09 August 2010

Translating good intentions into action

I helped an elderly lady put a 10 kg bag of potatoes in her cart at the grocery store last weekend. She was struggling and a (strapping) man had already passed her by without a second look.

I’m not sharing this because I want anyone who might read this to say ‘good job’. I’m sharing because it made me feel good to help a stranger and it only took me seconds to make her day a little easier.

As sunshine and lollipops as it sounds: I often have the urge to help people, to contribute in some small way to making the world a better place. And while I have good intentions I’m short on action. And I know I’m not the only one.

But I have found an easy way to translate my good intentions into action by taking small steps. It’s a new website called If We Ran the World. To learn more about how If We Ran the World works, CLICK HERE.

Problems like world hunger, poverty and warfare are so big, it’s scary and overwhelming – where do you start making a difference? The thing I like about If We Ran the World is that it helps users to focus on small, achievable actions anyone can do.

I’m deciding what I would do if I ruled the world and then I’m joining up. Not just because I want to make a difference, but also because I hope that when I’m an old lady with a 10kg bag of potatoes, someone stops to help me.

27 July 2010

Haiku 1: Need an adventure

I'm just so tired.
Need a star trek transporter...
Just science fiction

(I've been inspired by Pete and his excellent haikus from daily life. I've always been a haiku fan!)

21 July 2010

Faulty circuts

I've been under the weather lately (I'm better now), so I haven't been reading very much. My spare time was all about sleep.

But it may have been a good time for a pause. As I continued on with Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw I kept getting a haunted feeling – like I’d read those pages before. But for the life of me I can’t remember reading the book before. I’ve been wracking my brain to no avail.

It’s making me worry about the state of my memory.

I usually have a good memory – but perhaps getting older means my brain is getting too full? Or maybe having to remember the locations of keys and slippers for two (my special someone has an awful memory) has compromised my ability to bring the past to the surface? Maybe being bombarded by so much information everyday is having a negative impact on my synapses?

Makes me wonder what great things are trapped in the dusty corners of my memory.

Anyhow, that means a new book for me. In my younger days I felt like I had to finish a book if I started it. Now I know that life’s too short.

15 July 2010

Alison's Expat Insights

The lovely Alison has posted her expat interview on her blog Cheeseweb. She had the great idea that all of us university flatmates, who all are now (or have been) expats, answer some questions about our experiences away from our homelands. Alison's post is the last one in the series.

It's been so interesting reading my old flatmates' expat interviews! Makes me wish that we could all get together for a cup of tea and real catch up... it's too bad we're sprinkled all over the globe!

12 July 2010

Kiwi Mystery #1: The case of the missing shoes

New Zealanders have a mystifying propensity to go barefoot at the most illogical times.

Now, on a sunny day at the end of long winter in Canada, I have seen people outside in winter coats, toques, short pants and sandals (usually with socks too, which maybe not fashionable, but certainly is sensible considering the season).

That practice may seem illogical to some, but it makes sense to me and I can tell you why: After a long winter you want to thumb your nose at snow and ice and celebrate the sunshine that promises spring is just around the corner. So you dip into your non-winter wear and head outside. There may be a bit of snow left on the ground, but the sidewalks are clear and when you go back inside it’s warm and dry.

What doesn’t make sense to me is Kiwis’ practice of going bare foot in the middle of winter.

Yesterday morning it was six degrees out. I saw an eight-year-old girl, far from anywhere that could be home, walking in the shade on cold wet pavement. No shoes.

I saw a father bundled up with an equally bundled two-year-old girl. This wee darling was wearing a pink winter coat, pink woolen hat, mittens, even a scarf; but, you guessed it: No shoes. Nor was her Dad carrying her shoes.

And it’s not just in the winter: I have seen groups of shoeless children and random shoeless adults wandering about cities like Auckland and Wellington in the height of summer – some days so hot that heat waves rise from the asphalt - unfazed by hazards like broken glass, murky puddles or garbage.

I see bare feet almost everyday. No matter the time of year. No matter the weather. And it mystifies me!

Now, I know that New Zealanders pride themselves on being tough. So maybe this belief in ‘toughness’ as a virtue is the foundation for this obsession with bare feet (even when logic dictates that shoes would be appropriate), their stubborn refusal to properly insulate or heat their homes (even in the south where they get snow and ice) and in a common New Zealand saying: “harden up”.

I have asked countless Kiwis: Why don’t people here insulate their homes and install central heating (especially when New Zealand has high rates of childhood asthma because houses are damp and cold in winter)? Why do so many Kiwis go bare foot outside in the winter?

I’ve yet to receive an answer that provides insights beyond my guess that it links to a deeply ingrained cultural compulsion to be ‘tough’. In fact, the usual answer I get is an amiable shrug and chuckle accompanied by an “Aw, mate… harden up!”

08 July 2010

Life as an expat

A few weeks ago in a fit of homesickness, I placed several orders for Canadian goods: books, DVDs and t-shirts. Maybe even a travel mug. I’m not accountable for my internet purchases when I’m in that state! A few errant clicks of the mouse and you can find you’re the proud new owner of a moose shaped eraser or a small plastic beaver. Isn’t technology wonderful?

Amongst the purchases that have been arriving sporadically have been three Will Ferguson books, so now I’m reading Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw, and loving it!

And, in a fit of good timing, I was contacted by an old university flattie: Alison. Alison’s a Canadian living in Belgium with her fabulous husband Andrew, and she has an excellent blog about life an as expat: Cheeseweb. She asked all of us flatmates from university, who all happen to be expats, to write an article for her blog about our expat experiences.

Click the toque to read my expat dispatch from New Zealand:

Take some time to read about the expat experiences of three amazing ladies: Megan, Tez and Marilla, my other university flatmates. I'll link you through to Alison's expat experience here when it's posted next week.

30 June 2010

The start of something new

So here I am, my first post. Exciting! I’m also excited because it’s time to choose my next book to read. But I’m having a hard time deciding what novel to commit to next.

The last book I read, Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill, told the life story of Aminata Diallo, an African girl who is abducted from her family, somehow survives the long journey across the Atlantic to be sold into slavery in the ‘new world’ and ultimately becomes involved in the abolitionist cause in Britain.

It’s a well-researched fiction based on historical reality. Reading it brought to mind George Santayana’s very famous statement: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Books like this are important because they help us to remember, and learn from, the past.

But I recommend Someone Knows My Name not only because it teaches us about the past in an engaging and engrossing way, but also because it makes you grateful for everything that you have.

We seem to have a high level of ‘discontent’ in modern western society. People want better jobs, more money, fancier things, to find that special someone, or to change the special someone they’ve already found. The list goes on and on.

This story reminded me how easy I have it! Your everyday worries will shrink when you consider the real hardships so many people have had to endure in the past. Not to mention the hardships people endure today: from the wife in your community who silently suffers beatings to the millions of innocent people who live in areas of conflict. Just imagine the stories they could tell.

So… after that tangent… I’ll keep on trying to pick a novel to read next.

If you have a story you would recommend let me know and I’ll add it to my reading list!