This week I have been to East Timor for work, and because I had to fly there through Bali (I know), I have just spent a few days lying comatose in an ancient Balinese eco-tourism village, eating organic produce grown on site and enjoying the day spa that called to me from the moment I walked in. So I’ve had some thinking time, rare and delicious. I am also so grateful for the rest.
We had an amazing ‘a Girl & her world’ event last Saturday night where we raised enough money to get about 40 of our Girls in Fiji back to school in 2015 and had a lot of fun doing it! (Newsletter coming soon). We connected with some great new people and were blown away by companies and individuals who generously donated to support the Girls we work with.
But needless to say I was pretty exhausted from the get go when I left early Sunday morning. Happy heart, tired body. Really tired body.
East Timor is the poorest nation in south east Asia and I knew it would be confronting.
Here is the beautiful coast line – I drove 6 hours to see one of the health clinics we support, but the other pic is of a village along the way, so arid and unworkable. People are malnourished and disability is common as a result. Kids pretty much don’t to school.
My ‘day job’ also regularly takes me to Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu and while the poverty no longer takes my breath away (not sure if that’s a good thing or not), I always leave with an ache and more often than not find myself in tears when people share their stories. I don’t even fight that anymore or apologise for it. It keeps me human.
When our ‘a Girl & her world’ team visits the Girls we work with in their homes I have to get my Brave on. Yet they live in that state of strength, their mothers are resourceful and relentless in their drive, their fathers want to work with dignity. None of them are interested in charity.
Some of them live without water, many without flushing toilets, most have known hunger and poverty means exclusion from opportunity. Urmila, our Fiji Coordinator is one of the Bravest women I know.
I giggle when I see that quote “Mother Teresa didn’t go round complaining about her thighs, she had shit to do”, but it makes me think of Urmila every time. She is formidable, she gets on with it and bravely stretches herself out of her comfort zone and works on behalf of others who are living through her own struggles.
So who am I to complain? I was born into white privilege and have so much. But I do complain, and when, like this week, I have to stay in the middle of nowhere (literally) in accomodation with bright green walls and no electricity, geckoes falling from the roof and a bathroom that is basically a urinal that smells like the worst dodgy public toilet you’ve ever been in, I am seriously summoning my Brave.
But what I know for sure is that’s where the life is. (Ok maybe not right there in that place, but the Brave part).
Extending ourselves out of our comfort zone is scary, unsettling, inconvenient, exhausting and hot in my case. Really hot.
I know we only see glimpses of people’s lives on social media but I swear if I read one more post about how many baskets of laundry people have done that day or how they were kept waiting at the hairdresser, I may well lose it, as Bali zenned out as I am.
That probably sounds harsh and I’m as guilty as the next person for posting banal stuff at times, but I truly believe we need to be Brave with our lives, which is to say compassionate and vulnerable and willing to embrace the stretch. The often unsexy, not really post-able stretch. The stretch that makes us look different and can makes others uneasy. Like my #lovemakesaway friends who are among those peacefully protesting against children in detention, and getting arrested for it.
I often wonder how long we can go on living, many of us, as if other people’s lives don’t matter. That asylum seekers who escape trauma to come to our shores by boat should get back in the queue, that women in Papua New Guinea who are brutally beaten by their husbands in the name of Christian submission are not our problem. That 200,000 people in East Timor slaughtered under Indonesian occupation just a few short years ago while we drank our lattes and chose not to engage as a nation living only hours away, is unfortunate. I could go on and on. I often do.
My boss and I spoke about transition this week, the difficulty in moving in and out of poverty stricken places and working with the incredible people we do, and then going back to cooking dinner and watching tv back home. It’s surreal and hard, not even massages and yoga have lightened my ache this week.
But I choose to get my Brave on, to live in the tension, to stop making excuses and living my life in a silo. Sometimes I have to choose that daily, because the alternative is not really living, it’s self preservation. Maybe it’s fear, maybe people genuinely don’t know what to do and so do nothing, (I only had the ache for years and didn’t know what to do with it), or make assumptions about cultures they don’t know much about. Maybe I’m being self righteous, but I’m heartbroken most of the time at injustice and poverty and the beauty and potential and brilliance that is lost as a result. It’s become personal to me now.
So, climbing down from my soapbox, all I’ll say in conclusion is take the leap, get your Brave on, become uncomforatble, embrace the stretch. Find your thing and serve that thing, those people, that nation.
Live with the ache and let it transform the way you act, speak, consume. It won’t be easy, but it’s where the life is. Post about your laundry as a welcome, ordinary break from the stretch.
And if you can handle the chaos, we’d love you to join us on the ‘a Girl & her world’ journey – it’s life changing and the lives being changed are usually ours…
Jane for team, ‘a Girl & her world’
Our Crowdfunding campaign is going until Christmas Eve, love you to donate to help us get 50 Girls back to school in 2015 https://chuffed.org/project/5255