WWOOFing it Up in Kiwiland: organic farming in New Zealand 2012

3 years later and life brings me back to New Zealand. This time for a longer period, for a different purpose, with a different outlook on life than last time. I hope what transpires from a few years of travelling as far and as wide as possible across this beautiful country is a basic but decent knowledge and experience in organic farming, self sustainable living, and food production. Come and join me, there's loads of room in the car.

Monday, 12 October 2009

This Sub-tropical Paradise

People here go on about heritage: 'In the UK you have so much heritage blah-dee-blah-dee-blah-blah-blah'. Everywhere has heritage, in the beginning was something; we didn't come from nothingness. These stereotypical images of historic grandoise architecture that defines British culture represent most countries as much as McDonalds and Cola do. We live in the Post-Modern age where things signify multiple definitions and in this global village the people that live in a place are not a homogenous community in race, ethnicity, sexuality, bodiedness, age, creed... What people can't get over when they meet me is the combination of Scottish accent and my Chinese face; others don't even notice and maybe they are the ones who are the most enlightened because afterall, does it really matter?

Last Thursday I met up with Brooke from Ecomatters, she's a Community Garden Facilitator and she decided to come in today to chat to the teenage mums. She talked about creating community gardens out of donations from businesses, and being resourceful, reusing waste like glass jars, plastic pots, going through recycle boxes. Why not? One man's junk is another man's treasure; one man's martyr is another mans's terrorist and all that... so she talked about the various projects Ecomatters manages and is starting up. Projects, some of which are run in partnership, such as:
  • Sustainable Homes Programme
  • Sustainable Living Centre Come - open to the public and provides information, displays, workshops and an eco library
  • Water Wise Up Helping schools, businesses and households reduce their water use.

So I've been sick which is why I haven't written in a week; and what a difference a day makes, never mind a week. I went to see a Chinese Herbalist and Acupuncturist, Dr Angela Longo, who I met at and Awakening the Dreamer Symposium last month. I went to see her to explore if Chinese medecine has anything to offer me. Like reflexology, Bowen technique, other holistic therapies, indeed, most interests I have in alternative methods, I neglect longer than I should. A sure sympton of my Western upbringing and one that New Zealand is guiding me closer to...

Visiting a healer is one of the many things that have been on my to do list for a few years. Anyways, she has helped me on that path of regaining balance in my life. Chinese medecine, she told me, has a delevoped understanding of the body and health beyond the Greeks, and more importantly, adapted for the modern world. So I've been learning about Heartwaves which I do everyday and Non-violent communication and will find workshops in Edinburgh when I get back in 6 days. I've been drinking Chinese herbal tea and pills for the last 8 days and had acupuncture. My first treatment was an amazing experience. Shooting pains from the top of my arm travelled down to my fingertips so that it was painful to chop vegetables. I've had a chronic stiffness in that shoulder for a few years and ignored it until then. Debilitating shooting pains are a sure sign of imbalance. Angela put the first needle into my arm and I felt and energy travelling from my shoulder slowly down to my 3rd and 4th fingers, that are my triple heater and pericardium meridians, and my hands going tingly. That was last weekend, this weekend Angela tutored me including how to tell people's illnesses from looking at their tongues.

Anyways, back to the community development... so today I left the Teen mums, partly cause they were still winding up after 2 weeks on holiday and partly cause I'm still sick. I have this chesty cough but I'm telling it to go away so I hope it does before my friend's wedding on Saturday in Macau. Anyways, the fact that they're now in touch with Ecomatters, they have support from Brooke who is knowledgeable in that kind of thing. I was going to facilitate a session in which they write a letter to send to businesses asking for donations but I called up a landscaping company and smoothtalked the manager rather more easily than expected. Also, I didn't want to spread my germs around the babies. So I'm going to see them on Friday morning to say bye before I fly out at midnight...

This is the back garden now. I aksed Averil to email photos of its development. I wish I was staying so I sould see it unfold with my own eyes into a colourful fertile garden for the kids and mums... I know it'll be wonderful. Shame it's moving all to the new premises in Henderson High School next year, but anything worth doing is always challenging...

So last Wednesday was the 3rd session with the Jobseekers Network and i have to say it was a tough day. I felt like I was contantly under attack from a few of the strongest characters, the leaders of the pack. I say that with reservations because any leader realises that the individuals in their team have as much power as each other because they play different, but equally important roles. My methods, views, intentions and person were under criticism and while it's difficult, I enjoy this challenge which obliges me to be resolute and strong in my argument. At times of crisis we become strong or we give up, or die. So I ended up presenting the unemployment code and it went down well. Some of the evaluations were gold. A few of them under Did you learn anything new today. If so, what? ... Yes, but I don't know what... Yes, not to let negative comments let me down and bring down my self-esteem... yes, the root causes of society's upheaval... Success! :)

Also, root causes was a eureka moment. One woman talked about unemployment individualising people which is the opposite of when natural disasters occur, like the tsunami in Samoa, a cause for which the whole of New Zealand donated $500 000 as of last week. I can smell the distinct aroma of creeping critical consciousness in the breeze...

This Wednesday we're having the Jobseekers Network Cafe and celebrating me leaving... yet to decide what questions but one will go along the lines of What can we do to ensure the long-term success of JSN? and one What do you get out of coming here and how has it changed your life?  and maybe How could the JSN build on what it currently does to improve the lives of jobseekers now and in the future?  What do you think? Please feel free to feedback!

Back to Thursday. After meeting Brooke I went to Shakti Women's Aid Auckland after being invited by the Director to attend a staff and volunteer training. I talked about my insights since being here in comparing the anti-violence movements in the UK and New Zealand. They also found it entertaining, or 'cute' that I look chinese and talk scottish. I think it'll be many generations before the novelty wears off... anyways, I blabbed on a bit about the Maori and Pacfic Islander dynamics, the term Black and Minority Ethnic and black feminist ideology etc. etc. those of you who know me well know what that sounds like, haha! It was really interesting sitting in on the training. I learned how they assess cases and they also do pick-ups of women from their houses and sometimes when there's faimly and partners around. I was so inspired and they sound like veritable super women, speeding off in cars taking women away from domestic violence. I found it also very interesting for the case study sessions on high risk cases with: drugs/gang-relations, Sikh, Punjabi and Somalian communities, the last of which practice honour-killing... Despite the heaviness of the topic, the company contrasted this and were welcoming, curious, and appreciative of what I've done, what I had to say and of my life in general, asking me what my heritage and upbringing is, and you know how much I love answering those questions...

This picture, and the one of me at the top, is of Swanson Train Station Cafe where I met my practice mentor, Meredith, who played a role as a house wife/community development worker in turning this hut into the new toilets in the 90s:

..and transporting this train station from Avondale, 15 odd kms away, because it was getting demolished to make way for a new one. It's a wonderful building, like travelling back in time, with a log fire and chimney (not sure if it works but it's summer so it wouldn't be on anyways).

The community bought the land around it and paid $10 for the building; it was cheaper for the constructors to charge them to take it away than to pay a demolition company. Meredith said it was an empty wreck with human waste, condoms etc. covering the floor and the community cleaned it up. It's still got the original floor which is a glorious weathered wood and oozes character, the whole place does. Hard to imagine it graffiti, faeces covered...eugh! Anyways, the council couldn't afford it but the community raised funds to make it happen themselves and now earn from leasing out the cafe, and pay the council for upkeep of the surrounding land. An amazing example of a community in action!

You gotta go see it if you're passing through. They had a small display board showing before and after. A wonderful and inspiring example of real community development and my mentor began her community development career from participating in it. Meredith now works for the council at the green Waitakere City Council. I've been blessed with being at the heart of a vibrant city with a strong history of community development and I feel glad for the opportunity. It's contibuted to making me feel at home and I feel so settled that I'd be really happy if I stayed longer. I've gained a big extended family imprinted in memory from my time here and I am already planning to come back.

Happy days (..except for my lettuce growing, it shrivelled up to a brown thing last week...)

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