make being in touch with the rest of the family easier? Or was it rather "Australia or nothing"?

You also mentioned in the book that it was easier to obtain visa and work in Alice Springs than in other parts of Australia, and that there are many international people in the city. Why is that? Am I correct if I think that not every Australian wants to live there because of the climate and remoteness?

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 6:20pm Post #786
Hello Natalia,
I think that at the time when we were making these huge decisions, after a messy divorce, the distance was needed and necessary and as the children had witnessed why this was the case they fully supported us. Alice Springs is a love it or hate it destination, and yes many Australians would not consider visiting let alone living and working there, hence the high percentage of transitional international workers. The reasons are hard to say, I am not Australian, but I know the indigenous culture and alcohol problems is a big deterrent. However, I feel honoured to have lived and worked there and I think it is easy to judge a place based on propaganda which is often misconstrued.

Posted on October 23, 2015 at 7:23am Post #788
Hey, hi, hello!

1. How do You cope with all these dog-sized, scary animals in Australia?
2. What does Your writing room (or place) look like?
2. Have You ever rub a platypus belly? :3

Posted on October 23, 2015 at 8:44am Post #789
Hello Jacek,
To be honest, the dog sized animals are not scary because you can see and hear them coming. Having respect for wildlife and the fact that you are in their habitat, for example when wild camping etc means they fear you more than you fear them. However, scorpions and spiders are scary and the first skill you learn is to always look under an outside chair before you sit on it, and be careful with your washing when you bring it in if you leave it on the washing line overnight!
My writing room was a bedroom, at the back of the house, which has now been converted into a study. It looks out over our garden so that I can see our dogs, Dave and Buster, and woodland behind them. I have a small desk which we bought at a vide grenier in France which has the distressed look, a bit like me when I am on a writing deadline! I have an armchair for my reading time which my cat George uses when I am writing.
No rubbing the belly of a platypus, not yet anyway!

Posted on October 23, 2015 at 6:11pm Post #795
Dear Sarah, one more question from me - you mentioned a couple of times the "outback culture" you experienced when living in Alice Springs. What do you mean by that? What were the cultural differences between people in Alice Springs and what you knew from the UK? I mean Australians and expats from different countries, and also indigenous community.
And a question about the latter - do you think there is a perspective to solve the problems of aboriginal people? What are the reasons behind their tough situation, beside obvious historical ones? Do they have any political representation in Australian parliament?

Posted on October 24, 2015 at 11:14pm Post #796
Dear Sarah,

First of all I'd like to tell you that you are incredibly courageous person. I wish I could learn to be as much self - confident as you are, to be able to make so revolutionary decisions in my life. Your story is deeply inspiring. Thank you for that :)
What made you trust that you're making good decission about moving to Australia? Would you call it intuition?

Seemingly australian society is a textbook example of multiculturalism. How it feels inside? Do you think it works? What, acording to your experience, are the most conflict - generating issues connected with cultural differences in Australia?
I'm also curious how does it works with indigenous population. My following questions are, in fact, continuatoin of Natalia's question. You mention a few times in your book that they have higher rates of chronical diseases, addictions, criminality etc. Are there any educational programes for aboriginal people? Any programes that improve their qualifications and help to find job? Social help? Do they isolate their community from the rest of the society? Do they represent their own political and social interests? Do you think aboriginal people are discriminated in the society now, in 2015?

Posted on October 25, 2015 at 12:07pm Post #797
Great questions Alex.
The multi-cultural areas of Australia add a depth to the sense of community in my opinion and everyone is embraced regardless of ethnicity, religions etc. In relation to the indigenous ( aboriginal ) communities and their issues, there are extensive programs, funding and resources in place to enhance education on health and social issues and in Alice Springs, in particular, I witnessed first hand these programs at work. The elders in the communities still remember the times before alcohol was introduced and they seek to restore and keep alive the old values in the younger generations. They do not separate themselves as such, but they do have very individual communities with their own hierarchy. There is still a degree of discrimination, but that is a worldwide issue not isolated to Australia. The Aboriginal councils in NT work hard with government agencies to address health, employment and cultural issues and healthcare staff receive good training on these resources to be able to support the work that they do. Health education is another worldwide issue and it needs to be addressed in all cultures, not just the indigenous ones.