Saturday, December 29, 2007

Social Interactions

Over the past few days, I've had a couple of slightly random moments of social interaction.

First up, the owners of our house have been back in NZ over Christmas for the first time in a good few years and wanted to look round and do a bit of work on the house. They are very pleasant (especially when compared to our mental previous landlady) and having them about was no problem. On Thursday they came and did lots of work in the garden but didn't quite finish and so they came back on Friday. By which point the chap had done his back in and couldn't help. Which led to him coming in to sit down and us talking about all manner of things (my future career, churches, NZ/UK cultural differences, what we miss most about home, how much you can (can't) trust the media, the NHS vs NZ medical system...). It was very pleasant. We talked for a good few hours while "she" finished off the gardening. A great use of an afternoon when I was getting not very much at all done.

Then on Saturday morning I telephoned a gentleman who has kind of adopted one of my cousins and is a surrogate grandfather to him (the common grandparent we have left is Grannie and thus there is a grandfather shaped hole). This gentlemen splits his time between the UK and NZ and knows the bit of the country we are thinking of travelling on our three week camping extravaganza reasonably well. My dad spoke to my cousin, my cousin spoke to the gentleman and there I found myself ringing someone I don't know at all to chat about holidays... I don't like ringing people, I especially don't like ringing people I don't know or only know a little bit and don't know how to introduce myself (you know, that person that you know who they are but you've not really spoken but someone suggested you ring them cos they have this thing you need to borrow or whatever and how much detail do you need to put in? Is your first and last name enough? Do you need to give them a context? Or a so-and-so said to call?). In that respect, this was a relatively easy call to make because he wouldn't know who I was and there was obvious context to give. Anyway, point being, I was a little nervous about the call but ended up having a nice wee chin wag with the gentleman (definitely a gentleman) and agreeing that if we ended up in his neck of the woods, we'd pop by for a coffee. All good.

Last night, we had a very social evening though without any of the randomness of the first two! We went into Wellington for a gig by our friend's brother's band. We do know the brother too but he has been away down south at uni for the past year so we've not really seen him since we spent Christmas with the family last year. Anyway. His band were up for a few days for this gig and so on and a lot of our best friends here were at the gig. It was a fantastic evening of hanging out with people, chatting, dancing and really, really enjoying the band. I was very impressed. They are a crazy mix of country and alternative rock but it works very well. Their cowboy hats were ace. Here is their myspace page - check them out. :) A very fun evening. But highlighted how old we was a long way past my bedtime when we got home at 1am...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A jolly holiday

Despite never quite managing to achieve that "Christmas feeling", we've had a very jolly few days.

On the 23rd, I sang in a choir at church in the morning. It had been quite traumatic in the run up as it really felt like everything wasn't going to be ready on time. It was, just. And now I've stopped humming the tunes relentlessly, it almost seems that it was enjoyable.

In the afternoon, Husbink woke up early from his mid-work-nights sleep and we walked up the firebreak in the hills behind our house. It was pretty hard work at points and my legs were shaking by the top but the sense of achievement and the views made it extremely worthwhile. Coming down was a little hair raising in places - I "chose" to sit down a few times!

Christmas Eve was hectic - Husbink sleeping off nights, sorting out chips in the car windscreen (turned out replacement was the best option so we have a shiny new windscreen now, doubt that will last long on NZ roads!), baking, having the owners of our house come round for a look (as they are back from the UK for a week for the first time in about three years...), doing various house jobs and trying to stay awake for a midnight service...

Christmas Day was lovely. Mostly very chilled out (a little unchilled initially as there were just soooo many people at our friends house and all trying to get to different places to see other parts of families and so on...). We ate, we went for a walk, we got very frustrated with various little puzzles, we ate more, we drank a little, we came home and watched my Christmas present from Husbink's sis (the BBC version of Wind in the Willows from last Christmas, it was good). And then we had a Very Big Sleep. Mmmm.

Boxing Day took us by surprise by starting off very sunny - which frankly was not what we wanted. We were really looking for a good excuse to spend the entire day lying on the sofa watching DVDs, munching goodies and so on. Fortunately, after we had forced ourselves out for a little bike ride, the weather turned and we had a miserable afternoon that totally justified watching Harry Potter and eating cake. It was the first Harry Potter which I haven't seen in quite a while and it was fun. Though a lot of the fun was both of us sitting there going "gosh, wasn't book 7 brilliant!" and other such things. It would have been extremely irritating for anyone else to watch with us.

And now, Husbink is back to work and with just two weeks left in the house, I'm full steam ahead sorting and packing and so on. Crazy days.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Downloading my brain

My brain is just a teensy weensy bit full at the moment with all the moving things and the Husbink job things (I haven't really mentioned this yet...but he will have to apply for the Big Next August jobs before we leave NZ rather than being home in time for applications as we had hoped. Also the jobs have changed. He'll only be applying to 2-3 years rather than 7. Which in some ways seems more manageable but means that life will continue to be precarious.) and so I needed to clear out various thoughts today. Thus quite a few posts. I hope that makes it more manageable than one Mahooooosive one.
Urgh, my brain hurts. And the day isn't over yet...

The Difference Between Me And Kiwis. No, not the birds. Or the fruit.

I came to realise today one of the big differences between me and your average Kiwi.
Mostly, in what I'm going to describe I'd rather be like them than me but I accept (to a large extent) that I am a product of my country and my upbringing and although, with awareness I may change a little, I do not think I will change drastically in this area. Of course, what follows is also gross generalisation.
Kiwis are blunt. They may appear rude in various circumstances. They do not wave to say thank you when you let them pass you on the road. They do not make many attempts at "the customer is always right" if they believe you to be entirely wrong.
Kiwis are also exceedingly friendly. They will not gush at you or bounce at you or bubble at you. But they will invite you into their home and expect you to understand that that invitation really is an open one. You will, if you wish it, find yourself with several surrogate families. And not just one layer of those families. We have two surrogate families here. Both are wonderful and we will miss both very much. Even outside our surrogate families, we have good, good friends who will help us out at a moments notice, even if they are lost in the midst of Christmas shopping with three small, not wonderfully happy children. Even if they are people that perhaps we would say we didn't know so well, we know they will help, always.
And I am the opposite of this. I will be very excited to meet you. I will bounce. I will chatter. I will want you to feel at home. But my home will not, much as I might wish otherwise, be one that you feel you can just drop in on. I hope when you do come round that you will feel very welcome but I know that you will have waited for an invitation rather than just appearing on the doorstep. When you ask me for help, I will have to swallow all the thoughts that bubble up first (what about this plan or that plan, I'm not sure I have time, I need to do this, I can't do that, urgh) before I can help you. I will still help you most of the time but I don't think I'll be as helpful as I would if I didn't have to push aside those thoughts first. The flip side is that most of the time, I won't ask you for help because I won't want to put you out either.
I've had to learn this over the past year and a half. First, that Kiwis aren't rude or even abrupt, they just aren't spending their energy where I do. Second, that actually, I should ask for help, it is always there and keen to be given. If I ask for more help then perhaps I will learn to give more help too. Third, being polite and friendly at first meeting is ok too. :)

Getting in the spirit of things...

I've struggled a little (but not as much as last year) to get into the Christmas spirit while "upside down". Instead of dark nights, woolly hats, the possibility of snow and twinkly lights to herald the Christmas season, down here it is strawberry picking, blossoming pohutukawa, end of year school exams and the approach of the longest day that indicate to those in the know that Christmas is just around the corner.
I've been waiting and waiting for the pohutukawa ever since last May when we moved to this house on a pohutukawa lined street. Sadly it is a bad year for them this year (having been the best year in a long, long time last year) and only one on the street is showing any signs of blossom. I had trained myself that pohutukawas meant Christmas. They have let me down.
We are not helped, of course, by the super early posting thing. It cost well close to $200 to send all our parcels and cards this year despite getting in before the "economy" deadline. Had we left it until a little closer to Christmas so that we were more "in the mood", I dread to think what that cost would have been.
It is hard to trigger that Christmas feeling, excitement (materialistic, spiritual or emotional), because we don't have any of the usual clues.
And so I have spent this afternoon wrapping up the few small presents I got for Husbink and baking for the church community Christmas lunch (apparently over 200 people from the community who would not have anyone else to spend Christmas with are going this year, awesome!), with a sound track of my two Christmas CDs - Songs of Praise carols and, umm, I don't remember the name of the other one but something like The Best Christmas Album in the World Ever Part 27...
I'm not sure I'm any more in the mood as would be normal back home but I'm certainly a little more giddy. And mainly it is down to one song. Ahem. Possibly one of the cheesiest songs in existance but with that manages to marry together the different strands of Christmas excitement. The cheesy, twinkly-lighted, shopping, shopping, shopping excitement. The emotional, family aspect (at least in part cos my mum and gran both like it too). The spiritual part as, of modern Christmas songs (i.e. not including carols), it has to have some of the words that best reflect Christianity, and how it now squeezes into an increasingly secular celebration of one of its most important events. Yes, that would be Saviour's Day by Cliff Richard. The only song in my Christmas collection that made me dance round the living room and kitchen while baking my ginger & almond biscotti (an experiment - need work, too sweet...). Having said that, The Spinners version of The Twelve Days of Christmas has just come on...if anything can make me giggle and fall into childhood reminiscence, it is The Spinners. Oh, and maybe Flanders & Swan but that isn't relevant to this now is it?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I love it when a plan comes together...

This week has been a little hectic so far but has seen HUGE amounts completed off the ENORMOUS to do before moving countries list. And off the reasonably small to do before Christmas list. And off the isn't it nice to have fun sometimes list.
Which is all rather exciting. I was gaining a rather comfortable sense of achievement from all the list ticking which was hugely added to last night when we went climbing and I made it up The Chimney. The first time we climbed (this being our third time) I belayed a friend while she went up The Chimney and I thought "no way". Yesterday Husbink decided to go up it so I belayed him and still thought "no way". But he persuaded me and I Did It. You could not wipe the grin off my face for the next few hours, I was very chuffed with myself. The absolute agony that I'm expecting through all my muscles at some point today hasn't arrived yet... Typing is quite hard work though as my fingers are pretty knackered! I'm hoping we can find as nice a climbing wall in England as this one. It has character, rather than just being part of a leisure complex or the like. Though I do feel a little bit like I don't really need to acquire any more hobbies, perhaps just some useful skills for life or some career options or something like that would be handy... Ah well, I'll stick with the hobbies until then I guess...
Time for today's to do list. :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

You know you have to laugh at yourself...

I was just sent a quiz on facebook by a friend who is about 16...
It was a "how old are you?" quiz and she had come out at 22.
So I thought well, why not...
And I came out as...6! Which makes me quite happy. I may spend today being a 6 year old. Only, one that can drive a car...(actually, saying that the batmobile was my favourite car probably has a lot to do with the outcome...but the choices were really bad...)
It is only slightly alarming that they decided I was 6 after I'd said my favourite drink was wine...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Emotionally Hungover

Yesterday evening went pearshaped.
A number of things contributed. We can't deny the old hormones. Or the general emotional upheaval of the moment. Or the earwig. Crawling on my black & white chocolate muffin.
On the whole, the emotion was that silly uncontrolable grump that only hormones can cause. I wrote a blog last night. I had just enough sense left to delete it. I also had just enough sense left in the hour or so spent trawling the internet (cos I was too upset to go to bed) to not throw my computer against the wall when I read various things that upset, infuriated or belittled me. I'm sure if I read those things today there would be no problem.
I ended up deciding it was safest not to stray into too many unknown territories at this point and started reading various "old things". Old emails, old blog entries. Eventually this did help me calm down enough to go and sit on Husbink's knee for a while (still incapable of saying anything nice to him. He's an awfully good Husbink to have) and finally make my way to bed. I woke up this morning still in a reasonable tiz so we played a game that we both have a very strong love/hate relationship with. It eventually made me so upset and angry that I started crying and then could tell Husbink all the things that were bothering me from the "I know this only bothers me because of the hormones" to the "This is actually a serious problem and I don't think we can fix it but you should know" issues.
Then we went to the library and rented the 5th season of 24 and I bought lots of new wool (not from the library) for more squares for my multicoloured blanket. And had beans on toast for lunch. (Only, they were weird beans...morrocan stylee which meant they weren't really like baked beans at all and more like a morrocan tagine thing with chickpeas that I sometimes make. All well and good but not really what I was after on a comfort eating day. Which means it is definitely fish fingers and chips for tea. I digress. Which is frankly what I'm going to do all post. You may want to stop reading now...). I feel ok now. I don't feel amazing. I certainly don't feel positive enough to go out and deal with Christmas shopping for Husbink's presents when I don't have any idea what I'm going to get. That would definitely still fall into the dangerous category. I'm emotionally hungover. I'm drained from fighting through the undergrowth. I know I'm going to feel better from here and that a number of the feelings will disappear (the irrational jealousies, the silly moments of choosing to take offense...) however, I also know that the larger problems are no closer to being resolved. And they won't be because, quite simply, life has to play itself out. There are various knowns...we have flights to catch, we have weddings to attend, family reunions to enjoy or tolerate (depending on which of several events...). It is a pretty short list of knowns though when compared to the unknowns (job? house? where? what? kids?) and each unknown rests precariously against the others making each decision vital and impossible. I simply have to take a back seat for a while and watch what happens. I've come to a few conclusions on various of the unknowns and I've learnt a lot about myself over the past year and a bit. I won't make some of the mistakes I made before but I'm sure I'll find new ones.
(Heh. I've got my (almost) entire CD collection on random on the laptop at the moment. And it has chosen now to play The Happy Song (sadly the slightly more lacklustre Matt Redman version as opposed to either Deliriou5? or Why?) (oh and I couldn't find a decent YouTube version...and to be honest, if you don't know the song I'm talking about, you probably wouldn't want to be introduced to it!))
I've reached one decision that, well, it isn't quite a decision because I suspect there may be some cases of "needs must" over the next year or so...perhaps I have made a concrete realisation instead. Here it is...
I never wanted to work in an office. It was my single greatest dread when I was a child. I'd been fooling myself that because the various office jobs (not counting temping, which is just weird...and just doesn't quite count) I've done have not been typical - have not involved banks or having to wear suits and so on - that I hadn't really been working in offices. Obviously, I have been working in offices. It is precisely what I have been doing. And even when working in offices for good causes and so on, it is still working in an office. It is still administration. It is still paperwork. Which is all well and good but I've just woken up and realised it is not well and good for me. There is a dream not-office-job that I have now but I think it is a long way off, if ever. Other than the dream job though, there are plenty of things out there that don't involve an office and I have to start thinking about possibilities there. Which could be quite fun. Certainly better to view as fun than not...
(Oooh, and now You Stole the Sun has come on...which has put me in mind of a new top ten...)

So Much Fun

Today, Husbink and I took Child Number 1 (of the feeding lambs excitement a few months back) to a children's adventure playground. Her mum has a really nasty flu so we thought we'd give her a bit of time just with Child Number 2 to contend with.
The adventure playground believes in encouraging the adults to play with the kids. We did not need encouraging. I haven't been in a ball pool since I was...I don't know...6? 7? And I haven't been down a huge bouncy castle slide since...ever!
So we crawled through gaps, climbed up platforms, sat in the cockpit of the helicopter at the top of the "climbing frame" (really quite high...ok so not as high as the walls we climbed at the rock climbing place yesterday but for small children...) and had lots and lots of goes on the curly slide. It was great.
It was also very painful! Husbink bashed his thumb so that it started bleeding lots, I have a definite bruise on my right knee and a generally red left knee, we both have very scraped up elbows. Which, when compared to the rock climbing yesterday, is a pretty high injury rate!

Other fun things of late have included watching Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang yesterday. Very silly. It was the second time Husbink had seen it in as many days and the first time I had seen it. I get the impression it gets sillier with time. Anyway, I'd recommend it for a bit of fun mixed with action.
I have also watched two other films in the last few days. (Blockbuster has a crazy Mondays & Thursdays thing where you can hire up to seven catalogue DVDs for seven days for $1 each. Works really well when Husbink is on lates so I have something to watch during the evening and then he has something to unwind with when he gets in around 1am.) The first film was March of the Penguins which was pretty disappointing but perhaps I just wasn't in the right space...
The second film was As it is in Heaven which was beautiful. For anyone who doesn't know it, it is a Norwegian film about a famous conductor/composer/violinist who has a heartattack and needs to take time out. He returns to the village he left when he was 7 after being bullied for his music. No one knows he used to live there (his manager changed his name) and he ends up coaching the church choir. It is not outrageously cheesy as it could be. It is not entirely feel good. The music is gorgeous (especially the song he writes for an abused wife). I'd entirely recommend it.

I'm scratching around my brain (feeling like a chicken in a dusty barnyard...) trying to think of something else suitably lighthearted from the last few days but sadly failing. Which I think has more to do with just how tiring it is to playing an adventure playground all morning than a lack of enjoyment from the last wee while. It's time for my afternoon nap...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I know it is stupid but...

So I've been trying to get ahead of myself with all the things that leaving a house, a town and a country require.
Flights, end of tenancy notice, shipping companies, cancelling this, cancelling that, arranging to get rid of various items, sell others, have a good holiday on the way...
Last week I completed several of these tasks and was at the point where basically only the holiday bit (and the actual packing) still remained to be done.
Then today, I find that one of the bits that I had thought sorted several weeks ago (cancelling gym membership) wasn't. I found this out because they took more money off us. But only my money. They have managed to cancel Husbink's membership, just not mine.
It is not a big deal. At worst it means I get to use the gym for another two weeks. At best it means that when I get to talk to the right person tomorrow, they realise their mistake, give me my money back and on we trot.
But it has really wound me up. One of those silly, silly moments when you feel "if this has gone wrong, what other bogey men are waiting round the corner to stuff up my plans!?" Rational, I know.
I'm utterly capable of this feeling in reverse too. If something that I expect to be difficult goes well then suddenly it feels like everything will run smoothly, there will be no glitches, all will, indeed, be well.
It appears I am not capable of taking each event on its own and simply dealing with it. This caused me endless problems in probability classes at school and uni as I refused to accept that the next outcome was not influenced by the former (I'm not talking about just rolling a die here - though I can put forward a good argument for that not being a series of independent events too).
Husbink and I were playing cribbage earlier and he had won each round and was very close to winning the game. Very close. I said I thought it pointless to continue as there was no way I was going to win. Of course, it was possible for me to win still but based on the previous rounds, unlikely. My mood, the shuffling of the cards, etc, etc, all combine at this point, in my mind to make it far more likely that Husbink will continue to win. He views the events as distinct.
So just because I lost at cribbage and the gym have briefly been useless, does not mean that we are going to get booted out of our house a week too early, arrive at the airport to discover ALL FLIGHTS EVER have been cancelled or that our shipping will end up at the bottom of the sea somewhere but just now it sure as anything feels like it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It was the best of was the worst of weekends...

(Actually, that isn't fair. But it was a very contrasting weekend.)

Laaaaaaate on Thursday night (so much so that it was already an hour plus into Friday) my brother arrived from Sydney. Husbink was working nights at the time and so Friday morning was taken up with much needed sleep (and much creeping about on behalf while the men slept on...we really don't have enough rooms for guests!).
Anyhoo, after the brother woke up, we left Husbink sleeping a little longer while we went out in search of a marvellous kiwi brunch. We found it, we were happy. :)
Finally, Husbink was up-and-at-'em (actually I must say, Husbink managed to get up without all the prodding/shouting/bacon wafting that it usually takes to get him out of bed when he's just finished nights. I was extremely grateful and it was one of the things that really helped my weekend get off to a good start) and we could head away to Martinborough for three nights of relaxation, wine tasting, good meals at restaurants, wineries and the place we were staying (courtesy of us - my bro's bbq skills, my salad skills and Husbink's holding-it-all-together skills all came to the fore).
We cycled hither and thither - Saturday afternoon from winery to winery (we fitted in six); Sunday we cycled out of town and along a gravel road called "River End"...we thought we'd try to find the end of the turned out to be a stagnant pool...rather disappointing but the cycle was still fun! Of course, the ride ended at a couple more wineries... This exercise *almost* justified a third of what we consumed over the weekend!

We found some spectacular wines and wineries - for anyone interested in experimenting with new wines, I'd advise some of the following (possible to track down in places in Australia, limited availability in the really, you should just come here and see for yourself...)

Alana Estate - has to be one of my favourite places in the world. Staff are welcoming, friendly, knowledgable (in a want to share their enthusiasm with you way rather than a hoity toity snooty way). Restaurant is also fantastic and the food and wine matches are done superbly. We are more than a little gutted to have left NZ before their summer concert series really kicks off.

Stonecutter - a new experience from this weekend, Stonecutter give the impression of making wine by accident, but it turns out rather superbly, especially their Syren Pinot Gris and regular Pinot Gris. I suspect rather more thought goes into it than they let on!

Tirohana - all round good stuff. Again, another winery that we had failed to visit on our previous excursions. Friendly staff, good wine and of course, with an ice wine on the books, I'm never going to be sad.

Haythornthwaite Wines - Possibly the most fun of the weekend, run by Susan (who was busy wrapping up wine for Christmas presents) and Mark (who was a lot of fun and very informative), Haythornthwaites produces some fantastic wines with a lot less pretention than they could justify considering the quality of the wine. I had been sent there by Alana on our first visit to Martinborough as Haythornthwaites is one of the few Martinborough wineries to produce a gewurtztraminer however they had always been closed until this time... Sadly, they had no gewurtz left...until I mentioned it for the sixth time, at which point Mark admitted he had three bottles out the back and could we twist his arm a little more? I haven't tasted it yet but I was rather chuffed to have acquired it! The rest of their wines were very pleasant and Mark made us taste their two pinot noirs alongside each other (young vines in the left hand glass, old vines in the right hand glass) which was very interesting.

Vynfields - Their wines don't amaze me, all fine but nothing wow. However, should you ever be in the area, it is a wonderful place to lose an afternoon. And they make very tasty platters to soak up a little of the alcohol. (They also don't seem to have a website of their own.)

Benfield & Delamare - a bizarre little place. The wines were fine, the staff eccentric!

Margrain - you aren't going to go wrong with a Margrain wine. Sadly, it seems they know that and their cellar door staff were worse than lacklustre. While other staff would have persuaded us to part with a lot of cash and lose an afternoon there (beautiful setting, pretty good food), they effectively shooed us away. Buy the wines, don't bother with a visit.

Martinborough Vineyard - probably Husbink's favourite in terms of the wines. Certainly the Te Tera Pinot Noir is something very special. Staff took a bit of thawing but we were quite late by that stage and I think they were getting bored of the tipsy Sunday avo hoards. We even went back on Monday morning to buy more. Definitely a label to look out for.

And finally, Ata Rangi - we didn't visit these guys this time, but their superb value rose still hits all the right spots!

So what could possibly have been the downside of this weekend? Horrific (yes, I'm aware I'm over using this word at the moment!) hayfever. In some respects, not the worst hayfever I've ever had, its persistent, red-eyed (no, I promise it wasn't just from the wine), tight-chested, blocked-nose, itchy-mouthed present put a certain dampener on the weekend. Not least because by this morning I was feeling so sleep deprived and cranky (add the "monthlies" and a bit of a hangover into the mix too) that all I wanted to do was kick my brother onto that plane, Husbink out the door to work and get some sleep. ON. MY. OWN.

I knew I'd regret it if I didn't make the most of absolutely every minute with my brother so tried my hardest to push on through. An apologetic text is still called for though!

I am now home alone and within the next few hours I intend/hope/pray I'll be sleeping like a baby.
(Confession: The picture is actually from our first trip to Martinborough, last January. We took a weekend off taking snaps, my bro doing a good line in finding comedy places to put his tiny-weeny-smaller-than-a-phone camera to take pics of all three of us. Once he's sent them through, I will enlighten you further...perhaps! The reason I felt a need to confess was because the weather wasn't quite so picture-perfect this weekend, but that actually worked quite well for all the cycling and boozing, at least we didn't add heat stroke to the reasons for dehydration!)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


A couple of years ago, in the months leading up to our departure from the UK, Husbink and I watched "The Constant Gardener". The effect of this film upon us was to cling onto each other at the end and promise to never, ever let go.
Last night, we watched Hotel Rwanda. The effect of this film? Well, besides that fact that I was so involved in and so overcome by the film that I felt like throwing up for a good few hours after, the ultimate effect was realising just how rubbish we humans can be. More specifically, how rubbish I can be.
I sat watching it thinking "if I had known, if I had been able to do anything at the age of 14, if anything like this was happening now and I knew about it, nothing, NOTHING, would stop me trying to fix it". Hello? Brain? Have you not been watching the news these past few years, have you not realised how much you have forgotten about areas of the world where this and similar "problems" still occur?
Which brings us back to the point of several months ago and the "what can I do about Burma?" question. I have less answers - and more sadly less questions - now than I did when I last posted about this.

Last week in our home group, we invited two older members of the church to come and help us establish our spiritual gifts and what they might mean for our lives (Husbink is the oldest member of our group and the youngest is, I think, 19 so it was new to some members of the group to think about this stuff).
My gifts? Teaching and exhorting.
My lowest gifts? All those practical things that tell you that someone needs practical help, that this practical thing needs doing, that this is how you do this practical thing...
Exhorting is all about helping people in their personal life - overcome problems (not in an emotional way, that comes under mercy - which apparently I'm not very good at at all), encouraging people to do the best they can, be the best they can etc etc. (Teaching is all about feeding their brains. No kidding.)
So based on that, I'm never going to be the person who sees a need and knows how to fix it, who knows how to get food parcels to orphans or medicine to disaster victims. I'm only too happy to help, but someone is going to have to tell me to help and tell me how to help. I'm very good at buying food for the food bank and putting it in the food bank box - but not until someone told me to do it and told me what kinds of foods were actually useful.
In many ways, it is comforting to be able to think "I'm not made like that" because I do spend a lot of time beating myself up about why I'm not like that. However, in many ways, it is frustrating to realise that this question may well keep coming back to me - what can I do and why can't I answer "what can I do"?
I guess I just have to find ways of making my far more airy-fairy personality useful. While I work that out, if those practical friends out there could tel me what to do and how to do it when it comes to being useful, I'd be very grateful.


I can't believe I have managed to post twice in December and not celebrate with you the end of Movember!
I've thought about it while writing but then forgotten...
Husbink got home around 10pm on "Movember" 30th from youth group and the like. He went straight to the bathroom and within minutes, the mo was gone! (There was a brief period of "how do you think I look with a Hitler mo?" as the shaving was done but my looks of disgust meant this was a very shortlived moment!)
It was wonderful to have Husbink back again.
When I was three, my dad had to shave his beard off. It was a trial run (to find out if any of us could tolerate it - my dad being at that point 33 and having had a beard since about the age of 22) before moving to America where, with my dad's line of work, he would not be allowed a beard for health and safety reasons (despite the fact that his beard was then and remains now a very neat, tidy, little beard).
There are pictures of me sitting in the corner of the room with one of my dolls (called Kitty) staring, confused, scared, horrified...who was this man?!
I had the absolute reverse of this when Husbink's mo went. Suddenly, my husband walked back into the room instead of the stranger I'd lived with for the past three weeks (seeing as he isn't always clean shaven, the first week of Movember is normally pretty tolerable). I was amazed by how familiar he looked - in that it highlighted that he had looked so unfamiliar for the past few weeks. I didn't think the small slug across his upper lip had such a huge affect on his entire appearance. But it did. And now it is gone. I am happy.

Monday, December 03, 2007

One of the Strangest Things...

I was reading the BBC website today in a procrastinaty sort of way and ended up reading an article about Thriller's 25th birthday.
In said article (musing on the importance of Thriller the album, single, video...), it mentioned that if you went onto YouTube you could find tributes to the video from a wide range of sources - including a Bollywood version and one from 1500 inmates of a Philippines prison. What?!
Clearly, I had to go and see.
So the clip itself didn't excite me that much. They were indeed prison inmates, complete in orange uniforms, doing, as close as they could, the video for Thiller. Not the full 14 minutes version I noted but still a 4min 25sec effort.
What really grabbed my attention though was what came up in the "Related Videos" panel.
Blacked Eyed Peas by the prisoners. Numerous Sister Act songs by the prisoners. Radio GaGa by the prisoners. The Algorithm March by the prisoners (I didn't know what this was, turned out to be a record breaking attempt at it, whatever it was).
So it seems that this prison spends quite a lot of time teaching its inmates dance routines, BIG dance routines, using lots of the prisoners. Which is really quite an interesting thing. I wonder what success rates they have in terms of successful sentences (minimal violence, blackmarket etcetc) and in terms of reoffenders.
When I was working (albeit very briefly) in a prison, there was much debate between punishment and rehabilitation. One officer said to me that whichever way you veered, it made little difference: the light had to go on in the prisoners head. Until that happened (and she suggested it usually happened around the age of forty though when she started as an officer 14 years ago, it happened more around the age of thirty), there was very little difference to be seen between a rehabiliatation approach and a punishment approach in terms of the success options above - particularly reoffending.
I would expect something like the dance routine option adopted in the Philippines to assist reasonably well on the violence etc while in prison option but you aren't exactly equipping them with skills they can use on the outside to help prevent reoffending.
Perhaps they just do it for the record breaking attempts. Still, it seems to have been on CNN in the US from some of the comments and there are a lot of posts for it...perhaps it will help with the not-reoffending element when they are all offered film contracts on release.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's The Weekend

For the first time in a long, long time, this weekend is a weekend. I have worked during the week. Husbink has worked during the week. We are both free this weekend with only a minimal amount of responsibilities at church on Sunday (or perhaps a better way of putting that would be that our responsibilities are at the evening service and the way things work, that takes up a lot less of our weekend than morning responsibilities do).

We went to the gym this morning (I made Husbink come to a thai fit class...he's now mowing the lawn with our push-along mower...I don't think he's going to be able to move in the morning...) and then to the fruit & veg market. We did a few other bits of shopping. We had a nice lunch with fresh sultana, rye and caraway bread from the market (so yes, it sells some things that are vegetables). Husbink is now mowing the lawn while I wait for the washing to finish.
Later, I'll cut his hair (I can't remember if I blogged about the first time I did this about a month ago, it was very scary! But he hasn't been mocked for the past month and it means I can cut it the length I like and not have to go through the hideously short phase that the barbers tend to enforce so I'm giving it another whirl. There were some "errors" last time, hopefully I'll do better...)
This evening we are going to see some friends for a BBQ.
Tomorrow, sandwiched among the church trips, we are having other friends over for lunch. As it turns out, they've just gotten engaged. I am SO excited and happy for them! (And also amused because I guessed this morning from an email that didn't say they were engaged but the phrasing tipped me off.)
The weather is glorious. All the big jobs of moving and blah blah blah are sorted to an extent that they can be ignored. Very much a weekend.