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.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Forget the Mountain Trek, it's swings and roundabouts with the wee ones, teenage mums and the never-been-unemployed-before-middle-class, plus a few randoms

Ok, so no photos but there will be... firstly, another reason why I'm not homesick yet is that everyone uses the word 'wee' here, I hear it more here than in England!

So today I spent time with a teen parent group in Henderson, and, as is normal with caring responsibilities, there remains a gender bias and its all young women who bring their wee one's to this group. It was quite funny the first time I met them on Tuesday. Averil , the manager had spoken to me on the phone and of course I have a Scottish accent, so when I turned up on the day she didn't expect a small Chinese looking girl to turn up at the door and said to everyone that it's a 'Scottish' girl turning up so that couldn't be me. Then when I came in and said I am the Scottish girl, they were all in giggles for the rest of time. I forget that my Scottish-Chineseness entertains people until this happens but then I forget allover again until the next time.

Back to the development work: the group have a large empty green lawn in the back where they want to create a food garden and soft play area but one that can be packed up at the end of each day, and when they move to their brand new building (currently being extended onto Henderson High School) in the next 12 months. The handful of mums I met today where very caring of their own babies but of each other, mums and babies. My analysis is that they have learnt to care at a young age, in a mothering role, for these babies and that makes them more considerate of others. I started working at the YMCA one month before I left for NZ where I work with, not teen, but mums younger than me, and I was trying to put my finger on it and now I have. The age, experience and parenthood, of these young mum's who accept the responsibility of giving heir lives to the children with immemse tenderness, makes them naturally more community aware. They are feminists in their experience, their choices and the consequences to care for another life and sacfrifice parts of themselves for their children.

These mums still live with their parents, I gather, and like many others have visions of perfect love, marriage with the fathers of their babies or boyfriends since, chirstmas holidays with the best gifts for their kids, shiny cars, beautiful homes and flawless bodies... they get picked at 10 and dropped off at their parents at 3pm, Mon to Friday, and have a weekly early childhod development session, go to a Barnardos parenting group and chill-out the rest of the time in between changing nappies, feeding, napping themselves, watching their babies nap and doing their schoolwork. I wonder where the fathers are: at work, at school, out the picture, in prison? As a practitioner, I've learnt not to wonder too much about supplementary information unless volunteered. Even then, it's sometimes biased, tainted or falsified. What I'm interested in is where they're at, and where they've been if it's still somewhere they haven't let go of yet...

Oh, and another thing is, people try to guess my age. The teen mums though I was between 17 and 21...thanks for the genes mum and dad.

Right, so yesterday, I also met the Job Seekers Network. A whole other kettle of fish. I went along to 'participate' (read 'observe') at their 2 hour weekly meeting in Te Atatu (an hour on public transport: I wish I tried harder to get my license before I left) where the first half is a blur of information about networking events, announcements and job vacancies, intros of new group members and updates from present, previous members and supporters before the break and a guest speaker. I found it quite difficult to sit through the talk by an NLP life-coach talking about how belief is what enabled her to turnover $20,000 per week at her bar. Hmmm, I think social, economic and political factors had an influence on the success of her business... anways, there were people who lapped it up. Maybe they are desparate for some answers, some a magic formula to depression caused by a loss of job/ confidence/ house/ everything they thought they knew about society/ themsleves/ money/ happiness/ any/ all/ of the above??? Maybe, may be not? But at the end, all I know is that this lifecoach suggests she comes back to do a 2 day version of her course, just for the group, at a special rate... when I'm sitting there, as Community Development worker offering support to the group and asking for nothing but the best of themselves. I have no interest in making money out of other in this job, enough to eat, sleep in a warm place and see the important people in my life is enough. Furthermore, the reason why the members are there is precisely because the cars, the house, the money, the job can't get them happiness...

I found the group individualistic and lacking a critical socialist education perspective that it so evidently is yearning for. As a commonwealth country, built on western ideology, it doesn't surprise me. It's a stark contrast to the Young Mum's group...this is where the real work starts, 3 weeks in to my placement, a few frayed nerves later, and disappointments embraced, I can get my teeth sunk into these two projects that are ready to progress

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Waitakere City Council's 4 green star building: there's always a story and if you can't find it, you're not looking hard enough...

This morning, a lovely man called Mark, took me on a one-person tour at the Waitakere City Council building; there's always a story, and if you can't find it, you're not looking hard enough...or walking with your eyes shut...The building was designed on eco-sustainable principles and as a piece of art work.The Council Chamber has an interesting piece of artwork displaying the decimation of the Kauri forests in colonial times, among other bits of history. Apparently this wood floors many buildings in San Francisco, or San Diego...it's been a long day.....anyways, the building is at the fringe of the city centre in Henderson, right beside the train station and central mall (shopping centre) however it supports local business by having not enough seats in the cafeteria as there are staff and not enough car parking spaces with the aim of 'encouraging' public transport use, cycling and walking... I already mentioned the contradiction in Waitakere's Eco-city status but there more to the story it seems. The air-conditioning system cools from floor level rather than the ceiling and doesn't need cooled because its built with concrete that naturally cools it down. The building's roof has a mini wind turbine but it doesn't really catch the wind, Mark said, because of the Waitakere Ranges (hills). They have a massive worm farm, 3 times the size of the one at Vision Waitakere Retirement Village, with massive worm tea/soup/poo bottles to to match! We went to the garden on the rooftop and I forget the technical term but what it does is the different layers absorb and filter the rainwater to reduce the contaminants from traffic etc. as it enters the stormwater channels, much like Project Twin Streams regeneration of the riparians (streamsides) with native species. Saving water, costs and resources required to manage flood water. All rather clever! Mark gave me a better understanding of the Japanese garden role in this process. The garden absorbs more contaminants and like the roof garden, slows the water speed down more, before it finally ends up flushing down the toilets and supplying the sinks.

I'll mention this for thoroughness but it's not the juicier information: the carpets are made from recycle plastic (they don't look like it but so many things can be made out of recycled plastic these days) and are in tiles so parts of it can be replaced rather than recarpeting the whole floor. And there's wood panelling and concrete, all unpainted to reduce maintenance costs, resources and the environmental impact etc.

NB. I have not photos of any of this week because I left the camera at my sisters (DOH!)

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