Reading and life

There is so much going on, and the last thing I should be doing is sitting amongst the piles of disorder in my room and writing this, but my mind is spinning and and I’ve been doing so much thinking lately!

The major source of my most recent thinkOD is the book Half the Sky: How to Change the World by Cheryl WuDunn and Nick Kristof. It’s heart-breaking and uplifting. Based on the premise that the number one moral challenge faced by the people of the world is ‘the struggle for equality for women and their daughters around the world.’ What I especially like about it is that it is upfront and to-the-point. The authors state right from the start that the aim of the book is to get the reader on board with the movement to help women. They start and end encouraging everyone to donate, both money and time, calling us to action, hoping for Change.

In between, they present the individual, personal, heart-wrenching and stomach-turning stories of a number of girls and women from around the world. They also tell us that doing this is proven to be the best way to encourage people to respond to requests for donations. They never pretend to be doing anything other that what they do: raising awareness, educating people on the issues, and asking for our help. They not only admit, but point out their biasses and explain how to be careful of research because of bias. The book emphasises the need for continued empirical research and discusses what works and what doesn’t when it comes to attempting to affect change.

Kristof and WuDunn write about their own changing attitudes – opinions they held that have changed because of what they’ve seen and learned, for example their views on abortion and prostitution, and I am inspired by that. It’s wonderful to see people looking at the research, the facts and the examples; not simply holding onto their own views because their values dictate that’s what they should believe.

I think that everyone should read Half the Sky even if they never intend to donate anything. It stresses the importance of education, and we should all be ensuring that education is an ongoing part of our lives, as well of the lives of the poorest and neediest. I especially recommend it to my friends living in the countries mentioned in the book: Pakistan, Egypt, India – on the whole the people I know from these countries are wealthy and well-educated, yet never have the chance to know how much of a difference they can make in their own countries.

The book is, of course, written for an American audience, but anyone can be enlightened by it and learn how to make a change – but more importantly, why the change is so necessary.

I already support Kiva and Plan, and am a member of the largest voluntary organisation for girls and women in the world: the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, but further education is always a good thing, and reading this book has opened my mind to so many possibilities.

page 229: “It was Mao who proclaimed: ‘Women hold up half the sky.’ “

In other news, I’ve finished my work at Pax Lodge and acquired a summer job as an English teacher with Project International at their centre in Bruton, Somerset. My Pax Lodge farewell ceremony will be on Monday morning, just before I leave, and I’m mentally preparing for that, as I know it will be hard. I’m writing my farewell messages in everyone’s books, which is really difficult, but in the end I know it’s not really goodbye, but more of a ‘see you later.’ I will still be living in London after the summer, so I’ll be able to come by and visit.

Picnics have been popping up everywhere, and you can’t get much better than sitting in the sun with good friends, fresh fruit and other delicious food. Strawberries are my new favourite meal. I have, unfortunately, been reminded of that annoying grass allergy, though. Lounging in the park is far less enjoyable when you come out in an itchy rash all over (although it’s a good excuse to go swimming in the cool pond). I must invest in a picnic blanket.

I’ve been reading other books as well: Gone with the Wind surprised me with its readability. It really took me to another place and I am now searching for my very own Rhett Butler. Gangsta Rap by Bejamin Zephaniah wasn’t well written, and told an unbelievable and predictable story, yet I enjoyed the fact that it was written about young people in London, a place I am beginning to understand, and that it gave a British perspective of hip-hop. When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman completely and utterly won me over. It was beautiful and meaningful and made me remember why I love to read. The story is about love, family and friendship, and never fails to captivate the imagination. I guess,too, I’m drawn to books with themes of religious confusion and misunderstanding. If ever a god existed, I’d be much happier if it were a rabbit. Martin Amis’ The Pregnant Widow was highly disappointing, delivering on none of the promised sexy hilarity. Either that or it just went way over my head. False advertising is my call. I’ve started watching the American television series Mad Men and am enjoying it as an amusing drama with substance and undertones enough to keep my interest. Tried Big Love, too, but find all of the characters too childish, except for the 18-year old Sarah. Watched the surf film Endless Summer II again, and reminded myself how much I love the water, so I’ve started going to the pool to swim. I was quite proud of my 30 lengths in 30 minutes the other day. I went to the cinema to see YouTube and Ridley Scott’s Life in a Day, which I thoroughly enjoyed, happy in the knowledge that 25% of the ticket price went to WAGGGS. Caught the first episode of the 4th season of True Blood, which was brilliant, and I can’t wait for the next one. Also finished the 2nd season of Glee and the 6th season of How I Met Your Mother. I don’t think I’ve ever watched this much television before, but I’m enjoying only watching what I want to, and not turning on the TV to be faced with awful reality shows. I definitely like not having a TV. Although, speaking of reality shows, I have enjoyed watching the 7-up documentary series by Michael Apsted. Still haven’t started Infinite Jest, recommended by my good friend Josh, but I really will get onto it. Soon.

I try to keep up with my friends’ blogs, although I often have times when I just want to completely withdraw from the virtual world and immerse myself in physicality. I’ve definitely been doing more things outside and away from my computer lately, and that makes me happy, but it does mean I miss my friends around the world, and my family.

I’ve not spoken with my parents in at least a month now. Keep meaning to.

Spent this morning catching up on Ngaio’s blog. I love that she’s living on Waiheke and am quite jealous. She’s basically living the dream, with a job she enjoys supporting her art (painting and tatted jewellery). Life is never perfect, but Ngaio’s coming close. Anyway, I enjoyed her post on High Fidelity and intend to find the book. Nick Hornby has always been fairly hit-and-miss in my opinion, but this one seems worth trying out. I’ve not seen the film either.

Received a postcard from Taylor, one of my favourite Canadians, and definitely the most travelled person I know (I admit I am envious of his travels, especially as he is younger than me, but I love that he keeps me up to date). The postcard was from Singapore, but he should be back in Oz by now. I, on the other hand, have found postcards from January, and every month since, that I have intended to send to people. I’ll get around to it one day. Perhaps this whole packing-up-my-life-again thing will encourage me to actually do it.

That also is taking up much of my time. I’ve lived at Pax Lodge for one year and 10 days, and I have waaaaay too much stuff. All these material belongings drag me down, and I look at it all and think, ‘Why?‘ Yet, I can’t bring myself to get rid of most of it, and I still go to the markets and think ‘I must have that!‘ It makes it worse when I think about all the things I have in storage at my parents’ house, too. I really think I ought to just settle in one place and build a life so that I can stop buying new things and just enjoy what I have – but where on earth can I find a place that I’ll want to live in forever? Nowhere I know yet.

So on Monday it’s off to Somerset for 5 weeks, then I’ll be back in London, homeless and jobless again, hopefully ready for another adventure. My phone’s been unreliable lately, so I apologise to people trying to keep in touch, especially Hanne – gutted we missed each other.


Categories: Books, Guiding, Introversion, Learning, Religion/spirituality, Saving the World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Reading and life

  1. Thanks for the mention 🙂 I have possibly good news that might make my “dream” even closer. Keep your ear to the ground and I’ll let you know. I can’t believe my good luck. I hope you have a great time in somerset, can’t wait to see some photos, a perfect job will open up I’m sure and hey you can always come back and stay with me on my island. You should come back for new years then we can head down to Tories wedding, might make sense to tag Christmas in Dunedin onto that picture. oh i went to Port Chalmers….how have I never been there? totally love it I would live there is Dunedin wasn’t so cold.

    remember stuff is just stuff. People are people. You will still be you without stuff and people 🙂 my words of wisdom for the day.

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