Monday, January 7, 2008

Sometimes my body becomes an Australian body; for just brief moments, in the heat of this summer, I let my hips go loose, and I relax into the scene before me--the surroundings of Victoria Market with its huge sheds of family produce stalls, speciality kiosks of long standing, like Dianna's Hot Dips with its salamis, cheeses, marinated octopus and eggplant, small red peppers stuffed with goat cheese. The women look down at us from their stalls, customers who have been returning for their weekly treats for years raise their arms to collect their carefully wrapped aromatic purchases, the meat markets with slabs of lamb and cow and pig, smelling of blood, butchers standing in the packed walk ways, aprons stained with their trade, yelling at the top of their lungs--cheap, cheap, 4 kilos of mince, scotch fillet at prices you wouldn't believe-- particularly if it's close to the end of the trading day--the streams of shoppers, pushing their own Vic Market trolleys or laden down with their green bags, flow around the burly men trying to make a last minute sale; the fish stalls, barrimundi, flake, whole fish snapped up by shoppers planning a BBQ and always, the huge tiger prawns, squid tubes and bay scallops and our oysters-we treat ourselves to a dozen newly shucked oysters and find a quiet spot away from the rivers of shoppers and reverently, tilt our heads back and taste the Northern seas.

I was walking alone past the Andean folk singers who always play their national flute music on a gathering space in the footpath, their brightly colored serapes caught in the bright morning light, their Cd's displayed on the ground before them, week after week, people flock to hear their rhythms before plunging into the cool sheds, children darting forward to toss coins into their open guitar cases, their music filled the air on my morning and I stood, hearing, wondering as I always do, what brought these men and women to this footpath, to this continent so far from their mountain homes. As my body moves, I realize this sound, this scene has become familiar to me, I raise my eyes to the city around me, and I relax in my appreciation of the funky, surprising and at times, gracious, architecture of Melbourne, its 19th century lane ways, lined with cafes, and its new Federation Square, across from its old Flinders Station Victorian train station with its fabled clock. For a few moments, I am of this place, just the way I was of Broadway, a New York gal from the old school unimpressed with the new wealth flooding the old streets.
I remember the first time La Professora took me to Vic's market, the two camels sitting on old rugs to save their shins, waiting to take children on a slow tight walk around the marketplace, how unsurprised I was by the sight so Eastern, so marked by trade routes. The heat and the cries of goods for sale and the different light, camels in the marketplace, the camels who carried their Afghan owners into the vast unknown Australian desert in the early years of the 20th century and who now roam free amidst the emu and the kangas of the interior. If we change places and survive the move, we become time roamers, walking on the grit of another continent's history.

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