Sunday, November 27, 2005
But anyway, as I was saying - Mathematics and Computing specialist school? Cough, spluttter and other untypable noises... well all I can say is that it must've changed somewhat dramatically since I was there. But then it ought to have, in fact most of the teachers have probably retired and some have probably gone to meet the great homework marker in the sky. Yup, I have to face up to it, it is now 20 years since I started 5th year (the final year at that school). Twenty years? 20 years, two zero, two decades, no, it looks just as bad no matter how I write it - gordon bennett how the devil did that happen? (or should that be Andy Bennett given the name of my form teacher for two years?) I think this is one of those left brain right brain things, you know - kitchen calendar vs pocket diary - one part of you knows something and the other part refutes all knowledge of it. I had all this 'how long ago?' business with the Pilgrimage earlier in the year and you'd think that logically speaking if it's 18 years since I went on QYP '87 I'd have worked out it'd therefore be 20 years since I started 5th form and come June 20 years since I sat my O levels. But no, brain cannot compute (nor do mental arithmatic it appears, see what I mean about a specialist Mathematical School...) - I think I'm in denial....
It has brought back some very mixed feelings. School was far from being 'the happiest days of my life' - an expression which is probably responsible for a fair few teenage suicides. Life can get better honest! Music and computing were what saved my sanity at that school - hanging around the music block and science labs at breaks in the last couple of years or so of that school were the safest space I had there and I really appreciate those who were there with me for being there.
I was in the first ever Computer Studies class at that school (and those of a techie disposition who regularly bail me out probably find this hard to believe) - we studied a 2 year course in two terms, before school started, lunchtimes and after school finished and two of us got A's (yes, me - my only A grade out of 10 subjects! The fact that every single essay question that came up I knew back to front and the logic problems in it were my forte is beside the point, oh and Dad claims credit for the programming bit). The teacher we had wasn't exactly my favourite though and after he left suddenly at Easter under a cloud of allegations including the words store cupboards and young boys he fell off the bottom of the scale. On and off over the years I've wondered about it all, I'd often felt my presence in that class was tolerated by him more than anything else and it looked good to have a girl in it for pc sake (and it is probably why I studied so hard, to prove him and the physics teacher who thought I could be doing better things with my time - the aforementioned Andy Bennett - wrong. I had acquired a habit of doing things to prove people wrong, that a girl 'could do it thank you very much' and hopefully one of these days I'll remember I don't have to any more but hey, that's probably another posting!). When the word got out about the what the teacher was accused of (and from what I've learned since which added the words scout hut to the equation, I believe it wholeheartedly) I and some others got really worried - he used to give some of the lads a lift home from computing on the nights we stayed on late and if he did or said anything to them then... ye gods - goodness knows what we would have done mind, we were uspet enough about the lad who blew the whistle on him (who has my undying admiration and respect for having done so). None of us had the nerve to ask the lads in question or mention their risk to anyone and that still bothers me - in the same way that several of us knew one of our friends was being physically abused by her father but we didn't know who to say what to.
I've done a lot of work with teenagers through Quakers over the years and one of the things that gets covered again and again in training is dealing with disclosure of abuse. Only once have I known of it happen at an event I have been at (disclosure that is not abuse I hasten to add) and thankfully I know very little about that as I wasn't directly involved, the only reason I'm aware of it is one of the girl's friends came to me for support having spent several hours being the support giver and had exhausted herself emotionally. When I was at school I hadn't really got going with my involvement at residential Quaker events, that was just starting in my final year there, but I know that had they come along a couple of years earlier then that is where I would have said something; in a safe space, away from anyone who knew the people involved, people who could tell me it was ok to tell someone at school and maybe help me work out what to say and who to (which is what I needed to hear) without me feeling as though I was doing something wrong by voicing my fears. Childline didn't exist then and I'm not sure I'd've rung it anyway with it being concerns about my friends not me.
I've been asked to represent Friends at a seminar on Wednesday run by UNICEF on the campaign to repeal Section 59 of the 1961 Crimes Act which would basically give children the same rights as an adult not to be physically assaulted, at first I tried to pass the buck, I studied Child Abuse at uni and struggled with it. But life has brought several other sexual and physical abuse survivors across my path since school, no-one else can go to represent Friends and I feel I owe it somehow to them all to help Aotearoa New Zealand catch up to where the various Children Acts have got Britain now to protect the rights of the child. Had the Children Acts been in place when we were kids my friends might have had a better chance, and provision would have been in place to ensure that concerned school friends could say something knowing it was ok. Can't say as I'm particularly looking forward to it though.
I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my two children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my doctor, sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground and figured out how to attach nine patches onto my son's boy scout uniform with staples and a glue gun.
I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I'll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.
Here are my Christmas wishes: I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze; but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.
I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy. If you're hauling big ticket items this year I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music; a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals; and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.
On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, "Yes, Mummy" to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.
I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting "Don't eat in the living room" and "Take your hands off your brother," because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog.
If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.
If you don't mind, I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely.
It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.
Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back.
Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the door and come in and dry off so you don't catch cold.
Help yourself to cookies on the table but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet. Yours Always, MUM...!
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Well I hadn't planned on blogging anything tonight, just popped over to print off my polenta cake recipe for Judith and then the heavens opened - yes I know it's only a few yards door to door but it's the sort of rain that soaks you in seconds and if the rest of the day is anything to go by it'll stop again soon. Hopefully we won't have any floods, especially as we're heading up the coast tomorrow morning to Kapiti Meeting so Fran, Jonathan and I can do our WGYF performance again (one showing only this time, but a bring and share meal thrown in!). Unfortunately this means Fran collecting Ann and I at 8.45am - who on earth decided that 10am was a good time to hold Meeting for Worship? Having said that Jonathan and I have just been discussing the idea of a pre-Meeting discussion group (altho' Meeting here doesn't start until 10.30am and as he pointed out it takes me seconds to get there)
After we'd done the last round of WGYF feedback (both matiné and evening performances!) I hit on the idea of having a bible study/discussion group which would be for those who are new to it, haven't read it for years and/or those who struggle with it rather than for old hands who know and love it well.
So much of what the main speakers had to say at WGYF was bible orientated, we had a bible quiz one night which left me simply in awe of the extent of the knowledge of so many - Leslie reeling off, in order, the books of the old Testament without faltering or appearing to draw breath was impressive to say the least. So where did that leave those of us who probably hadn't really read the book since we stopped having Religious Education lessons at school, and didn't have any sense of affinity to it? Well oddly enough for me, and several others, it left us curious, wondering what we were missing out on, prepared to give it another go - on condition that no-one was going set us any homework or expect us to necessarily go along with what it said.
Two of the things Jonathan mentioned in his bit about the speakers (well there was no point Fran or I doing that bit - we missed half of them!) was Oliver Kisaka saying how if you haven't read the bible you are uneducated and Deborah Saunders refering to Elijah and Elisha (oops - had to do a quick Google search to check how to spell Elisha... needless to say I haven't read that bit yet!) and saying how she was like Elijah to us as Elisha (preparing the next generation of prophets/speakers basically). Now I heard Oliver say that bit about being uneducated and admittedly bristled a bit at first but then as he elaborated I understood what he meant, he wasn't saying if you don't know your bible inside out or don't believe it you are uneducated, but if you haven't even tried reading it all how can you speak against something you don't know? Don't reject something out of hand when you maybe only know a small part of it - I guess it's like me not wanting to read any more Thomas Hardy having done Return of the Native for A level English (how can a book take 5 chapters for someone to watch a horse & cart to get from one end of road to another with nothing else happening in the plot?) yet everyone I know who studied Tess of the D'Urbervilles thinks he's fantastic, if I gave my opinion of Shakespeare based purely on Anthony & Cleopatra (another A level torture zone) you'd get a very different story than if I waxed lyrical about The Tempest, Midsummer's Nights Dream, Romeo & Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing or Twelth Night etc etc etc (all I can assume is that Ant & Cleo must've been written on a very bad hair day...). I tried at various stages through the WGYF planning to read more of the bible, especially each time I heard Sheila speak so enspiringly about passages that spoke to her condition and seemed pertinent at the time but I never got very far (my excuse was that I was waiting for the chapter & verse references from Sheila...). But post WGYF I have tried, I really have (as I think I have said in an earlier posting) to make a concerted effort. I tried just dipping in and out but got frustrated with a lot of the language in the Old Testament (why oh why does everything seem to be riddled with double negatives?) and plumped for working through the Gospel of Matthew instead as simon had referred to it as the 'Quaker Gospel' and thus the one I reckoned I'd have least difficulty with! I found when reading it I'd come across bits and want to ask someone about it, or even just say - hey I like this bit! or, in some cases - what the dickens is that about? or if that means what I think it means that I don't hold much truck with that. But as it tends to be bedtime reading I can't imagine anyone being too chuffed with a phonecall, and also once tucked up in bed all cosy I'm not about to pad across in my jammies and start typing in a cold office! Hence the idea of the discussion group... I did think about Deborah's comment about learning from your elders and the whole Elijah/Elisha thing but figured that in this case we were probably best trying to muddle through on our own - after all those of us who got put off it by people knew it inside out and who tried in varying degrees to ram it down our throats (either from the pulpit or the front of the classroom) are probably happier in a group where we're all coming from a slightly sceptical and/or 'uneducated' position. A case of 'what canst thou say' about it.
We may all end up still sceptics at the end of it, but at least we'll be better educated ones!
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
George Fox House (ie chez moi), Wellington
Originally uploaded by annadunford.
Well I've finally remembered to take my camera out for a walk or two and have uploaded some pictures taken around where I'm living so those of you who don't know what it looks like here already... there are more to come but it's bedtime (well it was about half an hour ago...) so the rest will have to wait a little longer - check back via the Flickr link on the right in a day or two!
ps - there are few there from my last few days in Edinburgh including one in Greyfriars post curry!
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Monday, November 21, 2005
What brought about this stunning revelation? Well today I am feeling ridiculously proud of myself and wishing I could ring up Granny to tell her (I'm about 14 years too late for that). Quite where the sudden burst of creative energy and inspiration came from I'm not entirely sure - one minute I was sitting on the sofa reading a book, the next rifling through a pile of old bed linen that had been set aside for dust sheets...
There is only one duvet cover in the house for my bed (being double, all the others are single) I am assured that as washing dries so quickly here, and anyways there's a tumble drier now in the garage, that one is quite sufficient as it can be off the bed, washed, dried and back on again the same day. Now this assumes that I remember to put the washing on early enough, that it doesn't get left out in the rain and that I remember to bring it in before bedtime - so far my track record is not looking good. So I had been wondering about making a duvet cover out of some of the odds and ends of bedding that is kicking about in a cupboard - stuff that never gets used as none of it matches etc (which when you are running a bed & breakfast matters more than I'd worry about usually). I'd been decidedly uninspired on the duvet making front but had found some 70's print sheets and pillowcases which were they in better nick would probably fetch a fortune in the retro shops in Edinburgh, great material (honest!) but not exactly what I want to wake up to every morning (nor big enough once you'd cut out the worn patches) so they'd stayed in the cupboard.
As I said where the inspiration came from I've no idea - the book I was reading was set in the 50's and year 2000 (one of those flashback plots) so I can't even blame that - but I got the idea for making a top out of some of the material. Having not done any sewing in terms of clothes for about 15 years or more, and never having made a top in my life, not to mention being totally bereft of patterns I had a go first cutting up an old plain white pillowcase using a top I had as a guide figuring that if I stuffed up it wouldn't matter. Voila (several hours later) a sleeveless top that fits, even has darts in (and this is me who can't even plait my hair looking in a mirror managing to put pins in without drawing blood) and whilst the material has seen better days it doesn't look that bad and might even get worn in public! Feeling somewhat emboldened by this success I tried again with some print material, it's pink and flowery - yes, you did read that right, the kind of thing I'd never have been seen dead wearing for so many years that even Mum gave up trying to persuade me to go for something more girlie. But sadly my pale pink blouse that I've worn sooo much over the last three years has finally given up the ghost due to the less than gentle breeze blowing the washing on the line and I was feeling deprived of what probably amounts to the only really girlie thing I owned. So now I have a (get this!) fully fitted halterneck top - darts back and front! I've never had one before 'cos I'm the wrong shape for the ones you buy in the shops, I never seem to go out far enough in the bust or in far enough at the waist. Ok so I now have a rather impressive collection of fine scratches on my back which looks like Banjo has been sleeping on top of me again (my cat back in Scotland for those who don't know and might have been getting worried!) from trying to get the thing on and off whilst still full of pins, but hey they'll heal (hopefully before I try wearing the top outwith the house...). Well that should sort out some of the stripiness of my suntan anyway, or at least add some interesting variations.
I'd been thinking about having a go at making my own clothes after being so impressed with Alice's 'plain clothes' at WGYF. I'm not sure I'd go completely for the traditional style (similar to the Amish) but lets face it if I'm making it it sure aint going to be fancy (and one of her bonnets sure would keep my hair out of my face in the wind - and today it is enough to put wicked witches in danger of being squashed by houses). The white top when worn with my long grey skirt does make me look as though I have gone down that path (but I don't think Plain Friends tend to go for hipster waistlines) and I've been asked often before when wearing that skirt if I 'have to wear it' because I'm a Quaker which makes me laugh as it was bought in the cheapy clothes shop in Dalkeith - hardly a hotbed of puritanical thought or practice.
But as another part of my personal commitment to simplicity was to not own any more clothes than I need I'll probably not be making anything else for a while, unless of course I can figure out how my grey skirt was made in which case I could be tempted...
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Then a trip to the shops - I have tried for years to buy 'local' goods, round here that means some rapid recalculations in terms of food miles I can tell you. But so much dairy free and wheat free stuff that is 'local' to here is made in Australia which brings up another issue - boycotts. Now I've nothing against those in the USA (well, the ones who didn't vote Republican...) but I've been trying to avoid buying goods from there 'on principle' cos let's face it as a country their politics are um, well let's just say they don't speak to my condition. Now I'm here with ooodles of Aussie stuff on the shelves and well, I'm not exactly John Howard's greatest fan either... boycotting Australian goods has never really arisen as an issue for me before as I've tended to rule them out on the food miles front so now I've a whole new set of deliberations to deal with (I gave up and bought something that had been packaged by the shop and didn't state country of origin - a cop out I know but I figured it had less packaging!)
Then home for lunch and listen to the news on the radio whilst I awaited the repair man to arrive... an article on the rural report about the Ostrich & Emu Standards Board! Ok, they did say that it was fairly new and finding it's own way along as it went but even so... hardly the Milk Marketing Board. Then my repair man turned up - to fix my oven. Now as far as I'm concerned my oven works perfectly well thank you (now I know how to isolate the automatic timer thingy which makes it sulk), but the front right hand ring had two settings, off or on full blast (and the darned thing is electric so it stays hot forever). But no - I had (yay, 'tis fixed!) a faulty thermostat in my oven - he even corrected me when I said 'you'll have come to fix my cooker' - nope, it's an oven - so that's me told. I'll add it to my list of kiwi words to remember....
There are a whole load of language schools here - teaching English to foriegn students. I do wonder whether anyone tells them that just because you know kiwi English that doesn't mean you'll necessarily be able to make yourself understood in any other theoretically English speaking country. I'm surprised the EU haven't managed to put restrictions on it yet - after all if Champagne has to come from the Champagne region in France and now Feta cheese has to come from Greece (Cheddar Cheese seems to have escaped so far, altho' there certainly used to be a very nice cheese place there - it's in Somerset (England) for the benefit of you furriners...), how come English doesn't have to be well, 'English' and German to be 'German' instead of what they pretend is German in Italy and Switzerland just to lure you into a false sense of security about knowing the local lingo (and quite probably to justify all those teaching hours of it in British Schools when everyone knows far more people speak Spanish, and the weather is better there not to mention Latin America being far more exciting - sorry Germany, no offence intended.)The thing is though, how would you define 'English'? To hear someone from Somerset, Yorkshire, Northumbria, Merseyside and London all talking they sound as diverse, if not more so, than hearing a Canadian, a US citizen, an Aussie and a Kiwi (altho' by saying that I've probably just blown all chances of getting Residency here!) . As for Ireland, Scotland and Wales; well that's a whole other ball game!
Anyway as Dad has just pointed out via Skype 'tis my bedtime. So, good night all, buenas noches a todos, la bonne nuit tout, gute nacht alles, καλή νύχτα όλες, Pō mārie ki a koutou katoa!
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
You aren't allowed to put them in equal placing! I've put my list as a comment so you can't see it straight away... I'd appreciate it if you'd have a go, I will ask some people here as well but I'm intrigued as to what others in the blogosphere think too!
The words (as they appear on the worksheet) are:
God, spiritual, faith, religion, worship, testimony, inner light, Jesus, Christ, Allah, Buddha, divine.
I'm happy enough to get anonymous contributions =)
Monday, November 14, 2005
Well to be fair in this particular instance I was bailed out from having to answer the question myself - even though Elizabeth said pretty much word for word what I was about to, the difference being coming from her it carried more weight!
The question was unsurprisingly enough after our feedback about WGYF - about it's enormous cost financially and environmentally (all those air miles). How can we measure the success of the event? What do we have to show for it? Did Friends worldwide get their money's worth? Will those of us who were were lucky enough to go repay our debt to the Society and society?
The answer I had, and Elizabeth voiced (yay for travelling Friends!), is look at the '85 event participants - then look at their contribution to Friends worldwide over the last 20 years. Sure WGYF can't take all the credit but from talking to several of those who were there I know that in their cases it can certainly take the bulk of it.
Reading the emails that have been circulating around since WGYF I can already see the difference it has made to many lives. Lifestyle decisions being made, commitment to Friends (at least one person has since become a member already), an openess to following leadings and go where the spirit guides them, to bringing more spiritual discipline into their lives (or at least thinking about how to try), to finding ways of living out the testimonies rather than just talking about them and to exploring our own individual spiritual journies in more depth. Even just watching the use of language of some people change within and since the event is a revalation in itself - the acceptance of certain words and phrases into people's vocabulary (including my own)as we began to understand the meaning behind the words rather than what we assumed was meant by them has been an indication of the success of the event. This is before I even get on to mention the experiments with unprogrammed worship within the programmed traditions and the increase in bible reading amongst those who didn't (and probably still don't) call ourselves Christians
We were never going to change the world in a few days - it will probably take years to be able to look back and see the fruits being borne and possibly we will never quite know how much can be directly attributed to WGYF. But was it a success? Ask me again in five years time, but I believe the answer will be a resounding 'yes!'
However I am into my cricket and am rather miffed at there being no online audio coverage of the Test matches in Pakistan - I know TMS is on long wave but coverage doesn't reach quite this far! Bah humbug (and it isn't even Christmas... yet). Anyway at least England are putting up a good show so far - altho' they'd probably do even better if the commentators didn't get so excited with their glowing predictions as soon as things look anything other than dismal, it's practically guarenteed to mean the loss of another wicket. Sod's law Trescothic got out just short of a double century (again). Ah well. Si/Bri/Ken/Net I hope you're managing to watch some of it for me =)
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Well I'm certainly not overworked as Resident Friend altho' today has been one of those days for the phone ringing and visitors - hardly a problem though, I still managed to crash out after some gardening and read my book for a while. As for lonely well I managed to eat out at various houses three nights in a row last weekend! Hardly....
I'm far from lacking for things to do either - I still haven't managed to find time to catch up with some of my local rellies or make half the phone calls I've been meaning to since I got here. The days are nicely complete without being rushed, overly full or stressful. It is how I always imagined retirement would be! Yay, I've fancied the idea of early retirement for years, in fact probably since I started work and it kept getting in the way of things I'd rather do instead =) However the realistic practical streak in me knows I'll need to earn some money again at some point and I have started keeping my eye open for some part time work. It'll take me a while to get something as the only clause I can get an addition to my visa is the 'they can't find a Kiwi to do the job' one. There's a handy 'Christian job watch' website here which covers not just actual church jobs (anyone fancy being a Ministry leader in Taupo?) but also those within Christian organisations - including care work, youth work, administration and fundraising etc. As I'm here on a missionary visa (!) it seemed sensible to start with the church groups as I've a better chance of persuading Immigration that I'm 'qualified' and have relevant experience not only of the practical tasks but the 'religious background/live church connection'. Must admit though it does feel a bit strange! Whilst I'm far more comfortable with the 'christian' lable these days I'm still not so sure about 'Christian' yet... (a bit like conservative and Conservative!)
Anyway some more random kiwiana for you
jug = kettle (I'll put the jug on...)
(out in the) wop wops = back of beyond, out in the sticks/woods etc
oh and Hokey Pokey ice cream! Basically ice cream with little balls of barleysugar in it, a local phenonomen and one which no doubt keeps the dentists busy. It is nice, honest, (there is a dairy free version!) but incredibly sweet.
Matariki = the Maori New Year which is in June (Pipiri) and is tied to the rising of the constellation Matariki (Pleiades, Seven Sisters...) - ie it is in the middle of winter, when celebrating New Year makes sense (coming out of the darkness, rebirth, Persephone and the underworld etc., all to the tune of the can-can of course... hmmm, not sure about that one but it sure sounds good played on steel drums! Do you remember that Kate?) Anyway, as I was saying it makes far more sense and I'm all for the move here to make it into a national holiday instead of the Queen's birthday (well she's got two).
The strawberries in the garden have started to ripen (but it's November...) and the beans are shooting up, so are the weeds... I've been helping Marion & Quentin with their garden and went round yesterday to do some more strimming of the jungle to find there had been a chainsaw massacre out the back - half the decking has gone and a load of the bushes! Their french windows now open out onto a 7' drop... however believe it or not (and if you saw it you'd wonder) all it means is that the long awaited renovations have finally begun so it was a case of setting too on the front garden to make room for rescuing the currant bushes out the back that are in danger of being crushed to death by a mountain of lavender bush now unceremoniously dumped across the path to the compost heap (and pretty much everywhere else thanks to the infamous wind). A mulching machine is to be my new toy next week - hopefully one that works unlike the one Shirley and I battled away with last year which needed more pit stops than Herbie on a bad day (and definitely had a mind of it's own).
Well I guess it isn't everyone's cup of tea (mmm, time to put the jug on...) as a way of life but I'm getting quite attached to it!
Monday, November 07, 2005
I've been thinking about WGYF a lot recently. Fran, Jonathan and I are doing three feedback sessions in the next few weeks for Friends here in Wellington (a matiné and evening performance on the 13th!) and up the coast after Kapiti Meeting (27th). Plus of course we said a bit about it already at Wanganui. I've been reading a lot of what other people have written lately and have started to realise just how 'sheltered' my own experience of it was - due to having admin team meetings every morning I was spared deep and meaningful discussions over breakfast (phew, me soooo not a mornings person...), most lunchtimes I managed to meet up with at least some of my mini support group whose main task was to distract me from WGYF for at least half an hour a day and in the evenings I usually ended up with interesting but not challenging conversation as we ate.
Not having got to any workshops where the major issues that 'divided' us were discussed (such as those around homosexuality and in particular FUM's discriminatory employment policy on this) and having a basegroup that whilst diverse was made up of such gentle and open people - with no sense of judgement being present - I found that the only challenges were internal, not within face to face discussion. Many of these challenges were brought about from ministry in worship, content from the main speaker sessions and the occassional seemingly by the by comment made by individuals around me. But I dealt with them in the silence of worship, lying in bed at night and sometimes sharing in the safety of my basegroup or with someone from my 'own' tradition, and in some cases they are still there fighting for headspace and time for reflection.
But I suspect that to an extent I sheltered myself. I wasn't really feeling up to anything controversial and half the time I felt as though I was hardly there but as if I were watching the event from some disembodied plane. My role had always been to ensure that it happened, to enable other people to have these challenging experiences and discussions. I look back and often I can't quite remember how my days were filled, but they were - to the brim!
For the feedback sessions I've to think what were the highlights for me of the event. Each and every 'moment' that comes to mind seems to be accompanied by floods of tears (and usually Louisa magically appearing with tissues!) - not tears of sadness but of joy, of just too much emotion; such as when Benny spoke of the Bridges of Love in worship one morning, as I reached the crest of Pendle Hill and saw the flag on top and people streaming up towards the gathered crowd, and holding hands between Thomas and Eleni as we sang 'Shout to the Lord' on the last morning when the lines below hit me hard as being not about 'the Lord' as in the image I had discarded at school as being, well just plain silly (old man with a beard sitting on a cloud some place) but being about those who surrounded me in the hall
'I sing for joy at the work of your hands,
Forever I'll love you, forever I'll stand.
Nothing compares to the promise I have in you.'
Just thinking about it all now is enough to know that sharing these moments is probably going to need hand holders and tissue providers again and is where I'd just love to have my mini support group back!
Saturday, November 05, 2005
I wanted to included this in the previous post but it seemed to lose me half the text if I did, oh well this gives me room for names =)
So, QYP'ers from 1987 - 2004 who were at WGYF...
1987 - Rosie, Ute & Anna
1989 - Mike & Ana Gabriella
1997 - Anke & Barbara
1996 - Karen
1998 - Emilano, Anneke, Christina & Aidan
2000 - Louisa, Hanna, Johanna, Anna
2002 - Ruadhan
2004 - Amy-Jean, Jane, Tamara, Geoffrey & David
Quaker Youth Pilgrimage 1987 to WGYF 2005
Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears.... so started one of the journal entries written by by three of us in the bathroom at Quaker International Centre in August 1987 as we dyed the hair of two of my fellow pilgrims – if I remember rightly we managed to adapt a pretty hefty chunk of the speech, whilst not exactly spiritual development it certainly improved my knowledge of Shakespeare – probably the first time in my life I'd looked at any outwith a classroom situation! As we'd been to see Midsummers Nights Dream that week in Regents Park it had a certain continuity of theme – my English teacher would have been proud of me if I'd told her (and it might have made up some for the Monday afternoon lessons I'd fallen asleep in after various Quaker weekends away!)
In August 2005 two of us who wrote that journal entry were again together for a major international Quaker event along with Ute Caspers who had been one of our leaders that year. Rosie and I had worked alongside each other for years within (the British) Young Friends Central Committee (as it was then called, now YFGM) but this was the first time we'd been together again in an international context, and in the last year of us both being 'officially' Young Friends.
The World Gathering of Young Friends brought together 32 pilgrims spanning 17 years of pilgrimages. There having been 32 pilgrims in '87 (including leaders) there seemed a symmetry to the number. I'm not entirely sure though that Rosie, Ute and I really wanted to know that the youngest participant of QYP 2004 at WGYF had been born the year we'd gone on ours, but again a certain symmetry. Throughout WGYF I was reminded time and again of our pilgrimage as we revisited the 1652 Country sites, took replica photographs and had the same British English/American English 'you call it a what?!' conversations all over again with the added twist of Australian/New Zealand/Canadian versions thrown in for good measure.
There was a sense for me of having come full circle being back in the 1652 Country for WGYF, whilst not quite where my active involvement with Young Friends started it was still very early on for me and certainly my first experience of the differing branches of Quaker theology and practice.
Did QYP '87 change my life? Did it affect my spiritual journey? It was hard to answer that aged 17 when I got home and had to report back to Monthly Meeting and the trusts who funded me – just how do you process such an intense 4 week experience and put it into words? Once again I'm finding the same problem post WGYF – 'here I am but where are my words?' - ministry from an impromptu Meeting for Worship of younger Friends at the FWCC Triennial 2004 comes back to me time and again. But maybe those first three words are the crux of it 'here I am' – I'm still with Friends, I spent 5 years attending YFCC serving as an overseer and on outreach committee, I've been doing Quaker youthwork since I got too old to attend as a young person, I've served on numerous committees within the Monthly Meetings I've lived in, and served as an overseer again. I've worked for FWCC Europe & Middle East Section and was the administrator for WGYF, I've been on the wardening team at Edinburgh QMH and am now Resident Friend in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. So often I've heard people despair about the lack of young people in our Meetings and how many drift off in their teens or after YFCC/YFGM, but I am still here, and putting my faith into action, letting my life speak and living adventurously!
The pilgrimage helped instill into me a sense of belonging, not only to British Quakers (I became a member within a year of the pilgrimage) but to the worldwide family of Friends, and that has always been important to me. I'm not entirely sure that I really grasped the extent of our theological differences on the pilgrimage having been far more aware of the more personal level of our diversity but the fact that I can't really remember now who was from what tradition (with a couple of exceptions) probably says more about the way we accepted each other as individuals rather than seeing each other as 'programmed' or 'unprogrammed' Friends.
This openness and acceptance was even more apparent at WGYF and was coupled with an intense desire to learn from each other about our different traditions and share our beliefs and experiences. I'm not entirely sure that I would have been ready for WGYF at 17 or 18, mainly because it was far too early on in my Quaker experience to have gained enough confidence in what I did believe, nor had I learned how to sufficiently put it into words, that was to take another 15 years or more. However the pilgrimage helped me understand what the peace testimony meant to me (we visited Germany pre reunification and went to Bergen Belsen, an experience that will never leave me) and it gave me a good grounding in Quaker history. Some of the poems and quotations we shared in our nightly epilogues are still dear to me and have profoundly shaped my thinking. But maybe what was most important was that it fueled the 'fire in my belly', the strength of my commitment to Friends, and the desire to share that and help others gain it experientially for themselves. I knew I had been extremely privileged to attend the pilgrimage and felt what I can now call a leading to become an active part of our Society, giving not just receiving.
There is a quote that I will always associate with the pilgrimage and that became fundamentally important to me then. It has constantly remained something to aspire to, and I suppose as such has shaped both my spiritual and temporal journey through life as I have gradually built up to being able to live up to it. I feel incredibly blessed by the opportunities I have had in recent years that have given me a sense of having finally got somewhere towards fulfilling it.
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one. (George Fox, 1656)
Thursday, November 03, 2005
However there are only so many doths, untos, wherefores and verilys I can read without expecting the Patrician or the City Watch to make an appearance along with the Temple of Offler and various Small Gods - Terry Pratchett has a lot to answer for.
I know I found the Message Bible almost cringeworthily American at first but I'm rapidly warming to the concept, altho' I still find it hard to get my head around the bible including words like 'cute'.
Hmmm, wonder what I can find in the Meeting House, the one in the house is no better than my own. I'm remembering fast why I found it all such hard going at school....
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
It was a rather salient reminder to get a bit more organised sooner rather than later. In fact Fran and I sat after tea and swapped emergency contact information, something we had realised we needed to do when at Wanganui and discussing funerals! Whilst I do have family over here none of my friends here know any of them yet and 'Emma in Taita' really isn't going to help anyone looking her up in the phone book (needless to say we've all got different surnames...) and Carole & Brian seem to keep moving every 6 months anyway. Various committees in the Meeting are going to be looking at this as many of us live thousands of miles from our next of kin and no-one locally would know where to start to find them.
Marion and I have been discussing earthquake provision etc over the last few days - basically we are supposed to be able to fend for ourselves for at least 3 days in terms of food and water, and possibly for up to 2 weeks. The earthquake kit in here has tins of spam, meatballs and macaroni cheese - I'm a dairy intollerant vegetarian! We're going shopping... meanwhile I've padded out my own kitchen cupboards with a few extras. It's all very strange trying to get my head around such things but it is important. After all, the damage in New Orleans was as bad as it was because maintenance had been slack on the levvies - as they hadn't burst in 300 years no-one thought they would and people weren't prepared. Apparently the local civic defence point is the school at the bottom of the road and a quick sprint (ahem, more like breathless scramble) up Elizabeth Street onto Mount Victoria would put me clear of the worst that can hit the city, so relatively speaking I'm 'safe' here.
Abi who was at both the Triennial and WGYF lives near(ish) Jakata and whilst he escaped the effects of the Tsunami his house was badly damaged by the earthquake at Easter. Fortunately he and his family were all ok. But it brings it home, these things don't just happen on the news, they are real people whose lives are affected and with the string of natural disasters we've witnessed over the last few months I'm not taking my chances. Wellington is due a big earthquake at any point in the next 50 years or so - I guess it's like taking your brolly with you so it doesn't rain!