One photo a day until I meet Jonathan Harris

11th May

Me and Bennelong.

His story is probably the closest we have to a real-life case of alien abduction.

Kidnapped in 1789 by Arthur Phillip, Bennelong was kept in shackles at Government house as part of a plan to 'befriend' the natives. After 5 months Bennelong had so impressed his captors with his integration of the alien language and habits that they decided to remove the chains around his feet. Free to move again, Bennelong immediately escaped back to his land and family.

Governor Phillip was upset by this apparently failed attempt at 'diplomacy' and spent a considerable time searching for his escaped abductee. It was only after Phillip recieved a ritual spear through his collarbone that relations were able resume. Subsequently, Phillip and Bennelong became rather good friends, and in 1792 Bennelong even agreed to sail with Phillip (in his space-ship) back to England.

On the home planet of the aliens, Bennelong initially made quite an impact. He was presented to King George III (take me to your leader!) and even famously kissed the hand of the prime-minister's daughter. However two years later and after the death of his young friend and travelling companion Yemmerrawanyea, Bennelong began to long for his family and homeland.

Sadly, after making the 8-month journey back, Bennelong's return was far from triumphant. Although happy to be lodged in the illustrious quarters of Government House, he found that his former wife had been taken by another tribesman whom subsequently speared him in the back. Stuck in a lonely place between two very different cultures, he took to drinking. His frequent violent outbursts and shouted threats also alienated him from his european compatriots. In an impossible position, he eventually abandoned completely the european way of life and went back to living with his people. The cultural bridge was closed.

Even though circumstances between Bennelong and I are very different I can't help but compare our two stories. Its been six years since I came to France. Unlike Bennelong, I didn't get presented to any kings and unfortunately Mr. Sarkozy doesn't have a daughter. However, just like Bennelong, I'm now longing for home.

But will a similar fate await me on my return to Australia? Like Bennelong, will I learn the hard way that cultural exchanges don't always finish like the fun adventures they start out as being?

Jonathan Harris says "experience is the only way to learn" and he's probably right. I'm going to have to board that ship and find out what happens for myself, but in the meantime, it certainly doesn't hurt to be a little more prepared.

Aliens and abductions aside, to what ever degree our stories are similar, here's thanks to Bennelong and SBS for the heads up.