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Tree SilhouettesOver the last year, I have found myself in several fairly interesting discussions about community development work. Not in the nature of actually building empowerment within communities or the struggles associated with that but something just as significant. Everyone knows this type of work takes time, effort, energy, dedication, collaboration and plenty of other elements in the mix. Reflecting through a social justice lens this also means that we have to look at community work through the complexities of culture, communities, privilege and class to name a few.

So what was the discussion around? The precarious nature of internal dynamics of organizations.

Frequently, I had conversations with friends, workers and acquaintances over the frustrations of internal dynamics and structures. The conversation usually starts with comments surrounding their voices were not readily heard, continuous structural changes, and overall diminished sense of empowerment. The workers essentially become disenchanted and either leave or just stay until their contracts end. All this to say, this nature of community organizing lacks a sense of desire for others to replace them.

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“If we view society as a physical organism, there are clearly parts of this organism that are in dire neglect. For to leave one’s own, here and elsewhere, without shelter, without food, without love… is not very hygienic.

Without downplaying the seriousness of the H1N1 threat to many, we have to realize the disproportionate media coverage and financial investment thrown at fighting a potential pandemic, compared to that directed at the eradication of a flagrant problem which is killing thousands of people each day through hunger, insalubrity, violence, and so on. Not to mention the paranoia and fear which form the face of such coverage. Not very hygienic…” – Etat d’urgance

Every year an urban village was created in downtown area of Montreal to provide an eclectic space for homeless people of Montreal to receive support through food, free clothing, warm shelter, music, arts, and other programming.

My shift started at 7 AM in the morning on Sunday, November 29th – the last day of the festival – after 450 volunteers had managed to help pull off the entire shift by working around the clock to support the people at the village.

Throughout the entire week chefs came from various restaurants to prepare amazing food for the people living in the village. One mornings breakfast included salmon, oysters, eggs, croissants, and fruit. A feast for the kings and queens of the street.

To help out I carried most of the food being prepared by the chefs into the serving area, as well as refilling the coffee machines when they ran out. The entire experience was humbling – to realise that on a regular basis there are people on the street that don’t have the safe luxuries that I do. That most of the time don’t get to choose what they can and can’t eat. It was humbling to realise that after refilling the coffee machine 6-7 times we had essentially served probably over 600-700 people.

The chef that I worked with had an amazing story about having come from a war torn country. Seeing and experiencing threats of this magnitude changes a person I expect. For the last two years he has been contributing to this village through his amazing cooking abilities. He had gotten up at 2 AM in the morning to start preparing the trays of potatoes and sausages to be served. If that wasn’t impressive enough he had been cracking eggs to fill two gallon buckets for the meal.That’s serious dedication towards providing something as beautiful as food for people in need.

On a side note it was also really exciting to see ATSA’s mandate to lower their ecological footprint by recycling and composting all of the waste that was generated. Helping the people and helping the environment – that’s the kinda world that I want to live in.

It’s been a while since I’ve written much here. Well there’s a lot to explain. I’m working hard these days at a Fruit & Veg shop trying to avoid being broke, working on Cycle for Sustainability [soon to be Otesha (OZ)] on any day I have off, and settling into my digs here in Melbourne (read: moving next weekend via all bicycles – yes I have a bed, coach, and other big items now so it’ll be fun and about 20 KM I figure). And I’ve spent time exploring my mind, sleeping, and sending friends letters… yes old school snail mail is tre cool.

I suspect that those that used to read this are long gone and have forgotten about it all. Sorry.

But on that note of friends I have come to the orginal reason I wanted to post. It’s been really difficult at times to fully realize my dreams with this project. My goal ultimately here in Australia is to secure some serious funding for The Otesha Project (Australia), create massive tours, spread laughter/education/love/bicycle moves/groovie vibes/connect with youth/and so much more with as much of my heart as I can. I love kids man. But sometimes I freak out and think that this is a bit much and worry that it’s just not going to happen. That maybe I’m over my head, and just about to start sinking in the deep end of the pool without an energy to get back up.

Then…it’s with appropriate timing some friend of mine comes along and gives me that support, love, and energy that I need. Some through beautiful messages, some through hilarious letters or gifts, some through food, and some through money. It blows me away how supportive and rich the community of people I have around me. It brings massive tears to my eyes to know that there are so many really beautiful people working on so many amazing projects in this country, in Canada, and this world. I’m blessed to be inspired by every single one of you. To see you moving along in your lives with such great hope, strength, and determination only lights that fire under my bum higher. Makes me feel like I can do this and sure there is going to be struggles and hardships but how does a person appreciate anything without a bit of that.

Without love and community we have nothing.
That’s not true.
We have a place to sleep, a bed, a job, a life .. but that’s about it.

I want to foster more community, more sharing, more love, more giving, hope, energy, and change in our world. I really strived to be a man of independance for so long in my life and now … now I’ve sold that ticket to a different bidder and have checked into a life of being around people, learning, growth, sharing what I have, and owning no more than what I need.

Thank you for your love. Thank you for your support. Thank you for you. You may not realize but I’m watching your movements and it brings a smile to my face. What major things you are doing to try and shift, make differences, be different in your life, and grow. We can’t do this alone and we only have one place to live.

Heaps of love

Shane xo

A million years ago I wrote about how bothered I was that people tend to always look at external things to judge people’s level of education, social standing, and other things. That it bothered me that I came from a certain ethnic standing because it gave me social standing that I’d rather not have.

Frankly, it’s something that comes up in my mind from time to time. More that I feel this massive need to help out those that aren’t in the same social networks, benefits, or situation that I am. For a while I volunteered a long time with Food Not Bombs in Calgary to try and help out people who just needed something to eat (yes some people don’t really like going to homeless shelters to get food cause they can feel a bit intimidated).

I wonder at times if people forget that a lot of ethnicities (refugees) end up taking on a lot of the jobs that help support the existing culture that we sustain each day. It’s the immigrants in Canada and even in Australia that are working the late shifts at gas stations, packing food on shelves, and cleaning stores when they shut. I appreciate that and at the same time feel a little disheartened because I know that some of these (many taxi drivers I’ve met and chatted with) actually have engineering degrees from foreign countries that they can’t seem to get recognized in Australia or Canada.

I guess for me it just enhances the fact that I realize there is a need for me to really continue to strive to break down those barriers between the class structure I was raised in and others. Try and find ways in which I can integrate myself with more of these people (and frankly I feel more connected with them to begin with because like Ecuador they seem to value things that are more important to me).

What brought all this home for me was watching the Chilean movie Machuca.

“In 1973, in Santiago of Chile of the first socialist president democratically elected in a Latin-American country, President Salvador Allende, the principal of the Saint Patrick School, Father McEnroe (Ernesto Malbran) makes a trial of integration between students of the upper and lower classes. The bourgeois boy Gonzalo Infante (Matías Quer) and the boy from the slum Pedro Machuca (Ariel Mateluna) become great friends, while the conflicts on the streets leads Chile to the bloody and repressive military coup of General Augusto Pinochet on 11 September 1973, changing definitely their lives, their relationship and their country.” – IMB

At about the half way point I was crying and from that point onward the movie really brought you closer to the reality of what can happen in social situations (not only from politics but also because of social class systems). It was a beautiful reminder that breaking down berries, helping out those that aren’t in the same situation as ours, and sharing what you’ve got is the only way that we can help to create a sustainable fair world. And I know I can do that!

This one has been bothering me for sometime now.

I went to an amazing festival this last weekend for three days (more on this later) called the Global Carnival. Amazing music, peeps, and dancing!

While at the Global Carnival this last weekend I went to a workshop where a womyn (sorry I tried to find her name online but was unable to do so) was speaking about the connections between various activist types and groups. I have to admit that she did a great job during her discussion and made me think about where I stand with my activist work.

During her discussion she relayed a story where she was working for the government. She met for dinner with a guy whom was an Indian Diplomat and as they were discussing what she was doing with her life and work she made some realizations. The details aren’t important though …

What was important is that during her relay of this conversation she broke out into an Indian accent. Broken english and all. Funny cause lots of activist types do that out here in OZ and it’s something that I’ve been having a hard time with these days.

So reign in your opinions I want to hear them.

  1. Is is racist to imitate another person’s use of the English language? My thought is that it is. Mainly because in either telling a joke or relaying a story that imitates another person’s accent you are making fun of them. Look at it from this perspective — what’s the relevance of using the accent? I found it interesting to me in Ecuador last year and be teased by Spanish people (some kind teasing and some not so kind) about my lack of Spanish knowledge. Pretty humbling experience that one…
  2. So if it’s not appropriate to make fun of languages (other races) does it make it acceptable to make fun of white western languages (or am I taking this to far?) Yah ok I’m sensitive to these things. I sorta feel like it’s the same thing as a black guy calling another black guy niger. It’s that they are taking back that name and using it amongst themselves. Clearly not appropriate for me. But for me to make fun of other people within my culture is totally fine I figure cause well there isn’t racism potential in that (or so I can see).

Fire me back with comments. I’m curious. Is that not contributing to oppressive language or not considering that someone isn’t being respected?

It’s funny because in Canada we don’t actually do things like that…well I haven’t been to conferences where people imitate individuals like that unless they are of the same race I suppose.

Kinda wanted to do an anti-oppression workshop of sorts here at the trust and have been diggin around on the net for stuff…

In the process I came across this (read: Shut the fuck up! or, How to act better in meetings). Funny cause I was the one that had to bring this forward in the B.C. Crew so that we were all aware of the amount of talking space we do in meetings and around other people. It’s pretty amazing when you look at how much you are talking and how little you aren’t asking others how they are doing, what’s new, or trying to tell them what they are thinking.

Now don’t take this as an insult or read into what the post is. I think there are points there that we can all learn from whether we think that we contribute in some ways or not. I think the point is that we are more sensitive to how we contribute.

And yes I’m totally guilty of this too folks…and still found myself reading this and going…”Shit house I’m still doing this…”

Life’s a journey..

Hope this all finds you well,

Shane

[I’ve been a bit busy and neglected to post this earlier…but it’s still good and important to write I think. Something I came up with while flying back to OZ. Though it’s spoke word and I kinda wish that I could have scanned in the original version with all the artwork and shit.]

What we don’t understand here

I’m looking around
Wondering what I’ve found?

All this movement,
Notions, Motions, Commotion…

Created by you
The B.C. Crew!

Your techni-colour feats
Inspire my beats…

Push the boundary
So we don’t have to live in bigotry
Save what we gots

By blowing your administration
Demand new creation

A change
From the group up isn’t so FUCKIN’ strange?
It’s easy

to become jaded, faded, & hated.

But you gotta ask yo-self what you want.
This isn’t about writing our future in a new font,
Willing a new want,
Or just talking blunt.

We want new beats.
Down with this individualist me-ME-ME BULLSHIT!
And order me a plate of community I CAN DEAL wit.

Bennie & Tess or Bennet & TomPrelude: (Scene shows trucks driving by with gruff looking men and some really nice drivers) Anyone who says that hitchin with truckies is A) easy to get B) not an epic journey C) available anytime has not sat at a truck stop for a day and half waiting for a ride. After spending an amazing week at the Students for Sustainability conference meeting some really rad folk and getting to know Bennie, Tess, and Pat I felt it was time to bail (Bennie, Tess, and Pat put me up at their humble abode prior to the conference and afterward). The day before I left we had one last goodbye session, good food, a movie, and of course critical mass (like the icing on any cake).

The next day (very tired) Scarlett & I headed off to the trucky station. Half a day passed and no ride appeared so we headed back to Bennie’s place (to their surprise – or perhaps I couldn’t get enough of these rad peeps). We got up super early the following day (Monday) and headed back to suss out another ride. After spending an entire day at the truck location (and being told that “we would never get a ride together”, “truckies don’t leave this day”, … read: truckies in Perth don’t like driving men and generally give womyn rides but watch out cause they might expect something — that was Scarlett’s later experience)

I got about 3 hours of sleep that night and felt a bit shitty but wanted to meet Ella on Thursday when she was arriving into Melbourne. Tragically, I couldn’t take the train cause it rocked up a bit late into Melbourne (and turned out to be completely full) & paid for a flight. An hour after I left back for Bennie’s place Scarlett and Alice (our other friend who was hitchin) got a ride with some sketchy truckies (wanting a bit more … I’m proud of Scarlett for holding her own). Maurice also managed to score a ride but from regular cars across the dessert (go figure). Chris & I were the only two who were completely unsuccessful catchin a lift?!?

That's what I'm talkin aboutIt’s not the lack of rides that really made Perth for me. It was the people. Arriving back at Bennie’s Tuesday morning at Bennie’s joint again was pretty funny as he was pretty shocked and surprised. These guys were so amazing letting me into their home, giving me a bed, driving me around town (& to the airport), and acting as though all of this is nothing…as if I were family. You can’t buy that. Sometimes you feel strong connections with peeps and I’m lucky to have discovered that. This house was filled with some beautiful love, support, and goodness. Pat, Bennie, and Tess were rad kats with great attitudes, dance moves, and open arms. If I were meant to understand and feel what “real” peeps from Perth are like I surely got a taste. Each night we did a little dumpster mission and made massive cookups (or feeds) for the hungry masses. So to the kids @ 105 I pay you homage.

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Adelaide Museum (Aboroginal Man)During much of my time in OZ I’ve felt a draw towards the dessert and although the hike didn’t completely go through I still managed to head out to the most previous spiritual land for the aboriginal people of this country Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Previous to my departure I spent many nights infront of a nice fire at the hostel I was at having a yarn (chat) with touristy people about the politics of climbing Uluru. I knew that this was pretty sacred land for them and they ask that people respect that and I tried (and convinced several) to not go through with the climb.

Kings CanyonWhile on my tour I experienced some really amazing scenery. I can’t begin to describe it nor can I post pictures because the indigenous people of this country ask that we don’t. When we arrived at Uluru I felt an amazing feeling come over me (even though things were rushed with the tour that I booked I still felt a connection there). Our tour guide gave some pretty good stories about the history of these people and why this place is special, sacred, and unique to them.

I think one of the most precious quotes that I read in the booklet they give you upon arriving at the park was along the lines of the following (sorry I have to paraphrase because it’s packed in my overstuffed bag that I’m hitchin to Perth with tomorrow).

So many people come to this land to climb Uluru. But they should look at the rock, look inside, and see that there is more there than just something to climb.

While walking around Uluru I sat down for about 20 minutes and looked inside the the walls of this spiritual place only to find myself looking inside myself. Looking at the aboriginal people. Understanding that something as sacred as this should be respected.

But then why don’t they just stop people from climbing it then? Well after petition the United Nations to get Australia to hand over the native title to this land they were finally granted the land that they should have owned in the first place. The catch is that the UN put a stipulation that the aboriginal people in the nation around Uluru had to lease the land back to Australia for another 99 years. So effectively they don’t really have much say other than to “encourage” and “beg” people to respect them.

It’s a sad state really. But frankly I’m kinda happy I walked around the base because I saw more than most. I saw what the aboriginal people wanted me to see and experience. Along the path I found some pretty special things with regards to the direction my life is taking. I found some truth and feel good about follow my heart in trying to figure out what’s next on this journey in life for me. On a side note one guy on our tour climbed to the top only to feel like crap later for doing so. I felt bad for him as I’m sure he doesn’t want to carry that around for the rest of his life (then again maybe he can use that to his advantage heh).

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The crewSo after leaving my beautiful friends in Townsville I headed to Alice Springs on a 26 hour bus ride into the dessert. The country out here is so amazing and can you believe it there is a really old mountain range out in the dessert that people can hike. I was to meet my friend Angela and her friend Soph on the hike on June 20th, but upon arriving I couldn’t find them anywhere. After reading the log book (where you write down your route) I realized that they had left a day earlier. Oh shit! I decided that I’d do the 30 KM to the next water source to see if I couldn’t catch them (they had already been on the Larapinta Trail for 1 week).

Ghost gumThere is something about hiking in the dessert that is beautiful, challenging, and pretty spectacular. Not to mention the fact that I’m out there experiencing mountain ranges that are so old, so worn down, and so different from the young Rocky Mountains. I love that history out here .. the history that Australia gives through it’s scenery.

I jetted off at 11 AM on an estimated 10 hour hike and arrived pretty late in the evening with a bit of a sore leg. I think I evidentially did a disservice to my leg during the hike by hiking 30 KM (oh Shano when will you learn). Regardless, in the pitch black as I was nearing the campsite I could see a huge fire and they could see my head torch. I arrived at the fire and said hello and sat down to take a break. Suddenly I heard a “Shane! Is that you!” only to realize that Angela had arrived with Soph at that location that very day! Yipee!

Sacred Chasm

Unfortunately, for me that is, my leg problems only seemed to get worse and after climbing into a chasm with the two of them the next day we all realized it wasn’t smart for me to continue the hike for the remaining time (mostly because the following three days were meant to be for experienced hikers and are pretty hardcore). So that night we slept in the chasm having a huge feast of lental dahl, rice, and quinoa together.

The following day I got up and took the 4WD track to meet them at the next destination which was Birthday watering hole (thankfully the road was quite flat for the most part. After hanging out there for a while in the sun, writing letters, watching butterflies, and all the rest Soph and Angela arrived. Just before we had decided to make dinner a German man arrived and was driving his 4WD back into Alice so I snagged a ride from him back to the hostel. Twas sad to leave them but honestly was the smartest thing I probably could have done.

The track was filled with worn down mountain side which formed the most amazing looking shapes. It’s interesting from a natural development perspective of earth how things change and develop. How an old mountain range like this one can really become so worn down through time and yet still look so freakin amazing! The chasm that I went into (left) during the tour that I had to take to get to the start of the hike was completely smooth (like granite smooth) and I felt a strong sense of energy there. I pretty much wanted to sit in there for a good two hours but we had to go so I was happy I got to visit it at least once.

I was also happy enough to see some dingos, one snake (apparently when you see them in the winter they are super aggressive and it ran right past Angela — oh shit), beautiful butterflies (one quite large one that kept trying to land on my water bottle because it must have smelt some sugar I had on it), chasms, gorges, and beautiful birds. Wow… I can see why the aboriginals feel that this land is sacred and special. I do too. Oh and let’s not forget the methods to keep yourself warm during freezing cold nights (just like the rockies) with me in my new tent (yeah) and beautiful sunrise and sunsets. I’m still in awe!

Sending out love to those working through things, those finding themselves, those feeling love, and those that I haven’t talked to in a while. Don’t worry I still think about you!

Love

Shane

Pictures below coming later ..

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