Friday, October 10, 2008

Green thumb?

The women in my family are gardeners. My grandmother's garden was every child's heaven, with pickable fruit, little hideyholes, a mini-train track, and a table and chairs made out of a dead tree trunk. When my grandmother died, my mother took up the habit, and our backyard slowly morphed from a potential cricket ground to an oasis of calm.

With the financial market the way it is and of course being a proponent of a healthy vegetarian diet, it seems natural that I follow in the steps of my foremothers and try my hand (or rather, my thumb) at growing my own greens. Sadly, I am somewhat limited by living in a unit, but nevertheless I have set my balcony up with a few herbs and small vegetables, and excitedly check them each day. I'm sure that my ancestors are watching as I overwater the Aloe Vera, prune the mint out of existence and, most embarassing of all, fail to realise that it's normal for Basil to die over winter. I quietly hope that I inherited the green thumb, and it's just taking a while to form.

There's something so satisfying about "just ducking out for some lettuce" (or tomatoes or basil or mint or parsley or rosemary or coriandar or .... hopefully snowpeas) without leaving home. Better still is knowing that it's fresh, there's no pesticides, nobody died harvesting it, and no carbon emissions were used to transport it to me. Let's give kitchen gardening the green thumbs up!

Photos: my mother in her garden (right) and me in mine

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Kathmandu Cuddle

Nepal has had such a profound effect on me. I don't know if it was the early morning yoga, the meditative circling around the stupa, the vegetarian momos (dumplings) or the workshops themselves, but as I departed I had a feeling that a part of me was left behind in a country full of rich colours and gentle smiles.

On 19th August five Alternatives to Violence (AVP) facilitators arrived in Kathmandu to facilitate a series of conflict resolution workshops. In less than a week the workshops that had been discussed for almost a year were to begin. As Subhash, the local coordinator, ran about collecting materials, responding to last minute enquiries and still managing to maintain his constant calm presence, the rest of us busied ourselves with planning the sessions. In the midst of all this activity, I had not adequately prepared myself for the changes that would take place within me, the friendships that would form, and the lessons I would learn.

When the workshops began, I soon became Aletia Didi (older sister) and enjoyed the feeling of family that the greeting gave me. The group took to some of the lighthearted activities with enthusiasm, and adapted many of them to fit their particular context. Laughing yoga was introduced as part of the morning stretch, and our Koala Hug became the Kathmandu Cuddle. I was reminded of childhood, and of being part of a group that was so positive and loving that I wanted to cry.

People had come to the workshops for very different reasons. Some were there for work and some to improve relationships at home but an overwhelming majority came with the hope of finding alternatives to the violence in their country. When we asked the group at the end of the workshop to imagine and draw a peaceful community in Nepal, it was clear from the posters they produced that they had very specific dreams for their country and had every intention of being part of the solution. Now that the project is in their hands, I can't wait to hear about their achievements.