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Chanukah second night. Jen Marlowe and Lesvos refugee solidarity

December 7, 2015 2 comments

I decided to celebrate Chanukah by focusing for each candle on something that I find inspiring, hopeful, joyful or otherwise characterised by love, humanity or progress.

Today two things stood out. The beautiful practical solidarity of those in Lesvos featured in Reelnews brand new short film “Stateless on Lesvos” just released today. (And screened together with Q&A with film-maker in Glasgow and Edinburgh next week!)

Jen Marlowe, who is just this most incredible person I feel super honoured to know, wrote about her day of making muppet mini movies and joyfully protesting Eric Garner’s killing. She is a beautiful candle in many darknesses, from fighting capital punishment, to her work in Darfur, Palestine/Israel or in Bahrain. And thinking of her, not just the incredible activism that she does, but her spirit which kinda radiates humanity and power and compassion and humour and love, I always find brightens me up inside.

I’m pretty tired tonight – had a busy few days and then a super early start and 8 hours of travel (I’m now in London for the next few days) – so can’t write as long as yesterday. But even though tired and head fuzzy from lack of sleep I made myself still light the candles and focus on each one as I find that the energy that I intend normally follows the ritual, if not immediately, then as part of a longer process. Its hard to describe, especially as my poor wee tired brain is super struggling for words and vaguely hallucinating just now. But I’ll know what I mean if/when I come back to read this.

But this feels the right way for me to celebrate Chanukah.

 

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Last year / next year

December 31, 2014 Leave a comment

2014 has been pretty good. Trip to India confirmed that travel is still as important to me now as it has always been, and so solidified my plan that I will go away most years for several months. Therefore applied to, worked/paid for, and am now most of the way through a diploma in tropical nursing, which was something I’d been contemplating doing since I started my nurse training. Some amazing people entered my life, one in particular :D

Things that weren’t so great were trying to process where “home” is having spent so much time out of Glasgow. Helped me re-remember how much I love being based in this city, but was slightly disorientating. Also I was quite disconnected from folks, even during the times I was here. Just felt different having slightly uprooted myself from Glasgow, and I wasn’t great at using the 5 months I was here to be with folks. However the time in London gave me opportunity to put time into relationships down there :)

My hopes/resolutions/plans for 2015

  • Volunteer to help with Ebola crisis for 5 weeks.
  • Have a vegan month. And maybe do alternating vegan/non vegan months afterwards. Will be one of the months I’m in Glasgow – should be relatively easy given the venues and friendship circles I have here.
  • Start running again, once weather stops being disgusting. Plus regular yoga practice.
  • Cycle from Lands End to John O Groats.
  • Be a better friend. Put time and energy into the people important to me.
  • Paint my sitting room and have a flat warming! Only taken since I moved into my flat in 2004!
  • Go away again for the winter, probably leaving in November.
  • Write up my masters research for public consumption.
  • Spend more time being, rather than chasing the next adventure.

Have a great year ahead everyone! <3

Finally spoke to MSF about going to volunteer to help with Ebola (personal, not really about ebola, but more for my own processing and to reflect back on later)

November 27, 2014 4 comments

Yesterday was a very positive day. As well as it being submission day for our essay (all over!), and socialising with coursemates, and a proper conversation with someone’s who’s an army nurse, there was a careers fair on at uni. So I had good chance to chat with different NGO’s who I might want to volunteer for. Top of the list for me is MSF, but I hadn’t thought that my nursing experience would be sufficient for them as, though I’ve been nursing for 6 years my specialty is being a bank nurse rather than A&E or ITU which is what they prefer. Anyway, actually they were really positive when I said I wanted to go and help with Ebola.

As seems to be the norm, they’re sending volunteers out for 4-5 weeks. There’s a induction/training/acclimatising bit beforehand, and then a 3 week quarantine afterwards as well. I’m thinking of going for April, though that feels weird/uncomfortable because my course finished end of January, so I could go in February, but had been planning for months to go back to India for 6 weeks straight after the course for a holiday and to catch up with people there. Going to India later is not feasible. Seems really selfish to be not going as soon as I could, and at odds with my strong desire to go over and help rightaway. It will mean the heat in Sierra Leone won’t hit me as hard though!

What are my fears/hopes?

Stupidly, I’m actually most worried about how I’ll cope in the PPE suit! I seem to be more sensitive than a lot of folks to physical irritants. Wearing the suits makes you very hot and sweaty – described as being in a sauna fully dressed. I don’t want to be a wuss, as we’ll all be going through the same thing, and I want to be strong and cope.

The prolonged time without physical touch, especially hugs, sounds rough. I already know that I don’t do well without that. Even after just a few days in solitary confinement (pre deportation from Israel for being a human rights volunteer in Gaza) meant that I broke down when I got a hug from a supportive stranger when I got moved to a main prison. And its always the hardest thing for me about travelling too. I really felt that in Malawi. Impossible to feel that in India though as the women there often gave me affectionate touch :) However this is only for 5 weeks. It will be tough, but obviously so much easier for me to go through than someone living there who has that all the time right now :(

My hopes are that I’ll be able to make a concrete contribution to some humans that are going through hell just now. I hope I’ll use the skills and knowledge that I was able to acquire through virtue of having the privilege to be born in UK, as this is exactly why I did my nurse training. I feel incredibly lucky to be in a position to be able to potentially do something about such a horrific situation.

I’m not afraid of dying. I mean, I don’t want to! Partly I picked MSF because I trust their experience and will to have the on-the-ground organisation in place that will minimise the risks we will face. But, what is my life for if not for this? What’s the point of being so careful to protect my life that my life is without meaning? I’m definitely not talking about taking uncalculated risks. I’m talking about using this one shot I get at existing, this single most precious gift I’ve been given, and making the most of it. I was talking with a loved one about going and he said “you’ll make a very direct and positive impact on people’s lives” and I felt it through my whole being that this is what my life is for, and to not use it for that, because I’m frightened of dying, is like keeping special food until past its edible lifespan so as to keep it for a special occasion, and in the process wasting it. Or not riding your fancy bike because you’re afraid of damage. Don’t do something stupid with it, but at least enjoy it and make the most of it, otherwise what’s the point in it?

A couple of times I’ve been in situations where I had to concretely look at possibility that I might be killed. And I’ve thought about it, and sometimes have decided that if I am killed doing this thing, that’s ok because that thing is so important. I don’t know if that sounds horrible, but the thing is that the only thing I can be damn sure of is that in 100 years I’ll be dead anyway. I don’t want that to come quickly – there’s so much I still want to see and do. My life is mostly very sweet, filled with incredibly wonderful people and experiences and I don’t want it to ever end! One of the frightening things about ageing for me is losing the ability to live a life as full as mine is. No longer able to go to new places, or learn, or feel the wind or waves throw themselves at me, or challenge myself on a mountain and feel my body stretch and overcome it. Having older friends who do all those things too reduces that fear :)

But anyway, perhaps that explains why death isn’t top of my fears. I don’t think its very likely, but if I do catch ebola, and don’t survive, well, I’d still rather that was the story of my life than that I spent so long protecting my life that it was empty and meaningless and not worth protecting.

 

 

Other stuff about yesterday

It was submission day for the DTN essay – ended up pulling an allnighter as Thus-Sun had been a right-off, characterised by sleepness nights and panicky dreadfilled days, and so only actually started writing on Monday! I’m sure there’s a pun to be made with “instead of a write-on” or something, but anyway. Got the bloody thing done in the end, and though its def not the best essay I’ve written, I’m confident it will pass, which is all that really matters. Other good things that happened – had the longest, most personal conversation I’ve ever had with a current military person (an army medic), who’s on the course. I want to get over my kneejerk distress at being around folks in the army, as what I object to is the militarisation of society and the war machine. So taking advantage of being in a setting where I have army reservists as my peers to connect as humans.  Then in the evening a bunch of us from the course went to the pub to celebrate handing our essays in. Really enjoyed socialising with my classmates, and chatted with a few who I’ve not had much contact with before. We’ll all be in different places after the course, many heading to volunteer around the world, and it will be great to have this friendship network of others who are doing same sorts of things as me, and who I can keep up with, and maybe meet up with if we happen to be on the field in the same country. Feels very bonding to be going through this course together – most nurses I meet have very different lifestyles and priorities than me, whereas with these guys I feel very connected. I enjoyed how easy we all found it to slip into the familiar nurse camaraderie and black humour and mutual support and gruesome tales, which seems to be international! Several are also looking to volunteer in West Africa after the course, so they may be a valuable source of (phone) support during the inevitable homecoming crash.

Typing practise – travel vs anchored to a home

August 26, 2014 2 comments

Where do I live? Where is home? What do I want and need from a home? What is Glasgow to me?

I feel increasingly cut free from an earthly anchor. I’ve been fairly happily living in Glasgow for ten years. I love this city, and the life it offers me suits me well. At a basic level, I can cover my survival needs without too much time and effort. I love that I can quickly get into the wilds of the highlands and islands, lochs and rivers and moorland and coastline, whilst also living in a city. The latter is important to me as I like to fill my time with talks, museums, coffee with interesting and intelligent people, variety of places to eat etc.

Travelling in India was every bit as incredible as I’d hoped. Every bit as fulfilling. My brain was nourished as delectably as my stomach. My eyes feasted. My ears savoured. Conversations, feeling the freedom of a 30 hour train journey, the landscape passing by, walking in the mountains and discovering precipaces beyond which the clouds partially veil miles of hills, forest, village, fields and yet more glorious mountains. And the food. Oh gods (every last minor village idol) the food. And whilst we’re on it, the temples. The melange of deities and spiritualities and ways of being. So each encounter was unpredictable and my universe was almost overwhelmingly rich with the colour of it all.

Could I live there? Probably not. There was plenty to frustrate and exhaust and drive my crazy. Travelling for 4 months in a place is one experience, but the delightful whirlwind would not be so great once the mundanity sets in and my brain isn’t eating so much, but the irritations have rubbed raw. But here’s the thing, I don’t think I could “live” anywhere anymore. I don’t want to settle. I don’t want to let an anchor hold me fixed. I need a certain amount of “home” – a place I have some sense of community and continuity. Where its easy for me to get together a road stake for my next adventure. Where I can reconnect with people and projects and possessions. And a washing machine! I love Glasgow for that. I love how good it is to return here and regroup. I love the people I have here. And the stability which gives my brain a chance to process and reintegrate and build from all that it has consumed. Home is now the novel, and so there is pleasure to be had from as minor a delight as hot showers on tap, and listening to my own music, and not having to repack my bag every few days. Wearing clothes other than the limited wardrobe of that which I could carry and was culturally acceptable. Hugs. Familiar foods. Ok, that last was not as great ;)

So what seems to be something that would work for me is to remain with Glasgow as my base, but to not be too bound to here. For Glasgow to be the place I am most, yet, not where I spend most of my time. I have been mostly here since April, but am about to go to London for 5 months. After that? I quite fancy India again for February, as a reward for completing my tropical nursing diploma and because I don’t need a justification for leaving the UK in the winter… I really want to travel back from India overland, via Nepal, China and Russia, but not sure if that will be viable. I definitely want to return to Gaza. Remote nursing in Canada for 4-6 months one summer appeals, and would be an amazing adventure, a heap of fresh nursing challenges, and a good way to earn money for other adventures.

As I approach 40 – and I’m still trying to deal with how that affects my identity and how I, and others, see myself – I’m suddenly feeling time pressures. There’s so much I want to see and do. This past year the boundaries of my world have opened up. I feel the call of the road as acutely as ever, but have taken off the muffles that for years I tried to mute it with. Now, music from Armenia comes on the radio and I ache to be there. I taste Persian food, and without conscious thought start googling the price of flights. I don’t know if its the same, having never felt it, but I’m reminded of how broody friends describe wanting to have kids. This is what I want for my life. This brings me fulfillment and meaning. To be unrooted, without anchor, free from fixed abode is what I feel I need.

Dhoom 3 – fun and great twist on white James Bond using non white countries as exotic playground

December 26, 2013 1 comment

Dhoom 3 was amazing! Such a good movie. Really high production values and lots of fun. I think as my first Bollywood film it may have set future expectations unrealistically high. And the big baddie was a white corporate exec called Warren Anderson! Surely it can’t be a coincidence that this is exactly shared with Union Carbide’s chief exec, himself responsible for the corporate manslaughter of thousands here in Bhopal?!

USA was used as the exotic backdrop and the white cops were kinda dumb and useless and needing the assistance of the smart (in all senses of the word) Indian cops. It was the Indians who had the fancy moves during the chase scenes and the white cops who had the big smash ups. In fact apart from one white character (and she could speak Hindi) the white guys were either dumb or evil. But after decades of the reverse (eg this year’s “Captain Phillips”) this seemed just!

In particular a river chase scene invoked all those James Bonds where river boats are ripped through – but this time its brown guys using a white city as a playground. Somehow I enjoyed that. And I really like that unapologetic self-confidence rather than the internalised-racism self-cringe.

I thought my initial 2 days of travel plus jet lag had intensified and clouded my emotions and so biased my love-at-first-sight reaction to even Mumbai airport, but no, its getting deeper every day. I became unmotivated to learn any more Hindi last week as it won’t be useful after I travel south next month, but I’ve picked it up again this week (today I learned to (sort of / badly) count to 100) because I think I will come back here, to Bhopal. And so much of the north to see I will have to make at least one more trip to this gorgeous country.

Also on the way home and still feeling invigorated from the movie, I got my hair cut right back – I’d let it grow to about an inch so it would be less shocking out here. But after a fortnight I realised that the best thing I can do is wear Indian clothes, which anyway are gorgeous. I am white and that is enough to get stared at off the beaten track. I can’t fade into comfortable background however long my hair gets, so I might as well have the hairstyle I want! India is very diverse so can probably handle this weird chick with shaved head. So I went into a barber’s, showed him a photo of me with a shorn head (I long ago learned that I will otherwise get disbelief that I understand what I am asking for) and now am again bald. :)

Endnote : the gender politics in D3 were pretty standard – female characters pretty and used for love interest and eye candy. Please don’t go see this movie thinking its particularly progressive. I just enjoyed it that’s all.

Feminism, objectification of women, and how we regain power when we all stand together

April 12, 2012 11 comments

A couple weeks ago I saw a flyer for a night club in Glasgow which made me really upset, because of the way it objectified women and referenced sex work as “sexy”. But I felt there was nothing I could do about it, and just felt sad and frustrated about it. Then, yesterday, I sent a message about it to the uni feminist society. Then they all got angry as well, but in a really empowered/powerful way, and collectively organised to challenge the night club, and the night club backed down, and removed the sex work imagery from its publicity!!

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