Monthly Archives: March 2014

Today is a nice day to be … flying

I wrote this from 35,000 feet as I made my way from Adelaide to Sydney (even though it’s taken me another day to access the internet to publish it!) Unlike many people, I actually quite enjoy flying. I love going on adventures, and so heading to the airport always makes me quite happy because it usually means I am embarking on another journey full of possibilities.

The old-fashioned flight board at Frankfurt airport
The old-fashioned flight board at Frankfurt airport

But it’s more than that. I quite enjoy the actual experience of flying. People who fly a lot think that it’s just the novelty that makes you enjoy it, but  with 15 international trips (106 separate flights!) in the last ten years, and about 50 domestic flights in the last 5 years, I think I qualify as something more than a naïve novice.

Flying into Cairo
Flying into Cairo

I even quite like airports. They are such a fascinating place for people watching, and some of the big ones around the world have plenty of things to keep you busy – I’ve enjoyed the swimming pool at Changi, wonderfully relaxing massages in Bangkok, and a nice retreat in the chapel in Athens.

The pool at Singapore Airport
The pool at Singapore Airport
What do I love about flying?

Basically, I remain impressed by the modern day miracle of flight. People have given me the logical, scientific explanations for how planes can fly, but really, I just think it’s pretty amazing.

Sydney airport

I also quite like the fact that once you’re on a plane you are pretty much cut of from the world, forced to take a break. If I do try to read a book or do some work, I’m always amazed at how much I can get done, even in a short flight. And of course, a good in-flight entertainment system is a nice excuse to catch up on all the movies I might have missed.

Sydney Airport
Sydney Airport

And I love looking down and seeing the earth from far above – getting a sense of the scale of this world, its diverse contours and similarities all over the globe, its incredible beauty.

Flying over the Grand Canyon, Arizona
Flying over the Grand Canyon, Arizona
What have I learned from flying?

I think spending all that time cramped in with other people helps your skills in reading people – assessing when someone wants to chat and when they want to be left alone … and when they just want you to get out of their way! (I still think flying can sometimes bring out the worst in people!)

Phnom Penh airport
Phnom Penh airport

I’m also reminded when flying that we do not live in a class-less society. That little curtain might seem flimsy, but it’s a large social barrier. I’ve never paid to fly business class, although I have been fortunate to receive a few upgrades on international flights (never asked for, and always on the shorter leg of a two-leg journey). It’s a whole other world up there, and while it’s nice to see how the other half lives, there’s a kind of pride in toughing it out with the real world back in economy (which, let’s face it, really isn’t that tough!)

Siem Reap airport
Siem Reap airport

My only real struggle with flying is my inability to sleep on planes, meaning when I get off a long haul flight, I need to go to bed no matter what time of day it is. But as long as you plan to enjoy the flight, it’s not hard to do. I have written previously about how flying can sometimes bring out the worst in human behaviour, but when I allow myself to appreciate it for what it is, the opposite can in fact be true.

Honolulu airport
Honolulu airport

Of course, as I write this, Malaysian Airlines flight 370 has been missing for over a week. When a plane vanishes or crashes it captures world attention, and it must be awful for friends and family of those on board. Thinking about the possibilities of what could have happened, and particularly the fact that none of the passengers made contact, is scary. Hopefully we will soon know what has happened and if possible how it can be avoided in future, though that will not bring comfort to those who have lost a loved one.

Dubai Airport
Dubai Airport

But it doesn’t seem to have stopped anyone from flying. Perhaps because it is statistically far safer than driving, which we do every day without a second thought. Obviously we have come to rely on the convenience. But more than that, for me at least, there is something special, almost magical, about the fact that we human beings can soar through the air, and I hope I never stop being impressed and delighted by the wonder that I live in a time where this is possible.

Sunrise at Johannesburg airport
Sunrise at Johannesburg airport

Today would be a nice day to be in Stratford-upon-Avon

Today is a public holiday, which would seem like a nice day to stay right here, but I have lots of writing to get done, so I’m thinking a place with some literary inspiration would be a nice getaway. Where better than the town of William Shakespeare?

Map of Shakespeare's Stratford
Map of Shakespeare’s Stratford
What did I love about Stratford-upon-Avon?

For starters, it’s a very pretty place.

The river Avon
The river Avon

It was April when we visited, so the trees were green, the river clear, and the flowers blooming.

Tulips

We stayed in the most charming English Bed and Breakfast, although I’m not sure I could have coped with the colour scheme for more than a couple of days!

Bed and Breakfast

Coming from a country where a 100 year old building is OLD, it is pretty cool to see places that have been there for hundreds of years and wonder at all those who have passed through in that time and what might have occurred there.

Old Houses

The Guild Chapel has been hosting worship gatherings for 850 years.

Guild Chapel

The building next to the Guild Hall was added more recently … in 1490.

1490 building Guild Hall

We had a great English pub lunch at The Garrick Inn, thought to be the oldest house in Stratford-upon-Avon, with parts of it dating back to the fourteenth century.

Garrick Inn

What did I learn from Stratford-upon-Avon?

Really, as a visitor, Stratford-upon-Avon is all about Shakespeare, and I learned much about him. Touring town is basically a walk through the places of his life.

Where he was born, the son of a glover who later became an alderman and High Bailiff but then fell on hard times and narrowly avoided debtor’s prison.

Shakespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare’s Birthplace

The church where he was both baptised and buried, and likely attended services whenever he was in town.

Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church

His wife’s cottage, the older woman he married at 18, seemingly spent twenty years apart from while he wrote and performed, returned to live with and left his “second-best bed” to in his will.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

His daughter Susanna and her husband Dr John Hall’s house.

Hall's Croft
Hall’s Croft

The site of the house where he died.

The New Place
The New Place

His grave and funerary monument inside the church.

Shakespeare's Grave

And of course no Shakespearian trip would be complete without catching a performance of one his famous plays … we saw Henry IV, although it was back in London at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Globe Theatre London

From all accounts, our William was a complicated man who had in many ways a messy life. But his legacy is a reminder of the incredible power of words … words that live on and are shared and inspire. Words that can even change lives. As someone who works with words in my teaching and preaching jobs, who is currently engaged in finding words to express my research and learning, and who enjoys playing with words in this adventure of blogging, that is a powerful reminder.

Shakespearian Boats

P.S. And finally, speaking of words, I’m not sure there is anywhere else but an Old English village where you would find such politely expressed parking advice.

Pretty Parking Sign

Why do we need International Women’s Day?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
For her

March 8th, today, is International Women’s Day. Lots of countries have some kind of celebration to mark the day, but still plenty of people question whether we should have a special day to celebrate women, or why there is no International Men’s Day.* (I remember as a child wondering why there was a Mothers’ Day and a Fathers’ Day but no Kids’ Day, but as I got older the answer to that question became pretty obvious, as I think the answer to this question should be!)

For me, IWD is less about “celebrating women” – while that is lovely, I absolutely agree we should celebrate the value of all people regardless of gender. For me, IWD is more about recognising that gender inequality exists in the world and it is an injustice that affects ALL of us, male and female.

… and for her
… and for her

A couple of years ago on IWD, I posted a Facebook status with some statistics from the UN – that women make up 51+% of the world’s population but earn 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of the wealth. Those are some pretty sobering statistics that I would hope prompt some reflection on all kinds of injustice in the world. What I didn’t expect was the statistic that was created in response – 100% of the men who commented on my status made light of it in some way. And these are not men I would have called sexist, chauvinistic or people who belittle women in any way. Just ordinary Aussie (Christian!) guys. That’s why I was so surprised. That’s what reminded me that we still need International Women’s Day.

I have previously written about how as a Christian I don’t always like to accept other labels, including feminist, because of the baggage of other people’s perceptions. But as a global citizen, there is no question for me that I need to speak up about what is probably the greatest injustice in the world today, because women are human beings just as men are, and until they are treated as such we are all suffering.

… and for them.

It remains terrifyingly true that 1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault during her lifetime. 75% of the 21 million victims of human trafficking each year are female, with the majority of those forced into sexual slavery.

The new World Bank report notes that despite many improvements, women continue to trail behind men on EVERY SINGLE economic measure.  There is no country on earth where women have wage parity with men. (And this is not simply about a man being paid more than a woman for the same work, although that still happens more often than you might think. The bigger problem is systemic:  jobs typically done by women are far less valued than jobs typically done by men).

This UNESCO report shows that 2/3 of the world’s illiterate adults are women, and that girls are disproportionately excluded from education. The education of girls benefits everyone, and has been demonstrated to decrease infant mortality rates, reduce HIV rates, and generally reduce the factors that lead to poverty. Not poverty for women, poverty for everyone.

So … some good things to share from today. Check some of these out:

1. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s IWD 2014 message on how equality for women benefits everyone

2. Google’s doodle video celebrating IWD 2014

3. Buzzfeed’s list of 22 inspirational Australian women

4. Reuters article on why educating girls can help eradicate poverty

5. World Vision’s project for the education of girls – how for $35 you can make a huge generational difference and help eradicate poverty

6. And if you’ve got a bit of time, watch Chimamanda Adichie’s 30 minute TEDx talk  … especially for any woman who has ever felt she needs to apologise for being smart or opinionated or just for being female … and for any man who doesn’t understand why we still need feminism. (Thanks Tamie for putting me on to this!)

* For any men still wondering, there IS an International Men’s Day (November 19) but thanks for reading to the end to find out! In many places around the world it’s also pretty much International Men’s Day tomorrow, and Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday ….