October 10, 2006

Like a Child

I was at Credo today and a lady with a rather loud child balanced precariously off her hip told me that she found my accent "beautiful." I found it rather amusing; I've never thought of my pseudo-Canadian accent (I don't say "oot" or "eh", but it's close enough, especially after six months in oz) as beautiful, interesting, or even mildly sexy. Mostly I think it's harsh, slightly edgy, and a bit blase. My "r's" are a bit grinding compared to the soft Metro-Australian accent (compared to the Country-Australian accent, which is more familiar to most Americans from Steve Irwin or Paul Hogan), and I over-emphasize the vowel-consonant pairs. I'm even startled now every time an American commercial comes on TV. But if somebody likes it, I'm certainly not going to complain. I guess I'm different than the usual accents you hear around here, which makes me exotic and cool. I'm ok with that.

I was doing some reading after we finished the main bulk of lunch preparation early (no broccoli to cut up today), and I kept getting distracted by the little kid. She kept letting out these short, high-pitched screams. It's hard to read in such an environment, especially when the screams keep echoing off the concrete walls around the cafe. But as my attention was drawn to her, I couldn't help but notice the way she kept grabbing for things. Her mother (who has gained my admiration) obviously had far more patience for her than I ever would, because she kept correcting her with a gentle "no" and pulling her hand away from the desired item (items ranged from books to a giant bag of cheese to a lit candle). The kid would glare at her, and then try for something else.

All the while I'm laughing (inside, I was far too tired to exert the noise outside) at the kid's futile efforts. I couldn't fathom why the kid kept lunging for stuff that mom, someone far bigger and stronger and faster and smarter than the kid, had obviously forbidden. The kid would barely get her hands on the burning candle and the mom would be right there scooping the her away.

And then it was one of those "oh" sort of moments.

How many times does the all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise God have to pull me away from burning candles and giant cups full of lime cordial (sometimes called "dishwasher fluid" by those that drink it; we call it "bug juice" in every YMCA camp in America) and sharp knives? How often does he have to lay the smack down on me for grabbing at giant bags of cheese that don't belong to me, or keep me from putting my grubby little hands in somebody else's [uncooked] meal?


I learned recently that Melbourne's poverty isn't really material poverty like so many developing countries. [side note: why do we call them 'developing' when there's an obvious hangup on the whole "developing" part?] A person can find free food and free shelter and free clothing nearly all over the city. I'm told that it's possible to live a rather comfortable life on the welfare of others - all you have to do is look for it (not to be cruel, but this sort of makes it your own fault if you are hungry and sleeping in a dumpster in this city). No, the poverty here is relational, social.

I noticed this on my first visit with Urban Seed. I went on a "prayer walk" with a number of FORGE people at the first intensive, a walk that took me around several blocks of busy city streets near mid-afternoon. The city was bustling with people and trams and cars and traffic of every kind, and yet nobody was looking at each other. The only glimpses you'd get of peoples' eyes were the few times they'd look in your direction to make sure you didn't hit them. Then they'd continue their brisk pace down the sidewalk and continue listening to their ipod while adjusting their massive '80s sunglasses to further cover their eyes. [sidenote: why does high fashion have to make women look more like bugs?]

I was on the train last night on the way home from orchestra and a funny thing happened. I was traveling with Anna, a redheaded violist who lives close to the city in Richmond, and this group of four twenty-somethings sitting a couple of rows up started talking to us. I suppose it was easy to start a conversation, given the odd-looking cases we had slung over our shoulders (violas and french horns aren't exactly popular instruments around here), but they quickly moved the conversation into what everybody's drivers' license looked like. They laughed at the "fake" looking licenses from QLD, oohed and ahed at the Victorian license card. We never got around to my New York card, for which I am grateful (I'm still 16 in the picture).

It made my night. They were friendly, jovial, and quite content to just be themselves to whoever was around. Credo cafe is a start to the solution of poverty in the city, and I wonder if this isn't the next step - import some extroverts (perhaps a few Queenslanders?) to talk with people on the trains. If everybody had somebody to talk to, would we feel so lonely?


Priscilla said...

It was so refreshing to hear that our upstate NY (Rochester) accent is "beautiful" after reading all those comments about how annoying our accents are on those "other" Aussie blogs.

(I don't actually consider yours to be an Aussie blog...but you knw what I meant)

Chris said...

It's funny, I've been told that my accent doesn't sound like a typical Rochester accent because it was tempered from my half-Swiss upbringing. For example, when I say "aunt" I don't sound like I'm referring to an insect, and I don't speak from my nose like so many from Rochester ... and somehow this makes me sound a bit Canadian, according to some of my mates here. I think it's funny.

Priscilla said...

Well...I have the horrible nasal accent of "Rachacha". I'll admit it. But hey...I've never lived anywhere else except for college, where I received some flack about it. But I had plenty of good company.

My brother-in-law was Canadian. I say "was" because he had dual citizenship until 18. Then he chose to be American. Some of his siblings still retain citizenship of Canada.

A. Annie said...

Careful who you show your ID to. I would never show an ID with important information on it to strangers (regardless how friendly) on a train. ID theft can happen anywhere. No need to make it easier. This is not paranoid, it's prudent. My neighbor had her ID stolen by a taxi driver who had struck up an innocent-seeming conversation about genealogy.