Tonight – vulnerability

My very conscious walk home tonight…

It is 8.38pm and I’ve just arrived home from a full and busy day at work.  Daylight savings is over now, so I was walking home from the tram stop in the dark, after stopping off for a beer and some dinner out – a treat for myself.  I felt no threat whatsoever in the city (Melbourne) or on the tram.  Getting off the tram, Jill Meagher’s murder came into my mind.  She was on her way home, knew the neighbourhood, and had no reason to not feel safe.  I love my new neighbourhood, but this was the first time I was walking through the quiet streets, in the dark, on my own.  For some reason, a visceral repeated dream memory came to me – I don’t remember the circumstances, all I remember is that I try to scream, but no sound comes out.  This is a recurring dream, and yes, it made me think of Jill.

It makes me think of my vulnerability.  It made me think of the vulnerability that many people are feeling – the heightened consciousness, the possible threats, the mistrust of a stranger walking behind you, someone getting off at the same tram stop.  I walk tough.  I recognise that I have often done this in the past – the way I walk at night on my own is one with which I try to downplay my vulnerability, my female-ness, my ‘ugly tough walk’ I call it, that I feel is my defence. 

We all have our own weapons, our own versions of ‘ugly tough walk’.  Some people talk about holding their keys like a weapon, carrying sprays or alarms in their bags, or better yet, never walking alone at night.  None of those are acceptable to me, or they would not necessarily make me feel safe. 

What is my point here? I’m acknowledging, I’m empathising, I’m describing a feeling that I know many others express in their own ways. I’m paying heed to that vulnerability that many of us feel – whether venturing out of our ‘comfort zone’, or simply trying to live a life of choice and what freedom we can assert for ourselves. That the stories we hear about from others – or, like with Jill, survivors and investigators of such catastrophic events, matter, are heard, and are remembered. That we all have a duty and a role to play in reducing this need for ‘heightened awareness’ and feeling of vulnerability. Here’s to peace, it matters.

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I’m back.

And my last post was in August 2019 … skip to June 2020 and everything but nothing seems to have changed. As I’ve said before, I take me where ever I go, who ever I’m with, what ever I do.

Mbonegi River, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands December 2019

You look so happy, so comfortable, so much a part of the moment. A picnic, a swim in the river, some drinks. Lots of fun, lots of laughter. You were there, you were here, you were quiet, you were loud. You laughed and chattered, switching dialects at random.

You look as if you were loving that moment. You went home and your lover was there by your side. Life was compact and content, thrilling and social. Time went slowly, but the departure date was nearing. You could not, would not, break those bonds and so when you left on that flight ‘home’, you left a big part of yourself behind. You arrived home to become the stranger you were before you left.

A walk around my campus…

Today I went for a walk around the STTC (Savannakhet Teacher Training College) campus, which is much bigger than I realised.  At first the office, admin, toilets and classrooms were enough – but venturing out further I discovered all sorts of gems!

The greenhouse is full of carefully tended bushes and trees kept ready for planting by students.

Another café that looks very clean and serves delicious smelling soup (pho style).

Some more slightly bewildering signs.

The big stadium/hall.

The cute looking kindergarten.

And the on-campus primary school.

Even though I’m working with pre-service primary school teachers, this is the first time I have visited the school on campus and I was pleasantly surprised.  It looks great, the kids are very happy and playful (it was lunchtime) and all said ‘hello’ to me in English.  I went into a classroom – English/Lao work on the board, lots of lovely flowers and decorations on the walls.  I went into the library where I was greeted by a teacher (in Lao).  There were picture books on the shelves, mostly in Lao language and the kids were pulling them out and showing me.  I sat down with a group of them and one pulled out a picture dictionary.  We pointed to the pictures and said the words in English – again, I was pleasantly surprised at how many English words they knew!  No doubt, being ‘city kids’, they have much more exposure to English than the students from the provinces that I am working with.  But the contrast is stark, and these students will be qualified as primary teachers but many are still at a very basic elementary level of English, and most lack any confidence to speak up or to come up with a creative response to a question.  They are used to English classes in Lao, and copying everything from the blackboard.  This is not ‘learning’!  But we are starting to get somewhere…

This course is called 9+3 – students have reached year 9 in provincial schools and now finish their education at the teacher training college to prepare them to teach back in their village schools. Most of them are around 15 years old.  Their standard and exposure to English is very low.  

The other students my colleagues work with are in the 12+4 program – they have completed year 12 and do a 4 year teacher training course to become qualified as secondary school teachers – most of these are ‘city kids’ in their late teens, early 20s.  We (the Foreign Languages Office) work with the English (and Vietnamese) language majors.

The difficult thing with using WordPress that I find is finding the photos that ‘fit’ the post – especially an older post such as this. I like to illustrate my words, and often have a photo in mind – but finding it, uploading it, and giving it some sense means that over time, things get lost or harder to find. So I guess this is my ‘memory recording’, and although the scenes and photos remain in my mind, the sharing can be different matter! But at least back here in Melbourne, at least I have unlimited data, and faster, more dependable connections – so I’ll share this ‘old’ memory just for my reference to an incredible time and place. (7 April 2022)

Ok, I’m back, hmmm, April 2022, where has the time gone?

I have neglected my space here, but I have never stopped my writing and my thinking. The last few years have bought joy, sorrow, despair, frustrations – but here and now, life is better than ever, and I’ve decided to make the effort again to record and share this. I don’t do it for recognition – jeez, not like I have a following, but it gives me the opportunity to put down my thoughts and try to make sense of the world out there.
I see I have a number of incomplete drafts from years gone by that I’ve never posted. So I’m just going to get back here and play a little more with ideas and memories from the past, the present, and whatever comes up beyond.
Best, Annabelle