Thursday, March 9, 2017

The thing that gave me hope today.

A happy story. A true story.

Today, in honor of International Women's Day one of my colleagues made the very brave decision to deviate from the normal agenda and teach a group of my Year 8s about the history of women's rights and gender equality.

I have to say that, honestly, when I realized where she was going with the lesson I felt a panic. My body reacted almost immediately - muscles tensed, pulse quickened and eyes narrowed, carefully scanning the room for any telltale signs of impending silliness because, you see, I know my kids.

My kids are lovely, but they are also twelve and thirteen-year-old, pre-pubescent, professional mutineers. They are boisterous bundles of comedic energy fizzing and popping and surging for an outlet. They are tiny critics - skeptical and hard-won and inclined to play devils advocate just for the fun of it.

They are good kids, to be sure, but they are young and self-concious and sometimes struggle to take their lessons seriously.

Plus, the overwhelming majority of the students were boys.

So there I stood with bated breath - at the back of the classroom, right behind the ones who I was sure would have something provocative to say - when something completely unexpected and amazing happened.

They totally got it.

They got it!

They ate up the history and statistics, wanting to know everything about the suffragettes. They ooh'd and aah'd over the ways in which inequality still prevails, demanding to know why.

"That's not fair!" they cried when they learned about the wage gap.

"That's sexist!" when we discussed the recent case of a female employee being told she had to wear high heels to work.

They were positive and curious, even when their own perceptions were directly challenged. They were eager to praise the women in their lives.

"Tell me one thing that your mum does for you," my colleague inquired.

"She makes me food," one replied.

"She buys my clothes," said another.

"She gives things up so that I can have the things I want."

"She's a good role model and teaches me how to be when I'm older."


They watched the videos with interest and asked questions about every role model that was mentioned. They were animated and enthusiastic and their contributions were thoughtful and sincere. Not one joke about girls' abilities or a "woman's place" was uttered.

It was more than I could expect from some adults.

As that hour passed, perhaps one of the most enjoyable hours that I have experienced with that group, I watched their eyes light up over and over again as they listened intently, absorbing everything. I felt happy to be a part of that moment of learning, of growing, of the visible moulding of a generation.
I felt grateful to my colleague for having had the balls (sorrynotsorry) to take on that responsibility when others wouldn't have gone anywhere near it. Most of all, though, I felt proud of those kids - many of whom are well known in their year for questioning authority and inciting chaos when they feel disconnected from what they are meant to be learning.

For the first time I could see a real glimpse of the future that they could bring, if steered in the right direction. Today I was reminded of why we fight and hope and persevere - because one day those that we teach will make our dreams a reality.

- A -

Monday, February 20, 2017

Currently reading - The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

"Cora had heard Michael recite the Declaration of Independence back on the Randall plantation many times, his voice drifting through the village like an angry phantom. She didn't understand the words, most of them at any rate, but created equal was not lost on her. The white men who wrote it didn't understand it either, if all men did not truly mean all men. Not if they snatched away what belonged to other people, whether it was something you could hold in your hand, like dirt, or something you could not, like freedom."

Colson Whitehead (The Underground Railroad)

If you've read any of my other book-related posts, then you will be well aware of my love affair with historical fiction, and this reading experience was no different. I devoured this book over the half-term holiday - digesting each morsel of a page faster than the last in my frantic desire to know the conclusion.

The Underground Railroad is the very definition of historical fiction. 

Historic in it's setting - pre-Civil War America.

Fiction in that Whitehead's characterization of this era of slavery and of those who endured it is often a better reflection of his own imagination than of more factual accounts.

Perhaps this is not the most accurate representation of slavery. As one Goodreads reviewer put it, "This would not be the title you should expect will give you a rich understanding of the real underground railroad for escaped slaves.Yet, it is exactly this creative license - (spoiler alert) the underground railroad is portrayed as a literal railroad, complete with actual trains - that allows the story to drive at something deeper. 

Rather than nit pick over the facts, the Underground Railroad focuses on the emotional and intellectual development of its characters, and especially the role of trauma in shaping this. 
Whitehead delivers frank and often harsh depictions of cruelty and injustice (a definite trigger warning for those who are sensitive to violence), but tempers this with an almost fairytale-like narrative, reminiscent of traditional storytelling.

Most inspiring of all is that ownership over all of this is granted not to the masters or abolitionists, nor to the benevolent white men and women who light the way north, but to Cora - the runaway slave, and this adds a heady level of truth that is impossible to tear your gaze from.

The Underground Railroad was released to great acclaim and it's not hard to see why. The story is both firmly rooted in history and also obscenely and devastatingly relevant to the present day. The book is bold and brash, and reads like a cool drink on a hot, summers day - quenching a thirst that you didn't even know you had.

100% recommended

- A -

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Spain in Ten Photos

Calle de Carmen, Marbella

All ladies use their scarves to keep warm

Ojén from the caves


Granada from the Generalife gardens

Definitely not leaning against that 13th century pillar

Churros every day


A short, but sweet trip to reunite with friends and explore a new city. We left with our minds rested, our souls refreshed, and with a penchant for restaurants that serve free food with every drink. 

May the adventures never end.

- A - 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Currently Reading - Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London by Matthew Beaumont

 Trafalgar Square by Moonlight, c1865, by Henry Pether. Photograph: Heritage Images/Getty Images. Taken from a review of Nightwalking, which can be found on The Guardian website, here.

"If women appear on the streets of the city at night alone they are commonly portrayed in terms of two roles, both defined in relation to men: they are either predators, in the form of prostitutes; or the predated, the potential victims of sexual assault. In both cases, they are denied a right to the city at night. The historian Joachim Schlör has pointed out that, in terms of the freedom to inhabit the nocturnal city, 'women's needs and wishes are not fundamentally different from men's', since for both it is a case of entering it and circulating inside it freely and independently - 'through the whole city, during the whole night, and not just in certain spatial and temporal reserves'. But he has rightly insisted that, historically, 'mens's freedom of movement has [had] a real restrictive effect on that of women'."

- Matthew Beaumont (Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London)

I began reading this book about a week ago and right at the beginning of the book, on page three, found this passage. I thought it to be particularly poignant considering all of the recent political controversy and fervent discussion of privilege and patriarchy. The sentiment really drew me in and it all felt a bit serendipitous - as if I had unknowingly picked up the perfect book to coincide with current events and the rebellious spirit, which has recently been revived for so many. There is no better feeling that one can have than to stumble upon the right thing at the right time and then, if seeking with an open heart and mind, to be moved and educated and inspired. 

What is inspiring you right now?

♀     ♀     ♀

On the agenda this weekend (for accountability purposes):

→ Read 50 more pages of this book - I'm loving it, but it is the most academic thing that I have committed to since finishing my studies and it's taking some time to remember how to absorb it

→ Laundry - duh...

→ Plan half-term holiday - Tapas, anyone? We're off to Spain!

There. Now you have all seen my list and I actually have to follow through with it. Right?

- A -

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Welcome to your first day.

Find more great posters, here.

Three posts in one week. That must be some kind of record, but what else is there to do when you are too energized to sleep, yet too sick to leave the house, and how can I not with all that has been happening this week?

How can we not be appalled and amazed and inspired by all of the events that have taken place in the past 72 hours alone?

Yesterday, I would have given anything to be in London, marching. Though I could not be there, my eyes were glued to the live streaming footage from Washington. 

It was so amazing, so astounding, so beautiful, this show of strength and solidarity and global resistance. Peaceful and powerful and unified, this feminine display of determined existence.

It was everything.

A day that will mark our history books. The largest inaugural protest that has happened EVER. Occurring over 7 continents. Estimated at a global two million. Three times more than those attending the actual inauguration, if numbers are to be believed.

How could we not want to be a part of it?

And though I was not there, I could not keep away. For hours I was stuck, in awe.

I was moved. 

By a buzzing crowd collectively rejecting racism, transphobia, and systematic abuse of power and, as one, loud voice, calling out the names of their victims. 

By Maryum Ali calling us to action, reminding us what we have achieved in the past, welcoming us into our potential. 

By six-year-old Sophie Cruz, the activist daughter of undocumented immigrants, spreading love and inspiring hope in two different languages.

I was so moved.

Yesterday was everything that I dreamed it could be and more. It was a rising. It was a promise. It was a resounding and reverberating rekindling of hope.

We will not go away...

Two days ago someone asked me whether recent events had caused me to lose faith in the American people.

I didn't answer, because two days ago I would have faltered, heartsick and body sick and vulnerable to suggestion.

But ask me again. 

Ask me again today, after I have seen what I have seen, and I have heard what I have heard, and I have felt what I have felt.

Today the answer is definitive and the answer is no.

- A -

Friday, January 20, 2017

Five things to do today instead of watching the presidential inauguration.

1) Watch President Obama's farewell address again, or for the first time

2) Make signs for the Women's March

3) Send a message to oppose Betsy Devos

       and then maybe watch this to amuse yourself...

4) Spend time with your loved ones

5) Read a book, see a movie, create some art, clean your house, make a smoothie, Netflix binge....literally anything else.

The loudest sound that we can make in protest of this event is our collective silence.

Then tomorrow, the fight begins.

- A -

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The mind has a mind of its own.

"Sync up with the now."

This was the mantra for day 12 of the 31 day yoga challenge I am taking part in this month, and although I've moved on to newer practices, I can't get it out of my head.

I'm finding this aspect of yoga - being fully present - a little difficult these days. There's just so much going on. 

Life stuff, family stuff, home stuff, work stuff, work stuff, work stuff.

I found myself awake at 3am the other day, for reasons unknown, and unable to fall back to sleep.

"Clear your thoughts!" My self command, punctuated by a heavy exhale. "Clear your thoughts. Relax your muscles. Find ease. Nothing matters now." Only to realize two minutes later that the wheels had begun to churn again.

It's a constant battle, for some of us anyway, to control the mind. 

Yoga can do wonders and has helped me to focus my attention over time, but even that seems to be no match for my industrious brain these days.

So whir on, inner cogs. I won't fight you. That won't help. 
I will accept you, silently, recognize you, and then encourage you along. Determined in my pursuit of ease and peace and a quiet mind.

- A -