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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Go West

I've been spending a lot of time at Parramatta lately working on our PCAI shop across Church Street from St John's church - in the Connections Arcade. Nearly there despite some road blocks both human and practical.

We're hoping eventually to build our studio/workshop at a site across the river from Rangihou Reserve. This park was recently renamed to recognise links going back to 1814 when the first CMS settlement was established at Oihi or Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands.

Marsden's Maori Seminary (also named Rangihu) was located here. It's sometimes described as New Zealand's first school and New Zealand's first brickmakers were trained here. Young Maori men, the sons of chiefs, were trained in a range of mechanical arts. This could be seen as Marsden spreading his version of the Word through demonstrating superior technology or more simply as the holding of hostages to ensure the safety of the CMS personnel in New Zealand. Typically Marsden assumed a superiority of intelligence and ability to strategise that was to later see many British soldiers and carpetbaggers fall in to traps in New Zealand. As Marsden went about gathering his Maori flock iwi acquired tame Missionaries for the access to guns, iron and other European goods that came along with the CMS settlements. I think more Pakeha-Maori were converted to heathen ways than Maori people were converted to Marsden's version of Christianity. It was clear early on who were the more sophisticated and who were the more naive.

I always get lost in Parramatta - I don't know where or what the landmarks are and my inability to relate what's around me to maps I've seen leads to chaos. I get lost finding the Westfield carpark, I get lost in the Westfield carpark, I get lost in Westfield and can't find my way out or my way back to the right floor of the right carpark.

A state of irritated frustration. of being lost, out of my depth helps me blend in with the locals as I make my way to the Connection Arcade.

On Friday I got lost driving back to Sydney. Just where I was expecting Jame Ruse Drive I found a suburb I'd never been in before. I stopped realising I needed sustenance and saw ahead of me the Tres Bien Fresh Coffee and Nuts Shop in Good Street. Call me a gubba or a skip if you like but I saw the name and thought "That's French - it must be Vietnamese - I'll get some rice paper rolls".

Turns out I'd found a very good Lebanese grocery store quite by chance. It looked good and smelled better, and the people working there or just dropping in were funny, friendly and helpful. 600 ml of Al-Rabih pomegranate molasse for $6.80!!!!! A 1.9kg jar of gherkins, a can of houmos, and one of okra in brine, foodie heaven at local prices.

I started off back to the big stinky eating sweets as I drove and almost turned the car around at 90kmh they were so good. There was a roll with apricot paste around it that was almost to die for at high speed on the M4.

The next day I was talking to the people who run the new local coffee bar. They're Lebanese and I could sense them struggle not to laugh out loud or seem patronising as I described my exotic adventures in Granville. They used to be amazed to see Australians buying groceries in single items, two apples, one banana, a can of tomatoes etc they always bought in bulk. At the moment buying bananas in bulk seems an act of stupidity - or showing off at $A14.99 a kg (or $A11.99 at Parramatta!).

When I was at Tres Bien the owner was negotiating the purchase of something - dried goods, fruit, spices, I don't know what but he settled for an order of a ton of it/them if the price stayed at $6.

Sometimes having no sense of direction and getting lost is a good thing.


sarah toa said...

Great post. I got lost in Parramatta too! Have you read the book called the Blacktown Native Institution by Jack Bloom? There is a lot about Marsden in there. I was researching some West Australian Aboriginal kids who ended up at BNI.

Fresh Local said...

I've read one book about the Institution but I think it was by Jim Kohen. Marsden's dismissive attitude towards Aboriginal people is well documented. The Marsden's had a houseboy they called Tristan and are on record as saying he was like an adopted son. Tristan jumped ship on a voyage to England and was discovered in a state of poor health years later.