Friday, 23 July 2010

How a Diaspora may happen

This blog takes me back to when I researched and wrote my Honours dissertation. I have reworked the introduction to make it relevant for the blog. The material is self-reflective and, at the time, it worked as a catharsis for me, helping me understand my own identity and my own place in the world. The dissertation also gave me the opportunity to begin (and eventually complete) my doctorate. The dissertation is called ‘When “Back Home” isn’t England: making visible the memories, lives and experiences of some white women in Rhodesia’. I was awarded First Class Honours although there was some dispute regarding my work and a third examiner had to be appointed. I had a similar experience with my doctoral thesis so it seems to me that my writing has the effect of polarising readers. I have included some excerpts from the journal I kept on my trip which serve to illustrate the thoughts and feelings in my mind and heart at the time.

So, here goes:
I remember an incident that makes me reflect on my place, as a white woman and a member of a minority ethnic group, in Rhodesia. This is in 1976 on a tourist bus in Greece - somewhere between Athens and Delphi. An Austrian man, sitting next to me on the bus, is highly sceptical that any white people who are not British, or of British descent, are settled in Rhodesia. I feel affronted and defensive that this stranger can, so arbitrarily, dismiss my background. This bewildering sense of being unseen, feeling unseen, is an experience Adrienne Rich expresses as psychic disequilibrium: ‘When someone ... describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing’. I understand that this is my experience. 

In November 1996 I decided to go home to Zimbabwe. I was feeling homesick and missed my family (most of whom were still living there in 1996). This, in retrospect, is when I realised that the awareness of ‘difference’ had been simmering in the background of my life - not only since the bus trip in Greece, but since I was a young girl, questioning my ‘otherness’ in school and in the Rhodesian society. I realised that this is the haunting space into which I seldom looked, the moments of ‘psychic disequilibrium’.

Zimbabwe Journal:
30/11/96: Ever since we migrated to Australia, I’ve thought of my paternal grandmother, leaving her home country, with a young child, and going to ‘darkest Africa’ - with no idea of what lay ahead (do we ever?) Following what? A dream? Freedom?

According to Barry Schutz, white Rhodesia’s most extensive social alteration occurred between 1896-1921 when, as demographic data shows, white settlers in Rhodesia ‘were transformed from a fortune hunter’s frontier into a fundamentally stable, family-oriented society’. My grandparents arrived in Rhodesia from Russia in 1908/1909 less than 20 years after Cecil John Rhodes’ Pioneer Column in 1890. Together they established their family, most of whom remained through the subsequent history of the white people in Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe in 1980 after black majority rule). Now, today, not one of the family remains in Zimbabwe. The mini-diaspora of the family is scattered from Australia to the United Kingdom to North America.

To be continued, or not - depending on how I feel.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Funny Hats work well

A funny hat is a tonic.
A funny hat keeps the little ones concentrating on YOU!
This is important when teaching yoga to children; something that I've given up doing as it is truly one of the most exhausting occupations I've ever, ever done. Which is why I no longer do it. In fact, when I did my practical exam, I told Cathy (my instructor) that the class would last 40-45 minutes. I planned for 40-45 minutes. In the event, 35 minutes and the class was over. It took me two days to recover! I guess one solution is not to have one's own grandchild and great-niece in the class.

What do you find teaching yoga to kids? Small bodies rolling themselves up in the yoga mat. Random legs and arms making quite fierce (albeit 'accidental') contact with the body on the neighbouring mat. Small bodies making really rude sound effects for various asana.
And these are just the beginning. Kids are not like adults, they don't follow instructions unless they feel like it and it is essential to add sound effects, always. Roar like a lion, bark like a dog, meow like a cat and make camel noises that resemble breaking wind, loudly.

"Close your eyes" is generally translated as "open your eyes wide" and "open your eyes" is also translated as "open your eyes".

One thing I learned is not to ask rhetorical questions in a class because you'll always get an answer, and it won't be an answer your anticipated. Another thing I learned is that five children in a class is good, anything over that and you're treading on thin ice - call it critical mass - and it does vary.

Class is a wonderful time to extend adventures into reality - Treasure Island, Jungle escapades and a Circus outing - all with actions and sound effects!

Although you can't see it in the photograph, there is a small button on the top of my funny, shiny hat and that is the magic button. That magic button saved my bacon on more than one occasion ... focus on the magic button draws the attention back to the practice and (sometimes) order reigns.

And then you get the feedback - "I want to do yoga everyday"
"I think yoga is my best friend"
"I feel happy when I'm in yoga class". Does this make it worthwhile? Yes, if you have the strength and stamina to keep on teaching. For me the feedback was wonderful but my health couldn't stand the pace!

Yoga for children is a course for would-be teachers and covers a great deal of territory. Much of the material is useful for adult classes and now that I have given up teaching children I still use many of the techniques I learned while participating in the course.

Peace and love to all and especially to those brave enough to take up teaching yoga to children.