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Monday, January 30, 2017

Prejudice...intentional or unintentional

A book, a movie and a political event have all raised my awareness about prejudice, especially racism. The book and the movie have increased my enormous sadness and anger about overt racism - especially in the context of current world events. All three of these things have also given me much food for thought.
The book: Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things 

The Movie: Hidden Figures

The political event: The NZ Labour & Green Parties joint State of the Nation gathering yesterday.
Click here for Metiria Turei's address

Click here for Andrew Little's address

I highly recommend the book and the movie - and reading the two speeches. It was great to be at the Labour/Greens event in person even though we were part of the overflow crowd that had to listen via loud-speakers as we stood in Mt Albert War Memorial Park (fortunately, on a sunny day!)

So what have all these things made me think about?
  • It is so easy to be unconsciously prejudiced. Because it is unconscious we don't take any corrective action. There's a blatant example in Hidden Figures. Becoming more conscious of our biases (not just about race) is the first step. Books and movies like these help me a great deal to "look in the mirror" and become more conscious.
  • How easy it is to be unintentionally hurtful to a person who is different from me, even if I have the best intention. Picoult's book in particular highlights many examples of small comments or actions that have a subtle (and hurtful) assumption hidden in them. 
  • It was a new challenge for me to begin to understand the perspective of white supremacists (who go by various names or titles). It took me a while to get my head around the fact that in Picoult's book this group feel that they are the victims and the "people of color" are the favoured ones and/or the oppressors.
  • To paraphrase Andrew Little "We need an inclusive society [here in NZ] more than ever, given recent world events."

    All of these issues continue to give me much food for continued thought. One thing I had already decided to do (before seeing/reading any of this) is to apply to be a voluntary English Language Partner for a refugee or migrant. My interview and training comes up soon. I'm looking forward to it, knowing I will learn a lot and hoping I am a little more conscious and a little less likely to drop any clangers!

    Friday, January 27, 2017

    Imagine a country where...

    This quote comes from an essay written by Br. David Steindl-Rast in 2006. It is every bit as relevant today - in fact it seems a prophetic statement! 

    They are:
    1. Say one word today that will give a fearful person courage.
    2. Make a firm resolution never to repeat stories and rumours that spread fear.
    3. Make contact with people whom you normally ignore.
    4. Give someone an unexpected smile today.
    5. Listen to the news today and put at least one item to the test of Common Sense.

    It is definitely worth the time to read the whole Blog post expanding each of these "gestures". Click the link above or click here to do so.

    They are deceptively "small gestures" but it is surprisingly easy (I find) to slip into old habits like repeating fearful stories and rumours or not stopping to think who I might usually ignore and making a deliberate connection.

    To understand why Common Sense has capitals and see the connection of all this to Gratitude you really do need to read the longer expanded paragraphs on each point.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2017


    I've kept a daily Gratitude Journal for many years. At the end of each day I, and the friend I live with, each write three things  we are grateful for that day. It's not hard to do! Some days though it tends to become a record of what we've done that day - nothing wrong with being grateful for a day's events of course. But the other morning as I was on my usual morning walk it struck me how grateful I was for:

    • Being able to walk. Lots of people can't - or can only walk with pain or difficulty.
    • Breathing easily. I knew someone with lung disease that made every breath an effort.
    • Clear eyesight to enjoy the beauty around me - made possible for me with glasses which I've worn since I was 9.
    • Good enough hearing to hear the wind in the trees and the sea lapping on the shore.
    • Living in such a beautiful place.
    • Feeling safe on the paths I walk every day.
    So much gratitude and it was only 8am!

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Rotorua is not only about Geysers! (Part 2)

    We thoroughly enjoyed the "WW2 Duck Tour". We chose the 90 minute tour which takes you round the key areas of the city and then out beyond the city and onto two lakes. The "Duck" is a world war 2 tank-like vehicle which is amphibious.

    Another Duck conveniently alongside ours on the Blue Lake.

    Our driver gave an excellent commentary about the volcanic nature of the countryside and the fact that we were actually inside a huge crater! 

    The next morning we went to the Redwood forest and walked the treewalk high in the trees. We were fortunate to be there about 9am before it got very crowded. This meant we had a leisurely contemplative walk with time to stop at the platforms (22 of them) and read information boards. It is beautifully constructed without harming any trees.

    Throughout the surrounding forest are artistically designed lights which at night would illuminate the whole path. Next time we'd definitely do a night walk. But we were warned that it is very busy at night so walking all the swing bridges with lots of others would be a different experience.

    Sunday, January 15, 2017

    Rotorua is not only about Geysers! (Part 1)

    We spent a couple of days in Rotorua recently and didn't see a single Geyser or mud pool! (Been there, done that previously!) This time we went with three specific things in mind:
    The Bible Museum and Discovery Centre. I can't remember how I came across the link for this some time ago and thought it might be worth a look. We were very impressed! It was much more than I had expected.
    From life-sized models...

    ...to tiny artifacts (many real, some replicas)
    ... and much more. It was very well set up and covered the whole Old Testament history and New Testament events, maps, dioramas, interactive displays... It had plenty for children as well as being of interest to those with good Biblical knowledge and a scholarly bent! It stimulated my interest in archaeology! We spoke with the couple who have spent eight years setting this all up. They are adding new displays all the time so if by chance you have visited previously it's worth another look.

    I'll cover the other two things we enjoyed in my next post.

    Friday, January 6, 2017

    Roadside Art

    On our recent trip to the Marsden Cross site we passed a large shed or barn on the side of the rough metalled road. It was beautifully painted:


    When we got home I tried to translate the Maori words: 
    Rere tonu anu te waka ki runga I nga ngaru tautoko o te iwi.
    I tried Google translate which told it me it meant: "Running the car on the back waves of the people."!! (This gave me an insight into the problems people have when learning a language not their own. Don't take Google translations too literally.) I still haven't found a Maori speaker to give a fluent, colloquial translation but I think Google does point in the right direction with the message being: The waka (canoe) moves forward on the waves of support from everyone in the iwi (tribe).

    A great message whatever our "tribe" - and I loved the fact that this barn "in the middle of nowhere" had been so creatively decorated. It was in itself a demonstration of the combined pride and support of "everyone in the iwi".

    Wednesday, January 4, 2017

    Hidden Treasure

    This afternoon a contemplative walk through Eaves Bush, here in Orewa, revealed a hidden treasure.
    When you see this...
    ... it's easy to think "Just a tree fern branch blown down" and walk on.
    But looked at more carefully there's something else tucked in there:
    And on even closer inspection:
    Even hidden seeds have so much beauty!

    Sunday, January 1, 2017

    Words to live by in 2017

    The last few years I have been choosing a "word for the year" - or rather, letting a word choose me! This year my key word is "enough". I'm sure I will discover the many meanings of this word as the year unfolds. Here are other words I hope to remember and live by in 2017.