18.12.14

I'm off to Buka, Bougainville, with VSA for 10 months to work for the Autonomous Bougainville Government. Please support me and VSA!

Kia ora whānau,

Arohamai but I am shamelessly hustling for donations!

I've been offered my dream job! In February 2015 I will be leaving Aotearoa to live and work in Buka, Bougainville for a 10 month assignment with Volunteer Services Abroad (VSA). Therefore, I would like to help raise money for VSA to assist me and other volunteers from Aotearoa to do amazing work in the Pacific.
My 2015 assignment is with the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) doing Records and Archives Management in Buka. Following the civil war of the 1990's, the Bougainville Peace Agreement provided the Bougainvillean people the right to a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea. The date of this referendum is subject to the implementation of a weapons disposal plan and the ABG achieving an appropriate standard of 'good governance'. The records management system being implemented by the ABG, with the assistance of VSA volunteers, is a key step in establishing good governance in Bougainville and moving towards independence.

VSA is New Zealand’s largest and most experienced volunteer agency working in international development. VSA brings together New Zealanders and our Asia-Pacific neighbours to share their skills and experience, working to transform lives and create a fair future for all. VSA works with in-country partners overseas to make sure that all assignments are locally identified, locally relevant, and locally delivered. VSA aims to transfer skills and knowledge so that the changes achieved during an assignment remain sustainable after a volunteer returns to New Zealand. Please check out www.vsa.org.nz to learn more about either supporting or working with this amazing organisation!


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Please consider donating some money towards this and other VSA projects through my Give A Little fundraising page. Give A Little is simple, secure and you will automatically be emailed a receipt. 100% of your money will go to VSA and will help pay the in-country living costs of people like me! For those of my family not in NZ, I am pretty sure you're still able to donate via credit card.

Thank you so much and lots of love,

Liv

26.11.14

The turn of a page.

I am stepping into a significant time in my life and, after a season of madness, I can look back, take a deep breath, launch myself into this new adventure.

For most of this year, I have felt like I am struggling through, thrashing about and keeping on top, but not achieving much else. I have been up and down, elated and frustrated, overjoyed and sorrowful. Looking back, the events of 2014 seem an aeon away, faded with time and exhaustion already.

A lot has happened this year.

I got a new job. My mother was diagnosed with cancer. I ended up in counselling again. I struggled through my final year of university. I lived in community. I moved house twice. I worked 12 hour days. I was home for dinner on a weeknight less than 15 times in the entire year (not recommended). I graduated! I took a leap of faith and applied for my dream job. I got my dream job. I saw my best friend get engaged. I won a scholarship. I made new friends. And now, I am sitting up in bed, weary but grateful.

I am happy.

The above is the bare bones of what I remember of the year. To be honest, it all feels like a bit of a blur. I am a worrier and my worry for 2014 has been that I didn't take in the moments, I didn't stop and breathe, that I may have missed what was important. But when I do just that - stop, breathe, reflect - I see that while 2014 has been such a hectic, emotional year, it has also been a year of resilience. I have faced up to my greatest fears - the possibility of losing those I love, and the fear that I might fail - and I have survived. Dare I say, I have overcome. Surely deep down, those two fears lie within everyone. I certainly have not ceased to fear. But another year has almost come to a close, and I am a little stronger, a little more content, a little closer to knowing who I am.

I am incredibly lucky to have graduated and found myself in a job that aligns perfectly with my passions. Certainly in this economic climate, to graduate and get work that both pays the bills and is fulfilling is rare, and I almost feel as if I don't deserve it. I am working at the Waitangi Tribunal as a research assistant, on a Victoria University of Wellington Summer Research Scholarship. I am assisting with the Porirua ki Manawatū district inquiry. The work is fascinating, the people inspiring, the kaupapa difficult. I will be at the Waitangi Tribunal until February, and then I will be going with Volunteer Services Abroad (VSA) to Buka, Bougainville, for 10 months to work with the Autonomous Bougainville Government in Records Management/Archives Assistance. This is still to be confirmed, but if it all works out then I should be in Buka until November or December 2015. Doing overseas development work with VSA has been a dream of mine for a long time, since I decided to do a Development Studies major in my degree. And now it is happening!

It is all a bit surreal really. Being at university for the past five years provided me with so much safety and routine. I love studying, and I love the space that university provides in which people can grow, develop, explore. Now that that is over and I have been launched into the world of full-time work that actually impacts peoples lives, I feel like I have been thrown in the deep end. Does everyone else feel like they are just making it all up as they go along, hoping for the best?

All of this happens in the sphere that is myself. Outside of this, the world continues and I am made all too aware of my privilege. Especially in the last few days, the news that the killer of Michael Brown in Ferguson will not be brought to justice and the comments by John Key that "New Zealand was settled peacefully" are continued reminders of the racist hegemony that our Western society continues to excuse and perpetuate. White Ribbon week is a reminder of the millions of women who are assaulted and killed as a result of gender-based violence each year. The recent G20 meetings and eir lack of substantial discussion of climate change or inequality confirm that the poor and Mother Earth lack value in the eyes of our global leaders. Where do we fit in amongst all of these issues, and how do they inform how we live our lives?

I turn in circles, trying to figure this out. Reflect, extract, extrapolate, feel helpless. I am strengthened by the words of those who are much wiser than me.
"Be the change you want to see in the world."
"Owe no one anything, except to love each other , for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law."
"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies."
Call me cliché, but such words give me hope. As I step in to this new journey, the bigness of the world and the smallness of myself both overwhelms and encourages me.

I don't know what will happen next. I think this blog will turn in to a big of a travel/journal/Boungainville-focused blog in a while, for a while. But given my life is changing shape a bit, it's safe to assume my writing may too. I hope it's a change for the better. I've been thinking about what it means to seek more direction, motivation and be more efficient with how I spend my time. So, watch this space.

14.10.14

{honest thoughts | lead me to the slow path}

Eternal Spirit, Living God,

In whom we live and move and have our being,

All that we are, have been and shall be is known to you,

To the very secret of our hearts

And all that rises to trouble us.

Living flame, burn into us,

Cleansing wind, blow through us,

Fountain of water, well up within us,

That we may love and praise in deed and in truth.



I talk about God a lot. I find myself talking about Jesus and Christianity and religion. I intellectualise and hypothesise, and I have theories about life and religion and social justice. I like the acts of Jesus, and I like the character and stories and shapes of Jesus. Yet I have begun to feel a loss. An ever-present, increasingly paralysing silence in my soul.

Someone once said to me that it was strange that I shy away from personally addressing the hard, existential questions, given that I usually love to dive head first in to analyses of life. It is true. Where I used to have all the answers, where I used to feel so safe and secure in a black and white world where God was salvation and love was divine; I now feel confused and unsure and cynical. So I hide. If I curl up tight enough, if I laugh loud enough, if I stay in bed long enough, surely these uncertainties will go away? Surely, one day, I will again feel as righteous and holy and proud of my God as that teenage, love-starved girl was?

I read the words that girl wrote down back then, and I disagree with them. She is exclusive, unattainable, exhausting. There is a vulgarity in her worship – is her adoration and reverence for a God she truly knows, or is she bowing to a pressure too heavy for those tenuous shoulders?

I am moved by nature; by the azure blanket covering the horizon of Island Bay, the golden sandstone cliffs staggering along the coastline, crumbling at a glacial pace. I feel full of joy when I am lost in music; my heart pulses gently with each beat that vibrates through these tired muscles, hips sway unconsciously. I am safe in the warm arms of my love; I feel trusting and whole and worthy. Where does my worship lie? In this violent, tempestuous world? In the sweet, doomed beauty of earth? In the microcosms of love that travel from one hand to another in a stolen moment? Does God reside in each of these places?

Does God care about the tui singing her praises to spring, while thousands of lives wither and die each day? Does God bless me with prosperity while billions live in poverty and hunger? Does God care about Republicans who campaign against women’s reproductive rights, or about evangelicals who beat their children, or about people who kill in the name of Allah? Does God care about totalitarianism, racism in the feminist movement, sexism in the Athiest movement, climate change? Does God care if I recycle? Does God care if New Zealand becomes a republic, or if te Tiriti o Waitangi is finally recognised as a vehicle of liberation for Māori, rather than a tool of oppression? Does God care about sexual violence, child poverty, homelessness? Does God care about these lives that are both microcosmic in relation to the colossal history of Earth, and all-encompassing, pain- and joy-filled lived experiences?

I do not know how I am to respond to the agonies that burrow into the very sinew of my heart. I do not know what is expected of me. I do not know how to worship a God that I am not entirely sure exists. I want God to exist. I want her to embrace me and sooth me and gently gather together the pieces of my soul all to one place. I want to have a purpose outside of my immediate person. But I do not know how to do this. So I stumble onwards, keeping my eyes low. You would never guess that within this body, the strong, scarred body, my heart soars in the skies, searching.


I yearn for another way of being; another way of knowing.

Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build a highway and in doing so have lost out footpath.

God lead me to my path:

Lead me where in simplicity I may feel the earth’s love beneath my feet.

Lead me there where I may feel the movement of creation in my heart.

Lead us where, side-by-side, we may feel the embrace of the common soul.

Nothing can be loved at speed: lead me to the slow path,

To another way if knowing, another way of being.

13.9.14

Virtue


What is virtue anyway?
Is the epitome of being a good person
to never swear and never fuck?
Is that all virtue requires of us?
Pseudo-Christian social control,
Lingual restraint and sexless utopia?
When did the measure of man become
A negative externality
Instead of sweat-shared sweet tastes
Of love-shared ecstasy?
Political motives and language we hide behind
The light charms of old Psalms
Never taken seriously
Words chanted in ceremony
Eternity measured negative laws and
Wars being fought for non-existent cause.
Does virtue require of me
Hours spent on knees
Praying to a God in whom I try to believe?
The measure of woman (dependant on her
femininity, piety and socially constructed virginity)
Never to be the pressure of her lips
And the love that they give
Unless they’re painted red and filmed and sent
To men shadowed behind screens, lonely nights, subscription fees.
Virtue lies dormant, rotting in the drawers
of pious attendees Sunday irreverence,
Mocking the poor, the widows and orphans
While pouring Fair Trade coffee for righteously clean reverends.
But now, I want
Smooth-skin hot-breath toe-curling intimacy,
Chest-to-chest, mouth-to-throat, hot vulnerability.
I want a
Beauty-in-suffering, redemptive philosophy
A God that will listen to me
Despite the fact that I fuck and still worship thee.
Because I’m sure that virtue is more than this;
More than censored letters and hidden desires,
More than her oppression and his depression and myriads of
Of Sunday salutation and distant spires.
I’m sure Jesus said it enough -
May we never fear and always love.

How do we keep our heads held high?

It's been a while since I last blogged - over a year in fact! Life happens, we get busy...but I missed writing so much. Here are some recent thoughts.




A few days ago, I was yelled at by someone I considered a friend. He accused me of oppressing him by trying to assert my control of the situation we were in and said I could take my feminism elsewhere. In this situation several factors were at play, namely mental health issues. Nonetheless, after being publicly vilified by this older, stronger male (I happen to be 5'2" and about as petite as a 14 year old girl) I was certainly shaken and felt shamed. I had already apologised to him for my false assumption that had caused the conflict; my mistake was genuine and my remorse expressed. Yet I believe because I was a young woman this man felt a need to assert his masculinity in front of our group of friends by putting me 'in my place'.


Now, this occurrence is not necessarily an unusual one. Women are put in their place (deemed fit by society) every day, either through similar public confrontations or through subtle and coercive tactics. However the following evening as I was walking home from work, another incident occurred which made my rage at both men hit boiling point. Hell hath no fury like feminist irate.

It was 9:30pm on a Monday night and I was walking home in the dark, albeit on the main road with plenty of lighting and pedestrians. My work is a 15 minute walk from my house and I do this four times a week with very little trouble. On this night, as I turned off the main road into my street, I noticed a group of three young men on the front deck of their house drinking and socialising. Another woman was walking in the same direction about five meters ahead of me. As soon as we both walked past them on the opposite side of the road, one of the men yelled out "Hey ladies! Both of you, come over here!" Accustomed as many women are to street harassment, both of us ignored his calls and kept walking. I initially wanted to reply to him - perhaps confront him with "Why would you assume I would be so inclined as to entertain your wishful thinking?" Or even more to the point, "Fuck off". However, considering the fact that the men were drinking and in a group I thought it wiser not to aggravate them. The response to our silence then led to the same man continuing to yell; "Come on now, we all know you're both sluts anyways!" I walked the next 200 meters home trembling with a mixture of fear and rage.

The thing is, when I came home and vented to my (female) flatmates about what I had just experienced, they were not surprised. Empathetic, yes. Frustrated on my behalf, yes. But women being yelled at, called sluts for no reason other than the fact that they do not conform to men's expectations or wishes, and harassed both in public and private? Women know these things happen and, despite the rage we all feel and the temptation to fight back against the constant objectification, the response is an all-too-familiar weariness and resigned acceptance.

As my flatmate reasons, a whistle from a man on the street to a woman passing by is a relatively trivial matter. We swallow it up and continue on our way, perhaps with our eyes a little lower to the ground. But when we consider the wider context of that whistle, we see that is a harmful part of an even more destructive whole - that is, the regular, socially-affirmed incidents in which the movements and behaviours of females (as well as people who are queer, coloured, disabled, poor or in other minority groupings) are deliberately controlled and directed in public through street harassment, slut-shaming and body-policing. When a particular group of people continually call a less politically, emotionally or physically powerful group of people out on their behaviour, publicly humiliating or intimidating them, I do not think it is a stretch to say that the former group doing the harassing are doing it to both maintain and exhibit their power.

The question is, how does one respond to such situations? I like the idea of calmly asking people why they would say such a thing, but I never seem to be able to gather the courage to do so. The easy option is to put our head down and keep walking, ignoring the harassment. But is this not remaining complicit in the act? Is remaining silent just a way of letting people know they will face no consequences if they threaten or yell at women? I don't know. How would you respond to the above situations I have experienced?