Friday, March 09, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Some statistics about violence against women and girls:
- Violence against women is the most common but least punished crime in the world.
- Globally, women between the age of fifteen and forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die as a result of male violence than through cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war combined.
- At least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Usually, the abuser is a member of her own family or someone known to her.
- Domestic violence is the largest form of abuse of women worldwide, irrespective of region, culture, ethnicity, education, class and religion.
- It is estimated that between 113 million and 200 million women are demographically "missing." They have been the victims of infanticide (boys are preferred to girls) or have not received the same amount of food and medical attention as their brothers and fathers.
- The number of women forced or sold into prostitution is estimated worldwide at anywhere between 700,000 and 4,000,000 per year. Profits from sex slavery are estimated at seven to twelve billion US dollars per year.
- It is estimated that more than two million girls are genitally mutilated per year, a rate of one girl every fifteen seconds.
- Systematic rape is used as a weapon of terror in many of the world's conflicts. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women in Rwanda were raped during the 1994 genocide.
- Studies show the increasing links between violence against women and HIV and demonstrate that HIV-infected women are more likely to have experienced violence, and that victims of violence are at higher risk of HIV infection.
I find the thought of it overwhelming, this violence going on all around us all over the world. Violence against women is a crime, whether it is perpetrated by family or strangers, in the public sphere or behind closed doors, in times of peace or conflict. States have an obligation to protect women and girls from violence, to hold accountable perpetrators and provide justice and remedies to the victims. I spend a lot of my working time to assist states to better fulfill this obligation, and holding them accountable when they do not. But ending violence is not just the Government’s responsibility – everyone in society, men and women, has a responsibility to act when confronted with such violence. Today on International Women’s Day I urge you all to take action to prevent this violence going unnoticed, unpunished and unhindered. Find a small step that you feel comfortable taking:
- volunteer to train to be the contact point for women and girls in your office or school who have been bullied or harassed;
- report the domestic violence going on in your apartment building to the police;
- approach a domestic violence victim support organization in your community and ask for their suggestions;
- make a donation to an organization working to help women who are recovering from violence in war-affected countries;
- paint, draw, photograph or write about violence, or about ways to end or recover from violence.
I’m sure you’ll think of a hundred more ways to take action to end violence against women. Share your ideas and inspire others.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
This morning I had a lovely moment – a moment in which I saw how some things which had seemed separate from each other were converging in a wonderful way. I saw that what I am exploring and learning now (through yoga, through meditation and through my new art journal) is not separate from my work here. Instead all these things help face the challenges of this kind of humanitarian work, the challenges of working as a ‘helper’ in the context of conflict and widespread suffering.
Recently I emerged from a period in which I had been running from my own pain, districting myself from my own sadness. One day I realised that this sadness was not going away, instead it was growing. As long as I tried to avoid it I was not allowing myself to accept the feelings. One day I saw that I had to acknowledge it, and from there, with the help of my friends and family and many people who read this blog, I was able to move to a place of sitting with the feelings (as painful as they were). I came to accept my own fear, my sadness, my pain and my confusion. I took the time to learn what those feeling had to teach me.
Out of that process came a renewed commitment to being present in each moment and experience of my life, and a renewed desire to cultivate a practice of letting go of my sense of responsibility for the outcomes of my efforts. I made a promise to myself to put this commitment into practice through 21 days of a morning ritual of 15 minutes of meditation.
But there was something else, something that I hadn’t dared articulate until I was sitting on the couch talking to the Commander yesterday. What I finally admitted to myself was that I had emerged from that painful process with a much greater sense of detachment from my work. What I said to J was that I was no longer sure that my heart was in this job. I know that detachment is a quality to be cultivated, and that part of my letting go would be an increased sense of release from responsibility. But this felt uncomfortable to me – as though the pendulum had swung too far the other way and I was crossing that line between letting go and giving up.
Giving up my responsibility to act rightly, to act in a way that embodies compassion for others and that makes the greatest contribution possible to alleviate suffering and increase equanimity and happiness, is not an option for me. These commitments go to the very core of who I am and what I believe. So what should I make of this new sense of detachment?
Some answers have begun to emerge from an unexpected place, i.e. from my morning rituals of letting go. It is unexpected because I think I still confuse letting go and giving up. But I am learning.
I’m coming to the close of a week of practicing my new morning rituals. This has grown from my first intention, which was to sit quietly for 15 minutes every morning to practice letting go. Those first 15-20 minutes of quietness every morning are opening me up in ways that leave me with more to do with my morning before I am ready to jump in the shower and dress myself for the outside world.
Each morning has been a little bit different. One morning, after breaking my previous ‘time barrier’ and sitting for 20 minutes of stillness and release I was filled with a sense of joy and celebration. I filled pages of my journal with words that celebrated the things that I am joyful about in myself. I put Peaches and Herb on my iPod and for five and a half minutes I ‘shook my groove thing’, dancing gleefully around my bedroom.
The next morning I came out of my meditation feeling quiet and gentle, I wanted to draw with my new pencils and I wrote a letter to myself in the future. I told myself about my hopes and dreams for myself, explaining what I was doing now to nurture those dreams and (because this is what I felt) I told myself that I had complete faith in myself to live the life that I dream of i.e. a life that embodies compassion for others and that brings maximum good to others and to the world; a life filled with love, joy and laughter, with friends and family; a life that is healthy and balanced and filled with fun, adventure and creativity. My dance that morning was slow and gentle, stretching out the muscles I had worked so hard with my yoga teacher the night before.
This morning I decided that I was ready to start thinking about what my meditation can be beyond simply (and importantly) letting go of all the things I hold in my body. I dug out some CDs given to me by a yoga teacher in New Zealand. Wow, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect message for me this morning. The CDs are about bodhicitta – I won’t pretend that I can translate in one sentence the sense of bodhicitta that I got from the teachings I listened to this morning. The message to me was about cultivating a mind of great compassion, of wishing for all sentient beings to be free from suffering, and about cultivating my own enlightenment in order to be of maximum benefit to others.
Specifically for me, this morning, the message was about how we can allow more bodhicitta into our lives. The teacher talked about the need to stop running away from the places and feelings that scare us, the need to resist building walls to protect us from knowledge that is painful. She reminded me that I need to be present in those difficult and scary experiences and to be willing to allow them to renew my “soft spot”, to replenish my compassion.
I still don’t know whether the detachment I am feeling is a healthy equanimity or whether I have built up some less healthy walls to protect myself from the suffering that is all around me here. But at least now I know that this is the question that I want to ask myself.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Annie has been waiting patiently for news about the boxes she has sent to us of woollens for the children in the orphanage in Ghor. Today I got news from Ghor that five of the boxes have arrived, filled with hats and socks and gloves and scarves. We've just had a very cold snap, bringing lot of snow to Ghor (some of my colleagues have been stuck up there for almost a week). So these woollies have arrived in time to make a real difference. If you made a contribution to Annie's boxes then know that they are now in situ and will be ably distributed (no doubt more efficiently than I managed) by Magnea and Julija (of Iceland and Lithuania respectively). For those of you who made financial contributions, I am planning to use that money for school supplies. I think that Annie pulled together nine boxes of woollens, so that ground should be well covered. The Director of the orphanage specifically asked me for notebooks and pencils/pens etc. I feel pretty sure that you would all be happy with that, no? Also on the theme of patience rewarded, I have been patiently popping into Jolissa's blog (Busytown) over recent months waiting for her to decide it is time to return to the screen. This week I found her there in vintage Jolissa form. If you haven't read Busytown before then I recommend a visit. Jolissa is the older sister of a dear friend, and when I met her in person during a visit to New York four years ago (to celebrate my 30th birthday) I discovered a woman of intelligence, warmth, and wit. Her blog covers the many facets of the life of a writer and scholar with two small children, living far from her home country and family. All that with a sense of humour, curiosity and fun. Oh yes, my patience has been rewarded. I've been indulging in lots of blog exploration this morning, it is a little bit like my equivalent of strolling through town, stopping into inspiring independent art galleries and bookstores. Also this morning I started playing with my new pencils, in my new journal. I have never in my life tried drawing, but with the Commander's encouragement and the help of a book from his mother, I'm having a go. So far, so much fun!
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Monday, February 05, 2007
Imogen has had more reason to hate me, to resent, avoid, and disdain me, than anyone one else (as far as I am aware). Perhaps others have felt they have had reason, but I know that Imogen has had reason. Many years ago I received some information that I should have passed immediately to Imogen and I didn't. I made that decision at the time out of confusion and uncertainty, and believing that it was the best way for me to deal with a very bad situation. I was wrong. My decision compounded the already bad situation and also allowed it to continue. Imogen suffered, terribly. When, years later, I finally found the courage to tell her what I had known all along she was, understandably, furious and hurt and betrayed. By not telling her I had become complicit in the original wrong. For some time I thought that our friendship was over. But instead Imogen did something extraordinary. She forgave me and gave me the chance to earn back her trust.
Since then we have rediscovered the things that attracted us to each other in the first place, our similarities as well as our differences.
We have sometimes frighteningly similar taste. More than once I have bought a new skirt or top only to discover that Immy has something eerily similar. On at least one occassion we have separately purchased the exact same garment. I was given custody of some of Immy's things when she went on mission to Liberia and they fit so beautifully into my home that I could have easily imagined owning them myself.
We also do similar work, in similar kinds of settings, motivated by similar values and driven by similar beliefs. We both find similar aspects of this world (of development and humanitarian work) disturbing and similar aspects incredibly motivating. We've made some of the same mistakes and discovered some of the same truths.
But I have to point out that for all these similarities I think Immy is much more stylish than me, and a much better writer. She is smart in some ways that I would love to be, but have come to accept that I am not. I also find her fabulously funny, which is a quality I value very highly in a friend.
Above all, though, I will never forget what it must have cost Immy to forgive me and to let me back into her life. I will never stop being grateful for this second chance and for the extraordinary friendship that has grown out of it. I have many wonderful friends, but Immy has a very special place in my life and my heart because of the difficult road we trod together to get here.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
My grandpa Archie
Friday, February 02, 2007
- managed the logistics for the workshop Kate has been teaching on criminal justice, with a focus on gender issues;
- delivered my own 'introduction to human rights' workshop for all the staff of our new Badghis office;
- monitored and supported the Attorney General’s “Campaign Against Torture” as it was carried out in Badghis; and
- followed up on a series of individual human rights cases with police, prosecutors and the Chief Judge.
We’ve been in Badghis almost a week now and since this post is growing far too long, I’ll just give you a few vignettes. The head of the CID from one remote district bumped into an Afghan colleague of mine after two days in the workshop and told him “I have learned so much. I now know that it is not a crime for a woman to run away from home and I swear to God that I will never again arrest a woman for this reason”. After a guest lecture from our friends in the civilian component of the Spanish PRT (a nurse and a lawyer) on forensic medicine (including the unreliability of virginity tests, for which I give up big respect to my fantastic assistant who had to translate this difficult session) several of the prosecutors asked the nurse if he would come back to give them a more comprehensive workshop on these issues. One night I watched as Kate spent several hours, until 10 o’clock at night, perfecting the design of the completion certificates. She understands that these certificates will be treasured by all participants and will become a feature of their curriculum vitae. She also understood that some colour and good quality card would be considered a sign of the importance of the workshop. Every single moment of the 'introduction to human rights' workshops I ran for our new staff was a gift. They were open to everyone, including the security guards, the drivers, the radio operators, and the cleaners. Along with the pleasure of getting to know them all a bit better I was very grateful for a wonderful illustrated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights published by our head office in Kabul.The images are so well conceived and executed that the participants who couldn't read were still able to follow. In fact, one of the my favorite moments was when I directed everyone to the page which set out the right to have an effective remedy for violations of the rights set out in the Declaration and asked the participants what they thought the State was obliged to do based on this right. One of the female cleaners was the first to respond, describing perfectly what she saw in the picture and in doing so giving an excellent answer. Another highlight was when I gave a scenario in which I was monitoring a human rights violation in Qala-e-Naw and asked the participants to tell me everything I was doing wrong. This story caused much amusement, and even the shyest participant (a lovely, gentle security guard who was also illiterate) found the confidence to make a good point about how such monitoring should be conducted. My amazing Human Rights Assistant, R, and I would finish up the two workshops each afternoon and then go off to do our monitoring work – visiting the prison, interviewing victims, meeting with the prosecutors, the Department of Women’s Affairs and eventually the Chief Judge. After one meeting we were walking back to the compound in the falling dusk and I asked R if he was tired. He smiled and told me that he gets tired when he feels we are not making any difference. But if he sees that things have moved forward even one centimetre for one person then he is not tired. I knew exactly what he meant.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Sunday, January 28, 2007
In the days of haze and smoky bars, in a city pulsing with the excitement of a new kind of music, through the cold nights of a long winter warmed by the flames of mutual passions, a friendship was born. This friendship, though newborn, was lusty and cried out in the joy of recognition. In its infancy the friendship was fueled by the excitement of discovering another, an other, who also thought that Middle Eastern politics, post-modern feminism, modern architecture and Victorian literature were all suitable conversation for 11pm on a Friday night at the bar, over endless bottles of red wine, cigarettes and pizza. Yet for all the moments of recognition, of common pleasure - it was also in the differences that much delight was found. The night owl one day finds herself, exceptionally, awake at 8am on a Saturday, and knows exactly who she can call. One learns about the fun of opening nights (thanks Mary, I think I remember them all) and staying up late. The other learns the mysteries of marathon clubs and that LSD has another meaning (long, slow distance). Years go by. The friendship is offered moment upon moment of love, laughter and quiet companionship to sustain it. Through Sunday afternoon movies, walks in the wind along the coast, gallery visits and cards games it grows into its own skin. Through scrabble and sherry and book club, it spreads its toes wide and breathes deeply. Beneath the skin, the strong muscles of the heart are also growing through many small acts of honesty and trust. They are strong enough now to sustain the friendship through the perils of living, through sadness and self-doubt, through loss and grief, through fear and anger. More years pass, and the friendship builds itself a couple of little houses. Each little house has a perfect little table - just right for endless glasses of red wine, and cups of tea and for reading The New Yorker on a lazy, sunny afternoon. Each has a little kitchen perfect for two to cook in - or for one to cook and the second to provide a suitably appreciative audience. Each has a little front porch just right for two to sit or stand and watch the flax - discovering poems amongst the tuis and the piles of rotting flyers. And still the years go by. There are movements and changes and, in the way of that shaky island, there are shifts in the ground on which the friendship is standing. Yet, with those toes spread wide and breathing deeply, the friendship learns to keep hold and - at the same time - to release. To be open to the new, the wondrous, the possible and at the same time to remain grounded in certainty, solidity, in surety. Note: I wanted so much to write a tribute to the astounding Mary Parker this week, but here I have rather selfishly written about our friendship instead. "The Chronicles of Mary Parker, Who Has Never Looked Bad in a Hat" will have to wait for another day, one with a few more hours in it!
More chronicles here
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Yay! I'm off on mission again, this time to Badghis province, to the north of Herat. Last time I was there we ran human rights/ child rights workshops for school children, including the adorable girls in this photo.
This time I have two concurrent workshops. During the morning we are running a workshop on women and criminal justice, with the expertise provided by my friend Kathryn Khamsi of the International Development Law Organisation. Kathyrn has been teaching prosecutors and defense lawyers in Afghanistan for 14 months and is fabulously well-versed In Afghan and Islamic law as well as being a gifted trainer.
In the afternoons I'll be running an introductory human rights workshop for all our organisation's staff here in the Badghis office. That will include the cook, cleaner, guards, driver and radio operators as well as the programme staff. I'm looking forward to that, and hope that I can create an environment in which everyone will be willing and able to participate.
Anyway - I will have limited web access so I probably won't be able to update here very often or check in on all of you.
But I will post photos if I can, and look forward to catching up with you all when I get back on Sunday 4th.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I loved this week's Sunday Scribblings prompt and had thoughts about it floating through my semi-conscious mind throughout the long, white night of insomnia on Friday.
But on Saturday I had the chance to get out and walk about in Herat for the first ime in many weeks and I chose that over my writing time. It was a very good choice. I had an amazing time enjoying the fresh air and sense of freedom, and through my camera's lens I saw Herat in a new and fresh light.
But I haven't stopped thinking about this prompt, and I've loved reading some other people's responses. SO I decided that, late though I may be, I would write something about fantasy.
When I first read Laini's prompt I thought about all the ways in which fantasy has enriched my life. I thought about reading "The Faraway Tree" by Enid Blighton as a child, and the magical possibilities that I imagined for my own life.
I thought about "The Hobbit" which gave me a new way to imagine my life, as a fantasic quest in which even the smallest player could make a real difference if she was brave and found loyal companions and stayed true to her principles.
I thought about my teen years, during which I read constantly - devouring books as though they were my sustenance, which in many senses they were. I read sci-fi fantasy and epic fantasy and fairy tales and myths. Sometimes I read to escape, sometimes to explore, sometimes to discover new truths. But mostly I read because it kept me sane in the midst of adolescent madness.
I thought about the years when I was at university and I worked as a "fairy storyteller" - dressing up as a sea sprite, a forest nymph or a fairy and concocting fairy tales and magical experiences for groups of children.
But now I finally find time to sit and write about fantasy, and there is a different kind of fantasy on my mind. A fantasy that sustains me right now.
Somedays I turn on the news and I feel that my heart will implode from the sadness and hopelessness I feel at the state of our planet.
Two nights ago I was on the treadmill in the bunker and BBC World news was on the television. There were stories about the massive explosion in Baghdad, and on the millions of Iraqi refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries. There was a story about the world's depleted tuna stocks, and another about the attrocities in Sudan. There was a trailer for an upcoming interview about Bush's plans to send 20,000 more troops into Iraq.
I was in tears on the treadmill. I wanted to shut off the television. I wanted not to know about these stories. I wanted to be ignorant.
But I'm not ignorant. I watch the news like everyone else. I've also seen first hand the impact that conflict and war can have on communities. The faces in those newsreel can never be anonymous to me, they resemble too closely the people I have met in refugee camps in Gaza and here in Afghanistan. They look too much like the people I saw fleeing fighting in Timor Leste.
Here in Afghanistan I have days when I despair at the lack of progress on critical issues like justice sector reform. There are days when it seems that impunity will be allowed to continue and that a whole new generation of victims will have to live with seeing the people who have violated their rights gain wealth, power and privilege while they conitnue to suffer and grieve.
And then, my imagination comes to the rescue. I watch a news item about the Police Ombudsmen in Northern Ireland releasing a report that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. As I watch this item my imagination allows me to see this happening in Afghanistan one day. I can see Dr Sima Simar holding a press conference just like in the newsreel reading out the findings of a report by the Afghanistan Indpendent Human Rights Commission, knowing that her safety is assured by strong, professional and impartial state security forces.
I can imagine this, and I know that there are a million little steps that can be taken now which can contribute to making this fantasy a reality one day. So I find the strength to go and take one or two of those little steps.
I am also very grateful for my own current favorite fantasy show - The West Wing. I never saw this when it was playng on television, mostly because I didn't have a TV when I lived in New Zealand. But the Commander has introduced me to the show and in the past two months I've watched seasons one through to five.
What a delicious little fantasy this one is - what the world might be like if people like CJ Cregg and Toby Ziegler had influence in the White House. It's a fantasy, but one that I like to indulge in as often as I possibly can. I'll be finished season five just in time to go on leave in New Zealand and stock up on some more!
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Last week I lifted my mood and reminded myself of my many blessings by writing a tribute to my friends Wendie and Cathy. I enjoyed it so much I've decided to make it a regular Saturday treat. I first met Amanda in the Gaza Strip, seven and a half years ago. The first time I saw her she was dancing to Arabic music with amazing abandon and natural rhythm. I saw this young woman radiating sensuality and a wonderful sense of fun and I thought, life here in Gaza is not going to be so bad. Over the almost two years that we lived in Gaza together I saw many more examples of Amanda's willingness and ability to grab the goodness of life where she found it. Together we stood together under a waterfall in north Israel, luxuriating in the feel of water falling after months in the dry desert. Together we danced whenever there was time, space and music to be found or made. When we both ended up back in New Zealand, living in the wild, windy Wellington, Amanda and I found more ways to grasp at life in all it's pulsing, sweating glory. We rode our funny old bikes up hills so steep I thought we might never make it, just so that we could have the thrill of riding down the other side to the coast. We ran together in my first every road race, a 5km charity women's race. She even forgave me for my unplanned spurt of competitiveness at the 4km mark. And still, together we danced whenever there was time, space and music to be found or made. Amanda is willing to try life out, to taste new flavours, kiss new men, venture to new places and tease out new ideas. But over these years I have come to know Amanda as a woman not only of vibrance and fun, but also of integrity and humanity. Amanda has shown me through her life what it really looks like when we honour the inherent dignity of every person. She has taught me what it can mean when we are not unduly impressed by those who hold position, power or popularity, and when we are neither patronising or dismissive of those who lack all three. This in itself would be enough reason to love her. But more than all these things, Amanda understands and embraces all of me. I hope that she would say the same about me. I have never held back from telling Amanda the truth about my fear, my anger, my sadness, my pain, my grief or my jealousy. I have never felt that I needed to. I know that she already knows, and she loves me all the same.
It is four in the morning. Part of me wants to write that I'm awake because I've just arrived home from a marvelous adventure. A little fantasy for tomorrow's Sunday Scribblings. But the truth is that I've been lying awake in bed for five hours. Tonight my mind is on a wild taxi ride, speeding through city scapes both familiar and unknown. Oddly, it wasn't until I got out of bed and sat here at the computer that I suddenly thought of the one thing which may be behind the alertness. Tomorrow I will probably be left as Officer in Charge of the Western Region. Last time I was Officer in Charge I had only been in the job a month and when the Head of Office left he said: "You'll be fine, as long as nothing goes wrong in Shindand, you will be fine." Last time, my OiC duty started on a Sunday and at midday that Sunday a successful assassination was carried out in Shindand, killing the most powerful commander in the district, Amanullah Khan, and his son. In retribution for these killings Amanullah's men attacked the villages populated by tribes aligned to the people believed to be responsible for the assassination. I heard about the fighting at about 1pm. By nightfall we were receiving reports of any where between 12 and 70 people killed. This came at a point when our national staff were all on leave for Eid, and all of my more experienced colleagues had taken the opportunity for an short break as well. I was out of my depth and felt as though I was drowning more often than I was floating. This was also the period when I first starting using this blog as an outlet for thoughts and feelings which had nowhere else safe to be expressed. In the midst of the craziest week I've had since I came here I even posted my first attempt at the Self Portrait Challenge.
I drew on every once of self-belief I could find and spent the week punching well above my weight. It began to emerge that a disproportionate number of the dead were children, boys aged between 12 and 18 years. Then, just when I thought it was over, it found a new lease of life and kept me in the hot seat for a few more days.
Looking back, I now notice that it was soon after these events that I started to suffer from the symptoms I described this week. One week after the worst of it all, the insomnia started. Two weeks later I was taking sleeping pills. I'm only now really seeing this. It seems blindingly obvious, of course, in retrospect. So, here I am, awake at 4.00am and it suddenly occurs to me that tomorrow, Sunday, there is a very good chance that I will once again be left in charge. More than that, this past week tensions in Shindand have been at their highest since that outbreak of fighting in October. The situation is considered to be unstable and the risk of further conflict is very real. But I haven't been lying in bed all night thinking about Shindand. I have a pretty strict rule about not lying in bed thinking about human rights cases. I've been lying in bed thinking about Enid Blyton's "The Faraway Tree", thoughts triggered by Laini's prompt for Sunday Scribblings this week: Fantasy.
I'm always up for climbing the Faraway Tree, I always have been. When I was 17 years old I left the small rural town I grew up in and headed off solo to Europe. Since then I've picked up my bags and moved to the Gaza Strip and to Afghanistan. But the thing with the Faraway tree is that you never know whether you are going to get The Land of Birthdays or The Land of Dame Slap. I developed this 'travel rule of thumb' when I was back-packing solo through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Egypt about 12 years ago. I decided to always expect the best of people, places and situations, but to always be prepared to deal with the worst if it came.
I don't think I was prepared to deal with children getting killed while I was Officer in Charge. I'm not sure if you can ever be prepared for that. But this time at least I can be a little more prepared for the possibility that events could escalate very quickly to a point where I would no longer have any power to influence or control them. I can also be a little more prepared for the possibility that if this were to happen, it might take a much heavier toll on me than I have previously admitted. A good friend wrote to me this week and told me, amongst other incredibly helpful things, that depression is very prevalent amongst humanitarian workers. Others of you have told me the same thing. Does that mean I should get out of this place? Out of this line of work? Possibly. But first I want to see what difference it makes to be more conscious of the impact that events and experiences here are having on me. I want to see whether that awareness can be used to more intentionally process the thoughts and feelings that arise within me in response. I want to see what happens when I take the time to work through those thoughts and release those feelings, through writing, through creating, through moving my body more and through this business of sitting still every morning (I'm building up to the day when I can say "I meditate" without feeling like I'm faking it). Today is Saturday, I can sleep as much as I need to today. So this sleepless night hasn't made me anxious or distressed. On the contrary, during those five hours somewhere in the space between full consciousness and sleep a new understanding found its way to the surface.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I am extraordinarily grateful for my body. I agree with Susannah's quote from C.S. Lewis that we don't "have" souls. We are souls and we "have" bodies. But I remain very grateful that we have them. My body gives me a way to interact with the physical world. With my marvelous, miraculous body I can walk though the fields of snow in Ghor, I can taste chocolate and mango, I can stroke my niece's cheek and I can run along the waterfront, smelling the seasalt in the air. I am mostly very happy with my body. It is strong enough to carry my increasingly hefty nephew when his legs get tired. My legs can keep me going for literally hours, even up hills. It is healthy and all my senses work well. Sometimes I get frustrated that my muscles don't have more 'give' in them, more range of movement or flexibility. Some days I avoid the yoga mat because I resent that I struggle to touch my toes. But when I went for a yoga practice session with Vicel, the fabulous Filipino woman I met here in Herat who teaches yoga, she told me that I was very strong, especially in my core, and that I had excellent balance. I remembered to value my strength and balance, and accept that flexibility will come. When I went to the Yoga Centre in New Zealand the teacher commented on my excellent "body awareness" and I realised that this is not something that comes naturally to everyone. This is something to value and appreciate about myself. When I read how some people paint or draw or make things to replenish their soul, I think about dancing, and moving, and dancing, and skipping, and dancing, and running, and dancing, and jumping. And dancing, did I mention dancing. I love to dance, I love music with a drum beat and a deep soulful bass that picks me up and cradles me in its rhythm. I love music that trips and plays and swirls about me so unexpectedly that the only way to dance with it is to let go completely and trust that your body with find its way to follow. I take a secret pride in the fact that my Brazilian ex-boyfriend thought I danced as though I was Brazilian, and that almost every Latin American I have ever danced with insists that I must be a little bit Latin (not at all, unless Irish counts?). I dance in the kitchen when I'm cooking, I dance down the aisles of the supermarket, I dance around my office and I dance along the street. Here in Herat my body is feeling a little bit stifled, but I'm remembering how to dance in my bedroom with the curtains drawn. Anyone for Madonna circa 1984? PS: The photo is of Wendie (in the blue) and me (in the pink) half way through a half marathon. I started out this race almost falling over from the effects of jet lag after flying in from East Timor the day before, but we finished up coming in at 4th (equal, of course) out of the women and 16th overall in this race. We ran in new personal bests at 1hr 54mins for the half marathon. I love that memory and I love this photo.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
- Keep on Pushing by The Black Seeds;
- Colour Me Life by Katchafire;
- You've Got a Friend by Carole King; and
- I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm by Bille Holiday.