This is what I did in one day- I met a number of people over the day.
First up I met an international student social worker at Melbourne Polytechnic to find out more about International Students in the North of Melbourne. I learnt that there are a number of students studying accounting, business and engineering who come from South Asian continents and tend to be drawn to TAFE courses for the affordability.
Universities provide reputation and kudos. International students of Chinese backgrounds tend to be drawn to university settings that afford status.
I’m working on an International Student Profile to better understand and include them in service planning. They are not yet part of the planning equation. Government though sees the economic benefits of International Students, seen as the cash cow, the mentality of contribution to the economy and for some a way to afford permanent residency.
I needed a conduit to statistics, potential networks and guest speakers for a mini forum. At this one-hour meeting, I was grateful for the information and a free coffee before taking off to the Thomastown Library.
I had scheduled a meeting with a local artist who had taken her two year old daughter to story time. I arrived to a cacophony of focused toddlers intent on wrestling with plastic.
The adults hovered over their children, quietly watching. Then they watched and listened to our conversation, a new focus amongst the white noise of play. We had become a pleasant distraction.
The parents were culturally diverse and the children were so intensely busy – physically engaged, though socially I witnessed disconnection. English can be alienating for those who have come from others countries.
My friend connected in both English and Arabic to other parents and was not fazed that I did not understand Arabic, but I simply asked for interpretation and continued to listen.
We sat in a corner on baby chairs, designed for little bottoms, which after one hour of intense conversation, my arse numb and my hips immobile as I struggled to get up and move. All that remained was a deserted array of colourful blocks, scattered and polished with saliva, like snails that leave their trail and the din dissipated until silence like a school bell announced the end of play-time.
The artist spoke about how difficult it was to work with arts based organisations, even those that were set up to support culturally diverse and emerging artists.
That having participated in an arts show case, her featured project ticked the box for multicultural and one other ticked the box for Aboriginal. That in the Arts the intention to engage and include minority groups is an after thought. There does not seem to be planning for inclusion.
I thought: these are the issues that we have dealt with for so many years.
She talked about feeling tired, seeking direction and instruction about what she ought to do? Get a job? Keep making art?
She exclaimed: “It’s not sustainable!”
She showed me her work on the mobile telephone, having this continuous conversation. I have only met her on one other occasion, but each time she greets me as if I am a dear friend, someone she has known her entire life- I felt great priviledge- “It’s been a long time”.
It is as if each person she encounters is the same person- that she’s speaking to humanity– showing and telling and not really listening, nor taking the time to understand the environment she inhabits. There was not a great deal of space for breathe, thought or reflection in this interaction.
I was fascinated by the tenaciousness of doing, making and creating as she also spoke of her humanitarian work in Palestine – that she will leave soon to install seven toy libraries in Gaza, as if I already knew her schedule.
What stuck with me though, was that notion of inequity in the arts that are often dominated by the anglo, academic, evidence based discourse.
Within this notion I also ask, what for intuition and the making of art that is based on what we draw on innately?
In what way do we rely on our sense, our experiences, our local and global knowledge that we then bring to the making of art and expression? And then how does that speak to our audiences.
I had to leave.
I met with my Team Leader to discuss my work plan for the coming year.
Then across to get some succulents for my plant project from a local neighbourhood house. Cheaper than Bunnings- $2 versus $5.95.
I was running 10 minutes late to meet a Facilitator of Mindfulness, who is going to work with me. We met at the Preston market for a late lunch. She had returned nostalgically to a place she inhabited as a child with her parents. For me this is home. I wondered about how one place connects with us in different ways.
I needed carrots, eggs and spring onions for the chicken noodle stir-fry I was making later for dinner, though I have recently become pescatarian, I still have to feed the family in my gendered role of Mum ‘making dinner”.
Across to Coburg High school was the next stop to discuss transitioning to Year 10 with the year 9 Co-ordinator.
Back home to make chicken noodle stir-fry.
Back to the school to watch the school play and then as we left the car park-noticed that we were locked in a car park on a Friday night that was going to re- open at 7am on Monday.
After driving around for 15 minutes looking for an escape route, of which there was none without doing serious damage to my car, my son in tow, we noticed two mobile telephone numbers on the gate, of which the first answered, by an expectant gate keeper notified us of a lock- code. Though it was not clear whether it was to be administered right to left or left to right and even the gate-keeper was perplexed by my question. I have often suspected my propensity to dyslexia.
We put the code in from left to right and the lock did not open. My son of logic said: “Let me try it the other way”, remembering the numbers without me having to repeat them and the lock came apart. Truth is there in the lock- it’s whether the code is the right way around – how you get out is to follow logic. I’ve never understood which way around logic works. Is it left to right like writing English or right to left like Arabic?
So we were able to solve that problem in less than 5 minutes and move on.
Grateful for solutions already factored for those who have been locked out before. If only it was as easy as breaking a code for the notion of inclusion.
So we were off, leaving time for a shop at the supermarket, disgruntled drivers sitting on my tail light in a 40 km zone and peeping me while I waited for a car to park to my left and another to pass me on my right. Where was I supposed to go?
After completing the shopping – I had had enough, only to reach home to find a load of washing that needed to be hung.
How much is enough? It’s like over-eating. Fed up, patience waits on the edge of the cliff.
When I made it to slumber I dived into the deepest most restful sleep. No thought for tomorrow. I’ll think about tomorrow when I get there.
At the gym that morning television screens with motifs of “live life to the full”, promises of overseas trips (like the only way to live fully is if you travel! What bullshit they sell us!)
Though to live a full life, one does not need to leave the country, but embrace each day, each person, each activity and find a space, however small, however short, and simply be there.