30 de desembre 2015

Resuming after teaching year in NZ. On the road again to learn from the Pacha Mama

Prologue to my 2015 travelling hyatus.
I have been teaching one year in New Zealand. There has been a huge personal growth for me those months but I couldn’t write a word during the process. My eyes, my brain were always too exhausted to write or read for pleasure, an interesting teacher’s phenomenon. Now, although I have slept a total of 3 hours words flow with relative ease. The spell is uncast.
The daily task of teaching has gifted me priceless interactions with young adults, seeing, in my reduced, more senior group a light in each of them. I have had the blessing of teaching some students up close and I have been able to gradually feel a sense of connection that I find essential in my stubborn will to share. I doubt many of my former students/colleagues will have the patience to follow a blog with so much to read but, if so, I have truly felt a deep sense of belonging with you. You have helped me through my lonesome days in the unexciting Northland life. I’ve felt whanau love and I have to thank it to your diverse personalities. Thank you for teaching me so much.
My next pre-blogging thought is regarding languages.
I speak both English and Spanish. If I wrote in those two languages I could probably reach an easy 80% of readers of all nationalities. But this blog is mainly thought to reach friends and family. I studied abroad, therefore all of my Spanish speaking friends speak English. I have met some Spanish people who ask me why I don’t write in Spanish, but I see it in a different light.
I grew up in a Catalan speaking community. It doesn’t mean I spoke Catalan to everyone, but everyone I know there understands or can read Catalan. Since I have lived in a few countries I chose to write a blog in English to reach out to most of my friends, but my parents have missed a lot of my written updates. It is only fair that if I had to choose another language to write my blog, that language would be Catalan. The secondary reason is preservation, it is a personal choice. It hurts me when people (and among them a big chunk of the Spanish population) belittle my language. It is my heritage and my identity. I grew up in a mainly Spanish speaking household. My parents spoke Spanish to each other and we would mostly speak Spanish, especially to mum. When both my sister and I became fully bilingual we both made the conscious choice to stop speaking Spanish in our community. We both had a similar argument: to support the weaker one. Spanish is very alive and healthy internationally language. Catalan, however, if not used can be threatened. I must add a political observation. At 10 years of age I wasn’t aware of the past struggle to reserve my mother tongue or of the coming neoliberalist-right wing Spanish governing majority. They seem to think they owe the right to decide our destiny and our cultural heritage. In hindsight, I made the right choice to err for Catalan as my main language for emotional, cultural, educational and personal reasons.
I therefore will make the extra effort to add some Catalan lines to allow some access to friends who aren’t fluent in English. They won’t be a translation of the English version. Yes, I do speak English and I can think in English to a certain extent. But I FEEL in Catalan. And most of my writing, more than factual, is emotion-driven.

27 de gener 2015

Go hungry. Anywhere

"Ich kann überall hungern"

A quote that stuck to my brain while taking German literature classes and the great Mr Brecht, who made a huge impression on me. Not surprisingly some years later I was casually listening to a music selection when a band and its style made the same huge impression. The Dresden Dolls calls its musical style "Bretchian cabaret". Justified. Bitte schön.

Back in the 00's Joaquin and I used to spend extra hours interpreting Bretchian texts or maybe in Joaquin's case just trying to impress the icy beauty of the literature teacher (échame un cable en los comentarios si lees esto, que seguro que tú te acuerdas de su nombre ;-)) while winning my 'ternura". Hombre de lenguas... ya sabemos :-*

But this quote, for German speakers, was worth deciphering and worth the classroom hours. No wonder it stuck on me. Forever.
  • "Herr K. hielt es nicht für nötig, in einem bestimmten Land zu leben. Er sagte: "Ich kann überall hungern." Eines Tages aber ging er durch eine Stadt, die vom Feind des Landes besetzt war, in dem er lebte. Da kam ihm entgegen ein Offizier dieses Feindes und zwang ihn, vom Bürgersteig herunter zu gehen. Herr K. ging herunter und nahm an sich wahr, daß er gegen diesen Mann empört war; und zwar nicht nur gegen diesen Mann, sondern besonders gegen das Land, dem der Mann angehörte; also daß er wünschte, es möchte vom Erdboden vertilgt werden. „Wodurch“, fragte Herr K., „bin ich für diese Minute ein Nationalist geworden? Dadurch, daß ich einem Nationalisten begegnete. Aber darum muß man die Dummheit ja ausrotten; weil sie dumm macht, die ihr begegnen."
I added the extract to the delight of German speakers, setting it in context for literature lovers. 
Here is a link of the whole book in English. Brecht's surreal genius, a pleasure to read.


Back to: "I can go hungry anywhere"-
It is a very appropriate metaphor for my new life "part 3" in New Zealand.
As an ethical eater, after a visit to the supermarket I can only confirm I will go hungrier than ever.
I thought I was going to live on mussels and kiwifruit, but at the moment there is an ongoing warning on the East Coast and I just found out about certain chemicals in them, so I will have to lower my consumption of these such affordable membranes. Regarding Kiwi fruit, I refuse to eat Italian Kiwi in New Zealand, sorry, but globalisation can't go this far. Kiwis, you can't export your best dittos and buy Italian ones instead. No. Wrong. Spanish people wouldn't buy Aussie oranges in Spain. Por favor...
Imported Kiwifruit in New Zealand

First days' impressions: It has been a week since I landed in Auckland. My 3 years in OZ got reduced to to this and I was able to drag it along, minus 3 boxes of mainly books and props.

Upon arrival I stuck around the airport for an hour or so, carrying my load around. Silvia my angel sister picked me up where agreed and off we went! What an amazing amazing heart sister I have in Auckland. So choice!

Settling at her place was a real gift, but there was so much to do and we had so much to catch up with that I can't express in words how frantic it all felt and how tired I was after a short night of sleep and night out before my departure with my three most beloved brothers in Sydney: Eli, Joao and Jorge. I got lucky. I got to spend time with the three of them in one eve. Well, two and a half. I haven't seen Eli so slowed down and tired. Come to think about it, so grateful we got to hang out! I owe you a cuddly movie session! 

My trip to the airport was a mess of snot and tears and so was my flight, I had no-one sitting next to me so I had a tearful ball. There is no fear or sadness in those tears, just emotions I couldn't contain. I needed to cry long to clear my Sydney caché. Simply so.

I have always been a late sleeper, I can stay wide awake for many hours stimulant-free. We had so many exciting things to share in Auckland that I couldn't sleep one second. I managed to fit a power nap while Silvia got busy with other things, but otherwise an irritating sense of tiredness kept following me around. After a power nap my divine sister, 
Silvia dropped me at Renee's and I could see her and Sophie, beautiful birthday girls. The power nap allowed me to be able to utter a few words and drink wine but we soon realised we were all past bed time. I am glad I saw them, hugged them on their b-days and I am stoked that now I will be able to have them closer than ever. Thankful heaps!

That night I had one of those Kafkian (Bretchian?) encounters. Sophie dropped me at St Lukes and I was just about to enter the house when this lady approached me. She was in her 50s and had a strong Slavic accent. I thought it was going to be a polite 'gnight! but she kept talking incessantly. She gave me all sorts of details of her history from high school until now while taking incessant drags of an almost consumed cigarette. She had studied Spanish in high school and she told me that the most important thing I should teach the kids is the conquering of America. I didn't argue it. She had a stereotypical Slavic bluntness and she wasn't willing to give in. Not sure how I would feel to teach how a few Spaniards screwed some ancient cultures back in the Middle Ages, in many different ways. 

On day two I managed to have looked at two cars in the morning while Silvia was at work. When she returned we managed to do another viewing, go for Indian food and sip whiskey on the rocks in a hotel lobby (thank you, Laurita!).

I have accepted that there is no use of avoiding a car in the rather rural north, but one of my no-nos was having to buy an automatic car, a very common thing in here. Driving stick to me is not only a great pleasure. I am very sure it does keep your brain fit, focused on the engine and engaged on whatever happens on the road. In fact, I find driving an automatic car at the snail speeds in NZ quite dangerous, because the lack of adrenaline and maneuver activity makes you get distracted on peripheral things like shaving your armpits or scratching your scrotum. 

And here my biggest dilemma. I wanted a fuel efficient car. Small, as I wasn't going to travel much. Actually I had the BMW 120 series in mind, because they drive like a dream. I also wanted to have a car I could enjoy driving. Under those parameters my search was very limited. I expanded the search by allowing hybrid cars into the equation (you know, green and so), but they were automatic. Worse, even, the Prius is not only automatic. It also requires getting used to new driving habits and I wasn't sure if I wanted to acquire for one year.

After visiting a few not very convincing hybrids, I was with Silvia convinced me to go to a car dealer. There we were, I felt silly, waiting for the staff to finish a meeting. While I was throwing my frustration on my limited choices, we stopped, turned around and saw him/her!
Claire/Claude. The Victor/Victoria. The transgender of the road!

Automatic, who would have thought...

I got to Whangarei with Claire Claude. I have written other people with details on my flat search. It took one day and two flats. 
In my three years in Sydney I haven't been officially able to get my own apartment. One of the things I was craving most was having a cat. On my departure from Sydney, our street cat disappeared, similar to Lala's disappearance after I left Amsterdam. 
Second flat viewing, terrific little house and the flatmate I was waiting for...
Kimber, mon amour!

He's very afectionate, but not that used to life together with humans. He loves to wander. We love to have him over. My other two flatmates are as cool as the cat. We are two fab ladies and one lucky guy. Life is good. I can say with certainty that I feel happy. Content. In the moment. 

So this is how it starts. In very bourgeois terms, listed: car, house and cat. But also the most amazing views, beautiful sunsets and a sense of peace, space and light that can't be captured by pictures. 
This is what I look forward to when I wake up in the morning

View from the terrace. Can't get tired of it. I will capture a sunset to complete the cycle. 

I wish everyone a lot of success and love towards these Summer months in the Southern Hemisphere or to a hopefully short winter in the Northern one. 
Gern werd' ich hier hungern. I will gladly go hungry here ;-)

15 de gener 2015

Random sort of connected highlights, on empathy and bullying

Sadder times. Another discovery journey. 3rd round.

I see my imminent depart from Sydney and as a highlight of the week, I had the chance to close the circle, as they do in hypnotic rituals and go back to the place it all began for me. 
The Alpha of the Sydnean eternal crush, Coogee's charm. So I bade it farewell.

Sydney soon got me busy doing anything but sit and write about my travels, again the hardships of writing in journalistic style. 
I had returned to my favourite corner in the world after my extensive intensive trip around central and southern Europe. Europe always means connecting with the original me through the ones who really love you, it means brutal honesty and painfully lost times. The happiest of days, because you really are in your element, but at the same time it becomes a catalyst that brings out the worst and the best of you.
This time some conversations shed light into a capability of mine I didn't know I had. I always admired empathy and compassion, but I wouldn't describe myself as either.

When I last had my re-birthing session my breath worker said I was learning to allow compassion into my heart. I am glad I have gradually opened up to real good people and stayed at about safe distance from the ones I don't feel warm vibes from.

There is this thing. After getting back in touch with Jay B (yes, I did, he actually found me) and talking to people from that generation, I learnt astoundingly that some early encounters distilled  a quality I didn't know I possessed: empathy. Yaaay...

Still in denial I did an experiment just in case and carefully started registering on a notebook any thought that came to my mind when I was interacting with people or capturing a vibe. And I was proud and shocked to see that my thoughts always had the other person's feelings into consideration, and good intentions, with no exception. Even a thought I'd consider less positive included my interlocutor's feelings or some sort of forgiveness for that thought, some pleasantism, or the art of trying to concentrate in the best of anyone and their genuine nature.

And so I found out that I was empathetic. It seems a joke, but I hadn't been told otherwise in previous years. I have either developed a higher sense of empathy by getting hurt (way to learn, Selveta!), by those Prosecco evenings, which my closest friends would start with: "we love you, but you can't go on like this" or by receiving empathy from very close people when I felt cluelessly helpless.

Once registered I can conclude that as nice and proud one might feel about the discovery, as cool as it is to tap into other people's feelings, I sometimes wish I was back to that blasé attitude that numbs you. But even if i try, it doesn't work any longer.
I have also come to the discovery that I have an uncanny talent to feel fascinated about people on the other side of the spectrum, with the same enthusiasm as I get warm fuzzies when surrounded by the kind-hearted. Guess it reminds me of a then non-chalant self with Bill Murray levels of not giving a f*ck.

I am going back to full-time teaching and to deal with young adults. Fascinating. 
And one thing that amazed me while I first got in contact with the secondary teaching world was that I could sob Claire Danes style in an auditorium, in the teacher's room or in the classroom (fanned by a stack of paper) to bullying stories. 
I have always possessed very high level of fairness. So seeing my peers being unfairly treated by anyone sets me on fire. I also have Ghandi levels of violence, so I would never get to a physical fight with anyone, so the result is a standup, a revolutionary pacific protest, an "I will make everyone know of this injustice, creatively, if possible".

Being neither a cool kid or a cornered misfit is a quality I defined when I met Carolinski (and that is why we felt very identified with each other in that particular area). Carol as an underground trendsetter and fair rights activist and me as more passive and distanced (where is the cat?) with a historical eye rolling indifference towards the so-called popular kids, which, really, present themselves as dull and mere societal sheepish reflections of all those trends that bore you to oblivion. Quacky, static, one-dimensional.

You are seen as weird, but the mainstream so-called "cool" kids tolerate you. The in-between quality allows you and inclines you to protect the bullied ones. 
So that is how I learnt through different childhood/adolescent stories during my European incursion. They felt in some way bullied or cornered and to my delight thanked me for being submitted by me to the strictest resistance tests. That is when the notebook where I noted my empathetic thoughts comes to play. Nothing has changed. I remember those moments and I also recall I never did anything to be cruel on them. I was always looking for their best, though, sometimes, I admit, being a tad patronising... 

Putting certain less "cool" kids to coolness tests was a way to preparing them in an intuitive way to test their boundaries and discover how cool they really were and ARE. And so they learnt to see themselves the way I saw them. 
No matter how cornered a kid (or adult) was, I always gave them a chance. Carefully tried a few approaches, and experienced unusual, whimsical moments with them that allowed me to see the world through their eyes. And to enjoy their unusual awesomeness.

The unpopular kids have the most interesting stories to tell. Weird? I call it interesting. 

So make some room for the teacher in me. Exciting, well deserved and longed for time. Sure some student will call me, with their charming Kiwi accent: "you are weeerd, muss". I can't wait for the compliment. It means empathetic, aware, intuitive and unconventional. And I am proud of it.

Mid- January. A new return to New Zealand. So amazing to have lived so many more times in the Southern Hemisphere than the Northern one. Let this one time be the definitive and make my dreams come true!