Thursday, June 28, 2007

across cultures in footscray

on several occasions in recent weeks we have used the footscray public library as a space for study and grading forge essays.  footscray is just 15 minutes away and it is where kath (geoff's mum) works as well as the location of geoff's parents church.  it is the inner city suburb most melbournians associate with new immigrants and, unfortunately, poverty, crime, and drugs.

on one recent study visit to the library i sat across from a chinese woman who was patiently teaching a papua new guiniean man how to speak english.  beside me sat two young muslim women (dressed in birkas) discussing body image among australian women - they were studying for a 11th grade english literature exam.  through the doors and off the wintry streets came people from all over south-east asia, africa, and a handful of anglo-looking men who were (it seemed to me) 'sleeping rough' (homeless) and just looking for a warm place to sit.

i left my grading for a few minutes and wondered about how beautiful this library is and how alike and different humans can be.

yesterday, while isaac danced with the wiggles and his grandparents, sherry and i went to the library again to work on some of our upcoming speaking engagements with forge.  we found ourselves sitting with four older chinese men and women.  they were quietly chatting away and giggling as they read the newspaper in their own language.  later we were seated at a large common table where school children often work on projects.  next to us sat five young men (about 17 or 18 yrs old) who had obviously arranged to study together.  in the group several different cultures were represented - middle-eastern, african, and indian.

today, on our way home from running some errands, isaac, sherry and i popped into the footscray market and the smaller "little saigon" market next door.  it's a wonderful out-of-culture experience as you walk in and get hit with a barrage of unfamiliar sounds and smells.  shelves and stands were dutifully propping up seafood, and meats of all kinds, fresh fruit and veg, incense, grains, and bulk spices.  signs and voices were in vietnamese, cantonese, greek, italian, and arabic.

we have been so glad to be in this city of melbourne for such an extended time, but more grateful still for the color and charisma of footscray.

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