Up there for thinking
By Ian McDougall, volunteer
No carpets but we wove some magic when we handed Persian publications to Petros Balazadeh.
He came up to the Gold Coast Street Library table at Tuesley Park some weeks ago (see Book People 4).
“Hello, I am Petros. Who are your names?”
Petros explained he could speak English fairly well, but was unable to read it.
Thanks to my mate Nao Hirano, of the Multicultural Community Centre Gold Coast, who put me in touch with Nasrin Vaziri, a community arts consultant, we were able to give Petros arts publications, a newspaper and a glossy magazine, all in Persian.
He was very grateful, a bit tearful and today again expressed his thanks.
“I enjoyed the readings,” he said. “Just in time, I am off to Perth soon.
Petros, a chef, used to live in Perth. He’s been struggling since he came here five years ago.
“No work here. They say I’m too old. Hey, I’m only 50!”
Get a job cooking at mining camps?
“Maybe, maybe not. Who knows? But I hear there is work there, so I go. Is long way, yes, but I know people there.”
Nao also gave a box of books for our library to Street library working party member and Tuesley Park assistant Niamh O’Brien, an alcohol and drug prevention officer with Drug Arm's Gold Coast branch, which stores books for us.
Nasrin is coordinator of Gold Coast MAGIC (Multicultural Arts Group in Collaboration), which promotes and fosters cultural diversity through arts, as well as boost public awareness of the region’s cross cultural arts and activities.
We have yet to find books in Polish for Victor.
We found among our donated items a book in German – Die Zeit der Frauen (The Time of Women) – and decided to place in on our table, even though we had no requests.
It hadn’t been there longer than a minute when John Deane picked it up.
“Don’t see too many books in German” he said.
Chimed in a voice from the other side of the table: “I can read German.”
That started a discussion about the roots of the English language: Latin, Greek, Nordic, old German playing key roles.
The banter went on for a few minutes with John generously offering the book to the other fellow to “read it first, give it to me when you can”.
Can I take your photo? “No, not me, use him (John)”. John takes the book, poses, then gives it back. Can we put it with a yarn on our web site?
“No …. maybe … ok, but only if you depict us as intelligent people, capable of thinking and understanding.” .I show him our Book People stories which do just that.
Within minutes, John was engaged in a philosophical discussion with Ian Jacobs about the American and English empires, about British prime ministers in the early to mid and their recognition of the Catholic Church, which was the start of liberalisation, freedom from the Dickensian conditions, which …. on it went, way out of my league!
John speaks English, German and Gaelic – “a pretty much dead language now” – the latter two not so well.
“Been about 30 years since I’ve spoken either seriously,” he says.
“German is very rigid but you can pronounce most words in one go. French (waves wrist)… also very easy to recognise words but lots of he’s and she’s to get right.
“English? Oh, boy, very easy to get confused even when you’re brought up with it, too many meanings of words spelled or sound the same.”
I’m a T-shirt slogan fan. Mine has a drawing of a rock, paper and scissors and asks Can’t we just get along? John’s reads: Stimulated by rejection. I like it, I say.
“You’ve got to learn from the bad things as well as the good,” he says.
I speak about my time in government, saying that while I learned lot of things from lots of good people, I learned a lot more from those people, especially managers, who didn’t treat others well.
“Yes, we need to be aware of other people and their needs,” John said.
Last week, thanks to donor from Currumbin, we were able to hand over an English/Maori language Bible to Terry aka “The Preacher” (BP #9)
Then, Ian Jacobs asked for a Bible. “I’m neither a Christian nor an atheist but I’d like to become more familiar with it so I can tackle Terry. We have some, ah, good discussions,” he said with a cheeky smile.
Also courtesy of the Currumbin donor, we gave Ian a leather-bound study Bible which contained lots of footnotes to he could take on the challenge! This week he asked for another version, just so he could compare wording. We gave him a copy of The Good News, a New Testament.
All Jesus, without the fire and brimstone, I say.
“What, no burning bushes or parting of the seas!” he shot back.
How about turning water into wine? Making blind men see?
“Ok, fair enough.”
It’s a rewarding role, being a Street Library volunteer. I am fortunate to be in a position to do it each week.
We’re looking for more volunteers so we can expand the service across the Coast.
Check out the Get Involved page and submit a volunteer application form.