Click on the arrow above to listen to Elaine Kennedy’s reading
Waiting for a Wide Horse Sky will be launched by Peter Bishop at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba on Saturday 10th September from 2pm.
‘Why would anyone want to go to Korea to work?’ With a disdainful sniff the uninterested speaker gazed over to a group on the other side of the room. It was 1997 and I had been back in Sydney for less than a week but this sort of comment no longer surprised me. I would rather have been home getting over jet lag than at this party, where I knew almost no one. Since the attention was now off me, I allowed my mind to wander. I saw myself and two companions on a track winding upward through thick woodlands. We came across a clearing and the awesome sight of the ancient Haeinsa Temple, built into a mountain with a high flight of stone steps lifting it up. It seemed like an apparition that might melt and dissolve if we didn’t approach quickly enough. I tried to give the appearance of fitting in with the small group in the far corner of the room but I was ignored. The simple but well cut, black cocktail dress I’d had made in Seoul was elegant and should have made me feel poised and confident, but it might just as well have been a hessian sack…
This must be the reverse culture shock I had been warned against. There was no problem with language or customs but it all seemed trivial and alien. I had come back to a place where women over fifty are invisible. I returned to my daydream…
The centre of the Korean flag is the yin and yang symbol, the ubiquitous opposites, and this symbol seems to me to sum up my experiences in Korea and perhaps Korea itself. Driving home that night, further images imposed themselves on my mind. Vivid foliage in the autumn and waterfalls turned to ice in the winter. Children sliding on boards across an iced-over lake. Exuberant university students sitting around makeshift fires and singing to a guitar accompaniment or dressed in colourful costumes and performing traditional whirling farmers’ dances. The other images came unbidden: the suicide of a Filipina factory worker; the mutilated hand of another, with little compassion shown by those responsible. Then memories of the generous people who made it their business to help. There had been many lessons to absorb. There was no reason to expect people who had never had these experiences to know or even be interested.”
ABOUT ELAINE KENNEDY:
Elaine Kennedy grew up in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and was involved with music and performance from an early age. Later that interest led to teaching Music and English at secondary level. Her interest in other cultures and languages grew from teaching migrants and refugees; at first in state schools and later in TAFE and programs for international students in a university college. She has subsequently worked overseas for government-initiated programs in Japan, Korea, China and the UK. While working in Korea in a teacher training institute she was introduced to migrant factory workers who were being exploited by their employers and lived under harsh conditions for little pay. In trying to help them and seek justice for them this book began to form and to take on an importance as a story that needed to be told.
“I did a residency at Varuna with Jane Palfreyman from Allen and Unwin in 2009 and during that time Peter Bishop gave some interesting insights into how to develop this manuscript by changing the focus to first person and thus removing what he perceived as a barrier between writer and reader. I worked in Eleanor Dark’s studio.” Elaine Kennedy
Waiting for a Wide Horse Sky – Transit Lounge 2011
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