JIM HAYNES

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Your House Is Mine
by Tara McKelvey,
Voice-Leisure, review, January 12, 1992
Jim Haynes, photograph Rights Reserved
Haynes: Global Village concept

Jim Haynes: Poland: People to People. 250 pages. Canongate Press PLC. 14 Frederick Street, Edinburgh. Handshake Editions. 83 rue de la Tombe lssoire, Paris.

 

The International Monetary Fund official who met me in the Hotel Warszawa restaurant last week had a crisp accent and a scholarly gaze. While describing his background, he mentioned an acronym I didn't recognize - the B.H.I - but I nodded eagerly, assuming it was a branch of the Manetary Fund that dealt with Eastem Europe.

It was not until later that morning when the IMF official handed me a book he had written, The Earth Is But One Country, that I realized we were talking not about the B.H.I. or even about economic policy, but Islamic roots that proclaim the Oneness of God, Religion and Mankind. He said I could call him with further questions the next day in Budapest, where he and his wife planned to stay with a Baha'i family.
"They're our friends," he explained, "although we havent met."

When the Baha'i faith, Global Village or UFOs come up in conversation, I usually stare into space and wonder what's for dinner. I neyer called the IMF official, but I have now come across the perfect book for this man.
A new travel guide, Poland: People to People, includes a listing af more than 1,000 friends you didn't know you had. People to People offers no "potted histories" or "lists of hotels," just a directory of friendly Poles with names, addresses, telephone numbers and brief biographies.
While some of the Poles are looking for a girl from Western Europe" or a "lovely farm girl from the USA or Canada," there is also a sizeable number who are interested in holistic religions, UFOs and growing cactuses. In other words, people who would find plenty to talk about with the IMF official.
Jim Haynes, a Lousiana-born professor of media at the University of Paris, put together this ambitious guide in an effort to turn "tourists" into "travelers." The book is a tribute to the Global Village and its instructions are simple. Readers are advised to write ahead to the individuals they wish to meet. 'Some people will be in a position to have you stay," he writes, 'others will not." Above all, he says, the book is designed to help you make contacts and rich friendships in Poland.
When I first picked up the People to People guide, I was appalled. After several years of living in New York, I have became suspicious of anyone who offers free lodging. I wouldn't want these people coming to my hause, drinking all the orange juice and leaving towels on the bathroom floor, I thaught. Why would they want me?

But somehow, these people do welcome visitors. Out of loneliness, curiosity or inchoate hope for material gain, these Poles want to meet Westerners. The People to People guide is a collection of dreams from remote towns, an unwitting mixture of hope and pathos that charms as much as it repels.
When the book repels, though, it is because of its editing. As coeditor af a London newspaper called International Times in the 1960s, Mr. Haynes should know better than to print entries in pidgin English. We read, for instanœ, about a ceramic technician in Cracow who finished a "Medium School of Art," a student who belongs to "an unprofessional folkloristic group," a computer scientist who works in a "surfware firm."
"Christopher have the master degree af economy and me I have the master degree of chemistry," writes a woman living in northwest Poland. "Even we have a brain-injured son, we still love life." These people deserve more than garbled text.
"I'm a sunny and witty boy. I have dark hair and brown eyes. I like to practice sports and listen to music. I like English-language very much and l'd like to learn it better," writes a schoolboy in northwest Poland.
A doctor in Lódz lists his passions as "watching ice dancing" and "eating ice cream," and a writer in the same town describes his life: "A few jobs, a few books, a wife, one daughter, one room."
"I was born and I live," says a 21-year-old law student. "But I dont know why."
"I am Polish," writes a rural sociologist. "That's all."
A translator writes, "When I was a child I was afraid af cars and of staying alone at home. Now I think I'm not."
If the stories had been properly edited, they would be the stuff of literature.

When I first got a copy of People to People, I thumbed through Mr. Haynes' introduction about the Global Village with the same glassy-eyed expression I had while listening to the IMF official describe the Baha'i faith.
In the end, I found it moving to read more than 1,000 invitations from "People to People" hosts, offering guidance and friendship to strangers. And I realized the real motto of this guidebook is a Bible passage I Iearned at St. Ann's Elementary School in Kansas City but had nearly forgotten: "Remember to welcome strangers into your home. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

 
 
Tara McKelvey©Voice-Leisure, 1992

 

 

1992, Voice-Leisure, review: Your House Is Mine

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