Getting involved

It has been an eventful week. I finally managed to make contact with the community centre and I am now working (voluntarily) there Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings answering the phones and doing general office work.

The Hanna Community Center (US spelling) was set up to provide services to the Black community but now is open to all. It serves the young people of the district with after school care, holiday camps, and other activities. It also provides hot breakfasts and lunches for elderly people. There is a food pantry and clothes supply for the poor, and is a hive of activity. The workers there are very friendly and have made me feel most welcome. I think they saw how pathetic I looked and saw that I needed something to do. Well, after my first three days, I am a great celebrity. They love my accent and some of the committee members have admitted to ringing the centre just to hear my voice. The others say it sounds so proper, they have to improve their behaviour. I think there will be lots of ways I will be able to contribute to the work at the centre, and not just with my accent. They run career sessions for high school students, so I will certainly look at offering to help there. There would also be some sessions I could run with various groups. At this stage, it is just good to have some human contact.

I also finally made contact with Howard Weiss who heads up the Org Psych department at the uni. He was very friendly, and while there appears to be little hope of paid work, he was happy for me to get involved in some research activities. He gave me some articles to read on the stuff he is doing, so I will see what I can make of it all. He also invited me to attend their colloquium series, so I will get along to those when I can.

The Fish Fry had us intrigued and we were very keen to head off to that on Thursday night. It was crowded. One man told us that it was a fine mid-western tradition, and that Fish Fries were all the thing. We met several people there, but none from the parish. There were people from the local neighbourhood (and from further afield) who just came along for the feed! For $6.50 a head you could have all the fish you could eat (Peter had 4 pieces). There were also French Fries (chips for the Australian speakers), sandwiches (hamburgers for the Australian speakers), tomatoes, cucumbers, cole slaw, bell peppers (capsicum for the Australian speakers), biscuits (scones for the Australian speakers), cookies (biscuits for the Australian speakers), pies, cakes, coffee with cream (powdered dairy whitener for the Australian speakers), iced tea and pink lemonade. It was a feast, and we discovered at Mass this morning that they had served about 1200 meals. A couple that we met there told us of a garage sale that their neighbourhood association were having on Saturday morning, so we jotted down details of that as an opportunity of another great cultural experience.

Friday afternoon the social whirl continued with the welcome picnic for Peter’s work group. The faculty secretary had organised it to be at a park not far from our place. When we arrived she was in a state of distress as the park was overrun with people. “No one ever comes here!!” she moaned. Alas on this day, there was a soccer game with a group of local kids and a huge birthday party with streamers, balloons, pinatas, and about a hundred kids. They had commandeered the only shelter and the grill (barbecue for the Australian speakers).

We were sent home to get our grill (generously loaned to us by Peg and Dave), and we started the slow process again of getting the charcoal fired Weber to light. As on our only one other previous adventure with the Weber, by the time it was really hot, all cooking had been done. We were then left with the hot barbie to get back home! All part of the adventure. After the questionable start, it actually turned out to be a nice occasion. The food again was great. There were a number of Asian graduate students who came along, and they had some interesting menu items indeed (mostly American). They introduced me to S’mores – melted marshmallows squished between two Graham crackers (not translatable for Australian speakers). An optional extra is chocolate. Mmm! I wanted s’more!

Saturday morning and we were off to the garage sale. There were 38 families in the area who had things on sale, and it was pleasant indeed exploring what turned out to be a very pretty part of town. We met the couple whom we met on Thursday and bought some treasures from them (total sale 50c). We actually found quite a few bargains – another chair, a mat for the front door, some bowls and cookware, a vase with flowers, some Christmas decorations, and two tennis racquets (wooden with those wooden holders to stop them warping). At $1 each and Rod Laver’s signature on the handle, we couldn’t pass them up. I had a great time, and it was only a shower of rain that sent us home. Peter commented that we now have enough stuff to run our own garage sale when we leave.

In the afternoon, we went down to the Riverside Jazz and Blues Festival. The sky was cloudy but the rain held off for what was a really great event. I take back some of my negative comments about the down town area. Last night, it was really rocking. Our fame continues, as we were interviewed by the local press while we were at the concert and Peter’s comments appear in this morning’s paper.