Marica's meanderings

Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday evening blues

It has been another long and difficult week. I am completely wiped out. I should be downstairs preparing tea for my family. Instead I am sitting here back in front of a computer. I only left work 2 hours ago. Yet here I am at it again! Although I must admit this isn't work, this is what keeps me going.

Every week I promise myself it will be different.

Every week I promise myself I will get more balance in my life.

Every week I promise myself I am going to do something to change things.

Every week I evaluate my working week and commiserate with myself about all the things I intended to do and at the same time berate myself for all the things I didn't achieve.

Every week I reach Friday drained and feeling incredibly flat.

Where is my creativity? Where is my energy? Why am I allowing things to be this way? Why am I not taking control? Why are my promises to myself always unfulfilled?

I find myself in a dubious place, mentally and spiritually, these days. On the one hand, I am in the midst of producing commercials which I have always enjoyed (I have three more shoots scheduled for the upcoming month); there's nothing quite like spending millions of dollars to turn your flimsy, in-the-shower idea into something that runs over and over in people's living rooms (or gets zapped by their Tivos). But whenever advertising work takes up too much of my life, replacing my family, my self, my journal, my leisure, even my blog, I start too feel melancholy and adrift. I start to question all of my priorities and the roads not taken. Even the free time I have becomes contaminated. I stop reading ( I have been on a long sequential jag of lovely Dicken's novels, forsaken for trashy novels and magazines), I stop dreaming big thoughts about what I might do next, I stop talking to friends not involved in my current project, I become overly touchy about other people's judgments, and I feel trapped, like a wild animal hunkered over his prey and now anxious some scavenger will pull it away. It's not pretty.
Danny Gregory, 30 March 2006

I really identify with what Danny is saying. I suppose I too could say I was in a dubious place these days. One of the dilemmas I am going through at the moment is to try and sort out what it is that I really want. It sounds so easy but I am greedy - I want it all! It's not about money - it is about life and living. The problem is you need to be able to earn money to live.

It is as though there are two sides to my being and I am not happy unless both of them are being equally nurtured and satisfied. However, there is an imbalance and one side is sucking the life out of the other side. As a Libran, being in balance is a priority.

I keep being told by others that I am impatient and I want it all now. We have to make every day count. I know this. No day should be squandered. It matters too much. You never get it back again. Time ticks past so fast. Yet with the best intenions, these days I start every Monday with a grand vision and I end on Friday feeling blue!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Valuing and celebrating difference

My son Damian is different. The packaging is different on the inside and the outside. As a result life poses challenges for him that you and I can't imagine. I often wonder what it must be like living inside his body. I love him. I want to protect him. I want the best for him.

I have watched him fight; to stay alive that is!

I have watched him get excited over the simplest of things.

I will never forget when he looked up with his beautiful eyes and asked "Am I going to die?"

I remember the day, only too well; when it suddenly dawned on him that he was different to other people.

I love coming home and being greeted by his huge smile and a big hug.

I hate coming home when he is angry at the world and his reality.

I hate the fear I feel when he is sick. I hate it even more when I see that fear in his eyes too.

I love it when he calls me at work and leaves cryptic messages on my voicemail and when I hear him say "Mama I love you" or "Mama you're cool".

I hate it when he calls me to tell me he is bored.

I want to spend more time with him. I want to make it better for him. I am lost as to what to do next. There has to more than this.

Damian is almost 23 years old. His life revolves around us, his family. His days are spent here at home. Mostly alone because we are all at work.

Apart from watching wrestling and numerous other DVDs, Damian has one other thing he does which he loves. Every Tuesday he goes to Art Compass.

Last year Damian was part of a group of artists from Art Compass who exhibited art, prints, jewellery and clothing in an exhibition entitled 'Diversity' held at 91 Aro Street, Aro Arts, Wellington. This was incredibly exciting for him.

creative process
free from cultural conditioning
it flows
art grows
they grow
challenging our perception of
intellectual impairment labels

21 march 2005

A sketchbook page from one of Marcel Baaijens' visual diaries. Exhibiton held at 91 Aro Street, Aro Arts, Wellington, NZ, 20 - 24 April 2005 Then back in January we received a letter which I would like to share with you. At the time I couldn't deal with it. I still don't know how to deal with it. The content of this letter has huge implications for Damian.

I am writing about it because I think it is a great example of how someone can be beaten down by a society and system which only sees value in a person based on regular job based outcomes.

Marcel Baaijens had a vision. He cared. He believed in the artists he was nurturing and supporting. He wanted to create new possibilities for people where their options were almost non-existent. He wanted to create artists with a future. Artists in their own right. Doing it their way. Sharing their joy at their achievements. Giving them a chance.

But no, this was not allowed!

18 January 2006

Today is a very, very sad day. I am very sorry to inform you that Art Compass will be closing down.

The support for the vision that I had when I started Art Compass is not sufficient to sustain our operations. We need a director, art facilitator(s), administrator, production manager, retail manager, fundraiser and accountant to do the work properly. Similar organisations have a team to take care of those tasks. Most of those tasks I have done on my own. This workload is getting too much for me.

A new part-time administrative/fundraiser position that was created late last year was financially unsustainable. Research confirmed what I expected all along that we were unable to fund our operations from funding applications alone. Without a government cobtract we are unable to exist. More and more organisations compete each year for a decreasing pool of funding.

New Zealand is lacking the political willingness at national and local level to support an organisation like ours. we have existed by the grace of the Sisters of Compassion who shared and fully supported my vision. Being part of the Compassion Centre has been just wonderful.

A senior policy analyst from the Ministry of Social Development finally confirmed
that we fall within a funding gap. Art is still not seen as a career option for people with intellectual disabilities, unless they can fill existing vacancies which is unrealistic. All funding is geared towards the creation of jobs. Supported self-employment is not an option at this moment in time.

The creative and human potential that we have unlocked in our artists, of whom the
majority were deemed to have no potential at all, will unfortunately remain just that: potential. This will come at a great cost to the artists, their families, and society, as economic potential will be lost and welfare dependency perpetuated.

10 Haining Street, Wellington, NZ. The outlet store for the Art Compass artists.Too many odds have been stacked against us. Five years of struggling and juggling have taken its toll on my work and myself. I am saddened and frustrated that I have been unable to take my vision beyond the current level.

The new shop, although doing well, has not generated enough income to become self-supporting. A big rainstorm just before Christmas exposed some major water proofing issues that are too big to deal with.

The studio will close just before Easter. The shop will remain open as long as we can.

I want to thank all those who have supported Art Compass in any way over the years, you know who you are, and your help has been much appreciated.

Marcel Baaijens
Programme Director

Tom Beard announced in his blog on 21 March 2006:

On a sadder note, 10 Haining St closed down last weekend. At first, I wondered whether this was due to an overly pioneering decision to open so far from the beaten retail track, but a note on the door explains that its parent charity, Art Compass, has wound up due to lack of funding. I hope that the artists find other outlets for their

I have no idea what awaits my son, nor the other artists.

I do however have a plea. Please don't judge those that are different and assume they have nothing to offer. They are people who have feelings and needs. Just as you and I work, laugh, love and play, so do they. The biggest problem for people like my son is that others do not have the time that is required to help them do what needs to be done. We live in a fast paced, intolerant, and impatient world which doesn't allow for anyone who can't keep up. If you can do anything for anyone then "Do it". It may mean very little to you and yet to someone else it could be a life changing moment.

As I have been writing a song has sprung into my mind. An old song from my youth.

Try a Little Kindness by Glen Campbell

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he's sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and stay you're going the wrong way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you'll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Don't walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you'll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

One things for sure, I am celebrating Damian: the man, the artist, and the son. The potential that has started to be unleashed is better than nothing having happened at all. His time spent at Art Compass has been special. He was lucky. I can't wait to bring home Damian's art and hang it proudly knowing that it was created by him. It may not be worth anything to anyone else but to us it is worth more than any amount of money.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Street conversations

I have been endeavouring to write regularly, to listen more carefully, and to increase my awareness of everyday things going on around me.

Today as I was walking up Cuba Street I was stopped in my tracks by a group of people catching up with one another. They had completely blocked the footpath. They were so busy talking that they were oblivious (at least that is what I would like to think) to the fact that they were holding up the pedestrian traffic flow. There were lots of people in town. It was a Saturday morning after all and many people were heading for the cafes and the shops.

As I endeavoured to get past them I overheard a conversation that was taking place.

One of the women said to one of the guys: "What are you up to these days?

"Waiting" he responded.

"Waiting?" she said in a rather perplexed manner.

"For what?" she continued.

"Waiting tables" he replied in a manner which suggested she should have known what he was talking about. It was surely self-evident what he meant.

The penny dropped. They continued.

I smiled as I squeezed past them.

It takes work to communicate so that the other person gets the correct message. We so often assume that the people we are communicating with are operating within the same context that we are, especially when they are our friends and acquaintances. We make far too many assumptions when we communicate. This often results in miscommunication. The same word may have a number of different meanings. The meaning we ascribe is the one that makes sense for us. It may not be the same for someone else.

As I work with my learners I am often reminded of this fact.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Moments in time

We were sharing a sisterly moment. We had both just attended the most inspirational workshop facilitated by Trevor Romain on writing memoirs. We wanted to talk about it. The sound of my sister's mobile phone ringing interrupted us. I could tell straight away that something was wrong.

Barba Ivan had died! Our mother's beloved youngest brother, our uncle, had lost his fight with a brain tumour. He had taken his last breath. He was no longer suffering. Sadness overtook us both. My sister and I held each other and cried.

Ivan Viskovic 10 March 1935 - 19 March 2006

10 March 1935 - 19 March 2006

I have only ever met my uncle twice. He lives in Perth, Western Australia. It seems so close and yet so far.

I will never forget his beautiful smile, his boyish giggle, his sparkling eyes, and his incredible heart. Oh yes, and his passion for shoes! I'll never forget that afternoon when this piece of information was unearthed.

My mother and I were visiting my uncle and his family. We were having a family lunch at a vineyard. We were sitting and discussing what everyone had been up to during the morning.

"Your mama and I went shopping" said my aunt.

"She bought a lovely pair of shoes" said my cousin.

I laughed. "Mama loves shoes. She is always buying new shoes. Her taste in shoes is superb, and expensive! Sometimes I'm lucky enough to acquire a pair that have gone out of favour. We often joke that mama is another Imelda Marcos!" I said.

I could see my uncle smiling at the other end of table. His face lit up as though some family secret had been revealed.

As quick as a flash one of cousins said: "Dad loves shoes too!" My uncle was still smiling away. "He collects the mailouts that come in the letterbox and goes out to buy shoes that are a bargain, much to mum's despair".

There appears to be a shoe gene in our family. My mother has it. My uncle had it. My youngest daughter definitely has it. If you are talking to my husband he'll say I have it to!

Moments in time are special.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The power of blogs

Trevor and Amiel Romain, Scorching Bay, Wellington, NZ. Don't they look great after having flown here all the way from Los Angeles?One day to go until Blog Hui.

Today is one of those special Wellington days. The sun is shining. It has created this amazing haze so that the light is not crisp and clear as it usually is. Colours look incredibly different. It is warm. I am automatically feeling energised as a result. Lynsey and I have so much to do for tomorrow but none of this is as important as going to the airport to meet Trevor and Amiel Romain. Our international guests, and the conference participants, are all arriving in readiness for an exciting two days filled with conversation, networking, and new learning.

I was so excited about this meeting. I have formed a connection with Trevor (although he wouldn't be aware of this fact) through his writing. He writes about things that are all too familiar to me. He writes with soul. I am drawn to this. I couldn't help wondering what he was going to be like in person. There was a bit of fear there - would I be disappointed? Will he live up to my expectations? What was I expecting? I allowed past disappointments to linger and fester.

I could hear a voice inside me saying: “This is so silly Marica. It will all be okay.”

Interestingly I didn't voice any of my concerns to Lynsey but as it turns out he was thinking similar thoughts.

The plane was due to arrive at 9.00am. We headed for the airport in what we had thought would allow us plenty of time to get there. However, we weren’t thinking straight. We forgot today was a work day. After all neither of us were so going to work today so why would anyone else be? Reality dawned. We were trying to get to the other side of town during rush hour traffic. As we sat there in the car, not moving, we realised we might not get to the airport on time.

Bit by bit we edged our way forward another car length. We had to devise a new plan. We would take the back route to the airport which would lead us on a scenic route around the bays. I love this trip. I love the sea. It is beautiful. It feels great to be alive.

We pulled up outside the terminal at exactly 9am! I raced inside while Lynsey parked the car. We didn't want to be late. Lynsey and I were both disappointed that our plan to meet Mark Bernstein when he arrived a couple of days earlier had been unsuccessful. We were determined this was not going to happen again!

I ran up to the monitor to check which gate the plane was arriving at and imagine my relief when I read the words: Flight delayed. Expected arrival time 9.30am.

Trevor and Amiel Romain having fun on the rocks outside The Chocolate Fish Cafe, Scorching Bay, Wellington, NZI waited for Lynsey and we headed off to have a large latte. As we were sitting there we saw the plane from Auckland land. We watched it make its way across the runway to the gate where the passengers would disembark. We headed over there to greet our guests.

As people walked through the doors I kept wondering “Is this them?” I thought maybe we should have been holding a card with their names on it just as the taxi drivers do. What if they walked past us and we didn't recognise each other? The voices in my head were having a field day.

Lynsey spotted them first. I was a bit unsure.

I saw two people head directly towards us. They had the most captivating smiles on their faces. They looked so happy. I instantly felt the same. Fear melted. Everything changed.

They gave us the biggest, warmest, most meaningful hugs.

“We have been looking forward to this moment” they both said.

And so it began … a new friendship. Everything else could wait. Time together is always so precious. Nothing else is ever more important that spending time with others. In our busy work oriented lives it is so easy to forget this.

You might be wondering how all this connects to blogging.

Trevor commented in his blog:
I am in New Zealand at the moment. I would not be here if my friend Danny Gregory didn't inspire me to start a blog.

Ironically, I too was inspired by Danny Gregory. We form connections on a daily basis in our online worlds only we are not aware of them. Little did I know that the simple act of stumbling across Danny's blog would eventually lead me into blogging, into organising and holding a blogging conference here in Wellington, and into meeting people face to face that I have only ever known through their words communicated over the Internet?

Communicating online has a unique power. It enables possibilities that once seemed to fall into the realm of being impossible or too hard. Now you blog, or send an email, and before you know it you may be travelling across the world to speak at a conference, and at the same time you are making new connections and new friendships.

This all began thanks to the humble blog.

Trevor whipped this card up and presented it to us later that evening. Don't you wish you could do this? I know I do. I hope some of his talent rubs off on me!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The countdown

Blog Hui begins on Friday. Both Lynsey and I are beginning to feel excited. Two of the international speakers have arrived - Torill Mortensen and Mark Bernstein. I can't wait to hear everyone and meet everyone.

We had so many things to do today. As we were dashing about we bumped into Mark in town. A quick change of plans. Everything else can wait. We decided to spend time with Mark instead and so began an afternoon and evening of sightseeing, discussion and fun!

Mark and Marica having a chat while waiting for a coffee at the Chocolate Fish Cafe in Scorching Bay, Wellington

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I'm in love

One of my passions is journalling - the old fashioned version that is. In more recent times I have ventured into creative journalling where words are not the primary means of recording a message. This has been a challenge because I have always considered myself to not be artistic. This new form of creativity has led me into a new interest area - book binding.

As I have juggled study, FLLinNZ, work, and everything else that life has decided to throw at me these interests of mine have all been put on hold. The exciting thing is that change is happening. I am back on the road to the creative Marica. New journeys and new learning lies ahead and I am so excited.

Journalling has kept me sane through some of the most difficult times in my life. I have sat in the wee hours of the morning writing and crying. I have laughed with my journal. I have expressed anger in my journal. My journal became my best friend. I could pick it up, and take it anywhere with me. I could say anything in it and it wouldn't answer me back, argue with me or judge me. I didn't need anything but me, my book, and something to write or draw with. No internet was required. The life of the battery on my laptop did not matter. Whether or not there was a power plug close by was totally irrelevant.

My journal was my saviour. It just let me be me. This in itself was incredibly liberating. Through my darkest moments I found a compelling need to write.

In a journal everything is important because it comes from within. Our inner wisdom has a chance to shine through and with time we learn to listen to it.

Our senses by themselves are dumb. They take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies. I call this "composting". Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee rinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil.
p.14 in Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Tonight I received a gift - a special gift - and I am in love with it! It was love at first sight.

Florentine leather journal available from Eastgate
Mark Bernstein, one of the Blog Hui international speakers, arrived in Wellington today. He came bearing a gift which has captivated me - it is a journal. I don't have the words to describe this beautiful Italian leather journal because no words can depict the reality of having this book in your hands. It is truly stunning. The look of it. The feel of it. The sheer beauty of the leather, the binding, and the blank cream coloured hand cut Italian paper pages. I was speechless. This journal is so beautiful and there is absolutely no electronic equivalent to holding this divine book in your hands.

My new journal is now waiting for me to turn it's empty pages into my treasure trove. I can't wait. Thank you Mark.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kindness - is it outdated?

No act of kindness,
no matter how small,
is ever wasted.

We have had a lot of people leaving my workplace in the last few months. Farewell events have become commonplace. Today I attended a farewell which really moved me. The person who was leaving began by explaining how he came to the decision that he needed to move on to another job.

It all began last July when he was sent by work on an 8 day Outward Bound course with the purpose of evaluating it in terms of its potential for leadership training and other such things. He set off with work in mind but very quickly that dimmed into the background as the reality of what he was going through took hold. He described his experience as a life changing event. I stood there thinking - how can I get this for myself. I want this too. I am confused and I am struggling. This might help me.

I listened to every word this man had to say. I connected with what he was saying. I saw before me a compassionate person who was open to challenging himself and acting on what he discovered. He was supportive of colleagues. He respected everyone and was respected himself by many. He was interesting. He had a sense of humour. He was genuine. His final words to those present were "Be kind to each other".

Why was I so surprised? Here was someone in a senior management position talking about kindness. We work in tense and challenging environments. Kindness is not a regular part of the workplace vocabulary today. Being kind is not a priority for many. It has become outdated as we focus on self-interest and organisational needs, and let's be frank, survival! Generally, in our modern business oriented world many consider kindness as a weakness. Many are consumed by "what's in it for me". How many people think about "what's in it for us" or "what's in it for them" or even "is there something I can do to make it better or easier for someone else"?

The words "Be kind to each other" have been going round and round in my head.

Kindness...Pass it on!What is kindness? I Googled this question. I discovered kindness was "the quality of being warmhearted and considerate and humane and sympathetic", amongst other things.

The next item to show up in my search was the The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.10 ideas for kindness This foundation has the mission of inspiring people to practice kindness and to "pass it on" to others. They provide a wealth of resources especially targeted for educational and community use.

As I delved further I discovered there is a worldwide movement known as the World Kindness Movement and New Zealand is a member country.

Life's most urgent question is, what are you doing for others?
Martin Luther King, Jr

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
Kahlil Gibran

I am grateful to my former colleague who articulated such a simple message and a simple wish. I hope those that were present heard it and live it. We always need more kindness as we all individually meet the challenges that confront us on a daily basis.

Be the change you want to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhi

I'd like to challenge anyone reading this blog to take a minute and think about how they express kindness - to others and also to themselves. If all the trappings of modern life were stripped away from you, what would you have left?

Does any of this matter?

It does to me. Life experience has taught me that everything can disappear in a flash, and I mean everything! What I value more than anything else in life are the people in my life. Being kind to others is not hard.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (August 26, 1910 - September 5,1997)

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It never was between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blog Hui update

Blog Hui 2006 Writer's Workshops
I am so excited because Trevor Romain will be taking these two writing workshops. I am really interested in the one on writing memoirs. I keep thinking my interest in blogging, digital storytelling, writing, and online human communication is connected and is leading me somewhere. Where? I am not sure.

Don't forget to register for Blog Hui. It is promising to be an exciting event. Check the Blog Hui web site for regular updates on presentations.

I hope we see you there!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

When the shoe is on the other foot

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.
Albert Einstein

I received some work for marking from one of my learners the other day. Tucked inside was a card my learner had made for me. I was so incredibly touched.

A few days earlier in a phone conversation she had asked me how my own studies were going. She had been reading my blog. She wanted to know more about blogging. She was excited and so was I. We had a great discussion. I have never met this learner and she commented that she hopes one day she will get to meet me in person!

A card from one of my learnersIt was so wonderful to have one of my learners acknowledge my achievement. It felt great. It made me wonder about why it is that we don't often take the time to celebrate our own successes or those of others.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The real thing

This evening I went to listen to Andrew Thompson be interviewed by Chris Laidlaw for a Radio New Zealand programme which will be broadcast at a later date. The National Library Auditorium was packed to capacity with organisers having to turn people away.

Something that Andrew said took me back to my previous posting on the wrestling and the discussion of whether experiencing a real event was the same as seeing it through someone else's eyes. Andrew was describing what it was it was like when he arrived in Cambodia as a young doctor. He made that comment that "until you see it and smell it, it means nothing". He went on to explain that reading books about Cambodia and talking to people about what was happening did not prepare him for the reality of what he faced. The reality was completely different and far worse than he had ever imagined.

As usual my husband Lynsey took away different impressions from this event. This is another example of two people attending the same thing and walking away thinking about completely different aspects of what they saw, heard and experienced. This is what learning is all about - especially adult learning. The best part is sharing what you have learnt with others.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Wrestling, or more correctly WWE

WWE World Wrestling EntertainmentTonight has been an experience - a very special one at that - and yes, it involved wrestling. Or more accurately WWE - World Wrestling Entertainment!

My son Damian has long been a wrestling fan. His passion has not abated over the years. We as a family have had to listen to many accounts of the wrestling matches Damian has watched on TV. We have been woken in the middle of the night to be told what had happened in some wrestling match. We have even watched them with him. Then there were the times we were stuck in hospital as he was fighting for his life and Damian's major concern was what day of the week was it because he didn't want to miss the wrestling.

I remember one particular occasion when we thought we were going to lose him. After three gruelling days of seizures, time spent in intensive care, and a lot of uncertainty Damian suddenly showed signs of improving.

His first words to me were "What day is it?"

When I told him it was Monday he became really angry with me.

He then said "Why didn't you let me watch the wrestling on Friday?" I tried to explain what had happened. He didn't care.

He then asked me did I at least video it for him. The answer was "No". Later that day a school friend came to visit him and he told Damian he had taped the wrestling. I could have kissed his friend on the spot. He had saved me! Damian, however, wasn't happy until he had that tape in his hands. He was 14 years old!

Damian's 21st birthday party had a wrestling theme and he chose to wear a red lycra wrestling outfit to the party. I had never seen my son so happy before. It was magic.

One of Damian's dreams has been to meet the wrestlers and to see a live wrestling event. He has even asked me if I would one day take him to Mexico to see where it all began.

Thanks to the work of a number of people the wrestling came to our home town instead and this enabled my son's dream to come true.

I arranged the tickets (ringside seats no less). We decided we wanted to share this experience with Damian as a family. This was to be an extra special outing for all of us. However, I have to admit it was the last thing on earth I actually wanted to attend. I couldn't believe I was paying to go and watch the wrestling! Now ... well, let's say I have a different opinion.

In December one of the wrestlers - Batista - came to Wellington to promote the show. After queuing for many hours with 4,000 other people Damian was fortunate to meet Batista.

The organisers expected about 400 people would turn up to meet the WWE wrestler Batista. Over 4,000 people were there!

Even better Damian got to hold the World Wrestling Heavyweight Championship Belt which Batista held at that time.

Damian meets the WWE wrestler Batista

Damian wearing Batista's World Wrestling Heavyweight Championship Belt

I was in Australia at the time. I received a phone call from Damian to tell me how exciting it was meeting Batista and how inspired he was by this man. The excitement was building.

As you can see there is a long history to this day.

We had fantastic seats and as the night unfolded I was stunned by the spectacle before me.

The WWE superstars were amazed at the size of the venue and the ring-stage setup when they first entered the Stadium. "Holy Cow, this is a Coliseum, not an arena" was one of the WWE star's comments.

The Westpac Stadium all set up for the wrestling showThe show began at 7.30pm and finished at 11.30pm. We had wrestlers fall at our feet.

And they all fell out of the ring!There were fireworks, drama, lighting effects, huge video screens with presentations, costumes, wrestlers who were actors while at the same time amazingly fit and agile.

It's all happening!The people attending also fascinated me. The ages ranged from little kids through to senior citizens. There was a young boy sitting behind us who had his teddy bear with him and yet during one of the matches I heard him yelling "knee him in the nuts"! People were chanting. People had placards they'd prepared and were waving them around. People were passionate. People were having fun. People were engaged. People knew stuff. The world outside of the Stadium ceased to exist and for this period of time I became lost as I shared my son's dream, and to my surprise enjoyed myself as well.

Damian cheering on a wrestler who had just won his matchEarly in the evening Damian leaned over to me and said: "Mama, this is nothing like it is on TV". For some insane reason I started to think about my learners and what their learning experience was like. Can we ever provide a "real" learning experience at distance? Does all the technology available to us today really make up for a contact experience? In that moment I thought "No", nothing can ever replace the experience of learning in the physical presence of others. The real thing is always far superior to any other alternative.

Now, as I write this and think about this further I am not so sure. Learning at distance is a different experience. It is not necessarily a poorer experience.

When Damian watches the wrestling on TV he is seeing the event through someone else's eyes. They have determined what will be made available. What Damian takes from what he is viewing is however determined by him. He will still pick up on things that someone else might not. He will still have some form of control over the situation and what he gleans from it.

We had a camera crew right in front of us filming the whole event for the three huge screens set up in the Stadium. I noticed that what the camera was focused on was not necessarily what I was looking at, nor was it what I found interesting. You do miss so much when you have to confine things within a box (aka screen). However, my son will still go back to watching the wrestling on TV because that is the only way he can get his 'fix' of something he loves. When he watches it now he will be watching with new eyes based on his 'live' experience. It will be different.

The other thing I was stunned by was how much Damian knew about wrestling, the wrestlers, and the various moves they used. I had my own commentator sitting next to me. He had learnt all of this by watching the wrestling on TV. The big difference was in the live event there was no commentator to tell us all these things whereas on TV there was. My son struggles with learning and yet he could talk for hours on this subject. How did he manage to learn all this information and retain it when we have spent hours trying to teach him other things and we have got nowhere.

We had a wonderful night. Damian was overjoyed. I love that we were able to share this together. We have come away with a great memory, lots to talk about, and the seats we sat on as a souvenir. I still wouldn't sit down and watch the wrestling on TV but I would definitely go and see another show, especially now that I have more of an idea as to what is actually going on.

Wrestler in the making - beware of the chair!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Emergency sex

Have I got your attention? Now for the story behind the title...

I had an appointment at the hospital this morning which meant I was going to be at work later than usual. I normally detest my daily drive to and from work. Having to concentrate as the driver of the car and being stuck in traffic are not my idea of having fun nor do I consider it a good use of my time. Many people tell me they use this time as an opportunity to unwind but I find this incredibly difficult when I have to concentrate on what is happening on the road in front of me, behind me, and around me. There have been times when I have been struck by the beauty of what I am seeing - the harbour, the hills, the city etc. - but I can't stop the car in the middle of the motorway to enjoy the moment or even adequately reflect on it. I have played music and listened to motivational CDs but I never feel, as the driver of the car, that I can relax and unwind. Basically, I hate having to commute to get to work. I realise this is an inevitable fact in today's society but I don't understand why, as a distance educator, I have to travel every day to an institution to do my work when I could just as easily, and more efficiently, do my work from home.

Anyhow I am digressing from what I really wanted to talk about - Emergency Sex!

One of the benefits of driving to work later in the morning than usual is that I get to listen to National Radio. Every weekday at this time is the Nine to Noon programme which is currently hosted by Linda Clark. I find the interviews and items nearly always capture my attention. I have even been known to arrive at my destination and sit in the car to hear an interview through to the end. This morning was an example of this. I arrived at work and the interview with Andrew Thomson hadn't finished so I sat there fascinated. You can also listen to this interview here. The first six minutes are the 10.00am news so don't give up.

Emergency Sex (And Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War ZoneAndrew Thomson is an expatriate Wellingtonian who co-wrote the whistle-blowing book, Emergency Sex (And Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from the War Zone, which is critical of the current UN culture and administration:

Andrew Thomson, who topped his Auckland School of Medicine class in his graduation year of 1983, has dedicated his life to humanitarian aid and peacekeeping work for both the Red Cross and UN. He was sacked not long after Emergency Sex was published. Or rather, after 12 years serving in the UN medical team, he was informed that his contract would not be renewed for 2005.

This first-ever account form UN civilians on the frontlines is a powerful, devastatingly honest memoir about people who went somewhere for all the right reasons and wound up facing challenges they never knew existed

I find people who are passionate about their work, who have dreams about how our world can be improved, who care about others, and who do something about it, very inspiring. So being late to work today was a wonderfully uplifting and energising experience for me. I am looking forward to learning more by reading the book and attending Andrew's public talk here in Wellington on Monday 6 March at 7pm at the National Library.

Were you expecting to read about something else? Oh, the power of words and the messages they send.