Restarting this blog with a moment of beauty

Today is not a special day. I am sitting at home. Its cold. I’ve cleaned the house and I feel depressed. I’ve lit the fire early cause it comforts me. I can’t seam to warm up. I feel overwhelmed by police shootings, racial injustice, politics in the world, the Standing Rock situation, The Okinawa situation, Syria, Australia’s treatment of refugees, local injustices (markets being taken from the community minded as they now represent profit). Too many things going wrong.

And in that large world of injustice that circles and surrounds my awareness and my family, I experienced a moment of beauty this week. So I will stop and write about that. I want to restart this blog to share a moment of beauty…

I run a weekly storytelling session at a mental health recovery centre. I go in for one hour and share folk tales, fairy tales, myths and more.

Typically this elicits a discussion about the story, the places it’s set, its country of origin, personal experience. Well – it elicits discussion and story sharing for approx. one hour. I have grown to love these sessions. I enjoy the stories and interests of people in the group, the discussions are candid and feel very real, we go beyond the niceties or politeness’s very quickly. Stories can do that.

This week an Aboriginal elder came to sit in on the session with me. We will call him Unc. He is awesome. He is a dedicated leader and worker in his community. We have interacted and worked on different projects over the years. It’s fairly safe to say I admire, respect and love him and his wife very much and the fact that he drove up here (about an hour) out of interest and support was extremely honouring.

Every person in that centre responded the same way I internally felt. Honoured. From the moment he walked in it was palpable. The energy in the room was buoyant to begin with, there had just been singing and choir participation filling the space. As soon as I began to introduce Unc one gentleman immediately took him on a tour of the centre, its facilities and program. Grabbing as much personal contact time as he could.

Next we all sat down to share stories and questions. Well not all – its not that orderly a process. Some people sat down, others joined when they sensed what was going on and that they wanted to be a part of it. Some people walked by numerous times and joined later.

The introductions lead to conversations and questions straight away. Questions and comments that seek connection, recognition of similarity. I love the way we do this as humans – “Ohh you grew up there. We camped there every summer/my mums from there/my brother lives down that way…”

Who are you? Who are we? What about all this Aboriginal people and alcohol talk? What happens after death? Do you know your stories? I have heard… I was told… Is it true… I’ve had experience of that…I know that feeling…

“How do Aboriginal people treat mental illness?”

Sometimes a question is so honest and from the heart that everyone in the room stops. This was that moment. We all stopped. If it was a movie, this was the slow-mo part.

And Unc’s answer – “Well, by doing what you’re doing here. We share stories, time together…”

We shared stories, bad jokes, we laughed, we honoured a father recently passed, and we created a space of friendship and wellbeing.

The time slipped away and we went 30 minutes overtime and could have gone longer. Some of the centre workers were able to stay and sit for a while (they are usually ridiculously busy) some of the people forgot their smoko break (small wins).

There aren’t any photos, no recordings or podcasts for me to put here. It was a moment in approximately 15 peoples lives.

I wish for a world of many of those moments where we are validated on our journey for health (individual and community).

You’re OK. Keep doing what your doing. Share stories, connect, listen.

 

Creativity and innovation

Creative play leads to innovative solutions – this post is written as a storyteller and coach of a robotics Lego team.

I have been silent on the blog for a while. Work and life tick away and continue to offer me opportunities, surprises and much joy. One of the new adventures I have embarked upon is Robotics Lego.

Robotics Lego is pretty much as it sounds. Making robots from Lego MindStorms Kits. It is a worldwide activity and the official name of the competition is FIRST Lego League – you can learn more here www.fll.org

A brief overview, for those whose life hasn’t been overtaken by FLL. 20,000 teams worldwide. Approximately 250 teams in Australia and growing fast. Think AFL for the mind. The kids design build and program robots from MindStorm kits (Lego). That’s the super fun bit. In our club we meet once a week and have a range of activities lined up for them to work on – build a sumo robot and then compete against each other – build a road runner, ladder climber, catapult and then pitch them against each others. The kids are hands on engaged, receive immediate feedback from the robot, not an adult. That is they see the robot fail. Then they race to repair/redesign/rebuild/reprogram till they get the success that they are aiming for.

The link between a storyteller and a robotics coach is – creativity. Our group of kids age between the 8 and 13. They are open creative thinkers and I encourage any and all ideas to be tried out. Anything. Basically I see it as the perfect opportunity to fail, laugh, even enjoy the spectacular nature of the failure and then work for the recovery. Love the recovery.

I am one of the coaches of the competition team – Komplete Kaos Inc (http://kompletekaosinc.weebly.com/)– these are a core group of kids that have competed at national level for the past two years only. In year one they won the rookie of the year award. In year two they came second in the country and received an invitation to compete at The Open European Championships in Pamplona. We fund raised like crazy, worked as hard as we could and these kids earned a first place for innovation.

The competition has four categories overall. One; the robot game (how many points their robot scores on an international table), two; the robot judging. The kids ONLY answer any question about the robot design and programming when faced by 3 judges. Three; a innovation or research project. Every year there is a theme. This year was Natures Fury and the kids have to choose a real world problem (floods for us), research it and create an innovative solution. Komplete Kaos Inc designed and created a working prototype of a smart phone app to assist people to prepare and stay safe in a flood emergency. They also designed and created the social media campaign to go with it. (Because for kids – these are all immediately connected). The fourth category is called Core Values which means how they work as a team and within/amongst their community.

At the Open European Championships there were 95 teams from 47 different countries and our team achieved a first place and in innovation! For me, this is a huge achievement and one to be very proud of as they have been recognised for their creativity, a way of thinking and an approach that will serve them well into the future. After a long trip there were many reasons to feel proud as a coach (and a mum of two team members) but in particular I wanted to note the beauty of an artists approach to science and learning and the ability of kids to flourish under that approach.

I put it down to creative play, the artist’s approach – where nothing is wrong. Give it a try, fail, redo, retry, persist. This approach will give us creative thinkers and innovations in the future. Heres to the importance of the arts in all life – including programming, robotics, science and design amongst 10 to 12 years olds.

Overcoming fear in Peru

One of the most unexpected aspects of touring has been undertaking television interviews. For some reason I did not foresee this AT ALL. The first TV interview I agreed to was in Colombia. I showed up at the theatre at the appointed time. Two other artists were there and my interpreter was not – (a recurring feature of my interpreters ‘work’). We walked to the television studio – no interpreter there either. I walked into the studio room and fear took over. A camera man, a live show and a tv host that spoke so fast that I found myself blinking 60 times to the minute.

I was able to answer her first question – my name and country, but it was a rapid downhill slide from there. Something about parenthood and kangaroos? I think? I had to ask her to repeat the question a few times and Im pretty sure she didn’t understand a word of my answer and moved on to ignore me for the rest of the interview – thank goodness there were two other artists.

I wasn’t asked to do any tv or radio interviews after that. Until, ofcourse, I got to Peru. My first task was a tv interview. Overall I did three interviews and I have to admit they got better and better. In the first place Peruvians do not speak as fast as Colombians (I’m not sure anyone in the world does!) and my three weeks in Colombia had done wonders for my Spanish.

Mainly though, television in Peru is fascinating. Peruvians are highly political and have free speech. Their president had just been imprisoned and opinions and emotions were flying high. Every time we got to a tv station the hosts were espousing interesting, ruthless, honest commentary. I was in heaven. Australia certainly lacks this form of in-depth, open conversation regarding politics. What a joy to step into.

I talked politics, culture, and told stories and put to bed my fear of the tv interview. Thank you Peru.

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Opportunities

Ok lets be honest, my first day/night here I was a bit of a sook. I felt inferior as the only real non-Spanish speaker and I doubted my ability to pull this off.  A good night sleep and contact with my family helped me to return to a much healthier perspective (thank goodness).

Events of the past two days that make my heart beat deeper, slower and feel fulfilled.

Breakfast

Someone else cooks me breakfast everyday. For a mother of three this is, in its own right, a holiday. Not only that its eggs and arepa (tortilla). I am one happy girl.

Family audiences

I have now done two families shows in the park. The kids, parents and grandparents are ridiculously warm, accepting and gracious. I am telling in Spanish (no translator) and they help with words when they can. They get involved in the songs, they accompany me in the story repetition. The sharing and connection is simply amazing.

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My language

I am telling in Spanish – well Spanglish and LOVING it. I am enjoying it as a challenge that both scares and excites me, prior to each event. The sense of satisfaction when I have finished a show is deep.

The festival community

There is easy and immediate warmth between the storytellers and the organisers/workers here at the festival. From day one I have felt friendships begin and grow. There is a lot of music, laughter and warmth. One of my roommates has lent me a dress to wear as it’s too hot for jeans. Another plays guitar or mandolin for us all while we eat or chat. We walk together, travel together and support each other. The organisers and the people who transport us, make sure the tent is set up, the sound, bring water, take us for coffee, etc, etc. They are tired, working very hard and always incredibly kind, smiling and personable. It’s this community they have created nurtures and inspires me personally and in my creative ventures.

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Rediscovering my nature

And finally the most important. This is hard to explain but I am a touchy feely person by nature. It is something that I have to suppress, as most Australians are not comfortable with it. Here all people are touchy feely, men, women, children. It is great. I can feel myself loosening up and responding from my heart as every minute passes. I had not realised how much I hold back.

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Welcome

I am a professional storyteller. I tell stories orally – no books, no screens in front of me. I tell the story in the traditional way, my heart and mouth to your ears and heart.

I perform stories to children and adults. Some of you may remember beautiful stories like the Hat Seller, Cinderella, the Tin Soldier, The Wide Mouth Frog, Hiawatha, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, or characters and sagas such as Cipitio, Anansi, Ramayana and so so many more depending on where you are from, the stories your parents were told or what wonderful teachers you had.

These are the stories that fill our imagination and sent us into the dream world at night. The stories that filled long car trips. The stories that made us feel safe and loved when we were ill or lonely or a bit down. They also ignited play games, role plays and adventures with friends.

I love researching stories and story traditions. I also love to work with stories. Working with stories is a completely different thing to performing stories. I use stories to achieve goals and to create a sharing space. My brother had mental illness and I used stories to escape the institutional environment, with him in particular I used improvised stories to learn how to find threads of connection, reality and to understand that it is possible to come out of the ‘imaginary’ world.

With primary school aged children I use stories to teach resilience, goal setting and positive decisions making.

With adult carers I use stories of self-care.

With primary school children I teach Spanish using stories. The animals and landscape or setting of the story teaches them about a country. The language of introductions and verbs are often repeated and the children LOVE it. It is much more fun to say a verb in present and past tense in the context of a story than as a grammar drill!

I use stories for refugees and newly arrived to help with English language acquisition and I facilitate the sharing of personal stories to develop a sense of community and understanding.

I find that my work brings me into contact with fascinating people, stories and representations of history. I have started this blog to share these with you. There are so many wondrous stories that to keep it all to myself would be a shame.

So welcome and I hope you enjoy.

Lilli